Thursday, 16 December 2010
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 9d, motions re Standing Orders 39, 116 and 117; Nos. 10 - 28, inclusive, motions re proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of taxation agreements - back from committee; No. 29 - motion re proposed approval by DÃ¡il Ãireann of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund (No. 2) Regulations 2010 - back from committee; No. b5 - Appropriation Bill 2010 - Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 1 - Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2010 [Seanad] - Second and Subsequent Stages; No. 41 - Student Support Bill 2008 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 41a - statements on the carbon budget.
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 5.50 p.m; Nos. 9d, Nos.10-28, inclusive, and No. 29 shall be decided without debate and in the case of Nos. 10â28, inclusive, shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair; No. b5 shall be taken today and the Second and Subsequent Stages shall be decided without debate 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; the Second and Subsequent Stages of No. 1 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply: the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m., the opening speech of the Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time and the Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2 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 Health and Children; the Report and Final Stages of No. 41 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 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 TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Education and Skills; the proceedings on No. 41a shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 65 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share their time and which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the DÃ¡il on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 12 January, 2011.
I wish to advise the House about the proposals which will be put in sequence. There are seven proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal that the DÃ¡il shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today agreed? Agreed.
We object to business ending today in the spirit of co-operation with the coalition partner which is keen to get a lot of legislation passed before it goes to the country as it promised in January. The rest of the country will be working next week. We are prepared to do so to help pass legislation and discuss and debate it, and return early in January in order that at the end of January our Green Party colleagues in government will be able to keep their word to the people of this country and have an election in February.
I will speak now and get it out of the way. The TÃ¡naiste is also the Minister for Education and Skills, yet we are told â¬300 million remains unspent in her allocation to build schools. People in north Dublin and all around the country have been waiting for new schools. We do not have an opportunity to discuss this matter under the Appropriation Bill which we should be able to do.
There is no discussion or debate. I do not want to be at variance with the Ceann Comhairle but he said this matter would be more appropriate for another debate. We are not having a debate on the Appropriation Bill and that is why we are objecting to the proposal.
I want to ask the TÃ¡naiste for some information which will determine how the Labour Party will address the seven proposals on which we have to vote. The Government proposes to go into recess today and return on 12 January. On 22 November, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, said his party, "have now reached a point where the Irish people need political certainty to take them beyond the coming two months. So, we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011".
In response to that, the Taoiseach said:
It is my intention at the conclusion of this budgetary process, with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the new year, to then seek a dissolution of DÃ¡il Ãireann and to enable the people to determine who should undertake the responsibilities of government in the challenging period ahead.
I want to ask the TÃ¡naiste some questions arising from that. When will the finance Bill be published? What is the Government's intention with regard to its enactment? It would not be unreasonable for a period of approximately two weeks to be taken for the consideration and enactment of the finance Bill. The TÃ¡naiste has said the DÃ¡il will return on 12 January next. If approximately two weeks were taken to deal with the finance Bill, following which the DÃ¡il were dissolved and a date set for a general election-----
With the exception of the members of the Government, perhaps, everybody agrees that the country needs certainty, stability and the election of a strong and stable Government. It is neither desirable nor in the country's interests for that process to be prolonged. Can the TÃ¡naiste give the House the date for the publication of the finance Bill? How long is it intended to spend considering the finance Bill in the House? What is the date on which it is intended to dissolve the DÃ¡il? The answers to those questions will determine how we respond to the various issues that are before us today.
The Sinn FÃ©in Deputies would like clarification on the legislation other than the finance Bill that the Government intends to bring before the House before it finally pulls the plug and goes to the park. Deputy Gilmore referred to last month's announcement by the leader of the Green Party, the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, that his party intended to leave government to facilitate a general election in the latter half of January.
It was revealed this morning that more than 50% of the appointments to State boards that have been made since last month's announcement were made by the Minister, Deputy Gormley. It is indicative of the closing days of an unravelling coalition.
I am not in a position to say when the finance Bill will be published. It is being worked on by the Minister and the officials in the Department. It will be brought before the Cabinet and published thereafter. I appreciate that all Members of the House would like to know what the date for the general election will be. Perhaps the people are not as enthusiastic about it.
It is not agreed. The proposal under No. 29 to allocate approximately â¬26 million to the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund from the general Exchequer is totally unacceptable in the current climate. At a time when we are taking money from carers and cutting the minimum wage, it is not acceptable to provide so much money to the horse and greyhound industry. I accept that the industry is important and provides jobs that are needed. There was an opportunity for the Government to capture tax from online betting.
When this matter was considered by the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food yesterday, the Minister made the case that â¬57.3 million, â¬26 million of it from the Exchequer, is needed. We were in the very same position last year. The reality is that a similar amount in excise duty was taken from the betting industry in 2000. It has since decreased to â¬31 million. It is going in reverse, instead of forward.
I am aware that this matter was discussed by the joint committee. It is important to point out that 27,500 people in this country rely on this industry and the ancillary sectors.
It is not agreed. I have outlined why we are opposed to this proposal. We are not getting any chance to debate it. This country needs a great deal of money to run its services. I mentioned earlier that money provided for schools, to give just one instance, has not been spent. It is not right that the parliament of a country that is in such dire financial straits should rush through legislation of this nature without debating it. Deputies should have a chance to inspect where money has been spent and make comments on it.
In light of this country's very bad financial crisis, it is foolish of the Government to deny the DÃ¡il an opportunity to debate what has happened with the people's money during the year. We should discuss what has been spent and what remains unspent. In the latter case, given that we badly need to stimulate job creation-----
Does the TÃ¡naiste believe, in terms of the sacrifices people are making, that it is good enough of DÃ¡il Ãireann not to debate or comment on what has happened to the money taxpayers and citizens have contributed to run the country? This is a fundamental question about democracy. We object to this Government railroading the Appropriation Bill through in this format. It is just not good democracy.
In recent years this Bill has gone through without debate, but my understanding is that years before, the Appropriation Bill was the basis for debate in the House and for more serious consideration. Somehow along the way Governments since 1997 have allowed the situation to develop whereby there is no debate.
We have objected to this on several occasions, but these are very different times. It should be debated in any event, but in straitened times such as these there is a responsibility on this Chamber to address what is involved here, to look at what is being set aside in the different Departments, what is not being employed and used and what is proposed to be put back into the Central Fund. This is something on which we should have the opportunity to express an opinion and we should try to influence the decisions of Government and the various Departments. I commend the earlier practice of this House in addressing Appropriation Bills and I hope the Government accepts that proposal.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 79 (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, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, 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, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie 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, Christy O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 64 (James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, 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, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Arthur Morgan, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1, Second and Subsequent Stages of the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2010 [Seanad] agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 41, Order for Report, Report and Final Stages of the Student Support Bill 2008 agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 41a, statements on the carbon budget agreed to? Agreed.
Is the proposal that the DÃ¡il on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 agreed to?
It will be a brief observation. The Green Party is keen to ensure particular legislation is dealt with before it leaves Government. The party has stated its clear intention to call an election in late January, in respect of which we on this side of the House wish to facilitate it. I believe the country needs a new Government and the sooner this happens, the sooner this country can start the recovery process.
We recently learned of bonuses to be paid to bankers and of cuts to carers' allowances. The sooner the better this Government, which has lost its moral compass, leaves this House and goes to the country and allows the people to elect a new Government with a mandate to represent them here and in Europe.
In normal circumstances, the proposal before the House would be acceptable. However, there are a number of reasons it is not acceptable. We are not in normal circumstances. The Taoiseach is attending the EU summit this weekend. It is normal when there is a summit that the Taoiseach comes back and reports to the House and we have a debate on what has happened. I believe at a minimum there should be an opportunity for that next week. It is important that it should happen because the matters under consideration at the summit include the economic situation and the financial crisis in Europe, the risks to the euro and a proposal which is being introduced by the Council President for an amendment to the Lisbon treaty. It is not acceptable that we have to wait until mid-January before the House can consider the outcome of this important European Council meeting. The House should return next week at least for a day to hear and consider the Taoiseach's report from the summit.
I asked the TÃ¡naiste earlier for clarity about the Government's intentions with regard to the publication of, and the debate on, the finance Bill and the dissolution of the DÃ¡il. We had a clear statement in November from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government where he said that "...we have now reached a point where the Irish people need political certainty to take them beyond the coming months. So, we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011". I agree with that and it would not be unreasonable that we come back on 12 January; that the finance Bill is published in advance of our return; that we take two weeks to debate and deal with it; and, in line with the commitment the Minister gave to the Irish people, that the DÃ¡il is dissolved by the end of January and we have the general election to provide political certainty for the time ahead.
If we come back here on 12 January and we are not in a position to know that we have two weeks to deal with the finance Bill and that the DÃ¡il will be dissolved at the end of January, this party intends to put the issue to the test in the House as to how much longer this Government intends to drag out the holding of a general election, which the people of the country are seeking and which the country needs.
I do not believe for a moment it is beyond the gift of the Government parties to introduce the finance Bill with immediate effect. They can respond as they please in terms of moving legislation forward to suit the moment and their own interest and that process should commence immediately. The citizenry should not have the agony that has been visited on them prolonged. The stress and strain is clearly in evidence between the Government parties and their misery should not be prolonged longer than is necessary. Everything should be brought forward in order that we can bring the 30th DÃ¡il to the earliest conclusion possible. Accordingly, we should get on with that process in the coming week to give some measure of hope to the people this Christmas.
The previous proposal was that the House would return on 19 January 2011. It was decided the House would resume on 12 January, which is much earlier than in previous years. We have had a considerable number of sittings and a considerable number of Bills have been introduced and dealt with by the House.
However, he will have to wait until the Taoiseach decides when the dissolution of the DÃ¡il will take place. There might be other syngergies to be addressed in the meantime to decide who will be standing in his place.
It would be erroneous for people to think that any Member of this House will not be working next week. Every Member has always performed his or her duties and has always worked up to the last minute. Equally, the Government will be at work next week.
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, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, 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, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, John McGuinness, 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, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 63 (James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Arthur Morgan, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, 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, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe
Question declared carried
Now that the House has decided it will adjourn today for Christmas, I take this opportunity to wish all the Members of the House, their families and the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas a happy and peaceful Christmas. I also wish all the Members a successful and probably eventful 2011.
A Cheann Comhairle, on behalf of the Government I thank you and your staff for your work during the year. I also wish well the staff of the Houses, who are not often appreciated. When we finish in this Chamber they continue working to complete what takes place in the House. I wish all Members of the House a happy Christmas. There has been a considerable and long period of discussion since we returned after the summer recess and each Member of the House deserves to be afforded the opportunity to have some time off with their families. Ba mhaith liom ar son an Rialtais Nollaig shona agus bliain Ãºr faoi mhaise a thabhairt do gach duine anseo.
I join the TÃ¡naiste in her comments to you, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the ushers, the staff in the restaurant and staff throughout Leinster House. I also thank those who have retired this year, especially the head usher, Mr. Shay Byrne. I thank members of the media and wish them a happy Christmas and all the political staff, particularly the Fine Gael Party staff. I thank and wish all our Deputies a happy Christmas and, as the Ceann Comhairle put it, an eventful new year. I also wish you, a Cheann Comhairle, a happy Christmas.
Special mention should be made of public sector workers who will be working hard in trying circumstances over the Christmas to keep us safe and well and to keep our services running. I wish them well. I should also mention all the families who are finding this time of the year so difficult, particularly financially, and those who have lost loved ones. I wish all our citizens a happy Christmas and a bright new year, with the new hope a new year and a new Government can bring. We all look forward to a brighter future for our people.
I join the TÃ¡naiste and the deputy leader of Fine Gael in wishing you, a Cheann Comhairle, and all the Members of the Houses a happy Christmas and new year. I include in that wish the staff of the Houses at every level who work so diligently and helpfully with the Members, the political staff of all the political parties and of the Members who work with us, the media who cover the proceedings of the House and everybody who frequents the Houses. I agree with Deputy Reilly that at this time of the year our public services are repeatedly called upon. Consider the people who are out in the middle of the night gritting the roads, people repairing power lines and the people who keep this country going. Many of them will be working in the public services throughout the Christmas period to ensure everybody can enjoy it. It is appropriate that we remember the work they are doing.
I wish the country a fresh start in the new year and I hope the Government will accommodate that by facilitating an election as early as possible. In saying it will have an election in the new year I hope the Government means the new year according to our calendar and that it will not revert to the Chinese calendar-----
I extend Christmas greetings to you, a Cheann Comhairle, the Members of the DÃ¡il and Seanad and their families, the Clerk of the DÃ¡il, the staff, the ushers and to all who help to make this institution function each day. I also extend season's greetings to the political correspondents who attend and report on the proceedings here each day. I join my colleagues in wishing everyone a happy Christmas because it is deserved by everybody. I am conscious that, regrettably, not everyone is likely to have a happy Christmas so we are mindful of those at the coal face and their important work helping those most in need and facing difficulties at this time. I am also conscious that many young people will not be here for Christmas with their families, perhaps for the first time, as a result of having to emigrate over the past 12 months. Those who will not be able to return include the undocumented Irish in the United States and those in other parts of the world who cannot afford to travel home to be with their families.
I join the two Opposition Members in hoping that 2011 will see a new start politically for this Chamber. A new beginning will, please God, offer new hope and opportunity for our people, which they are desperately in need of at this time.
Ciarán Cuffe (Minister of State , Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Minister of State , Department of Transport; Minister of State , Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dún Laoghaire, Green Party)
Link to this: Individually | In context
On behalf of the Green Party I wish all Members and staff the best for the holiday season. There have been moments during this year when, for many of us, our health and sanity have been compromised, indeed threatened, by the occupational challenges in the Oireachtas. However, the holiday season is a time to try to rediscover the work, life and family balance that is often so lacking in the lives of those who are Members of the Oireachtas. On behalf of the Green Party, I would like to reach out to all those who work in the environs of Leinster House, as well as to Irish people at home and abroad, and wish them a restful and relaxing holiday period. I hope they have the time to savour that with their families and communities.
It is just over a month since the Irish Human Rights Commission reported on the Magdalene laundries issue, and its findings were significant. Does the TÃ¡naiste have any plans to put in place an investigation or to respond in any way to the Irish Human Rights Commission's report on the Magdalene laundries? We are talking about a small community here-----
I am quite in order. This is a small, ageing community and we are unlikely to see it occur in our lifetime. They are desperately waiting to see if the Government will react and apologise for the great wrong that was done to them.
The last time this was raised in the DÃ¡il, the Taoiseach stated that the matters raised by the Irish Human Rights Commission were being referred to the Attorney General for his opinion on the redress scheme and so on. Has there been a determination by the Attorney General?
There is a parallel issue in respect of Bethany Home and I am not sure whether that has been done.
The female genital mutilation Bill was promised before the end of this year, but it does not appear there will be enough time to take it. Will it be published?
Yes. The Minister for Health and Children intends to publish it during the session. I am not aware of the Attorney General's views on the other issue, but we will get an update for the Deputies.
I would like to raise an issue that was before the House in respect of public appointments to State boards. We read in the newspapers today that 291 appointments are due to be made to State boards before the end of February. Some 93 are to be made by the Minister for Health and Children, 33 by the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Innovation, and 31 by the TÃ¡naiste.
Some 35 appointments have been made since the Green Party announcement on 22 November that it was leaving the Government and 20 of these have been made by that party, which is over 60%. Is this the Green Party's idea of a job strategy?
Deputy Varadkar put forward a Bill in the past which was not accepted by this House but which I believe should come before the House again. I wonder where it is on the Order Paper. The Deputy has a Private Members' motion down for the first week back in January. The solution is that all appointments should be advertised, all appointments should be screened by the relevant Oireachtas committee as set out in our "New Politics" document by Deputy Hogan, and all appointments should be made on the basis of merit and ability. They should not be made on the basis of what the previous Taoiseach said, which was that he did not appoint them because they gave him money, but because they were his friends. This is an outrageous way to run a country and is part of the reason we are in the mess we find ourselves.
We are passing legislation on climate change and other issues, yet there is an indemnity Bill in the hands of the Government, which I put forward and which was agreed by the Minister for Health and Children, that would protect patients against rogue doctors who would practice in this country without insurance. It is a simple Bill. It confers protection on patients. There are only a few doctors involved, as the vast majority of doctors in this country are insured. This is for the rogues, because one doctor can do a lot of damage.
I would like to reiterate what Deputy Reilly said. There is a motion on the Order Paper which I published last week and which deals with the issue of public appointments. There are more than 400 to be made before the Government ends its term in February, including some very important positions on State companies like the ESB, Bord GÃ¡is and Coillte, and very powerful positions like An Bord PleanÃ¡la and ComReg.
The Green Party seems to have put great store by certain legislation. It wants to get the corporate donations Bill through-----
It also wants to get the noise Bill through, but there seems to be no plan to get through legislation on public appointments. It is the plan of the Green Party and Fianna FÃ¡il to stuff as many State boards as possible with their supporters before they leave office.
-----if we can take that motion first thing in the new year. Will Government time be allowed for it? Government time is being allowed for all sorts of absurd legislation to keep the Green Party happy. Will the Government make some time for some real reform so that it can say it achieved something before it leaves office?
I am sure the TÃ¡naiste is aware of a judgment in the European Court of Human Rights which decided that a woman who had cancer had her rights violated because the Government has not implemented the decision of the people in a constitutional referendum on the right to life of a woman and, when her life is in danger, the right to an abortion. The court's ruling is binding. The Government has not had much time to consider the judgment but will it be making a statement when it has done so? When will that happen?
That judgment was given at 10 a.m. The Minister for Health and Children will examine the judgment carefully and she will consider any legal implications arising from it.
I understand that a Bill has been agreed by Cabinet in respect of a constitutional referendum on the rights of the child. When will the referendum Bill to enable the people to enshrine the rights of the child in the Constitution be published? Is it envisaged that it will be taken before the end of this DÃ¡il? Will it be possible to hold the children's referendum on the day of the next general election?
I would like to be associated with the good wishes to colleagues and staff in the House for a happy and peaceful Christmas. In football terms, there is always great pride taken by the team that occupies the top spot in the premiership at Christmas. In political terms and following the recent opinion polls, that is a position being occupied by the Fine Gael Party, so I would like to congratulate them on that, and to acknowledge the role played by the invisible man and the comeback kid.
While we all wish the people a happy Christmas, is the TÃ¡naiste aware of the widespread anxiety of many in the northern half of the country and in her constituency about the impending snowstorm? Most local authorities, including Donegal County Council, have exhausted their supply of salt. Would the TÃ¡naiste contact the NRA and implore it not to-----
-----have the county closed down over the Christmas period. It is not promised legislation, but promised salt that I am looking for. Perhaps the TÃ¡naiste could use her good offices to contact the NRA and to make sure that our county is not closed down for the next few days.
Clearly, I do not want that to happen in County Donegal. There is a meeting of the local authority taking place at the moment to see what strategy can be introduced to ensure that the issues arising from the weather will be addressed. I will certainly use my offices to contact the NRA on the matter.
So I gather. I referred earlier to the desirability that we should meet next week to hear the Taoiseach's report from the EU summit. The DÃ¡il is not sitting next week so we will not have the opportunity to do that in the House. When he returns from the summit next week, will the Taoiseach circulate the statement he would normally make in the House so we would at least be in a position to make public comment on the outcome of the summit and the Taoiseach's assessment of it? It is not desirable that there would be no opportunity to comment on what the Taoiseach has to say about the summit until the middle of January. Given the House is not sitting, I ask that at least the Taoiseach's statement would be circulated.
We will be in a position to facilitate a response to the summit on 12 January. On the other issue, I would have to discuss it with the Taoiseach and revert to the Deputy.
I wish to raise two issues. When can we expect the Property Services (Regulation) Bill back in the House? The second issue relates to the health repayment scheme. Despite a claim having been submitted, accepted and declared in order in 2007, the person involved is still awaiting payment. In October of this year she was told she would be paid before Christmas.
Sorry, a Cheann Comhairle. I have no other way of raising this. I have made all the telephone calls and written all the letters. This woman will be going to the moneylenders because the money has not been paid to her before Christmas, as promised.
The first Bill referred to is awaiting Committee Stage but I am not in a position to say when it will be called. I am not aware of any developments on the repayments legislation but I can revert to the Deputy on that.
In that context, it would be appropriate for me to wish the Ceann Comhairle a very happy Christmas. If I was precocious during the course of the year, it was not my intention. I hope the Ceann Comhairle does not have any nightmares over Christmas about the various contretemps we had during the course of the year.
On more serious business, have arrangements been made to introduce the international agreements Bill to amend the Bretton Woods agreement? It is very important, relevant and fundamental to the issues in regard to borrowing that now affect us. The key acronym in the Bill is NAB - new agreements to borrow.