Dáil debates

Thursday, 20 January 2011

10:30 am

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Order of Business is No. 19, Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill 2010 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 4 - Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are no proposals to be put to the House today.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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Where do we leave our CVs for all these jobs?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Kenny on the Order of Business. Can we have silence for the Deputy?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Due to the antiquated Standing Orders that operate in here, I am precluded from making a proposal to change the Order of Business. Where is the Taoiseach this morning? Why is he not in the Chamber of the heart of our democracy to tell us what is going on?

A Deputy:

He is making the tea.

A Deputy:

He is looking for a Minister.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call on Deputy Burton.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I want an answer to the question.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy knows that we do not have the Taoiseach on the Order of Business on a Thursday morning. The Tánaiste deals with the Order of Business on a Thursday morning.

Photo of Noel CoonanNoel Coonan (Tipperary North, Fine Gael)
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He is having tea with Deputy Gogarty.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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A Cheann Comhairle, I have noticed in the past three weeks that on Leaders' Questions, you jump in within 30 seconds of me making my offering. You allow the Taoiseach to speak for 11 or 12 minutes uninterrupted on each occasion.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny, there is an obligation on me as Chair to maintain order in the House, and I intend to do that.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I want to ask the Tánaiste where Brian Cowen is now. He should be in this Chamber.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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In the long history of this State, this situation has never obtained previously, where almost half of the Cabinet have resigned. This was plotted and planned to some extent for the past couple of weeks. The junior partners in the Government have been treated with contempt. Do the people over there not understand that the anger on the streets of our country is unprecedented at their carry on? Ministers resign for their pensions and their positions are not filled until they are given the say so. We do not know whether these resignations have been accepted, whether technically there is a Minister in charge of the Department of Justice and Law Reform, the Department of Transport or the Department of Health and Children, where there is a constitutional requirement to have a Minister in charge of these Departments. This would hot have happened even in the days of great dictators.

What the Government has done is unprecedented. It is about time that the Green Party stopped tweeting and stood up to the mark.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The people of this country want their say.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Where are they?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Before Christmas we offered the Government the opportunity to put through the Finance Bill. We came back a week early to discuss the Finance Bill. In the second week of this session, it is not even published and we are now told by the Green Party that it is not due to appear until next week.

Tánaiste, these are the last days of the worst Government in the history of the State.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is a cowardly, disgraceful act of the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, in refusing to come in here today to tell the people of his country what is happening with a Government that has imploded, is dysfunctional, has disintegrated and let our people down.

I am constrained by these rules from voting on changing this proposal. I want to know from the Tánaiste where is the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, why is he not here-----

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He is making his promises.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----and why are we not being told what is happening. If the Green Party Members are listening up in their rooms, it is about time that they stepped up to the mark, name the date as 12 or 14 February for the conclusion of the Finance Bill, have a dissolution of this Dáil, and let the people have their say. This is the worst Government in the history of our State, and the Tánaiste is now sitting in the chair of power. I ask her to answer the question: where is the Taoiseach?

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Is he checking the list, Mary?

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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If I may be as disorderly as the Leader of the Opposition-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will have to-----

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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That is your job gone, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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The issue is that in the main, I take the Order of Business on a Thursday. That has been the tradition unless-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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This is no ordinary Thursday.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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-----I am not in a position to do so.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, one speaker at a time. Otherwise, we will not be able to hear ourselves in the House.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Six members of the Government have departed.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter, please.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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An historical act of collective Cabinet irresponsibility.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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If and when the Taoiseach has an announcement to make-----

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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On the promises.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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-----arising from resignations, he will do so to the House when the relevant constitutional arrangements have been complied with.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Eamon Gilmore.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Has the Minister resigned or not? Is the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, gone or not?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy O'Dowd, I have called Deputy Eamon Gilmore.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, will you resume your seat? I have called Deputy Eamon Gilmore.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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No, on a brief point of order, is there not a constitutional obligation on the Taoiseach to inform the House of Ministers who have resigned?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach is in flagrant violation of that constitutional obligation. He must come into the House today and inform the House of who has resigned and what remains of the totally incompetent Cabinet.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter, you have made your point.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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A Cheann Comhairle, what is happening here this morning is disrespectful of the people of this country.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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We heard on the news last night that the Minister for Health and Children has resigned. We then heard that three other Ministers - the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and the Minister for Transport - have resigned. There is speculation that another Minister is about to resign.

It has always been the case that when Ministers of the Government resign a statement is made to the Dáil by the Taoiseach informing the Dáil of the resignations of the Ministers or that he is informing the President to accept their resignations and indicating whatever arrangements are being made either for the appointment of new Ministers or the transfer of their functions.

We have a flu epidemic. We have people lying on trolleys in hospitals, and the Minister for Health and Children has taken to the hills. We have flights being cancelled in Aer Lingus, and the Minister for Transport has resigned. We have problems of crime in many parts of the country, and the two Ministers responsible for justice and defence are gone. We have had unprecedented commentary on this country by both President Sarkozy of France, and yesterday by the President of the European Commission, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs is gone.

We hear from interviews being given by one of the retiring Ministers that this was all being planned and talked about, even before Christmas, that there is an orchestrated resignation of Ministers going on. There is some kind of a political, cynical-----

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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The vote is over.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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-----grubby exercise in last-minute jobbery being hatched by this Government which we are not being told about, and we are not being told who has Government responsibility for various issues.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He waited till the vote was over.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Can the Tánaiste tell us who has resigned or who is about to resign? Can the full list of resignees be told to us?

A Deputy:

And put on the record.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Can we be told to whom are the Departments responsible? If the Garda Commissioner or the Chief of Staff of the Army has a serious issue of security or of crime to deal with this morning, to whom do they report? There is a clear issue of reporting required in those cases.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Gilmore-----

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I am sorry to-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will call on the Tánaiste-----

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I am sorry to keep you-----

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Does the Deputy have his 'phone on?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I am sorry if I am keeping you from your coffee and "biccies" but these are serious matters which require to be addressed. This started out as a matter of survival of the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and now survival of Fianna Fáil, and that is Fianna Fáil's business, but the problem now is that it is seriously impacting on the way in which the country is not being run.

Deputy Kenny is right. We need to be able to vote on this issue. The Labour Party has a motion of no confidence before the House in what is now a disintegrating and dysfunctional Government. That can be taken today if the Government is so minded. Alternatively, somebody on behalf of the Government, presumably the Taoiseach, can come in here and tell us what will be done about what are now vacant ministerial portfolios, but we simply cannot go on. The idea that the Tánaiste can come in here and announce that the Order of Business is the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill in circumstances where the Government is disintegrating is eccentric.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Paralysis.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Let us have some real answers about what is going on.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I did advise the House that if and when the Taoiseach makes an announcement he will do so in this House when the constitutional arrangements have been complied with.

This reminds me of the dramatics of 1986 when the coalition Government denied the people of Donegal South-West their right to be represented after the death of my father.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Not to mention-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, please.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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-----the dramatics of a former Tánaiste-----

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Where is the Taoiseach, for God's sake?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy O'Dowd. Can we hear the Tánaiste without interruption?

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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-----of the Labour Party who walked out on the Fine Gael Party well before Christmas and we did not have an election until February.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Tánaiste is wrong.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Will you call for an election, a Cheann Comhairle, because of the people of the country-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ring, Deputy Gilmore is in possession.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Let us have the election and get rid of all of the Ministers.

All these boys are worried about, with their hands in their pockets, is whether the 'phone will go off and they will be called.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will have to suspend the House unless we can get the co-operation of the members of the House.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Eamon Gilmore is in possession.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Close it down. Suspend the whole place.

A Deputy:

The four amigos.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The last four standing.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Where are the green bottles?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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A Cheann Comhairle, we have a Constitution and it is very clear that the appointment of members of the Government has to be approved by the Dáil. First, will the Tánaiste indicate if the Taoiseach intends to come in here at some stage today and propose the appointment of new members of the Government for the approval of the Dáil? Second, until that happens, can she tell us who is in charge of the Department of Justice and Law Reform this morning? To whom is the Garda Commissioner required to report now, this minute? To whom is the Garda Commissioner required to report at this minute? Who is in charge of the Department of Defence this morning? To whom does the Chief of Staff report now? We heard that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been assigned to the Taoiseach. That deals with that. To whom do we address our concerns about what is happening in Dublin Airport, the cancellation of flights and the inconvenience to passengers? Who has responsibility for the Department of Transport and-----

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Department of Health and Children.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Health, of course.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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There are so many.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Who is in charge of the Department of Health and Children? Is it true, as we have been hearing, that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation is resigning? That is what we were being tweeted with from Government sources earlier this morning.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Some 150 jobs in Cork should be announced today.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I cannot add to what I have said twice in this House, that the Taoiseach will come to the House when the constitutional issues have been complied with. The Taoiseach will revert to the House.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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Where is the Taoiseach?

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Will he make the announcement before he goes to the Park?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Will the Taoiseach be attending the House today?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Gilmore to continue. The Tánaiste has outlined the up-to-date position in regard to this matter.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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She has not. The Taoiseach should announce to the House what he intends to do.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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We should adjourn until he does so.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Tánaiste has indicated the position regarding that matter.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The constitutional requirements to which the Tánaiste refers are not matters that can be dealt with whenever the Taoiseach feels he can get around to doing so. They must be complied with now and they must be complied with here. Five ministries were vacant, one of which has been reassigned. Four are currently vacant, that we know of, to which no Cabinet Minister has been assigned. The Constitution must be complied with.

A Deputy:

It is a slightly constitutional party

Photo of Noel AhernNoel Ahern (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Can't you wait a few hours?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Did the Deputy say can we not wait a few hours?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Who said that?

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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What about a few months?

(Interruptions).

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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That is the swansong of this Government. It should be titled, "Can't you wait a few hours for the Constitution" It is like saying, "Can't the people who are lying on trolleys wait a few days before they get a bed" and "Can't the people who are out of work wait a few months, or even a few years, before they get back to work". We can wait no longer.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Is Fianna Fáil more important than the country?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Are all the former Ministers gone to the cupboard?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Could we hear Deputy Ó Caoláin without interruption?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Could we have an answer?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Ó Caoláin. I will have no option but to suspend the House unless I get the co-operation of Members.

(Interruptions).

Deputies:

Suspend the House.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Close the whole thing down.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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A Cheann Comhairle, I propose that you suspend the sitting and give the Taoiseach time to attend to announce what is happening.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask for attention for Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I am trying to address the Tánaiste, a Cheann Comhairle. This morning on "Morning Ireland" the former Minister for Transport, as we understand, Deputy Noel Dempsey, indicated that discussion of his resignation took place with the Taoiseach a fortnight ago. Were these resignations part of a plot organised by the Taoiseach so that in his subsequent one-on-one meetings with all his party members in advance of the vote of confidence motion he would have the opportunity to dangle before some of them the prospect of ministerial or junior ministerial promotion?

The question deserves to be answered. We are told the vote was extremely tight.

A Deputy:

What was Deputy Mansergh promised?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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There are sources that suggest that the vote was very tight. Did the Taoiseach use that opportunity?

A Deputy:

What was Deputy Roche promised?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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If this situation was being contrived a fortnight ago in order to dangle the prospect of promotion in return for support, a whole new dimension needs to be properly addressed, aired and explored. I believe it requires a very clear answer and not, with respect, from the Tánaiste, because she was not party to all of that, but most certainly from the Taoiseach on the floor of the House.

Some of our memories are not entirely lost and we know exactly why the Taoiseach is not here on a Thursday. That has to be highlighted here also.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He is checking the boxes.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I have always believed the Taoiseach should be here on every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The people watching this cannot not believe there are further strokes that can be played in advance of the general election. They are looking in astonishment at the unacceptability of what is unfolding.

Are those who shout loudest most favoured for promotion? We will watch and see. Watch this space for certain.

We are asking was this a contrived outrageous plot that puts our questions of the past couple of weeks regarding State board appointments in advance of a general election in the tuppenny ha'penny place. You will not fool the Irish people by this outrageous behaviour.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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A bit like Sinn Féin did to Deputy Morgan.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Deputy Dooley should not worry. He is in the running for the front or second bench.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ó Caoláin, please resume your seat. I call Deputy Enda Kenny.

A Deputy:

Did Deputy Roche get the call? He is smiling.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The Tánaiste has replied to the other leaders. As leader of the Technical Group I am deserving of the same courtesy from the Tánaiste and your assistance, a Cheann Comhairle, in securing same.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Two other party leaders are indicating that they wish to make brief comments. We will then have the response from the Tánaiste.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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They have already had their responses. They can, of course, come back. We are entitled to a direct reply and I hope you will defend that, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The comments of Deputies Ó Caoláin and Gilmore are valid, in the context of what is happening here. The demonstration in the last number of days of the Fianna Fáil Party's concern for the people of the country and for the country is best exemplified in the words of the previous Taoiseach, "Our ethics are to get in here and stay in here". A senior Government Minister thinks it is appropriate that the Taoiseach is not fit to be leader of the Fianna Fáil Party but is fit to lead the country. If that is how low the values of Irish politics have descended-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kenny, you are getting into an area that is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This is unprecedented. There is a duty of notice of changes to Government and a duty of notice to the House of the transfer of constitutional responsibilities. I ask you, a Cheann Comhairle, to suspend the House for one hour and get the Taoiseach here to tell us what is happening.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

11:00 am

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I support Deputy Kenny in this. The sitting should be suspended until the Taoiseach is in a position to inform the House of the resignations and the arrangements for the transfer of the responsibilities of the Ministers who have resigned. When the Taoiseach accepted the resignations, I presume he transferred the responsibilities. We should be told to whom they have been transferred. We were not told this morning. I do not know if the Tánaiste is aware of it or not. However, the House and the public must be told who, for example, is in charge of the Garda. Who is in charge of the legal system, the courts and so on?

This is not something that one leaves vacant. I presume that when the Taoiseach was informed last night or in whatever discussions he had with the Minister for Justice and Law Reform that the latter was resigning, a transfer of functions took place. Members must be told this in the first instance and second must hear what the Taoiseach plans to do in the longer term. I support Deputy Kenny's proposal that this sitting should be suspended until the Taoiseach is in a position to come into the Chamber and tell Members these things.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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As for the request for a suspension, the Chair is not empowered to suspend the House except when there is gross disorder in the House and we were verging on that-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Close the whole thing down.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies should sit down.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies should resume their seats please. I have clearly stated what is the position and if we have continuous disorder, I will suspend the House.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Close the whole thing down.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Bring the Taoiseach into the House.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Suspend the House until Members receive an indication in respect of the constitutional issues.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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A Cheann Comhairle-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Tánaiste will not tell Members what is going on.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, please. One speaker at a time in the Chamber as otherwise, we will not be able to hear what is being said. I have called the Tánaiste.

Deputies:

Suspend the House.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Under the Constitution, Ministers have not resigned until such times as their resignations have been accepted by the President.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Where are they?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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They must be in limbo.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Where is the Ballincollig one?

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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As I indicated, for the fourth time, that when these matters have been complied with, the Taoiseach will revert to the House.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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The Taoiseach must state whether he is recommending such acceptance.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Durkan, on a point of order.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, the points raised by Members previously on the Opposition side are absolutely accurate. As a long-standing Member of this House, the Ceann Comhairle knows there never has been a situation in which there has been a major set of reappointments of Ministers to the Cabinet without the Taoiseach coming into the House and making a formal announcement. The Ceann Comhairle has the power to suspend the House, as already has been requested, to give some credence to this House in the face of the people, particularly-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point and should resume his seat please.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I have not finished my point.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point of order.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Particularly since the Tánaiste also, as a long-serving and experienced Member of this House, surely will not allow this House to be brought into further disrepute by refusing to allow the Taoiseach come into the House to make that formal announcement.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The Constitution is very clear in this regard. Article 13.1.3° states "The President shall, on the advice of the Taoiseach, accept the resignation or terminate the appointment of any member of the Government." Has or has not the Taoiseach advised the President to accept the resignations of the Ministers who announced their own resignations last night? Second, as the Dáil's business is a matter for the Dáil itself, I formally move that this sitting be suspended until the Taoiseach comes in here and clears up these matters.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Fine Gael already has done that.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am not empowered to accept that proposal. We are in Government time.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Will the Government accept the amendment?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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This has gone beyond farce.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Will the Government accept this proposal?

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, the Ceann Comhairle as Chairman of this House, lawfully elected by its Members some time ago-----

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He is in charge.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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-----or at least appointed to the position on the nomination of the Taoiseach of the day, has responsibility in this regard. On behalf of Members, I ask the Ceann Comhairle to ensure the constitutional provisions are fully complied with. I refer in particular to the confusion the Tánaiste now has introduced by stating that no one has resigned. Who is she trying to fool? She stated that no one has resigned.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point on a point of order.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Finally, I ask the Ceann Comhairle to take on board Deputy Kenny's suggestion that the business of the House be suspended for an hour to allow the Taoiseach to deal with the constitutional issues as raised.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am not so empowered. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges can give that power to the Chair but I do not have it at present. I call an Teachta Ó Caoláin.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle has the power to suspend proceedings at any time and has done so in the past.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Who will stop the Ceann Comhairle?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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On foot of on unruly behaviour.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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He has threatened to suspend the House this morning.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call an Teachta Ó Caoláin.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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A Cheann Comhairle-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, I have called an Teachta Ó Caoláin.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Perhaps the Deputy will allow me to finish first.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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What the Ceann Comhairle just said on the point of order was untrue. He does have the power to adjourn or dismiss the House at any time.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should resume his seat.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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On a point of order, in my experience, when there is no Minister for Justice and Law Reform or even when that Minister leaves the State, it is normal practice that a formal transfer order is made to transfer the functions of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to another member of Government. Has there been a formal transfer of the powers and authority of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to another member of the Cabinet?

Photo of Noel CoonanNoel Coonan (Tipperary North, Fine Gael)
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He has not resigned.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I will state once more that as I have indicated a number of times, Ministers remain until such times as the President has accepted those resignations. I also stated-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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No.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Where are they?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, please.

A Deputy:

Are they in limbo? The Tánaiste should listen to the spin upstairs.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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-----that if and when these matters are complied with, the Taoiseach of course will come to the House.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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For clarity and on a point of order-----

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I cannot add any more than that to it.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Three Members are on their feet simultaneously and I ask them to resume their seats. Deputy Howlin, on a point of order.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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A Cheann Comhairle, I have been called and what I have to ask is a point of order. May I have the opportunity to ask it?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will call the Deputy when Deputy Howlin finishes.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I seek clarity in order that Members will know the precise position in respect of a serious matter, namely, the role and responsibilities under the Constitution of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform. Is the Tánaiste formally informing the House that the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, is, as of 11.10 a.m., fully responsible for the Department of Justice and Law Reform?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, this is too much.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Members need to know who is the Minister for Justice and Law Reform. This is a basic question.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Briefly, on the same issue, while I would not normally make reference to this in the House, the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, required a hospital procedure that would have resulted, presumably-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter, please.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----in his powers as Minister for Justice and Law Reform being transferred at that time some days ago to another Minister. Does the Tánaiste know who was the Minister in those circumstances-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter has made his point.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----who took over the powers of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----at a time when the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, could not exercise those powers for the specific reason mentioned?

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Is that person still a member of the Cabinet?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Does that Minister retain the powers of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform? This is not a minor matter.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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If the Tánaiste, as Deputy Prime Minister of this country-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, calling a point of order and then availing of it to continue to make a Second Stage speech is not tolerable.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----does not know the answer to that question-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please resume your seat. I have called on an Teachta Ó Caoláin.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----the Government is not functional.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Go raibh maith agat a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Government is not functional-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should resume his seat, please.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----and Members are entitled to know the answer to that question.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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There is a critical question that already has been asked.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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A Cheann Comhairle, it should not be necessary, in the context of-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please resume your seat. I will suspend the House unless the Deputy resumes his seat.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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If the Ceann Comhairle will allow-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The House is suspended for 15 minutes.

Sitting suspended at 11.10 a.m. and resumed at 11.25 a.m.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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With respect, will the Ceann Comhairle allow me to proceed?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Kenny. I will come back to the Deputy.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We are in an unprecedented situation here. In the past ten minutes, I sent the Taoiseach a letter to the effect that it would be appropriate that he attend the House and inform the people and the country what responsibilities various Ministers reputed to have resigned now hold. We need to know whether the President has accepted his recommendations for resignations. We need to know what background planning went into this situation. I understand that as we speak the Green Party leadership is now in direct contact with the Taoiseach and I understand the Taoiseach is in Government Buildings. I formally request the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the House until such time as the Taoiseach attends the House and informs the Irish public what is happening to his country.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have advised that I am not empowered to suspend the House.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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There is a facility for the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the House.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes, for gross disorder.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I wish to support the request that has been made by Deputy Kenny that the House be suspended until we hear from the Taoiseach. There is no option or alternative to that. The Constitution is very clear as to what happens when Ministers resign. Clearly, from our earlier exchanges, the Tánaiste, at best, does not seem to know what is happening. A number of Ministers have announced that they have resigned and we need to know if the Taoiseach has accepted those resignations and if he has advised the President that he has accepted them. That is a matter or fact of which we need to be informed. Following on from that, we then need to know what arrangements are being made with regard to the responsibilities of those Ministers. As indicated earlier there are some serious responsibilities involved in regard to the Ministers for Justice and Law Reform, Health and Children, Transport and Defence. We need to know with whom these responsibilities now rest.

The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey - I am not sure if I should refer to him as former Minister or not because we do not know if he has resigned or whether, if he has done so, that resignation has been accepted-----

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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He is thinking about it.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The Minister told the nation this morning that these discussions with the Taoiseach had been ongoing since before Christmas, which would suggest that a carefully orchestrated plan was hatched whereby Ministers would resign and new Ministers would be appointed, which is one of the most cynical and grubby exercises-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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-----in last minute jobbery by Fianna Fáil before the holding of a general election. All of these are matters in regard to which we need to be absolutely clear. People in this country and others who this morning may be considering investing in it and creating jobs here need to know if we have a Government and if so, if it is functioning.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The fundamental question that arises for anyone outside of this country who may be considering investing in or creating jobs here is, having watched during the past hour what has been going on in this House, "Is there a Government?"

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Government is making us a laughing stock.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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We need to-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are dealing with the Order of Business and we need to move on.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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We need to move on with the election.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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This is extraordinary business. In my 20 years as a Member of this House I have seen some fairly significant changes in Government in dramatic days. However, I have never been here in circumstances in which I do not know whether we have a Government, who are the members of that Government and who holds responsibility for particular portfolios and the Taoiseach is not in the House to tell is what is happening. It would appear the Tánaiste does not know what is happening. We need clarity. The only way we are going to solve this is to suspend the sitting until the Taoiseach is in a position to come into the House. That is the minimum that needs to happen.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I do not have the power to suspend the House in those circumstances. We are in Government time.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle may not be empowered to do so but I am putting it-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I must advise Members that if the Committee on Procedure and Privileges wishes to give that power to the Chair, that is fine. However, I do not have such power as of now.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle has suspended the House often enough.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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It can happen.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I support Deputy Kenny's proposal on this matter. I am asking the Tánaiste to agree on behalf of the Government that the sitting be suspended until the Taoiseach comes into the House.

A Deputy:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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The Government can agree to it.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I ask other Opposition Members to respect my right, on behalf of the Technical Group, to participate. At every opportunity the Ceann Comhairle has called me, a series of points of order have been raised. I ask other Members to hold their points of order until we have had a chance to contribute.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is being disorderly.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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They have had their chance and fair play is now deserved.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Relax.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I am asking the Ceann Comhairle to allow me to participate.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am allowing the Deputy to participate. The Deputy must be relevant.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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We know well the reason the Taoiseach is not here. If Members want to go into all of that, we will do that for them too.

We know that new members of the Cabinet must be approved by this House. Yesterday, the Taoiseach took over the responsibilities of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As a sitting Member of the Cabinet, he did not need the approval of the House. However, if these five vacancies, including the vacancy in the ministry for foreign affairs, are to be filled by any one or more from those in the ranks of Minster of State or from the back benches-----

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Or the Green Party.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----a formal motion must come before this House. We have the right to know when it is intended that this will happen, if that is the scenario that presents or is the Taoiseach on his way to the Phoenix Park to do what we have hoped for a long time?

The Minister for Foreign Affairs is scheduled to take Question Time in the House this afternoon. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is currently the absent Taoiseach of the day. Will the now Minister for Foreign Affairs take Oral Questions in this House this afternoon? Will the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, present to answer questions on foreign affairs matters?

It has been strongly suggested that the vote the other day was as close as 37 to 34-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter is not relevant to the Order of Business.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----which is a narrow majority. If that be the case-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not relevant.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is relevant.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is not relevant.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Has the Taoiseach been dangling out reward for support in his vote of confidence motion the other evening? We have the right to hear the truth in relation to that matter.

The Minister for Transport, Mr. Dempsey, confirmed that all of this was known and discussed over a period of two weeks prior to the Taoiseach's vote of confidence motion. Clearly, that is the question on people's minds today, not alone in this House but in the wider public. A more cynical exercise the people have never witnessed than what has unfolded during the past 24 hours.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will endeavour to conclude this matter. I call the Tánaiste.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Ministers will continue to discharge their duties until such time as constitutional matters have been complied with and the President has accepted their resignations.

Photo of Arthur MorganArthur Morgan (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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When will that happen?

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I must refer Members to the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1946 which states: "The Taoiseach may from time to time assign a particular Department of State to a Member of the Government and may assign more than one Department of State to that same person".

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Has he done it?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Has the Taoiseach done that?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Has that happened?

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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Those assignments are not a matter for the House. The House is only informed of them. However, the matter of appointments is a matter for the House. As indicated, if and when those matters have been finalised-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Has that power been exercised?

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Is that the case?

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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-----the Taoiseach will come to the House.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We have had enough.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Yes, we have had enough.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, please. We have been discussing this for the past hour.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is business to be transacted in the House and we need to move on.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy O'Dowd on a point of order.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Notwithstanding what the Tánaiste said about the President accepting or not the resignations of Ministers, has the Taoiseach accepted resignations received by him over night or this morning? This is the Parliament-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is getting in on the matter under the guise of a point of order.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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This is the Parliament of the people.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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This is the Parliament.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Either this is a Parliament or it is not. We have been appointed by the people. Either the Government is accountable to the people through this Chamber or it is not.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We have been over this ground for the past hour.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I accept that. Can I ask the-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The position has been outlined.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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No, it has not.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Has the Taoiseach received resignation letters from Ministers?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy must find another way of raising the matter. I call Deputy Durkan.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, you have indicated that you can only suspend the House when there is disorder. I respectfully suggest to you that there is ultimate disorder in this House now. Half of the Cabinet have resigned.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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The other half is waiting to do so.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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All of them are missing-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am asking the Ceann Comhairle to determine what is disorder.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Where is the Taoiseach hiding?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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He is in his bunker.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Is it not disorder that half the Cabinet is missing from the House this morning? It is rumoured they have resigned. The Tánaiste cannot inform-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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All of these points have been made during the past hour. The Deputy is engaging in repetition.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The point I am making has not been made.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Quinn.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am asking the Ceann Comhairle to restore order to this House.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am endeavouring to do so. The Deputy's co-operation in that regard would be helpful.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am asking the Ceann Comhairle to use his good offices to restore order to the House to enable the Taoiseach to come before the House.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Some co-operation would be enormously helpful. I call Deputy Quinn.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Tánaiste wishes to come in.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Education and Science; Minister, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I propose that the House adjourn until 1.30 p.m.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 11.40 a.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.