Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

5:00 pm

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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It is proposed to take No. 1, Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 [Seanad] - Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Private Members' business, which shall be No. 42 – motion re: European Stability Mechanism, shall also take place immediately after the Order of Business tomorrow and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I note that last week a commitment was made to introduce legislation to provide for a constitutional amendment for voting rights for emigrants in a presidential election. The Tánaiste was reported as saying he favoured constitutional change in order that emigrants can be enabled to vote in this country's elections, and initially in a presidential election. Is the Government in a position to provide a timeline for its constitutional reform programme as it is becoming more confusing by the week with the announcements we get? In a presentation from the Taoiseach two weeks ago, he said the Government was committed to changing from 18 to 17 the age at which people could vote and that the term of presidential office would change from seven years to five years. Those two issues - and only those issues - would be considered by the constitutional convention. To be frank, I do not see the necessity of bringing 100 people together just to consider those issues; that is why we are elected. I would have thought the convention could deal with far more substantive issues but they seem to have been put on the long finger.

The Tánaiste has introduced a new issue that was not in the submission to us from the Taoiseach. There is a forthcoming referendum on the EU fiscal compact treaty and I would appreciate the Tánaiste updating us on any Government decision on the time for that. While the Tánaiste seems to be a little more optimistic about the children's rights referendum, we do not get a sense that it will take place this year. The Seanad referendum seems to have been pushed into 2013.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Will the Deputy put a question, please?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am seeking clarity on what the Government is proposing in terms of amendments to the Constitution. Ministers are announcing whatever suits the particular audience to which they are speaking in terms of amendments to the Constitution-----

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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That is correct.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----great constitutional reform and putting together a convention to discuss whether one can vote at the age of 17 years as opposed to 18 years.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot discuss these issues on the Order of Business.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am not asking that we discuss them. It is reasonable to ask if we can have a programme. We have a programme for Government and I ask that someone please outline what the Government will do in the next 12 or 18 months instead of making a series of announcements that never see the light of day and have far less substance than when they were originally communicated by the Government.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Deputy Martin has raised many issues. My comments on the possibility of emigrants having the right to vote in presidential elections were made in the context of that matter being considered by the constitutional convention. I am a little surprised that Deputy Martin seems to be so confused about the Government's intentions in respect of the constitutional convention as I understand the Taoiseach briefed him on this matter recently. I am sorry I missed the meeting.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I missed it too, although I had representatives at it.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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That explains the position. If the Deputy had been at the meeting, the Taoiseach would have explained to him that it is intended to establish the constitutional convention and give it two issues to examine immediately. In other words, the intention is to get the convention up and running, operational and so on and it will then address the other issues that will be referred to it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach stated the two issues I raised would be addressed in the first 12 months.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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No, not in the first 12 months.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Minister, Department of Education and Skills; Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Deputy should have attended the meeting.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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It is intended that the two issues will be dealt with reasonably quickly and the constitutional convention will then get down to the rest of its work. The constitutional convention is a new and innovative approach to dealing with the discussion of constitutional issues. The Government does not want total ownership of the convention, which is the reason there is consultation on it with the Opposition if it has views on it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I note the Tánaiste's use of the word "total".

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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On referenda this year, as the Deputy knows, the Government has announced its intention to hold a referendum on the euro stability treaty and the Government will decide shortly on the arrangements for that referendum.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What is the position on the referendum on the Seanad?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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There is no date for a referendum on the Seanad.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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I seek clarification from the Tánaiste on a similar issue. On the fiscal responsibility Bill, the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism Bill and the European Communities Act 1972 (Amendment) Bill, will the Tánaiste indicate the order in which these Bills will be introduced and whether they will be taken before or after the referendum on the austerity treaty? Will he also indicate when the Referendum Commission will be appointed and when the legislation for the holding of the referendum on the austerity treaty will be published? The Tánaiste's colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, indicated in New York that there were two possible windows for holding the referendum, namely, late May-early June and late June-early July. Will he oblige the House by indicating which of the two windows the Government will choose?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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It is intended that the fiscal responsibility Bill, the legislation on the European Stability Mechanism and the European Communities Act 1972 (amendment) Bill will be published this session. No decision has been made on the order in which they will be published. As I indicated to Deputy Martin, the arrangements with regard to the holding of the referendum on the euro stability treaty will be made by the Government shortly. No decision has been made yet on the date on which the referendum will be held.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Is it the Government's intention to announce to the Dáil before the Easter recess the arrangements for the treaty in regard to fiscal responsibility, more properly known as the austerity treaty? Will the Tánaiste provide, if not the exact timetable for the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism Bill and European Communities Act 1972 (amendment) Bill, the order in which this legislation will be discussed and voted on by Dáil Éireann? In particular, will he indicate if the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism, into which the Government sneakily included a blackmail clause to deny funds to states which would not agree to the fiscal compact-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy may not discuss the content of Bills.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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He did not listen to the Tánaiste's replies to previous questions.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Does the Government intend that the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism Bill will be taken before or after the referendum?

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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The Deputy's question has been answered.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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No, it has not.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Neither the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism Bill nor the European Communities Act 1972 (amendment) Bill has been published yet and no decision will be made as to when they will be taken in the House until they are published. As I stated, the Government will shortly make decisions on the arrangements for the euro stability treaty. When the arrangements have been decided they will be announced to the House.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Will it before or after the Easter recess?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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It will be when the Government has made a decision on the matter.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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When does the Tánaiste anticipate the Government will make a decision?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I intend to bring a memorandum on the matter to Government shortly. It will then be a matter for the Government to consider the memorandum and make a decision on it.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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An tseachtain seo chugainn mar sin?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have chats on the Order of Business. Deputies must speak through the Chair.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Gabh mo leithscéal.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Today's edition of the Irish Examiner carries a worrying article about the growth in illegal moneylending. It refers to exorbitant interest rates and intimidation imposed on those who avail of this service. This raises two questions which the Government needs to answer. First, does it intend to introduce legislation to strengthen its hand in dealing with this illegal practice? Second, does it intend to revisit the area of banking by introducing a legislative proposal to ensure banks start lending again? The House has discussed this issue on many occasions.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are not dealing with the issue on the Order of Business.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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My substantive point is that if legislation were in place that resulted in banks lending to people, one would not have had significant growth in the activities of moneylenders.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is legislation promised?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The article to which the Deputy referred is very worrying. The Minister for Finance has asked his officials to prepare necessary legislation to regulate debt management and debt advice services. Subject to Government approval, it will be brought forward as a Committee Stage amendment to the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2011.

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal South West, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government promised on the public record a raft of legislation to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people who have decided not to pay the household charge. He referred, for example, to the fines and data protection legislation. Will the Tánaiste outline which legislation the Minister will bring before the House to ensure people who decide not to pay the household charge will be pursued by the Government? How does this approach square with the Minister's earlier statement that hundreds of thousands of people will not be brought before the courts?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is legislation promised?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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If the Deputy identifies the legislation to which he is referring, I will give him an answer.

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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No. 115 on the Government's legislative programme, which is in the name of the Taoiseach, is a Bill in respect of which heads have yet to be approved by the Government. It deals with the abolition of the Seanad. Given that the Tánaiste has not been able to give a commitment on this matter and the Taoiseach has indicated the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad may not proceed this year, will the Government withdraw its legislative programme and correct the record? Will it clarify whether it is proceeding with this legislation?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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To what exactly is the Deputy referring?

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Will it place an accurate legislative programme before the House?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I do not know what the question is but perhaps the Tánaiste will be able to answer it.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I think the Deputy is referring to the Bill to abolish the Seanad, which is in section C of the legislative programme. That Bill is unlikely to be published for some time.

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Tánaiste correct the programme?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call on Deputy Calleary.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Will time be given next week to debate the report that the Minister for Justice and Equality has commissioned into the transfer of a prisoner to Loughan House prison last weekend? Can the Tánaiste confirm if that report is being carried out? Has the Government any plans to increase the protection to gardaí on duty in the service of this State?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I thought for a minute that the Deputy was asking whether we would provide time next week for the debate on another report, the publication of which is said to be imminent.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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I do not think that is appropriate in the context of my question.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I understand that the Prison Service will provide a report on the Loughan House incident to the Minister for Justice and Equality when he returns from his St. Patrick's Day commitments. I understand that the issue is also in the courts in another jurisdiction, so we need to be careful about what we say about it.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Many businesses throughout the country are experiencing extreme financial difficulty and are fighting for survival. Many of their owners already feel let down by the Government in respect of the upward only rent reviews. When will the Government bring forward the valuation Bill? This will amend the Valuation Act 2001 and will ensure that we have a more equitable rates system in our country.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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That Bill is currently being drafted. I do not have a date for publication.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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I would like to sympathise with the Minister for Justice and Equality following an intrusion into his home while he was abroad on official duty. This is happening up and down the country at an alarming rate and I had a Private Members' Bill on the issue some time ago. Does the Government have any promised legislation on this issue? Now that the chickens have come home to roost, it might have to deal with the huge distress being caused to families, as well as the damage to our archeological and precious historic sites throughout the country, following the theft of scrap metal and gold.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Minister of State and Government Chief Whip, Department of An Taoiseach; Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I do not think they were looking for scrap metal in the Minister's house.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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They would not get much scrap metal, but they would get a lot of other things.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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There is a long list of legislation promised by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I am not sure which specific Bill the Deputy is referring to. If he identifies the Bill, I will provide him with an answer.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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Is there promised legislation proposed to introduce a full property tax next year, as proposed by Labour Party Ministers? I would be totally opposed to this unjust tax, but I would like to know the Government's intentions in this regard.

Is there promised legislation from the Government to amend the Fines Act 2010? I hope there is not, but again I would like to know the Government's intentions.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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The property tax arises from the agreement that the previous Government made with the EU and the IMF, for which the Deputy's predecessor gave full support. I do not have a date for the publication of any fines Bill.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I would like to ask the Tánaiste the number of Bills on the A list which have been published this session, the number of Bills which are expected to be published this session, and the number of Bills which are not on the A list but will be published this session instead. Is it intended to introduce a Bill to amend the household charge Bill to ensure that Ministers are not exempt from paying this charge on their private residences?

I would like to get a reply to a simple question I asked the Taoiseach last week. When is it intended to publish draft regulations under section 70L of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012? Could I get a proper answer this time, rather than the rubbish I got from the Minister? He said that he did not publish the draft regulations as they may have proven to be confusing for some people.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you Deputy.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We have a Bill that requires regulations so that it can be enforced.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have a debate on the issue.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I agree with you, a Cheann Comhairle. How can we have a debate on regulations that the Minister is refusing to publish because he might not understand them?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Will you please resume your seat?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The rest of us will understand them too well, and that is the problem.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have a bit of an ear infection. Would you remind resuming your seat? You are not helping me.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I know. In fairness, a Cheann Comhairle-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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In fairness to what? I am trying to get answers to your questions.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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It is not very helpful to us when we ask a straightforward question on the Order of Business and we get an answer that does not answer the question. The reality is that what the Minister said------

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No. Sorry, Deputy, will you resume your seat?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I think this is important.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No. Resume your seat.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister said the consultation document was drafted in an easy to understand format in order that it was clear to everybody what the standards involved.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Your microphone is switched off and nobody is listening to you. Will you resume your seat?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The consultation document contained reports on the regulations, but presented in an accessible form, and-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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As a senior Member of this House, would you please respect the Chair?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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-----to issue a draft instrument may have proved confusing to some people in view of the legal format-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Would you please resume your seat? I ask the Deputy to leave the House. The Deputy will leave the House.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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-----used in such circumstances.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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You will leave the House. Thank you.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I have to say that is an utter disgrace coming from the Minister and I am asking the Tánaiste when will these draft regulations be published.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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You will leave the House. Did you hear me?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I hear you perfectly. I am not leaving the House.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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If that is the case and you are disobeying the Chair, I have to name the Deputy. I have to say on the record that I am very disappointed that people are supporting ongoing complete disregard for the Chair. It is appalling.