Dáil debates

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Proposed Legislation

4:00 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Question 7: To ask the Taoiseach the progress made in his Department on legislating on the issue of Cabinet confidentiality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24829/12]

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Question 8: To ask the Taoiseach the steps he has taken to bring forward legislation on Cabinet confidentiality. [30541/12]

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 8 together.

As I have previously said in the House, Cabinet confidentiality is provided for in the Constitution and any consideration of legislation would have to take this into account.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe this is in the programme for Government.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Yes, it is.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It states that there will be new legislation on Cabinet confidentiality. That is why I was surprised by the brevity of the response. My supplementary questions were to ask about the current proposals for proposed legislation on Cabinet confidentiality. I was going to ask him to outline what the Government intended to do in line with its programme for Government commitment and whether it wished, for example, to facilitate pre-budget discussions between Ministers and the Oireachtas in a much more open format than happened in the past. That might deal with some of the difficulties we have experienced in recent times and Ministers could feel free to come out and argue their positions regarding their Departments' Estimates, for example. How does the Taoiseach believe the programme for Government commitment will be met? What will the content of the new Bill or any legislation be and when is it expected?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy is aware, Article 28.4.3° of the Constitution contains a specific reference to Cabinet confidentiality and I do not propose to have a referendum to change that.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What does the reference to Cabinet confidentiality in the programme for Government mean?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The reference is not specific, but it is a requirement of all Ministers that Cabinet confidentiality be maintained obviously in the interests of the work of Government and the national interest.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The programme for Government proposes legislation on Cabinet confidentiality - that is the point. Obviously Sir Humphrey does not want it.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy should not mind Sir Humphrey.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Where has the political commitment gone?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Sir Humphrey has not visited the Department of the Taoiseach in a very long time.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I just want to find out about the proposal.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Were his ghost to appear, he would be reminded that Article 28.4.3° of the Constitution deals with Cabinet confidentiality and that the Taoiseach has no intention of holding a referendum on that.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach proposed it. Can he clarify what the programme for Government means in regard to legislation on Cabinet confidentiality?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What it means here is that the Constitution refers specifically to Cabinet confidentiality and I am not proposing to change the legislation by having a referendum on that.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach proposed he was going to change it.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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He has obviously changed his mind.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What does the programme for Government mean?

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

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Limerick City, Fianna Fail)
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Please explain, Taoiseach.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Does he know what is in his own programme for Government?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Adams and I ask that Members address their questions through the Chair.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Any legislation that is proposed has to take Article 28.4.3°-----

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The programme for Government is very clear and the Taoiseach cited it all this session and the Government's will on these issues. It contains a commitment to bring forward legislation on the issue of Cabinet confidentiality. It also says that the Government has become too centralised and unaccountable. There is lots of evidence of that, particularly around the Economic Management Council when we cannot even ask questions of the doings of that council even though it is dealing with the troika, the economy, banks and issues that are having a vital impact, particularly on citizens who are suffering under austerity policy. As I understand it, has the Taoiseach just torn up another programme for Government commitment by saying he has no intention of bringing forward legislation? This issue also affects the issue of health where members of the Cabinet sub-committee on health cannot ask questions about what is going on there either. How does this fit into the commitment to more transparent, open reform? The Taoiseach hailed the last election as the people's revolution or some such term. I am citing to the Taoiseach his programme for Government which has a commitment to bring forward legislation on the issue of Cabinet confidentiality and he also cited that the Government is too centralised and unaccountable. Has he just told us that he is not bringing forward such legislation?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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He has.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The relevant Article 28.4.3° states:

The confidentiality of discussions at meetings of the Government shall be respected in all circumstances save only where the High Court determines that disclosure should be made in respect of a particular matter -

i in the interests of the administration of justice by a Court, or

ii by virtue of an overriding public interest, pursuant to an application in that behalf by a tribunal appointed by the Government or a Minister of the Government on the authority of the Houses of the Oireachtas to inquire into a matter stated by them to be of public importance.

The concern here might have arisen in that the provision that was being inserted into the Constitution covered very narrow circumstances in which Cabinet confidentiality discussions might not be respected. This has been enshrined in our Constitution for the past 14 years and that provision cannot be changed without a referendum. I do not have any intention of seeking a referendum to change it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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May I ask a brief supplementary?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes, if it is very brief.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I understand the Taoiseach has perhaps forgotten why the commitment was made 15 months ago in the programme for Government but may I enlighten him? His partners in government and his own members criticised continuously Cabinet confidentiality for many years; they felt it was too restrictive, it did not allow enough information out, etc. I suspect that is the reason that commitment was put into the programme for Government.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the Deputy's question?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach was the author of the programme for Government. It is incredible that he would come into this House-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the Deputy's question?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----and either feign ignorance of what is in the programme for Government or not have a clue as to why something as fundamental as Cabinet confidentiality was put into it. The Taoiseach does not have a notion as to why it was put in there-----

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

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----or what is intended by it.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the Deputy's question?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is incredible that the Taoiseach would come forward in that manner.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is a very sweeping statement.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Taoiseach to consult the Tánaiste and find out why this is in the programme for Government and perhaps he might enlighten the Members of the House on that because he clearly does not know that now-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is Question Time, not a time for statements.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----but he might find that out and tell us what is intended by the provision in the programme for Government which commits to legislation on Cabinet confidentiality. We know all about articles in the Constitution. This is a commitment to introduce legislation on the subject of Cabinet confidentiality. The Taoiseach does not seem to have a notion why that commitment is in it.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is Question Time.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Taoiseach provide me with an answer?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy has made very sweeping statements-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the Deputy's supplementary question?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----about other people and whether they know or do not know things. He has suddenly become a know-all in every sphere.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am not. I cannot claim to be a know-all on this.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He knew nothing when he was on this side of the House and he would not accept any responsibility for it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I just do not know what you are up to.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy used to be in the Cabinet.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I note that the Committee of Public Accounts in its report on the crisis in the domestic banking sector said that a preliminary analysis and a framework for a banking inquiry published on 5 July recommended a review of the Cabinet confidentiality provisions of the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Act 1997 so as to give the committee the broadest possible access to papers and records relating to the bank guarantee. Obviously the Government will reflect on the issue in so far as knowing the truth about the bank guarantee-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Come off the stage, Taoiseach.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----and perhaps in respect of Cabinet confidentiality, Deputy Martin might like to stand up here and tell us what he knew himself-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Answer the question.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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What he knew himself.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----and what he actually said when he were called on-----

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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We would love to know.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach does not know what is in his own programme for Government.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----at 3 o'clock in the morning, or whatever time it was, and asked: "Do you, Deputy Martin, agree that we should give this bank guarantee?"

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is blustering.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Why is there no information over there on the rationale that you applied to the information given by the banks-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is a case of when in doubt, lash out.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----which screwed the Irish taxpayer for years? Instead of making sweeping allegations about everybody else, the Deputy might tell us what he knows-----

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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He should tell us what he knew.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----and not have a need for any inquiry at all.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is blustering.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy should stand up and be a man and tell the people what he knew when he was called or when he attended at the meetings where the information was given by the banks about what should happen in respect of the bank guarantee. He should give us some of the rationale which is not available in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Was that the one that was shredded?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is filibustering.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is Deputy Adams's supplementary question?

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I cannot hear the Chair.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Can I have the Deputy's supplementary question?

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

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you. We have a shouting match every blooming day. Has Deputy Adams a supplementary question and not a statement as we are getting statements here?

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I do not represent Fianna Fáil.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I know.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I am speaking here for Sinn Féin. Let me put my question again. It is very straightforward. We looked at the programme for Government. The Taoiseach has a commitment to legislate on the issue of Cabinet confidentiality. I asked him a very straight question about what steps has he taken to bring forward legislation on Cabinet confidentiality and if he just tore up that commitment.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes. That is it. That is the reply.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Fair enough. The fact is that we hear more about the budgetary committee-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a separate issue. The Deputy should put down a separate question.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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-----of the German Parliament than we do from the economic committee of the Taoiseach's Cabinet.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are not going into the German Parliament at this stage.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The PAC that the Taoiseach cited was assisting the Taoiseach to fulfil his programme for Government commitment.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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In case the Deputy did not hear that properly-----

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I did hear it properly. The Taoiseach does not need to repeat himself.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----the point is that the European Commission-----

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I heard it properly.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----had to apologise for information that was leaked when it was sent to the budgetary committee of the German Parliament because it is a requirement that all countries that are in a programme send their information to the paying countries.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Will the Taoiseach apologise for tearing up a commitment?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We changed that here so that information that is being sent to those countries that contribute to Ireland is lodged in the Houses of the Oireachtas simultaneously. That does not arise anymore and I hope the Deputy understands that very clearly. Yes, it was wrong that this information was leaked in the beginning and it should not have leaked from the European Commission through the budgetary committee of the Bundestag. That matter has been changed because when that information is now presented to those countries which contribute to Ireland, which the Deputy wanted to get out of here and for them to take their money with them, it is lodged simultaneously in the Oireachtas Library for all Members and all of the public to have access to it.