Dáil debates

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

11:00 am

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is proposed to take No. 19a, motion re report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on a complaint made under Standing Order 59; and No. 6, Finance Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed).


It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn not later than 10.30 p.m.; and No. 19a shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 104, motion re mortgage restructuring, resumed, to conclude at 9 p.m. tonight, if not previously concluded.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are two proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal that the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 19a, motion re report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on a complaint made under Standing Order 59 without debate agreed to?

Deputies:

It is not agreed.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is on procedure. I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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As the only member of the Technical Group who can make a point on this-----

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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The only member allowed to so do.

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

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Indeed. As this relates to Deputy Mattie McGrath, he feels this issue, which concerns him, should not be taken without debate and that he should have an opportunity to make a statement in response to it.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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How would the Deputy feel?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Out of any sort of due process, natural justice or whatever one wishes to call it, he should be allowed to speak in his own defence and the Government should allow that.

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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That is a reasonable request.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Minister of State and Government Chief Whip, Department of An Taoiseach; Wexford, Fine Gael)
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He should have thought about making a statement before this.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This motion is included in the announcements of public business. The question is that the Dáil adopts the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges regarding a complaint made under the aforementioned Standing Order 59 in regard to comments made by Deputy Mattie McGrath on 14 June 2012 during the course of the debate on the Second Stage of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill 2012. The report, which was laid before the Dáil and taking into account the fact that Deputy Mattie McGrath was given ample opportunity to withdraw his remarks, is of the opinion that the remarks were irresponsible and did constitute an abuse of privilege and that Deputy Mattie McGrath should be censured accordingly. I note the Deputy spoke on that and had plenty of opportunity to withdraw his remarks.

Photo of John HalliganJohn Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
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He should be allowed to speak on the censure.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He could have availed of other matters.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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Is this a kangaroo court?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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A Cheann Comhairle, let him speak.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will now put the question, "That the proposal for dealing with No. 19a be agreed to".

Question put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 90; Níl, 21.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Shane Ross.

Níl

Question declared carried.

11:15 am

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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People woke up this morning to worrying news about a dramatic increase in the cost of mortgages. As we know, thousands of people are under enormous stress with their mortgages, with 180,000 mortgage loans in arrears. We now have further increases in variable interest rates. Will the Taoiseach outline the time schedule for commencing the Personal Insolvency Act to give some help and support to people in mortgage arrears? Given that the Government has essentially eliminated the mortgage supplement scheme, the level of support available from the Department of Social Protection and Government is limited. This restricts the capacity of the State to help people who will be placed in difficulty as a result of this significant increase in the cost of mortgages. Are amendments to the Finance Bill proposed to bring about some alleviation for people who are in mortgage distress and may have to pay an additional €1,000 per annum?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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While we cannot debate current issues on the Order of Business, the Taoiseach may comment on amendments to the Finance Bill.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I also asked about the commencement of the Personal Insolvency Act.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The director of the personal insolvency service is recruiting staff. It is expected that the personal insolvency agency will be operational in the next couple of months, probably before the early summer. I will revert to the Deputy with a more accurate read as to when the legislation will commence.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Taoiseach let me know what parts of the Act have been commenced to date and the plans in respect of commencement?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As I stated, the director has been appointed and the service is recruiting staff. In respect of the commentary I have seen about mortgage increases, as I indicated to the Deputy previously, we wrote to the Financial Regulator at the Central Bank asking if it wishes to have more authority and powers to deal with banks. If the Government receives such a request, it will be considered.

In respect of claims that the banks will increase interest rates for mortgage holders and consumers, it would be in the interest of the banks to focus on their cost base rather than consumers. While the Government does not interfere directly in the banks or direct that interest rates be set at a certain level, it is in everyone's interests that banks are able to return to profitable business. However, they should, in the first instance, address their cost base. I have extended the powers of the Cabinet sub-committee to deal with mortgages and banks and I hope we will have new targets for them after the next meeting.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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When will the report of the expert group on the establishment of acute hospital groups chaired by Professor John Higgins be published? The Taoiseach may be aware that there is a great deal of ráfla or rumour about this issue and fear in the south east about the downgrading of Waterford Regional Hospital. The master of the Rotunda Hospital has also raised concerns that patient safety may be compromised. The quicker the speculation is ended and we are able to read the report, the better for everyone. When will the report be published? Has it been discussed by the Cabinet? When will it be debated in the House?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It has not yet been discussed by the Cabinet and the Minister has not brought it to Cabinet. Many political discussions are taking place in respect of different areas of the country and medical discussions are ongoing. I hope the report will come to Cabinet in the next couple of weeks. There are two issues, namely, the hospital groups and their impact on the future of local hospitals. These are all very important issues locally, regionally and nationally. I expect the Minister will bring the report to Government in the next couple of weeks.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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As we have only seven minutes left and 14 Deputies have indicated, I ask Members not to make speeches, please.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle will be pleased to note I do not intend to depart from practice by making a speech on the Order of Business.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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The Deputy's 30 seconds are up.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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On promised legislation, and arising from concerns expressed by the Chief Justice, is it intended to bring forward any of the Bills that may have a bearing on backlogs or waiting lists in the various courts, particularly the higher courts? I refer specifically to the courts (consolidation and reform) Bill, criminal procedure Bill and Probation Service Bill. Is it intended to bring forward selected elements of this promised legislation to address the issues raised by the Chief Justice?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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All the Bills to which the Deputy refers are being worked on. I referred yesterday to the intention, as set out by the Government, in respect of establishing a court of civil appeal. This will require a referendum, which we hope to hold in the autumn. The Minister for Justice and Equality is actively working on the matter.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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When will whistleblower legislation and a Bill to give effect to the proposal to merge the Irish Human Rights Commission with another body be introduced?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The whistleblower legislation is due this session. What was the second Bill?

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I refer to legislation to merge the Irish Human Rights Commission with another body.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is also due this session.

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Almost a year ago, the House passed a Fianna Fáil Party Private Members' Bill designed to give the Financial Services Ombudsman the power to publish the complaints records of financial institutions. The Bill cannot proceed to Committee Stage until the Government produces its amendments. Speaking on television this week, the Ombudsman called for these powers. The Bill has completed Second Stage. When does the Government intend to produce its amendments to allow it to proceed to Committee Stage?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I will have to come back to Deputy McGrath on that matter as the Minister for Finance is in London on business this morning. I will have the Minister's office contact the Deputy in regard to the matter he raises.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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In view of the Mangan report on child benefit and discussions at Cabinet yesterday on a further cut to child benefit, which would be contrary to Labour Party policy, is it intended to introduce a supplementary budget in this term to give effect to the recommendations of the report? What is the budgetary procedure this year? It has been suggested that the budget may introduced earlier this year, rather than at Christmas.

11:25 am

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No, it is not intended to have any supplementary budget this session. Deputy Hannigan raised this earlier. The report is now published; it will go to the Oireachtas committee. The advisory group made recommendations about the importance of a universal payment, but it examined issues of taxation of child benefit and a two-tier system. The report will come back to the House for discussion and the Government will consider it in due course.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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The second part of my question was on this year's budgetary process. Last year, it was announced that there were plans to bring the budget forward from December to October. I do not know whether that is-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This all depends upon European decisions in regard to the semester, as it is called. It may be, as I said earlier on, that the budget for 2014 might be presented a little earlier, but I cannot confirm that yet. In any event, we have enough challenges with implementing budget 2013 before we get to considering budget 2014.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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We want the 2014 procedure to follow on from 2013.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I wish to ask about the health (amendment) Bill, which deals with funding for the HSE. Last Monday, I met the family of a disabled child-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I thank the Deputy, but we will not debate last Monday.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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-----whose service was cut from five days to three days.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please, other Deputies wish to speak.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I just want to ask a question on the health (amendment) Bill. It is in clear breach of the disability legislation.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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When is it due?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This session.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Regarding the young man whose service was cut from five days to three days, it is in breach of the disability legislation.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Everyone will agree that a person's fundamental right is the right to an identity. In this light, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs promised to introduce an information and tracing Bill. We are one of the few countries in the western world-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thanks very much, Deputy. Come on.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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-----that does not have this legislation. When will it be before the House?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is under consideration. I expect it will be published later in the year.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Following yesterday's historic events, the Magdalen women highlighted the issue of human rights as being critical to their plight and experience. In this regard, will the Taoiseach consider moving forward as quickly as possible the planned legislation on human rights and an equality commission so that the momentum of yesterday's events can feed into it and we can strengthen our human rights legislation?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is being drafted at the moment. I expect it will come through in this session.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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The living city initiative is a pilot tax incentive to encourage people to live in city centres and to regenerate retail businesses. Where is the initiative for people to live in rural areas and to regenerate retail businesses in those areas?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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What is the legislation?

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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The Irish human rights and equality commission Bill.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I understand that it will be this session. The Deputy will also be aware that we got another €100 million for rural development under the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, at the recent discussions in Brussels, which I know he is pleased with.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
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I thank the Taoiseach.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Do not mention it.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I wish to ask about two Bills. When will the Construction Contracts Bill be enacted? The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, referred to amending the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012. Does the Taoiseach have a timeframe for when he expects it to be back before the House?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is on Second Stage. The first one in respect of contractors is on Committee Stage and is expected back in March.

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I wish to ask about two Bills. When is the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 expected to conclude? When will the consumer and competition Bill be before the House?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The second one will be in this session. The amendments are being worked upon by the Attorney General's office in regard to the Legal Services Regulation Bill on Committee Stage.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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When can we expect the human tissue Bill to be before the House to comply with the recommendations of the Madden report? Will the EirGrid Bill deal with the close proximity of wind turbines to people's homes?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot discuss content.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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There is no date for the publication of the human tissue Bill. I will communicate with the Deputy. The turbines are obviously a matter of interest for a lot of people. There is a planning process to go through, as the Deputy knows.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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Given the reported increases in diesel and petrol prices at the pumps, are there proposals to introduce legislation to control prices? They pose significant costs on families and businesses across the country. Can we control the prices that are reportedly increasing?

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

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No. We do not have legislation. The Deputy could raise that matter, I assume, during the course of the Finance Bill.

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Dooley's Bill.

Photo of Ray ButlerRay Butler (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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When is the proposed family law Bill expected? It is to make provisions for pension adjustments in the context of separation agreements and certain other reforms in family law.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The family law Bill will be later this year.