Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

12:30 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is proposed to take No. 1, motion re proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing certain acts in the field of police co-operation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters; No.37, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2015 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 38, Sport Ireland Bill 2014 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 39, Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ business which shall be No. 187, motion re residential mortgage interest rates and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes and that No. 11 shall be decided without debate.

Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 39, Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 38, Sport Ireland Bill 2014 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 40, Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

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 for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 11, motion re proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing certain acts in the field of police co-operation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, to be taken without debate, agreed to? Agreed.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Can the Taoiseach indicate when the Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No.2 ) Bill will be introduced? It is a Bill to provide any legislative changes required to deal with the bargaining rights of trade unions, and it is included in the programme for Government. If it was in place, it would assist the Dunnes Stores workers who will be on strike tomorrow. Can the Taoiseach confirm when the Bill will be progressed through the House?

Can the Taoiseach indicate whether the Government is reviewing its position on guidance counsellors and its decision two years ago to take them out of our second level schools? It was a scandalous decision. Will he commit to restoring them? Can he indicate where stands the junior certificate reform proposals?

There is an issue I want the House to address and ask the Taoiseach whether the Government would be prepared to give some time to, namely, comments made by Deputy Adams some weeks ago on the murders of Garda Aidan Donohoe, Paul Quinn and others. In the course of his contribution he identified a small gang in a particular location which he said was responsible for all of those murders. I would regard that as a fairly significant revelation in itself. I looked at the blacks and that is what Deputy Adams said on the record, which contrasted with what was said publicly earlier by him and others who said they did not know the identity-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot get into this on the Order of Business.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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These are crucial issues and we need a fuller debate in the House on them, or at least some explanation of the content and substance of those remarks.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill is due this session. On the question of guidance counsellors and the reform of the junior certificate, the Minister for Education and Skills has given her views in respect of the junior certificate. I will raise the question of guidance counsellors with her, but the decision was very clear, namely, to allow them to have greater freedom at school level.

In respect of the third matter the Deputy mentioned, it is a matter of concern to me. I hope that we could give consideration to a debate in the House, on the resumption of the Dáil, on these matters in general. A number need to be reflected and commented upon in the House.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I refer to the mental capacity Bill and the commitment made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government last month to introduce legislation to freeze rents. Monday was the eighth anniversary of the State's signing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In the programme for Government there was a commitment to introduce a mental capacity Bill that would incorporate the convention into domestic law. Some four years later that has not happened. There is a whole range of other legislative matters which have been promised but have not come to the floor of the Dáil.

In the meantime, 156 states have ratified the convention. This State is one of only three in the European Union which has failed to do so and we still rely on the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871. There are ongoing difficulties faced by citizens with intellectual disabilities in some care homes. When will the Taoiseach repeal the disgraceful Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and introduce a mental capacity Bill?

As I said, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government last month promised to introduce legislation to freeze rents in the private rental sector for the next two years and to tackle excessive rent increases by landlords by the end of this year. When can we expect this legislation to be published? It is a matter of major concern. The Taoiseach will know that 500,000 households in rented accommodation are now approaching the levels of rent they paid at the height of the property boom. Rental costs in Dublin have risen by almost 10%.

The Minister also expressed concerns about the impact of the programme of reform of local government by the former Minister, Mr. Phil Hogan, and said he supported the comprehensive review of the changes Mr. Hogan had forced through. Does the Government intend to hold a comprehensive review of local government? When does it intend to do so?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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In respect of the mental capacity Bill, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill was published on 17 July 2013 and provides a series of options to support people with impaired capacity to make decisions and to exercise their basic rights in line with the principle of the UN convention. It undertakes a comprehensive reform of existing legislation governing capacity and is awaiting Committee Stage in the House. A number of amendments are being worked on.

The Government has given a firm commitment to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Government intends to proceed to ratification as quickly as possible. It is important to clarify the process and issues involved. We have a dualist legal system. Therefore, we cannot become party to treaties unless we are first in a position to ratify the obligations that are imposed upon us, including the amendment of domestic law as necessary. I am advised that a substantial number of items need to be dealt with before we can deal with that.

The Minister has set up a team in the Department of Justice and Equality to examine all of these outstanding matters. It has almost completed the first phase of its work, which includes identifying those areas which will need attention prior to ratification being possible. An interdepartmental committee is in place and it met recently to review those issues and the actions and timeframes set out to meet them. I can advise Deputy Adams that the Government is serious, but because of the dualist system we have we have to deal with a number of issues here before we can ratify the convention.

It is awaiting-----

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The Government has had four years to do that.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No, the Bill was only published in July 2013. Committee Stage is awaited in the House. Another key task which is under way involves examining how the issue of reasonable accommodation can be achieved in a meaningful way within our constitutional framework, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.

The House may be aware that the Supreme Court in an Article 26 referral dating from 1998 found it unconstitutional to impose an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities where the cost would be more than a nominal cost. The United Nations requires a higher standard that it calls "a disproportionate" cost. Our law with respect to sexual offences imposes a ban on persons with intellectual disabilities having intimate relationships. That needs to be changed while still protecting vulnerable people from exploitation. The Department of Justice and Equality is working on proposals to be included in a revised sexual offences criminal law proposal and to deal with this issue. It has published a discussion paper to allow interested parties to contribute their views on what is a sensitive and very complex matter.

12:40 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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What about the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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A review of the Mental Health Act has recently been completed by an expert group. I would have to give the Deputy further advice on that.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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As the Taoiseach may know, we have a disproportionately high level of cystic fibrosis in this country and everyone in this House or the wider society would know a family affected by cystic fibrosis. In the first half of 2012, the then Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, promised a health information Bill that would allow and regulate research into this and other diseases. He also promised a human tissue Bill that would govern organ donation, and that is clearly crucial to the treatment of cystic fibrosis. Again, we have not yet seen that Bill. When will those Bills be progressed?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry but I do not have a date for either of those Bills. I can advise the Deputy on the work that has been completed. I am pleased to say that in recent years, with all the difficulties, there has been a deal of progress made with isolation units for people suffering from cystic fibrosis, which is to be welcomed.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
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Much of that has been provided by charities.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is not yet where we want to be but we are moving very much in the right direction. I will give further advice in respect of the two Bills mentioned by the Deputy.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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SI 58 of 2015 relates to the new tuberculosis regulations introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It facilitates departmental officials in having a stricter interpretation of existing law on the testing of cattle for bovine tuberculosis and it is causing much hardship for farmers. Is the Taoiseach aware that a notice has been issued to farmers in my area and throughout the country instructing them that they should not treat animals with a veterinary medicine until they have carried out their animal herd test? This is contrary to the animal welfare laws of this country and a farmer complying with that directive from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine could be prosecuted and jailed for breaking the animal welfare laws. Will the Taoiseach allow time to be made available in the House to discuss this statutory instrument, which comes into force today, have it reviewed and have a consultation both in the House and with farming organisations? This would ensure it can be implemented in a fair and reasonable manner which does not contravene other law in the country.

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

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I would be surprised if the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was contravening animal welfare law. I have not seen the letter to which Deputy Naughten refers. I will have the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine respond to this.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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I will send a copy to the Taoiseach.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is not necessary to have the matter discussed formally in the House. There could be either a Topical Issue debate or a response from the Minister, as I will bring it to his attention today, to deal with this. Tuberculosis is a serious illness and bovine tuberculosis has cost the country millions of euro over the years. The conditions dealing with it should not be flouted.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Mattie McGrath to speak to promised legislation.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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It will relate to promised legislation.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We do not want a speech.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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No. I welcome the fact the Taoiseach was in Northern Ireland last week.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is grand but you can talk to him privately about that rather than on the Order of Business.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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My question concerns the Omagh bomb victim families. The Taoiseach has promised on countless occasions to meet them. The legislation in question is the criminal justice (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. When will the Taoiseach meet the families of the Omagh bomb victims? They had open access to him before he became Taoiseach but in the four years since, he has not met them. It is disgraceful.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not for the Order of Business. Table a parliamentary question.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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I have asked them as well.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I do not have a date for that Bill. I met quite a number of groups from Northern Ireland and will continue to do so.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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Not the families of the Omagh bomb victims.

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
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I acknowledge the tremendous work being done by the Government for job creation and I welcome in particular the announcement that Apple will begin operations in Galway. Many young people are returning home and I know-----

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

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
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It is an insurance Bill. Many young people are coming home and I know the Ministers and the Taoiseach, when abroad on St. Patrick's Day, encouraged them to come home. If young people are gone for more than three years, insurance companies will not honour a no-claims bonus or clean driving record in a foreign country.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a matter for a parliamentary question.

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
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I will do that also.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
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Will the issue be addressed by the insurance Bill? When is the Bill expected to come before the House?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The insurance Bill is due later this year. I am quite sure Deputy Grealish will be able to raise that matter when it comes before the House.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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This morning, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, made a very significant announcement in Limerick this morning to journalists about social housing. The announcement was not made in this House, despite the fact the housing crisis is probably the most serious social emergency we have in the country. Will the Taoiseach explain why he did not come-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Not on the Order of Business.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Is it the intention of the Government to have the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, come to the House and explain what he said to journalists?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should table a question or a Topical Issue matter.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Will there be a debate in this House on it?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I do not know.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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That is why I am asking the Taoiseach.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We have responded before to requests from Members for a specific discussion on housing, which we had. We have no objection to that being raised again.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is a matter for the Whips.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, would be quite prepared to participate in a Topical Issue debate or answer a priority question from the Deputy or anyone else.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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We want a debate on the strategy.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is a very good announcement.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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That can be done through the Whips.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We have gone beyond talking and are now moving to the action stage.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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There is no action. This is bogus. There is no action except in Limerick.

Photo of Tony McLoughlinTony McLoughlin (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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With respect to the law governing both the sale and consumption of alcohol, when can we expect the sale of alcohol Bill to be brought before the House?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That will be later this year. There are a few matters we are to attend to in Northern Ireland at the same time, including minimum pricing and so on. I will advise the Deputy later.

Photo of Pat DeeringPat Deering (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I have asked before about the technological universities Bill. The provision of a technological university for the south east is crucial to the area because of the unemployment rate there over recent years. The Taoiseach is aware that negotiations broke down prior to Christmas and an independent facilitator, Mr. Michael Kelly, was put in place. When is he expected to report back to the Government on his deliberations involving the Waterford and Carlow institutes? Is the Taoiseach expecting a positive outcome?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Bill is due this session so I expect the report will go to the Minister for Education and Skills shortly. I understand that despite the initial hiccups, there has been some progress. I hope the matter can be concluded. It was an important priority for the Government, following the demise of a plant in Waterford some years ago, that there would be a technological university in the south east. The standards are very high and the criteria are difficult to meet, but it is a very important issue for the next generation of young people.

Photo of Ray ButlerRay Butler (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Commissioner Phil Hogan has spoken about diesel laundering in the Border areas and the contamination of water supplies, with consequential suffering for businesses, specifically farming businesses. We need a full debate on this serious issue in this House. When is publication expected of the criminal justice (freezing and confiscation) Bill, which is to transpose Directive 2014/42/EU of the European Parliament and Council of 3 April 2014 on the freezing of proceeds of crime in the European Union? I am sure Deputy Adams would love a debate on diesel laundering in the Border areas.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I do not have a date for that. Perhaps Deputy Butler could raise the issue during the course of a discussion on Northern Ireland matters.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Various elements of our heritage come together to give each local area its identity and sense of place. There are many artifacts which belong to rural counties that are stored in basements of various public buildings, particularly here in Dublin.

Yesterday, Deputy Adams raised the national monuments Bill. Another Bill that is dear to my heart is the heritage (amendment) Bill and I would like to inquire when it will come before us.

12:50 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The heritage (amendment) Bill is due later this year.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I have three questions. One is on the awaited tenant purchase scheme. During the past 18 months, no local authority tenant has been eligible to buy his or her council house, despite repeated promises that the legislation will be published within months. Can the Taoiseach give a definitive timeframe in which we will know when the new scheme will be announced?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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This is a matter for a parliamentary question.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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The Government has repeatedly promised that it will bring the adoption (tracing and information) Bill before the House. When will it happen? The Taoiseach is aware that for the past two years, the mobility allowance has been closed to new applications. Although the Government has promised to deal with this in the short term, two years on, we still await the publication of the health (transport support) Bill. Meanwhile, people with mobility issues cannot avail of the scheme. When will a new scheme be published?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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All three Bills will come before us in the next Dáil session.

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Before summer.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No, after summer.

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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I wish to inquire about three Bills, No. 108 on the legislative programme list, the data sharing Bill, No. 109, the personal injuries assessment board (amendment) Bill and No. 86, the housing (regulation of approved housing bodies) Bill. I welcome today's announcement by the Minister of State, Deputy Coffey, about social housing and the fact that €26 million has been allocated to County Clare. What is the status of No. 82, the building control Bill?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Both the housing (regulation of approved housing bodies) Bill and the building control Bill will be published this year. While I do not have dates for the two other Bills the Deputy mentioned, I will bring them to the attention of the Ministers and advise the Deputy.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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The apprenticeship Bill has been promised for some time. Have the heads of the Bill been agreed by the Government and when might we expect to see it? One might expect that, as part of a recovering economy, there might be greater emphasis on apprenticeships. Much of the very skilled construction workforce we had have left Ireland and, no doubt, the Taoiseach will have had contact with many of them during his St. Patrick's Day travels. What sort of impetus is there regarding apprenticeships?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy has raised an important point, given that unemployment is down to 10%, although it is still too high. The Minister with responsibility for this, Deputy English, is shortly to bring proposals about a new apprenticeship council, which is in situ, and new modules for upskilling, training and apprenticeships, to the Government for approval. It was to happen last week, but did not, and I expect it in the next few weeks.

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Last week, I asked the Taoiseach when the Construction Contracts Act 2013 would commence and he said he would send me a note. This morning, two subcontractors contacted me and said people in the industry are saying the issue has gone off the boil and might never happen. Could the Taoiseach send me the note?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I will get back to the Deputy. I have sent a note to the Minister to find out what the problem is. We want it to happen.

Photo of Dan NevilleDan Neville (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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When will the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill be published?

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

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We have two Private Members' Bills. The first is the Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015 - First Stage. The Deputy is absent.