Thursday, 16 April 2015
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. a13, Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Financial Resolution; No. 7, Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2015 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 1, Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. a13 shall be decided without debate. Private Members' business, which shall be No. 184, motion re fair pay, secure jobs and trade union recognition (resumed), will be taken immediately after the Order of Business and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes.
There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a13 , Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Financial Resolution, to be taken without debate, agreed to? Agreed.
The programme for Government included an undertaking to introduce steps to improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching of Irish at second level and indicated that consideration would be given to whether or not Irish should be an optional subject to leaving certificate level. Has the Tánaiste convinced her colleagues in the Fine Gael Party to drop the latter proposal?
When is the universities (amendment) Bill, which is on the A list, due to be published? Will it include proposals to change the matriculation conditions for the NUI colleges?
Before responding to the Deputy's questions, I take this opportunity to convey our sympathy to the family and friends of Karen Buckley, particularly her parents and brothers. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, the Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock, and our consulate office staff in Scotland are doing everything they can to assist the family at this very difficult time for them. What has unfolded in recent days is every parent's worst nightmare.
In regard to the Irish language, I will bring Deputy Ó Cuív's view to the attention of the Minister for Education and Skills. As the Deputy knows, a programme of reform is under way in regard to the junior cycle. The Taoiseach and the Government remain strongly committed to the Irish language.
I understand the universities (amendment) Bill will be published this session.
I echo the Tánaiste's sentiments in respect of the family of Karen Buckley. The Tánaiste has made the point on our behalf very eloquently. We send our sympathy and solidarity to the family at this dreadful time for them.
My question relates to the water services Bill. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, has done quite an amount of sabre-rattling that has left a lot of people very angry, not to say concerned, about the Government's plans to deduct unpaid water charges from wages, welfare payments and pension payments. The Tánaiste has sung dumb on this issue on the many occasions on which I raised it with her, neither supporting nor denying the proposal by the Minister. When will that legislation be published and when will it be brought before the Dáil?
No legislation has come before Government in respect of the matter the Deputy raised. Whatever form of legislation is brought forward to Government to deal with issues relating to debt, it will thereafter be brought before the House in due course.
When will the companies (auditing) Bill come before the House? More importantly, when will the commencement order be signed for the Companies Act 2014? The whole country is waiting for that legislation to be enacted.
I do not have a date for the bringing forward of the companies (auditing) Bill. I will seek advice from the Minister on the implementation date for the Companies Act 2014.
In the context of the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill which is promised, and given the Tánaiste's dismissal of the points raised by Deputy Ó Cuív this morning and by Simon Communities Ireland, are we now to conclude that social housing is no longer a red-line issue for the Labour Party? Does she as readily dismiss the points made by a person who is very well known to her, namely, Mr. Mike Allen of Focus Ireland, who called this morning for an increase in rent caps?
When might we expect to have sight of the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill?
On the last day the Tánaiste took Leaders' Questions, we raised the issue of the Dunnes Stores dispute and she promised legislation in this area. I suggested to her at that time that she might lift the telephone and talk to Margaret Heffernan, which I doubt she has done, but I again suggest she would do that. In the meantime Members of this House have recently met the groups of unions representing Bord na Móna workers who now find themselves in a position where their terms of employment are under threat by a company that is profit-making, a company the management of which is no doubt emboldened by what it sees happening in Dunnes Stores. Will the legislation the Tánaiste promised to bring forward address the issues that are now arising for Bord na Móna workers? Will she ask her colleague, the Minister, Deputy Alex White, to intervene in this particular matter?
In respect of the social housing programme, as the Deputy will be aware, the Government agreed in the budget, and is now implementing, the largest social housing programme this State has seen in a very long time. The Deputy will be aware also that the Minister launched the details of allocations to the various county councils around the country , including Kildare County Council. Building more houses is one of the Government's principal objectives to which a very significant element of the capital programme has been devoted.
In respect of the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, I understand it will be ready later this year but the capital programme is proceeding. The sites will be opened up again and families will get the houses they need. That is the important point. We have invested taxpayers' money to do this.
The new children's hospital development board Bill is promised legislation. When is it expected that Bill will come before the House and will it herald the imminent plans for the start of works on the hospital?
Regarding the proceeds of crime Bill, the purpose of which is to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, on the confiscation of ill-gotten gains, have the heads of that Bill been agreed and is it likely to come before the House in early course?
On the legislation in respect of the new children's hospital, a huge amount of work is ongoing on this development but I do not have a date for the introduction of the legislation
On the proceeds of crime Bill, discussions are ongoing with CAB on that legislation but as yet I do not have a date for the introduction of the legislation.
I wish to ask the Tánaiste about the minerals development Bill to modernise and consolidate all mineral development legislation. Will the Government consider appointing a specialist mining engineer who would adequately oversee the closure of mines, particularly the Lisheen Mine in County Tipperary, which is about to close? Sources within the mining industry tell me that what is happening underground is disgraceful and that we have not learned from the closure of Galmoy Mine.
As the Tánaiste may know, a serious incident occurred during the week in Ballisodare, County Sligo, where an explosive device was detonated in a small community resulting in many lives being put at risk. When can we expect the explosives Bill to be brought before the House for debate?
I wish to ask the Tánaiste about No. 126 on the Government's legislative programme, St. Patrick's Institution (closure) Bill, which will provide for the complete closure of that institution. What is current status of that Bill?