Thursday, 17 December 2015
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation between the EU and its Member States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam - back from committee; No. 16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2015 - back from committee; No. 16a, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the ratification by Ireland of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; No. 16b, motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates 2016; No. 16c, technical motion re Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis; No. 16d, motion re Standing Orders 99, 111, 114A, 114B, 114C, 114D and 114E; No. 1a, Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 - amendments from the Seanad; and No. 8, Technological Universities Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.30 p.m. today and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Topical Issues which shall be taken no later than 6 p.m.; Nos. 15, 16, 16a, 16b, 16cand 16dshall be decided without debate and any division demanded on No. 16b shall be taken forthwith; that the proceedings in relation to No. 1ashall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after three hours and any amendments from the Seanad not disposed of shall be decided by one Question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments to the Seanad amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality; and the Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 13 January 2016.
I do not agree that the Dáil should adjourn after Topical Issues. It is essential that the Government comes in, provides us with an explanation today and provides time for a debate on what the Simon Community reports this morning on the eve of Christmas, which is the shocking fact that 5,000 people are in emergency accommodation, including, scandalously, 1,500 children. What a shameful legacy the Tánaiste leaves as leader of the Labour Party as her term of government winds torturously to its end. This is what our people are enduring after five years of the Government.
We need an explanation from the Government about the shocking fact of homelessness and people in emergency accommodation and, in particular, why the Labour Party, which undertook to fight for those who are in this situation, has failed so dismally. If statues in this Chamber could weep, that of James Connolly, which is behind my shoulder, would shed tears of anger and indignation that any party that still dares to call itself "Labour" would preside over such an incredible situation of suffering, while handing an essential human need to developers, vulture funds and profiteering landlords.
I want the Government to account today for its failure.
We have discussed this issue in this House on many occasions. We promised that 1,000 voided apartments and houses, most of them in Dublin city and county, would be given to people by the end of this year. I am pleased to tell the House that the number of voided apartments and houses given to families is 3,500. In addition, local authorities, particularly in the Dublin region, including in my area and Deputy Joe Higgins’s area, have bought up to 1,000 properties in which to house families. I am delighted to say that in the past few months families are getting fine new houses built to the highest standards.
Deputy Joe Higgins, however, does not seem to be aware of this. Through the efforts of the community welfare service and the protocol with Threshold we have housed more than 5,500 families through renting and leasing arrangements.
Through the housing assistance payment and the county councils that operate it, we have this year housed more than 5,500 families. Unfortunately, many of the Dublin local authorities are not operating it.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 15, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the framework agreement on comprehensive partnership and coooperation between the European Union and its member states and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, back from committee, agreed to ? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2015, back from committee, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16a, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the ratification by Ireland of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16b, motion re presentation and circulation of Revised Estimates for 2016 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16c, technical motion re Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16d, motion re Standing Orders 99, 111, 114A, 114B, 114C, 114D and 114E, without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1a, Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 - Amendments from the Seanad, agreed to?
No. This is very important legislation and the proposal is to guillotine the debate. That is the wrong thing to do. This issue has come up consistently during the term of this Government which was so critical of its predecessors for the practice of guillotining debates.
There has been huge progress made. The Deputy has obviously not been party to any of the discussions on the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Bill. Members of her party have been involved. Huge progress was made by agreement.
Why is the Dáil not being brought back at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 January? The provision proposed today conveniently allows the Taoiseach escape not just Leaders’ Questions on the Tuesday but also questions to the Taoiseach, perhaps one, two or three weeks before the demise of this the 31st Dáil.
The dates have been arranged to convenience the successful completion and publication of the report of the banking inquiry. There has been general agreement on all sides of the House about the selection of that date.
Notwithstanding the somewhat heated atmosphere in the past hour or two, I wish everybody a very happy and peaceful Christmas with their families, relatives and friends.
Next year will bring several changes for many people. It is appropriate that Members should have a rest and a bit of down time with their families. One of the things about being a woman Tánaiste and one of the limited number of women in this Chamber is that having more women in the House has led to a greater emphasis on family friendly policies and nothing could be as family friendly-----
-----for most people as Christmas. It is also a difficult time for people who have suffered bereavement or illness during the year. For Members and others throughout the country who have suffered bereavement or other loss, Christmas is a time for quite sad contemplation of the person or people who have gone. I wish everybody a happy Christmas and a very successful new year for those who will be out talking to the people of Ireland.
Next year will be the anniversary of the 1916 Rising. I refer to the opening sentence of the Proclamation-----
On behalf of Fianna Fáil, I echo the Tánaiste's sentiments and wish everyone a very happy Christmas and the best of luck for 2016.
Time is tight and I know Deputies want to come in, but I want to raise two Bills with the Tánaiste, the first of which is the gambling control Bill 2015. The former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, published a Bill in July 2013 proposing to establish an office of gambling control. This is a serious issue because more than €1 billion is placed in bets annually in Ireland. It is becoming easier to place bets, as much gambling takes place online. Problem gambling can devastate families and lives. The matter needs to be dealt with and yet it has not been given the serious attention it deserves. The initial Bill of 2013 seems to have fallen by the wayside. There is a new Bill, which I understand is included in section B. I take it, therefore, that it will not be dealt with in the lifetime of this Dáil. Will the Tánaiste clarify that matter?
The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2015 was published last April, but it has not progressed since. It proposes important reforms to the schools' admissions policy but is listed in Schedule D. Will that Bill be debated here before the general election is called?
Notwithstanding our jousts in this Chamber and my unending frustration with her answers or lack thereof, I wish her a happy Christmas. I also wish a happy Christmas to, and thank, all the staff in the Houses of the Oireachtas for their unending patience with each and every one of us. I am sure that all the people who watch us with despair, dismay or delight - depending on their viewpoint - will probably be happy that the political season pauses for a couple of weeks and they then can look forward to the election.
I want to raise the issue of the Constitutional Convention. The Tánaiste said a lot about women but we have been waiting two and a half years for a debate that was promised on the role of women, as agreed by the Constitutional Convention. That delay is outrageous. The Taoiseach repeatedly gave a concrete commitment that we would have outstanding matters from the Constitutional Convention debated in the Dáil before the Christmas recess and yet here we are still awaiting a debate on the role of women and votes outside the State - a crucial issue in respect of Presidential elections - as well as Dáil reform, economic, social and cultural rights. Those are big issues.
The fact that we have been waiting this long is not only frustrating for Members of the Oireachtas who participated in the convention and is a lost opportunity to debate these matters but is also something of an insult to the citizens who gave their time and effort to participate in this process in good faith. I cannot for the life of me understand the inordinate delay. It is not acceptable that we will now rise for the Christmas recess with each of these issues outstanding.
As recently as yesterday, the Taoiseach gave a commitment that there will be a full debate on the convention early in the new year session. Let us celebrate, however, the achievement of which the convention was a part, that is, the decision to have the marriage equality referendum. The people assented to it and that message went right around the world.
As it is the season of goodwill, the Deputy should not always concentrate - as she tends to do, unfortunately - on the totally negative. She should see something good occasionally in this country. Marriage equality was something very positive and good. I wish to thank all the staff, in particular.