Wednesday, 27 January 2016
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the association agreement between the EU and its member states and Central America, back from committee; No. 34, Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad] - Order for Report Stage and Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Second Stage.
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, (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members’ business which shall be No. 215, motion re social housing, resumed, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes; and (2) No. 14 shall be decided without debate.
Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 14b, motion re Standing Orders 6, 6A, 6B, 90, 100 and Schedules; No. 33, Technological Universities Bill 2015 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 34, Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad] - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage; No. 2, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 [Seanad] - Second Stage; No. 1, Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014 [Seanad] - Second Stage; and No. 7, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 14bshall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 25 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, and who may share their time, shall not exceed five minutes in each case; and (ii) Deputy David Stanton shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.
There are three 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. 14, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the association agreement between the EU and its member states and Central America, without debate agreed to?
It is not agreed. This is major legislation that went through the European Parliament and was signed, I understand, towards the end of 2012. The situation in Central America has changed substantially since. At the very least the House should give the motion the courtesy of a full debate to see whether an agreement that the European Union is signing with Central America is in fact fit for the purpose for which it was originally intended. There are questions about human rights, and the protection of workers has substantially and dramatically changed for the negative. That has not been taken into account by the agreement
I set out the context. I was finishing my point before I was interrupted. The context is that the situation in the Central Americas has substantially changed since the agreement was originally put in place. We should at least have a respectful debate in the House to reflect that. We have had debates on other motions of this scale. Even when a debate took place in committee we have had a debate in the House afterwards. At least half an hour, if not longer, should be given to a debate on the motion.
On No. 33, the Technological Universities Bill 2015, there has been enormous disquiet among members of institutes of technology throughout the country about the Bill. There is a very strong sense that their points of view have not been properly articulated, represented or reflected in the Bill, in particular the issue of the mandatory merger-----
I know that, but I have a proposal on the Order of Business. The proposal in primary legislation, that in order to become a technological university there must be a mandatory merger of institutes of technology, has caused significant disquiet and opposition throughout the country. The issue has not been dealt with properly at a local level. The Bill should be deferred until after the general election, at which time it can be deliberated upon properly and there can be proper consultation with all stakeholders.
The Bill will dramatically change the nature of regional third level education in this country. Regional colleges were established with a very clear mandate in terms of employment and the provision of courses that would facilitate economic growth in the regions. There is a real fear that the original purpose and objectives of regional technical colleges, now institutes of technology, will be diluted over time.
I am not sure to whom the Deputy was talking. The first indication of this came after the closure of a major plant in the south east and the Government's very early decision was to introduce the potential for technological universities. There is none in the south east, and that is what started the movement. It was a matter for individual institutes of technology if they wished to group together to form technological universities-----
-----and there were great difficulties between the colleges in the south east. I believe this matter has been discussed and consulted on broadly by the Department of Education and Skills and the colleges. My view is that this has gone on now for a number of years. We are now on Report and Final Stages. It has been through the pre-legislative hearing process, Second Stage, Committee Stage and all that, so I do not see any reason it should be postponed now. Every piece of legislation that is passed can be tested in the context of this particular process. Technological universities are a way of the future for specific sectors-----
That is a good cue for me to put the question to the Taoiseach. Will he confirm that he will be coming into the House on Tuesday to dissolve the Dáil and go to Áras an Uachtaráin to commence the general election? He might be in a position to confirm that.
A Cheann Comhairle, I want the record of the House corrected because last night the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, spoke on the Private Members' motion introduced by Deputy Barry Cowen about increasing the number of social housing units, and he stated that 13,000 new social housing units had been built in 2015, which is not the truth and not a clear representation of that.
Tá dhá phíosa reachtaíochta agam don Taoiseach. Bhí mé ag súil go mbeadh an Rialtas tar éis críochnú leis an athbhreithniú ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla faoin am seo. Measaim go bhfuil géarchéim ann ó thaobh na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta de agus nach bhfuil go leor déanta ag an Rialtas nó ag Rialtais roimhe seo chun an teanga a chosaint. Is trua nach bhfuil Bille os ár gcomhair agus nach féidir linn cinntiú go bhfuil na cosantaí cuí ann. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé mar cheann de thosaíochtaí pé Rialtas a théann i gceannas go luath.
Bhí me ag féachaint ar an gcéad forógra reachtaíochta a d'fhoilsigh an Rialtas in 2011. Ar an liosta bándearg, which is Bills expected to be published during the summer session in 2011, we have the Electoral Commission Bill to establish a new electoral commission to subsume the functions of exiting bodies. There was no sign of it last year, and there is still no sign of it now, but it was expected to be published in 2016. Is there any hope that, at the very least, we will see the heads of that Bill before the Taoiseach disappears onto the campaign trail?
Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go maith go bhfuil níos mó airgid tugtha do Údarás na Gaeltachta, go bhfuil Straitéis na Gaeilge leagtha amach, go bhfuil an raic a bhí ar siúl faoin gCoimisinéir Teanga neamhspleách don Ghaeilge réitithe, go bhfuil oibrithe tugtha dó, agus sílim go bhfuil job maith á dhéanamh aige. De réir mar a thuigim, tá cursaí fostaíochta ag dul in airde sna Gaeltachtaí agus ba mhaith liom go leanfaidh sé sin as seo amach.
Maidir leis an gclár Rialtais a rinne an Teachta tagairt do, is fíor go raibh comisiún toghchánaíochta le bunú ag an Rialtas. Tuigim, de réir tuairisc a chur an tAire isteach, go raibh an coiste Oireachtais ag díospóireacht faoi chursaí poiblí faoi seo agus gur chríochnaigh na díospóireachtaí sin ag deireadh mí Iúil na bliana seo caite. Tuigim freisin go bhfuil an tuarascáil foilsithe ag an gcoiste agus go bhfuil cuid de na moltaí maidir le bunú an choimisiúin toghchánaíochta sa tuarascáil sin. Níl sé léite agam toisc nach bhfaca mé go fóill é, ach tuigim go mbeidh sé ar chumas an chéad Rialtas eile an coimisiún seo a bhunú, ag éirí as na díospóireachtaí a bhí ann, an tuarascáil foilsithe, agus na moltaí atá inti a thabhairt i bhfeidhm.
I welcome the €30 million allocation to Clare County Council in respect of local and regional roads. In the context of the recent flooding, extensive damage has been done to local roads, an issue which has been debated in the House. Is the Taoiseach aware whether any work has been done on creating a budget to carry out repairs to local roads-----
-----the local authorities have responded to the flooding consequences throughout the country, and that has been sent to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Between that and the humanitarian scheme administered by the Red Cross, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, will respond to this tomorrow with a budget of in excess of €100 million to deal with the consequences of flooding.
Regarding the upcoming general election, we have just had a Supreme Court finding about the north Kerry elections, particularly in the Listowel area, whereby the guidelines were found to contain a mistake under the Local Elections (Petitions and Disqualifications) Act 1974. Do we need to have those amended before the upcoming election to circumvent the option of somebody taking a constitutional case on whether the results stand up to scrutiny?
Home help hours have been increased but they are subject to arrangements between the local home helps and the persons whom they serve. I am not sure about Deputy Healy-Rae's point about it being withdrawn on Christmas Day.
Arrangements are made between the home helps and the people they look after every day or every week. There may have been a local circumstance for that. I do not take it as a given that the home help service was cut off for the person the Deputy mentioned.
-----and being trodden on in their homes. Families are being thrown out of their homes. They are queueing up in the courts to get them thrown out. County registrars are treating them appallingly and the Taoiseach knows it. That is why he will not call the election. It is because he is afraid to call it.
-----and have declarations of interest from the judges. The Taoiseach does not want to meet people in the country who are being threatened in their homes and are being evicted and thrown out. Deputy Healy Rae spoke about Christmas Day.
I am excited about it, and the Taoiseach will be when he meets the people, because he will not be bringing them into the banks for a loan like he did the last time. His five-point plan has gone down to a three-point plan.
Quite a deal of work has been done on it, and obviously it will be produced in due course. Let me confirm to Deputy McGrath there is absolutely no fear at all of blowing the whistle and calling an election, and the people will have their say.
In the context of the national disability strategy under the Department of Health and the Cabinet sub-committee on social policy, I wish to ask the Taoiseach, in regard to autism, whether speech and language therapy will get priority. Perhaps we could have a debate on this in the House before we dissolve the Dáil.