Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Business of Dáil
Paul Kehoe (Minister of State and Government Chief Whip, Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Wexford, Fine Gael)
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It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following business shall be transacted today: No. 4a, statements on Ireland's stability programme update, April 2016, and No. 4b, statements on Irish Water. The proceedings in relation to No. 4ashall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil Party, Sinn Féin, the AAA-PBP, Independents 4 Change, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, or a Member nominated in their stead, and a non-party Deputy, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. The proceedings in relation to No. 4bshall, if not previously concluded, adjourn at 6.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Fianna Fáil Party, Sinn Féin, the AAA-PBP, Independents 4 Change, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, or a Member nominated in their stead, and a non-party Deputy, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.
The Dáil on its rising today shall adjourn until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m., when there shall be no Order of Business within the meaning of Standing Order 28. Accordingly, the only business to be transacted shall be, by order, agreed on that day.
I very much welcome the taking up of the suggestion to have this debate on the Stability and Growth Pact. However, I wish to make a point about how we do business in this Parliament. We got this document last night, with a minimal amount of time to read and assess it, and I do not believe that is in the nature of the discussions we are having in the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform. We need to start changing the way we do business now. We should have received this document several days ago and have had time to conduct detailed research before speaking on it. I welcome the debate, but we need to start changing the way we do business, particularly in regard to finance issues and how we consider budgets. We must give them time here so that we can make a proper contribution.
After eight weeks and five days - almost nine weeks - it would appear that the popular will of the people has finally broken through and forced Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at least towards the idea that the will of the people should be respected and that this House should honour its democratic mandate on the issue of water charges.
I am speaking about the whole proposed Order of Business. We believe we should now go the next step and allow that decision to be made by taking motions today. A motion has been put down by 39 Members on the issue. We do not need a commission or more dithering or delay. If, finally, the principle that the democratic mandate that is operating on this House in regard to water charges is to be respected, we should take the next logical step and allow a vote to take place on this issue to finally put it to bed. People are fed up after eight weeks. They want to move on to other issues.
What I propose is that on the Order of Business today we should allow for the motion that has been put down on the Order Paper and signed by 39 Deputies to be taken and voted on.
Like Deputy Ryan, I have a major problem with the proposal as put today, given that the documentation relating to this debate only appeared at 10 p.m. last night. It would have been reasonable to swap what is proposed for tomorrow's business to proposed now in regard to the Stability and Growth Pact, because we cannot seriously expect Deputies to come into the Chamber and properly debate a major piece of work and present opinions in an informative manner rather than off the top of their heads. That is not going to happen in this space of time. Spokespersons and Deputies have not had enough time to examine the material presented to them last night and some people did not even get it until now. It is a major job to consider it. I propose that we swap the statements on the EU migrants and refugees planned for tomorrow with the statements on the stability programme. This would be reasonable and would give people time to digest what is in the documentation that was circulated at 10 p.m. last night.
Under the fiscal compact, every national parliament must consider the stability programme update and return it to the European Union. This matters. It sets parameters for the budget, is based on the growth forecast and comes from the Commission. This is the first part in a very important part of the budgetary process. We got it at 10 p.m. last night. We telephoned the Minister's office yesterday, as soon as we knew statements were coming, but the officials refused to speak to us. We telephoned the Department of Finance and it refused to speak to us.
This is a very pretty document in that it has had graphic designers, typesetters and printers, which means the data in the document has been available for a considerable period of time. It is completely unacceptable that graphic designers, typesetters, printers and civil servants have all had access to this document, which is a key part of the budgetary process, and that the caretaker Minister, the acting Minister, would put it in pigeonholes for Parliament to consider at 10 p.m. at night and say we can have a chat about it in the morning and he will then send it off to the European Commission.
I am of the same opinion. I did not get it in my pigeonhole last night. Up to 9.30 p.m. I had not got it. I make the same point as others. This is such an important document and the issues are so important, but we have not had enough time to deal with it now. It is incumbent on us to have read it in order to be able to come into the House and make statements on it. As Independent Members, it is hard enough for us to get enough time to debate all the issues and it is important that we know the issues. It is important we are fully aware of what is in this document and of the important decisions therein. I agree the debate on this should be delayed.
First, in respect of the comments made by Deputy Boyd Barrett, a motion will not change the legislation that is required on that issue and there will be time for a debate on the issue on another occasion.
It is good that we are talking about the economy this morning. Deputy Ryan asked for a debate on this issue a number of weeks ago and note was taken of that by the Whip. In respect of Deputy Ó Snodaigh, I received and read his letter and thank him for sending it to me.
I would point out to Deputies Donnelly and McGrath that this paper was presented to the Cabinet yesterday by the Minister for Finance. It is strictly a technical and statistical paper. There is no policy change involved here. This paper would normally be sent to Brussels, without debate in the House. Yesterday, the Cabinet felt that in accordance with the current situation and the changed circumstances, it was important for the Members of the Oireachtas to see this paper, which is purely statistical and technical and has no policy change, before it is sent to Brussels on Friday.
Furthermore, I make the point that the discussions that are taking place between my party and Fianna Fáil have not yet concluded. Therefore, we are not in a position to sign off on a deal or agreement that would have to be looked at by the Independent Members in order to form a government.
I wish to point out to Deputy Donnelly in particular that the Spring Economic Statement, which is required to be presented by the Minister for Finance, is the area where policy discussion can take place and which provides a full opportunity for every Member for debate. This paper is merely technical and statistical. There is no policy change here. A debate of some length would be required if policy changes were involved. Normally, this paper went to Brussels without any discussion here. However, yesterday when it was cleared by Cabinet, we felt it should be presented as a result of the request made by Deputy Ryan a number of weeks ago.
Let me make this point in fairness to the Taoiseach so that he can answer the accusation I am levelling at him. I am sure the Taoiseach has at least read page 1 of the document, which he states involves no policy changes.
Will the Deputy please resume his seat? Please turn off the Deputy's microphone. Resume your seat please.
This is not the manner in which the Members of the House want to conduct their business.
Whatever points the Deputy needs to make on this matter can be made in the course of the debate. The decision to be made by the House now is whether the proposal is agreed to. I am not taking further points. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4a, statements on Ireland’s stability programme update, April 2016, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with 4b, statements on Irish Water, agreed to?
Not agreed. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have colluded since the start of this Dáil to prevent us from discussing water charges and Irish Water. Now that they have what seems to be the outline of a deal between them, behind closed doors, they are happy for us to discuss it but not to make any decision about it. It is simply not good enough. The outline of the deal about which we have heard reflects the mass movement of protest and the reality that people are refusing to pay, which can be seen in the concession in the form of the mooted suspension of charges. We have seen a row-back by Fianna Fáil on its election manifesto commitment to end water charges and abolish Irish Water and an attempt to kick the can down the road by establishing a commission, the purpose of which will be to save water charges and the Irish Water project.
People have now spoken very clearly in three ways. They have spoken clearly in demonstrations on the streets involving over 100,000 people; they have spoke clearly through a boycott - the figure is undoubtedly over 50% and it is being suppressed by Irish Water; and they have spoken clearly in the general election, with the consequence that in this Dáil there is a majority of Deputies who have a mandate to end water charges and abolish Irish Water. It is not good enough that we will have discussions today without making decisions. We should allow motions to be taken today and we should vote on those motions because Irish Water and water charges could effectively be put out of their misery politically today rather than revived at a later stage. For that reason, we do not agree with the Order of Business. We ask that the motions be taken today.
Eight weeks and four days on, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have agreed to allow statements this afternoon, without a vote, on the issue of water charges. That is not good enough. Fianna Fáil in its manifesto clearly called for the abolition of Irish Water and the scrapping of water charges and that is the mandate to which it should be true. The Dáil should be allowed to vote on the motion before it which has been tabled by 39 Deputies. It reflects the mandate of the majority of Deputies in this Chamber, but we are being denied that right because it appears that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have concocted a fudge to push the issue up the road in order that Fianna Fáil can support Deputy Enda Kenny being returned as Taoiseach. If we dealt with the water charges issue today and voted on it, we might lose it, which would be fair enough, but if everybody was true to his or her mandate, we would win it and the issue would then be done and dusted. The two parties could then go back and deal with the other issues without having this one bearing down on people in perpetuity. I appeal to the two parties which have blocked any meaningful debate on this issue since we returned and make the case which I have made consistently that this Chamber is an independent legislator. It is not an arm of government or Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The Taoiseach and Deputy Micheál Martin should do the decent thing and let the Dáil debate and vote on the issue, something we are entitled and which we are mandated to do.
My party sought a discussion today on Irish Water and our Whip spoke to the acting Government Whip yesterday about the matter. It is completely untrue to say parties colluded to prevent Irish Water-----
This is a very important point. From the outset of this Dáil, it was pointed out by the Chair and the Ceann Comhairle's office that independent motions belonging to different parties and groupings were matters to be discussed in Private Members' time. We are in limbo in that a Government has not been formed. It is not accurate to say any party prevented anybody from tabling a motion. The current Standing Orders did so and we did not collude in any way, shape or form to prevent it from happening. Motions on their own will not end water charges. It will take legislation and the formation of a Government to have an authoritative process to end water charges and deal with the utility issue, if that is the desire of Dáil Éireann. Everybody banding together to pass motions will not bring that about; that is the reality. Unlike others in this House, we have worked to give practical and real effect to the issues debated in the election. We have not stood back for the past two months, as others have done, in sitting on their hands and making no effort to change anything on this issue. I heard Deputy Eoin Ó Broin on RTE, with the verbal dexterity that is his wont, explain again Sinn Féin's U-turn after U-turn on this issue in the past 12 months, whether it relates to paying or not paying the charges, or whether it is or is not in favour of a utility and so on. I look forward to the debate today.
Genuine efforts are being made which have not been yet concluded to facilitate the formation of a Government, which I think is the general desire of the people. They want a Government to be formed. It is not so long ago when Deputy Gerry Adams and others were urging the formation of a Government, notwithstanding the illogicality of their propositions.
I join other Deputies in asking for the motion to be put on the agenda today. As a Deputy who stood in this and the last election in opposition to water charges, who has not paid them and who has stood against metering in communities because people believe it is the next step to privatisation, it is important that the democratic will of the people be discussed today. That is the problem with the statements we have heard in the past few days. We discussed very important issues but with nothing at the end of them. Yesterday we discussed the important issue of mental health services, but nothing came of them, other than the Minister for Health making a statement, with which I did not agree. The caretaker Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, said on radio this morning that his party did not win the election and indeed it did not.
Why not take the issue out of the negotiations and bring it into the Dáil in line with the democratic mandate given by the people? Some 90 Deputies have been elected on a mandate to discuss and vote on the issue. We would welcome it if Fianna Fáil tabled amendments to the motion today.
The facts speak for themselves. There are ongoing discussions between the two largest parties in the Dáil, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, with a view to putting in place the parameters of an agreement that would allow for a Government to be formed, on which there would need to be consultation with Independent Members. Motions will not impact and change legislation, as is necessary, if it is the desire of the House to do what is intended.
I disagree with what Deputy Gerry Adams said. Some of the debates that have taken place here have brought forward important views from Members of the House on Brexit, mental health and the health of the agri-sector. Deputy Gerry Adams knows that it is perfectly in order for him to discuss his motion in Private Members' time. Motions voted on have no impact on legislation that may or may not be required.
If we can conclude a situation where a Government is formed, the nature and circumstances of debate in this independent Legislature, as the Deputy points out, will be radically changed and will allow for much more engagement and involvement of all Members of the House-----
Bobby Aylward, Maria Bailey, Seán Barrett, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, Pat Breen, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Catherine Byrne, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Seán Canney, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, John Curran, Jim Daly, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Timmy Dooley, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Frances Fitzgerald, Michael Fitzmaurice, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Pat Gallagher, Brendan Griffin, Simon Harris, Michael Harty, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Brendan Howlin, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Catherine Martin, Micheál Martin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Kevin Moran, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Dara Murphy, Eoghan Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Tom Neville, Michael Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Anne Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Noel Rock, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, David Stanton, Katherine Zappone.
Gerry Adams, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Dessie Ellis, Kathleen Funchion, Noel Grealish, John Halligan, Séamus Healy, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Martin Kenny, Mary Lou McDonald, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Carol Nolan, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Louise O'Reilly, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Shane Ross, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Peadar Tóibín, Mick Wallace.
I lodged with the Ceann Comhairle a motion, under Standing Order 33, on a matter of national importance. It relates to what has become a litany of so-called gangland killings, three of which have happened in my constituency, others across the city.
Everybody would agree that we now have not just a crisis in policing resources, but also a crisis in community confidence. This is an issue that needs to be discussed, debated, resolved and decided upon on the floor of the Dáil. I understand that the motion that I lodged with the Ceann Comhairle has been ruled out of order. That is as he says it. However, I wish to register for the record, not least on behalf of the people whom I represent, that they had and have an expectation that we take an interest in what is happening in the real world and on the streets and the circumstances of fear and vulnerability in which they are now living. The Garda Síochána in the city of Dublin, north and south of the River Liffey, is down 100 uniformed gardaí. The gardaí themselves have met in conference, as the Ceann Comhairle knows. They have set out again very starkly the circumstances that they are in, and it is not acceptable that all of that is happening, with all of the impact on community and families, and not a word said about it in the Dáil Chamber.
The Deputy's point is well made. The validity of her point is beyond question. Perhaps the Whips would discuss the matter and see if time could be arranged. However, the Deputy's motion is not in order at present-----
Please resume your seat now. The point the Deputy is raising is of the utmost importance. I ask the Whips to consider the matter and see whether a proposal can be brought forward in that regard.