Wednesday, 7 September 2016
Business of Dáil
Tá fáilte romhaibh ar ais. On 2 September last, the Taoiseach requested me by letter, under Standing Order 26(1), to summon Dáil Éireann to meet today, 7 September 2016, at 10 a.m. to consider the Government decision to appeal the European Commission's decision that Ireland provided unlawful state aid to Apple. The business of today's special meeting is confined to the subject matter set out in the summons and the arrangements relating thereto.
Before we commence with the business of the day, I would like to take this opportunity to update the Members of the House on the progress being made with the replacement of critical aspects of the Dáil Chamber equipment. A business continuity plan was always in place for any possible recall of the Dáil. The project is advancing well. As a result, we meet today using sound components of the new systems. The work on the new systems has been temporarily suspended until this sitting has been completed. However, a major body of work on the new systems still remains to be completed before Tuesday, 27 September, when the Dáil will reconvene. This remaining work includes configuration and testing of the electronic voting system, further installation works, extensive testing of the new systems and full integration of all the new systems. The project team is on target to have all work completed in time for the autumn session, which will commence on 27 September. With that said, I call on the Taoiseach to propose the arrangements in connection with today's business.
Cuirim fáilte ar ais chuig na Teachtaí ar fad. I propose, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. 1, motion re Government decision to appeal the European Commission's decision that Ireland provided unlawful state aid to Apple shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 8 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: the combined time for the speeches of the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach shall not exceed 35 minutes, followed by the main spokespersons and leaders for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, AAA-PBP, Independents4Change, the rural Independent group and the Social Democrats-Green Party group, or a Member nominated in their stead, whose combined time for their speeches shall not exceed 35 minutes in each case, and such members may share their time; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed five minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and any division demanded shall be taken immediately.
There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1, motion re Government decision to appeal the European Commission's decision that Ireland provided unlawful state aid to Apple, agreed to?
It is not agreed. I ask the Taoiseach to allow time today or tomorrow to discuss the revelations in last night's BBC "Spotlight" programme about allegations of illegality within NAMA in the context of the sale of the Northern loan book. Many of us have consistently raised this issue in the Dáil. There seems to be credibility in respect of what we have been asserting. We have asked for a commission of investigation to be established to examine this matter. I think it would be pertinent for the Taoiseach to allow time for this issue to be discussed.
Could I ask a question about the arrangements for today's sitting? At the end of a debate such as that which will take place today, there is precedent for allowing questions about issues that may arise during the course of the day to be directed to the relevant Ministers from the Opposition benches. Would it be possible to provide a short period - perhaps half an hour - for questions at the end of the debate?
We could do with a longer period for questions and answers at the end of today's session. Five minutes is far too short altogether in terms of the contributions that are going to be made.
In respect of the matter raised by Deputy Adams about the "Spotlight" programme, I suggest that the Taoiseach convene a meeting of all party leaders in the next while to discuss the best way to deal with Project Eagle because there are significant legal issues there and we need to deal with it in an informed and organised way as opposed to by simple motions.
It is absolutely unbelievable that we are going to make a decision that has enormous implications for this State, to say "no" to €13 billion, when we have not even got access to the detailed ruling which has decided that the money is rightfully owed to the citizens of this country. This nonsense about confidentiality should go out the window when we are talking about a matter of such importance. It is a sham debate in the first instance. We are having a debate and are expected to make the decision when in fact the Government has made the decision already with the collusion of Fianna Fáil, which is deeply implicated in all of this.
Is 30 minutes all right? We can agree to that.
In response to Deputy Martin’s point about a meeting of party leaders, as everybody is aware, there is a criminal investigation going on in a different jurisdiction. I will consider that request in the context of whether anything might be possible outside that criminal investigation and will come back to the Deputy.
In regard to the documentation Deputy Boyd Barrett referred to, the document is in the ownership of the European Commission and it is a matter for the Commission to decide when to publish it in whatever form.
-----but he did make a request that we might have a meeting of the leaders of the parties to consider the issue raised on the "Spotlight" programme. Deputy Adams is well aware of the criminal investigation going on there and we cannot interfere in that investigation in a different jurisdiction. I will consider whether there is anything outside that investigation that we should reflect on as leaders and I will be in touch.
The reason we are having the debate is very clear: the Cabinet is the Executive and the Government and it is charged with making decisions collectively and that is what it did. The Cabinet does not come to the Parliament, which is the Oireachtas, the Dáil and the Seanad, and ask for a decision. The Cabinet has made a decision. That is its duty and responsibility. It comes here today to ask for the approval of the House, to agree with that decision, to appeal this to the European judicial system and to ask the Attorney General to prepare the draft appeal over the next two months. The Cabinet makes its decision separately from the Dáil but it comes here today to the Dáil to ask for its approval after a discussion and a vote to approve that decision to appeal the case.
Deputy Pringle should resume his seat. The Taoiseach has explained precisely what the factual situation is. We cannot get into any debate on the matter.
Is the proposal for dealing No. 1, motion regarding the Government’s decision to appeal the European Commission’s decision that Ireland provided unlawful state aid to Apple, agreed to?