Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Order of Business
Tuesday's business shall be No. 13, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Employment Equality Act 1998 (section 12) (Reservation of vocational training places) Order 2018, referral to committee; No. 14, motion re air service agreements with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, referral to committee; No. 15, motion re establishment of a special joint committee on climate action; No. 29, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 30, Heritage Bill 2016 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 31, Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016, in the name of Deputy Alan Kelly - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. Private Members' business shall be No. 57, Urban Regeneration and Housing (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, selected by Independents 4 Change.
Wednesday's business shall be No. 32, statements post the European Council meeting of 28 and 29 June pursuant to Standing Order 111; No. 29, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 30, Heritage Bill 2016 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 31, Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016, in the name of Deputy Alan Kelly - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 7, Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. Private Members' Business shall be No. 194, motion re pathway to redress for victims of convicted child sexual abusers, selected by Fianna Fáil.
Thursday's business shall be No. 30, Heritage Bill 2016 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 33, Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 31, Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016, in the name of Deputy Alan Kelly - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; No. 7, Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 1, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 - amendments from the Seanad.
Friday's business shall be No. 34, Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Report Stage, resumed, and Final Stage; and No. 1, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 - amendments from the Seanad.
I refer to the report of the Business Committee dated 28 June 2018. In relation today's business it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 10 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 11.30 p.m.; Nos. 13 and 14 shall be taken without debate and any division demanded shall be taken immediately; and No. 57 shall conclude within two hours, if not previously concluded.
In relation to Wednesday's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 10.15 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 11.30 p.m.; and No. 32 shall commence immediately after Taoiseach's Questions and be followed by the suspension of sitting under Standing Order 25(1) for one hour and shall be brought to a conclusion after three hours and five minutes if not previously concluded, the statements of a Minister or Minister or State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each and the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes, a Minister or Minister for State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes with a five minute response from a Minister or Minister of State and all Members may share time.
In relation to Thursday's business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit later than 7.48 p.m. and shall adjourn not later than 10.50 p.m.; no Private Members' Bill shall be taken under Standing Order 140A and no committee report shall be taken under Standing Order 91(2); and the Dáil shall sit on Friday at 10.30 a.m. and shall adjourn not later than 6.30 p.m. to take No. 34, which shall adjourn after one hour, if not previously concluded, and No. 1, if not previously concluded.
There are three proposals to put the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to?
On the business for the week, I scanned the business paper and I could not find anywhere within it the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017. This Bill is not everything that we would want but it contains important proposals, such as a curtailment of zero-hour contracts. It is a key issue for many workers, including the LloydsPharmacy workers who are being forced out on strike again this Friday. We want to see this item on the agenda and we want this House to have a chance to pass the legislation with amendments before the summer recess.
Certainly, no problem. I will give Deputy Barry exactly the same answer today as I gave him last week when he raised the issue. There are competing interests in this House, we have ten days left, and I have every intention to try and bring that Bill to Committee Stage before we rise next week. That has not changed.
I accept that there are competing interests. One of those competing interests is the interests of low-paid workers who are working in retail and the like through the summer who cannot wait until the autumn for this House to bring in the necessary improvements and the issue must be dealt with before the summer recess.
If we finish Committee Stage next week, with respect, it still has to go to the Seanad and then, from the Seanad, it will still have to come back here. Unless the Deputy has some other suggestions as to how we finish all Stages between now and Friday next, I am at a loss as to how we can implement it before the summer recess.
Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to? Agreed. We do not have to consider Friday.
On Friday's business, I object to the fact that there is only an hour allocated to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017. The Ceann Comhairle's colleague, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle stated we have had 15 or 16 hours already on this debate since 24 April. We are going into our third month of endless filibustering. If our colleagues from Kerry, Tipperary etc. will be present on Friday, we could at least give the Bill three and a half hours and get it finished. There are 153 Deputies or so in this House who want this legislation to be passed. We have vote after vote, filibuster after filibuster. We do not even have enough TDs to have an actual vote.
We have had - seven, eight or ten times - the relatives and friends of victims of road carnage in the Gallery here, as the Ceann Comhairle will be aware because he chaired some of the debate. People are distressed at the disrespectful way the matter is being dealt with and there is an anxiety that we get this legislation on the Statute Book as soon as possible.
As I understand it, only amendment No. 29 is remaining, which has already been moved by the Minister. I would hope that one hour should be sufficient time in which to deal with that.
There is no chance. It is a recommittal. I sit with the Ceann Comhairle on the Committee on Procedure and it is time we looked at the issue of recommittals and the fact there are no time limits on speakers. The Ceann Comhairle and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle tried in a very democratic and professional way to get us through the Bill under the existing rules but we would need until lunchtime to try to finish this much needed legislation. What has happened with this Bill is bad for the reputation of this House. It cannot go on.
When we are consulting this afternoon on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, we will consult on that matter as well and will see if progress can be achieved. Is Thursday's business agreed? Agreed.
I thought the Tánaiste was lacking in gratitude to the leader of Sinn Féin. He forgot to mention the strong electoral alliance between his party and Sinn Féin, as manifested in Sinn Féin voting in its entirety for Senator Lawlor. It was very noticeable and the most striking electoral alliance so far in the House this year. The enthusiastic support for the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill also was quite revealing, given Sinn Féin's great relationship with the Judiciary over the years. They are strongly behind the Government and Deputy Ross on that.
On childcare, the programme for Government promises to develop targeted supports to reduce childcare costs, broaden parental choice and increase supports to stay-at-home parents. This commitment is not being met and weekly costs are enormous. In Fingal, for example, it is €204 per week. In south Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin city and nationally it is very high. It is the biggest outlay per month next to mortgage payments. The Tánaiste should outline how the Government plans to improve the situation for parents out there over the next couple of years.
Maybe it is the heat getting to the Deputy but I am glad that when he talks about any potential for coalition between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, he says it with a smile on his face. The reality is that Fianna Fáil have voted with Sinn Féin a lot more regularly in this House than has Fine Gael.
On childcare, nobody could criticise this Government for not being ambitious in trying to introduce a more affordable childcare model. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, has brought forward a hugely expensive package for the State but it is money well spent and we will see a transformation of childcare provision in the coming years on the back of that proposal.
Kind of. They say the only thing worse than people talking about you is people not talking about you and I take that view on it. I welcome the Tánaiste back and can see that he is jet-lagged. I am not sure about the sunstroke Deputy Howlin or Deputy Barry was suggesting.
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is to be convened on 25 July. I welcome that fact. As the Tánaiste knows, we have been calling since February for this conference to be convened. It is clear that the focus of the conference now needs to be the outstanding issues that have prevented the re-establishment of the power-sharing institutions in the North, namely, marriage equality, Acht na Gaeilge and legacy issues. The conference will be a lost opportunity if it proves to only be a one-day wonder or a delaying device to do nothing. I ask the Tánaiste to shed some light on what will be the conference's agenda. What items does he foresee it dealing with and will the Government agree to statements in the Dáil next week on the North in advance of the convening of the intergovernmental conference?
First it is a matter for the Business Committee but I am certainly happy to make myself available for statements in advance of that British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference, BIIGC. We have been asking for some time for the convening of a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. I think that request had the support of all parties in this House and I thank them for that. There is an agreement to hold that on 25 July. It will be chaired by David Lidington and me. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, will also be involved, as will our Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan. On the agenda, which has not been finalised, we will certainly see several east-west issues being discussed, particularly around security. Of course we will be discussing issues relating to political instability in Northern Ireland also. It is important that people understand why the BIIGC is significant. This is a structure of the Good Friday Agreement. It does not have the capacity to solve everything. On some issues it is a consultative body, on others it is more than that. We will respond to the opportunities of the BIIGC in a way that is absolutely consistent with the Good Friday Agreement.
I published the Public Sector Standards Bill in this House in May 2015. It passed Second Stage in January 2016. The Bill provides for the establishment of the office of public sector standards commissioner, confers on that officeholder certain functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPOC, and provides for standards of conduct for public officials and imposes obligations. It will enhance the existing framework for identifying, disclosing and managing conflicts of interest and minimising the risk of corruption in public office.
The Bill has been stalled on Committee Stage since April 2017 when it got as far as section 43 out of its 66 sections. At the time the Government promised that it would be passed by the coming summer, that was last summer. When will this Bill progress? Is it true, as was reported in The Sunday Business Post, that the Government is concerned that some Deputies have expressed concerns about some of the reforms that would impact on them?
I will make sure that we get a more detailed note for the Deputy but my understanding is that amendments are being worked on for Committee Stage and this is more likely to be dealt with in the next term-----
A review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 is taking place. The Act allows trans and non-binary people to determine legally their own gender. However, when seeking to transition medically trans and non-binary people are being forced to jump through massive hoops, sit on impossibly long waiting lists or go abroad for health care, something we said was no longer acceptable. Many people are going through mental torture waiting two to three years. When will the Government bring in legislation to bring us in line with best practice and World Health Organisation, WHO, guidelines in our treatment of transgender people? The WHO states that this is not a health condition yet we are forcing transgender people to go through psychiatric evaluation before they can get hormone or other follow-up. The Government claims that we are following World Professional Association for Transgender Health, WPATH, guidelines but we still have not abolished the psychiatric model of care in favour of informed consent. Teenagers are being forced to wait for years because of the delays in the child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS. Will the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection agree to meet the This is Me Campaign group which is campaigning on this issue, and which will hold a protest on Saturday at 4 p.m.? Will we implement WPATH and recruit and educate more doctors? There is one endocrinologist dealing with thousands of people seeking treatment.
I can only assume from the way the Deputy has asked the question that she may not be aware that we have just gone through a very comprehensive review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015. The report was sent to me only last week. I am nearly finished reading it and will commence a meeting-----
The review of the Act encompasses all the issues and challenges facing that particular community. The only thing I can agree to today is that once I have finished reviewing the report I will issue it and publish it before the House. I will probably bring a memo to Cabinet in the autumn regarding draft legislation.
On page 119 of the programme for Government, under the heading "Seafood and the Marine", the Government states it is committed to the development of the inshore fisheries sector. Hundreds of people attended a peaceful protest in Bantry last Sunday to do all they can to stop mechanical harvesting of 1,860 acres of kelp off the stunning Bantry Bay. BioAtlantis wrote to the Department last week stating it is to commence mechanical harvesting tomorrow, Wednesday, 4 July. Does the Tánaiste realise this will be devastating for the environment, the local tourism industry and the livelihoods of up to 50 inshore fishermen, none of whom received notification in the past week that mechanical harvesting of 1,860 acres was due to take place in their waters? In Article 12.2 of the licence granted in 2009, the Minister - in this case, the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English - can revoke this licence without cost to the State. Will the Tánaiste work with the Minister of State to have this licence revoked before irreparable damage is done to the waters off Bantry Bay?
A licence has been granted for this activity and a number of Ministers were involved in that decision. I believe the former Minister, Mr. John Gormley, was the first Minister involved. The proposal went through a very rigorous assessment. In terms of the environmental impact, the Marine Institute and other bodies have been involved and there has also been public consultation. A delicate balance needs to be struck to ensure we protect the marine ecosystem and marine environment, while at the same time allowing a reasonable but relatively small part of Bantry Bay to be used for seaweed harvesting. The position will be reviewed after the licence takes effect to make sure environmental concerns remain to the fore. It is highly unlikely the licence will be revoked before it takes effect.
The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 is about to come before the select committee for detailed scrutiny. I seek clarity on the Government's position on ending oil and gas exploration. Last Friday, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment tweeted the following: "The number and capability of exploration companies involved is a welcome development and hopefully we will see an increase in drilling and the realisation of our oil and gas potential in the coming years." It is hard to believe but that tweet came directly from the Department with responsibility for climate action. It was deleted on Saturday. Will the Tánaiste indicate whether it was deleted because it is no longer the Government's policy to increase fossil fuel exploration or because the Department was embarrassed that it made clear, in black and white and for all to see, not only that this Government is not taking climate action seriously, but also, at a time when we all know we need to keep 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground, it seems to be hoping, wishing and dreaming of a deadly fossil fuel future?
It is probably a bit dangerous for me to comment on individual tweets from individual Ministers but I am sure the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, will have an opportunity-----
If a Private Members' Bill on climate action comes forward, I am sure the Minister of State and Minister will have an opportunity to outline, in some detail, the Government's ambition in this area because it is significant.
I raise a recent official announcement that affects my constituency. Last Friday, the Health Service Executive announced at a meeting to Oireachtas Members that the Rosalie residential centre for mildly mentally handicapped persons in Castlerea is to close within the next four weeks. We were also told before the end of the meeting that St. Joseph's day care centre in Ballaghaderreen, which 18 people attend, was to close. I recognise the role played by the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, who has acknowledged the representations made to him on this matter by people he met while visiting the centre. This is a scandalous announcement. The Government is neglecting vulnerable people in a scandalous way in several areas of mental health.
These are vulnerable people. As the Taoiseach swans around New York giving out U2 tickets, he seems to have little realisation of the problem on his doorstep at home. I challenge the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, to pick up the phone today to instruct the HSE not to close those centres, end of story. I demand that the Minister of State does this without further delay.
I also want to raise this issue. There are many people in those homes who suffer with dementia. There are 55,000 people in Ireland with dementia. A recent mapping exercise was carried out by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the HSE to pinpoint exactly what services are available in Ireland. The report shows evidence that there is inequality of services nationally. Unfortunately, Roscommon is suffering badly as a result of this inequity. The closure of the Rosalie unit will cause further hardship for the people in that area who have dementia.
I thank the Deputies for raising the issue. I am not privy to what happened at that meeting on Friday but Deputy Eugene Murphy will know that I have met the local Oireachtas Members on numerous occasions. As far as I am concerned the situation has not changed. The future of the Rosalie unit will be determined by the outcome of the clinical assessment of the 12 remaining residents who are there.
I am waiting for that clinical assessment to be completed. We have also undertaken to have it independently reviewed by the College of Psychiatry. That continues to be my sole focus, as it has been from day one. It is not about the politics or who said what. It is about the well-being of the 12 remaining residents. The only guidance I will take on this issue is clinical guidance and I await the result of the clinical assessment before any decision is taken on the future of the unit.
In the health section of the programme for Government on page 5 the Government has given a commitment "to increase access to safe, timely care, as close to patients’ homes as possible". In The Northern Standard last March the Taoiseach is quoted as saying that he wanted to see more people using the minor injuries units in hospitals such as Monaghan Hospital to lessen the pressure on our accident and emergency departments in Cavan General Hospital. In 2011, however, the HSE reduced the hours of the minor injuries unit in Monaghan Hospital to a service offering no night service and no weekend service, when of course it is needed most. This is a big mistake in my view and that of constituents. The Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris visited the constituency and the hospital on Saturday. I am disappointed that he did not invite other Oireachtas Members to meet him on that visit.
Two weeks prior to that visit, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on health, Deputy Donnelly, also came to the hospital and I am sure the message that the Minister got was the same one we received, namely, that the hours of the unit need to be expanded. We have the facilities and the capacity to do so for both Monaghan Hospital and the minor injuries unit. Will the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly extend the hours beyond office hours?
I will relay this point back to the Minister. As the Deputy has said, the Minister has visited that facility and is well aware of the request to extend the hours. There are a number of concerns in this regard, with patient safety being foremost. That is the most important consideration in any changes. I will undertake to ask the Minister to get back to the Deputy on the issue.
Farmers' incomes are under threat again. No grass is growing and many farmers are grazing their herds on second cut silage. Many are using first cut silage for feed. Farmers are feeding costly meals and rations daily.
When the Tánaiste was the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, he told farmers to increase production of milk. He even told the farmers that the Chinese population would drink it. All farmers now, however, are in a tight corner. I ask the Tánaiste, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, and the Government to secure feed from abroad for this winter. Farmers do not have it, or they will not have it, and there will be a fodder crisis like never before. Nothing is left since last winter. I ask the Government to act in time to protect farmers and their incomes.
This is a serious issue. Ireland looks very different now from what it normally looks like at this time of year. The Deputy is aware that grass growth is dramatically less that what it normally would be, especially along the southern quarter of the country. If one looks at the science of the grass growth curve, how it looks this year compared with a normal grazing season is quite dramatic.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, set up a fodder group, which met last week, and Teagasc is keeping in close contact with farming organisations. Farmers will need to plan for their own situations. Obviously, that will depend on how the weather changes in the coming weeks. At the moment, there is a need to focus on animal welfare in terms of shelter, water and supplementing grass feed with concentrates and silage where required. There is also a need to plan for the months and winter ahead in terms of the availability of silage for that period. Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will work with farmers on that.
Last Friday, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, and an entourage of other Ministers visited Drogheda. Deputy O'Dowd was in tow for the photo opportunity. They were launching Project Ireland 2040 and they each arrived with one arm as long as the other. There was no firm commitment to anything for Drogheda in the plan - not to fund the northern cross route, not to remove the slip road toll on the town, not to reinstate the town clerk position, which the Government removed, and not to provide an IDA-designated site for inward investment. There was nothing other than spin, spoof and photographs. What does the Government's plan have for Drogheda other than third tier status?
We have had many opportunities to debate the Project Ireland 2040 and how we will spend €116 billion over the next ten years to make that a reality. Like many towns, cities and other urban centres, Drogheda stands to benefit significantly from that level of investment.
Page 67 of the programme for Government reads:
A National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health will be established to consider how best to introduce and teach resilience, coping mechanisms, greater awareness to children and young people, and ... we will invest in SafeTALK and ASIST courses.
When will this happen?
Our Department will shortly publish a well-being strategy. It will involve a range of commitments to roll out programmes, including the one that the Deputy referenced, which will be expanded later in the summer to make further provision. We regard the well-being strategy as a high priority and are investing more resources in the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, to back it. It has been well received by the various education stakeholders with whom we consulted. We look forward to rolling it out in the coming months.