Dáil debates

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

3:05 pm

Photo of Tony McLoughlinTony McLoughlin (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Tuesday’s business shall be No. 10, motion re service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2017 and 2018 annual report, referral to committee; No. 10a, motion re parliamentary questions rota swop - Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Justice and Equality; No. 11, motion re agreement amending the Ireland-US pre-clearance agreement; No. 28, statements on GP contractual reform; No. 29, Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 [Seanad] - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 30, National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill 2018 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages. Private Members' business shall be No. 55, Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2019 - Second Stage, selected by Fianna Fáil.

Wednesday’s business shall be No. 31, statements post-European Council meeting of 10 April, pursuant to Standing Order 111; and No. 32, statements on the new children's hospital independent review of escalation in costs. Private Members' business shall be No. 218, motion re transport, selected by the Social Democrats-Green Party Group.

Thursday's business shall be No. 33, statements on youth homelessness, to adjourn, if not previously concluded); No. a1, Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill 2018 - Amendments from the Seanad, subject to the Seanad having completed Committee and Remaining Stages; and No. 34, statements on Ireland's position on the future of Europe.

In relation to Tuesday's business, it is proposed that:

(1) The Dáil shall sit later than 10 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members' business;

(2) No. 10, motion re annual reports on service by the Defence Forces with the United Nations in 2017 and 2018, referral to committee, and No. 10a, motion re parliamentary questions rota swap, shall be taken without debate;

(3) No. 11, motion re agreement amending the Ireland-United States preclearance agreement, shall be brought to a conclusion within 45 minutes. Speeches of five minutes each shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, with a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time;

(4) No. 28, statements on GP contractual reform, shall conclude within 53 minutes. Statements of six minutes each shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, with a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time; and

(5) No. 55, Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2019 - Second Stage, shall commence on the conclusion of the statements on GP contractual reform, or at 8 p.m., whichever is the later, and shall conclude within two hours.

In relation to Wednesday's business, it is proposed that:

(1) The Dáil shall sit later than 10.15 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of No. 32, statements on the report on the independent review of escalation in national children's hospital costs, or at 10.46 p.m., whichever is the later. The suspension of sitting under Standing Order 25(1) shall take place on the conclusion of questions to the Minister for Finance until 2 p.m., and shall be followed by Leaders' Questions;

(2) No. 31, statements post European Council meeting of 10 April, pursuant to Standing Order 111, shall commence immediately after Taoiseach's questions and be followed by Topical Issues, and shall be brought to a conclusion after 105 minutes, if not previously concluded. Statements of ten minutes each shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead. A Minister or Minister of 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; and

(3) No. 32, statements on the new children's hospital independent review of escalation in costs, shall conclude within 2 hours and 26 minutes. Statements of ten minutes each shall be confined to a single round by a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead. Following the statements, each party or group shall have eight minutes for questions and answers, with a ten-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:

(1) The Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m. to take No. 33, statements on youth homelessness. If the statements conclude before 10.30 a.m., the Dáil shall suspend until 10.30 a.m. If the statements have not concluded at 10.30 a.m., the statements shall resume on the conclusion of No. 34, statements on Ireland's position on the future of Europe, if No. 34 has concluded before 5.15 p.m. Statements of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each with five minutes for all other Members and a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time;

(2) No. 34, statements on Ireland's position on the future of Europe, shall commence not later than 4.30 p.m. and shall conclude within 45 minutes. Statements of five minutes each shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties and groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, with a five-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time.

(3) No Private Members' Bill shall be taken under Standing Order 140A and no committee report shall be taken under Standing Order 91(2). The Dáil on its rising shall adjourn until 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 8 May 2019.

3:15 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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After that unavoidably lengthy presentation, there are three questions to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to?

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin Fingal, Independent)
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It is not agreed. As the Ceann Comhairle knows, there was considerable discussion at the meeting of the Business Committee last week. An unprecedented situation developed in which every single political grouping voted, in an indicative vote, against the Government regarding the tabling of the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill. When the Business Committee met last Thursday, it was not even the Seanad deadline for amendments, yet the Government insisted, without any precedent whatsoever, on tabling the Bill for consideration in the Dáil this Thursday, in very undignified haste. Since this legislation has the potential to proceed to litigation at a later date, this is really regrettable. I ask that this item be removed from Thursday's business to allow the Seanad to debate the issues properly and so we can come back here as a House to address these matters properly after the recess.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I am in agreement with Deputy Clare Daly. There was considerable opposition last week, and rightly so. As Deputy Clare Daly said, the Government was assuming that there would be only a few amendments. The deadline had not been arrived at. We do not know how long it is going to take so it is a guessing game. I do not know whether the tail is wagging the dog here again regarding this legislation. It looks like it. I refer to the Independent Alliance. What is happening is wholly inappropriate. I ask that the item be withdrawn also.

Photo of Brendan  RyanBrendan Ryan (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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The business for Thursday is not agreed by the Labour Party, nor was it agreed at the meeting of the Business Committee, as indicated by Deputy Clare Daly. As the Ceann Comhairle knows, there was wholesale opposition to it. The Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill is being dealt with in the Seanad only today and there are over 30 amendments. It is to come back to us on Thursday. Even if the Bill is passed in the Seanad this evening, the Bills Office will struggle to have the legislation printed and available for us tomorrow. It is a very important Bill and the Minister has indicated he intends to replace some decisions made previously here in the Dáil.

Standing Orders 194 and 195 deal with amendments made in the Seanad to Bills that originated in the Dáil. A Bill must be returned to the Dáil for limited Committee discussion. The Seanad amendments may be agreed to or amended. In order for the Dáil to decide whether to accept or amend any of the amendments made in the Seanad, it must have sight of the printed amended Bill. That will not be available until late on Wednesday. The normal time limit for amendments to amendments is two days. If this arises on Wednesday, it is open to the Ceann Comhairle to suspend that but if it is the case and there is no urgency — there is no urgency — it is inadequate and wrong in principle to provide for less than two days between two important Stages of this very important Bill. Therefore, I agree with others that this business should be put off until we return after the recess.

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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Thursday’s business is not agreed by Sinn Féin either, for all the reasons outlined. The perception among residents is that the Government is somehow trying to railroad this through and is acting with extreme haste. When we see the legislation on the Order Paper, we can only assume that is the case. We will be objecting to Thursday's Order of Business. It needs to be taken off the agenda to allow for full discussion in the Seanad, for discussion on amendments and for any consideration by ourselves with the requisite amount of time. This is very serious legislation and it will have serious implications for people. We cannot allow it simply to be rushed through.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I concur with the four preceding speakers. We did not hear at the meeting of the Business Committee the reason the Government had to put this legislation through this week. In the absence of such a reason, we all oppose the proposed business.

Photo of Seán KyneSeán Kyne (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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We had a debate on this and a number of other issues. This week, in Government time, the Government is facilitating discussion on the Ireland-US pre-clearance agreement, youth homelessness and the children's hospital. These debates have all been facilitated at the request of the Opposition. The Government has to be allowed to pursue its legislative agenda, and this is priority legislation for the Government.

3:25 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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It is indecent haste.

Photo of Seán KyneSeán Kyne (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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It has been discussed on numerous occasions in this House. These are amendments back from the Seanad.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin Fingal, Independent)
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It has not even got through the Seanad yet.

Photo of Seán KyneSeán Kyne (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business states that it cannot be taken on Thursday if it has not concluded in the Seanad today so based on that the Bills Office has indicated it can turn this around for Final Stages here in the House on Thursday.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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There certainly was an unprecedented level of dissent when it came to the last meeting of the Business Committee on how this would be dealt with. Nonetheless, Standing Order 27B is absolutely unambiguous in setting out the fact that the Government has the sole prerogative to determine the legislation to be taken in Government time. That has always been the case and it continues to be the case today.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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What about new politics? Where is the new politics where we agree?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are not talking about new politics.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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It cannot just be because Deputy McGrath agrees.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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No, it is not me. We were all in agreement. Everybody objected.

3:30 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, please. Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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No.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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It is not agreed.

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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It is not agreed.

Question put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 46; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Seán Kyne and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mattie McGrath.

Maria Bailey, 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, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, John Curran, Michael D'Arcy, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Andrew Doyle, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frances Fitzgerald, Seán Fleming, Brendan Griffin, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, Michael Lowry, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Finian McGrath, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Kevin Moran, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eoghan Murphy, Eugene Murphy, Hildegarde Naughton, Tom Neville, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, Kevin O'Keeffe, John Paul Phelan, Michael Ring, Noel Rock, Shane Ross, Eamon Scanlon, Niamh Smyth, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar, Katherine Zappone.

Níl

Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Michael Fitzmaurice, Michael Harty, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Catherine Martin, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Jonathan O'Brien, Louise O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Willie Penrose, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Brian Stanley, Mick Wallace.

Question declared carried.

3:45 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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There are 17 minutes remaining to deal with promised legislation and 22 Deputies have indicated. I call Deputy Micheál Martin.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I ask Deputies to clear the floor in order to allow me to get the attention of the Taoiseach.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Members, please.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to raise the issue of the fair deal scheme and ask a very basic question. Have the funds for the scheme been frozen? I have before me a response from the HSE in respect of a person on behalf of whom Fianna Fáil wrote a letter. The response states that State support has been approved in this case subject to the availability of funding at the time of the placement in an approved nursing home. It confirms that the application has been completed and the applicant placed on the national placement list for funding under the scheme. It asks the applicant to please note that there is currently a waiting time of three to four weeks for funding and that the office will write again to confirm when funding is available. It further states that where financial support has been approved, such support will be payable in respect of admissions to approved applicants, etc. That response to this individual is dated 6 March. We are looking at a six-week delay in a situation where the person has been approved for funding under the fair deal scheme but the funding has not been made available.

There is wider public concern about the scheme. The indication is that the allocation may have been used up. Can the Taoiseach allay such concerns? When will the legislation pertaining to the reform of the fair deal scheme be announced?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The budget for the fair deal nursing home support scheme for this year is €985.8 million, an increase of more than €20 million on last year. I guarantee the Deputy that it has not all been used up.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Why are letters such as this being issued?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I cannot answer questions on letters to individuals that I have not seen.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Many people have received such letters.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is a general letter and I am making a general point. The funds are not available.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The funds have not been used up.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Where are the funds?

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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My question relates to the commitments in the programme for Government to support people with disabilities in maximising their potential and to remove barriers which impact on access to services, education or healthcare. Last week in County Mayo, I met Cillian Mearns, who is seven years of age, and his mother, Lorraine. Cillian and his friend, Grace, are two of the children in Mayo who are awaiting a decision to approve the drug Spinraza to treat spinal muscular atrophy. Cillian's mother told me that time is of the essence for him because his condition worsens by the day and he needs this drug. The decision in February not to approve what has been described as a life-changing drug is morally wrong and has trapped very ill patients, including children such as Cillian and Grace, in the middle of a bidding war between the Government and the pharmaceutical industry. The HSE stated in February that it is likely that there would be further discussions in the following weeks about funding the drug. I understand that a new application has been submitted. These families are desperate for answers. What was the outcome of the discussion with the HSE? When will we see a decision on the latest application? When can we expect a definitive conclusion and the approval of the drug Spinraza?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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So far this year, 23 new medicines have been approved for reimbursement by the HSE. In 2013, the House concluded that decisions on which drugs should be approved should not be political decisions. Such decisions are, therefore, not made based on political considerations but on medical evidence and the necessity, for all sorts of reasons, to ensure that we pay a fair price. If we pay an unfair price, other things will suffer and nobody wants that. It is always open to companies which have a medicine that they want reimbursed to come back in with more data supporting the clinical claims they are making or with a fairer price.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The horrific vision of fire tearing through the historic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris last night is a reminder of the vulnerability of our built heritage. The roof of the cathedral, including oak beams of up to 1,000 years old, has been all but destroyed. In the light of the tragedy, are there plans for an audit of our built heritage, including places such as Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral and similar structures across the country, to ensure they are equipped with the latest in fire protection systems? Are there detailed plans to respond to fires in such buildings? Is it a requirement for a fund to be made available to provide support to the private and public sectors to ensure that preventative measures are taken in advance of any such tragedy occurring here? This should be a wake-up call. I am interested in hearing the views of the Taoiseach on this matter.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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There are no current plans to do as the Deputy suggests. However, it is a helpful suggestion and may be a good idea. After the Grenfell Tower fire, we carried out an analysis to see if we would be equipped to deal with a similar fire. I suppose the same issue arises in respect of some of our heritage properties that may be vulnerable to fire. I will take the issue up with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, and see if it would be a good thing to do.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, who is sitting alongside the Taoiseach, has made several very welcome commitments to deal with the issues of bogus self-employment and the failure of employers to vindicate employment rights. Approximately five minutes' walk from Leinster House, there is a public contract job to refurbish the Irish Stock Exchange building. The main contractor is Duggan Brothers. If an official of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection were to go to the site and meet the workers, he or she would discover that 11 workers have been sacked without notice - which is against the law - and are at the loss of several weeks' pay because a subcontractor upped and left and the main contractor is refusing to take any responsibility for this omission. This is occurring under a public contract worth approximately €10 million.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you, Deputy. Your time is up.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The public works contract for building workers specifically states that the main contractor is responsible for ensuring the rights of all employees. I would appreciate if a representative of the Department could go to speak to the workers and tell the contractors that they cannot throw 11 building workers out on the street without pay. The workers are owed money.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the contractors pay as little attention to what they are told as do the Members of this House, not much will happen.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I have finished. It is very important to vindicate the rights of workers.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to, please, resume his seat. His time is up.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The arms of the State are there for exactly that purpose - to allow persons who feel they have been treated badly by another party to make a complaint. Such complaint can be made to the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court or, in particular, in the instance referred to by the Deputy, the scope division of my Department, which are open for business all day, every day. I suggest that the Deputy ask one or more of the workers to make contact with one of those organisations or sections in order to allow us to carry out an inspection.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The issue of the fair deal scheme was raised by Deputy Micheál Martin. I wish to raise the issue of the shocking situation at South Tipperary General Hospital where 44 patients are on trolleys and the general manager - who I salute - and her full-time staff have asked people to stay away unless it is an emergency. In the hospital which provides services for the other half of County Tipperary, University Hospital Limerick, there are 56 patients on trolleys. A total of 100 people are languishing on trolleys in the hospitals that service Tipperary. Has the Government become immune to these figures? The situation in health is 800% worse than it was when the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, took over, but he is going to be allowed to ignore this issue, the people who are being put through this trauma and anguish and the staff who are under pressure. Is the Government going to do something about it? It is a shocking situation which indicates what the Government thinks of the people of County Tipperary - absolutely nothing.

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail)
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Last week, the number of patients on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick peaked at 92. When Nenagh hospital was downgraded, we were promised a state-of-the-art facility in University Hospital Limerick. It is obvious that that promise has been broken. I ask the Government to invest in the accident and emergency department in Nenagh hospital.

Having it open 24 hours a day would do something to take the pressure off University Hospital Limerick, which is one of the most overcrowded hospitals in the country. Ninety-two patients on trolleys just does not bear description. I ask the Government to invest in the accident and emergency department in Nenagh, which could do something to alleviate this overcrowding situation.

3:55 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputies will know, new bed blocks are under construction-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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No staff.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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-----in Clonmel and Limerick. These will provide additional capacity for those hospitals. We know from experience, however, that additional beds alone do not make much of a difference. Other actions are also required: better use of smaller hospitals such as that in Nenagh, for example, as Deputy Cahill mentioned; greater efficiency in how beds are used in order that patients do not wait days for investigations or to see specialists or weeks or months to be discharged to long-term care or home help; and more investment in primary care and community care in order that people do not end up in hospital in the first instance. This is one of the reasons we signed off on a 40% increase in funding for general practice, as agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, only two weeks ago.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I very much welcome the launch today of the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action. The way in which the committee did its work reflects very well on these Houses. I am now interested to know the Government's timeline in presenting its own national energy and climate action plan by the end of this year, as we have agreed with the European Union. What interactive role does the Taoiseach see this House taking with the Government, as laid out in EU governance rules, in the shaping and development of that report? We will continue our work to the end of this year. The committee has a very good team of advisers. It also has the ability to link into the process relating to the Government's drafting of the report. I am keen to hear how best we might do this.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is finalising his all-of-Government climate action plan, which will be very much informed by the findings of the all-party Joint Committee on Climate Action. He anticipates bringing the plan to Government in May. Obviously, the most important thing then will be to get on with implementing it rather than just having plans. I am pleased that just in recent days An Post has confirmed, for example, that all its deliveries in Dublin within the canals will be carried out by electrical vehicles and that it will extend that to all cities next year. This is just a small example of the kinds of practical things that are happening and that are making a difference.

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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Can the Taoiseach indicate when the legislation on exclusion zones will be forthcoming? I saw at the weekend, as I think everyone did - and it is not just this weekend but every weekend - that women are being intimidated when they try to go into their local general practices and that general practitioners are being intimidated by people protesting outside those practices. This is not acceptable. We were promised legislation on exclusion zones, we were told it would be a priority. We are close to the Easter recess and we still have no idea when the legislation will be introduced. This matter should have been dealt with when we were debating the regulation of termination of pregnancies legislation and it was not, although some of us stated at the time that we should have done it all together. The reason this was not done was that we were told we would have legislation on exclusion zones early in the new year. It is now almost the middle of the year. How long will we have to wait before the legislation is brought forward?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I am afraid I do not have a date for that legislation. The Minister, Deputy Harris, and the Attorney General are working on it but we are running into real difficulties in the context of restricting peaceful protest and free speech. While we all abhor and disagree with the protests being engaged in - at least, most of us do - we enter a difficult space in a democracy when we decide that certain opinions cannot be held and particular types of protests cannot happen.

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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Women have a right to access the service.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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They absolutely do-----

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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They are being prevented from doing so and something must be done.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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-----and if one is going to restrict free speech and the right to protest in a democracy, one needs to be on very solid ground.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister for Education and Skills gave a kind of commitment to deal with the issue of pay inequality for teachers at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills last February, when there was a general briefing on the Department's statement of strategy. I would like to know where this commitment stands and what efforts the Government has made to finally resolve this issue in accordance with statements and comments made by the Minister.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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This is a major issue. I am on the public record as stating that it constitutes unfinished business. Within the framework and the parameters of the public service pay agreement, we will continue to make it a priority.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Meath East, Fianna Fail)
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The question was what the Minister has done about it.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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Community employment, CE, supervisors play a pivotal role in our communities and do fantastic work - whether it be through Tidy Towns, meals on wheels or GAA clubs - right across the State. The Taoiseach will be aware that there was a 2008 Labour Court recommendation that occupational pensions be put in place for CE supervisors and their assistants. This morning there was a press conference followed by a massive protest outside the gates here by supervisors and their assistants. They have outlined that a stoppage - a strike - which will go on for five consecutive days will commence on 13 May. There is now an opportunity here for Government to address this massive wrongdoing, address the recommendation from the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, and put in place an occupational pension as per the recommendation. The Taoiseach has the option now to allow the country-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I thank the Deputy. His time is up.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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-----essentially to grind to a standstill or to sit down with the trade unions representing the CE supervisors.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The time is up, Deputy, please.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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I will finish on this. I was told by a SIPTU representative that at least two requests have been submitted to the office of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, seeking meetings in order to try to address this issue once and for all. Those requests have not even been acknowledged.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The time is up.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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The Taoiseach must stop this protest and address this serious problem immediately.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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On the same issue of CE supervisors and the pensions they are being denied, the one thing I will say to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, is not to state that her Department is not their employer. While it may not be their direct employer, it provides the funding for the agencies that do employ them. I want to make that point because I know she has made that statement before. These people came from all around the country today and met politicians in Buswells Hotel. They then also protested outside the gates of the Dáil. They did not want to be here, only they had to be here because they are fighting for their rights and fighting for their pensions. These people do invaluable work in our communities. Every one of us praises the work of the schemes and the supervisors, but I ask the Government now to recognise them by giving them the pension they rightfully deserve.

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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I also wish to raise the plight of the CE supervisors who protested outside the Dáil earlier and who announced five days of strike action starting on Monday, 13 May. In April 2018, one year ago, the House, with the exception of the Government, passed a motion that was proposed by Fianna Fáil and that supported a call for the Minister to meet the trade unions. Why has this meeting not taken place, and when will the high-level forum meet again to discuss pensions? The last time it met was December 2017. These supervisors are not going away, they are not giving up and they deserve to be heard. Will action be taken to try to avert these strikes? These people do not only cut grass on GAA fields; they work with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, meals on wheels and the Irish Wheelchair Association. They do tremendous work. A five-day strike will have a huge impact on communities.

Photo of Declan BreathnachDeclan Breathnach (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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CE is the backbone of many rural and urban organisations. I will not go back over what other Deputies have said but I did hear the Minister, Deputy McHugh, say "unfinished business". This is clearly unfinished business. The recommendations of the Labour Court and the agreement that there would be a follow-up, with a high-level forum that would deal with this issue need to be dealt with now. There are 25,000 people on CE schemes on which communities rely. Some 1,250 supervisors are involved on those schemes. This issue dates back long enough and it needs to be dealt with now. I implore the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, to meet these people and deal with the issue head-on.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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The CE schemes and their supervisors play a valued and a key role in supporting our communities. The work they do is absolutely invaluable and supports meals on wheels, crèches, sporting facilities, community halls and many other day-care organisations. Having had the opportunity to meet many of the supervisors in Kildare, both this morning and in recent weeks, I am of the view that it is absolutely key to support them. I will say two things to the Taoiseach: first, the Labour Court recommendations from ten years ago should be implemented; and, second, the Fianna Fáil motion from a year ago should also be implemented. It is really wrong that the Minister has not met the supervisors over the past 20 months. They deserve to be heard and to be treated fairly.

4:05 pm

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I echo what my colleagues have said. We passed a motion on this issue and the Labour Court has given its recommendations. The work done by CE supervisors and workers is invaluable. We are losing these people around the country and we need to address that. Some of these contracts should be continued. The issue of pensions must be sorted out once and for all.

Photo of Michael MoynihanMichael Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach and his Ministers have given various answers indicating that CE supervisors are not employed by the State. If we go right back to the start of the CE schemes, however, sponsors were set up as an arm of the State. The best voluntary people in the country fronted these organisations. It is completely wrong to declare they were not employed by the State. These people acted as sponsors in the best interests of their communities. The Labour Court has issued a recommendation in favour of the CE supervisors and a motion on the issue was passed by two thirds of the Dáil. The issue will not go away and must be addressed. An industrial dispute in the second week of May would have a detrimental effect on the fantastic work being done by CE schemes and supervisors. This Minister must address the issue by talking to these people to see where we go from here.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I also support CE supervisors. It is wrong to suggest they are not employed by the State. The State would be in a desperate position if it were not for the great work these people do in our communities. The Labour Court agreement from 2008 has not been honoured. Now, 11 years later, I ask the Government to honour it.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I also echo the sentiments of my colleagues. This issue has been raised many times and a motion was tabled on it. CE supervisors have been waiting for 11 years for their entitlements. No one would expect to wait 11 years for his or her entitlements. The country faces an imminent strike by CE supervisors. I expect that will affect the CE schemes being delivered by the great men and women of this country. The Minister has an opportunity to put right this ongoing wrong. I plead with her to do that.

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I add my support to the CE supervisors protesting outside Leinster House today. This is not a new issue. Many CE supervisors have contacted me on this issue in the short time I have been a Deputy. This is about rural Ireland. These people are the backbone of rural communities who lead voluntary organisations throughout the country. A Labour Court recommendation is in place. I urge the Minister to listen to the plight of these people and respond in a positive way.

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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I echo the words of Deputy John Brady, who has championed this issue for a long time. This matter should have been settled a long time ago. The Workplace Relations Commission has issued a ruling on it and the Dáil passed a motion on it last April through the combined efforts of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the other Opposition parties. The right thing needs to be done now. The Minister has an opportunity to send out a very clear signal that this strike does not need to go ahead and that the Government will honour the Labour Court ruling.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I regret I was not invited to this morning's press conference by CE supervisors. I would have been happy to attend and I have been happy to meet CE supervisors up and down the country for the past year. I regret that a strike is imminent. When the ruling was handed down by the Labour Court we had a Fianna Fáil Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. We then had a Labour Party Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for five years and we now have a Fine Gael Minister. If the solution to this problem was easy, it would have been found 11 years ago, five years ago-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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It was found.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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With respect, it was not.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Minister is being disingenuous.

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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Fianna Fáil allocated €10 million-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask that the Minister be allowed to answer.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I reiterate the point that the previous speakers made-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputies to allow the Minister to answer.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The point is that the Minister is not factually correct.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please allow the Minister to answer without debate.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I will provide her with documentation.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Please do, because no solution was found in the five years that Deputy Howlin was at the helm.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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A solution was found.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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We would not be having this conversation now if there had been a solution.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I will send the Minister the advice of the Attorney General, with the subhead and the Revised Vote for it.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please, Deputies.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Everybody is of the same mind-----

Photo of Declan BreathnachDeclan Breathnach (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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It is unfinished business.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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It is shocking.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The services provided by CE supervisors, assistant supervisors and every participant in community employment schemes in rural and urban areas are extremely valuable and appreciated by the State and the communities that each of us serves. A solution must and will be found.

Photo of John BradyJohn Brady (Wicklow, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister will not even talk to the supervisors. How will a solution be found if she will not even talk to them?

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The current Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, has been meeting the trade unions for some years. A number of proposals have been put forward by the unions to solve the issue but no solution has been found as yet. We will not stop until we find one.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are substantially over time. The four Deputies who were not reached today will be given priority tomorrow.