Tuesday, 9 July 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The business for the week shall be as set out in the report of the Business Committee for 9 to 11 July. Today's business shall be No. 14, motion re ministerial rota for parliamentary questions; No. 15, motion re the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality; No. 16, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the host country agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Permanent Court of Arbitration; No. 17, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and on Capital) (Swiss Federation) order 2019 - back from committee; No. 18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income and Capital Gains) (Kingdom of The Netherlands) Order 2019 - back from committee; No. 19, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Animal Health Levies (Pigs) Regulations 2019 - back from committee; No. 20, motion re Twenty-fourth Report of the Committee of Selection which is to be taken without debate. Any division demanded on No. 15, motion re Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality shall be taken immediately.
It is proposed that the Order of the Dáil of 13 June, referring No. 43a, Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 [Seanad], to the select committee be discharged and that Committee Stage of the Bill be taken in Committee of the whole Dáil on 10 July.
The proceedings on Second Stage of No. 2, Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad], shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes and any division demanded at the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. Speeches shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or a Minister of State and the main spokespersons of parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes each.
A Minister or Minister of State shall have a ten-minute response and all Members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes by one question, which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality. No. 40, statements on EU Mercosur trade agreement, resuming on questions and answers, shall commence not later than 7 p.m. and shall conclude within two hours. Should a division be in progress at 7 p.m., the questions and answers shall be taken for two hours once the division has concluded. Each party and group in opposition will have 15 minutes each for questions and answers, with a 15-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. The Dáil shall sit later than 10 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Private Members' business, which shall be taken for two hours on the conclusion of the statements on EU Mercosur trade agreement, resuming on questions and answers.
In relation to Wednesday’s business, it is proposed that the Dáil shall sit at 9.30 a.m., questions to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs shall be taken at 9.30 a.m., and the Dáil shall sit later than 10.15 p.m. and adjourn not later than 11 p.m. No. 40a, statements on Government response to the decisions of the independent assessor, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, in relation to the State's ex gratiascheme shall conclude within 45 minutes. Statements 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, and shall not exceed five minutes each with a five minute response from a Minister or Minister of State and all Members may share time. No. 21, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (Specified Bodies) Regulations 2019, back from committee, shall be taken without debate. The proceedings on Second Stage of No. 10, Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill 2019, shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and 30 minutes and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. Speeches shall be confined to a single round for a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, and shall not exceed ten minutes each. A Minister or Minister of State shall have a ten-minute response and all members may share time. Proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and 30 minutes by one question, which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Justice and Equality. No. 42, statements on the report of the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Forces, shall conclude within 85 minutes. Statements 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, and shall not exceed ten minutes each, 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 at 9 a.m. and Questions to the Minister for Rural and Community Development shall be taken at 9 a.m., and the Dáil shall sit later than 8.03 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of Topical Issues, which shall be taken on the conclusion of Government business or at 9 p.m., whichever is the earlier. No. 43, statements on Government update to Brexit Contingency Action Plan shall conclude within 90 minutes. Statements 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, and shall not exceed ten minutes each with a ten-minute response from a Minister or Minister of State, and all Members may share time. No. 21a, motion re Twenty-fifth Report of the Committee of Selection shall be taken without debate. The proceedings on Second Stage of No. 3, Citizens' Assemblies Bill 2019 [Seanad] shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after one hour and 30 minutes and any division demanded on the conclusion of Second Stage shall be taken immediately. The speech of a Minister or Minister of State and the main spokespersons for parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed ten minutes each. A Minister or Minister of State shall have a ten-minute response and all Members may share time.
The proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes by one question which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. 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 Tuesday, 17 September.
They are not agreed to. We cannot agree to an Order of Business for the final sitting week before the summer recess that does not allow the Dáil to address the scandalous abuse of money messages by the Government. The Government has been acting in a manner that is completely undemocratic and arguably unconstitutional by using the denial of money messages to ensure Bills that have the support of a majority in this House are prevented from progressing. I have a list of over 50 Bills in alphabetical order.
I support Deputy Paul Murphy. The Government has treated the Order of Business in this House in a way that is completely undemocratic. The Deputy has cited the example of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 which is critical. The Government has used money messages at the end of a lengthy process which involved this House voting to proceed to Committee Stage.
We are in the last week. The amount of business we are trying to get through makes it one of the busiest weeks of the year. We have tried to comply with all of the requests that have come in in recent days. We are facilitating a question and answer session on the Mercosur deal. We are setting aside time for a debate on Mr. Justice O'Neill's report. The Ceann Comhairle submitted the request that came to the Business Committee with regard to money messages to the Committee on Procedure. He expects to receive a report on the matter in the autumn.
Bobby Aylward, Seán Barrett, John Brassil, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Catherine Byrne, Dara Calleary, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Lisa Chambers, Michael Collins, Niall Collins, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Simon Coveney, Michael Creed, John Curran, Michael D'Arcy, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Michael Fitzmaurice, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Brendan Griffin, John Halligan, Seán Haughey, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eoghan Murphy, Eugene Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Tom Neville, Michael Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Fergus O'Dowd, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Éamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Noel Rock, Shane Ross, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar.
Gerry Adams, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Dessie Ellis, Kathleen Funchion, Séamus Healy, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Catherine Martin, Mary Lou McDonald, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Jonathan O'Brien, Jan O'Sullivan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín.
We cannot finish the business of the Dáil for the summer without dealing with the issue of the over 50 Bills which have been supported by a majority in the House and which the Government is undemocratically blocking. We cannot proceed in that way. It is unacceptable. The response of the Government is unacceptable, as is the fact that Fianna Fáil which is having its own Bills blocked is continuing to back up the Government.
Bobby Aylward, Seán Barrett, Colm Brophy, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Catherine Byrne, Dara Calleary, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Michael Collins, Niall Collins, Simon Coveney, Michael Creed, Michael D'Arcy, Regina Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Peter Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Brendan Griffin, John Halligan, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Seán Kyne, John Lahart, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Tony McLoughlin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Aindrias Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eugene Murphy, Denis Naughten, Tom Neville, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Kate O'Connell, Willie O'Dea, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Éamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Shane Ross, Eamon Scanlon, Niamh Smyth, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar.
Gerry Adams, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, David Cullinane, Dessie Ellis, Kathleen Funchion, Séamus Healy, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Catherine Martin, Mary Lou McDonald, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Jonathan O'Brien, Jan O'Sullivan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín.
In respect of the programme for Government and the implementation of Sláintecare, I was somewhat taken aback by the Taoiseach's comment that he has read the de Buitléir report on a key recommendation of Sláintecare, which relates to the disentanglement of private care from public care. The fact that it has been decided to go ahead with a private suite in the national children's hospital means that the recommendation is to a large extent dead and buried before it starts. The de Buitléir report belongs to the House because Sláintecare was a product of the House, produced by all parties on an Oireachtas committee. The de Buitléir report is on one of the committee's recommendations. There is no case for the Government to withhold that. That needs to be published this week. It does not have to go before Cabinet. It can go before it in the ordinary way but given that Sláintecare is a product of the House, that report in my view is a product of the House and it should be published. I could take a cynical view and suggest that maybe it will not be published until the Dáil is up because maybe there are some unpalatable proposals in it and the reality of whatever commitment the Government has made to do anything about it.
-----in it in the sense that it points out that if public and private practice were to be disentangled it would have to be done over a long period of time, recognising that hundreds of millions of euro would be lost to the public hospital system by removing private fees, that the contracts of thousands of consultants would have to be changed and it could make our recruitment and retention problems more difficult. I will speak to the Minister for Health about it. If there is a good reason not to publish it I do not know what it is but I do need to speak to the Minister for Health.
Has the Government made a decision on the legislation necessary for the extension of presidential voting rights to the diaspora and people living in the North? When will the legislation be published? When does the Government propose to establish the commission? Does the Government intend to hold a referendum on this matter in the autumn?
The plan is to have the legislation published before the end of the month. That allows us establish the referendum commission immediately and the intention, subject to everything running smoothly in this House and the other House, is to have the referendum in October or November of this year.
It is reported that An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, are developing a system that will allow for the application of an adult caution, rather than a criminal prosecution, for people in possession of drugs for their own use. Apparently this is a recommendation in a Government working group report but this report has not been published and has not been presented to, let alone approved by, the Government. Who is in charge of this initiative? Where does it come from? Under what authority are public agencies developing what is a new policy, apparently without the authority of a formal Government decision or the chance for us all to debate it? The initiative might be very good but we would like to have the opportunity to debate and discuss it in this House. How does that decision sit with the view of Government on criminal justice matters?
The working group was very important and I thank those who took part in it. The Ministers for Justice and Equality and for Health and I have reviewed the report and are finalising a memorandum on it to go to Government and it is hoped to take it in the next couple of weeks before the recess.
The report was drawn up by a working group and was presented to me and the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Health.
The report examined how we could approach the possession of drugs for personal use as a health issue rather than criminal justice issue, which we all support. I will speak to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, later about progress in this regard and bring the matter to the Taoiseach's attention after the publication of the report.
Last week, the living wage technical group calculated that the living wage in the country in 2019 should be €12.30 per hour. They said the increase was needed, first and foremost, because of the increased costs of housing, accommodation, rent etc. A group of people is fighting to make the living wage a reality. They are thousands of Tesco workers - members of Mandate - who are campaigning for 1,000 new full-time jobs in the company, which has a 90% part-time workforce, and that the starting rate of pay should be €12.30 per hour, rising to €16.
In view of the report, does the Taoiseach accept that the reality for low-paid workers is that €12.30 should be the minimum figure on which to live and does he plan to legislate to provide for that?
Everyone's financial circumstances are different. As the Deputy will know from all the studies and reports done in respect of the national minimum wage, very often it is not the main income of the household but a secondary or part-time income in many cases. It depends on the individual circumstances whether there are rent or housing costs, or not.
As it stands, the national minimum wage is the second highest in Europe and the sixth highest when the high cost of living is taken into account. The law states the national minimum wage is calculated by the Low Pay Commission, which was established by the current Oireachtas to do that work. It takes into account a number of factors, such as the need to ensure that people who are at work get a decent wage but also the need to ensure we do not end up doing anything counterproductive by causing people to lose their jobs, particularly in Border areas, or to lose their hours, thereby ending up worse off if we make it too high.
There is great concern and anxiety in Clonmel and wider County Tipperary at the fact that Glenville Crisis House, a mental health crisis house in Clonmel, is still waiting to be signed off by the HSE. I received a reply to a parliamentary question from Mr. Jim Curran, the HSE's head of estates. He confirmed to me no funding will be announced until the HSE capital plan for 2019 is signed off. As has been acknowledged, the plan is holding up everything. We cannot wait any longer for the crisis house. We have no long-stay places but we need the crisis house and the upgrade to proceed immediately. The Minister of State, Deputy Daly, means well but nothing is happening and we have been told it will be two years before we get any stone upon a stone. It is totally unacceptable to the people of County Tipperary. Mental health is a very important issue.
I do not have information on that project. The Deputy may wish to raise it as a Topical Issue matter, or I can ask the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, to correspond with him.
Last week, I raised with the Taoiseach the issue in the Murray report on the difficulties in recruiting hospital doctors and he undertook to speak to the Minister for Health about its publication. Since then, the report has been published on Twitter by Susan Mitchell and, therefore, it is a bit of a joke for the Minister to sit on that report, as he is doing on many other reports such as the de Buitléir report which was mentioned earlier.
Has the Taoiseach yet spoken to the Minister and will he undertake to ensure that the report will be published and that we will have an opportunity to have a debate on it?
I have not yet had a chance to speak to the Minister about that matter but I will do so. I am sure there is no reason we cannot have a debate on it, although the scheduling of debates and decisions on those matters are for the Business Committee, not for me.
The European Council recently failed to get agreement on a net-zero climate emissions target by 2050. The Government's climate action plan states the Government would agree to such a target subject to European agreement. Is the Government willing to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, irrespective of what happens in the European Union process, or will we wait for agreement among all European countries before we do it?
The short answer is that we are willing to commit to that. I think that is what is stated in the climate action plan - maybe it is more nuanced than that. My understanding is that we are willing to commit to it. I was one of the Heads of Government who was willing to commit to it at the European Council summit last week. Three or four Heads of Government were not willing and they raised the question of how we will get there. As it stands, it seems that getting there will require many technological advances to take place, particularly in respect of carbon sequestration and storage, which may not happen. Their concern relates to making a commitment without a roadmap as to how we will get there. We would like to make that commitment because we may never get there if we do not set down that ambition in the first place.
The programme for Government promised a better health service. Parkinson's sufferers in Ireland feel like second-class citizens and they have to suffer silently in a country that ignores their pain. In most European countries, deep brain stimulation operations are offered to Parkinson's sufferers but this vital operation is not available here. In Northern Ireland, there are 31 specialised Parkinson's nurses, whereas in the Republic, there are only five, three of whom are based in Dublin.
When will Parkinson's sufferers be treated like their counterparts throughout the world?
Different treatments are available in different countries. I imagine there are countries that do better than us and I am sure there are many more countries that do not do as well as us. I am not entirely sure, therefore, how to answer the Deputy's question. Deep brain stimulation is available in Northern Ireland for Irish patients but is provided through the service at the Mater Hospital. It is probably best if I ask the Minister for Health to give a more detailed reply because I do not have a briefing to hand.
Last week, the HSE sent a letter to 50 respite service users which stated the HSE disability services in County Louth plan to close the residential respite service in Sruthan House in Dundalk. The reason given was that the HSE was prioritising the provision of services to enhance cost efficiency. The HSE went on to state patients with physical and sensory needs could go elsewhere and suggested they go to places as far away as Sligo or Roscommon, or to a nursing home. What is wrong with the Government? How arrogant is it that it can stand over something like that-----
Deputy Munster is being unfair to her colleagues. I will move on. Three minutes remain and I will not put up with this. I call Deputy Fitzpatrick on the same issue. I remind Deputies to think of their colleagues, not themselves.
Sruthan House has operated for the past 23 years. It has very experienced staff. Some 400 families have availed of it over the past number of years, while 50 families currently do so. The word in the street is the reason for all the cuts is the overspend on the new children's hospital. The Government has the opportunity to reverse the decision. Some 50 families depend on this adult respite unit in Dundalk, County Louth. Will the Government please reverse the decision?
I thank the Deputies for raising the issue, which I am sure is of great concern to the service users, but I have not seen the letter, I did not write it and I did not sign it. Therefore, I cannot account for it. I suggest Deputy Munster may wish to take it up directly with whoever wrote it.
I assure Deputy Fitzpatrick that current budgets and capital budgets are separate and an additional €200 million has been provided in capital reserve funding for the children's hospital next year. Once again, I assure the House that the rising costs of the national children's hospital will not impact on the budget for health services at all.
Following the Taoiseach's apology this morning which I appreciate, he is aware that there were two requirements to qualify for the ex gratiascheme for people who were sexually abused in primary schools. One was the prior complaint element, which has now been exploded as a result of Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill's recent declaration. The other was the requirement for a person to have initiated legal proceedings within the time set by the Statute of Limitations, even if they were subsequently withdrawn. Is it the Government's intention to leave the second requirement in place?
Who advised the Government that a prior complaint should be required to access compensation for historical child sexual abuse that took place in schools based on the interpretation of the judgment in the Louise O'Keeffe case? This condition was clearly designed to block survivors from accessing the redress they deserved and I want to know who came up with that incorrect criterion. I welcome the Taoiseach's comments earlier when he said he would not fail them a third time. Will he confirm that he will remove the need for a prior complaint in these cases?
The requirement for a prior complaint will be removed. We will have to examine the other matter. I am not an expert in the area, but I believe it relates to a Supreme Court judgment from 2008 which differs from a European Court of Human Rights judgment in 2014 or 2015. That is why I have asked officials from the Department of Education and Skills and the Office of the Attorney General to come together to formulate options for the Government to consider. In response to Deputy Quinlivan, I do not know for sure who gave the advice. As the scheme was drawn up in 2015, I imagine it would have been officials from the Department of Education and Skills, the Minister for Education and Skills and the Attorney General at the time.
I am advised that work is under way on the Bill, but we do not have a date for its publication. It is a priority and we hope to advance it in the session that will start in September.
I was first. I raise the important matter of the passenger motor car industry. The Society of the Irish Motor Industry has indicated that sales have decreased by 7.5% this year and it is blaming the Government's scaremongering on climate change. It is causing uncertainty and people are not buying cars like they were before. There is another issue-----
On the same matter, the report on climate change published by the Government and the legislation it proposes to bring to the Dáil have severely impacted on the sales of motor cars in Ireland. In County Kerry it has been reported to us that car sales are falling dramatically. What is the Taoiseach going to do to support the struggling car sales industry which has been affected by utterances from Ministers in the past few weeks?
I thank the Deputies for raising the matter. I appreciate that many people work in the motor sales industry. For many, it is their business and livelihood. However, there is no scaremongering on climate change which is very real. There is plenty to be afraid of.
It has not been the Government's policy to discourage people from purchasing a new car. Newer cars produce fewer emissions than old cars and less SOx and NOx which damage air quality. We particularly encourage people, if they are buying a car, to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle.
My question to the Taoiseach relates to the strength and operational capacity of the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps which have been substantially weakened. It is no wonder that morale is so low within the forces. Listening to the Taoiseach I got the distinct impression that only five vessels in the Naval Service fleet would be operational. Will the Taoiseach clarify the matter? Last Thursday's announcement of the report of the Low Pay Commission had very little in it to help to contain the systemic flow from the Defence Forces. Particularly alarming was the fact that 60% of personnel said they would leave within two years.
There are nine vessels in the fleet, which is more than we had before. We have five new vessels and four were decommissioned. It was never the case that all nine would be operational or at sea at the same time, but I can confirm that six are fully operational, two are in planned maintenance and one is in long-term refit. We will go from six vessels to seven later in the year, but that can only be done if we see an improvement in the number of staff and specialists in the Naval Service. It remains to be seen whether that will be possible. The minimum is six vessels.
I raise with the Taoiseach the rehabilitative training allowance which I have learned is to be abolished. It is a training allowance for young students with a disability that is worth €31.80 per week for a maximum of four years. I acknowledge that the HSE is struggling with a deficit, but this is nothing short of scandalous. Rehabilitative training is essential for young people with disabilities in developing independence and the payment is much-needed by the most vulnerable group in society. It is a job to go to every day for them. It is a disgraceful decision. I ask the Taoiseach, as the leader of the Government, to have it reversed straightaway. We are talking about €2 million out of a budget of €17 billion for the HSE.
With respect to the Government's Brexit contingency action plan, earlier this year the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, announced that after Brexit students from the North who wished to study in a third level college in the 2019-20 academic year would still be eligible for the Department's free fees and student grants scheme. He said the position would be reviewed for the 2020-21 academic year. I recently met Dr. Michael Mulvey, president of Dundalk Institute of Technology, and separately representatives of the Teachers Union of Ireland. I also facilitated a meeting between public representatives from the North and the institute of technology. The Taoiseach might know that 1,319 students from the North attend third level college and universities here, of whom 250 are in Dundalk Institute of Technology. As they are clearly concerned about the availability of free fees and grant schemes beyond next year, will the Taoiseach tell us whether it is the Government's intention to continue them?
I will double-check with the Minister, Deputy McHugh, but my understanding is that European Union citizens resident in Northern Ireland will continue to be eligible for student grants and free fees as though they are EU students resident in Ireland. The status quoshould continue for Irish EU citizens who live and are resident in Northern Ireland. There is a citizenship and residency element, but the status quowill remain.
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna agus níl sé ann. Mar sin, cuirfidh mé ar an Taoiseach é. As every child in the country should be entitled to a place in a school, what is the Government going to do about the many hundreds of children, including 156 children with special needs in Cork, who cannot secure a school place? What will be done to rectify the problem?
In some cases home tuition is provided as an alternative. The Minister has powers under section 8 of the education Act which deals with admissions to require schools to open new special classrooms.
I am informed that he has just used them at a school in my constituency and that he may need to do so in some other places also. It would be preferable for schools to co-operate in providing special classes, but he now has the powers to compel them to do so. We must bear in mind that the issue is not straightforward and that a school must have space. There are other issues also.
I welcome last week's broadening and extending of jobseeker's status to include self-employed artists. It recognises the unique creative circumstances of artists in receipt of jobseeker's allowance and gives special assistance during their first year out of work, allowing them to focus on their creative output. This is to come in from September. I ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht whether consideration will be given to extending the scheme to artists who did not previously come under it, people who are already at a resting period or on jobseeker's allowance? Could the Minister please clarify that point?
I thank the Deputy for his question. I was very pleased, with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, to announce the scheme last week. The scheme was a pilot that will now be put on a permanent basis and will also be expanded to include other artists. It will not only be artists and writers but will include actors, musicians, choreographers and opera singers. I also pay tribute to the Taoiseach whose idea it was originally.
The 12-month activation period of the scheme will not commence until 1 September so, if people want to apply at that stage, the 12-month delay of activation measures will not kick in for at least 12 months.
Other Deputies outlined earlier how money messages are being used to frustrate the democratic intentions of this House and I agree with them. I want to highlight another blatant disregard of the democratic wishes of this House. On 28 June 2017, this House unanimously passed a motion calling on the Government to instruct the military authorities to immediately cease the administration of Lariam to all Irish soldiers as a drug of first resort. The motion, in fact, went beyond that. It is more urgent now given the fact that a decision was recently taken to send soldiers to Mali. There are soldiers and ex-soldiers who are still suffering the effects of Lariam and others have died, some through suicide. What will the Taoiseach do, as Minister for Defence, to give effect to the decision made by the Dáil two years ago?
The Government and Oireachtas have their functions but, when it comes to prescribing a licensed medication, the decision on whether it should be prescribed or not is for doctors, whether within the community or the Defence Forces. Whether a doctor prescribes a licensed medication is not a decision for the Government or the House.
This Chamber agreed last week, through a Private Members' motion, to request the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, to talk to An Post about reversing its decision to close the sorting office in Little Island in Cork. When can we expect the Minister to come back to this Chamber with a report and a recommendation that that decision be reversed?