Tuesday, 1 June 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The House has agreed that for the duration of the Covid emergency only, the rapporteur's report of the Business Committee shall be taken as read. Arising from it, therefore, there are three proposals to be considered today. Is the first proposal for dealing with Tuesday's business agreed to?
No. The House needs to have a debate on the EU agricultural talks and this needs to happen this week. It is not good enough to suggest that a discussion can take place after the negotiations are over. We need to hear from the Minister as to why he has adopted an approach to those negotiations that will disadvantage the majority of Irish farmers.
Unfortunately, we are dealing with this in the context of the Government having agreed to an EU budget that will see Irish contributions increase by up to €1 billion per year-----
-----while the proportion spent on the CAP will fall from 37% to 30%.
A Cheann Comhairle, this is very important. This week, we learned that two farms under the control of Larry Goodman received €414,000 last year in CAP payments-----
On Friday last, there was an international incident off the Castletownbere coast. A Spanish-registered fishing trawler, illegally fishing in Irish waters, attempted to ram a Castletownbere fishing vessel. The Valentia Coast Guard was called at 8 o'clock to send out an emergency service, and 12 hours later, assistance came to the aid of these fishermen-----
In that time, there was attempted ramming several times. All I want today is a debate on this issue, as to why the Taoiseach's officials, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, and the Valentia Coast Guard were contacted and nothing happened-----
There is growing public concern about the prospect of the new national maternity hospital being gifted to a private entity, and the implications of that from the taxpayer's point of view but also regarding the ethos that will apply in those circumstances-----
The Deputy's mask slips every so often in regard to his basically anti-European Union position, in terms of net contributions and all the rest. He has fought against the European Union all his life-----
I remind everyone that we are not meant to be having lengthy debates about these matters. Is the Taoiseach prepared to change the Order of Business or take on board any of the proposals?
In that case, I think we will have to deal with that in the Business Committee because it is a recurring feature that this is an extended part of Leaders' Questions. That is what is going on here.
The issues have not come to a conclusion, so we will have time for a debate next week.
To respond to Deputy Michael Collins, he did not ring me, and if the situation was that serious, he should have done so.
Leaving that to one side, there is no issue with us having a debate next week or the week after that.
This is an ongoing issue. We will respond to the specifics of the case.
In terms of Holles Street hospital, Government proposals have not come before Cabinet. There will be time for a debate on that and for me and the Minister for Health to bring clarity to the House, but it has not come before Government.
Cathal Berry, Richard Bruton, Colm Burke, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Emer Higgins, Neasa Hourigan, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Joe O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Christopher O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Róisín Shortall, Jennifer Whitmore.
John Brady, Matt Carthy, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Réada Cronin, Pa Daly, Paul Donnelly, Mairead Farrell, Alan Kelly, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Michael McNamara, Paul Murphy, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Patricia Ryan, Peadar Tóibín.
It is not agreed. There is a proposal with regard to a Bill, which will provide that restrictions and lockdowns can continue indefinitely. That Bill is being guillotined. If the Government believes this is the right thing to do, then it should debate the proposals with the Opposition. The Government has the numbers. If it morally and intellectually believes this is necessary in the interests of the State and society, debate it.
I too object strenuously to this. We had no pre-legislative scrutiny of the legislation, which relates to four Acts. There was meant to be a cancellation of the sunset clause in June. The legislation is being guillotined with two and a half hours debate tomorrow for all Stages. It is a total insult to democratically elected people here and is unacceptable. I am fully opposed to it.
We need to have a debate this week on the ongoing CAP discussions. It is a matter of recorded fact that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is at a European level fighting against every proposal that would see a redistribution of CAP funds from the beef barons and sheikhs back to smaller family farmers.
I agree with that objection. I also want to raise a point about the proposal to take a motion without debate to give an instruction to committee to deal with the amendments to do with the climate action Bill, considering they are outside the scope of the Bill. It is a basic point of parliamentary scrutiny. Substantial changes are being made to the Bill in respect of the petroleum minerals section and the ESB. For example, we have a concern that the provision in the amendments that allows the Minister to grant further licences to companies that already have licences could create a problem by creating an expectation among companies. We need to have a debate on that and on the issues around the ESB.
The Health and Criminal Justice (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill has far-reaching implications for the public. Draconian powers are proposed to be extended. Many Government backbenchers have serious concerns about this, as have a large number of Opposition Members. The idea of guillotining it is not acceptable. We should allow time for people to express their views on this important issue.
I add my voice to that. Never in the history of the State have I seen a Bill that bypassed the democratic processes by so much. Some 40,000 people received fines in the past year for going about normal activities. The Taoiseach has bypassed the Dáil to go to RTÉ and make announcements, while Deputies cannot get a chance to challenge him on this. The idea that a Bill of such import would be guillotined in such a manner is absolutely wrong.
I raise the matter that every sector of the community is open except pubs and restaurants. The Government says they can open 5 July but many people do not believe it. We need a proper and full debate here to see what the Government has against pubs in rural Ireland and ordinary punters who want to go for a pint. Surely the Government can trust the publicans and the people. Their mental health is not in a good place. The people in rural Ireland and County Kerry have been closed down and isolated for long enough.
People in County Clare are much more tolerant than that. Deputy Carthy is outrageously misrepresenting the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, in terms of what he is about on behalf of the nation and Irish farmers.
As I said, I think we can deal with that issue when we come back. Likewise, the issues raised by Deputy Paul Murphy on the climate action Bill can be dealt with on Committee Stage.
I am somewhat taken aback by the views of Deputy Shortall and Deputy Tóibín. Deputy Shortall was an advocate for zero Covid, as were many Deputies, and now they are questioning whether we should facilitate the continuation of the framework that we have had since the beginning of the pandemic, which facilitates the passing of laws, when necessary, to protect lives and public health. What is being proposed is no more than that in terms of its extension. I do not understand how we can be zero Covid one month and the complete opposite the following month.
Through the Chair, I do not think it is. In response to Deputy Tóibín, by and large, the public have understood that the Oireachtas has had to take measures to protect lives and public health. There is no other agenda than that. The Government wants to open up society. The good news, in response to Deputy Danny Healy-Rae's point, is that we are opening up society. The hotels, bed and breakfasts and guest houses are opening tomorrow.
Cathal Berry, Richard Bruton, Colm Burke, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Emer Higgins, Neasa Hourigan, Josepha Madigan, Micheál Martin, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Joe O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Christopher O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond.
John Brady, Matt Carthy, Joan Collins, Réada Cronin, Pa Daly, Paul Donnelly, Mairead Farrell, Danny Healy-Rae, Alan Kelly, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Michael McNamara, Paul Murphy, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Patricia Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Peadar Tóibín, Jennifer Whitmore.
The property developer, Hammerson, has submitted their planning application to develop the area around Moore Street, as the Taoiseach will be aware. Indeed, they released a statement last night, which included a glowing endorsement from the Taoiseach. We now have the disgraceful situation where we have a Government that has not alone surrendered apartment homes in the city of Dublin to private investors and absentee landlords, but a Government that now supports a plan to turn one of the most significant sites in modern Irish history over to a private developer. Shame on the Government for taking that stance. I remind the Taoiseach that last March the Dáil voted to support a State-led plan for the regeneration of this area, based on a Moore Street cultural quarter. This is the correct plan for the area, which will enhance the heritage, history and culture, and embrace the uniqueness of this site.
I must say the Deputy’s cynicism and the cynicism of her party is beyond disgrace. They pretend to work with people for years on a project, which they did on this one, and then, at the 11th hour, they do another side turn and try to create a new agenda, a new narrative, to try to demonise those in government and demonise other parties. Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street is in the possession of the State thanks to good work by previous Governments in securing that vital property in terms of our history and the preservation of our history. What the Government is not prepared to do is stand over continuing neglect of central Dublin more generally, of O'Connell Street and surrounding streets. What Sinn Féin wants to do is just preside over ten more years of neglect, ten more years of dereliction, ten more years of nothing happening and it is just let us get another campaign that we can get the keyboard warriors on, let us get another campaign so we can try to demonise people in government and demonise other political parties.
I am fed up with this kind of cynicism. It is absolutely disgraceful cynicism. It is similar to them voting against every single housing scheme that has come before councils in recent times, opposing housing on a non-stop, consistent basis. Are they for any development at all?
I want the Taoiseach to give clarity today on what is happening in regard to the freeze on redundancy rights. Workers need clarity on this. I raised it with the Tánaiste in March and, to be honest, he said it was a complex issue but he did not give an answer. Workers need certainty. Hundreds of thousands of workers could lose out on payments because they spent time on the PUP. We need to know it if that is going to be used in regard to calculable entitlements for their actual redundancy. Every worker is entitled to two weeks of pay for every year of service when made redundant. Normally, after four weeks of lay off, a worker has the right to demand the return to work or to seek redundancy. We need certainty but we have not been able to get clarity on this issue from anyone in government for a long time. Will the Taoiseach give clarity to workers in regard to the extension of redundancy? Will service under PUP be countable towards that redundancy payment?
The Deputy has raised a very important question. It will be extended for the last time until September and it will not be extended beyond September. No workers will loose out. A scheme is being developed which will make sure that workers get their entitlements-----
Yes. As this is unique, and it is in a pandemic environment, we want to make sure that workers are not disadvantaged and that neither are employers. It needs a bespoke approach to deal with the issue the Deputy fairly raised. It is a fair point. It has been a very difficult balance to get right throughout the pandemic. Workers have rights that have to be affirmed.
Today the Government published the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It is also Global Day for Parents. That is ironic because despite the €915 million being allocated in the economic plan there does not appear to be a single additional cent set aside for investment in early years and childcare. That is despite childcare being a fundamental foundation for the economy and for gender equality and despite our embarrassingly low investment in childcare. Will the Taoiseach explain why he did not use this opportunity to invest significantly and properly in our early years and childcare sector and in families across Ireland?
We have invested very heavily in childcare this year, and in early years, not just through budgetary provision but also through the extension of the variety of support schemes-----
Last year when the Government was talking about cutting the PUP, I asked the Taoiseach's predecessor, the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, a very simple question which he refused to answer. I hope the Taoiseach will give me a straight answer to a straight question. If he thinks the €350 pandemic unemployment payment is too high will he at least agree to live on that until he cuts it in September? Today a series of Ministers, who are highly overpaid - these people are on more than €350 a day, never mind a week - talking about how we need to cut back on the PUP. Those who are on PUP want to be back at work but we all know that by September, many people will still be unemployed against their choice, and whole industries will be shut down. Will the Taoiseach agree to go on €350 if he thinks it should be cut?
We are extending the pandemic unemployment payment out to September and then gradually easing out of that into February of next year. The pandemic unemployment payment will have been in place for two years before it ceases. The overwhelming purpose of Government is to create employment opportunities for people who are unemployed or who are on the PUP. Very substantial resources are being allocated as a result of the economic recovery plan that was published today to enable people to secure employment, not just in areas where they had previously been employed but perhaps also in new areas, and very substantial resources have been provided for training, upskilling and reskilling programmes. Close to €4.5 billion is being allocated to a range of measures-----
This weekend an enormous number of young people have been literally hammered from on high over their congregation in a number of public spaces in Dublin. It stands to reason this has happened because the public spaces where they would normally congregate have closed so people have been corralled into smaller spaces.
There are two Government Deputies and a Sinn Féin Deputy on the list, as per Dáil reform. If the Leas-Ceann Comhairle is accommodating the additional two leaders from the groups, we should also accommodate the two Government Deputies and the other Sinn Féin Deputy who are on the first list. To be fair, it is important to accommodate all speakers who are here.
Resume your seat for a moment. If I have made a mistake, I apologise. I am not accommodating all the Deputies in the groups. If I have made a mistake, I have made a mistake. I am letting in the three leaders. That was my understanding. I apologise. We have run out of time.
I was simply trying to facilitate Deputies. If Deputies are not in agreement, I will not do it but I would ask them to let me use my discretion. That is all I can do. I am not facilitating everyone, there is no time. We are way over time. Deputies do not agreeing with me and that is fine. I am not having a discussion on it. If they do not agree with me, that is okay.
No, it can go back to the Business Committee. I thought that I might have Deputies co-operation. I am going to leave it there as we are out of time. Deputies might realise that others do not get in when time runs over on both sides.