Dáil Éireann - Volume 598 - 22 February, 2005

Order of Business.

  The Tánaiste:It is proposed to take No. 10, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal that section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 shall continue in force for the period ending on 8 March 2006; No. 16, Disability Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 17, Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 [Seanad] — Second Stage (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 10 shall be decided without debate. Private Members’ business shall be No. 43, motion re education, special needs, autism and class sizes.

  An Ceann Comhairle:There is one proposal to put to the House: is the proposal for dealing with No. 10, motion re referral to joint committee agreed?

[262]   Mr. Kenny:Is it proposed in view of the ongoing events affecting the Northern Ireland peace process that the House will have an opportunity to hear statements from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and maybe from the Taoiseach in respect of these matters?

  An Ceann Comhairle:We are dealing solely with the issue of referral to the joint committee——

  Mr. Kenny:I appreciate that and I have no wish to be disruptive.

  An Ceann Comhairle:——of the proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of a proposal that section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966——

  Mr. Kenny:There is another kind of disease around.

  An Ceann Comhairle:——will continue in force for the period ending on 8 March 2006.

  Mr. Kenny:I have no wish to be disruptive but I want to ask the Tánaiste about that in respect of the Order of Business.

  An Ceann Comhairle:Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10 agreed to?

  Mr. Kenny:Can I have the Order of Business amended if I agree to that proposal?

  An Ceann Comhairle:The Deputy cannot have the Order of Business amended on this proposal because it deals exclusively with the Diseases of Animals Act. The issue is whether the House agrees to the proposal to refer it to committee.

  Mr. Kenny:I am talking about a different kind of disease.

  Mr. Sargent:No. 10 dealing with the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 is insufficient because it does not address the ongoing crisis in Askeaton regarding animal health problems. It should do so and if it does not, then we are not doing the job we are elected to do. Will the Tánaiste and the committee take this into account?

I support Deputy Kenny in seeking a debate which I requested under Standing Order 31. It is important that the Government, contrary to what the Tánaiste said, clarifies its position because it is speaking out of two sides of its mouth.

  An Ceann Comhairle:That does not arise on this proposal. We cannot go all over the place on this.

  Mr. Sargent:There either is or is not IRA activity in the State and we are hearing different statements from the Government.

[263]   An Ceann Comhairle:Is the proposal for dealing with No. 10, motion re referral to joint committee agreed? Agreed.

  Mr. Kenny:I will make the same point again tomorrow in respect of time for a debate on Northern Ireland to receive clarification on this issue.

In respect of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Amendment Bill, I note in newspaper reports that it is intended to wind up the Dunne inquiry into post-mortem policy. This has cost €20 million, has been running for four years and yet no interim report has been produced. The person running this inquiry is the only person running such an inquiry who is not a judge. Will the Tánaiste confirm that a finance officer was appointed to that inquiry to see that value for money was achieved? Were the necessary resources made available to that inquiry to produce an interim report? How was the person involved nominated and did the recommendation come from the Bar Council or the Department of Finance in terms of the money required?

  An Ceann Comhairle:That does not arise on the Order of Business. The Deputy may ask about the Dunne inquiry but the details are not appropriate to the Order of Business.

  Mr. Kenny:This involves €20 million and the Tánaiste proposes to wind it up.

  An Ceann Comhairle:It is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

  Mr. Kenny:The Tánaiste would like to respond.

  The Tánaiste:The Government decided in spring 2000 to establish the Dunne inquiry which began work in March 2001. That will be four years ago next month. It has cost €20 million. We had hoped to have a report by the end of December but that did not happen. The Government has decided that 31 March is the final date for that inquiry in that form. In the event that there is no report by then, it will be a matter for somebody else to carry forward the work so far undertaken.

On resources, €20 million is a considerable sum and I do not believe that was an issue. It was not a failure on the part of others to co-operate. I am not certain how the individual was selected. I am sure it was discussed between the line Minister at the time, the Attorney General and others. I am not familiar with how these things happened. I can confirm, however, that Anne Dunne is a senior counsel, not a member of the Judiciary.

  Mr. Rabbitte:In the few days since the debate on Northern Ireland, the ground and the public temper have shifted. I too would like the Tánaiste to accede to requests for the House to have an opportunity to consider this situation as early as possible.

[264]   The Tánaiste:The matter can be kept under review. I suggest that the Whips discuss it. There is an ongoing sensitive Garda investigation and there was a recent debate on Northern Ireland so it is a matter of establishing whether questions to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform put in the normal way or some other format is the appropriate way to deal with the matters the Deputies wish to raise. That can be discussed in a different format.

5 o’clock

  Mr. Sargent:Does the Tánaiste agree that the request being made is not just for a debate on Northern Ireland? We seek a clear Government position which I asked for under the request to adjourn the Dáil under Standing Order 31. This was not allowed and, while I respect the Ceann Comhairle’s decision, the Tánaiste should accede to the request for clarity from the Government. Her colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said two months ago there was no IRA activity in the Republic.

  An Ceann Comhairle:That does not arise on the Order of Business. The issue was discussed during Leaders’ Questions.

  Mr. Sargent:The Minister was either right or wrong then or he is right or wrong now.

  An Ceann Comhairle:That does not arise on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Sargent:It arises for every person in the country.

  Mr. Gormley:It is an important issue.

  Mr. Sargent:Either we are relevant here or we are not.

  An Ceann Comhairle:The Deputy is relevant as long as he stays within Standing Orders. When he goes outside those he is disorderly and disrupts the business of the House.

  Mr. Sargent:I have not come to the legislation——

  An Ceann Comhairle:I will call the Deputy again. I call Deputy Sherlock.

  Mr. Sargent:It is not just about——

  An Ceann Comhairle:I ask Deputy Sargent to resume his seat. He knows he is being disorderly.

  Mr. Boyle:On a point of order——

  An Ceann Comhairle:I have called Deputy Sherlock. I will hear Deputy Boyle after Deputy Sherlock on a point of order.

  Mr. Sherlock:When will the ombudsman (amendment) Bill be brought before the House?

[265]   The Tánaiste:Later this year.

  An Ceann Comhairle:I call Deputy Boyle on a point of order.

  Mr. Boyle:Deputy Sargent has been asking for the same latitude granted today on the Order of Business to Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy Kenny. As Whip for my party, I ask that the same latitude be given and a response received.

  An Ceann Comhairle:Deputy Rabbitte has already asked the question, which was answered.

  Mr. Sargent:It is a case of different rules for different parties.

  Mr. Morgan:The State has had a secret universal surveillance regime since 2002 involving the three-year retention of all mobile phones, fax and e-mail publications.

  An Ceann Comhairle:The Deputy must ask a question appropriate to the Order of Business.

  Mr. Morgan:The Tánaiste might not understand if I do not give that lead-in.

  An Ceann Comhairle:It is not necessary to give a lead-in.

  Mr. Morgan:Since the Government was re-elected, it has promised legislation on data retention. When will the Bill be published?

Will the Government allow time for a debate on the national action plan against racism? We have been promised legislation for a long time but there has not been a response.

  The Tánaiste:Data retention is very important and I understand the Bill is in the Seanad.

  Mr. Perry:In light of the Supreme Court judgment last week, when will legislation be introduced to deal with the repayment of charges to senior citizens? What was agreed at Cabinet today?

  An Ceann Comhairle:That matter has already been discussed on Leaders’ Questions.

  The Tánaiste:We will deal with the matter as quickly as possible.

  Ms Lynch:In view of the Supreme Court decision, does the Tánaiste intend to introduce legislation to cover people with disabilities whose money was taken from them?

  An Ceann Comhairle:That matter has already been discussed on Leaders’ Questions.

  The Tánaiste:Anyone receiving long-term care in institutions will be included.

  Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:In light of the comment by the chairperson of the Mental Health [266] Commission, Dr. John Owens, on the use of electro-convulsive therapy to treat patients with mental health problems, is it intended to introduce legislation that will address the clear disparities in the use of such treatment and other related matters of concern regarding the treatment of people with mental health problems?

  The Tánaiste:Legislation in regard to medical practitioners will come forward later this year.

  Mr. Allen:When will legislation relating to the referendum on the EU constitution be brought forward and when will the referendum be held?

  The Tánaiste:No decision has been made on either matter.

  Mr. Sargent:I want to ask about promised legislation relating to the building control Bill. It was indicated that it would be published in early 2004 but it now appears it will be late 2005. Freedom of information indicates that it has more to do with not going ahead of the standards in the UK which allows for lower energy insulation than the energy performance of buildings directive requires.

  An Ceann Comhairle:The Deputy cannot discuss the content of the Bill.

  Mr. Sargent:It is important to get an indication of when the Bill will be introduced because it will cost this country in terms of the Kyoto Protocol and it will have a number of other impacts. I would like the building control Bill to be published early.

The Ceann Comhairle should recognise the demand for a debate on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his double standards——

  An Ceann Comhairle:That matter has been dealt with and the Tánaiste replied to it. I call Deputy O’Sullivan.

  Mr. Sargent:It was not. Two months ago he stated that IRA activity has ended in the Republic. We need clarity on the matter.

  The Tánaiste:The building control Bill will be taken later this year.

  Ms O’Sullivan:Is the Tánaiste planning to include in the legislative programme medical card holders who are in private nursing homes because they cannot get public beds? Does she intend to address the issue which the Ombudsman’s office said should be included?

  An Ceann Comhairle:The content of the legislation cannot be discussed.

  The Tánaiste:The legislation applies to those in public institutions or beds that have been contracted by public institutions.