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					Vol. 712                                                                     Thursday,
No. 4                                                                       17 June 2010




              DÍOSPÓIREACHTAÍ PARLAIMINTE
                PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES


                        DÁIL ÉIREANN
          TUAIRISC OIFIGIÚIL—Neamhcheartaithe

                  (OFFICIAL REPORT—Unrevised)




                                          Thursday, 17 June 2010.

Request to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 32 …       …   …   …   …   …      623
Order of Business       …      …     …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      623
EU Directives and Convention: Motions       …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      636
Interim Economic Partnership Agreements: Motion …         …     …   …   …   …   …   …      637
Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010:
     Second Stage (resumed) …        …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      641
     Referral to Select Committee    …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      671
Estimates for Public Services 2010: Message from Select Committee   …   …   …   …   …      672
Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion …       …   …   …   …   …   …      672
Ceisteanna — Questions
     Minister for Finance
         Priority Questions …        …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      683
         Other Questions       …     …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      693
Adjournment Debate Matters …         …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      700
Adjournment Debate
     Swimming Pool Projects …        …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      701
     Decentralisation Programme      …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      703
     Local Authority Housing…        …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      704
     Departmental Offices      …     …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      706
Questions: Written Answers …         …      …        …    …     …   …   …   …   …   …      709
                                    DÁIL ÉIREANN
                                           ————

                               Déardaoin, 17 Meitheamh 2010.
                                  Thursday, 17 June 2010.

                                           ————

                    Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.

                                           ————

                                            Paidir.

                                            Prayer.

                                           ————

              Request to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 32
  An Ceann Comhairle: Before coming to the Order of Business I propose to deal with a
notice under Standing Order 32.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Ba mhaith liom cead a lorg an Dáil a chur ar athló faoi Bhuan
Ordú 32 chun déileáil leis an gnó práinneach agus rí-thábhachtach seo a leanas, the need for
immediate emergency action to relocate mentally ill patients from three hospitals deemed by
the Mental Health Commission to be unfit for human habitation, and the broader abject failure
of the Government to protect the rights and dignity of the mentally ill as evidenced by the
commission’s finding and by an incident yesterday where a homeless mentally ill woman, having
been forcibly released from prison, attempted to rescale the wall of Mountjoy Prison because
she had nowhere to go.

 An Ceann Comhairle: Having considered the matter raised, it is not in order under Standing
Order 32.

                                      Order of Business.
  The Tánaiste: It is proposed to take No. 12, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann
for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing and combating
trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, repealing Framework Decision
2002/629/JHA, back from committee; No. 13, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of
the terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings,
back from committee; No. 14, motion re referral to joint committee of proposed approval by
Dáil Éireann of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 and for a directive of the Euro-
pean Parliament and of the Council on combating the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of
children and child pornography, repealing Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA; No. 15, motion
re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of three interim economic partnership
agreements, back from committee; No. 5, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010
Second Stage (resumed); and No. 16 motion re Offences against the State (Amendment) Act
1998.
  It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 shall
be decided without debate; the proceedings on the resumed Second Stage of No. 5 shall, if not
previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2.45 p.m. today; the proceedings on No.
                                              623
                    Order of               17 June 2010.               Business.

  [The Tánaiste.]
16 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes and the
following arrangements shall apply: the speeches shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of
State and to the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall
be called upon in that order, who may share their time, and which shall not exceed ten minutes
in each case, a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply
which shall not exceed five minutes; Question Time today shall be taken on the conclusion of
No. 16 or at 3.30 p.m., whichever is the later and shall be brought to a conclusion at 4.45 p.m.;
and in the event of a Private Notice Question being allowed, it shall be taken at 4.15 p.m. for
30 minutes.

  An Ceann Comhairle: There are four proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for
dealing with Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 agreed?

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Included in that group is No. 15, with regard to the approval of
economic partnership agreements between the European Union and three groups of African
countries. On Tuesday, 25 May 2010, I raised this issue and at the end of the discussion the
Taoiseach suggested something which I am afraid was not strictly accurate:

     We are asked to approve the terms of the interim agreements as soon as possible. All other
  member states have signed them and the European Community is anxious to implement them
  in order to ensure compliance with World Trade Organisation rulings.

The agreements have not yet been before the European Parliament, but this is not the most
important point. At the end of the discussion the Taoiseach stated:

    It is expected that this will be dealt with by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. We
  have been asked to put the agreements forward for approval.

The Taoiseach did not state by whom we were asked, and most importantly he then stated, “I
can undertake that the matters can be debated in the House when they have been dealt with
at committee.” They have been dealt with at committee and yesterday a limited number of
Deputies had a good discussion. Even the Minister of State would agree that it is in everybody’s
interest that a wider number of Deputies in a plenary session of the Dáil have an opportunity
to discuss the African issues and the European Union and Africa relationship issues involved.
There is also the question of the Parliament being involved in a vigorous sense in debating
policy, particularly in the circumstances we have post-Lisbon treaty. Will the Tánaiste give an
indication that the Taoiseach’s words meant something and that we will debate these issues
here as promised now that they have come back from committee?

  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I do not want to disrupt or delay the Order of Business but I
strongly support my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, on this issue on the grounds he has
raised. I will not go over them again. It is particularly important in the aftermath of the Lisbon
treaty that national parliaments such as ours are seen to be playing the role intended for them
in the European sphere, in particular with regard to the relationship between the member
states of the European Union and other countries, such as those on the African continent.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot allow Deputy Shatter to speak because under Standing Order
26(2) it is not allowed to members from a party——

  Deputy Alan Shatter: I want to make a reference——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot allow Deputy Shatter. The Standing Orders——
                                               624
                   Order of               17 June 2010.              Business.


  Deputy Alan Shatter: I want to refer to No. 14 to which no one has referred in the context
of the order being proposed before the House.

 An Ceann Comhairle: I advise the Deputy that Standing Order 26(2) is quite explicit on this
matter. One member from each party speaks on the Order of Business. That is the position.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: The only matter——

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: You are breaching Standing Orders. You should remember that.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy can make a very brief reference because of the particular
circumstances. I will then call Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

   Deputy Alan Shatter: I want to make the point that this particular proposal, which deals with
combatting sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, should be discussed on the
floor of the House——

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Hear, hear.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: ——and should not simply be nodded through. It should be discussed.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, can you leave the remark at that?

  Deputy Alan Shatter: No, no. It is outrageous on an issue of importance such as this——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, we are on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: ——that I can utter only one sentence.

   An Ceann Comhairle: In the spirit of generosity I allowed you to make a remark when there
is no provision for you to come in.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: We have had revelation after revelation on the sexual abuse of children
and accessing pornography.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, I am not allowing you to continue. I allowed you a brief
remark and that is it. We are moving on.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: One sentence is outrageous.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I am ruling on it. I am not allowing you to continue the remarks.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: The Garda has no modern equipment at its disposal to access child
pornography——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Ó Snodaigh.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Go raibh maith agat.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: ——and identity individuals who are exploiting children——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, resume your seat.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: ——in the context of accessing pornography.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Resume your seat Deputy or leave the House.
                                              625
                   Order of                17 June 2010.              Business.


  Deputy Alan Shatter: It is outrageous——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, resume your seat or leave the House.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: I cannot fathom why the Government would close down a debate——

 An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy resume your seat when the Chair is on its feet or leave the
House.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: ——on an issue of such national importance.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will leave the House.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: We have had the Ryan commission report. We had the working group.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, leave the House.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: On an issue where there is an attempt the bring about a uniform
approach across Europe——

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, you must leave the House.

 Deputy Alan Shatter: ——we need to discuss in this House the failure of this
Government——

  Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): It was referred to committee.

  Deputy Alan Shatter: ——and its failure to protect children.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, will you leave the House?

  Deputy Alan Shatter: We had yet another——

  An Ceann Comhairle: I am suspending the House for ten minutes because of your level of
disorder. The House is suspended.

  Sitting suspended at 10.41 a.m and resumed at 10.51 a.m.

  The Tánaiste: Deputy Higgins raised an issue which I understand was the subject of robust
debate in the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. We provided additional time for that debate
but if it is agreeable to the House, I propose that we set aside time after the Order of Business
for further discussion on No. 15.

 Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I thank the Tánaiste for her offer. This is a welcome develop-
ment given the importance of the issue.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: My objection was to the grouping of the motions and not solely
to No. 15. I concur with Deputy Shatter that grouping together various issues in motions taken
without debate makes it difficult for us to put our points across. We are expected to vote for
a range of issues without debate. Two of these issues come from committees.
  I have a problem with the referral to joint committee of the Criminal Justice (Amendment)
Act 2009 for approval because this is a matter which we have agreed should be debated in the
Dáil. I seek a commitment from the Tánaiste that it will be debated in this House when it
returns from committee. The matter concerns the suspension of certain rights of people arrested
in connection with gangland crimes. I ask the Tánaiste to make a similar commitment to that
                                               626
                   Order of                17 June 2010.             Business.


which she gave on No. 15 so that we can debate the matter in the House. At least we will be
debating the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998.
  We should have debated Nos. 12 and 13 in the Dáil and not only in committee because
Deputies cannot attend every committee. As Deputy Shatter noted, the issues arising should
be discussed by the entire House rather than in committees.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I presume the Chief Whip will return to the House with detailed
arrangements. Alternatively, will he outline them now?

  Deputy John Curran: They will be discussed at a meeting of the Whips.

  The Tánaiste: In regard to No. 14, we refer matters to joint committees to allow a better
discussion to take place on issues of importance. The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, on
behalf of the Government, has rightly decided that we will opt into this directive, which is
important, and we should not divide the House on the proposal.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Proposal No. 1 is agreed, subject to the modifications suggested. Is
the proposal for dealing with No. 5 agreed?

  Deputy Michael Ring: It is not agreed.

  Deputy Beverley Flynn: Deputy Ring’s moment has arrived.

  Deputy Michael Ring: And it was clean.

  Deputy Frank Feighan: They were distracted by the other thing.

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: He will have to temper his voice.

   Deputy Michael Ring: I oppose the guillotine on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous
Provisions) Bill 2010. This is an important Bill and we want more time to discuss it because it
is having an awful effect on the poor. Members of this side of the House are fed up with
supplying money to the banks and taking it from the poor. We oppose the motion and call for
a vote on it.

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: Deputy Ring could be the compromise candidate.

  Deputy P. J. Sheehan: They tell me Deputy Dermot Ahern is running too.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I ask Members to desist from banter.

 Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I agree fully with Deputy Ring and see great potential for agree-
ment on this side of the House if we can follow this morning’s precedent.

  Deputy Michael Ring: I would have no problem with Deputy Gilmore as my Tánaiste.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Like Deputy Ring, I oppose the guillotine on the Social Welfare
(Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. I draw Members’ attention to the contrasting ways in
which different sections of our society are treated by the Government. Yesterday, the Govern-
ment announced another €250 million for the EBS and the chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank
told an Oireachtas committee that the lion’s share of the €22 billion put into his bank will
never be seen again.
                                               627
                   Order of                17 June 2010.               Business.


  Deputy Michael Ahern: He also said it would cost a further €20 million if we did not put in
the money.

  Deputy Brendan Howlin: Never again and then another €22 billion.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Allow Deputy Gilmore to continue without interruption.

  Deputy Michael Ahern: Tell the full story.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have told us——

  Deputy Michael Ahern: If the Deputy was in power it would cost us €20 billion more.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputies should refrain from engaging across the floor.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: ——that dealing with the banks would not cost the taxpayer any
money. We spent €22 billion and this man stated that the lion’s share will never be seen again.
It seems there is no end to the billions the Government will commit when it comes to the
banks and the better off in our society but it will literally not give the poorest the time of day
because it is guillotining the debate on issues of concern to them.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Ó Caoláin for a brief comment.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Sinn Féin Deputies object to the imposition of a guillotine
on Second Stage of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. The measures
proposed in the Bill will present serious difficulties to lone parents and those who depend on
jobseeker’s allowance. We resolutely oppose the Bill against the backdrop of yesterday’s revel-
ation that, despite all the alleged belt-tightening, former taoisigh are being provided State
moneys to employ two special assistants for five years subsequent to their departure from office
and one for a lifetime thereafter.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a Second Stage debate now.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: A serving Deputy is entitled to two special assistants or
support staff.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy’s comments are inappropriate at this time.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It appears that one Member of this House could have four
people working for him——

 An Ceann Comhairle: Second Stage contributions are not contemplated on the Order of
Business.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: ——which is an outrageous situation.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I am putting the question.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: At the same time we are targeting the most needy and
deserving in society. That is the continued approach of this Government and it is a disgrace.
We will not agree to the imposition of a guillotine on this Bill.

  Question put:



                                               628
                Order of              17 June 2010.                 Business.


                           The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 65.
                                           Tá

Ahern, Bertie.                                        Kenneally, Brendan.
Ahern, Dermot.                                        Kennedy, Michael.
Ahern, Michael.                                       Killeen, Tony.
Ahern, Noel.                                          Kitt, Michael P..
Andrews, Barry.                                       Kitt, Tom.
Andrews, Chris.                                       Lenihan, Brian.
Aylward, Bobby.                                       Lenihan, Conor.
Blaney, Niall.                                        Mansergh, Martin.
Brady, Áine.                                          Martin, Micheál.
Brady, Cyprian.                                       McEllistrim, Thomas.
Brady, Johnny.                                        McGrath, Mattie.
Browne, John.                                         McGrath, Michael.
Byrne, Thomas.                                        McGuinness, John.
Carey, Pat.                                           Moloney, John.
Collins, Niall.                                       Moynihan, Michael.
Conlon, Margaret.                                     Mulcahy, Michael.
Connick, Seán.                                        Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Coughlan, Mary.                                       Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Cregan, John.                                         O’Connor, Charlie.
Cuffe, Ciarán.                                        O’Dea, Willie.
Curran, John.                                         O’Donoghue, John.
Dempsey, Noel.                                        O’Flynn, Noel.
Devins, Jimmy.                                        O’Hanlon, Rory.
Dooley, Timmy.                                        O’Keeffe, Batt.
Finneran, Michael.                                    O’Keeffe, Edward.
Fitzpatrick, Michael.                                 O’Rourke, Mary.
Fleming, Seán.                                        O’Sullivan, Christy.
Flynn, Beverley.                                      Power, Peter.
Gogarty, Paul.                                        Power, Seán.
Gormley, John.                                        Sargent, Trevor.
Grealish, Noel.                                       Scanlon, Eamon.
Hanafin, Mary.                                        Smith, Brendan.
Haughey, Seán.                                        Wallace, Mary.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.                                    White, Mary Alexandra.
Kelleher, Billy.                                      Woods, Michael.
Kelly, Peter.

                                          Níl

Bannon, James.                                        Hayes, Brian.
Barrett, Seán.                                        Hayes, Tom.
Behan, Joe.                                           Higgins, Michael D..
Breen, Pat.                                           Hogan, Phil.
Broughan, Thomas P..                                  Howlin, Brendan.
Burke, Ulick.                                         Kehoe, Paul.
Burton, Joan.                                         Lynch, Ciarán.
Byrne, Catherine.                                     Lynch, Kathleen.
Clune, Deirdre.                                       McEntee, Shane.
Connaughton, Paul.                                    McGinley, Dinny.
Coonan, Noel J..                                      McGrath, Finian.
Costello, Joe.                                        McHugh, Joe.
Crawford, Seymour.                                    Mitchell, Olivia.
Creed, Michael.                                       Naughten, Denis.
Creighton, Lucinda.                                   Neville, Dan.
D’Arcy, Michael.                                      Noonan, Michael.
Deasy, John.                                          Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Deenihan, Jimmy.                                      Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Doyle, Andrew.                                        O’Donnell, Kieran.
Durkan, Bernard J..                                   O’Dowd, Fergus.
English, Damien.                                      O’Keeffe, Jim.
Enright, Olwyn.                                       O’Mahony, John.
Feighan, Frank.                                       O’Shea, Brian.
Ferris, Martin.                                       O’Sullivan, Jan.
Flanagan, Charles.                                    O’Sullivan, Maureen.
Gilmore, Eamon.                                       Penrose, Willie.
                                          629
                      Order of             17 June 2010.                     Business.


                                          Níl—continued

      Quinn, Ruairí.                                       Stagg, Emmet.
      Rabbitte, Pat.                                       Timmins, Billy.
      Reilly, James.                                       Tuffy, Joanna.
      Sheahan, Tom.                                        Upton, Mary.
      Sheehan, P.J..                                       Varadkar, Leo.
      Sherlock, Seán.                                      Wall, Jack.
      Shortall, Róisín.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Curran and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul
                                        Kehoe.

Question declared carried

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with No. 16 motion re Offences against the
State (Amendment) Act 1998 agreed to?

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is not agreed to. Sinn Féin has objected to renewal of the
measures in the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act in each of the years of our
representation here, particularly since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. We
              have made the objection consistently on each occasion on the grounds that this
11 o’clock    is legislation with no application whatsoever. It is superfluous to the needs of the
              legislative measures that exist to address matters that have been or may be
addressed under its terms now or at any time in the future. We would call for the Offences
against the State Acts to be removed from the Statute Book. The Good Friday Agreement
committed to remove all repressive legislation from the Stature Books in both jurisdictions —
here and in the neighbouring island. The continuation——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a long speech on this matter on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I am not making it long; it is short and to the point. The
measures in the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 should not be renewed
here today. It would be a statement of confidence in the primacy of the democratic process
and peaceful and political pursuit of honourable objectives validly held by Members in this
House and people throughout the island if there was sufficient strength among the political
voices here to state that we no longer need this legislation. We believe it was never needed.
We make the case again that it should not be renewed.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Long speeches are not contemplated on the Order of Business.

  Question, “That the proposal for dealing with No. 16 be agreed to”, put and declared carried.

 An Ceann Comhairle: Is the proposal for dealing with Question Time today agreed to?
Agreed.
  I call on the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach to clarify the arrangements
on No. 15.

  Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy John Curran): It is proposed
that No. 15 be taken immediately on the conclusion of the Order of Business and be brought
to a conclusion after 20 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply — the speeches
shall be confined to a Minister or Minister of State and to the main spokespersons for Fine
Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, who may share
their time, and which shall not exceed five minutes in each case.
                                               630
                    Order of                 17 June 2010.                Business.


  An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Deputy Michael Ring: Yesterday the directors of Anglo Irish Bank appeared before
Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service. They confirmed to the commit-
tee that €22 billion of taxpayers’ money had already gone into that bank. It was appalling to
hear that much of that money will not be recovered by the taxpayers.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Even allowing for a bit of time, it is not appropriate at this point

  Deputy Michael Ring: I have a question. I ask the Ceann Comhairle to give me some latitude
this morning because I will be doing this for a long time. Does the Government plan to continue
the taxpayers’ guarantee for existing bond investors in Anglo Irish Bank after September? The
€22 billion represents three times the budget for the Department of Education and Skills. It is
outrageous that taxpayers are still bailing out this bank and we do not know when it will end.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: That was a question the Tánaiste did not expect.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It would be more appropriate for the Minister for Finance.

  The Tánaiste: I wore green to have a calming effect on these guys today, but it does not
seem to be working at all.

  Deputy Joan Burton: It is a bit tigerish looking.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should table a parliamentary question to the Minister
for Finance.

  The Tánaiste: A parliamentary question would be most appropriate, but we will not be
continuing with the same type of guarantee.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Gilmore.

  Deputy Joan Burton: Did the Tánaiste hear my comment? It is a bit tigerish looking.

  Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I am being distracted by my party’s deputy leader.

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: The Deputy is not nearly as distracted as the leader of Fine Gael.

   Deputy Eamon Gilmore: In the proposed business for next week the Government is back to
its old bad habits. There are six pieces of legislation, which it proposes to guillotine. We get
this coming towards the end of a session with a Government that cannot find enough business
for the House to deal with for most of the year. Last week, for example, we had a short week
with truncated business. When we come to the last few weeks of the session the Government
introduces lots of legislation, guillotines it and gets it through as fast as possible. It is proposed
to take the Health (Amendment) Bill 2010 and the European Financial Stability Facility Bill
2010, both of which the Government intends to complete next week. In other words it seeks
to complete all Stages of those two Bills but neither has yet been published. At a minimum,
when will we see the these Bills that the Government wants done and dusted in one go next
week?

  The Tánaiste: The health (amendment) Bill will be published tomorrow and the other legis-
lation was signed off by the Cabinet on Tuesday. I assume it will be published tomorrow but I
will revert to the Deputy on the matter.
                                                 631
                   Order of                17 June 2010.               Business.


  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: The Civil Partnership Bill will next come to Report and
Final Stages. My understanding is that all parties support the passage of this Bill so will the
Tánaiste confirm that it will come before this House for final passage before the summer
recess?

  The Tánaiste: It will go through the House, although it must go through the Seanad first. We
are continuing with the timeframe set down by the Minister.

  Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I ask about the legislation to put on a statutory basis the community
national schools. If the text is to be published, when will that happen?

  The Tánaiste: I hope to have it by the end of the session.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: I have two questions. One relates to the Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill
2010. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is leaving the Chamber but it is one
of his pieces of legislation. It concerns the process of releasing people from the Central Mental
Hospital with some kind of supervision. Will that come to the Dáil in this session before
the summer?
  The revised Limerick regeneration plan was to come before the Cabinet this week. There
seems to be some lack of clarity on whether it was decided. Will the Tánaiste confirm if it got
the Government’s backing and if there is a decision to allocate funding this year in order to
implement the regeneration plans in Limerick?

  The Tánaiste: I doubt the legislation will be facilitated this session. There have been deliber-
ations and the Minister will make an announcement.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Will an announcement be made this afternoon?

  The Tánaiste: The Minister will decide when the announcement is made.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Will the Tánaiste confirm if the decision was made at Cabinet?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is seeking detail.

  The Tánaiste: It does not relate to legislation.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: It is more than me. The people of Limerick are also seeking it.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: There has been no Government announcement since Tuesday except
from a certain Fianna Fáil Deputy. I am not sure if the Minister of State has made an
announcement.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Has it been signed off?

  Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: People are seeking clarity on it and I want to know if the Cabinet
signed off on it.

  The Tánaiste: Matters going before the Cabinet are not matters for the Order of Business.
The Government is committed to the delivery of the Limerick regeneration programme and
the Minister of State in charge of it will make a public announcement. I do not have a date
for that.
                                               632
                   Order of                17 June 2010.               Business.


  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Another piece of legislation promised to the House and the
people and which was to be passed before the summer recess is the psychoactive substances
Bill, which is the legislation dealing with head shops. The Minister for Justice, Equality and
Law Reform has just left but when will it be published so we can have a look at it and have
enough time to properly debate it in the House on Second Stage? Given the short time avail-
able, it should be left until the autumn to have a proper debate on Committee and Report
Stage.

  The Tánaiste: That legislation was sanctioned by the Cabinet and we are ad idem that the
legislation should be passed before the Houses rise for the summer recess. I am sure we will
get the co-operation from everyone to ensure that legislation will get through.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: When will it be published?

  The Tánaiste: The publication is imminent.

  Deputy Joe Costello: The Saville inquiry investigated the killing of 14 people in 1972 in
Derry, which is very close to the Tánaiste’s constituency. The outcome of that inquiry was
welcomed across the political and religious divides. In 1974, 34 people were killed in the Dublin-
Monaghan bombings, most in my own constituency in Dublin Central. The justice committee
produced a report, arising from the Judge Barron investigations, requesting that the Govern-
ment seek through negotiations and meetings with the British Government for the British
authorities——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is being inappropriate and is not doing the subject justice
by raising it like this on the Order of Business.

  Deputy Joe Costello: It relates to the establishment of an inquiry under an independent
chairperson that would have access to the relevant documents. Some 56,000 documents were
not made available by the British authorities. It was a tragedy in the Republic and no action
has been taken on an inquiry.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is seeking detail on the Order of Business, which is inap-
propriate.

  Deputy Joe Costello: I am asking the Tánaiste——

  An Ceann Comhairle: If there is a query on legislation, we should have it.

  Deputy Joe Costello: It relates to a legislative inquiry. A tribunal of inquiry involves legis-
lation. That is the recommendation from the justice committee that the Irish Government
would pursue the matter with the British authorities so the documents which were not access-
ible to the Barron inquiry or the justice committee would be made available to an independent
chairperson who would consider those documents with a view to coming to some finality.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, please.

  Deputy Joe Costello: These are serious legislative matters.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should submit a parliamentary question. It is a serious
subject and I do not for a moment want to diminish its importance.
                                               633
                   Order of               17 June 2010.              Business.


  Deputy Joe Costello: Will the Minister give some indication on this? The previous Taoiseach
raised the matter with the previous British Prime Minister. The Tánaiste might give some
indication on the intentions of the Government in this matter.
  Will the funding that has been withdrawn by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law
Reform from the Justice for the Forgotten group, which is carrying out all the good work on
behalf of victims and relatives——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have that on the Order of Business. The Deputy should
submit a parliamentary question on the matter.

  Deputy Joe Costello: Will it be retained?

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is abusing latitude on the Order of Business.

  The Tánaiste: We will revert to the Deputy.

  Deputy Joe Costello: The other matter is the continuation of funding from the Department.

  The Tánaiste: We will get back to the Deputy.

  Deputy Michael Ring: I have two questions. With regard to the Údarás na Gaeltachta Bill,
the elections were to be held this year, so will the legislation changing the law on the periods
come before the House? When will it come before the House as people want to know if the
election will be postponed this year?
   The head shops legislation is very important. As Deputy Gilmore stated, in the last week of
the session we do not want to see guillotines and the House sitting until midnight, with legis-
lation being pushed through before coming to the courts in six months because it is unconsti-
tutional. The head shop issue is very important and people are very concerned about it. Will
the Tánaiste confirm that we will have enough time to go through the Bill and that it will not
be pushed through this House without proper thought and time?

  The Tánaiste: It is the Government’s intention to have the head shops legislation on the floor
of the House and everyone is anxious for it to be enacted quickly. The Údarás na Gaeltachta
legislation will be this session.

  Deputy Joan Burton: The Bill on the European stabilisation fund — a type of IMF for
Europe — is coming before the House on Thursday. It is an important Bill with implications
for Ireland and significant amounts are involved. We can view this in the context of statements
yesterday concerning the €20 billion of the €22 billion given to Anglo Irish Bank having gone
down the drain, according to the chief officers of that bank. We have been given no information
or briefing on the matter and I do not know if the European affairs committee has got any
either.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is going into detail.

  Deputy Joan Burton: This is on the Order of Business. It is being rushed in next Thursday
and I believe everybody in the House will support it. Rushing finance Bills with no information
or detail on the small print is a recipe for disaster. The Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, did
this when Minister for Finance and it allowed Anglo Irish Bank to get involved——

  An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a Second Stage debate at this time.

  Deputy Joan Burton: ——in the securitisation of bonds.
                                              634
                   Order of                17 June 2010.               Business.


  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has made her point.

 Deputy Joan Burton: It was also done earlier with Irish Nationwide on the eve of a recess.
The track record——

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has made her point well.

  Deputy Joan Burton: ——in respect of the House passing rushed finance legislation, contain-
ing special little provisions for special people, is bad.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy please extend some co-operation to the Chair in
respect of the Order of Business?

  Deputy Joan Burton: Will the Tánaiste ask the Minister for Finance if he will provide a
written briefing to Opposition finance spokespersons and also to the members of the Joint
Committee on European Affairs, who are heavily involved with this matter? There is a need to
properly monitor and examine the position in the best interests of the country. The legislation is
extremely important.

   The Tánaiste: The Minister for Finance has been more than forthcoming in respect of these
issues and in briefing his colleagues. It is appropriate to state that the legislation relating to
banking matters that has been passed by the House has been extensive in nature and was the
subject of much discussion here. I do not accept the Deputy’s view that legislation which was
passed by the House in the past two years was inappropriate. It is time people reiterated that
if we were to proceed with the Labour Party’s proposal in respect of Anglo Irish Bank, the
cost to the taxpayer would be €42 billion.

  Deputy Joan Burton: On that point, the representatives from the bank who appeared before
the committee said the opposite. We see the Bill for what it is.

  An Ceann Comhairle: We are not going to engage in a debate on that matter.

  Deputy Michael Mulcahy: Deputy Burton should sit down. She had her say.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Burton will have ample opportunity to comment when the
legislation is introduced.

  Deputy Joan Burton: They said the opposite.

  Deputy Emmet Stagg: On a point of order, it is not appropriate for the Ceann Comhairle to
place what is an untruth and a lie on the record of the House.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Ceann Comhairle did not place any untruth on the record.

  Deputy Joan Burton: One could see the jaws of the Fianna Fáil members of the committee
drop when they were informed that €20 billion of taxpayers’ money——

  Deputy Noel Dempsey: Did not the Deputy’s jaw drop when she heard that Labour’s plan
for the bank would cost €42 billion?

  Deputy Joan Burton: That €20 billion has disappeared down the drain. That is a scandal.

 An Ceann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Stagg to either withdraw or amend the phrase he used.
The Ceann Comhairle did not place any lie on the record of the House.
                                               635
               EU Directives and           17 June 2010.       Convention: Motions


  Deputy Emmet Stagg: The Ceann Comhairle would never do so.

  Deputy Joe Costello: It was an untruth.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Multi-Unit Developments Bill was due to be taken last week. We
have been waiting six or seven years for this legislation and it is important that the Second
Stage relating to it be completed prior to the summer recess. Will the Tánaiste ensure this
happens? In view of the number of companies that have gone bust, there are major difficulties
for young people in the type of apartment blocks to which the legislation relates.
  Deputy O’Rourke, who was the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional
Amendment on Children, recently gave an interview in which she appeared to indicate that
the referendum on the relevant amendment should be held this year. She also appealed to the
Opposition not to require that the three outstanding by-elections should happen simul-
taneously. Is that now the Government’s position and will the amendment to the Constitution
be the subject of a referendum this year?

  The Tánaiste: It was unfortunate that our deliberations on the Multi-Unit Developments Bill
could not be completed last week. However, we will try to get it through because it is long
awaited and much needed.
  The Government is anxious to pursue the constitutional amendment. However, a decision
has not been taken with regard to either what will be the format of the referendum or when it
will take place.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Before we proceed to the next item, I wish to inform the House that
we had some visitors earlier, namely, Senator Therese Murray, President of the Massachusetts
Senate, and her colleagues. However, the Senator and her group have since left.

  Deputy Emmet Stagg: I do not blame them.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I hope they have a successful and enjoyable visit.

                             EU Directives and Convention: Motions
  Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy John Curran): I move the
following motions:

     That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under
  Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of
  freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty
  on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of
  the following proposed measure:

    a proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing
    and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, repealing Framework
    Decision 2002/629/JHA,

  a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 28th April, 2010.

    That Dáil Éireann approves in accordance with Article 29.5.2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann,
  the terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human
  Beings, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 13th May, 2010.

    That the proposal that Dáil Éireann:
                                               636
           Interim Economic Partnership   17 June 2010.          Agreements: Motion


      (i) resolves that section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 (No. 32 of
    2009) shall continue in operation for the period beginning on 23rd July, 2010 and ending
    on 30th June, 2011; and

      (ii) approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21
    in the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom,
    security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the
    Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of the
    following proposed measure:

      a proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating
      the sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, repealing Frame-
      work Decision 2004/68/JHA,

    a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 27th April, 2010,

  be referred to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights, in
  accordance with paragraph (2) of the Orders of Reference of that Committee, which, not
  later than 29th June, 2010, shall send a message to the Dáil in the manner prescribed in
  Standing Order 87, and Standing Order 86(2) shall accordingly apply.

  Question put and agreed to.

                       Interim Economic Partnership Agreements: Motion
  Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Peter Power): I move:

   That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the three interim Economic Partnership
  Agreements:

      (i) Interim Agreement with a view to an Economic Partnership Agreement between the
    European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the SADC EPA
    (Southern African Development Community Economic Partnership Agreement) States, of
    the other part;

      (ii) Agreement establishing a framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement
    between the European Community and its Member States, on the one part, and the East
    African Community Partner States, on the other part; and

      (iii) Interim Agreement establishing a framework for an Economic Partnership Agree-
    ment between the Eastern and Southern Africa States, on the one part, and the European
    Community and its Member States, on the other part,

    which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 12th April, 2010.

I welcome the debate on these three interim economic partnership agreements, which were
approved by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday. The Dáil is the only parlia-
ment in Europe that will have engaged in extensive discussions on these agreements, which is
a welcome development. The complexity of the agreements is such that they lend themselves
to be discussed in committee. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs engaged in a strong
and robust debate on them yesterday and reached the conclusion that they should be approved.
 I wish to place on record the historical context relating to these economic partnership agree-
ments and outline why they have been brought before the Dáil for approval. Historically, the
African, Caribbean and Pacific, ACP, countries benefited from very favourable trade prefer-
                                              637
           Interim Economic Partnership    17 June 2010.           Agreements: Motion

  [Deputy Peter Power.]
ences with the European Union. However, these were deemed to violate World Trade Organis-
ation, WTO, rules on the basis that they established an unfair discrimination among developing
countries. In other words, some 77 countries in the ACP region benefited from these unilateral
trade preferences but many others who were not members of the ACP grouping did not so
benefit. That was an unfair and illegal form of discrimination.
   In 2000, the European Union and 77 ACP States concluded an agreement known as the
Cotonou Agreement. This provided for a new trade and development framework based on
economic partnership agreements. These are a new type of multilateral agreement, combining
both trade and wider development issues in a unified framework and containing reciprocal
preferences in trade between the EU and the ACP states. On this basis, in 2001 the WTO
agreed to give a waiver to the EU to continue the unilateral preferences until 31 December
2007. While that deadline has not been fully observed, it is clear that if progress was not
being made in the process relating to concluding economic partnership agreements, unfair
discrimination against non-ACP countries would continue. This would entitle said countries to
bring a case to the WTO and this would have a seriously detrimental effect on the international
trading system, particularly in the context of developing countries. That is the background to
the debate.
   I wish to make a fundamental point in respect of economic partnership agreements between
the EU and developing nations. Regardless of whether one likes it, we live in an era of global-
isation. Under our globalised trading system, all countries engage in trade with each other. The
amount of goods traded across borders is larger than at any time in the past. This has benefited
many nations. Unfortunately, the least developed countries have not benefited from the inter-
national trading regime that has been in existence for many years. As a result, it is my strong
view that these states do not possess the tools to allow them to rise out of poverty.
  While development aid is vital for developing countries, many specialists and commentators,
academic and otherwise, in the development community agree that, of itself, it will never assist
these countries in rising out of poverty. The only way to ultimately relieve poverty in these
countries is by ensuring that they become involved in the international trading regime. This
will assist them in building their trading capacity, their economies and their domestic enterprise
systems. By so doing, they will take part in the international trading system and release them-
selves from poverty. I do not accept the contention that these agreements are being rushed
through Parliament. We had a robust debate on them yesterday in committee. It is important
to state that we must comply with international obligations to finalise these agreements which,
by their nature, are agreements between the European Union and sovereign states. We must
respect the rights of those sovereign states who wish to enter into these agreements. While a
number of countries have done so, others have stated they are not ready for these agreements
at this stage. We must respect the sovereign wish of those who are ready to agree and sign,
which is the reason this motion is before the House.

  Deputy Michael D. Higgins: I appreciate the opportunity to debate these issues in plenary
session as they go beyond the detailed consideration of a select committee. At a meeting
yesterday of the select committee I suggested we not sign until there had been signature by the
African side. I also stated that in so far as these agreements have not been processed by the
European Parliament that the European Parliament’s opinion is important, in particular in
terms of the connection between development and trade.
  It is important I state immediately that I did not suggest in my contribution yesterday at
committee, nor do I do so now on behalf of the Labour Party, that the African countries should
rely on development only or that I am against trade. I am in favour of development that
                                               638
           Interim Economic Partnership    17 June 2010.           Agreements: Motion


facilitates fair trade and enables renegotiation within a new international economic order or
that which takes into account the present situation in regard to economic theory, economic
development, economic strategy and economic policy. In regard to legal obligations, what is at
issue is the process. A number of the countries involved have expressed reservations that are
based not on technical details but on fundamentals such as what is required of them by way of
timescale in terms of the reduction of tariffs, limited capacity, putting in new charters, the
standstill clause, the new clauses in regard to tariffs on, for example, extractive industries
and, the protection of infant industries, on which we do not agree in terms of whether this
has happened.
   I was influenced at a meeting on 3 June by the east African community which asked Ministers
not to sign until these issues have been resolved. There are issues within the interim economic
partnership agreements that will in turn pass on to full economic partnership agreements and
there are further implications from what might be regional economic partnership agreements.
There are issues in regard to transparency. I welcome that we are discussing these; it is what we
should be doing. Ireland has a magnificent and well earned reputation in regard to development
practice and theory. We should be debating where we are in terms of the linking of aid, trade,
climate change and so on. That is the purpose of this debate. I want this House to engage in
full debate on African issues and so on. I also want us to listen to the debate going on in Africa
and to be able, post-Lisbon, to link our debate and the African debate with the European
Parliament.
   What is proposed in the text is not confined to what is required of the World Trade Organis-
ation, WTO. There are other issues involved. This opens the door on a whole serious of other
issues in regard, for example, to services. There are aspects of the North American Free Trade
Agreement, NAFTA, which are additional to the WTO. Without being too technical, there are
a whole range of issues involved. The Labour Party is not suggesting that anybody should break
international legal obligations. We are simply saying let us have a discourse that brings every-
thing forward, is transparent and shows that trade will not operate in such a hegemonic way as
to defeat development issues. Let us not have a discussion on trade that reflects an asymmetri-
cal relationship in regard to negotiation power.
   Many agreements have been bundled together in this motion, which is unusual. If, for
example, an issue had arisen yesterday in regard to Ireland’s moment of joining the European
Union how would we, if a whole bundle of countries are to be treated the same way, have
dealt with this? The three agreements are not the same. They are textually different. Also, they
differ in terms of the degree to which they have been processed with only some having been
initialled. There are ways of dealing with the issue. Only ten countries of the 47 concerned
have become involved in any type of EPA process. We are at one in terms of the everything
but arms agreement and the special agreement on preferences. There are other mechanisms
open to us. It is not a doomsday situation. If we delay long enough, we will have appropriate
input and transparency in Africa, Europe and Ireland. For this reason, I am happy this motion
is being discussed in plenary session. I hope this is not the last time this will happen.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuilimid ag plé an rúin seo atá ag
déileáil le conarthaí idir an Aontas Eorpach agus trí dhream de thíortha san Aifric, an chéad
cheann leis an South African Development Community, sin Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique,
Namibia agus Swaziland, an dara ceann an East African Community, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda,
Tanzania agus Uganda, agus an tríú ceann an grúpa Common Market for Eastern and Southern
African States, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, na Seychelles, Zambia agus Zimbabwe ina
measc.
                                               639
           Interim Economic Partnership   17 June 2010.          Agreements: Motion

  [Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh.]

  Ar ndóigh, is tíortha bochta iad a lán acu agus ar ndóigh chomh maith is cóir dúinn atá sa
domhan forbartha tréan-iarracht a dhéanamh bheith cinnte go bhfuil tacaíocht á tabhairt againn
dóibh agus go bhfuil an fhorbairt atá i ndán do na tíortha sin ar leasa an phobail i gcoitinne.
Tá mé buartha nuair a fhéachaim ar a leithéad de chonarthaí mar atá leagtha amach os ár
gcomhair inniu nach ar son leasa an ghnáth-phobail sna tíortha sin atá siad ach ar son leasa an
Aontais Eorpaigh.
  Is tíortha bochta iad agus ar ndóigh, mar a dúirt mé, is gá dúinn déanamh cinnte má táimid
ag cur conarthaí le chéile go bhfuil cosaintí iontu dóibh siúd a bhfuilimid ag déanamh na
gconarthaí ar a son sa dóigh is nach mbuailfear iad le torthaí na gconarthaí sin. Ní gá dom ach
ceann de na conarthaí eile a lua idir an Aontas agus Israel. Tá cosaintí sa preferential trade
agreement sin ar líomhaintí i leith cearta daonna ach ní chuirtear i bhfeidhm iad. Caithfimid
déanamh cinnte má tá cosaintí in aon cheann de na conarthaí seo go gcuirfear i bhfeidhm iad
nuair a ghlacfaidh an tAontas Eorpach leo.
   Is cóir i gcónaí agus sinn ag déileáil le tíortha na hAifrice smaoineamh don chuid is mó gur
tíortha as an Aontas a bhí i gceannas ar na tíortha seo nuair a bhí coilíneachtaí iontu agus
nuair a bhí an t-impiriúlachas i réim san Aifric. Bím buartha i gcónaí faoi na daoine a bhíonn
ag cur an agenda seo chun cinn, gur as tíortha iad a chaill na coilíneachtaí sin. Caithfimid
bheith cúramach nach bhfuilimid ag cur conarthaí i bhfeidhm a mbainfidh tíortha an Aontais
leas astu.
   Tá daoine eile tar éis ceisteanna móra a ardú ó thaobh an liobrálachais seo. Tá dainséir
mhóra ann do thíortha beaga atá ag forbairt má tá an eacnamaíocht atá acu oscailte go hiomlán
don domhan iomlán, a new world order, an economic order atá ann faoi láthair. Cad tá i ndán
d’fheirmeoirí beaga nó do chuideachtaí beaga nó do dhaoine atá dífhostaithe? Cad atá in ann
dos na seirbhísí poiblí? An mbeidh siad oscailte go hiomlán do chomhlachtaí osnáisiúnta? An
mbeidh deireadh curtha leis na postanna atá ann faoi láthair nó an dtógfar dreamanna eile
isteach chun na postanna sin a ghlacadh? Caithfear a bheith cinnte nach bhfuilimid ag cothú
ceanntracha beaga, ó thaobh forbartha de, seachas an réigiún ina iomlán a fhorbairt. Tá dáin-
séirí anseo. Is trua nach bhfuil díospóireacht níos leithne á dhéanamh i bpairlimintí eile an
Aontais Eorpaigh, ach is maith an rud é go bhfuilimidne ag déanamh na díospóireachta seo.
  Ní raibh mé in ann freastal ar chruinniú an choiste inné. B’ait liom gur plédh an cheist seo
ag Roghchoiste um Ghnóthaí Eachtracha agus nár plédh í ag an roghchoiste a dhéanann deigh-
leáil leis an Aontas Eorpach chomh maith. Be chóir na rúin seo a gcur os comhair cupla coiste
seachas ag coiste amháin, chun go mbeimís ar fad in ann deighleáil leo.
   Níl mé chun cur i gcoinne na tairisceana seo, toisc nach bhfuil am agam inniu deighleáil go
huile is go hiomlán leis an gceist thábhachtach seo. Mar sin féin, ba chóir níos mó plé agus
machnaimh a dhéanamh ar gach céim chun tosaigh a déanfar amach as seo. Comhaontú eatram-
hacha is ea é agus nuair a thiocfaimid ar ais chuige ba chóir go ndéanfar an cheist a scrúdú sul
a thagann an rún faoi bhráid an Tí. Tá súil agam go mbeidh na coistí in ann deighleáil le gach
dul chun cinn a déanfar amach as seo.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Caithfidh mé an rún a chur anois. An bhfuil an rún aontaithe?

  Deputy Joe Costello: I wish to contribute to the debate.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The House decided this morning that contributions would be
confined to a main spokesperson from three parties.

  Deputy Joe Costello: Could I cross the benches and become a spokesperson?
                                              640
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair will refrain from commenting on such a suggestion.

  Question put and agreed to.

        Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

 The following motion was moved by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Éamon Ó
Cuív, on Wednesday, 16 June 2010:
    That the Bill be now read a Second Time.

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
    To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:
      “Dáil Eireann declines to give a second reading to the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous
    Provisions) Bill 2010 having regard to the failure of the Government to ensure that
    measures to activate jobseekers and lone parents have been backed up by genuine job
    opportunities and access to quality training, education and literacy improvement, child
    care, and relevant health supports, and further expresses concern that without these
    measures the cuts in support levels may simply have the effect of further impoverishing
    people who are already on subsistence levels of income.”.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: This is one of those occasions when I am tempted to call a quo-
rum, but I will desist and remain calm. That would, of course, cause chaos in the Fine Gael
rooms.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: As the Deputy knows, it is the responsibility of the Government
side of the House to provide a quorum.

 Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I was merely referring to our lost colleagues, and I thank you, a
Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for the correction.
   When I spoke last night I concentrated on the lone parents’ payment and I wish to make
further remarks on that. I have a deep interest in all matters relating to social and family affairs.
It is where I come from, politically, and I am currently Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee
on Social and Family Affairs, under the guidance and chairmanship of Deputy Jackie Healy-
Rae, my good colleague from County Kerry.
   I make my position clear on these issues. I have always taken the view that when all boats
are rising we must look after the small boats. When all boats are struggling it is imperative to
look after the small boats. I have often mentioned that I live in Tallaght. In recent weeks since
the publication of the Bill, I have received calls from all over the Dublin region and particularly
from my own constituency of Dublin South West. Many calls came from Tallaght but many
also came from rural communities in Brittas and Bohernabreena and from Templeogue, Fir-
house and Greenhills. It is important that we listen to what people are saying and report it,
even from the Government benches. My place in the Chamber is, geographically, on the Labour
benches but that is not my decision. I am happy here, by the way. I feel warm and wanted. I
am not afraid to say the Government must continue, in all respects, to look after the vulnerable.
This should not be a mere slogan. People are struggling in these hard times. People who have
always struggled must be looked after. I have no hesitation in saying that. Other people should
make sacrifices to ensure that social inclusion remains part of Government and Opposition
policy.
                                                       641
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Charlie O’Connor.]

  I am conscious, from my dealings in my constituency, that many lone parents will need access
to education, training and enabling services, such as child care provision to acquire the skills
they will need to gain employment. A wide range of education and training opportunities is
available through the Departments of Social Protection and Education and Skills and FÁS, for
lone parents to strengthen their qualifications and skills base, maximise their chances of meet-
ing the requirements of the modern labour market and gain employment.
  Social welfare supports for lone parents should continue to be designed to prevent long-term
dependence on social welfare and facilitate financial independence. They should recognise
parental choice with regard to the care of young children but with the expectation that parents
will not remain outside the labour force indefinitely. They should include an expectation of
participation in education, training and employment, with supports provided in that regard.
The reforms being proposed will help meet those social policy objectives, but the Minister must
be particularly proactive to ensure they do.
  The calls I receive from my constituents reflect the fact that people in this category are
worried and concerned. They want to know what will be done for them and they need assur-
ances. The Minister and the Department say the changes will not take effect for many years in
many cases, but people are still worried. Yesterday, I received a letter from Green Park, in the
Greenhills area. The writer wanted to know who would look after her teenage child and if her
family would be safe when the new regulations are in force. Her point was a fair one and I
hope the Minister understands the issues and the concerns of lone parents.
   I listened to the main spokespeople yesterday. I do not want to praise them in case I get
them into trouble, but many fair points were made as to how we should look after people who
will be under pressure. The Minister appeared before the Select Committee on Social and
Family Affairs and dealt with the Estimates for his Department. Questions were put to him by
the Opposition spokespeople, Deputies Olwyn Enright and Róisín Shortall, and by my Fianna
Fáil colleagues. I was glad to hear the Minister was prepared to engage with us. He made the
point that he will continue to engage with the all-party committee and will come back to the
committee next week to continue that dialogue. Those of us who work on the ground know it
is important to listen to what people are saying and not to be afraid to represent their concerns
in the Oireachtas. I say to the Minister that we must continue to care and to look after people
who need our help. Those of us who are in a better position to get through the recession should
understand the need to help those who are vulnerable. I hope we will continue to do that.
   I have already referred to the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs. I am proud to
be its vice chairman. With an all-party approach, the committee has launched a number of
reports, including one on social welfare fraud which received much attention and raised con-
siderable debate. Deputies Olwyn Enright and Thomas Byrne issued a comprehensive report
on the high levels of indebtedness in Irish society. We took a radical approach in those reports.
   I have made the point to the Minister on more than one occasion — I repeated it yesterday
— that a specific category of citizens of this country is now looking for social welfare assistance.
I hope the people in question are not offended when I say I regard them as the “new poor”.
               They were doing well six months or a year ago — they were in employment, they
12 o’clock     could go on holidays, they were able to go to see Manchester United on a regular
               basis, they had no difficulties with their bills and commitments and they certainly
had no difficulties with their mortgages. It has come as a bolt from the blue for them to have
to struggle in this manner. As I have said previously, I try to bring my own experiences to my
own politics. I was made redundant three times and had to reinvent myself each time. If it
happens again, I will cope.
                                                       642
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  Deputy Joe Costello: There is no danger of that.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I will reinvent myself and continue to represent my community
as long as I can. That is what people should do.

  Deputy Peter Power: The Deputy has no worries.

   Deputy Charlie O’Connor: My experiences give me an appreciation of the substantial chal-
lenges faced by people who are suddenly faced with having to queue outside their local dole
office, where everybody can see them. They have to deal with their bills and, particularly, their
mortgages in those circumstances. I have no sympathy for financial institutions that go after
such people. When the managing director of the EBS addressed an Oireachtas committee, he
made some positive and radical proposals for dealing with debt. I challenge him and his
counterparts in the other institutions to put their money where their mouths are by looking
after people who are struggling. We need to consider the various proposals in this regard which
have been made by Deputies on all sides of the House. I hope the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív,
is in his office watching my contribution and wondering what I will say next. When he came to
Tallaght a few weeks ago, it was his first trip out into the real world after his appointment as
Minister for Social Protection. We were delighted to welcome him to Tallaght.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: He is coming to Swords shortly.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: That is fine. I have no problem with showing the way in Tallaght,
which is a great example of how the job should be done. Following his successful visit to
Tallaght, the Minister intends to go all over the country, including Swords. I suspect he will go
to Limerick and other areas. When the Minister came to Tallaght, he met a group of people
who gathered to tell it as it is. It was not a Fianna Fáil group. I am sorry if that offends anybody.
We discussed what should be done about social welfare benefits and other priorities. The point
was strongly made that people do not want to stay on social welfare. People want employment,
education and schemes. I hope the Minister will follow through on the points he has made on
more than one occasion, including at the meeting in Tallaght and at yesterday’s meeting of the
Select Committee on Social and Family Affairs. I refer, for example, to his suggestion that the
need to prepare people to go back into the workforce will be prioritised.
   The critics will say there are no jobs out there, which highlights the fact that employment is
the major issue in this context. The next election may well be a case of “the economy, stupid”,
but it should also be about jobs. There are almost 11,000 unemployed people, including many
young people, in my community of Tallaght. We need to give people hope. We should grasp
the nettle when it comes to this issue, rather than merely talking about it. I appreciate that it
falls under the remit other Departments, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and
Innovation. The Minister, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, has a clear role to play in this regard. I will
continue to make these points to him, as I did to his predecessor.
   The Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, also has a role to play as far as this challenge is concerned.
He knows it would be good for people to get back to work. He knows it would be good for
the country if people did not have to depend on his Department to look after them. It would
relieve the burden on the State as well. The Minister has mentioned all sorts of ideas about
getting people back into work. I strongly support the community employment and job initiative
schemes because it is important to give people an opportunity to do something meaningful. We
all know that many jobs need to be done in communities throughout the country. Therefore,
volunteerism needs to be supported. All kinds of activities, including summer camps for young
people and initiatives for older people, are being pursued in our communities at present.
                                                       643
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Charlie O’Connor.]

  I listened to the comments that were made in the House last night about the proposal to
reduce the jobseeker’s payments of those who do not find work or take up opportunities. I
hope the Minister and the Department will be flexible in this regard. If no jobs are available,
one cannot penalise or punish people who cannot find work. I would never pick on social
welfare staff, and certainly not the people in the fine office in Tallaght. However, the system
needs to be flexible. We have to try to encourage people, look after them and make sure they
are treated properly. I appreciate the courtesy that has been extended to me by the Chair. I
look forward to supporting this Bill.

   Deputy Joe Costello: It is hard to disagree with my colleague, Deputy O’Connor. I wonder
if he was speaking from the Labour Party benches.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I was speaking from the heart.

  Deputy Joe Costello: If he moved down a few seats, he could be applauded for making a
good speech from the Labour Party benches.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: I was saying it as it is.

  Deputy Joe Costello: I do not doubt that the Government does not like that.

  Deputy Charlie O’Connor: The Government is a broad church.

   Deputy Joe Costello: It is a very broad church, especially in Tallaght, where Deputy
O’Connor comes from. His final remarks were magnificent. He said that if there are no jobs,
we cannot impose sanctions on people who do not take up jobs. I agree that rather than
punishing people, the Government should be flexible in relation to this matter. There is no
flexibility in this legislation, unfortunately. It does not provide for an appeals mechanism. The
flexibility sought by Deputy O’Connor has been specifically left out. I am not as happy as he
seems to be that the Minister will continue to engage with the joint committee on the matter.
I have not yet seen any sign that the Minister will be flexible in his engagement. I am glad he
has visited Tallaght. I am sure Deputy O’Connor showed him what real life is like there.
  The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 is another example of the harsh
medicine being applied by the Government. Its approach to dealing with the economic crisis is
to impose austerity measures on the unemployed and the less well-off. We saw this in 2009,
when two miserable budgets targeted the less well-off, the sick, the disadvantaged, the unem-
ployed and pensioners. Believe it or not, two social welfare Bills were introduced as part
of that process. I suggest that there has been a superfluity of legislation of this nature in
recent years.
  This Bill again puts the boot into the less well-off, including unemployed people, young
people, lone parents and their children. This legislation is entirely negative. It does not contain
a positive line or offer any incentives. There is not a carrot anywhere. It is all about targeting
people at the lower end of the scale, who are on social welfare, by and large. They will be
made to suffer as they try to move away from a reliance on jobseeker’s payments. They will
have to pay for the decisions of those who have ruined this economy and the lives of so
many people.
   It is impossible to come up with one good word for this despicable Bill. It is interesting that
it was published on 28 May 2010 and will be guillotined today, 17 June 2010. It appears to have
taken approximately three weeks to ram through a Bill of this nature, at a time when we have
                                                       644
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


been trying to get the Government to establish a commission of inquiry into the notorious and
nefarious decisions that brought about the collapse of the Irish economy.
  Critical decisions were made in September 2008, almost two years ago, but the commission
of inquiry has not yet been set up or its terms of reference decided. Nor has legislation been
introduced to name and shame, punish or sanction the people responsible. It is sauce for the
goose but not sauce for the gander. There is one approach for those at one end of the scale
and another for those at the other end.
   In the meantime, what has happened? The economy has been ruined and tens of thousands
of householders are in negative equity, with homes they bought during the construction bubble
that was created by the financial institutions. To make it worse, in the last two years 200,000
people have become unemployed. Last year 40,000 emigrated; this year the ESRI estimates
that 60,000 will emigrate. That is worse, in such a short space of time, than anything we have
experienced before. Now a provision has been introduced under which people must accept
reasonable offers of jobs — jobs that are not available. Placements and college places are also
not available. In April 2009, the Government promised to create 2,000 work placements. How
many has it delivered so far? A total of 919 — less than half the number promised. There are
people begging for work placements. Similarly, in 2009, 2,500 extra college places were prom-
ised for young job seekers; a total of 1,752 were created, which is nowhere near what was
promised — in fact, almost 1,000 less.
   We know there are no jobs. The number of jobless people is increasing, or people are emi-
grating. Yet this Bill states that people must take up a reasonable offer of a job. What is the
definition of a reasonable offer, especially if there are no jobs in the first place? Why produce
legislation in a vacuum? Why not stimulate the economy in certain areas to facilitate people
with certain skills who are unemployed? These people could get back to work quickly. Let us
create these jobs, placements and college and back-to-education positions, and let us fit people
into them, rather than adopting an inflexible approach of applying sanctions with no consider-
ation for the reality of the situation.
  Deputy O’Connor put it well when he asked why we should impose sanctions on people who
refuse job offers when there are no jobs out there. This legislation, in sections 17, 18, 23 and
24, targets people in a cold fashion. For example, let us consider sections 17 and 18, which deal
with the jobseeker’s allowance. In last year’s budget, this allowance was halved for young
people between the ages of 18 and 21. Now a quarter of the allowance has been removed again,
so that it has been brought down to €100 and then to €75 from the 2004 level — a drastic
reduction. It is difficult to see active young people surviving on that. They need money for
clothes and activities; even when looking for jobs they will need money for bus fares and so
on. It is not realistic.
   The further reduction for those aged 22 to 24 is €35, while for those over 24 it is €46. Thus,
the entire category of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 has been targeted. The idea
is to push them out to find work that is not there. If they do not find the work that is not there,
we get rid of them — get them out of the country. Around 100,000 people have left the country
in the space of two years. They are brightest and best. We are exporting them again as we did
in the 1950s, the 1970s and the 1980s, but this time it is more concentrated, and legislation has
been introduced to force them out. We are shunning the young people of our country in a
crude fashion. We are telling them they are not wanted; that they are a burden on the State.
We are telling them to get our or starve. That is the message that is coming from this legislation.
   We are justifying this based on a refusal to accept a reasonable offer of employment,
although reasonable offers of employment are not forthcoming. There is nothing in this or any
other legislation that works pragmatically towards job creation or stimulation, or the provision
                                                       645
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Joe Costello.]
of opportunities or placements for education and training. Community employment schemes
have been cut even though increasing numbers of people are seeking them. Lone parents can
no longer get onto CE schemes even though they should account for 10% of such schemes.
That is not the case any longer.
  We have seen cutbacks in so many areas, including funding for librarians in disadvantaged
areas — although, thankfully, the Department of Finance has reversed this decision. A small
number of disadvantaged schools were benefiting from the new library project, but the infor-
mation was that great progress was being made by youngsters, particularly in literacy and
numeracy but also in terms of educational confidence. The project has been operating success-
fully in a number of schools in my own constituency. I am pleased that in the last couple of
days the Department of Finance has agreed to make the required funding, which had been cut
entirely from August of this year, available in the coming year.
   Like Deputy O’Connor I will mention my own constituency, Dublin Central, where there
are quite large numbers of unemployed people and lone parents. Youngsters are coming out
of school seeking employment or training, but they cannot find it. For example, one of the
things I did myself was to set up, last year, a soccer club in Liberty House for 20 to 30 young
men aged 18 to 25 who have nothing to do and want to do something useful. The club won the
league and got to the cup final, so it did extremely well. Such a project keeps young people off
the streets when there is nothing else to do in an area. Dublin is the European capital of sport
this year, and funding was put into sport to give people — especially young people, who are
full of energy and action — alternative activities. Particularly in disadvantaged areas, this
prevents them from hanging around with nothing to do all day every day. All the Government
is offering them is a reduction in their jobseeker’s allowance for not taking up employment
which is not available to them in the first place. It is a disaster.
   I received documentation from the Daughters of Charity at St. Vincent’s on the Navan Road,
which provides services for people with intellectual disabilities. They have just been informed,
in the middle of 2010, that €4 million is being cut from their funding by the HSE.
   At the beginning of the year the organisation expected to have €4 million more than it has.
It must channel into a six-month period the cuts that were announced suddenly. The cutbacks
will be sharper because they were not told at the beginning of the year that this would happen.
Some 56 posts must be cut by the end of the year. There is also the threat of an additional
sanction of 5% if they do not comply. Care for senior citizens and respite care for the intellectu-
ally disabled will be curtailed, family support hours will be significantly reduced, collect after
school clubs will be significantly reduced, summer camps will not be supported, there will be
no transport for children with intellectual disabilities, a skills development programme will
have to close for weeks and staff have been told they must take a week off at their own expense
or be deployed elsewhere. This is very heavy, coming in the middle of the year.
   These cutbacks are taking place all the time. This type of legislation is targeting young people
and lone parents and is making a wonderful statement through the publication of fraud in the
social welfare system. Names, addresses and the amounts of fines will be published. Would it
not be great if we had this across the board so that it applied to all companies and all people
exploiting the system? For example, the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, is
constantly finding companies, businesses and personnel exploiting people in the workplace.
Would it not be great if we had the same commitment in the legislation to a monthly publication
of the names, addresses and the amounts of fines for those people? That is not done but we
will have that in respect of social welfare as if this was the one major crime. The amount of
social welfare fraud committed is much less, on a relative scale, than the fraud committed by
larger operators in terms of employees, businesses, hotels and so on. Let us have this measure
                                                       646
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


implemented across the board. I am entirely in favour of naming and shaming those exploiting
the system through fraud but let us not just target those who are less well off. Let us target the
heavyweights in the economy, the so-called pillars of society and ensure they are named and
shamed. This should be done on a regular basis. NERA identifies people in its annual report
each year and is in a position to do so because it has been put on a statutory footing. NERA
should produce a monthly publication so we can see in the newspapers a list of the great and
the good of Irish society and how they behave.
   I refer to the most unkind cut of all, in the one parent family payment, which will now end
when the youngest child is aged 13 years. Where did that cut-off point come from? The 13th
year is the first year as a teenager, the bridge between primary school and second level. Chil-
dren are particularly vulnerable at this point and need all the support they can get, as do
parents. Why is this inexplicable instrument used at this time? What will it do and what will it
affect? It will not create employment for the parent. What will it do for the child? Will it force
a child out of school? It beggars belief that proposals of this nature can be made. It is anti-
child, anti-mother and anti-family.
   The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has some experience of the constitutional protection of the
family. There is a strong case to be made about the constitutionality of this measure. It targets
the children of lone parents, as though there is some stigma. They are being hit at an early
stage. At present, the lone parent’s allowance continues until 18 years of age if the child is in
education and continues until 22 years of age if the child is in third level education. Reducing
the age from 22 to 13 is a considerable cut, nine years. The chance of that child going to third
level education is now nil. There is no chance if the lone parent’s allowance will not be made
from the age of 13 years. This is negative legislation and is not what we need at this moment.
It would be best if this legislation was withdrawn and the Minister went back to the drawing
board.

  Deputy Michael Kennedy: Táim buíoch duit as deis labhairt ar an mBille seo. I welcome the
opportunity to speak on this Bill. I have listened intently to Deputy Costello. As a Fianna Fáil
backbencher, I am very proud of the record of the Fianna Fáil Governments over the past 12
years on the issue of welfare benefits. The current budget is almost €21 billion. When we
consider inflation was of the order of 40% over those 12 years, the State old-age pension benefit
increased by 120%, unemployment benefit increased by 130% and child benefit increased by
330%. That is a phenomenal record and rather than being critical of Fianna Fáil-led govern-
ments, Deputy Costello should recognise that Ireland is way ahead of its European
counterparts.

 Deputy Joe Costello: How would Deputy Michael Kennedy like to live on €75 a week? I
would like to see him living on that amount.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Costello should allow Deputy Kennedy to make his
contribution.

   Deputy Michael Kennedy: For example, the state pension in the UK is £95 and our benefit
is €230. There is a substantial difference, which was highlighted in the recent British general
election. In the first leaders’ debate, a question was asked from the audience whether any
candidate would consider increasing the benefit. Effectively, the answer was that they would
not because they believed it was reasonable and that the country could not afford an increase.
Criticising the Irish Government and a Fianna Fáil-led Government for having the highest level
of State benefit in Europe is farcical.
                                                       647
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Michael Kennedy.]

   My view on State benefit is that no Government should consider reducing it. Our senior
citizens built up our country and paid taxes. They brought Ireland where it is and the Minister
should not countenance a reduction, notwithstanding the severe budgetary deficit that leaves
us borrowing another €20 billion this year to bridge our finances.
  Regarding child benefit, and considering the resources available, we must consider whether
people earning high incomes should receive the same level of benefit as those without a job. I
make this point to broaden the debate.
  From meetings at clinics in my consittuency two issues of concern arise, namely, fraud and
the issue of child benefit to single parents. The discussion we are having now is worthwhile
and it is correct for us to have an informed debate and get the facts. In regard to fraud in the
welfare system, last year more than €100 million was saved through the actions of the staff and
officials of the Department, which is very welcome. It is what taxpayers and the public at large
expect us to do. I congratulate the Department and exhort the staff to continue that work. In
any aspect of our society fraud should not be permitted and I want to see scarce resources
going where they should go.
   In recent months I have been told of a number of instances of people flying in from Europe
as daytrippers to collect their payments. The suggestion is that these people are not entitled to
the money. If they are then they are entitled to collect it but if not they should be stopped. It
was suggested to me that in the same way that Revenue and other sections are at the airport
checking out people coming into the country, the Department of Social Protection should put
officials with laptops there who would be allowed to question people coming off aeroplanes in
order to establish whether they are coming here on holidays or for what people regard as a
rip-off situation. I make that suggestion to the Minister and his officials so that it might be
investigated as we endeavour to cut down on fraudulent payments. I believe it is worth a try
and hope the Minister will consider it.
   Along with my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party I have had a number of
discussions with the Minister and am particularly interested in trying to utilise the skills of self-
employed people who, unfortunately, are on dole queues at the moment. They get no automatic
right to benefit at present and, having talked to a number of these people, I am of the opinion
they would be willing to contribute to the system and pay a bit more on the basis that they
would be allowed claim benefit if they got into the unfortunate situation of being out of work.
As other speakers have noted, there are a number of activities in all our constituencies around
the country at present where work is not being done. These highly skilled self-employed people,
whether carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, bricklayers or whatever they may be, could do invalu-
able work. I believe they would be ready, willing and able, as the cliché has it, to carry out that
work if the system permitted. I would like the Minister to investigate ways whereby some of
these people might do 19 and a half hours’ work, or perhaps longer hours, carrying out works
for the benefit of their community.
   This would have a dual effect. First, well-needed works could be carried out in localities at
no cost to the State in return for the welfare payments. Equally, it would give some self respect
to those unfortunate people who have no work at present and who feel bad about having to
stay at home with nothing to do. I say to the Minister and his officials this is an issue we should
fast-track and whatever laws, rules or regulations need to be changed we should get over them
because of the dual benefit, both to the people who are claiming benefit at present and the
communities where work is badly needed. I could speak for the next hour about works all
around my constituency which need to be done and which I would like to see done.
                                                       648
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


   Deputy Costello castigated the Government on this Bill but, again, he has not compared the
Irish situation with our European counterparts. When one examines what is happening
throughout Europe, and across the water in the United Kingdom, one sees that the proposals
planned by the Government are more than reasonable. In the UK, to which we are often
compared in many respects, from September the benefit for a lone parent will cease when the
child reaches the age of seven. This came about under a socialist Government and I have not
heard that the new Tory-Liberal Democrat Government plans to change it. There is realism,
and keeping people at home, unemployed and drawing benefit, is not the way forward. What
the Government is planning is reasonable and pragmatic.
   Equally, if one compares Ireland with European countries, Norway, Sweden and Germany
cease benefit when the child reaches the age of three. Our proposal is for the age of 13 and I
have an open mind about whether the age should be 15. However, when one looks at the UK
situation which will reduce the age in question to half what we propose, and at Norway, Sweden
and Germany which have the age at a quarter of what we propose, it is not unreasonable that
we should consider this measure.
   I say this for two reasons. First, we need to prioritise upskilling, training and education for
single parents. This is the best way forward in meeting both the needs of these people and
those of society. I have met many single mothers and have a great deal of sympathy for those
who find themselves in a situation with a child, no job and without family back-up whereby if
they could get a job they might take it up. There is no financial incentive for people to take
up a job if, as at present, they are able to claim benefit. That financial bottom line makes one
much better off. We must consider the needs of society and of the person. Asking any young
mother to get more education and upskill herself in a particular trade or business is for her
own benefit and also for the benefit of society in general. It uses resources to better effect.
  In the overall welfare situation, carers, pensioners and disabled people need maximum
Government support and we must target our resources more effectively. In this regard I wish
to reiterate the great record Fianna Fáil has had with regard to benefits. If we compare the
State benefit of €230 versus that in the UK, it shows we are way ahead of Britain and Europe.
Last year, the Government reduced the jobseeker’s benefit to €150 where those persons would
not take up job offers, or would not undergo training and up-skilling. I welcome that move
because people need a financial incentive to make a choice. Do they stay at home and draw
the dole or do they further their education, engage in training and up-skilling to be in a position
to obtain a job?
  I welcome the move to bring FÁS and all its training programmes under this new Department
of Social Protection. Every aspect of welfare, be it payments, training, up-skilling and so on,
should be under one umbrella and the Government has made the right decision in bringing the
responsibilities under two previous Departments into the Department of Social Protection.
Challenging ourselves to cut down long-term unemployment must be the aim. It is not good
for the individual to have nothing to look forward to when he or she gets up every morning.
  We need to make the right decisions to deal with the long-term unemployed. Incentivising
people to up-skill, to educate themselves and to retrain is necessary because if we are not given
an incentive to do something, we will take the easy option. This Bill is going a long way
towards that. The financial penalty is the best way incentivising a person. The reduction in the
jobseeker’s allowance from €196 to €150 is one way of giving the person a choice to go out
and get retrained or to sit at home and draw the cheque.
  Statistics on poverty show that children from single parent homes are four times more likely
to remain in poverty when they reach maturity. They are likely to fall into the same traps as
their predecessors. That must be a concern of any Government for the future. The new rules
                                                       649
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Michael Kennedy.]
in respect of 13 year old children will come about in 2024. Thirteen years is a reasonable
timeframe for a single parent to re-educate, up-skill and retrain. If the single parent has gained
a qualification in education at the end of the 13 years, then that is good for the parent and
for society. A six year lead in for existing customers is a reasonable timeframe to up-skill
and retrain.
  I welcome the Minister’s plans on the new community child care subvention. In any situation
involving lone parents, child care is a very important facet. Anything that has labour activation
focus has to be correct and I welcome that. Part of the Bill deals with the after school services
and the home care clubs. People need that back-up service and it is a particularly important
aspect of the Bill.
   The Home-Start service is currently available in Clondalkin, Lucan and Blanchardstown, and
it has recently been introduced to Swords, where one manager and a core number of volunteers
help people in need, including single parents. They work on a minimum budget and they
provide excellent value for money to the State. The salaried manager and the volunteers do
fantastic work and the Minister should consider extending the services of these groups, fund
the facility in Swords, and we will get value out of it.

  Deputy Martin Ferris: This Government’s claim to be introducing measures to discourage
people from defrauding the taxpayer might carry more weight were it not for its actions in
other areas. Only yesterday, the new management at Anglo Irish Bank admitted that we are
unlikely ever to see a return on much of the money that has been pumped into repairing the
criminal negligence of those who were there before the State had to intervene. It is ironic that
this Government seems to have no problem nationalising banks and having the State pay for
the mistakes of incompetent members of the so-called elite but is embarked on a moral crusade
against public service workers and those on social welfare, including many who have directly
lost their jobs as a consequence of that incompetence.
   The lesson clearly is that if one was lucky enough to be a member of the so-called golden
circle of criminally incompetent financial and property speculators, then one can expect have
one’s tab picked up by the taxpayers, but those who directly lost their jobs as a result of the
manner in which those people destroyed the economy then will have to do with even less than
that to which they are currently entitled in social welfare.
  The former leader of Fianna Fáil was wont every now and again to describe himself as a
socialist. The former Deputy Joe Higgins was quite amusing about that, but perhaps he misun-
derstood what Deputy Bertie Ahern was referring to. There are many different types of social-
ism and clearly what we have here is a socialism of the failed millionaire class.
  I am not arguing that there is no such thing as social welfare fraud, nor that people who are
guilty of defrauding the system ought not to be brought to book. People who defraud the
system are committing an offence and directly impacting on those who are genuinely entitled
to support. We have seen many people imprisoned in the past for small amounts of social
welfare fraud, but we have not yet seen the bankers, developers or the golden circle of the
political elite brought to book for their crimes against the Irish people.
   The Bill makes cuts to the lone parent payment scheme. It seems the Government now wants
to punish families who have growing teenagers. The Minister has claimed that the changes are
aimed at addressing the high number of lone parent households in poverty. I would welcome
steps to address this level of poverty, but sadly this Bill is not an anti-poverty measure. It is
the opposite. It is an unscrupulous, penny pinching measure, primarily directed against the less
well off in our society.
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  This Bill is not about moving people off welfare and into paid employment because the job,
education and training opportunities simply do not and will not exist on the basis of current
Government policy. It is about moving lone parents from one welfare payment and onto
another less flexible, less supportive and unsuitable payment. This will also have severe and
counterproductive consequences for lone parent claimants in low paid part-time employment.
There is no denial that the lone parent payment scheme is in major need of reform. The
Government’s own 2006 report, Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents, contained a range of
recommendations including a recommendation that the age of qualifying children be lowered.
However, that report clearly stated that any such move must be accompanied by ensuring that
child care supports are available. Even the Minister has admitted that the availability of after
school and summer supervision support is patchy at best. The 2006 report also stated that
the selection of a particular cut-off age is a matter for decision by Government following a
consultation process.
  Where was the consultation process? Why pick 13 years as the cut off age? Research conduc-
ted by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice into the cost of a minimum essential stan-
dard of living clearly demonstrates that households with adolescents spend more on food, social
inclusion and education than households with younger children. What then is the logic behind
this? Does the Government expect all single parents to rush into marriage before their children
reach the age of 13? Perhaps it envisages a situation where all 13 year olds will, in a few years
time, be able to get full-time jobs working for its gombeen friends overcharging people for
coffee and breakfast rolls, if and when the economy ever recovers.
   The Minister might think he will make savings with these penny pinching, but he should not
kid himself; over the longer term if parents are forced to cut spending on these essentials, he
is storing up far more costly problems for society in the future. However, that thinking seems
to be completely absent on the Government side, where the whole focus appears to be on how
to take more from those who have the least. That is what underlies the proposals to cut social
welfare, and also what lies behind the earlier signalled intent of the Government to allow
employers to opt out of agreed minimum wage rates.
   There seems to be no understanding that by driving people, including more people who are
working, further into poverty overall society is damaged, and all for the purpose of ensuring
that a small number of people at the top will continue to make money. It is not just a short-
sighted policy, it is an anti-social one, and one that I suggest would not have gone down well
with previous Fianna Fáil Cabinets which were attacked not for cutting social welfare payments
and programmes but for increasing them. They were attacked by the very same sort of people
whose interests Fianna Fáil now seems to have as its priority. These were the people who in
the 1930s claimed that they could not afford to take their money out of London’s Stock
Exchange and banks and invest it here because the tenement dwellers of Ireland would have
no incentive to work for buttons if they were given outrageous luxuries like proper housing,
schools and hospitals. We now hear the very same arguments from people who are of the
opinion that the only way to get the economy working again is to force people to work for a
few hundred euro a week and as part of that to reduce social welfare far below what it is now.
  In theory this may make sense but it overlooks a few important facts. Do these people realise
that low income earners, social welfare recipients and single parent payment recipients spend
every cent in the local economy, and by doing so they create employment? Much of the growth
during the Celtic tiger was in highly skilled and well paid employment and a large proportion
of that came from overseas investment in technology and other sectors. The economy did not
grow on the basis of employing demoralised brow beaten poorly educated people on low wages,
as IBEC and ISME and their cheerleaders in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would have us believe.
                                                       651
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Martin Ferris.]

   The greatest contribution of some of our native entrepreneurs was to piggyback on the
genuine growth in the economy by charging us exorbitant amounts for everything from mort-
gages to rents to pints of lager and paninis, while being careful at the same time to ensure they
paid as little as possible in tax or wages. These are the patriots whose bacon the so-called
republican party proposes to save by imposing a massive drop in living standards on the decent
people of this country, whose only crime was to work when there was work only to suffer the
indignity of unemployment when the work was gone. Unlike many of our great elite, they
could not avoid the obligations of citizens by departing into tax exile. Perhaps more of them
ought to have followed the elite’s example and engaged in the anti-national and criminal activi-
ties that have brought this country to its knees. It seems this is what earns one the respect and
help of the Government.
  I call on people to oppose the measures proposed in this Bill. Not only will they not contrib-
ute anything towards the objectives claimed by the Minister, but they will make things much
worse by contributing to a further undermining of the social fabric. The measures also contrast
to the manner in which the Government has mollycoddled those responsible for the scale of
the current mess in which we find ourselves.

  Deputy Peter Kelly: I wish to share time with Deputy Niall Blaney. I am pleased to speak
today on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. Yesterday, I listened with
interest to my friend and colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív,
outline the main provisions of this important Bill. I am very aware of the work of his Depart-
ment as it impacts on almost every person in the State on a daily basis. It is a proactive
Department, the workings of which I am very familiar with through my constituency office.
The Department administers 50 different schemes and services with more than 1.5 million
people benefiting from weekly payments and more than 580,000 families receiving child benefit
in respect of 1.1 million children each month. Fianna Fáil is proud of its record of supporting
those most in need in our society. As the Minister said yesterday in his address, over the past
12 years, we have increased pension rates by approximately 120%, unemployment benefits by
almost 130% and child benefit payments by more than 330%. The cost of living has increased
by approximately 40% over the same period.
   There are a number of elements in the Bill which I would like to touch on briefly. One of
the changes which I believe will be tabled as a Committee Stage amendment is a very practical
transfer of work schemes across to the Department of Social Protection, so that the Minister
can have a focus on job activation. The Minister will also introduce an amendment to provide
him with the necessary statutory powers on the employment services and community services
programme of FÁS. I welcome this joined-up approach to looking at job activation in its wider
context with income support. There are real and particular provision needs in communities
that we could address through these schemes. One of the great challenges faced at present, not
just in my area of Longford Westmeath but throughout the country, is where families have
gone from having two incomes to one, or worse, from one income to none. It is important that
we have work opportunities for people caught in this situation.
   What struck me in particular about the discussion on the one-parent family payment is the
fact that statistics show that many lone parents are in poverty. This is despite significant State
spending by successive Fianna Fáil Ministers on one-parent families as well as improvements
made to the one-parent family payment over the years. The latest EU-SILC figures show that
in 2008, 17.8% of lone parents experienced consistent poverty compared to 3% of two-parent
households and to 4.2% of the population as a whole. The cost of the one-parent family pay-
ment scheme in 2009 was €1.12 billion. When other supports are taken into account, including
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


child benefit and, where appropriate, rent supplement and family income supplement, total
expenditure in this area exceeded €2 billion that year.
  If, after all that investment, lone parents are still in a cycle of poverty then we have to change
our way of assisting them and improving their quality of life.
   In general, the best route out of poverty is through paid employment. It is recognised that
               work, and especially full-time work, may not be an option for parents of young
1 o’clock      children. However, it is believed that supporting parents to participate in the
               labour market once their children have reached an appropriate age will improve
their economic situation and their social well-being and that of their families. The current
arrangements, whereby a lone parent can receive the one parent family payment until their
child is 18 years of age or 22 years of age if he or she is in full-time education without any
requirement for them to engage in employment, education or training, are not in the best
interests of the parent, their children or society.
  Under the new proposals, the one parent family payment will be paid until the youngest
child in the family reaches 13 years of age. It was initially proposed in the Government dis-
cussion paper on proposals for supporting lone parents in 2006 that a parental allowance would
continue until the youngest child reached 7 years of age. For existing recipients, payment will
be phased out over a six year period. I welcome this phasing out period. It is important to say
that this is a phased change and recipients should not have anxiety about this change.
  When the youngest child reaches 13 years of age if the parent is still in need of support he
or she will be entitled to claim jobseekers allowance, or if in low-paid employment of 19 hours
or more per week, family income supplement. I welcome also that notification to existing
recipients will be put in place advising them of changes to the scheme and a reminder will issue
to relevant recipients when their youngest child reaches the age of 10 encouraging them to
avail of educational, training and back to employment opportunities.
   I am very conscious that many lone parents will need access to education, good quality
relevant training and child care to acquire the skills they will need to gain employment. There
are a wide range of education and training opportunities available through the Department of
Social Protection, the Department of Education and Skills and FÁS for lone parents to
strengthen their qualifications and skills base and thus maximise their chances of meeting the
requirements of our modern labour market. Currently, all lone parents who use FÁS employ-
ment services are provided with a one-to-one guidance interview with an employment services
officer. As part of this process, lone parents are advised on current job vacancies, suitable
training or employment programme places and may be referred to other FÁS supports.
  A new support approach, the social inclusion model, to help people to overcome barriers
and to increase their opportunities to access training, employment programmes and, ultimately
the labour market, is currently being tested by FÁS with lone parents. This model involves a
number of agencies including lone parent organisations and includes outreach information and
recruitment and a “paving your way to work” programme concerned with the provision of
information supports regarding welfare to work, budgeting, education and work options. The
programme is aimed at individuals who are parenting alone. It is eight weeks in duration, is
delivered from 9.30 a.m to 1 p.m. and mirrors calendared school holidays.
  I am aware that good progress has been made on the provision of child care. The Govern-
ment invested €1 billion over the past decade in developing a child care infrastructure under
the national child care investment programme 2006-10 and, prior to that, the European Union
co-funded the Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-06. As a result of these prog-
rammes, some 65,000 child care places will be available this year. This investment has made
                                                       653
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Peter Kelly.]
it possible to introduce the free early childhood care and education, ECCE, year for pre-
school children.
  In addition, the community child care subvention scheme, CCSS, funds community child care
facilities to enable them to charge reduced child care fees to disadvantaged and low-income
families. Almost 1,000 community services are now in the CCSS, the number of full-time equiv-
alent children attending is almost 30,000 and the number of parents using the services is
nearly 18,000.

  Deputy Niall Blaney: I wish to add my voice to the debate on the Social Welfare
(Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010. There is no doubt that we are experiencing changed times
which naturally triggers a need for changes to our social welfare payments. The economic
downturn has left people in situations that they never dreamed possible. Ireland experienced
unprecedented levels of employment in recent years, which left us in a situation whereby those
on social welfare benefits were truly those that were in need, such as carers, pensioners, people
with disabilities and so on.
  During those times this Government dramatically increased levels of social welfare payments,
a point which was outlined by the Minister and many of my colleagues. Over the past 12 years
we have increased unemployment benefits by almost 130%, child benefit by more than 330%
and pension rates by approximately 120%. In contrast, the cost of living has increased by about
40% in the same period. The generosity of our welfare system was demonstrated in recent
times when many people from Northern Ireland unlawfully claimed welfare in Border counties
such as Donegal. I very much welcome the measures introduced by the Minister to clamp down
on such activity. It highlighted the enormous variation in welfare payments between here and
the United Kingdom.
   Many people are now experiencing difficult times for the first time, especially our younger
generations. Others are experiencing difficult times for the first time in quite some time. Cur-
rently we have a situation whereby many people in receipt of social welfare payments truly
want to get back into the workforce or education and training. We have new graduates fresh
out of college who cannot obtain work, even though they are eager to put their knowledge to
use. There are solicitors, teachers, accountants, architects and many more professional people
finding themselves in need of support.
  This leaves us in a situation where we not only have to consider those that are unable to
participate in employment or education but also those that are willing to do so and fail to
secure employment, education and training. We had a situation recently in Letterkenny where
a local cafe advertised a job for a dishwasher and received more than 400 applications. That
demonstrates the willingness of our people to work and we must assist them effectively.
  We are living in difficult times but, given the current signs I am confident of an upturn.
Things are progressing. Meanwhile, we must assist those in receipt of social welfare payments
to prepare to take advantage of employment opportunities when they arise. Some €20.9 million
will be spent by this Government in 2010 on social welfare provision, an increase of €500
million over 2009. While we are under pressure in budgetary terms, we are also conscious of
the massive increase in numbers of those in need of help at this time. This Bill is a commend-
able endeavour to address the requirements of the most needy.
  We are also extremely conscious of discouraging long term dependence upon social welfare.
This can be a scourge in any country and I commend the Minister’s measures to curb it in this
Bill. We are not in the business of making any individual or family suffer hardship or poverty,
rather, we are ensuring that our social welfare system takes care of those in need while encour-
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


aging people to improve their skill set with a view to securing employment at all times. This is
where the focus must and should lie.
  In terms of jobseekers allowance, reductions were announced in last December’s budget for
younger members of society. External factors were considered before introducing this measure,
such as the comparisons drawn between the rates available here and in other jurisdictions such
as Northern Ireland.
  This issue is very close to my own constituency in Donegal.
   Becoming unemployed can have a negative impact on young people’s general outlook on
life and it is vital that they are encouraged to stay in the labour market. Idleness among young
people is hazardous and for this reason it is credible to increase the financial incentive for
participating in education and training. Young people have an enormous ability to learn new
skills. This must be encouraged because the labour market demands flexibility and one can
never learn enough. Evidence that the reduced rates of social welfare have incentivised young
people to participate in education and training vindicates the measures introduced.
   The social welfare payments of people in receipt of jobseekers’ payments who refuse to
participate in activation measures such as education and training will be subject to various
financial penalties, with the exception of those who have a plausible reason for not participat-
ing. These measures will work in tandem with the integration of FÁS functions into the Depart-
ment of Social Protection and will actively discourage unnecessary long-term dependence upon
unemployment payments. Currently, a full disallowance may be imposed if a recipient is not
genuinely seeking work and the Bill strengthens that provision by imposing a full disallowance
where a recipient has refused an offer of suitable employment. Only primary payments are
affected and rates for child and adult dependants, where applicable, will remain unchanged if
a claimant is subject to a penalty rate. Furthermore, these reduced rates will only apply where
the primary social welfare payment relates to jobseeking activities.
   Significant changes to the one parent family payment are also provided for in this Bill.
Considerable thought was given to this issue and it is believed that the availability of the one
parent family payment until a child is 18, or 22 if in full-time education, without a requirement
on the recipient to engage in employment or education and training is not in the best interest
of anybody involved or, indeed, of society. The focus should be on encouraging people into
employment or education and training at every available opportunity. Unfortunately, the child
of a lone parent is four times more likely to be in consistent poverty than the overall population,
in spite of improvements to the one parent family supports available over the years. The current
payment also encourages long-term dependence on social welfare for many people who are
otherwise capable of participating in employment or education and training.
   With this in mind, it is sensible to encourage lone parents to participate in education or
training in the event that employment will be available. These new measures aim to improve
the economic situation and social well-being of the recipients and their families. This measure
has been criticised from across the floor but let us compare our one parent family payments
with what is available in other jurisdictions. The Minister is proposing that from 2011 all new
customers will receive the one parent family payment until their youngest children reach 13
years of age. Existing customers will enjoy a six year phasing out period to enable them to
access education and training with a view to securing employment. In the UK, lone parents are
required to seek work when their youngest children reach ten years of age and this limit will
be reduced to seven years later this year. Norway, Sweden, Germany and Italy impose a work
obligation when the youngest child is three years of age. It is generally believed internationally
that the provision of long-term lone parent payments prevents the reduction of child poverty.
The countries that are achieving the best outcomes in terms of reducing child poverty are those
                                                       655
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Niall Blaney.]
which combine strategies aimed at facilitating access to employment and enabling services with
income support. That is the direction we must take and it is vital that we do not regard this as
a measure to force lone parents out to work when their children are still young. This measure
will increase income, self-belief and financial independence for many families.
  If a lone parent is still in need of income support when his or her child reaches 13 years of
age, jobseeker’s allowance or other appropriate income supports payment may be made avail-
able or, if the individual is in employment, he or she may qualify for a family income sup-
plement. Child care provision may also be an issue for many lone parents.
   This Bill is thorough, fair and forward thinking. We are undergoing changing times and it is
vital that we adapt our social welfare provisions accordingly. I note the Minister’s intention to
table a number of amendments on Committee Stage. Among these is the sensible proposal to
transfer the rural social scheme and the community services programme to the Department.
This measure will provides the Minister with the necessary powers in respect of the employment
services and community services programme of FÁS and, subsequently, to transfer the related
funding in order to focus more effectively on labour activation measures. I commend the Bill
to the House.

 Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): I call Deputy Ring and welcome him to the
Chamber given the day that is in it.

  Deputy Michael Ring: I thank the Acting Chairman. Important business awaits me across
the road but I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I congratulate the Minister,
Deputy Ó Cuív, on his appointment. I have known the Minister for many years and, particularly
in his last role as Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, he introduced a number
of initiatives with the intention of improving the quality of life for people in rural Ireland,
encouraging people to return to the workplace and ensuring rural people have the same access
to services as their urban counterparts. I welcome the transfer of the rural social scheme to the
Department of Social Protection and I hope the Minister will bring his common sense with him
to his new role.
  I will address the good parts first and be critical later. The rural social scheme was one of
the best measures ever introduced because it gave people opportunities on two levels. People
who were unemployed for years or never had an opportunity to join the workforce were
enabled to participate while benefiting their communities. It did not undermine the work prog-
rammes of the OPW or local authorities and a great number of projects would never have been
completed but for the rural social scheme. Taxpayers are getting great value for the money
they invest in the scheme and, in light of the number of unemployed people in this country, I
encourage the Minister to seek further funding in order to expand it. Community employment
schemes have also been transferred to the Department.
  In these extraordinary and difficult times, I urge the Minister and his officials to explore
ways of allowing people to rejoin the workforce, whether through community employment, the
back-to-education scheme or the rural social scheme. Rules and regulations should not hold
people back. Several of my constituents will not qualify for the back-to-education scheme until
next October or December but they want to start college in September. They do not qualify
because they have not been unemployed for sufficient time but they are being debarred for
another year. I recognise it is not easy to change the rules halfway through the lifetime of a
scheme but we are in extraordinary times and discretion should be applied.
  I recently wrote to the Department regarding a girl who applied for two jobs, one of which
was on a community employment scheme. She had a Garda clearance certificate and all the
                                                       656
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


necessary qualifications but because of the notional value of the property she owned, she was
unable to qualify for a social welfare payment. She will qualify for social welfare shortly if her
circumstances do not change because she is unable to sell her property and the State will have
to support her. If she cannot get assistance from the Department of Social Protection, she will
have to seek the help of the community welfare officer. Would it not be preferable to investi-
gate ways of allowing this person, who is depending on her savings to survive, into a community
employment scheme rather than force her into a social welfare trap further down the road? If
she had qualified for the scheme, she may have done valuable work in the community over a
period of years. An employer will often offer employment to people who find themselves
in such circumstances. Will the Minister examine this matter because there is nothing worse
for families?
   I know the family in question well. Both parents work and the couple have children at
college. Their business collapsed as a result of the economic climate and they did not expect
that they would have to apply for social welfare. The Minister and Acting Chairman, Deputy
Charlie O’Connor, as practising politicians, will have experience of similar cases. A large
number of those who visit our clinics have never been in a politician’s office or social welfare
office and do not know their rights and to what benefits they are entitled. They never sought
benefits but now need to draw them down because they do not have a job and are under
tremendous pressure. I ask the Minister to facilitate such people.
   I raise the issue of those who believe community welfare officers have made the wrong
decision in their case. I ask the Minister and his officials to address the appeals mechanism. It
is wrong to deprive people of benefits and have them wait eight or nine months to have their
appeal heard. Will the Minister ensure measures are taken to speed up the appeals process? I
am pleased to note he appears to be indicating that such measures are included in the Bill. I
hope the necessary resources and manpower will be provided to address this issue. It is wrong
that incorrect judgments are made in cases where individuals believe they are entitled to a
social welfare payment.
   I am impressed by the number of decisions the social welfare appeals office has overturned
in recent years. I compliment it on adopting an independent view, taking on board all the facts
and making the correct decisions in most cases. I hope the Minister will provide the resources
needed to ensure delays in the appeals mechanism are addressed.
  I have discussed the proposal on the rural social scheme and wish to discuss work training.
While I want work training to be effective, there is a small group of individuals who, for one
reason or another, are not employable. I ask the Minister to send out a message to community
welfare officers that this group must not be targeted on the ground that they are unable to
take up training. These are lovely, decent people of simple nature, many of whom come to my
office, who are unable to work. That is the way life is for them.
   While I have been critical of the manner in which the Department treats some people, it was
a highly efficient operation until recently. I believe matters will improve again now that the
industrial relations dispute has been called off. I am aware that departmental staff are under
tremendous pressure, work hard and take a compassionate and reasonable approach. I compli-
ment them because they treat most people properly. I hope that will continue in this black
economic period. For this reason, community welfare officers must treat the small group of
people who are not employable in a proper manner. They must not remove €35 or €40 from
their social welfare benefits on a pretext. We do not want more appeals or visits to our clinics.
  The Minister has made a radical proposal on lone parents, about which I am concerned
because I do not want single parents to be targeted. There is a widespread and incorrect view
that lone parents do not work. Recipients of lone parent benefit are permitted to work a certain
                                                       657
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Michael Ring.]
number of hours every week and many of them do. They pay taxes and make a valuable
contribution to society and the tax base. I hope the message goes out loud and clear that it
does not pay to be on lone parent benefit but it pays to work.
  We often forget that some one parent households are headed by men who are looking after
their children. Lone parents, particularly women, try to be at home when their children leave
for school in the mornings and return from school in the evenings. They make a major contri-
bution and try hard.
  Something must be done about rent allowance because the current position is untenable. I
have heard it said that rents are falling but that is not always the case. Landlords must live in
the real world. If they continue to insist that they will not reduce the rents they charge, we
must act to ensure they do and, failing that, we must enable tenants to find cheaper accom-
modation. In doing so, we must assist tenants rather than pressuring them.
   The Minister must examine the rent allowance scheme on which we spend €600 million every
year and about which I have been critical in recent years. In 75% of cases the allowance is
drawn down on a fair basis. However, a percentage of recipients should not receive it. The
time has come, therefore, to examine the spiralling cost of the scheme because we cannot
afford to spend €600 million on it every year. This money should be spent on the health service,
housing and education rather than on paying landlords, some of whom are charging exorbitant
rents. I look forward to having this matter addressed on Committee Stage. As I am not my
party’s spokesperson, it may be one of my colleagues who takes Committee Stage.
  The Department has not done a bad job on fraud in recent years. More and more people
are becoming angry about people working while drawing social welfare payments. They are no
longer afraid to complain to the Department which has dealt well with such complaints in
recent years. Those who defraud the Department must be dealt with, particularly given the
times in which we live and the scarce resources available. The resources necessary must be
provided to those dealing with fraud because it takes money from all our pockets.
   We have a lost generation of young people who have been out of work for the past two or
three years. Some of them are in their 20s and if the current position continues, they will find
themselves unemployable. The National Youth Council of Ireland has called on the Minister
to be sympathetic to the plight of young jobless people. The individuals affected are unem-
ployed through no fault of their own and need help and support. We must ensure young people
do not feel deprived and depressed because we know what follows. We must encourage, assist
and support them and make them feel wanted. For this reason, I ask the Minister to produce
proposals to help young people find job placements and give them some hope and confidence.
It is in all our interests to keep young people in the country and offer them hope. We cannot
allow them to believe there is no hope. The Department must do everything in its power to
give young people opportunities through retraining.
   One cannot expect couples in cases where one or both partners has lost employment to keep
two or three young adults in pocket money. Such couples are under extreme pressure as they
try to pay mortgages and bills. We do not want people to be compromised and doing things
they do not want to do, in other words, breaking the law. I am talking about breaking the law
or getting involved in things. We have had that in the past with people joining organisations
when there was nothing else to do. We do not want to go back to the old days.
  I have a concern over rent allowance that is not easy to address. The biggest single complaint
the Minister, the Cathaoirleach and I get is about anti-social behaviour in rented accom-
modation. Some penalty needs to be put in place. We need to deal with people who are getting
rent allowance and are disturbing their next door neighbours who have bought their houses
                                                       658
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


and are paying their mortgages. There are certain powers which are not being used by the
State, the Garda or the local authorities. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune. If we are
paying rent allowance to these people, there needs to be some accountability on community
welfare officers. They cannot be allowed to hand out rent allowance to criminals and allow
them to have parties and to make life a misery for other people. Somebody needs to support
and help them. Given the amount of rented accommodation we have, people are frustrated
and feel they have no support or backup and that there is nobody there for them. I feel a bit
that way, myself, at the moment.

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): The Deputy is doing well.

  Deputy Michael Ring: How much time do I have left?

 Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): If he wishes, the Deputy has four more
minutes.

  Deputy Michael Ring: I will continue for four minutes and if other speakers come in, they
can contribute, otherwise the Minister may want to conclude the Bill.

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): The Deputy will not want to miss the decision.

  Deputy Michael Ring: It will be a while yet before the decision so I will be all right for that.
  I hope the Minister will be compassionate. These are difficult times for people. I do not want
to see the weak and poor further disadvantaged. The social welfare budget is approximately
€20 billion. We have given €22 billion to the banks. While I accept there needed to be a cut in
every Department, it is the Minister’s duty and mine to ensure we protect the weak, the sick
and others who are in need at this time. We need to give them the resources to ensure they
have some quality of life and are able at least to fend for themselves and their families.
  It is very difficult for single people. They are not working and are around all day. There is
a cost factor to that in itself. I hope the Minister will come up with new schemes to retrain
people and to keep as many of them as possible on these schemes.
  I cannot say anything more. I look forward to Committee Stage.

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): I wish the Deputy well for the afternoon.

  Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): I thank all the Deputies who have
made significant contributions and in the main have been very constructive in their contri-
butions. Since Deputy Ring is here and he could be in other places, I would like to address
some of the very valid issues he has raised. I have spent a lifetime trying to create employment
and a better life for ordinary people in an area the Deputy knows very well because it borders
his constituency. I have become convinced that people have a need to work. Work is not just
about earning money, but is something to which people aspire. The need to work seems to be
inbuilt in us. The greatest challenge we face is the creation of job opportunities for our people.
  In my experience the majority of people who are unemployed at present are more than
willing and able to go to work and they want to work. If it is offered they will take it. As the
Deputy mentioned, I was involved in the rural social scheme. Responsibility for the rural social
scheme with 2,600 people, the community services scheme with 2,700 people, the community
employment scheme with 25,000 people and the jobs initiative with something less than 2,000
on it is transferring into the Department of Social Protection. We are basically counterpointing
the €4.2 billion, which we pay to people on condition that they are available for work but are
not working, against the money we spend on activation. There is no point in talking about
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.]
doing that if we do not consider the third issue we need to address, an issue the Deputy touched
upon, which is the small number of people — all Deputies complain about this — who are
working and drawing social welfare at the same time. They are in unfair competition with
people who are working legitimately and paying their taxes. The State must have the ability to
question and disqualify people who are not available for work if that is not genuinely the case.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Nobody is arguing with the Minister on that point.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I am delighted to hear that. Issues were raised about reasonable
offers. That is an issue we can discuss at length on Committee Stage. In order to make the
activation part possible I need the ability to weed out those who are not entitled to social
welfare. I have great sympathy for the point made by Deputy Ring that there are people whom
I would define as being unemployable. There is also a category of people often overlook who
are employable in the long term on social schemes but who will never — regardless of the
amount of training they are offered — get jobs in commercial enterprises. When we designed
the rural social scheme we purposely did not put a finite number of years on the scheme. As
well as training schemes, we need work schemes for those who are unlikely ever to get commer-
cial employment. My objective is to try to ensure that as many people as possible, who are now
on the live register and are very anxious to go to work, will get that opportunity.
   An issue was raised about young people. I have met parents of young people who have not
allowed them to sign on to unemployment assistance because they did not want to get them
into the habit of getting money every week and doing nothing for the money. They are very
anxious that those same young people would be given the opportunity to start somewhere with
work. I have great sympathy for those people. I sometimes find it difficult to ask them to sign
on and start to draw so that we can get them into the various schemes. Many parents are
mortally afraid that once a person gets the taste of the cheque every week, it might become an
easy way out. I do not believe many of our young people would succumb to that, but it is a
fear that has been expressed to me by parents. I know parents who discourage their young
people from signing on to get their entitlements as a result.
  We should take the Bill as a totality including my proposed Committee Stage amendments
to transfer the schemes to the Department of Social Protection. The purpose of the scheme is
to activate people, to weed out those who should be and are not entitled to or for some
unspecified reason are not available for work, and to use the savings to activate people and to
give places to people who are anxious to work.
  I wish to touch on social welfare appeals. I accept it is necessary to speed up the appeals
process. We used to have 5,000 appeals outstanding at the end of any year which has now risen
dramatically and we are expected to get as many as 30,000 appeals this year. We need to deal
with those. At the end of last year we had 16,000 appeals on hand. Everybody knows that if
30,000 and 16,000 are in hand, some 46,000 appeals would have to be dealt with in the year.
  In 2009 18,000 appeals were dealt with, so if we continued last year’s rate we would wind up
with 28,000 appeals left at the end of the year. We have taken a number of initiatives and the
moment I arrived at the Department I sought to address the issue. In fairness to my predecessor
and those in the Department, they were already working on it. We have assigned two additional
appeals officers and there has been an increase in productivity and better work methods.
   We have looked at how the work is being streamlined; in a simple appeal where somebody
has an issue with the number of contributions, which is a black and white issue, there can be
streamlining. More complicated appeals involving means testing and so on can be in a different
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


stream so we can make more decisions on a summary basis, improving the process. There is
also significant investment in IT enhancement.
  These measures have already had an effect. By the end of April the number of appeals in
hand had gone to 20,000 and two and a half months later it has stabilised at that figure and
there has been no increase. We intend to appoint for two days a week eight retired appeals
officers, which will give us three full-time equivalents. As they are experienced these people
can get to work immediately. It is a stop-gap effort and we hope to get back to 16,000 appeals
on hand by the end of the year.
  We must go much further to ensure that people do not feel the necessity to appeal the
decisions and that where there are appeals, they would be finalised in very good time. During
my time as Minister I will work hard to ensure that the resources and systems exist to reduce
waiting times for appeals. There is a provision in the Bill to deal with that issue.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: Will the Minister get retired people to do this or will he train unem-
ployed people?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: In the short term we will employ retired appeals officers because an
extraordinary knowledge of social welfare and other laws is required. It would take too long
to train people to work this year.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: So those people will get their pension and this payment.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Yes, in the short term. It is the lesser of two evils.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Department should train people as well.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: We have already appointed two extra appeals officers. I will work
towards a position where in the normal way appeals officers will be promoted from within the
system, and we have a sufficient number of trained appeals officers to deal with the backlog.
There is much work to be done on the way the appeals system operates as some are more
complicated than others. There must be a fast-track system for the black and white appeals,
allowing us to go through to the oral hearings for more complicated examples.
   I will work on the issue and we can discuss it in further detail on Committee Stage. We must
try to ensure that within Department resources of full-time public servants, we can keep the
number of appeals at an acceptable level and deal with appeals expeditiously. In the context
of where we are with the phenomenal growth in the number of appeals, it would take too long
to train people and have people waiting in the meantime. People are entitled to a certain
service.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: Is the Minister concerned about the number of appeals which are
successful? It is a problem when the wrong decisions were made the first time.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Absolutely. The number of decisions appealed in the first place is
approximately 2%, so 98% of decisions are accepted. However, the figure for successful or
partially successful appeals at 40% is high on the face of it. We must examine the issue. I have
often written appeals for constituents and gone to appeals hearings with them, although this
changed when I became a Minister. I got more information from the client in the appeal than
what was in the final information available to the deciding officer in the first place; the appeal
might not have been necessary if such information was always available.
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.]

  This seems to happen with medical certification in particular. If people are refused a benefit
on medical grounds they are told to go to a consultant for a long explanation of the medical
condition.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: That should be considered in the Department and by its medical
officers.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I know.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: There is definite problem.

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I have discussed it at length with the chief medical officers and there
is a system in place. There may be a way to get the information from medical practitioners as
most of the medical examinations are done from desks; the assessor does not see the person
and only information is provided. Methods are being developed to bring in more information,
which would make it easier to make a decision based on available medical evidence.
  I do not know if Deputies have found the following to be a problem. Often people confuse
the statement of the medical condition with the issue that the law requires. For example, this
applies in the question of whether a person is capable of working. Stating that a person has a
certain medical condition does not necessarily equate to them being incapable of work, as there
are issues such as education and the type of work and so on. We must consider this system and
improve it until the system is streamlined and we reduce, as far as possible, the need to appeal.
Any appeals should be based on giving more information the second time around than the first.
  In some cases people can be reticent about means and they must be encouraged to get bits
of paper together. In rural areas there is an issue with farmers getting receipts together and so
on. Quite a bit of work can be done in this regard and we will work on such issues.
   Deputy Enright raised the issue of the carbon tax and a group is set to make recom-
mendations over the summer. There appears to be some misunderstanding, although I accept
the original speech could be read ambiguously. It was always the intention for the issue to take
in the winter period and that is still very much on the cards.
   An issue was raised about the certificate of death abroad. I recently met a delegation of
people with regard to the issue in consultation with the chief registrar. There are a number of
technical complications and other issues arising but we agreed a timescale. It is a long process
and provisions cannot be made in this or the next Bill. It is planned to bring in a civil regis-
tration Bill at some time and Deputies can rest assured that the issue has not been parked. A
process has been agreed with families on how we will consider the matter and it was a positive
meeting. I was happy that there was good engagement and we agreed how to work on the
issue. I understand the difficulties but there are also challenges from a legal perspective.
  Deputy Costello raised an issue concerning section 23 and I confirm my intention not to
proceed with the section. It involves the publication of names. The people would be brought
into open court anyway and reporters can attend such courts; we have seen reporting of cases
of serious fraud of the social welfare system. It is my intention to propose that the provision
be deleted.
  Deputy Shortall raised several interesting issues, although some were more related to tax. I
heard the Deputy’s comments. There are proposals to change the taxation of pensions, for
example, but she raised other issues such as tax relief in pensions, employers and the overall
tax pot. I would not know people in that tax position.
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  Deputy Olwyn Enright: Some of the Minister’s colleagues would know such people.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I assure the Deputy that I do not. Deputy Ring would vouch that I
do not know such people.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: There are plenty of them out there, whether the Deputy knows them
or not.

  Deputy Michael Ring: Those people were never in the Galway tent.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: It is beside the point.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I know but the allegation is often made that we know these people.
I certainly do not know them. I accept what the Deputy says and, like every aspect of fiscal
policy, the issues in question are all worthy of consideration.
   The Deputy also referred to reimbursements being made to the Department by insurance
companies in the context of social welfare payments deducted from awards of special damages
in respect of loss of earnings. In 2002, the Law Reform Commission recommended the introduc-
tion of a system modelled on that which obtains in the UK. I am extremely interested in giving
consideration to this matter because any source of money would be welcome. However, quite
a number of issues would have to be addressed before such a system could be introduced.
   I was somewhat disappointed when I researched the position with regard to the UK’s com-
pensation recovery unit. The UK operates a slightly different tax year to Ireland but in the
2007-08 and 2008-09 tax years the unit raised between £138 million and £142 million. Given
that the population is approximately ten times the size of Ireland’s, it would appear that if we
established such a unit we could take in €14 million. At one stage it was suggested that up to
€88 million could be raised here. In light of the major amount of work that would be involved,
I would be much more interested in taking in €88 million rather than €14 million. I will certainly
be giving consideration to this matter. However, it does not appear to be quite as good a source
of revenue as one might have envisaged.
   There has been a great deal of debate on the issue of one-parent families. I hope Deputy Ó
Snodaigh will come in and go mbeidh sé i láthair ar Chéim an Choiste. Cuirtear líomhaintí inár
leith, development cronies, agus rudaí den sórt sin. Tá a fhios ag an Teachta, chomh maith is
atá a fhios agam, cé hiad na daoine a bhfuil aithne agam orthu, daoine ar nós a athar féin. Is
ball den Rialtas mé agus tá a fhios ag an Teachta cén stair oibre a bhaineann liom, nár oibrigh
mé riamh don earnáil phríobháideach, gur oibrigh mé in eagraíochtaí Gaeilge i dtosach báire
agus gur oibrigh mé ina dhiaidh sin do chomharchumann pobail. Tá a fhios aige freisin go
bhfuil mo shaol caite agam ag obair do na gnáth-dhaoine agus don ghnáth-phobal. Tá díoma
orm nuair nach bhfuil daoine sásta breathnú ar cheisteanna agus ar a laghad iad a phlé go
hoscailte gan bheith ag tabhairt maslaí ar dhaoine eile. Is cuma cé chomh minic agus a thugtar
an masla, tá a fhios ag muintir na Gaillimhe Thiar, an dream a vótálann ar mo shon, cé hiad
mo chairde, cé dó a oibrím, cé hiad na daoine a bheidh fail acu orm nuair atá anró nó cruatan
orthu agus cé dó a sheasaim. Is cuma an méid cáinte a dhéantar agus an méid iarrachta a
dhéantar bréag a insint——

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Ní bréag é mar tá mé ag caint faoin Rialtas go hiomlán.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Is cuma cén mhéid bréag——

   Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Ní bréag é má tá mé ag caint faoin Rialtas ina iomláine, sin atá
i gceist. Is ball den Rialtas an tAire agus tá sé ag cur an ruda seo i láthair mar bhall den Rialtas
sin. Tá na líomhaintí a rinne mé fíor ó thaobh an Rialtais de.
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Níl siad fíor.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Tá siad fíor ó thaobh an Rialtais de, tá sé cruthaithe ó thaobh
an Rialtais de go hiomlán agus baill den Rialtas agus Airí sa Rialtas.

 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: An féidir liom dul ar aghaidh? Ní dúirt mé focal nuair a bhí an
Teachta ag caint. Níl sin fíor.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Tá sé.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Níl sé fíor. Níl aon bhunús leis. Na leasuithe atá molta, pléifear iad
leis na grúpaí a dhéanann ionadaíocht do theaghlaigh aontuismitheora. Tá mé sásta dul isteach
sa choiste; rinneadh pointí maithe sa díospóireacht agus pléifear iad go mion.
  Níl aon bhaint ag na moltaí le sábháil airgid. Duine ar bith a chreideann go bhfuil seo á
dhéanamh chun airgead a shábháil, caithfidh sé cuimhniú go ndéantar amach gurbh é an tsáb-
háil a bheidh ann an bhliain seo chugainn ná €900,000 as €21 billiún. Is ionann sin agus 90 cent
a shabháil as €21,000. Tá bealaí i bhfad níos fusa chun airgead den chineál sin a shábháil ná
dul agus leasú mar seo a chur ar Bhille. Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil an cheist seo á plé
chomh fada siar leis an am go raibh an Teachta Séamus Brennan mar Aire, am go raibh
fuílleach airgid sa tír. Athrú struchtúir atá i gceist anseo, ní athrú ar mhaithe le hairgead
a shábháil.
  The position in respect of the one parent family payment is that we have put forward a
proposal. I accept that any such proposed change will not work unless support services are
provided. I return again to the circle I wish to create. There will be a need for after-school
services in order to achieve the proper results. There will also be a need to encourage young
people, regardless of whether they are from one or two-parent families, to become involved in
many more activities and to provide them with a greater level of support than that which
obtains at present.
   I reiterate what I said earlier with regard to activation. We must avail of the services of those
whom we currently pay to do nothing but who wish to do something. We should enable these
individuals to work by encouraging them to become involved in providing the required services.
There is an opportunity for parents, including those who are parenting alone, to provide the
services to which I refer. People, particularly those who live in urban disadvantaged areas, who
like much more comprehensive services to be provided in respect of young people in order
that they will not be encouraged around the streets but that they might become involved in art,
music, sport and many other activities. The way to do this is by providing after-school support.
   When I was involved with the RAPID programme, I came to the conclusion that the cycle
of disadvantage that affects urban RAPID areas is often related to fact that the extracurricular
activities enjoyed — and almost accepted as a right — by children brought up in more affluent
areas are not available to their counterparts in the areas to which I refer. I have always believed
that the lives of young people can be affected in an extremely positive way by their involvement
in extracurricular activities.
  I will be willing to discuss these various issues on Committee Stage. I reiterate that the
changes to which reference has been made have been long discussed and that they relate to
considering ways to obtain the best outcomes for diverse groups of people. There is a need to
engage in a mature discussion on these issues rather than trading insults in respect of them.
  Cé mhéid ama atá fágtha?

 Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): The Minister is allowed not less than 15
minutes in which to reply. Essentially, he can continue to speak at length if he so desires.
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I will not delay the House overly long. The Government Chief Whip
is sitting behind me and I am sure he will give me a signal to conclude.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: What an offer to give a politician.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Yes, it is unbelievable.

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): I am only implementing the order of the day.
I am merely a servant of the House.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: We accept that. I would like to engage with Members in respect of
the proposal relating to one-parent families on Committee Stage. I listened carefully to many
of the points raised in respect of it during this debate. As already stated, the proposal is part
of a much wider package. I fully accept that if we are going to take this route, what we are
doing will not work if we do not provide the necessary support services.
   There is one aspect of this matter to which reference was not made. As a number of Members
indicated, many single parents are in full-time employment. I accept that these people face a
struggle each day.
  It is not only a question of providing backup services to those who might go to work or are
doing so part time but of continuing to provide services for those who are already working full
time and have to spend considerable money on the provision of care——

 Deputy Olwyn Enright: Those families do not receive any assistance from the Minister’s
Department.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I consider the people who are unemployed and would like to make
a contribution to be a resource. I view them not as a problem but as a huge resource which, if
mobilised, could assist us in providing services not currently in place and to continue to improve
backup services.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Is the Minister aware that his colleagues are cutting back on funding
to community crèches, which cuts directly impact on low income families, in particular lone
parents, who are struggling in terms of going out to work?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: As I stated, 13 year olds——

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What is the Minister going to do about this?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I explained in detail——

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What, other than state his vague aspirations, is the Minister going
to do?

 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The Deputy can believe what she wants but I know clearly where I
am going. The Deputy will understand as what I am trying to do unfolds.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Does that mean the Minister is going to take an initiative in regard
to the provision of child care for low income families?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I have clearly stated that the community employment scheme, rural
social scheme and community service programmes, which are important, are being transferred
from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to my Department. I want to exam-
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       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

  [Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.]
ine the total funding being spent on these schemes and unemployment payments to see if we
can do a better job than we are currently doing for society and recipients of those payments.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Minister appeared to be indicating that he will do something to
help working lone parents. Is he going to provide additional child care services?

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: We are speaking about the 13 year old group as being a major
problem. It is not child care in the conventional sense that one provides for 13 year olds. This
is certainly the case in respect of the 13 year olds I know.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: It most certainly is, Minister. Is the Minister saying that 13 year olds
can look after themselves?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: No.

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: They are a problem.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What is the Minister saying?

  Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): Please allow the Minister to make his point.

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: If, for example, one engages 13 year olds in sport, art or music that
is not child care in the conventional sense of a crèche.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: To pay for that all summer is costly as none of those activities is
free. Let us deal in the real world.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: They are in some instances.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: Not in the vast majority of places.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: We are working to bring about improvements in that regard.
  The issue of branch offices was raised. Plans are in train to commence devolving, on a phased
basis, certain decisions to branch offices. The process will begin in three or four of the larger
branch offices to identify if there are training or other issues that need to be addressed before
this is rolled out to all branch offices. The branch offices will deal with four categories of claims,
including JB claims with full contribution histories, unlimited payments between 65 and 66
years of age, credit cases, second and subsequent children where entitlement to full or half rate
increased where qualified childhood has already been established.
   The issue of refund of health contributions was also raised. The refunds will apply in respect
of contributions made over a four year period. On incapacity supplement, there are 114 recipi-
ents of incapacity supplement aged 66 years or over. Of those 114 people, 20 are qualifying
              adults aged 66 years or over. Many Members raised issues in regard to the one
2 o’clock     parent payment and so on. In an ideal world, were we not where we are, we
              would have one working age payment. This matter is being considered in the
Department. There are many challenges in terms of moving from the current system to that
type of system. The challenge is to ensure we do not go backwards. I am interested in this
concept. I have long criticised the meanstesting system in the Department. Now that I am
Minister for Social Protection I will be actively examining how we can achieve the type of
social welfare system I would have always liked us to have. There is a huge amount of work
to be done on issues such as how we count days in respect of casual work and so on. We must
first decide our long-term goal and then work towards it in small steps.
                                                       666
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


   The issue of data matching was raised. Data exchange with the Irish Prison Service com-
menced in December 2004 and in this respect data is exchanged on a quarterly basis. Data is
received in secure format and is matched to relevant live claims. Where these matches indicate
clients that require investigation the cases are referred for control and follow-up. I dealt yester-
day in the House with the issue of electronic certification. I am often amazed how when people
add one plus one they get three. In this regard I refer to the notion that people will be able to
text the Department from anywhere in the world in respect of signing on for unemployment
benefit. I want to clarify this matter. What I said was that there will be a certification process
by mobile phone. A mobile phone has many uses, two of which are to speak to or text another
person. What is involved in respect of electronic certification is voice telephony and voice
recognition. If the correct person does not ring the Department the voice recognition tech-
nology will pick up on this and discontinue the call. If a person rings from outside the State
the computer system will also recognise this and discontinue the call.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: When will that technology be available and operational?

  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It will cost a fortune.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: It is amazing that the Department will have that technology when it
does not have the technology to allow fuel payments to be made in twice yearly lumpsums or
to pass PPS numbers to the Revenue Commissioners.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: There is data matching in respect of PPS numbers.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: It is not sent to the Revenue Commissioners.

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: There is a huge programme of technology development going on in
the Department. I am glad I have Deputies’ support for the use of technology. I would like if
forms and information systems were dealt with in this way given the frustrations in this regard
of which I am sure Members have had experience. What I find frustrating is when a person
applies for OAP and is asked for all his or her employment records. One would imagine all of
this information to be available in the Department. I have discussed these issues and would
like to see much more user-friendly technology being used in this regard. I believe also that it
should be rolled out as fast as possible. However, we must in rolling it out ensure that existing
technology continues to work until the new system is in place. I am told the electronic certifi-
cation technology is tamper proof and is not as portrayed in the media.

   Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Minister has repeated this claim twice. Perhaps he will tell us
when the technology to allow for voice recognition and to identify from what country a person
is calling will be place and operational?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I will get that information for the Deputy.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: What happens where a person prerecords his or her answers?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The caller will be speaking to another person.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: So it will be a person rather than a recording?

 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Yes, that is my understanding of it. There is a great deal of invest-
ment involved and we must ensure——

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: What is the aim of this?
                                                       667
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Its aim is to free up front line staff.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: Staff will continue to have to speak to people although not person
to person.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The technology is expected to be ready for initial trial implemen-
tation towards the end of 2010.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: So it is a project to examine the possibility of it being used.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: No. It is expected to be ready for initial trial implementation towards
the end of this year. The project has gone way beyond that suggested by the Deputy.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Minister should not hold his breath.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: What if a person is at work while making the phone call?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: That is an issue. I have heard many stories in relation to the existing
system of people taking time off work to sign on for benefit.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: Yes.

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: This brings me back to the other equation in regard to the need to
ensure people are genuinely available for work. I am examining this in the context of activation.
I fully accept what the Deputy is saying.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What is the estimated cost?

 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The majority of people claiming social welfare payments are not
working. I presume the Deputy accepts that.

  Deputy Olwyn Enright: I do.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: It will free up front-line staff, who deal with thousands of people
simply signing on, to look at high risk customers and see if they are working. We will have
human resources to track down high risk customers.
  I believe strongly in activation, by offering people positions in schemes and then tracking
those people who suddenly become unavailable. Every time we engage in the national employ-
ment action programme we find that people disappear very fast when they are asked to come
for an interview. We need to put more resources into front-line staff to check on what those
people are at and why they disappear when they are asked for an interview. It is a matter of
putting a whole package together.
  It does not make sense to tie up a huge number of officials dealing with the honest, ordinary
people in a bureaucratic process. We should focus their efforts where there is a risk. It all
comes back to risk analysis.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Has the Minister an estimated cost for this new technology?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I can get it for the Deputy. Any reasonable technology expense is
worthwhile if it gives better outcomes. When I ran community businesses I often said human
beings, if not used productively, have a much higher cost than equipment. In any process, if
something is repeated ad nauseam to hundreds of thousands of people it makes sense to invest
in the technology to automate the process and use resources to better effect, as Deputy Enright
                                                       668
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.   Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


has suggested, in looking at high risk people and ensuring they are not working and drawing
at the same time.
  Deputies Mary O’Rourke and Ulick Burke raised the issue of the back to education allow-
ance and the higher education maintenance grants. Those in receipt of the one-parent family
payment are entitled to the higher education grant and will continue to be so. They are not,
however, entitled to rent supplement. On the other hand, those in receipt of the back to edu-
cation allowance will not, under the new regime, be entitled to two maintenance payments.
They will be entitled to rent supplement.
  An issue has arisen as to why people in receipt of the one-parent family payment cannot get
rent supplement. That warrants examination. Some people who are in receipt of the back to
education allowance are using their higher education grant to pay for child care and travel
expenses. I discussed this issue with the Minister for Education and Skills and I met the Union
of Students in Ireland. I am looking at the issue to see if there is a way of addressing it.
  The issue of mortgage interest supplement is under review. It is being looked at in the
context of personal debt. A committee, under Mr. Hugh Cooney, is looking at this whole
question. I see the mortgage interest supplement issue being addressed in that context.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: That report is 15 months overdue. When does the Minister expect
to have it?

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The Cooney committee is to report by the end of this month. It is
in that context that I see this review being brought to finality.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: What happens in the meantime? Huge numbers of people are being
refused. People are losing their homes because of this delay.

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The evidence does not bear that out. I accept that there is a serious
issue. I am anxious that these issues be brought to a finality. The committee will issue a report
and it will be brought to Government.
  The very valid issue of rent subsidy was also raised. We are paying €500 million on rent
subsidy. Local authorities must be more proactive with the rental accommodation scheme,
RAS, and put people into longer term tenancies than is possible under the rent supplement
scheme, which was never meant to be a long-term solution to people’s housing needs. I recently
met Focus Ireland, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Threshold and the Simon Communities
and I have offered to meet those groups again before the end of July. I intend meeting them
on a regular basis to examine the whole issue of rent supplement.
   We have no direct relationship with tenants, but the properties being rented must be of an
adequate standard. This is something I would like to do some work on. It is warranted because
the State has a major investment in the rent supplement scheme. I am very anxious to ensure
that every landlord would provide a PPS number. Much work is being done on data matching.
I understand the vast majority of landlords who have had their tax affairs checked were found
to be compliant.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Those figures are not available.

  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I have figures.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: The last figures showed that 20% of landlords had provided PPS
numbers.
                                                       669
       Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions)   17 June 2010.       Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


  Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The Deputy is correct in that. However, we provide all the names
and addresses of landlords and they are data matched by the Revenue Commissioners. Revenue
has done a sample survey to see how many landlords are compliant.

  Deputy Róisín Shortall: Can the Minister make those figures available?

   Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Yes, I understand we can get those figures for the Deputy, and it is
a very high number. If a person receives a grant of €10,000 and uses it to pay for a service, the
person who provides the service, and gets a payment of €10,000 or more, should produce a tax
number. That seems to me to be fundamental. The Deputy’s figure of 20% is correct and it is
not satisfactory. In achieving 100% compliance, I do not want to put tenants in awkward
situations. I will be working with the groups I mentioned to get us from where we are to where
everyone would like us to be, without having tenants lose out. I will work with the various
housing groups to ensure that we get there as speedily as possible. I will not suddenly take
action without considering unintended consequences or discussing it with the groups I have
mentioned. That is the proper way to proceed.
   Many issues were raised during the debate. I look forward to the debate on Committee Stage
when, I hope, we can go through many of the points raised in detail in the structured format
of a committee stage debate. I will listen carefully to all suggestions. Despite belonging to
different parties there is much agreement in principle as to where we are going, despite argu-
ment about how we go there. There is much more agreement in principle about where we
would like to go and the shape of the society we would like to create than might be apparent
from debates in the House.

  Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

                                      The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 66.
                                                        Tá

      Ahern, Bertie.                                               Grealish, Noel.
      Ahern, Dermot.                                               Hanafin, Mary.
      Ahern, Michael.                                              Harney, Mary.
      Ahern, Noel.                                                 Haughey, Seán.
      Andrews, Barry.                                              Kelleher, Billy.
      Andrews, Chris.                                              Kelly, Peter.
      Aylward, Bobby.                                              Kenneally, Brendan.
      Blaney, Niall.                                               Kennedy, Michael.
      Brady, Áine.                                                 Killeen, Tony.
      Brady, Cyprian.                                              Kitt, Michael P.
      Brady, Johnny.                                               Kitt, Tom.
      Browne, John.                                                Lenihan, Brian.
      Byrne, Thomas.                                               Lenihan, Conor.
      Carey, Pat.                                                  McEllistrim, Thomas.
      Collins, Niall.                                              McGrath, Mattie.
      Conlon, Margaret.                                            McGrath, Michael.
      Connick, Seán.                                               McGuinness, John.
      Coughlan, Mary.                                              Mansergh, Martin.
      Cregan, John.                                                Martin, Micheál.
      Cuffe, Ciarán.                                               Moloney, John.
      Curran, John.                                                Moynihan, Michael.
      Dempsey, Noel.                                               Mulcahy, Michael.
      Devins, Jimmy.                                               Ó Cuív, Éamon.
      Dooley, Timmy.                                               Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
      Finneran, Michael.                                           O’Brien, Darragh.
      Fitzpatrick, Michael.                                        O’Connor, Charlie.
      Fleming, Seán.                                               O’Dea, Willie.
      Flynn, Beverley.                                             O’Donoghue, John.
      Gogarty, Paul.                                               O’Flynn, Noel.
      Gormley, John.                                               O’Hanlon, Rory.
                                                       670
   Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010: 17 June 2010.         Referral to Select Committee


                                                     Tá—continued

      O’Keeffe, Edward.                                                 Scanlon, Eamon.
      O’Rourke, Mary.                                                   Smith, Brendan.
                                                                        Wallace, Mary.
      O’Sullivan, Christy.                                              White, Mary Alexandra.
      Power, Peter.                                                     Woods, Michael.
      Sargent, Trevor.

                                                            Níl

      Allen, Bernard.                                                   Kenny, Enda.
      Bannon, James.                                                    Lynch, Ciarán.
      Barrett, Seán.                                                    Lynch, Kathleen.
      Behan, Joe.                                                       McCormack, Pádraic.
      Breen, Pat.                                                       McEntee, Shane.
      Broughan, Thomas P.                                               McGinley, Dinny.
      Bruton, Richard.                                                  McHugh, Joe.
      Burke, Ulick.                                                     Morgan, Arthur.
      Burton, Joan.                                                     Neville, Dan.
      Byrne, Catherine.                                                 Noonan, Michael.
      Carey, Joe.                                                       Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
      Clune, Deirdre.                                                   Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
                                                                        O’Dowd, Fergus.
      Connaughton, Paul.
                                                                        O’Keeffe, Jim.
      Coonan, Noel J.
                                                                        O’Mahony, John.
      Costello, Joe.                                                    O’Shea, Brian.
      Coveney, Simon.                                                   O’Sullivan, Jan.
      Crawford, Seymour.                                                O’Sullivan, Maureen.
      Creed, Michael.                                                   Penrose, Willie.
      Creighton, Lucinda.                                               Perry, John.
      D’Arcy, Michael.                                                  Quinn, Ruairí.
      Deasy, John.                                                      Rabbitte, Pat.
      Deenihan, Jimmy.                                                  Reilly, James.
      Durkan, Bernard J.                                                Ring, Michael.
      English, Damien.                                                  Sheehan, P. J.
      Enright, Olwyn.                                                   Sherlock, Seán.
      Feighan, Frank.                                                   Shortall, Róisín.
      Ferris, Martin.                                                   Stagg, Emmet.
      Gilmore, Eamon.                                                   Stanton, David.
      Hayes, Brian.                                                     Timmins, Billy.
      Hayes, Tom.                                                       Tuffy, Joanna.
      Higgins, Michael D..                                              Upton, Mary.
      Howlin, Brendan.                                                  Varadkar, Leo.
      Kehoe, Paul.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Curran and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul
                                        Kehoe.

 Question declared carried

  An Ceann Comhairle: I declare the Bill to be read a Second Time in accordance with Stand-
ing Order 121(2)(i).

      Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010: Referral to Select Committee
 Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív): I move:

   That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Social and Family Affairs in accord-
 ance with Standing Order 122(1) and paragraph 1(a)(i) of the Orders of Reference of that
 committee.

  Question put and agreed to.
                                                            671
               Offences against the        17 June 2010.    State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


             Estimates for Public Services 2010: Message from Select Committee
  An Ceann Comhairle: The Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s
Rights has completed its consideration of Votes 36 and 37 for the year ending 31 December
2010.

                  Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion
  Minister for Justice and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): I move:

    That Dáil Éireann resolves that sections 2 to 4, 6 to 12, 14 and 17 of the Offences against
  the State (Amendment) Act 1998 (No. 39 of 1998) shall continue in operation for the period
  of 12 months beginning on 30 June 2010.

This resolution seeks the Dáil’s approval to continue in operation for a further 12 months a
number of sections of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998. The sections in
question, whose purpose I will outline in the course of my speech, will cease to operate after
30 June next. An identical resolution was debated in the Upper House today.
  Deputies will recall that the 1998 Act was passed in the wake of the Omagh bombing in
August of that year. That atrocity was condemned by all right-thinking people. The memory
of the innocent lives lost on that summer’s day is still vivid 12 years on. Of course, the impact
on the families of those killed and injured in Omagh will never fade. We must always be
mindful of the loss suffered by so many families at the hands of hate-filled fanatics.
  The bombing in Omagh was a clear and calculated attempt by these people to undermine
the progress which had been made in the Northern Ireland peace process. Members of the
House will be aware that the peace process was the result of long and difficult negotiations. It
was still, in 1998, very much in its infancy and required careful nurturing and continuing com-
mitment on all sides to ensure its survival. Those who carried out the bombing sought not only
to stymie the peace process but to destroy it. They sought a return to the bleak sterility of the
violence which had characterised so much of the previous quarter-century. However, their
greatest weakness was to underestimate the determination of those who wanted to move on
and build a better, peaceful society. They also underestimated the determination of the Govern-
ment to counter their activities.
  The response to the bombing showed the resilience of communities of all traditions through-
out the island. It showed that their determination for peace, better co-operation and the rule
of law would always triumph over hate and destruction. It must be remembered also that the
Government of the day and the Oireachtas showed that they were equal to the challenge and
would not allow the wreckers to achieve their aims. A strong signal was necessary, and part of
that signal was the enactment of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act, whose main
provisions included changes in the rules of evidence for the offence of membership of an
unlawful organisation and the creation of new substantive offences. These provisions gave the
Garda the tools necessary to defeat the bombers of Omagh and those who would follow them.
  The threat these people still pose leaves me convinced that these provisions are still necessary
today. It is a matter of regret that no-one has been convicted for the Omagh bombing.
However, the investigation into this atrocity remains open, and Deputies will share my hope
that those responsible may yet be convicted in a criminal court.
  The 1998 Act was passed under clearly exceptional circumstances. It was natural, therefore,
that the Oireachtas should want to reconsider certain provisions periodically and decide
whether they are still necessary.
                                               672
               Offences against the        17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


   This mechanism affords Deputies an opportunity to consider whether the prevailing circum-
stances justify the continued need for those provisions.
  Before setting out the reasons I am convinced of the need to retain these sections, I refer
Deputies to the report on their use during the past year. The Act requires me to lay before
the Oireachtas a report on the operation of the relevant provisions prior to moving the resol-
utions for renewal. The current report covers the period from 1 June 2009, the end date of the
previous report, to 31 May this year. The report was laid before the House on 10 June 2010.
  My assessment, as set out in the report, is that the relevant sections of the 1998 Act should
remain in force for a further 12 months. I have come to this view after taking into account the
current security situation, both domestic and international, the advice of the Garda Com-
missioner and the information contained in the report. I have also had regard to the reports of
the International Monitoring Commission, which clearly articulate the continued threat posed
by dissident groups.
   The principal threat to the security of the State continues to be posed by individuals and
groups associated with so-called dissident republicanism. As many in the House have com-
mented, it is a strange kind of republicanism that pursues its aims through the murder of fellow
Irish men and women. For some perverted reason, revealed only to themselves, these groups
are determined to destroy the peace that so many have worked so hard to achieve. They wish
to drag all of us back into sterile conflict. We know what that entails because of our experience
over so many years. The Government is determined they will not succeed. I have no doubt all
Members of the House share that determination.
  We must be realistic about matters and recognise, despite our determination, that the threat
posed is severe. The Independent Monitoring Commission has reported on the increase in
activity by these groups, especially the Real IRA, over the past year or so. No one needs
reminding of the horrific attacks in Antrim and Craigavon last year when two soldiers and one
PSNI officer were killed.
   The most recent IMC report made a particular point of praising the efforts of the two police
forces to counter dissident activities. This is well-deserved praise that I am certain we all echo.
Their actions have, without question, saved lives and we are grateful to them for that. Some
very significant interventions have been made, such as the recent successful Garda operation
in respect of a facility in Dundalk used to manufacture explosive devices.
   North-South co-operation in the area of security is vital and I can give the House the reassur-
ance that it has never been better. Shortly after his appointment I met the new Secretary of
State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, MP, to discuss the security situation. I have kept
in close contact with him and with the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford, MLA,
who I will meet again in the next few weeks. I know the Garda Commissioner maintains close
and frequent contact with Chief Constable Baggott. This is mirrored by contacts between the
two forces at every level.
  The Commissioner has made it clear that as far as the Garda Síochána is concerned, an attack
on the PSNI is an attack on both forces. We have never let up on our efforts to counteract the
threat from dissidents. In particular, the resources of the Garda Síochána have always been
maintained to deal with that threat and that will be the case as long as that threat exists.
  It is time these thugs stopped opposing the democratic will of the Irish people and gave up
their guns. They have little or no support in their communities. In fact they are reviled by the
vast majority of the people on both sides of the Border. They need to get that message and
cease their hate-filled ideology. I can assure them that until they do, we will never let up in
our pursuit of them, in our efforts to prevent their murderous attacks and in our determination
to see them apprehended and put in prison.
                                                673
               Offences against the        17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion

  [Deputy Dermot Ahern.]

   While countering the threat posed by dissident groups is very important, it is necessary not
to lose sight of the threat from international terrorism. The 1998 Act grew out of domestic
troubles. However, its provisions form an essential element of the State’s response to the threat
of terrorism from any source. We cannot ignore the growth in recent years of the international
terrorist threat. Deputies will be aware of the arrests earlier this year in Cork and Waterford
in connection with an alleged international terrorist plot. In co-operation with our EU partners,
we must continue to counteract any threat from such sources. The 1998 Act forms part of the
response to that threat also. It is the firm view of the Garda Síochána that the Act continues
to be a most important tool in its ongoing efforts in the fight against terrorism. The Garda
authorities have stated that the provisions of the Act are used regularly. Furthermore, given
the considerable threat posed by some dissident groups it is essential the Act’s provisions
should continue in force to support the ongoing investigation and disruption of terrorist activity.
The perpetrators of the Omagh bombing and other dissident groups continue to pose a substan-
tial threat. They still aspire to commit serious acts of terrorism, including murder, and to pursue
other criminal aims.
  I refer to the provisions of the 1998 Act that are the subject of the resolution. I have laid
before the House a report on the operation of the relevant sections between the relevant dates.
The report demonstrates the value of the relevant sections to the Garda Síochána and the
necessity for their continued availability in tackling the terrorist threat.
  Section 2 allows a court, in proceedings for membership of an unlawful organization, to draw
appropriate inferences where an accused person fails to answer or gives false or misleading
answers to questions. However, a person cannot be convicted of the offence solely on the basis
of such an inference. There must be some other evidence that points towards a person’s guilt.
The section was used on 23 occasions in the period covered by the report.
  Section 3 requires an accused, in proceedings for membership of an unlawful organisation,
to give notification of an intention to call a person to give evidence on his behalf. This section
was used on four occasions. Section 4 provides that evidence of membership of an unlawful
organization can be inferred from certain conduct, including matters such as “movements,
actions, activities, or associations on the part of the accused”. This section was not used in the
period covered by the report.
   Section 6 creates the offence of directing the activities of an organisation in respect of which
a suppression order has been made under the Offences against the State Act 1939. This section
was not used in the period covered by the report. Section 7 makes it an offence to possess
articles in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that the article is in possession
for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of specified firearms
or explosives offences. It was used on 30 occasions. Section 8 makes it an offence to collect,
record or possess information likely to be useful to members of an unlawful organisation in
the commission of serious offences. It was not used in the period covered by the report.
  Section 9 makes it an offence to withhold certain information that might be of material
assistance in preventing the commission of a serious offence or securing the apprehension,
prosecution or conviction of a person for such an offence. It was used on 117 occasions. Section
10 extends the maximum period of detention permitted under section 30 of the Offences against
the State Act from 48 hours to 72 hours but only on the express authorisation of a judge of
the District Court following an application by a garda of at least superintendent rank. Further-
more, the person being detained is entitled to be present in court during the application and
to make, or to have made, submissions on his behalf. The section was used on 25 occasions
and an extension was granted in 25 cases. Section 11 allows a judge of the District Court to
                                                674
               Offences against the        17 June 2010.    State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


permit the re-arrest and detention of a person in respect of an offence for which he was pre-
viously detained under section 30 of the Offences against the State Act but released without
charge. This further period must not exceed 24 hours and can only be authorised where the
judge is satisfied on information supplied on oath by a member of the Garda Síochána that
further information has come to the knowledge of the Garda Síochána about that person’s
suspected participation in the offence. It was used on 16 occasions.
  Section 12 makes it an offence for a person to instruct or train another person in the making
or use of firearms or explosives or to receive such training without lawful authority or reason-
able excuse. It was not used in the period covered by the report. Section 14 is, in effect, a
procedural section that makes the offences created under sections 6 to 9 and section 12 of the
1998 Act scheduled offences for the purposes of Part V of the 1939 Act. This means that
persons suspected of committing these offences may be arrested under Section 30 of the 1939
Act.
  Section 17 builds on the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 providing for the forfeit-
ure of property. Where a person is convicted of offences relating to the possession of firearms
or explosives, and where there is property liable to forfeiture under the 1994 Act the court is
required to order the forfeiture of such property unless it is satisfied that there would be a
serious risk of injustice if it made such an order. The section was not used in the period covered
by the report.
   We have made tremendous progress and significant advances in the peace process on this
island since the Good Friday Agreement. It is a matter of genuine regret that provisions such
as those contained in the 1998 Act are still required. So-called dissident groups remain a threat
to that progress. They are opposed to the benefits that have flowed from the peace process
and are determined to undermine it. Let there be no mistake about the Government’s equal
determination to prevent them achieving their objectives. The State must retain in its laws the
capacity to defeat them. Effective police action, supported by strong legislation, is essential to
counter those aims. In this regard, I commend the work of the Garda, in co-operation with the
PSNI, in facing up to these criminal groups.
  On that basis, on the information set out in the report and the advice of the Garda auth-
orities, I consider the relevant provisions of the 1998 Act should remain in operation for a
further 12 months. I commend the resolution to the House.

   Deputy Charles Flanagan: We are here once again to place the Parliament’s annual rubber
stamp on the Offences against the State legislation. We in Fine Gael support the legislation
and believe it is a crucial element in the State’s ongoing struggle against terrorism on this
island. However, as I may have said before, this annual renewal offers Members, in the Dáil
and earlier in the Seanad, a forum to have a serious debate on terrorism, about the degree to
which the threat exists and the broad steps being taken to combat new and ongoing threats.
   There is a formulaic aspect to the renewal of these provisions which detracts in many respects
from their importance. It is wrong to treat this annual renewal of provisions as “business as
usual”. We should be having a more detailed debate on security in which the Minister for
Justice, Equality and Law Reform would brief a full House on the situation the State now
faces. The various legislative sections we are renewing today are controversial and I would like
the Minister to inform us in his reply as to how often these provisions have been used in the
past while and whether he believes they still prove effective. Does he receive from his security
briefings any information to suggest there may be deficiencies and, if so, is there any manner
by which these deficiencies might be addressed? For example, the Minister refuses to reveal
how many gardaí are dedicated in the area of combating terrorism. We are told this is for
operational reasons. I can understand why identifying which gardaí deal with terrorism would
                                               675
                Offences against the        17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion

  [Deputy Charles Flanagan.]
be dangerous but refusing to reveal how many are dedicated to this area suggests that as a
State we might be less than confident about the numbers dedicated and whether there are
sufficient resources to meet that dedication.
   The cutting of Garda overtime by €30 million must be having an impact. The enormous
brain drain in the senior echelons of the Garda Síochána, which last year saw the loss of 12
chief superintendents, 26 superintendents, 31 inspectors, 166 sergeants and 466 rank and file
gardaí, must also be having an impact. I acknowledge the Minister has authorised and made
provision for some appointments but the unprecedented deluge of retirements was created, in
part, by the Government’s economic policies and, in part, by the failure of the Minister to
engage with the gardaí in order that their concerns might be addressed. The security of the
State is not something that can be put at risk by penny pinching. Reports suggest that the
present situation is critical. The most recent report of the Independent Monitoring Commission,
its 23rd to date, warns that the Real IRA is what is described as “uninhibited” in its use of
violence and that it is determined to boost its terrorist capability. The commission documents
murder and attempted murders carried out by the Real IRA during the six month period in
which the commission reviewed the situation. As well as developing improvised weapons, the
Real IRA is held responsible for a planned mortar attack on the PSNI station in Keady, County
Armagh, and the recent discovery of bomb factory near the Minister, Deputy Ahern’s home
town of Dundalk is indicative of just how active dissident republicans are in this Republic. They
are thought to be most active in the constituency of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform.
   The independent monitoring commission notes that the Real IRA lacks the resources, per-
sonnel, money, organisation and cohesion of the Provisional IRA but this does not in any way
mean we should be otherwise than gravely concerned. The Provisional IRA built up personnel,
money, organisation and cohesion over many years and unless dissident groups such as the
Real and Continuity IRA are stamped out by the State they still have the capacity to grow. It
is already clear their activities extend far beyond what in the past we might have accepted
under the umbrella or definition of terrorism. Like their forebears in the Provisional IRA they
remain staunch capitalists, irrespective of whatever left-wing credentials they pretend to have.
The drug trade is obviously a favourite among terrorists, with regular reports that dissident
republicans are the main importers and distributors of drugs in the State. We know how much
the State and our capital city in particular have been plagued by the drug activities of the INLA.
  When I made reference to the constituency of the Minister, of course I refer also to the
esteemed constituency of the Ceann Comhairle.

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: Deputy Flanagan forgot about his own constituency.

  Deputy Charles Flanagan: I shall talk about that too. Dealing with the link between drugs
and terrorists, while the State continues to be half-hearted in its efforts to stem the tide of
drugs in this jurisdiction, we are, in effect, playing into the hands of terrorists. This allows them
to thrive, make money, build organisations, gain influence and acolytes. Our current customs
regime is woefully inadequate in the context of the battle against drug smuggling the State
currently has on its hands. We have only two X-Ray container scanners at our ports. The
absence of a scanner at every major sea port means the two existing scanners are moved from
port to port. It is not difficult for criminals to ascertain where the scanner will be and use the
information as a basis for choosing their preferred and favoured smuggling route.
  At our airports it is open season for smugglers all year round, a situation to which I have
referred before. The Government’s own figures reveal that customs checks at airports for 2009
plummeted compared to the previous year despite an open sore of drug and gangland problems
                                                 676
               Offences against the        17 June 2010.    State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


continuing to fester. Comparing 2009 to previous years, the figures show that customs checks
at airports fell by 73% at Waterford Airport, 50% at Weston Airport, 40% at Shannon Airport,
33% at Kerry Airport, 27% at Galway Airport, 21% at Cork Airport, 15% at Donegal
Airport——

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: That is because there are fewer aeroplanes flying.

   Deputy Charles Flanagan: ——and 11% at the major airport, not half an hour’s run from
where we stand. As the Minister will concede, customs checks fell by 500,000 at Dublin Airport
compared to the previous year and by a whopping 68,100 at Cork Airport. The fact is that
               checks at Weston Airport fell by 50% in the same year that Mr. Justice Anthony
3 o’clock      Hunt warned about the dangers of private airports being used to smuggle drugs.
               The judge spoke on this as he sentenced John Kinsella for conspiring to import
heroin worth €7 million and cocaine through Weston Airport in 2007. It is clear that many
smaller and-or private airports received no customs checks whatever. The Government’s belief
is that this is too cost inefficient. This shows a very narrow-minded approach to calculating
cost. What is the cost to the State of the death and destruction wrought on communities by
drugs? What is the cost of facilitating the permanence of terrorists who peddle drugs across
this State, whose principal role and function is to undermine the democratic institutions of
this State?
   The narrow view of the Government is reflected in the customs presence around our coast-
line. The Minister knows that at present we have only two patrol boats to patrol 4,300 km of
coastline. Accordingly, the Navy plays a key role in supplementing an under-resourced customs
service. Therefore, the recent decision of the Government to slash naval patrols by 200 days is
another boost to the drug smugglers.
  The bottom line is that defeating terrorists in this State is not solely about finding bomb
factories. It also involves examining how terrorist activity is funded and ensuring that terrorist
organisations are not given a free run in importing drugs and empire-building.
   I was very surprised this morning to hear Deputy Ó Caoláin demand that the Offences
Against the State Acts be removed from the Statute Book. I wonder if the Deputy has read
the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission and its conclusion that “the range and
nature of RIRA’s activities in the six months were, by any yardstick, a very serious matter”,
that “its threat was dangerously lethal” and that the Continuity IRA remained “a major threat”.
Of course, Deputy Ó Caoláin’s party also wants the Independent Monitoring Commission to
be wound down. How is this justifiable, given the amount of terrorist activity in recent months?
In an ideal world, we would not have need for strong anti-terrorist legislation, but we do not
live in an ideal world. We cannot turn a blind eye while bomb factories in the Republic are set
up to murder citizens in Northern Ireland.
   Sinn Féin’s stance on the Offences Against the State Acts and the continuance of the Inde-
pendent Monitoring Commission may be put in context by recent reports that the defunct IRA,
along with members of Sinn Féin, were responsible for an enormous counterfeiting operation
recently uncovered in my home county of Laois. Europol described the operation as one of
the biggest and most sophisticated counterfeiting operations ever uncovered in Europe. When
gardaí raided a bunker a couple of weeks ago in a quiet and peaceful part of rural Laois, they
found enough ink and specialist paper to produce €200 million worth of €50 and €100 notes.
It is thought that the counterfeiting factory produced tens of millions of euro for the republican
movement before the Garda raid, and the notes have spread right across Europe. Reports
suggest the counterfeiting operation was established to counteract the IRA’s losses when Leh-
man Brothers collapsed. The grotesque greed and unbridled capitalist appetite of many in the
                                               677
                Offences against the         17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion

  [Deputy Charles Flanagan.]
republican movement makes a farce of the pious posturing of Sinn Féin. I congratulate the
Garda Síochána and Europol for their successes in bringing the counterfeiting operation to
an end.
   We cannot preserve the fragile peace for which we have long campaigned if the Government
is complacent. Eternal vigilance in this House is the price of peace on this island.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: If the Minister for Justice and Law Reform of the day solemnly tells
Dáil Éireann that it is necessary for the House to continue in force the relevant sections of the
1998 Act for a further period of 12 months, then the Labour Party is not minded to dispute
that assessment. I say that with a somewhat heavy heart because in a peace-time democracy
there are issues of human rights and of compliance with our international commitments that
arise. However, if the intelligence available to the Minister concludes that there is an ongoing
significant threat posed by so-called dissident groups, then I accept that it is our duty to take
all necessary steps to protect human life and the security of the State.
  We are provided only with the flimsiest of justification for this and only then at the last
minute. I do not know if it is necessary for the Minister to interpret the legislation so that we
do not get this report until the day of the debate itself. I tried to get it last night and I was told
that it had not been laid before the House.

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: It is in the Oireachtas Library since last Thursday.

 Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I stand corrected, but I was told by staff in the library that notice of it
was laid before the House, but not the report itself. I do not want to make a big issue of it.
   The figures show that 880 people were arrested under section 30 and 192 persons were
detained for offences contrary to the provisions of the 1998 Act. There were 35 convictions
and a further 127 people are awaiting trial. These are serious things to be concerned about,
and it is my job to take the words of the Minister to the House on matters like this as seriously
as they are intended, and as a justification for having to continue the term. I join with the
Minister and Deputy Flanagan in the words of congratulations to the Garda Síochána for
its vigilance.
   Having put a criminal justice Bill through the House that allows for gangs and gang leaders
to be arraigned before the Special Criminal Court, I wonder whether we have not reached a
stage all these years after the Good Friday Agreement where the gangs to which the Minister
refers ought to be treated in the same fashion, and that the political label ought no longer to
apply. Deputy Flanagan sought to extend that argument. He did not make that point, but he
linked the so-called dissident groups to the criminal fraternity and the use of some of the
activities that are going on to generate the wherewithal for them to function in this jurisdiction
and the neighbouring jurisdiction. I wonder whether we have reached that stage all these years
after Omagh and the Good Friday Agreement.
  There are serious questions that should by now have been addressed about the annual
renewal since the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998. Instead of going through
this lacklustre and pro forma exercise every June, the Government should by now have decided
which, if any, of the sections we are asked to renew every year should become part of the
permanent law of the State. I want to take just one example. Section 9 of the Act makes it an
offence to withhold information concerning serious offences. Specifically, section 9 states that
a person is guilty of an offence if he or she has information which he or she knows or believes
might be of material assistance in preventing the commission by any other person of a serious
offence, or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any other person for a
                                                 678
                Offences against the        17 June 2010.    State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


serious offence, and fails without reasonable excuse to disclose that information as soon as
practicable to a member of the Garda Síochána.
  This is an important section. In particular, it is important to stress that it has application far
wider than offences against the State or the sort of offences we might expect to see tried in the
Special Criminal Court. The section makes it a crime to withhold information about the com-
mission of any offence punishable by five years or more in prison that involves the actual or
serious risk of loss of human life, serious personal injury, false imprisonment or serious loss of
or damage to property. In the context of the ongoing revelations of systematic child abuse in
religious institutions and dioceses, and the systematic cover-up by the authorities of abuse they
were aware of, an offence along these lines clearly could have important potential application.
    The least we should expect, by way of lessons learned from the Ryan and Murphy reports,
is that our statute book is now up to date and is equipped to take action against and to
criminalise a policy — a conspiracy — of non-disclosure of physical and sexual abuse that
continued in place for decades. However, section 9 has one serious defect. Presumably because
it is part of a package passed in September 1998 as a reaction to the dreadful atrocity at Omagh,
the section states that it applies to all forms of serious personal injury except “injury that
constitutes an offence of a sexual nature”.
  Probably the most serious, corrosive, systematic and sustained system of omerta to have
undermined the integrity of an otherwise law-abiding institution in this State is outside the
reach of the law because — and only because — it involved withholding information about the
commission of sexual offences.
  My colleague, Deputy Burton, asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on
25 March whether he had any plans for new legislation of general application to deal with
withholding information about crime. The Minister outlined several existing provisions, includ-
ing section 9 of this Act, one of the sections we are being asked to renew today. There are
existing offences of active interference in a way that impedes the prosecution of crime;
accepting money or other consideration in return for concealing a crime; administering an
oath requiring a person not to give information; and section 9 of the 1998 Act, which I have
just outlined.
  Section 176 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 deals with a more specific situation. It creates
an offence of reckless endangerment of a child. The offence arises where a person is in a
position of authority in respect of a child or in respect of an “abuser”, and where that person
knows that a child is at risk of harm or abuse but fails to take reasonable steps to protect the
child from that risk.
   My problem is that none of these five provisions deals adequately with the phenomenon of
failure by a superior to disclose information about child abuse. None of them deals adequately
with a decision to say nothing and simply to move the abuser elsewhere. A religious superior
who made such a decision could not be accused of taking active steps to impede a prosecution;
accepting consideration in return for concealing an offence; so far as we know administering
an oath requiring a person not to give information; child endangerment, unless a particular
child is exposed to particular risk by the superior’s decision; or withholding information under
section 9 of the 1998 Act because the offence being concealed is a sexual offence and so that
section does not apply.
  However, the Minister told my colleague, “Having regard to the statutory provisions already
in place, I have no immediate plans for legislation in this area”. There seems to me, on the
contrary, to be a compelling argument for extending section 9 to include sexual offences and
to extract the section from the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 and make it
part of the permanent law of the land.
                                                679
                Offences against the        17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Ar dtús ba mhaith liom freagra a thabhairt ar an méid a bhí le
rá ag an Teachta Charles Flanagan tamall ó shin. I will not allow the accusation of pious
posturing by a blueshirt muckraker to go unchallenged in the House. Since my election, I have
stood here and defended human rights time and again. I wish to state categorically that Deputy
Charles Flanagan assertion of Sinn Féin links to a counterfeit operation in his constituency is
complete rubbish and falls into the same category of much of the rubbish his favoured source
for the justification of renewing these provision we are discussing today. It is the IMC — three
spooks and a lord — and includes hearsay, gossip and untruths.
  The Minister is seeking the renewal of the Offences Against the State Act and we need to
deal with facts. My party believes, and when signing the Good Friday agreement the Govern-
ment and the British Government also believed, that the Offences Against the State Act should
be repealed in its entirety. The powers and provisions that exist in the criminal law are more
than sufficient to deal with the crimes and activities of organisations the length and breadth of
the State. Once again I implore all Deputies to consider the highly detrimental effects of this
legislation on human rights, democratic life and the safety and well-being of citizens in this
State before the vote on the motion.
   Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party all need to start respecting
international law. The UN fundamental human rights instruments to which this State has signed
up make it very clear that fundamental rights protections may be derogated from only in times
of emergency. I will repeat what I stated when this motion was debated year in and year out
since 2002, namely that I do not believe that an emergency exists in this State that warrants
these draconian measures. While Sinn Féin has been alone in the House in recent years in
rightly opposing the Act, this was not always the case. We had been joined by others in our
opposition. We had been joined by the Green Party until it threw in its lot and all of their
principles to prop-up the Government. We were also joined in our opposition to the Act by
the late Tony Gregory, who truly valued the concepts of democracy and human rights.
  Whether we stand alone here today or not we are not alone internationally because the UN
Human Rights Committee agrees with us and has called year in year out for an end to the
jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court. It is not only our international commitments that
necessitate opposition to the motion before us today but also the Government’s obligations
under the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement places an onus on the Government to
deliver security normalisation. Hence, the scrapping of the Offences Against the State Acts is
a pressing goalpost for all in this House. The provisions up for renewal, and the Offences
Against the State Acts in their entirety, have no place in the present or future of the island.
  I will state again, as I have in the past, that the illegal activities of groups in the State which
are opposed to the Good Friday agreement must be stamped out. The most effective way to
do so is to live up the commitments of the Good Friday Agreement and ensure progress
towards the reunification of Ireland, and proving that democracy can and does work.
  This year again, the report was laid before the House at a very late stage and Deputy
Rabbitte mentioned this. To my knowledge, it was done late last week. I do not understand
why the report is not circulated to all Deputies when it is laid before the House. The Minister
intends us to suspend normal rights and each year reintroduce draconian measures. At a mini-
mum every Deputy and Senator should have a copy of the report sent to him or her so he or
she has some understanding of what they are being asked to vote on. Year in year out it is the
same Deputies who contribute to the debate and most of the backbenchers in all the parties,
bar my own, would not have a clue what was contained in the report, and have probably never
accessed it.
                                                 680
               Offences against the        17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion


   Simply listing in the report the number of occasions on which the various provisions have
been used does not allow us an opportunity for informed democratic scrutiny of its operation.
I have stated time and again that the report is grossly insufficient for the purposes of scrutiny.
There is not time available to me to discuss all the various sections and others have mentioned
what are their intentions and how they fundamentally breach human rights.
  Sparse as the report is, taken together with each preceding report since the enactment of the
provisions in 1999, it demonstrates that sections 4 and 6 were not used in the past year, section
6 has only been used a total of three times since the provisions were brought in, section 12 has
not been used since 2001 and section 17 has never been used. This again brings into question
any argument around necessity.
   During the period of 1 June 2009 to 31 May 2010 the number of persons arrested under the
Act was 880. Yet the total number of convictions secured under the Act for the same period
was just 35. There is a huge discrepancy between the annual arrest rates and the annual convic-
tion rates which strongly suggests the possibility that the provisions are being used for trawling
purposes or are being abused by gardaí engaged in harassment in circumstances similar to those
in uncovered in Donegal by the Morris tribunal.
   If the Government really wanted to promote and protect the safety of the public then it
would financially and practically resource the Garda, build the forensic laboratory, and
resource the DPP and the courts to enforce ordinary criminal justice legislation in a timely
fashion. Instead, the Minister is proposing the lazy and unsafe continuation of emergency legis-
lation today to deal with a problem which can be dealt with through normal procedures. In
fact the Government is actively doing the opposite of what is needed. The recruitment mora-
torium has resulted in the reversal of the Garda civilianisation programme which is needed to
free up fully trained gardaí from desk duties. It has also resulted in significant reduction in the
number of probation officers.
  I and my party have consistently called on the Minister to introduce a robust package of
realistic and effective measures to tackle serious crime. Instead the Government has imposed
restrictions on Garda overtime and a ban on recruitment and promotions. The force is to
remain dependent on outdated and inadequate equipment. Instead of addressing the real
reasons why gangland criminals seem to enjoy impunity for their crimes and introducing and
resourcing practical and sustainable measures to protect individuals, families and whole com-
munities from intimidation, this Government lazily slashes fundamental justice rights like those
suspended by the Offences Against the State Act.
  I and my party last year produced a document, policing with the community, which set out
a number of measures which are urgently required to tackle serious crime. I will mention a
few. They include an expedited and far reaching process of civilianisation, which is on hold;
the increased funding of Garda drugs units with enhanced community input and the indepen-
dent oversight of informer handling practices to prevent situations developing where individuals
with a relationship with gardaí are allowed to amass a criminal empire.
   We also need to ensure there is a properly resourced witness protection programme which
can help the Garda and the DPP in trying to deliver convictions. We need enhanced Garda
visibility and activity in areas experiencing chronic drug problems and more sniffer dogs. I
heard the reference to X-ray machines. I have called for a number of them at ports around the
country. We also fully recognise that the vast majority of serious crime is drug-related, therefore
we have also compiled and submitted to the Government detailed proposals aimed at maximis-
ing both demand reduction and supply reduction.

                                                681
                Offences against the        17 June 2010.     State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion

  [Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh.]

  I again urge the house to vote against the renewal motion and demand the Government
properly resource the agencies involved in the fight against serious crime because it can be
done without this type of emergency legislation.

 Minister for Justice and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): On the procedural issue, the
Garda authorities provided a report which brings the issue up to the 31 May 2010. The report
was received from the Garda authorities on 10 June and was laid before the House on that day.
  Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Irish and British Governments are of the view that this type of
legislation should not be required. It is the case that we thought when the Good Friday Agree-
ment was accepted in a vote by the people that paramilitary activity on this island would cease
forthwith but unfortunately that has not happened and it has continued. I accept that some of
the information made available in the report is perhaps not as specific as we would like, given
the nature of the type of operations that must be kept from the public view but we would like
to provide more information.
  I accept that the Deputies who support the motion take on face value to a certain extent
what the Minister says on behalf of the Garda Síochána and the various authorities. I am aware
that Deputy Ó Snodaigh and is party have a problem with the IMC but equally, the IMC has
produced report after report which clearly indicates that activity has emanated from dissident
republicans in order to fill their coffers to allow them continue in operation.
  The issue of resources was raised by Deputy Flanagan. He used the term “penny-pinching”
by the Government. We have recently debated what went wrong during the Celtic tiger years.
Deputy Flanagen again calls for more resources when his party tried to suggest it was on the
road to fiscal rectitude. To say the Government is penny-pinching is nonsense because the
amount of money that goes to the Garda Vote is €1.5 billion, a substantial sum.

  Deputy Pat Rabbitte: What about the question of private airports?

   Deputy Dermot Ahern: The reality is that there has been a huge reduction in the number of
flights in and out of this country and I would hazard a guess that is part, if not all, of the reason
why there has been a reduction in activity in this area. The Department of Justice and Law
Reform is not directly responsible for this but the Garda work very closely with the Revenue
Commissioners and Customs and Excise to make sure that even the small airports and ports
are reasonably well monitored. As I said many times, we are working with our European Union
and international counterparts which has been very fruitful.
  In a perfect world, we would not have this type of legislation on our Statute Book but
unfortunately we do not operate in a perfect world and we have the remnants of very severe
paramilitarism in this country. We thought we would have rooted them out after the Good
Friday Agreement but unfortunately they continue to operate and pose a serious threat to
this State.
  I thank the Deputies who supported the renewal of these provisions every year. I understand
we dropped section 5 two years ago on the basis that it was not being used. We will review
that situation over the coming months. I commend the motion to the House.

  Question put: “That the motion be agreed to.”

  Deputies: Vótáil.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?
                                                 682
                    Priority                17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputies Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Arthur Morgan and Martin Ferris rose.

  An Ceann Comhairle: As fewer than ten Membershave risen I declare the question carried.
In accordance with Standing Order 70 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded
in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

  Question declared carried.

                                    Ceisteanna — Questions

                                        Priority Questions

                                             ————

                         Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Scheme
  1. Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance his views on the findings of the
report by Professor Honohan that the Irish Bank Guarantee was cast too wide and took the
question of loss-sharing with professional risk investors off the table; his further views on
whether he did not obtain a sufficiently broad range of advice in formulating the guarantee;
and if he will outline the approach he will adopt in the future [25944/10]

  Minister for Finance (Deputy Brian Lenihan): In his report on the banking crisis the Gov-
ernor of the Central Bank, Professor Honohan, is very clear that an extensive guarantee needed
to be put in place. The Governor raises some questions regarding the scope of the guarantee
relating to existing longer-term senior bonds and dated subordinated debt.
   I have on a number of occasions discussed the question of the inclusion of dated subordinated
debt in the guarantee and have been clear on the basis the decision was made. This was, in
particular, the requirement to maintain access to wholesale capital markets and guard against
the risk of a default for any of these liabilities which could arise from the non-payment of
either principal or interest that would have had the effect of triggering the entire guarantee. It
is important to note that none of the guaranteed subordinated debt in Anglo Irish Bank or
Irish Nationwide Building Society matured for repayment during the period of the guarantee.
  As far as opportunities for risk-sharing are concerned, I understand that holders of subordi-
nated debt in the three largest banks have suffered losses of more than €5 billion so far. In
addition, credit rating agencies have downgraded subordinated debt in some of the Irish insti-
tutions on the basis that they expect further costs to be imposed on these bondholders. I have
consistently made clear there is no question of the guarantee for existing dated subordinated
debt being extended beyond 29 September 2010.
   Turning to the inclusion of the guarantee provided for existing senior debt on the 30
September 2008, it is not straightforward to assess what options were available for burden
sharing and how that burden sharing could be achieved in practice. Moreover, there were
significant risks from excluding existing senior bonds from the guarantee, which could have
resulted in the guarantee being called on other guaranteed securities with severe consequences
for financial stability.
  Apart from these issues, the fact remains that a comprehensive guarantee of bank liabilities
was an established part of the standard toolkit for responding to systemic banking crises inter-
nationally. Sweden, which is often regarded as the template for successfully dealing with its
banking crisis, provided a blanket guarantee of bank liabilities in the 1990s. In the current crisis
Denmark, another small EU member state, provided an extensive guarantee, including existing
                                                683
                   Priority               17 June 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Brian Lenihan.]
bonds early in October 2008. The Deputy may wish to note that the UK authorities provided
a broad guarantee to existing senior bondholders in Northern Rock.
   In overall terms, as is evident from Professor Honohan’s report, the guarantee preserved the
stability of the entire banking system at a time that it was at serious risk of collapse. In the
circumstances of September-October 2008, with markets characterised in the Governor’s report
as hysterical, it was essential that the commitment provided by the Government to stand behind
the banking system was entirely credible, clear and consistent. In those circumstances, there
were significant risks in an approach which sought to discriminate between different types of
bank liabilities which resulted in the financial markets concluding that the guarantee was not
market acceptable or indeed credible.
  Very significant volumes of both short-term and longer term funding were secured by the
banks from wholesale capital markets in the weeks following the introduction of the guarantee.
This has subsequently provided an important foundation to the funding of the banks and a
bulwark against funding pressures that have arisen at various times since.
   I am, therefore, satisfied that the Government’s decision in this matter was at that time
informed by a sufficiently broad range of advice on the formulation of the guarantee. It will
be a priority for me to ensure that it remains the case that Government decision-making on
returning our banking system to health is fully informed by expert advice from the Governor
of the Central Bank, Financial Regulator and National Treasury Management Agency to which
I have delegated significant roles in the restructuring of the banks.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The report by the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor
Honohan, indicates that advisers to the Department from Merrill Lynch explicitly envisaged
the exclusion of dated subordinated debt from the coverage of the guarantee. However, the
two main banks requested that subordinated debt be included in the guarantee. Why, when
advisers indicated to the Department that dated subordinated debt should be excluded, did the
Department decide to accede to the request by the two main banks?
  Professor Honohan’s report states that notes were extremely sketchy at the time the bank
guarantee was introduced. Will the Minister elaborate on the contradiction between the advice
given by Merrill Lynch and the advice the Government eventually took? Will he make the
Merrill Lynch report available to the House?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: To clarify, there is not a Merrill Lynch report but a particular note
referred to by the Governor of the Central Bank in his report. As I outlined earlier in the
week, I would like to make available the entire file of the Department where the particular
advice can be placed in an overall context. This context will show, in terms of the written
record, that the note was but one element of the overall factors which were taken into account
on the issue of subordinated debt.
  It is fundamental to emphasise that when the Governor refers to the possible loss on foot of
subordinated debt, it is not a loss which has materialised to date because no such subordinated
bonds have been paid in Anglo Irish Bank or Irish Nationwide, the two institutions which, in
the Governor’s report, were failed institutions. I appreciate that the Fine Gael Party last year
took the view that Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks were also failed institutions and
wanted their bondholders of various descriptions to participate in some unspecified pain from
next September. Markets have since judged otherwise. As far as subordinated debt of a dated
character in the two institutions in question is concerned, the bonds and the principal in them
have not fallen due for payment in the intervening period.
                                              684
                    Priority                17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: When the Minister made the decision to include in the guarantee
dated subordinated debt — lower tier 2 — why did he go against the advice given in the note
to which the Governor of the Central Bank refers in his report?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: As I indicated, the note to which the Deputy refers was given at a
particular stage of the discussions.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: It was given several days before the guarantee was announced.

   Deputy Brian Lenihan: If the Oireachtas committee avails of the opportunity, as I am sure
it will, to examine the file as a whole and read the various notes on file, it will become clear
that the note was but one element of the advice received on the evening in question.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: It was an important element of the advice.

   Deputy Brian Lenihan: It is of no importance because there has been no liability on foot of
it. Let us be clear about this matter, no dated subordinated bonds have been repaid in Anglo
Irish Bank or Irish Nationwide. I cannot see any reason it is of importance because there has
been no actual exposure to the State on foot of these bonds since September 2008. I have made
clear that guarantee cover in respect of these bonds will not take place after September next.
The only question to which the Deputy may like an answer is whether any such bonds will be
paid in the intervening period and the answer is “No”.

  2. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance his exit strategy from the credit
institutions financial support and eligible liabilities guarantee bank guarantee schemes; his
views on the ongoing EU State aid approval process for the extension of the ELG scheme
beyond 30 June 2010; his plans to extend beyond 29 September 2010 the deadline for issuance
of liabilities covered by the ELG scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
[25968/10]

  5. Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the proposals he has developed
for extending the bank guarantee beyond September 2010 [24741/10]

  Minister for Finance (Deputy Brian Lenihan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 5
together.
   As the Deputies are aware, since 29 September 2008, the State has guaranteed certain liabilit-
ies of credit institutions in Ireland, initially under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support)
Scheme, known as the CIFS scheme, which was on foot of the 2008 legislation, and more
recently under the more targeted Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme,
known as the ELG scheme. The ELG scheme allows the participating institutions issue debt
liabilities and take deposits under guarantee from the date the institution joins the scheme until
29 September 2010 subject to EU state aid approval. The duration of the guarantee under the
eligible liabilities guarantee corresponds to the term of the relevant guaranteed liability, subject
to a maximum term of five years. In contrast to the credit institutions financial support scheme,
the existing liability scheme allows institutions to issue unguaranteed debt and take unguaran-
teed deposits.
  The existing liability guarantee scheme was approved by the EU Commission under state
aid rules from 1 December 2009. The scheme, in line with all schemes approved under state
aid rules, is subject to ongoing six-monthly approval by the European Commission. The scheme
was scheduled for review by the Commission before 1 June 2010 and in order to bring the
review date in line with other European guarantee schemes, the Commission has approved the
                                                685
                    Priority                17 June 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Brian Lenihan.]
continuation of the scheme under existing terms to 30 June 2010. This means the formal review
of the scheme by the Commission will now be completed before the end of this month.
  Regarding the position after 30 June, discussions with the Commission are progressing and
are close to conclusion. The terms of the prolongation of the ELG scheme being finalised with
the Commission would see the scheme being extended under the currently applicable terms
and conditions to 29 September 2010 as is provided for in national law. Beyond this, the guaran-
tee would be modified to provide for a prolongation from end September to 31 December 2010
as an issuance window for liabilities of between three months and five years’ duration. In
addition the current provisions applicable to retail deposits would continue in their current
form to 31 December 2010. That is an extension of slightly more than three months.
  It is likely that the pricing of the guarantee will also change in line with the pricing structure
outlined in the European Commission’s staff working document on the application of state aid
rules on government guarantee schemes covering bank debt to be issued after 30 June 2010.
   Progress on the phasing out of the guarantee will be achieved consistent with any require-
ment for continued support of the funding conditions of the banks and the maintenance of
financial stability overall. In my reply I made clear that the discussions and the decision by the
Commission will be concluded by the end of this month and I have tried to give the House a
sense of the direction of the discussions with the Commission at this stage.

  Deputy Joan Burton: The Minister is setting out a proposal to extend the two-year guarantee
to 31 December, if he can get the European Union to agree. If the European Union agrees to
an extension of the guarantee to 31 December, will that require further legislation coming
before the House or can the Minister do that by order under the Credit Institutions (Financial
Support) Act? Ordinary people understand that the guarantee ends at the end of September,
but the Government has already taken two steps, an application to the European Commission
to extend the guarantee to the end of December or as long as the Commission is willing to
extend it, and to have what is called the eligible liabilities guarantee which allows new debt to
be issued for a further five years under a Government guarantee. In that context can the
Minister confirm the figure he gave me approximately two weeks ago that some €74 billion in
guaranteed bank liabilities will mature before the end of September, when the original end of
September guarantee comes up? Does the Minister propose to roll over the €74 billion into
new debt at that time or does he propose to try to go to the end of the year? These are very
important issues for Ireland because in many ways it will crystallise in the minds of international
bond markets the level of the total indebtedness on the part of the Government regarding
the guarantee?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I thank the Deputy for her questions which assist in clarifying these
matters. I understand the matter can be dealt with by statutory instrument. However, that
statutory instrument would be required to be brought before the House. In the event that
changes are required to the terms of the current ELG scheme, the draft statutory instrument
introducing any changes to the ELG scheme after 29 September 2010 will require Oireachtas
approval under section 6 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. I can, of
course, implement any increase in guarantee fees from 1 July on an administrative basis under
the current ELG schemes. However, changes in the terms of the ELG scheme would require
approval in both Houses, but not fresh legislation.
   The Deputy also asked about the precise sums and the difficulty of the cliff on 29 September.
I understand that in terms of guaranteed issuance under the CIFS scheme — the old scheme
if one likes as announced in 2008 — some €29 billion of longer-tem bank debt is due to be
                                                686
                    Priority               17 June 2010.              Questions


refinanced by the end of September 2010. Obviously a prolongation of the ELG scheme would
provide a good basis for the refinancing of these liabilities. That said, Deputy Burton used a
different figure. I will arrange for my Department to examine——

  Deputy Joan Burton: It was advised by departmental officials.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I will arrange to write to the Deputy about that figure. The infor-
mation at my disposal this afternoon is that in terms of guaranteed issuance under the CIFS,
some €29 billion of longer-term bank debt is due to be refinanced by the end of 2010. However,
I will revert to the Deputy about the wider figure she mentioned,

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Professor Honohan appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Com-
mittee on Finance and the Public Service earlier in the week. He stated that any renewal or
extension of the bank guarantee scheme should only be in respect of new senior debt issued
and not in respect of existing senior or subordinated debt or new subordinated debt. I ask the
Minister to outline his views on the matter.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I made clear the position on subordinated debt in reply to a previous
question. There is no proposal under discussion with the Commission and there is no intention
to provide coverage for any class of subordinated debt after the guarantee period up to 29
September.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: I know that.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The guarantee in respect of senior debt is due to lapse on 29
September but we are in discussion with the Commission on an extension to the end of the year.
Regarding existing senior debt, the purpose of the ELG scheme is to provide its refinancing on
a different basis.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: For how long will existing senior debt be guaranteed under what
the Minister now proposes? Does he envisage it just being guaranteed to the end of December?

 Deputy Brian Lenihan: That was the direction of my reply and that is my expectation of
what the final assessment of the Commission and the national authorities will be.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: What will happen thereafter?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Thereafter the ELG scheme will provide, and the ELG scheme
already provides, for the possibility of refinancing under guarantee. Of course the banks are
free to finance on an unguaranteed basis also. Deputies must appreciate the very difficult
conditions that obtain in world markets at present in respect of which Ireland is not being
singled out to any extent, but is participating as all other European states are participating in
a very difficult international context.

  Deputy Joan Burton: Contrary to what Fianna Fáil claimed at the time, this guarantee is not
the shortest, cheapest no-cost guarantee in the world. All of our banks remain on life support
from the guarantee and continue to require that support. We were told yesterday that €14
billion of the €22 billion had already gone into Anglo Irish Bank. Mr. Anysley said that we
need to face the fact that it is just gone.
  There is nearly €60 billion of senior debt due for renewal on 1 October and there is a total
of €141 billion, according to a reply given by the Minister, of wholesale funding. That is demand
deposits, inter-bank lending and the senior debt. The sub-debt is very small for the reasons
outlined by the Minister.
                                               687
                   Priority              17 June 2010.              Questions

  [Deputy Joan Burton.]

   The promises made by the Minister and Fianna Fáil that this would be the cheapest, easiest,
cleanest and quickest guarantee in the world is simply not true. It needs to be extended and
€60 billion of debt is needed on 1 October to either be rolled over, extended or included in
the eligible liabilities guarantee scheme. Along with the Honohan and Regling and Watson
reports, that tells us everything.
  When debts are rolled over — which is good in a way — the fact is that despite the austerity
measures in Ireland, the bond spreads of Ireland compared to Germany and countries like
Spain, which are also experiencing difficulties, remain awesomely high. At least €4 billion
in this year’s budget will need to be paid to cover the cost of servicing all these different
debt requirements.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Deputy Burton is confusing a number of different markets. As far as
the guarantee is concerned, the Government will receive substantial moneys from the banks.
It will be shy of the €1 billion envisaged because the banks received substantial collateral
support from the European Central Bank in respect of which the relevant fees could not be
charged.

  Deputy Joan Burton: They would be dead except for that.

 Deputy Brian Lenihan: They would be dead but for the guarantee and a number of
measures taken.

  Deputy Joan Burton: The bankers are not acting like that.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: It is not on foot of the guarantee that steps were taken to capitalise
Anglo Irish Bank, and that is an entirely separate matter. I do not quite understand the
Deputy’s argument in that respect. I understood the Deputy as saying recently that the reason
the Labour Party opposed the guarantee was because of subordinated debt, which I dealt
with today.

  Deputy Joan Burton: There was also senior debt, as described by Professor Honohan.
Professor Honohan gives a good expression of our views.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Allow the Minister to answer the question.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: When the matter was debated in the Houses in early October, there
was no reference from any side of the House to senior debt. Nobody suggested that senior
debt should be called into question or not guaranteed.

  Deputy Joan Burton: The Labour Party suggested——

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Allow the Minister to reply.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Professor Honohan dealt with the question of existing senior debt in
his report and has not drawn a firm conclusion on it.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The Minister is not quite right.

  Deputy Joan Burton: The Minister is wrong.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The Deputies were present. I was not present at the committee
hearing because I would not be present at a hearing when the author of a report I commissioned
                                             688
                    Priority                17 June 2010.               Questions


was there. I read the transcript and my understanding is that Professor Honohan was extremely
coy on the subject of senior debt and how any question of senior debt could have arisen in
2008 or 2009. He made it clear that to even mention such an idea in 2008 and 2009 could have
accelerated a catastrophe.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We need to move on.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The question of senior debt is also in the realm of the potential
after 2009.

  3. Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance the way he has arrived at the
estimate of a further €10 billion cost for the tax payer at Anglo-Irish Bank; and if he expects
this sum will be committed before the expiry of the guarantees [25945/10]

   Deputy Brian Lenihan: As I pointed out in the banking statement on 30 March, the unavoid-
able reality is that the bank has incurred losses from its large-scale property lending and needs
substantial further capital. I also made clear that unpalatable as it is, only the taxpayer can
               provide this capital and in view of the significant costs of an immediate liquidation
4 o’clock      or wind-down of the bank, which I set out in my statement, this was the least
               worst option in light of the imperative of continuing to maintain overall financial
stability. I made it clear that there is simply no alternative that meets Anglo Irish Bank’s
unavoidable obligations at a lower cost consistent with the maintenance of the hard-won stab-
ility of the banking system in Ireland.
  For that reason, in addition to the promissory note provided to the bank at that time, to take
account of the bank’s losses to date I confirmed that the bank will need further capital to cover
future losses and accomplish the restructuring of the bank and its balance sheet and this was
estimated at that time to be of the order of the figure referred to in the Deputy’s question. In
my statement I drew attention to the fact that notwithstanding very substantial work under
way on the bank’s restructuring plan, there are still significant uncertainties about this figure,
including the size of the discount on all of its loans transferring to NAMA, the scale of future
losses on its loans that are not transferred to NAMA and the exact nature and the scope of
any split of the bank under its plans and the EU Commission decision on the plan.
  I advise the Deputy that the estimate provided at end of March remains the bank’s base case
estimate of the additional capital required, taking into account the further capital support
provided at the end of May. The figure was included as part of the bank’s restructuring plan
submitted to the European Commission at the end of May. Work is continuing with the bank
involving the NTMA, the Financial Regulator and my Department to refine this estimate in
the context of ongoing discussions with the Commission on the restructuring plan. However,
the uncertainties I referred to in my banking statement remain with regard to, for example,
the loan-by-loan assessment of the bank’s loans transferred into NAMA.
  I reiterate that whereas the sums required to rescue the bank are enormous, the costs of
winding it down are even greater. The current bank strategy of seeking to devise a way to
realise value for the taxpayer out of the remains of the old bank means the State could at least
get some return, in time, recouping some of its assistance. I can again assure the House that
the bank shares my overriding objective to maximise the potential return for the taxpayer in
recognition of the State support.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: We had the chairman and management of Anglo Irish Bank
before the finance committee yesterday. The source of the €10 billion figure is the discounts
                                                689
                    Priority               17 June 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Kieran O’Donnell.]
provided by the bank itself on the NAMA-directed loans, with €36.4 billion at 28%. The first
tranche went into NAMA at 55%, leading to the differential of €10 billion.
   If between subordinated and senior debt in Anglo Irish Bank there is approximately €7
billion available, the bank has proposed a good bank to recapitalise in the order of €2.5 billion.
An extra €8 billion is needed because €2 billion of the €10 billion has already gone into Anglo
Irish Bank. May I take it from the Minister’s response to the previous question that he feels
that a case of existing senior debt would not be guaranteed? In the scenario of a good bank
and bad bank in Anglo, are we effectively looking at €8 billion, with €2.5 billion of that going
to the recapitalisation of the good bank, with €5.5 billion going to the bad bank? Should the
bondholders take the pain rather than the taxpayer?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I am not willing at this stage to make a definitive statement on how
that would be approached. Matters are with the Commission in Brussels and there are detailed
and intensive discussions between the authorities at the Commission and my Department.
Officials from the Department are also in liaison with the Central Bank and the NTMA with
regard to these matters. It is important that the taxpayer be protected but I am not prepared
to announce this afternoon in this House a default on senior debt.
  It has clearly been an accepted feature of the Government’s approach to this financial and
banking crisis that subordinated bondholders have to share the pain and take appreciable
discounts. With regard to that aspect of the question, I have made it clear that such debt will
not be guaranteed after 29 September. The markets are making their own judgments in these
matters and I will not speculate on how the question will be approached other than to set out
the general approach taken to date.
   With regard to senior debt and bonds, it is a far-reaching step for this country, given the
amount of funding we require at the NTMA to fund the State and the amount of funding that
Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and the other financial institutions require, to signal at this
stage that in any sense the State envisages a default on the repayment of the principal sums of
the senior debt in any institution.

   Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Some €14 billion has already gone into Anglo Irish Bank, which
is effectively a black hole. The taxpayer will never again see that money. There is a strong
argument that Anglo Irish Bank falls into a completely different category. With regard to
opportunity cost for the taxpayer, I ask the Minister to look at the senior debt within Anglo
Irish Bank in the context of saving €5.5 billion for the Irish taxpayer.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: As Deputy O’Donnell has made the proposal, it will naturally be
examined. I will arrange for that and a reply will issue to the Deputy.
  However, as a small country which is dependent on international funding, Ireland must be
extremely wary about any suggestion regarding a default on senior bonds. Under Irish law,
those who hold such bonds rank equally with depositors.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Anglo Irish Bank is no longer of systemic importance.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: If he will allow me to conclude, the Deputy will then be in a position
to ask as many supplementary questions as he sees fit about this matter. However, I make the
point that these payments rank equal in status with those relating to all classes of ordinary
depositors. They relate to bonds which issue not just to some class of people which the Deputy’s
party chooses to characterise in a generic way but also to pension funds, credit unions and many
other institutions, to which and in respect of which they provide a crucial source of finance.
                                                690
                    Priority               17 June 2010.              Questions


                                          Fiscal Policy
   4. Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to introduce a new
approach to the presentation of Budget 2011 to allow independent assessment of the proposed
fiscal stance and an informed debate about the choices he proposes and the consideration of
alternatives [25946/10]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: As the Deputy will be aware, there have been many improvements
in recent years to the budgetary process, including the publication of a pre-budget outlook,
usually in October, a more multi-annual focus, including the introduction of capital expenditure
envelopes, and the presentation of a unified budget, whereby expenditure and taxation
measures are announced together, thus ensuring a more coherent approach to budgeting. There
are already a number of independent bodies, including the Economic and Social Research
Institute and the Central Bank, which assess and comment on the economic and fiscal situation
in Ireland. Assessment is also carried out by international bodies such as the European Com-
mission, the OECD and the IMF. All of these contribute and help to inform the debate in
Ireland.
  I have worked to ensure more information is made publicly available than has been the
case previously. The report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure
programmes is one example in this regard. In effect, it amounted to the early publication of
expenditure plans and proposals well in advance of the budget. The interest shown in it was
remarkable and well in excess of 1 million people accessed it on the Department’s website.
This is an example of how placing information in the public domain can induce a more realistic
approach to the problems associated with public expenditure. The position on the report of
the Commission on Taxation which was the subject of early and prompt publication is similar.
Both reports will be important in identifying the future measures required to align more closely
our tax revenues and expenditures in order that we can place the public finances on a more
sustainable footing.
  The work of the National Economic and Social Council and its publications have also added
considerably to the information available and the discussions relating to the choices to be made.
In November last year, following publication of the pre-budget outlook, the House engaged in
a debate on budgetary options. There have also been numerous discussions in the Dáil on the
economic and fiscal challenges we face and the very difficult choices that must be made.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
  I am open to discussing further enhancements to the process of budget reform which I see
as an evolving one. In the context of the recent publication of the preliminary scoping reports
into the causes of Ireland’s banking crisis, the Government has asked the Oireachtas Joint
Committee on Finance and the Public Service to examine the key policy lessons in respect of
macro-economic management as set out in the report by Mr. Regling and Mr. Watson. One of
the areas on which the committee’s views have been sought is the case for independent insti-
tutional sources for economic and fiscal projections.
  There are also developments at EU level which are relevant. In the light of the financial and
economic difficulties being experienced in virtually all European countries, there is widespread
acknowledgement of the need for a strengthening of budgetary and economic surveillance and
co-ordination so as to reduce the likelihood of future budgetary crises. A task force on improv-
ing budgetary discipline was mandated by the European Council in March to advance work on
this issue. The recent European Commission’s communication on reinforcing economic policy
co-ordination is informing the discussion taking place at the task force which is chaired by the
President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. The mandate of the task force is,
                                               691
                    Priority               17 June 2010.               Questions

  [Deputy Brian Lenihan.]
inter alia, to propose measures for better budgetary discipline and an improved crisis resolution
framework, particularly within the euro area. The President will present an interim report to
the European Council today and present a final report in October.
   I have attended the meetings of President Van Rompuy’s task force and welcome its con-
structive work in this important area. We will need to see its specific recommendations in due
course, but it is clear that closer economic governance and broader and deeper examination of
budgetary policies, without prejudice to the role of national parliaments, are now being sought
at EU level, particularly within the euro area. This will have implications for all member states,
not just Ireland.

   Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The UK Government recently established the Office for Budget-
ary Responsibility which has clearly bolstered confidence in the bond markets. Fine Gael has
suggested an independent fiscal council, similar to the office in the United Kingdom to which
I refer, should be established in this country. The same suggestion was contained in the Regling
and Watson report. Will the Minister give consideration to establishing such a council? If a
body of this nature had been in place previously, certain tax incentive schemes might have
been curbed much earlier.

   Deputy Brian Lenihan: I am giving consideration to the establishment of such a body. That
is one of the reasons the Government requested the Joint Committee on Finance and the
Public Service to engage in further arduous labour.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The Minister is keeping us busy.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I am aware that the joint committee has a sizeable work schedule,
but I felt obliged to ask it to examine the three general economic questions posed by Messrs
Regling and Watson in their report and revert to the Government with its views in this regard
as soon as possible. We need to examine the possibility of establishing such a council.
  I disagree, however, with the Deputy on one aspect of this matter. I am not sure whether
we should pursue the United Kingdom’s example in this regard. By virtue of our membership
of the eurozone and the European Union, we are already under a surveillance obligation in
the context of the Stability and Growth Pact. It is true that the United Kingdom is under a
similar obligation. However, it is interesting that during the discussions engaged in by the Van
Rompuy task force the UK representatives made clear their position that they did not perceive
a need for intensification of that surveillance.
   While, in formal terms, the Stability and Growth Pact may not distinguish between members
of the eurozone and other member states, in the light of our experience in the past year, it is
clear that there is a fundamental difference in respect of the appraisal that takes place on the
fiscal front. The title “fiscal council”, used by many people, borrows a view of the English
language common in other EU member states. However, I remain open to suggestions regard-
ing what might be the appropriate title for such a council.

  Deputy Joan Burton: An bord airgeadais or perhaps an bord easpa airgeadais.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Absolutely. I understand the review at European level is carried
out in the context of parameters that are extremely broad. An independent fiscal council would
be in a position to consider specific issues relating to the Irish context. How soon after the
joint committee reverts to the Government on the matter will such a body be put in place?
                                               692
                     Other                  17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The matter is under consideration in my Department. I am examining
various options with my officials. I would welcome the views of the Joint Committee on Finance
and the Public Service as soon as possible. It was precisely for this reason that the Government
set a deadline of September in respect of the joint committee concluding its deliberations. I
would be happy if the joint committee reverted to me on the matter prior to the summer recess.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Will such a body be established before the next budget?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Yes, it needs to be put in place as—

  Deputy Joan Burton: Will it be established before the summer recess?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: No. However, it would be of assistance if the joint committee were
able to report its views before August. I would like to be in a position to make an announce-
ment on the matter in the course of this year.

  Question No. 5 answered with Questions No. 2.

                                         Other Questions

                                             ————

                                          National Debt
  6. Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Finance his projections for the growth of
interest payments on Government debt as a proportion of taxes collected by 2011 and by
2013 [24747/10]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Based on the projections for the Exchequer borrowing requirement
for the years to 2014 set out in budget 2010, the estimated cost of interest on the national debt
will be approximately €5.75 billion in 2011 and €7.5 billion in 2013. The National Treasury
Management Agency has advised that, as is usual, these estimates were prepared on the basis
of the prevailing market conditions for Irish Government bonds. Based on these estimates and
the projections for tax revenue for the years to 2014 as set out in budget 2010, it is forecast
that the proportion of tax revenue that will be accounted for by interest payments on the
national debt will amount to 17.5% in 2011 and 20% in 2013.
  Borrowing at current levels is not a sustainable long-term option. As debt servicing costs
have first call on resources, an increasing debt interest burden will lead to higher interest costs,
thereby reducing the resources available for the provision of public services in the future. This
underlines the importance of continuing to take the necessary action to restore stability to the
public finances. That is why, since mid-2008, the Government has been taking the decisive
action that will help restore sustainability to the budgetary position.
  The Government is committed to restoring order to the public finances through reducing the
deficit to below 3% of GDP by the end of 2014. Recent market developments highlight the
importance of continuing to take firm and decisive action in this regard. The Government’s
plan to reduce its general deficit to less than 3% of GDP by the end of 2014 has met with the
approval of many, including the European Commission, the ECB, the OECD and the IMF.
Considerable progress has already been made towards achieving this target. Fiscal adjustments
designed to yield 5% of GDP in 2009 were implemented between July 2008 and April 2009.
Budget 2010 implemented a further set of adjustments — mainly on the expenditure side —
amounting to 2.5% of GDP. The most recent Exchequer returns to the end of May show that
                                                693
                     Other                  17 June 2010.                Questions

  [Deputy Brian Lenihan.]
the Government’s actions are having a positive effect and that we are on track to meet our
budgetary targets for 2010.
  The Government’s focus now is on securing the necessary adjustments for budget 2011 and
work is under way in that regard. In terms of the amount involved, €3 billion was set out in
budget 2010 as the necessary adjustment for 2011 and, contrary to much recent speculation,
the European Commission has agreed that this is the correct amount. Some €1 billion of this
sum will come from the capital expenditure side and the balance of €2 billion will come from
the current side of the budget and involve a mix of expenditure and taxation measures. The
precise breakdown of this adjustment is a matter for ongoing determination in the context of
the formulation of budget 2011. At this stage, I cannot on the specifics of the budget.

   Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Perhaps the Minister will, in respect of the €3 billion mentioned,
provide the House with a broad breakdown between expenditure and taxation. Perhaps also
he will comment on the fact that relative to other countries our bond spreads are and have
been consistently high. Does he agree with the view that we continue to have a credibility issue
with which to deal in terms of the budget measures introduced in 2007 and 2008 which were a
little too late and how does he intend to address the bonds crisis in terms of borrowing on the
international markets?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: On the broad breakdown of the figure, I have already outlined the
position in respect of the €1 billion on the capital side. On the other €2 billion and the break-
down as between day to day expenditure and taxation, I am not in a position at this stage to
give a definitive figure in that regard. I cannot give a definitive figure because at end June we
will have the mid-year returns in respect of taxation and expenditure at which stage the Govern-
ment will begin its consideration of the broad thrust of budgetary policy. I am not in a position
at this stage in advance of that Government deliberation to give a precise figure in respect of
the breakdown between taxation and expenditure. Even after the Government commences its
consideration of that issue, it will be considerably later in the year, in the context of the budget-
ary figures, before a final determination of those figures can be given.

 An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I want at this stage to allow a supplementary question from
Deputy Burton.

  Deputy Joan Burton: Did I hear the Minister say that he expects interests costs this year to
be above €5 billion and to perhaps increase to approximately €7.5 billion owing to the amounts
and bond spreads involved?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: No, I was referring to next year to 2014.

  Deputy Joan Burton: They will be €75 billion.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Yes.

  Deputy Joan Burton: If the interest costs estimated by the Department of Finance for next
year are €7.5 billion and last year we collected approximately €32 billion—-

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The figure for next year is €5.75 billion.

  Deputy Joan Burton: And €7.5 billion the next year.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: No, for 2013.
                                                 694
                    Other                 17 June 2010.             Questions


  Deputy Joan Burton: Last year, we collected €32 billion in taxes. The Minister is saying that
commencing next year at least €5 billion will be spent on paying down interest. This means
that one in every six euro collected in taxes will be used to pay off interest on the debt,
including the bailout of Anglo Irish Bank. As the Minister stated, the Government is hoping
the European Union will allow it to write off the promissory note. It is a shocking indictment
of the Government’s approach that one in every six euro of all taxes will go to pay down the
debt. That is what the Minister is effectively saying.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The bulk of that debt has accumulated as a result of the gap between
Government receipts and expenditure, current and capital. The total overall cost of the bank
rescue package in relation to Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society will be,
as Deputy Bruton knows, spread over a long period and will be offset by gains which the State
has made in respect of payments on foot of the guarantee, payments from Bank of Ireland,
prospective payments from Allied Irish Bank and other results of the State’s investments in
the banking sector. The core crucial central issue which must be addressed, which the Labour
Party has singularly abstained from addressing in the past two years, is the gap that exists
between the current and capital expenditures by State and the receipts and revenues available
to it. That is the central issue that must be addressed by any occupant of this Office.

                                Departmental Appointments
  7. Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that the
top level appointments committee gives reasonable scope for appointments from outside the
public service and outside the appointing Departments [24775/10]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The Top Level Appointments Committee, TLAC, holds competitions
for and advises Ministers and the Government on appointments to Civil Service posts at Sec-
retary General, Deputy Secretary, Assistant Secretary and equivalent levels. Since early 2007
the policy has been that open competitions are held for Assistant Secretary, Deputy Secretary
and equivalent posts. This policy has been recently extended to Secretary General posts, with
the exception of a limited number of Secretary General posts which are filled by the Govern-
ment without a TLAC competition. Where open competitions are held the normal practice is
that the Public Appointments Service holds a preliminary competition and selects a shortlist of
candidates for interview by the Top Level Appoints Committee, TLAC.
  I am satisfied that the committee and the preliminary interview boards under the Public
Appointments Service carry out their functions in a fair and objective manner. In any industry
or business where posts are filled by an open recruitment process, one would expect candidates
with experience of the business or industry to have an advantage and there is no reason the
Civil Service should be any different. Some very credible external candidates, successful and
unsuccessful, have come forward in competitions held to date but overall the proportion of
external candidates with the levels of management experience and competencies that would
make them suitable for appointment has been lower than one might have hoped for.
  I will shortly be bringing proposals to the Government to restructure the Top Level Appoint-
ments Committee as provided for in the renewed programme for Government. However, I
would stress that I do not consider that the composition of the committee is the main reason
so few external candidates have been successful. I will also be proposing that the committee
needs to consider new approaches to attract stronger external fields, including in appropriate
cases an element of “head-hunting”, while recognising that even where suitable candidates are
identified in this way they would still have too undergo a competitive process.
                                              695
                     Other                 17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputy Simon Coveney: I thank the Minister for his reply. By way of clarification, I have
not been given any new appointment in the past few minutes I am merely here to assist my
colleague who had to go to vote in a different room.
  Perhaps the Minister will inform the House of what percentage of appointments to the type
of jobs outlined by him have in the past two years come from outside of the public service.
The Minister stated that there has been a disappointing lack of management skills from some
of the applicants outside the public sector. I find that difficult to believe in the current envir-
onment when there are many people out of work who have significant management skills.
Perhaps the Minister will assure the House he will ensure that when we are filling high level
posts through a process of competition and selection that it will be a meritocracy and that
people from the private sector will have as good a chance of securing those posts as have
people coming from within the public sector.

   Deputy Brian Lenihan: I do not have exact figures in that regard. However, as I understand
it, the number of outside appointments has been limited. I do not have the figures before me
but will arrange to have them sent to the Deputy. The Government has decided that Secretary
General posts must be filled by open competition with the exception of those posts to which
appointments are made by the Government without competition, including Secretary General
to the Government and the Department of the Taoiseach, Secretary General to the Department
of Finance, Secretary General for public service management and development, Department
of Finance, Secretary General to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Chairman of the
Revenue Commissioners and Secretary General at the Office of the President.
  Ten posts were circulated in 2009, seven of which were at Assistant Secretary level, of which
four were open to applicants from outside the public sector; three were at Secretary General,
of which one was open to applicants outside the public sector. Taking 2010 statistics for the
Civil Service as a whole, 16 posts have been posted so far, 11 of which were at Assistant
Secretary level, all of which were open to applicants from outside the public sector; two were
at Secretary General level, one of which at the Department of Social Protection, was open to
applicants from outside the public sector, the other at the Office of the Attorney General being
open only to applicants from within the public sector given it is specialised in character; one
was at Second Secretary General level and was open to applicants outside the public sector;
two were at Deputy Secretary level, one of which was open to applicants from outside the
public sector, the other being open only to applicants from within the Civil Service.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will allow a supplementary question from Deputy Burton.

   Deputy Joan Burton: The Regling and Watson and Honohan reports identify an appalling
lack of expertise in the Department of Finance. Maybe the Department has accountants and I
believe it has economists, but they did not seem to be in a position to contribute to warding
off the collapse, particularly the collapse in Irish Nationwide and Anglo Irish Bank. I recall
civil servants from the Department of Finance advising me that the senior management of
those institutions were extraordinarily knowledgeable and well placed to command the affairs
of the institutions and were, pretty much, irreplaceable. I found that notion extraordinary and
still find it so. The Department of Finance needs people with specific professional skill sets,
which they have practised in areas such as accountancy.
  We are all aware of the one person who came into the Minister’s Department as an assistant
secretary and was referred to in The Sunday Business Post last weekend. That person was at a
senior level in the Department, left to go to a consulting position and then returned. Someone
who goes out, gets experience and comes back is valuable but that is hardly a revolution.
                                                696
                     Other                  17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The Deputy’s more general point is correct. Much of the focus in the
question has been on senior positions. It is quite difficult to obtain private interest in those
senior positions. Some of this is bound up with the question of pension provision and there are
wider remuneration questions. It is not simply a matter of an administrative culture refusing to
accept outsiders although, in the context of the review of the top level appointments committee
arrangements, I am conscious of the need to ensure there are adequate safeguards against that.
There is a wider pension provision issue, which militates against outside applications.
   Deputy Burton’s point is of particular importance. I agree with her and I am examining this
matter with my officials at present. It is extremely important that the necessary skills sets exist
in the Department of Finance. That is not a question that relates to top level appointments. It
arises at middle range qualifications and appointments. We have arranged for the appointment
of a banking analyst in the Department and the necessary procedures to recruit this individual
had to take place outside the normal civil service recruitment procedures. There is, clearly, a
need to complement that approach in the fields of accountancy and other areas, although there
is a wealth of economic expertise in my Department.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The Regling and Watson and Honohan reports both express
amazement at the failure to identify the level of risk at an earlier period in the banks. It appears
that the risk was in front of their faces but they could not see it. Furthermore, the issue of
solvency was never addressed. The focus was all on liquidity. Was that due to a lack of expertise
or a lack of procedures in the Financial Regulator’s office and the Department of Finance?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The question is answered in the reports and in Professor Honohan’s
comments the other day to the joint committee. They make it clear that the primary responsi-
bility for the domestic contribution to the economic crisis rests with the banks. That means
their internal management——

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The Minister is in the bronze medal position now.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: We are a long way ahead of the bronze medal. Let us stick to the
gold medal.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: He is bordering on silver.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Primary responsibility, according to all these gentlemen, rests with
the banks.

  Deputy Joan Burton: What about the brass medal?

 Deputy Brian Lenihan: Deputy Burton can decide, for her next sound-bite, to whom she
wants to allocate that.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: When it is discoloured it becomes brass. It is discoloured,
obviously.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Within the banks, primary responsibility lies with management and
with their boards. Professor Honohan goes on to say the regulatory and supervisory systems
did not identify the risks within sufficient time. That is clearly painted in the report.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: It, clearly, broke down.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: Clearly, the Government’s more modest role has been acknowledged
in the report.
                                                697
                     Other                 17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputy Joan Burton: That is the silver medal.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: It was the bronze medal yesterday and it remains that.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: It is silver today. He will get gold tomorrow.

                                          Tax Returns
  8. Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Finance his views on the end of May
Exchequer returns which showed a tax revenue shortfall of more than €1.4bn compared to the
same period in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25608/10]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: At the end of May, €12.1 billion in tax revenue receipts had been
collected. As Deputy Lynch points out in her question, this is a drop of approximately €1.4
billion on the amount collected in the first five months of 2009, which represents a year-on-
year decline of 10.4 per cent. However, the monthly profiles for tax revenue published in early
February, anticipated a significant year-on-year decline in the initial months of 2010, with
receipts expected to recover during the course of the year to finish the year 6% down on 2009
in overall terms. This would represent a fall of just under €2 billion for the year as a whole.
  In terms of the Government’s budgetary targets, it is more appropriate to look at the per-
formance of tax revenues against the monthly profiles. Overall, tax receipts in the first five
months of the year were just €148 million below the target of €12.3 billion. This represents a
shortfall of just 1%. While this is a slight worsening of the position at end-April, when receipts
were on target, it should be noted that the amount scheduled for collection in May was large,
representing the second highest monthly target for 2010.
   On the individual tax-heads, receipts from VAT, corporation tax, capital gains tax, capital
acquisitions tax and customs were all above target at the end of May, while income tax, excise
duties and stamp duties were all below profile. The overall shortfall was largely driven by
income tax receipts, which were €219 million below target for the first five months of the year.
While the weakness evident in income tax receipts may be seen as a cause for some concern,
it is too early to draw any conclusions for the outcome for the year as a whole. There has been
considerable movement in the months to date, with income tax receipts hitting target in the
months of March and April but falling short in the month of May. This performance has been
echoed in other tax-heads, most notably VAT and corporation tax, where shortfalls in some
months have been offset by surpluses in other months. While there are significant targets to
meet in the months ahead, and no clear trend has emerged as yet, the budget 2010 forecast for
tax revenues of just over €31 billion remains valid. We will assess the position further in light
of the end of June Exchequer returns.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
  On the expenditure side, the end-May Exchequer returns also showed that the expenditure
control decisions taken by Government are having an effect. Total net voted expenditure was
down by €1.7 billion or 9% on the same period in 2009.
  The overall Exchequer deficit at end-May was €7.9 billion, down from the €10.6 billion
recorded in the same period last year.
  As the Deputy is aware, the Government has long acknowledged that the gap between
revenues and expenditure is unsustainable. A multi-annual framework to restore stability to
the public finances and to reduce the general Government deficit to below 3% of GDP by
2014 has been set out. The European Commission, the ECB, the IMF, the OECD and respected
international economic commentators are among those who have welcomed the plan.
                                               698
                     Other                 17 June 2010.               Questions


  Deputy Joan Burton: Is the Minister concerned that the structural deficit and the huge loss
in revenue from the construction industry are gone forever? They will now be down at a very
modest level. Has the Minister identified the ongoing loss from that deficit?
  Does the Minister accept that if he can get people back to work — including work experience,
graduate interneeship and apprenticeships, which the Labour Party has proposed — a couple
of things can happen relatively quickly? When someone returns to work there is a saving in
social welfare payments and, slowly but surely, the person’s spending increases and they
become a contributor to the income tax receipts. In addition, every time someone loses his or
her job the cost to the State is about €10,000 per year in social welfare benefits. The debt spiral
of deflation, as Ben Bernanke has described it in the United States, is not a good idea. More
severe cutting causes job losses. The Minister’s preference for cutting capital causes the
deflationary spiral to get worse.
  How does the Minister think EUROSTAT will treat the extra billions going to Anglo Irish
Bank? Last year, the Minister disagreed with me when I said the €4 billion would count in our
deficit, and it did. It now looks as though the €10 billion extra will not be €1 billion per year
but rather €10 billion in one year. Can the Minister give a view on that?

   Deputy Brian Lenihan: Of course I am concerned. I have been concerned for a considerable
period about the structural loss in our tax base occasioned by the property bust. The effect of
it has been a substantial depletion in the amount the State received in capital gains tax and
stamp duty receipts. I agree that has been a very serious problem. Any Government would be
concerned about it, naturally. That is why the Commission on Taxation has made proposals
for broadening the tax base and ensuring it is less elastic in the future. Clearly, one of the
lessons highlighted in the reports is that a tax base which is subject to rapid upward and
downward changes in tax receipts, because of the elastic character of certain receipts, is not
structurally viable for the future. The Government is examining the proposals in that regard. I
will bring proposals to the Cabinet in the context of this year’s budget to ensure our tax base
is more reliable in the years ahead. I agree that both factors — employment measures and
general confidence in the economy — have to be attended to if we are to generate a viable
revenue base.
   Initiatives of the type mentioned by the Deputy — graduate internships and back to work
arrangements, etc. — can be brought into operation now that final agreement has been reached
on the Croke Park deal. It is disappointing that it took so long for that to happen. Now that
agreement has been arrived at, we have an opportunity to make progress with these issues.
Proposals that would generate confidence, in terms of income tax and employment numbers,
can be pursued. I place considerable emphasis on the importance of sustaining general confi-
dence in the economy so that individuals spend money and make investment decisions. Fiscal
correction is necessary as part of the climate of sustaining confidence. Many people have called
for a stimulus package. Our level of borrowing is such that it amounts, in itself, to the only
stimulus package — and a substantial one at that — in which the Government can engage,
with the exception of supply side stimulus measures that can be considered in specific sectors.
  Having agreed with the first two points made by Deputy Burton, I would like to take issue
with her third point. I do not have a preference for cutting the public capital programme. We
have maintained capital investment at a very high level. Many of the reductions in the total
volume of capital expenditure can be justified in terms of the cheaper tendering prices for
elements of physical infrastructure that now exist. The question of how EUROSTAT will treat
the capital sums that are required in connection with Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide,
with which the Deputy concluded, is a matter for EUROSTAT. Clearly, the Department of
Finance will liaise with EUROSTAT on the appropriate treatment of these matters. It is fair
                                                699
                 Adjournment              17 June 2010.            Debate Matters.

  [Deputy Brian Lenihan.]
to indicate, as the Deputy did in her question, that a precedent that may have to be followed
in relation to further payments has been set.

  Deputy Joan Burton: I would like to ask the Minister about the mechanism for forecasting
the tax revenue shortfall. Will he make available to me his current estimates in relation to the
interest costs for this year? It seems to me that we are not getting the full picture when it
comes to the costs that apply to Anglo Irish Bank and the treatment of that bank. I was
surprised to hear of the amounts of money the Minister has committed to the smaller insti-
tutions, such the as the EBS and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. I do not know whether
the Minister was surprised to have to do so. We all know the Irish Nationwide Building Society
would be another dead duck if it was not for its deposit book. Can the Minister give us an
updated figure for the total amounts involved in the Government bank recapitalisation prog-
ramme and the interests costs arising therefrom?

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: The interest costs arise from Exchequer borrowing, which is arranged
by the NTMA. I can arrange for the NTMA to make an estimate. That estimate would be
subject to revision at the end of the year. That is normally done before the budget. A final
definitive figure——

  Deputy Joan Burton: Our bond spreads are not good.

  Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: They are very poor.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: That has a very limited impact this year. The figure for this year will
be drawn up by the NTMA towards the close of the year. On the separate question of bank
capitalisation, I will arrange for Deputy Burton to be given the information she has sought on
the institutions as a whole. The State now owns a controlling share in the EBS. The Oireachtas
committee may well wish to make investigations with regard to the Irish Nationwide Building
Society. The figure for the amount of the loss is far more definitive in the case of a smaller
society like that than in the case of Anglo Irish Bank.

  Deputy Joan Burton: We share the Minister’s hope.

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: This does not rest on hope. It rests on a considerable amount of
archaeology which has already been carried out.

                                Adjournment Debate Matters
  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect
of which notice has been given under Standing Order 21 and the name of the Member in each
case: (1) Deputy John Perry — the locations at which staff of the Department of Community,
Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs will be based in counties Sligo and Mayo and the need to ensure
the best working conditions for employees; (2) Deputy Timmy Dooley — the need to provide
satellite agriculture offices on a part-time basis for those counties in which the agriculture
offices have been closed; (3) Deputy Pat Rabbitte — the response to the report of the Migrants
Rights Centre, Hidden Messages — Overt Agenda; (4) Deputy Joe Costello — the need to
provide sufficient funding for the continuation of all essential services provided by the
Daughters of Charity Service for people with an intellectual disability at the St. Vincent’s
Centre, Navan Road, Dublin 7; (5) Deputy Chris Andrews — the need to release emergency
funding immediately for the refurbishment of vacant flats in the Dublin South East constitu-
ency; and (6) Deputy James Bannon — the need to provide a new community college at
Kilbeggan, County Westmeath.
                                              700
                Swimming Pool             17 June 2010.               Projects


  The matters raised by Deputies Costello, Perry, Chris Andrews and Dooley have been selec-
ted for discussion.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

                                    Adjournment Debate.

                                           ————

                                   Swimming Pool Projects.
  Acting Chairman (Deputy Cyprian Brady): I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Connick,
to the House.

  Deputy Joe Costello: The Acting Chairman is well acquainted with the issues I propose to
address during this debate. The difficulties that were experienced last September, when the
swimming pool at the St. Vincent’s Centre was closed due to a lack of funding for its refur-
bishment, represented a major setback for the Daughters of Charity, who run the centre. Swim-
ming pools are of wonderful value — for rehabilitation purposes, for example — in centres
where many people receive services on a residential or day care basis. The swimming pool has
been closed for some time now. It was one of the first serious cutbacks in the services being
provided to intellectually challenged people at the St. Vincent’s Centre. As the Acting Chair-
man knows, the Daughters of Charity have been providing an excellent service at the centre,
which is based on the Navan Road in Dublin, for a long period of time. Approximately 300
people are catered for there on a residential or day care basis. The centre is a well respected
institution in the community.
  A bombshell landed on the Daughters of Charity last month when the HSE indicated they
would have to pare €4 million from their services by the end of the year. If they had been
given that information six months ago, it would have been easier for them to adjust. The cuts
will be exacerbated because they will have to be made in the remaining half of the year. They
will be sharper in the areas in which they fall. The first requirement indicated by the HSE is
that 56 staff members will have to be taken off the payroll. Overall staff numbers will have to
be reduced from 1,046 to 990. A sanction in the form of a 5% cut has been threatened if
quarterly targets are not achieved. These measures will affect the services being provided at
the St. Vincent’s Centre. The HSE has already instructed the closure of the Ard Cuan respite
care centre on the Old Cabra Road by 30 June next. All service users, including their families,
were only told about this on 8 June, which was very short notice. The entire service provided
off-campus is closing down entirely.
   On top of this, the respite care service at the Sancta Maria unit, on-campus at the Navan
Road centre, will be reduced to being provided four nights, Monday to Thursday. The number
of family support hours provided for will also be significantly reduced. The opening hours of
Connect, the after-school club, will also be significantly reduced, while the annual summer
camp will not be able to function because there is no money to provide support. Parents will
have to pay for the transport of their children to Deck, another service provided in the summer,
if it will be able to function, which is unlikely. The skills development programme will have to
close for four weeks instead of the usual three in the summer. Staff members have been
informed that they will have to take an extra week’s holidays at their own expense or be
redeployed to some other area. These are severe cutbacks which are being implemented in the
middle of the summer. The management of St. Vincent’s Centre is endeavouring to ensure
residential and day care services will be maintained as well as possible for the remainder of
the year.
                                              701
                 Swimming Pool              17 June 2010.                 Projects

  [Deputy Joe Costello.]

   As I said, the centre has already had to close its swimming pool owing to lack of funding for
refurbishment. One would expect services provided for one of the most vulnerable sectors of
the community — people with intellectual disabilities — would be the last to be hit, but they
have been targeted in this case. I urge the Minister to consider what can be done to reverse
these cutbacks. The cutbacks to funding for librarians in disadvantaged areas who were to be
given the chop in August last year were reversed last week. This service was important, partic-
ularly in terms of promoting literacy and numeracy, and I am thankful the Minister saw fit to
reverse that decision because much good work has been done. I now ask the Minister to
consider reversing this €4 million cutback in the service provided by the Daughters of Charity
in Dublin.

  Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Seán
Connick): I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for
Health and Children. I thank the Deputy for raising it and I am pleased to take the opportunity
to outline the position on funding for the Daughters of Charity services at St. Vincent’s Centre,
Navan Road, Dublin 7.
   I reaffirm the Government’s commitment to providing high quality services for all people
with a disability under the national disability strategy which has the objective of putting in
place the most effective combination of legislation, policies, institutional arrangements and
services to support and reinforce equal participation for people with disabilities. The strategy
is the framework being used to achieve positive and active measures to support the partici-
pation of people with disabilities in society. Government policy and best practice recognise
that clients and service users need to be at the centre of service delivery. On an ongoing basis,
we are examining the way in which services are delivered to ensure people with disabilities are
provided with the best possible services in an efficient and appropriate manner.
   The Government’s commitment in the area of disability and mental health is consistent.
Overall, approximately €1.6 billion is spent annually by the health service on disability prog-
rammes, including residential, day care, respite, assessments and rehabilitation services. In
recent years significant additional resources have been provided for services and supports in
this area. The multi-annual investment programme 2006-09, a key component of the Govern-
ment’s disability strategy, had by the end of 2008 provided for approximately 804 new residen-
tial places, 307 new respite places and 1,863 new day places for the intellectual disability service
and 275 new residential places and 911,626 extra home care or personal assistance hours for
people with physical and sensory disabilities.
  The HSE has advised the Minister for Health and Children that it is very much aware of the
valuable contribution of the services provided by the Daughters of Charity for people with
intellectual disabilities in Dublin. During the period of the multi-annual investment programme
the Daughters of Charity services received funding from the HSE in the region of €85.126
million in 2005, €94.748 million in 2006, €101.301 million in 2007, €106.790 million in 2008 and
€110.542 million in 2009. This sustained level of additional investment reflected the significant
growth and development of the Daughters of Charity services throughout this period.
   The HSE is aware of the challenges service providers, including the Daughters of Charity,
are experiencing and the particular difficulties facing all health services in 2010. In this context,
it is vital that all providers work creatively and co-operatively to ensure the maximum level of
service is maintained for service users within the funding resources available. The HSE plans
to maintain access to appropriate treatments and services for clients during 2010, despite the
current resource pressures. It is aware of the challenges which this reduction in allocation will
present to organisations in ensuring they meet the needs of service users and in planning for
                                                 702
                 Decentralisation           17 June 2010.             Programme


emergencies that arise throughout the year. It is recognised that the maintaining of service
levels within available resources will require significant levels of co-operation, change, flexi-
bility and creativity. The HSE will continue to work in partnership with the voluntary service
providers in dealing with issues that arise from funding allocations to ensure the needs of
service users are prioritised and addressed.
  Disability service providers have been requested to submit their plans for the maintenance
of service levels within available resources. They have been asked to review all items of expen-
diture which do not immediately and directly affect front-line services and consider where
rationalisation can be effected in other areas; review the manner in which services are delivered;
identify any opportunities to reduce costs by sharing services and-or activities with other statu-
tory or non-statutory agencies; reduce the cost of back office administration functions and all
other unnecessary costs; and consider rationalising general management structures. The HSE
will continue to work with voluntary service providers to streamline costs and identify areas in
which efficiencies can be achieved without affecting front-line service delivery.

                                    Decentralisation Programme
  Deputy John Perry: In July 2006, 37 staff from the Department of Community, Rural and
Gaeltacht Affairs moved to new advance offices in Tubbercurry, County Sligo. The plan was
that the staff would be based there temporarily pending construction of a new headquarters at
Knock Airport in County Mayo. Later other sections of the Department transferred to Tubber-
curry. For the past six years the staff in question have been working effectively at the Tubber-
curry location and, by all accounts, have settled into a successful and happy lifestyle.
   The former Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, for whom
I have tremendous respect and who was committed to rural regeneration during his time as
Minister, had originally planned for the relocation of the Department to Knock Airport. This
move never happened, as the proposed office building at Knock Airport did not receive plan-
ning permission. It was then proposed that the staff would move to Charlestown. When that
option was rejected, a facility in Kiltimagh was examined, but it has now been rejected. It is
clear that there are no suitable premises at Knock Airport and that the premises identified in
Charlestown and Kiltimagh have been established as being unsuitable. Planning for an eventual
move by staff to a County Mayo location is no longer feasible or practical.
   There is now an air of unreality about the commitment of the former Minister to move staff
to County Mayo. I accept that he made his original commitment in good faith; however, six
years on, it is time for the current Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs,
              Deputy Pat Carey, to re-evaluate the situation. The staff working and living in
5 o’clock     Tubbercurry are uncertain about their long-term work and living locations. All
              of the staff who transferred to Tubbercurry are well settled into the local com-
munity and do not wish to uproot and move again. For their part, the local Tubbercurry com-
munity has made them welcome and did everything possible to ensure the new arrivals were
integrated smoothly. Tubbercurry and the wider south Sligo area have benefited economically
and socially from the arrival of the departmental staff. In addition, some new jobs have been
created in business support and related activities.
  I fully support the broad decentralisation programme. The Western Development Com-
mission carried out a study of the beneficial impact of decentralised offices in various parts of
the country, particularly the west, and noted that the economic impact of the relocation of jobs
to the western region had been positive and significant.
  Public sector employees have taken up opportunities to relocate to the western region for
quality of life reasons. I refer to the many benefits realised by easier commuting to work. The
                                                703
                 Local Authority           17 June 2010.                Housing

  [Deputy John Perry.]
western region offers many advantages, some of which we heard yesterday in Dáil Éireann, in
terms of cost savings and benefits from living in a close community, being closer to family and
living in a rural location. Eventually the western rail track will come to Tubbercurry.
  The relocation of Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs public sector jobs
to Tubbercurry brought major benefits to south Sligo. Will the Minister confirm that staff will
remain in Tubbercurry, and will he confirm that any necessary work to ensure the best working
conditions for staff will be carried out?

  Deputy Seán Connick: Under the decentralisation programme, 140 staff of the Department of
Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs were due to decentralise to Knock Airport. However,
following a decision in 2008 by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the develop-
ment of the Department’s headquarters at Knock Airport, the Government decided in October
2008 to proceed with the decentralisation of the Department’s headquarters to Charlestown,
County Mayo.
   Following the announcement of Government to decentralise the Department of Community,
Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, it was decided to relocate an advance party to temporary
accommodation in Tubbercurry, County Sligo. From the total of the 140 staff due to decentral-
ise to Charlestown, County Mayo, a total of 100 staff have now relocated to Tubbercurry,
County Sligo. A significant number of the business units of the Department, including the full
rural, community and financial business units, are operating successfully in Tubbercurry, where
two properties are being rented to accommodate the staff concerned.
   The two properties in Tubbercurry, County Sligo, which the Department are currently occu-
pying, were selected for the Department by the Office of Public Works, which is responsible
for the acquisition and rental of State property. These properties meet all the requirements of
the Office of Public Works. The Office of Public Works is currently leasing the two properties
in question and has leases on the premises until July 2012.
  Regarding the Deputy’s statement that new proposals that the staff transfer to Kiltimagh
have been examined and rejected, I confirm that in May 2009 the Government was approached
regarding the suitability of a building in Kiltimagh as a headquarters for the Department. The
Government requested the OPW to carry out a review of this accommodation and to assess
whether it was suitable for the Department’s headquarters. The advice received from the OPW
was that the building at Kiltimagh was not suitable for the Department’s headquarters and did
not meet the physical requirements of the Department.
   It is not the case that new proposals that the staff transfer to Charlestown have been exam-
ined and rejected. The position is that in light of budgetary constraints and affordability issues,
the Government decided to defer proceeding with permanent accommodation in Charlestown
at this time. This location, along with four other deferred projects — Drogheda, The Curragh,
Mullingar and Carlow — will be considered as part of the overall review of the decentralisation
programme in 2011.

                                    Local Authority Housing
   Deputy Chris Andrews: In Dublin South East over the past 18 months I have noticed an
increasing number of flats being left vacant even though there is a massive demand for social
housing. Social housing lists are under severe strain. In Dublin 2, Dublin 4, Dublin 6 and Dublin
8 there are more than 240 flats lying idle. At a conservative estimate, that would accommodate
500 people. This would cater for a significant number of individuals and families who could
live in more suitable accommodation. At present, there are adults with two or three children
                                                704
                  Local Authority             17 June 2010.                 Housing


living in a one-bedroom flat while they see a vacant two-bedroom flat next door. It appears
that nothing is done with these properties. The people are obviously frustrated.
   A person came to me recently and told me he was considering squatting. I cannot blame
people for this. I would probably do the same if I was in his shoes. However, that will not solve
the Minister’s difficulties. The Minister has done a major job and allocated considerable fund-
ing. Some €7 million has been allocated to retrofitting voids and energy ratings, €2 million has
been allocated to compliance with new rental standards and €1.7 million has been allocated for
improvement works on flats. Under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, the management and
maintenance of local authority housing stock, which is largely financed from internal resources,
is a matter of for each housing authority. During the boom years, Dublin City Council used to
employ contractors to improve the flats and subsequently allocate them. Now, times are differ-
ent. BER statements are taking a considerable length of time and the local authorities are
failing to certify flats. If the prospective tenant is willing to accept a flat in its current condition,
it should be allocated on that basis. This would allow the accommodation and the housing
stock to be used up. The Minister has developed initiatives to ease the pressure on the social
housing list. I am not sure how much support he is getting from the local authorities. He has
drawn up a range of measures to tackle the difficulties and challenges of the social housing lists.
   It is not acceptable that some 240 flats in a very small area are lying idle and this matter
should not be left to the council. That accommodation should be allocated as a matter of
urgency. The Government should intervene and tell the manager that the job is not being done.
I am not sure where the council spends money or whether it has been allocated enough money.
However, a scheme should be set up so that an emergency fund is provided and Dublin City
Council must meet certain targets before money is allocated to the council.

  Deputy Seán Connick: I thank Deputy Andrews for giving me an opportunity to outline the
significant funding and progress on refurbishment of vacant Dublin City Council flats in Dublin
South-East and elsewhere. My colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for housing
and local services, Deputy Michael Finneran, supports an ambitious social housing programme
with new and ongoing projects under way throughout the country. It is a matter for Dublin City
Council to determine the content of their programmes including any plans for social housing
refurbishment in Dublin South-East, taking into account existing commitments, priority pro-
jects and any related co-funding and timescale considerations subject to compliance with any
necessary departmental sanction, terms and conditions.
  Some €179.085 million was allocated to the city council for its social housing programme in
2010, including €94.340 million for housing supply and €75.745 million for housing improve-
ment. The housing improvement allocation included €62.295 million for regeneration, €2.7
million for remedial works, €7 million for retrofitting voids and energy upgrades, €2 million
for compliance with new rental standards and €1.75 million for improvement works, such as
extensions and conversions to meet special needs.
  The Minister of State with responsibility for housing and local services is also committed to
a multi-annual regeneration programme in Dublin city to help to improve the lives and con-
ditions of the communities involved. Over the past decade, the Government has invested more
than €100 million in the Dublin City Council inner city flats regeneration programme and the
Minister has allocated a further €11.5 million in 2010 to support regeneration and improvement
works in the inner city area.
  The number of vacant local authority units nationwide is reported on in the annual local
authority service indicators report.
                                                   705
                  Departmental             17 June 2010.                Offices

  [Deputy Seán Connick.]

  The end 2007 report showed that a total of 5,090 dwellings, excluding those that were subject
to major refurbishment programmes, were empty across the country. This represented 4.3% of
the total stock of 118,000 dwellings. The 2008 report shows a decrease of 1,231 on the 2007
total — a 24% improvement — bringing the number of vacant units down nationally to 3,859,
or 3.15% of total stock.
   In order to achieve further improvements, especially energy efficiency improvements, a fund
of €40 million was set aside in 2010 to provide co-funding for the retrofitting of vacant proper-
ties, both casual and planned, across local authority housing stock. The allocation to Dublin
City Council of €7 million for retrofitting voids and energy upgrades, €2.7 million for remedial
works and €2 million for compliance with new rented standards will have a very positive impact
on improving vacant houses and flats across the city, to facilitate the early re-letting of such
properties.
  I point out that under section 58 of the Housing Act 1966, the management and maintenance
of local authority housing stock is a matter for individual authorities. I am happy to say that
Dublin City Council has the full support from the Minister of State with responsibility for
housing for its social housing investment programme and, in particular, for its delivery of a
range of housing responses to meet additional housing needs.

                                     Departmental Offices
  Deputy Timmy Dooley: I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this important issue.
Rural Ireland requires the services of various Departments and, from a rural perspective, the
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food offices have been an absolute requirement for
the dispersed farming and rural community. A Government decision was taken in line with
budgetary and economic matters to control spending in that Department, which I can under-
stand. However, at the time an effort was made to undermine to some extent the work that is
carried out in those offices. Some sought to suggest that much of the work could be dealt with
over the telephone or on the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  It is an absolute requirement that a number of satellite or part-time offices be established in
those counties affected by the closure of their central district veterinary office. In the case of
County Clare, a workable solution would be to have a satellite or temporary office within the
confines of Ennis Mart, a location where farmers congregate on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This
would provide an adequate and appropriate location for the services of the Department,
especially in regard to veterinary matters, and would ensure that farmers had easy access to
those services. In recent weeks farmers have found considerable difficulty in getting through
the office in Limerick, now the designated office for County Clare farmers, despite their consist-
ent efforts to reach or make contact with that office by telephone. This is creating great levels
of frustration, especially for those farmers who require services for getting permits to have
diseased animals slaughtered and many other regular interactions they would have with Depart-
ment offices.
  The suggestion that much of this business is transacted now over the Internet is a fallacy.
Some larger farmers may have business of a kind that enables them to conduct it over the
Internet but for the vast majority, especially smaller farmers, of whom there are many in
County Clare, it is not acceptable to suggest they can transact their business in this way.
  I appeal to the Minister of State to give serious consideration to this. I do not believe there
would be any — or at least, not many — additional costs associated with having a member of
departmental personnel located on a site within the mart complex in Ennis a number of days
                                               706
                  Departmental             17 June 2010.                Offices


a week. There would be no increase in staff complement arising from such a decision and it
would show a very strong commitment by the Department to service the farming community.
   It is important this be dealt with now because there is a considerable amount of hardship as
a result of the inability of some to make telephone contact with the Department. In addition,
it is a complex journey to reach the office in Limerick, particularly from the north and west of
the county. For that reason, I appeal again to the Minister of State to review this matter at the
earliest opportunity. I do not ask him to incur any additional expense on behalf of the Depart-
ment but to utilise existing services in an efficient manner that provides the best available
service to the farming community.

  Deputy Seán Connick: I thank Deputy Timmy Dooley for raising this matter with me. On
15 July last year, the Government approved a plan for a reorganisation of my Department’s
local office network. The plan involves reducing, from 57 to 16, the number of offices from
which my Department will operate district veterinary, forestry and agricultural environment
and structures support services. To this end nine new regional offices have been established at
Castlebar, Drumshanbo, Enniscorthy, Navan, Limerick, Roscommon town, Tipperary town,
Tralee and Waterford city. Seven further new regional offices are soon to be established at
Cavan, Clonakilty, Fermoy, Galway, Naas, Raphoe and Tullamore. More than half of the 41
local offices planned to close have closed to the public and the remainder are to close shortly.
   The local office network reorganisation plan is an important phase in the ongoing overall
reorganisation of my Department, which has seen staff numbers in my Department reduced by
over 750 including the transfer of approximately 400 staff to other Departments, mainly the
Department of Justice and Law Reform, for the operation of the PULSE system in Castlebar,
and local offices of the Department of Social Protection and other Departments. In addition,
some 600 staff were redeployed internally to new and expanding work areas including the
single payment scheme and the implementation of new environmental, food safety and animal
health controls required by the EU. These savings reflect changes in my Department’s work
practices, improved business processes, the greater use of computerisation and the wind up of
livestock offices and takes account of the changes arising from CAP reform, the continued
implementation of the Department’s decentralisation plan, the findings of the organisational
review programme and the objectives set out in the Government’s transforming public
services programme.
  Internal reviews of my Department’s operations have highlighted changes in the workload
of the local office network arising from significant decreases in the incidence of animal diseases;
CAP reform giving rise to changes in the delivery of schemes and services; investment in
information technology, especially in the areas of animal health and welfare, customer manage-
ment, animal movement identification and themanagement of field inspections; adjustments to
schemes and programmes; reduced footfall in local offices; and advances in the broader areas
of transport and communications.
   Bearing these changes in mind the aim of the local office network reorganisation is to ration-
alise the overall number of locations across the country to facilitate the more efficient manage-
ment of schemes, services and disease levels. Providing satellite agriculture offices on any basis
outside of the 16 new regional offices does not feature in the reorganisation process.
  I am confident that the 16 chosen locations for the new regional offices will provide an
improved customer service in all regions of the country while at the same time reducing the
cost of delivering the services provided for the Department’s many customers and stakeholders.
In addition, the new regional structure will facilitate the retention of the appropriate number
of staff required in each location, while at the same time maintaining a very high quality of
services across the country.
                                                707
                     The                   17 June 2010.              Adjournment

  [Deputy Seán Connick.]

   This decision, when fully implemented, will result in financial savings in the Department’s
running costs of some €30 million annually, and the reduction of over 400 staff. By rationalising
our local office network we can improve services to our clients by concentrating the remaining
staff resources of approximately 1,000 people at the newly developed centres. This initiative is
part of a continual process of modernisation of the Department. The various staff associations
have been consulted in relation to the redeployment of staff within the Department and to
other Departments.
  I wish to express my appreciation to the staff in our local offices for their contribution to the
work of the Department over the years and to their continued commitment to providing a
quality service to our stakeholders. I would also like to assure this House and our key stake-
holders of my continued commitment to providing an exemplary support service across all
areas of Departmental activities and I strongly believe that this will be best delivered through
the new regional office structure now being implemented.

  The Dáil adjourned at 5.20 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 22 June 2010.




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