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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin As the Taoiseach knows, the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality concluded pre-legislative scrutiny on the reference to a woman's place in the home in Article 41.2 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. The committee's report was published last week and contains two options. The first option would replace Article 41.2 with the following wording:

The State recognises that home and family life gives to society a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall endeavour to support persons caring for others within the home as may be determined by law.

This wording is in line with the previous recommendation of the task force set up in the Taoiseach's Department in 2016. The second option recommended postponing any referendum on the matter until the Government formally consulted with the public perhaps through the Citizens' Assembly. Given the deliberations of the joint committee, will the Taoiseach confirm that the Government will bring forward legislation seeking to amend the Constitution in line with the recommendations contained within the first option of the committee’s report?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We have not had an opportunity to discuss this at Cabinet yet but the purpose of referring this to the joint committee was to see if there could be a political consensus on a new wording. If we can have that consensus, or if the consensus is secured, and provided the Attorney General's advice is favourable on the implications and interpretations of any new wording we put into our Constitution, that would enable us to legislate in the first quarter of next year before a referendum using the wording the Deputy quoted. It requires consideration by the Attorney General and by Cabinet first.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I was very struck earlier by the Taoiseach's response to the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018 and, frankly, by its coldness. I understand the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has sought Cabinet approval for measures to strengthen the powers of the Residential Tenancy Board. We welcome the proposed extension of notice to quit periods but the Taoiseach needs to understand that this measure will prove fruitless unless the legislation contains the Focus Ireland anti-homeless amendment to end evictions of tenants in buy-to-let properties being sold or repossessed. Time and again the Taoiseach has shied away from delivering the solutions needed to end the ever-increasing number of families experiencing homelessness. Despite the tea and sympathy approach the Taoiseach takes these are real people, including children who will carry the scar of homelessness for the rest of their lives. Today we learn that homeless families living in hotels are to be unceremoniously kicked out for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I have raised this issue before with the Taoiseach and he told me it would not happen, and not to panic. He cited, I think, the papal visit and other occasions. It is happening and today Elaine Wall bravely spoke up for her three children. I hope the Taoiseach heard her. How many families will be affected by the closure of hotels over Christmas and what measures have he and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government put in place to make sure these children have somewhere to sleep at Christmas time?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This is not a matter for promised legislation or the programme for Government but if the Deputy wants to put down a Topical Issue matter or a special notice question to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, I am sure he would be happy to come into the Chamber and answer her questions.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Writing in The Irish Times today, the Tánaiste said that Irish preparations for a no deal Brexit are accelerating. He stated:

All departments have already examined the legislation that will be required for no deal. Priority will be attached in the new year to giving this legislation Dáil and Seanad time. Political support across the Dáil will be necessary to do this. Some measures have to be kept confidential at this stage in the national interest.

It is apparent that the current withdrawal deal is facing real difficulties. Most commentators in Britain believe that it has no prospect of passing in the House of Commons. Will the Government publish the list of legislation that will be passed in the event of there being no deal and a disorderly exit at the end of March? We have a window over the Christmas recess for those of us in opposition to scrutinise and give detailed consideration to those sets of Bills if they are to come before us early in the new year, as the Tánaiste has indicated. Will the Taoiseach commit to giving party leaders a briefing on the secret Bills as the Tánaiste refers to them and the detail of the administrative preparations going on now to avoid a hard border and maintain the supply chains needed in this economy?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We will do that once it is finalised. We are happy to give the party leaders a briefing through the stakeholders group in the meantime. It cannot be finalised until mid-January because the legislation that would have to be enacted in the event of a no deal Brexit would be at European and domestic levels. We have to clarify what would be done at European level-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin For clarity, this is not a stakeholders' issue; we are not talking about the Industrial Development Authority, IDA, or anything else. This is a parliamentary briefing. If legislation is necessary urgently, we should be preparing for that in Parliament so that we can hit the deck running on whatever legislative preparations are needed, rather than have broad discussions with everybody. I put that to the Ceann Comhairle too.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is a fair point. This is the Legislature that will have to enact that legislation and we will be happy to share it once it has been finalised. We can give party leaders a briefing informally before that but it cannot be finalised until we know what European legislation will be brought in because some of this will be done by EU directive and regulation and some will have to be done domestically.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I wish to raise the plight of a constituent of mine, whose family are constituents of the Taoiseach's. John White is prohibited from leaving Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, UAE. I have raised this matter on previous occasions with the Taoiseach and with Deputy Flanagan when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. John has been working in the Middle East for almost 30 years as a building contractor and because of debts owed to him, he was unable to meet financial commitments, was brought to court and sentenced to five years. On appeal that was reduced to 18 months. He served 18 months and was due to be released on 15 August 2014 but when he went to the courts to collect his passport he was informed that one of the companies had taken a civil case against him and he got another sentence of three years. He is now out of prison but has no passport and is unable to return to his young family. He is in poor physical health, although he has improved somewhat. Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade investigate the possibility of issuing a temporary passport to John so that he can return to his family for Christmas? Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister to provide an immediate update to John's deeply distressed and devastated family?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am aware of the case and I have met with John's former partner. Unfortunately, issuing a temporary or full passport would not solve the problem. He would not be allowed to leave the UAE. It is not a question of having a passport or not, it is a question of whether the UAE authorities would allow him to leave and at present they will not. I have written to Sheikh Khalifa about it and may have the opportunity to raise it personally with him at the EU-Arab summit in February.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The Taoiseach once made the very unexpected admission that he would nearly become a socialist when he saw the way drug companies profiteer. That was in response to a question I put on cystic fibrosis. It applies now in respect of pembrolizumab. What progress has been made since Vicky Phelan came in here with Áine Morgan and Tracey Brennan who are in their 30s and 40s and told Deputies and Senators that they feel they are too young to die and they want equal access to pembrolizumab which has played a huge part in shrinking the tumours of other women?

Women whose tests were messed up by the State are getting access but unfortunately the women who did not have their tests messed up cannot get access.

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