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 Header Item Official Engagements (Continued)
 Header Item Social Partnership

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Will the Taoiseach explain why he did not give the same level of access to any group involved in respite and caring issues? The disgraceful and avoidable cuts, in particular to the carer's respite grant, announced last week could have been avoided if the Taoiseach had spent less time on photo opportunities and more time talking to people, such as those in the carers' groups. It is not about publishing fine reports and strategies but about what it is like on the ground for someone looking after a loved one at home, perhaps a person with a physical or intellectual disability. It is about getting a real sense of what the cut in the respite grant means to these people, both in terms of their weekly income and the degree to which they are valued as key members of our society who are doing exceptional work and thereby preventing the State having to intervene at an early stage.

In my view, the Taoiseach's focus is wrong and is more about photo opportunities than dealing with the groups who are bearing the brunt of the attacks reflected in the budget.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am not sure what the Deputy is getting at. I do not recall meeting the Society of the Irish Motor Industry for photographs. The table I have details 251 engagements, from January to the end of November. Most of them involved issues of employment and job opportunities. As the Deputy knows, one goes to Cork or Clare or wherever, where there is a list of invitations to attend other events but one cannot be at all of them. During the course of the year, I met a number of caring organisations and groups who deal with the elderly, young people or very young children. It is not a case of not wanting to meet any of these groups. The actual responsibilities clearly rest with the Ministers and Ministers of State in question who are involved in the issues on a full-time basis. As the occasion arises and if an opportunity presents itself for me to meet groups or organisations, I am only too happy to oblige. However, one can never get around to meeting as many as one would want to, nor does one wish to take from the important work Ministers and Ministers of State have to engage with in the performance of their duties.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Taoiseach stated he had a table of these events. Perhaps he might give us a random example of the type of non-party political events the protocol department is involved in organising.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny In November, for example, I opened the new UCD student centre; attended the European Parliament conference of presidents of the EU; had an EPP meeting in Government Buildings; launched an event celebrating 50 years of the Arts Council's collection and marking 60 years of the Arts Council; opened the Riverbank Centre; attended the official opening of Croí House in Galway which does such important work in heart research and assisting patients; attended the official reopening of the community centre in Galway, which was also attended by many others. I attended the ceremony for the presidential distinguished service awards to the Irish abroad. In addition, and apart from the preparations for the EU Presidency, I met different Prime Ministers and ambassadors. As an example of a non-political issue, I launched the archives of the Lensmen organisation, featuring photographs from 1950. The archive has more than 3 million photographs, taken from the 1960s to the 1980s. There is a whole range of non-political events one attends in the course of one's duty.

As to anything I might have time to attend in my constituency, the protocol section of the Department of the Taoiseach does not involve itself in anything of a local political nature, nor does it attend at party political events that may arise. Over the years it has never been the function of that section to involve itself in or attend at any such functions.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have not seen the table but appreciate it is normal and therefore do not complain about it. I will look at it later. However, I am conscious that the Justice for the Forgotten group has made numerous attempts to seek a meeting with the Taoiseach. It represents relatives of victims of the worst atrocities that occurred during the Troubles in Dublin and Monaghan. Last week was the 40th anniversary of the 1972 bombings. These people are at a loss to explain why the Taoiseach will not meet them. I tabled this issue in Question No. 31 but as we may not get that far today I would appreciate if the Taoiseach were to give a commitment to meet that group. He has met with other groups on the island and this group deserves to be met although so far it has only had refusals. I find that unacceptable and inexplicable so I ask the Taoiseach to reconsider, reflect on it and perhaps agree to meet the Justice for the Forgotten group.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I will. The impediment is time. I commit to meeting the Justice for the Forgotten group. I have a number of groups to meet and have no difficulty with this one. I hope we may be able to do this early in the new year.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I have a letter from the Taoiseach's Department refusing a meeting with Justice for the Forgotten. I am glad he has changed his mind. I raised the matter recently with the Taoiseach in the Chamber but he did not seem to know much about it. I would also have appreciated the opportunity to pursue the possibility of a meeting with people from Ballymurphy. I thank the Taoiseach for his answer. It is good that he will meet the Justice for the Forgotten group.

At the risk of being ruled out of order I give notice to the Ceann Comhairle, fraternally and respectfully, that under the Order of Business I intend to return to my request that the Taoiseach withdraw his remark.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I like to think we can meet as many groups as is possible. As I observed to Deputy Martin, we will make arrangements to meet the Justice for the Forgotten group. If there are particular issues that Deputies Martin or Adams wish to raise before I do so I would be happy to hear from either of them. I reiterate I have asked my Department to pencil in a time and date for a meeting with the members of the Ballymurphy community, arising from the incidents that occurred there many years ago.

Social Partnership

 3. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will provide an update on his process of social dialogue. [47414/12]

 4. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the groups he has met as part of his process of social dialogue. [49776/12]

 5. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the progress there has been on his plan to abolish the National Economic and Social Development Office and place the National Economic and Social Council on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50873/12]

 6. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he has met the social partners recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52234/12]

 7. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny his plans regarding the future of the National Economic and Social Council. [52243/12]

 111. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on any recent or planned meeting with social partners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55523/12]

 112. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on any recent or planned social dialogue with civil society groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55524/12]

 113. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will provide a list of the groups he plans to meet as part of his commitment to social dialogue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55525/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 to 7, inclusive, and 111 to 113, inclusive, together.

As I have stated previously, although the Government does not intend to return to the rigid social partnership structures of the past we do recognise the contribution that social dialogue can make to maximising common understanding across all sectors of society, as we respond to the many challenges facing the country. As part of this process, the Government continues to have regular interaction with representatives of all sectors of society. This interaction and exchange takes place primarily with the Ministers and Departments who have the functional responsibility in the relevant area.

In addition, I meet with many relevant groups during the course of my work. For example, since I last replied to this question on 10 July, I met the Irish Exporters Association on 18 July; the director general of IBEC and the general secretary of ICTU on 20 July; and the Small Firms Association on 6 September when I launched its national small business awards 2013. I attended the IBEC annual dinner on 13 September and met representatives of the IFA at the Irish Embassy in Paris on Friday 28 September. I also had a short meeting with an IFA delegation on the margins of the European Council last month and I met with the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association on 29 November. On 11 October, along with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I met the implementation body under the Croke Park agreement, which includes representatives of the public service trade unions. In addition, I met the EuroCommerce Board on 28 September and I will meet the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation on 18 December.

Multilateral engagement between sectors and the Government also takes place through the National Economic and Social Council, which comes within the remit of my Department. The council has an extensive work programme and continues to provide a valuable forum for dialogue on the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the country.

Last July the Government agreed to the recommendations of a review of the National Economic and Social Council and the National Economic and Social Development Office, undertaken by my Department. It was agreed to dissolve the NESDO but to retain the NESC as the statutory body. The review also recommended a number of measures to streamline and improve the operation of the NESC and achieve further efficiencies, in addition to the 60% reduction in the grant-in-aid funding since 2008. Work to implement the outcome of the review, including development of the necessary legislation, is under way in my Department.


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