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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] Nobody denies that this has not been an easy budgetary decision to make, but it has been a necessary step as part of our country's economic renewal. While it is difficult to have to implement these decisions-----

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Not for the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----it is important to bear in mind that the half-rate carer's allowance was maintained. The grant is still considerably higher, even after the reduction, than it was in 2006, before the economic crisis, when the rate was €1,200. The rate has increased from €635 in 2002 to its current level. The number of respite care grant recipients increased from 75,000 in 2010 to over 80,000 last year. Those who give their care, attention, time and love to their loved ones obviously receive significant income supports from the Government. This country's rate is among the highest rates of income support in Europe. The income disregard and the means test for carers is the most generous in the social protection system.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Government has cut it.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin What does Sinn Féin do in the North?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny A couple under the age of 66 with a joint annual income of up to €35,400 can qualify for the maximum payment of carer's allowance while such a couple earning €59,000 will qualify for the minimum rate.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Taoiseach should reverse the cut.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny These are high rates.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin They are multiples of what is available in the North.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Carers will receive additional supports in the form of free travel.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Carers who live with those for whom they care will receive house benefits.

Deputy Patrick Nulty: Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty What is the Taoiseach's opinion?

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary The Government has cut the house benefits.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Is that a "No" from the Taoiseach?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny An annual respite care grant is also paid in respect of each person who is cared for.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary It has been cut.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Why does the Taoiseach not answer the question?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny People who are getting qualifying social welfare payments, and also providing full-time care and attention to another person, can keep their main social welfare payment and get the half-rate carer's allowance as well.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Come on, Taoiseach.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín That is a disgrace.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Does the Taoiseach have any opinion?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny They can also receive an extra half-rate carer's allowance if they care for more than one person in the same house.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín That is disgusting.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Shame on the Taoiseach.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Teachta Tom Hayes. I would like to compliment my colleague and thank the Taoiseach for appointing him to the high office of Minister of State. I look forward to working with him.

Deputy John Deasy: Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy That has got to hurt.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary He will look after Tipperary.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath That is from my heart.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The farmers of Tipperary are safe.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Last Saturday, an estimated 40,000 people attended a march in peaceful opposition to the proposed protection of life Bill 2013. They included people of all ages from all sections of society. They included people of all faiths and none. What they had in common was a peaceful determination to highlight the dangerous cultural shift that will inevitably take place if the Bill as it currently stands becomes law. A strongly worded and uncompromising statement emerged from the Irish Catholic bishops' conference yesterday. The bishops said in no uncertain terms that they believe the people of this country are being actively "misled" about the true nature of this Bill. Their statement continued:

The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights; it is the foundation of all other rights. No individual has the right to destroy life and no State has the right to undermine the right to life. Yet the Irish Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland. For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child. This represents a radical change. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Who wrote the Deputy's speech?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath They also raised the issue of freedom of conscience and the need for the State to respect the principles of its citizens, including politicians, on the issue of abortion. It is not too late for the Taoiseach to take note of these concerns, which reflect the worries of a significant proportion of our population, including most mental health professionals. It is not too late for him to reverse his decision to deny the members of his own party a free vote on this most contentious of issues. Will he do so? How can he continue to stand over the decision to apply the Whip to this issue and to force through a Bill that is legally flawed, medically unsound and constitutionally unnecessary? As recently as last summer, the Taoiseach's party mounted a campaign to reassure Oireachtas Members that the Government was not planning to introduce abortion. What a farce that has turned out to be.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am nearly finished, a Cheann Comhairle. Does the Taoiseach understand why a growing number of people simply do not believe his repeated claim that this Bill is pro-life? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Time, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath In light of the mass demonstrations against this Bill that we are witnessing, does the Taoiseach accept that he is acting contrary not only to the best medical practice but also to the expressed wishes of the people who gave his party its mandate? They innocently believed he would stick to his pre-election promise not to introduce abortion.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I have made it perfectly clear that Governments are elected to govern in compliance with their constitutional responsibilities. Equally, I have made it clear that the members of the Government parties will not have a free vote on this matter. I remind Deputy McGrath that the Bill has not been published yet. He is talking about a Bill he has not actually seen. Last year, the Government set out the process it intended to undertake in this regard. As this has been a very sensitive and divisive issue in this country for over 30 years, I do not propose to play politics with regard to it. The Government set up an expert group which reported on a number of options. There were hearings before Christmas. The Government approved the heads of a Bill on 30 April last. That Bill was sent to the Oireachtas committee that is chaired by Deputy Buttimer. It held three days of hearings from expert groups, expert witnesses and people who wanted to give their views. Today, the Government is considering the response from the committee and finalising the explanatory memorandum and the Bill itself. The Bill will be published immediately after the Government concludes its work.

  It is important for Deputy McGrath to understand that the legislation regarding abortion, or "illegal miscarriages" as they were called in the 1861 Act, has been around for a long time. The law that applies in respect of the approximately 30 terminations that took place in Irish hospitals last year is the same law that continues to apply. The protection of life in pregnancy Bill gives clarity for medical personnel and for women who are involved here. It is a requirement of the Government to govern. This is being done in respect of the X case and in respect of providing legal certainty arising from the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of A, B and C v. Ireland. It is not a case of the Government introducing legislation about abortion. It is a case of the Government providing legal certainty and clarity about a law that has been around for a long time. It has been adjudicated on by the Supreme Court, which found that the people have given pregnant women in this country the constitutional right to have a termination in certain very specific circumstances; that is, where their life is in danger.

  This is about women. This is about saving lives. This is about understanding the requirement in the Constitution to give an equal right to the life of the unborn. It is also about ensuring the clinicians and medical personnel involved have a duty and a responsibility to see that everything practicable is done to save the life of the unborn child in cases where there are complex issues with particular pregnancies. The Government is finalising the Bill at the moment. It will be published as soon as the Government has deliberated on it. The legislation will come before the House before being sent back to the committee to be processed in the normal way. I have told Deputy McGrath that I have no wish to play any politics about this. Everybody in the country is entitled to have their opinion. Many people express their opinions in different ways.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am not playing politics. I am speaking on behalf of people with sincerely held views.

Deputy Eric Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne If the Deputy rejoins Fianna Fáil, he can have a free vote.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Deputies can laugh if they like. I can tell them that this is no laughing matter. The right of the unborn is a basic human right. It is the most fundamental right of all.

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor: Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor What about the woman?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am not sure if the Taoiseach really believes we have to legislate on foot of the X case. Perhaps he is trying to convince himself that we do. I am not sure.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Who wrote that for the Deputy?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Either way, the Labour Party has certainly succeeded in moulding the Taoiseach in its image. That is a sad day for this country.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Who wrote that for the Deputy?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I reiterate that contrary to what the Taoiseach has insisted, in fact there is no legally compelling reason for us to legislate in this manner.

Deputy Noel Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan Zoom on Noel Coonan Where did the Deputy get the script?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Would you please allow the Deputy one minute to ask a question?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Would you please put your supplementary question?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am trying to. I would like to refer to what Dr. Maria Cahill of the faculty of law at UCC said before the recent Oireachtas hearings.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating Can we have a copy of the Deputy's speech?

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The Deputy can circulate it with the Lucan Gazette.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I sat through those hearings.


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