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 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item European Southern Observatory Membership: Motion
 Header Item EU Directives: Motion
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item State Visits

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 8

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Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger There is a reference in the programme for Government to improving tax compliance. I wonder whether, rather than just referring to this, the Government will introduce legal reforms following yesterday's court judgment whereby a Member of the Dáil was sentenced for filing false tax returns, failing to keep proper company accounts and falsifying accounts and yet received a chicken feed fine in the context of his wealth and a pat on the back from the judge rather than a rap on the knuckles, saying he was a great Deputy. What we are seeing is one law for the rich and another for the poor. That is the conclusion of workers throughout the country following this case. What reforms will the Taoiseach make on tax compliance?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy cannot refer to court judgments.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Is the Taoiseach going to oblige judges not to give their personal opinions about one of their own but actually to prosecute serial tax offenders and tax evaders?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy cannot refer to court judgments or make statements such as that which she has just made. I am warning the Deputy. If the Taoiseach wants to respond, he may do so. If he does not wish to do so, however, I will have no difficulty.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Tax offences and tax crimes are serious crimes in my view and in that of the Government. When people commit tax offences, they are not just taking money from one person; they are taking money from all society. In the case of Deputy Lowry, he got a fair trial-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Did he get a fair sentence, though?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----and as a result of that there was a conviction and a barring from holding directorships and also a fine. It is for the courts to hear cases-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Absolutely. I said that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----and to make those decisions. We are a democracy; we are not the people's socialist republic. We are politicians.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The Deputy in question was found guilty but he did not get a sentence.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Coppinger, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We are not going to overrule judges.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Obviously, the Taoiseach does not care.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Deputy Coppinger is not a judge; she is a Member of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Hold on, I said that. It is a matter for the courts.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy The Government is happy to have him support it.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Roll on the people's socialist republic.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We are a democracy and we have a separation of powers.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger A drug addict would be in jail. That is my point.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is not Soviet Russia.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy The Taoiseach is happy to have a tax cheat support him.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The gender pay gap (wage transparency) Bill is promised legislation. It is to establish a mandatory reporting obligation on companies to report on the gender pay difference in their respective companies. Where does it stand now in terms of preparation?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I thank the Deputy for his brevity and his example of what questions on promised legislation should be.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have positive news for Deputy Durkan. The Government approved the general scheme of the gender pay gap (wage transparency) Bill in recent days.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017 passed Second Stage in the Seanad.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The gender pay gap (wage transparency) Bill will now go to the relevant committee for observations. I acknowledge Senator Ivana Bacik, in particular, and the Labour Party for their contributions towards this reforming legislation, which I expect will receive a general welcome.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick Last week, I met representatives from the Union of Students in Ireland at an open day. I was surprised that most of the students were the first members of their families to attend college. Their main concern is accommodation. The shortage of accommodation is forcing students to compete with families and professionals for accommodation. The problem is that students have no choice but to go for the accommodation. Their first preference would be purpose-built accommodation. At present, only universities get grants; the institutes of technology do not. If we can release these students from looking for private accommodation it would help. What is the proposal going forward to help deal with student accommodation?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank the Deputy for the question. Obviously, it is a fantastic opportunity for those students. Education can only open more doors for them in terms of the opportunities they might have in future. We have an ambitious programme involving my Department and that of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, and being led by the Ministers of State, Deputies English and Mitchell O'Connor, to dramatically increase the amount of student accommodation being built. We are aiming for somewhere between 10,000 to 12,000 new student spaces to be provided over the next three years. Already in the course of the past year and a half we have seen almost 2,000 new bed spaces created. Supply is the answer to student accommodation but it is important to note we also have rent a room relief for students whereby a family can let out a room in their home to a student for the year and they can charge up to €14,000 tax free.

Deputy Carol Nolan: Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan It is stated on page 96 of the programme for Government that the Government is committed to building a visible and familiar policing force and policing presence in our communities. It is of great concern to constituents in Laois and Offaly that the rate of burglaries has increased by 6% according to a PhoneWatch survey. We also see violence associated with drink and drugs becoming all too prevalent on our streets. The Minister has made statements several times that the number of Garda recruits has increased but we are not seeing this on the ground. What action will the Minister take? Where are these gardaí? We need them out on the ground in our big towns, where many of the Garda stations are now part-time instead of full-time.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am happy to confirm to the Deputy there are more gardaí actively engaged in Laois and Offaly than there were five years ago. This is in the context of an increased number of Garda recruits. We are on target to have a Garda service of 21,000 by the year 2021. I acknowledge the importance of yesterday's Government announcement of the appointment of the Garda Commissioner designate, Drew Harris, who will take up his position in early September. I want to say with specific reference to the Laois-Offaly division, which has been raised by Deputy Nolan, that I am very pleased to see an anti-crime task force was set up recently by Chief Superintendent John Scanlon, which is paying dividends on the ground. I acknowledge the support of the people of Laois and Offaly in their provision of assistance to the Garda Síochána in the crackdown on crime.

European Southern Observatory Membership: Motion

Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy John Halligan): Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Agreement between the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere and Ireland concerning the accession of Ireland to the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, approved by ESO Council on 5th June, 2018, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 22nd June, 2018.

  Question put and agreed to.

EU Directives: Motion

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I move:

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:
Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down rules facilitating the use of financial and other information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences and repealing Council Decision 2000/642/JHA,
a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 11th May, 2018.

  Question put and agreed to.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

State Visits

 1. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the details of the papal visit in August 2018. [26557/18]

 2. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on the preparations for the visit of Pope Francis in August 2018. [27578/18]

 3. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the details of the papal visit; and the role of his Department in organising the events for August 2018. [27719/18]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 2 and 3 together.

On Monday, 11 June, the Vatican announced the programme for the Pope's visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families from Saturday 25 to Sunday 26 August 2018. While the main impetus for the visit is the World Meeting of Families, it will also have a number of official and public events, including engagements with the President and myself on Saturday, 25 August, a visit to Knock shrine and a public mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday 26 August. Also included in the programme are visits to St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, the Day Centre of the Capuchin Fathers, the Festival of Families event in Croke Park and a meeting with the bishops.

Preparations for the visit are ongoing and involve the civil authorities and various agencies. As is the norm for an official visit by a Head of State, staff in the protocol division of my Department, together with protocol staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the event management unit at the Office of Public Works, are involved in co-ordination and organisation, in the main concerning protocol, security and logistics around the visit.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I thank the Taoiseach for those details. With regard to the reception in Dublin Castle where the President, the Taoiseach and the diplomatic corps will attend a visit by Pope Francis at which he will give a speech, is it expected that leaders of party groups here will be invited to the event? What is the mechanism if someone is interested in going? Obviously, space will be limited but I am keen that there will be representation from the Oireachtas there and I am keen for the Taoiseach to outline his plans in this regard.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It is regrettable that the Pope will not visit the North during his stay in this country. I have raised this with the Taoiseach before and I know it is not our remit to set an agenda for the Pontiff. That is a matter for himself and the Vatican. There is a huge level of disappointment. Very many people, and not only Catholics, would have welcomed a visit by Pope Francis.


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