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 Header Item State Visits (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Government-Church Dialogue

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] That would certainly be welcome, but we regret it is not possible on this occasion. Anyway, I am glad that the Pope will be getting out of Dublin and will be visiting the basilica at Knock and saying mass there.

  I am not involved, nor is my office, in organising any delegations or deputations to meet Pope Francis. That would have to be done through the Papal Nuncio. My role will be very limited. I will be at the event in Dublin Castle to receive him and I intend to attend the mass in the Phoenix Park, which is in my constituency. I am unsure how long my meeting with the Pope will be. I am unsure whether it will be one-to-one or long or short. None of that has been worked out yet, but certainly I will use the opportunity to welcome him to Ireland on behalf of the people and I think he will be most welcome in Ireland. I will use the opportunity to raise issues of historical abuse against our citizens by church authorities. I think people would expect me to raise them at such a meeting.

  We do not have a cost or budget yet either for the security or for the reinstatement of the park, but we estimate it will be in the same ballpark as Queen Elizabeth's visit. In other words, it will probably be more than €10 million and less than €20 million but that is only an estimate at this stage.

  Deputy Martin mentioned the fact that some people have been applying for tickets that they do not intend to use as some sort of protest. I firmly believe that such actions, if they are happening, are wrong, petty and mean-spirited. Protest is legitimate and okay, but denying other people the opportunity to attend a mass or an event is not legitimate protest in my view and is most unfair. It should be condemned.

  I was asked a question around migration. The position the Government takes is that migration is a classic example of why we need multilateralism and bodies like the European Union. No country on its own can deal with migration. Countries that act unilaterally simply pass the problems and difficulties on to the next country. We need a European approach. That involves co-operation with the source countries and transit countries to reduce the push factors. People are leaving countries because they are unsafe, because they are badly governed and because there are no economic opportunities there. Europe needs to do far more in the Middle East and Africa to bring about security, political freedom and economic opportunity so that fewer people feel forced to migrate.

  Enhanced border security is important. We already have a role with Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean. Europe as a whole will need to do more to protect its seas and borders. Nation states are simply unable to do that anymore. We need to protect our external frontier.

  Burden sharing is also important. We are committed to burden sharing and solidarity when it comes to the migration crisis. We are asking all the time for other European countries to demonstrate solidarity for us when it comes to Brexit. Therefore, when it comes to problems they face, such as mass migration or illegal migration, we have to assist them as well. That is why we took the decision yesterday, after a request from the Maltese Prime Minister, that we would take 25 migrants from MV Lifeline and we have agreed to do that. They will be part of the 4,000 that we have already committed to. Only approximately 2,000 of the 4,000 have so far arrived in Ireland. They have almost all come from Greece.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Did the Taoiseach say "part of" or "apart from"?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar They are part of the 4,000.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Is it not 25 more?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It may be at the end but it is not yet. We have only had 2,000 so far. The reason we have only had 2,000 thus far is we have been unable to seek agreement from the Italian authorities to have people interviewed by the Garda before they come into the country. Greece has agreed to that but Italy has not. It is something that I want to talk to the Italian Prime Minister about when I meet him tomorrow. If we can get progress on that, we can fulfil our commitment to take 4,000 migrants and then I think we can take more beyond that as well.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy James Browne - the need for the Minister for Health to outline what action is being taken to prevent assaults on health workers; (2) Deputy Sean Fleming - to discuss the electricity project at Coolnabacky, Ratheniska, County Laois; (3) Deputies Michael Fitzmaurice, Niamh Smyth, Charlie McConalogue, Brendan Smith, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Pat Casey, Lisa Chambers, Timmy Dooley, Declan Breathnach, Eugene Murphy, Mattie McGrath and Jackie Cahill - to discuss changing the grass-cutting date on traditional hay meadows; (4) Deputy Mary Butler - to discuss the enrolment difficulties in St. Declan's Community College, Kilmacthomas, County Waterford; (5) Deputy James Lawless - to discuss the construction progress of two post-primary schools on Maynooth campus; (6) Deputy Peter Burke - the need to include Lough Ennell in County Westmeath in the wild brown trout fishery designation; (7) Deputy Dessie Ellis - to discuss the number of roadside drugs and alcohol tests taken at the scene of accidents or in hospitals after accidents; (8) Deputy Willie Penrose - to discuss funding for candidates studying for doctorates; (9) Deputies Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Mick Barry - to discuss the ongoing plight of residents at the Leeside Apartments, Bachelors Quay, Cork; (10) Deputy Kathleen Funchion - to discuss difficulties with assisted technology applications for the next school year; (11) Deputy Fergus O'Dowd - to ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to address as a matter of urgency the serious intimidation of many families in County Louth by drug dealers; (12) Deputy John Brassil - to discuss the sanction for a pilot drug reimbursement scheme for Ocrevus for primary progressive multiple sclerosis patients; (13) Deputy Brian Stanley - to discuss with the Minister the plan for St. Francis School, Portlaoise, which is to be proposed to be situated on the site of former St Paul's Primary School, Borris Road, Portlaoise; (14) Deputy Eamon Scanlon – the urgent need for a second speech therapist in St. Cecilia's School for children with moderate or severe learning disabilities, Sligo; (15) Deputy Pat Buckley - to discuss plans to build a 240,000 tonne waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy, County Cork; (16) Deputy Anne Rabbitte - the need for the Minister for Health to provide an update on the roll-out of new cervical screening checks; (17) Deputy John Lahart - to discuss the closure of the Edmondstown Road in Rathfarnham; (18) Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin - the delays in granting of home-care packages; (19) Deputy John Curran - the issue of cyberbullying and bullying and examining the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 with a view to amending section 5 to include cyberbullying and persistent bullying as offences; (20) Deputy Alan Farrell - to discuss water conservation measures; and (21) Deputy Martin Ferris - to discuss waste management policy and ongoing fly-tipping problems.

The matters raised by Deputies Alan Farrell, John Brassil, Deputy Willie Penrose and Deputy Kathleen Funchion have been selected for discussion.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Government-Church Dialogue

 4. 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 has held recent meetings with representatives of churches and faith communities as part of the church-State structured dialogue process.  [27579/18]

 5. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on his recent meetings with faith leaders; and his plans for future engagements.  [27720/18]

 6. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he has met with church leaders and faith communities recently.  [27747/18]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.

On 22 January 2018 I met with representatives of the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist churches. I was accompanied by the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Minister for Education and Skills, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This was the second in a series of meetings that I will be holding with dialogue partners. We discussed important social and economic issues facing Irish society, including Brexit, education issues and the eighth amendment of the Constitution as well as international affairs.

On 31 August last, I held a formal meeting under the structured dialogue process with representatives of the Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Eamon Martin. I was accompanied at this meeting by the then Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and by the Minister for Education and Skills, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. A wide-ranging discussion took place on a range of important national and international issues, including the world meeting of families in August and the possibility of a visit to Ireland by the Pope, education issues, including school admissions, the eighth amendment, Northern Ireland, overseas development assistance and social justice.

Churches and faith communities play an important role in Irish life and I believe it is beneficial that Government should engage with them in a structured way. Some of the issues we discussed at these meetings were challenging. These are issues on which people have deeply-held views and many are matters of conscience. Our discussions were valuable not only because they dealt with important issues but particularly because they were conducted in an atmosphere of respect for the views of others and everyone sought to be constructive.

I also received a courtesy call from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, as is traditional around the new year period, and I attended a Jewish Seder with the head of the Jewish community in Ireland.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I share the Taoiseach's view that these conversations are important not least because of the fact that now, as we move into the beginning of the endgame of separating church and State, there is a need to reassure people of faith that their freedom to practise and freedom of religious expression is unfettered and supported by the State and Government.

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