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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013: First Stage
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Fisheries Disputes

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 821 No. 3

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick] When can we expect its publication?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny There is no date for the publication of that Bill, but I met the principals of the boards last week. They are now setting out the various timelines for the design, appointments of the various categories, the planning application and, when that is granted, the construction.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Both the programme for Government and the legislative programme commit the Government to creating a new legislative framework for the Irish Red Cross. Have the heads of that Bill come to Cabinet and when might we expect it to be published?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny No recommendation or Bill has come before the Government on that.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming I have two questions regarding promised legislation. The Government has stated its intention to merge the National Education and Welfare Board with the Child and Family Agency. When can we expect legislation in that regard?

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has promised that it will merge the Property Registration Authority, OSI, and the Valuation Office into one new body. When will we see legislation for that merger? It is a separate matter from the Valuation (Amendment) Bill, which is currently in the Seanad.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The debate on the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 will resume tomorrow. I do not have a date for the merger with the National Education and Welfare Board. I will advise the Deputy on the current state of work and preparation on that. I do not have information on his second question. I will revert to him on both questions.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I ask the Taoiseach whether legislation will be necessary to give effect to the proposed cut in natural heritage areas, as promised in respect of the many bogs throughout the country that are due to be delisted in the coming weeks. Will legislation be necessary or will it be done within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am awaiting a report from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which I expect he will bring to the Government in the next number of weeks. He has done quite an amount of work on it but the Government has not decided whether legislation will be necessary. We can publish the report and have it debated when the Minister brings his recommendations to the Cabinet. It should not take too long.

Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013: First Stage

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the regulation of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use and for that purpose to establish the Cannabis Regulation Authority; to provide for the licensing of the cultivation and sale of cannabis; to provide for offences; and to provide for related matters.

While I do not expect this House to support the Bill in the short term, I believe it will be seen in the longer term as progressive legislation. Just as many Deputies remained quiet when people stood up in this Chamber to speak in favour of legalising contraception and divorce, in the future this issue will be regarded in the same way. We will eventually arrive at a time when the proposals I am making in this Bill are accepted. Policy around the world is moving in this direction. While it is unfortunate that we are often the puppy that follows the master, we might start to think for ourselves. It is something that will happen. It is already happening around Europe, in the United States of America and in Central and South America.

  More than 1 million people in this country have admitted to using cannabis. That figure includes two Ministers who have openly admitted to it. I would be shocked if there were not more in the Cabinet. Over 1 million people have decided the law should not be as it is. Approximately 150,000 people regularly flout the law. An estimated 100,000 people have received a criminal record for doing so. That is an estimate because when I asked the Department of Justice and Equality to furnish me with a figure for the number of people with a criminal record for possession of cannabis I was told it did not have the resources to find the answer and that it was not worth its while. From putting together the figures available to me, I arrived at my estimate that more than 100,000 people have criminal records for the possession of cannabis. If my Bill became law, these 100,000 people could once again be actively involved in areas from which they are currently debarred, such as education. Even if their economic activity increased by only €1,000 per person, that would be worth €100 million to the Irish economy.

  There is potential for a tax dividend from legalising cannabis, as well as savings in the criminal justice system, which brings more than 8,000 people to court every year for cannabis-related offences. One of the major benefits of passing the Bill is that otherwise law-abiding citizens, many of whom are young males, would see no reason for conflict with the Garda and would be more open to co-operating with gardaí on other areas of crime.

  Before the year is out I intend to get this issue debated. Two weeks ago I raised the issue in the Dáil and I was pleasantly surprised by the input from many Government Deputies. Over the coming year, I hope to work with NORML, an organisation established to drive this issue, to convince more Deputies that my Bill is the right way to go by inviting two doctors from that organisation, Dr. Cathal Ó Súilleabháin and Dr. Garrett McGovern, to discuss the issue with the Joint Committee on Health and Children. I also intend to ask doctors who oppose my proposal to debate the issue. I will propose that the committee write to Dr. Donald Tashkin of the University of California, who is the foremost expert on lung capacity after cannabis use, to ask him to present the facts. I will also ask the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality to invite the former head of the Cambridgeshire police force, Tom Lloyd, to explain the issue from a criminal justice perspective.

  That is all I have to say on the issue now, but I will be returning to it regularly over the coming year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Topical Issue Debate

Fisheries Disputes

Deputy John Browne: Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing us to raise this issue and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for coming to the House to respond to it.

The people of south Wexford are dependent on fishing and farming for their economic survival. Unfortunately, the fishing industry was attacked over the weekend by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Navy and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. On Friday, letters were delivered to 100 fishermen on 15 trawlers, and workers in Kilmore Quay have been laid off since then. The livelihoods of these men are jeopardised and the viability of the business in which they work is in serious doubt. Fishing is the lifeblood of the small village of Kilmore Quay, which has been thrown into a state of crisis. With no fish, there is no work for the people on the boats or in the factories. The O'Flaherty brothers, who operate trawlers, are trenchant critics of Government policy on fishing quotas.

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