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 Header Item Finance Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Leaders' Questions

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 857 No. 1

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  12 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Information on Lucinda Creighton Zoom on Lucinda Creighton] Many measures could have been introduced to support entrepreneurship and the domestic indigenous economy and to tackle the major issues that exist in rural Ireland, where nothing is happening, basically, in terms of growth in small and medium-sized businesses. It is a repeat of the mistakes we saw in the period from 2000 to 2010. While Members on this side of the House will highlight these issues and the Government will ignore them, I sincerely hope the Government will consider introducing next year the type of budgetary process that was promised by both government parties before the last election, but with more transparency and more visionary thinking.

Debate adjourned.

Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Michael Moynihan - the need to compensate farmers whose lands have been rendered worthless by EU regulations to conserve the hen harrier in special conservation areas; (2) Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice - the need to review the downgrading of the district veterinary office in Galway; (3) Deputy Brian Stanley - the need to support autism services in County Laois; (4) Deputy Regina Doherty - the new wind energy planning guidelines; (5) Deputy Sean Fleming - the funding of the school meals local project scheme at Scoil Bhríde, Portlaoise, County Laois; (6) Deputy Niall Collins - the appointment process for the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality; (7) Deputies John Paul Phelan and Martin Heydon - the ESB's report into projected electricity demand increases and implications for energy policy and the Grid Link project; (8) Deputy Lucinda Creighton - the deteriorating tax environment for productive investment in small and medium-sized enterprises; (9) Deputies Terence Flanagan and Dessie Ellis - the increase in bus and rail ticket prices; (10) Deputy Jonathan O'Brien - the school building project at Kishogue Community College; (11) Deputy Ruth Coppinger - the withholding of payments in respect of the building works at Kishogue Community College, Lucan, County Dublin, pending an investigation; (12) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the withholding of payments in respect of the building works at Kishogue Community College, Lucan, County Dublin, pending an investigation; (13) Deputy Joe Higgins - the withholding of payments in respect of the building works at Kishogue Community College, Lucan, County Dublin, pending an investigation; (14) Deputy Michelle Mulherin - the need to introduce a housing grant scheme to assist householders who are residing in areas identified as being at risk of flooding; (15) Deputy Seán Kyne - the plans for the Garda presence in Galway and the western division arising from reports concerning the future of Salthill Garda station; (16) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív - the need to review the plans to downgrade and close the district veterinary office in County Galway; (17) Deputy Clare Daly - the position regarding the ambulance service in County Wexford; (18) Deputy Mary Lou McDonald - the withholding of payments in respect of the building works at Kishogue Community College, Lucan, County Dublin, pending an investigation; (19) Deputy Peter Mathews - the need to intervene to secure deferred pensions for members of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme; (20) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the withholding of payments in respect of the building works at Kishogue Community College, Lucan, County Dublin, pending an investigation; (21) Deputy Billy Kelleher - the sit-in at the Texaco station, North Ring Road, Ballyvolane, County Cork; (22) Deputy Paul Murphy - protests against water charges in Northwood, Coolock, Dublin, and the Garda presence and actions yesterday; (23) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett - the withholding of payments in respect of the building works at Kishogue Community College, Lucan, County Dublin, pending an investigation; (24) Deputy Robert Troy - the closure of the office of registration in Mullingar, County Westmeath; and (25) Deputy Mick Wallace - the impact on citizens of operational problems in the ambulance service in Wexford.

The matters raised by Deputies Regina Doherty, Michael Moynihan, John Paul Phelan, Martin Heydon, Terence Flanagan and Dessie Ellis have been selected for discussion.

Leaders' Questions

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Last weekend the Taoiseach said that the Government and Irish Water would provide greater clarity on charges for the public after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. On Monday, there was an apology from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, and Mr. Tierney of Irish Water accepted that mistakes had been made. On Tuesday, the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, got stuck in and took the entire press pack to a sewage treatment plant in Ringsend, a fitting backdrop for where the Government has landed itself on this issue. He agreed that the legislation establishing Irish Water was rushed and that it was wrong not to debate it in the House. He pointedly reminded us that he was not a member of the Cabinet when the decision was taken. The Tánaiste clearly was a member, as was the Taoiseach.

Also on Tuesday, we were given confirmation by the Tánaiste that a family of two adults and two adult children could expect to pay water charges of no more than €200 per year. At last it appeared that a breakthrough was emerging regarding what citizens would pay for water. However, that was thrown on its head yesterday when the Taoiseach told the House, while the Tánaiste was holding a press conference elsewhere, that when the Tánaiste was speaking in the House in her capacity as Minister for Social Protection she was in fact expressing a personal opinion. It is amazing that the Taoiseach would say that the Tánaiste, when answering questions in the House as Minister, can somehow take off the cloak of Tánaiste and the heaviness of the office of Minister for Social Protection and speak in a personal capacity. What is really mind-boggling, however, is that the Government, in developing the concept of Irish Water, which was promised by Fine Gael in 2009 and accepted by this Government in 2011, has effectively ignored the concerns raised in this House and the concerns of the citizens of Ireland and has rammed it down people's throats. Since September, the Government has been asking people to fill out forms and provide their PPS numbers, which the Tánaiste sneakily slotted in as an amendment in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, but as we approach the middle of November nobody can confirm what people will pay for water, notwithstanding that charging commenced on 1 October.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy put his question?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Now we have the farcical situation in which the Economic Management Council is meeting in secret to discuss the situation while ignoring this House and the mandate given to Members on this side and to the Government backbenchers. Indeed, Deputies Griffin and Stagg have been reminding the Government about the difficulties in that regard.

Does the Tánaiste consider it acceptable that the public will have to wait another two weeks before clarity is brought to the charging structure for a service that began on 1 October? Does the Tánaiste still believe, or is it now her professional view, that €200 will be the charge for a family of two adults and two adult children?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is way over time.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley More importantly, will she pause this runaway train and allow a proper debate in this House to ensure that Members, who have a mandate and a contribution to make, can assist in resolving this mess once and for all?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am happy to tell the House that very good and solid progress has been made with Irish Water. The objective of the Labour Party, Fine Gael and the Government is to have an Irish Water charging regime that is affordable, that offers clarity and certainty, and that is capped so that if people, on the evidence of the meters, are using less water than the standard charges would indicate, they will be in a position to get a rebate.

I was delighted to appoint Deputy Alan Kelly as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and he has embarked on addressing the issues relating to Irish Water with his usual energy and gusto. As a fellow Tipperary man, I am sure Deputy Mattie McGrath is only delighted, and we expect him to reflect that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am delighted to see him swimming in the water.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen John Tierney is from Tipperary too.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Tipperary people are usually proud of each other, particularly when they are on the national stage. I assume that is what I was hearing from that quarter.

The objective here is that Ireland will have clean, safe and healthy drinking water for ourselves and future generations. That is important. This country gets a large amount of rain and there is no shortage of water, thankfully. However, treating water for human and public consumption is a costly business. There is a cost in getting it to a person's house and in taking the wastewater away. That is what we are discussing.

I am delighted that solid progress is being made. Did the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, hold Fianna Fáil Government meetings and Cabinet sub-committee meetings in public? I must have missed those. It is certainly a development when the Fianna Fáil spokesperson, and he can correct me if I misunderstood, is complaining about Cabinet sub-committees, including the Economic Management Council, meeting in private. That is the practice, and it has been for a long time.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher There were a few leaks from the Cabinet over the years, particularly when the Tánaiste was not the Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton All I can say is that I am happy that very solid progress is being made. I am very anxious to have affordable charges that will provide us with clean, reliable and healthy drinking water. In addition, we have an ambitious programme for the next ten years to invest approximately €10 billion in Irish Water. The Deputy mentioned that the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, went to Ringsend a few days ago. When that project was under the control of the local authorities, its estimated cost was a ballpark figure of €350 million. Since Irish Water took over, the estimated cost has been revised downward-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is a different project.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton -----to between €170 million and €180 million.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Tánaiste must conclude.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton If that is what one Tipperary man can do in four months in office as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government-----

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl What would two of them do?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It is a good performance from the Tipp stars.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I never thought I would hear the Tánaiste say she would take something from the Charles Haughey school of politics to assist her in performing her duties. I am sure he must be turning in his grave at the thought of it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Tell us when Fianna Fáil met in public.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Tánaiste indicated her confidence in the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, and the gusto with which he has approached his job. That is interesting. It is a kick in the shin for the Taoiseach for his comments yesterday.


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