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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Adjournment Debate Matters
 Header Item Order of Business

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 910 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny In respect of the latter, there is no embargo on recruitment provided that the hospital in question has the resources to recruit the staff necessary. In particular, there is no embargo in respect of critical staff being employed in the intensive care unit.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin My question was whether there will be changes to their terms and conditions.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As Deputy Howlin is well aware, we cannot have an open-ended recruitment process if the money and resources are not available, either for particular hospitals or for any Department.

The Minister has not commented upon any expediting of the agreements, save to say that both will have to be implemented in their entirety. He has commended the many hundreds of thousands of public servants who have committed to working within that regime. Clearly, in the case of those who are outside, there is a willingness to work with the unions to see how the matter might be moved on. However, we cannot have a situation where the same benefits apply for those who have voted to remain outside because of the considerable sacrifices implemented by many of those public servants in the interests of restoring the financial health of the country. That is why the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act was put through before the Christmas period, as Deputy Howlin is aware.

Adjournment Debate Matters

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 23(3) and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Brendan Griffin - easing eligibility for qualification under the community employment scheme; (2) Deputy Sean Sherlock - the urgent need for a baseline health assessment on Great Island in Cobh, County Cork, following figures released this week; (3) Deputy Clare Daly - the recruitment freeze by the Health Service Executive and the provision of nursing and midwifery services; (4) Deputies Jackie Cahill and Martin Kenny - the need for urgent measures to support farmers financially during the crisis caused by Glanbia's paying 20.98 cent net per litre of milk, indicating production below cost; (5) Deputy Michael Moynihan - the case of a person whom a consultant medical oncologist has diagnosed as having a terminal condition but who has not been awarded a medical card, as the Health Service Executive is asking for further evidence that the person is receiving end-of-life care; (6) Deputies Thomas Byrne and Mick Barry - the need for immediate talks with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland to protect the education of young persons because of industrial relations issues and the recent vote against the additional 33 hours' work under the Lansdowne Road agreement; (7) Deputies Fergus O'Dowd, Declan Breathnach, Gerry Adams and Imelda Munster - the urgency of resolving the work-to-rule by nursing staff at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth; (8) Deputy Mick Wallace - the approach of Ireland and the European Union to the refugee crisis and the closing down of the Idomeni camp in Greece; (9) Deputy Mattie McGrath - the removal of a child from the care of grandparents by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, on the grounds of age; (10) Deputy Martin Ferris - disability services in County Kerry and the provision of special needs assistants; (11) Deputy Paul Murphy - the ongoing incarceration of two anti-water-charge activists from Wicklow; (12) Deputy John Lahart - the need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to make a statement on the ongoing Luas dispute; (13) Deputy David Cullinane - the need for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to make a statement on serious health and safety defects found in homes in Ceol na Mara, Kill, County Waterford, to state whether the homes conform with all relevant statutory fire obligations and, if not, the steps he or the appropriate State body will take to carry out appropriate remedial works to satisfy all statutory obligations pertaining to health and safety as well as outlining what supports he will put in place for private residents; and (14) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the urgent need for the Minister for Health to provide full local day services for young school leavers on the autistic spectrum in Dublin Bay North and Fingal.

The matters raised by Deputy Brendan Griffin, Deputy Mick Wallace, Deputy Sean Sherlock and Deputies Fergus O'Dowd, Declan Breathnach, Gerry Adams and Imelda Munster have been selected for discussion.

Order of Business

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Order of Business shall be as follows: No. 6, statements on Mental Health Services (resumed). It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Private Members' business shall be No. 14, motion re domestic water charges, and the following time limits and sequence of speakers shall apply: proposer – 40 minutes; Government – 20 minutes; Fianna Fáil – 25 minutes; non-group – 20 minutes; Labour Party - ten minutes; proposer – 30 minutes; Government – 20 minutes; and proposer (to reply) – 15 minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl There is one proposal to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' business agreed to? Agreed. I call Deputy Micheál Martin on the Order of Business.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I was a little taken aback by the Taoiseach's comment during Leaders' Questions about the murders that are ongoing. He said that he could not stop this. No Government should admit defeat by these criminal gangs, and there is an obligation on Government to do everything it possibly can across the board, involving an inter-agency response, to stop these murders and put an end to them. Governments should be clear and determined in the message going out to these groups that this will stop.

Part of this is the need for legislation to criminalise the sale of prescription drugs. This is an issue the Garda has raised in the north inner city area, where young children are now distributing tablets and so on. There is an issue around that legally. Whatever issues are there should be dealt with in legislation as a matter of urgency, because this has been going on for quite some time, apparently. It has not been resolved and I am asking for the appropriate legislation to be introduced as a matter of urgency.

There is a strong commitment in the programme for Government on housing and "to provide political leadership on resolving the housing shortage and homelessness crisis". This is one of the "first 100 days" actions contained in the programme for Government. According to Focus Ireland, there are now 2,000 children in emergency accommodation. This represents a 90% increase from this time last year. The inaction in recent years has given rise to this crisis. Everyone in the House is now agreed that this is completely unacceptable. A total of €45 million will be spent in 2016 on emergency hotel accommodation. Children are spending years of their childhood in hotel rooms in this city. When can we expect a list of Executive actions to get to grips with this as a matter of urgency? Will the Taoiseach outline to the House the Government's response to the latest figures, which are truly appalling and worrying?

In the programme for Government there is a commitment to implement new procedures to ensure more efficient and timely recruitment of nurses. Yet, essentially, despite what the Taoiseach said earlier, the HSE is still applying an embargo on staff recruitment. There is an estimated shortage of 3,600 nurses and midwives throughout the country's hospitals. The health service and hospitals are already operating under severe strain due to the lack of staffing. The embargo is making an intolerable situation utterly impossible. Will the Taoiseach indicate the position in terms of the programme for Government's commitment to implement new procedures to ensure more efficient and timely recruitment of nurses? This needs to be accelerated, especially in Drogheda, where the hospital is short 100 staff. How will the Government put flesh on the bones of the commitment in the programme for Government in terms of changing procedures to make it more effective?

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall The representatives of the local drugs task forces came to the House last week to speak to Members about the kinds of issues they face. They made it clear that, apart from alcohol, the number one substance abuse problem they are dealing with now relates to prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines and the so-called Z drugs. I have been raising this with Government for the past three or four years. What is required is for the Minister to sign new regulations under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This issue was constantly ignored by the last Government. Prescription drugs are being dealt on every street corner in the capital city and in every town and village throughout the country. It is about time we had Government action. Will the Taoiseach take this up with the Minister for Health and ensure action is taken in this area as soon as possible? It is a major problem throughout the country and it has arisen as a result of inaction by the last Government. It needs the Taoiseach's urgent attention.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I wish to speak on one of the issues raised by Deputy Martin.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes. Briefly, please.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett During the past week the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, made a number of comments on housing matters, which, as we are all aware, are in a dire situation. Following the comments of the Minister, is legislation or Government action on these issues imminent? The first issue is the scandal of an estimated 250,000 empty houses in the State. To use the Minister's words, is urgent, radical action going to follow to ensure these houses are made available for people who are homeless or rotting on a housing list? On the same subject, I heard a worrying comment by the Minister in respect of the Irish Glass Bottle site to the effect that he hoped we might get 10% of it for social and affordable housing.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney That is not what I said.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is what he was quoted as saying.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Let us not get into an exchange on the matter.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett My point is that it is NAMA property - publicly owned property. Is the Minister going to clarify his comments? We should be getting 100% council and affordable housing on what is public land.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we get an answer from the Taoiseach, please?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We need clarification from the Government of the intentions for the Irish Glass Bottle site.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I will refer to Deputy Martin's question first. I made the point that this is a vicious, murderous campaign between two families which I, as a person, cannot stop. However, I assure Deputy Martin, the House and the people that, as Head of Government, whatever resources, facilities and backing the Garda Commissioner requests from the Government to protect our citizens and to deal with this will be made available. That point has been made clearly by the Minister for Justice and Equality on a number of occasions.

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