Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 958 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 145 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] At the same time, it will ensure we invest in the services we need, negotiate pay agreements that are manageable and affordable and, above all, make the kind of decisions that ensure citizens have a good quality of life because we have good transport infrastructure and good health, education and other services. Just this week, we made a decision to invest in more special needs assistants in schools. We can make this type of decision because we have the right approach to managing the economy and the national debt and we are ensuring we can continue to invest.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Tánaiste did not remotely answer the question. The State has spent more than €40 billion on interest repayments since the crisis of 2008-09, which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil got us into. Even this year, we will spend €7 billion on interest payments, which is almost as much as the budget of the Department of Education and Skills. We cannot even discuss this issue because this money goes straight to the Central Fund.

I am well aware of the efforts being made by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, to reduce risks to Ireland in refinancing the 2018-20 bonds. In its 2016 report, a copy of which I have before me, the NTMA refers to locking in low interest rates and longer maturities while interest rates remain at historically low levels. The agency has reduced the global figure from approximately €70 billion to approximately €46 billion and last year, it issued the country's first 100-year bond. It also has €21 billion in the kitty. Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Conor O'Kelly, the NTMA's chief executive officer, and Mr. Frank O'Connor, its director of funding, visited Leinster House to brief me extensively on this matter.

Professor Colm Fitzgerald and others still fear the Government and NTMA are taking too much of an accounting rather than actuarial approach to the national debt. Asset prices have increased fuelled by quantitative easing and low interest rates, while fiscal shocks are likely when the money pump is switched off. No one can predict the impact of the unstable Trump Presidency. If Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019, the economy will be in some danger. We could be about to enter a perfect fiscal storm. Some economists believe there is a danger of a return of the troika. Will the Tánaiste ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance to meet representatives of the National Treasury Management Agency to encourage the agency to move fast to refinance our debt in the 2018-20 period? The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, should note that this is a serious matter because the next Government will have to deal with it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald We had to borrow in recent years because we wanted to protect our investment in public services, which is what the Deputy and all other Deputies would have wanted.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Fine Gael Party voted to slash public services when a few of us stood alone. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil got us into this and destroyed our public services.

The Tánaiste: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Most Deputies support borrowing to continue the investment during a period of crisis.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Tánaiste talks about section 39 bodies. Her Government is responsible for getting us into this mess.

The Tánaiste: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The important point is that we were able to borrow at manageable interest rates. As a result of Government action and because our reputation has been restored, we have been able to borrow at rates that are sustainable, having declined from 14% to 1%. The Deputy should also recognise that the unemployment rate has decreased from 15% to 6%, which makes a difference to his constituents who want public services maintained. The prudent management of the economy has allowed us to do that.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before moving to Questions on Promised Legislation, I understand the Government Whip wishes to propose some revisions to the schedule for today and tomorrow.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It is proposed, notwithstanding the Orders of the Dáil of 11 July, that the proceedings on No. d10, motion re the establishment of the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care, and No. e10, motion re Standing Order 147, shall be taken without debate after Questions on Promised Legislation; any division demanded on the proceedings on No. b10, motion re defence – proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve as part of EUNAVFOR MED, Operation Sophia - shall be taken immediately; the Dáil shall sit later than 11 p.m. today and adjourn on the conclusion of Topical Issues; questions to the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government shall be taken on the conclusion of the Government business or at 9.12 p.m., whichever is the earlier; and the Dáil shall sit later than 6 p.m. tomorrow and adjourn not later than 8 p.m.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin At what time is it proposed to resume the discussion on the motion re defence?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It will resume immediately after the 30 minute sos, which will take place after the voting bloc.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We disagree with two of the proposals. What is the procedure for dealing with them?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl With which proposals does the Deputy disagree?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We disagree with the motion on Standing Order 147 and the proposal to put the motion on defence to a vote. I can explain the reasons we oppose the proposals.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy may as well make a statement.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett As for the motion on defence, I was speaking in the Chamber and could not attend the meeting of the business management committee. However, I understand a number of Deputies made clear at the meeting that the motion, which would result in the deployment of the triple lock mechanism for only the fourth time, in this case to change the status of the Naval Service's role in the Mediterranean from a humanitarian mission to deployment in search and destroy activities, is a fundamental attack on the neutral position of the Naval Service. It should not be pushed to a vote before sufficient time has been provided to debate it and the public is made fully aware of the proposal.

The motion re Standing Order 147 proposes a significant change in the ability of Opposition parties to introduce Private Members' Bills. Under this proposal, such Bills may be ruled out of order on the ground that they are substantially similar to another Bill. This is completely unacceptable. What does "substantially similar" mean? This change will be used as a means of reducing the capacity of Private Members and the Opposition to introduce Bills. We do not accept the motion being rushed through the House without debate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Government will explain its position in respect of the defence motion, which was debated at length in the Business Committee this morning when the concerns raised by the Deputy were discussed in detail. On the motion re Standing Order 147, which deals with substantially similar legislation, this matter was also debated at some length by the Dáil reform committee.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Some members dissented.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl While agreement was not unanimous, the overwhelming majority of members agreed to the proposal.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith That does not mean the proposal should not be debated.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh On the defence motion, out of respect to the Business Committee, at which there is good co-operation, I stated I would take back the concerns raised by members. I arranged a meeting with the Chief of Staff, Secretary General and Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Kehoe, to discuss the issues raised by Deputies Brendan Ryan and Clare Daly. The reason for the urgency in dealing with this issue is that it involves a time-limited commitment. The Government has made a commitment to implement the deployment before the end of the year. As Operation Sophia only extends as far as December, the triple lock mechanism will have to be used again if it is to be extended. The Government's commitment in this regard is only until the end of December. A request was made to delay a decision in the matter until September. If the motion is passed today, which is the prerogative of the Dáil, it will take up to two months to do the preparatory work required. If we wait until mid-September to vote on the motion, two months of preparatory work will still be required. Given that the deployment will only last until the end of December, the commitment is time limited.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Two different decisions must be taken because my party wishes to support one proposal and oppose another.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I am afraid we will take both matters together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin That is impossible.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith We cannot do that. They are completely separate matters.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is an amendment to the Order of Business proposed?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I propose amending the Order of Business to determine each issue separately.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed. We will first deal with the proposal that any division demanded on the proceedings on No. b10, motion re defence, be taken immediately.


Last Updated: 01/07/2020 12:25:03 First Page Previous Page Page of 145 Next Page Last Page