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 Header Item Brexit Staff (Continued)
 Header Item Cabinet Committee Meetings
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Priority Questions
 Header Item Emergency Departments

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 961 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] As for embracing new technologies, I can understand the fears Deputy Burton may have around future technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics and driverless vehicles, but history teaches us that there have always been people and political forces afraid of new technologies. Going back to the agricultural revolution-----

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I did not say I was afraid of them. I have no fear of them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----and the industrial revolution people predicted that adopting new technologies-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Luddites.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----would result in unemployment and loss of jobs and actually something different has happened. Countries that have embraced new technologies have moved up the value chain and produced more jobs and better jobs.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I asked about publication of the sectoral analysis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There is no date for that.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Sorry?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I do not have a date.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Why not?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Only six minutes remain for the last question.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

 3. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on Cabinet committee F on national security. [47898/17]

 4. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when Cabinet committee F on national security last met; and when it will next meet. [48129/17]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 4 together.

  The role of Cabinet committee F is to keep the State's systems for the analysis of, preparation for, and response to, threats to national security under review and to provide for high-level co-ordination between relevant Departments and agencies on related matters. The Cabinet committee will allow greater ministerial involvement in preparing for and managing major security threats.

  The committee last met on 9 November 2017. It is expected that the committee will meet again early in the new year.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I presume the Taoiseach has heard the news that France has won the competition to host the world cup. President Macron or whoever managed to get in ahead of South Africa even with the recommendation. It has made a very difficult end to a disappointing 24 hours for Irish sport generally. We pay tribute to all of those who made an effort and put a huge effort into preparing our national bid for it.

With regard to the Cabinet committee on national security, does the Taoiseach think it will become a trend that prior to every meeting a photograph will be taken of the members who will attend and that it will be tweeted? I would appreciate the Taoiseach's thoughts on this because one might say a storm is not a security issue but sometimes the national security committee might have to meet because of a terrorist or ISIS threat. I am interested to hear what the security advice is on this. It may not be a huge issue but in some respects it is an interesting development.

For a number of years, the number one risk identified in the national risk assessment is cybersecurity, due to the probability of an incident and the likely scale of impact. The Minister for Health is adjacent to the Taoiseach, and perhaps due to some luck the health system escaped the last attack, which hit the National Health Service in the UK. It is fair to say our critical infrastructure remains exposed to a cyberattack. Will the Taoiseach indicate what has been done to address this recently? Has he agreed to support President Macron's reasonable proposals to promote the issue of cybersecurity?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I note the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government - and we all know who attended because of the tweet - attended the security meeting. It came a month after Storm Ophelia caused such devastation in our country. The Taoiseach will recall the day after the storm I raised with him in this House the matter of clear guidelines for employers on what they should do in the event of a status red warning. The widow of one of those tragically killed during the storm spoke last week. Pamela Goss called for no ambiguity on this issue. Has the Taoiseach reviewed the situation since? When will he be in a position to present guidelines? Because of climate change we do not know when the next disastrous storm will arrive on our shores. We need clarity on what every aspect of our society should do in the teeth of a red alert.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call Deputy Ó Caoláin very briefly.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I would like to ask a couple of questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We have just two minutes left.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Does this new committee complement the role of the existing national security committee or is it replacing it? While there has been, probably understandably, the need for confidentiality in respect of the work of the national security committee, last week the Taoiseach, as Deputy Martin has referenced, tweeted a picture of those present at a meeting of the Cabinet committee. Surely this is unprecedented and an unwise thing to do in the circumstances. Certainly it suggests to me, with all respect, the Taoiseach is more Trump than Trudeau. Will the Taoiseach please outline the accountability and scrutiny mechanisms in place for overseeing the role of the committee?

From a justice and equality committee point of view, there has been some mention in recent times, in light of reform of the Garda, of the possibility of establishing an overarching more structured agency with responsibility for security. Will the Taoiseach outline his view on this?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I have heard the recent news that France has been successful in its bid to secure the Rugby World Cup for 2023. Obviously on behalf of Ireland I am very disappointed at the decision. I do not regret for a second putting forward the bid. Ireland put forward a very good bid and we would have hosted a really good tournament had we had the opportunity to do so. I particularly thank the IRFU, officials in Departments, the GAA and others for their work in putting the bid together. I congratulate France on winning the bid. It will put on a fabulous tournament. It has our congratulations.

The membership of the national security committee is separate to Cabinet committee F. Cabinet committee F involves politicians and the national security committee does not. The membership of Cabinet committee F is public knowledge and is not a secret and certainly not a national security issue. I recall the first meeting of Cabinet committee F had the RTÉ cameras in to pan a shot of the people at the table, which garnered no comment whatsoever at the time yet a tweet has garnered so much comment. It says a lot about some people's terror and fear of modern media that it is perfectly acceptable for the RTÉ cameras to come in and pan a shot of a Cabinet committee meeting, as they have done for decades, and yet a tweet is somehow a threat to national security. It really does demonstrate the terror some people have of modern communications. They just do not understand, do not know what it means, cannot cope and even think it is a threat to national security. Never have I seen a criticism scrape the bottom of the barrel more so than such nonsensical criticism.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach needs to relax a bit.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar When the United States conducts or has just conducted a major military operation-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Or foreign policy.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----it sends photographs from it. I am subjected to plenty of ridiculous criticism-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Cybersecurity.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----but that is the most ridiculous that I have seen. I thought, when I saw the initial tweet from Deputy Lisa Chambers, it was a joke and I laughed. I cannot believe people take it seriously.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The time is up now so we must conclude.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett He is on a roll.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is demonstrative of the terror that people have of modern communications.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It may be, but we are out of time.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The fact it is perfectly acceptable-----

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Will the Taoiseach answer some of the questions?

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher At the risk of being repetitive-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We have to conclude.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar RTÉ cameras can come in and pan a Cabinet meeting or Cabinet sub-committee meeting and nobody comments but somebody uses modern technology and it is a threat to national security.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Taoiseach is blazing a trail.

Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Select Committee on Rural and Community Development has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2017: Vote 42 - Department of Rural and Community Development.

Topical Issue 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 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Catherine Murphy - the recent decision on the Celbridge local area plan; (2) Deputy Willie O'Dea - to discuss the defined benefit pension scheme in CIÉ; (3) Deputies Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley - the future of the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise; (4) Deputy Danny Healy-Rae - the lack of nursing support for sufferers of Parkinson's disease in County Kerry; (5) Deputy Joan Collins - today's report by daft.ie on soaring rents and less rental property and the ESRI report on house price increases of 20% over the next three years; (6) Deputy John Brady - funding of Purple House Cancer Support in Bray, County Wicklow; (7) Deputy Brendan Smith - to discuss the ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar; (8) Deputy Frank O'Rourke - the need to review the housing assistance payment limits in north Kildare; (9) Deputy Martin Ferris - full-time residential care for adults in need; (10) Deputy Dessie Ellis - to discuss loading of car insurance policies for the elderly; (11) Deputy Clare Daly - the need for legislative reform in regard to pension benefits; (12) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the situation with the bus service in County Meath; (13) Deputy Eoin Ó Broin - funding for Traveller-specific housing and implementation of Traveller accommodation programmes; (14) Deputy Billy Kelleher - to discuss the National Treatment Purchase Fund and hospital waiting lists; (15) Deputy Anne Rabbitte - cancellation of surgeries due to building works at Merlin Park University Hospital; (16) Deputy Pat Buckley - the need to connect the R630 to the N25 Cork road at Lakeview roundabout; (17) Deputy Mick Barry - the poor level of delivery of public housing by local authorities and approved housing bodies over the past year as reported in The Irish Times today; (18) Deputy Charlie McConalogue - the need for urgent Government action to address the emerging fodder crisis on many farms due to the impact of the unprecedented wet weather; (19) Deputy Mattie McGrath - the challenges facing the operation of the Court of Appeal; and (20) Deputy Mick Wallace - to discuss the local authority social housing completion rate in County Wexford.

  The matters raised by Deputies Catherine Murphy, Eoin Ó Broin, Billy Kelleher and Danny Healy-Rae have been selected for discussion.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Priority Questions

Emergency Departments

 21. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the reason for the record overcrowding in hospital emergency departments to date in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48416/17]

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher What is the reason for the record overcrowding in hospital emergency departments to date in 2017? Will the Minister make a statement on the matter? He is aware that all overcrowding records have been broken in hospital emergency departments this year to date. As recently as this morning, Temple Street Children's University Hospital has advised people not to attend its emergency department because of overcrowding.


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