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 Header Item Departmental Communications (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 966 No. 2

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  2 o’clock

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher There will be no time for the Taoiseach to respond.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald We should beware contrived outrage on any side. In the rough and tumble of proceedings in the House things are sometimes said that are unfair or unwise, but that should not be used as a pretext for not answering direct questions. The expenditure of public moneys for political purposes is a public interest issue, with which we must get to grips. I suggest to the Taoiseach and the Government that it is not in their long-term interests to allow the matter to persist. Whatever short-term gain or investment has been made in this process has now been brought into public disrepute. This is not about the Taoiseach responding in a party political way to his opponents or reacting to language he might sincerely regard as intemperate because that would be to miss the point entirely. We are dealing with an issue of ethics in the use of public moneys, which is very serious. Can we have answers in that regard? Is there an answer to the public concerns? Can we find a methodology to assure all Members and the public that this is not a try-on? The answers we have heard so far in that regard do not give the necessary assurances.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is welcome that Deputy Micheál Martin has unequivocally dissociated himself from the remarks made by Deputy Marc MacSharry. I am disappointed that Deputy Joan Burton did not do so also. She specifically referred to remarks made in the House. The remarks of Deputy Alan Kelly were made on the "Morning Ireland" RTÉ radio programme rather than in the House and I am sorry that she felt unable to dissociate herself from them------

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton As I have not listened to the interview, I am unaware of the remarks to which the Taoiseach refers.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The whole country heard it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton On a point of information-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher There are no points of order at Question Time.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Taoiseach has made assertions about an interview I have not heard. I made my views clear on terms related to Nazism and------

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher If the Deputy wishes the Taoiseach to reply, she should allow him to speak.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There will be ample opportunities between now and the next Question Time for the Deputy to listen to the radio interview she claims not to have heard or to read the coverage of it which she claims she has not seen. It is to be hoped there will be time between now and next Tuesday or Wednesday for her to inform herself of what her deputy leader said, reflect on it and, it is to be hoped, do as Deputy Micheál Martin did and unequivocally dissociate herself from the comments and language of Deputy Alan Kelly, of which she seems to have no knowledge.

I have no problem with criticism. We are all in the business of politics, part of which is taking criticism, responding to it, acting on it when it is valid, sucking it up on occasion or pushing back when it is unfair or invalid. I have no difficulty with replying to questions. I do my best to do so every day I am in the House. Last night I met a person who expressed surprise that I had to answer so many questions so frankly. I always try my best to do so. However, I can only answer questions to which I know the answers. I can only account for myself and, through written replies to parliamentary questions, my Department can account for its staff. I cannot answer questions on behalf of third parties, contracted organisations or regional or national newspapers; rather I can only answer questions about myself or the actions of the civil servants employed in my Department and that is what I will continue to do. I am not in a position to answer for third or fourth parties. In terms of the-------

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The third parties in question are spending taxpayers' money on behalf of the State.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach to continue, without interruption.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Deputy Micheál Martin should check out the editor of the Tuam Herald.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar On the basic rules and principles that should apply, I have made it clear that any commercial content should be clearly identifiable as having been sponsored and as commercial content.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin A strapline stating the content was produced in partnership with Project Ireland 2040 does not------

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I have made that instruction clear to the staff of my Department. If it needs to be made clearer, so be it. Such content may need to state it is a sponsored advertisement or an advertorial. I have no difficulty with that. I have previously stated a person being interviewed for a commercial feature should be told that is the case.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin They were not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar None of the interviews was carried out by me or the staff of my Department

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The interviewees were not told.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As a matter of general policy, that should be the case. I have no control over such issues when the interviews are not carried out by me or my staff but rather by third parties. On the content of the advertorials, as I stated, the only information provided by my Department was the factual information contained in the national development plan. No persons were put forward by us for interview. When suggestions were sought from the strategic communications unit, SCU, as to who might be interviewed, it did not make any suggestion in that regard because we thought it would be inappropriate to do so. No photographs were given for inclusion. I can only give truthful answers. No matter how many times questions are asked and assertions or innuendos are made-------

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is only all Fine Gael politicians-------

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton That is the Jesuitical explanation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar ------I can only give truthful answers.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin They are facts.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Deputy should deal with the facts.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach has a responsibility in the spending of taxpayers' money. He cannot wash his hands of that responsibility.

  Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or the Order of the Dáil of 27 February, that the Dáil shall now adjourn until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 6 March 2018.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is that agreed? Agreed.

  The Dáil adjourned at 2.10 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 6 March 2018.


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