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 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item National Infrastructure Bill 2018: First Stage
 Header Item Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 967 No. 5

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton] It was at an extremely low level. While I am not up to speed on this application, I will get an update for the Deputy. We are in a phase of expansion of investment in higher education after many years when none was done. I recognise that there is a scarcity of home economics teachers and the fact that St. Angela's college has expanded provision is an important element in meeting the need for such teachers.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin Two weeks ago we had organ donor awareness week when we heard the good news that in 2017, 308 successful transplants were carried out thanks to the generosity of 98 individuals and their families. However, there are many people on the transplant waiting list and time is running out for them. We know that the greatest possible act of generosity is the donation of organs following a sudden death. Page 57 of the programme for Government refers to the setting up of an opt out register for organ donation before the end of 2017. The report of the public consultation on this matter was published in 2017, with support for such a register from a very large majority of people. When can we expect legislation to be enacted to put such an opt out register in place?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar A record number of transplants were performed in Ireland last year. As the Deputy knows, for the first time more than 300 transplants were performed. I want to pay tribute to the extraordinary staff in our hospitals who made that possible and of course, to the people who donated their organs and their families. It is intended that we will have the heads of the Bill this month or next month at the latest. Obviously, the legislative timeframe is not under my control but we will have the heads by then, certainly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes questions on promised legislation. Some Members have expressed dissatisfaction with the time being provided for these-----

Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe On a point of order, would it be possible to get an overnight here?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Maybe-----

Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe I ask that because when I came in to the Chamber this morning, a number of Deputies were already here before me. They were at a function that I also attended. I left before them but they were able to get here before me. I do not know what way the numbers are given out but-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The system is completely transparent. I cannot be held responsible for who is in the Chamber first or who picks numbers in advance. On the issue of timing, however, if Members are unhappy with the time provided, I ask them to come forward with proposals to change it. As long as the rules of the House provide for a specific amount of time, my responsibility is to ensure that all Members adhere to the rules. The rules are for all 158 of us and no individuals are exempt from them. If the time is not adequate, Members can change that and provide more time.

National Infrastructure Bill 2018: First Stage

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the establishment of a body to be known as the National Infrastructure Commission to advise Government on all sectors of economic infrastructure and to provide for related matters.

  This Bill will establish a new national infrastructure commission that will be tasked with planning ahead over a 25 year period, which is far beyond the current very limited cycle of capital plans. We propose that the commission would draw from the expertise of a reformed Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the National Transport Authority, NTA, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, and all of our local authorities, as well as the Departments of Housing, Planning and Local Government and Education and Skills. The commission will set out a new framework for the development of infrastructure in Ireland over the coming years and decades. Some of the priorities we propose for the commission include infrastructural investment amounting to 4% of our GDP; decarbonising Ireland; developing a strong transport network that balances the economic needs of the country and the development of our regions; making Ireland an IT nation with proper telecommunications connectivity in all parts of our island; and attaining a secure and balanced energy mix.

  The commission's reports will be laid before the Oireachtas and subject to scrutiny. Government Departments will be required to draw up plans based on the commission's recommendations, as endorsed by the Oireachtas. The commission will be an independent body, organised on a similar basis to the Fiscal Advisory Council and will advise the Government on all sectors of economic infrastructure, defined as follows: energy, transport, water and waste water, drainage, sewerage, waste, flood risk management and digital communications. The commission will also consider all of the interactions between infrastructure recommendations and housing supply.

  In carrying out its role, the commission will produce a national infrastructure plan once every five years, setting out its assessment of long-term infrastructure needs over an ongoing 25 year period, with recommendations to the Government and the Oireachtas. It will also produce specific studies on pressing infrastructure issues and challenges which will set by the Government and the Oireachtas, taking into the account the views of the infrastructure commission and stakeholders. The commission will produce an annual monitoring report that will take stock of Government progress in areas where it has made commitments relating to infrastructure and relating to recommendations of the national infrastructure commission.

  This is a new way of doing capital planning. It will take politics and politicisation out of capital planning and is based on a very successful model that currently operates in New Zealand. I look forward to the discussions at pre-legislative and committee stages with a view to improving the Bill over the coming weeks and months.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Bill opposed?

Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl In accordance with the Order of the Dáil on Tuesday, 17 April, we will now hear expressions of sympathy on the death of Mr. Peter Mathews, former Fine Gael member and Independent Deputy for the Dublin South constituency. At the outset I want to welcome Mrs. Susan Mathews, widow of our late colleague, Deputy Mathews and their sons James, John and David, their daughter Maria who are in attendance today with their partners. They are all very welcome to Leinster House. As it is just over a year since the passing of Peter Mathews, it is appropriate that the House avails of this opportunity to pay tribute to him.

Over the course of his membership of the 31st Dáil, I enjoyed many conversations - very long conversations, very often - on a great deal of issues with Peter. In fact, the only thing longer than the conversations were the text messages that I got from him from time to time. In all of those communications, he always mentioned his wife Susan. In my mind, Peter was first and foremost, a family man. As we all know, he was by no means a conventional politician, though his membership of the 31st Dáil certainly enriched that assembly. In his contributions and in his actions, whether addressing the consequences of the financial meltdown, the critical matter of corporate responsibility or any of the other important issues he raised, he consistently demonstrated the fact that he was a man of deeply-held convictions. Decency, integrity and respect were hallmarks of the man. He was brave, could never be accused of groupthink and was someone I will remember with great fondness and genuine respect. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute to our former colleague, Peter Mathews, who died a little over a year ago. I would also like to offer a very special welcome to Susan and his family members who are here today. Peter was a true gentleman, a colleague and a friend and we miss his company and his counsel. I first got to know Peter a few years before he entered this House as we were both regular panellists at that time on the "Tonight with Vincent Browne" show. I quickly came to admire him for his courage, analytical ability and his ability to argue the issues without ever making it personal. We often discussed things - everything from banking, the optimal design of swimming pools and, of course, medicine - in person and sometimes by phone. Peter was a man after my own heart and very often those discussions were through detailed, long and regular text messages. The Peter I remember is somebody who was very passionate, very determined and deeply caring about this country and its people. While we did not see eye to eye on many issues, I always enjoyed being able to exchange views with him. I have to say that I regretted that he had to leave Fine Gael over what was very much an issue of personal conscience for him. That experience helped to convince me that we should not impose a whip on such issues again. I believe that on issues on which people hold passionately differing views, debates can be conducted in a respectful way and in a way that is not personalised. That was Peter's way and it should be our way too.

He was fearless when it came to standing up for what he believed in. I remember very well a heated occasion about three years ago when he was expelled from this Chamber by the Ceann Comhairle's forbear after he challenged the Order of Business and attempted to raise some genuine concerns about the banks and the pressure that people were under.

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