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 Header Item Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 967 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] It is something that my forebear as Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, did also. I decided to continue to do it.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I believe former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern initiated the process.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That may well be the case.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin He did certain things.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The time left is limited. We will not have any argument about it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, attached a lot of value to it. I attended some of the meetings as a Minister and I decided I would continue with the practice when I became Taoiseach. I have no doubt that previous taoisigh, including Mr. Bertie Ahern, saw value in it also. We generally meet in round-table format, with many Ministers around the table and many representatives from the church. The latter are mostly clergymen but also include laity. On some issues, we agree to disagree, such as on the eighth amendment. Obviously, the Catholic Church gave us a very clear position on that. We agreed to disagree on it. The Protestant churches had diverse opinions. Some of them were open to removing the eighth amendment from our Constitution but were not well disposed towards the Government's legislative proposals, for example. Each church will make its own statement on that in due course, if it has not done so already. We have agreed to follow up on a few issues on a bilateral basis. We agreed to follow up on some of the education issues with the faith communities and the Department of Education and Skills. I envisage meeting each of the major faith groups once per year in round-table format, with bilateral discussions happening in the interim at ministerial level.

With regard to the papal visit, the primary focus will be to attend the World Meeting of Families. The Pope will attend the Festival of Families event in Croke Park and will be the chief celebrant at a mass in the Phoenix Park, which will include the World Meeting of Families. The programme will also include those elements that are normal for the visit of a Head of State — for example, a brief engagement with the Taoiseach and the President. In addition, there will be a number of Church-related projects.

As I mentioned, the full programme details outlining where the Pope will visit have not yet been confirmed. The State's involvement, as appropriate regarding an official visit by a Head of State, will be similar to its involvement in previous high-profile visits to Ireland, such as that of Queen Elizabeth of England. In particular, it will support those events where the public will be in attendance in large number, taking on board all the health and safety requirements in addition to the security measures to which such a visit gives rise. The costs associated with the visit will be similar to those of previous official visits by a Head of State. The visit must be seen in terms of its historic nature - the first in 40 years by a pontiff - and in terms of the opportunities it presents as regards announcing Ireland's visibility and international reputation.

With regard to the programme for the papal visit, I am very much aware that this is primarily a pastoral visit. I do not believe it is the role of the Government to tell Pope Francis what he should or should not do, whom he should or should not meet, or what he should or should not visit. We have said, however, that we would like to facilitate, if possible, a visit to Northern Ireland. We suggest it would be appropriate to meet some of the victims and survivors of clerical abuse or abuse by State and Church authorities. In addition, we have expressed our view as a Government that families should be respected and seen in their diversity. There are families of all different shapes and forms, whether they include children being brought up by grandparents, same-sex couples with children, or lone-parent families. We have expressed our view as a State that this is how we see the family. That view has been put across to the Church authorities. Having said that, however, we fully respect the separation between church and state. Religious freedom applies to this also.

  Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I call the Government assistant Whip, Deputy Seán Canney, to issue a statement regarding the Order of the House.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney It is proposed, notwithstanding the Order of Business of the Dáil of yesterday, 17 April 2018, that immediately following the taking of the Topical Issue Debate today, No. 26a, a statement by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, shall be taken. The statement of the Minister shall not exceed ten minutes, following which each party or group in opposition shall have six minutes. The six minutes shall consist of alternating questions and answers, each of which shall not exceed one minute. The Minister shall have five minutes for a statement on the conclusion of the debate. The opening statement, questions, answers and the concluding statement shall not exceed 57 minutes, in total. Private Members' business shall take place on the conclusion of this item for two hours.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Is that agreed?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No. I have some concerns about that format in that it does not allow for a genuine session of questions and answers. First, six minutes for a party with 45 Deputies is wholly disproportionate with six minutes for a party of five or six. I am not saying all 45 members will be speaking. I have no problem with anyone getting six minutes or more. I would have believed ten minutes should be a minimum for a party.

My real point is that if a Deputy asks a question, it is more useful if the response follows it. It seems to me that what is happening here is that any amount of questions will be rolled in, with six minutes-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It is a question and a reply.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Is it a question and reply, followed by a question and reply? Deputy Canney said five minutes at the end to sum up.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney No.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is fine, once I know there is a facility for questions and replies. I do believe, however, that six minutes is very tight.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I suggest we wait to see how it progresses.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney To clarify, the allowance of six minutes each involves a question for one minute and a reply for one minute, a question for one minute and a reply for one minute, and a question for one minute and a reply for one minute. The five minutes at the end are for concluding remarks.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Everyone gets three one-minute questions.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney This formula has been used before and it worked well.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There was a time in the Dáil when one could be 35 minutes answering.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I know. We are not going to go there now. We must take the sos. Is the proposal agreed? Agreed.

  Sitting suspended at 2.40 p.m. and resumed at 3.40 p.m.


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