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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] That is not an easy thing to do and we will continue to try to manage an economy that protects workers' rights and pays them a decent wage for a week's work. We will continue to take independent advice on where the minimum wage should be and act on that as a Government. At the same time, we will continue to talk to employers about the supports they need to be able to build and grow competitive businesses out of Ireland. That approach has worked very well in the last seven years. We have seen unemployment fall from over 15% to just over 5%, and it is continuing to fall month on month. That is the approach we will continue to take.

In respect of the approach of the HSE in the other issue the Deputy mentioned, those matters are well understood and debated at this stage.

Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I understand the Government Chief Whip has a business proposal to put to us.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that there shall be no oral questions to the Taoiseach taken next week and, accordingly, on Tuesday, questions to the Minister for Justice and Equality shall take place after the motion re deferred surrender order (referral to committee); and that, on Wednesday, the sos shall take place on the conclusion of Questions on Promised Legislation, in accordance with Standing Order 25(1).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary We are only weeks away from the European elections. These are the first elections since 2016, when there was strong evidence of online interference in the electoral process. Deputy James Lawless has published the Advertising and Social Media Transparency Bill and it has gone through pre-legislative scrutiny. Will the Tánaiste commit that the Government will see it through Committee Stage ahead of the elections?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I will have to come back to the Deputy on the detail later today. There may be a money message issue; I am not sure.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Yesterday, a man was shot in broad daylight on Blakestown Road here in Dublin. Last week, we had another shooting in broad daylight at a retail park in Drogheda. These follow a spate of shootings and killings over the past number of weeks. Two men have died and others have been seriously injured as a result of criminal feuds. People in many communities are living in fear. They are great communities but they are being victimised by gangs. Those communities deserve a lot better. This is not just restricted to the urban areas. It also affects rural Ireland. The CSO statistics show that crime in nearly all categories has increased. Despite this, Garda youth diversion programmes are chronically underfunded as is the drugs task force. There are 1,000 fewer gardaí on the beat today than last year. What action is the Government taking to deal with this increased level of gangland crime? Is it not time for the Garda Commissioner's plan for redeploying gardaí to the front line to be fast tracked?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am not going to comment on operational decisions that the Garda needs to make. Of course we are aware of the incident that took place in west Dublin yesterday and the need for an appropriate response to it from a policing perspective. There is ongoing contact between the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána to ensure a proactive response. We have seen significant successes in respect of organised crime, in particular in respect of a response to gangland crime in the north inner city. However, there is a need for constant dialogue between the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána to ensure it has the resources and policy platform it needs to be effective.

Deputy Willie Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose Reference has been made to supporting small employers across the country. I received a communication from a representative body for hairdressers stating that the Government is determined to increase dole queues, close down small to medium sized businesses and deny creative, artistic young people an opportunity to gain employment and learn skills for life. It is crushing small to medium sized businesses, which are the cornerstone of many communities, and the service industry, which generates over 200,000 jobs. That is from the hairdressing industry. It was hit with a 4.5% increase in rates. There was an increase in the national minimum wage, which I support. Now there has been an abolition of the training rates. This came in on 4 or 5 March and they were only notified on 1 March. There are two or three businesses in the constituency that are ready to go out of business already. They cannot sustain any more of this. The hairdressing industry took a fierce blow from the VAT increase. It might be all right in the big cities but in small towns and villages, this is the straw that breaks the camel's back. We are serving them well by wiping them out.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It was the Low Pay Commission that recommended to the Government last year that the training rates be abolished, on the basis that they were not being used. That report was published in the fourth quarter of last year and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas at that time. There was no delay whatsoever in telling anybody in the industry. We all received the letter from the hairdressing industry this week but it is certainly not news.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Under the programme for Government, on Northern Ireland, the Government commits to maintaining the needs of victims and survivors at the core of its approach. I heard the Tánaiste say today that he accepts that Karen Bradley made a mistake and he accepts her apology. I would like to point out that there has been a systemic campaign by the Tory Party to clear the way for these soldiers not being charged. Her statement that they are innocent and that they never committed a crime because they were following orders has to be utterly rejected, not as a mistake but as part of a campaign to whitewash the activities of the paratroopers in Derry and Ballymurphy. Both of those historic incidents are coming up for scrutiny in the near future. It is not good enough to have gone to dinner with Karen Bradley and to accept that what she said was a mistake. It cannot be a mistake. She put those words together very deliberately. I am asking the Tánaiste to do what he says he will do in the programme for Government and stick by the victims and survivors in Northern Ireland. I urge him to call in the British ambassador, as he did the Russian ambassador when there were suspicions over activities at that embassy, and insist that Karen Bradley resigns and that those remarks are not allowed to influence whether the soldiers who killed 13 people on Bloody Sunday and 11 people in Ballymurphy go to trial.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I dealt with this issue in some detail earlier. It is important to quote from the Secretary of State's statement today, in which she says that where there is any evidence of wrongdoing, this should be pursued without fear or favour, whoever the perpetrators may be. That principle underpins our approach to dealing with legacy issues and it is one from which we will not depart. I have made the Irish Government's position very clear.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith The Tánaiste is not following the programme for Government. He is not sticking with survivors.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In response to Deputy Calleary's earlier question on the online advertising Bill, pre-legislative scrutiny took place and we are awaiting a scrutiny report. Once that is received, the Government will make a decision.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The programme for Government is strong in its commitment on rural regeneration. Thurles is famed for the founding fathers of the GAA, the trip to Semple and the matches. Now An Post, which has become a quango, has unilaterally decided to move the post office from the square in Thurles, an iconic location near Hayes hotel, out to a shopping centre. That is killing the centre of the town, as has happened in many towns where shopping centres have been developed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I ask the Deputy to address promised legislation.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There is promised legislation to rejuvenate towns. The Department of Deputy Michael Ring has given funding for Liberty Square of over €1.5 million. Last Monday evening I saw them painting a new sign on the post office. They are spending €6 million on new signage in post offices yet Angus Laverty said on radio last week that this one is being moved in six weeks' time. This is farcical. One hand does not know what the other is doing. I urge the Tánaiste to ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to instruct An Post to treat communities with respect. It has been supported for decades and should not be hunting the post offices out of the town and affecting other businesses. There is a huge knock-on effect as regards where people spend their money if they get it in shopping centres. I am not anti-shopping centres but I am for the support of Thurles town centre and small businesses.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am not sure it is appropriate for us to be deciding on the location of post offices on the floor of the Dáil.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Tánaiste should not wash his hands of it.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Has the Tánaiste made any further inquiries about the young woman who is being held prisoner in the United Arab Emirates? Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum is the daughter of the King of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE. I have asked the Tánaiste about the matter previously.

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