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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, 4 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] Protecting an all-island economy now and into the future can only be done by taking a regulatory alignment approach to the problem. Anything else would be disruptive to trade. We must ensure that, in that context, we do everything we can to protect the peace process.

Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil

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 questions for oral answer to the Taoiseach under Standing Order 38 will not be taken on Wednesday, 10 April 2019 and that the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 25(1) will take place after Questions on Promised Legislation for one hour.

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 Next Wednesday will see the sixth day of striking by paramedics and emergency medical technicians on the issue of union recognition. The Government's strategy seems to be to hope that they will go away. After six days on strike, they are proving they will not.

The Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, is an important part of our industrial relations machinery. The Government and the HSE as a Government agency cannot continue to ignore it. What kind of message does that send to other companies in respect of which the WRC is intervening? Will the Government take its head out of the sand and ask the HSE to engage with the WRC? These are exceptional professionals who give extraordinary service to the country. They are not doing this lightly. The Government cannot allow them to go on strike for a sixth day.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly As the Deputy knows, we do not want to see the strike either and have no desire to see the dispute continue. The issue has been outlined in the House several times. Paramedics are represented by three different unions. If we included a fourth, there would be an issue of fragmentation in the representative role. We must try to work around that challenge. We take on board-----

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary What is the position on asking the WRC to engage?

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly There would still be an issue of fragmentation. How many unions would represent one group of people? Would it be five or six? At an operational level, it would be difficult for the HSE to deal with four, five or potentially even six different unions that were trying to negotiate for one group of people.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I have just come from the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, which has been hearing from small businesses about the serious impact on them of the cost of insurance increases. We heard from Ms Linda Murray from Navan, who operates a soft play centre. She was very brave as she recounted her personal story. She broke down before the committee as she begged us to save the livelihoods of her staff and to give children somewhere to play. She has 25 days before her centre closes because no one in Ireland will insure soft play areas and the only company in Britain that does so has refused. A different company in Navan closed down just six weeks ago and another in Cork will close by the end of the month. Every soft play area across the country will face a similar fate.

The Government has dithered and dallied on this issue. All the while, the clock is ticking for the future of these centres and their staff. Will the Tánaiste ask the Minister for Finance to convene an emergency meeting with the insurance industry so as to ensure appropriate insurance cover is given to these vital services?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is not true to say that we have been dilly-dallying on this issue. There are three Bills dealing with insurance and we have had some success in respect of motor insurance in particular on the back of recommendations from a report. We are also implementing recommendations on the cost of insurance for small business. The Deputy is right, though, in that there is a particular concern regarding children's play areas. I have attended a number in my town with my children and spoken to their owners. They are under enormous pressure and cannot stay in business if they must pay the increases. Some cannot even get insurance at any price. Besides passing the legislation, this is an issue that the Government needs to take action on in the short term. I will speak to the Minister directly about what the appropriate course of action is.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary The Government has only had eight years.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin For the second time in six months, Irish soldiers have been let down by the Government. After a six-month tour of duty on a UN mission to the Golan Heights, 130 soldiers were due home today, as the Tánaiste knows. Once again, however, the Government has failed to secure all the necessary clearances for them to travel home to their families. This happened in October, and that was a disgrace. For it to happen a second time is beyond excusable.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Families naturally want to be reunited after a six-month absence. Children have travelled to Dublin today to meet their parents again and some family members have booked holidays for tomorrow and the day after. For the second time, all of those plans have been put awry. What explanation can the Government give for a second monumental failure of this sort?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Outrageous.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin After what happened in October, surely it should have ensured that nothing like it could happen again. When will these soldiers be repatriated?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I can understand the frustration of very many families, but it is important that we deal with the facts. The circumstances are not the same as what happened in October. In this instance, the UN is responsible for organising the rotation flights to transfer the current United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, UNDOF, contingent back to Ireland. We have been advised by the UN that the Lebanese authorities have not granted landing clearance in Beirut for the aircraft scheduled to transport the 58th Infantry Group back home. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, has been in direct contact with our ambassador to the UN, who is continuing to engage with UN officials at a very senior level to try to get this issue resolved quickly. Every effort is being made by Department of Defence officials, the Defence Forces and our diplomatically accredited staff at the UN to work to get the next UN flight.

To be clear, there was a paperwork problem in October where there was fault on our side. That is my understanding. That is not the case this time, however.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Time is up, Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney This was an issue between UN officials and their counterparts in Beirut.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We should take responsibility for our own troops.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy knows, or at least he should, that that is not how these UN rotations work.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Yes, it is.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Tánaiste, please. The time is up. Will the Tánaiste conclude, please?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney We will get them home as quickly as we can.

Deputy Gino Kenny: Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny I wish to raise the proposed cannabis access programme. I understand that an importation licence has been granted to a company for medicinal cannabis products. That is welcome news, as this situation has been dragged out. I have two questions. When will the programme be set up? The programme's current guidelines are extremely restrictive and many people will not be given access. In November in Britain, medicinal cannabis was rescheduled to schedule 2, yet few people can get it. We do not want the same to happen in Ireland.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly We have received and circulated an update this week. I cannot give the Deputy an exact timeline for when the programme will be established, but I am happy to share the update from the HSE with him after Questions on Promised Legislation, if that is okay.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am glad that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, is present, as I wish to raise the issue of the Thurles post office. Last Friday, 2,000 people marched in Liberty Square where the GAA was founded all those years ago and mandated Deputies to get a meeting with the Minister. Will he meet a deputation of Deputies, who were elected by the people and have been asked to meet him regarding the movement of the Thurles post office out of Liberty Square, which would be detrimental to business people and townspeople alike? I want him to take political accountability. He claims he has no responsibility, yet Fine Gael's election candidate said on radio this morning that he had phoned her to say she could attend the meeting as well. He does not have responsibility one day and, the next, he does. He should take responsibility, be accountable to the people from Tipperary who elected us, intervene in this issue, and give an immediate date for a meeting with elected Members and the post office action committee under the stewardship of Councillor Jim Ryan and others.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputy Cahill on the same matter.

Deputy Jackie Cahill: Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill I raised this issue last week. Given that the Project Ireland 2040 national planning framework is meant to rejuvenate town centres, it is extraordinary that a State agency is doing the exact opposite. Moving the post office will destroy retail business in the town centre, so the Minister standing idly by and letting this happen is not good enough. I support my colleague's call for an immediate meeting between the Minister, Oireachtas Members and members of the action committee.


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