Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Information on Jillian van Turnhout Zoom on Jillian van Turnhout] Reading the reports at the weekend on whether we should means-test or tax child benefit, as well as what the Mangan report would come out with, it felt like it was Groundhog Day. It was first mooted in April 2009 by the then Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, that we should examine this issue and I recall when debating it that I used the same speaking points that I am using now. I have not had to change them. The debate should be moving on. I ask for a debate on the matter in this House.

  Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice and Equality for clarity on when the family leave Bill will be published and the consultation process on it with the social partners is envisaged? As the EU parental leave directive needs to be transposed into law by March 2013, the clock is ticking. I know the Bill is on the legislative list, but when will it be published in order that we can uphold our obligations?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I thought the phrase caveat emptor - let the buyer beware - had vanished into the mists of time and that we had reached more enlightened times where buyers and consumers were concerned. I am amazed, however, to hear that this appears to be the approach Galway County Council may take with home owners who have homes and residential units on which development levies should have been paid but were not collected by the local authority. It is proposed to target these home owners with bills of up to €5,000 each. This seems to be an unjust state of affairs. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government should attend the House to discuss why €800 million is owed to county councils nationwide in unpaid levies. It appears some developers, having gone bust in some cases, did not pay the levies connected with their being granted planning permission in the first place. It also appears that it is proposed in some quarters to target the home owners in such developments. People in a number of housing estates in the Wicklow area have been hit with bills of up to €2,270. In Donegal, by the end of last year, the council was owed €4.7 million in unpaid levies.

Another principle comes into play, that of Equity's Darling. The bona fide purchaser for value without notice is always seen as the one which equity protects. It will be inequitable if councils which failed to collect levies when they should have done now turn on home owners. There also may be issues about the way solicitors behaved in signing over ownership of the homes to the buyers.

Frankly, this is not a bill ordinary people can afford to pay and the State must take an interest in the matter. County and city councils may well have been dilatory or even negligent. I would like the Minister to come to the House to discuss the Government's attitude to this issue. Will the Government side with home owners or let them be targeted by local authorities in a way that would be extremely unfair?

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I raise the issue raised today by the Chief Justice, Ms Susan Denham, with regard to the Supreme Court. I know constitutional change through a referendum is required to effect any change to the courts system. However, it is an issue that needs to be examined, as justice delayed is justice denied. The Supreme Court acts like a kitchen sink in that all appeals go through it. Some kind of interim court or a filtration system in the Courts Service should be considered. Will the Leader arrange a debate on the courts system with the Minister for Justice and Equality?

  I acknowledge the vital contribution to the arts that many of our cultural institutions make. Last weekend I attended a performance by Lyric Opera Productions and was blown away by the depth of talent. The one point that resonated with me was that practically all of the talent was Irish. In conversations afterwards I discovered, however, that it was not always the case. I speak about buying Irish generally. When it comes to operatic talent, I acknowledge the hard work done by Lyric Opera Productions in getting Irish artists working abroad to come home for such events. We must encourage this more.


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