Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Order of Business.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 174 Next Page Last Page

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 17b, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection; No. 30, Arts Bill, 2002 – Second Stage (resumed); and No. 14, Railway Safety Bill, 2001 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 17b shall be decided without debate.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon There is one proposal to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17b, motion re referral to select committee, agreed?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg Is there a representative of the Technical Group on the select committee because it would have a lot of experience and expertise in the area concerned?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon That does not arise. Is the proposal agreed?

A Deputy: Perhaps Deputy Ferris could do some research on it.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg Will the Technical Group allow the leader of Sinn Féin to be the leader this morning?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Deputy is out of order. Is he opposing the proposal?

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg We would be happy to share time if there is a debate this morning.

Mr. Gogarty: Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty On a point of order, given the Green Party's record on peace, we agree with that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Deputy cannot speak to the proposal unless he is opposing it. Is the proposal agreed? Agreed.

[1022]Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Is the Minister for Agriculture and Food prepared to apologise on behalf of the Government to the people about the manner in which they were misled before the last general election in order to secure office? I am sure he read in the newspapers today that a poll confirms that three out of four people believe the Government misled the public in order to secure office. Does he accept that the weak and vulnerable will pay for the Government's binge as a result of cutbacks in health services, education, housing, extra charges and additional inflation?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent Many people will reflect on that question as they go to the polls in the Nice treaty. It is important for the Minister to be forthright and honest to ensure the result of the poll is not decided by the anger felt among people towards the Government but on the basis of the Nice treaty itself.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon A question please.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent Will the Minister be forthright about the misjudgment he and his Government made about the state of the economy before the last election? Will he take this opportunity before the poll on Saturday to set the matter right?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I support the charge made by Deputy Richard Bruton and supported by Deputy Sargent. The figures in today's edition of The Star speak for themselves. Given the Minister's experience in Government, does he recall any time that the public was so deliberately misled by the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach? Can he indicate if the Estimates have been completed? Will the Estimates confirm that a further reduction of €1.7 billion will manifest itself when they are published? Can the Minister confirm that the Estimates have been completed and will they show the reality of those figures? They will give substance to the scale of deception and lies presented to the people during the campaign.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh The position regarding the national finances was clearly outlined in Private Members' time last week by the Minister for Finance. I refer people to his detailed and lengthy reply. I read the polls in today's newspapers which contain interesting reading. The leaders of all political parties would do well to study the figures.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The women of Ireland will study them.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh Three out of four people, for example, have not yet heard of the new leader of Fine Gael. That is a considerable problem.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten They know all about the Minister. The farmers have put up with five years of misery.

[1023]Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I will recall for the Minister what the Minister for Finance said in the House last week. He said he made an appeal to Ministers in January to stay within their budgets. However, by the end of that month they had increased their budgets by 50% more than was allowed. He made another appeal to them in March to stay within their budgets. However, the following month spending increased by a further 34%. Does the Minister know that the Minister for Finance made another appeal in April to his colleagues, but spending increased by 50% more than was allowed in the Estimates? Does the Minister accept the conclusion that the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach are solely responsible for the deception or does he accept that responsibility also lies with himself and his colleagues? Are we continuing to be misled by the Government which told us last week it would come in on budget with a 14% increase in current spending? Is the Minister aware that means that, in the last quarter of the year, the health Estimate – the Minister for Health and Children is not here today – will have to be cut by €170 million? That is enough to run all the five casualty hospitals in Dublin. Will we see such savage cutbacks? There will be a cut of €169 million in education in the last quarter of the year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon A brief question.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Will we see the details of these cutbacks, which will be imposed on weak sections of our community, if the Government is still determined to come in on budget, or will the Government slide away yet again from the statements it makes in the House and elsewhere? Will a massive hole open up in the public finances for which the poor of the country will pay? This is international day for combating poverty, but the Government is contributing at every hand's turn to additional difficulties for people.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Will the Minister answer my question?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh As regards the national finances, the position was made abundantly clear from January of this year by the Department of Finance, the Minister for Finance, the Government and agencies such as the ESRI.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg The Government kept that to itself.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton It partied on.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh There was a public debate.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Minister, without interruption, please.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh Various economists were invited to study the election programmes, which they did. Monitoring of the national finances and the inter[1024] national financial situation was kept under review throughout that period. As matters developed, the Department of Finance, the Minister for Finance and the Government took action and they will continue to take action.

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton After the election was over.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn It is 1977 all over again.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh There is a deterioration in the world economy and the national economy. We are determined to take a prudent attitude to the national finances. We will not under any circumstances allow what happened to the national finances in the 1980s to be repeated.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Will the Minister answer my question?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh Taking prudent action now will be of tremendous benefit following on from the unprecedented, sustained growth of the past five years.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn He could not answer my question.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent As a betting man, has the Minister placed any bets on who will lose his job first, Mick McCarthy or Bertie Ahern? I hoped the Tánaiste would be here as I wanted to ask her about the treasonous language emanating from Ministers, particularly the Tánaiste herself, in threatening economic meltdown if the Nice treaty is rejected. Does the Minister agree that the outcome of the Nice treaty referendum has nothing to do with the 1,000 jobs which will have been lost by the end of the week, including the 120 job losses announced this morning by EMC Corporation in Ballincollig?

In 2001 some 4,000 jobs were lost in the area of foreign direct investment. Does the Minister agree that a trend has emerged which has been identified in the United Nations world report on trade and investment which notes that in 2001 foreign direct investment in Ireland fell by 60%? On that basis, will he accept the reality that foreign direct investment in Ireland is primarily affected by our level of corporate tax and that a “No” vote in the referendum would have no effect on FDI, other than perhaps protecting our low corporation tax regime? Does he accept that it is treasonous for Ministers to talk down the economy in the context of the outcome of the Nice treaty referendum?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Does the Minister agree that Ireland, among all the countries of the European Union, has been the greatest beneficiary of market integration across Europe and that as a result of the efforts of many Governments we have positioned ourselves to be best placed to take advantage of larger markets and those markets which do not have barriers? Does he also agree [1025] that just recently the chief executive of the IDA issued a blunt message to the people when he stated that his job of attracting international investment would become far more difficult if they vote “No” to the Nice treaty? Does he agree that the policy advocated by the “No” campaigners of revising and abandoning the open, confident way we have approached Europe will lead us into a cul-de-sac?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Minister failed to answer my previous question, but is uniquely placed to answer this one. Will he outline to the House what his bargaining position in the Agriculture Council will be if Ireland votes “No” to enlargement on Saturday? Given his experience – he is, perhaps, the most experienced Minister for Agriculture and Food in the history of the State with respect to European affairs – will he articulate to the House and to those who believe a “No” vote will do no damage to Ireland's standing within the European Union his concerns about what such a vote will mean for this country, particularly in the context of the review of the Common Agricultural Policy and the reform of its supports between now and 2006-07?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh I agree with Deputy Richard Bruton and Deputy Quinn that membership of the European Union has been enormously beneficial for the economy and for attracting jobs. Some 10% of the workforce is employed by multinational companies which have been attracted here because it is the gateway to Europe.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent If that is the case, why are they leaving?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh More than 300,000 jobs have been created by these companies. There are no circumstances under which they would have been attracted to Ireland if we had been a remote economy on the periphery of Europe. This view was endorsed by Séan Dorgan of the IDA when he clearly stated that Europe, not just our corporate tax regime to which Deputy Sargent referred, has been important for economic development. The Deputy should also note that we will retain our veto if we vote in favour of the Nice treaty as it has no effect on taxation matters.

With important negotiations imminent on the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy and the WTO trade round, rejection of the treaty would make my position as our negotiator on agriculture far more difficult because our success in Europe is due to alliances we forge with other countries. In the Agriculture Council, for example, we have only three of 87 votes. If Deputy Rabbitte or any of the other contenders for the leadership of the Labour Party were in that position, I doubt he or she would do terribly well.

Networking is our strength and a “Yes” vote in support of the Nice treaty will be essential if we are to maintain our position in the Council of [1026] Ministers. In the area of farming, for example, more than €1 billion in direct payments to farmers will be made this week alone. This would not be possible without our membership of the European Union. During the most recent negotiations on agriculture, the Agenda 2000 negotiations, we got a good deal despite having so few votes in the Council because we were able to garner additional support from other member states. All those member states have asked us to support the Nice treaty, as have all the Governments of the applicant states. In terms of the goodwill towards Ireland in Europe, it is extremely important that we have a resounding vote in favour of the treaty on Saturday.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent I do not have to remind the Minister that we already voted “No” in a democratic decision on the Nice treaty. However, I will not dwell on the reasons for a second referendum. May I assume that the Minister's failure to address the job losses to which I referred indicates that he accepts they would have happened regardless of the Nice treaty? The difficulties we currently face have nothing to do with the treaty.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon Will the Deputy ask a question, please?

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent Does the Minister agree that having three votes out of 87 is not an ideal negotiating position and that having a veto in reserve provides an insurance policy, even if it is one we hope we would not have to use as we have not done in the recent past? Whatever influence we now have as a member of a European Union of equal legal partners, we will not increase it by losing our guarantee of a commissioner and our veto in 30 areas as well as agreeing to renounce a veto over enhanced co-operation, a decision which is likely to result in a federation of countries, of which Ireland will not be a part, taking the driving seat in the European Union? How can the Minister argue this will increase our influence?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh In relation to jobs, before we joined the European Union we had a workforce of one million and now we have a workforce of 1.7 million. It is inconceivable those additional 700,000 jobs would have been created without the 400 million market in the European Union.

In relation to influence in Europe and the veto, the use of the veto is totally overstated; it is only used as a last resort. We would not get very far in this Chamber if one person could veto everything we tried to do. We have created alliances and got support for our position, and that is how we have made a success of Europe. Europe has been the single most important successful influence in building the confidence of our people since the foundation of the State. We had political independence, but economic independence [1027] only flowered since we became members of the European Union.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent We are not leaving Europe.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh With regard to influence in Europe, Vaclav Havel who was interviewed yesterday said that having come out of repressive totalitarian regimes in the east they were looking west for freedom of expression, opportunities for their people and particularly to Ireland to give them that opportunity.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent They are welcome.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh Our position is a little like Paul McGinley's when he had the chance of winning the Ryder Cup and it was down to the Irish representative. It is down to Ireland in this case to allow those applicant countries to have opportunities for their people and we should not let them down.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent There is not the same prize money.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn All of us will agree that the loss of an infant is a particularly difficult and sad occasion. To have that compounded by the revelation that the organs of a dead infant were used, examined or taken without the consent of the parents is particularly traumatic. When Parents for Justice was set up and it was decided to establish an inquiry, assurances were given that full answers to legitimate questions would be provided to the parents and relatives of the dead infants. We learned last night that after a two and a half hour meeting with the Minister for Health and Children the Parents for Justice group withdrew from its co-operation with the inquiry on the basis that it was not satisfied that the terms of reference and the statutory basis of the Dunne inquiry would meet its requirements.

I ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food, acting on behalf of the Government, because no doubt he has been briefed on this matter, if the Government is prepared to establish a statutory inquiry to give statutory standing to the Dunne inquiry to address the legitimate fears the Parents for Justice group has on this matter?

Mr. R. Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I join the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn, in raising this sensitive and important matter. All of us know these parents suffered extraordinary trauma in the loss of their children, but to learn that organs were taken without their consent for experimentation has been a massive blow. We must ensure their case is heard promptly. After the judgment in April it was clear that the route of proceeding by way of a Dáil committee would not stand up to scrutiny as a public inquiry. The representatives of the parents alerted the Minister about the problem with the approach he proposed to take. Why has he not done anything since April to come up with [1028] an alternative method whereby a full public inquiry, which he promised, will follow on from the initial inquiry? Why has he not done anything to secure and identify the way in which this public inquiry will take place? He has left the parents very uncertain about the future.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent On behalf of the Green Party, I very much support the request made for a statutory inquiry by the leader of the Labour Party and supported by the leader of Fine Gael. The answer to the request should be “Yes” or “No”. Will the Government, having met with the relatives and considered the matter, agree to the establishment of a statutory inquiry, given that currently witnesses are avoiding the inquiry due to the lack of compellability?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Exactly.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent There are major criminal as well as ethical questions over the sale of pituitary glands to a large pharmaceutical company. Will the Government take this matter as seriously as it should and make the inquiry statutory?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh I agree with the speakers that this is an extremely traumatic matter and the Minister has dealt with it in a very compassionate way. Earlier this year parents stated that the first phase of the inquiry was rigorous, compassionate and comprehensive. The Minister met the chairperson of the inquiry, Anne Dunne, SC, last month, and a progress report has been made to her on the deliberations so far. The Minister regrets the decision of the Parents for Justice group to leave last night's meeting and withdraw its co-operation from the inquiry.

I want to make it clear that the Minister and the Government are committed to a statutory inquiry. The Minister will meet the parents shortly because he put forward a number of options to them. He wants to make sure that the difficulties regarding the Oireachtas inquiry in the Abbeylara case will not impede the establishment of a rigorous, fair and comprehensive inquiry in this regard. The bottom line is that the Minister and Government are committed to a statutory phase of this inquiry.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I welcome the assurances given by the Minister for Agriculture and Food on behalf of the Government. Will the Minister agree that, having regard to the way in which the Committee of Public Accounts did its work in the DIRT inquiry, there was a belief that in some respects a parliamentary committee procedure of inquiry, as manifested from that performance, was the road to go until such time as the courts ruled in respect of the Abbeylara inquiry and effectively demonstrated that the Oireachtas was incapable of compelling witnesses or obtaining the kind of information that would be absolutely central to the workings of such an inquiry? If that is what has now changed, which I gather is the position, can the [1029] Minister for Agriculture and Food confirm that the Minister for Health and Children when he next meets the Parents for Justice group will lay out before it a road map that will lead to the establishment of a statutory inquiry that will address the issues of compellability and other such matters in order that the parents involved can be assured that all the facts in so far as they are obtainable can be obtained and consequences relating to those facts will flow from the inquiry? If the Minister is saying that the Government is committed to a statutory inquiry, could it be inferred that the Minister for Health and Children will provide a detailed framework, including the terms of reference, of such a statutory inquiry?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh I would like to confirm that the Minister will meet the parents, will put options to them and, in particular, will agree with them on a suitable mechanism to progress the inquiry on a statutory basis.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton What legislative provisions are there to deal with the most important issue currently facing the economy, namely, the crippling cost of insurance? Are there any such legislative provisions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon That question is not in order. Is legislation promised on this issue? It would be more appropriate for the Deputy to table a parliamentary question on this matter in relation to existing legislation. A question on this matter is in order if there is promised legislation, but no legislation is promised.

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I take it that the only legislative provision on this matter is No. 110 on the list, which will not solve the problem. Therefore, there are no plans to deal with it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon Has the Deputy a second question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Mr. Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton It relates to the Dublin Institute of Technology (Amendment) Bill. The Dublin Institute of Technology has had a major problem concerning funding. When will that Bill come before the House and will it deal with the growing crisis in that institute? I understand that students have been sent home.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh It will be ready in 2003.

Mr. Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy When will the Financial Services (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill come before the Dáil? Will it include the long promised decentralisation of Government Departments?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh The Financial Services (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will be introduced in late 2003.

Mr. Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy What about decentralisation?

[1030]Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Will the Minister tell us if the Government has any further proposals to reform electoral legislation in view of the advertisement on page 7 of today's edition of The Irish Times? It calls for a “No” vote in the Nice treaty referendum and is clearly funded from foreign sources as it can only refer to—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon It is not appropriate to make a statement on it.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh There is no such legislation promised.

Mr. Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Will the Minister tell the House when the Government intends to introduce legislation to copper fasten the list of sporting events that have now been agreed to be transmitted on free to air television?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh A draft order will be brought before the Dáil shortly.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Will the Minister promise the House that the Government will introduce emergency legislation to deal with the appalling housing crisis, particularly in the greater Dublin area? His colleague Deputy Dempsey, the former Minister for the Environment and Local Government, should know all about it.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Information on John O'Donoghue Zoom on John O'Donoghue I never saw a house built by legislation.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh Zoom on Joe Walsh Two Bills are promised. The Building Control Bill will be introduced in mid 2003 and the Housing (Private Rented Sector) Bill will be introduced early next term.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan That is typical inaction. As Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey knew all about that.

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey I had a good record.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Minister had the most appalling record of all time.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus In May Fianna Fáil promised it would eliminate hospital waiting lists. We are now approaching the publication of the health Estimates—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Deputy should refer to legislation and ask a question appropriate to it.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Ceann Comhairle should not be embarrassed by the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Ceann Comhairle is not embarrassed by any question.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Deputy is not capable of embarrassing the Ceann Comhairle.

[1031]Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus Will the Minister ensure that the figures relating to hospital waiting are released?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.


Last Updated: 14/03/2015 05:34:11 First Page Previous Page Page of 174 Next Page Last Page