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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 67-82
 Header Item Milk Quota Purchases
 Header Item Genetically Modified Organisms
 Header Item EU Funding
 Header Item World Trade Negotiations
 Header Item EU Funding
 Header Item Ministerial Meetings
 Header Item Genetically Modified Organisms
 Header Item Single Payment Scheme Payments
 Header Item Single Payment Scheme Payments
 Header Item Marine Accidents
 Header Item Harbour Fees
 Header Item Legal Matters
 Header Item Cabinet Committee Meetings
 Header Item Unemployment Levels
 Header Item Parliamentary Questions Numbers

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 775 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 67-82

Milk Quota Purchases

 67. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to ensure that there will be adequate processing capacity to process the increased milk output expected after the ending of the quota regime in 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40439/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Food Harvest 2020 is a strategy for the development of the Agri-Food sector drawn up by industry stakeholders, in conjunction with my Department. Specifically within the dairy sector, the stakeholders identified the abolition of the milk quota regime in 2015 as a real opportunity for the sector to expand. Ireland strongly supported the abolition of the regime, on the basis that quotas were widely regarded by both the Irish dairy industry and market analysts as a brake on the potential of the sector to respond positively to market opportunities.

The setting of the target that the volume of milk produced in 2020 will be 50% greater than that produced in the 2007-2009 baseline period, reflects the confidence of the industry, as represented by the stakeholders on the Food Harvest Committee, in the potential of the sector.

My Department and its agencies are playing their part through the monitoring, and implementation where relevant, of the 55 actions identified by the Dairy Expansion Activation Group’s Roadmap as a means to achieving the 50% target; through the provision of support for a Dairy Efficiency Programme which provides for the transfer of critical knowledge within the sector by way of Discussion Groups; through the provision of dairy equipment grants for the upgrading of dairy farms; and through the activities of Teagasc who are playing a critical role in research, development and innovation in the sector and Bord Bia who are engaged in the development of a sustainability model for the Irish dairy sector, as well as the provision of support for the work of ICBF in improving breed quality in the Irish herd. I am confident that milk processors will also play their part, taking appropriate decisions on the basis of viable market assessments, to have in place the necessary processing facility to meet the increased supply. Indeed I am aware that the country’s two leading milk processors have recently announced their plans for providing the necessary increased processing capacity.

While we are all aware that the supply management arrangements that currently exist under the Milk Quota regime will no longer apply after 2015, I am confident that the processing industry will work with the milk producers to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to allow a coherent and thriving dairy industry to exploit the undoubted potential in existing and new markets.

Genetically Modified Organisms

 68. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will state his precise policy in relation to the outdoor field trials of GM potatoes currently underway in County Carlow; the ultimate goal of conducting the research trials; the implications of the trials for Government policy on the use of GM; his view on whether this information is required to be disclosed under the Aarhus Convention which Ireland has recently ratified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40472/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Within Ireland the issue of genetic modification is dealt with by three Government Departments, as follows: GM foods come under the Minister for Health and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; GM feeds and the Coexistence of authorised GM crops alongside non-GM crops rests with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; while: Approval to trial GM crops or authorise new GM crops for deliberate release into the environment rests with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Accordingly, my Department’s sole responsibility with regard to the cultivation of GM crops is in relation to coexistence measures in the event that commercial GM crops are grown alongside conventional crops. Given that GM crops are not cultivated commercially in Ireland and are unlikely to be for the foreseeable future, the issue of cultivation and coexistence does not arise at present.

Policy on genetic modification across Government Departments is that Ireland’s general stance at EU level and in international fora should be positive but precautionary, recognising the potential benefits of genetic engineering, while maintaining a fundamental commitment to human safety and environmental sustainability based on scientific risk assessment and management.

The field study being carried out by Teagasc on genetically modified potatoes resistant to late blight is part of a publicly funded EU research project being carried out by a consortium of 22 partners representing 15 EU Member States. The goal of the study is to research the impact of the GM potato on the blight disease itself and on soil organisms, which are essential to maintaining soil health.

The Aarhus Convention recognises the need for increased transparency and greater public participation in decision making. Teagasc are committed to disseminating all their research findings on these trials to the public, and have stated that during the study, the trial site will be accessible to the public for open days and information sessions and that they welcome the participation of all stakeholders.

EU Funding

 69. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has made an application to the European Institute for emergency funding to assist farmers in the aftermath of severe and harsh weather conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40047/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The European Union Solidarity Fund is aimed primarily at providing funding to Member States in the event of a natural disaster. Following the bad weather this summer, I sought and received EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment. This will enable payment to issue immediately following 15 October and will represent the early payment of some €600 million to farmers.

I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements.

Payments worth some €154 under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme will begin tomorrow, 26th September. This funding will provide a boost to the rural economy and will benefit all areas of the country. It is too early to estimate at this stage the level of total payments which will be made under this scheme in 2012. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date. A total of €64 million has been paid out to-date and I envisage that by the end of 2012 a further €121 million will be spent. AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. To date €23 million has been paid and a further €34 million will be paid out before the end of 2012. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 are made on the earliest possible date.

The closing dates for spreading of chemical and organic fertiliser have been extended to 30 September and 31 October respectively. This will help farmers to make the most of the grass growing season.

Teagasc have been very active in providing advice and assistance for farmers affected by the bad weather. All Teagasc offices are taking calls from concerned farmers. A series of public meetings are being held across the country in September to address fodder / financial and social aspects of the weather crisis. Weather clinics were held in all Teagasc offices recently.

World Trade Negotiations

 70. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the degree to which progress can be reported in the context of any World Trade Organisation discussions to the effect that Ireland and Europe’s food-producing sectors are given every encouragement to facilitate the effort towards economic recovery; if he is satisfied that sufficient emphasis is placed on the pivotal nature of the sector and its ability to make a major contribution to the economy of this country and Europe in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40387/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The WTO Doha Development Round talks are stalled at present and the prospects for conclusion of an agreement are uncertain at this point in time. Nevertheless, I will continue to maintain pressure to secure an acceptable outcome from these negotiations that does not undermine the development of European and Irish agriculture and food production sectors.

At European level, the future shape of the Common Agricultural Policy will be a key driver for the continued viability and competitiveness of the food industry in Ireland and throughout the EU. In this respect I am pleased that the EU Commission’s proposals for reform of the CAP are predicated on the principles of ensuring viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and climate action as well as balanced territorial development. There is good support among my colleagues in the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers for these objectives and I would be confident that, notwithstanding differences about the details, future EU agricultural policy will recognise and reward the important contribution of the agri-food sector to economic recovery and growth and to sustainable development.

EU Funding

 71. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the emergency assistance available to Ireland from the EU in the event of near disaster scenarios, such as the appallingly wet summer and autumn that has adversely affected farms throughout the country; if he is pursuing all such avenues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40050/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The European Union Solidarity Fund is aimed primarily at providing funding to Member States in the event of a natural disaster. Following the bad weather this summer, I sought and received EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment. This will enable payment to issue immediately following 15 October and will represent the early payment of some €600 million to farmers.

I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements.

Payments worth some €154 under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme will begin tomorrow, 26th September. This funding will provide a boost to the rural economy and will benefit all areas of the country. It is too early to estimate at this stage the level of total payments which will be made under this scheme in 2012. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date. A total of €64 million has been paid out to-date and I envisage that by the end of 2012 a further €121 million will be spent. AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. To date €23 million has been paid and a further €34 million will be paid out before the end of 2012. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 are made on the earliest possible date.

The closing dates for spreading of chemical and organic fertiliser have been extended to 30 September and 31 October respectively. This will help farmers to make the most of the grass growing season.

Teagasc have been very active in providing advice and assistance for farmers affected by the bad weather. All Teagasc offices are taking calls from concerned farmers. A series of public meetings are being held across the country in September to address fodder / financial and social aspects of the weather crisis. Weather clinics were held in all Teagasc offices recently.

Ministerial Meetings

 72. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the Irish Farmers' Association has requested to meet with him; if he intends to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30309/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Since my appointment as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I have met the Irish Farmers Association formally and informally on a regular basis. I meet regularly with the various farm organisations and from time to time with the various Sectoral Committees, as well as attending a broad range of Agri-Food events around the country.

Genetically Modified Organisms

 73. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the growing of experimental GM crops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40384/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Within Ireland the issue of genetic modification is dealt with by three Government Departments, as follows: GM foods come under the Minister for Health and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; GM feeds and the Coexistence of authorised GM crops alongside non-GM crops rests with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; while; Approval to trial GM crops or authorise new GM crops for deliberate release into the environment rests with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environment, Community and Local Government;

Accordingly, my Department’s sole responsibility with regard to the cultivation of GM crops is in relation to coexistence measures in the event that commercial GM crops are grown alongside conventional crops.

Given that GM crops are not cultivated commercially in Ireland and are unlikely to be for the foreseeable future, the issue of cultivation and coexistence does not arise at present. In relation to the authorisation and use of products consisting of or containing authorised GM ingredients in animal feed, my Department adopts, on the basis of scientific evaluation, a positive but precautionary approach to EU applications for the authorisation of GM ingredients in food and feed and supports applications which have been deemed to be safe by EFSA.

In regard to the recent approval granted by the EPA to Teagasc, to carry out field trials on a genetically modified potato, with improved resistance to late potato blight, it must be pointed out that these trials do not constitute cultivation of a commercial crop and that under the EPA consent attached to this approval, they will be subject to strict conditions with regular monitoring and reporting to the EPA for compliance.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

 74. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has received submissions from the Irish Farmers' Association and other farming organisations requesting earlier payment of all farm supports in view of the difficulties faced by the farming community arising from inclement weather conditions; the extent to which he has or expects to be in a position to respond positively; if he is satisfied regarding the availability of sufficient winter feed throughout the winter; if he will consider approaching the banking sector with a view to achieving a more lenient and understanding approach in the current situation in view of both the climatic and economic condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40386/12]

 369. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has had any discussions with the banking sector with a view to addressing issues arising from the extremely inclement weather conditions during the summer such as animal feed shortages and/or inadequate banking support arising from weather and economic factors; if he has received submissions from farming representatives in this regard; the extent to which he expects to be in a position to positively influence the banking sector with a view to meeting the financial accommodation requirements of farmers throughout the winter months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40642/12]

 376. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent he has engaged with farm organisations and the banking sector with a view to alleviating any difficulties arising from inclement weather conditions throughout the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40649/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 369 and 376 together.

Following the bad weather this summer, I sought EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment. This was approved and will enable payment to issue immediately following 16 October and will represent early payment of €600 million to farmers.

Also I appreciate fully the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements. Payments worth some €154 under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme will begin tomorrow, 26th September. This funding will provide a boost to the rural economy and will benefit all areas of the country. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date. A total of €64 million has been paid out to-date and i envisage that by the end 2012 a further €121 million will be spent. AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 are paid on the earliest possible date.

Teagasc have been very active in providing advice & assistance for farmers affected by the bad weather. All Teagasc offices are taking calls from concerned farmers. A series of public meetings are being held across the country in September to address fodder / financial and social aspects of the weather crisis. Weather clinics were held in all Teagasc offices recently.

I am very aware of the difficult situation with regard to winter fodder this year. A survey conducted by Teagasc identified a shortage on many farms, particularly dairy farms and also highlighted that addressing this would require different approaches on each farm. I am delighted that a number of workshops have been conducted by Teagasc where farmers could discuss with an advisor the best solution for their own circumstances.

In addition, I approached Minister Hogan who is responsible for the Nitrates regulations and agreed extensions to the period allowed for spreading of both chemical and organic fertilisers this Autumn to 30 September and 31 October respectively. This is aimed at maximising the opportunity for a farmer to extend the grazing season this Autumn and reduce the winter feed requirement.

My officials are in regular contact with the banking sector with a view to discussing the credit needs of the sector. I am also pleased that a number of banks have recently announced new lending programmes for farmers that take account of the specific needs of the sector. The banks have also attended a number of recent workshops and conferences and are engaging with academics with a view to improving financial training in the sector. I am fully aware that credit is severely limited due to the current global economic situation and my officials will continue to engage with all relevant parties to ensure that adequate credit is made available for the sector.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

 75. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of farmers who receive more than €1,000 per hectare under the single farm payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40438/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The number of farmers in receipt of payments of over €1,000 per ha under the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was 620.

  Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 64.

Marine Accidents

 77. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the investigation into the loss of the Pere Charles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40383/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The investigation into the loss of the fishing vessel MFV Père Charles was carried out by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, which has the statutory responsibility for investigating marine casualties in Irish waters.

  The Board, while independent in the exercise of its functions, operates under the aegis of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, which is the responsibility of my colleague Minister Leo Varadkar, T.D.

Harbour Fees

 78. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney with regard to the proposed increase in charges in harbour fees, if he will intervene to ensure that the boatmen who take visitors out to see Fungi the dolphin in Dingle Bay, will not be put out of business because of the proposed increase charges. [23824/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2012 was signed by me on 21st June 2012 and came into effect on the 1st   July 2012. The Rates and Charges Order (Statutory Instrument Number 214 of 2012) sets out the fee schedule for the use of the facilities at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres, at Dingle, Castletownbere, Dunmore East, Howth, Killybegs and Ros a’ Mhíl.

In drafting the new Rates and Charges Order my Department was mindful of the need to consider the views of all harbour users. A draft order was published on 30th   March 2012 and was the subject of a comprehensive Public Consultation process. I can confirm that a number of submissions were received on behalf of the Dingle Boatmen and that the charges included in the final Rates & Charges order were amended to reflect the concerns raised. The rates set by virtue of the current Rates & Charges Order result in a significant reduction in charges for the majority of the Dingle Boatmen.

Legal Matters

 79. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will provide details on the level of expenditure being incurred on the part of the State in hiring solicitors and barristers to undertake State agency work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40179/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Attorney General's Office and the Chief State Solicitor's Office engage external counsel to assist in their legal work on behalf of Government Departments. The Chief State Solicitor's Office sometimes engages external solicitor firms to assist with court cases outside the Dublin area.

The total cost of hiring solicitors and barristers to undertake work for these Offices was €10.415 million in 2011 and was €4.485 million in the first six months of 2012. Fees paid to barristers amounted to €10.268 million in 2011 and to €4.402 million in the first six months of 2012. Fees paid to external solicitors amounted to €0.147 million in 2011 and to €0.083 million in the first six months of 2012.

The total cost of hiring solicitors and barristers to undertake work for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was €19.803 million in 2011 and was €9.648 million in the first six months of 2012.

Fees paid to barristers who prosecute cases on behalf of the DPP amounted to €13.501 million in 2011 and to €6.474 million in the first six months of 2012. Fees paid in respect of the local State Solicitor Service amounted to €6.302 million in 2011 and €3.174 million in the first six months of 2012.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

 80. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will provide details of the number of times the Cabinet sub-committee on Climate Change has met since its formation, the dates concerned. [40303/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and the Green Economy has met on three occasions:

  - 30 June 2011

  - 20 December 2011

  - 02 May 2012

Unemployment Levels

 81. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will confirm the latest available unemployment figures at the Tallaght Social Protection Office, Dublin; if he will also provide the comparisons for the same month over the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40041/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance and other registrants as registered with the Department of Social Protection. Figures are published for each county and local social welfare office.

  The most recent Live Register figures available are for August 2012. The table below contains the numbers signing on in the Tallaght local office on the last Friday of August 2010, August 2011 and August 2012.

  It should be noted that the Live Register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, and seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseeker's Benefit or Allowance.

  Persons on the Live Register in Tallaght Local Office by sex and age, August 2010, 2011 and 2012

- - August 2010 August 2011 August 2012 Annual Charge

August 2011
Annual Charge

August 2012
% Change

August 2011
% Change

August 2012
Males
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
- Under 25 years
1,739

1,651
1,468
- 88
- 183
- 5.1
- 11.1
- 25 years and over
5,827
6,551
6,673
+ 724
+ 122
+ 12.4
+ 1.9
- Total males
7,566
8,202
8,141
+ 636
- 61
+ 8.4
- 0.7
Females
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
- Under 25 years
1,022
1,004
971
- 18
- 33
- 1.8
- 3.3
- 25 years and over
2,562
2,974
3,040
+ 412
+ 66
+ 16.1
+ 2.2
- Total females
3,584
3,978
4,011
+ 394
+ 33
+ 11.0
+ 0.8
All persons
-
- -
-
-
-
-
-
-
- Under 25 years
2,761
2,655
2,439
- 106
- 216
- 3.8
- 8.1
- 25 years and over
8,389
9,525
9,713
+ 1,136
+ 188
+ 13.5
+ 2.0
- Total persons
11,150
12,180
12,152
+ 1,030
- 28
+ 9.2
- 0.2

Parliamentary Questions Numbers

 82. Deputy Anne Ferris Information on Anne Ferris Zoom on Anne Ferris asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the progress that has been made in extending the parliamentary question system to any body established by statute or majority funding or ownership by the State as provided for in the Programme for Government; the progress that has been made on furnishing replies to written parliamentary questions during the Dáil recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40044/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Programme for Government sets out an ambitious Oireachtas Reform agenda, which will be implemented over the lifetime of the Government.

The Government has already introduced the first phase of its Dáil Reform programme with a package of reforms which included an additional Leader’s Questions session, taken by the Tánaiste on Thursdays; the introduction of Topical Issues Debates; Friday sittings to give TDs the opportunity to introduce their own Bills, thereby enhancing TD's legislative role; and a procedure to allow Deputies raise issues regarding replies to Parliamentary Questions with the Ceann Comhairle, who can refer a matter back to the Minister with a request for further information.

In addition, a new Oireachtas Committee system has been established, which implemented a number of reforms proposed in the Programme for Government to enhance the Committee system, including a reduction in the number of Oireachtas Committees from 25 to 16; the establishment of a system under which Oireachtas Committees are involved at an early stage in the development of legislation before a Bill is published, enhancing the role of TDs and the Committees; and the setting up of an Investigation, Oversight and Petitions Committee, chaired by a member of the Opposition.

Earlier this year, the Oireachtas Committee system was reformed further in light of its operation during the first year. This restructuring included:

- dissolving and reorganising a number of administrative Oireachtas Committees to allow the re-allocation of resources towards Oireachtas Committees dealing with Government Departments;

- the establishment of an Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, to focus solely on this Government priority area; The establishment of an Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to deal with the increased workload in this area in light of the proposed changes to the CAP; and

- the merger of the role of Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement with that of the Irish Co-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

These reforms did not increase the number of Oireachtas Committee Chairpersons.

The Programme for Government also contains a commitment to increase the number of Dáil sitting days by 50%. The number of sitting days has been significantly increased since the change of Government through the introduction of regular Friday sitting days and by reducing the length of Dáil breaks at Christmas and Easter; after bank holidays; and during the summer. In the Government’s first year in office there were 127 Dáil sitting days, compared with 88 Dáil sitting days in the last year in office of the previous Government.

Work on a second set of Dáil reforms is at an advanced stage. The Government Chief Whip has held discussions with the Dáil Whips, the Ceann Comhairle, the Dáil Reform sub-committee of the Dáil CPP, the Chair of the Working Group of Committee Chairs and officials in Leinster House and the second phase of Government’s Dáil Reform Programme will be introduced later in the year.


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