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 Header Item Constitutional Amendment on Children (Continued)
 Header Item Departmental Budgets

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath As regards the Supreme Court judgment, does the Minister accept that the handling of the website issue was a complete cock-up by the Government? I agree with the Minister on the substance of the issue and voted "Yes" myself. However, I was annoyed during the last few days of that campaign because I thought the Government could have blown the whole issue. Does the Minister agree that the Government should apologise to the people for mishandling this issue? The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, was on television that week and refused to apologise.

Is it not the reality that many members of the Government, and people in the major political parties, do not really accept the McKenna judgment? Privately, they barely tolerate the decision. In future, the Government should be very careful to present the referendum, let it run in a fair and balanced way, and let the people decide.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I call on Deputy Troy to contribute briefly because we are out of time.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I raised this matter as a Topical Issue on numerous occasions prior to the referendum result being challenged. I accept what the Minister is saying but will she give a clear commitment to appear before the House and make herself available pending the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing in January? We should have a full and frank debate to allow all Deputies to bring forward ideas and suggestions to ensure this never happens again.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Deputy Finian McGrath was not here when I spoke earlier, but I would like to make the following point to him now. As Mrs. Justice Denham said, "In all the circumstances of this case, as have appeared before the court, I am satisfied that the respondents acted in a bona fide manner." Mr. Justice Fennelly said: "I have no doubt that this was all done bona fide and with a consciousness that the decision in McKenna had to be respected." That is quite contrary to what Deputy Finian McGrath was saying. I just wanted to quote to him what the judges of the Supreme Court said in relation to the approach that I and my Department took to this matter. Justice O'Donnell stated: "It should be said that the plaintiff made it clear that he [the plaintiff] was prepared to accept the Department had acted in good faith in preparing the campaign and did not challenge it on that ground."

  As regards the Deputy's broader point on future referenda, I accept that we need to examine what has happened in previous referenda. As the Government statement said, we are carefully studying the Supreme Court judgment which now clarifies, for the first time since 1995, how the Government can make information available to the electorate during a referendum.

  As regards Deputy Troy's point, I have no doubt that we will be having discussions in the House on that matter. Many Deputies will want to express a point of view in light of recent events. In looking back at how other referenda were conducted, there will be a discussion in the House on future referenda.

Departmental Budgets

 66. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of her Departmental budget to meet its full range of requirements in the coming year with particular reference to new and/or anticipated responsibilities arising in the aftermath of the passage of the Referendum on the Rights of Children and any existing or consequential legislation; if she will set out her main objectives; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56661/12]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As a result of budget 2013, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the gross funding allocation for my Department next year will amount to €443 million, which represents an increase of €16 million or 4% over the 2012 Estimate provision of €427 million. This includes €417 million in current expenditure and €26 million in capital expenditure. I am satisfied the significant resource allocation demonstrates the priority and commitment which the Government, and my Department, attach to the delivery of programmes and services for children and young people.

I know the Deputy will appreciate the economic context in which my Department is operating. Like every other Department, we have had to make savings. While I regret that situation, I must operate within those constraints and try to decide on priorities within the available budget.

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