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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Order of Business

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald] I think that is the serious issue here. The GSOC brought in experts to do the sweep of its offices. It did a follow-up investigation following on from that. The chairperson of the commission has brought that information before the Oireachtas committee and the Oireachtas committee is going to have further investigations and will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality about issues arising from that. I believe that is the right course of action to take because the critical issue is that the independence of the commission is maintained and upheld and that there is public confidence in the Garda. I appreciate that members of the Opposition parties want to politicise that in some way and find a way in which-----

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Absolutely not.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins We want answers.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton They figure this is a way in which they can put the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government in the dock and that it is another issue with which to have a thump at the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and the Government. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, has been a long advocate of the establishment of an independent Garda ombudsman commission. He and the Government fully respect that and there is no issue or doubt about it. We have heard what the chairman of the GSOC has had to say.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It did not tally with what the Minister had to say.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton No. That is not the case.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Sorry, we are over time. I am calling Deputy Joan Collins now.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Tánaiste should answer the question.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I have answered the question.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The answer is "Yes" or "No".

Deputy Ray Butler: Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler The gate is broken and the bull is out.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The question Deputy McDonald asked was whether I was satisfied that no organ of the State put the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission under surveillance. Yes, I am.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Last week, I asked the Tánaiste a specific question in respect of apprentices being forced to pay college fees. The Tánaiste's reply was bordering on dishonesty. The specific question I asked the Tánaiste was whether the Minister for Education and Skills would meet representatives from the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union, the union representing these workers. They are not students, they are workers. The Tánaiste avoided that question. The Tánaiste said he would meet the Union of Students in Ireland, but that is not the body representing these workers. I am asking the question again. Will the Tánaiste ensure that a meeting is organised between the Minister for Education and Skills, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the TEEU, the union representing workers who have been affected by the cuts in their fees?

This is a serious issue for these 7,500 apprentices. This is part of their training and education, something the Tánaiste should be supporting as a Minister. They are not workers who earn €750 per week. Far from it, most of them are on the minimum wage or less. They do not get paid during the college term since they are on a FÁS trainee allowance during that period and therefore they cannot afford to pay these fees. Will the Tánaiste organise a meeting with the TEEU effectively and as quickly as possible to discuss seriously the reinstating of these college fees, pending the major question he raised last week about the Minister for Education and Skills looking down the road at apprentices being broadened out and so on?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I recall the question Deputy Joan Collins asked me last week. She asked me if the Minister for Education and Skills would meet representatives of the TEEU and the USI. The Minister was sitting beside me. He told me he had planned to meet the USI and I gave Deputy Collins that answer last week. It is a little unfair for Deputy Collins to twist that into a refusal to meet the TEEU. I do not run the diary of the Minister for Education and Skills. If representatives from the TEEU want to meet the Minister for Education and Skills I imagine they are perfectly capable of arranging a meeting with him.

This Government has a long-standing policy of meeting trade unions, student unions and bodies that represent people who have difficulties and grievances. I do not expect there will be any difficulty in a meeting being arranged with the Minister for Education and Skills. There is no necessity for Deputy Collins to elevate it into some kind of refusal on the part of the Minister for Education and Skills to meet them.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Up to last Thursday the TEEU had requested a meeting with the Minister and had heard no reply. I raised the matter last week and the Minister for Education and Skills said he would meet the Union of Students in Ireland, a body not representing these workers. A week has gone by. I spoke to representatives of the union some 15 minutes ago to confirm that the Minister had not contacted them at their request. He still has not replied to them. If the Tánaiste stands up for these workers' rights and conditions, then would he please arrange for the Minister for Education and Skills to meet the union representing these workers? It is a matter of "Yes" or "No". Will the Tánaiste consider reinstating the fees? Then the union will know where it stands in respect of this Government.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I do not see that there is an issue here.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins There is an issue.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton If the TEEU wants to meet the Minister for Education and Skills, it requests a meeting with the Minister and I imagine it can be arranged. If the Union of Students in Ireland wants to meet the Minister for Education and Skills about the issue, similarly, it will ask the Minister about the arranging of that meeting. No Minister in this Government is refusing to meet representative bodies on issues that are of concern to them. I do not see that there is any difficulty whatever in a meeting being arranged with the Minister for Education and Skills. I suggest that if there is an issue then it should be pursued directly with the Minister for Education and Skills.

Order of Business

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It is proposed to take No. 21, ESB (Electronic Communications Networks) Bill 2013 - Report and Final Stages (resumed), to adjourn at 2 p.m. if not previously concluded; No. 2 - Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed); and No. 3 - Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Bill 2013 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett There are no proposals to be put to the House. I call Deputy Niall Collins on the Order of Business.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I have nothing on the Order of Business.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy McDonald, have you anything?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I have something over here.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Hold on, the normal practice is that the leaders are given preference. Cool down, Deputy Durkan, and I will get to you.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald All of us looked with horror at the storms, not least yesterday. Over 200,000 homes are still without electricity. As we know the cost of the damage will run into tens of millions of euro. I wish to ask the Tánaiste about the national co-ordination group. I understand it is meeting this morning to assess the damage. When will the committee report to Government? When will the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government come to the Dáil with a comprehensive report on the damages and the finances that will be required to begin the process of putting things to right?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I can only express surprise that none of the three questions on Leaders' Questions this morning referred to the suffering that a quarter of a million households in this country have endured as a result of the storm damage last night. I had prepared a detailed reply in anticipation that some member of the Opposition would consider the plight of these people sufficiently important to have raised it on Leaders' Questions.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Tánaiste is trying to dictate what the Opposition should ask questions on. It is pure Stalinism.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins We acknowledged the emergency workers working all night.

A Deputy: They missed an opportunity.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe They were looking for the Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, to go to a meeting.

Deputy Ray Butler: Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler What an opposition.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins We have been discussing it for the past two days.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe We will get Deputy Collins the Minister's number.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Please allow the Tánaiste to reply and then you can have your chance of asking a question properly, rather than shouting at each other.

Deputy Ray Butler: Information on Ray Butler Zoom on Ray Butler What a jolly mixture.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe We will give Deputy Collins the Minister's mobile telephone number.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That applies to you as well as the other side, Deputy Kehoe.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Over 2,000 ESB Networks staff are out repairing the electricity supply network. They will be supported by contractors that they are bringing in.


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