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 Header Item Constitutional Convention Recommendations (Continued)
 Header Item Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] It may not be of great importance in other countries but, in terms of Irish emigrants and the Irish diaspora, when the issues are dealt with here, I believe there will be a good response. We must define a new electoral register and the conditions and criteria for those who will apply, which will be done by 2025. I agree with and will try to get an analysis for Deputy Micheál Martin of the range involved. I also agree that, in respect of any decision made by the Government on a referendum, a process should be set out which is clear for everyone to discuss.

  In respect of the eighth report referred to by Deputy Boyd Barrett, the programme for Government says the following:

The eighth report of the Constitutional Convention on economic, social and cultural rights recommended that the State progressively realise economic, social and cultural rights subject to maximum available resources, that this duty be recognisable by the courts, and that specific additional rights on housing be inserted into the Constitution. Due to the substantial questions raised on the balance of rights, proper governance and resources, we will refer this report to the new Oireachtas Committee on Housing for consideration.

Obviously, it will have to consider more than housing. It must also deal with social and cultural rights. Inserting such provisions into the Constitution and making them recognisable by the courts would clearly raise very substantial questions and that is an issue on which we must deliberate here.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett When are we going to do that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I do not have an answer for Deputy Ó Snodaigh in respect of-----

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett When are we going to do that?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Allow the Taoiseach, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----when we will have the wording on blasphemy. As I said to Deputy Micheál Martin, the Government has not actually decided whether to hold a referendum this year. We are waiting for the report on the eighth amendment. We have not decided what we are doing next year. If we are to hold a referendum, we must prepare a White Paper, a strategy and a structure that will allow everybody to understand the timing and the approximate costs involved.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher In order to accommodate everybody and given that we have only nine minutes left for the next group of questions, perhaps we should move on. Otherwise, we will not get to them.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Could I ask a brief supplementary question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Well, if we do that-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We do not have the time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputies must decide if they want to continue with this group of questions and to abandon the next. It is a matter for the Deputies.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Could we have just one more minute, between myself and Deputy Ó Snodaigh, for a supplementary?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin What about the next group of questions? We cannot do that. We do not have enough time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher No.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh We are not going to get through the next group in any event.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We will get as far as we can but if we do not start, we will not get anywhere. Is the House agreed that we move to the next batch?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yes.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh We are not going to get through them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We will try. The answer from the Taoiseach is short. It is not a long reply.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh There are six different topics.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

 8. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he and his departmental officials have carried out an assessment of the legislative changes that will have to be made following the British Government triggering Article 50. [15138/17]

 9. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny when the Cabinet committee on Brexit will next meet. [15197/17]

 10. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on his recent meeting with the Welsh First Minister, Mr. Carwyn Jones, in Cardiff on 10 March 2017. [15228/17]

 11. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he or his departmental officials have had contact with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, or officials in her office since 20 March 2017. [15229/17]

 12. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he has met party leaders from Northern Ireland since the Assembly election on 2 March 2017. [15405/17]

 13. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will report on his conversation with the Prime Minister, Theresa May, in the aftermath of the events in London on 22 March 2017. [15433/17]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, together. I spoke with Prime Minister May on Wednesday evening, 23 March 2017, following the horrific attack in London the previous day. I offered the sympathy of the Irish Government to the British people and offered any assistance that may be required. The Prime Minister confirmed that the injuries suffered by an Irish person were not life-threatening. We also spoke about the ongoing negotiations at Stormont towards the re-establishment of power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

  While I did see party leaders from Northern Ireland at the funeral of Martin McGuinness in Derry on 23 March, there was no opportunity for bilateral meetings with them. It is deeply disappointing that the Northern Ireland parties were unable to reach agreement on key issues to allow for the formation of a new Executive before yesterday's 4 p.m. deadline. This means that the people of Northern Ireland will continue to be without political leadership at this critical time as the UK prepares to commence the Brexit process tomorrow with the triggering of Article 50. I expect to speak to the British Prime Minister again tomorrow. The Irish and British Governments have engaged intensively with the parties over the course of the past three weeks. I have kept in close touch throughout with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Flanagan, who, along with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. James Brokenshire, has made every effort to facilitate agreement. In its role as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Government will continue to do all in its power to facilitate agreement to get the Northern Ireland institutions back up and running as soon as possible. I would urge all of the parties to explore every possible avenue to resolution in a spirit of goodwill and compromise.

I met the Welsh First Minister, Mr. Carwyn Jones, in Cardiff on Friday 10 March. We discussed the close relationship between Ireland and Wales and the importance of the Holyhead and Pembroke ports for trade and travel between these islands, as well as general issues of concern arising in a Brexit context.

The Government has a clear and comprehensive Brexit plan. This includes a deep analysis conducted across Government covering a range of models for the future UK relationship with the EU. Substantial work has been undertaken across Government to identify the key strategic policy and operational risks and impacts. This work is now being intensified and prioritised across all Government Departments and agencies.

The next meeting of the Cabinet committee on Brexit is provisionally set for 11 April 2017. I expect to speak to Prime Minister May tomorrow. Obviously, we will respond to her letter and the European Council and Commission will respond in due course.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have six minutes left, so each Member has one minute.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I do not think the Taoiseach responded to my question. Basically, the Article 50 process will begin tomorrow and it is absolutely clear that we are not prepared for it. I accept that there has been a lot of activity but there is no public evidence that we have detailed proposals or have made preparations for different possible outcomes. I welcome Mr. Barnier's mention of the parity he intends to give to Northern Ireland but that is just one of many issues with which we must deal.

The British Government has accepted that Brexit will involve an enormous legislative workload. I noted last week that the UK Government is now grappling with the fact that it may not have enough personnel or capacity to deal with the huge legislative impact, particularly in terms of EU-UK agreements. If, for example, we get a deal on the common travel area, it is inevitable that we will need legislation to copperfasten that. If we get a reciprocal deal relating to access to education and health services, which is what the common travel area is all about, namely, a seamless interaction in services right across the board between the UK and Ireland, we will need legislation for that. What arrangements are in place to begin preparing the relevant measures? Given that there is already a backlog of legislation, how does the Government propose that this extra challenge be met? I ask the Taoiseach to comment on that.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Given the range of questions here, grouping them together is ridiculous. I will concentrate, in the short time available, on the collapse of talks yesterday in Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach is well aware of the goings on in the weeks since the election and the failure by the DUP in particular to engage in a positive way in the talks. Given that the current British Government has a specific duty to live up to the obligations and commitments to which it and previous British Governments signed up under the Good Friday Agreement, the Fresh Start agreement and so forth, does the Taoiseach believe that an indication from the UK Government that it will act on an Acht na Gaeilge or a bill of rights might dissolve the negativity that exists within the DUP and negate the obstacles to a positive outcome? Everybody wishes to see the Assembly up and running properly again and a Northern Ireland Executive being formed but that will not happen if the current approach by the DUP continues and if that party is backed up, in terms of legacy issues, by the British Government. Will the Taoiseach reiterate the position that Irish Governments must take and put it up to the British Government to live up to its commitments and obligations?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The Taoiseach mentioned the fact that he passed on his sympathies and condolences to Prime Minister May after the atrocious attack in London last week. We all condemn that attack as absolutely murderous and appalling and sympathise with the innocent victims. I wonder how many more of these atrocities have to take place, not just close to us in London or Paris, but also those that continue every single day in Mosul, as we speak, in Syria, where hundreds have been killed in the past week, and in Afghanistan, where 1,400 people have been killed in over 1,000 airstrikes, mostly carried out by the US? How many more of these atrocities, whether in the countries to which I refer - and which are rarely mentioned - or closer to home, as we saw last week, have to occur before somebody such as the Taoiseach says to Theresa May that the best way to stop terrorism is to stop participating in terrorism? We are participating in terrorism by allowing US troops to go through Shannon Airport on their way to kill 1,400 people in Afghanistan, not to mention the 1 million dead in Iraq and a state that is destroyed. The idea that this would stop atrocities in the West has been proven wrong by appalling events like the one that took place last week in London. When is the Taoiseach going to come to the realisation that we need to stop participating in terrorism ourselves or we will continue to be appalled by the sort of atrocious attack we saw last week?


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