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An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 985 No. 2

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An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy O'Dea.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The Taoiseach should say that to the Health Service Executive.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I have called Deputy O'Dea.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Following the Taoiseach's apology this morning which I appreciate, he is aware that there were two requirements to qualify for the ex gratia scheme for people who were sexually abused in primary schools. One was the prior complaint element, which has now been exploded as a result of Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill's recent declaration. The other was the requirement for a person to have initiated legal proceedings within the time set by the Statute of Limitations, even if they were subsequently withdrawn. Is it the Government's intention to leave the second requirement in place?

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan Who advised the Government that a prior complaint should be required to access compensation for historical child sexual abuse that took place in schools based on the interpretation of the judgment in the Louise O'Keeffe case? This condition was clearly designed to block survivors from accessing the redress they deserved and I want to know who came up with that incorrect criterion. I welcome the Taoiseach's comments earlier when he said he would not fail them a third time. Will he confirm that he will remove the need for a prior complaint in these cases?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The requirement for a prior complaint will be removed. We will have to examine the other matter. I am not an expert in the area, but I believe it relates to a Supreme Court judgment from 2008 which differs from a European Court of Human Rights judgment in 2014 or 2015. That is why I have asked officials from the Department of Education and Skills and the Office of the Attorney General to come together to formulate options for the Government to consider. In response to Deputy Quinlivan, I do not know for sure who gave the advice. As the scheme was drawn up in 2015, I imagine it would have been officials from the Department of Education and Skills, the Minister for Education and Skills and the Attorney General at the time.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The online safety and media regulation Bill is promised legislation. Given its importance, when is it likely to be published, brought before the House and concluded?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am advised that work is under way on the Bill, but we do not have a date for its publication. It is a priority and we hope to advance it in the session that will start in September.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call Deputy Healy-Rae.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Which one?

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae I was first. I raise the important matter of the passenger motor car industry. The Society of the Irish Motor Industry has indicated that sales have decreased by 7.5% this year and it is blaming the Government's scaremongering on climate change. It is causing uncertainty and people are not buying cars like they were before. There is another issue-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy is only allowed to raise one.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae The society has indicated that 55,000 used cars have been imported to the country already this year and that it is feeling the effects.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Deputy should speak to proposed legislation.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae It is the Taoiseach's proposed legislation that is causing the problem.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae On the same matter, the report on climate change published by the Government and the legislation it proposes to bring to the Dáil have severely impacted on the sales of motor cars in Ireland. In County Kerry it has been reported to us that car sales are falling dramatically. What is the Taoiseach going to do to support the struggling car sales industry which has been affected by utterances from Ministers in the past few weeks?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher That is a straightforward question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputies for raising the matter. I appreciate that many people work in the motor sales industry. For many, it is their business and livelihood. However, there is no scaremongering on climate change which is very real. There is plenty to be afraid of.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Climate change is-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach is answering the Deputy. He might not like the answer, but he must listen.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It has not been the Government's policy to discourage people from purchasing a new car. Newer cars produce fewer emissions than old cars and less SOx and NOx which damage air quality. We particularly encourage people, if they are buying a car, to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Where would they plug them in?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar They could do it at home. I am pleased that 15% or 16% of new cars sold this year are electric or hybrid, which is great.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae There are only 13 State-owned electric vehicles.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin My question to the Taoiseach relates to the strength and operational capacity of the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps which have been substantially weakened. It is no wonder that morale is so low within the forces. Listening to the Taoiseach I got the distinct impression that only five vessels in the Naval Service fleet would be operational. Will the Taoiseach clarify the matter? Last Thursday's announcement of the report of the Low Pay Commission had very little in it to help to contain the systemic flow from the Defence Forces. Particularly alarming was the fact that 60% of personnel said they would leave within two years.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There are nine vessels in the fleet, which is more than we had before. We have five new vessels and four were decommissioned. It was never the case that all nine would be operational or at sea at the same time, but I can confirm that six are fully operational, two are in planned maintenance and one is in long-term refit. We will go from six vessels to seven later in the year, but that can only be done if we see an improvement in the number of staff and specialists in the Naval Service. It remains to be seen whether that will be possible. The minimum is six vessels.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher If Deputies will be brief, I can accommodate more of them.

Deputy Eamon Scanlon: Information on Eamon Scanlon Zoom on Eamon Scanlon I raise with the Taoiseach the rehabilitative training allowance which I have learned is to be abolished. It is a training allowance for young students with a disability that is worth €31.80 per week for a maximum of four years. I acknowledge that the HSE is struggling with a deficit, but this is nothing short of scandalous. Rehabilitative training is essential for young people with disabilities in developing independence and the payment is much-needed by the most vulnerable group in society. It is a job to go to every day for them. It is a disgraceful decision. I ask the Taoiseach, as the leader of the Government, to have it reversed straightaway. We are talking about €2 million out of a budget of €17 billion for the HSE.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As I am not aware of it, I will have it checked out. I will get back to the Deputy as soon as I find out what is the story.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams With respect to the Government's Brexit contingency action plan, earlier this year the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, announced that after Brexit students from the North who wished to study in a third level college in the 2019-20 academic year would still be eligible for the Department's free fees and student grants scheme. He said the position would be reviewed for the 2020-21 academic year. I recently met Dr. Michael Mulvey, president of Dundalk Institute of Technology, and separately representatives of the Teachers Union of Ireland. I also facilitated a meeting between public representatives from the North and the institute of technology. The Taoiseach might know that 1,319 students from the North attend third level college and universities here, of whom 250 are in Dundalk Institute of Technology. As they are clearly concerned about the availability of free fees and grant schemes beyond next year, will the Taoiseach tell us whether it is the Government's intention to continue them?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will double-check with the Minister, Deputy McHugh, but my understanding is that European Union citizens resident in Northern Ireland will continue to be eligible for student grants and free fees as though they are EU students resident in Ireland. The status quo should continue for Irish EU citizens who live and are resident in Northern Ireland. There is a citizenship and residency element, but the status quo will remain.

Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna agus níl sé ann. Mar sin, cuirfidh mé ar an Taoiseach í. As every child in the country should be entitled to a place in a school, what is the Government going to do about the many hundreds of children, including 156 children with special needs in Cork, who cannot secure a school place? What will be done to rectify the problem?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Every child in Ireland is entitled to a school place, although it may not be in the school of first choice.

Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Some cannot find any.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In some cases home tuition is provided as an alternative. The Minister has powers under section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which deals with admissions to require schools to open new special classrooms.

Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony They have only been used once.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin He is not using those powers.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am informed that he has just used them at a school in my constituency and that he may need to do so in some other places also. It would be preferable for schools to co-operate in providing special classes, but he now has the powers to compel them to do so. We must bear in mind that the issue is not straightforward and that a school must have space. There are other issues also.


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