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Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl] We will start with the party leaders and group leaders. It is highly unlikely we will get to all 37 speakers but I ask Deputies to be concise. I call Deputy McDonald.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I wish to voice my disappointment and dissatisfaction at the fact that the Taoiseach has consistently failed to answer the very simple questions put by me and Deputy Paul Murphy.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Hear, hear.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald The Taoiseach may think that is clever but it is not clever at all. It is disingenuous and unhelpful to the people we represent.

The Enough is Enough - Every Voice Counts campaign has been raised this afternoon and I wish to return to it. The stories have been set out of those whose day-care facilities have been closed and the kind of devastation that has meant in their lives for them, their carers and their families. I spoke to families who reported regression, depression, isolation and loneliness and a real desire, in an urgent and immediate way, to have their services reopened.

I welcome that the €20 million cut to disability services will not now go ahead but I want the Taoiseach to clarify the position because I was unclear on this point. Is he saying that cut will not go ahead, full stop, or did I hear him hint at the need for business cases to be submitted by service providers to ensure the cut will not be made? I would like clarity on that point and I imagine service providers would like clarity on it too.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I would like Deputies to stick to the one minute allowed.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I would like the Taoiseach to answer questions. We all like things but it seems we are not going to get them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin To be fair, I gave a clear answer today to Deputies Kelly and Shortall regarding that cut not going ahead. It is not going ahead. As Deputy McDonald knows well because she heard it, the business case relates to the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and what it takes for each individual service provider to be in a position to reopen the services for those who badly need them. I agree with all three Deputies and, like Deputy McDonald, I want these services reopened and the timeline for doing so.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Yesterday, I raised the insistence by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, on having a Garda car and drivers. The Taoiseach answered that there had been no Government decision taken on the issue. As such, the 2011 Government decision still stands. Now we have a Minister travelling around in a Garda car at a cost of €200,000 per year without permission because there has been no Government decision on the matter. I want to ask two specific questions about this. The letter sent to me stated the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach rang the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality who rang the Garda Commissioner. Was the Taoiseach aware of that and did he give his Secretary General permission to do so? It would be deeply concerning if he did not give permission. Did the Taoiseach give his Secretary General permission to do that? It is a very interesting question so the Taoiseach should think deeply about it. Where did the Taoiseach ever hear of an audit on the security of a Government Minister being given orally over the phone to justify such a decision?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin First, this communication happened before I became Taoiseach. The Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality received a query from the Secretary to the Government on Sunday, 28 June as to whether it was appropriate, on security grounds, for the Minister, Deputy Coveney, to retain his Garda driver. The security assessment is that it is important.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Was it given orally?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No, the security assessment from the Garda to the Department of Justice and Equality is that the Minister should retain a Garda car on security grounds. I am not getting involved in any security appraisal.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly It is not a Government decision.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Deputy Kelly knows that. The Government did not take a decision on it.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The 2011 decision still stands and the Minister is driving without permission.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Please, Deputy Kelly, we cannot have a conversation on these matters.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No, he is not driving without permission. It does not require a Government decision.

Deputy Holly Cairns: Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns In 2017, a Bill was introduced to provide paid maternity leave for city and county councillors, which, incredibly, does not already exist. This Bill has since lapsed. When I tell people this, they do not believe me. Maternity leave is not a perk or a pay rise but a human right. Female dominated sectors are often undervalued and underpaid. They including professions such as nurses and carers but I could go on. We must ask whether, if more women were at the decision-making table, this would be the case and, if there were maternity provisions for politicians, there would be more women at these decision-making tables. There are 36 female Deputies and 124 male Deputies in the Dáil. It is an absolute disgrace. The Taoiseach's party returned five female Deputies out of 37. We cannot scratch our heads after every election and wonder again why we have not achieved greater equality when there is this glaringly obvious barrier for women. I know there are complexities. It is an unusual job in terms of its nature, the need to vote and so much more but, of course, there is a way. Will the Taoiseach commit to finding a way to provide councillors, Senators and Deputies with maternity and paternity leave?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I will. The Deputy makes a fair point. Maternity and paternity leave should be provided as it is in other jurisdictions. Politics should not be an exemption in that regard so I will follow that up and keep in touch with Deputy Cairns on it.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry The programme for Government pledges to review the legal provisions for collective redundancy, something that is long overdue. We have seen how workers at Clerys and now Debenhams are suffering under liquidation laws that were framed by the Taoiseach's party and Fine Gael when it was leading the Government. This day last week, the Tánaiste met Debenhams workers and their union representatives and undertook to take steps to try to improve the package available to them. My question is twofold. Will the Taoiseach report to the House what progress, if any, the Tánaiste has made on this front over the course of the last seven days? If he does not have that information to hand, will he commit to speak to the Tánaiste today and ask him to report to this House tomorrow before the recess takes place?

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I thank the Deputy again for raising this important issue. In my view, the workers have been treated badly. I will meet worker representatives tomorrow and I will engage again with the Tánaiste on the matter. He spoke to me last week about his meeting with the workers and their union representatives. I have not had an update since but the Tánaiste was pursuing certain lines of inquiry in terms of how to be of assistance to the workers concerned. It is a work in progress on which I will revert to the Deputy.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish I request that legislation be introduced to strengthen powers and increase penalties to address the scourge of illegal dumping which is rampant across the country. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many changes in our country and, unfortunately, it has significantly increased the amount of illegal taking place both in cities and rural areas. There is scope under the current waste management legislation to seize vehicles or equipment involved in illegal dumping activity and have these vehicles disposed of as the competent authority sees fit. Unfortunately, for various reasons, these laws are not being enforced. Without proper and significant penalties, this problem will get a lot worse. I ask that a special task force be set up by the Government comprising An Garda Síochána, local authorities and all relevant parties to tackle this problem with enhanced powers to deal with his serious issue.

Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan: Information on Christopher O'Sullivan Zoom on Christopher O'Sullivan Something wonderful is happening in Ireland right now as people start to discover their country for the first time. They are heading to the coast and our coastal communities, our beaches in Inchydoney, Long Strand, Barleycove, and the Taoiseach's beloved Broadstrand. These are great places to social distance and holiday safely but, unfortunately, a small percentage is ruining it for everybody by littering, dumping, leaving behind cans and lighting bonfires in special areas of conservation. This needs to be stamped out. Page 37 of the programme for Government refers to what we will do to tackle plastic pollution and waste. I ask that we give adequate resources to local authorities to deal with issues. There is a single litter warden, for example, for that whole geographical area I mentioned. We need to give local authorities resources so we can stamp out this scourge once and for all.


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