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Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] We have to pay our way in the world. That means we have to produce goods and services and we have to trade them internationally. That is why we are a relatively wealthy and prosperous country. There is nobody in the world willing to pay us a basic income. Accordingly, our jobs and our economy are dependent on trade, on what we produce and on the services we sell abroad. That is why it has always been our policy to have a pro-business environment, one that attracts investment and to be an early adopter of trade deals. That sends out a clear message that this is a country open to trade and investment. We want to be one of the first countries to ratify trade agreements, not the country that is late or holds it up. That is why it is to our advantage.

On CETA and the investor court system, under the revised text, the right of member states and Canada to regulate public policy, such as health, environment and security, is fully preserved. It is made clear that the deal does not imply an expectation that public policies will remain unchanged and an investor's loss of profits will not be sufficient grounds for making a claim against a government. Any claim must be based on discrimination and unfair treatment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, Tánaiste. We cannot go into the detail of it.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Can I join you, a Cheann Comhairle, in extending best wishes for Christmas to everybody in the House, particularly to the service officers, the ushers and the Oireachtas staff for all their hard work in a difficult year.

It seems Christmas started early for the Taoiseach yesterday when he entered into a winter wonderland fairy tale where the bank bailout never happened and the €17 billion was never taken out of the pension reserve fund to bail out the banks. Neither was cruel hardship and austerity imposed on large numbers of people which resulted in a housing crisis and the massive understaffing of health service, of which we are still suffering the consequences.

The programme for Government has a shared future. Does that extend to a shared acknowledgement of the past reality that people have suffered and the reality of the bank bailout? Will the Tánaiste correct the Dáil record to show that there was in fact a bail out of the banks-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett -----and that it cost the people of this country very dearly?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There was a bailout of the banks 12 years ago. The Taoiseach misspoke yesterday. He said that himself this morning. In fairness, he corrected himself quickly in the Dáil yesterday. What he meant to say was that the banks' owners, the banks' shareholders, were not bailed out. Those who owned the banks and those who had shares in the banks lost all, or almost all, of their money. Some were very wealthy people; some were not. Some were just everyday people who bought bank shares as part of their pension. We need to bear that in mind.

The banks were effectively nationalised. Sometimes what happens when one is a Minister or in politics is that people say to one that they would like their sector bailed out like the banks were. What they often do not appreciate is that would mean the State would seek to own that sector. For example, if we were to bail out the fishing industry, like the banks were bailed out, we would become the proud owner of all of those boats. If we were to bail out the farming sector, like the banks were bailed out, we would become the owner of all of those farms.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Thank you, Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is the point the Taoiseach was trying to make.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Every week at least one convicted sex offender comes to the attention of the Garda because they are not living at the address they have given to the authorities. In most instances, this is the only condition with which they have to comply due to our so-called sex offenders register following their release from prison. The fact is that the sex offenders register is little more than a fig leaf. It is only when a convicted offender comes to the attention of the Garda for some other reason, they are charged with a breach of the only condition that is put on them post their release.

Will 2021 be the year when at long last the 12 years of political promises will turn into action and the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill will be enacted to provide real protection to children, women and vulnerable adults?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am advised this Bill will be taken next term. I look forward to working with the Deputy to ensure that the legislation becomes law in 2021.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I acknowledge the Ceann Comhairle's good wishes. On behalf of the Rural Independent Group, I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Peter Finnegan, Elaine Gunn, and the whole team here, everybody in the community, for what has been done during this difficult year and wish them well for Christmas. I also thank the Garda Síochána who are outside in all weathers minding us. It has been a trying year.

There are fabulous plans and designs for Clonmel Garda station which are on public display. We have a site in the old Kickham Barracks, a fine site and ideally located, for which the plans fit in neatly. When will we have a proper Garda station fit for purpose? The superintendent, William Leahy, Sergeant Kieran O'Regan, and his community team, excelled during Covid with the work they did with the community. When will we get some movement on this station? This has been going on for 60 years. We have the plans and the site. All we need is the go-ahead. By go-ahead, I mean sod being turned and machines on site. We had so many promises and false dawns. The Garda in Clonmel deserve to have proper facilities, as do the public. The current station is Dickensian and must be put right.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy for raising the issue of Clonmel Garda station. He has raised it with me several times before, as has Senator Garrett Ahearn and Deputy Cahill.

  I do not have a date for the beginning of the project but I will certainly let the Minister, Deputy McEntee, know that the Deputy raised it this morning. We will try to get him an answer as soon as possible.

Deputy Marian Harkin: Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin I want emergency funding for Sligo Airport to continue its search and rescue operations and its emergency medical evacuations for a region that stretches from Clifden to Belfast. I direct this question specifically to the Tánaiste because he quite rightly supported €750,000 funding to Waterford Airport in 2018 to supply similar services. Waterford is a bit like Sligo in the sense that it has had no passenger flights since 2016. I wish the airport good luck as it provides an emergency service. So does Sligo, however. It has been the busiest search and rescue base for the past three years in the whole country and yet Sligo has not got one cent of Exchequer funding from the Government for the past decade.

The Irish Aviation Authority has mandated certain infrastructural works to be completed by the end of January 2021. Up to €500,000 is required for this. The airport itself can supply €200,000 but we have nothing from the Government. There are 47 jobs there and it is an essential regional service. Will the Tánaiste give a commitment to this regional service?

I also want to re-echo the Ceann Comhairle's good wishes to all.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will have to check into that matter for the Deputy. The Coast Guard search and rescue service is based in Sligo Airport. I cannot imagine it could be moved anywhere else. It is essential, therefore, that the airport continues to operate for the Coast Guard. Perhaps it could be moved to Knock but I doubt it. Sligo Airport will have to be provided funding, if it needs it, to keep that service up and running. I will take it up with the line Minister.

I neglected to join colleagues in offering my best Christmas wishes to everyone in the House. It has been an unprecedented year, a year like no other. I hope that next year we will see us return to Leinster House where we are all keen to get back to as soon as possible. I want to give my thanks to the Ceann Comhairle, his staff and all of the Oireachtas staff, most of whom have been working from home for months. They have put in a fabulous effort to make sure that we have been able to function, largely as normal, for the past couple of months. I want to thank them in particular at this time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That is appreciated.

  We will now go back to names carried forward from yesterday. Is Deputy Richmond here? No. Is Deputy Carroll MacNeill here? No. I call Deputy Bruton who I see up there in the back.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Yes, I am here in the darkness but still shining a light.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I could do with binoculars to find the Deputy up there.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I want to raise the review of the leaving certificate. The Tánaiste will have seen that many of those who sat the leaving certificate recently called for an accelerated reform of it. The reform of this started five years ago. The OECD reported just last week that the leaving certificate structure undervalues apprenticeships, is too narrow and rigid and is out of kilter with our ambitions for the nation. Will the Tánaiste set about accelerating this reform because its progress was stalled, understandably, during 2020? We need to get it back on track and make it relevant for young people's futures.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy is right and we need to deal with that.   If I recall correctly, the plan was to reform the junior cycle first, get that done and move on to reforming the senior cycle. I am not sure if the two can be done concurrently.

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