Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

  1 o’clock

Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I, too, want to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a safe 2021. This Christmas will be challenging for all of us and while I welcome the lifting of the more stringent restrictions on family visits due to come into effect this week, I ask that we be very careful in our messaging. Now is a good time to encourage the fast-tracking of the Loneliness Taskforce's five principal actions. There is an urgency to see these actions implemented due to Covid-19. Alone reports an increase in the number of callers reporting negative emotions over the past six months, with many people recording feelings of loneliness and social isolation. When we tell people that they must continue to restrict visits and only allow visits from three households, we must be cognisant of those living alone with nobody to restrict from calling. I ask everyone to reach out to our elderly in particular this Christmas, in a very safe manner, and do what we can to help them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor My own area of Carlow-Kilkenny has had a huge spike in Covid-19 cases so I ask everyone to stay safe.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I am not sure if there was a question in her contribution.

Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor With the new lifting of restrictions starting tomorrow our messaging is very important in terms of doing our best and playing our part to stay safe.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor As I said, we have seen a spike in my area of Carlow-Kilkenny.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly There is a list of speakers.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy is spot on. From Friday, people will be allowed leave their counties, travel across the country and meet up with relatives. We need to bear in mind that it is not the travelling that causes Covid-19 to spread, rather it is the interactions between people. I ask people who are meeting up at the weekend and over the next week or two to stay safe as much as possible. They should make sure that they stay apart, if they can, wear a mask, wash their hands and try not to share utensils, towels and so on. All those things will make a real difference.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly With Members' co-operation I am going to get through everybody on the list, even if we go a tiny bit over time. It is Christmas and we are going to get through it. I call Deputy Paul Murphy. I ask for co-operation from all Members.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy I want to raise a particular case with the Tánaiste that I raised with the Taoiseach on 23 September. He asked me to send him the details. I did so but I just got an acknowledgement from the Minister for Justice on 25 September and nothing more despite further contact. In simple terms, it is about an Irish citizen who fled here from Iraq after ISIS had taken over Mosul. His father and other close family members were killed. He is currently in Ireland and is now an Irish citizen but his mother is effectively in limbo in Turkey and faces being forced to go back to Iraq where her husband was murdered. They are asking the Government to intervene to allow the family be reunified on a humanitarian basis.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I am not familiar with the case but I will let the Minister, Deputy McEntee, know that the Deputy raised it again today and we will try to get him a reply as soon as we can.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly This morning, I was contacted by members of Fingal Communities Against Racism, a group of which I am a member. They advised me that despite the commitment given by the Taoiseach in this House last week that there would be no deportations, a young man was deported from Dublin Airport at 11 o'clock this morning. They stated:

By the time we were informed, within 1 hour of him being lifted to Dublin Airport, he was awaiting deportation on a flight, alone, and only had his mobile phone to communicate with us

[...]

By the time we had began to work on raising the issue with the Taoiseach, Ministers, and Lawyers; this man's phone was turned off. He had been deported.

My understanding is that he is on his way to England, that he was moved this morning at 11 o'clock and that from there he will be sent to Sudan. It is cruel to deport people in the middle of a pandemic. The Taoiseach agreed with this last week.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly He said there would be no deportations. This very morning a man was deported from Dublin Airport.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I am not familiar with that particular case so it is impossible for me to comment on it. The commitment that has been given is that there would not be deportations during the pandemic, particularly to zones where there is a high incidence of the virus. However, there was an exception that we said we would make, for example, if it was an issue of national security. I am not saying that this case is an issue of national security. I do not know anything about it but it was not a blanket commitment that there would not be any deportations in any circumstances. There would be circumstances where it would be necessary, especially if it is a matter of national security.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly Can I ask-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly No, Deputy. I am calling Deputy Martin Kenny.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny I extend best wishes for Christmas to the Tánaiste, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, all the staff in Leinster House, the Members and their families. This morning we learned that a memorandum was sent to Cabinet on 6 July regarding the appointment of a Supreme Court judge. That is at odds with what the Minister for Justice told us here three weeks ago and it is an issue that needs to be dealt with. What is not at odds is what she told us three weeks ago, namely, that the Tánaiste, interestingly, in a conversation with her had told her that Mr. Justice Woulfe would make an excellent judge. What was the context of that conversation and when did it happen? Was it at a formal meeting between the Tánaiste, as leader of Fine Gael, and the Minister, Deputy McEntee, as a senior Fine Gael Deputy, was it in the context of him as Tánaiste with a senior Minister or, alarmingly, was it a less formal conversation? I want to understand why and how this conversation happened because it is clear to every sensible person in this country that Fine Gael boxed off the job. The Tánaiste instructed his Minister to appoint this man to the Supreme Court and we need to clear up this matter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Before the Tánaiste answers, there are four more speakers on the list.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar All of this was cleared up in the statement by the Minister, Deputy McEntee, some weeks ago in the Dáil. It was an informal contact and there was no instruction. The matter was not taken at Cabinet on 6 July. It was taken some weeks later. During that period the Minister had the opportunity to review all the names put to her and to discuss it with me, the Taoiseach, the leader of the Green Party and the Attorney General. She brought the nomination to Cabinet in the normal way at that point.

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: Information on Ruairí Ó Murchú Zoom on Ruairí Ó Murchú I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Ceann Comhairle, all the staff, Members and beyond a safe Christmas. I hope I have not been too much of a nuisance during the period but I cannot promise much in terms of the future. I ask the Tánaiste if it is possible to have a review of JobPath, which is an incredibly expensive job activation scheme. Seetec and Turas Nua have been given €240 million in respect of the scheme. We have seen "RTÉ Investigates" uncover correspondence which stated that these two companies are in breach of contract. Obviously, that was correspondence the Department of Social Protection did not want to release. We have had multiple complaints about this not being a fit-for-purpose job activation scheme. It has cost a huge amount of money and now we have these difficulties also.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I believe there was a review. When it comes to JobPath, there is a quarterly report setting out metrics as to how the programme is performing. From my recollection as Minister for Social Protection, although it is a while ago now, the feedback from participants was generally very good. There are always people who will make complaints or who do not like a particular scheme but, in the round, the feedback from participants was very good, and that is what matters most. The outcomes were good also and were comparable to the outcomes we would have with people who use the Intreo or the local employment service.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly We will take all the festive greetings as given. I call Deputy Joan Collins and then Deputy Shortall and Deputy Nolan to complete the list.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins We have come to the end of a political year, but there are still workers who face the decision taken from the recommendation of Mr. Kevin Foley in respect of former Debenhams workers. They have to make a serious decision, and a ballot will most likely be taken, but those workers were not out on the picket line just to get their negotiated contracts from a company that practically liquidated itself so that it would not have to pay them what they were due. They did it for all the other workers who could face a similar situation in the next year. While the Duffy Cahill report in its entirety will not solve the problem, there are key parts of its recommendations that would play a role in solving the problem for workers into the future. Is the Tánaiste considering setting up a State agency liquidator that would cut across the huge costs private liquidators are causing in situations such as this one and ensure that workers are given preferential credit?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy. I welcome the acknowledgement that the Duffy Cahill report's implementation would not have solved this problem.


Last Updated: 07/04/2021 17:02:13 First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page