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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín] This is not good enough. Does the Tánaiste not agree that there needs to be a full investigation into what happened here?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am sorry to hear about Tom's experiences and the issues the Deputy raised. As the Leas-Cheann Comhairle alluded to, however, these are specific allegations and they involve unnamed individuals who could perhaps be identified as a result of the comments the Deputy has made. I am not familiar with and I have not read the report the Deputy referred to so I am not in a position to offer further comment. I will let the Minister for Justice know that the Deputy raised the issue and perhaps she can engage or correspond with him directly.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín These are serious allegations and I have thought long and hard about raising them on the floor of the Dáil. The reason I have done so is because I have called the director general of the Irish Prison Service a number of times to see if I can discuss them with her. I have also put a question to the Minister for Justice on why actions were not taken on foot of the Naughton report. The Minister has not given me any information as to why actions were not taken. I followed up on the matter as best I could via all the avenues that one would expect a Deputy who seeks to have justice done for individuals in the pay of the State to do but so far I have found that doors have been closed to me. That is why I have no option but to raise the matter here with the Tánaiste.

These are allegations that people in the pay of the State have undermined other people in the pay of the State to a level whereby this has cost them dearly and they are no longer working. I also know of a protected disclosure that has been made by another prison officer from the same prison and of other individuals at that prison who are out of work as a result of this situation. There is a systemic problem here and the only way to resolve it is for the Tánaiste to take the bull by the horns, work with the Minister for Justice and ensure that there is an investigation into this matter.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am sorry I cannot be more helpful on this matter. These are serious allegations. Any allegations that are made have to be investigated. People against whom allegations are made have the fundamental right to answer those allegations and to be considered innocent until proven guilty. That is why I would rather stray into this space, not knowing the specifics and not having heard from any of the people involved. I appreciate that the Deputy has tried to raise this matter through other means and has chosen to raise it in the Chamber. I will see the Minister for Justice later today and let her know that the Deputy is concerned about this matter and would like a more detailed response if that is possible.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly There is a long list of speakers and I will do my best to get everybody in. With the co-operation of the Tánaiste, we will get as many in as we can. I appeal to Deputies to stay well under one minute, if possible, and we will then be able to get the replies.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty In 2014, almost 14,000 people were brought before the courts for not paying their TV licence fees. In the previous year, 411 of those people were sent to prison for not paying their TV licence fees. A constituent of mine, a single mother, had the Garda call to her door and she was brought to Mountjoy Prison during this period for not having a TV licence. In the same year, the Davy 16 got together and formed a consortium for the sole purpose of swindling that company's client out of money. They were breaking the rules and regulations and not one of them has been held to account. In the same period, more than 40,000 people were essentially robbed by banks as a result of the tracker mortgage scandal. More than 100 of these individuals lost their family homes as a result. During the period in question, the Central Bank called time and again for the Government to provide it with additional powers to hold senior executives in the areas of finance, insurance and brokerage to account. Time and again, however, the Government has refused to bring forward legislation in this regard. There have been promises after promises but we still do not have legislation. When will the Government finally publish the legislation for which the Central Bank has been begging for more than three years?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Central Bank already has extensive powers in this area. It can take action against individuals under its administrative sanctions procedure and fitness and probity regime. It can conduct an enforcement investigation into an individual, resulting in sanctions, including: a fine of up to €1 million; a requirement to pay the bank's costs for the investigation inquiry; and disqualification from working. The Central Bank can prohibit a person who is not fit and proper from performing any controlled function into the future. The Garda also has powers, as does the Director of Corporate Enforcement, who is aware of this matter. I think the Deputy is referring to the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2018, which would bring in a senior executive accountability regime. This was only proposed for the first time in 2018 in a report from the Central Bank and therefore could not have applied to offences that occurred four years previously. The Minister for Finance will bring that legislation forward as soon as possible.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I regret to say that the Tánaiste's follow-up answer to my question during Leader's Questions was not satisfactory. It has prompted me to ask the following questions. I listened to the Minister for Health answering questions earlier on the vaccine roll-out. Have the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste or any other member of the Government spoken with AstraZeneca? Could the Tánaiste confirm that somebody in government has spoken to AstraZeneca? At some stage, has somebody in government spoken to the three current suppliers and to Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine will hopefully be signed off on today? Has the Government spoken directly to all four companies?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I do not know. The Deputy would have to ask every member of Government or we can try to find out for him. I have spoken to Pfizer and to Johnson & Johnson. These are companies that have big operations here so I have done that. AstraZeneca does not have a big operation here. I know the Taoiseach has sought to speak to the CEO of AstraZeneca but I do not know whether that has happened. Again, I cannot speak for the Minister for Health but I am sure he can speak for himself.

Deputy Gary Gannon: Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon On Monday, children in primary classes from third class to sixth class and fifth year secondary school students will return to in-person learning along with educators who are deemed high risk by Medmark Occupational Healthcare. Reports in the Irish Independent earlier this week showed that one in eight Covid cases were in children and teenagers under 18. Are we confident that we have done enough in terms of mitigation factors to keep those in school buildings safe? I am specifically talking about: ventilation, both natural and mechanical; mask-wearing; and whole-class testing. If cases go up, what are the additional mitigation mechanisms that will be employed to ensure that schools do not close again? We have to move beyond the binary options of school buildings being either open or closed.

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar This is probably more a question for the Minister for Health than a question on promised legislation. We are confident that we have done enough to ensure that schools are safe. So far, the return to school has been successful but, of course, more could be done in future. The Deputy will know from the plan that was published by Government two weeks ago that ventilation is a matter to which we are going to give more consideration because ventilation is increasingly understood to be of enormous significance when it comes to the spread of this virus. Professor Ferguson's report on antigen testing will be out in the next week or two as well and that may point to greater use of that form of testing in a number of different settings.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith On Saturday, in the Tánaiste's constituency, George Nkencho will be buried and his family will, I am sure, be extraordinarily sad about this. I send our solidarity and support to the family. Given the disturbing circumstances relating to George's death at the end of last year - he was killed in his home by gardaí - does the Tánaiste accept the deep disturbance of his family and community regarding his death? Will the Tánaiste join with them in calling for an open public inquiry into the circumstances of the death of George Nkencho and in sending our solidarity and sympathy to his family when he is finally buried on Saturday?

The Tánaiste: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I extend my condolences to the Nkencho family as well. I have spoken to them in person and to their solicitor. I have also been in contact with the Minister for Justice and the Garda about this matter. It is my strong view that there needs to be an independent inquiry into the death of George Nkencho. The way we do that is through the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. I have confidence in GSOC as an independent body to carry out an investigation such as this.

Deputy Noel Grealish: Information on Noel Grealish Zoom on Noel Grealish On two occasions in the past year I have raised the scourge of illegal dumping, the damage it causes to the environment and water supplies and the fact that it is a blight on the landscape.

Last Updated: 16/03/2021 17:07:32 First Page Previous Page Page of 76 Next Page Last Page