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Varadkar, Leo

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. Nbr.

Leaders' Questions (Continued)

It is always possible to learn lessons and strengthen future responses in the case of a national emergency. Today the Cabinet decided that it would undertake a full evaluation of our response once...More Button

I very much agree with the Deputy's sentiments about people disobeying safety warnings. Not only did those who disobeyed safety warnings put themselves at risk, but they also risked the lives of...More Button

What I witnessed on Sunday and yesterday was public service at its very best. We can all be very proud of the public service today. The national emergency co-ordination centre and the national ...More Button

This morning's Cabinet meeting discussed routine business and also Storm Ophelia. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, updated the Cabinet on this morni...More Button

Some 515,000 homes and businesses remain without power. By tomorrow morning all will have an indicative date for reconnection. Most will be reconnected within three to four days, but in some ca...More Button

Schools will reopen tomorrow when school buses will run as normal. The national emergency co-ordination group will continue to meet.More Button

When it comes to water supplies there are about 80,000 homes without water, but tankers are being deployed as necessary in areas where water is not available.More Button

With regard to the dangerous trees, it is a very valid point and I will certainly ask the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to engage with the County and City Management Association to see whether th...More Button

I do not have a date for the publication of the adaptation plan, but the mitigation plan was published a month or two ago after a special meeting in Celbridge. In terms of our response to climate ...More Button

This is a very complicated area. It is an area that took me quite some time to understand when I was Minister for Social Protection.More Button

Based on a lot of the commentary I have heard and even some opinion pieces I saw in the newspapers yesterday, I believe it is not fully understood by many of those who write about it or comment on ...More Button

With regard to the comments of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, it is very important to say his term "bonkers and unbelievable" referred to the existence of the marriage bar, whi...More Button

With regard to the changes of 2012, they did not just affect women, they affected men as well. Depending on whose estimates one accepts, the difference is about 60:40. Therefore, women were dis...More Button

It is important to bear in mind that going back to the pre-2012 system is not necessarily fair either because it also had anomalies built into it. The most obvious of these was that somebody who...More Button

The Government believes any changes need to be carefully considered. They should not be done in isolation but comprehensively so as not to create new injustices or new anomalies. We should unde...More Button

A lot of work has been done in this regard by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The first part was the publication of an actuarial review of the Social Insurance Fund b...More Button

It was not raised with me by Fianna Fáil or by Sinn Féin or by any other party in fact.More Button

The question I was asked was whether in the run up to the pre-budget discussions, Fianna Fáil raised the issue with me. Fianna Fáil did not. Did any other party? No, they did not. They might ha...More Button

That is not to say the matter was not raised in other discussions, perhaps with the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, but I was not at other discussions. As a Government we absolutely accept that there is...More Button

However, there is one area where I disagree with a number of the NGOs and people campaigning in this space. I have read some of what they have said, which is that they want to move away from the...More Button

It would say to people who now pay PRSI that that would count for nothing.More Button

If Sinn Féin shares the view of these NGOs and campaign groups that we should get rid of contributory pensions and the contributory principle and tell men and women alike to pay PRSI all their live...More Button

I thank Deputy Howlin for his kind words about our public servants and everyone who helped out yesterday and today with the clean-up. They will continue this in the weeks ahead. I echo his commen...More Button

I want to thank him for that.More Button

I would be happy to have a debate on that and on climate change more generally but that would be up to the Business Committee. We will need to examine what a national red alert means. It was the ...More Button

I am not sure if a national text alert is still in the offing. SMS is used much less frequently than it was in the past. It is probably dying out as a technology. People tend to use WhatsApp, ...More Button

The national adaptation framework consultation is open until 27 October, so we are still in the consultation phase. Once the Minister has the opportunity to consider the submissions, it will be ...More Button

I am happy to give that commitment. This is the first time we have ever had a national red alert. We have had red alerts in individual counties or groups of counties before but not on a nationwid...More Button

I reiterate that the Government is commitment to maintaining as much of the post office network as we can into the future. I read an interesting analysis not too long ago of politics in France. I...More Button

For many people the closure of post offices across rural Ireland and the closure even of Garda stations across rural Ireland is the equivalent to the State retreating and the State and public secto...More Button

-----maintain and secure the post office network into the future.

  I should point out that the rate at which post offices are closing has slowed considerably. During the period...More Button

Since the change of Government, in 2011, only 41 have closed. As Deputy Michael Healy-Rae will be aware, under Fianna Fáil post offices were closing 20 times faster than they are closing at present.More Button

With regard to the social welfare contract, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae did not mention one of the reasons the amount of money coming in from the social welfare contract to post offices has fallen so ...More Button

On pensioners, as the Deputy stated, I reversed the policy of encouraging recipients to use electronic transfer, but we do give pensioners the right to choose whether they want to go electronic o...More Button

-----because that is the way they have been paid throughout their working lives. The number of pensioners going to the post office to collect their pension is only going to continue to fall as wel...More Button

If post offices are to survive, they will need to change their business. This is very much the kind of solution the Minister is examining. Things such as community banking services are in the mix...More Button

They are not just words. I spoke about the record in the past because it demonstrates that we are serious. In 2002, 102 post offices throughout the country were closed. In 2003, 193 post offices...More Button

The Deputy can see already that there has been a considerable slow down in the number of post offices that are being closed. It is not a coincidence that things have changed so much under this com...More Button

Order of Business (Continued)

I cannot answer that for the Deputy. I am not dealing with it personally. Perhaps a parliamentary question tabled to the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, or the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee,...More Button

Not yet.More Button

Just to add some clarity to what Deputy Martin said in regard to the 2012 State pension contributory changes, the question, as I understood it from Deputy McDonald, was about whether anyone had rai...More Button

However, I absolutely acknowledge that people from other parties, including Deputy John Curran and members of my own party, have raised it in the past-----More Button

-----because it is an ongoing issue.More Button

I can, but that is a matter for the House surely, is it not?More Button

I will give the Deputy the same answer I gave him at that time. There is a problem with averaging and there is a problem with the homemaker's scheme, but the solution is not to go back to where we...More Button

As I said earlier, the first thing that had to be done was an actuarial review of the Social Insurance Fund because the way it works is that PRSI contributions go in and PRSI contributions go out. ...More Button

It is a matter that was raised earlier. I will certainly ask the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to engage with the County and City Management Association to see what could be done, but he will be...More Button

Cabinet Committees

Was asked: if he will report on the newly formed Cabinet committees. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the reorganisation of the Cabinet committee system. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

  I have reorganised the Cabinet committee structure to streamline political oversight and to focus the work through a smaller ...More Button

Cabinet Committees (Continued)

It is important to say the Cabinet held a special meeting in Cork on Friday in UCC to deal with two issues, namely, Brexit and health reform. It is fair to say Brexit took up the majority of the d...More Button

Separate to the Cabinet committee on Brexit, the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, and I also meet regularly to discuss European affairs and European po...More Button

On contingency planning, it is appropriate for any Government in office to plan for worst-case scenarios. Some years ago we had a plan for what we would do if the euro fell apart; of course, the...More Button

That is what RTÉ-----More Button

That is what RTÉ reported, but perhaps it misreported what had happened.More Button

It also reported comments on "The Week in Politics" that Fianna Fáil would prepare for a hard Brexit. How else would it prepare for a hard Brexit other than by going around the place sco...More Button

That is not the policy of the Government.More Button

Those things are self-fulfilling prophecies. If Deputy Stephen Donnelly, as Minister of Foreign Affairs or European Affairs, was to go to London to negotiate with the British authorities the detai...More Button

Briefings are absolutely open to party leaders.More Button

I have given no instruction other than to give people full information.More Button

Climate action is an important issue. I totally acknowledge that but there are any number of issues on which one could have a dedicated Cabinet sub-committee. We could have one for every single...More Button

On the final matter, the sustainable development goals, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is the lead Department. As is the case with all Departments, mine has over...More Button

On the solution to the Brexit conundrum, I am in broad agreement with what has been said by others. I believe the only solution that is workable for Britain and Ireland is that the United Kingdo...More Button

Using the term "special status" is not helpful. It is seen by the DUP and other unionist parties as an attempt to diminish the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kin...More Button

Yes, but the Dáil voted for it. It did not help. It was not helpful in trying to achieve a good outcome for the Irish people that the term was adopted by the "Oireachtas". The Deputy will know t...More Button

It is something I asked Sinn Féin MEPs to reflect on. There is no point in putting a motion to the European Parliament demanding special status for Northern Ireland only to have it voted down. Th...More Button

Finally, I wish to touch briefly on the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis. I fully accept that the media may have misreported this.More Button

I accept absolutely that the media sometimes get these things wrong, but the reports are that Fianna Fáil called for an electronic border with Northern Ireland post-Brexit, similar to the toll syst...More Button

Seanad Reform

Was asked: the status of the reform of Seanad Éireann.More Button

Was asked: the status of the implementation group on Seanad reform.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 15 together.More Button

As the Deputy will be aware, in A Programme for a Partnership Government, the Government stated its commitment to pursuing the implementation of the report of the working group on Seanad reform, ...More Button

As my predecessor previously said in this House, he agreed with a suggestion made here some time ago by Deputy Martin that this group should be based in the Oireachtas and should comprise Members...More Button

I will set up the implementation group in the next few weeks. It does need a chairperson who would have broad respect and be broadly accepted across the Oireachtas. I have not yet had an opportun...More Button

The programme for Government commits to reforming the Seanad in line with the Manning report and I will honour that commitment. I am bound by the programme for Government, just as all my Ministe...More Button

I will not lie to the Deputy. I will not lie to anyone in this House. Frankly, I do have reservations about the Manning report. The Manning report proposes that there would not be a referendum...More Button

Perhaps they do not reflect the Ireland of 2017, never mind the Ireland of 2027. They are corporatist and date from the 1930s. They date from a particular model of Catholic democracy that to me i...More Button

Deputy Howlin asked me my personal view and I have only just started to give it. I have genuine reservations about the process. However, I fully accept the commitment in the programme for Governm...More Button

Was asked: if he has set up the all-party group on Seanad reform.More Button

Was asked: the position regarding the commitment in his Department's statement of strategy on fully implementing the Manning report. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 88 together.

  In the Programme for a Partnership Government, the Government stated its commitment to pursuing the implementation of the R...More Button

Seanad Reform (Continued)

I look forward to the proponent explaining what a great idea it all is.More Button

Departmental Staff

Was asked: to set out the number of political staff and advisers he has employed; and the role of each. More Button

Was asked: for details on the political staff and advisers employed by him in his Department; and the name, title, function, salary, terms of employment and location of each. More Button

Was asked: to outline the policy areas that his appointed advisers have. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.More Button

There are 20 politically-appointed staff employed by my Department. Nine of these are advisers, including two special advisers to the Government Chief Whip. Those based in my Department in Gove...More Button

Those based in the Houses of the Oireachtas who fall under my Vote are Ian O'Brien, civilian driver for Leader of the Seanad, Edward O'Connell, civilian driver for Leader of the Seanad and James ...More Button

The special advisers working in my Department provide briefings and advice on a wide range of policy matters, as well as performing other functions as I may direct from time to time. They also l...More Button

Yes, if we include the Chief Whip and Independent Ministers' staff. They do not actually work to me.More Button

They are.More Button

I do not know.More Button

That is a matter for the Secretary General.More Button

The level of paranoia about the strategic communications unit really is extraordinary. First, it has absolutely no role whatsoever in producing or issuing statistics. Statistics on waiting lists ...More Button

The top two positions are not political appointees. They are not special advisers. That is why they did not follow the special adviser process. That process is only for special advisers. The ...More Button

When it comes to staffing, it is a matter for an office within my Department. Decisions on the number of staff and on the appointment of individual staff members are made by the Secretary General.More Button

I am not going to be interfering with it. The only role I had whatsoever in it was what I have already put on the record of the House, that is to say, I suggested someone for the head of it. I su...More Button

I do not agree that it is inappropriate. For example, when we are appointing Secretaries General to Departments we are given a list of names to choose from.More Button

Departmental Staff (Continued)

There is a much greater political role in the appointment of a Secretary General than there is in suggesting that somebody get a position.More Button

To answer the other questions, since I thought this would come up-----More Button

-----the list of staff I read out includes staff assigned to Independents, to the Chief Whip and drivers. For comparison, that adds up to 20, compared with 23 under the former Taoiseach, Deputy En...More Button

On the matter of the cost of running-----More Button

It is costly. That does not mean it will cost nothing-----More Button

-----particularly when it comes to running campaigns but that is entirely met by existing resources in my Department. The Deputies will know that from the budget book because my Department is one ...More Button

Departmental Bodies Data

Was asked: the State bodies or boards that fall under the remit of his Department; and the number of members of each State body or board who are not qualified within the field in which the board or body has o...More Button

There are no professional bodies or boards under the remit of my Department.More Button

Government Information Service

Was asked: further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, of 27 September 2017, the status of the commitment in his Department's strategy statement to examine the balance of power and responsibili...More Button

Was asked: if the director and-or other members of the strategic communications unit have met political advisers in each Department; if his attention has been drawn to the aim of these meetings; if he has rec...More Button

Was asked: the position regarding the research his Department has undertaken on existing communication activities, including the range of campaigns brands and channels of communication used by different agenc...More Button

Was asked: if advice from outside agencies or consultancies had been sought by the strategic communications unit before or since it was set up. More Button

Was asked: if the strategic communications unit will provide advice on the way to deal with crisis communications; and if it is responsible for setting a positive news agenda.More Button

Was asked: the financial allocation to the strategic communications unit or another communications unit, in addition to the website or the Government Information Service in his Department, th...More Button

Was asked: his plans to place his speeches on either his Department's website or More Button

Was asked: the position regarding his weekly messages on social media.More Button

Was asked: if the website is being revamped or changed; and the cost of same. More Button

Was asked: if his Department receives external advice on a policy or communication issue. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 to 84, inclusive, 95 and 99 together.

  The Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) will be integrated within the Civil Service structures in my D...More Button

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Was asked: when Cabinet committee E, health, last met.More Button

Cabinet Committee E last met on 12 September 2017. It is scheduled to meet again in the coming weeks.More Button

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Was asked: if he had a further meeting with church leaders. More Button

On 31 August last I held my first formal meeting with representatives of the Catholic Church under the structured dialogue process. More Button

I intend to hold further meetings with other dialogue partners and I have asked my office to progress this matter and make the necessary arrangements. I hope to be in a position to meet next wit...More Button

Northern Ireland

Was asked: if he has spoken to First Minister Arlene Foster recently.More Button

Was asked: if he has spoken to deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill recently.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 90 together.

  The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is keeping me informed on a regular basis on political developments in Northern ...More Button

Strategic Communications Unit

Was asked: his plans for the €5 million announced in budget 2018 for the strategic communications unit; and the number of additional staff he plans to recruit in addition to the six who are working there. More Button

Was asked: the element that is current and capital in the €5 million announced for the strategic communications unit in his Department in budget 2018.More Button

Was asked: the way in which the strategic communications unit can be cost neutral and save money for his Department as outlined previously and receive €5 million.More Button

Was asked: the locations and the way in which he and his officials plan to spend the €5 million allocated in budget 2018 for the strategic communications unit. More Button

Was asked: the location savings will be found within his Department to enable the strategic communications unit to be cost neutral. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 to 93, inclusive, 96 and 97 together.

  My Department's budget for 2018 has decreased by 2% compared to 2017. My Department does not have any...More Button

Brexit Issues

Was asked: if he has met or spoken to any EU leader recently regarding Brexit .More Button

Ongoing political engagement with our EU and international partners is crucial, especially as negotiations on Brexit proceed.More Button

I continue to use every opportunity to ensure that other Member States and the EU institutions fully understand our particular concerns arising from Brexit, to enable the best possible outcome fo...More Button

I outlined my recent engagements to the House on 4 October. Since then I have spoken by phone with President of the European Council Tusk on 12 October and Prime Minister May on 16 October.More Button

I will of course attend the European Council in Brussels later this week, where I will use the opportunity to speak with my EU counterparts. I will make a post-Council statement to the House on 2...More Button

  Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 77.More Button

  Questions Nos. 96 and 97 answered with Question No. 91.More Button

Tender Process

Was asked: the number of tenders his Department is undertaking.More Button

My Department has seven tenders which are ongoing at present.More Button

  Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 77.More Button

Brexit Documents

Was asked: when his attention was drawn to the Revenue Commissioners report on customs; if this was a rolling report; and if it is finalised.More Button

As I said in the House last Wednesday, I had read the Revenue Commissioners desktop analysis report on the customs implications of a hard Brexit in the previous few days.

  The r...More Button

Naval Service Promotions

Was asked: the reason the case made by an organisation (details supplied) to have a suitably qualified member of the Naval Service Reserve commissioned to the rank of ensign has not been resolved in view of t...More Button

Was asked: the reason the case made by an organisation (details supplied) to have a suitably qualified member of the Naval Service Reserve commissioned to the rank of ensign has not been resolved in view of t...More Button

Was asked: the reason the military authorities refused to commission a person in 2014 to the rank of ensign for which they were suitably qualified (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the ma...More Button

Was asked: the reason the military authorities are now rejecting the findings of a medical officer by re-classifying a Naval Service Reserve as medically unfit to be commissioned; and if he will make a statem...More Button

Was asked: the reason a member of the Naval Service Reserve who is suitably qualified for commissioning to the rank of ensign cannot be reimbursed the cost for a Naval Service officer's dress uniform (details...More Button

Was asked: if he will meet with members of an organisation (details supplied) at least once a year as agreed on 12 July 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Air Corps Recruitment

Was asked: if there will be a general service recruitment campaign for the Air Corps launched before the year end; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button