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

Varadkar, Leo

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. Nbr.


Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

I thank the Deputy. This is a Government that believes in the view that everyone has the right to shelter and everyone should be able to aspire to buy his or her own home.More Button

We are a Government that is very committed to home ownership and that has taken many actions in recent years to assist people to buy their own homes.More Button

Take, for example, the help-to-buy scheme, whereby people can get some of their income taxes back to help fund a deposit. So far, 10,000 people have used the help-to-buy scheme to help them get a ...More Button

The Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme is another way in which we are assisting people to buy their first homes. It is open to-----More Button

-----single people with an income of €50,000 or less and couples with an income of €75,000 or less where they have been refused a mortgage from the bank but could pay that mortgage back with this p...More Button

We now have to consider two things: whether we should increase the cap above €200 million, and that is under consideration by the Government, and we have to consult the Central Bank because this ...More Button

While Deputy Martin is prancing about the place, wagging the finger and telling us off, we are actually doing things.More Button

We are doing things in the real world that help people to buy their first homes. We have helped 10,000 people to buy their first home through the help-to-buy scheme.More Button

We have helped 10,000 people. While Deputy Martin was wagging the finger, we actually did it for 10,000 people.More Button

When it comes to the Rebuilding Ireland home loan, 575 people have been helped to buy their first home-----More Button

-----and 1,000 more have been approved, many of whom will go on to buy a home.More Button

They have six months before the loan approval expires.More Button

When the Rebuilding Ireland home loan was announced, we said that the scheme would be capped at €200 million and would run for three years.More Button

Notwithstanding the fact that the Opposition has falsely claimed that it has failed, it has actually been a real success. There has been enormous uptake-----More Button

-----and we now need to do two things. First, we must consider whether we can lift the €200 million cap. We must find the finance for that, by the way.More Button

The money will have to be found, as is always the case. Second, we must consult the Central Bank.More Button

At the best of times being a parent is an enormous challenge in having to provide for oneself and one's kids. It is particularly difficult for lone parents who do so without the support of a partn...More Button

To answer the Deputy's question, we are helping all parents, but especially lone parents, to improve their living conditions by creating jobs. The number of lone parents who are working has incr...More Button

We have reduced the costs of childcare and we will further enhance that with the introduction of the affordable childcare scheme later in the year.More Button

We are increasing pay. The minimum wage has increased and pay has been restored for people who are public servants. It is also increasing across the private sector. We are reducing the costs o...More Button

We are also focusing very much on education. We have, for example, restored the costs of education grant, and as a result record numbers of people from non-traditional backgrounds are now partic...More Button

I have immense respect for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and have worked with it on many occasions; especially when I was the Minister for Social Protection, but I do not believe the report ...More Button

The reason the Deputy does not want to trade statistics is that she does not want to talk about facts.More Button

No amount of individual stories, no matter how genuine they may be, will change the facts. It is a matter of fact that in each of the past four years, the rates of consistent poverty and deprivati...More Button

-----better wages and better salaries. USC is being reduced and access to affordable and subsidised childcare is widening-----More Button

-----the cost of medicines is being reduced and we are capping rents. I accept that more needs to be done.More Button

We are doing more and will continue to do more. On the Deputy's specific question, there is a living wage in the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland, which is a place she will know well. That ...More Button

Sinn Féin wants to change it in such as a way that it is calculated without any reference to employers. Sinn Féin wants to exclude small businesses from having any role in contributing to how the ...More Button

I thank the Deputy for raising the important issue of climate change. To reply to his first question, yes, of course, I will listen and I do. Second, we need to invest in public transport. One o...More Button

-----will no longer purchase high emission vehicles. They will all be no or low emission vehicles. As the Deputy is aware, we are implementing proposals for major investments in public transport ...More Button

I heard Greta's speech. The fact that young people are taking action, protesting and going to strike and take a break from school on 15 March is good. It is welcome. Unlike the Deputy, I do no...More Button

Among the people who must listen are those in socialist parties such as the Deputy's who are climate tax deniers and deny the fact that a carbon tax or climate charge must be part of the solution...More Button

That is why I ask the Deputy to listen to what the students are saying and why they say his policy on carbon charging is wrong. He should ask them what they think of it.More Button

No, we are not going to introduce free public transport. Many public transport services, particularly at peak times, are already operating at capacity; therefore, making public transport free woul...More Button

Instead of using €600 million to make public transport free, we should use that €600 million to invest in public transport, to increase capacity, to have more buses and more trains more frequently,...More Button

I will repeat what I said earlier. I am inspired and enthused by the fact that young people, students and school pupils are taking a real interest in climate action, that they are going to prote...More Button

I hear that and I am listening to it. I ask the Deputy to listen to it too because socialists are no friends of the environment. They opposed water metering and water charges and they now deny th...More Button

-----what they think about carbon tax, and not tell them what socialists think they should think.More Button

I agree with the Deputy on the point that we need more health reform. I do not agree with his contention that health reform is not happening at all. I will give a few examples in response to some...More Button

That is happening. We have extended free GP care to all children under the age of six and all citizens over the age of 70, as well as to an extra 100,000 people based on income from April. More Button

In addition, we have reduced prescription charges and will do so again in the next couple of weeks. Sláintecare, which the Deputy advocates for and supports, recommends that we extend free GP care...More Button

We are also investing in primary care centres. There are now 120 primary care centres open throughout the country, while there were only 40 a few years ago. We have set aside a ten-year capital...More Button

There is investment in ICT. The medical laboratory information system, MedLIS, is now available almost across the board, allowing people to see blood results all over the place. There is also t...More Button

We are increasing bed capacity, by 200 last year and approximately another 200 this year. I visited Clonmel the other day, where there is a new 40-bed unit under construction, while the Minister...More Button

The next large step is contractual reforms for GPs and we are in negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation, having concluded talks with the nurses on a new contract for them. We are keen ...More Button

I followed with interest in recent days the debate about how moving towards multi-annual budgets would help us to improve our health services. I am broadly a supporter of multi-annual budgets, not...More Button

I believe it would. It may burn up the money quicker than it does now and we have to take those concerns into account. We are training more general practitioners, GPs, have increased the number o...More Button

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business (Continued)

I was not aware of that. I imagine it is in the interests of this House to provide content from this Chamber and the Seanad to the media. I imagine this is a matter for the Houses of the Oireacht...More Button

On the face I agree with the Deputy. Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle might-----More Button

In the first instance it is important to point out that it is the gardaí and the Garda Commissioner who make decisions on the frequency and location of checkpoints. There are no Ministers ordering...More Button

I am particularly enthused by what the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, is leading with his lift scheme in the Deputy's own county, which could be the potential prototype for a much more flexib...More Button

I thanks the Deputy for raising this issue. I know it was raised in the Dáil a week or two ago. I agree with the Deputy's sentiments. The most important thing now is to make sure that those chil...More Button

Brexit Issues

Was asked: the role of his Department in contingency planning for Brexit; and the number of meetings that have been held since September 2018 on same. More Button

Was asked: the role of his Department in contingency planning for Brexit; and the number of meetings held since September 2018 on the issue. More Button

Was asked: the role of his Department in contingency planning for Brexit; and the number of meetings that have been held on this issue since September 2018. More Button

Was asked: the role of his Department in contingency planning for Brexit; and the number of meetings that have been held since September 2018 on same. More Button

Was asked: the role of his Department in contingency planning in respect of Brexit. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

  My Department works closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which has overall responsibility for...More Button

Brexit Issues (Continued)

I thank the Deputy for her questions. I cannot predict with absolute certainty or absolute clarity what will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I do not believe that anybody can. All we ca...More Button

All-Island Civic Dialogue

Was asked: if he will report on the all-island civic dialogue held on 15 February 2019.. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the all-island civic dialogue on 15 February 2019. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the all-island civic dialogue held on 15 February 2019. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the fifth plenary session of the all-island civic dialogue on Brexit; if he had subsequent conversations with the political party leaders present; and the issues that were disc...More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the recent meeting of the all-island civic dialogue held on 15 February 2019. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the all-island civic dialogue on 15 February 2019. More Button

Was asked: if he will report on the all-island civic dialogue held on 15 February 2019. More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 to 12, inclusive, together.More Button

More than 400 political, business and civic society leaders from across the island attended the fifth plenary session of the all-island civic dialogue on Brexit in Dublin Castle on 15 February. ...More Button

Having met the five main political parties in Belfast the previous week, I welcomed the opportunity once again to engage with political parties, North and South, and to hear the concerns of socie...More Button

All-Island Civic Dialogue (Continued)

To clarify matters for Deputy Boyd Barrett, the position is that we are improving and increasing Garda resources all over the country. There are more gardaí, more armed support units, more vehicle...More Button

With regard to European Parliament representation, it is not possible to have a constituency for the European Parliament that is outside the European Union and only EU citizens can vote in Europe...More Button

Regarding citizens' rights, people living in Northern Ireland who hold Irish citizenship and, therefore, EU citizenship will continue to have citizens' rights. They include the right to work, st...More Button

I have the answers if I can have more time to continue.More Button

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Was asked: if he will report on his recent meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister, Mr. António Luís Santos da Costa.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on his recent meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister; the issues that were discussed; and the officials who accompanied him on the visit.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on his recent meetings with the French Finance Minister.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on his recent meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on his recent engagement with the Prime Minister of Portugal, Mr. António Costa.More Button

I propose to takes Questions Nos. 13 to 17, inclusive, together.More Button

I attach great importance to ongoing political engagement with our EU and international partners. I meet and speak regularly to my counterparts, bilaterally, at formal and informal meetings of t...More Button

I had an informal engagement in Lisbon with the Prime Minister, António Costa, at his invitation, on the evening of 15 February. Our ambassador to Portugal joined us for the meeting. We discuss...More Button

I again met Prime Minister Costa on the margins of the EU-Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on 24 and 25 February. I used the opportunity of the summit to also speak informally to Presidents...More Button

I met Prime Minister May most recently on the margins of the EU-Arab League summit.More Button

The French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, paid a courtesy call to me on 26 February, following his meeting with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, who joined us. ...More Button

Most recently, on 4 March, I met Prime Minister Skvernelis of Lithuania in Dublin. We discussed the positive bilateral relations between Ireland and Lithuania and a range of EU agenda issues. I...More Button

Other EU and international engagements are envisaged in the period ahead. I will be happy to inform the House of these engagements in due course.More Button

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements (Continued)

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. The informal meeting in Lisbon with Prime Minister, António Costa, was exactly that. We got to know each other a little over the years and I was there on a pers...More Button

We did not have a chance to discuss hospital construction. I imagine construction costs are lower in Portugal. I imagine labour costs are lower as well and professional fees are less. I do not...More Button

There are examples of how it has gone wrong in other countries. Karolinksa hospital in Sweden will probably cost somewhere around €6 billion by the time it is finished. It is easily the most ex...More Button

In terms of the Brexit negotiations, briefings are, of course, available to Opposition Leaders. We are happy to provide them. The position as of today is that we have no texts or draft texts to...More Button

They may be exchanging legal texts among themselves and getting advice from each other's lawyers but that does not mean that they have any status in terms of the real negotiations that are going on...More Button

In terms of drugs policy, we did not talk about it but I am aware of the decriminalisation model that was pursued in Portugal. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, un...More Button

Seanad Reform

Was asked: the status of the work of the Seanad reform implementation group, in particular its considerations on the extension of Seanad election voting rights to additional third-level institutions; and if h...More Button

The Seanad Reform Implementation Group chaired by Senator McDowell submitted its report to me on 20 December 2018. The Report was also published online and copies of the report were distributed to...More Button

Mayoral Election

Was asked: the status of the formation of a citizens' assembly for Dublin regarding a directly elected mayor; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I have proposed that a Dublin Citizens’ Assembly be specifically convened to consider the issue of directly elected mayors for Dublin and the form that this should take. This would be part of a co...More Button

Work is currently underway in my Department to bring forward proposals to establish a Dublin Citizens’ Assembly and I expect this to come before Government shortly.More Button

Economic Policy

Was asked: the role of his Department in leading Ireland's participation in the annual European semester process.More Button

The annual European Semester cycle is the framework to enhance economic and fiscal policy coordination at EU Level. As part of the Semester programme, Member States submit a National Reform Progra...More Button

My Department ensures a co-ordinated approach across Government, and in engagement with the European Commission, on the European Semester, including the preparation of Ireland’s National Reform P...More Button

Brexit Negotiations

Was asked: if he discussed the possibility of a second referendum on Brexit in the UK with Prime Minister May when they last spoke or met; and his views as to whether this is a realistic and helpful option.More Button

I last met with Prime Minister May on the margins of the EU-Arab League summit in Egypt on Monday 25 February, where we discussed the recent developments on Brexit. We did not specifically discuss...More Button

I also used the opportunity in Sharm el Sheikh to speak informally to Presidents Tusk and Juncker, as well as to a number of my EU counterparts including the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, L...More Button

Our discussions focussed on Brexit and other important EU issues. I reiterated our appreciation for their strong and ongoing solidarity regarding the backstop, and we agreed that the Withdrawal A...More Button

Departmental Transport

Was asked: the date on which the helipad on Government Buildings was last used; the annual maintenance costs incurred in respect of the helipad in the past ten years; if it has been assessed in order to estab...More Button

The helipad on Government Buildings has not been used since the 1990s. There are no plans to use the helipad in the near future. There have been no maintenance costs incurred in relation to the he...More Button

Unemployment Levels

Was asked: the number of persons registered as unemployed in 2011.More Button

International Summits

Was asked: if Sudan was raised during the recent EU-League of Arab States summit in Egypt; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I attended the first ever Summit-level meeting between the EU and the League of Arab States, which took place in Sharm El Sheik on 24 and 25 February.More Button

At the meeting, leaders agreed to deepen Arab-European ties to enhance the stability, prosperity, and well-being of the two regions. We also agreed that stronger regional cooperation is important...More Button

A number of regional issues were discussed, with leaders reaffirming their common positions on the Middle East Peace Process and their commitment to reaching a two-state solution. Leaders also ha...More Button

While Sudan was not formally on the agenda, in our discussions and in the Statement that issued from the Summit we renewed our commitment to effective multilateralism and to an international syst...More Button

The Government is concerned about the current situation in Sudan, in particular the Sudanese authorities’ heavy-handed response to protests, which began late last year.More Button

Measures announced under the newly declared state of emergency create a permissive climate for the security services to act with impunity against peaceful protesters, and this is not conducive to...More Button

Imports Data

Was asked: the value of fossil fuel imports over the past five years in tabular form.More Button

Defence Forces Personnel

Was asked: if members of the Defence Forces who undertake specialist training in areas of academia or skills based will be provided with the opportunity to practice in the areas of their specialism once quali...More Button

Was asked: the steps being taken to address low pay and retention issues in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: if all Defence Forces pharmacists, civilian and military, are on the same pay scale; if they are on a HSE equivalent pay scale with increments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the position regarding the external civilian pharmacy being used instead of a pharmacy (details supplied); if it has been offered a full-time contract instead of the usual out-of-hours emergency co...More Button

Was asked: the position regarding the Defence Force pharmacies; if they are regulated; if they are registered premises; if they comply with the EU falsified medicines directive; and if he will make a statemen...More Button

Was asked: the steps taken to address the vacant pharmacist position and premises in Athlone, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the position regarding the rank of captain held by the retired pharmacist at Athlone; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Defence Forces Operations

Was asked: the cyber capabilities of the Defence Forces in terms of staffing levels and capability; and the way in which they are currently utilised.More Button

Was asked: the way in which he plans to enhance the cyber capabilities of the Defence Forces in view of the increased threat of cyberattacks from criminal, terrorist, and state actors and Ireland's growing re...More Button

Was asked: if the deployment of Defence Forces personnel under the EUTM in Mali was authorised under section 3 of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006; if the operation is considered training for the purposes of ...More Button

Was asked: the operations that have been approved under section 3(1)(b) of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006; the number of personnel involved in each operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Military Medals

Was asked: the steps that have been taken to fulfil the commitment given by a former Taoiseach to award the distinguished service medals and military medals for gallantry to the 32 members of A Company Infant...More Button

Air Corps Recruitment

Was asked: the number of pilots and air traffic controllers who have been recruited to the Air Corps in 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of same in training to date; and if he will make a statement on the...More Button

Overseas Missions

Was asked: if the soldiers deployed to Mali have been there for a period exceeding six consecutive months; the anti-malarial drug that has been typically prescribed to the contingent; and if he will make a st...More Button

Capital Expenditure Programme

Was asked: the capital allocation for defence in 2019; the expenditure allocations for defensive equipment, major capital infrastructural projects, the Naval Service, Air Corps, Army vehicles, equipment and p...More Button