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Ahern, Bertie

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 Nbr. 6


Leaders' Questions.

I thank Deputy Kenny for his question, which is an important and serious one. Discussions on a new partnership agreement to succeed the PPF have been under way for many weeks. They have been taking...More Button

I, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance have kept in touch in this regard, when necessary, for the past three or four weeks. Our assessment yesterday morning was that the talks were goi...More Button

I recognise that both sides have engaged in good faith and with considerable effort in the process. I thank them because in fairness to both sides, they have given three full weekends – not t...More Button

The Government clearly wants agreement to be reached. I sent that message to both sides again this morning, but last night's conclusion was difficult. I will leave it at that. Frankly, I am not ver...More Button

Direct intervention is not necessary in these matters. The process is in place and those involved are all aware of it. They are aware that the Government is in the background ready to continue the ...More Button

While the Government wants agreement, both sides need to want it as well. I urge both sides to listen to what we and our officials are saying. We are anxious to try to conclude an agreement and we ...More Button

The Deputy has asked me if the higher inflation figures are an obstacle. I would like the figures to be lower, but that is not insurmountable. That aspect could be resolved.More Button

On the other issue of a central agreement proving impossible to achieve, we should not allow the social partnership process to collapse. There are substantial areas of agreement and these are refle...More Button

The Government as an employer will reach an arrangement with its staff. There will have to be a public service agreement. That will not conclude for many months but it is our intention as an employ...More Button

Most of the agreements that expire on 31 December are in the private sector and involve large private sector companies. Should it come to it, I hope the issues can be solved by local bargaining. Th...More Button

I have no proposals to intervene directly. There is a process and these are grown men and women. My sitting on the other side of the table will make no difference. They know we are not far away and...More Button

On the separation of the public service and private sector pay issues, Deputy Rabbitte is well aware how these discussions operate given that he has played a professional part in them over the year...More Button

On political intervention in the process, both the Tánaiste and I have been briefed regularly on the detail of the progress on a daily basis, as has the Minister for Finance when the issues ...More Button

As far as I and the Government are concerned, the basis for settling the new contract existed yesterday morning but, after ten hours of discussions it no longer existed. That is perhaps not unusual...More Button

I can answer both those points positively. The Government is prepared to make changes in the arrangements to deal with problems that arise in companies which do not have a framework for collective ...More Button

As I said during Question Time recently, it is a sensitive area given the importance of the overseas non-union sector which, by and large, applies highly sophisticated human resource management pol...More Button

Equally redundancy legislation is a matter for negotiation and we have made it clear that we were prepared to negotiate on that basis.More Button

The Minister for Health and Children made our position clear last week. I take the opportunity to restate my personal sympathy to the mother and family concerned. It is a tragic period for the Livi...More Button

In his professional capacity, the Minister for Health and Children immediately instructed the North-Eastern Health Board to carry out a full review of the incident and provide him with a detailed r...More Button

The board's report was completed on 16 December and the findings are being evaluated by the review group at present. The review group's report will be completed as a matter of urgency for presentat...More Button

We spent considerable time this year talking about Monaghan General Hospital. I have been in the hospital this year and some of the issues the Deputy mentioned—More Button

I was there and I was very disappointed the Deputy did not turn up when I met the staff there.More Button

The hospital was taken off call on 2 July 2002, in response to medical advice from the consultants based at Monaghan General Hospital and the medical adviser of the North-Eastern Health Board as th...More Button

The obstetricians, gynaecologists, anaesthetists and all the others have given their professional advice. Although it has created difficulties, the Minister for Health and Children along with his o...More Button

The Minister will continue to work on this in every way he can. I could give a list of all the additional posts, consultants and facilities he has provided for Monaghan General Hospital. I have no ...More Button

Ceisteanna – Questions. - Strategic Management Initiative.

Was asked: if he will report on the implementation of those aspects of the strategic management initiative applicable to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

The modernisation programme in my Department supports the achievement of the Department's goals, as set out in the strategy statement. A draft strategy statement for the period 2003-05 has been pre...More Button

My Department has developed significant expertise and experience in all aspects of the public service modernisation programme through its involvement in the strategic management initiative since it...More Button

In accordance with the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, my Department submitted performance indicators for its modernisation programme to the independent Civil Service quality as...More Button

My Department has set itself a new set of modernisation performance indicators which will guide the next phase of the change process in the Department. These will be updated, as required, in light ...More Button

To help ensure an excellent service to our customers as part of the modernisation programme, a customer action plan for 2001-04 was published and made available on my Department's website, informed...More Button

My Department has been involved in providing central co-ordination and impetus to the information society and e-public service agenda. Internally, it has prepared its e-strategy and is engaged in a...More Button

My Department is among the leading Departments in implementing the new management information framework. A new financial management computer system was implemented in July last. The approach used b...More Button

I will answer only for my Department. Although all Departments are part of the strategic management initiative, each has its own strategy. The answer with regard to my Department is yes. The staff ...More Button

Human resource management and training has proved very useful for staff. Given its strong orientation towards what they are trying to achieve, it has made staff more interested in their jobs. It wo...More Button

The committee of the Secretaries General of the Departments drives the overall process, while each Department has an internal committee which drives it. The position with regard to numbers is that ...More Button

The SMI process is not the cause of the difficulties outlined by the Deputy. While I note her point, I do not want to get involved in the affairs of the Department of Health and Children or the hea...More Button

The Deputy is, I understand, referring to the independent quality assurance group, which was represented centrally and drove the process. The SMI process and the various aspects of it outlined in m...More Button

My Department has done precisely that. All recent documents and submissions under the SMI are bilingual. There has been a policy in the Department for the past 18 months, which was not in place her...More Button

Ceisteanna – Questions. - National Archives.

Was asked: if there are files held in the State papers relating to events prior to 1952 which have not yet been opened for public view; and when such unreleased papers will be released to the public.More Button

In so far as my Department is concerned, the evaluating of files for release to the National Archives is carried out by designated officials in my Department in accordance with the provisions of th...More Button

Records which become 30 years old are released to the National Archives where they are made available for public inspection in accordance with the provisions of the National Archives Act, 1986. It ...More Button

There is a question in regard to FOI about files being made available within a shorter period. There is some debate about that and the higher level group of civil servants has been looking at amend...More Button

Perhaps under the FOI legislation and whenever the discussion is completed, a shorter period will, ultimately, be allowed. The intention was that it would be five years. I have said in the House on...More Button

I will pass on the Deputy's request. I am not familiar with the detail.More Button

Ceisteanna – Questions. - EU Summits.

Was asked: if he will report on the bilateral meetings he held during his attendance at the EU summit in Copenhagen; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: if the arrangements have been finalised for his forthcoming meeting with the President of the Convention on the Future of Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 and 4 together.More Button

I refer Deputies to my statement in the House yesterday evening when I reported extensively on the proceedings of the Copenhagen European Council, including bilateral meetings held during the Counc...More Button

As I said, I took the opportunity on my arrival in Copenhagen on Thursday last to contact Prime Minister Aznar of Spain to raise our concerns in relation to fisheries. I informed the Prime Minister...More Button

It is expected that the President of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, will visit Dublin in the new year. No date has yet been fixed for the visit.More Button

In regard to the fisheries issue, difficult negotiations are taking place and it looks as if they have adjourned at the moment and that bilaterals are taking place. The Minister for Communications,...More Button

We will be isolated on proposals in some areas while in others, hopefully, we will reach agreement to achieve a balanced package of quotas. The Presidency is endeavouring to address an enormous num...More Button

The up-to-date position is that nothing has been agreed yet. The negotiations will probably go through tonight and tomorrow night into Friday and an agreement may not even be reached, although the ...More Button

Deputy Kenny also asked that question and I apologise for not taking it up. We did not have a formal meeting because we have had a great deal of contact over the past week or two. We have been tryi...More Button

Early in the new year, we will commence an intensive round of discussions with the parties both in the ongoing round table process and bilaterally with the two Governments, perhaps, meeting them in...More Button

There will be major difficulties if the elections are postponed. The Government will endeavour to reach agreement with the British Government. At this stage the British Government agrees with that ...More Button

On the latter question, the Minister for Foreign Affairs had an informal discussion with Deputy Gormley last week. The Minister had made his senior official available to give a briefing on meetings...More Button

Deputy Kenny also asked about Valery Giscard d'Estaing. He probably addressed the French assembly because of his status and position, from which I would not like to take. It would probably be more ...More Button

I did not have detailed discussions last week because the European Council was engaged in intensive one-to-one negotiations with the applicant countries and the meeting was centred on enlargement. ...More Button

Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, has taken a different view. He has announced the decommissioning of nuclear reactors and the European Union has contributed money towards that, while a...More Button

In relation to the second issue, there were no particular discussions. We will finish with the Security Council on 31 December and after that we will have to see what happens; we will not have the ...More Button

Regarding the Deputy's first question, I did not have any direct contact with the United States but the matter was raised in various forms with our Government and others. The Minister for Foreign A...More Button

My view is that too much pressure was exerted from too many quarters on the day and it backfired. The discussion, as Deputy Kenny will know from meeting the party leaders in his grouping, dealt mor...More Button

Regarding Deputy McManus's question on Northern Ireland, our position is that we want to finalise our work. That is our negotiating position with the parties; we would not be putting that into the ...More Button

Regarding Deputy Ryan's question, it is not a matter of us changing our position. We cannot change the advice of the Council's legal secretariat, even though we disagree fundamentally with that adv...More Button

We are in favour of the conservation methods but Deputy Ryan will agree that it is an extraordinary position for the Commission on one side to say it wants conservation mechanisms implemented while...More Button

Ceisteanna – Questions. - Departmental Accounting System.

Was asked: if his Department's annual accounts are currently done on a full accrual accounting system; and if not, if there is a timescale for the implementation of such an accounting method.More Button

The annual accounts for my Department are prepared in the format of the Appropriation Account, which is the format prescribed by statute required for the presentation of accounts to the Comptroller...More Button

My Department recently implemented a new financial management system as part of the work being undertaken on the management information framework. My Department is among the first Departments to im...More Button

This debate has been going on for a long time and Deputy Ryan will be aware that anyone using the accrual accounting system finds Government accounting systems a change. That is the way it has alwa...More Button

Many logical reasons have been put forward both for and against it. It is a cash based system. It creates its own advantages in that everything is written off on a year one basis which is alien to ...More Button

There is a difficulty with the end of year issue. There would be better value for money and a better organised purchasing mechanism if the accrual system was used instead of the system of purchase ...More Button

Many Departments come in under budget and their balances help to offset overspend in other Departments and that is a useful system from the point of view of the Exchequer. I accept that it is a tot...More Button

Ceisteanna – Questions. - Departmental Facilities.

Was asked: the total number of his Department's car parking spaces, for both staff and visitors, located within Dublin city centre, from the Grand Canal on the south side to the Royal Canal on the north side ...More Button

There are 40 spaces allocated to staff of my Department. These are in the forecourt of Government Buildings and at a smaller site at the rear of Merrion Square. There are also three dedicated visit...More Button

The Deputy is probably aware that there are proposals to take away all the car parking spaces for my Department and then the Deputy should be happy. We are spending €650 million on the Luas sy...More Button

The only rail lines being looked at are a few that are very little used. The Deputy wants them to be kept for the purposes of historical record. Rail lines which are used by about 11 people a week ...More Button

Ceisteanna – Questions. - Oireachtas Reform.

Was asked: the Government's proposals for Dáil reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the proposals the Government is considering in regard to Dáil reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the plans the Government has for reform of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the proposals the Government has for reform of Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: if he will report on his plans for the reform of Dáil Éireann.More Button

I answered that question comprehensively yesterday.More Button

I am in it on Thursdays.More Button

Order of Business.

The Order of Business today shall be as follows: No. 18, motion re proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of an EU Council Framework Decision on the Protection of the Environment through C...More Button

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or the order of the Dáil of 17 December 2002, that business shall be interrupted not later than 6.15 p.m. and the Dáil shal...More Button

There seems to be a view that it will cost €1 billion to replace social and affordable housing and the funds we could theoretically have got from the 80,000 planning permissions which were due...More Button

The provision under which many planning permissions would wither on 31 December and thereafter throughout 2003 is being removed in the interests of ensuring a continuous supply of housing throughou...More Button

This provision would have wiped out planning permissions for 88,000—More Button

These are the facts, I know they do not suit everybody. The provision would have had disastrous effects on housing supply over the next two years or so—More Button

The real issue here, let us be honest, is not one of time. The Deputies opposite would like us to keep the Act in its present state because they know we would get no social or affordable housing in...More Button

The reality is that the Opposition is immensely upset that we are now going to get our housing targets for next year correct. They are very disappointed about that. They should just accept that it ...More Button

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Question declared carried.More Button

I reiterate a point I made earlier. Committee, Report and Final Stages shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair. Th...More Button

We have this vote every year, regardless of who is in Government. The work schedule for January has been issued today. There will be a full work programme across all committees dealing with 14 legi...More Button

I agree with Deputy Rabbitte that we should consider real reforms, rather than employing the codology we employ every day, wasting time. I will be glad to do that.More Button

Question, “That the proposal that the Dáil, on its rising today, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 29 January 2003 be agreed to” put and declared carried.More Button

The Minister for Health and Children has said he is looking at this area but no legislation has yet been listed. The commission has issued a report and the Minister will bring forward new proposals.More Button

I have already recorded my support for the Minister's proposals.More Button

The Veterinary Medicine Bill is currently being drafted and will be ready early in 2003. I replied to the matter of the driving licence agency yesterday.More Button

I told the House yesterday that the Minister is to make a statement on this in due course.More Button

The Cape Town Convention Bill will be published next year and the heads of the Air Navigation and Transport (Montreal Convention) Bill are expected to be cleared in January.More Button

The Driving Test Agency Bill will be published in late 2003. The Deputy raised this yesterday and while he has mistaken two issues, his comments have received some publicity. The requirement to car...More Button

The heads of the Bill are being prepared. The Bill was to be published in this session, but preliminary consultation with the relevant interests is still under way. It will be well into next year b...More Button

I assure the Deputy they are not individuals.More Button

I originally intended to say a few words at the end of the business today but I was informed that will be at the conclusion of Question Time and as at 6.15 p.m. only one or two Members may be here,...More Button

As we have all been through many elections, the general election, the Seanad elections and referenda, it is time we all had a break. I am very much looking forward to the break and enjoying the nex...More Button

I met a former Senator of the House, Des Hanafin, with the telephonists of the House the other day. To my shame I met many of those telephonists for the first time in my 25 years here. That reminde...More Button

People deserve a break at Christmas. I wish all the staff in whatever section of the House, those who feed us, clean the House, work here and make up Leinster House, particularly all my Oireachtas ...More Button

Written Answers. - Census Report.

Was asked: the findings of the Preliminary Report on the 2002 Census; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: when the next census report will be published.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 13 together.More Button

The Census 2002 preliminary report, based on summary information assembled during the fieldwork, was published on 24 July 2002.More Button

The main finding of the preliminary report was that the population increased by more than 290,000 persons between 1996 and 2002 to reach its highest level since 1871.More Button

The preliminary total for the population enumerated on census night 28 April 2002 was 3.917.336 persons, compared with 3.626.087 in April 1996, representing an increase of 8% in six years.More Button

The populations of Kildare, +29,003 and Meath +24,204 both increased by more than a fifth between 1996 and 2002. Other Leinster counties which showed large increases were Westmeath +13.8%, Wexford ...More Button

Cork City was the only administrative county in the State to register a population decline while for the first time on record the population of Leitrim has shown an increase, up 3% since 1996.More Button

The CSO is committed to finalising the data capture phase of the census processing by the end of April 2003 and this work is proceeding on schedule. Following this it is planned to release the defi...More Button

Questions Nos. 14 to 17, inclusive, resubmitted.More Button

Written Answers. - Information Society Action Plan.

Was asked: the progress made to date in implementing the Information Society Action Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

My Department chairs an interdepartmental group of assistant secretaries general who monitor the implementation of the Government's strategy for the development of the information society in Irelan...More Button

The information society policy unit at my Department is currently compiling an interim progress report for consideration by the interdepartmental group this month, and it is intended to make the re...More Button

In addition, an on-line reporting facility has been developed to allow Departments and agencies to give continuous updates on progress, and to facilitate a more rapid response to changing policy de...More Button

Was asked: the reason for the 40% cut in funding to the Central Statistics Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

Was asked: the reason for the reduction of 40% in the allocation for the Central Statistics Office in the Book of Estimates for 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter.More Button

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 20 together.More Button

The reduction in the 2003 allocation referred to by the Deputies is primarily due to the cyclical nature of expenditure on the census of population.More Button

The CSO's total expenditure on the Census in 2002 is estimated at €26.4 million, while the cost in 2003 will be about €3.7 million – i.e. a reduction in the cyclical census requirem...More Button

Since the 2003 Book of Estimates shows a reduction of about €21.3 million in the allocation for the CSO, it can be observed that more than €1 million extra is available to the office for ...More Button

The Census of Population, originally scheduled for April 2001, was postponed until April 2002 by Government decision because of the foot and mouth disease crisis. The processing of the census resul...More Button

Questions Nos. 21 and 22 resubmitted.More Button

Written Answers. - Statistical Yearbook.

Was asked: his views on the Central Statistic Office's Statistical Yearbook of Ireland 2002 published on 20 November 2002.More Button

Written Answers. - Social Inclusion Committee.

Was asked: the number of meetings held by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion since it was set up; and the membership of the committeeMore Button

The Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion was formally re-established by Government in June 2002. It normally meets on a monthly basis and has met on five occasions to date. The membership of the C...More Button

Taoiseach (Chair); More Button

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment; More Button

Minister for Education and Science; More Button

Minister for the Environment and Local Government; More Button

Minister for Finance; More Button

Minister for Health and Children;More Button

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; More Button

Minister for Social and Family Affairs; More Button

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.More Button

Minister of State with responsibility for Housing and Urban Renewal; More Button

Minister of State with responsibility for Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs;More Button

Minister of State with responsibility for Equality Issues including Disability Issues; More Button

Minister of State with responsibility for Children; and theMore Button

Minister of State for Labour Affairs.More Button

Written Answers. - Departmental Properties.

Was asked: the State properties, both lands and buildings, in the ownership of his Department; the present use of same in each case; and if it is available for disposal.More Button

My Department does not own any land or buildings. All property in use by my Department is vested in Office of Public Works.More Button