What would it cost to widen the tax bands to ease pressure on taxpayers? Will the sale of IBRC assets result in improved redundancy conditions for former staff? - click here.
Appointment of the new Garda Commissioner & an update on the judicial appointments consultation process – click here.
The ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo & what we’re doing about it – click here.
Draft remarks – scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the video
I would like to congratulate the Minister on bringing forward this amendment to the electoral bill and welcome the amendment.
In the context of the title of the Bill and seeing as the Minister is present in the chamber, I would like to raise the electoral issue of the proposed plebiscite of the people of Dublin on a directly elected Mayor for Dublin.
I think it is disgraceful that a minority of elected representatives acted in an anti-democratic fashion and chose to deny all of the people of Dublin, and not just the ones they represent, their say in this matter. I believe the outcome of the vote in Fingal should be ignored, and that a plebiscite should be put to the all the people of Dublin on whether or not they want a directly elected mayor for the city.
And to those who claim that such a decision by the Minster would also be anti-democratic, I believe that it is undemocratic to give elected members in Fingal a say over Councils and constituencies and people whom they do not represent.
The Councillors of Fingal have no mandate in Dublin City – why should they have a say over the people of Dublin city? But the people of Fingal should have a say over the Fingal Council and should have a say in whether or not the Dublin region has its own mayor.
I would urge the Minister, now that he has consulted all of the Councillors in the region and has a clear view of what the majority of them wish (75% of them are in favour), to proceed with a ballot of the people of Dublin on whether or not they would like a directly elected Mayor for the city region. And for this ballot to take place on 23 May.
The Minister has brought in many excellent reforms in a brief period of time – but this could be, if implemented, his most important yet.
At its meeting today, the Government agreed on the terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation to be conducted by Mr Justice Fennelly.
The main issues to be investigated are:
- the operation of telephone recording systems, to record calls other than 999 calls to the Emergency Call Answering Service, at a large number of Garda Stations over many years,
- the specific implications of the taping related to the Garda investigation into the death of Ms Sophie Toscan Du Plantier in County Cork in December 1996, and related matters,
- how these matters were dealt with by the responsible authorities,
- the sequence of events leading up to the retirement of the former Garda Commissioner in March 2014.
The full terms of reference are outlined here: Fennelly Commission.
On Tuesday the Government took a number of actions on Garda reform:
Commission of Investigation
The Government decided to appoint Mr Justice Nial Fennelly, currently serving as a Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chair of the Commission of Investigation.
The Government also discussed draft terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation.
It was agreed that the Commission of Investigation should examine all matter of public concern relating to the issue of taping of conversations in Garda stations.
The full terms of reference will be finalised shortly, in consultation with Mr Justice Fennelly.
These terms of reference will be subject to approval by Dáil Éireann.
The administrative preparations for the formal establishment of the Commission of Investigation have been commenced.
Other Legal Issues Relating to Taping in Garda Stations
The Government also decided that An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice & Equality should
- ensure the retention and preservation of all tapes
- complete a full inventory of all tapes
- devise arrangements to ensure that tapes can be accessed, as required and in accordance with the law
The Government noted that the President of the High Court has issued an instruction in the matter.
The Government also received a briefing on the latest position in the specific case related to Bandon Garda Station which has given rise to particular concern. The specific legal issues in this case will be dealt with through the courts.
The Government noted that two other inquiries relating to An Garda Síochána and its oversight (the Cooke and Guerin inquiries) are to be completed later this month.
A new Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform will be established immediately to oversee the development of proposals for an independent police authority, and other associated reforms to the policing and justice system.
The Cabinet Committee will be chaired by the Taoiseach and its membership will include the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice & Equality.
It will make formal proposals to the Government for its consideration and final approval.
The Government also agreed that it is important that there be a full public debate on the issue of policing and justice reform. It will therefore bring forward proposals for a public consultation process in the coming weeks.
The Government’s intention is to have new structures, including the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner by open competition and the establishment of a new independent policing authority, in place later this year.
Over the past three years I have been examining the money spent to date on the Poolbeg incinerator at every opportunity in the PAC. The constant refrain from Secretaries General and relevant accounting officers is that this is a matter for Dublin City Council and therefore the PAC has no remit.
We have debated in the Dáil the possibility of expanding the Comptroller & Auditor General’s remit to include the circa five billion in taxpayers’ money that is transferred to local authorities each year. This proposal was rejected.
However, following recently announced details that a further 600,000 plus will be spent on this project between now and June (in addition to the 96 million plus already spent over a decade) – and still nothing built – I have requested that the PAC seek to extend its remit so we can conduct a special investigation into this project.
This was agreed at our meeting on Thursday 3rd April and the Oireachtas legal advisor is now drawing up the relevant papers. Watch here.
Read the most recent documentation received by the PAC – including timelines, breakdown of spend, problems encountered, land acquisition costs (52 million) – and the very damaging local government auditor’s reports here.
Entitlement to public hospital inpatient services for those with private health insurance - click here.
Making primary school fees tax deductible where there is insufficient capacity in local free schools? – click here.
An update on the sports capital programme & the extension of the city bikes scheme to Cork, Galway & Limerick – click here.
Number of Multi-Denominational & Educate Together Schools in Ireland – click here.
Why are transitional arrangements in S.I.105 for educational and healthcare projects only? – click here.
On Friday, the Oireachtas Committee dealing with Foreign Affairs and Trade presented its report on the Department’s contribution to Ireland’s economic recovery. This report was debated as part of the Government’s new reforms, which aim to devote more time in the chamber to the debating of Committee reports.
Speaking on the report, I made the following points:
- The important work the government has done in restoring Ireland’s reputation abroad
- The value of trade in influencing other countries’ domestic policies and the need to avoid hypocrisy when criticising other countries’ human rights records, in light of our own record
- The vital work that our diplomats do in non-trade related areas and the importance of not reducing our understanding and valuation of our diplomatic corps to simple trade terms
- The need to match our foreign policy with our own investment policies; i.e. divesting our pension reserve fund from those companies that manufacture nuclear weapons.
You can also read the committee’s full report here.
Today the Dáil debated the Seanad Reform Bill 2014 which was brought to the House by Deputy Michael Martin. As you may know, my focus has always been on reforming the Dáil – doing so would also reform the Seanad as these reforms would automatically flow down to the second chamber (you might recall I published a pamphlet on Dáil reform in March 2013 – click here).
For example, we should allow the Dáil to order its own business – an independent parliament would not be an irresponsible one. We should also allow members to submit, and subsequently vote on, their own amendments to legislation at committee stage – such change currently takes place in the backrooms but we need to make it a more open process.
Waste collectors who fail to provide brown bins for food waste – click here.
Facilitating adoptions from India – click here.
Charges for the cancellation of a credit card? – click here.
Use of money from the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals – click here.
Today the Government approved the drafting of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2014. This legislation will reform the school admission process at primary and secondary level.
The majority of schools – 80% – are able to admit all pupils who apply for enrolment and the changes envisaged in the Bill will have little affect here.
But for the 20% of schools that are currently over-subscribed, and the parents who find themselves grappling with this issue, the reforms will play an important role.
You can read more details about these reforms here.