As President Trump might say, it is so ironic that the motion has been tabled by Fianna Fáil, given that it played a huge role in the race to the bottom in public transport, beginning with the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 which the Minister will remember. A number of us argued about the dangers we see today in an incredible and vicious assault on the drivers and other staff of Bus Éireann through cuts of more than 30%. Bus Éireann has pumped a lot of its money, €41 million, into the commercial operation because of the fact that PSO funding has been slashed by 60% since 2009. The Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil Government was totally responsible for this. It slashed PSO funding and refused to fund public transport. If we look across Europe, as the Minister knows, there are many brilliant public transport systems, from Spain to the Netherlands and across to eastern Europe, where up to 90% of the costs are subsidised by the state.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill. Mr. Paddy Connolly, the chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, wrote a moving and impassioned piece in the Irish Examiner today under the heading “People with disabilities are not a diagnosis, they are human”. I presume the Minister of State read the article but if not, I urge him to do so. Some of the words in it struck a chord with me, including, for example, the statement that the “greatest threat to the wellbeing of people who have disabilities is their invisibility” which “renders them non-agents of their own fate, passive recipients of care rather than rights-holders”.
Today in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Broughan will speak in support of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 which will fulfil Ireland’s commitment to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). This long-awaited bill will amend a number of Acts including the Juries Act 1976, the Electoral Act 1992, the National Disability Authority Act 1999, the Equal Status Act 2000, the Disability Act 2005 and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.
The Minister would agree that the Government has a deplorable record in the provision of capital so going forward with this capital review is urgent. We have heard time and again at the budget committee that we have not even been meeting normal depreciation targets. One only has to go around the country and look at the “R” roads such as those of the Minister of State in east Cork. The Government has allowed infrastructure to go to rack and ruin so the matter is urgent. I am interested to hear the Government is consulting the European Commission. It is pretty annoying that the likes of Portugal or France are two of the various countries that are allowed to do things when we are not.
We had a discussion earlier on the comprehensive spending review, which is, perhaps, the third such review in our recent economic history. The Minister referred earlier to rolling selective reviews. What exactly do such reviews involve? A report from the Department of Social Protection on the free travel scheme that became public recently upset many of our constituents deeply. Is that the type of thing that will be happening under these rolling reviews?
We had a lengthy discussion at the budgetary oversight committee about how the €120 million cost of the pay restoration will be met. I was not able to stay for the end of the Minister’s contribution but there was grave dissatisfaction with his explanation in that regard. There was extensive discussion with Deputies Cullinane and Pearse Doherty about savings and efficiencies but the Minister did not shed much light on exactly how the moneys will be found. We welcome the restoration of the savage cuts in public sector pay since 2009. However, the Minister seems to be saying that if he had not taken this measure, he would have been facing even greater expenditure later in the year in the wake of the Labour Court finding on Garda pay. Did he seek any advice from the newly-established Public Service Pay Commission before coming to his decision?
Up until Monday night of this week it looked as if the motion calling for the immediate establishment of a Commission of Investigation would be passed by the House. We have a letter, dated the 27th of March 2014, from Deputy Micháel Martin to Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Relatives’ and Victims’ Committee stating that Fianna Fáil would back the call for a Commission. Antoinette had also been liaising with Deputies in the lead-up to this motion calling on their support. Minister Finian McGrath has also, of course, been a supporter of the Committee’s campaign for justice and answers and as recently as the 31st Dáil we shared a Topical Issues Debate on the need for such a Commission. Last week I received reports that the motion was causing friction in Government as Minister McGrath wanted to support it.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I thank my colleagues in Independents 4 Change, the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party for supporting the call for an investigation into the Stardust tragedy under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. I am disappointed by Fianna Fáil’s response to the motion but even more disappointed by […]
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to bring forward this motion calling for the establishment of a commission of investigation into the Stardust tragedy of 1981. In two weeks’ time, we will mark the 36th anniversary of the horrific night which saw 48 young people die and a further 214 seriously injured in a fire in the infamous Stardust Ballroom in Artane, Dublin 5, early on St. Valentine’s Day 1981. It was the worst fire disaster in modern Irish history and continues to profoundly affect many families in several parishes of my constituency of Dublin Bay North down to the present day. This is why we are here again tonight asking for a fresh investigation, for justice and for the possibility of closure for the families and friends of the tragic victims.
Pensions are on the Minister’s list of priorities that he published a few weeks ago for his action plan for pension reform. I think matters of concern include the transposition of the EU directive on institutions for occupational retirement provision, IORP; the revision of the directive, IORP II; and auto-enrolment in defined contribution pensions. I know we had a lengthy discussion about pensions earlier but I ask the Minister his progress in this regard. I think he mentioned he might bring forward legislation on at least one element of this in the near future. Pensions across both sides of the Irish Sea are of particular interest. I think the Minister has had some discussions with British Ministers on the impacts of Brexit on social protection in both countries. What has been achieved in this regard?