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IT’S HIGH NOON and that can only mean one thing – Leaders’ Questions in Leinster House. 

Micheál Martin says there could be a scandal emerging within the Aer Corps.

He raises claims of Aer Corps’ exposure to dangerous materials at maintenance shops at Baldonnell.

Martin said whistleblowers have not received any acknowledgment from the minister or department. He says there is a case like this in Australia and an investigation was set up.

Will you commission a board of inquiry into this entire affair and scandal, asks Martin.

The Taoiseach says an independently appointed person has been appointed to deal with the issue. He says a review is underway.

Once a final review is at hand he said the recommendations will be acted upon properly.

He says as they are subject to litigation he probably should not say anymore.

They deserve and need to be dealt with.

Martin says he is dissatisfied with that response and says there is a feeling that this is “being buried”.

He asks why there has been nothing done since 2015 when the disclosures were being made.

Will you ensure the health and safety report is published? Will you ensure there is a full public disclosure? asks Martin.

He says he has spoken to the whistleblowers and they feel they are not being listened to.

Enda Kenny says there were a number of disclosures received in 2015 and 2016.

“I will update the House,” says Kenny.

Gerry Adams is up now and he wants to talk about the industrial dispute in Bus Eireann.

He says the government are saying rural Ireland is a priority but are doing the opposite.

“Now you are attacking the public bus service…. You must know this coming from Mayo,” says Adams, who points out that people in the country rely on the bus service. He says there is a move towards privatisation.

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The company cannot continue to operate in its loss-making capacity, says Kenny.

The Taoiseach says Expressway is a commercial entity and is a commercial problem.

He says there were rumours about the removal of the free travel pass.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He says this is a serious matter that we don’t want to see escalate. He urges both management and unions to sit down and “work it out”.

Adams says the routes connect people and can reduce traffic congestion.

“Public transport by its very nature does not always make a profit.”

Can you ensure Minister Shane Ross gets involved in this, ask Adams.

Kenny says the Expressway is not subsidised. The commercial end is losing money and that is going to increase, he says.

If we are serious about sorting it people have to sit down and discuss the issues.

“The nub of the issue is a commercial problem that requires a commercial solution.”

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Oh, Brid Smith points out there are a lot of flies in the chamber.

“There’s no flies on me,” she adds with a grin.

But what she actually wants to talk about it Ireland’s media ownership.

Smith says she sits on the communications committee and says she is very concerned about media plurality in Ireland.

We are going to attempt to have public scrutiny in a tight timeframe.

She says they are going to invite Denis O’Brien to appear before the committee in relation to Independent News and Media’s proposed takeover of Celtic Media Group.

She asks if the Taoiseach is concerned?

Kenny says there is a process underway. He says the Minister of Communications will oversee that.

“This is an issue of national concern here on many levels,” says Smith.

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Smith says the Taoiseach should be concerned.

“We’ll have no Skibbereen Eagles left if this deal goes through.”

Kenny says there are statutary procedures in place to deal with the prospect of media mergers.

He says the BAI invites submissions from the public as well as the committee. He says the minister can also set up a panel to advise him on the matter.

It is a matter of concern, adds Kenny

Clare Daly now raising the “exploitation” and “vested interest” in the horseracing industry.

“There is something very rotten at the heart of Irish horseracing,” she adds.

She wants a multi-agency swoop on all areas of the industry.

Kenny says if there are issues, he will look into it. He says he does not have all the details.

Daly says it won’t be solved by one agency. She states that laws are not being upheld. Daly recommends a hotline be established so people can report their concerns.

She says honest people want to pay the correct rates and says some people being paid below the wage are “indentured slaves”.

That’s it for Leaders’ Questions today. Join us back here tomorrow!

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