I want to begin by thanking you for allowing Senator O'Leary and myself this matter on the Adjournment. I would mention that Senator O'Leary is unavoidably absent at this stage and suggest the Chair give some of my time to Senator Belton. I would like to thank the Minister of State for coming in to listen to my protest and what I have to say about this totally unsatisfactory state of affairs in relation to repairs to the ceiling of the Seanad Chamber.
Members will recall that in early summer we had a very clear understanding that the period of the summer recess would be used to do the work, or at least to do a substantial part of it. The House went into recess on 17 July and returned on 25 September, a period of over two months. Nothing whatsoever was done during that period as far as the repairs to the ceiling were concerned, except towards the end of that time to erect the scaffolding which we have now around us. A valuable nine weeks were wasted and since then a further ten weeks have passed by and nothing has been done.
I realise there are time constraints on me and for that reason I have to condense what I say. What I have outlined and the performance we have witnessed here in relation to this work represents a level of ineptitude and incompetence on the part of the Office of Public Works that is totally unacceptable. We have five wasted months behind us. Ineptitude and incompetence are bad enough but more serious still as far as Members of this House are concerned is the level of disrespect to this Chamber as a House of the Oireachtas that is inherent in all of this and is being offered to the Parliament of one's country and to its Members. That is disrespect and it cannot be tolerated. I want to say quite firmly at this stage it is time that heads began to roll.
I am not prepared to accept this level of inefficiency. I am not prepared to accept this attitude of "could not care less" that we have witnessed over the past half year. I am not prepared to accept what amounts to contempt for a House of the Oireachtas which is implicit in every aspect of this sorry saga. I want to know who has been responsible for this mess. If those responsible are not identified to me then, in these circumstances, I have no choice but to place the blame fairly and squarely on the Chairman of the Office of Public Works and to call for his removal.
There is another aspect to this matter to which I want to refer. If work were proceeding overhead I would accept the inconvenience and so on but nothing is happening. Therefore, I feel obliged to draw attention to the fact that the work that has been done here constitutes a danger and a hazard to the Members of the House. The temporary ceiling that has been erected here is composed of material that is condemned by every fire officer in the country. Fire officers up and down the country have gone to public places such as hotels, restaurants, pubs and dance halls and have closed down these premises unless that material was removed from them. That material as far as I can establish is formica glued on to hardwood. The glue is petroleum-based and it is highly inflammable. If it caught fire it would emit volumes of black smoke that is both poisonous and suffocating. In addition to that, one of the three exits of this Chamber has been closed off and thereby it reduces by one-third the means of escape for Members and staff of this House in case of an accident. Furthermore, additions and obstructions in the shape of steel barriers have been erected in every passageway throughout the Chamber.
No work has yet commenced on the ceiling, five months after we were told that it was going to begin. All that has happened in that period is something that to me represents insult and ridicule to the Members of Seanad Éireann. I ask you, a Chathaoirligh, to insist that the dignity of the Seanad be respected and that the work required to be done is done with the urgency that it deserves. The Chamber of Seanad Éireann is not some derelict room in a remote bog in rural Ireland. It is the Upper House of the Oireachtas. Yet, the priority and the urgency which have been accorded to its repair is at the same pace and in the same timescale as the Office of Public Works would apply to the repair of other rooms. I ask you and Members of Seanad Éireann this evening to support me in my call that this unacceptable and unsatisfactory matter be resolved in the very near future.