I refer to the question of amnesties. Is the Leader of the House worried the Government may be confused with Amnesty International?
Today's newspapers suggest the Ceann Comhairle has favourably received a proposal that a family room be established in Leinster House in order to accommodate the families of Members of both Houses. This is to be welcomed.
However, today we, the Independent Senators, received notice from the union representing our staff that they are no longer prepared to tolerate existing working conditions. Evidently, other committees receive a more positive response from authorities in the House. It is an extraordinary situation and we have now been asked to continue working under these conditions. The ante has been raised considerably and I do not know how the present impasse can be overcome. The union has made its position clear. There is never natural light; the secretaries always work with the lights on. Conditions are overcrowded, unhealthy and unhygienic and somebody must bear the responsibility. I have continuously put on the record of the House our appreciation of your support, a Chathaoirligh, and that of Members on both sides of the House.
We have a benign and powerful Seanad which puts forward proposals that are then ignored. Trying to get any kind of movement is like trying to push-start a streamroller. It is not possible, a Chathaoirligh, for us to tolerate this situation any longer. I know you are giving me leeway to make this point, but it has been made clear by the union representing our staff that their conditions are no longer tolerable. It has been made clear to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges by the Members working in those conditions that it is not suitable and we are no longer prepared to put up with it.
I do not wish to disrupt the proceedings of the House every day but that is the only option available to us in order to make everybody else feel as uncomfortable as we are under our condition. In taking whatever action is necessary, we do not aim it personally at Members on either side of the House but to draw attention to the fact that we cannot do our work. I heard people who attended committees yesterday were annoyed they had to leave for votes and quora — that is how it will continue to be, and worse. I propose a change on the Order of Business to take item 15 so that we can discuss this matter at length today.