The Order of Business is items 1, 2 and 14, motion No. 21. Item 1, Second Stage to be taken today with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes; Senators may share time. Item 2, Statements on the Review of the Seanad, to be taken from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. with the contributions of Leaders not to exceed 20 minutes and of all other Senators not to exceed 15 minutes; Senators may share time. This item will not conclude today. Item 14, motion No. 21, to be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Item 1, Second Stage to be continued at 8 p.m. if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is agreed. We are on the eve of the important elections to the Assembly in Northern Ireland. We wish those taking part in this important democratic process well in the interests of future peace, stability and reconciliation. We should have a debate on Northern Ireland when the elections are completed. All sides would support this — a debate is long overdue and we have been patient by not seeking one for some time.
When can we expect legislation on the release of prisoners? Yesterday Senator Costello asked for a debate on the Murphy report. The Fine Gael Party supports such a debate before the end of the session. Will the Leader give a commitment in this regard?
Can we have a debate on press standards in the light of the disturbing photograph which appeared in The Star newspaper this morning? I listened with interest this morning to Dr. McKeon, the chairman of AWARE, a group which deals with depression and suicide. He gave his professional opinion which is substantiated by a great deal of research, that the publication of such a photograph can lead to copycat suicides and add to the distress of relatives. I also heard the editor of the newspaper and it seemed plain that the photograph was published for purely commercial purposes. He did not identify any criteria for its publication. He knew nothing of the circumstances of the young man, whose family may have had to identify him from that photograph. As the examination of suicide by both Houses of the Oireachtas started in this House with the initiation of a Bill supported by all parties, it is appropriate that we discuss this and related matters.
When will the Bill promised by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy de Valera, in the other House concerning the broadcasting of sports events and the restricting of control in the media by individuals and corporations come before the House? It is important that we play a role in this discussion as a debate in this House prompted the former Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, to make a substantial reply which formed the basis of the Labour Party's proposed legislation which the Government did not accept.
I was sad to hear that a large section of the Department of Education and Science burned down. However, I was relieved to learn it was not the identical twin building, Tyrone House, which is an extremely important building architecturally. The original inhabitants were rather unpleasant — John Beresford, who in 1798, 200 years ago practically to the day, organised his own police force to go out and snatch people. They were tortured in the basement and a Dublin wit wrote on the front gate "J. Beresford — mangling done here". Despite that, I am glad the house survived.
I support Senator Manning's call for a debate on Northern Ireland, especially on the eve of the historic elections to the Assembly. It is appropriate that we should have that debate before the summer. The Leader said yesterday that he would consult the Whips and come back to us today.
In the light of the publication of that terrible photograph on the front page of a newspaper this morning we need to look into the question of press standards. We debated the office of the Insurance Ombudsman last week. We need a media ombudsman with proper criteria and regulations in terms of non-interference with their duty. That photograph seems to have been published for blatant voyeurism and commercial purposes.
I move an amendment to the Order of Business:
That motion No. 22 be taken as the first item on the Order of Business.
This matter has been raised on a number of occasions and it is not good enough that we should wait until the autumn to have a debate. This is a pressing matter. The Murphy inquiry has taken place and permission has been given for the publication of the report. The Minister has been asked by all sides to take urgent action. If we are to assist in the process, that debate should take place before the summer.
We hope the elections in Northern Ireland tomorrow will help to consolidate the progress made by the Agreement and the stability and peace which has been evident in recent months. A debate on progress in Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations would be useful and I support the calls for such a debate.
As regards the picture published in The Star this morning, the defence of the newspaper was that its publication was worthwhile as it might stop a suicide. However, having heard the expert opinion of Dr. McKeon from AWARE on the radio this morning, it seems that the publication of the picture will result in more suicides. Did The Star make any effort to consult expert advice before publishing the picture? It seems that it was published for sensationalist reasons as part of a circulation war, which is not good enough.
Newspaper standards are falling rapidly — once it was regarded as unacceptable to take pictures of mourners at funerals and now it is acceptable to publish pictures of dead bodies. We must all condemn that. It would be useful to return to this subject in the context of a debate on broadcasting and press standards. Senator Costello is correct in stating that there should be some recourse for the public and interested parties in the form of a sanction system.
As one who has consistently sought the assistance of the Tánaiste in the provision of industry in Killarney and South Kerry, I welcome the announcement, following the meeting between the Tánaiste and Rosenbluth International in Philadelphia yesterday, of the provision of 250 jobs for Killarney. I pay tribute to the entrepreneurship and negotiating skills of the people of Killarney who were so successfully involved in meeting executives over a long period. As one who was closely involved in negotiations and in securing the site at the former Kerry Glass factory, I welcome the announcement. I wish the IDA well in the renewed negotiations to secure an industry for the vacant Pretty Polly factory.
I was reluctant to interrupt the Senator in view of the good fortune of Killarney. However, the matter he raised was not strictly in order on the Order of Business.
South Kerry has been badly stricken.
I join with other speakers in asking for a debate on the North of Ireland on the grounds that over the past number of years people in public life have played a low key role on this side of the Border. Particularly in this House, we have refrained from debating the North of Ireland during the past six months. There are signs of political maturity in the North at the moment and a debate in the House would be useful because the potential for development, especially in the tourism area, is fantastic. The southern Border counties and the North of Ireland have suffered serious deprivation. Those areas do not have any tourism structures at all. While other parts may have benefited from the Celtic tiger, we can only make a useful contribution towards the future in the North by having a full and open debate in this House. I support the request for such a debate.
I second Senator Costello's amendment to the Order of Business. One of my reasons for supporting Senator Costello is because, like many people, I have a child who is involved in competitive swimming. One can get close to cold sweats thinking about this matter. There is a related issue I wish to raise, as one who is still an active member of the institution. There is another big private institution in this State which has a dubious record in terms of how it has handled child abuse and that is the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to me that since it has so much influence in our society, there is a case to be made for society examining the way that institution has dealt with the problems that arose within it. Members of our society who freely choose to be involved with that Church should be sure, in the same way as members of our society who are involved in swimming should be sure, that their children are safe and that those who are in positions of authority take the problem seriously. If the institutions themselves cannot do it, then society and the State will have to do it for them.
Will the Leader allow us to have a debate on inequality in society as soon as possible? It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Government parties are determined to make inequality as great as possible, given the outburst by the Tánaiste last week. She has apparently decided that if she cannot kick the rich and powerful she will kick the poor instead.
I support my colleagues in their assertions of distaste over the publication in The Star. This newspaper does not operate on its own; it is part of the biggest newspaper group in the State. It is the duty of that newspaper group, not just of that individual newspaper, to ensure that standards are met throughout the newspaper industry.
I agree with the sentiments of other Senators in relation to media standards. A more fundamental issue, however, is the problem of suicide in society which appears to affect people of all ages. We should have a discussion about what we can do to assist in efforts to reduce the number of suicides.
I wish every success to the pro-Agreement candidates in the Northern Assembly elections tomorrow. I hope the people who gave a resounding yes vote last month will come out in full force again for the elections tomorrow.
I agree with the views expressed concerning suicides. I would ask the Leader to bring to the attention of the Government suicides of young Irish emigrants abroad who are tragically dying by their own hand. It is essential for the Government to introduce immediately a comprehensive plan to inform emigrants, particularly to the United States and England, of the helplines available to them in those countries. I am talking in particular about the excellent work the Catholic Church and other Churches are doing in those countries.
A number of our emigrants are exploited commercially in some of these countries, particularly illegal emigrants who have no avenue of assistance. Information leaflets indicating where emigrants could obtain help, should be available at every Irish port and airport, as well as being included in the publications of Aer Lingus and other transport companies.
And for incoming Romanians.
I wish to support a call made in the House yesterday for a debate on education, particularly since the Minister for Education and Science has set up a pilot scheme to introduce sport into the curriculum. We should have a debate on this before the new school year begins in September. Will the Leader arrange such a debate before September?
I support previous speakers in relation to incidents of suicide. I happened to pass the canal yesterday and saw the excitement of people there. I did not realise that somebody had taken their own life.
That was a murder.
The situation warrants a serious debate on the basis that it is a reflection of a changing and prosperous society. Some people certainly feel it difficult to work within those changes. It merits a debate in order to see if we can help in any way to make people more at ease within a changing and developing society.
In the context of a just society, we should look at the Government's proposals in relation to rural development. There is talk of a White Paper on the rural development programme and it should be dealt with by the Government. Will the Leader of the House invite the relevant Minister of State, Deputy Davern, to the House to discuss the importance of that White Paper and his plans to develop its contents?
I support the call by Senator Manning and others for a debate on Northern Ireland. I wish all the pro-Agreement candidates well tomorrow. Unfortunately, I find there has been very little change in the North of Ireland over the past few months, particularly in relation to the actions of the security forces. I would refer, in particular, to the long delays experienced by people going to the match last Sunday.
I also wish to refer to the charges that have now been proffered against a number of young men in the Portadown area — nearly a year after the events took place at Garvahy Road — including a brother of Robert Hamill who, as we all know, was murdered last year in Portadown. I attended a vigil ceremony in Portadown on the occasion of the anniversary of his death. I met the young man in question and was in the family home. I am more than perturbed to see that a year later some movement has taken place.
With regard to the commission that has been set up to review the events of Bloody Sunday, I abhor the lack of movement and particularly the lack of legal representation being given to the families of the victims.
I wish to seek a clarification from the Leader. I understood he said that item 14 would be taken at 6 o'clock. I may be incorrect but I thought it was Senator Norris's item regarding East Timor. Perhaps the Leader could clarify that.
Senators Manning, Costello, Dardis, McGowan and Bonner all called for a debate on Northern Ireland. I am pleased to inform the House that on the Order of Business next Tuesday I propose to make time available for such a debate.
I join with other Senators in calling on people in the North of Ireland for a massive turnout, the same as we saw for the previous referendum. That would bring about change in the best possible way. It is timely to have a debate on Northern Ireland and, in calling for this debate, I thank all Members of the House for their co-operation and understanding in recent months.
Senator Manning and others called for an indication in relation to legislation on the early release of prisoners. This Bill will be before the House next week and will have completed all Stages by Friday next week.
Senator Costello, along with other Senators, requested a debate on the Murphy report. I would like to meet Senators Costello and Ryan after the Order of Business to discuss when we can debate this issue. I would like to allow as much time as possible to debate this urgent and important report. Many Senators have expressed a wish to debate it.
Senators Norris and others have expressed shock and horror at the photograph published in today's edition of The Star. Irish newspapers have hit a new low. It is an horrific photograph. I will facilitate a debate on the decline of press standards at the earliest opportunity and request the Minister to attend. It is time we considered the urgent need for a press council to be put in place. The photograph does nothing to alleviate the massive suicide problem we have at the moment. I cannot comprehend how publishing this photograph could make sense. The professional advice given on the early morning interviews on Radio Éireann indicated that this could lead to more people taking their own lives. The Star should apologise and state they will never publish a photograph like this again. It would show the general public and people contemplating suicide that they will not get publicity in this way again. Senators Leonard, O'Dowd and Chambers also referred to the article in The Star.
Senators called for a debate on the televised broadcasting of sporting events. The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands will bring forward a Bill before both Houses in the next session to deal with this issue. Late last night she made a statement in this regard as well.
Senator Coghlan welcomed the 250 new jobs in Killarney. This is as a result of the good work done by this Government, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment along with the Deputies and Senators of that constituency.
And Senator Coghlan's good work.
They have done more than negotiate.
I congratulate these people and it is only a beginning.
Senator Ryan called for a debate on equality in our society. I will try to facilitate such a debate at the earliest opportunity.
Senator O'Dowd called for a helpline to be established at the port of arrival for our young emigrants. This can be done by way of a letter to the Minister. I am pleased to support Senator O'Dowd's request for a helpline.
Senator Burke requested an early debate on education. Yesterday, on the Order of Business, I stated that we will debate this issue in the first two or three weeks of the next session.
Senator Chambers called for a debate on rural development. The Western Development Bill is at an advanced stage. Perhaps Senator Chambers can check out a lot of his points on the Urban Renewal Bill which is going through at present. I know we will have a new opportunity and scope for some of our smaller rural towns that need urgent investment.
Senator Costello has tabled an amendment to the Order of Business. Is the amendment being pressed?
Considering the Leader's positive response that we will discuss the taking of the motion or a debate on the issue prior to the summer recess, I withdraw my amendment.