Today's Order of Business is items 1, 2 and item 31, motion 17. Item 1 is to be taken without debate; item 2, Committee Stage and item 31 will be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Business will be interrupted from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is agreed. As public representatives we are constantly lobbied by various groups. It is part of our business and we accept it willingly. However, I want to draw the attention of the House to what I regard as an unacceptable level of vulgarity in lobbying, which we have all been at the receiving end in the past week. I refer to Ryanair. The other day I received by post a letter which was ungrammatical and badly written, along with a smudged and poorly photocopied international timetable. I also received a series of gimmicks, including a baseball cap, a rather dirty white tee-shirt which enjoined me to vote for Ryanair. Even when I am going for election I would not wear a tee-shirt calling on people to vote for me. The tee-shirt they sent me was an extra large, which I thought was impertinent on their part. On top of all that, they also sent me a ruler with a jingle and a whistle.
Companies have a legitimate right to lobby but they really should treat Members of the Oireachtas with a minimal level of common sense This was an insult to people's intelligence. If they want to lobby they should do it in the normal way and desist from these kindergarten gimmicks.
I have much sympathy for the point that was raised by Senator Manning. It is typical of the kind of approach one would find from uncaring employers. Other groups take a more serious view of the importance of public representatives and my own organisation, the INTO, is one of them. To convey our thanks and gratitude for the help we have received from Members on all sides of the House, I will shortly be writing to invite them all to join me for lunch in the Shelbourne Hotel on 8 December. We think they have been very helpful to us, as Members of the Lower House have been also.
That is a different story.
It is important that the views of different lobby groups are brought forward in a way that recognises the importance of public representatives.
Senator Ross wants to disagree.
The other issue I wish to raise is the way in which we do our business in terms of details and setting times. It is important that people can organise their days and weeks so they will know what they will be doing at a particular time. That is crucially important. I put to the Leader what I said to him yesterday and what I say all the time, that we should either decide to sit until a particular time on a particular day, as he has announced on today's Order of Business, or do it through a particular amendment and continue with that.
The idea of letting things sit and then trying to decide at 8 p.m. whether we should continue effectively means that busy public representatives are precluded from doing anything else. If they are here working that is fine, but if the House will rise anyway and they have cancelled another appointment because they thought it might sit later, they lose out both ways. The Leader should deal with this one way or the other. We should either sit until a certain time or work to an amendment to the Order of Business. I recognise the pressure the Leader is under, but it is also a matter of recognising that other people have to organise their affairs.
I agree with the remarks made by Senator Manning and Senator O'Toole in relation to Ryanair. The contents of the pack we received, which seems to have been sent to all national public representatives, were very childish. If that is the level of PR that Ryanair has, I cannot see the company making too much progress in persuading public representatives of the value of their cause.
I could not agree more with Senator O'Toole's comments on how the Seanad organises its business. The handling of yesterday's business was extremely disappointing. At 8 p.m. the House decided to finish at 9 p.m. but after a vote at 9 p.m. it was decided to finish at 10 p.m. It was a mess and I was most unhappy about it.
The House is dealing with the most important Bill to come before it this session, probably the most important Bill to be produced during this Government's term of office. The Education (No. 2) Bill was before the Dáil for 12 months and, in its previous form, was debated for another 12 months by the Dáil. It has taken almost ten years to bring the legislation to this stage and yesterday's arrangements were a totally unsatisfactory way to deal with it. I hope we will get our act together in this regard in future.
Where is the planning legislation which was promised for this autumn? A Private Members' Bill was introduced by my colleague, the former Senator Ryan, providing for measures to curb the practice of rogue developers leaving housing estates unfinished. The House was told that legislation on this subject was being drafted and would be ready this autumn. However, it appears to have disappeared from the Order Paper.
With regard to the matter raised by Senator Manning, it is probably safe to say this type of lobbying is unlikely to get off the ground.
The Senator is taking a flyer with that pun.
Lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process and I would be loath to do anything which would prevent it. Senator Manning has an advantage over me because I did not read the letter or open the parcel which accompanied it. However, the circulation of gifts should not be encouraged even if such gifts are the product of a juvenile mind in a PR department.
Senator O'Toole's local representatives have been quicker than him in issuing invitations. Does the timing of the event, to which all Members look forward, have anything to do with the announcement of the budget the week before?
It certainly does.
I wish to complain about the gift from Ryanair. I am trying to lose weight but the company sent me an extra large tee-shirt and an extremely small hat. I would think more kindly of the company if it offset the charge for wheelchairs——
Members cannot debate the matter. I allowed the Leaders of the groups to make the relevant points.
I apologise but the temptation was too hard to resist.
When is it proposed to hold a meaningful debate on disability, as was promised by the Leader? Recent statistics indicate an increase in the number of homeless and on Sunday afternoon I encountered a man lying on a street in Dublin. I do not know if he was an alcoholic. Would it be possible to arrange for a report on the number of people who are genuinely homeless, as distinct from those who are temporarily homeless? Will it be necessary to reintroduce night shelters? Anything is preferable to having people lying on the street on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter. The man I saw had covered himself in shredded paper.
Can we do something to deal with this problem aside from inviting people to the House to tell us how terrible homelessness is? What about something more realistic, such as establishing a collection service to take people off the streets at night in the winter? I make the suggestion in good faith and am not attempting to make a political point on the issue. I am extremely concerned about it.
Ryanair's intention was probably to see how many Members of the Oireachtas would wear the tee-shirts to gauge how many supported its case. I would be surprised to see some people in the tee-shirts——
How about the Senator wearing it?
That the company has been mentioned——
The point has been well made and does not require further elaboration.
The advertising is worth it.
The purpose of the letter is to underline the importance of accessibility to this country at reasonable cost.
Will the Leader invite the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources to come to the Seanad to discuss coastal erosion? The Minister, who recently replied to a parliamentary question on this matter, could outline whether he applied for EU funding to provide for the protection of public and private property in view of the huge rise in water levels around our coastline. It would be useful to hear about the current situation and whether there is a comprehensive plan to deal with it.
Last week when I gently advanced the justice of Kerry's case for Objective One status I was confronted by expressions of disbelief, most of them manifested in laughter, on both sides of the House. It was seen as a Kerry joke. Everybody is now aware that Kerry only has a GDP of 64 per cent of the EU average——
They live on unearned income.
Will the House endorse the correct and proper inclusion of Kerry in the application for Objective One status?
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Public Enterprise if the Department will examine the occurrences yesterday and the lessons that can be learned from them? It seems obvious, for example, that bus lanes have not worked. A bus lane is the one place in Dublin where one will not see a bus. CIE should learn from yesterday and re-examine its policy in that regard.
The Chair does not want Members to comment on the Ryanair communication but it must be said that an astonishing amount of this type of junk mail is sent to public representatives every day. Why is it that some Members almost every day get notices to go to the post office to collect mail such as annual reports and the rubbish produced by this airline company? It is extremely annoying. That type of material should be sent to the House or to a central office to direct it properly.
It is gratifying that yesterday the airstrip in Gaza was finally opened. Palestinians will now be able to travel to and from Gaza without having to travel through another country. However, it is disheartening to read that because the Israelis have held up the delivery of air traffic control materials, the two planes which arrived in Gaza yesterday had to be guided in by a laptop in the back of van.
I fail to see the relevance of this to the Order of Business.
Today is a day of national solidarity with the people of Palestine and what happened yesterday should be acknowledged.
With regard to Ryanair——
The Senator is not allowed to talk about that.
Will the Senator take Ryanair to Gaza?
——tacky material from any quarter is unacceptable but at least the Ryanair material was mentioned in the House this morning. If it had been good material it would not have been mentioned. Many thousands of people are grateful to Ryanair for bringing down the cost of air travel. Ryanair should not be knocked for attempting to provide greater accessibility to other countries. The cost of travelling on other airlines is disgraceful.
It should also be pointed out to Aer Rianta that parts of Dublin Airport are filthy and that passengers are sometimes treated like dirt——
This is not relevant to the Order of Business.
Senator Manning's intervention on this issue was equally irrelevant to the Order of Business.
I allowed the Leaders to make the point but I do not want a wholesale debate on the matter. I call Senator Ross.
I do not wish to say anything about Ryanair. However, during the last Seanad election campaign I received from Members of this House three smoked salmon, four diaries——
——five biros, two bottles of whiskey and several CDs.
And a partridge in a pear tree.
In that context, Ryanair is in the ha'penny place.
Is Senator Ross now declaring these gifts?
In supporting Senator Manning's comments I must state that we received correspondence which was factually incorrect. Will the Leader ask an official from Aer Rianta or the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, to come before the House to indicate the correct position in respect of charges because the letter I received contained serious allegations against Aer Rianta? I disagree with Senator Lanigan's comments about that company because in my opinion it is doing an excellent job at Dublin Airport and other airports.
Senators Manning, O'Toole, Dardis, Ridge, Costello, Chambers, Norris, Ross, Lanigan and Moylan referred to the correspondence they received from Ryanair. Michael O'Leary and Ryanair will be pleased that this matter was discussed for almost 20 minutes on the Order of Business. I agree with Senator Moylan that Aer Rianta has done a magnificent job and it is one of the leading companies in Ireland. However, I take Senator Lanigan's point about our airports. As someone who is closely associated with the tourism industry, I must state that Ryanair has been responsible for much of the growth in that industry in recent years.
Senators O'Toole and Costello referred to the way the House carries out its business, etc., and I will co-operate fully in order to ensure that debates run smoothly.
Senator Costello inquired about planned legislation. I informed Senator Manning yesterday that I would supply the House with a list of proposed legislation this morning but, unfortunately, I was overtaken by events. I will supply the list tomorrow morning.
Senator Ridge requested a debate on the disabled and the homeless and Senator Chambers requested a debate on coastal erosion. I will make time available for both debates in the near future. I agree with the comments made by Senator Coghlan.
Senator Norris requested that the Minister for Public Enterprise come before the House to discuss the transport situation following yesterday's train drivers strike. In my estimation, traffic in the city flowed quite well during yesterday's stoppage due to the opening of additional bus lanes. I will pass on the Senator's comments to the Minister. I join with Senator Lanigan in welcoming the opening of the new airstrip at Gaza.