Order of Business.

The proposed Order of Business is No. 2, Communications Regulation Bill, 2002 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] – Report and Final Stages; and No. 1, Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Bill, 2002 – all Stages, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes and on which Senators may share time.

On the Order of Business yesterday Senator Manning and other leaders asked me about the possibility of other Bills being brought before the House prior to the general election. I intend to initiate two new Bills in the House next Wednesday, the Data Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2002, and the Official Languages (Equality Bill), 2002.

I propose that the debate on the motor insurance industry report requested on so many occasions in recent months be taken all day on Thursday.

Yesterday, among other matters, we had a debate on the future of the Seanad and how we can improve the way in which we do our work, yet today the Leader of the House informs us of two further Bills that will be brought before the House next week and put through all Stages—

Second Stage.

Only Second Stage. Is that a guarantee?

No, it is a proposal.

Do I have the Leader's word on that?

It is a proposal for consideration.

Do I have the word of the Leader that there will not be an attempt next week to put these two Bills through all Stages on the same day?

Will I be requested?

I am not requesting anything of the Leader, I am asking—

Let us have the debate in an orderly manner.

I was interrupted by the Leader, as the Cathaoirleach is aware. It would be undesirable in the extreme if we were asked to put two further Bills through all Stages next week, neither of which is urgent. It is bad parliamentary practice, as the Leader knows.

Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to explain the reason no secure accommodation could be found for a seriously disturbed, aggressive 14 year old boy who was let loose on the streets last night? Clearly, he is a danger to himself and anybody who comes into contact with him, yet the judge believed there was no secure place to which he could send him. Surely, after five years of zero tolerance, this is disgraceful. It is a scandal and a stain on the reputation of the Ministers concerned.

I support what Senator Manning said about the release of the 14 year old boy concerned, who, despite his youth, seems to be a very dangerous person who has caused considerable damage. I do not think this is a matter affecting the Government alone. It has been a long time in gestation and I am not sure that prison is the answer. It requires considerable investment of time and resources in the most deprived communities. It is a pity that with the Celtic tiger we have significantly failed to do this. People from various communities afflicted by joyriding were interviewed on television last night. The neigh bours, colleagues and, sometimes, friends of the young people concerned said they should be detained and kept out of circulation. That is the view of those living in the communities from which the young people concerned come.

As a politician, I am interested in high standards of ethics and behaviour. I am also a journalist and, as such, I am a member of another profession which should also have ethics and behaviour. For this reason I again call for a debate on the press, to be particularly geared toward the creation of a press council. Two stories about Bishop Comiskey appeared in the newspapers yesterday, one of which incorrectly stated he was in America, but the other was more worrying. Apparently, a journalist posing as a businessman and friend telephoned and was put through to the bishop by his secretary. He never revealed the fact that he was a reporter and told the bishop that he understood some of the reports of child sex abuse in the diocese were fraudulent, which is very dangerous. Bishop Comiskey correctly terminated the telephone call. Had he said, "I am interested in that, could it be true?" or "How shocking", one can imagine the headline, "Comiskey calls fraudulent sex abuse cases shocking". Cases of this kind should be examined. We really need a press council with teeth which is needed to ensure those journalists and sections of the media who consistently lecture politicians about their standards look into their own hearts and remove the beam from their own eyes.

After I spoke yesterday there were calls for a debate on the Middle East which I strongly support. It is a tragic state of affairs. Although I am a friend of Israel, I would certainly be prepared to be critical. I noted yesterday that Gerald Kaufman, a senior British politician, who is Jewish and a friend of Israel, used the phrase "war crimes". We have a seat on the Security Council and must assist in whatever way we can while bearing in mind that we must also give the Israelis an opportunity to produce the evidence they say they have that Mr. Arafat is directly and personally involved in organising the suicide bombers.

It is reassuring to note there will be a full week's sitting next week, which clearly means a little more time will pass before the general election is called. Now that we have two full sitting days ahead, I agree with Senator Norris that we should have a debate on the Middle East, an issue that has been taken very seriously in this House. Arising from the remarks of the special UN envoy about the nature of the conflict in various refugee camps and Ramallah, it would be very worthwhile to have the Minister for Foreign Affairs come to the House, particularly in the context of our position on the Security Council. Let us see what is happening from the point of view of Ireland and the European Union.

I echo the remarks made regarding secure accommodation for the 14 year old boy mentioned. It is a fact that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has provided hundreds of extra prison places, but we do not seem to be able to provide secure accommodation for teenagers who are out of control and causing enormous difficulty. That is what should have been addressed. Day after day in the courts, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly has raised and highlighted this issue and still it has not been dealt with. We now have the extraordinary scenario where somebody who should be in secure accommodation has been released, even though it is quite clear that he needs to be looked after and detained. That is an issue that should be addressed. It is a shame that the Minister who has placed so much emphasis on zero tolerance has not been able to deal with it.

I fully accept that time is limited, but we should not leave this House without discussing the issue of juvenile justice. Specifically, I ask the Leader of the House to arrange for us to fully debate the issues of child care, crime prevention among children and early intervention to examine how the resources to rescue young children can be put in place and to ensure they do not fall into a situation where it is necessary to look for custodial places for them. That was my understanding of how we would frame juvenile justice and proper child care in the context of seeking to prevent crime and to intervene sufficiently early to try to stop what has now spilled over onto our streets.

We have the capacity in this House to discuss this logically and rationally. There is a need now for some kind of emergency action, but there is also a need for more long-term and level-headed thinking when we are discussing young people and their future. No right-minded generation allows a whole cohort of young people to destroy their futures before they are 11 or 12 years old. That is happening and that is the element of juvenile justice I specifically want debated in the House before the election.

I would like to thank you, a Chathaoirligh, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, all the staff, the Leader of the House, Senator Cassidy, my leader in the House, Senator Manning, and all colleagues here not only for their kindness and courtesy, but also for the good, rigorous debates we have had on occasions. Regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming Dáil election, I will not be standing in the subsequent Seanad election.

It is likely that I will not, because of electoral commitments in my Wexford constituency, attend another meeting of the Seanad so I thank everybody for a most enjoyable time. We had rigorous debates. We disagreed, but political debate is about agreeing to disagree in a civilised fashion. I have thoroughly enjoyed my years here. I extend particular thanks for the courtesy and efficiency of the staff, the ushers and all involved in assisting us in our role here as Members.

I agree with Senator Quill that it would be sensible to have a broad debate on the issue of juvenile justice. It appears there are urgent cases requiring attention and it is clear that while we all support a fairly humane regime, some people, for their own protection, as Senator Manning pointed out, require custodial care now.

I wonder whether, in these days of cross-Border co-operation, it might be worthwhile investigating whether accommodation is available in young offenders' centres in Northern Ireland, some of which are excellent. It is one suggestion worth considering.

I support Senator Norris's call for a debate on a press council, the idea of which I support. I have not seen the articles he referred to and will therefore not comment on them. I also support Senator Norris's call for a debate on events in Israel and Palestine.

I also support the call for a debate on press responsibility because the two cases raised here this morning concerning Bishop Comiskey reveal a drop in journalistic standards and I do not think any fair minded person could possibly condone that. We are fortunate to live in an environment and an era where we enjoy press freedom, but we must also underpin that with press responsibility. What surprises me most is that the sections of the media that are not guilty of this drop in standards are not willing to be as incisive when they are reporting or investigating as they are in other instances. A press council has to be discussed; otherwise the status of the media will drop in our society.

I agree it is necessary to discuss the juvenile justice system and to address what our priorities are as a society. It is sad to think of youngsters out on our streets because there is nowhere to accommodate them. We must remember that these are troubled youngsters. It is not just a matter of finding suitable accommodation but of addressing the issues and ensuring we get our priorities right.

The recent report commissioned by the Rape Crisis Centre outlines the huge incidence of sexual assault and rape of young girls and boys and how rampant this is in our society. The Government focused on funding as a matter of priority, but how wrong it got it. I appeal to the incoming Government – I hope Fine Gael will be returned to Government and that I will be part of that Government – to address the real issues in our society.

I support the call for a debate on juvenile justice. I endorse the sentiments expressed by Senator Quill and go one step further by saying that we should, in the course of such a debate, call on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to ensure parental responsibility and accountability is enshrined in any forthcoming legislation to deal with this issue. No matter what package of holistic measures are put forward – we have tried this in relation to child support and family support – it will have only minimal degrees of success. We must address the core issue of parental responsibility and accountability if we are to deal with the escalating problem of juvenile crime. I earnestly request that such a debate take place at the earliest possible date and that the issue of parental accountability is very much to the fore.

I also call for a debate on the juvenile justice system. This debate should be expanded to include consideration of the underlying problems faced by the youth of our country. One issue, which in my view has received scant attention over the last couple of weeks, is the role that drugs and alcohol in particular play in the lives of our youth. We, as legislators in particular and as part of the adult population, must look into our hearts and see what example is being given to teenagers regarding the acceptability of the consequences of over-indulgence in alcohol. We are all too familiar, through our clinics, with the knock-on social consequences of over-indulgence in alcohol. It is unfortunate that we are passing this habit on to our youth. We must examine our consciences and see what we, as legislators, can do to create a more benevolent environment in which our youth can develop so that the problems we are facing can be eradicated or at least minimised.

Senators Manning, Norris, Costello, Quill, Hayes, Keogh, Fitzgerald and Glennon called for a debate on juvenile justice. I will pass on their views to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I will provide time for such a debate in the House, time permitting.

Senators Hayes, Ó Murchú and Norris expressed their shock and horror at the experience of Bishop Comiskey over the last number of days. This House has heard statements on many occasions regarding the establishment of a press council. On the last occasion this matter was raised, I called on all political parties, as proof of their sincerity on how this issue should be addressed, to include it in their manifestos. It is reasonable for me as Leader of this House to call on political parties to state, as the general election approaches, where they stand in relation to this issue in the interests of protecting a person's good name, character and credibility.

There are high standards in journalism in Ireland and long may that continue. It is those who are going for the sensational aspects who are damning the whole profession. They are on the increase because those stories are getting the headlines. This House has not been found wanting in having statements made and calling on all Governments in recent years to see where they stand on the creation of a watch dog or press council to deal with a person who is stating an untruth rather than the facts.

Senators Norris and Costello called for a debate on the Middle East. I will see what I can do about arranging such a debate next week. Senator Avril Doyle has made a major contribution to the House and has been a great friend and colleague and a wonderful Senator. I had a very good working relationship with Senator Avril Doyle and I wish her well in her future career. She is an Oireachtas Member who has enormous experience. I am pleased to have been present this morning when she thanked you, a Chathaoirligh, her fellow colleagues and the Clerk and her staff. I would like to be associated with wishing Senator Doyle well. Anybody else who is in the same position may wish to avail of the opportunity next week to place on the record their appreciation and their experience and those who may not be contesting the election may also wish to do so.

Thank you.

Order of Business agreed to.