The Order of Business is No. 1, a procedural motion agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the attendance of John Hume, MEP, in the House tomorrow, the arrangements for which are outlined in the motion, which is to be taken without debate; No. 2, Garda Síochána Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business until 7 p.m, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 20 minutes, those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes and Members may share time; and No. 3, Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 7 p.m. and conclude not later than 8.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
I welcome the debate on the Garda Síochána Bill and the Leader's initiative to give more time to party spokespersons. I am sure the Leader will join me in encouraging all Members to contribute to the debate on this extensive piece of legislation which will have profound implications for the force in the years to come.
Does the Leader agree that the comments made by the Minister for Finance at Leopardstown, in which he suggested that if decentralisation is not delivered on time it would spell electoral disaster for Fianna Fáil, is one of the worst examples of political cynicism the country has seen in a generation? We were told that decentralisation was about the spatial strategy and bringing real power to the regions. However, the Minister for Finance has now stated that decentralisation is just about the next election. I ask the Leader to bring the Minister to the House to make a statement on the issue. We are talking about real people in real jobs in Dublin who have been told they and their families can go to hell or to Connacht. We need an early statement from the Government on this issue.
I object to those disparaging remarks about Connacht.
Decentralisation was allegedly about the spatial strategy but we now find it is more to do with the next general election.
Will the Leader arrange for a debate on the Abbey Theatre, which I have requested in recent months? The Abbey Theatre is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and there have been discussions about a possible new location for it. If the Abbey Theatre is to move, it should be no more than a half mile radius from where it is now, possibly to the new Carlton site, as a way of giving real impetus to the theatre region and uplifting O'Connell Street and the north inner city. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to make a statement at the earliest opportunity in the House outlining the Government's view on this issue? The Abbey Theatre is a very important national institution which has made a huge contribution to our cultural life. We want to keep it on the north side of the Liffey and as close as possible to its original location on Abbey Street.
On a number of recent occasions, the House has debated the importance of a press council. Over the weekend and last week we saw extraordinary levels of coverage of the terrible killing of a young man outside Club Anabel. We saw how many lives were ruined by it and people will be paying the price for a long time. Views were expressed that there would have been less press coverage if those involved came from an underprivileged area.
I would like the Leader to offer a view on one aspect of the matter. A young woman happened to have a date with some of the guys on both sides and her life has been torn to pieces. She has been made to look like a tramp, she has been diminished and her reputation has been impugned. I do not know anything about the woman, I have never met her and I know nothing about her family, but the way in which she has been treated by the media is absolutely unacceptable.
She will never recover from that and her reputation will be sullied. It will be thrown at her and she will be made responsible in many ways. We can understand the other levels of media coverage, but to use and abuse someone who inadvertently happened to be a witness and had no hand, act or part in the act, in this manner is completely and utterly wrong. We should have a view on the matter and ask the appropriate committee which deals with the media to raise this issue. I believe in the freedom of the media.
Irish hospitality and our céad míle fáilte will be severely tried and tested in late June this year when the so-called leader of the so-called "free world" comes to visit Ireland. We are being abused as part of the American presidential election. The Government will be embarrassed by it and many of us will not be able to sit silent when President Bush visits this country. We will show him respect as the leader of an important country. However, we also have a political responsibility to make our views known in the strongest possible way. Nonetheless, control in these situations can always be difficult. The Government should ask President Bush to reconsider coming here. If he wins the election next year, he should visit after the election when it cannot be used as part of his involvement in a campaign in the United States. This is not a good time. Such poor timing would be an embarrassment to our Presidency and we should not support it.
I would like to raise with the Leader the call yesterday in Killarney by the Irish Hotels Federation for a certificate system to allow children in hotel bars after 9 p.m. This relates to the legislation passed in this House which bans children from being in bars after 9 p.m. The federation raised a valid concern about the difficulties and problems this will pose for the business. It will have a knock-on effect on tourism in general. A large part of hotel business comes from parents who have their young children with them in the hotels. They would often bring the children to the residents' bar in the hotel at night and this has always fitted in with the atmosphere and ethos in hotels. There is no question of children drinking alcohol, but parents do not want to leave their children alone in the room. This is part of the holiday. It has been happening for many years during the holiday season and has not caused problems. I ask the Minister to come to this House to review the legislation in light of what has been said. Perhaps he would consider the proposal that there should be a certificate system similar to that in the UK. It would allow the Garda to grant suitable hotels permission for children to be in bars in hotels with their parents after 9 p.m. if food is being served or family entertainment is being provided.
We read and hear from time to time of cemeteries being vandalised and graves desecrated. Last week, the people of Ireland were horrified and shocked to read that two tombs in a cemetery in County Kerry were interfered with. The lids of the coffins within the tombs were prised open and the corpses searched for valuables. This is a despicable crime. There is no law to deal with such an act. We must refer back to an 1880 English law to deal with the problem. Legislation should be introduced to ensure this type of crime is dealt with severely.
Will the Leader invite the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the House to outline the position of the Progressive Democrats on motorways? I asked about this issue more than a year ago. There have been reports in the newspapers recently that the Cabinet is split on the issue and the Tánaiste has now written to the Minister for Transport. Why is she doing this seven years later? She has been returned to Government for almost two years. Recently there was an oral hearing in Carlow on the motorway and CPOs for the motorway were issued. Senator Dardis attended the oral hearing recently and, following cross-examination, admitted the figures being used were not accurate.
The Senator need not elaborate to that extent.
I want to finish my point.
The Senator has called for a debate on motorways.
The up-to-date figures clearly indicate that the volume of traffic will be greater than a single lane carriageway could cope with. What is the Government's position on the issue? A dual carriageway is proposed. There is nothing in between a single carriageway and dual carriageway; it must be either one or the other.
I call on the Leader to allow for an extended debate on the Middle East, particularly in light of recent events. I was one of the people who believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that there was an immediate threat to world peace.
I would also like to raise another issue which occurred during the week. A 13 year old suicide bomber was sent out from the Palestinian area. Telling an uneducated 13 year old to attach a bomb to his body and blow up other people is a most heinous act in an area where we have already seen heinous acts. I am sure that young child would have believed that if he had a stone that was big enough, he could have knocked the moon off its perch, if he was told that was possible.
I welcome the planned visit of the American President. We should remember that America is a second home for many Irish people. American Presidencies differ. Much of what President Clinton did for Ireland was admirable, yet I had huge difficulty with the introduction of partial birth abortions in the US under his Presidency. We should welcome the American President for many reasons.
I support Senator O'Toole's call for a press council. There has been wall to wall coverage of the sad event which took place outside Club Anabel. Recently, Fine Gael commissioned a poll undertaken by independent consultants and it found that 25% of people, one in four, were not reporting specific crimes. It also found that up to 40% of those under 25 were not doing so. I am aware of a case in my town recently where people turned on a young person and his girlfriend, attacking the young man in particular. They kicked and punched him. He did not report the assault or follow it through because of fear, which often permeates small communities in such situations. There is fear of revenge by the people who perpetrated the assault. These people are often known to the Garda, but it is helpless unless people are prepared to testify. It is a sad indictment of Ireland today that while many of us when growing up often saw fist fights, we never saw people being kicked or pulverised on the ground. It is a shocking commentary on Ireland at this time.
I wish to raise again an issue I raised last year, namely the use of discos for the excellent No Name Club, which arranges discos where alcohol is not served. Problems remain in this area and I hope a discussion on it, as well as on other issues related to the licensing laws, can be arranged as soon as possible. We should seek a situation in which such discos could be organised without any question of people under 18 not being allowed attend.
I also support the calls for a debate on the Middle East, particularly Iraq, where, as we know, there have been horrific killings in recent times.
I support what Senator O'Toole and Senator Finucane said about the treatment by the press of a witness to the very sad event outside Club Anabel. It is dreadful to see a young woman who has nothing to do with the case, apart from being a witness, treated in such a manner. It will certainly deter people from coming forward in future in regard to other cases if they think they will be treated like that woman.
I am sure the Seanad noted that 19 February was the first anniversary of the Second Stage debate on the Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill. I am not asking the Leader to make any further effort to bring Committee Stage before this House, but I ask her to request the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to attend the House to discuss the current serious problems regarding health in the Prison Service. General prison doctors are about to go on strike because they are so appalled by the circumstances under which prisoners are held and under which doctors must work. Moreover, 31 beds in the Central Mental Hospital are closed because of a capping policy on recruitment. At the same time, there are prisoners in padded cells who are seriously psychiatrically ill and should not be there, as all Members of the House would agree. What sort of a regime are we running in this country regarding seriously ill people in our prisons with the beds in which they could be adequately treated closed down and the people are held in conditions which we are repeatedly told by the Council of Europe committee on inhuman treatment and torture are totally unsuitable?
In the light of the continuing and damaging media speculation on the sale of the Great Southern hotels, will the hotels end up under the control of the proposed new Dublin airport authority, or has the Minister other plans for them?
This arises from the Government's decision to restructure Aer Rianta. There is a difficult trading environment and given this ongoing uncertainty, it behoves the Minister to make a statement. Perhaps the Leader would be good enough to arrange a debate on the matter.
I strongly support what Senator Tuffy said. Given the difficult trading environment and in terms of the future of our tourism industry, the question of children in hotels after 9 p.m. needs to be addressed for the hotel sector and for the sake of the industry.
I support Senator Tuffy's call for a change in the legislation in regard to under 18s having to leave hotels and public houses after 9 p.m. Some 80% of public houses serve food and for many it is the biggest part of their business. It is ludicrous that a 17 year old, who is out with his or her parents, is asked to leave a premises at9 p.m. We are coming into the summer when many tourists and foreigners will visit and they will not understand this law. I would like the Minister to consider changing the legislation and the sooner, the better.
I thank Senator Brian Hayes for taking up the torch regarding the Abbey Theatre, a matter that is consistently overlooked. His support is welcome and I think there is also support on the other side of the House. I want the theatre to stay on its historic site but if it is not possible, I agree with Senator Brian Hayes that it should stay on the northside and be built on the Carlton cinema site. I imagine the Taoiseach wishes something similar.
I welcome the visit of President Bush. It presents a glorious opportunity to those of us who disagree with his policies to make that clear in a dignified, peaceful way. There is plenty about which to protest, not only Iraq because they are now going into Haiti. In Iraq, they said they got it wrong but that at least they deposed a tyrant. In Haiti, they have put out somebody who was democratically elected but who was undermined by the church because he was a priest and by the Americans because he was seen as left wing. Let us discuss that issue. We are not guiltless ourselves. Only last week, in a fit of enthusiasm, we decided to appoint an ambassador to Burma. Let us discuss that as well and take the beam out of our own eye.
I am not proposing a formal vote of sympathy — perhaps that will done tomorrow — but as a Member of the House, I was shocked to hear of the death of Cormac McAnallen. I rarely go to Croke Park but I attended a match in which he played extremely well. I remembered his name because it was an unusual one. It is sad that a young man like that has died at that age.
While I have similar views to the Senator, it is not in order on the Order of Business. I know it is a sad occasion.
Fine. It may come up tomorrow. I will finish by saying that the classical world always said that those whom the gods love die young. To die at the pinnacle of one's career is desperately sad for the family.
I call on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House to discuss young people and their drinking habits which have been highlighted again in the past week. I have called for such a debate on a number of occasions. We still see signs on the doors of hotels and bars saying "Happy Hour" and drink promotions being advertised in our pubs. It is high time the Minister took his job seriously and addressed this serious issue. We know the drinking habits of our young people are unacceptable and are leading to dangers for them and others. We have a responsibility to ensure legislation is enforced. Even at the end of Kildare Street, there is a sign in a bar saying "Happy Hour". It is something to which we cannot close our eyes any longer. The Minister needs to come to the House at the earliest opportunity to discuss this issue.
I wish to support an issue raised earlier on the Order of Business by Senator O'Toole. I call on the Leader to communicate with the committee that has responsibility for and deals with the media. Over the past six weeks, we have seen incredible journalism, but at the wrong end of the spectrum. What we saw at the weekend was reckless and opportunistic journalism. There were no winners in the case with which we are all now very familiar. However, at the weekend, the media created another victim — a girl who has no redress for what has been done to her.
I also support the call by Senator Terry for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to attend the House to debate the issue of under age drinking, including the role played by nightclub owners in running promotions and reducing cover charges to enable under age drinkers to get into nightclubs. We talk about the abuse of minors but this is a blatant abuse of our young people.
I ask the Leader to request the Minister for Education and Science to attend the House for a debate. The Minister, Deputy Dempsey, has passed up an opportunity, traditionally taken by his predecessors, to attend the annual teachers' conferences to outline Government policy on education. At the same time, he has taken a roadshow to certain locations in order to listen to the partners in education offering their vision for the future. His immediate reaction to those talk-ins, however, was to reject them, as he says he has heard it all before. The Minister does not appear to have any great policies, so we should provide him with a platform here to display his vision for education, if he has such a vision. We have not seen such a vision during his two years in office; we have seen only his arrogance. The Minister has destroyed teachers' morale and has ostracised himself from the thinking of parents, who are the primary educators. I do not know what else the Minister can do, other than reintroduce the concept of third level fees. The Minister gave an undertaking to this House to show clearly how he intends to increase the numbers of disadvantaged people accessing education, but he has failed in that respect. I ask the Leader to request the Minister to attend the House, as a matter of urgency, in order to outline Government policy, as he has passed up the chance of expressing his thoughts at the teachers' conferences. He should let us all know what his thoughts are on education, as well as his vision for the future.
I support what Senator O'Toole and others have had to say with regard to the coverage of the unfortunate case concerning the death of a young man at the Club Anabel nightclub. I also endorse what Senator O'Toole said about establishing a press council. The establishment of such a council has been recommended many times but when, in particular, it is suggested that it should be a statutory body, there is a squawk of complaint from the press. It also appears that people are set up and misrepresented when they are asked questions regarding such cases. I suspect the young lady who was the unfortunate victim of coverage last Sunday, was one of those people. I know for a fact that a secretary of a past pupils' union was approached on the basis that the article would be about past pupils' unions, whereas the real purpose was to work it into the story of these unfortunate events.
If we are concerned about these matters, as we should be, it is obvious that drink is at the root of them. In those circumstances one must ask if it is correct that young people should be excluded from public bars. This matter was discussed at length when the legislation went through the House. I was one of those who suggested to the Minister that there would be difficulties with people going on hotel holidays. The Minister made it quite clear that all public areas in a hotel would be available to children, even where their parents were drinking, but not the bar. That is a reasonable approach to take.
Free offers were made illegal under that legislation. Discounted or free drink was available in Club Anabel and that should not happen.
One of the architects of the peace process, John Hume, MEP, will address the House tomorrow. It might be opportune to have a substantive debate on Northern Ireland over the next two to three weeks. A number of mini-interventions have occurred over the past number of weeks across the political spectrum on the current status of the peace process. However, a substantive debate is required. The Northern Ireland problem will not be solved through soundbites or SCUD missiles from any side of the political equation. Substantive debate is required and, given that one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, the base point from which progress must stem, will visit the House tomorrow, Members should have an opportunity to make contributions on this issue.
I agree with Senator Hanafin and disagree with Senator O'Toole regarding President Bush's visit. I welcome the visit but I acknowledge people will protest. The beauty of living in a democracy is one can protest about the elected head of another democracy. A number of those who will protest will be the same people who protested against Ronald Reagan's visit.
Were they not right? They would do so again.
Many of them have not been able to get over the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It is a pity the wall did not fall on the Senator.
The decision of the Minister for Education and Science to take part in your education system, YES style debates at the teachers' conferences this easter is a reasonable and genuine attempt to fully engage with 1,700 teacher representatives on the future of our education system. His suggestion that the other principal partners in education should be present is good because it will enhance the quality of debate and the outcomes. The days of set piece ministerial speeches with the usual cheers and boos from the floor are gone. They have done nothing to promote educational debate and are a waste of time for both sides.
The Senator should ask the Leader about that.
While such conferences provide a forum for teachers' unions to get involved in industrial relations issues, they also provide a wonderful opportunity for teachers to exchange educational problems and share solutions.
We cannot have an extensive debate.
Parents' representatives and boards of management agree with the Minister. I call on the unions to enthusiastically embrace the challenge thrown down by the Minister in the interest of all our schoolchildren.
Is the Senator objecting?
I join colleagues in deploring the media's excessive reportage of the Club Anabel case and I agree with Senator Dardis that excessive consumption of alcohol is a serious problem. However, one issue is being missed, which is the consumption of soft drugs. This must be addressed.
They never led to a fight.
Senator Feighan, without interruption.
I refer to the crisis in the provision of orthodontic treatment to pre-teens and teenagers. Currently, 11,508 children are on the waiting list for such treatment and some must wait up to four years. A total of 15,398 children have not even made it onto the waiting list. I am worried because a consultant orthodontist has accused the Department of Health and Children of massaging the figures and ensuring the guidelines for such treatment have been tightened. He said the Department is giving the health boards a licence to lie. The Leader should call on the Minister for Health and Children to attend the House to defend this serious charge and explain why this situation pertains.
Senator Brian Hayes referred to the Garda Síochána Bill and the comments of the Minister for Finance on decentralisation. As a Connacht person, I do not like the expression, "To hell or to Connacht". Connacht is a very fine place. I also note that a representative of a large Civil Service union has said his members welcome decentralisation. He spoke vehemently and openly on the matter. I am quite sure there will be a coming together on this issue. The Minister for Finance, as is his wont, says what he wants to say whether we like it or not.
There was a short debate on the Abbey Theatre during the Order of Business last Thursday and there was general agreement that the theatre should remain near to its present location north of the Liffey. I will request that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism come to the Seanad to discuss the matter.
Senator O'Toole raised the question of a press council. I agree that the young woman in question was diminished in every sense of the word by the way she was used by newspapers. I was reminded of the accusation that the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, had sexed up a dossier. In this case the news story was sexed up and it was wrong.
The visit of President Bush to Ireland was referred to. I agree with Senator Norris who said we can all make our protest if we wish.
Senator Tuffy raised the of certification for children in bars. I wonder about the other customers, who may not be keen to have children running around bars. One often visits a bar to have a quiet drink and to talk. No one has made the point that it may not be suitable to have young children in bars. They can sit in a hotel lounge with their parents. We cannot on one hand speak about young people being infected with the demon drink while on the other having younger people exposed to the smells and sounds of bars.
Senator Scanlon spoke about vandalism in graveyards and tombs being broken open to see if they contained valuables. I will inquire about the nature and age of the legislation which applies in this area. The desecration of tombs is a heinous crime.
Senator Browne wants to know the view of the Progressive Democrats on motorways. He and Senator Dardis can have that out between the two of them.
The Minister for Transport has not responded to my letter of a year ago.
Senator Hanafin requested a debate on the Middle East. Senator Hanafin would welcome the visit of President Bush. Senator O'Toole had a different opinion.
Senator Finucane spoke about the non-reporting of crime. In small communities, people are afraid to report crime because they fear the revenge of the perpetrator. These matters can be raised during the debate on the Garda Síochána Bill in a few moments when the Minister is in the House.
Senator Kitt spoke about No Name Clubs for young people where alcohol is not available. He also requested a debate on Iraq. I believe all Senators would support that request.
Senator Henry said she would not ask about Committee Stage of Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill. She was quite right not to do so because we are tired asking about it. She also spoke about the role of doctors in prisons and the bad conditions for prisoners.
Senator Coghlan inquired about the Great Southern Hotels. We will try to get a clear statement on this issue so that those who work in the hotels and who patronise them will know what is in store for the hotels during the coming summer.
Senator Bohan agreed with Senator Tuffy on the question of children being with their parents in public houses or hotel bars.
Senator Norris spoke about the Abbey Theatre. The Cathaoirleach, rightly, said we could not pass a vote of sympathy on the death of Cormac McAnallen, although his own instincts were to sympathise with the young man's family.
I would be glad if, on the Garda Síochána Bill, Senator Terry would raise the issue of the disgraceful continuance of the "Happy Hour", which has been outlawed. There is no doubt that its purpose is to get young people so tanked up that they continue to drink. Senator Feeney supported the establishment of a press council and agreed that the "Happy Hour" should not continue as it is a crime.
Senator Ulick Burke raised the Minister for Education and Science's non-attendance at the teachers' conferences. I am looking at Senator O'Toole who, I am sure, will remember that, as the then Minister for Education, I attended the teachers' annual conferences on five occasions. Each year I used to call it the Via Dolorosa, but I learned to love the conferences because I stayed at night and had a great time with the teachers.
In the bar.
In the bar.
The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, is a killjoy.
Pure chemistry. I found them very engaging. I was determined to turn them to some use, although I do not mean for myself——
Perish the thought.
I was determined to use the occasion for making contacts with teachers, which stood me in great stead. Senator O'Toole and I remember a particular early morning in Salthill——
Tell us more.
I mean morning, not late night.
The Leader remembers, but Senator O'Toole does not.
Senator O'Toole remembers it quite well. Each Minister is different and if the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, believes the annual conference is an outdated format, he is fully entitled to his opinion. He will do the business in some other fashion. It will seem odd not to have reports. The Minister is usually the butt of all that goes on, with everything, metaphorically speaking, being thrown, and all he or she can do is grin and bear it. One feels like kicking them all.
Now the Leader tells us.
Afterwards it is great fun. Senator Dardis has brought to my attention that No. 14, statements on the high level of alcohol consumption by young people, is listed to be resumed.
Senator Bradford raised the issue of a debate on Northern Ireland, which we are endeavouring to arrange. Senator Fitzgerald also raised the question of the teachers' conferences — imagine, I attended five conferences in one week, including the three teachers' unions, the parents and the religious in education conferences.
Senator Feighan raised the issue of excessive drinking and also the issue of the lack of orthodontic treatment for young people. I will ask the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to discuss that matter.