The Order of Business is No. 1, motion referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Food, which has completed its deliberations, relating to the extension of section 17A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 for a further 12 months, the provisions of which enhance the Minister's ability to deal with all disease situations and, in particular, to identify, investigate and prosecute factories, marts, dealers and farmers or others who engage in illegal activities, to be taken without debate; No. 2, Garda Síochána Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed), to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business until 1 p.m., with the contributions of Members not to exceed ten minutes; No. 3, Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2004 — Order for Committee Stage and Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 1 p.m. and to conclude not later than 2 p.m.; and No. 4, Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2003 — Second Stage, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude not later than 4.30 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes, those of all other speakers not to exceed ten minutes, Members may share time and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage.
Order of Business.
It was remiss of me yesterday not to formally thank Senator Brennan for his excellent initiative some weeks ago which led to the visit to the House of the distinguished visitor, Mr. John Hume, MEP. I formally thank Senator Brennan on behalf of this side of the House for the proposal which received all-party support.
Yesterday's proceedings were an excellent example of the work of this House. It was a great honour to hear John Hume's contribution to the House. We were all enriched and benefited as a result of the process.
Will the Leader agree that wiser counsel should prevail in respect of the ongoing row and stand-off in Ballinamore concerning the local farming community and the Teagasc authorities? Will she agree it is now time for the Minister for Agriculture and Food to intervene in the dispute? Leitrim has suffered greatly in recent years. It is a small county, with a small population. Only recently we saw that the electoral commission wants to divide the county in two, in preference to the whole notion of balanced regional development and ensuring that facilities like the centre in Ballinamore, which I understand is a research facility for the whole region, should remain there. It is important to put on record that the farming representatives were against moving from Ballinamore. They made that point known vociferously and repeatedly when Teagasc made the decision. There is an argument here for balanced regional development and for ensuring that peripheral parts of the country, which have these services, should keep them in their community. We should support the farmers on this occasion.
I make that point as someone who comes from an urban background. I saw the scenes that occurred in Ballinamore yesterday. Teagasc should stand back from this and support the farmers and their communities because we want to ensure that farming communities have the support of the entire country in terms of the difficult industry they are trying to prosper throughout the country.
I agree fully with the points made by Senator Brian Hayes, and I want to raise a related issue. IBEC, with which I do not normally agree, produced an excellent report recently about the lack of investment in industry in the west and mid-west. I ask the Leader to make time available to discuss that report.
I have raised in this House many times before the importance of the rail link between Sligo and Limerick, via Galway, and the need for a rail head at Shannon. These matters are crucially important to the communications of the area. Regional development is only a joke if we simply discuss it in this House, if the investment is not made where it should be made and if the west and mid-west do not have priority. I raise such issues because if they do not fit neatly into anyone's constituency, they tend not to be raised.
There is a broader issue here at which I ask people from all sides of the House to look. It affects everyone's constituency to some extent, and also affects all rural community development. This crucial matter relates to the document on rural housing to be published today by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. We have previously expressed our views on this matter in the House. An excellent document was circulated to Members of both Houses over the past week. It came from the rural housing group in Clare and pointed out that there seems to be a conflicting stance by the architects' groups in Ireland who on the one hand object to one-off housing and, on the other, are advertising their services in order to encourage it. I would like to know where we stand and where they stand on this matter. This House should discuss these matters together. The denuding of the countryside and the lack of investment in those areas are connected.
It may be that I am simply being awkward, but No. 3 on the Order Paper reads "Order for Committee" rather than "Committee".
That is our fault. We take responsibility.
I am merely asking. I am by nature vigilant.
The Senator's vigilance is noted.
He is a watchdog.
Senator Ryan's point is valid.
I would welcome a debate on regional development. All of these issues — the gradual closing by Teagasc of the smaller stations, the closing of rural post offices and the decline in so many areas — relate to regional infrastructural development. We have a problem in this country in that the major funding body, or determining body, will always say that certain things cannot be justified because the demand does not exist. They say that infrastructure should follow the market, but once the market has decided to do something, they say they cannot do it. One example is the Dublin metro project, which has become too expensive. We must accept the need to invest in infrastructure in order to guide the market rather than to follow it. That extends from Teagasc maintaining smaller support services in more rural areas, to the western rail corridor, and to other aspects. We need to debate seriously our attitude to infrastructure, which leads the market rather than follows it. Perhaps there is a fundamental difference between us.
Given some of the remarks I have made here, I suppose I should be grateful that nobody has threatened me with ending up in the Liffey.
Am I that ineffective? I am not sure. Yesterday, ICTU and a number of voluntary organisations launched a sportswear campaign in an effort to get all the major sporting equipment multinationals to agree to a code of practice which would not involve child labour or the exploitation of labour in developing countries in the run up to the Olympics, when the market for such goods will be huge. I ask the Leader to allow us time at some stage to debate the issue of international trading standards, in particular child labour and the so-called free trade zones in many developing countries where nobody can investigate what rights workers have. China is a particular example. As a contribution to the overall issue of development, a debate on minimum labour standards would be useful.
Many Senators are offering to speak on the Order of Business. In order to accommodate all of them, I appeal for brevity.
I am greatly encouraged by the break-out of love for Leitrim and the west. It is great to see it.
It is wonderful.
I am also encouraged by the comments of Senator Brian Hayes because I wanted to bring to the attention of the Leader what is happening. I stand by the farmers of Leitrim and applaud what they are doing. We have been involved in this debate for the past 18 months. It is not about any sense of victimhood on the part of the people of County Leitrim and the west. We do not want a hand-out but a hand up. This is what the call for a debate on the spatial strategy and regional development is all about. There is a sense of disconnection, and that is what the demonstration in Ballinamore is about. People feel helpless in the face of this increasing globalisation, and decisions being taken far away by people who could not care less.
The division of the county is another example of that. I do not want to come into this House crying, because what is happening in County Leitrim over the past ten years has been remarkable. We have achieved a great deal and are advancing on various fronts. We have a young, vibrant population who are no longer leaving the country as I had to do.
That speech will be for the debate.
I may seem passionate and emotional about this, but it is an opportunity for the House to hold a debate about what is happening in rural Ireland, about a disconnection, a split and a division between east and west, about a proud people who will no longer accept what is going on.
We cannot have an oration on the Order of Business.
I know this is a speech. It is not often I have the opportunity of making such a speech in this House, and I am proud to make it.
It is not allowed. I know the Senator feels emotional on the subject but a speech is not allowed.
I support Senator O'Toole in his call for a debate following the IBEC report on the mid-west region. Speaking on the Aer Lingus Bill last night, I touched on many of the relevant areas. I also welcome the Government decision to proceed with guidelines regarding rural one-off houses. If one talks to the planners, one learns that in every county there has been a dramatic escalation in planning applications, mainly because people are trying to avoid the planning and development fees being introduced, which is understandable. In many counties, however, there are inconsistencies. In Kerry, section four motions operate. In Limerick, there is thankfully no policy regarding such motions. There will have to be consistency in the guidelines, and uniformity throughout the country. The guidelines being laid down are extremely important, and we will assess the benefits they bring and the impact they will make on rural housing in Ireland in the future.
As a co-founder of the Irish Rural Dwellers Association, I think this is a good and historic day for rural Ireland. The new guidelines the Minister has announced are in many ways a triumph of democracy over uncontrolled bureaucracy. Those people who live in an ivory tower, handing down dictates without a mandate to the ordinary people of Ireland, now have their answer. They seem to view rural Ireland as some kind of primitive reservation, a picnic venue they and their friends visit on a warm Sunday afternoon.
They are never there to see the anguish suffered by the young people when they cannot get permission to build houses in their own area and live near their own aged parents and grandparents.
That is true.
It is a modern form of eviction.
We cannot allow speeches on the Order of Business.
It is important that nobody will be allowed to prevent these guidelines being implemented, because I am afraid that will happen.
The Minister would be welcome in this House to brief us further on these guidelines and give us an opportunity to express our appreciation.
Many Senators are offering. The Senator can make a speech during the debate. We do not have time for it now.
To use a rural expression, the Minister has taken the bull by the horns and courageously stood up for these people.
I deplore that attack on people who have taken a conscientious stand. Not all of them live in the cities. I know one leading member of An Taisce who has lived for the past 40 years in Cork, and has made objections. He is perfectly entitled to do so, and I very much doubt if this House wishes to limit people's democratic right to register protest.
It is an effort to exclude people.
We have received copies of the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill. I do not expect the Leader to be able to answer off the top of her head, but could she find out when it is proposed to introduce this Bill?
I agree with Senator Ryan about the manufacturers of sports gear. An important initiative has been launched by Oxfam. When attempting to evade the Indonesian police and while dodging around trying to get into East Timor, we stayed in Surabaya. I had an opportunity to see a factory there where a young woman had just been murdered with the connivance of the management of one of these international factories for the crime of attempting to institute a trade union.
I refer to a point I made in recent days about the situation in Haiti. Like many people, I find the situation confusing. However, I wonder about American policy in removing a democratically elected president. Yesterday, I received from Ramsey Clarke, a former American Attorney General, a long——
Is the Senator seeking a debate?
He can make all those points in the debate.
Can we have a discussion on this matter? In terms of foreign policy, where are we going when democratically elected people are now being removed? It is obviously a source concern for a former American Attorney General.
I join Senator O'Toole and others in calling for a debate on the IBEC report. The title for such a debate should be "balanced regional development". Some concerns have been raised, particularly in regard to the level of job losses. Not only have jobs been lost, but no job creation has taken place in tandem with that in the mid-west region. The numbers are quite staggering. There is great concern in the region, particularly in regard to some of the changes taking place in aviation policy which we discussed yesterday in the context of the Aer Lingus Bill. Some of the job losses expected in Aer Lingus in Shannon will have an impact together with the advent of open skies. It is important we have a debate as soon as possible and perhaps invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the House to discuss this matter because it relates to her Department. There is a concern about State agencies as well.
I support the call for a debate on one-off rural housing. Coming from County Clare, which is probably one of the counties most greatly affected by it, I have a concern that some of these environmentalists, to whom Senator Norris referred, are living in these communities but do not want anybody else living in them.
Those matters can be discussed in the debate.
I welcome the Government's U-turn and change of heart on rural planning. It is important we debate this issue.
Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?
The Senator should put the question.
I support the call for a debate on this issue. We need to debate the staffing of local authorities following this decision because there is a substantial shortfall in the planning departments of most of them. There is a huge backlog of planning applications which need to be dealt with and it is important that local authorities have personnel in place.
On Saturday, we will see the making of sporting history when the Irish women's rugby team will, for the first time, play three hours before their male counterparts. Heretofore——
Does the Senator have a question?
Heretofore, the Irish women's team would have played the day before or the day after.
Does the Senator have a question?
Put the question, please.
They will have 40 minutes to leave the stadium and they are not being accommodated with tickets to watch their male counterparts. An international female player will not get the chance to watch her brother play.
We have no control over the allocation of tickets.
I ask the Leader with her persuasive powers——
That is not relevant to the Order of Business.
——if she would allow——
That is not relevant to the Order of Business.
It is unfair that I am being cut off like this.
We have no control over this matter.
This is a question of equality and we are cut off each time we raise it.
You should look for a debate on equality then.
I ask the Leader if she would use her persuasive powers with the IRFU to try to accommodate the Irish women players with tickets.
I wish to raise two issues with the Leader. The first issue relates to advertising. There were two cases recently where two companies used psychiatric illnesses in a derogatory way to promote the sale of their goods. One was a television company and the other was a telephone company. The television company advertised plastic surgery as a way of overcoming depression and the telephone company advertised a gentleman in a strait-jacket in regard to Eircom's call increases. I ask that the relevant Minister comes to the House to debate this serious issue which is abhorrent, to say the least.
I support the calls for a debate on one-off rural housing, in particular the much anticipated publication by the Minister later today. It will be a good day for rural Ireland if that document supports one-off rural housing. How will this document impact on the statutory responsibility of local authorities to compile county development plans?
I praise the will of the small farmers in Ballinamore yesterday. I find it incredible that the riot squad was called to smash the will of these small farmers trying to protect their livelihoods. Has the Minister for Agriculture and Food brought in hatchet men to implement these policies? I am sick and tired of this good cop, bad cop routine. These cuts and closures are as a result of the €15 million deficit due to Government spending cuts. Members should not come into the House saying they want to save one area and then shouting that we are all against it.
I will not allow elaboration.
It is important that we discuss the Minister's guidelines on one-off rural housing. However, it is not only an issue for outside Dublin; it arises in County Dublin as well. Permission for many houses is turned down on the same basis as in counties outside Dublin.
There has been a call for such a debate and those matters can be discussed during it.
Senator Tuffy's intervention is useful.
The Order of Business is not a place for interventions. We must deal with the Order of Business and no speeches are allowed. I mentioned earlier that many Senators are offering and some will be disappointed if there are long speeches on the Order of Business. In any event, long speeches are not allowed on the Order of Business.
I have not made a long speech. This issue applies to Dublin as well. There is also the issue of infill housing. Permission has been turned down where people have a site beside, or in, their gardens. We need clarification.
The Senator has elaborated enough.
I hope sustainability will still be part of whatever guidelines are produced.
I agree with the previous speakers who spoke about Ballinamore, County Leitrim. I express my regret that the situation has reached this point. There are similar centres throughout the country which are threatened with closure and we should have a debate as soon as possible on those closures and on the general downgrading of rural Ireland, as outlined by Senator Ryan.
I raise the issue of special needs in education with particular emphasis on primary education. At present, there are 7,000 reports before the Department of Education and Science on children who need special assistance at primary level, but they have not been acted on. That is not right and we should review the situation with a view to getting more assistance for primary school children who need help with education.
I urge the Leader to arrange a debate on the role of amateur sport as soon as possible. We are all familiar with the tax breaks the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, gave to professional sports people a number of years ago. A number of amateur sporting bodies have been in contact with Senators and Deputies in recent months with a view to a comparable situation being implemented for amateur sports people. I urge the Leader to arrange a debate on this issue as soon as possible.
I support Senator Feeney's remarks, some of which I did not hear. Will the Leader look at the status of women in sport because it is clear that, in many instances, they are treated as second class citizens in the sporting area?
I support the call for a debate on the need for balanced and sustainable rural development not only in the context of one-off rural housing, which is important, but also in the context of how we achieve balanced growth and encourage growth where there is decline.
We have been warned that the ESB is to introduce another increase in domestic and industrial electricity charges, from 15% to 30%, as a result of the additional generation of wind power. It seems unbelievable that the Minister has not——
Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?
I am asking the Leader to request the Minister to attend the House to discuss his indecision concerning wind energy. It is time for somebody to make a decision on wind energy if it will add 15% to 30% to domestic and industrial electricity bills. The Minister should attend the House as a matter of urgency. The national grid regulator is now dictating electricity prices and that is not fair to domestic consumers.
All those points can be discussed in the debate the Senator is seeking.
I am glad there will not be a blanket ban on one-off housing. I agree with other Senators who said that we must do more to enable people to be accommodated in their own localities or areas with which they may have a strong affinity. I welcome the fact that we will have a debate on the relevant guidelines. The Minister must encourage greater use of stone-facing in construction. Stone-faced houses would not jar on the rural landscape or mar the beauty of the countryside as much as multi-coloured houses. I strongly recommend the use of stone-facing, which perhaps could be undertaken with grant assistance.
I support the call for a debate on housing. It is worth noting that of the 60,000 houses built last year, some 30,000 were purchased by investors. When one considers that €0.75 billion was spent on tax relief, the manner in which first-time buyers have been forgotten is outrageous. The Minister for Finance hinted in this House that he would do something about mortgage interest relief for first-time buyers, but he did nothing.
He said there was enough relief already.
I am not impressed by the guidelines for the whole country because I do not believe that one glove fits all.
The Ard-Fheis is on this week.
It could actually restrict some local authorities that are doing good work in that respect, so I would add a word of caution to the proposal.
We see again today that some insurance companies have made massive profits. It has now come to light that young insured drivers are not paying the price for such profits — it is the older, seasoned drivers whose premia are escalating by a large percentage. When people shop around for cover, they can see big differences between insurance companies quoting for new business. Senator Ross has already raised the issue of brokers, but brokers are not the problem in this respect. I would welcome a debate on the insurance sector, including premia costs, if the Leader could arrange it.
I welcome the suggestion that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should attend the House to discuss one-off rural housing. Having said that, however, the Minister should be commended on his excellent work, in conjunction with the Department of Finance, on the section 48 allowances, which have renewed seaside areas. In addition, the section 23 allowances have renewed urban areas, while the urban renewal scheme has also played a part. The dock site is an example to the country and to Europe generally.
The Senator can make all those points during the debate.
And at the Ard-Fheis this week.
Senator Brian Hayes rightly paid tribute to Senator Brennan and I was glad to have an opportunity to do so yesterday. There is a handsome photograph of yourself, a Chathaoirligh, and Mr. John Hume, MEP, inThe Irish Times today.
I am sure he noticed it. There will be extra copies of the newspaper in Feenagh today.
It will look good on the Christmas cards.
Order, please. The Leader to continue on the Order of Business.
The visit of Mr. Hume to the House yesterday proved to be a very good occasion. I was particularly delighted by the presence of so many Members.
I understand that the board of Teagasc took the decision to close the research facility at Ballinamore and relocate it elsewhere. That is not good for the people in Leitrim who wanted it left in their area, but we must face the reality that the Teagasc board has taken a firm decision on the matter.
Senator O'Toole mentioned the IBEC report on the mid-west region, which I have not had a chance to read. I will endeavour to arrange a debate on that report. The Senator suggested that it could be combined with a debate on the initiative concerning one-off rural housing but the difficulty is that two separate Ministers are concerned. Many Senators have sought a debate on the one-off housing issue, so we can discuss the IBEC report on the mid-west on another occasion.
Senator Ryan mentioned regional development and, in particular, separate parts of infrastructural development, such as the western rail corridor, which should receive due recognition. In the run up to the Athens Olympics, ICTU has done well to highlight the use of child labour in the manufacture of sports apparel. We blithely purchase many such items and find later that they have been produced by people living in very deprived communities. It would provide the subject matter of a very good debate in the context of international trading standards. The global economy is all very well, but all too often the well off prosper while the poor get poorer.
Senator Mooney exhibited his passion, quite properly, for his own county of Leitrim, and the sense of disconnection that people feel. I do not deny that is the case. When decisions are taken outside one's ambit, it can lead to a sense of disconnection given the language that is used to convey such decisions. I understand that the decision has been made, however, and I do not see how it can be changed.
Senator Finucane spoke about the IBEC report on the mid-west region and he welcomed the proposal for one-off rural housing, as we all do. The difficulty will be to get the balance right on that matter. We could all pursue the issue of one-off housing and then find that some damage has been done as a result. It will be difficult to strike a balance. I will invite the Minister, Deputy Cullen, to attend the House next week, if we can arrange a slot for him. That issue appears to be the one most immediately requiring our attention. Senator Norris has the opposite point of view to all that.
No. I took exactly the same view as Senator O'Rourke.
I am delighted to find that he shares my view. It is a question of having a balance. I do not decry all county managers, but planning officials have assumed life or death importance in local communities.
The Leader is right.
One cannot decry whatever they choose to say. I have seen many people so dispirited because their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or neighbours cannot get planning permission for a house for their own use. It is a big issue.
That is correct.
I was asked about the Fur Farming Bill, which, I understand, is a Private Members' Bill.
We will have to join the Green Party.
There are, as yet, no members of the Green Party in this House.
Not that we know of.
There are a few green Senators though.
We are the real green party.
The Bill is concerned with the welfare of animals.
I do not know if this matter is appropriate or important, but we have other matters to discuss at present. Senator Dooley mentioned the IBEC report. I am delighted that Senator Bannon welcomes the proposal for one-off rural housing.
Senators should make their remarks through the Chair and not address each other across the floor of the House.
I am sorry, a Chathaoirligh, you are right. Senator Bannon displays great energy in the House.
He spoke about staff problems but there is no need for additional local authority responsibility in this matter because the Minister is providing the guidelines. A change of heart is needed in the minds of many of those officials, but that will be much harder to bring about because they have become the new kings of the counties.
Senator McCarthy rightly deplored the use of psychiatric illnesses to promote particular products in advertising. That is just appalling. Imagine if one suffered from such an illness to see it portrayed as promoting a positive aspect of a product.
The Senator referred to county development plans. They will vary but local authorities should not wait. For example, Westmeath County Council will not adopt a new county development plan for another three years and officials will try to wait until the next plan is agreed. Local authorities adopt such plans at different times but the officials will have their way in the intervening period. The Senator believes they should be updated immediately to encompass the take-up of one-off rural housing.
Senator Feighan exhibited great passion about the issue of Leitrim farmers.
Senator Tuffy also referred to one–off rural housing and validly pointed out that parts of County Dublin are affected by this decision in terms of infill housing, which is the Dublin equivalent of one-off rural housing. Her observation was valuable.
Senator John Paul Phelan raised the issues of Leitrim farmers, special needs in education and tax breaks for amateur sports people. If the Government goes down that route, the word "amateur" will be taken out of amateur sport and the gloss will be taken off.
Senator Feeney referred to the women's rugby trip and the lack of tickets for the senior international match at Twickenham. We debated the Portmarnock golf club issue recently.
I wish to clarify the position. Senator Feeney is correct about equality but the Seanad has no control over who gets tickets for the rugby match.
The Cathaoirleach must be joking.
Unlike the All-Ireland finals.
That is a point of disorder.
The Seanad has no jurisdiction over sporting bodies.
On a point of order, the only problem here is the shape of the ball.
One could think of a handy addendum to Senator Feeney's comment.
I will ring the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism following the Order of Business to inform him the matter was raised. That would be helpful. These women will play their guts out and will then be sent to a pub to watch the game. The GAA would not do that.
Senator Ulick Burke called for a debate on wind energy, which would be useful. I was surprised at the costs of starting up in the industry.
Senator Coghlan wants stone facing on all rural housing. We will see about that.
I take Senator Browne's point on one-off rural housing. One glove does not fit all. It is up to each local authority to interpret the guidelines. I do not believe in blanket guidelines for all local authorities but it will be one hell of a tussle to get county managers off their butts to implement them.
Senator Paddy Burke called for a debate on the insurance industry. Two weeks ago, we had an excellent debate on this issue and the Senator made a contribution. If one shops around, one will reduce the cost of one's insurance. For example, I got €200 off my insurance. I do not want to keep parading that but it happened because I made five telephone calls. I encourage all Members to do the same.
Senator Hanafin referred to the excellent renewal schemes provided through housing taxation.
I am sorry for being a little giddy.
That is okay, I understand.