The Order of Business is No. 1, Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 — Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 4.30 p.m; and No. 2, statements on the Appropriation Act 2004, to be taken at 4.30 p.m. until 7 p.m, with the contributions of Senators not to exceed 15 minutes each and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than five minutes before the end of statements.
Order of Business.
Local authorities are frequently among the first bodies to be attacked when something goes wrong. However, yesterday we witnessed a very good example of how a local authority can work with central government to produce good ideas for tackling crime. In particular, I congratulate the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Dublin City Council on the proposals of the Lord Mayor's Commission on Crime and Policing, which were published yesterday and include a number of innovative ideas for tackling anti-social activity in urban Dublin. I suspect the recommendations would be the same in any large town.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has welcomed the report's recommendations but I ask the Government to provide time to examine these proposals in greater detail. While we all accept there is a need for more gardaí on the beat, more judges and more resources for community policing, there is a particular problem with anti-social activity in urban Ireland which must be addressed.
The radical idea proposed by the Lord Mayor's commission yesterday is a "problem-solving court", which would bring young offenders and their parents before it in order to deal with the issues. This type of community-based solution is the kind of thinking we must address if we are to nip this problem in the bud. I urge the Government to provide time for the House to examine the proposals.
This House has a long, distinguished and proud history of debating the problems of the Middle East and Members must be happy with the announcement today of a ceasefire between the Palestinians and the Israelis. All of us who want a solution to that historic problem must call on EU governments to fully fund the huge job of work which is at hand, particularly in respect of the Palestinian Authority. President Bush's Administration has promised US$40 million as an initial injection and the EU should match this quickly as a means of bedding down the peace in that war-torn part of the world.
I do not take the views of Kevin Myers in The Irish Times to be important. However, many others do. His judgment has been flawed so many times that thinking people cannot take him seriously. Unfortunately, his views are communicated to a much wider group than those who would analyse them. His fascistic rantings in today’s column crossed over the line of incitement to hatred. He chose to have a go at and pointed out a vulnerable and dependent group in society. While he is entitled to have a go at the group, he is also required to keep within the bounds of civilised discussion and the laws of the land. Does the Leader believe that Mr. Myers has crossed the line in an incitement to hatred and that it should be investigated?
This has happened in societies throughout the ages and what is of concern is that it can quickly grow legs. Using terms such as "bastards", which have a proper dictionary definition and legal interpretation, is no excuse for the fact that it is offensive language in certain times and places. It is not acceptable. Considering his judgment in the past, I do not find the term hurtful or offensive. However, it exposed a harmless and dependent group in society to all sorts of mad people. Giving oxygen to fanatics who will take it as an opportunity to further victimise these people is utterly unacceptable. I am sure the Leader agrees with some, if not all, of my views on this. I believe it should be reported and investigated. We do not need this in society. He is entitled to his views, he can vote, be elected and argue against the social welfare supports of various groups in society. He is entitled to do so, but that is about it. The House must give a view on this matter. This is not a liberal, sensitive or lefty issue. Members on all sides of the House will share my views on the unacceptability of the offensive ranting in today's column in The Irish Times.
Since the House last sat, several worrying developments have occurred in the health service. On Friday, consultant members of the Irish Medical Organisation initiated industrial action for March. On Sunday, an emergency general meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association also decided to ballot its members on industrial action.
We cannot underestimate the importance, influence and power of hospital consultants within the health service. Will the Leader convey to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the expectation that they should not abuse that power? Using the misery of patients and playing with them to enhance an industrial relations position is an abuse of power that should only be done in extremis. I am not convinced this is such a situation. The issue must be dealt with for once and for all. The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children must make it clear to the Medical Defence Union in Britain that it will not be allowed to walk away from historical liabilities. She also needs to put in place an alternate system, making good her predecessor’s assurances, and repeated by her, that consultants, and by extension patients, will not be left without cover. It is in the interests of consultants, patients and the taxpayer.
I endorse the words of Senator Brian Hayes on the Middle East. With so much bad news from that part of the world in recent years, it is important to note today's signs of hope. Many of us have rightly and justifiably been critical of the United States and its policy towards the Middle East in recent years. However, in recent days, from the signs of what Dr. Rice has said, it is important to acknowledge the possibility of a more even-handed approach towards matters between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This must be welcomed and encouraged.
Will the Leader organise an urgent debate with the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, on the recent and welcome comments by the Taoiseach on traffic congestion on the M50? This upgrading will not solve Dublin's traffic problems. We need to consider a location for an outer ring road. I have been considering that for years, but local councils around Dublin have not been doing so. I am sure they have not even made telephone contact with each other on this issue. The announcement that an outer ring road will be built is welcome. A discussion should be held with the Minister for Transport to see if his Department will take the matter on board. It should not be an issue to be discussed for years, as happened with the Dublin metro proposal, without any decision being made. An outer ring road is necessary to address the traffic problems on the west side of Dublin.
Over the weekend, announcements were made regarding changes to the driving test. An applicant may now be asked to look under the bonnet of a car. Such changes will not help to change and improve driver behaviour and end fatalities on our roads. We need a root and branch restructuring of the driving test and a debate on the long wait for the test would be timely. Who tests the testers? Some driving instructors now refer to themselves as driving tipsters — young people who approach them now only want a few tips on passing the test and do not undergo a proper instruction course. Efforts have been made to address the road safety issue in terms of penalty points but we must also consider the thousands of young drivers on our roads who are not properly qualified to be there.
A number of Senators have indicated their wish to speak so I ask them to be brief.
I support Senator Morrissey regarding the proposed changes to the driving test. They are pretty basic, involving checking oil levels and how to hoot one's horn. Why is nothing serious being done about the long backlog for driving tests throughout the country? In my area of Newcastle West the waiting period is nine months. If the Department was serious in intent, then instead of introducing the changes suggested it would appoint more driving testers in order to get rid of the backlog. The Minister would in that way take some serious action regarding our roads, the number of provisional licences and the impact of motor insurance on young people. I would like to see the Minister address the issue because the numbers awaiting driving tests are not decreasing.
In December 2003 we debated in this House the broadcasting funding Bill. Its objective at the time was to allow for special types of radio and television programmes which might require a lot of research on our history, culture, language and so on. Many speakers contributed to that debate. The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland was to draw up a scheme of criteria regarding such programmes. Some 14 months later, as a result of 5% of the television fee going directly to the BCI, it now has funds of €17 million. The BCI has not spent a single euro of this money so far and I do not think it has even told the Minister yet what type of programme criteria must be adhered to in order for the funding to be accessed. Will the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, ask the BCI when the scheme will be implemented and when the funding will be disbursed for appropriate programmes fulfilling the criteria involved?
I support Senator Morrissey's point regarding the need to revisit the issue of driving tests and the implementation of the programme. There is a very long waiting list and perhaps that should form part of the debate on how it all works, along with the curricula vitae of driving testers and how they are selected. Regarding what Senator Brian Hayes said about the Lord Mayor’s concept of local policing, the idea is not new. It has been aired many times as the way forward, including before I left the council. I would welcome statements on how we should move on it since that must be the way forward. All the local community leaders should be involved in the debate on how we can best solve the problem of crime; I know of no other way. It is not a new concept, but it needs to be aired again.
I previously asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the Mental Health Commission report for 2003. I am sure she has it on her list. However, it looks like the Central Mental Hospital lands in Dundrum is to be sold without any suggestion that the money will be ring-fenced for mental health projects. It could be used to fund the entire prison complex in north County Dublin, which will possibly include the Central Mental Hospital. In that context, I ask the Leader to arrange the debate as soon as possible. There is a very good section in the report on forensic psychiatry. When we have the debate on the report, we will have an opportunity to question the relevant Minister on the proposal regarding the Central Mental Hospital and especially on what is to happen regarding the moneys accruing from the sale of such valuable land.
I wish to raise the issue of Britannia Airways, which was chartered by a tour operator to fly from Shannon to Rome with 300 Irish rugby fans for the weekend international. That flight was cancelled at short notice owing to non-payment of the fee by an unlicensed, unbonded operator to the airline. Another operator stepped in, but a spokesperson for the Commission for Aviation Regulation confirmed that the operator was unlicensed and unbonded. When one considers that 300 people paid €400 per head, which comes to €120,000, and that under existing legislation the maximum fine for operating without a licence is €1,500, concerns arise. That is particularly so since members of the public have informed me that the same operator is already taking bookings for the Munster rugby fixture in Biarritz. That is disturbing and I ask that the Leader raise with the Minister the possibility of an urgent review of existing legislation in this regard to ensure that the consumer is protected.
We read in the PWC report that a slight slowdown in the economy is expected. We have also heard from the Central Bank recently regarding the great personal indebtedness of many citizens, particularly through credit cards with very high interest rates. I know the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, has spoken of the people's great sense, a sentiment with which we concur. However, in that light, does the Leader agree that the Minister should be encouraged — one hopes that he is thinking of it already — to stress the importance of saving? When the special savings schemes expire, if he cannot provide an incentive, perhaps he might do whatever a Minister for Finance should to smooth the way for a large part of those funds to go into pensions or some further scheme. Perhaps the Leader might pursue that with the Minister on our behalf.
I have already raised this issue, but I probably asked a few other questions on the day with the result that the Leader missed it. I gather that the second annual report of the Inspector of Prisons is lying, if not on the Minister's desk then somewhere in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, awaiting publication. Does the Leader know when it will be issued?
This House has a distinguished record of debate on Middle Eastern issues, owing in large part, I suggest, to an illustrious former Member of more than 25 years, Michael Lanigan, who held a foreign affairs portfolio. His specialist knowledge of the Middle East ensured that developments there during the period were regularly debated.
As we watch the unfolding events in Sharm-el-Sheikh and the momentous and historic decision that has been taken by the two protagonists, Israel and Palestine, to call a ceasefire, although Prime Minister Sharon is reluctant to refer to it as such, it might be timely to consider having a debate some time before the end of this term rather than in the immediate aftermath as we await the unfolding issues. In addition, if we are to accept that the newly-promoted US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is a mirror image in political terms of her political leader, President George W. Bush, we must believe real progress is being made in the Middle East. President Bush stated at the outset — I understand he was the first president to do so — that he believes there should be a viable independent Palestinian state, and he has put his money where his mouth is in that regard.
In all the criticisms levelled at the American Administration, the one bright hope is that the Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, in her travels throughout Europe and the Middle East, has indicated that the US is prepared to rebuild the alliances that were shaken as a result of the Iraqi war. As Senator Brian Hayes said, there is now a very real role for the European Union, and the Government should be urged to take a more proactive role. I hope the Leader will convey the remarks expressed in the House today. Traditionally, Israel has been hostile towards EU involvement and tended to lean towards the United States. Now that we appear to have happy families again as a result of this visit, perhaps there can be real progress on ensuring that the EU has a proactive role to play in the region.
They say timing is everything in politics but the call by the distinguished Member of the other House, Deputy Gormley, for the Irish football team to boycott the forthcoming football match in Tel Aviv next month was given a robust and, I suggest, accurate response by Brian Kerr yesterday at a press conference —"What a load of rubbish".
I am not sure if it is appropriate but I would like to attempt a little advertising. A briefing session will be held tomorrow relating to the Civil Registration Bill in the audio-visual room between 3.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. If any Members have questions, problems or reservations about the Bill, which I hope to introduce next Wednesday in Private Members' time, they might like to come along to that briefing.
I agree with what Senator Mooney said about Deputy Gormley's remarks, which he edged away from almost immediately. That was the astonishing aspect. He made a call for the football match to be cancelled and when he was asked about it he said he did not really believe that but he was asked to make the call by a lobby group.
The Senator is right.
I am a little more careful. That brings the whole thing into some disrepute.
I would like a debate on the Middle East. There are some positive indications but they are extremely tentative and I am still concerned. I listened this morning to what was said by spokespersons for Mr. Sharon. They have agreed what appears to be a ceasefire, although they hedged around that, but there will be no further meetings until after the unilateral withdrawal by the Israelis. That is regrettable, particularly in light of remarks made by his people saying that they have put the peace process into formaldehyde. That is the kind of remark that is regularly quoted.
This weekend in the newspapers, a young American settler said there is a chance for peace when the Palestinians understand that Israel is for the Israeli people, period. She went on to say that Palestinians should not have the same rights but that they can choose to move away from the area. She said they can choose that not out of force but out of understanding that this is their land and they are going to decide the rules. Those are unfortunate remarks.
The situation in the health service is very worrying. It is always worrying when sick people are used as a weapon in a dispute. I do not care which side it is and I do not care if I lose votes from consultants because I believe they have quite a lot of explaining to do.
Are they all Trinity graduates?
No, but quite a few of them are. A vote is a vote. Senator Mooney ought to know that.
He never managed to get enough to get into the Dáil.
Very well said.
The issues are quite clear. There are two insurers. The Government has traditionally paid 80% of premiums but now consultants are questioning the current Administration's right to obtain a fair deal. The Government has merely said to the consultants that they should not jump the gun in order that it can squeeze the maximum possible amount out of the two British insurers involved. Why not do so? What is wrong with such behaviour? I fully support the Government, which is 100% right in this instance. It is clear the Government has standing.
The Tánaiste, who is a fine, honourable, upright and decent woman, has given a commitment and an assurance.
She graduated from Trinity.
I listened yesterday to a hospital consultant who said that the assurance she gave, even though it is in writing, is not good enough. What reason was given for making this assertion? It was stated that the members of the Cabinet could not be trusted and provided the examples of the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, giving a commitment to the United Nations on overseas development aid — a matter to which the House should give further consideration——
Yes. The second example provided involved the case of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. The consultant asked why, when the Taoiseach had given two solemn, serious undertakings in respect of matters of considerable national and international importance and then welched on them, should he and his colleagues believe anything that is said unless it is notarised by a legal authority. That is a pity and it is similar to Deputy Gormley's behaviour in the Dáil when he tabled something in which he did not believe. As politicians, we need to observe the correct approach so that we do not disillusion the public further.
I support calls for a debate on transport. There has been a great deal of debate about congestion on the M50 and the proposals to build an outer ring road. We must have a balanced debate about this matter, particularly in view of the fact that life exists outside Dublin and the M50. People in many parts of the country must endure congestion and delays on a daily basis and it would be important to set the entire record straight in respect of the roads building programme.
The issue of driver testing has arisen in recent times. I understand the Government has, for some time, promised to establish a statutory agency to deal with this matter. Perhaps the Leader will outline the position in that regard or obtain information regarding the timeframe for the introduction of the relevant information. If a statutory agency with responsibility for these matters was put in place, much of the backlog and many of the delays causing difficulties for young drivers on provisional licences who are trying to obtain their full licences would be cleared up. This is a major issue in rural areas where people are obliged to travel long distances to work. It is particularly difficult for those young people who are obliged to have a person with a full licence to travel with them on their journeys. To allow them remain within the law, it would be better to get the backlog out of the way as quickly as possible.
I support calls from Senator Brian Hayes and others for a debate on the Middle East. Dr. Condoleezza Rice has made an impressive start as Secretary of State of the US and hopefully the good work will continue.
I am surprised there have been no requests during the past ten days for a debate on Iraq. In the past two years, not a day has passed without some Member being particularly and rightly taxed about the situation in Iraq and requesting a debate on it. Historic elections, which were hugely successful, took place in that country on the Sunday before last. These elections must cause everyone to reflect on what the people of Iraq want done as opposed to what we might sometimes think they might want done. The people of this country and the European Union must respond in a positive way to what the people of Iraq are attempting to do, namely, chart their own future. I am surprised calls were not made last week for a debate on this matter.
The House has on many occasions debated what was the hopeless situation in Iraq and it must, at the earliest opportunity, discuss that country's future and how Ireland can help its people who have clearly and decisively indicated their desire that this future should be democratic. We must attempt to help them in that regard and we should commence by debating this issue at an early date.
I support the call for a debate on the Commission on Mental Health report. Such a debate would be timely.
I totally concur with Senator Norris's belief that the consultants are not opting for the right course of action. I have worked with consultants for many years and they are fine people. The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, has pleaded with them not to take this course of action. I reiterate that plea and believe all right-minded people in the House would do likewise.
I also seek a debate on rail services. A recent announcement pertaining to the supply of new rolling stock was long overdue. Many strides have been made in upgrading the rail network, but a debate would be timely. I re-echo the sentiments expressed by Senator Dooley. There is a part of Ireland outside Dublin. The line from Mullingar to Athlone would be very important for a significant section of the community if it were reopened. A number of small stations on lines throughout the country would benefit from similar initiatives, not least my local station at Killucan, which I consider to be a good station. A large section of the community now lives in that area due to increased populations around Rathwire, Killucan and Ratharney. Those people would certainly benefit from the reopening of Killucan station.
Yes, of course. What else can I do?
There is a report in this morning's Irish Examiner from Ms Niamh Nolan. I will paraphrase the first part of it. If one is raped or sexually assaulted in Ireland, she says, there is almost a 50-50 chance that one will not tell anyone. If one decides to report it to the Garda, there is only a one in four possibility that the DPP will choose to press charges. If the case makes it to court, there is a 40% possibility that the perpetrator will be acquitted.
Faced with these startling statistics, the Rape Crisis Centre maintains that almost 95% of such cases will not result in convictions. On that basis I add my voice to that of Deputy Costello who yesterday demanded the Government assign a particular portfolio to deal with the whole area of sexual and domestic violence. The Rape Crisis Centre depends for its funding at present on six Departments. That is not good enough. Given that we have a Minister for Health and Children as well as other specific portfolios in particular areas, this should be one of them. There should also be a Government-appointed task force to examine the rate at which such offences are occurring. Garda crime figures released recently show that sexual attacks on women was the area with the single largest increase in 2004. It is an issue that has, unfortunately, fallen off the political agenda in recent times. I hope the Leader will lobby the Ministers concerned and arrange a debate on that issue.
I ask the Leader to request the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take urgent action against persons who drive uninsured and untaxed motor vehicles. At present when the Garda stop such uninsured and untaxed drivers and impound the vehicles, it finds the people concerned call at the pound with a car transporter and remove the car that night or the next day. They drop the car on the road outside the pound and drive away. The law must be changed which allows them to get those vehicles back on the road so easily. In some cases the Garda has taken in the same vehicles on three or four occasions but they are still on the road.
I agree with those Senators who raised the question of driving tests. One wonders if what was on the radio this morning is for real regarding drivers having to be mechanics as well as drivers. The concern should be focused on a person's ability to drive a car and behave safely on the road.
A week and a half ago we debated the issue of the Greencore decision to close the sugar factory in Carlow, and the beet industry at large. As a result, the rail depot in Carlow will not go ahead. It did not even get as far as preplanning stage. In light of this and in light of last week's decision by Greencore on the Banagher factory, it is time we called in the Minister for Agriculture and Food to explain who exactly is in charge of agriculture. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, has regularly made contradictory statements to those of the Government.
Hear, hear. Good cop, bad cop.
It is very insincere of the Minister of State to mislead the workers and the beet growers, as he did this morning on local radio. He spoke about keeping the factory open, when we know for a fact that the factory in Mallow is being prepared in advance for the beet campaign in September. It is regrettable that the Minister of State would try to secure the rail depot for his own constituency following the misfortune in Carlow. A Minister should not behave in that way.
It is a disgrace.
We recently had a debate about the new speed limits. Can the Leader of the House ask the Minister for Transport to come in and explain why the speed limit is 60 km/h for most of the route between Naas and Dublin? It makes no sense. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, correctly overturned a decision——
I am. A while ago——
It is stretching all the time.
A while ago, a speed limit of 80 km/h on a cul-de-sac was changed. It is daft that the speed limit on the road from Naas to Dublin is only 60 km/h. Many motorists will unfairly receive penalty points. This makes no sense and will actually encourage bad driving.
I agree with Senator Browne's comments on the sugar factory in Carlow, especially with the news that has just come to light about the provision of a rail link to the remaining factory in Mallow. It appears as if the rail link to Carlow will not go ahead, as we were led to believe.
I join with other Senators who expressed the wish that we have a debate on transport. We had a debate on transport before which we did not complete. It is ridiculous that lanes and culs-de-sac with grass in the middle have an 80 km/h speed limit, while the Naas dual carriageway has a 60 km/h speed limit. How does that make sense?
It is because it is a construction site.
It makes no sense because there is no construction on many parts of it.
Hear, hear. It is time that much was admitted.
This sounds like a Fine Gael selection committee.
Not quite. Finally, I would like the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to debate the provision of cancer treatment facilities in the region. As we entered the House today, there was a protest at the Kildare Street entrance from the south-east cancer care alliance. Many people from my part of the country travelled to Dublin to lobby for the provision of radiotherapy facilities in Waterford Regional Hospital. A debate on that issue would be timely.
The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Brian Hayes, raised the issue of the Lord Mayor's Commission on Crime and Policing. The commission had some novel ideas. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said in an interview that he would consider the commission's proposals and hoped to implement some of the measures in the current Garda Síochána Bill. The Senator also called for a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. No. 15 on today's Order Paper is a debate on that issue, to be resumed. This means that those who spoke earlier will not be able to speak again. As so much has gone on, perhaps we should fashion a fresh debate. The Senator also called on the EU to match the American financial donation to the peace process in Israel-Palestine. Senator O'Toole referred to the three column article by Kevin Myers in The Irish Times today. I have never read anything quite as contemptible. Of course, what will happen to Senator O’Toole and me is that Mr. Myers will bide his time before writing a ferocious article in which we are described as whingers. He called single mothers the mothers of bastards, or MoBs, and repeated the term approximately 12 times. It was contemptible. He thinks he is smart.
I do not think he is well.
While he is an excellent writer when he puts his mind to it, there is no doubt Senator O'Toole and I will be bedevilled and castigated in a future article. We should not let such an article go by, however, without commenting on it. Can Senators imagine its effect on a child of an age to know and have it read to him or her? I advise Members to read it, although the hair will stand up on their heads. As Mr. Myers uses equally heinous epithets to describe those who disagree with him, I will watch out. Senator O'Toole was right to raise the matter and I thank him for doing so.
Senator McDowell referred to worrying developments in the health service. We all agree with his statement that hospital consultants should not abuse their powers. The Senator also referred to positive signs of hope in the Middle East. Dr. Condoleezza Rice made a great start and cut a better dash than her predecessor who resigned.
Senator Morrissey requested that the Minister for Transport come to the House to discuss the M50 upgrade project. He admired the Taoiseach's comments on traffic congestion and spoke of the need for an outer ring road. Senator Morrissey also spoke about changes to the driving test, saying root and branch reform was needed rather than simply requiring people to be able to use a dipstick. I do not want to be caught needing to know how those things work.
Senator Finucane referred to the Broadcasting (Funding) Act 2003 and suggested the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, should come to the House to discuss the matter as a long time has passed since its enactment. It has been almost a year and a half. I will certainly ask the Minister to come as we would all welcome his attendance.
Senator Ormonde also referred to driver testing and supported local policing as set out in the report of the Lord Mayor's commission. Senator Henry asked about the 2003 mental health report, which we are seeking to acquire. We are also seeking to have a Minister attend to discuss it. Senator Henry asked if moneys generated by the sale of the Central Mental Hospital lands at Dundrum would be ring-fenced to provide a replacement facility or invested in the whole prison complex in north Dublin. Hopefully, we can debate the matter when the Minister of State with responsibility for this area, Deputy Tim O'Malley, comes to the House to discuss the 2003 mental health report.
Senator Minihan spoke about the Britannia Airways charter whose beleaguered passengers eventually got going. The Commission for Aviation Regulation should note that the fines were too small to deter anyone. As the same tour operator has taken bookings for the Munster game at Biarritz, Senator Minihan asked that the Minister should examine the matter.
Senator Coghlan spoke about the importance of savings. There will be a great spree when SSIA accounts mature. The Senator asked about the second annual report of the Inspector of Prisons. It is not yet in the Oireachtas Library.
I asked when it will be published. I gather it is on the Minister's desk or in his Department.
He will have to read it.
That man speed reads.
This has gone on for a long time.
If he speed reads, how has it gone on for a long time?
He is reading it too fast.
The Leader without interruption.
Senator Mooney called for a debate on the Middle East before the end of term. While we are wont to criticise President Bush, Senator Mooney pointed out that he is the first leader of the United States of America to say there should be a viable Palestinian state. We all agree with that view.
Senator Norris spoke about the health services and said he was behind the Government on the issue of consultants, which is important. Senator Dooley called for a debate on transport with particular reference to roads. We are all aware there is life outside Baile Átha Cliath.
Senator Bradford supported Senator Brian Hayes's call for a debate on Iraq but that matter is on the Order Paper to resume. However, there has not been a result in the election yet and it would be odd to debate the issue without knowing what way the votes had gone.
Senator Glynn supported Senator Henry's call for a debate on mental health and Senator Norris's comments on the consultants' issue. He also sought a debate on rail services and called for the re-opening of the Athlone to Mullingar line. He wants to visit me.
The Leader can reciprocate. She would be welcome.
As would the Senator.
The Leader is all-embracing.
The Senator also called for the reopening of Killucan station to serve the people of Rathwire and elsewhere.
Senator McCarthy called for a debate on sexual and domestic violence. There has been a considerable decrease in the number of rape cases being taken because those involved do not want to make the case. It is difficult for them to make the case if they cannot get redress. However, we could have a useful debate on this issue.
Senator Moylan stated legislation should be amended because cars impounded as a result of no tax or insurance can be taken out of the pound. If that is happening, there is a deficiency in the law.
Senator Browne complained about the Minister of State at the Department of Finance regarding the rail depot he is allegedly seeking for his own constituency. He also referred to the closure of the Minch Norton plant at Banagher. I will ask the Minister of State to come to the House to discuss those matters.
Senator John Paul Phelan called for a debate on health issues with the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children. I will seek such a debate.