The Order of Business is No. 1, Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2004 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business until 1.30 p.m.; No. 2, International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention) Bill 2005 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 5 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; and No. 17, motion 13 re road safety, to be taken at 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. There will be a sos from 1.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
The European Court of Justice made a ruling yesterday on Ireland's flouting of laws on waste disposal as a result of 12 complaints to the European Union registered between 1997 and 2000. In 1999 and 2001, Ireland was given warnings on the matter which the Government failed to heed with the result that the court has rapped us on the knuckles. We have lived with a great many complaints over the past few years about landfills in Wicklow and other locations. The Government has up to three months to address the matter and I hope the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, will take action. While many of the problems involved preceded his ministerial appointment, the Government was aware of them.
That the ruling is significant is evidenced by the fine of €20,000 per day levied on the Greek Government due to an illegal landfill site on Crete, which amounted to €18 million over the two and a half years it took to act. That was just one site, whereas we have complaints about 12 locations. I stress the urgent need to take action to avoid hefty financial consequences.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his officials have been involved in prolonged discussions with prison officers. These discussions appear to have foundered with the recent rejection of the Minister's terms by the officers. The Minister's extremely aggressive and confrontational remarks on radio this morning to the effect that he would use the Garda and the Army to run the prisons and win indicate that quiet diplomacy has stopped. Prison wardens are carrying out this service at present. I do not know if the Minister thinks this type of belligerent behaviour will work. A far more diplomatic approach should be taken to this problem because that type of attitude will not bear fruit and could lead to the type of action we might long regret.
I also wish to raise the matter of waste. This issue has been in the news a great deal recently. A large section was devoted to it inThe Irish Times yesterday, and there was a discussion this morning on “Morning Ireland” regarding the decision of the European Court of Justice.
One aspect of this matter has not been referred to in any publication I have seen in the past week despite all the discussion on it. I do not know if people realise that hundreds and thousands of tonnes of waste are being exported from Ireland and England every week more than half way around the world to China where it is burnt and disposed of to the detriment of the people living in those areas. While we have nice European Union regulations about the disposal of waste and while the Green lobby and others are happy for us not to deal with incineration, landfills or such like, we are washing our hands in a Pontius Pilate fashion, sending our waste to underdeveloped parts of China where ordinary people are choking and suffering from the pollution that goes with getting rid of our waste over there. This is utterly unacceptable.
We require a serious debate on where we stand on incineration and landfill. I accept that we dealt with this matter before. If members of local authorities have neither the possibility nor the political capability of taking decisions on where to put sites, etc., then we should devolve that power to local referenda where people can make a decision on where to locate them from a choice of four or five sites. We had better deal with this matter.
It is utterly unacceptable that we are exporting our filth to clean parts of the world. This is happening at a time when people are writing letters to newspapers all over Europe about the waste of energy in importing kiwi fruit from New Zealand to Europe. Let us compare that with the amount of energy we are wasting sending our dirt to China to pollute and damage the health of ordinary people there. We should cry "Stop" on this one.
It is hard to add to what has just been said. I am not an authority on this but I know a little about these matters. There is no reason for a rich country to have a waste crisis. There is no reason for a city like Dublin to have a waste water treatment plant which stinks. There is no reason for Senator Dooley to have to raise the matter.
Senator Dooley did not open his mouth yet.
He attempted to raise the matter on the Adjournment. There is no reason pharmaceutical plants should smell. If they do, it is because they are badly run. If a waste water treatment plant smells, it is because it is badly run. If we are pretending to recycle waste by simply shipping it off to China, that is because we will not do it properly. All of those problems are soluble. There are countries richer than ours that have no waste crisis or no smell crisis. It is our own fault.
If we must have incineration in this country we need leadership. I would be pleased to hear the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government say he would be happy to have an incinerator in County Wicklow, which is what he has opposed up to now. That is the way to give leadership, not to tell the rest of us what we should do. I hope we have now been forced by the European Union to deal with our waste problem like all the other civilised countries of Europe do.
The problem of the increasing incidence of suicide is continually raised. Last week a report was published in Scotland showing that a multidisciplinary approach had produced a dramatic reduction of about 12% in suicides. I am aware that an interdepartmental body is working on this problem. There is ample evidence of what can be done, not to eliminate but to reduce suicide. It would be a tragedy if resources alone were to prevent us doing what has apparently been done so successfully in Scotland.
I seek a debate at some point on the Gaeltacht. We now have a situation where in parts of Connemara, Údarás na Gaeltachta is now referred to as "Údarás na Galltachta" because Fianna Fáil has succeeded in having somebody elected to that body who cannot speak Irish. It is time we had a proper debate——
That is not true.
It was the voters' choice. With respect, that is up to the voters. It is nothing to do with any party.
It is absolutely true.
Tá ball d'Údarás na Gaeltachta nach bhfuil in ann labhairt Gaeilge.
People elected him.
Senator Ryan should be allowed to speak without interruption.
Ba chóir go mbeadh náire ar Fhianna Fáil go ndéanfadh sé a leithéid. Tá an ceart ar phobal Chonamara nuair a thugann siad Údarás na Galltachta air nuair atá duine ina bhall ar an údarás sin nach bhfuil in ann comhrá a dhéanamh as Gaeilge.
Níl sé cheart.
People voted for the candidates. It does not say much for the opposition that was put up.
This would be a much poorer country without Senator Maurice Hayes. Every week he appears to take over some body to try and help us to sort out another matter.
I do not know what that has to do with the Order of Business.
I congratulate him on his most recent appointment.
I too wish our colleague, Senator Maurice Hayes, every success in his new appointment. It is in order that his contribution to the Patten inquiry and other issues in Northern Ireland should be recognised. I commend the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for recognising his work and his contribution to the Garda Síochána Bill in this House where very solid views were put forward. His appointment is also a recognition of the calibre of the membership of this House. I have no doubt he will be a friend to the Government and the Garda in his work because he is very fair and even handed in his approach to everything. I know he will be a success. It is only fair that I say this. I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to say it.
I have been very generous.
Will the Leader consider arranging a debate in the near future on our current energy policy? The official opening takes place today of a wind farm in Meentycat, County Donegal — Senator McHugh probably knows the exact location — of a significant development by Dr. Eddie O'Connor and Airtricity.
He is from Roscommon.
It is a great success story which is supplying power to 45,000 houses and will save on the release of 200,000 tonnes of carbon monoxide. Dr. O'Connor made the point on "Morning Ireland" that it will not be economic to develop wind farms or other alternative energy sources in the future because in the UK, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland——
We have made that point regularly here in recent years.
——a subsidy is given by the Government.
Is Senator Leyden seeking a debate?
I am seeking a debate. Last Thursday, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, opened a major peat burning power station in Lanesboro which was approved under great pressure by the Leader of this House, Senator O'Rourke, when she was Minister.
We know that.
Without her involvement, the European Union would not have approved both Shannonbridge and Lanesboro. We should recognise that fact.
It would be a good opportunity to have a debate.
Regarding the development of the Tynagh power station, it should be noted that Gama Construction has 80% ownership of——
All those matters can be discussed in the debate when we have it.
They can, but they are rather urgent.
Senator Leyden is inclined to indulge in a debate on the issues.
My final point is that Gama Construction owns 80% of Tynagh which provides the Government with leverage on the company to ensure it gives a fair payment to its workers. We should veto taking energy from Tynagh if the Gama Construction workers do not get a fair payment.
I would appreciate if Senator Leyden would come clean and tell us if he wants a change of Government.
Senator Bannon should speak on the Order of Business.
He should declare that we need a change of Government because the Government has neglected several areas to which he referred.
We cannot have a debate on it here. I informed Senator Leyden of that fact.
Senator Bannon was in Roscommon last Thursday and he was mad to get into the photograph.
I support Senator Finucane's point on the Government's neglect of the environment. We face hefty fines in the coming months if the Government does not act quickly. Those fines would be far better spent in improving the health service, especially accident and emergency services, which have been greatly neglected by the Government.
We must pay for power stations also.
Fine Gael is the party that stands for——
The party that stands for what?
Fine Gael is the party that stands for law and order.
That is why we have a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This is a party political broadcast.
Senator Bannon must raise an issue relevant to the Order of Business.
I call on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to stop posturing and to debate the issue of crime in this House. Crime is widespread on our streets and in the countryside. Not a day goes by but we turn on the television or radio or open a newspaper and see evidence of crime such as break-ins or killings throughout the country. This is due to neglect by the Government. It is time for the citizens of this country to get an opportunity to give this Government its walking papers.
Maidir le Údarás na Gaelteachta, is toghchán daonlathach a bhí ann dar ndóigh. Caithfimid glacadh leis na torthaí; tá sé chomh simplí le sin. Ag an am chéanna, aontaím le Seanadóir Ó Riain go mb'fhéidir gur chóir díospóireacht leathan a bheith againn maidir le cursaí gaelteachta i gcoitinne.
Very soon a multi-billion euro treasure chest will be opened up to the economy. I refer to the special savings scheme, an inspired project to encourage thrift and focus people on the idea of saving what they can. More important, it rewards them generously for having done so. Young people today by and large are not focused on saving for a rainy day or for opportunities that might become available.
I am concerned that the culture of saving established by this scheme may come to a dead end. It would be well worthwhile for the Government to consider giving savers another incentive and I would like to debate some suggestions as to how that might be done.
I welcome the commission of investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, particularly the appointment of such an eminent chairman as Mr. Paddy MacEntee. It is 31 years since this terrible atrocity occurred and surviving victims and their families still do not have closure. After 31 years most people accept that many of the players and many of those who should be investigated have now died. There is only a six-month period available to the commission and none of that time should be lost. The victims and their families who have suffered so much should get full legal representation at that commission and that should be decided in a matter of days, not weeks. I compliment the Taoiseach and the Government on the establishment of this commission to investigate this terrible tragedy, which should help the families to have closure.
I support the remarks of Senator Finucane on the decision of the European Court of Justice on illegal landfill sites, particularly the point he made on the three months notice the Government has to act in order to save the State vast amounts of money. Perhaps the Leader finds this topic suitable for debate.
The Leader reminded me of a matter near and dear to her heart this morning, namely, the Great Southern Hotel Group. The Leader treated them like pet rabbits when she was Minister. Has she heard the Government intentions regarding the group? Will there be a sell-off of the entire group or just the loss-makers? I look forward to her reply.
I wish our colleague, Senator Maurice Hayes, well. He is a man with vast experience and I am sure he will do an excellent job.
I call on the Government to set up a missing persons unit. Jo Jo Dollard has been missing without trace for ten years, Trevor Deely has also been missing for a number of years as has Annie McCarrick.
It could not have been funded.
Other countries such as Britain and the United States have technology to simulate what people would look like today. We do not have a system for doing so here and I call on the Government to set one up immediately. We see frequently on the television what a missing person would look like today.
I draw the attention of the Taoiseach — I apologise I should have said the Cathaoirleach, it was a Freudian slip — to today'sThe Irish Times. I am trying to drive change in child care and a major issue is that women should have more flexible working hours. Last week, Jessica Starmer, a short-haul British Airways pilot won a major achievement when British Airways had to concede that she would be allowed to work half the number of normal hours in order to allow her to mind her baby. Her union, the British AirlinePilots Association, supported her.
The UK has legislation to allow women to apply for flexible working hours. We do not have any such legislation here and I call on the Government to introduce legislation to allow women to apply for flexible working hours as part of the child care initiative. There is no reason a woman cannot go home from work at 3.30 p.m. if her child is finished school at that time, as she could work through lunch time. This is a significant problem as the greatest costs are after-school costs.
I join with other colleagues in asking the Leader to arrange a debate on the environment as soon as possible. It would be useful for Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche to come here to outline the steps he has taken since his appointment to the Department. He has made a welcome input to many policy areas and I have no doubt we will see that come to fruition in time. There are a number of difficult issues in the environment, particularly regarding landfill sites. The issue of thermal treatment is one with which this country has recently attempted to grapple and we also have a "not in my back yard" approach.
The emissions from some pharmaceutical companies cause great concern to local people, who find it difficult to convince themselves the pungent odours are not harmful to their health. It would be useful if the Department took greater responsibility for ensuring that information is brought to the attention of the public. The EPA tends to hide behind a veil, holding the view that as a State agency it does not interact to any extent with the public, but is concerned with regulatory and licensing issues. It is not good enough that citizens and residents in areas affected by these emissions do not have the full facts available to them. I would like the opportunity to ask the Minister in the course of an open debate to address that issue and to establish who has responsibility for this matter.
I agree with Senator White on the serious issue of child care. We should seek more flexible working hours, but in the age of equality it should be for parents and not mothers. The Government needs to address this issue. It is not just an issue in Dublin South-East, but in every constituency in the country.
I will not trespass on the Cathaoirleach's patience by responding to congratulations he thinks should not have been offered in the first place. I reflect on an American friend who said, "Lord let me live in your vineyard but in a consultative capacity".
I support the remarks of Senator Ó Murchú on the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Mr. MacEntee is an outstanding man of significant integrity and great ability. I hope the families have the confidence in him to allow the inquiry to progress, but they need to be involved and the question of providing their legal fees and expenses should be considered.
On the question of the environment and waste management I ask the Leader if the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government could be asked to consider the ramifications of this on Northern Ireland and what co-operation might exist with authorities there. There is a real problem of people fly dumping across the Border, which involves criminality. Much of the waste material is not actually going to China, it is going to counties Tyrone and Fermanagh. The Northern Ireland version of the Criminal Assets Bureau is currently pursuing some people for the profits they made from fly dumping and that might be another instrument the State could use in dealing with that problem.
I ask the Leader to reply.
I would like to raise an issue, through the Chair.
Did the Senator indicate that?
I did. I thought the Chair had seen me.
My apologies, I did not see the Senator's indication.
I have a very brief intervention——
It might be better than my sight.
None of the Chair's senses are failing him.
As most Senators will be aware, I have more than a passing interest in sport. A decision was taken earlier this week to appoint a development team to refurbish Lansdowne Road. The plan — which is totally inadequate given our rising population, estimated to be 5 million by 2020 — is to increase the seating capacity at the stadium by 1,000. I have no doubt that our successors will come into this House in ten years time——
There is an appropriate item on the Order Paper.
I have a question for the Leader.
The Senator can speak on the issue when it is comes up for discussion.
I appreciate that the Chair's antenna is acutely attuned to any reference to sport, but this has nothing to do with Croke Park ——
Or with Limerick.
It has nothing to do with Limerick or with officials. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has released statistics on the number of applications for capital sports grants. Given the massive amounts of money poured into sport since 1997, when the Government appointed a Minister to Cabinet with responsibility for sport, one would have expected that there would be a decrease in the number of grant applications. In fact, the number of applications has increased. Last year there were 1,300 applications for a fund of €65 million. This year that number of applications has been exceeded but the funding has not increased proportionately. The question arises, therefore——
Is the Senator seeking a debate?
The question arises as to why there is a continuous increase in requests for sporting facilities. In that context, I ask the Leader——
That is appropriate under No. 13 on the Order Paper.
Does the Leader agree that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, should be invited to the House to debate the question of the delivery of sporting facilities?
I have already stated that there is an item on the Order Paper dealing with sporting facilities. I ask the Leader to reply.
Senator Finucane raised the matter of the EU waste directive and the fact that the European Court of Justice has found against Ireland. The court has given us three months to tidy up our dumping facilities.
There is a great deal of hypocrisy surrounding this issue, though I am not referring to Senator Finucane specifically. The waste debate is hypocritical. I cannot see how we can continue to put our waste in holes in the ground and assume that is the end of it. This cannot be done. The waste pollutes the water and the atmosphere. We think we are virtuous if we have a green bin or if we use recycling facilities, that we have done our good deed for the day, but we may have only gotten rid of some bottles and papers. How can we continue to dig holes in the ground and dump sludge and dirt into them? How can we do that and think it will not smell? Everybody's waste smells. We must have a comprehensive debate and not allow room for people to say "Not in my back yard". If a proper site is found it must be used, whether it belongs to a Minister or to the Taoiseach — although it will not be the Taoiseach because he has a modest house and a modest garden.
Different methods of waste disposal are needed. A dump opened in Athlone 15 years ago, which is now coming to the end of its life. Five local authorities are dumping there at the moment. We do not want to face up to this problem. I agree with Senator Finucane that a debate on this would be useful, but I would urge Members to talk honestly about the issue. It is not useful to skirt around it. We must accept that we cannot simply make the holes in the ground bigger, allow the waste to increase and everything will be fine.
Senator Finucane also raised the issue of prison wardens and stated that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was adopting an aggressive tone. Perhaps the Minister simply wants the issue to be settled. I understand that negotiations have been going on for quite some time, quietly and successfully. We must await further developments on foot of those negotiations.
Senator O'Toole stated that our waste is being transported to undeveloped areas of China and Senator Maurice Hayes added that it is also being transported to parts of Fermanagh and Tyrone. Senator O'Toole also called for local referenda on the waste issue but county councils would not agree to that proposal. County managers now have the responsibility for decisions on waste disposal and there were bitter recriminations when that was introduced. We would be waiting forever if local politicians, or indeed national politicians, were charged with making such decisions. The suggestion that local people should have a say, through local referenda, will not work. People do not want waste facilities in their local areas.
Somebody wins, somebody loses and that is the end of the story.
Local people simply will not agree.
Senator O'Toole is engaged in a flight of fancy.
Senator Ryan stated that the waste debacle is our own fault. I agree with him and the EU has fully exposed the problem. The Senator also raised the issue of suicide. There was a brief discussion on the matter in the House yesterday, on the Order of Business. I agree that a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem must be adopted. A Scottish suicide prevention programme has resulted in the reduction of the suicide rate in that country. A major suicide prevention initiative will be launched by the former President of the United States, Mr. Clinton, in Dublin next month. I do not know the full details but I have received notification of the launch in the middle of May. I too would welcome a full debate on the issue.
Senator Ryan also asked for a debate on the Gaeltacht. He stated that Údarás na Gaeltachta has become known as "Údarás na Galltachta", but the Government did not force people to take part in the elections. Certain individuals registered their names as candidates and then the people in the Gaeltacht areas voted for their preferred candidate. There is no other way of obtaining a position on the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, except perhaps as a ministerial nominee. The voting process is transparent.
The Government selected candidates.
Senator Leyden seconded the congratulations extended by Senator Ryan to Senator Maurice Hayes and we all agree with those sentiments. Senator Leyden also referred to energy policy, but I fail to see why Airtricity should be given a Government subsidy. The wind is free and energy generation costs nothing if there is a high wind.
Airtricity is receiving a subsidy in Britain.
I know that, and it is also subsidised in Scotland and Wales. Perhaps it is not as windy there as it is here.
The generation of energy from wind will save money that would otherwise have to be spent on carbon energy.
The Leader, without interruption please.
I agree with Senator Leyden's points on Gama Construction.
Senator Bannon referred to the issue of the environment and I agree with the points he raised. I hope he will speak with sense during the debate. In fact, I know he will.
Is the Senator making an accusation?
I said that I know SenatorBannon will speak sensibly during the debate. He should pay no attention to the other Senators. I am quite sure the Senator will speak sound Longford sense.
Midlands sense. Longford-Westmeath sense, in actual fact.
Westmeath cannot be left out.
The Leader, without interruptions please.
The Minister for Justice——
This is the Athlone pact, taking over from the Mullingar accord.
Senator Bannon also called for a debate on crime, which I support.
Senator Ó Murchú called for a debate on the Gaeltacht and argued that members of Údarás na Gaeltachta were elected democratically. He welcomed the report from the commission investigating the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the appointment of Mr. MacEntee as the Chair. However, the Senator stated that relatives of the victims should be given legal representation.
Senator Coghlan referred to the EU and the three months notice the Government has been given to put its house in order. He asked again about the Great Southern Hotels Group. It is quite clear that the Taoiseach, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, are in favour of the retention of the Great Southern Hotels. Each of the three has said this. The Senator may tell his constituents there is great warmth for them in Government, or that section, at any rate.
Senator White raised the question of a missing persons unit. We had an interesting debate on that yesterday and it would be a good idea. She talked about women and flexible hours and the pilot, Jessica Starmer, the British Airways pilot. It would be somewhat difficult if her flexible hours came up in mid-flight. However, I take the Senator's point. Senator Feighan made an important point when he said both parents should be able to avail of flexible hours. The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 was discussed in this House with the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Fahey. Flexible hours would be delightful if we could all get them.
I also raised the issue of child care.
The Senator is relentless in her pursuit of the child care issue. Senator Dooley raised the environment and argued that the whole area of landfill, thermal incineration etc. must be examined, as well as waste generated by the pharmaceutical companies. We had a case of that in Athlone. It went to the High Court and the residents won an enormous amount of money, just two weeks ago. He also asked for a debate on the Environmental Protection Agency, much of whose activities appear to be clouded in mystery. However, I am sure it is an excellent body.
Senator Maurice Hayes supported Senator Ó Murchú's stance on the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and praised the fine person who has been put in charge of it. He said that when the House was discussing waste policy with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, the ramifications for Northern Ireland could be explored as well.
Senator Mooney spoke about the development at Lansdowne Road and the vast number of applications for lottery funds. The amount of money has not increased, but great improvements have been made. People want the best for their locality and local community and that is good. No. 13 on the Order Paper, on statements on the provision of national sporting facilities, was referred to by the Cathaoirleach and he is right in saying there is an ongoing debate. I intend to pounce on the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, when the races are over.