The Order of Business today is No.1, the Disability Bill 2004 — Committee Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business until 4 p.m.; No. 2, the Registration of Deeds and Title Bill 2004 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 4 p.m. until 6.30 p.m.; No. 3, the Grangegorman Development Agency Bill 2004 — Second Stage, to be taken at 6.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 9 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes. The Minister will be called upon to reply not later than five minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage debate.
Order of Business.
The Garda Síochána Bill is currently before the Dáil. I ask the Leader to ascertain whether the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform intends to bring that Bill back to the Seanad before the summer recess. It is on Report Stage in the Dáil and it would be useful to know the Minister's intentions.
In view of the recommendations of the Morris tribunal report and the significant public concern surrounding many issues raised therein, I suggest that the Bill be parked for a period of six months. This would allow us to determine how to improve the legislation to ensure the new ombudsman, as proposed in the Bill, is the best way forward in terms of dealing with complaints against members of the force. A six-month period of reflection would be useful for dealing with a number of issues.
There is a significant level of public outrage and concern at the decision by the Garda Commissioner to transfer five gardaí cited in the Morris report from Donegal to Dublin. This is an outrageous decision whereby men cited in the report are simply shunted from one part of the country to another. Given the fact that the report is now with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the appropriate course of action would have been to suspend the officers concerned pending a decision of the director to take action, if any is preferred. The widespread public concern about this decision should be reflected in the Houses and I compliment the Labour Party on giving us an early opportunity to debate the Morris report during Private Members' business tomorrow. However, the time allowed for that debate is only two hours and perhaps additional time might be provided to ensure that all Senators who wish to speak on this serious matter can do so.
Approximately one month ago I asked the Leader for a debate on both parts of the Morris tribunal report and she indicated she would be happy to accommodate that request. A debate during Private Members' business tomorrow night will not allow enough time to deal with the issues. The matters raised in the Morris report must be discussed seriously.
If the Garda Commissioner had not taken any action and the five gardaí were suspended, drawing their salaries and sitting at home, people would have been critical. The fact that the Commissioner took certain action by moving the officers is welcome — it was all he could do at this time and it is up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to take the next step. A balance must be struck in these matters.
I agree with Senator Brian Hayes that the issues arising from the Morris tribunal report should be taken on board within the Garda Síochána Bill, which is not happening at present. The practical suggestion of allowing more time for the Bill would enable such issues to be accommodated within the legislation.
Cúpla lá ó shin fuair muid an scéal ón mBruiséil go bhfuil stádas oifigiúil faighte faoi dheireadh ag Ghaolainn san Eoraip. Tá sé tábhachtach go dtarlaíonn sin. Tá a lán ag tarlú ansin atá níos tábhachtaí ná a lán de na moltaí seafóideacha atá in Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Cúpla seachtain ó shin, mhol mé don Cheannaire go mbeadh míniú ón Aire cén fáth go raibh cumhacht aige logainm mar Dingle a athrú go dtí An Daingean gan dul i ngleic le muintir na háite. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeadh díospóireacht againn ar an méid sin. For the rest of the country, there must be a full local plebiscite, referendum or consultation with the people if the name of a street, never mind that of the town, is to be changed. I recall how two years ago, the town of Moyvane in Kerry, which is officially known as Newtownsands, attempted to change its name to Moyvane. The fact that sufficient numbers did not vote in the plebiscite — a certain number had to vote in order to officially change the name — meant that the town was not entitled to change its name. At the same time, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs can do this by the stroke of a pen. It seems completely at odds with what the people want and we need to examine that.
We need an early discussion on café bars. We have had many discussions here on drink culture. The Leader has been good enough to arrange debates on the issue at least twice in the past year and these have been quite informed. As an Independent Member, I would like a debate on the matter now, apart from discussing the heroes on either side of the debate or whether the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform backed down or moved on. We need to know exactly what is being proposed. It is a serious issue. I have certain regrets that the café bar idea has died but I would certainly like to know what is being put in its place and where it is going. I would prefer if this debate were held before we consider legislation because that is what we have done twice already. It would be very helpful if the Minister came here and elaborated on his views.
I support colleagues on this side of the House in their call for a debate on issues arising from the Morris tribunal report and recommendations. In particular, I support the call by Senator Brian Hayes for a temporary stop to be put on the Garda Síochána Bill currently before the Dáil. I do not see why it would not be possible to do this because we know there is a queue of legislation that has gone from this House to the other House. There is clearly an order of priority in terms of how Bills are being dealt with so it would not be unreasonable of us to request that this would happen and that we be given the necessary space to have the debate around the issues that arise from the Morris tribunal recommendations.
The public is very concerned about the response of the Government and the Garda Commissioner to the findings of the tribunal and there is widespread concern about how this issue is being handled and managed. We have a very important role to play as Members of the Oireachtas in ensuring that public confidence in the Garda Síochána, particularly those many fine members of the force who do their best on behalf of the public on a daily basis, is fully restored. Clearly the name of the Garda Síochána has been severely sullied by the findings of the Morris tribunal and we need to address that. We in the Labour Party are totally open to any suggestion that would come to us by way of managing Private Members' time tomorrow night. I await hearing from the Leader in that regard, should she so choose.
I also ask the Leader to find time if possible for us to debate how this State is treating asylum seekers. I watched the "Prime Time Investigates" documentary broadcast last Thursday, which featured the Leader. I was shocked when I saw the programme. I had read about the situation facing the Athlone-based Nigerian family but I was really shocked to see its full extent. I think the humanity of the community is hugely offended by the manner in which these families have been treated. The remarks of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about cock-and-bull stories were doubly offensive against the background of the experience of these particular families. We cannot stand idly by and allow this to continue. I have received correspondence from the group in Athlone and I commend it on its work. Let us see what we can do in that regard; I know the Leader has her concerns about the matter.
I am conscious that we are strapped for time but the National Economic and Social Forum is publishing a report on pre-school and early education of children. I have a particular interest in this so I ask the Leader to allocate time, at the earliest opportunity, to debate the findings of that report which is most important.
Déarfainn go n-aontóinn gach éinne liom gur tréimhse an-tábhachtach agus an-stairiúil í seo toisc go bhfuil stádas oifigiúil oibre bainte amach ag an Ghaeilge — ní amháin go bhfuil sé stairiúil don Ghaeilge féin, ach do ghradam na tíre seo go hidirnáisiúnta. Tugann sé dóchas do gach éinne atá ag saothrú an chultúir Ghaelaigh, agus táim lán-chinnte go mbeidh tionchar ag an toradh seo, ní amháin lasmuigh den tír ach taobh istigh freisin.
There is no doubt that this is an historic and significant time in the life of this nation. When I first raised in this House the possibility of achieving working status for the Irish language in the European Union, it was as much a vision as an expectation. However, I was delighted with the solidarity and unanimity that existed across the board. An all-party motion was brought before this House and I thank the Opposition for its part in producing that motion. We gave a lead to the Dáil because shortly afterwards a united approach was also displayed there.
The significance of what has happened is that we tapped into the goodwill that exists in this country towards the Irish language. No political football is involved. We must provide leadership for that goodwill. I take this opportunity to congratulate the campaign group Stádas, which did so much work in alerting us to the necessity for this. It is a good day for Ireland and its people.
I support Senator O'Toole's call for a debate on the findings of the commission on alcohol. The commission did not report exclusively on café bars. There are many other components to its proposals and it would be worthwhile to debate them. I am glad the Minister has dropped the café bar proposal. The Fine Gael parliamentary party opposed it not just on the basis of vintners' representations but also on those of health professionals. The initial objective was to end binge drinking but it was the wrong way to go about it.
The Minister might claim something of a pyrrhic victory by extending alcohol licences to restaurants but the vintners had suggested to the commission that it would be worthwhile for the licences of restaurants to be extended to allow for the sale of alcohol as well as wine. I respect the fact that, at least on this occasion, the Minister recognised the amount of opposition there was to his proposal for café bars and took a step back.
As spokesperson on trade and commerce on the Government side of the House, I refer Members to a report in the business section of the Sunday Independent which reported that a survey carried out for that newspaper showed that 40% of chief executives believe that women will never achieve equality and equal representation on boards. Furthermore, 46% of chief executives stated that it would be ten years before they would achieve it.
Will the Leader invite the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the House to discuss this serious matter? According to figures released last year, only 5% of the top 100 Irish companies have women board members whereas in the State sector women account for 32% of membership of State boards. Chief executives and chairmen of boards must set targets and achieve them. They must have a passionate will to ensure equal representation of women on their boards.
I support the Equality Authority's expression of sadness at the High Court decision late last week that women could not have full parity with the male members of Portmarnock Golf Club, where all the networking for board appointments takes place. This is particularly true of golf outings.
Irrespective of whether Members like it, appointments to private companies take place through networking in golf clubs.
The Hanly report, which is not yet an historical document, recommended that 600 to 700 doctors should qualify in this country every year to supply our needs. Young students are sitting the leaving certificate at present. We know that approximately 3,000 of these have applied for the 300 medical places which will be available. It would be nice to see at least some part of the Hanly report implemented.
Will the Minister for Education and Science come to the House to discuss the issue which I have raised previously? At the stroke of a pen, by giving resources to the medical schools, the 600 to 700 doctors required could be qualified within six years, but no effort is being made to do anything. I do not know if the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Health and Children ever discuss the issue. In the autumn we will have the usual moaning and groaning about the points level but no effort will be made in the interim to do something about one part of the Hanly report on which we were all agreed.
Will the Leader consider having a brief debate on the plight of the Palestinians? While I know the time of the House is short, the situation in Palestine is serious. I wish to record that six Members of the Oireachtas — Senator John Paul Phelan, four Members of the Lower House and I — were challenged by Israeli troops in what was a serious incident in Hebron on 6 June. Only for the timely intervention of Dr. Niall Holohan and Colm O'Conaill, our representatives in Palestine, at least four by-elections might have been required, two for this House.
The Israeli troops were in a crouched firing position, armed with semi-automatic rifles. It was a serious situation, given that we were in an area close to the ancient mosque, from where all Palestinian residents have been removed, and we were practically on our own with some Palestinians. The Government may have to send a report to the Israelis about this matter.
Captain Minihan is minding that.
If six members of the Israeli Knesset visited Ireland and were confronted by Irish troops, it would be a serious incident. This was a serious, near fatal incident which——
We are aware of the incident. I agree it was serious.
I hope the Leader will consider having a short debate before the recess to highlight the situation.
I fully support the proposal of Senator Brian Hayes to park the Garda Síochána Bill for six months, which would promote its agreement and improvement. The House will agree it is important that the person charged with the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of Garda reforms, namely, our distinguished colleague, Senator Maurice Hayes, the Minister, and as many of those involved as is possible, are at one on this matter.
Senator Maurice Hayes has highlighted some important points. Most of us would agree it is best to have a single ombudsman rather than a commission of three. If there must be a commission of three, it is to be hoped there would be a chairman of the three. However, as Senator Maurice Hayes has outlined, we would prefer to have a single ombudsman. The Senator also rightly pointed out that rights of access——
We cannot have a debate on the matter now.
I appreciate that. I am not trying to debate it. I am trying to point out that important differences exist which could be reconciled. What Senator Brian Hayes proposes is totally admirable. We do not have many MI5-type barracks in this country. In any case, I do not want to make such comparisons.
To move to another issue, I will refer to that favourite town of ours in the deep south west——
On this occasion, I refer to Dingle.
Should that be An Daingean?
An Daingean or Dingle. I am all for bilingualism and the promotion of the Irish language. However, if democracy means anything, people's opinions must count. There was no consultation on this issue, and there must be consultation. Outside Gaeltacht areas, placenames should be bilingual, for example, Dingle and An Daingean.
Since the House last met, we have had the report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children into illegal nursing home charges. The report has undermined public confidence in the committee system operated by this House, even though it has functioned very well in the past. There is much concern that the report was about the protection of sinners and it is regarded as censorship at its best. No political responsibility has been taken for the illegal charges which have cost the State in excess of €1 billion. It is a sad day for democracy. There was a proposal for the adoption of a Cabinet style system in this country, similar to that which exists within the EU. If that system was in place, we would at least have the resignation of the Cabinet and Government with regard to this matter. What has taken place is scandalous. Nobody in Government has borne the responsibility, which is shameful.
We must be mindful of the clock.
I support Senator O'Toole with regard to a debate on café bars. There was an interesting situation during the week when Senator Morrissey stated that Fianna Fáil has no values or principles in respect of this issue. Despite the official policy of the Department of Health and Children to oppose the café bar system, there is a significant conflict of interest with the Tánaiste, who is the Minister with responsibility for this area, and her Department with regard to alcohol outlets in Ireland. The issue must be urgently debated.
I agreed to help the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform implement whatever was passed by the Oireachtas. He very decently said that I could preserve my own independence and was quite free, and this was the context within which any discussion took place. It is a matter for the Oireachtas to decide and no one person has a greater right to dictate or declare the decision.
The Garda Síochána Bill should not be put on ice too much. The ombudsman only represents one part the legislation. More than anything else, the Morris report makes clear that the management of the Garda needs to be modernised, which is what the Minister is trying to achieve and it would be regrettable if one were to lose the tailwind behind that move. Changes could be made, but I am not in favour of putting the Bill on the shelf.
Years ago when one went to France one was amazed that people did not drink water from the tap but from bottles. As somebody who sells water in bottles I am always happy to find opportunities to sell more. We have recently been reminded of how vigilant we must be. Last weekend a ban was put on the use of water in the Tyrellstown area of Fingal. The matter received no publicity, but was a result of the health authority's vigilance. The same thing happened in Carlow a few weeks ago.
We have taken for granted the purity of Irish water. It was probably not all that pure in the past and it is due to the vigilance of those charged with overseeing the matter that we now have clean water. We should pay much more attention to the matter than in the past and there is now far more vigilance. Perhaps, however, that is not the case throughout the whole country. We should appreciate and concentrate on the issue.
Senator Bannon's utterances are comparable to the nonsense expressed——
The Senator must restrict his questions to the Order of Business.
I have no difficulty with the wording of Nos. 18 or 19. When the Opposition wins a vote it is called democracy but when it loses it is called fascism. It just cannot take the beating.
I am not sure that contribution was appropriate to the Order of Business.
What happened to consensus and committee work?
Representative groups within the BMW region have made many calls for regional balance. The most recent came from the western bishops as part of the Western Development Commission. The gap between east and west is widening each day with regard to the provision of proper infrastructure, roads and public transport. It is galling to discover that there has been an underspend of €2 billion in allocation from Structural Funds during the lifetime of the NDP. Will the Leader ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to come to this House and explain the underspend at a time when such an infrastructural deficit exists in the west of Ireland? The Minister should also tell us of the Government's plans to ensure some degree of regional balance in the absence of Structural Funds because there is a depletion in what is coming from Europe.
Progress has been made in some areas. Therefore, why is the absence of infrastructure always cited in response to requests for inward investment? We can only deduce that the Government is unconcerned about proper regional development in the west of Ireland.
Is the Senator seeking a debate?
I ask for a debate and that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government come to the House and explains where the unspent €2 billion has gone.
I agree with Senators who have spoken about Irish being finally recognised at EU level. We can join together in a proud manner in this House because we have set the precedent of not turning the Irish language into a political football. I commend Senator Brian Hayes on facilitating the joint debate and also Senator ÓMurchú. One of the commercial reasons for having Irish recognised as an official language is that Irish graduates coming out of university will be in a position to apply for jobs in Brussels and Strasbourg without having to have French, German or Spanish. Irish and English will suffice and this is a tremendous boost for the Irish language.
To follow on from this liathróid pholaitiúil, I would like to make a point with regard to the debate on placenames, specifically Dingle. All we are calling for on this side of the House is further consultation at a local level. There is a commercial angle to the issue. If the Minister is prepared, with the stroke of a pen, to rebrand Dingle as An Daingean, he must facilitate some sort of intervention and put money into the rebranding of Dingle. Rebranding is not easy and it costs money. Whether we like it or not Dingle is a brand name and there are many commercial reasons for keeping it. There are also commercial opportunities if we try to pump money into rebranding it as An Daingean.
With regard to the debate on café bars, I have never met anybody who died of thirst or lack of alcohol. I am delighted the Minister has climbed down and am bemused to hear the Progressive Democrats talk of cheaper alcohol for sale in these so-called café bars. If that was the case, why did the party not look for a cut in duty from the Minister for Finance?
The Senator must restrict his comments to the Order of Business.
I agree with Senator Bannon in that the Minister for Health and Children should come to the House to debate the health aspect of increasing the potential sales of alcohol. It would be a disaster for the community at large. We witness more anti-social behaviour every week. Local newspapers are full of court cases almost all of which are alcohol-related. Making alcohol even more freely available would only add to the problem. It would be a disaster in rural areas. The Minister should consider transferring bar licences from depopulated to populated areas and ensure the proper distribution of licences. There was no need to go down this road in the first place.
Senator Brian Hayes raised the Garda Síochána Bill. It is the intention to bring the Garda Síochána Bill back to the Seanad during the last week of this session to deal with amendments made in the Dáil. Senator Maurice Hayes mentioned that he did not think it should be left on ice for too long or the momentum towards reform would be lost.
Senator Brian Hayes thought there would be time for reflection on the Morris report. He condemned the transfer of five Donegal gardaí to Dublin. There is public disquiet and distinct unhappiness about the transfer of these gardaí with whatever baggage they may bring. That they will not be dealing with the public, as we heard this morning, is condemnation in itself. Two other members have resigned.
Senator O'Toole asked for additional time for the debate on the Morris report. The Labour Party Private Members' motion will be debated tomorrow from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Committee Stage of the Registration of Deeds and Title Bill will be taken from 7.15 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. I will examine this and consider whether it is possible to add additional time. I thank the Labour Party for its helpful attitude and for taking up that issue in the Private Members' motion. People who wanted to speak on the matter will now be able to do so. I hope to have that worked out by tomorrow morning.
Senator O'Toole welcomed the decision on Irish, which I also think is great. The Minister was great on television and queried why people complained about a sum of €3 million, which is going to a good cause, when so much money is wasted in Europe. Senator O'Toole also referred to café bars and restaurants. Restaurants will now have full licences although one could always get a drink other than wine in a restaurant — perhaps one should not have been able to do so. People speak blithely as if wine were not alcohol.
Was that under the counter?
Perhaps it was a case of uisce faoi thalamh. This is a great opportunity for restaurants and they should now also function as cafés where one can have small portions of food with a drink.
Senator O'Meara wishes to stop the Garda Síochána Bill and she supports Senator Maurice Hayes in what he said on the matter. She also expressed concern at the outcome of the Morris tribunal. I agree with her call for a debate on asylum seekers. I cannot understand how people can be bedded in here for three or four years, with children in schools, and suddenly can be yanked away. It is awful and we are all hanging our heads on the matter. We are all citizens of the world.
It would be beneficial to have a debate on the report on pre-schools by the National Economic and Social Forum, of which Senator Mooney and I are members. The report is due to be debated by NESC tomorrow.
Senator Ó Murchú referred to the decision on the Irish language which gave us back our pride as a nation. He praised Stádas, the campaigning group, which should be congratulated. This House took an all-party view on the matter, as we did on provincial rugby some time ago. Senator Finucane expressed opposition to the café bar idea, as did his party. I approved of it and remember commenting that I could see myself swanning around in one.
What is new?
At least the Leader is consistent.
I think that the proposal on restaurants is a good idea and that the Minister, Deputy McDowell, is a sensible man. He recognised what he could and could not do.
He is a courageous man.
He was able to shift his ship quite quickly into the idea of restaurants having licences. Senator White referred to 40% of chief executives not wanting women at the top of their companies. In fact they did not say that; they said that women would not make it to the top. She said that targets should be set and achieved. Senator White also referred to the decision on Portmarnock Golf Club at which I was gobsmacked. I do not play golf but the Senator is correct in saying that many decisions are made through networking on the 19th hole.
It is not like that in Killarney.
Senator Henry points out that 600 to 700 doctors are needed according to the Hanly report and that the Minister for Education and Science should come to the House to discuss the enrolment policy and the numbers studying medicine. That is one aspect of Hanly on which we would all agree. I will try to arrange that. Senator Leyden asked for a debate on the situation in Palestine. We did not have as exciting a time as the Senator seems to have had but I am glad he and his colleagues made it back safely.
I thank the Leader.
Senator Coghlan suggests the Garda Síochána Bill be parked for six months but if that happened everyone would complain and question why it was parked. The Senator is aware of this. He asked for further consultation on Dingle and I hope that can be facilitated.
Senator Bannon referred to the report on charges in nursing homes, which he alleges was censored. He also referred to the Cabinet style system in the EU and to café bars. Can you see them in Longford?
You will see a few of them yourself in Longford before too long.
The Senators should speak through the Chair.
The Senator is winding me up. Senator Maurice Hayes points out that the Oireachtas will decide on the Garda Síochána Bill and we appreciate the role he will be playing. The Senator did not think the Bill should be put on ice. Senator Quinn referred to the quality of water and how more vigilance was needed in that regard. I cannot report on Senator Glynn as this was a matter between himself and another Senator.
It is sub judice.
Senator Ulick Burke refers to the BMW region and notes there is a serious underspend of capital. We will seek the presence of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Senator McHugh referred to the status of the Irish language and pointed out that Irish graduates now know two official languages in Irish and English. I never thought I would see that. Instead of having French and German one can have Irish and English. If we are to refer to An Daingean, it should be marketed effectively. Senator Browne also referred to café bars. I think the Senators have lost their sense of adventure. Would the Senators not like to visit café bars?