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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 23 Jun 2005

Vol. 180 No. 25

Order of Business (Resumed).

Senator Brian Hayes asked if there would be separate liquor licensing legislation or if it would be done through the Garda Bill. We will know that very soon, as the Senator requested a briefing for Senators prior to the Bill coming to the Seanad. The Garda Bill will come to the House next week and we are seeking to have adequate time to discuss some 140 new Report Stage amendments to it. It is practically a new Bill. As Senator Maurice Hayes said, we should not put it in cold storage. We should deal with it and provide adequate time to discuss it.

Senator O'Toole said rushed legislation would be wrong legislation. As a general principle that would be correct but I hope that the briefing we will get and the time we will be able to devote to it will mean it will not be rushed here. The prison rules book became available last night after the debate in the House. It was a very fortuitous piece of work. I agree we should debate the matter after the recess.

The Senator also raised the matter of agriculture and asked if we would all be kicked around again. The strangest part of this debacle — I refer not so much to the debate on the sugar industry but to that on agriculture in general — is that the United Kingdom signed up to the agreement in this regard some years ago and now wants to decouple itself from it.

Senator Ryan said that, over the years, too many people were guilty of conning in agriculture. He referred to the changing conditions under which sugar can be produced. He stated the sugar barons will just get richer and that a just regime should obtain among sugar producers internationally.

Senator Ryan also asked about Aer Rianta's debt. On the last occasion this matter was raised, I made inquiries and was told that, according to the legislation, the debt of Aer Rianta is to be taken on by Dublin Airport Authority and that the Minister stated this in the House. The disquiet is arising because Shannon and Cork airports have debts and Dublin Airport Authority does not want to take them upon itself. The authority could not wait to be set up so it will have to live with this.

On the timescale pertaining to amendments to the Garda Síochána Bill, we are endeavouring to allow a decent amount of time for the debate. We will not allow ourselves to be given the bum's rush.

Senator Dardis referred to the sugar regime and the Common Agricultural Policy. He implied it is much more than a question of money for farmers as rural policy must also be considered. He stated we cannot unravel a deal that has been made. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, will be in the House next week to consider amendments made to the Veterinary Practice Bill in the Dáil. We will ascertain whether an hour can be allowed, either before or after the taking of that Bill, to debate the sugar industry and agricultural in general.

On Senator Ulick Burke's point on mortgages, I did not answer it but stated the up-to-date position. The Senator asked about schools. There are 12 primary schools which are one pupil short of the quota. As I understand it, in each of the 12 schools, the deficit of one pupil will be made up in the following year and other requirements will be met. The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, stated this issue will be considered in September, but this is too late for principals arranging timetables for September. One can imagine the mayhem that will be caused with a three teacher school being reduced to a two teacher school. The Minister is very alert to the problem and we will endeavour to make progress on the matter next week. Just 12 primary schools stand to lose a teacher because they are one pupil short of the required number.

Senator Hanafin also referred to mortgages and presented the legal case in this regard. He stated equity should be the order of the day in agriculture. He also raised the matter of the lifts and the bells. The Seanad bell is distinctly different from that of the Dáil. We go "cuckoo" and they go straight forward.

More often than not.

It is a different bell. I would be very worried about the lift not so much because one might be late for a vote but because one could get stuck in it. I know there is a panic or emergency button but it would not work if there were no electricity.

Senator Bradford said the sugar industry could be wiped out. He apologised for having to leave. He is gone to tell his constituency in Cork what he said in the Seanad. I am delighted to hear this. He also said Garret FitzGerald and Austin Deasy toured Europe to ensure we were subject to correct treatment at a particular time in our agricultural history.

Senator Maurice Hayes said sufficient time should be allowed for a full debate on the Garda Síochána Bill and he shared the Minister's view that we should press on with it. My job is to ascertain whether a decent amount of time can be allowed for considering it. We are trying to achieve this. I reiterate that I would not have it on my conscience that we rushed the Bill in the House.

Senator John Paul Phelan called for a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy and the sugar industry next week. He expressed dismay at the Revenue Commissioners' interpretation of legislation exempting first-time buyers from stamp duty if the property they are buying is under a certain value. He asked about the status of the medical examination in primary schools. I did not know it is no longer carried out. One used to get one's injections in school. Maybe someone with children of a schoolgoing age will tell us rather than having the Senator look back with fondness to his time in school.

Senator Feeney called for a debate on cystic fibrosis. I would very much like this and I will create a slot therefor in the autumn.

Senator Browne called for a debate on the sugar industry and referred to corporate greed. He does not believe Greencore's protestations over a rail depot. On the question of MRSA, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, is set on dealing with the audit of the hospitals. We are now told there many other bugs that one could contract, some of which sound very exotic.

Senator Browne also called for a debate on child care. Yesterday Senator O'Toole asked me if we could have such a debate quite soon after the recess. I know many other Senators want such a debate. I agree with Senator Browne regarding schools. The challenging environment of school, in which a child might be from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. or 2 p.m., may not be the correct environment in which a child should remain. I accept this point very strongly. I believed from the beginning that the approach the Senator described was an odd way to deal with the matter. We will see how the debate develops.

Order of Business agreed to.