Senators Fitzgerald, Norris, White, Healy Eames, O'Doherty and many others expressed serious concerns about the changes in child care provisions. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brendan Smith, will be in the House to discuss the community child care subvention scheme for 2008 to 2010 at 3.30 p.m. next Wednesday. If necessary, the Minister of State has also kindly agreed to return to the House the following week to resume the debate. That should allay the fears of various Senators. The rules are being changed in order that data are accurately supplied. Someone who earns an income in excess of six figures should not have the same standing as a person on social welfare or a person earning €30,000 a year. In the interests of giving a better service to those most in need, Senators will be afforded all the time they require to make their contributions to a debate on this serious topic in the presence of the very excellent Minister of State and to allay the fears of those in need of the service.
It is proposed to debate next Thursday Government policy on food safety, which was requested a few weeks ago, with the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher.
Many excellent contributions were made on the uses and abuses of alcohol. I appreciate the views expressed, particularly those of Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, who is a shining example of a person who has dedicated his life to promoting an alternative, wholesome way of life through family entertainment provided by Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann. He has given young people a shop window to the world by promoting our culture. Very few countries have a trade called after them but we have Irish music. I thank Senators for their support.
I mentioned this issue in my interview in the latest edition ofHot Press, which was published earlier, in the context of road safety to begin a debate. It is not right that on work nights, Monday to Thursday, young people can drink until 2.30 a.m, take a taxi to be home by 3 a.m., which is responsible, before getting up at 6.30 a.m. and driving a car to work. That does not make common sense. As someone who has been in the music industry all his life, I said in the article that I failed to see a reason not to grant extensions until 2.30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights because people do not have to work the following day. It is not right and fair to all concerned in the interest of road safety. As the late Paudge Brennan, a legendary Member of both Houses, always said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.” We would act responsibly by holding an all-day debate on road safety and alcohol abuse to see how best we can serve the Minister, his departmental officials and the Government on an all-party basis.
Senator Alex White mentioned the GAA and I thank him for his strong views in this area. However, many sporting organisations use alcohol sponsorship to promote their games. They need this money to keep the show on the road and to make their organisations attractive and viable. They do not want to take money from Heineken, Guinness, Bulmers and other companies but they lack finance. Senators might consider how the Government might be asked to supply the funding rather than the sponsors. There are many good sponsors such as the ESB, which sponsors the all-Ireland minor GAA championship. The chief executives of State organisations have a responsibility to consider how they may help the Government and citizens, particularly young people, by making their profits available to address the gaps in funding available to the various sporting organisations.
Senator Norris and others, on both sides of the House, have expressed strong and differing views on an issue that is, in many cases, a matter of conscience. Every Member's view must be respected. I urge Senator Norris to consider, in co-operation with his Independent colleagues, putting forward this issue for discussion in Private Members' time. I will allocate a slot for such a debate as speedily as the Senator requires.
I have no objection to Senator Keaveney's call for a debate on animal welfare. I will convey her views to the Minister after the Order of Business.
Senator Regan spoke about the situation of drivers with provisional licences. In the last 72 hours, 38,000 driving test applications were requested. Yesterday alone, 10,000 application forms were issued. This indicates the scale of the problem we must address. We all support the Minister for Transport in his endeavours in this regard, although his timeframe may not be that originally envisaged. The reality is that the enormity of the situation may be of a greater scale than anybody in either House imagined. Given the increase in our population of 1 million in ten years, there is little wonder that the number of drivers with provisional licences has increased to such an extent. We all want to do what is best and the Government is moving in that direction. We should all support the Minister in his efforts to reduce the carnage on our roads. I fully support everything that was said in this regard.
Senator Glynn called on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to take action in regard to estate management. As one who has worked with residents of estates for several years, particularly in Mullingar, I fully agree with his sentiments. The Department must make resources available to local authorities to allocate to areas requiring support. In particular, funding should be made available to them to provide CCTV. The great advantage of CCTV is that it does not pit neighbour against neighbour by requiring a person to give evidence against somebody else. The evidence is there for all to see. The new German system provides 24-hour surveillance that can be transmitted directly to the local Garda station. This will allow gardaí to identify the two or three people in some estates who make life miserable for their unfortunate neighbours, some of whom are obliged to remove themselves and their families from their homes. This is the only solution to the problem. I have spoken to people living on such estates who are crying out for funding for CCTV. I will allow time for a debate on this issue.
Senators Callely, Prendergast, Healy Eames and Doherty expressed concerns about the availability of the BreastCheck service, as administered by the HSE. The service is a godsend in many areas. It has been in Mullingar for the last five weeks. A member of my family had reason to be fearful in this regard but was, thankfully, given the all clear. Peace of mind is sacrosanct. As I always say, the most important word in the dictionary is "happiness". It is essential that women enjoy the peace of mind of knowing such a service is available to them. There should be no exceptions in terms of this facility not being available in some areas.