Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 1, Statements on the Lisbon Reform Treaty (resumed); No. 2, the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 and, No. 19, Private Members' motion No. 35 re school building projects. It is proposed that No. 1 will be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business to conclude not later than 12.30 p.m. and during which spokespersons may speak for ten minutes, Senators may share time and the Minister to be called upon ten minutes before the end of the debate for concluding comments and to take questions from spokespersons; No. 2, the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 and to be adjourned no later than 5 p.m. if not previously concluded, spokespersons may speak for 12 minutes and all other Senators for eight minutes and, Senators may share time with the agreement of the House; and, No. 19, Private Members' motion No. 35 re school building projects will be taken at the conclusion of No. 2 to conclude not later than 7 p.m.; No. 2 shall resume at the conclusion of No. 19 if not previously concluded. The business of the House will be interrupted between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.

Yesterday, a Senator was cast out from this House on the reputation and integrity of members of the Judiciary. Senator Jim Walsh yesterday stated that the Chairman of the Mahon tribunal was acting as an effective shop steward for the tribunal. His exact words were and, I quote, "we must recognise that the chairmen of some of the tribunals in fact use their position in order to act more or less as shop stewards for the wealthy legal profession". That is a disgraceful comment by a Senator in this House, one which Senator Walsh has refused to withdraw. It casts a slur on the motivation, integrity and honesty of members of the Judiciary in carrying out their duties in the public interest. It suggests that judges act in the interests of a particular profession rather than in the interests of public good and justice.

Senator Walsh has refused to withdraw the remark. This cannot be allowed to pass. Simply withdrawing from the House is not enough. I have read the transcript and listened to a recording of the proceedings. I believe the reputation of this House has been damaged by the remark made yesterday in the House by Senator Jim Walsh.

Yesterday, the Cathaoirleach referred to the importance of the separation of powers. The issue was also referred to by other Members. It is a cornerstone of our democracy and it is critical it is respected in this House and in the Dáil. I do not believe it was respected yesterday by the comments made.

The tribunals were established by the Houses of the Oireachtas and any effort to undermine their work is unacceptable, improper and inappropriate. If there are political charges, they can be responded to in a political manner. However, undermining and confusing this House by impacting on the separation of powers is not acceptable in a democracy. It is also dangerous. I wish to put the following motion to the House: "That this House regrets and distances itself from the comments of Senator Jim Walsh."

I dealt yesterday with the surly remark made in the House in accordance with Standing Orders 49 and 50 and will allow no further discussion on the matter. I want to put on record that the independence of the courts is enshrined in Article 35.2 of the Constitution which states, "All judges shall be independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and subject only to this Constitution and the law."

Equally, the role of the Oireachtas is set out in the Constitution and it is my duty as Cathaoirleach to ensure this separation of powers is respected in the Seanad. As I stated on election to the position of Cathaoirleach, my approach to Seanad business has been always based on co-operation and consultation. However, this must be balanced with ensuring Members respect other constitutional bodies. I appeal to Members to think twice before making sweeping statements in this House.

I am unable to accept Senator France Fitzgerald's motion.

Will the Cathaoirleach clarify why he cannot accept it?

I have received no prior notice of the motion.

I give the Cathaoirleach notice now that I wish to move this motion on the Order of Business.

The Senator will have to submit the motion in writing.

I can submit it in writing to the Cathaoirleach now.

The Senator must submit the motion in writing to the office.

In view of the seriousness of the situation, it is imperative the House shows its upset and displeasure at what happened here yesterday.

Standing Order 26 applies to motions. The exact timeframe within which motions must be submitted is enshrined in that Standing Order. I must observe Standing Orders.

I ask that the Cathaoirleach accept the motion in view of the exceptional circumstances and the slur cast on the reputation of the work of this House.

The Seanad is sitting today and tomorrow. It is a matter for the Senator if she wishes to submit the motion to my office.

I discussed this matter with Senator Fitzgerald and I am happy to second that motion. I am also happy to accept the Cathaoirleach's ruling on the basis that the House knows the motion will be debated. I am sure others will wish to add their signatures before tomorrow. I accept the ruling that the motion cannot be taken today but the House should know that some of us are very disturbed by what is happening. I respect the Cathaoirleach's motion and the very fine words he has put on the record. It is very important. I am happy to defer the taking of this motion tomorrow but I will fully support the points made by Senator Fitzgerald. This matter will not go away until it is dealt with.

Another issue arises from this. I was very embarrassed by the discussion yesterday. The Cathaoirleach asked that the position of the Chair be respected. Apart from the issue raised by Senator Fitzgerald, the Commission on Procedure and Privileges should examine the question of respect towards the Chair. When the Cathaoirleach gives a ruling, the Members of the House should follow it. I include myself and this bench of Senators. We are not demanding anything other than what is required of us all. I cannot remember any situation involving a Member on this side of the House who, when asked to sit down or withdraw what was said, did not comply. That is all I say on the matter. We will deal with it again. There appears to be an independent republic on the Government side of the House whereby a member of the Fianna Fáil group chose in one situation not to support a Government amendment last week, has rejected a request from his Leader and ignored the rules of the Chair. I will say no more.

We are on the Order of Business now and questions should go to the Leader.

I wish to raise an issue. Last night Members of the House may have seen reports of comments made by Senator Hillary Clinton regarding Iran. This is an issue that Senator Mark Daly and I have raised on a number of occasions in the House. Our point is that the situation in Iran is like that of Iraq five or six years ago. We are being offered two alternatives: to go along with the disgraceful regime in Iran or to oppose it through war. Senator Clinton's statement of last night, that as President of the United States she would be prepared in certain circumstances to "obliterate" Iran, is exactly what I fear. There are other options regarding that country and the best of those is similar to what was achieved with Solidarnosc in Poland years ago by supporting the democratic opposition. There is a third way in Iran. This country must speak out and so must Europe. We are heading down the same road as we did in Iraq. I am very disappointed that Senator Clinton has chosen those words and I hope she corrects them along the way. When she was asked a question on the subject she confirmed that she would do as she had said.

In an attempt to be helpful to my esteemed colleague, Senator Norris, I have circulated Members of the House with two pages from the Lisbon treaty which we can discuss later. It is an attempt to show people that the treaty can be easily read. The pages are taken at random but for the information of the House, and to correct any misunderstanding, Article 113 states that the Council shall act unanimously, with regard to the harmonisation of legislation on taxation. The phrase is "acting unanimously". The English language is the English language. There are not two interpretations of those words which are very clear. The other page was taken at random. I tried both pages out on a sixth-class child last night——

Try them on President Sarkozy.

——who, unlike my privately educated colleague, is not from an old Celtic caste system or the nether regions of same, but is in sixth class in primary school and was well able to read and understand them.

If the Senator was so helpful, why was he not equally helpful about my contribution on Iran?

I ask Members not to interrupt speakers. If they continue to do so I will ask the person interrupting to leave the Chamber immediately. I am unable to hear what is being said if others interrupt. To be fair, if we wish to run the House as it should be run, such interruptions must stop.

We continue our debate today on the Lisbon reform treaty. I spoke to the Irish Countrywomens Association yesterday about the treaty and one of the questions that regularly came up concerned how the treaty might improve equality for women. My response was that the Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees equality across gender. I am grateful to Senator O'Toole for this document because I see there that Article 157 states: "Each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers . . . is applied."

There are many things within the treaty that will guarantee equality. However, the ICA delegates' fears are well-founded. This morning I read a report about the percentage of women professors in Ireland. The fact that only 10% of university professors in this country are women is pathetic.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Coupled with that, our nation has the second lowest participation rate of women in the political system in the European Union. Only Malta has a lower rate. If we look at Spain, the Prime Minister there, Mr. Zapatero, has just appointed his cabinet in which the majority of members are women.

There is a great opportunity for our incoming Taoiseach. I ask him to consider seriously taking a leaf from the book of the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr. Zapatero, and increasing the number of women in his Cabinet.

The Green Paper on local government reform was published yesterday. There are many good things in it. Certainly the news that towns such as Ashbourne and Maynooth may soon get their own town councils is welcome. At the same time I am concerned that the paper contains nothing about how all this will be funded nor indeed any details on local government funding. As a person who comes from a commuter area I know how concerned people are at how difficult it is becoming to provide basic essential services because of the lack of funding and the lack of increase in funding to keep pace with population growth.

The proposal for directly elected mayors is welcome. Many of us who have experience in this regard will know that county managers are like local czars. They are unelected, unaccountable and in many cases are cosseted from the coalface by their officials. Directly elected mayors will contribute to democracy if the experience of London is anything to go by. There has been a dramatic improvement in the quality of life in that city. My only question is why must we wait until 2011? Why can we not have directly elected mayors sooner?

I also welcome the publication of the Green Paper on local government reform. It will be followed at the end of the year by a White Paper. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, has instituted an important policy of public consultation. As to the vexed question of local government finance, that will be dealt with by the Commission on Taxation which will report by the end of 2009. I am confident the twin-track reforms in the structures and funding of local government will be dealt with in the short term and this will help the House to debate the contents of the Green Paper as quickly as possible so that we can help inform that debate and consequent public consultation.

Senator Regan, Senator Alex White and I are members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution which is discussing constitutional provisions on the freedom of expression. It may be unfortunate that a recent court case did not deal with the area of Oireachtas privilege because if that were properly defined we might avoid the type of events that led the Cathaoirleach to make the judgment he had to make yesterday.

I apologise to Senator McFadden who indicated she wished to speak yesterday but I missed out on that.

I completely understand the Cathaoirleach's predicament and I thank him for allowing me speak so soon. Yesterday I wished to raise the issue of the Athlone main drainage and sewerage scheme. I had an Adjournment motion about this in February. The situation has been continuing for two years and we still have no response from Government. A sum of €15 million was allocated although the cost of the scheme will be €80 million. As Members will be aware, Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore are part of the national spatial strategy which requires that areas of sufficient scale and critical mass be built up. We cannot continue to build any more houses or have any further development in the Athlone area because the sewerage scheme is at its maximum. Raw sewage goes into the Shannon which is an appalling situation considering what has occurred nearby in County Galway. Our water will be contaminated. It is a scandal the Shannon is being polluted with raw sewage. I do not accept that this matter should be fudged and put on the back burner. It is now a critical situation. I ask that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, come to the House and answer questions on the matter. It was not he who spoke to me when I put forward the motion originally. The sum of €80 million is required.

I wish to raise the issue of the announcement today by the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency of the number of vessels apprehended in Irish waters in the first quarter of this year. I ask the Leader to either have a debate on this issue or to ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Mary Coughlan, to examine this serious situation. Out of 14 vessels arrested, 13 were Irish and one was French. A total of 14 other vessels had shots fired over their bow, to use a pun, in so far as they were let off with a warning.

Some of the boats were arrested in west Cork, Dublin, Galway and so on. The existence of an apartheid situation is a matter of deep concern to myself and fishermen throughout the country.

I rarely beg the Cathaoirleach's indulgence on the Order of Business. Let us assume that two vessels with fish dock in Castletownbere, one of which is Spanish and the other of which is Irish. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority officers can board the Irish vessel and check the quantity of fish and any technical log book regulations but have no power to board a Spanish vessel. This is happening on a daily basis. There is anger about this and irrespective of whether the law is wrong or it is due to a European regulation, it does not make sense that fish——

At this minute, a significant Dutch fleet is catching thousands of tonnes of fish off our coastline and is being neglected by the Irish Navy and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. At the same time, fishermen, some of whom are struggling to survive, who come in with one box of monkfish over quota are landed before the Circuit Court with penalties that far outweigh the offence in question.

It is a serious issue. The statistics have been announced this morning and are worrying. In respect of all the vessels caught, there appears to be an apartheid system in place which discriminates against Irish fishermen who have suffered enough. I have always fought for fishermen. It is an industry we have neglected through Europe but we should try to protect what we have and not allow Spain, the Netherlands and other countries throughout Europe to maraud through our waters and rape our seas. When the Spanish vessel unloads its fish in Castletownbere, the Irish boys are being treated like serious criminals and are concerned about it. The Spanish can say, "What we land in Spain is our business and what we land here is none of your business". That cannot go on.

In recent months, we have spent much time in this House talking about two different points. The first is the serious problems we face in dealing with transport and congestion issues in the Dublin region. We have noted at great length the difficulty this is causing families, businesses and commuters in the area.

A second point we have discussed at even greater length is the concern many Members of this House have about the Health Service Executive. This is an organisation that was set up, asked to do too much and is full of experts and well-meaning people who, however, are not subject to Oireachtas accountability or to people in this House and elsewhere who cannot put questions to them to understand what is happening in their community.

This afternoon, we could do the same with legislation in respect of the Dublin transportation authority. This is a hugely powerful organisation that will have unprecedented powers to influence and execute infrastructure and transport services within the greater Dublin area. The legislation is being put before us this afternoon for the Second Stage debate to take place in one afternoon. No time is being afforded to Members of this House to scrutinise, understand or talk to experts about legislation that has taken the Department of Transport nearly six years to create.

I wish to move an amendment to the Order of Business today to allow us to extend the Second Stage debate on this legislation to next week. If we do not do this and if Members of the House do not support this amendment, I predict that in two or three years' time, Members on the other side of the House will be talking about the Dublin transportation authority in the same way they talk about the Health Service Executive. They will talk about their inability to get clear answers, a lack of responsiveness to questions they put and an inability to deliver key projects. If we do not extend this debate and have an opportunity to scrutinise this legislation properly, we will make the same mistake again.

I tried to intervene on yesterday's Order of Business in respect of a point made by Senator Norris about the number of missing children. I support the call for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come before the House. In respect of the children to whom Senator Norris referred, over 300 children in the care of the HSE have gone missing in the past few years. They are unaccompanied minors who have arrived alone in Ireland from other countries. As such, they are particularly vulnerable as there is no one to advocate on their behalf or seek information from the Garda as to how the search for them is going, presuming such a search is ongoing.

It is suspected that some of these children leave the care of the HSE to be reunited with their families who are in Ireland. However, it is also suspected that some have been trafficked into Ireland and then exploited. I welcome the extension of the inspectorate to residential accommodation for unaccompanied minors but I would like to see the Minister come before the House to specifically address the need for a report on how many children are missing, the exact steps being taken by the HSE and the Garda to locate them, the criteria by which the children are permitted to reunite with people who come forward to claim a family connection and for that criteria to be altered so that reunification does not take place simply on the basis of consistent stories but on the basis of a much more verifiable link.

I very much respect the Cathaoirleach's position, the way he conducts himself and the rulings he gives. However, I must reluctantly say that I cannot give an undertaking that I will never interrupt again because it is part of the tradition of this House. Had I not interrupted and heckled yesterday, the very serious matter we were discussing might have passed unnoticed. Nobody else stopped the Senator in question and nobody else, including the Cathaoirleach, rebuked him until I heckled and interrupted him. If one studies the record, one will see what happened. There is a very useful role for the judicious interruption. That is part of the tradition of this House.

We are on the Order of Business.

I did so because it is very dangerous to undermine the institutions of this State. Perhaps if it is constitutionally possible, we can have a debate on the function of the Judiciary. I do not know if that would violate the constitutional requirement.

It is worth pointing to the name of the person involved. Senator Callanan said that the allegation should be repeated because it was true. I clearly heard that. The report in the newspaper said it was Senator Cannon who said that. This should be corrected. It was not Senator Cannon but Senator Callanan, who also included some personally abusive material about me which I do not require him to withdraw. I do not regard it as being of any consequence because I do not regard him as a person of political significance anyway.

That is a nasty thing to say.

It does not matter. It is a political statement that I can make.

We are on the Order of Business and I ask the Senator whether he has any questions for the Leader.

(Interruptions).

I will not withdraw it. It is a political charge. I am raising the question of the Judiciary and I believe it is very important that we have an opportunity to look at it because it is being consistently undermined. To be fair, I disagree strongly with the programme of Fine Gael as announced recently, which I am sure is well-intentioned. It suggested that mandatory sentences is the way we should go and that there must be an automatic 25-year sentence for murder and so on. If we suspect the judgment of judges, that is a very serious situation.

There was a very nasty rape case recently and one sympathises very strongly with the victims. However, there is a lack of proportion in the attacks upon a Member of the other House who apparently wrote a letter about the family background which said that the parents were decent people. As far as I know, that may well be a fact. Yet people attacked the Member when they did not even have possession of that letter.

It is very important that we have a sense of proportion because included in that is a suggestion that the judge would not be able to reach a proper decision because of a simple letter like that. I have much more confidence in judges. When we impugn people like that, we damage things. It is a different, for example, when we put on record matters of fact, as I did, about the professor of psychiatry. I pointed out a fact, of which the public must be informed, that the authors of a Swedish report that she quoted contradicted her.

The Senator can discuss that during a debate at a later point.

That was followed by the head of UNICEF who said her use of this information was inaccurate and inappropriate. I did not impugn her. I did not say there was anything ideological about what she said, although my colleague, Senator Mullen, impugned the reputation of those Swedish researchers without knowing anything about them. He said they were ideologically driven. There is no doubt that both he and Professor Casey have an ideological background because they are involved in the Iona Institute, but I am only interested in the question of the facts.

The Deputy has made his point.

There has already been a call for a debate on the Green Paper on local government reform, the launch of which I had the pleasure of attending yesterday. I would welcome an early debate on this issue to which we should invite the Minister concerned to attend. As Government spokesperson on the environment, heritage and local government, I look forward to such a debate. There are many interesting proposals included in the Green Paper. As in the case of every proposal, there are parts of it one likes and parts of it of which one is not fond. Nevertheless, it is an innovative initiative by the Minister and I would warmly welcome an early opportunity to debate it.

I wish to raise another matter, of which the Leader will be aware, and draw it to the attention of our spokesperson on this area, Senator Carty. A serious problem concerning the depletion of our fish stocks by non-nationals has arisen in the midlands. I do not apologise for saying that because it has been established that a certain group of people have used a net on one side of a river or a canal and have taken everything, including fish fingerlings, out of the water but nothing has been put back in.

This is about the tenth time I have raised this matter. I want something done about it. I request the Leader to invite the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, to come to the House to bring forward definitive proposals to put an end to this practice. Westmeath is known as the lake county. We have many natural lakes and rivers in the county, of which we are proud. Those resources are a great tourism attraction, but tourists will not come to the county when our fish stocks are totally depleted. I ask again for an early debate on this matter.

I second the Senator Donohoe's amendment to the Order of Business on the Dublin Transport Authority Bill. It is important legislation. Since we commenced this Seanad, we have amended three Bills because of errors in them. It is important that time is permitted for the taking of such an extensive Bill.

On a transport-related matter, I ask that the Minister for Transport be invited to come to the House for a debate on the Road Transport Act 1932. It dates from the 1930s but it cannot be applied as it was at that time. It provides for the licensing of, among other matters, bus passenger services. I am prompted to make this request by the operation of the Patten Flyer service between Dalkey and Dublin Airport. The operators of this service provided a much needed service in the area where there was no pre-existing service. An application for a licence was made in 2006, but it has not been dealt with. The Minister, Deputy Dempsey, has referred the matter to the Garda. Efforts are being made with the Dublin Airport Authority not to give stopping rights to the Patten Flyer.

The manner in which this Act is implemented cannot be considered in isolation from the European framework within which we operate and the freedom to provide services. I request a debate on that Act and specifically that the Minister would address the manner in which he is implementing the Act, in particular in regard to a service that is operating very successfully between Dalkey and the airport.

I welcome the fact that the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, will address the House tomorrow on the issue of the Lisbon treaty. We frequently have debates here about the relevance of the Seanad and we question how we can get the media to take more seriously the business of the House. I suggest that if the Taoiseach of the day were to address the House on a more regular basis, it would stimulate that interest and increase the perception of our relevance. I ask the Leader to consider this suggestion and to ask the incoming Taoiseach to address the House. Perhaps we could examine the possibility of it happening on a more regular basis. It would increase and improve the profile of the House.

I ask the Leader to convey to the Taoiseach some of the concerns Members of the House might have about the impact of a recent statement by a prominent businessman on the Lisbon treaty. I have been contacted by a number of business people querying whether the ratification of the treaty will have a positive or a negative impact on Irish business. I ask that the Taoiseach address this question tomorrow when addressing the issue of the treaty in the House.

The Minister for Health and Children when dealing with the issue of patient safety in the House yesterday presented global figures that suggested all was well. I seek guidance on this issue because I am at a loss to know where we can get direct answers to specific questions. All the local crises do not add up to everything being acceptable globally.

This morning and in recent days I was yet again contacted concerning what I would call a silent crisis affecting lone men isolated in rural Ireland. A GP contacted me to advise that in her clinic alone 20 men miss their diabetic or cardiac clinic visits weekly in the hospital because of a cutback in their transport service. One of her patients is a double amputee. He has no vehicle and is totally isolated. I seek the Leader's guidance on this matter. Should I request that the Minister be invited back to the House to address this issue?

The Senator is asking the Leader to facilitate addressing this matter.

Yes, I am seeking the guidance of the Leader on this matter. There is no equity in our health system. These cutbacks represent policy that is penny-wise and pound foolish. Dialysis patients have a transport service but they are regularly late for their clinic visits. The local taximan who provided these patients with a transport service for 28 years has been cut off in terms of the service he provided. He carried three patients at a time for 95 cent an hour.

The Senator can raise that during a debate on the matter.

These cutbacks are damaging the health of these people, which amounts to another crisis. This was what I was told by one GP in Lenane in Connemara. She said to me that if I contacted others who are affected the story would be the same.

I ask the Leader for guidance as to how best to handle this matter. Should we invite back to the House the Minister for Health and Children to address this matter or who is accountable to make sure people's health is not further damaged? I mentioned the position of a double amputee who has no transport service to his local hospital.

The Senator has made her point.

I support the call by Senator Glynn to the Leader to request that the Minister, Deputy Ryan, come to the House to discuss the inland fisheries. There is a huge problem of over-fishing and in another year or two we will have to spend money restocking those lakes and rivers. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to come to the House to debate this matter as soon as possible.

The Irish Association of Supported Employment is an organisation that encourages and promotes the development of people with disabilities into work. It has an interesting challenge. Some 800 members of the association work with 5,000 people who do not get the opportunity to work and today is their job shadow day. I have been involved with the association for some time and have a job shadow, namely, Lindsay Maloney, who is seated behind me. She will watch what I do at work. I urge the Leader to encourage Members, in whatever job they do outside this House or in their work in the House, to adopt a job shadow day in their constituencies as it encourages those people who have not been given a chance to work to discover their abilities, capabilities and intelligence, which they will be able to adapt when they have the experience of working, even if it is only for one day.

I compliment the Leader on giving us a tremendously innovative experience yesterday of asking questions of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I found it the most dynamic statements session, whether one likes the answers one got or not or——

We got no answers. We just got rhetoric.

Senator White, without interruption.

We had no chance to ask questions. We were only allowed to ask one question.

It was my first experience of being able to ask a Minister direct questions. I had raised the matter previously of how to make the statement sessions more innovative and would welcome more such sessions, with Ministers answering direct questions.

I am disappointed in Senator Norris describing Senator Callanan, in his absence, as a person of little political significance.

I do not want to get into all of that now. I have had enough. The Senator has made her point.

Senator Norris is very naive politically because ——

——Senator Callanan is one of the wisest people in this Chamber.

His position has been so diminished.

When I came here as a rookie Senator he gave me tremendous advice during my first years.

Was Senator White listening?

We are on the Order of Business now, not promoting Senators.

Senator White is an ornament and a delight.

When does the Leader intend to reschedule last Wednesday's business which was postponed owing to the death of former President, Dr. Patrick Hillery? I am especially concerned about the issue of older people. As Fianna Fáil's Seanad spokesperson on older people, I would like to hear the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Hoctor, bring us up to date on developments in her Ministry.

On 19 March last I spoke in the House about the fact that Dr. Séamas Hegarty, the Bishop of Derry, raised in his St. Patrick's Day homily the issue of the conditions for Irish prisoners abroad. He called for the urgent implementation of the Government commissioned report on Irish prisoners abroad. There are approximately 800 to 1,000 Irish people in prisons abroad. The majority are in prison in the United Kingdom but many are being held in Central and South America in the most appalling conditions.

The main recommendations of the report were that a special unit be set up within the Department of Foreign Affairs, headed by a senior staff member and that a database on Irish prisoners abroad be set up. Since I last spoke on this matter, money has been allocated to set up a database on all Irish people abroad, including those in prison. I ask the Leader to invite a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the House to outline to us when the aforementioned unit will be set up. As the bishop noted, it is a fundamental requirement. I do not condone the actions of those who committed crimes abroad but I am concerned about their human rights.

I welcome the publication of the Green Paper on local government. Many of us have awaited its publication with bated breath. However, on an initial reading of it, I am very disappointed to see that it contains a great deal of rhetoric. It promises much and I am looking forward to a debate on its contents. There are many issues of interest in the paper. One suggestion is that there be directly elected mayors, a concept which should be examined. However, if it applies to Dublin, what will happen to the management system that is currently in place? There is no detail in the document and as we all know, the devil is in the detail.

It is a Green Paper.

Local government services are the most important services in this country for the ordinary citizen. Such services need reform and proper funding. I look forward to the debate on the Green Paper but what I have seen so far does not augur well for real local government reform.

Some Senators mentioned rural isolation and services for the elderly. I have just conducted a series of meetings in rural County Waterford where I heard real concerns expressed that services in the rural areas of this country are in serious decline and isolation is increasing. Many of the traditional organisations, such as Muintir na Tíre, the ICA, the GAA and others, which have done Trojan work in the past, are suffering badly owing to a lack of volunteers.

One must ask what the Government is doing in this area. It is too simplistic to say the decline of the rural Irish pub is the cause of the problem. While it is certainly a contributing factor, it is not the whole story. The Government and we, as politicians, have a role to play in giving new energy to rural life. We must debate the issue in this House. Since the beginning of this Seanad term the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has not been in the House, which indicates the issue is not a priority for the Government.

It is an issue that must be addressed. We must not forget that this country is predominantly rural. There is a substantial rural population in the country which is becoming more isolated by the day. We must take cognisance of that fact and act accordingly.

Senator Mary White mentioned the importance of services for the elderly and I agree with her. I remind the House that the Bealtaine festival was launched recently. It is a beautiful festival, running for the entire month of May, which engages elderly people in cultural and artistic activities. I ask that all politicians support the festival and call on the local authorities and relevant State agencies to do likewise. Organisations which work with the elderly are doing Trojan work locally and must be supported at every level.

I wish to raise the issue of applications for admission to the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, IPAV, in Ireland. I am not sure which Department has overall responsibility in this area——

Responsibility lies with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

I had assumed that to be the case and have had some correspondence on the issue with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform but I was not sure whether he had sole responsibility in this area.

I have received queries from two very competent auctioneers and valuers in County Donegal, one in my own constituency and the other in Donegal North-East. The people in question are two of the most distinguished auctioneers in County Donegal. For the past three years they have been endeavouring to become members of the IPAV but on every occasion they have been refused. No reason has been given why their applications have been refused although they meet all of the relevant criteria. I call for an investigation into the methods of the IPAV in providing membership to certain auctioneers and valuers while refusing membership to others. It appears to be unfair and questionable and I call on the Leader to raise the matter with the Minister and to arrange for a debate on the issue in the House.

I welcome that the property services regulatory authority Bill will be before the House during this session. I hope it will provide us with an opportunity to raise some of these issues. However, it is such an important issue that we should have a separate discussion on the matter. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister responsible to address the House.

Parliamentary privilege is an excellent privilege. It allows us to speak in the House without fear or favour. In the heat of the moment, we can often overstep the line but to maintain respect for our democracy, when the Cathaoirleach gives a direction to a Member of this House, it should be taken on board. I would take such direction on board. I have often made very strong remarks, both here and in the Lower House, about various Ministers but I would always take direction from the Cathaoirleach or the Ceann Comhairle. I suggest that the Cathaoirleach should speak to Senator Walsh again regarding what he said. He should withdraw the remarks.

I do not want to get involved with that again.

The matter is closed. The Senator should let it lie.

It is about respect for the House and respect for democracy. It is about arrogance from being in power for so long.

The Senator should not go on about respect.

That is what Senators must bear in mind. It is a disgrace to see such disregard for democracy and the reasons we are all here in the first place.

We do not need lectures on respect. We know all about it.

Government Senators do not know much about democracy though.

A Senator

We do.

Senator Twomey without interruption, please.

Many professions in this country, including the medical profession, pharmacists, nurses and so forth, have seen the status of their professional bodies change in the past two years. They are no longer self-regulated but are regulated by lay majorities. It is interesting that the legislation prepared by the Government on the creation of a legal ombudsman does not seek to make any change to the status of the councils for barristers and solicitors. Government Members are still happy for them to be self-regulated, yet they stand up in the House day after day criticising the legal profession and the Judiciary. The proposed legislation does not amend how these professions are regulated, even though the regulation of the medical profession has dramatically changed. Government Members must be happy about something and, therefore, they should be honest about what they say in the House.

I support Senator Donohoe's comments on the proposed Dublin transport authority. The debate on this huge organisation will be too short. If the HSE is for slow learners, as the Senator said, a wider debate is needed on this authority. This was discussed at length within the Department of Transport and a greater opportunity should be given to every Member to discuss the implications of the establishment of the authority because it will impact on the rest of the country and not only Dublin. The transport links will affect the rest of the country and every Member should have the opportunity to contribute in detail on the legislation.

I seek a debate on fisheries. An Irish Minister introduced draconian legislation, which is being used to persecute, penalise and criminalise fishermen.

The TUPE legislation, which guarantees workers' rights on ferry services, is being implemented in Northern Ireland but not in the Republic. Recently the Rathlin ferry was awarded a contract and Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, ensured TUPE legislation guaranteed the rights and privileges of workers. The same has not happened in this State and we have evidence of that in west Cork.

The overwhelming powers of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority should be debated. Its staff can board vessels, confiscate equipment and catches and bring fishermen before Circuit Court judges, in the process criminalising them. This issue should be debated at length in the House with the Minister. The lack of a fully fledged Minister for the marine is a huge disadvantage to the industry.

I congratulate Senator Ronán Mullen whom I have just appointed my finance director for the next general election.

The Green Paper on local government reform is like a curate's egg, as it is good in parts. However, I welcome it and I very much look forward to the White Paper, which Senator Boyle said will follow. The Green Paper is lacking in detail but this will be contained in the White Paper, which will fill in the gaps. We will have something more substantial to get our teeth into then.

Many calls for a debate on planning issues have been made. Perhaps the Leader will consider such a debate in conjunction with a debate on the Green Paper. People in rural Ireland feel they are being planned out of existence. I refer to the right of people to live where they were brought up or the right of a retired person to return to the place from whence he or she came. Preplanning is regarded as a right but I have been contacted by good, hard working county councillors from all over the country with stories about their problems securing preplanning meetings for people who approach them with difficulties. Will the Leader include this issue in the debate?

I strongly support the remarks of Senators O'Donovan and McCarthy about the operation of sea-fisheries regulations by our enforcement agencies. Every right thinking person believes these people are operating in a discriminatory fashion against domestic fishermen in favour of foreign fishermen.

I would like to think Senator Ó Domhnaill is correct about the property services regulatory authority Bill but it will not be taken in either House this session.

I support the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Donohoe. The Dublin Transport Authority Bill is significant and bulky and it will have far-reaching consequences for the future. It is intended to take Second Stage later today and Committee Stage next week and to rush the legislation through. Rushed legislation is bad legislation. Will the Leader reconsider his position on this Bill? We cannot take Second Stage of such an important Bill later today, followed by Committee Stage next week. Surely we should learn lessons from the past about rushing legislation through either House.

I support Senator O'Donovan's call for a debate on fisheries. He fought within his parliamentary party against the draconian measures introduced by the previous Government to criminalise fishermen. However, a Fianna Fáil Government introduced legislation to criminalise our fishermen.

While I agree with Senator Mary White regarding the Leader's innovation, yesterday's question and answer session with the Minister for Health and Children was tokenism and a farce. It was a brief session with Members only allowed one question. None of Senator White's questions was answered. An urgent debate on health issues is required because there is no accountability in the health system.

Will the Leader invite the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House to discuss the alcohol advisory group report, which was published earlier? It is a matter of grave national concern and a debate is needed on the abuse of alcohol. I implore the Leader as a matter of extreme urgency to invite the Minister to the House to discuss the report.

I have asked the Leader on numerous occasions to invite the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to the House because concern is increasing about the quality of life in both rural and urban Ireland. Community life is disintegrating and an urgent debate is needed because the Minister has not attended the House since this Seanad was elected.

I renew my call for a debate on bioethics, with particular reference to the disappointing news that it is to be recommended that embryo destructive stem cell research be permitted in this State. We need cures we can all live with and I remind Members about the promising research conducted in Japan, which demonstrated that flexible stem cells can be retrieved from adult cells. It was reported recently that Professor Ian Wilmut, who gave the world Dolly the sheep, has abandoned embryo destructive research because he wishes to pursue promising research in the area of adult stem cells.

My colleague, Senator Norris, whom I esteem greatly, in my absence criticised my comments yesterday about certain Swedish researchers. I am not a member of the Iona Institute. I have, like many other Oireachtas Members, attended the institute's events and I agreed on one occasion to chair one of its conferences on denominational education. I have been impressed by the institute's thinking approach to issues where previously ideology has dominated. I stand over my comments but I did not infer any moral fault on the part of those researchers when I suggested they might be blinkered by ideology.

There is no ideology.

I was not impressed at the way both the Swedish researchers and a UNICEF representative, Melanie Verwoerd, recently sought by means of a bare assertion to criticise legitimate points made by Professor Patricia Casey, who did not overstep the mark in the interpretation of points made. That is unhelpful because we need facts, not ideology, in such important debates.

Statements on the Lisbon reform treaty will be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and will conclude not later than 12.30 p.m. The contributions of spokespersons will be ten minutes, while those of all other Senators will be seven minutes. The sos will be between 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.

We fully agree with and respect the Cathaoirleach's ruling on the earlier issue raised by Senators Fitzgerald and O'Toole. We have always done so and if there is a need for a debate at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges——

On a point of order, will the debate on the Lisbon treaty conclude or adjourn at 12.30 p.m.?

It will adjourn at 12.30 p.m. I am making a request for a ten minute question and answer session before the conclusion of the debate. We have commenced this process in the House and we should try to maintain it. Every Member is satisfied with it and all the group leaders are supportive of this request.

Senators Hannigan, Boyle, Glynn, Coffey and Coghlan welcomed the publication of the Green Paper on local government reform and asked that Senators be given an opportunity to speak on matters pertaining to the achievements of local government and its future development. I intend to have an all-day debate on the Green Paper because the wealth of experience of Senators in this area will assist the Minister in addressing the matters raised in the document.

Senator McFadden raised the drainage and sewerage scheme in Athlone. I will endeavour to assist the Senator in this regard. I strongly suggest that she seek an update by raising the matter on the Adjournment, possibly tomorrow.

I raised it on the Adjournment in February.

Matters of this nature should be raised with Ministers and Departments. I will do everything in my power to assist the Senator, as will my parliamentary colleague, Deputy Mary O'Rourke.

The Leader's friend and colleague.

Senators O'Donovan, Glynn, Carty, McCarthy, Coghlan and Cummins expressed serious concerns regarding the unfair treatment of Irish fishermen. Our experienced colleague, the deputy leader of the Fianna Fáil Party in the House, Senator O'Donovan, cited an example. I will arrange an urgent debate on this matter and will contact the Minister's office as soon as the Order of Business concludes.

Senators Donohoe and Twomey called for an more time to discuss the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008. The debate commences at 7 p.m. and is open-ended. I will discuss with the party leaders the arrangements for the Remaining Stages on the conclusion of Second Stage. All Senators who wish to speak on Second Stage of this most important Bill may do so tonight. The debate will not be stifled. The Bill will go to the Other House and return to the Seanad in five or six weeks if amendments are made in the Dáil.

Senators Corrigan and Norris cited alarming statistics on missing children and called for an urgent debate on the issue. I am agreeable to holding such a debate.

Senator Regan called for a debate on the Road Transport Act 1932, particularly on the licensing of buses. I have no difficulty in making time available for such a debate.

Senator de Búrca welcomed the Taoiseach's visit to the House tomorrow. As it will be his final visit to the Seanad, I would like all available Senators to attend tomorrow at 2 p.m. to show their appreciation for everything the Taoiseach has achieved since taking office. The Taoiseach will also set out his views on the Lisbon treaty and Good Friday Agreement. Senator de Búrca's constituency colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Dick Roche, will be in the House in a few minutes to discuss the Lisbon treaty.

Regarding the matters brought to my attention by Senators Healy-Eames I will try to respond to the request made of me. Like Senator Mary White, I am always impressed by the openness, frankness and helpfulness of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, when she appears before us, for example, in facilitating Senators' requests to amend the Order of Business to extend yesterday's question and answer session. Yesterday's debate was an enlightening experience. With each visit by the Minister to the House, I become more confident that problems in the Health Service Executive are being addressed. Please God, they will be successfully resolved but it behoves all of us to assist the Minister in any way we can. Her contribution last night was uplifting and gives us all great confidence and hope that she will successfully overcome the challenge she has accepted.

I thank party spokespersons and Senators for their contributions during yesterday's debate. The proceedings of the House are enhanced by such debates and I congratulate everyone concerned.

I fully support Senator Quinn's comments on job shadow day, which falls today. Senators Mary White and Coffey raised issues affecting older people and those living in rural areas. As someone who travelled from door to door when I started out in life, I am aware of the seriousness of the challenge facing us. Economic success and the advent and popularity of television mean people are wrapped up in their own affairs and the old ways of visiting our neighbours' homes for a chat or a céilí are disappearing. I commend Senators White and Coffey for their commitment to older people, particularly those living in rural areas. I will gladly accede to their request for a debate.

Senator Mary White also noted remarks made by the Bishop of Derry, Dr. Séamas Hegarty, on the issue of Irish prisoners abroad. I am pleased to learn that progress is being made on this issue in the Department of Foreign Affairs. A debate scheduled in the House had to be postponed owing to the death of the former President, Dr. Patrick Hillery. I will seek to ensure a debate is scheduled for the next few weeks.

Senator Ó Domhnaill raised problems encountered by constituents seeking admission to the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers. I will inform Senators tomorrow of the timeframe for taking a Bill, which will address many issues of this nature.

Senator Twomey raised the issue of regulation of the legal profession. Most Senators would recognise the great contribution the profession has made to society. A debate on this issue would be timely.

We should leave judges out of it.

Senator Coghlan has considerable personal experience in this area. I noted Senator Mullen's views on stem cell research. Senator Coghlan called for a debate on planning and expressed support for hard-working county councillors. I have no difficulty in holding an all-party debate on the issue. Senators are aware of the plight of public representatives at local authority level and support the role they play.

Senator Donohoe has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That the Second Stage debate of the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 be adjourned today and resumed next week." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 29.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • de Búrca, Déirdre.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Maurice Cummins and Paschal Donohoe; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

Is the Order of Business agreed?

Senators

No. Vótáil.

As there is a technical problem with the electronic voting system, the vote will be taken manually.

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 25.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • de Búrca, Déirdre.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Maurice Cummins and Paschal Donohoe.
Question declared carried.