Perhaps the Committee on Procedures and Privileges can examine this issue. We have had 12 months of proceedings and perhaps we should return to my original proposal to place a time limit on Senators who wish to make a contribution following the group leaders. It would assist the Cathaoirleach and the House and, as the Cathaoirleach pointed out yesterday, Senator Quinn made two points in less than half a minute, which speaks for itself.
I join with colleagues in welcoming the news of the rescue by Colombian military forces of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages who had been held captive by FARC rebels for a long time. Ms Betancourt had been held captive for six years in a remote jungle area of the country. I wish her and the other 14 hostages who were released well for the future and call upon the FARC rebels to release, immediately and unconditionally, their considerable number of remaining hostages.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Boyle, Bacik, White, Coghlan, Hannigan, Twomey, Coffey and Kelly expressed their concerns about the environmental challenge facing the island of Ireland and called for an urgent debate on the issue, particularly with regard to regulations. The health of our citizens is sacrosanct and I will have no difficulty allocating time for such a debate at the earliest opportunity in the next session.
Senator Healy Eames and other Senators called for a debate on the economy and the challenges it faces. I thank the nine Senators who contributed to the debate yesterday on the OECD report on the public service, but I was disappointed that the time allocated for the debate was not fully utilised. Three Fianna Fáil and three Fine Gael Senators as well as one Senator each from the Progressive Democrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party participated in the debate. The leaders in the House try to plan the business for the week on foot of requests made on the Order of Business but yesterday I was left wondering why the full amount of time was not used to discuss such an important issue.
Senator O'Toole called for a debate on Zimbabwe in the context of our neutrality. It is a good idea and I will allocate time for that debate in the next session.
Senator Prendergast and many other Members raised a number of issues with regard to the HSE. I wish to record once again my thanks to the Minister, Deputy Harney, for attending the debate last night. Each time she has been invited to the House throughout the first year of this 23rd Seanad she has shown the House great respect by participating in debates whenever possible and outlining the challenges that face her and her Department with regard to the health portfolio. I will note all the matters raised by the Senators. I have a document detailing the considerable amounts of money that were allocated in the last and previous budgets to the health portfolio and to the portfolio of the Minister of State with responsibility for older people. The amounts are considerable and I intend to provide a copy of the document to colleagues rather than take up the time of the House discussing them. The figures speak for themselves. I assure Senator Prendergast, who is the acting leader of the Labour Party in the House this morning, that her call, and that of other Members, for further debates on the HSE will be noted and a debate can be organised for early in the next session.
Senator Prendergast also correctly raised the serious concern about the proposed increases in gas and electricity prices and how this will affect older people, particularly with regard to home heating. I am sure Senator McFadden and Members from rural areas will agree that this is the main reason that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will have to seriously consider, in the context of creating an opportunity to use alternative fuels for heating homes, a relaxation of the regulations with regard to turf cutting. We will invite the Minister to the House early in the next session to ensure that this takes place. Common sense must prevail. If there is a challenge facing the world, Members on all sides of the House will respect the long-term aspiration of the Minister but the short-term good of the people we represent must take precedence in this regard.
I will convey to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Senator Healy Eames's views on dangerous dogs. The horrific attack by dogs on the garda in Galway at the weekend shows what a danger such dogs are to society. Senator Keaveney has raised this issue on many occasions on the Order of Business.
Senators Mullen and Bacik asked for a debate on human trafficking and sex offences against children. Senator Corrigan also raised this issue. I will allocate time for such a debate. Senator Mullen also mentioned the media spin regarding the remarks of Senator Jim Walsh. Senator Walsh has been a respected Member of the House for many years and was chairman and secretary of the long-standing organisation, LAMA, which represents the local authority members. He has a huge amount of experience. He must be allowed to express his opinions like everybody else, and should not be demonised for doing so. I respect the views he holds. There was a questionable spin put on the call he made to the Fianna Fáil Party. I must listen to the views of all Senators on the matters they wish to address.
Senator Mary White called for a debate on human rights in the presence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I will arrange such a debate.
Senator Coghlan sought a debate and an update on the Government's position regarding the European Court of Justice judgment announced this morning on the Derrybrien incident.
Like Senator Quinn, I welcome the announcement by Seagate Technology of a £100 million investment in Derry. It is good news for the north western counties of Derry, Donegal, Tyrone and Fermanagh. I visited Derry recently and I am aware the investment will be a godsend to the people there. They deserve it. We are delighted and congratulate everybody associated with making it possible. There is a meeting later today of the Good Friday Agreement committee, of which I am a member. I will convey our congratulations to the members of the committee from those communities.
Senator Butler called for a debate on the HSE. I have already said there will be such a debate, particularly in view of the report in the newspapers this morning that it is due to regionalise its structure. I would welcome such a move. Like the Cathaoirleach, Senator Glynn and other Senators, I was a member of the Midland Health Board for many years. It was always possible to reach personnel by telephone to discuss the difficulties about which we were trying to make representations. The big difference with the HSE is that this facility is no longer available. Colleagues on all sides of the House would agree with that.