Order of Business.

It is proposed to take informal tributes to the late Deputy Seamus Brennan. It is proposed to allow time for short contributions from Leaders of the groups following which the House will adjourn for ten minutes after which we will take No. 1, motion re European Migration Network, back from committee, without debate; No. 2, Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008 — Second Stage; No. 3, Statements on the Economy; No. 21, Private Members' business, motion No. 40 re bio-fuel and, No. 4, Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008 — Report from Dáil.

It is proposed that No. 1 shall be taken without debate at the conclusion of the informal tributes; No. 2, will be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 and spokespersons may speak for ten minutes, all other Senators for seven minutes and Senators may share time with the agreement of the House; No. 3, shall be taken not earlier than 2.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 5 p.m. Spokespersons may speak for eight minutes, all other Senators for five minutes and Senators may share time with the agreement of the House; the Minister will be called upon ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate for concluding comments and questions from spokespersons. No. 21 will be taken not earlier than 5 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m.; No. 4, shall be taken at the conclusion of Private Members' business; No. 2, to resume if not previously concluded.

On a point of order, are we taking the Order of Business following the informal tributes and suspension of the House?

No, we are taking the Order of Business now. The House will hear informal tributes to the late Seamus Brennan following the Order of Business and will then adjourn for ten minutes.

Are we taking the business as ordered on our return?

We are taking the Order of Business now followed by informal tributes and a sos?

I am unclear as to whether we are having tributes now or later.

Is the Leader including the tributes as the second item of business after the Order of Business?

Yes, as a separate item.

I thought we were doing the tributes first.

It should be the other way around.

It must be said first. It does not matter. It is business as usual.

The Government is suggesting that we conclude our deliberations on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill by taking all of Second Stage today and Committee Stage tomorrow. This is an inappropriate way to deal with legislation. Members cannot be expected to put down amendments overnight. It is not conducive to good legislation and it is not in the spirit of reform as put forward in the programme for Government by Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats. It is not in the spirit of reform to introduce legislation in this way and not give adequate time to discuss its implications or to meet those who have a point of view about it or who have lobbied for changes. It certainly does not give us an opportunity to meet with the industries affected, as we would wish to do. There has been much discussion about this Bill over a period of months, but that is not really the point. The point is that we have the legislation now and we need to examine it. I will propose an amendment to the Order of Business to change this in order that the Bill can be taken over a longer period. Perhaps, as my colleague Senator Regan suggested earlier, it should be taken in conjunction with the other legislation being introduced in this area in the autumn.

The Government announced yesterday that savings would be made in various areas. I find it somewhat disingenuous for the Government to say that health and education are not being affected. In fact, the announcements were very general and the details were unclear, as are the actual effects they will have. Obviously the details are being left for the summer, when the Dáil and Seanad are not sitting. What I am hearing about in my own constituency of Dublin Mid-West is cuts in education services, a lack of information about building programmes, decisions being put off and schools not being told where they are on waiting lists for money. It is the same in the health services. I am sure every Senator has had similar experiences. In view of this, the announcement yesterday that health and education will not suffer cutbacks is unclear. It is obvious that major decisions which are affecting front-line services and having dramatic effects on the lives of the people concerned are being taken in these areas as we speak. Whether we are talking about suicide prevention officers in the local HSE areas, as Senator Mary White spoke about yesterday, whose positions have not been filled, or elderly patients waiting for step-down beds, it is not honest to say that health and education are not being affected at present.

Every one of us in the House knows that cutbacks in health and education are being implemented as we speak. What is this talk of health and education not being affected? It is disingenuous, to say the least, and it is not accurate. We should have truth. The first thing we must do in dealing with economic situations such as this is to face the reality and not to be in denial. We need to be truthful about what is happening. There is a complete contradiction between the experience on the ground in health and education services and what was said yesterday. We need accountability in this House on these issues.

I agree 100% with what Senator Fitzgerald has just said about rushed legislation. I am amazed that we are being treated in this manner with the Intoxicating Liquor Bill. I remind the Leader, with a compliment to him, of an incident that took place seven or eight years ago on exactly the same day — almost the last day of term — when the Dáil had finished and we were discussing the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2000, which provided that no public opinion polls were to be published in the week before an election. The Bill had gone through the Dáil and came to the Seanad for its final day of deliberations. Senator Ross pointed out that this was disastrous legislation, not because it was being rushed through but because he had seen a flaw in it, which was that it would allow all the public opinion polls that had not been published in the previous week to be published at midnight on the day of the election. Senator Cassidy, as Leader, agreed with Senator Ross and asked for the Bill to be withdrawn. This was done after the Dáil had finished its deliberations on the Bill and after it had finished sitting. That is the purpose of having a second Chamber. It is the reason we are here.


Hear, hear.

There is another intoxicating liquor Bill coming up in October, but we are being given the chance to take Second Stage of this Bill today. When I joined this House many years ago — 15 or 16 years ago — it was explained to me how legislation was put through the House. There is Second Stage, on which we debate the Bill generally. Then, having had time to think over the Bill, we put down amendments for Committee Stage, which takes place some time afterwards. The Government then considers the Committee Stage amendments and then we have Report Stage. When I asked about this Bill yesterday I was told that our Committee Stage amendments were originally supposed to be lodged before 11 o'clock this morning, but I now gather this has been changed to later today. That is to facilitate our having Committee Stage tomorrow and Report Stage, I assume, the following day, which gives us no chance for proper consideration. I am assuming the Leader would not dare to order Committee Stage and Report Stage on the same day——

I would not assume that at all.

Yes, they are on the same day.

I cannot believe that. I second Senator Fitzgerald's proposal. I seldom do this because I usually find that amendments on which a vote is called at the end of the Order of Business are on something I do not support. However, this amendment is worthy of support and I agree with Senator Fitzgerald's point about rushed legislation.

We will not have a long discussion on the economy today. I gather we will have only two hours, although I was hoping for a longer time. I am very disappointed about this also. It is being done in a rush. I will not call for a debate on the economy as we are going to have one. However, I have some homework for us to do over the long summer recess. It is not just for Senators but for everyone in the country. It is to read the new National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2008-2013, which was launched by the Minister for Education and Science this morning. It is very impressive, but what surprised me were some of the figures provided, particularly with regard to investment in education.

They are not adequate.

I heard recently that the best return on investment globally would be achieved by educating women. Many women around the world are not educated. It has been pointed out that the best investment is to educate those who are not educated. I was surprised to see, in a time when we all recognise the need for lifelong learning, that only 7% of Irish people over the age of 18 have a higher education background. This is according to the figures published today. In Sweden, the equivalent figure is 33%. We have a long way to go in encouraging the nation to undertake extra or lifelong education, but it is the best investment we can make. The reason I point out this is that it will give us a competitive advantage in achieving the economic targets we have set out. It is not just education for the sake of education but because it is good value for money. This is something we should study this summer, and we should consider the proposals that have been put forward to ensure many more of our citizens have the chance to participate in further education and not just the education they get at the moment.

I will not oppose the suggestion that the motion on the European Migration Network be taken without debate, but I ask the Leader to consider having a debate when we return in the autumn on the broader issue of migration, which would encompass this proposal but also the subject matter of the European meeting recently attended by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at which the President of France appeared to be advancing a series of quite draconian proposals for controlling migration. A considerable amount of fear and panic has been engendered in respect of migration around the world, particularly in Europe. However, according to reports by economists migration has been declining in recent months and years, though one might have thought it was increasing, based on some reports. The autumn could be a suitable opportunity for us to have this wider debate.

I endorse everything Senator Quinn, a most experienced Member of this House, said on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill. Why is there a rush to deal with this matter this week? I ask the Leader to stand up for the integrity and independence of this House and insist on a proper debate on this legislation. We should not have to sustain the unedifying practice of people lobbying Senators regarding changes we may disagree with.

We have barely time to read these letters and e-mails before we must make proposals in the House on this legislation. This was dealt with yesterday and Senator Boyle said the issue of alcohol has been discussed before in the House. That may be, but we are charged constitutionally, as Members of this House, to debate, scrutinise and, ultimately, pass legislation, if we are satisfied with it. For us to deal with Second Stage of this Bill one day, followed by Committee, Report and Final Stages the next day undermines the independence and integrity of this House. We should defer subsequent Stages of this legislation until the autumn. The sky will not fall in.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing a matter to be raised on the Adjournment last night regarding the future of Roscommon County Hospital. Regrettably the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, did not attend so I could not address my questions on the future of the hospital. Professor Drumm has made statements in the constituency and in County Galway on the future configuration of Roscommon and Portiuncula hospitals and hospitals in the region. Last night the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, said on behalf of the Minister that discussions are ongoing.

As a former Deputy, Minister of State and now Senator, I find it is very difficult to get answers to a question I tabled legitimately on behalf of my constituents.

Welcome to the real world.

I appreciate the fact that the Cathaoirleach allowed this matter to be raised on the Adjournment last night but I wish to express my dissatisfaction that the Minister did not attend to answer my questions.

The Senator should vote against the Government if he feels this way.

I will continue to pursue this issue but I wish to say that there is a crisis in Roscommon relating to Roscommon County Hospital.

There is a crisis in the whole country.

There is a deep concern in the area that after all these years the vital accident and emergency service may be lost.

He is playing politics again.

I hope the Leader will allow a debate on health concerns. Perhaps the Minister will come before the House to explain the situation regarding the reduction of expenditure on health next year due to economic difficulties.

She might attend the parliamentary party meeting.

Yesterday's announcement shows that the decentralisation programme is in disarray. Will the Leader allow a debate on this issue, which is of importance to so many parts of the country? We should not wait for reports from the decentralisation implementation group. It is important that people working in the public service and Civil Service learn what is to happen with regard to decentralisation.

I am not often critical but I am disappointed that we did not have tributes to a serving Member of the Oireachtas first today, followed by a break. This is the least respect we could have shown.

I want to raise the repercussions of the European court decision on environmental matters, something I sought to raise last week but was unable to due to the number of speakers. This area was touched on last week in the context of the Haulbowline situation, which is disastrous. The company involved attempted to sift materials by shaking them in mid air, thereby spreading contaminated dust. It is unbelievable.

The matter I wish to raise relates to this. Among the matters referred to at the time was a question I attempted to raise on Stanley sawmills in Offaly that was ruled out of order due to a lack of ministerial responsibility. The question was debated but I was unable to have it discussed on the Adjournment. The courts have taken an interest in this matter and I would like the Minister to come before the House to explain the latest position. It was an unplanned development that sought retrospective planning permission, which was granted, along with an EPA licence, without an environmental impact survey. That is astonishing. All of the conditions were then broken and chromium 6, which is carcinogenic, was released into the environment.

This matter may be before the courts and I would prefer if it was not discussed here.

I can reassure you, a Chathaoirligh, that this matter is not before the courts but you are right, it should be. The practices of the Environmental Protection Agency, which have been held up to serious criticism, should be examined. There is a continuing hazard and this matter should be reopened, if not here in the Oireachtas then in the courts. I agree with the Cathaoirleach on this and thank him for the suggestion.

I also wish to raise the issue of this country's approach to refugees. There is legislation planned to deal with refugees and the agency responsible for them but can the Leader tell the House when it will come before us? I am greatly worried because an individual, about whose activities concerns were raised in court in Ireland, is purported to have his position confirmed, named and stated in this legislation, which is inappropriate.

There are many concerns about this legislation and I wish to put a case on the record of this House that was brought to my attention in recent weeks. A young Iranian man is in this country at the moment; he left Iran after an investigation, having openly acknowledged a sexual relationship with his male partner. He is being served in Ireland with a deportation order. What kind of people run these services? Are they unaware that this man will be butchered on his return to Iran? If so they are unique because everyone else knows.

Hear, hear. It is disgraceful.

This was confirmed by the deputy Iranian Foreign Minister in these Houses last week. He said they will not do it from a crane on the back of a lorry anymore but they will still do it. What are we doing and where is the accountability? In the name of the Oireachtas, I demand that the practice of deporting a person under those conditions should be ceased immediately.

I support my colleagues who have a problem with the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008 being rushed through. However, there are many innovative changes in the legislation and it is an excellent Bill. In the document I launched yesterday on a new approach to suicide in Ireland, alcohol is mentioned as one of three proven factors that can lead people to suicide. Many of these people do not die due to alcohol consumption but alcohol is involved in half of the cases of people who die as a result of suicide and half of the cases of people who deliberately self-harm.

We must do something about the drink culture in Ireland and my document calls for extra measures to be taken. Alcohol should not be allowed in the sponsorship of sporting events or musical events for young people. It should be banned from such events over five years. We should try to emulate Mediterranean countries where people drink only a little tipple of alcohol, because there is nothing wrong with a little. We must not overdo it.

We can discuss tipples when the Bill comes before the House.

There are three proven areas that can be addressed to lower the rate of suicide and deliberate self-harm and one of these is alcohol consumption. People should be encouraged not to drink when they feel depressed. It is necessary that general practitioners be trained to identify depression when patients present with it. Mothers of children who hung themselves told me doctors had told them there was nothing wrong with their children.

My third point is very serious. Legislation was introduced in the United Kingdom approximately four years ago to reduce the size of packets of paracetamol, such that one could no longer buy a packet containing 24 tablets. Within one year, academic analysis showed there was a reduction in suicides as a result of overdosing on paracetamol and codeine, in addition to a drop in the number of deaths from liver failure as a result of taking paracetamol.

I have outlined three proven ways in which the rates of suicide and self-harm can be reduced. This is why the Intoxicating Liquor Bill is so critical. It is a good Bill but I agree with my colleagues on the other side of the House that it is wrong to rush it at this stage.

I support the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Fitzgerald, regarding the amendment to the Order of Business. Yesterday I questioned the time allowed to consider the Intoxicating Liquor Bill. The Bill was discussed in the Dáil yesterday and there were 56 amendments, categorised in a number of groups. The first three amendments, which were fairly technical, were discussed together, as was a second group of two. A third group, many amendments of which concerned the opening hours of early houses, which issue has been resolved, were also discussed. At a maximum, 13 of 52 amendments were discussed and, given the guillotine applied to the legislation, no time was allowed for any debate on the other important amendments to be discussed on Committee Stage. There is an important point of procedure to be considered in this regard and I appeal to the Leader to use his influence to address the problem. It is not just a question of time for debate but of time for consultation. People have made representations to Members and time should be allowed to consider appropriate amendments.

Mistakes have been made in legislation. In this House we have dealt a number of times with legislation to correct mistakes in criminal law. We do not want to revisit the Intoxicating Liquor Bill to correct mistakes that have crept in because it was rushed. We need proper parliamentary scrutiny of legislation and rushing it without good reason brings both Houses into disrepute.

The Senator's point is made.

The main objective of the legislation is to address the public order issue. Since the legislation is rushed, it will fail. It will provide for common, rather than sequential, closing of late-night drinking premises. The very objective of the Bill is being undermined by its own provisions. That there is inadequate time for consideration of this and other issues discredits the work we are doing in this House. I ask the Leader to use his good offices to address this matter.

On the points made by Members of the Opposition regarding the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, I, as spokesperson on justice, would have no problem if the House were to sit next Tuesday and Wednesday to conclude the legislation.

Perhaps it should be considered by the Whips.

My learned colleague, Senator Regan, mentioned the legislation primarily concerns public order. I do not disagree entirely, but I must state that the question of the 170 theatre licences issued this year is being ignored. Unscrupulous people are taking advantage of a loophole in the existing legislation to obtain licences that were never intended to be used or abused in such a manner. This is a major worry for the Government and is possibly the main reason the legislation must be passed this session.

I do not agree with the postponement of the legislation until next October. It deals with very important issues and, if it is not concluded today, I will suggest, with respect to the House, that we sit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Let me raise the issue of people who have contracted legionnaires' disease in public buildings. All public buildings should be assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency and health and safety authorities to ensure workers are not open to contracting serious diseases in their places of work.

What health and education programmes will be restructured, reorganised or cut in each area throughout the State? It would be very helpful if all public representatives had this information. I ask that the decision on locating the Central Mental Hospital on a site at Thornton Hall be reconsidered seriously.

It is having an adverse impact on people.

I am a long time in politics but was never so moved as yesterday when parents of some of the inpatients in the Central Mental Hospital articulated their views so eloquently on issues about which we would never know. I am sure it was very difficult for them to outline their views on the management of health services. The decision to locate the hospital at Thornton Hall is not in accordance with international best practice. Decisions to locate different institutions on a single site have been reversed in many countries. It would be helpful if the decision on the Central Mental Hospital were re-examined in a positive way.

I would like the Minister for Health and Children to be invited to the House to outline her views on the home birth programme. What does she believe to be the way forward regarding those women who want to give birth at home? What are her views on the management of the service?

Later this month, US Senator Barack Obama will visit Europe. Given the Leader's great interest in the plight of the undocumented Irish, and his experience in this regard, could he invite Senator Obama to Ireland to meet a cross-party delegation of Senators to discuss the undocumented Irish and outline his views thereon? Senator Obama could be also asked to outline his views on US investment in Ireland and to state his policies in this respect in light of the global economic downturn.

I ask for a debate on the programme for Government before the summer recess in light of the events of recent days, especially yesterday. I have asked about this on numerous occasions but have not received an answer.

I echo the remarks of Senator Fitzgerald in asking that there be openness and transparency on the other side of the House regarding education and health. Yesterday I spoke to a young health professional who was offered a job with the Health Service Executive last October. This is July but he has not yet been given a start-up date. What does this tell us about the management of the economy by the Government? We need a debate on the programme for Government.

I welcome yesterday's proposal by the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel, to launch a scheme, valued at €90 million, to address childhood obesity by making fruit and vegetables available to schoolchildren across member states. The proposal, which must be agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, is very welcome. The EU Commission is adopting the model rolled out in more than 100 Irish schools since 2005 by Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

It is planned, in the programme for Government, to roll it out to approximately 3,000 further primary schools. This is an excellent initiative because a problem exists in Ireland and other EU member states in respect of childhood obesity. It can be targeted specifically in a number of ways, of which this initiative is one. Second, the role of sport within the primary school curriculum must be considered. I also pay tribute to the National Heart Alliance's document on the children's food campaign. Both the Irish Heart Foundation and the National Heart Alliance are calling for a restriction on television advertising of unhealthy foods before the 9 p.m. watershed and this proposal should be supported by the Government. I call on the Leader to facilitate a debate after the summer recess on the issue of childhood and adolescent obesity and how it can be dealt with through the school curriculum and the efforts of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as well as the health promotion unit and children's office within the Department of Health and Children. At least three Departments have some responsibility in this regard and could work together. This matter should be debated in this House and I call on the Leader to facilitate such a debate when Members resume in October.

I join with previous speakers in raising questions about yesterday's Government announcement with regard to cutbacks. At first glance, when considering where the proposed savings of €440 million are to come from, the figures do not appear to add up. Moreover, a 3% payroll cut in all Departments, except Health and Children and Education and Science, does not add up to the figure announced yesterday. While yesterday's announcement was vague, Members may get an opportunity later today, during their debate on the economy, for a more detailed pronouncement on those cutbacks.

I agree with the comments made by Senator Twomey and join with him in calling for a discussion on decentralisation. One of the clear indications arising from yesterday's announcement was the decentralisation programme has been kicked to touch. There has been a degree of divergence between the Fianna Fáil and Green Party wings of Government as to what is the present status of decentralisation. I join with Senator Twomey in asking for a debate on that issue.

I also join with Senator Prendergast in her comments on the Central Mental Hospital. I witnessed some of yesterday's events when parents of patients in the hospital appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. It was a harrowing meeting and for someone like me, who was not intimately familiar with the details of the hospital's move to the Thornton Hall site, it was an eye-opener. It makes no sense from either an economic or mental health best practice perspective. This issue should be revisited and I urge the Leader to ask for such reconsideration.

My final point pertains to the House's Adjournment debates that are organised by the Cathaoirleach. It probably is too late in the present session to make much difference. However, I again ask the Leader, following the return of Members in the fall of the year, to do something to ensure that relevant Ministers are available. I appreciate it is not always possible to have present a Minister from a particular Department. Last week, however, I tabled an Adjournment matter that was accepted by the Cathaoirleach. Two of the three Adjournment matters related to health and the debate took place at 1 p.m. on Thursday. I refuse to accept that not one of the four or five Ministers or Ministers of State at the Department of Health and Children was available to appear in the Seanad to take two out of the three Adjournment matters that related to health matters.

The issue I raised concerned an individual case and it is highly unsatisfactory to deal with a Minister for a different Department when one raises a specific issue because one is unable to get a detailed response to the problem in question. While the Leader is probably trying his best in this regard, Ministers should treat the Seanad with more respect. In such a case, in which two of three matters related to a particular Department that has attached to it a Minister and three or four Ministers of State, at least one should be available to respond to matters raised on the Adjournment.

I support the request of my colleague, Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, for a debate on childhood obesity. I ask the Leader whether such a debate could be broadened to include eating disorders and their effects on children and adolescents. While the Cathaoirleach may not remember, this time last year, on the eve of the summer recess, my last request was for Members to have a debate on eating disorders among children and adolescents early in the autumn following the Seanad's return. Together with other Members, I have asked for such a debate four or five times but it has not taken place. As someone who has been campaigning for a long time for changes and for a debate in this regard, I ask the Leader to take special note of this issue in order that such a debate might take place early in the autumn.

I agree with the comments of my colleague, Senator Quinn, as well as those of Senator Alex White and others, on the manner in which the Intoxicating Liquor Bill is being rushed through the Seanad. I am sorry to be obliged to say the Government's approach in this regard is akin to a student cramming for an exam. The House has been on the doss all year and now everything is being rushed through. It reflects badly on the attitude to the Seanad and to the legislative process and people outside will wonder why Members have had statements on this, that and the other throughout the year and now, a bit like the 46A bus, several come along at once——

The Senator has made his point.

—— some of which do not even have time to stop. I regret this and while there are hardworking Members on all sides of the House, it is not good enough in respect of an important issue such as alcohol abuse and when trying to take serious steps to tackle it. The least Members should do is give proper consideration and have due respect for the legislative process in order that they can consider such issues in full. While Members are reconciled to the possibility their amendments may not be taken on board, at least a proper discussion could take place. I would be content for the House to sit next week to fully honour the legislative process in this case.

I wish to recall my remarks yesterday when calling for a debate on what our priorities should be at a time of cutbacks. I was distressed to note that our overseas budget is to be cut by more than €40 million. I echo the comments of the GOAL chief executive, Mr. John O'Shea, who rightly stated this was morally indefensible. It is not good enough to state Ireland still will meet its target of 0.7% of GDP by the due date. The opportunity should have been taken to send out a strong signal that Ireland is neither losing its soul nor fumbling in the greasy till and that when cutbacks are required, it will not, as a matter of principle, attack the most vulnerable people in this society and elsewhere in the world. I am deeply disappointed by this development and this decision should be reconsidered as it sends out all the wrong messages.

I again echo the comments of Senator Quinn. He and I both attended the Higher Education Authority's launch of the national plan for equality of access in higher education. Some serious issues arise that should be debated in this House regarding those groups in Irish society who are not achieving high levels of participation in third level education. The intention is to reach an average of 72% of people continuing to third level education and that each section of the community will achieve a minimum of 54% participation.

However, it is interesting to note the non-manual category has a rate as low as 27% participation in higher education. I wonder whether this pertains to the children of gardaí and others who do not qualify for the means test and who earn just enough to prevent them from being grant aided. Is this keeping people out of third level education? What are the implications for them and for the economy? There should be a debate on the issue of access to higher education. Moreover, if Members are to sit next week, such a debate should be prioritised, in addition to the legislation that must be debated.

At the outset I strongly endorse and, if possible, second Senator Mullen's proposition that Ireland should not cut overseas aid. As a people of relative plenty, this is an abomination, is wrong and sends out the wrong signals. Even at this late stage, the decision should be reconsidered and I completely support Senator Mullen in this regard. As a Christian society, our authenticity will be greatly jeopardised unless the decision is reversed.

I had initially intended to begin by raising the question of decentralisation. This is a matter of huge concern and constitutes a breach of trust by the Government. A commitment was made to decentralise and I believe the decentralisation programme was worthy in itself and was the correct thing to do. I am concerned that decentralisation will halt in Cavan town and in a number of places. I would ask the Leader to make a clear statement to the House or elicit the information as to the status of the decentralisation programme in Cavan, where a site has been acquired, and about its continuation.

I want to make the general point——

A question to the Leader.

——on the 3% cut in the wages bill of the Departments. Given that it is not specified, there is a big risk that front-line services in local authorities such as roads will suffer. There is no potential to cut front-line services, particularly the roads programme, in my county and a number of others. I am concerned on that level. I would ask the Leader to seek an assurance that front-line services are not to be affected and that these changes are to be achieved otherwise. It is wrong to leave the details vague and to pass on the decision-making process there, and I would ask the Leader to do something about that.

I accept the proposition made by Senator Fitzgerald at the outset, that education and health, by virtue of not continuing the reduction of class size and by a plethora of cutbacks, respectively, are experiencing cutbacks. We need the Leader to come back to the House with a statement of what specifically is involved here and an assurance on front-line services.

They have not made them up yet.

I would appeal to the Leader to intervene. I would like to hear from him that even now, the decentralisation programme to Cavan could still be rescued.

What about Roscommon?

Senator Wilson says it is okay.

I call the Leader to reply to the Order of Business.

Senators Fitzgerald, Quinn, Alex White, Mary White, Regan, O'Donovan and Mullen expressed concern about the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008, which is coming before the House today and tomorrow. I can assure the Senators that they will have all the time they require. I do not mind how late we sit any of the days in discussing this.

Senator O'Donovan expressed the great concern — which I know comes from the highest levels in the Garda Síochána — over the 170 theatre licences. As one whose background is in the entertainment world, I do not know where these are. That was never the spirit of the measure in which the Government and legislators on all sides of the House wanted to help provide a level playing field to the theatres so that they could continue to survive at the time. I am thinking of all the great people who work in the world of entertainment and the theatre. I will not say much more about it, except that it was never the spirit that an establishment would have a pub licence during the day and then, in order to be able to stay open very late at night, would have a theatre licence until 3.30 a.m.

All legislators in the House want to do the right thing. I thank Senators for expressing concern about the time allocated to the Bill. As Leader from 2007 to 2008 and from 1997 to 2002, I never guillotined a Bill in the Seanad, nor will I with this Bill. What I will tell the House is that it will sit very late tonight and tomorrow night if Senators wish to avail of the time to discuss the Bill in detail. There are experienced Members here in the House who can assist the Minister and the Department with the legislation.

As has been stated already, a major Bill on the broader liquor issues, and the role of advertising in liquor on which Senator Mary White expressed strong views here, will be before the House in the late autumn. We can have a debate on that before the Bill comes to the House. The work of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights has been invaluable, particularly on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill.

On a point of order, the Bill has been issued to many of us without a explanatory memorandum. It would be helpful. Can the Leader give us an assurance that the explanatory memorandum will be supplied before the debate?

That is an oversight. I will ensure that will be done immediately after the Order of Business.

I thank the Leader.

Senators John Paul Phelan, O'Reilly, Mullen and others expressed strong views about the proposed corrections to be made to assist the economy and citizens in terms of the changes taking place. Time has been allocated for this today. When we return in the autumn, in the first or second week we will have a half-day debate on this also to monitor what has taken place over the summer months and, as Estimates are being put together for various Departments at that time of the year, to highlight the concerns of Senators to Ministers.

On Senator Mullen's point on overseas aid, Ireland is among the sixth highestper capita contributors to overseas aid in the world. It is still the ambition of the Government that the target of 0.7% of GDP would be achieved by 2012. I have stated on many occasions in the House, and while on trade missions and official visits all over the world, that the missionaries have done an incredible job for centuries. We will not let them down. We will do everything we possibly can. I can speak on that for all Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I will pass on Senator Quinn's strong views about extra education, life-long learning and further education to the Minister. I could not agree more with him. We can have statements on this after the recess.

Senator Alex White raised No. 1 on the Order Paper. I can give an undertaking to the House that we will have a debate on this in the early autumn. I fully agree with the views the Senator expressed.

Senator Leyden, as usual, showed his life-long dedication to Roscommon County Hospital. In all the hard work and endeavour that public representatives of all sides have done, Senator Leyden has been tireless in his efforts in this area. I will pass his views on to the Minister. In fairness to the Minister, Deputy Harney, she has come to this House and given a great deal of her time whenever we had a major debate on the HSE. It is difficult for her to be everywhere.

Senators Twomey, John Paul Phelan and O'Reilly expressed concerns about decentralisation. On the question of decentralisation to Cavan, I will ask for the support of the Government Chief Whip, Senator Wilson. He has the respect of the House in this regard.

They are already there.

Senator Wilson has no concern about Cavan. On the question of decentralisation, I understand that anywhere that contracts are signed, are in place or are about to be signed, it is going ahead.

Senator Norris asked about legislation on refugees. I will come back to him today on his serious concerns in this area.

Senator Prendergast expressed strong views on legionnaires' disease and I will pass her views on to the Minister. She also raised the programme on health and education, and expressed her concerns regarding the economy. Statements on the economy will take place in the afternoon. I have allowed for a ten minute question and answer session with the Minister at the end of that debate and each party can prioritise the concerns of its Senators and ask questions to the Minister in the House. Senator Prendergast also raised the home birth programme and I can have inquiries made about that for her also.

Senator Buttimer called more on the Cathaoirleach and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, rather than on myself, to have US presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama visit Ireland and attend the House.

On a point of order, I did not ask for him to come to the House. I asked for the Leader to organise a cross-party grouping to meet with Senator Barack Obama to discuss the undocumented Irish in the USA and his policy regarding United States direct investment in Ireland given the downturn in the world economy.

That is not a point of order. The Leader is replying to the Order of Business.

I will consider this and revert to the Senator in due course.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill welcomed the allocation of €90 million by the EU Commissioner with responsibility for agriculture to tackle childhood obesity. Senator Geraldine Feeney has sought progress on combatting eating disorders. I have no difficulty allocating time to debate these matters in the autumn.

Senator John Paul Phelan highlighted matters of concern on the Adjournment involving the Department of Health and Children. It is a reasonable request and I will pass on the views of Senators to the Minister for Health and Children today.

Before moving on from the Order of Business I wish to clarify that Senator Frances Fitzgerald has expressed only a general objection to the proposals for the debate on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008. The Senator did not propose a specific amendment to the Order of Business. Is the Order of Business agreed?

I wish to make the point that the Leader has not responded to the substance of the points raised. There should be a gap between the consideration of legislation in the House on Second Stage and Committee Stage to allow time for consultation and I oppose the Order of Business on that basis.

The Whips can discuss that later. Is the Order of Business agreed?

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 16.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • 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.


  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fiona O’Malley and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Maurice Cummins and Eugene Regan.
Question declared carried.