The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re 2009 allocation to the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, statements on the budget, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1, spokespersons may speak for 20 minutes, all other Senators for ten minutes, Senators may share time by agreement of the House, and the Minister to be called upon ten minutes from the end of the debate for concluding comments and to take questions from leaders.
Order of Business.
Later we will have an extensive debate on the budget but I call on the Leader of the House to arrange a separate debate on this new organisation, the national asset management agency. Nonsensical amounts of money are being advanced by the taxpayer to set up this organisation, yet at the same time we are not 100% sure whether it is the right thing to be doing. The establishment of the agency and the fulfilment of its remit would necessitate the nationalisation of the two major banks in this country.
Hear, hear. About time.
Senator Twomey without interruption.
We need to have a serious debate in this House on that issue because if we nationalise the two major Irish banks, more taxpayers' money will have to be spent and that will continue the exposure of the taxpayer to billions of euro in the coming years. The outcome of that decision necessitates a serious debate involving questions and answers with the Minister for Finance. The establishment of the agency will double the national debt overnight yet we are unsure of the final endpoint in that regard.
Will the Leader invite the Green Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, to the House to explain how he managed to overspend €72 million to buy carbon credits that are no longer necessary, according to him, because of the collapse in the Irish economy? We are constantly talking about reform and watching how money is spent. Some €10 million was saved by taking medical cards from everybody over the age of 70 and there have been huge reductions in special needs classes, yet the Minister is spending €72 million on carbon credits that are unnecessary. I would like an explanation as to why his running of the Department has led to such a mistake.
I agree with my colleague Senator Twomey that we need a full debate on the budget, particularly on the national property management agency, as I call it. I suggested it in the House four months ago. All the banks must be nationalised. If I am permitted to be heard by being reported, I wish to point out that I initiated and ran successfully two businesses in this city for many years, yet in many quarters I seem to be heard only if I am talking about James Joyce or buggery, and I am fed up to my back teeth with it. I hope there will be some coverage of the proceedings in this House and the important debates to which we will all contribute.
I want to talk a little about human rights. Since human rights have been blown off the agenda by the necessary financial debate, can we have a full debate on human rights, particularly on the case of Ms Pamela Izevbekhai? She is a woman who is protesting her innocence even though she has not been convicted of anything, yet two Governments are raised against her, the Irish Government and the Nigerian Government. Persons from within the Government in Nigeria have stated they are prepared to come over here. They have already been discredited for giving inappropriate testimony in a British court.
Official sources have been leaking information against one civilian during a court case. Two Governments are implicated and there are leaks. I want an inquiry into how this is done. We were not allowed to talk very much about this case because it was ongoing. How is it that prejudicial material can make its way intoThe Sunday Times against this individual, with two Governments against her, who is trying to protect her children?
That case is still before the courts.
I know it is but I have said nothing that is prejudicial. I have asked for and I demand an inquiry into the leaks.
I understand that.
I want a reply today from the Leader.
I and many others, including Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú on the Government benches, spoke out against the revolting practice of torture. We now know that medical personnel were involved in supervising and assisting in torture with the help of the CIA. This is based on a leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. I do not believe we will really clean out that Augean stable until Bush is indicted and impeached. Cheney, Rumsfeld and that appalling disgrace to womanhood, Condoleezza Rice, should be indicted before the International Criminal Court.
On the issue of human rights, when will we receive the Civil Partnership Bill? My mailbox is full of appeals from Irish citizens who are caught by the absence of this legislation and the laziness of the Government in confronting it. Another US state is legalising full marriage between same sex couples but we have done nothing so far. We are punishing our own citizens.
All these matters must be addressed. I call for attention to be paid to the important financial debate in the House today. We are a second House of the Oireachtas but an important one. I also call for a full debate on human rights.
Last week I asked for a debate on the effectiveness of the Irish aid programme. Last night, I and some other Senators attended a meeting at which the Namibian ambassador to the European Union was present. One of his first objectives in his speech was to compliment this country on its reputation for helping developing nations. After the recent vicious and mean-spirited cutbacks to the Irish aid programme, we need more than ever a debate on the effectiveness of Irish aid and how it enhances our reputation on the worldwide stage. I ask the Leader to organise such a debate.
I was glad to see more detail emerging yesterday on the national asset management agency, NAMA. If it operates correctly, it will have the potential to bring our banks out of the current crisis. However, I question the ability of the agency to negotiate significant discounts on the book value of the loans in the Irish banking system. It is quite clear that if the discounts are too high, there will be a need to recapitalise the banks and the problem will arise again in six months. Perhaps what will happen is that the amount for which the assets will be purchased will be very close to the book value of €90 billion.
Many of the interest payments on the loans will be met by the property owners or developers who hold the loans. I am not concerned about that today but I am concerned about what will occur if people default on their loans to NAMA. Reports in the paper state they will give up their properties. We need to ask whether the Government has decided when it should initiate default proceedings against developers. Will they have the same amount of leeway as is extended at present to homeowners, which is only 12 months or will exceptions be made for developers?
When the Government is selling properties associated with defaulted loans, will any developer be able to bid for them? Will there be a blacklist of developers to prevent the bad ones from bidding? Will loans issued to developers to buy properties connected to defaulted loans be issued by NAMA or by banks? We need answers to these questions. As other Senators stated, there are serious implications for our national debt and interest payments. We need clarification. I ask the Leader to arrange a separate debate purely on NAMA as soon as possible.
Will the Leader arrange a full debate after the recess on the banking industry? We have a lot of expertise in this House — one Member is an LIB, an expert in banking and there are other experts in the House also. The House has much expertise in banking and in other fields and it could be put to good use by having a good debate.
I particularly want a debate on variable and fixed interest rates. Why, if we own a quarter of the AIB and Bank of Ireland and we own Anglo Irish Bank can we not call on the directors in those banks to ensure an easy changeover from a fixed interest rate to a variable interest rate? Even if there is some charge involved, people should be given an option to change from a fixed interest rate to a variable one. The Financial Regulator should examine fully Start Mortgages, which is charging 7.3% in fixed interest thereby putting enormous pressure on people in making repayments.
I compliment Mr. Peter Sutherland on his inspirational interview on "Morning Ireland" this morning. It should be circulated around the world today by the Government Information Service. It was one of the finest interviews on this country that I have heard. I hope the Members on the opposite side will commend Mr. Sutherland and acknowledge he is fair, reasonable and balanced. This morning he made the best public relations statement ever made by anyone from here or abroad and he deserves our credit. He should be employed by the Government Information Service to work to promote Ireland Inc. All our friends abroad should be utilised to support this country. If we had a system of honours, Mr. Peter Sutherland would be the first man I would propose today for an honour.
Does the Senator realise he is a Fine Gael man?
That is why I said it.
That might restrict him in nominating him for an honour.
I hope Fine Gael realises it also and understands what he said. The Senator should sing from the same hymn sheet for a change.
Senator Coghlan, without interruption.
The Senator is inciting me.
I agree with the other speakers, including Senator Twomey, on the national asset management agency, which is proposed to operate under the aegis of the National Treasury Management Agency. We need an urgent debate on this. As we can see already, many questions are being asked. We have seen three documents on the agency, including the abridged summary of Dr. Bacon's report, the press release of the National Treasury Management Agency and the list of frequently asked questions published with the Budget Statement. Questions still arise but it is natural that they will persist until the legislation is available.
Reference was made yesterday to a portfolio approach. This implies that the national asset management agency will take over healthy loans in addition to some of the problem property loans, the impaired loans. We need to hear more detail on this and on how the valuation system will be worked. Many practical implications need to be worked out with the banks and I presume the Department of Finance and the banks are working on this. The sooner we know the arrangements which need to be worked out the better. In the interests of the taxpayer this must all be done in a very transparent way. The bottom line for the Members of this and the other House is that we protect the taxpayer. This is what we are all about. I happen to think the model proposed is the correct one but there is much detail to be fleshed out.
I agree with Senator Leyden's remarks about Peter Sutherland's interview this morning. I thought it was excellent. It was very balanced and reasonable. The other aspect of this proposal which I like——
The Senator's time is up.
——is the guard to the knave, so to speak. We will be able to impose a levy on the banks if, ultimately, there is a shortfall. I do not agree with nationalising the banks. Will the Leader address the matter of the legislation? When will we have it?
I acknowledge that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, has allowed people from the North of Ireland applying for a passport to call their place of birth Londonderry or Derry, with Doire being the Irish language version. I renew the call I made last week for other Departments, in particular Deputy Eamon Ryan's Department which has responsibility for the ordnance survey maps of Ireland, to consider this in the same vein and afford the same understanding, tolerance and mutual respect to putting Derry on the map. At present, the ordnance maps of Ireland have Londonderry and Doire but not Derry. As someone born in Derry I would like to see us back on the map.
The Translink train service between Dublin and Belfast was co-funded with European funding. It is a beautiful project which is a good example of cross-Border co-operation. If I buy a return ticket in Dublin it costs €55. If I buy a return ticket in Belfast it costs £36. In Belfast I was told that the rate of exchange used is €0.69 and that the same rate of exchange is used for tea or coffee on the train. When I queried when this would be reviewed I was told it was not abureau de change but a train station. When I asked for a sterling rate at Connolly Station in Dublin I was told it was impossible to give a sterling rate because it was a train station and not a bureau de change. Iarnród Éireann and the Northern authorities are exploiting passengers and I ask for this to be investigated and stopped. I brought it to the attention of the consumer affairs agencies but to date I have had no satisfaction. The euro has been worth 90p for the past number of months. I do not expect the rate of the day but I expect a better rate than 69 cent.
I support Senator Hannigan's call for a debate on the Irish Aid programme. It is approximately 160 years since we had a very serious famine and during those years the rest of the world almost ignored us. The Irish Aid programme should be top of our priority list and we should not lose sight of it.
A great deal of work is being done by private individuals and there is much philanthropy. However, this is not enough. We must support it. Many people go to bed hungry every night. It is a far cry from what we call poverty in Ireland. We are very fortunate to have the way of life we do. I mention this because I did not hear Peter Sutherland this morning and I am sorry I missed the interview. This is a time when we need inspiration. We have great success stories in Ireland even at a time of worldwide difficulties. One of these is Pallas Foods in Limerick, which was a supplier to my company over the years. The business was sold to a US company which identified what Pallas Foods does. The Geary family started the company 30 years ago. At a time when the market is reducing by 20% it has increased its business dramatically in recent years. This is a real success story. The family is still running the business and plans to expand throughout Europe. I take this as an instance because there are great success stories even in a bad time just as there are failures in good times. Let us ensure we do not concentrate all the time on the failures but recognise that there are successes and concentrate on them.
I call on the Leader to arrange an early debate on a matter which I consider to be of extreme importance. This evening, the HSE is sponsoring the invitation to a debate in Cork University Hospital entitled "Why euthanasia should be legalised". The invited speaker is in favour of involuntary euthanasia and believes in killing patients whose cost benefit ratio is unfavourable to plough money into other areas of the health services. We have had tremendous disquiet about some of the goings on in our nursing homes where there was a strong failure by the HSE to enforce proper standards and regulations. The fact it now seeks to promote this——
The Senator is correct.
Senator Walsh is scaremongering. It is disgraceful.
I am sure it will scare every patient in nursing homes throughout the country. It is scandalous and deplorable. This comes from the ethics forum — if one does not mind — of Cork University Hospital. We remember what the ethics forum at UCC did with regard to embryonic stem cell research.
Senator Walsh is a disgrace. He is just looking for a headline on the basis of scaremongering.
No interruptions please.
If the agenda of this unrepresentative group started with embryonic stem cell research, where embryos are destroyed and one prevents life occurring, and is moving to involuntary euthanasia and killing people when they get to a stage in life where they are not useful or productive, what is next? Infanticide?
This is a complete and total misrepresentation.
I seek an urgent debate on this issue. It is absolutely scandalous and shame on the Senator opposite who seeks to support this type of activity in our society.
I support freedom of speech and not rubbish.
I heard the Peter Sutherland interview this morning and it was extremely good. He stated that despite all the difficulties we have, the downgrading of the Irish economy by the international rating agencies and the negative views taken in the international press such as theFinancial Times and others is overdone. He listed our national income compared to other European countries, even if we take account of the expected decline in incomes this year, our export performance and the ability of this country to deal with the economic crisis we are in. It is good to have somebody of his stature speaking internationally where he has a ready audience to speak up for the country because the Government has failed to sell the message and get across any conviction that it is in control of the situation and that it can resolve the issues we face.
I know the Leader was confused by my statement yesterday and I wish to clarify it. I indicated that when the last Fine Gael Government left office in 1997 it had presided over a three year period of Government where the average growth rate was 8%. This has not been exceeded since then. The performance of the previous Government saw average growth rates of 2%. Under the present Government we are down by 10%. When it comes to the economic management of this country it is important to realise that when Fine Gael has been in Government it has managed the public finances and the economy——
Questions to the Leader and not political statements.
——in difficult situations and has delivered results.
The facts are there Senator Walsh.
Senator Regan's time has concluded.
Then I will confine my remarks to the budget debate during which I want to speak about the banks.
Senator Leyden raised a very important issue with regard to fixed as against variable rates of interest. As we know, we had to adopt some rather unorthodox methods in regard to banking in this country, such as guaranteeing deposits and underpinning the banks and recapitalisation and so on. The reason at the moment that variable rates of interest are so low is precisely because of the recession and at the same time the methods we have had to adopt to offset some of that. It is most unfair to those who find themselves paying fixed rates of interest and again having to make a comparison within the recession period that they are not going to benefit from it. We need to consider this as a matter of urgency. It has been raised by other Members of the House on previous days but at the moment it seems most unjust that the people on fixed rates of interest have to pay those rates when a variable rate would be much lower.
I also support Senator Norris's request for a debate on human rights. My fear is that because of the urgent economic issues with which we have to contend currently, human rights issues, particularly those outside the country, will fall between the floorboards. It is important we revisit some of the issues. I have in mind the issues raised by Senator Norris but also the imminent closure of the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre. We have discussed this issue in the House on several occasions. We must salute President Obama because one of the very first steps he took as President was to ensure the detention centre would close. That centre has done nothing for the image of America and he is gradually restoring that good image internationally. However, we know there may be requests made to this country to facilitate the closure of that detention centre and we should give such a request very serious consideration. On the one hand we were of the view we had the right to criticise the American Administration because of the torture being carried out in its name but we should also respond positively and show that we have that mature approach to it. I suggest we should debate this issue in the general context of human rights.
I join with other Senators who have raised the issue of the HSE debate on euthanasia and hope we send a message that we are pro-life. However, I disagree with Senator Walsh. I am in favour of freedom of speech and I respect a person's right to have an opinion. Part of the reason we are having this debate is because of the refusal of Government to legislate on stem cell research and euthanasia. Senator Walsh's Government has sat on its hands for long enough and it is important to have that debate.
Does Senator Buttimer want us to legislate——
The debate today in Cork University Hospital on the right to life and the preservation and protection of the right to life, is one we should have in this House and I hope we can have a debate soon.
Given the creation of the new national assets management agency and the abridged report of Dr. Peter Bacon, I ask the Leader to ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to invite Dr. Bacon to the House to participate in a detailed question and answer session on this matter as it is of vital importance not just to Members of this House but to all the people. There is a plethora of questions that have not been addressed. There is confusion and perplexity and answers are needed. This House would serve a very useful function in this debate by inviting in Dr. Bacon and indeed, members of the National Treasury Management Agency, to have a full debate——
Let us have a detailed debate and questions and answers——
If we want this House to be relevant, then we should use this issue as a vehicle to make it relevant. The Leader would do us and the people a service by having this debate after the Easter recess.
Peter Sutherland's presentation this morning on the news was a rap on the knuckles to the party with which he is affiliated, the Fine Gael Party. The Opposition has been giving very poor leadership and drawing international attention to the problems the country is facing. It is a rap on the knuckles——
——by Peter Sutherland to the Opposition, particularly Fine Gael——
Senator White without interruption.
The Senator should not make a fool of herself.
How does the Senator define leadership?
Questions to the Leader, please.
It is very important. We are in the middle of a serious crisis, a world crisis and a crisis in our own country but it is a challenge and an opportunity to show the world that we can pick ourselves up and get going again and be a role model for the rest of the world. Confidence is more important than gold. That is what Peter Sutherland was talking about this morning. Everyone knows I am a person who does not flatter and I tell the truth——
The Senator is a woman of action.
——and I sincerely believe that the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, is now leading the country out of what appears to be an abyss. I have confidence that there is a change happening.
Ye are on the way out.
Someone else who gave a rap on the knuckles this morning as reported in theIrish Independent was Tony Blair, whom I dearly support because of his leadership on the North. He said the Catholic Church would want to address the issue of homosexuality and to get its act together.
I take issue with the Catholic Church on its attitude towards gay and lesbian and heterosexual people. It is about time we had a proper debate——
That includes everybody.
——on the human rights of human beings. We had speeches this morning and reference to stem cell research and euthanasia. I am for every person who is born to have a right to deliver his or her potential. I want the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Mary Coughlan, to come to the House and spell out how we are going to get jobs for those who have lost their jobs.
I say to Senator Walsh that I am more concerned about the living and the people who are traumatised——
——by losing their jobs. I want to see people out of poverty. We became a country to which people came as immigrants because we had employment. I want us to get back to that and I want to talk about the living and ensure they have a decent life and fulfil their potential. That is the reason I said yesterday that I applaud the Taoiseach and the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Barry Andrews, for introducing free education for every child at three years of age.
I support my colleague, Senator Walsh. He is clearly not against a debate, in fact he would welcome a debate and specifically on the fact that the HSE seems to be sponsoring why euthanasia should be legalised. Euthanasia is a criminal act in this State and remains so. It is the voluntary taking of a human life. In my view there are much more important issues than whether the economy is up or down or in between. The right to life of each individual——
Whether they want it or not; forcing suffering people to stay suffering.
Please, other Senators had their opportunity to speak and they should not interrupt.
The Cathaoirleach called me to speak and I do not welcome interruption. I am quite clear that the right to life transcends everything else, that our right in this day of Holy Thursday to restate, "Thou shalt not kill" and that alone is sufficient for us to carry on and to say that the HSE should have no hand, act or part in this debate.
The House will have an opportunity to debate the budget today but I have a few questions for the Leader. I refer to the creation of the new agency, NAMA, and the ramifications for the taxpayer which will be absolutely huge. Does the Leader think it is fair that the Government has bailed out the banks and the developers? We as taxpayers will now own apartment blocks in Dubai, land in Birmingham and shopping centres in Manchester. I say good luck to people who had the entrepreneurial capacity and had the financial means to do so. However, they now find themselves against a brick wall. The Government has decided to bail them out and dump the responsibility. The economic burden for that bail out now rests with the thousands of young people who have lost the mortgage interest relief scheme, who are now paying double the income levy, who are paying two pension levies where both earners in the household are public sector workers, demonised by this Government.
A question for the Leader, not a speech.
They have also sought to dismantle any normal household set up by a young couple with a young family. We must bear in mind that young people are now paying for the era of the Progressive Democrats and Charlie McCreevy. They have bailed out the bankers and the developers and the ordinary people are expected to deal with it. What will the liability be for the taxpayer once this body is established? Does the Government have any shame? It is taking a Christmas bonus of a measly €200 from pensioners who almost lost the medical card last October because of the ineptness of the Government and its inability to govern. Does the Leader of the House believe this is fair? Is this Government without shame?
The recent budget brought home very forcefully to us all the situation in which we find ourselves. While I did not hear the interview with Peter Sutherland this morning, I have been told about it and I believe it was very positive. However, something brought to my attention annoys me. We have all taken pain to a greater or lesser extent. I have been made aware that some companies are using this crisis to reduce the wages of their staff. One case has been brought to my attention in Mullingar in which a person is earning a paltry wage, is not working full-time and has had to take a cut. That person was getting time and a half after a certain time in the evening and that has now been abolished. I always heard it said that one cannot have less than nothing. However, if I were to reveal to the House the wages or the amount of money this person receives in a week from this company, one might guess to whom I am referring and I will refrain from doing so. We all accept that pain must be taken publicly and privately and in whatever sector in which we work. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that some employers are using the crisis, which obtains in this country and internationally, to reduce the wages of employees. I would welcome a debate on this matter.
I support the comments of Senator Walsh and others and there should be a debate in the House on the matter raised. I do not support euthanasia in any shape or form. I worked in the health services for many years and I saw people fight to the very bitter end to hold on to life. Where there is life there is hope and hope springs eternal. That is my view, but nevertheless there should be a debate on the matter.
At a time when we are very much in the mould of reduce, reuse, recycle, especially in the farming industry, which is still very important to the country, a number of products are available that could reduce the cost of fertiliser to the farming community which are made locally in the midlands and Mullingar. I would appreciate a debate in this area. Perhaps the Minister of State with responsibility for food, Deputy Trevor Sargent, could come to the House and sponsor such a debate.
My three questions relate to threats to the family home. We have learned that of the €90 billion of toxic debt, €30 billion relates to property bought abroad, including, for example, apartments. Is the Leader aware that in many cases the family home has been used as collateral for such apartments abroad? Has the Minister for Finance considered how this will now put the family home at risk? If he is to follow the family home for the bad debt abroad he may not be able to touch it.
Given all the new levies and taxes, the ability of the home owner to repay existing mortgages is considerably reduced. How will the Minister intervene to help these couples with the banks? What are his plans in this regard? As a result of all the levies, we must pay the State to bail out the banks. How will the Minister balance affairs such that there is leniency for the troubled home owners? One such measure of leniency, which I have frequently flagged in the House, is to encourage banks to allow couples to renegotiate fixed mortgages.
Will the Leader clarify whether the seven-year period for mortgage relief will still stand for the re-mortgaged component of an older mortgage taken out in the past seven years? This question has come to my attention several times overnight.
Last night, I attended a meeting in my constituency on how the budget has affected people. Turbary rights is an issue and I would appreciate if the Leader would clarify the exact position in respect of whether people are permitted to cut turf. I am aware the Minister has commissioned a report, but in view of the fact that it is so costly to run a house and a home, at what stage is that report?
Senators Twomey, Norris, Hannigan, Leyden, Buttimer, Coghlan, Quinn, Regan, Mary White, McCarthy, Glynn, Healy Eames and McFadden expressed views in respect of the budget. The Minister of State is waiting to come to the House to begin statements on the budget and I look forward to the debate. I was enlightened by the remarks of Peter Bacon on "Morning Ireland", following the publication of his report, which we will consider in minute detail and discuss and debate following the Easter break.
I commend Peter Sutherland who has been a tower of strength for the country throughout the years. This morning he put a vote of endorsement and confidence in the country. I wish to believe that on Holy Week and Holy Thursday the responsible media would take example from the advice given this morning by Peter Sutherland. I refer especially to the international Irish media. The country is as it is and the facts should be declared and the personal agendas of some members of the media should not in any way be allowed to detract from that, especially in the case of the national broadcaster. We need all the help and assistance we can get from everyone on the island of Ireland.
This morning Senator Twomey referred to carbon credits and I have no difficulty in the Minister appearing before the House to debate the matter. Senators Norris, Ó Murchú and Mary White called for an urgent debate on human rights which I will facilitate in the weeks following Easter recess. The civil partnership Bill is due and will be taken in the House this year.
I fully support the views of Senator Ó Murchú in respect of the US President Barack Obama closing Guantanamo Bay. It was the correct decision and he showed the world that he was a man of his word and made that decision immediately after becoming President.
Senators Hannigan and Quinn called for a debate on Irish Aid which helps those throughout the world, especially those much in need. I have said often the unsung heroes of our country throughout the generations and decades have been our missionaries.
They have been wonderful ambassadors for the country and have given the image abroad that we have done so much to bring both education and religion to many parts of the world that are downtrodden and in which dictatorships have existed. It has been a pleasure in good times for Irish people to have contributed so magnificently and more per head of population in percentage terms than any other country in this regard. Unfortunately, we must now look after those at home as well as abroad. The Government is seriously concerned and will do its utmost for the underprivileged in those parts of the world referred to by colleagues.
Senators Leyden and Ó Murchú called for a full debate on banking, especially in respect of variable and fixed interest rates. There should be a once-off situation for those caught paying fixed interest rates. There is a dilemma in which the financial people find themselves at present, including the institutes, and a special offer should be made in respect of the fixed interest rates. I agree with Senator Leyden in respect of the Start Mortgages finance agency. I have heard one or two examples of the very high rates, in excess of 7%, which it is charging at present. It is really exercising its muscle in some instances and there is power play going on. I have no difficulty in setting time aside for that debate.
I will pass Senator Keaveney's views on to the Minister regarding the difference between Dublin and Belfast train stations in what they charge for the connecting train service. Senators Walsh, Buttimer, Hanafin and Glynn expressed their strong opinions on the Health Service Executive-sponsored debate in Cork on euthanasia. From time to time, Members have made their views on related matters known in the House. I have no difficulty with a debate taking place on this.
Senator Mary White called for an urgent debate on future opportunities for job creation and asked for the Tánaiste to attend the House. I have given a commitment to the House in this respect and the debate will be held in the first weeks after our return. To address the matter Senator Glynn outlined, he asked for the Minister of State with responsibility for food and horticulture, Deputy Sargent, to attend the House.
Senator Regan pointed out that he was referring to the 1994 to 1997 period yesterday. He stated that it was a Fine Gael-Labour Government, but the last time those parties got a mandate was in 1983. I recall that a Labour Party Minister for Finance wasin situ between 1994 and 1997. The Senator’s point clarified his comments.
All the better.
I am glad the Leader understands.
I wish the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant a happy and holy Easter. I wish the Captain of the Guard, John Flaherty, the Superintendent, Jimmy Walsh ofThe Irish Times, “Oireachtas Report”, everyone who works in the House — the ushers, the parliamentary reporters and sound technicians — and Members a happy and holy Easter.
The Leader forgot the altar boys and the sacristans.
We should take a break because we have been working very hard. I look forward to seeing everyone again when the House resumes on Wednesday, 22 April, please God.