Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 1, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business; and No. 2, Aviation (Preclearance) Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1, with spokespersons to speak for ten minutes and all other Senators for seven minutes, Senators to share time by agreement of the House, and the Minister to be called on ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage for concluding comments. The business of the House will be interrupted for 15 minutes at the conclusion of No. 1.

As this House resumes after the local and European elections and the by-elections, I pay tribute to all Members of the House who contested the elections and commend them on their valiant efforts. I congratulate Alan Kelly on his election to the European Parliament and pay tribute to the efforts of our Fine Gael Senators — Senators John Paul Phelan, Paschal Donohoe and Joe O'Reilly — and their excellent campaigns.

Senators

Hear, hear.

They conducted tremendous campaigns. I also pay tribute to Senator Alex White, the leader of the Labour Party.

Do not forget the ladies.

And Senator Boyle.

(Interruptions).

Senator Fitzgerald without interruption, please.

I knew I should not have started naming names. There were quite few Senators involved in these elections. I apologise to Senator Bacik. Who else——

Senators

Senator Boyle.

I will begin again and summarise by saying it is important that everybody was so involved in the democratic process. Their campaigns were strong and vibrant.

Turning to the outcome of the elections, the verdict of the people has been given and it is resounding. Fianna Fáil has suffered its worst ever electoral defeat and the Green Party has been decimated. Fine Gael is now the largest party in local government, with the highest share of the vote and the highest number of seats. There is no doubt the people expressed their anger at the Government through the vote.

Many Government Ministers have since said that people voted as they did because the Government took tough decisions. It was not because the Government took tough decisions but because they took wrong decisions. People feel betrayed that so much money has been wasted while they are feeling the pain on the front-line. They are angry at the waste, rising unemployment and the price individual families are paying, day in and day out, for the poor management of the economy by the Government.

It is clear the people have withdrawn the mandate from the Government through the electoral process and that they want a general election. I want to move an amendment to the Order of Business to discuss the outcome of the elections and the need for a general election. It is appropriate that we should discuss these matters in the House today.

I join the two previous speakers in their congratulations, and not just to Alan Kelly on his fine victory. I met his most enthusiastic supporter, the local Fine Gael Deputy, Noel Coonan, who was delighted with his success — I thought that was understandable. In the case of Senators O'Reilly, Alex White, Donohoe and Phelan, and particularly Senator Bacik, however, it is important we recognise those who put themselves forward for election. They should be congratulated and supported in every way possible.

I agree that it would be appropriate to have a debate on the current political situation, although perhaps for reasons different from those of Senator Fitzgerald. I caution the two large parties to calm down and remember this is a great game played slowly. They should not rush into anything.

The Irish people, unlike almost every other group in Europe, took the opportunity to have a go at the Government without moving to the far right. I would like to discuss that. If anything, there was a move towards Independents, left wing and centre candidates. That is an important issue and should be recognised at a time when an anti-political vote was cast across Europe. We should look at how Ireland has dealt with this issue differently.

Now that the Leader has lost another quota of what the public would call local authority members and what we would call single transferable votes for the Fianna Fáil Party, perhaps he might be more enthused about Seanad reform, which might offer some proofing against the loss of councillors. This should be put at the top of the political agenda. The Government side is down two quotas since the last local elections and should examine change, even for its own preservation.

Ag an deireadh seachtaine, foilseofar an t-eagrán deireanach den nuachtánFoinse. I have never been a fan of Foinse, it has never given me good press ach caithfidh nuachtán Gaeilge a bheith ar fáil do phobal Gaeilge agus do phobal Gaeltachta na tíre seo. Níl airgead ag teacht chuig an nuachtán ó fhógraíocht, advertising revenue, agus níl dotháin airgid ag teacht ón Rialtas. Tá nuachtán Gaeilge chomh tábhachtach leis na meáin Ghaeilge raidió agus teilifíse. Caithfidh nuachtán Gaeilge a bheith ar fáil do na teaghlaigh, na scoileanna, na mic léinn agus do dhaoine eile. Tá mé ag moladh anseo, cé nach raibh riamh mórán bá agam le Foinse, go gcuirfidh an Rialtas na hacmhainní riachtanacha ar fáil ionas go mbeidh nuachtán Gaeilge ar fáil do phobal Gaeilge na tíre seo. It is scandalous and outrageous. I am sick and tired of the words of support we get for the Irish language time and again. It is absolutely criminal that there will not be an Irish language newspaper available in this country after this weekend. Can the Government not deal with that? Can it learn nothing? It is another slap in the face for Gaeltacht people sa tír seo. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on that matter and for the support of the House in that regard.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for clarifying the position of former Senator Alan Kelly in regard to his election to the European Parliament last night. I spoke to him on the telephone ten minutes before I came into the Chamber and had the opportunity to congratulate him. We were speculating about the precise legal position but the Cathaoirleach clarified it very helpfully. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the European Parliament, Alan Kelly ceased to be a Member of this House on his election to the European Parliament. I extend warmest congratulations on behalf of my colleagues on the Labour Party benches and I acknowledge the congratulations of others to Alan Kelly, a young member of the European Parliament, a terrific politician and a fantastic standard-bearer for our party. I wish him every success in the European Parliament. I am sure he will be a great success there.

I thank colleagues for their commiserations and congratulations. I will take both in equal measure because I am sure the intention is the same irrespective of whether they were expressions of commiseration or congratulation. Along with colleagues, I congratulate my other colleagues in this House who went forward for election in the recent elections. I say to Senator Norris and to others that it shows no disrespect to this House that Members of it should seek election to the other one. I wish to make that point clear. While I have been critical of the way in which we manage the business of this House and have raised the need for reform, I hold this House in very high esteem and respect, as I am sure do the other Members who sought election to the other House.

We can continue to work together in this forum to serve the people and to achieve the important objectives we all have.

I accept the Senator's explanation.

Senator Alex White without interruption.

It is certainly not intended as an explanation and it is a pity that it should be taken up in that way. It is meant absolutely genuinely.

There has been a political shift in the past few days and I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that there should be a debate about this. Manifestly, there has been a change politically throughout the country and I am happy to say there has been a marked shift to my party and to the left in this city and in urban areas throughout the country, about which we should have a debate. It throws down a challenge to all political parties, including my own, that we should present genuine political alternatives to the people and that we should not think they will be satisfied with personality politics or with swapping personnel in Government for other personnel.

I accept this is a challenge for all parties. We should move on to present genuine alternatives and debate them in a House such as this in the future. A debate in this House, as suggested by Senator Fitzgerald, would present an opportunity for that to be done and I second her amendment to the Order of Business.

Aontaím go hiomlán leis an Seanadóir O'Toole maidir leFoinse. Tá an ceart aige agus glaoim ar an Rialtas rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi sin chomh luath agus is féidir.

What I have to say should be recorded because it is uttered after every election. The electoral register is a disaster. I am sure every Member of this House would say exactly the same. As members of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Senator Coffey, I and perhaps others from this House compiled a report having visited the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland. Can this report be brought before the House as soon as possible in the presence of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government because something must be done?

Many people who voted all their lives were disenfranchised. There must be a better way to compile the register because what is being done currently is not working. I met an old lady well into her 80s who voted all her life in tears because her name was deleted from the electoral register. I am sure this was the result of a clerical error of some description. However, a way must be found for persons in that situation to vote, as they are entitled to do. I would welcome an early debate, with the Minister present, to discuss the report of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the status of the electoral register.

Will the Leader provide the House with any information he has on the response of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the No. 35, non-Government motion 8 on the Order Paper, regarding the exemption of the churches from equality legislation? I seek seconders for an amendment to the Order of Business whereby No. 8 would be taken immediately after the conclusion of the Order of Business. There has been no response on this issue in two weeks. This suggests either that the Leader is held in contempt by the civil servants in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or that the Leader holds this House in contempt. The churches have been placed above the law in a manner citizens neither understand nor welcome. I have referred in this House to an important case where protection was removed from a student in a school in Dublin and vulnerable people were exposed to risk as a result of the deficiencies in this legislation.

This poses questions about the commitment of some sections of the Fianna Fáil Party to equality. We have seen the attack on the Equality Authority of Ireland. Some weeks ago we had Senator Walsh seeking to remove protection from Travellers. We have had people talking both in this Chamber and on the radio about secret societies. It must be a requirement that membership of any secret society that may have an extra-parliamentary influence be included on the register of Members' interests.

I very much welcome the outcome in the McKevitt case whereby the wicked and callous individuals concerned have been called to account and shown up for what they are. The Shell oil company has also been called to account, having been fined $15 million in respect of its involvement in the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others. This places in context references in this House to terrorist involvement in the Shell to Sea campaign and raises serious questions about the newspapers that applauded the element of bias in Paul Williams's film. TheIndependent said it was a great idea, that they were very glad. It is astonishing that bias should be found. Perhaps we will be treated to Senator Harris’s views on the criminal activities of Shell oil. He was very lyrical in smearing the people involved in the Shell to Sea campaign.

I call Senator Harris.

That is excellent timing.

I have told Senator Norris before that he is what Lenin called a "useful idiot", that is, a liberal who is manipulated by extreme subversive forces. Having said that, I congratulate——

(Interruptions).

I ask Senator Norris to shut up and let me speak. I did not shout while he was talking.

There should be no more interruptions.

Senator Norris's ego is out of control. He is another George Lee.

I thank Senator Harris for that extravagant compliment. I do not deserve it but I thank him.

There are to be no more interruptions from any Senators.

I congratulate Deputy Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, and Deputy Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, for their stunning success in last week's elections. Deputy Kenny receives a very bad press and receives little recognition for the trojan work he has done for his party. I congratulate Alex White and Senators Bacik, John Paul Phelan and my old friend, Joe O'Reilly, all of whom copper-fastened their positions for the future. That was all good news.

There has been much rubbish spoken about seismic shifts in Irish politics. Such a shift would be a very negative development. One of the clichés of my youth, when I was a student socialist, was the notion that Irish politics should be divided between left and right. If it were, we would have something like the type of politics represented by the two British National Party MEPs. The reason Irish democracy is the most stable in Europe, surviving fascism and armed struggles by the IRA, is that we have two centre parties which offer a change of tone and temper and which can move to the left or right according to changes in the political context. We do not need a left-right divide.

It has been a good electoral result. However, to those who predict that Fianna Fáil will disappear from the landscape, I say that would be a tragedy, just as it would be a tragedy if the same were to happen to Fine Gael. I am less pushed about the Labour Party.

(Interruptions).

I was very pleased that Alan Kelly did so well in the European elections, but I was not very pleased with some of the transfers he received. There is a great deal of tic-tacking taking place between Labour and Sinn Féin which deserves close scrutiny on the part of the people.

And Fine Gael as well.

Irish democracy, from Daniel O'Connell to Isaac Butt to Parnell to John Redmond and on to the War of Independence and the Civil War, when only a small aberration occurred, has always had a great parliamentary, constitutional tradition of the centre. I hope that when the waters stirred up by Friday's elections have subsided and by the time the next election comes around, people will recognise that the public sector and the banks must still be reformed and that work remains to be done.

I also congratulate all those Members of this House who contested the various elections. I particularly congratulate Alan Kelly, who is now a Member of the European Parliament. It is a tribute to these people's political standing that they can join political parties, remain with them and get elected.

I call on the Leader to arrange a debate on fisheries, particularly in the context of the renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy. There have been a number of appalling developments with the implementation of the sea fisheries legislation that was enacted by both Houses some years ago. There has been a particularly scary development whereby the Chief State Solicitor no longer deals with violations of the relevant Act and the DPP is obliged to take on such cases. I have referred to the criminalisation of fishermen on previous occasions. In that context, I ask the Leader to arrange a debate, sooner rather than later, so that we can investigate the claims being made by those involved in the industry and ensure this House defends fishermen. Fisheries is one of the areas by means of which we can reboot the rural economy. We must consider relaxing the very restrictive and draconian laws in this area so that people in the industry are allowed to survive.

I also request a debate on the HSE and its controversial Teamwork report, which was published this morning, relating to the future of Bantry, Tralee and Mallow general hospitals. This is a very important and controversial document and it should be the subject of a debate in this House.

Aontaím leis an Seanadóir Ó Tuathail maidir leis an nuachtánFoinse. Tá an-díomá orm go bhfuil an nuachtán sin i mbaol. Níl aon amhras faoi ach gur dhein sé sár obair. An príomh buntáiste a bhain leis an nuachtán ná chuir sé téarmaíocht nua-aimseartha ar fáil, rud a bhí ag teastáil uainn go léir. Gan sin ar fáil dúinn, ní bheidh muid in ann forbairt a dhéanamh ar ár gcuid Gaeilge. Tá siúil agam go mbeidh Foras na Gaeilge nó an Rialtas in ann teacht i gcabhair ar an nuachtán.

Bíonn muid i gcónaí ag maíomh mar gheall ar TG4, Raidió na Gaeltachta, Gaelscolaíocht agus mar sin de. Tá, dar ndóigh, obair iontach ar siúl acu go léir, ach tá géarghá leis an nuachtánFoinse. Tabharfar go mór in easnamh é sna siopaí. Cheannaíos féin é agus bhí sé go maith ó thaobh nuachta a chur chun tosaigh. Mar aon leis an Seanadóir Ó Tuathail, ní dóigh liom gur tháinig mé féin as go ró-mhaith. Sin mar a tharlaíonn leis na meáin cumarsáide, ach níl aon amhras faoi ach go bhfuil géarghá leis an nuachtán. Má leanann cúrsaí ar aghaidh go ró-fhada, ní bheidh aon seans é a chur i gcló arís. Tá súil agam mar sin go dtarlóidh rud éigin an-tapaidh ar fad.

I join other speakers in complimenting and congratulating the Members of this House who put their names forward for election. It is particularly important that we recognise anyone who is prepared to put his or her name on a ballot paper. I monitored the efforts of the various candidates from this House and there is no doubt that they put in exceptionally good performances and they can feel extremely pleased with their achievements. I congratulate former Senator Alan Kelly on his magnificent achievement. I have no doubt that he will be an outstanding representative in Europe and I wish him well.

I also congratulate all those who succeeded in gaining election as councillors. However, let us spare a thought for those councillors who lost their seats. Many of these people were fine, spirited and generous public representatives who lost their seats as a result of a quirk of fate. I hope those individuals will continue to give service into the future.

I thank colleagues for their good wishes on my efforts and those of the other Senators who stood in the various elections which took place on Friday last. I support the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Fitzgerald. The reason for this is not to debate the consequences of the elections but to examine the events that have caused the changes in the political landscape. I refer to two issues that have not been mentioned on the Order of Business. The credit rating of our country has been downgraded, which means that, despite the assurances of the Government, it will cost more than originally thought to borrow money to fund the rescue of our banking system. Those who downgraded Ireland's credit rating have indicated they will do so again.

On Friday the number of people on the live register exceeded 400,000. We are inexorably creeping towards an unemployment figure of 500,000 and we are in the middle of an economic war. The consequences of that were seen in the elections last week. The success or the loss felt by those who participated in those elections is irrelevant in comparison with the loss by people of income and jobs.

Time would be well spent by debating this issue with a view to understanding the role the Government will play in defending our country in the economic war and the role these institutions will play in aiding our people.

I congratulate all those who put their names forward at a time when it is most discouraging for anyone to put their name on a ballot paper. Senator Alex White put up a good fight. We met him many times and there was a healthy rivalry, which I like to see. I hate gloating — there is nothing as unattractive as gloating.

Senator Ormonde did it for long enough.

What is Senator Ormonde talking about? There were 20 years of it.

I do not understand this. We are in swings and roundabouts. Fine Gael went through this in 2002. From the time of my childhood I have known of the swings and roundabouts of our party. Let there be no doubt about it, we are not going away.

We would hate to see Fianna Fáil going away.

I stand here today and I will be back today at another time but I will not gloat. It would be great to have a debate on where we are at present, but we need a period of reflection.

Senator Ormonde replaced arrogance with gloating in this election.

The Senator should put questions to the Leader.

There is need for a debate on what is happening because there is concern about the lack of leadership and the lack of confidence of the people in the Government. This requires a debate because the Government has to a fair degree neutered the Houses of the Oireachtas in the past 20 years. That has made the people feel they do not have a say in matters. If members of Government parties feel they got a drumming they did not expect in the elections, it is because people feel they do not have the opportunity to have their say in what happens in politics because of the way both Houses of the Oireachtas have been shut down and power handed almost exclusively to the Executive, Ministers whom the people feel are incompetent. There is a strong need for an early debate to give confidence back to the Irish people that their views can be heard and respected in the Houses of the Oireachtas. That is not happening at the moment. Fianna Fáil Ministers have an attitude of whistling past the graveyard as if this is not really happening to them. They must wake up to what is happening.

I commend Senator Harris, many of whose observations in this House fall on barren ground. Those observations should be taken on board because they are very interesting.

Another issue will arise in the next couple of months that we must debate seriously in this House, the Lisbon treaty. At this time the people do not have enough confidence in the Government for us to give sole authority to it for running that campaign. That must be taken on board by both Houses of the Oireachtas. There is a serious need for the political parties which support the Lisbon treaty to have joint ownership of that campaign.

During the last campaign, the Taoiseach insulted the Opposition parties which supported him when he said they were not doing enough, and that had a detrimental impact. The position is so serious now that we must have a debate on the Opposition parties leading the Lisbon treaty campaign in order to gain the confidence of the people.

I would like to be associated with the note of congratulations to all those who allowed their name go forward for election but were not successful on this occasion. I single out former Senator Alan Kelly, as his election is a great credit to him. He put significant work into his campaign and at 33 years of age, he is the youngest person from this island being sent to represent us in the European Parliament. I congratulate him, his Labour colleagues, the Labour Party leader and the Fine Gael Party leader on a great election. It was certainly Labour and Fine Gael's weekend.

I commiserate with all the councillors from all parties around the country who lost their seats. It is not an easy thing to put one's name forward and some of these people were long-serving and hard-working councillors, and for them to not be elected is a huge personal loss. There is much upset on this side of the House because of the bad results in the various elections, particularly with regard to the Fianna Fáil Party.

We have a mandate from the Irish people to continue governing this State well. It is easy to oppose, particularly at this time, but our Government has an immensely difficult task in getting this country back on track. Every day unpopular decisions must be taken and the Government is in no way shirking its responsibilities. I commend it for its patriotism, hard work and the ability to put the nation's need before short-term party advantage. I would welcome a debate with the various political parties setting out their stalls on where we will go in future in these difficult economic times.

As with Senator Twomey, I would welcome a debate on the Lisbon treaty and now is the time to start it. I am glad we are seeing the end of the Libertas group today.

Ba mhaith liom cur leis an méid atá ráite ag na Seanadóirí eile. Déanaim comhbhrón leis na Seanadóirí agus na comhairleoirí ar fud na tíre nach raibh tofa. Gabhaim buíochas le gach éinne a sheas sna toghcháin. Tá sé iontach tabhachtach go nglacann daoine páirt sa phróiseas daonlathach. Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt don mholadh atá curtha chun cinn ag an Seanadóir Fitzgerald maidir le díospóireacht a bheith againn ar thoradh an toghcháin. It is important that a debate take place in this House on the outcome of the elections. It is very clear that a signal was given by the people to this Government that although it has the authority to continue to govern up to 2012, the moral authority was withdrawn last Friday through the people's actions at the ballot boxes. Such a discussion must take place in this House, as it will in the Lower House later, when a motion of no confidence will be put forward in the Government. It is unfortunate we cannot have a similar motion as I would definitely support it in the Chamber. There is a need for such a debate, which would take into account the direction this country needs to take in upcoming years.

I have no doubt that difficult decisions will need to be made, particularly in December's budget. Senator Fitzgerald mentioned something which I have commented on many times, namely, the issue is not the difficult decisions but that the Government is making wrong decisions. Difficult decisions must be taken to quell the anger out there. As I have said before, hopefully Fianna Fáil will listen now that the people have spoken. Fianna Fáil needs to have the authority of the people. It is clear it does not have the moral support or mandate to continue making the decisions it has made. Whatever Government needs to make these decisions, it must have the support of the people.

It is an absolute outrage the only Irish language newspaper left on this island will disappear at the end of the week. We have already seen Lá Nua, the daily Irish language newspaper, disappear.

The Senator's times is up. He is cutting other people off.

If I may, a Chathaoirligh, as someone who comes from the Gaeltacht this is far more than about the newspaper itself.

The Senator is making a speech.

I want to ask the Leader about this.

I call on Senator Callely.

This goes to the very heart of the future of the Irish language on this island.

This is a speech.

I ask Senator Doherty to resume his seat.

Will the Leader ask the Taoiseach, who proclaims he supports the rejuvenation of the Irish language——

I am asking that the Senator's microphone be turned off. I call Senator Callely.

——-to explain how, on his watch, he will allow an Irish language newspaper to disappear from the island of Ireland?

Senator Doherty, I ask you to observe the rules of the House.

I will ask the Senator to leave the Chamber if he does not observe the rules of the House.

I am not sure if the Leader heard my request.

My hands are tied by the rules of the House. I am asking the Senator to observe them but he is not prepared to do so. I call on Senator Callely.

Will the Leader invite the Taoiseach to the House to ensure the future of the newspaper in question?

I am asking the Senator to leave the House.

Senator Doherty is appalling. He has no respect for the Chair.

I will take no lectures from Senator Feeney.

Senator Doherty, you would not resume your seat and I asked you to leave the Chamber. I hope you do so now. I call on Senator Callely.

Senator Doherty withdrew from the Chamber.

I join with other Members in congratulating Senators Donohoe, John Paul Phelan and Alex White and, in particular, former Senator Alan Kelly on their participation in the various recent elections. We should also acknowledge it is the backroom team that plays a large role in an election campaign, sometimes in a candidate's favour. On others, the banana skin causes some problems.

Senator Doherty is wrong when he claims the moral authority was taken from the Government last Friday. Those I have spoken with have let me know we have made mistakes. I will put my hand up and admit the Government and this side of the House have made serious mistakes. I have raised some of those issues with my parliamentary party.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

The same people I have spoken with, however, have indicated they are satisfied they have a cohesive Government in place with a level of stability and know its policies. If we do have this debate on the need for a general election, it will be interesting for Members to set out their stalls and see how their policies will marry with each other.

I support Senator McCarthy's call for a debate on the HSE. Like him and Senator Donovan, I have a particular interest in the issue of hospital services in geographically isolated regions, such as Bantry Hospital. I look forward to a debate on this, along with other HSE issues I have raised.

I thank the Cathaoirleach's office and that of the Ceann Comhairle, following my request concerning the hosting of an OSCE parliamentary assembly conference in Dublin. As I said earlier about teams, I pay tribute to and congratulate the teams in their offices and, in particular, the teams in the interparliamentary section, the Office of Public Works and many other sections. The conference was held two weeks ago with over 150 delegates from around the world attending. All congratulated the manner in which it was run and it is appropriate and fitting that this is recorded.

Time, Senator.

I ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, of which I am not a member, to acknowledge this appropriately.

I do not care too much about the Government and its empty defence of its poor performance in the polls. However, I care about the people of this country, and the sole purpose of the House should pertain to the hurt that is being caused to people every day, which Members now have heard about on the doorsteps.

Will the Leader provide the House with an update tomorrow on the progress on the bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam? The e-mails are rolling in again. While people gave Members time as they were aware the elections were forthcoming, they now seek progress in this regard.

Will the Leader bring the real Minister for Finance to the House——

——to explain how he will help the 40,000 families who now are in danger of losing their homes? One's home is everything. He managed to secure a moratorium on foreclosures for 12 months. However, those couples who ran into difficulty at the end of 2008 now are at real risk of losing their homes. People are sick and tired of the Minister's actions in bailing out Anglo Irish Bank while he does not act to save people's homes. Moreover, fixed-rate mortgages have crippling breakage costs that no one can tackle and it is expected that 300,000 more people will be on the dole by the end of 2010. When will the Minister for Finance act for the people and give something back to them instead of simply bailing out banks?

While I ask the Leader for a debate, in calling for such a debate I ask that Senators be correct in what they say in this House. To state there will be an increase in unemployment of 300,000 simply is scaremongering. There will not be 700,000 people unemployed.

No one said that.

It is on the record.

Senator Hanafin, without interruption.

It was just said.

Questions to the Leader from all speakers, please.

Stating that 40,000 people will lose their homes constitutes further scaremongering and is disgraceful. I would welcome a debate on the banks and I note that representatives of Anglo Irish Bank, who appeared before the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service today, categorically stated they would bail out no developer.

I also congratulate Alan Kelly on what was a magnificent achievement. I know, from hearing him in this House, that he has the talent, ability and commitment to make an excellent contribution in the European Parliament and I wish him well. I was sorry that other colleagues did not succeed in their endeavours but I do not doubt they will enjoy success at a future date. I also note that in common with many others, I felt disappointment when Kathy Sinnott did not make it back to the European Parliament. She has been a distinctive and compassionate voice and I am sure her future participation as a representative politician is not far away.

Aontaím go huile agus go hiomlán leis an Seanadóir O'Toole faoin méid atá ráite aige faoiFoinse. Beatha teanga í a labhairt agus tá sé rí-thábhactach do thodhcaí na teanga Gaeilge sa tír seo go mbeadh cúiteamh faoi chúrsaí reatha idir craolacháin agus cló. Tá sé an-tábhachtach don saol intleachtúil na Gaeilge sa tír seo go mbeadh nuachtán seachtainiúil ar fáil ar a laghad. I mo thuairim, ba chóir go ndéanfadh an Rialtais an beart caoi agus tacaíocht a thabhairt ionas go mbeidh nuachtán Gaeilge seachtainiúil againn amach anseo. It is vital for the intellectual future of this country that discussion of current affairs in the Irish language is carried out in both the broadcast and print media and a weekly newspaper is an essential part thereof.

I hope the Leader will consider supporting the Private Members' motion I intend to table tomorrow on human trafficking. It is clear that despite the human trafficking legislation enacted last year, there still are problems in the manner in which victims of human trafficking are being treated with particular regard to their exploitation in the sex industry. While there is a range of issues, it appears as though victims of trafficking are being treated as an immigration problem. A number of measures must be taken, from mandating a focus from the organised crime side within the Garda Síochána to criminalising the purchase of sexual services. I hope the Government will take this issue seriously, starting with support for this motion tomorrow.

I compliment those Senators who ran in the recent by-elections and European Parliament elections on their magnificent performances. I congratulate the former Senator, Alan Kelly, on his election to the European Parliament. Senator O'Toole said he has detected a shift in the mood of the electorate. Perhaps the election of Joe Higgins as an MEP for the Dublin constituency and the election of my neighbour, Seán Kelly, as an MEP for the South constituency means there has been a move towards our part of the country — the kingdom. I support Senator Glynn who made a serious point about the register of electors. When I toured the polling stations in my part of the kingdom the other day, I saw people from Bangladesh, Bangalore and all points in between but noticed that a number of our own people were absent from the electoral register. Although we call them local elections, all of the non-nationals are on the register and more power to them. One could hardly spell some of their names, but they were there. I suggest that nearly 100% of them came out to vote in the town of Killarney.

They are entitled to do so.

I hope there was nothing sinister in some of their reasons for voting.

We will leave that for another day.

Does the Senator mean "left-wing" when he uses the term "sinister"?

An important matter was raised by Senator Twomey.

Is Senator Coghlan suggesting that it is a question of membership of the knights?

No. I was not referring to their membership of any organisation.

Questions to the Leader, please.

We must all put our heads together, as Senator Twomey said, to deal with the Lisbon treaty. It would be wise of the Government to acknowledge the shifting mood of the electorate in this regard. Perhaps the Leader will use his good office to prevail on the Taoiseach to consult the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party immediately. We need to treat this matter seriously. While I admire Mr. Ganley for the courage he showed in putting his name forward, I am glad the electorate has seen the back of his party. I appeal to the Leader to use his good office to secure co-operation and goodwill in respect of this serious issue.

I do not think people on the Government benches can claim it is business as usual after last week's elections. Just as Standard & Poor's has downgraded this country's sovereign debt rating, the electorate has downgraded the Government's rating. It is indisputable that the people have issued a vote of no confidence in the competence and ability of the Government to manage the economy and deal with many of the other concerns that exist at present. The Government has no mandate and no legitimacy. It does not have the power to get us out of the problems we are in today.

In his fine analysis of what happened in the recent elections, Senator Harris suggested that it was not a seismic shift. If it was not a seismic shift, it was certainly a fundamental one. The reality is that just as Fine Gael has never had a secure core vote, Fianna Fáil no longer has a substantial and secure core vote. That is what is different now. This country can now have real politics, in which the people decide whether the Government is competent to do the business of government. Many voters who saw Fianna Fáil as their own party have realised that it is not able to deliver the goods or serve their interests and the general interests of the population. That is the fundamental change. It is the end of tribal politics. It is a fundamental change for the better. The former Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, transformed this country with his constitutional crusade. He transformed the Constitution in a way that ultimately led to the birth of modern Ireland. It is to his credit and the credit of Enda Kenny that Fianna Fáil's stranglehold — its dead hand — on the Irish body politic has been ended. Politics will be healthier for it.

I join my colleagues in congratulating the former Senator, Alan Kelly, on his success in being elected to the European Parliament. We will all miss him. I congratulate all the other Senators who took part in last week's elections. They performed admirably and should be proud of their performances.

I would like the Leader to arrange a debate on three key aspects of the recent local elections. Senators have already spoken about those who were disenfranchised as a result of problems with the register of electors. On the day of the election, serious issues arose in Meath when political parties failed to take down posters near polling stations and continued to canvass in the vicinity of polling stations. The Minister should re-examine the guidelines issued to county managers to ensure all parties are aware of their requirements on the day of polling.

We should have a debate on the counting of votes. I speak today after spending three days attending the count for Meath County Council. Recounts were called, one of which I called, and I am very pleased with the result. For the first time since the 1960s we won four seats . However, spending three days counting local election votes is not tenable in this day and age. We should consider other ways——

Does the Senator want the electronic voting machines back?

Senators should not interrupt.

We certainly need to consider technology and improving the whole process.

The Senator should have spoken up a year ago.

At this stage, we should not have to spend three days counting election results and I ask for a debate on that.

I second Senator Norris's timely amendment to the Order of Business. Let us have a debate on the whole ambit of Government policy. Our credit rating has been downgraded, despite the Minister hawking himself around Europe. Citizens are facing further prospects of unemployment. Some 400,000 people are unemployed. Senator Healy Eames is correct that an increasing number of people——

(Interruptions).

I know you are embarrassed and upset, Senator Feeney——

The Senator should speak through the Chair.

Will the Senator make his point?

I do not blame you because I would be ashamed to vote for——

Senator Buttimer.

——Fianna Fáil also.

The Senator should ask questions to the Leader through the Chair.

I am doing that, but I am being provoked.

(Interruptions).

The Senator is very provocative.

Over a minute of the Senator's time has elapsed.

Surely the clock is stopped. Senator Feeney referred to patriotism. Does the Leader believe it is patriotic that we cannot have a Christmas bonus for the elderly and those on social welfare and that the cervical cancer programme cannot be rolled out?

(Interruptions).

There should be no interruptions, please.

May we have a debate on the report issued today by the HSE on the reconfiguration of hospital services in Cork and Kerry? The report is worthy of debate because it downgrades many of the hospitals in Cork and Kerry, on which we need to have a proper debate.

I congratulate Alan Kelly on his fine achievement on being elected to the European Parliament in the constituency of Ireland South. With regard to elections, there is a massive problem with impersonation. Our register is in rag order and there needs to be a complete overhaul of the election process, otherwise we will be guilty of electoral fraud, which, as a nation, we cannot afford.

I support Senator Buttimer's call for a debate on the possibility of health services reconfiguration in the Cork and Kerry region. The HSE's report in this regard is causing great concern in the town of Mallow and the wider north Cork area due to the possible impact on Mallow General Hospital.

I support the call for a broader debate on the political circumstances in which we find ourselves. We must all acknowledge that only 55% of the people voted last Friday, the vast majority of whom expressed very strong dissatisfaction with current Government policies. We will leave the debate on that for another time, however. We are also obliged to reflect on the fact that approximately 45% of the people cast a vote of no confidence in all of us by deciding not to vote. We must learn a lesson from that and respond.

There is a great economic crisis and the people's future is at grave risk. Some 400,000 people face unemployment. The country's finances are in absolutely shocking order and we all face a huge political challenge to respond. This House is the forum in which to have substantive debate on the political and economic choices facing the country. In the Dáil, Members will go through the motions in the coming days in a party political way, but in this House we should avail of the opportunity on every possible occasion to have serious and substantial political debate on the choices we face. If the people gave us any message last week, it was that they want political leadership. Those who did not vote obviously see no political leadership in this House or the other House. We have to respond to defend our country, our economy and democracy. Let this Chamber be the fulcrum of economic and political debate on the choices and challenges facing us. We will all be able to wear our political colours but we urgently need that debate.

I congratulate all my colleagues who fought the good fight, particularly former Senator Kelly who is now a Member of the European Parliament. Will the Leader consider doing what we did during the last Seanad when all the Irish Members of the European Parliament came before us to report on their work and to respond to our queries and concerns? I hope that in the next few months we will begin that process of re-engagement with Members of the European Parliament. It would be an opportunity for Alan Kelly and others to take on board our views and concerns and we will hear what is going on in Europe.

Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, Harris, McCarthy, Ó Murchú, Donohoe, Ormonde, Twomey, Feeney, Doherty, Callely, Healy Eames, Mullen, Coghlan, Regan, Hannigan, Buttimer and Bradford expressed their views on the local and European elections. I do not think there was any mention of the by-elections. I congratulate the two by-election candidates, lest we forget their achievements. I look forward to their joining the ranks of those who work for 100 hours a week, which I am sure some of them will find a bit of a change.

Some people here might find that a change.

I congratulate them and wish them well. I look forward to gaining the benefit of the experience in their lives before becoming Members of the Oireachtas.

Maureen O'Sullivan, hear, hear.

I congratulate Alan Kelly who was a Member of this House. I hope that his membership of the House and the experience he gained here will stand him and the people of Ireland in good stead when he represents us in the European Parliament for the next five years. He is a dedicated, hardworking, determined young man and we wish him well.

Senators Bacik, Alex White, O'Reilly, O'Donovan, Boyle, de Búrca and Phelan are very welcome back. I look forward to working with them here for the next three years.

The Leader is obviously not listening to the people.

They did their best but the electorate spoke and, like true democrats, they must accept, as we all do, the electorate's decision. I speak from a position of strength because we got 36% of the vote for Fianna Fáil in County Westmeath, the highest in the country for the party, and we gained a seat in the Coole area, one of only two in the country——

The party gained one——

Unlike its partners, the Green Party.

Senator McFadden in particular will be delighted to know that we are still the largest party on Westmeath County Council——

That is local politics.

——with nine going out and nine coming back.

The party is lucky to have Deputy Mary O'Rourke.

Thanks to Deputy Mary O'Rourke.

It is wonderful to see us gaining an extra seat on Mullingar Town Council.

The party is a beacon in the dark.

Let us put everything in its proper perspective.

Is this Deputy O'Rourke's——

We are not getting involved in local politics.

We are looking forward immensely to the challenge and the support of the Opposition parties which have an enormous amount to offer the Government now that the elections are over. They can stop the one-liners and stop playing politics in the national interest. They can come on board.

The Leader's party should start governing.

In the national interest——

The Leader's party must start governing and think of the people it represents.

In fairness to themselves, the new Members in particular should bring to this House——

We will be new forever.

——the talents they have and use them usefully. They should bring them into the House and use them for the benefit of the nation.

How long has the Leader been here?

The elections are over.

The Leader should stop being so patronising.

I know that everyone has a positive contribution to make. We have heard all the negative comments for two years.

The Leader has heard lots of positive suggestions.

For the next 12 months can we have a positive Seanad? I assure Members that if they want a debate on the results of this election——

I sat with the leaders today and that request was not mentioned once at our meeting.

That is too unbelievable. The Leader should not be ridiculous.

The agenda this week is full of legislation.

The Leader should stop being ridiculous.

If the leaders want to meet me after the Order of Business I will seriously consider convening this House for an all-day debate on Friday on this issue, if they request me to do so.

I am available——

We must have the debate now.

The Leader should be allowed to speak without interruption. I will adjourn the House if Senators will not listen to the Leader.

I have at all times responded positively where legislation is not ordered. If colleagues think seriously enough about it, the Leader is open to suggestions for an all-day sitting, if not this Friday, some week soon.

We will accept the debate for this Friday, if that is what the Leader is offering.

The Leader is replying to the questions raised on the Order of Business. Will the Members please listen to what he has to say?

Legislation has been ordered for all this week. We will sit very late tonight to consider two Bills.

Is the Leader offering the debate for Friday?

I will be available to meet the leaders.

On a point of order, is the Leader accepting an amendment to the Order of Business for a debate on Friday?

Not once did Senator Fitzgerald or any of her colleagues at the meeting of the leaders today make the request of me——

Is the Leader accepting the amendment to discuss the outcome of the elections on Friday? Will the Leader make that clear?

The Senator should let the Leader reply to the Order of Business.

Is the Leader accepting the amendment for the debate on Friday?

I will meet the leaders.

The Leader either accepts it or he does not.

Is the Leader accepting the amendment?

I am offering——

Is the Leader accepting that we will have a debate on Friday?

I will ask people to leave the House.

The Leader should have it now and not make commitments.

I cannot just throw out——

I will ask people to leave this House if they do not listen to the Leader's replies.

On a point of order——

What is the point of order?

Is the Leader's statement a throw-away remark or does it mean something?

That is not a point of order. The Leader is replying to the Order of Business and people should listen. When he is finished——

He is giving a confused response.

Will there be a debate on Friday?

Younger colleagues should know that the Leader must not be interrupted when giving his response. The Cathaoirleach is doing his utmost to conduct business in an orderly way. The Senator is not in the Dáil now. He is in the Upper House.

I consider this House to be as important as the Lower House. Is there——

I ask Senator Twomey to resume his seat.

The Leader is making fun of the House.

There are two amendments to the Order of Business which will be dealt with when the Leader completes his response.

Senators O'Toole, Glynn, Ó Murchú, Doherty and Mullen expressed their sincere disappointment at the discontinuation of the Irish language newspaper, and I join them. I have given a commitment that we will hold a debate on the Irish language in this session, as we always have before the summer recess, with the Minister present.

Senators Glynn, Coghlan and Buttimer pointed out the inaccuracies in the register of electors, particularly the present registers that we found to be out of touch. I have no difficulty in making available time to discuss the committee's report on this matter.

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to accept that we have all-party agreement on Senator Norris's motion.

Senators McCarthy, Buttimer and Bradford called for an urgent debate on the fishing industry. I gave a commitment to Senator O'Donovan to give the longest time required for a debate in this session on the urgent issues and challenges facing the fishing industry and I will endeavour to have this take place within the next two to three weeks.

Senators Twomey and Coghlan called for a debate on the Lisbon treaty and asked that the leaders of all the parties get together to see how we can progress the proposal for the referendum on the treaty. This is a very worthwhile suggestion which I will pass on to the Taoiseach after the Order of Business. I have no difficulty in making available time in this session to debate that issue.

On the matters outlined by Senator Healy Eames with which Senator Hanafin disagreed, we will have debates on the banks and the financial challenges facing the country——

People are losing their homes.

——every week or second week, as we have had nearly every second week since last September.

Senator Healy Eames also raised the issue of the bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam. I will inquire as to its progress after the Order of Business and inform the House about it tomorrow.

I thank the Leader for agreeing to do that.

I look forward to discussing the proposals to deal with human trafficking in the motion in Senator Mullen's name tomorrow.

Will the Leader to clarify that he has accepted that a Fine Gael motion on the outcome of the recent elections will be taken by him this Friday?

Yes, that is agreed.

He accepts that a motion will be put to the House on Friday.

That is agreed. I will leave all day Friday available——

——if the leaders of the Opposition groups want to take that.

For a motion on Friday.

For a motion, not statements.

No. I am clarifying that it will be for a motion.

I will be taking statements, as is usual.

No, I am calling for a Fine Gael motion to be taken on Friday.

An amendment has been moved by Fine Gael to the Order of Business.

We are tabling a motion for Friday. I want to clarify if the Leader will accept a motion from Fine Gael on Friday.

No, we will have statements.

The Leader will not accept the taking of a motion.

Members, please——

The Leader is not prepared for a vote to be called——

Senator, please desist.

——on Friday on a debate on the outcome of the elections.

The Leader has indicated he will be taking statements.

This is rubbish.

A Senator

There will be a vote on it now.

The Leader said — as I heard him say — that he will take statements on Friday. Senator Frances Fitzgerald has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate on the outcome of the elections and the need for a general election be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Senators

Yes.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl 29.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • 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.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • 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 Alex White; Níl, Senators Diarmuid Wilson and Camillus Glynn.
Amendment declared lost.

Senator Norris has also proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 35, motion No. 8, be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

It certainly is, in light of the completely unsatisfactory response of the Leader, and I propose to continue to raise this issue in the House.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl 30.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • 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.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Jerry Buttimer and David Norris; Níl, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.