The Order of Business is No. 1, Local Government (Charges) Bill 2009 — all Stages, with Second Stage to conclude not later than 1.45 p.m. with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed seven minutes, Senators may share time with the agreement of the House, and the Minister shall be called not later than 1.35 p.m. to reply; No. 2, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Aviation (Preclearance) Bill 2009 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] — Report and Final Stages; and No. 39, Private Members’ business, motion 33 regarding measures aimed at reversing unemployment, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3 and to conclude not later than 7 p.m. The business of the House shall be interrupted for 30 minutes at the conclusion of Second Stage of No. 1.
Order of Business.
The first meeting of a cross-party Oireachtas group on mental health takes place at 2 p.m. today in the AVC room. I ask colleagues to support this initiative. Cross-party groups are common in other parliaments and this is a worthwhile initiative. I know Senators have a great interest in mental health and I ask colleagues to support this if they can.
This is the first day of the new independent inspections of nursing homes. This is very welcome. It is long overdue. The independent inspection of nursing homes will be carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA. When will there be independent inspections of residential services for children who are intellectually disabled? Yesterday, the Ombudsman for Children was before the health committee and she highlighted her ongoing concerns about the lack of monitoring of residential services for children with intellectual disabilities. For two years there have been meetings between the Department of Health and Children, HIQA and the Minister of State with responsibility for children to consider such an independent mechanism and how it will be put in place. In this post-Ryan report era, during which we have been examining the implications of residential care when it goes wrong, is it not about time we had an independent inspection regime for residential homes where children are living now? Many members of the committee yesterday were horrified to hear this from the Ombudsman for Children. Senator Mary White was at the meeting and she was extremely concerned about children who are in care where there is not the independent monitoring that is required. I ask the Leader to take up this matter with the Minister of State with responsibility for children and ask him to report to the House. The Seanad is in a position to discuss issues such as the protection of children, keeping children's needs to the fore and protecting and developing front-line services for children, something the Government has said it will do and it has asked the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, to report to the Houses by the end of July in that regard. We should prioritise putting this inspectorate in place. I do not know how much it will cost but the cost of not doing it, in terms of children's lives, will be truly horrific, with a repeat of some of the abuses that took place historically. We must not allow this situation to continue. I ask the Leader to seek a response from the Minister of State with responsibility for children and to get a timeframe from him for changing this situation.
Incidentally, Ireland is one of the few countries that still does not have a child death review mechanism. Children in care have died, some accidentally. I am not suggesting that all such deaths are questionable but no independent investigation takes place when a child dies in care. That cannot continue. These are not just historical issues, they are current.
I have raised the Ryan report with the Leader on a number of occasions. It is far more important for the House to reconvene to deal with that than some of the issues that are being dealt with on 14 and 15 July. The Leader is organising business in his own way and I do not object to that but this is a crucial matter. I do not know if people realise what is happening on this issue. People whose relatives were the victims described in the Ryan report still cannot get information. I was talking to people recently who sought further information from an order of nuns about their sister, who was a victim. All they received was a solicitor's letter.
It was great to hear the Sisters of Charity apologise on the record yesterday. One felt a sense of relief that it was done; it was very welcome. However, that is the exception. Other orders are still pursuing a closed door policy and will not share information or deal with people who are still trying to cope with grief, and the victims and their families who are seeking further information about what happened. They are not being supportive. We need to deal with this. I know people whose sibling died in one of these institutions. They do not know how to seek justice or how to deal with issues such as exhumation. They do not know where they need to go for information, who has the records or whether they can get access to them. There are groups of people who had no contact with the Ryan commission, and that is no reflection on the commission, who are in the same situation. I ask the Leader to arrange a discussion on deaths in institutions. As I pointed out yesterday, children in Goldenbridge died but there is no reference in the Ryan report to them. This is an example of how this issue must be taken further.
With regard to the Lisbon treaty, the Minister should come to the House and outline the initiative the Government has in place to explain and sell the treaty to the people of Ireland. I would like to contribute my tuppence worth somewhere along the way. I am a member of a trade union group that is supportive of the treaty, and other groups in favour of the Lisbon treaty have been formed. That is the way democracy should work but the Government should outline in detail how it will sell the treaty, the process it will follow, what is involved in the initiative, what type of campaign it has in mind and where we can fit into it.
I acknowledge the good work the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs did in Europe. When this argument was taking place last year the big problem was what the treaty meant. People felt that it meant something that worried them considerably. They were entitled to feel that. They now have a legal explanation of what it means, and that is as it should be. In responding to people who say there is no change in the treaty the Government should point out there is no change and that there will not, should not and cannot be any change. It has said that all along. The only issue is what it means. If people are reassured by that, fine; if not, they will have to vote against it. However, it is important this fact is recognised.
It appears from reports yesterday that decisions relating to the budget and the economy generally are being postponed to the autumn and no decisions will be made by the Government until after the referendum on the Lisbon treaty in early October. The Taoiseach indicated in the Dáil yesterday that the Minister for Finance is only beginning the budgetary process at this stage. On that basis, it will take some months. I presume that the calls by a number of colleagues for detailed debate and the presentation by Opposition parties of their budgetary priorities will go off the agenda of the House given that the Government is only beginning the budgetary process and will not be in a position to present any of its proposals to either House until well into autumn. The calls by colleagues such as Senator John Hanafin and others, therefore, presumably cannot be met in those circumstances. If the Government is only getting going on its proposals, one can hardly expect the Opposition to put forward proposals until the Government at least indicates what it intends to do.
It would assist all the Opposition parties and the general public if the Government would come clean and publish all the information available to it regarding the budgetary position and proposals that have been made by expert groups retained by the Government for that purpose. What basis can there be for a delay in the publication by the Government of the documents prepared by Professor McCarthy's committee? Why should there be a delay? They are public property. They are not the property of either the committee, because the Government has been given the report, or the Minister or Government. These are grave matters. One newspaper today describes our economy as being in an "historic slump" while others report the economy being in the "worst ever state". What excuse can there be for the public and the Opposition parties not to be told or given all the information available to the Government? I have always believed this with regard to the banking situation as well, notwithstanding that some arguments can be made from time to time about confidentiality. However, those arguments have faded, particularly in the case of nationalised banks.
All of the information that is available to the Government is public property; it is the property of the people. The Government only holds that information in trust for the people and it should be published for the people. If the Government Senators seek any measure of consensus or co-operation from Opposition parties, they will have to come clean on the basic information that is known to the Government. If that detailed information is shared with us, we can have the type of meaningful debate the Irish public expects in this and the other House.
Will the Leader find a slot for a debate on the Middle East before the end of the session? Yesterday Israelis boarded a boat carrying pro-Palestinian supporters, including Mairead Maguire, the Irish Nobel Prize winner for her work in Northern Ireland, David Graham, an Irish electrician, and Cynthia McKinney, a former US Congresswoman — this is public knowledge — and they are now being brought into an Israeli port. They were bringing humanitarian aid to the 1.5 million people trapped in despair in Gaza.
This story was removed from the headlines because of the sudden and tragic death of Michael Jackson, which has taken over all the airwaves from CNN to Sky Television. Nobody is interested in what is happening in Gaza at the moment and we should send a protest through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin. I intend to raise this and other matters in respect of the Middle East later today with the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Miliband, who is to visit Leinster House. I commend the joint committees on European affairs and foreign affairs, which propose to visit the region in Gaza. However bad things are here, they are a lot worse in Gaza and people are not giving this the consideration it deserves. Gaza is an open prison, maintained by the Israeli Government against the wishes of the Palestinian people. It is about time people shouted "Stop". I shall make the case today to the Minister, Deputy Martin, who is extremely good on the entire issue. Ireland has a great record as far as Palestine is concerned. We were the first country, and the late Brian Lenihan was the first Minister in Europe, to recognise the two-state solution.
I support Senator O'Toole's remarks on the need for an immediate and proactive debate on the Lisbon treaty. This House is an ideal forum for the Government to maximise political involvement and discourse on the subject matter. As Senator O'Toole rightly noted, the treaty is being clarified, not changed, and it is important we inform the public on that. The question before us, in October or November, is the same one that was before us in June 2008. One hopes that as a result of the debate and discourse and the process over the past 12 months, the public will have a greater understanding of the matter. The Government and the body politic have a very important role to play in clarifying the questions which remain in respect of the Lisbon treaty. It would be very helpful, not only for the Government but for the country, if Seanad Éireann were to become a serious forum of debate on the treaty and its importance.
Regarding European matters, at a time when we are swamped in a sea of economic doubt, there was one small piece of good news this morning concerning telephone charges. There is a European dimension to this because, as a result of work at European Union level, telephone roaming charges are now being dropped, in some cases significantly, and that is to be welcomed. It also causes us to ask about the level of telecom and telephone charges across the European Union and at home. Our economy faces great challenges in competitiveness. Whatever way we can, we need to reduce costs and telephone charges to business and the domestic consumer. I welcome what has been done at EU level but we must have a debate in this House on communication costs to try to bring about further reductions in that regard.
I agree with the sentiment about the decrease in roaming charges. It is very important, particularly for those of us in the Border region. We have struggled along for some time to try to have an all-island approach to mobile telephone call and text charges. I welcome the fact that roaming charges are being reduced. Internationally, it will have an importance, not only for business people who have to travel and for holidaymakers. However, there is still more to do. I am obliged to change my telephone over to the Northern coverage network when I travel from here to my home. I have no choice. Nonetheless, if I buy a package with my current operator that gives me 200, 500 or 750 minutes, or 200 texts, and if I use my telephone during the time I am in the North such use is not included as part of the package. There are still issues in respect of all-island approaches to telephones and mobile telephones that must be addressed. I challenge the telecom operators to be the first to lead the way rather than continue what they have been doing, namely, trying to maximise the fact that the Irish use their telephones without questioning this situation. It links into the issue raised yesterday about consumer advice. We must challenge the operators and move to the cheaper provider.
I welcome the introduction of the ban on tobacco advertising. I was convenor of the Joint Committee on Health and Children when we produced the report that led to the ban on smoking in public places. This new ban will not affect current smokers but is intended to try to stop the subliminal messages that are passed on to young people. Every day 15 people would have to begin smoking to replace the 15 who die from smoking-related illnesses in Ireland. This is a great initiative and I welcome it.
I support the call by Senator Leyden for a debate on the Middle East. At this hour, as we speak, my former partner of many years, Ezra Yitzrak Nawi, is being sentenced in a court in Jerusalem. His crime is that he took part in a non-violent demonstration against the demolition of the home of two elderly Palestinians. Film clearly shows him removing stones from the hands of some of the more aggressive Palestinians, telling them it was a non-violent demonstration. He disappears from the frame and emerges some minutes later, dishevelled, with the soldiers smiling. He has been charged and convicted of attacking the soldiers. The judge in the case said there was a conflict of evidence but she chose to believe the police and the soldiers.
This is the Denning judgment, the appalling vista, and it is a moral disgrace. I express my gratitude to this House, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and, most particularly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, who has been directly and courageously engaged in detail with our representatives in the Middle East. I thank him for it.
Senator Leyden was correct concerning the act of piracy conducted yesterday by the Israeli navy against the appropriately namedSpirit of Humanity, 24 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. The Israelis have no legal interest in this. It was an act of piracy. The name of the ship is significant and important. The cargo was toys, medicines and food for a people that have been described by the International Red Cross as being in despair after the blitzkrieg visited upon them illegally by the Israeli Government, which is in betrayal of the noble spirit of Judaism. The Israelis previously sank another boat in which one of the passengers was an 84 year old Jewish Holocaust survivor. Therefore, let nobody say this is anti-Semitism. It is an attempt, in difficult circumstances, to keep alive the spirit of humanity.
I remind the House that on all proposals regarding Seanad reform, emphasis was placed on a greater role for the House regarding European Union affairs. Therefore, the call for a debate on the Lisbon treaty is very appropriate. It is a moot point as to whether we should have the debate now — if we have the time in the schedule before the recess — or very early after we resume in mid-September, but it is important that we have it. I would like to think the House will give a lead in this regard.
I support the call by Senator Leyden for a debate on Gaza. What is happening there is appalling. I commend the Senator on his continuing interest in this area. The issue should be debated.
I bring to the attention of the House yesterday's report by the VHI which indicated the organisation is seeking a reduction in fees of 5% from the medical profession, from both consultants and general practitioners. It indicated that the average pay to a consultant was €127,000 for 2006. Obviously some got more, some less. Medical inflation needs to be tackled and addressed. In the past few months, I noted that consultants within the medical profession were increasing their fees by double-digit percentages at a time when there is deflation of 4% or 5%. That is unacceptable and an abuse of privilege. It will lead to a situation where the cost of health insurance will become prohibitive for an increasing number of the population. In turn, those people will become dependent on the State for their health care. Given the reduction in the revenues that will be available in the next five to ten years at least, fees are going in the wrong direction. I ask for an urgent debate with the Minister so we can consider seriously what can be done to ensure that people who can apply whatever cost increases they wish are not allowed to do so.
In this regard, I remind the House of a motion before it on the legal profession wherein the same abuses apply. Will the Leader allow time for it at the first opportunity?
Dr. Conor Farren, a consultant psychiatrist who spoke at the opening of St. Patrick's University Hospital's new addiction and mental health centre, stated: "It is only now, in the post boom period, that we are recognising some of the negative consequences of the boom". He added that of the 250,000 people registered with addiction problems, including alcoholism, only 20% are engaged in any form of treatment.
It is with regret that I will be slightly parochial again, in that I wish to discuss the report on St. Luke's Hospital in Clonmel. There are so many problems within the service that Professor Brendan Drumm decided to allow a capital plan worth €20 million to facilitate the hospital's closure. Addiction services at Clonmel have been cut by 50%. This does not add up and is an indication of what has gone wrong with the HSE. At the Leader's earliest convenience, will he arrange a debate that will have meaning for front line services? The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, has repeatedly stated that she will not make cuts. At the same time, the facts on the ground do not support her ideology.
Fáilte Ireland's listed catering properties are officially classified as tourism businesses. Will they be subject to the charge of €200 or will they be treated separately? This matter is important, as they are not private residences and they comprise the only economy that can grow in this significant economic downturn. These buildings and businesses are dispersed across the country, so I am not being parochial. Tourism is the one area in which we could achieve growth. The issue requires an amazing amount of clarity.
The expenditure review committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Colm McCarthy has concluded its work and a report exists. Amazingly, the latter's delivery to the Government is to be postponed. Further, the Government will not consider it until some indefinite time in the future, presumably after Ministers have read it whenever they get it. Are there divisions and disagreements within the Government regarding the matter? For whatever reason or reasons, is the Government trying to induce the delay? I ask the Leader because he is the conduit between the Government and the House. We deserve to know the answer because of the serious state of the economy, as has been outlined——
——and what has been stated about the report since the various leaks. It appears the report will not be published before the autumn at the earliest.
Perhaps there are tactical considerations, although I am not aware of them, but the Lisbon treaty has been mentioned and, as Senator O'Toole and others have stated, it is important that we get an early opportunity to discuss the clarifications. We should not be left in the dark. We are depending on the Leader to outline the programme in respect of the expenditure review committee's report, that is, when we will see it, when it will be debated in the House and when it will be published, and the programme in respect of the Lisbon treaty referendum, namely, if a date has been set and when the House will get an opportunity to address the matter. Not only do I wish to know the Government's programme, but have the leaders of the other political parties been consulted?
Senator Hannigan without interruption.
One of the millennium development goals set in 2000 was to ensure that all of the world's children would have access to primary school education by 2015. We are half way to that time, but we are falling short. Some 75 million children are still without access to primary education, 20 times the population of our country. This morning, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Mary Robinson wrote to the leaders of the G8 nations, who will meet in Italy next week, to ask them to set up a global fund for education. It is something that President Obama promised during his election campaign, but he has not done it yet. The fund would be a great idea, as it would increase access for the world's children to education. Will the Leader ask the Minister to make a statement on the matter expressing his support for such a fund?
Two compelling presentations were made at yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children. The first, given by the Ombudsman for Children, has been mentioned by Senator Fitzgerald. In this regard, the Seanad should be recalled when the Minister of State with responsibility for children deals with the report of the Ryan commission. It is not good enough that the House would be in recess. How will we deal with that important document and what is the Minister of State's implementation plan to help the thousands of people who have been abused by the religious orders? Can the recall be arranged? It does not seem like it would be a big deal for us to discuss the report in the Chamber. It will be the most important report dealt with by the House this year.
The name of our country has been sullied. Around the world, Ireland is identified in a way contrary to the beautiful image of kind, friendly, charming and sociable people. Our religious orders abused thousands of children. Every country in the world knows about us. I am asking for an emergency recall of the Seanad for when the Ryan report is being dealt with by the Minister of State.
Yesterday, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, ISPCC, made a compelling statement calling for 24-hour social services for children. It raised this point often. Since becoming a Member, how often have I asked for a 24-hour service for children?
The Senator's time is up.
The Childline helpline received 414,000 calls from children in 2008.
That is public knowledge.
Most of those calls came after hours when no social services were available. Providing 24-hour social services for children who are being emotionally and physically abused is a national emergency.
Yesterday's publication by the Central Statistics Office of national income figures must be debated in the House. They indicate that national income shrunk earlier this year by between 7% of 10%. If this trend continues for the year, it will shatter the country.
The figures emphasise two crucial points, the first of which is on economics. When other economies are showing signs of bottoming out or small shoots of growth, our economy is going in the opposite direction. The second point is that the responsibility for this difference sits with the Government. This slump is definitively and markedly worse than the slumps being experienced by other European economies.
That is right.
I wish to restate firmly Senator Fitzgerald's comments yesterday and the comments made by other colleagues today that the Government has a moral duty to publish the reports on what will be done to save our economy.
That will be done.
It needs to be done now. If we find ourselves waiting for the second half of this year, it will keep the country and other political parties in the dark regarding the state of our economy and what will be done to save it. I believe firmly that the future of our economy and, therefore, our country is at risk. We need to act differently as a consequence. The Government should give us the evidence, show some leadership, publish its reports and allow the country and the politicians to respond.
We will and we can.
Why is the Government not doing it?
Senator Ó Murchú, without interruption.
It is not so long since we had a debate on the Middle East during which we pointed to the change in direction of the new Administration in the United States, exemplified by the appointment of an envoy to the Middle East. Since the appointment of President Obama, the US Administration has taken a stronger line on Israel but it is quite evident that the Israeli Administration does not take any notice whatever of any international pressure.
That is true.
It responds with absolute impunity. It seems to hold the view that one can starve a population into subjection and deny it necessary medicines and yet in some way succeed in achieving a solution for the future. We know from Irish history that this has never worked. What is occurring is that the Israelis are creating a new generation of Palestinians who will realise that dialogue does not bring any results, thereby leading them to believe military action is necessary. Worse again, it is grist to the mill of countries on the sideline, which seem to be at variance with the West at present, when they see what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. This will have an impact globally.
It is vital we have another debate urgently on the Middle East, especially because of the recent incidents. We should place it on the record that we, as representatives of the Irish people, are unhappy with what we now regard as official terrorism. I refer to the starvation of a people, the denial of medicines, the creation of a ghetto that is an open prison in itself and the total disregard for international opinion. It is vital we press this message home. I accept the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, has been very proactive in this regard. We should supply him with all the support necessary to reinforce the stand he has taken.
I want to mention two matters on the Order of Business, the first of which is the Local Government (Charges) Bill 2009. Today's newspapers suggest the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, has accepted the Joe Duffy amendment to this Bill to exempt mobile homes from the property tax.
That was never going to happen.
The Senator should ask a question for the Leader and there should be no interruptions.
I take it the Seanad debate——
There will be plenty of time to discuss the Bill during the debate.
I take it the Seanad debate will take place on the basis of the Joe Duffy amendment.
We are waiting for the Bill Cullen amendment next week.
There are to be no interruptions.
Senator Regan is a victim of friendly fire.
I hope my time has not been running out.
The Senator's clock is running.
I take it the Seanad debate on that Bill will take place on the basis of the amendment. Perhaps the Leader will clarify that. The Enforcement of Court Orders Bill is listed for 2009. It has not been made available yet, which leaves much to be desired in terms of the procedure of this House.
I am rather shocked there may not be a debate in this House on the Lisbon treaty before the summer recess. This would mean there will be none until a couple of weeks before the referendum. The date on which the last Lisbon treaty referendum was announced was the same date on which the former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach resigned. Must we wait for the resignation of the current Taoiseach before we hear the date for the second Lisbon treaty referendum?
We need to debate the treaty because there were diverging views in the House on the very issues that have been clarified by the European Council, namely, the issues pertaining to neutrality, tax, the right to life and family. It would now be interesting to hold a debate in the House to determine whether there is consensus on the treaty.
I support the call for a debate on the Middle East. In the North of Ireland, it took the two extremes to sit down and talk before we saw any real progress. The reality is that the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has indicated for the first time the possibility of a two-state solution. This is very positive and is to be well promoted. In this regard, Israel has received from the European Union favoured-nation trading status. In the debate, I would like to determine whether we could support the extension of this status to Gaza and the West Bank, thereby providing the whole region with access to a larger market such that the West Bank and Gaza economies might improve. This would serve as a carrot and stick to ensure they comply with international best practice and UN standards.
I call for a debate on the economy. There were calls this morning for the report of an bord snip nua to be published in the belief that people are somehow being kept in the dark. It is as nothing compared with the reality that the Opposition has never produced a breakdown of how it would deal with the deficit of €20 billion.
That is not true.
The Senator cannot get away with that.
It is like the third secret of Fatima.
Where is the Government's plan?
Senator Hanafin, without interruption.
The reality is that the Opposition has never given any indication other than a peripheral one as to how it would deal with a €20 billion deficit.
The Senator keeps saying the same thing and it is incorrect.
I do not know whether that is a tactic to deflect the deficit to this side of the House. There is a Government and it should dealing with the issue.
I wish to raise a very important statistic, namely, the live register figure announced by the Central Statistics Office this morning. Unemployment increased by 197,781 since June 2008, which represents an increase of 90%. Rather than having crossfire regarding €20 billion deficits and all kinds of other accusations about this side of the House, it would be more in line for Senators on the Government side and the Government itself to concentrate on that figure. Everyone who constitutes the statistic is a person with a family.
Last week I spoke about job losses at ABB in Waterford. This morning, 120 job losses were announced by Bausch & Lomb, a leading-edge technology manufacturing business in the south east. Over the next few months, it will have halved its total workforce. Waterford and the south east in particular are suffering badly because of the loss of good manufacturing jobs. It is exposed more because of the presence of manufacturing in that part of the country. I ask the Leader to invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Mary Coughlan, to the House so we can debate job losses and the creation and protection of jobs and hear her outline what her Department proposes to do to assist in this regard.
We must offer hope to small and medium-sized enterprises. Last week I was talking to some people involved in small businesses employing eight to ten people. One said people such as he needed to see some hope and to be motivated to keep working because they are being knocked back continually. Whether because of the decline in demand for products that such companies are producing, the cutting back of the working week to three days or other factors, such companies are being knocked back regularly. They need to hear messages from the political establishment that there is light at the end of the tunnel, hope and a roadmap to help them try to emerge from the economic crisis. It is all about jobs at this stage and that is where the focus should be.
On Senator Coffey's point, I ask the Leader for an urgent debate on the Government's approach to tackling unemployment. It is somewhat nauseating to listen to Senator Hanafin talking every day about whatever he talks about. The bottom line is that this morning 140 people lost their jobs in Togher. Senator Coffey said that numbers on the live register have gone up. Yesterday in the Dáil Deputy Kenny offered a cross-party approach to tackling the issue. This morning we on this side of the House will offer the hand of bipartisanship and a cross-party approach to tackling the deficits in the economy, provided the Government listens.
Senator Boyle may smirk and laugh all he wants. He has been pontificating——
The Senator is being totally insincere and he knows that.
Senator Boyle has been pontificating for two years on that side of the House and unemployment has gone up. I am a bit tired of Senator Boyle's proprietorial attitude to me.
I am tired of Senator Buttimer's reactions. He should find another chamber.
People are losing jobs and struggling and all Senator Boyle can do is smirk across the Chamber. He should be ashamed of himself. How dare he smirk at me across the Chamber.
Senator Buttimer should be putting questions to the Leader.
I am asking for a debate on unemployment. I am upset this morning because people in Cork are losing their jobs. We are getting smirks across the Chamber.
The Senator has made his point to the Leader now he should let him reply.
People are struggling to pay their mortgages. Some are paying their mortgages with credit cards and the houses of others are being repossessed. There are people with no hope. It is the job of Government to govern and it is my job to represent the people who elected me to this House and I will do that without fear or favour. I expect Government to govern. We on this side of the House have offered the hand of cross-party support to tackle unemployment and the growing economic difficulties and we have made it meaningful. This Government has yet to acknowledge that we were the only party to put forward a costed budget prior to its budget.
We need the Tallaght strategy again.
We have offered more than that and the Government has never taken it up.
Yesterday Report Stage of the Broadcasting Bill lasted for two hours in this House and ended without a division. The Broadcasting Bill was initiated in this House and was subject to many amendments, many of which came from the Opposition and were accepted. Amendments were made in both Houses. It proved an excellent example of how the Oireachtas should work. Any Bill that comes to these Houses should be taken on that basis. A Bill is a draft of legislation subject to amendment and the Government listens as all Members of both Houses respond.
When will the Government accept our amendments?
The Bills before us today, especially the Local Government (Charges) Bill should be dealt with in exactly that way. If there are inconsistencies or a need for clarification or amendment I am sure the Minister will take that on board and take it from whatever source it is offered.
Does that include the Joe Duffy amendment?
I was asked to appear on the RTE "Liveline" programme yesterday but I refused because I knew the Bill was coming to the House today and that this House was the place to discuss and amend it.
That makes a change.
The Minister is quoted inThe Irish Times today.
Senator Boyle, without interruption.
It shows a poverty on the part of some Opposition Members that they think amendments are more likely to happen through a show on a national broadcaster than by their own efforts. We should aspire to better in this House.
That is probably true because the Government accepts so few amendments. The Broadcasting Bill was an exception.
Questions to the Leader.
The Central Statistics Office, CSO, report released today shows that national income is down by €5.5 billion, partly because of the cuts and levies but mostly because of the fear of spending. Underlying that is people's fear of losing their homes. That is why they are holding on to their money. Foreclosures are on the up. I and Senator MacSharry asked for the Minister for Finance to come into the House to debate how he will intervene with the banks and request them to come up with creative solutions to help people to hold on to their homes. This is critical. One's home is one's castle. It is one's dignity. If one does not have a home, one has nothing. As people lose their jobs their homes are at risk. I would have liked to have had this debate before the summer recess.
Yesterday I asked the Leader whether the Minister for Education and Science agrees that schools should levy parents to hire extra teachers because of the cutbacks. I did not ask for a debate on this but for an answer to that question. There are huge pitfalls in this proposal. Our education system will become like our failed health system if we go down the road of paying for education within the public system. It is a very serious move and I want an answer from the Leader, not a debate, before the summer recess.
I arrived in the Chamber in time to hear about Senator Boyle's Pauline conversion to good governance.
The Senator should put questions to the Leader and never mind that.
I was not even aware that he had been in Damascus recently. The change was so shocking it almost knocked me over and I felt I had to say something about it.
It is the Opposition that is not doing its job, not the Government.
Senator Twomey should put questions to the Leader.
The question to the Leader is whether there is a change in Green Party policy in Government to the effect that it has respect for both Houses of the Oireachtas. I am not aware of the Government's accepting many amendments in any legislation in either House since the Greens entered Government.
We accepted amendments on the Broadcasting Bill which was in the House last night. The Senator is not listening.
That is the exception rather than the rule.
That is the exception.
It was the exception. The Minister is a member of the Green Party.
Ministers treating most amendments with complete disdain in both Houses is the rule, not the exception. If there is a change in Green Party policy, it is nice to see.
The Senator will not accept the exceptions.
We have accepted it.
We are monitoring what the Government does. Senator Boyle had more than enough to say about good government before he went into Government but we have not seen this in the past two years. I would love to have a debate on this to find out whether Government has changed and has more respect for both Houses of the Oireachtas because we have seen more self-service than public service from Government parties in the past two years.
In response to Senator Regan's query, it was proposed to take the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Bill 2009 on Friday but I now propose to take it next Tuesday to give colleagues an opportunity to prepare given the publishing time of the Bill. I hope all colleagues agree with that.
I appreciate that.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole and Coghlan expressed the urgency of dealing with mental health issues and spoke about the important meeting taking place today. I wish everyone well. We will give it our full support. Many of our Seanad colleagues on all sides of the House want to make their mark by doing something substantial to address the challenges facing mental health. The new Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Deputy Moloney, also wants to make a huge change and massive difference in this area. Having served on a health board with him for quite a long time, I know he has a great deal of experience. We will do everything we can to keep mental health centre stage and to support the efforts of the Minister of State, the committee which meets today and of our colleagues in the House for whom this is a priority during their membership of the House, especially for the next three years, the remaining lifetime of this Government.
The same Senators spoke about the protection of children, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, and the need for independent monitoring. They asked for the Minister of State with responsibility for children to come back to the House to discuss this issue. We all know that he is out of the country this week and we wish him well in his deliberations in Vietnam. I will put this request to him personally on his return next weekend.
Senators O'Toole and Mary White asked for time to be allocated to the Ryan report in the House. I have given a commitment on many Orders of Business to doing anything I can to discuss it further in the House, keep it centre stage and help those trying to find out what happened to their next of kin. That is the least we can do on a humanitarian basis. I fully support the call of Senators O'Toole and Mary White. The example Senator O'Toole gave the House yesterday is a shocking and appalling example of something that we cannot stand over in any circumstances. We will do everything we possibly can to ensure this does not happen again. I commend Sister Stanislaus Kennedy's utterances yesterday. We need more of these. We will do anything we can in discussions with the leaders of the various groups in the House to allocate further time to this issue.
Senators O'Toole, Bradford, Walsh, Coghlan and Regan want time to discuss the Lisbon treaty referendum. The Taoiseach will be in the House on 9 July at 11.45 a.m. for the Bill and colleagues can avail of the opportunity. I will provide as much time as required by colleagues on that day to allow them to discuss and make known their views when the Taoiseach and various Ministers who will assist him will be in the House.
Senators Alex White, Coghlan and Hanafin raised the Government's decision to publish the report of Colm McCarthy and an bord snip nua, as it is known. I agreed with Senator Leyden yesterday when he called for it to be made public but we must await the Government's decision on it. We must also bear in mind the various examples given here this morning. We had 5% growth in April and no other country in Europe had growth for that month, and neither had China nor Japan. No other country in the western world had growth——
The Leader is talking through his hat.
I congratulate Senator Coghlan on his presidency last Sunday. It was an outstanding success. I know he is still on a high and I understand that — it happens to people at that age.
That is outrageous.
On the Order of Business please.
It is also a fact that 53% of the population is in serious debt with 47%——
On a point of order, it is not acceptable to make a racist, sexist or an ageist remark in this House.
Senator Twomey may not address the Cathaoirleach with his hands in his pockets. I do not know whether he knows that.
I apologise and I will take my hands out of my pockets.
The Leader's party has had its hands in our pockets.