The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the Stardust tragedy, No. 2, Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 — Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 3, Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Report Stage; No. 4, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 — Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 5, Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Bill 2009; and No. 40, Private Members' motion No. 35 regarding the national broadband scheme. It is proposed that No. 1 shall be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and shall conclude not later than 1.15 p.m., Senators may speak for five minutes and may share time, and the Minister shall be called upon for concluding comments not later than 1.10 p.m.; No. 2, Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, shall be taken at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Bill 2009, shall be taken at the conclusion of No. 2; No. 4, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009, shall be taken at the conclusion of No. 3 and shall adjourn not later than 5 p.m. if not previously concluded; No. 40, Private Members' motion shall be taken at 5 p.m. and shall conclude not later than 7 p.m.; No. 5, Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices Bill 2009, shall be taken at the conclusion of No. 40. Committee and Remaining Stages of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 shall resume at the conclusion of No. 5 if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
Yesterday in this House there was an attempt to take all Stages of two Bills. That is clearly bad practice and I hope it will not happen here again. Next week, the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill will come into the House. Whatever approach one takes to that Bill — Fine Gael supports many aspects of it — there is an ever-growing view that not enough time is being given to debating it and examining all the implications for the country, society and the Constitution. Today's edition of The Irish Times carries a letter signed by 133 defence and prosecution lawyers that states the Bill could jettison ancient rights and rules of evidence if it is passed without proper debate.
It is extremely important that this legislation is fully debated, with enough time given to tease out difficulties. We will consider the legislation next week. If amendments are made in this House, will the Dáil be able to consider those amendments? I urge the Leader to give proper time in this House to the Second Stage debate. This legislation is critical. I am aware of the intimidation that local communities and families are facing from drug barons. I have talked to families and know what they are going through. Young children are being asked to carry drugs from one place to another. Strong legislation and adequate Garda resources must be put in place to deal with the threat but it is important that we follow parliamentary procedure and that we have sufficient time to deal with the legislation. I ask the Leader to assure the House that we will have sufficient time to discuss the Bill next week and that there will not be a guillotine as there was on a Bill yesterday.
Yesterday was such a bad day for the House that the Leader should make serious attempts to ensure that over the next week the image we are projecting does not continue. I was watching the House from afar yesterday and it was embarrassing. Responsibility lies with the Leader. He has never found wanting co-operation from this side of the House as long as we understood what we were doing.
Senator Fitzgerald should be heeded and the necessary arrangements should be made for next week.
When people raise the current electricians' strike, we should insist they have an idea what they are talking about. Yesterday some people talked about an electrical contractors' strike while others spoke about the need for the union to resolve the issue. We must be serious and look at this in the context of what the Pope said about the economic system. With so many people talking about economic lunacy, for someone living on €40,000 a year, who had an expectation of an extra 11%, to be told that not only will he not get that, but 10% will be taken from him before negotiations start, that is economic lunacy and financial disaster for that family. I would like people to keep that in mind.
These people are not trying to bring down the Government or undermine the economy, they are trying to earn a living and to act honestly. I feel for my wallet when I hear people talking about seeking courage and leadership from the trade union movement. The trade union movement will not be found wanting in courage and leadership if it can find honesty and integrity on the other side of the table. I came from a background where business was done on a handshake and a bond, and people stuck with that. Their word was their bond and they would die for it. That day could be upon us once more.
I was thinking about that when I was reading the Pope's remarks. He pointed out that too much of business now is answerable only to investors. This and other issues weaken companies' sense of responsibility towards stakeholders — workers, suppliers, consumers, the natural environment and general society. People should bear that in mind when they talk about this strike. These are not lunatic revolutionary communists trying to undermine the Irish economy, they are trying to act honourably to observe an agreement and work properly.
Not everyone who spoke yesterday was misleading. Senator John Hanafin took a very balanced view, but others did not know what they were talking about when there is a need for balance in a discussion of this nature.
I wish to raise the ability of the State to cope with the swine flu epidemic. Recent hospital bed closures seriously compromise that ability. There are 119 confirmed cases, 45 in the North and 74 in the South, with a huge increase in people being cared for in accident and emergency departments. Swine flu is getting more difficult to diagnose because the bug is mutating and people are presenting with gastric upsets, perhaps lying in an accident and emergency department without being diagnosed and spreading the virus to many others.
The HSE has 373 beds closed due to budgetary constraints and cutbacks, and there are 79 seasonal bed closures. So far, 85 beds are to close in Merlin Park Hospital, Monaghan General Hospital and St. Vincent's Hospital, making a total of 537 beds that are not available for use by the HSE. In June last year there was a 19-day period when 1,992 patients were lying on trolleys in the eastern region alone and this year, in a comparable 19-day period, there were 2,700 people, an increase of 36%. The number of people receiving acute care in hospitals continues to spiral. These data come from Trolley Watch, with information from front-line providers. The HSE has confirmed that swine flu is being passed from person to person, which could turn the hospitals into swine flu incubators.
This is a serious situation that the HSE and the Minister will have to take into account when considering how to manage a pandemic that will have huge cost implications.
I rise to mention the case of Sharon Commins and her friend who have been captured and kidnapped in Darfur. I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Department on the assistance they are giving the family. I was delighted today to read that the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, offered yesterday, during his visit, to give the full support of the UN to work for her speedy release. It is a traumatic time for her family, some of whom live in my neck of the woods and who are family friends. I hope this will be brought to a speedy conclusion and I am sure anything this House can do to be of assistance will be done.
I hesitate to challenge the new alliance of Senator O'Toole and Pope Benedict. Senator O'Toole, however, raised a pertinent issue on which that we must reflect. We all welcome the fact that there appears to be a ray of hope and some progress in the strike. Once talks start we hope progress will be made.
Senator O'Toole's perspective is valid in the sense that the electricians had a certain expectation of an increase, but, unfortunately, the economic situation has changed so dramatically that there is now a new economic order. This House must offer political leadership in this area. Over the course of the forthcoming session from September onwards we should have a series of engagements in the House with the social partners. We complain from time to time that social partnership has removed politicians from the talks and decision-making process. During the last Seanad we engaged successfully on a frequent basis with our MEPs. It would be useful to have presentations from the social partners in the House in which they would present their points of view and if we feel their analyses are flawed we can engage in constructive and robust debate. We must all accept the new economic realities but we must listen as much as lecture. It would be helpful if, rather than complaining about being removed from dialogue in social partnership, we used the Houses of the Oireachtas to engage directly with the various leaders of the social partners. In this way we can try to be part of the solution rather than shouting from the sidelines.
I wish to raise two important problems in the area of banking. I ask the Leader to indicate how the banks are required to demonstrate compliance with the code of conduct on mortgage arrears and business lending to small and medium-sized enterprises. I am aware that difficulties are being experienced by people in both areas. The code of conduct facilitates access to credit, promotes fairness and transparency and ensures that banks assist borrowers in meeting their obligations. My understanding from small and medium-sized enterprises is that their access to credit and overdraft facilities is being withdrawn, which is causing them serious problems. I therefore ask the Leader to reply quickly on this issue. I also ask the Leader to indicate the role of directors of State-funded banks or those which have been nationalised.
I also ask the Leader to indicate the progress that has been made in bringing to account former and current bankers who misled——
——either their banks or their investors. Most people in this room and in the general public would be able to name such people immediately, although I would not do that in the House as it would not be the right thing to do. However, I ask the Leader to let us know what progress has been made on the investigations that we are led to believe are under way. We will of course allow for due procedure but we do want to be briefed on the developments.
I deeply dislike elections, which are a horrible experience for politicians. I have never called for one before, but we need one now because of the disgraceful behaviour of the Government and the way in which it is treating this Parliament. We are moving away from a democracy and towards a Stalinist era of closed courts in which people cannot be represented and which they must attend on the word of a junior garda. I did not think I would ever come across this. Politicians are being frightened and bullied by radio programmes and by the Minister out of saying they are against the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. Everybody is saying they support the Bill but I am against it because of its utter violation of decent democratic principles. It will be condemned by the United Nations.
It is time this Government realised that trial by jury is not just the name of an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan. It is a fundamental principle of our democracy. A total of 130 lawyers, from both the prosecution and defence sides, have signed a letter to a leading newspaper demanding that the Bill be withdrawn. Passing the Bill in the House next week is a total and utter meaningless farce as no amendments can be accepted. We are just wasting our time. The leading criminal judge has said there is no difficulty with impanelling witnesses.
With the greatest respect, I must also object to the mentioning of irrelevancies. I am a great admirer of Senator Fitzgerald, but the fact that under-age children are being used as couriers has nothing to do with this. I understand why she said it because we are all worried, but we cannot allow our genuine worry to blur the fact that we must focus on the fundamental constitutionality of this Bill. The Government should go as it has disgraced itself again. I hope the President will refer the Bill to the Supreme Court.
On the issue of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, I understand the passion of my colleague Senator Norris. There are two views on this. I appreciate the Senator's view and its sincerity. However, over the weekend I read three articles by prominent Irish journalists welcoming the Bill because they were under death threats from certain criminal gangs.
It will not stop that.
The fact that there is witness intimidation is well known. Leaving that aside, however, I wish to raise with the Leader an article I read which stated that certain lawyers — either solicitors or barristers — are acting in concert with some of these criminal gangs. That is extremely worrying if it is factually correct, and it should be investigated. Most lawyers, whether barristers or solicitors, have knowledge of where judges live, their movements, the times of sittings and how they access courthouses. If there is any element of truth to this report, it is the most worrying aspect of the whole debate. We can debate the legislation at length either this week or next week when it comes before us.
We were lucky yesterday to have the presence of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in the House. The Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs was able to offer him a céad míle fáilte. However, that was not the case last Friday, when three young Texan backpackers were sent packing at Dublin Airport. They were refused entry because they could not prove they had tickets to go somewhere else. As everybody knows, backpackers move from country to country. This has cost each of those backpackers $1,800 and it will cost the Irish tourism industry as well because this story was picked up across the United States, including by The Dallas Morning News. The Garda said it was just standard procedure and that the US authorities do the same thing. However, this is not the case. I arrived in the US from New Zealand on a ship and I was allowed in although I was en route to another country with no proof of onward travel. The US immigration officials took a sane and reasonable view, and the Irish officials should have done the same.
What is clear is that there are no procedures in place for dealing with backpackers. They are jobsworths in Dublin Airport for turning away three backpackers who offered to show proof of funds. They were told "No" and two hours later they were on a flight back to the USA. Some gardaí out there need to be taken aside and spoken to. I would not let them be in charge of access to Craggy Island, let alone Ireland. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to write to these three people, express his concern that they were refused entry to the country and invite them back on a future occasion so they can see the céad míle fáilte we can offer when we recognise that we should not refuse entry to backpackers in such circumstances.
And we can send them to jail as well, without a trial.
I ask Senator Norris to respect the House.
That was Senator O'Toole's idea. I just copied it.
I rise to support the comment of Senator Callely about the banks. On Tuesday morning I met a developer in Mullingar who has paid his taxes and whose C2 is intact. He is a good community and family man and any developments in which he was involved have been completed. Westmeath County Council does not have to worry about completion and planning enforcement is not an issue. The stories he related to me about the banks are exactly comparable to the comments of Senator Callely. What is happening is a disgrace.
This House has helped the banks. I remember the occasion myself; I was not feeling very well at the time. I walked across the plinth at 8.20 a.m. having passed legislation to save the banking system. What have the people got back from the banks? One would want good eyesight to see it because it is not much. It was always my understanding that a good banking system complemented good business activity. That now seems not to be the case. The Minister for Finance should be called to the House as soon as possible to outline to Members what he proposes to do in this regard. The banks are doing nothing to stimulate business activity.
I received a telephone call recently from a councillor in the west who expressed concern about social welfare fraud. He referred to an incident where a non-national couple had their child christened in a particular parish in his area. One week later, the same priest was standing in for a priest in a neighbouring parish when, lo and behold, the same couple presented to have their child christened. I am sure it is not because they like baptismal cake so much that they had the child christened twice. There was surely a more sinister motivation at play. I understand baptismal certificates are being accepted as proof of birth as well as birth certificates, which is something that should be reviewed. This is a scam and it must be investigated.
Has the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 slipped entirely off the radar? The regulatory body which exists in shadow form in Navan is complaining about the delay in implementing the legislation, which is bringing the entire system into disrepute. That body received 90 complaints last year, of which 20 related to management companies and could not be dealt with in the absence of legislation, 17 were satisfactorily concluded and 43 are still under investigation. Will the Leader indicate the current status of this Bill, which was initiated in the Seanad? It will clearly not be passed in this session.
Since the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes, the so-called bord snip nua, completed its deliberations, we have heard much about divisions and disagreements within the Government in regard to the release of its report, with attempts to delay its publication. I am not sure whether it has as yet been delivered to the Minister for Finance. What is the Government afraid of in releasing the report? The issues it examines are of concern to us all and it is legitimate that they are debated. The recommendations will undoubtedly be leaked in any case. Will the Leader provide the House with an up-to-date account of the status of that report?
Some time ago, the National Economic and Social Forum produced a draft report which indicated that 10% of children nationally suffer literacy problems. Nobody can fail to be shocked at the reality that one tenth of young people cannot read and write to an adequate standard. The indications are that such children are likely to end up unemployed, living in poverty and possibly even facing imprisonment. The introduction of the universal provision of a year's pre-schooling for children between the ages of three years and three months and four years and six months will undoubtedly benefit the most vulnerable children. It is one of the most welcome and significant initiatives of any Government and will make a dramatic change in the lives of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The parents of many such children cannot afford to pay for pre-schooling.
What is required now is a fair deal, similar to that introduced in respect of nursing home charges, for the providers of child care services. Such providers are not treated on an equitable basis across the State, with commercial rates entirely dependent on the particular local authority. This was the case previously in respect of nursing home charges, with the degree of expense depending on where one lived. I call on the Minister to introduce a scheme of standard commercial rates for child care providers throughout the State. As it stands, educational establishments do not have to pay commercial rents. Now that a universal, State-provided educational provision is available in pre-school facilities, they should not be subject to arbitrary commercial rates. Certainty in this regard will encourage more providers to enter the scheme, thus ensuring there is capacity for the 70,000 children eligible for places next year.
We should pay more attention to the food policy being espoused by Sweden, which assumed the Presidency of the European Union last week. That country pointed out that the global population is likely to double by 2050 and that there will therefore be a shortage of food. However, some of the steps being taken by Sweden should concern us as consumers and from an agricultural perspective. As individuals and nations, we must strive to avoid the huge quantities of waste being created on an individual basis and by retailers and others. Figures for Britain show that last year 484 million tubs of yoghurt were thrown away unused, whether because they had passed their sell-by date or for some other reason. The manufacturers of prepacked sandwiches are obliged to cut off and discard two slices from either end of every loaf of bread they use because consumers do not want the crusts. This resulted in 2.6 billion slices of bread being thrown away last year in Britain. Last year, 27 apples per head of population were thrown away because they were discoloured or otherwise tarnished. The figures for this State are undoubtedly proportionate. We can take action both as individual citizens and as legislators to ensure the quantity of waste created is significantly reduced, if not eliminated. This issue should be a priority for debate.
I understand from Standing Orders that the Leader is responsible for ordering the business of the House. Will the Leader confirm that this is the case or whether this responsibility rests with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform? Given the procedure that has been followed this week, it certainly seems to be the latter who is deciding how we conduct our affairs. The Leader should resist any attempt by the Minister to bully him and he will have the support of the House in his resistance.
To take all Stages of a Bill on any particular day, as the Leader purported to do yesterday in respect of two Bills, is unacceptable. I note that the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill 2006, important reforming legislation which was first initiated in 2006, has been removed from today's Order of Business. Will the Leader clarify whether we are to deal with all Stages of that Bill tomorrow? To conduct business in this manner is very unsatisfactory.
In regard to the Bill we are scheduled, mar dhea, to debate next week, the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009, the main criticism raised by a group of barristers in an article in The Irish Times today is that there has not been sufficient time for proper debate. The introduction of this legislation is an admission of failure by the Government and acknowledgement that the law and order situation is out of control. Instead of the zero tolerance we were promised, we have anarchy. The Government has failed to protect citizens from organised criminal gangs and the wilful killing of innocent people. The legislation is an admission of failure in this regard.
One of the central concerns regarding the Bill is its impact on the right to trial by jury. The principle is established that the Director of Public Prosecutions may apply to initiate trial by the Central Criminal Court. While the principle is established, we need to ensure the legislation is correct. As to the issue of trial by jury, there is a precedent in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union. The procedure is in place but we need time to properly debate and scrutinise the legislation to ensure it works.
I join Senator O'Toole in calling for a debate on social partnership. Pope Benedict, in his third encyclical, refers to a new economic order and discusses justice and truth. Social partnership is necessary and Oireachtas Members must be part of the process. I appeal to the Leader to invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the House to inform Senators of the role she will play, with the TEEU, in solving the industrial dispute which is having a profound impact. It is vital that the Minister engages to ensure the parties sit around a table and bring the action to an end. Never in the history of the State has the need for good industrial relations been so great. It behoves all of us to do what is best for the country in order that we can preserve, protect and create new jobs.
I endorse the words of Senator Mary White on commercial rates for providers of child care services and the early childhood subvention. It appears some local authorities impose commercial rates on child care providers while others do not. Given the value of the service provided, a uniform policy is needed, although it would be preferable if child care facilities were not rateable.
I ask the Leader to draw to the attention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the fact that members of many local communities, even in areas where community policing forums have been established, do not believe they engage with local gardaí in a positive manner. Much of the time, this is due to a lack of interaction and information. In my contribution to the Donegal policing plan, I indicated that the Garda Síochána does not provide sufficient feedback to victims of crime and those who report crimes.
My attention was drawn recently to the annual report published by the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I have a copy of the report if Senators are interested in reading it. While I do not commend everything done by the PSNI, the report addresses in detail a series of interesting topics. These include: information on which police service members have died or been assigned to various areas; how money is spent; how to keep oneself safe, whether in the school yard or at home; neighbourhood policing; crime surveys; combating serious crime; safety at school; road safety; policing in the past, an important issue in the North; managing money; and annual crime figures. It is a highly informative report which is delivered to every home in the North.
This type of interaction should take place between communities here and the Garda Síochána to ensure citizens are given feedback about what the Garda is doing. Such engagement would result in fewer complaints from communities about the failure of the Garda to keep them informed.
I call for restraint and cool heads on both sides of the ongoing industrial dispute. In doing so, I speak as a former representative of the TEEU and a qualified electrician. While I understand the argument being made by both sides to the dispute, leaders on either side are using unhelpful language. I call for restraint and ask the Government to take all possible measures to assist them in reaching a resolution through negotiation. That is the obvious course of action. We could do without much of the adversarial comment we have been hearing in recent days as it serves only to escalate the problem to the detriment of the economy.
The European Union globalisation fund, which is worth €500 million per annum, is available to companies in which large-scale redundancies are made. While the fund was initially made available to companies with a workforce in excess of 1,000, it is now available to companies with 500 or more employees. I understand there has been engagement regarding the use of the fund in Limerick and the mid-west and the good news is that €20 million is being ring-fenced to assist those in the region who have been made redundant recently.
Will the Leader clarify whether the Government has applied for assistance from the globalisation fund for Waterford and the south east? As he will be aware, Waterford Crystal and many other companies in the region have made large-scale redundancies in the past year or so. More than 600 people have been made redundant at Waterford Crystal. As I have noted previously, the south east is highly exposed due to a large number of redundancies in the manufacturing sector. Will the Leader confirm that moneys from the globalisation fund have been ring-fenced for Waterford and the south east, a region that continues to be neglected by the Government? I will be pleased to commend the Government in the event that I receive such confirmation.
I support the call by Senators Glynn and Callely for a debate on the behaviour of banks. It is important to have such a debate quickly. I note with interest the blame the Senators apportioned to the banks for their behaviour. Is it not the case that much of the responsibility and blame for the problem rests with the Government?
Last week, it emerged that €6 billion of €14 billion the Government will borrow is to be provided to the very banks Government Senators criticised. Is it not the case that if the negotiations on the use of taxpayers' money to recapitalise the banks had been done properly, the behaviour the Senators criticised would not be taking place? A Government Minister is travelling around the country holding public meetings with the very banks to which we have handed over €6 billion. What is needed are private meetings with the banks at which they should be told that having been provided with money, they must now change their game.
I join previous speakers in referring to a letter by 133 practising criminal lawyers, working both in the prosecution and defence areas, which was published in today's edition of The Irish Times. The letter calls for the withdrawal of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009. Members must take on board the comments and suggestions made by the lawyers in question when we contemplate the crazy Order of Business placed before us yesterday, today, for the rest of the week and for several days next week.
The authors of the letter express grave concern that the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill is likely to be passed and become law without proper debate. As other speakers have stated, the House will have a sham of a debate on the legislation next week, in the knowledge that the Dáil will already have risen and amendments will not be accepted. The Bill will then be passed into law with all of the flawed provisions about which we have been warned by the lawyers in question, many of whom are engaged in prosecuting serious crime. We have to be careful before rushing into legislating in the dark.
Those of us who were involved in yesterday's debates on several Bills, specifically the Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Bill, observed a farcical scenario in which all Stages of the Bill were supposed to be taken but, following eight or nine hours of uninterrupted debate, we had only concluded Committee Stage, with the result that Report Stage is to be taken today. The ordering of business in the House needs to done in a more realistic, measured manner, one which enables real debate to take place on legislation that will have a potentially serious impact on the lives of many people.
While all Members recognise the serious problem of gangland or organised crime, we have been told by those among the best placed to know that the Bill is not the correct way to approach the issue, many of its provisions are constitutionally flawed and it should be withdrawn and re-entered for more thorough debate at a time when such a debate would be possible, as opposed to when the Dáil has risen, real debate will not be possible and there will be no prospect of having amendments accepted. I wish to say how much we all welcome the return of Mairéad Corrigan Maguire and Derek Graham from Gaza. I hope we can have a future debate on supporting their efforts to highlight the plight of people in Gaza.
I wish to highlight the serious accident that occurred in County Westmeath this morning when a truck overturned on the N52. I have been seeking a meeting with the National Roads Authority about the Rathconnell to Turin section of this road. The truck overturned outside the church this morning. It is only by the grace of God that there was not a pile-up or any fatalities. The road has been a major concern for those living locally, as well as county councillors, some of whom have been highlighting the issue for 30 years. There have been two fatalities on this dangerous road in recent years, but the NRA has refused to meet with Westmeath County Council. I cannot understand who is responsible and where the line of duty stops. It is like the HSE in that respect. The Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government is responsible for ensuring that people can travel in safety on the roads, so the NRA should be held to account and be answerable to the people of Westmeath. Before the House rises for the summer, the Leader should arrange the meeting with the NRA that he has promised.
I also wish to refer to the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill because when the war on crime is not being won, drastic measures are needed. Internment is no answer and neither is the current system that we are operating. At least the people who are brought before a non-jury court will have a judge sitting in a fair system whereby they can be adjudged as to whether or not they are members of criminal gangs. That is a lot more justice than they have ever given their victims whom they have often murdered out of hand. If society has shifted to the extent that criminals may start winning the war, then radical measures are needed. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation, yet that is the reality in Ireland today.
In seeking a debate on the banks, I am conscious that the director general of the Swedish debt agency appeared before an Oireachtas committee yesterday. Whereas he did not get directly involved in the Irish situation, he made it clear that the Government's actions are similar to the successful actions taken by the Swedish Government in the 1990s. That is in contrast to the difficult situation Iceland finds itself in. Sweden and Iceland have experienced similar economic difficulties. One is successfully managing its banks while the other is being bailed out.
I listened carefully to what Senator O'Toole had to say this morning about balance, particularly concerning the electricians' strike that is currently taking place. The Senator is absolutely right that we need to be balanced and measured. We all wish that the negotiations now being entered into will find a resolution. That is not to say that I do not have strong views on the restoration of our competitiveness and general wage rates, but injecting that into the current situation would probably be unhelpful. I am also of the view that the machinery involved in the industrial relations process should be allowed to work through these difficulties.
I contrast Senator O'Toole's call for balance with the tirade from his colleague Senator Norris about the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. We could all come in here and follow on from somebody who has been on "Morning Ireland" or other radio shows, but we also need to be balanced. The rights of individuals are very important but the most basic of all human rights is the right to life. If we talked to the relatives of Brian Fitzgerald or Roy Collins we would see how those whom this legislation is targeting treated the victims' human rights. We have seen the cold-blooded murders of innocent people who are acting responsibly in society. It is quite obvious that the current legal process does not have the capacity to deal with this serious challenge to the State. It behoves us all to be balanced in the way we approach this matter. There is another side of the argument, which to me is the compelling one.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Prendergast, Norris, O'Donovan, Regan, Coffey, Bacik, Hanafin and Walsh all expressed their views on the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. I want to assure the House that the Bill will not be guillotined in any shape or form. I will consult with the party leaders in this House at our usual weekly meeting to see what time is required. I will allow the longest possible time that is required so we can debate all sections of the Bill. As I have often said, the fear has got to be in the law, yet the fear does not seem be in the law at present.
I congratulate the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, for his utterances in the Dáil last week which were relayed to the nation via "The Week in Politics" programme. I also note the comments of the Limerick State Solicitor on the same programme. Senator O'Donovan, who is an eminent lawyer, gave the House the benefit of his experience of journalists who are under death threats. This urgent legislation is needed and Senators on both sides of the House have a responsibility——
On a point of order, this is misleading.
I did not interrupt the Senator.
It is not dealing with that. He is misleading the House.
The Leader is replying to the Order of Business.
I have listened attentively and in order to give balance to the comments made in the House I must listen to those who are working in the legal profession. I certainly accept the word of Senator O'Donovan who outlined his experience to the House. We will discuss this Bill for as long as possible, as required by every Senator, for its passage. That is a commitment and I do not mind how many days are required for this to take place.
Senators O'Toole, Bradford, Buttimer and Walsh all hope that the current electricians' strike will be resolved. I know many of the eminent senior people in the TEEU who have made a great contribution to the workforce and the smooth running of that union in conducting its affairs on behalf of its members. They are decent, hard working and responsible people. The timing of this problem could not be worse from their point of view. However, as Senator O'Toole pointed out, the difficulty must be addressed. Yesterday, I called on all sides to return to the table because at the end of the day the dispute will have to be resolved through negotiation. We will accept the views of the Holy Father, as outlined by Senator O'Toole. It is nice to know that we are getting a direct intervention by the good Senator to assist us in our deliberations. It is very welcome indeed.
The Leader should reply to the Order of Business.
He speaks infallibly.
He has a lot in common with the Pope.
It is divine intervention.
Even the devil can quote scripture at times.
Yes. Senator Prendergast referred to swine flu and, as I said in recent days, I am endeavouring to have the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, here on Wednesday next week concerning the swine flu epidemic and an update on the pharmacy issue. I will revert to the House later this week to report on how successful I have been in arranging this.
I join in Senator John Carty's comments concerning the kidnapping of Sharon Commins in Darfur. Our hearts go out to her family who are near neighbours of Senator Carty. It is a very trying and testing time and I hope the good work being done by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his officials will bring this to a successful conclusion. I certainly join with the Senator in his expressions of goodwill this morning.
Senators Callely, Glynn, Donohoe and Hanafin called for a debate on the code of conduct for banks. Access to credit for SMEs is close to nil, and this is causing major problems. We will have statements all day on Friday on the reports by the IMF and the OECD, and I strongly suggest that Senators give their views when the Minister is present. This is a major challenge and with the recess coming, we want to do everything we can. Given that some banks are getting €6 billion, as has been pointed out by Senator Donohoe, we have to get an assurance for those banks that do not come under the guarantee. They are under no obligation and are here purely on a commercial basis. Now that there is no ACC and ICC, there is no friendly bank for SMEs at the moment. That is the difficulty now compared with the 1980s. Colleagues will have an opportunity all day on Friday to make the point to the Minister.
Senator Hannigan spoke about the experience of backpackers at Dublin Airport, and I will certainly pass his views onto the Minister. Senator Glynn spoke about social welfare fraud and the experiences he outlined to the House are a great cause for concern. It goes to show what is taking place and I will pass his views onto the Minister. Senator Coghlan spoke about the proposed Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009. This Bill has been published and it will provide for the establishment of a property services regulatory authority to give effect to the report of the auctioneers review group. I will update the House on the Order of Business on the timeframe proposed for that Bill. The Senator also spoke about an bord snip, and he can inquire about the position of the Minister at the debate here next Friday.
Senators Mary White and Keaveney called for a fair deal for preschool children over three years and three months, regardless of parental income. This is very welcome and I fully support Senator White's call that there should be a flat rate or even no rate, in order to assist those on the lower income threshold and give their children the same opportunities as those on middle or upper incomes. The greatest example to be given is the setting up of the institutes across the country going back to the 1970s in Letterkenny, Sligo, Athlone and so on, where the working man's or woman's child was given an opportunity to have the second and third level education that he or she did not have until then. I fully support Senator White's call this morning, and we will pass those views on to the Minister and have a debate here if necessary.
Senator Feargal Quinn raised the issue of food waste, and wished Sweden well in its Presidency of the EU. Senator Quinn and his family have been experts on food for decades, and his points were alarming to say the least. My mother used often say "wilful waste is woeful want". Some 2.6 billion slices of bread are going to waste here every year, something we were not used to in our time. I always thought the sweetest part of the bread was the crust. To each their own I suppose.
Senator Buttimer called for a debate on the success of social partnership. I strongly suggest that we take this on board at the debate on Friday. Senator Keaveney outlined her experiences in her part of the country and in the North of Ireland regarding community policing, and spoke about the feedback from the police there and the proposals of the Garda Síochána here. She highlighted the importance of information coming back from the community and information to keep all of our areas safe. I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by the Senator. We might put this down on Private Members' Business for Fianna Fáil, in order to allow the House to express its views.
Senator Coffey spoke about the EU globalisation fund and the €20 million available to those in the Limerick area. I will make inquiries about the south east and especially the hard pressed workers who have lost their jobs in Waterford Crystal. Six hundred jobs is a great amount to lose in one area, and I will make inquiries to see what has been ring-fenced and will come back to the Senator directly. It is a serious issue and a great challenge. The skill of the workforce in that particular area has taken years to develop and is a brand name throughout the world. One's heart would go out to them, because Waterford Crystal, Baileys, Guinness and so on are all world brand names that take generations to create and are such wonderful ambassadors for our country as well.
Senator McFadden spoke about the accident at Turin church this morning. That is just down the road from where I live. All traffic was diverted through Castlepollard. There are many twists and turns in the area. A huge amount of money has been spent on the N52 and it is improving all the time. I have given a commitment that the Westmeath Oireachtas Members will meet with the NRA. I will be the convenor and will arrange that meeting. The Senator can rest assured that this will be before the summer recess.