Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the proposed postcodes, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 5.30 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes, the contributions of all other Senators not to exceed seven minutes, on which Senators may share time by agreement of the House, and the Minister to be called upon ten minutes from the conclusion of the debate for closing comments and to take questions from spokespersons; and No. 31, motion 33, regarding INFOMAR, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 but not earlier than 5.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7.30 p.m.

I begin by paying tribute to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the staff of the aid agency GOAL and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the role they played in securing the safe release of Sharon Commins and her colleague, Hilda Kawuki, from captivity in Darfur. The strength and courage they demonstrated has been remarkable and is a credit to them. We are delighted with the successful outcome and the fact that the women have been released.

In politics, it is easy to call for change by other people, change to the way the public sector works and change in the HSE, but it is not easy to change ourselves and the way we do business. Over the weekend, we saw a show of leadership and conviction from my party and its leader——

(Interruptions).

Senator Fitzgerald, without interruption, please.

——in respect of the need to change the way we do our business in the Oireachtas.

We have had 13 reports on Seanad reform that have not been implemented, we have had two years of the current Government and 12 years of Fianna Fáil in government without Seanad reform.

What about Fine Gael in government?

Actions speak louder than words and we have proposed a radical package of reforms for the Oireachtas, which includes reducing the number of Deputies, reducing ministerial expenses and putting a referendum to the people on the future existence of the Seanad. The people will ultimately decide. We also recommend a list system to open up the political system in a way that it has not been opened before.

Senator Fitzgerald will be on the list anyway.

There have been many calls for change in other organisations over which we, as politicians, have authority but we need to look to ourselves in this regard. When one looks at the agenda for the business of the House this week, it proves the point we are making about the work given to this House by the Government, the way the Government treats this House, and the lack of accountability in politics. For that reason, I oppose the Order of Business. We have been calling for Ministers to come to this House——

Hear, hear. They never turn up.

They never turn up.

——to speak about the problems facing mortgage holders, the negative equity that so many families in this country face, the spiralling unemployment affecting every family, and the 1,000 operations cancelled for children in Crumlin hospital. These are the issues we should be discussing in this House and hearing from Ministers about their accountability on these issues. For this reason, I oppose the Order of Business, which is light in substance.

For example, we should be discussing the threat to Protestant schools and the implications of that North and South. These topics should be on our agenda in this House and Senators across this House agree with me. This House should be dealt with more effectively and we should have business on the Order of Business every day dealing with the real issues confronting people in this country. That is why Fine Gael has proposed a radical package of reforms for the Oireachtas.

All Senator Fitzgerald is missing is her knitting at the guillotine.

No interruptions, please. Senator O'Toole is in possession.

Senator Leyden need not worry as he will not be here the next time.

I ask Members to refrain from interrupting from across the floor.

He is inviting comments.

That does not give you the right to reply nor does it give the right to him.

I will defend my leader.

Decline the invitation.

I will resist the opportunity to make any snide comments at my loyal colleagues in front of me in the Fine Gael benches except to regret the contemptuous way in which they were treated by their leader over the weekend.

The Fine Gael leader played right into the Leader's hands and I do not know why he is smiling because the world knows that he has managed to outmanoeuvre the Green Party in its attempts to reform this House time and again. The Green Party must also play its part. All I will say about Fine Gael's proposal — unthinking and without rationale as it was — is that it might hasten some action from the Government, although I do not hold my breath.

More than anything else I would like the House to debate the aspects of Fine Gael proposals regarding the Dáil which are offensively anti-democratic. The idea of reducing the number of elected Deputies by 20 in general and having 20 in a list system means 40 fewer people elected to the Dáil. The leader of the Opposition is riding a populist wave to peel back the layers of democracy, getting rid of one House and reducing the numbers in the other House while having an inbuilt majority of 20 people in the parliamentary party to ensure his continued existence and that there is never a threat to him. It is appalling. It is the type of thing that happened in the recessions of the 1930s in Italy and Germany and I appeal to my colleagues in the Fine Gael benches to examine this more than the proposals for Seanad Éireann. We can deal with Seanad Éireann here; I am afraid of the chaps in the Lower House who do not see the full extent of what is being proposed.

This is distracting attention from issues that need to be dealt with. If anything needs to be reconsidered it is the proposal regarding taking power away from the people and giving it to party leadership, reducing the nature and centre of political democracy and always going backwards. This should be resisted. What we heard over the weekend is a regurgitation of the legacy we thought we had left behind with O'Duffy in the 1930s. This is going backwards. I hope every Fine Gael person who believes in democracy, and I know the people in front of me in this House do, will examine, analyse and consider the consequences of what is being proposed not just for this House but also for the other House.

The Leader is afraid of what would happen to this House were it to be elected by the people in general. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 31, motion 35 regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the Seanad reform document, be implemented. I want to hear from the Leader whether he accepts the basic principle of democracy that every citizen of the State should have a vote in some form or other in the election of this House as well as maintaining other things that are there at present.

I join others in welcoming the news of the release of Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki. Good news is very welcome at such a bleak time and congratulations are due to all involved, and I pay particular tribute to the strength of character displayed by Sharon Commins since her release after 107 days in captivity.

In response to some of what has been said in the debate on the status of the Seanad, to call Deputy Kenny's sudden conversion to the cause of abolition brave is to miss the point. It seems a rather bizarre if not a rather pathetic attempt to grab headlines from what would otherwise have been a mundane speech to the Fine Gael party faithful on Saturday night. The sudden conversion does not strike me as brave, particularly not after his party put forward very different proposals for reform of the Seanad a mere seven months ago. However, the case for substantial reform of the Seanad is unanswerable. There is a clear case for significant reform.

The schedule of business for the House this week confirms that. We did not sit yesterday for a reason unexplained by the Leader and which many of us opposed on Thursday. Today's business does not include the relevant and topical subjects we should debate. To have statements on postal codes and a marine mapping programme calls into question the relevance of the Seanad and I would also like to propose an amendment to the Order of Business on behalf of the Labour Party that instead we debate what is being debated throughout the country, namely, NAMA's business plan which was published last week. It is being debated everywhere but not in the Upper House where we should see relevant debate take place every week. Will the Leader amend the Order of Business to ensure we can debate the topic here?

I would also like to have a full debate on the cuts to budgets of Protestant schools. Senator Norris and I raised the issue here two weeks ago. Archbishops John Neill and Diarmuid Martin are also calling on the Minister for Education and Science to reverse the cutbacks. It is nice for an atheist to be speaking in support of two bishops. We need a debate on the matter urgently with the Minister for Education and Science who must explain why he is reversing a policy of four decades to give funding to Protestant schools in recognition of their very different ethos within our sectarian education system.

I wish to be associated with the voices that have welcomed the release of Sharon Commins and her Ugandan colleague from captivity in Sudan and thank all those responsible for securing their release.

It is important that we are starting a necessary debate on the future of this House. I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition in the other House for initiating that debate. I question his motives and commitment to the wider range of the reform process in respect of the quality of democracy in this country. The reform process should start in local government. We will have a White Paper on local government. The main Opposition party has been the main party of local government in the past ten years——

The Senator's party has been in government for two and a half years. It is privileged.

This is Boyle's Law.

It has been responsible at local government level.

It has only been the major party since June this year. The Senator should get his facts correct.

If the Members opposite are not prepared to take criticism for their own policies when they are in opposition——

Senator Boyle is incorrect.

As the main party of local government, it has a large responsibility for the large amount of——

The Senator's party is in government.

——criminal development plans submitted in the past ten years.

The Senator's party is in government; why does he not do something about the matter?

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is a member of the Senator Boyle's party.

What will happen if they ever get into government?

Why does the Senator not talk to some of his own party members in local government?

It has no members.

They could hold their meetings in a telephone box, given the number of councillors the party has.

Who is the Minister with responsibility for local government?

Is that what the new programme for Government states about local government? It is not stating much about it. Senator Boyle funked it two weeks ago.

All Members should respect someone who is speaking. Senators will have an opportunity to speak later.

On a point of order, is it fair to accuse people outside House of criminal behaviour?

That is not a point of order. It is not a procedural point.

On the more substantive issue of reform——

Do I get an answer to my question?

The Senator should withdraw the remark.

There are so many Members shouting it is impossible to hear what is being said.

Am I not entitled to an answer?

I did not hear the remark.

I will be glad to clarify it. I used the term "criminally drafted development plans".

Senators

The Senator did not say that.

We will get the record.

Senator Boyle was perfectly right. I support him.

I was not referring to specific individuals in making that remark. If Members are uncomfortable with me making that statement, they might have to look to some of their members on local councils who drafted the plans.

The Senator's party funked it two weeks ago on Government renewal.

Members should speak only on the Order of Business for today.

Senator Boyle was sweating in Government Buildings.

I accept that the Cathaoirleach has not given Senator Buttimer the opportunity to leave the Chamber in a manner that might better become him. I would like to address the issue of Seanad reform.

Senator Boyle should not worry about it.

Senator Boyle is confident he will be elected to the other House.

I am aware that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government intends to hold the final meeting of the Seanad reform committee on Tuesday.

He has had the final meeting twice before.

I accept that this process has not been completed because all the submissions had not been made at the time. They have now been made.

We were told it was the final meeting at the last one.

The final meeting will be held on Tuesday and the Minister will make his recommendation on the synthesis of the recommendations made. He will then make a recommendation to the Cabinet and I believe a Bill will be available before Christmas. The House will have an opportunity to debate the matter. It will refer only to the short-term legislative changes we can bring about in this Chamber.

It sounds as if the Senator includes the universities but nobody else.

No, and to put Senator O'Toole's mind at rest, this will only work if it deals with the university and vocational panels and the people who vote in all such elections.

It can be of valid benefit only if it does that.

Time, please, Senator.

The recently agreed renewed programme for Government includes the Electoral Commission reporting within 12 months on the election to Seanad Éireann. This will require a constitutional referendum. Before we debate this issue in detail — the Leader of the Opposition in the other House must consider this — I call for a referendum Bill to be submitted. Let it show what a referendum on deleting or even reforming the Seanad would look like. There are at least 20 references to the Seanad in the Constitution.

The ballot paper that people would have to vote on would be miles long.

There are 33 references.

Yes. On those grounds let us have an honest debate——

Time, Senator.

——in which we talk about the quality of democracy in this country. One will find there will be willing people on all sides of this House to help progress that debate.

It is with regret I speak about the proposal of my party leader to abolish the Seanad. However, it has come to this, not least because of the actions of the present Leader of the Seanad, Senator Donie Cassidy. The reality is that for two years, since I have been in the Seanad, the Leader has been very quick to remonstrate with all newcomers to the House——

——who are innocent about the ways in which business is conducted. In the way the Leader conducts it, the agenda is constructed to deal with limited business. It is the case in the way debates are conducted, the way Ministers fail to come into the House to answer Adjournment debates and the way Ministers are dismissive of amendments or legislative initiatives in this House. It is totally an extension of the Executive. The Leader has affected purposeful debate in this House as a result of those heavyhanded procedures.

Thirty years ago there was a constitutional referendum which extended, or was to have done so, the franchise of the university panels. That has been resisted by Independent Senators elected to this Chamber——

That is rubbish.

——for so many years.

That is absolute rubbish.

No interruptions.

I demand that Senator Regan withdraw that. It is simply untrue and he knows it.

On a point of order, every Independent Senator on these benches for the past 20 years has been in favour of implementing the 1979 referendum result. I understand Senator Regan would not have misled the House deliberately but I would like him to withdraw that comment. It is factually incorrect. We tabled a Bill and also supported a Fine Gael Bill which was presented at the time by former Senator Jackman. That involved all the Members on this side. I state that for the record.

I take that point and accept it if it is the version of the Independent Senators. However, the fact that a constitutional referendum which provided for an extension of the franchise for the election of the university panels has not been implemented again shows——

Including during the time when Senator Regan's party was in Government.

Senator Norris, no interruptions.

In addition, although Senator Ivana Bacik has criticised the leader of Fine Gael for coming out with this proposal, her own leader, Senator Alex White, stated on "The Late Late Show" he considered the Seanad served no useful purpose. Perhaps Senator Bacik is not fully in tune with her own leader in the Seanad.

Again, on a point of order——

All these issues——

On a point of order——

A point of order relates to procedure only. This does not.

On a point of information, in that case.

It is a fact. Senator Regan is stating a fact.

(Interruptions).

Please, Senators. Senator Regan, without interruption.

I am repeating the exact words——

If somebody makes a political charge across the floor that is not a point of order, nor is coming in on it a question. Senator Regan's time will be up.

Senator Regan made a direct criticism of something I said.

Senator Bacik will have an opportunity tomorrow if she wishes to reply.

I want to respond and to be given the opportunity to do so.

No. All these issues——

Senator Alex White takes the same position as I do.

All these issues, observations and stances have fed into the current debate regarding the role of the Seanad. I believe the Seanad can play a useful role but in the way the business has been conducted and the way the Government has acted in respect of it we have come to a situation where serious consideration must be given to the proposal by the leader of Fine Gael.

As we sit here and contemplate the future of the House, 90% of members of the largest public sector union — IMPACT — have voted for industrial action if public sector pay is cut. In these days and weeks, that issue is much more important than this debate, which has been held previously and can be held again. The pressing preparations for the most severe budget ever are under way. As the social partners meet in Government Buildings, I want to impress upon them the essential nature of agreement. That 86% of people voted to take industrial action in the context of some of the measures that must be taken in the forthcoming budget should exercise these benches to be full and our voices to be the loudest.

I would welcome any imminent and worthwhile reform of the Seanad. I do not know a single Member of this Seanad or the previous one who does advocate reform or believe it is long overdue. However, can I impress upon the Leader the need for an urgent debate on the economy to consider how the House might assist in creating a renewed and revitalised social partnership? The future of the nation is more important than any other consideration at this time.

Will the Leader indicate when time will be available to consider the report that I tabled before each Senator on the prevention of the repossession of family homes? He indicated that we would be able to discuss it and make recommendations.

I am 65 years old and do not anticipate seeing pigs in flight, but I am grateful that I have lasted long enough to witness turkeys voting for Christmas. They have certainly done so. I second the amendment to the Order of Business tabled by my colleague, Senator O'Toole.

On the first day back after the election, I tabled the Government's own proposals for reform. They were enthusiastically supported by Fine Gael and opposed by the Government. Fine Gael was in government for a number of years and could have reformed the Seanad easily with the enthusiastic support of the Independent Senators.

That was a minority situation.

All Independent Senators produced legislation in recent years that puts this situation in perspective.

This week, we have seen two squalid performances, the first by the leader of Fine Gael in the Dáil, Deputy Kenny. He unilaterally decided to sacrifice this House on the altar of his own public political ambition to expiate principally the sins of the other House. That was bad enough, but what of the dishonesty of the statements that went with it? He stated that he had announced this at the McGill Summer School, but he was publicly confronted with the record, which showed he had not announced it. The notion that we are going to solve the economic problems of this country by cutting back Seanad Éireann would be laughable were it not so serious to think that a man so financially illiterate might be placed in charge of the destiny of this country.

Senator Norris should withdraw that remark.

I am very concerned about——

He should withdraw that remark.

I will not withdraw it.

Senators, please.

It is not acceptable.

I will shout as much as I like.

It was an insult. On a point of order——

(Interruptions).

On a point of order, that is not acceptable.

That is not a point of order.

That is one reason for abolition.

I do not understand why my colleagues in the House are saying, "Hear, hear", when they want to abolish it. In the name of Jesus, let them stop taking the money now and get the hell out of here.

Please, Senators.

The remark was unacceptable.

It was a political charge.

At a recent meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, we discussed defamatory remarks. This type of remark should not be accepted by the Cathaoirleach. It is not a political charge.

It was political. These things are said about us every day of the week.

It most certainly was a political charge and I will make a second one. This is not a game.

It was a personal attack on someone who is not in the House.

Please, I ask Senators to try to stay within the rules of the House.

I have done so.

The Senator has not and he knows it.

I doubt that I will take lessons from Senator Buttimer on that particular angle. The second matter that I would like to——

Senator Norris's time is just up.

——mention is also a squalid performance. Senator Bacik is correct about the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe. In concert with the Senator I raised the question of discrimination against Protestant schools. I hated doing so because I do not like to see any such denominational issue, on which we both agree. The Minister of State was sent here to produce a tissue of fabrications.

Time, please, Senator.

Now, 40 years late, they have discovered it is unconstitutional. How incredible is that? Why was it not put before the House two weeks' ago when we raised the matter? Thank God for decent, gallant people like Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin who has rode in to try to protect the reputation of the country and its education system when it is being sullied by the squalid dishonesty we have witnessed both here and in the other House.

I join my colleagues in proposing a vote of congratulations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Micheál Martin, because I know he adopted a hands-on approach to the freeing of Sharon Commins and her friend, Hilda Kawuki. I have been in contact with him on a number of occasions because Sharon's father is from my area, in which her extended family live. They, too, have gone through a hard time for the past 107 days. I greet her grandmother, uncle and aunt. I congratulate the Minister, the Department, GOAL and all the other agencies which set out in a meaningful manner to obtain her freedom. I am delighted the President will invite the family to Áras an Uachtaráin for a lunch or similar reception.

I support Senator Fitzgerald's amendment to the Order of Business and formally second it.

I wish to comment on the proposals made by other speakers on Seanad reform and the comments of some of my colleagues about the statements of Senator Fitzgerald and Deputy Enda Kenny. It all boils down to one simple point. This institution has largely been created and formed by the Members opposite. We propose asking the people whether they want to keep it. What is wrong with that idea? What is wrong with asking the people if the institution created by the Government is one they want to keep?

Why they cannot allow the Senator's party to abolish the Seanad.

No interruptions, please.

Is this an institution of vested interests or is it one that will represent the common interest of the people? We propose asking them for their views on whether the Seanad should be retained. This is an institution which has been forged and heavily influenced by the Leader and the other side for the past 20 years. We want to ask the people whether they are happy with this.

I also support Senator Bacik in her call for a debate on the NAMA business plan which has been discussed in every arena and forum for serious debate. It will have a fundamental influence on the financial outlook of the country for years to come. There is no reason the House could not debate the issue this week. It is the lack of such debates and discussion that has put our party in a position where we have to ask whether this institution is fit for purpose any longer.

I, too, congratulate the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for their role in the release of Sharon Commins and her Ugandan friend, Hilda Kawuki.

I am one of the senior Members of the House and have spoken many times on the issue of Seanad reform and on how the House should be reformed with regard to the selection and election procedures. I have spoken at length about the role and functions of the Seanad. If nothing else, I was taken aback on Saturday night when I heard the statement of Deputy Enda Kenny. Perhaps he has jolted us into holding this debate once and for all and to get on with the reform of the Seanad. We should have reform first and if that does not work then let us abolish it, but let us not put the cart before the horse. We have not had a chance to have that reform and we need to have it. Are the committees doing the role of the Seanad? Is there a duplication? Often when we could debate issues here related to European affairs they are being debated in the committee. This Chamber could be used to monitor directives, for the scrutiny of European affairs and to bring in MEPs to the Chamber such that we reach out to the public as to how we do our business abroad. There are many ways and I ask that we move on the reform, but I will not support the abolition. The Seanad has served us well throughout the years.

That proves our point.

We must bring it up to date and we need a debate on the economy. At this point there must be a discussion on how to protect mortgage holders, on NAMA and on all the issues of the economy, including the cutbacks and the social partners. Such issues must be debated in this Chamber and we are not given a chance to debate them.

The Senator should check with her Leader.

I do not seek the abolition. These issues should be debated in here and that is the way for the Chamber to move forward.

From our end it is a problem with our Leader in terms of scheduling business. We do not understand why we did not get a chance to sit yesterday.

It was not owing to the fact that there is no business. This morning in the other place there was a debate on Multi-Unit Developments Bill and the Property Services (Regulation) Bill. Both these Bills have been stuck in this House for the past four months while thousands of people seek regulation of the whole area in respect of apartments. The Leader has failed to act on this matter. We must get Committee Stage of both these Bills progressed as soon as possible——

——and into the other House in order that these laws may be enacted. I second the proposal by my colleague, Senator Bacik, to amend the Order of Business in order that we can hold a debate on NAMA today. We can do good business and debate instead of going off and swanning around foreign cities.

There is no question of swanning.

I join others in welcoming the release of my local Clontarf girl, Sharon Commins, and her Ugandan colleague. I salute Sharon and Hilda in getting through their ordeal. Equally, and most important, I congratulate the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Sudanese authorities and others involved on successfully achieving their target of the safe release of the two girls. It was known from early on where the girls were located. Given the intelligence available, people could have gone in to them to try to free them, to bombard where they were and try to get them free. However, 107 days later they achieved their success without difficulty. It is fair to congratulate all involved in the difficult and delicate discussions and negotiations that took place.

I listened with interest to what people have said about Seanad reform and one should take the opportunity to congratulate Enda Kenny on stimulating debate on this issue. There is no doubt there is room for plenty — I underline that word — of improvement in respect of Seanad reform. There has been comment on the work schedule of the Seanad this week. There are many important economic and financial issues that should be on our agenda, such as the €24 billion deficit for this year alone, the NAMA business plan, industrial unrest, the banking difficulties that everyone in the country is experiencing at present and the difficulties being experienced by SMEs. Every household is experiencing difficulties with regard to job losses and so on. We all know the list and we all know it goes on.

However, I have called on the Leader, probably half a dozen times in the House, to consult the other leaders so as to have a debate on the economic and financial issues facing the country pencilled into our schedule every week.

It was agreed over and over.

What progress have the leaders made on that issue? We should be discussing these issues.

Time Senator, please. I am against the clock.

Before concluding, may I ask the Leader to try to obtain information on one issue?

Time is against us, Senator, and a large number of Senators will not be able to contribute on the Order of Business.

It has been brought to my attention that a large number of people in the care of our health institutions, including hospitals and care centres, are experiencing serious falls.

The Senator can raise that matter tomorrow morning. I call Senator Coffey.

Can I get any factual information on it?

No. The Senator must obey the Chair.

Is it any wonder that people are cynical about politics? I agree with Senators MacSharry and Callely that Members from both sides of the House have been calling consistently for debates that relate to people's lives, such as house repossessions, job losses, NAMA and the economic future of this country. The Fine Gael leader's decision this weekend has cast a strong spotlight on the workings of this House. I get frustrated when I look at the Order of Business, such as this week, for example, and find that we are discussing postal codes and the seabed when we should be talking about the suffering that people experience in their lives. Perhaps that is why the Fine Gael leader is stepping out from the spotlight and making leadership decisions. The old saying "Nero fiddles while Rome burns" reminds me of the Government's inaction. We are living in unprecedented times which call for strong leadership and radical decisions. The Fine Gael leader, Deputy Enda Kenny, is making radical decisions now which will affect Members of this House. They might not like it but that is the reality of the times we are in.

I am asking the Leader for a real debate on our economic future, the future of politics in this country and how we can respond to the needs of those whom we are supposed to represent. Day by day, the public is losing faith in the establishment and the political process. The Fine Gael leader is leading from the front and the top.

Off the top of his head.

I ask the Leader for a debate on our democratic institutions. There has been a specific proposal to abolish the Seanad. It must not be forgotten that there is a good, democratic reason for having a bicameral system, although there is need for reform. Ironically, the reports to date have mainly dealt with electoral reform, but it is the way in which we do our business that is most in need of reform. We could serve very well by taking in issues such as Northern Ireland and Europe, as well as having foreign Heads of State address the Seanad. By having more flexibility, we could go straight from the Order of Business into topical issues of the day.

Not only was it proposed to abolish this main democratic institution, there was also a second proposal, which nobody seems to have examined properly, for committees to have quasi-judicial functions. This is a serious attempt to undermine the Judiciary. There is a clear reason for judicial independence, including the Haughey judgment and the Ardagh judgment. Recent events in the Lower House have shown that due process and justice were not upheld. We do not want a situation whereby committees are not giving proper justice to people by taking powers unto themselves that properly belong to the Judiciary. Both the measures proposed this week could be quite dangerous.

I am also seeking a debate on long-term unemployment. We need to look at the changing role of FÁS, which is currently in the spotlight.

It should be abolished.

We must examine how the FÁS budget can be expended properly to ensure the long-term unemployed can access training courses to prepare for the future of our country.

It is time this House became relevant to life out there in the trenches. Yesterday, we had a major job creation event in Oranmore which was attended by 240 people. Deputy George Lee opened that event. The view was that jobs, rather than NAMA, cuts or taxation, would grow the economy. The House has not spent enough time discussing job retention and creation. One recruitment agency at yesterday's event said it had 200 jobs available, some of which it could not fill in this country because our graduates do not have the qualifications to fill high-end jobs in the medical device, IT and green sectors. In many cases they need two languages for such jobs. We should have a serious debate on how our education system is planning for the future, preparing for the needs of industry and delivering graduates into jobs. These jobs are being filled by graduates from other countries.

The Leader must take responsibility in this regard. He has not led or given good leadership in the House. He has organised poor schedules, he has been untimely and he has not made Ministers accountable to the House.

I was elected to get answers for my constituents and I do not get answers in the House. Many people are suffering because of the lack of democracy in the Seanad. Prospective adoptive couples are tearing their hair out because the Minister of State with responsibility for children will not answer a question. I made a Freedom of Information Act request to establish whether Ireland has cancelled a bilateral adoption agreement. I received a reply saying I would have to pay €1,247 for information the Minister of State could give me if the Leader made him accountable to the House.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Fine Gael Members have a cheek to criticise the Leader, Senator Cassidy.

What was the Senator doing last week?

Has Senator White a question for the Leader?

How dare they be so puerile and critical when their own leader has caused six members of the media to come to the House to observe what we do? They are very welcome. We rarely have visitors.

Maybe the Senator will vet them as well.

Does Senator White have a question for the Leader?

Shoot the messenger.

Let the record show a Mexican nod for the press gallery.

I do not want any Member commenting on which members of the press are present, good, bad or indifferent.

They are all pleasant people.

I am a policy-driven Senator and I can stand over my record. I produced a document in 2006 on suicide in the new Ireland. I commend the Irish Examiner on publishing the tremendous article on suicide written by Fiachra Ó Cionnaith. He said it was reported by the national office of suicide prevention that 1.7% of all deaths every year are due to suicide. This means one death in every 59 is by suicide and since the start of this decade more than 4,000 people officially have died by suicide while another 1,000 deaths have been classified as undetermined. He noted that these figures combined mean that almost 2,000 more people have died by suicide in Ireland this decade than during the 30 years of civil strife in the North. I am critical of the Government because it has not delivered on the 33 recommendations in the Oireachtas report on suicide prevention. There are more deaths by suicide than by car accident. Our entire parliamentary party meeting last night was taken up with the issue of road deaths.

Time, please.

There are more deaths by suicide every year than by road accident. I call on the Government parties to galvanise themselves to deliver the goods and to be proactive in delivering a proper policy on prevention of suicide in Ireland.

I echo Senator White's indirect welcome to the members of the press. It is good to see them here. I would advise them to be a little careful of their seats as some of them have not been used for a while.

Has the Senator a question for the Leader?

Like me, I am sure the Leader would not go as far as describing the Fine Gael leader's proposal as "grotesque" but it is certainly unprecedented, bizarre and somewhat unbelievable. This UBU proposal came about only for one reason, namely, a race to the bottom among party leaders. I criticised the Labour Party leader last week for jumping the gun. Perhaps the end result would have been the same, given the former Ceann Comhairle's untenable position, but, nonetheless, there was an abandonment of fair process to come up with a moment that would please the public.

The Senator should not refer to someone's position in the other House.

The Fine Gael leader is grasping for the low-hanging fruit of attractive ideas with his proposal.

Not at all. He is looking at reality.

I compliment the Fine Gael Members on their unity so far on the Order of Business regarding this proposal. The original and much more sophisticated proposals from the Fine Gael leader last March about reform of the Seanad were something about which we could have usefully had a discussion.

Nothing was done about them.

Enhancing the powers of the Seanad was an issue about which we could have had a useful discussion. We must save €4,000 million by Christmas. If it is so important that we make this saving of €150 million, why is the Fine Gael leader not undertaking to publish this proposal in this session and to put the challenge to the Government? To talk about saving €150 million in seven years' time has no real relevance to the crisis and the challenges we currently face.

I ask the Leader for a debate on funding for Protestant schools.

I am conscious of the time, Senator.

I was delighted to hear Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's comments this morning about promoting genuine pluralism. The British Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, is on record as being against——

Please, Senator, a large number of Senators will not be called today.

——the disestablishment of the Church of England because minority faiths also benefit. The same is true here. Generosity should be shown to minority faiths——

Please, Senator, your time is up.

It is seldom we have such energy on the Order of Business.

Now you are talking.

Perhaps it is because it deals with our survival and future, and let that be the case, but there are times I wish there were even more Members on the Independent benches because they have been great contributors to debates in this House and in recent days they have been the best advocates in public for Seanad Éireann. I salute them for that because we need rational and balanced debate at this time.

I also compliment those in the mainstream media, not because they are present but because in many ways they have not added to the frenzy surrounding the call for the abolition of Seanad Éireann. In fact, some of their editorials have gone in a different direction. I heard Olivia O'Leary make her arguments on RTE also. It is clear it was not as popular a suggestion as might have been expected.

What has come out of this debate is that when the people got an opportunity to examine the proposal, and the alternative, they were able to judge whether the perception about the Seanad was misplaced or arose because we do not get sufficient coverage in the media in terms of the more substantive issues dealt with here. Parliamentary democracy is the bedrock of a normal society and we tinker with it at our peril. If we abolish this House, and that is a matter for debate, and dilute Dáil Éireann we will end up with a vacuum and we can be certain that vacuum will be filled by people who are virtually fascist in their approach to democracy. We must be particularly careful in that regard.

Each party in the Oireachtas has already made a submission on reform but not one of those submissions suggested the abolition of Seanad Éireann. I look across at good friends on the other side of the House and I do not believe they will join in the debate today in support of the abolition of Seanad Éireann. If the intention was to focus on the possibility of reform, however, then let us have that but the Order of Business will not reach any conclusions.

I call Senator Buttimer.

It would be much better if we had a substantive debate and if the motion from the Independents is to give us that debate, let us have it sooner rather than later.

Time is moving on and a large number of Senators offering will not be called today. I will try to accommodate them tomorrow morning.

As we speak people are dying as a result of drug overdoses and suicide, businesses are laying off employees and banks are refusing credit yet the majority of people here are being self-serving in looking after their own preservation. That is indicative of the way the political system is broken and in need of radical reform. People see us as elitist, out of touch with reality and aloof and it is time we changed that perception. I say that as someone who is proud to be a Member of Seanad Éireann, has great pride in our Constitution and does not necessarily agree with Deputy Enda Kenny's remarks but it took leadership and courage to make them. He was brave because there are interests in this Chamber who have had their heads in the sand for far too long, aided and abetted by the Ministers of this Government who have abdicated responsibility. These people are answerable to no one and the country is in a mess. It is not just in a mess, it is on the brink of disaster.

Senator Boyle and his comrades came before the House and pontificated on how good was the new programme for Government.

If the Senator shouted less and listened more, there might be more debate in the House.

No interruptions, please.

My record of attendance and voting record——

We have nothing but the Senator's bellowing in the Chamber every day.

——are better than those of anyone else in the House.

Senator Buttimer should address his remarks through the Chair.

I have debated matters in the House and will not take a lecture from Senator Boyle.

(Interruptions).

The Senator is a bully.

I am here to work on behalf of the people, from whom Senator Boyle will soon receive his answer.

We know what the Senator's vested interests are.

I could walk away from politics in the morning but I will not abandon the men and women of Ireland who are losing their jobs and whose homes are being repossessed. Senator Boyle will not lecture me.

That is the Senator's problem; he is always trying to lecture everyone else in the House.

I listen to the people but Senator Boyle does not do so.

Senator Buttimer——

I listen to the people. Senator Boyle is above them.

Is Senator Buttimer listening to the Chair?

The Senator should address his remarks to the Leader through the Chair and not address another Member across the floor.

I am asking the Leader——

If the Senator does not do so, I will call the Leader to reply.

Is Senator Buttimer all upset now?

I am not upset at all. I am fine.

(Interruptions).

I call Senator Glynn.

I want to finish my sentence. I will conclude on this point.

Senator Buttimer's time is up. He can contribute again tomorrow morning.

In the past three weeks I have asked the Leader to make time available for three debates. The Cathaoirleach can check the record in that regard.

The Leader will reply to the Senator in due course. His allocation is two minutes but he has been speaking for three.

The three debates in question relate to the political system, the programme for Government and the future of Ireland.

The Senator should resume his seat. I call Senator Glynn.

I join colleagues in commending the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, and everyone involved in the release of the two young women, Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki, whom I strongly respect because they are wonderful people.

Thanks to the leader of Fine Gael, we have returned in the past week to auction politics. I do not know whether he was racing up or down. However, there is a fair indication that he was following the downward trend.

It will be a knockout.

The debate thus far clearly indicates what people think of his approach. Members of his own party will inform us that they strongly disagree with his views. I will leave my comments at that on the matter.

The Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, of which Senator Coffey and I are members, recently compiled a report on the electoral register. That report which was partly informed by a visit we made to the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland contains some extremely radical and useful proposals. Thus far, every effort that has been made to improve the electoral register has failed. Successive Administrations, including that currently in power, are guilty in this regard. People who voted in the most recent local elections have discovered that their names have disappeared from the register in the interim, which is unacceptable. In such circumstances, I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley who is anxious to address this important matter to the House in order that we might engage in a meaningful debate. The Minister could take that opportunity to bring forward definitive proposals aimed at solving the problems in respect of the electoral register and people's democratic right to vote.

The Seanad was established to protect minorities. It is appropriate that a deputation is discussing with the Taoiseach the matter of fee-paying Protestant schools. I know there is a delusion among certain sections of the Catholic bourgeoisie that Church of Ireland fee-paying schools are full of Ross O'Carroll-Kelly type characters. That is not the case; they are full of poor Protestants. Many of my friends from among the Catholic bourgeoisie have never met a poor Protestant. However, I have met many. Plenty of them are scattered throughout rural areas and they need the support of the fee-paying system. It would be pathetic for the Seanad which was set up to protect that minority not to speak with one voice today and I hope it will so do. It is so squalid and sordid to try to save €2.8 million which would hardly keep FÁS executives in fags for a day at the expense of scattered rural communities. Let us have an end to this proposal. Members should commend the two bishops. It is good to see the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin not keeping his head down, as they kept their heads down for long enough. The Protestant population fell from 10% to 3% between 1920 and 1990; at the same time the Catholic population in Northern Ireland rose by 10%. These figures are highly visible to people in Northern Ireland. Before this squalid mess is taken up by bad elements in Northern Ireland, let us have an end to it. Moreover, I remind the House that every Minister who got into trouble in Ireland started off by asking for the opinion of the Attorney General on something.

Hear, hear. Well said.

Members, please.

To an extent Senator Harris has stolen my thunder because I was about to state this House had been established by the State's founding fathers to include minorities and particularly in order that the voice of the Protestant religion, as well as Unionist voices, would be heard here. Therefore, it is compatible with this intention for Members collectively to support the call made by the Senator and others for support for Protestant schools. He has put the argument extremely well. Many of the pupils in such fee-paying schools would not be in a position to cover the cost were they to be deprived of the funding of which they have been in receipt. I add my voice to that call.

I support Senator MacSharry's request for a debate on social partnership. Were such a debate to be facilitated, the Leader should arrange to have a representative from the IMF to address the House as part of that debate. Such a person could tell Members what action has been taken in other countries that found themselves in the fiscal difficulties we now face, or perhaps worse, and what were the remedies in those cases. That might be a patent lesson for all Members.

I wish to comment briefly on the general debate today. Before I was old enough to vote, I campaigned in my first electoral campaign, Jack Lynch's referendum campaign in 1968 to seek to change the electoral system from the single transferable vote system. A debate is required on both the Seanad and the overall democratic institutions of the State to ascertain how they can be improved in the light of modern requirements and demands. One should be careful in how one approaches this issue as such an approach must be considered and comprehensive. The proposal from the Leader of the Opposition to reduce the number of democratically elected Members of these Houses from 226 to 126 would have serious ramifications for the entire issue of democracy. In particular, when one considers the failure of State agencies such as the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank in the face of the current economic crisis, I think greater, rather than less, political scrutiny is required to ensure the various agencies of the State are performing effectively. Dismantling our democratic institutions would be fraught with danger and require the most careful consideration. It is not something to be thrown out purely to get media coverage at a social event.

First, I wish to be associated with the remarks made about the Department of Foreign Affairs. I congratulate it on the release of Sharon Commins and her Ugandan friend and colleague.

The current situation has been arrived at because this country has an unaccountable democratic system in which the buck stops nowhere. No one is accountable in any Department. No Minister is accountable. Oireachtas committees are toothless, while local government members are powerless. This explains the current position.

I have called for a debate on tourism on numerous occasions. The failure of Fáilte Ireland to sell the country is at crisis point. Ireland has the product required in the activities of golf, fishing, walking and mountaineering. Moreover, access is available through Dublin, Knock, Shannon, Waterford, Kerry and Cork. However, no one is able to put together these packages. Both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland have failed miserably in this regard. Members should have an urgent debate on the subject before the onset of the new season after Christmas because the sector is in crisis.

Like other Members, I note that other pressing issues affect society to a much greater extent than the debate that is exercising the House today. One of them has been mentioned by Senator Norris, namely, the impending report on child abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin that has been delayed for one week. Members have been given plenty of notice that it will be published next week. As the House is not sitting next week, can the Leader arrange a full three hour debate on the issue either on the Tuesday on which Members return or the following Wednesday?

Alternatively, whatever grouping has been allocated Private Members' time that week could extend the time available by one hour.

Other speakers have spoken of the need for real debate. Together with other speakers, I have previously called for real debate in the House and have had such debate. Sometimes, however, the House would not even have a quorum for what is called and stands for real debate. As for the debate that is exercising everyone, I for one did not hear the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. However, on being told of them, I considered them to be somewhat knee-jerk in nature because I had read the report he had given to the MacGill Summer School when he called for reform. I was one of the Fianna Fáil Senators who appeared on "The Late Late Show" a few months ago with my Labour Party and Independent colleagues when Fine Gael refused to send any representative.

Members indicating should note they do not have a hope of getting in. I will call Senator Twomey and that is it.

One was told the reason Fine Gael had not sent a representative was it could not get its own way on what Senator it wanted to appear on television that night because it needed coverage——

This is irrelevant to the Order of Business. The Senator should address questions to the Leader.

The Senator is clutching at straws.

Fine Gael wanted a particular Senator to appear on television that night because it wanted coverage.

The Senator's time is up.

I have the height of respect for the leader of Fine Gael in this House. She and I are great friends and she spoke today with great passion and conviction.

No, the degree of friendliness between Senators is not relevant to the Order of Business either.

When I heard Senator Fitzgerald state actions spoke louder than words——

They were great friends. That has now fallen through.

Finally, I call Senator Twomey. Many Members have missed out because others have stepped over the time allowed.

——I was almost waiting for her to resign her seat, if she feels so passionately about the matter.

I must hold the Government to account in respect of legislation.

Please, Senator Feeney's time is up.

In that case, may I be called first tomorrow?

In the morning I will call first on those who have missed out today.

While I was called, I did not have two minutes speaking time.

The Senator had two minutes.

I have not had two minutes.

Senator Feeney's time is up.

The Senator was too busy going on about "The Late Late Show".

I have a stopwatch and it shows the Senator's time is up. Finally, I call Senator Twomey.

Out of respect for the Cathaoirleach, I will take my seat. However, I believe I did not get my two minutes.

On a point of order, I have just heard someone state the House is not sitting next week.

(Interruptions).

I cannot deal with that matter now.

On a point of order, this is a question for the Cathaoirleach. This is the first I have heard of such a proposal. Is this the way to do business?

On the Adjournment tomorrow, when the Leader announces——

I support Senator O'Toole. Is it appropriate that Members learn for the first time——

Please, Senator.

On a point of order——

——from an ordinary Member on the Government benches that the House is not sitting next week? This is absurd.

Please, Senator.

I also support Senator O'Toole. It is an absolute outrage.

I ask Senators to desist.

On a point of order, I request the Leader of the House to extend the time to allow——

There is no plan and no purpose to the manner in which Members do business.

I indicated a long time ago. I was here at 2.40 p.m. and asked to speak.

I fully understand that.

Why have I been excluded from this debate?

I call Senator Twomey. Twelve Members have not been able to contribute today.

Another ten minutes should be added to the Order of Business.

The debate should be extended.

It is indicative of the reasons the House is held in such disrepute when the leaders of the groups are not aware the House is not sitting next week, even though it has been announced that this is the case. It was a little premature. In the course of this debate I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Leader because he has been manipulated by the Government into allowing the Seanad to be neutralised over time. The fact that his party has been in power continuously in the Seanad for almost 20 years, during which time no reforms of any meaning to the people have been introduced, is an indication of what has gone wrong. There is a sense that people want to shoot the messenger who has brought forward this debate in a way that has galvanised Members of this House with the idea that they might actually be out of a job in a number of years. As a result, we might see some meaningful reforms in the lifetime of the Government. Comments have been made about democracy and the role of democracy. It is the failure of democratic political systems and the political representatives elected by the people to connect with citizens that leads to dictatorship, not whether there might be 120 or 220 Members. There is a huge sense among the public that we are not connected to the people we represent. For that reason, we urgently need to reform both Houses of the Oireachtas.

It is reform today. You were abolishing it yesterday.

(Interruptions).

Pantomime performances and snide remarks from the Government side do nothing to advance the debate.

The Senator has changed his tune.

It would serve them better if they got down to doing the job they are here to do. By the way, Senator Feeney——

It is questions through the Chair to the Leader on the Order of Business. The Senator is not to speak directly across the floor.

There is absolutely no need for me to resign my position as a Member of the Seanad. I will serve my time and do the best I can. If the people decide we are no longer relevant, I will accept their will, not some catty remarks.

I ask the Leader as a matter of urgency to clarify if this House is meeting next week or not, and the reasons for it.

On a point of order, a proposal was made to the Leader to extend the time for the Order of Business.

My hands are tied in that regard. I am not changing it.

Will the Leader accede to that request and, if not, can he clarify what race meeting, golf classic or Fianna Fáil function is taking place in Citywest——

I ask the Senator to resume his seat.

——that is preventing the Seanad from sitting next week?

The Senator must resume his seat. I call on the Leader to reply on the Order of Business.

Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Bacik, Boyle, Regan, Norris, Carty, Donohoe, Ormonde, Burke, Hannigan, Callely, Mullen, Ó Murchú, Buttimer, Glynn, Harris, Walsh, Feeney and Twomey expressed their concerns regarding the comments of the leader of Fine Gael at the dinner last Saturday night at the Burlington Hotel.

It was Citywest Hotel.

We have no concerns.

I have no difficulty with arranging to have the Seanad sit for a day to update the submissions that were made on behalf of all the political parties. I welcome the Minister's final meeting to be held next Tuesday with the various parties that made submissions. I thank the leaders, Whips and the Members from all sides of the House for their contributions towards compiling some very worthwhile suggestions for the meaningful reform of the Seanad, which I have often called for on the Order of Business. To put the record straight, all parties in the House with the exception of one have been in government in the last 30 years. The members of the Opposition were in government twice with the current Government parties in government for the rest of that period. The report——

The Government has controlled the Seanad for the last 20 years.

I did not interrupt the Senator.

The Senator is always giving a history lesson——

Please, no interruptions. The Leader is replying on the Order of Business.

The Senator should pay me the courtesy of listening to the response.

The Senator is always manipulating historical facts to his own liking.

No interruptions, Senator Twomey.

I saw many sad faces on television last Saturday night. There were gobsmacked faces from some remarkable contributors.

(Interruptions).

The Senator is really in trouble when he responds like that.

The Leader to reply to the questions raised on the Order of Business, without interruption.

With all the issues raised on the Order of Business, the long-standing experience of Senator O'Toole shone again today when he stated that nobody——

——wishes to interfere with the honesty and integrity of democracy. The last thing we want, after standing back and examining the issue in the calm light of three or four days after the statement was made, is a dictatorship.

We are not calling for a dictatorship.

We have a democracy.

There are very many decent people——

(Interruptions).

Members, please allow the Leader to speak.

We have a democracy in this House.

Senator Healy Eames must resume her seat.

On a point of order, we have a democracy.

That is not a point of order.

I am outraged. The Leader has not been democratic to the citizens of Ireland. Did he see the faces of the citizens of Ireland——

Senator Healy Eames——

I ask Senator Healy Eames to resume her seat. I will ask her to leave the Chamber if she does that again. It is all right now to laugh at it but this is a serious House. That type of carry-on lets it down.

It is not about dictatorship but reform.

We are being patronised.

I join my colleagues in welcoming the return of Sharon Commins and her Ugandan friend to safety. I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, the Department of Foreign Affairs, GOAL and the many people who assisted the family through the more than 100 days of the two women's captivity. This has brought joy to everybody, particularly all those who prayed day and night for their safe return. We can celebrate and rejoice in the return of Sharon. I join Senator Carty and other Senators in their remarks on that.

Senator O'Toole raised No. 31, motion 35 and expressed his views on it. We are elected to this Chamber by a double electorate. The Deputies must get themselves elected to have a vote for the Seanad, as must the hard-working and dedicated county councillors along with Members of the outgoing Seanad. There is real democracy at work with regard to our electorate, as far as I am concerned. I have no difficulty in taking that point——

That is absolutely ridiculous.

I have no difficulty——

This Chamber is completely undemocratic.

No interruptions.

The Senator is very welcome back.

(Interruptions).

I do not want anybody, Leader or otherwise, to comment on the attendance of anybody across the floor. It is not relevant.

No. 31, motion 35 could be taken in the final all-day debate before the publication of the meaningful reform proposal from the Minister.

Senators Bacik, Donohoe and MacSharry called for a special debate on the NAMA business plan. We could have an all-day debate on that also.

I am seriously considering this——

After the legislation is enacted.

——and will discuss it with the leaders of the groups in the House tomorrow morning before the Order of Business.

Senators Bacik, Norris, Mullen and Harris expressed their serious concern about the reduction of funding for rural Protestant schools. I fully support their comments today and propose inviting the Minister to the House to have another look at the situation and the terrific work that has been done for generations by good and decent people on behalf of the Protestant community. A high percentage of people in my constituency are of the Protestant faith and my family has worked extremely closely with them for the past 100 years. I will arrange a debate with the Minister present at the earliest opportunity during the next two weeks.

Senator Boyle raised local government reform and the imminent publication of the White Paper. I will certainly allocate time for a debate on that matter.

In response to Senator Regan, I have already pointed out that Fine Gael was in power on two occasions in the past 30 years since the referendum on the Seanad.

Senators MacSharry, Coffey, Hanafin, Buttimer and Walsh sought a debate on the economy, public sector pay and the challenge the budget poses for everybody. This will probably be the most important budget of the past two decades and I will allocate time for these issues to be debated. I hope to be able to discuss this with the group leaders tomorrow morning and possibly have a date for it to take place.

Senator MacSharry raised the issue of families who find themselves in the very difficult position of facing repossession of their homes because they are unable to meet their mortgage repayments as a result of being unemployed. The Senator has done good work on this issue by producing his report, the MacSharry report. I strongly suggest we include this matter with the debate on the economy.

Senator Callely called for a debate on health issues and I am endeavouring to have the Minister for Health and Children come to the House. Senator John Hanafin referred to the importance of democracy, Seanad and committee reform and a proposed reduction of 100 seats in the Houses. This can be discussed in the last debate before the Seanad reform Bill is published.

Senator Healy Eames referred to urgent matters. She always seems to make such requests of me and I strongly suggest that Private Members' time is another way of trying to find information that Senator Healy Eames sincerely requests every day. I would do anything I could to help the Senator but Private Members' time is a wonderful way to find the up-to-date position in respect of the matters Senators bring to the attention of the House from time to time.

This is a dismissal of the answers sought.

Senator, no interruptions.

Senator Mary White, who has been champion of the matter she raised——

What about freedom of information?

Senator Healy Eames——

——and who brought her 2006 report before the House——

What about ministerial accountability?

Senator Healy Eames, please respect the Chair.

——in relation to matters pertaining to——

Come on, let us make this House work.

Senator Healy Eames, I ask you to leave the House.

I will happily leave the House.

I am asking the Senator to leave the House.

I will happily leave the House because this House is not working.

I am asking the Senator to leave the House because she is interrupting the reply of the Leader.

This House is not working. Once again we have a dismissal of the questions asked. I will happily leave the House.

Senator Healy Eames cannot continue.

There is no accountability and the Leader is putting it aside once again.

Senator Healy Eames withdrew from the Chamber.

Senator Mary White referred to her serious concerns about the 4,000 people who have lost their lives through suicide since 2000. I commend Senator White on the work she has done and support her call for the Government to be proactive in doing everything it possibly can in this regard. If another debate is requested and needed I have no difficulty in allocating time for it to take place.

Senator Glynn called on me to allocate time for a debate on the register of electors. I have made a commitment on this and I will allow time for a debate.

Senator Paddy Burke called for an update on the major challenges facing the tourism industry. The tourism business has been one of the three pillars on which the economy was built in the 1990s and it needs all the assistance it can get. I have no difficulty in time being allocated for this debate to take place.

Senator Feeney called for a debate on the report into child abuse. I can confirm that this will take place and there will be an all-day opportunity for Members to make statements on the report.

Can the Cathaoirleach throw me out? I would like to be expelled. I have been terribly well behaved and I would like the headlines, like Senator Healy Eames.

Is the Cathaoirleach sure?

Senator Norris gets headlines often enough.

Two amendments were proposed.

Can the Leader clarify the sitting of——

On a point of order——

No points of order.

On a point of information——

I am putting a question. I ask Senator Buttimer to resume his seat.

On a point of information——

I ask Senator Buttimer to resume his seat.

Will the Leader clarify the sitting times of the House next week?

Are we sitting next week?

Can the Leader explain?

I am putting a question. Two amendments to the Order of Business were proposed and I will take them in the order they were raised. Senator O'Toole proposed amendment No. 1, "That No. 31, motion 35, be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 29.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • 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.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • 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 David Norris and Joe O’Toole; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

I inform the House that, arising from the inadvertent casting of a vote by Senator Buttimer in the wrong seat in addition to voting in his own seat, the result of the division as shown on the display board has been amended with the agreement of the Tellers on both sides. The amended result will appear in the journal of proceedings.

Senator Bacik has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business that a debate on NAMA's business plan be held today. Is the amendment being pressed?

It is because the Leader did not give me a date for the debate.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 29.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • 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.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • 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 Ivana Bacik and Dominic Hannigan; Níl, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 18.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • de Búrca, Déirdre.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Norris, David.
  • 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.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Maurice Cummins and Paschal Donohoe.
Question declared carried.