The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Agreement between the European Union and Japan on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and motion re Agreement between the EU and the USA on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data from the EU to the USA for the purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme ('SWIFT' Agreement), to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No.1 and to conclude not later than 1.30 p.m., if not previously concluded, on which spokespersons may speak for ten minutes, all other Senators for seven minutes and on which Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, and with the Minister to be called on not later than 1.20 p.m. for concluding comments; No. 3, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 3 p.m., if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
I would like to start on a positive note. I thank the Irish team for the magnificent performance it gave in the Stade de France last night, particularly Wexford's Kevin Doyle who has been a fantastic addition to the team throughout the qualifying period. Unfortunately it did not qualify for the competition in South Africa but its effort was fantastic.
On another positive note, the Taoiseach's comments last night in regard to old age pensions are correct. We have to be careful that we do not hurt the most vulnerable in our society in the budget and I would like the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to give us a greater indication of what they are planning to do in the budget because they have been very tight lipped until now. There is a need for such a debate before the budget is announced on 9 December.
We should have a debate on Allied Irish Banks and the appointment of its new chief executive officer because this House becomes irrelevant when it is three weeks out of kilter with the major news items on the lips of the people of this country. It is a major issue and we should have such debates in real time if we are to remain relevant. I ask the Leader to find some time in the schedule next week for statements on the appointment of the CEO of Allied Irish Banks.
I acknowledge and welcome the Taoiseach's statement last night on old age pensions, senior citizens and their awards. It is important that the Government explains itself in such situations. The statement relieved many people of their worries and such simple comments are important.
In terms of understanding how people feel about the matter, many people have asked me about the day of action to be taken by unions next week. I would like people to understand that workers are trying to express a great sense of unease, anger and many other things. They have seen their salaries drop by 17% or more over the past number of months, like many workers in other sectors, and do not know where it will end. They hear from the Government that there will be further cuts. There is no certainty whatsoever. They are not sure where it is they are going. We understand better than most that such people are coming under constant despicable comment in the general media. There is a sense that people feel completely removed from the situation and that they are dealing with all the pain on their own. I do not agree that is true but it is how people feel.
We need to examine how the Government can move the situation forward. It can be moved forward. The Government has made progress in two significant areas. There is an acknowledgment that €4 billion has to be raised and that the public sector has to be reduced by some 15,000. There is also an understanding that will only create savings in two, three or four years. There is an acknowledgment that there must be a bridge to the savings which will accrue in two or three years' time. We are trying to cross that gap.
What is wrong with an emergency temporary tax rate for people earning over a certain amount of money per year in order that they can play their part? It is a fair question. It would allow the Government to go back to other workers at a lower level and say it has done that, it still does not bring in €4 billion and that the Government has to look at the unmentionables of salary and allowances.
There are things which can be done and everybody realises they have to be done. People should move forward.
The Taoiseach's statement last night is important and he should follow it with an acknowledgement of his understanding of how people are feeling uncertain about their futures. Everybody works to the limit of his or her salary whether it is small or large. If the amount is being constantly reduced, people look at the impact it will have on them. It is true that this is happening in the private sector as well as in the public sector — in many case the private sector is affected more. However, there are 1.8 million people working in this country, which is a fair basis for us to work our way out of this problem. We should be doing it together. I regret that people feel compelled to take certain actions, although I understand and support the thinking behind it. We need everybody to move and if everybody moves together the situation can be resolved.
I renew my call to the Leader for a debate on climate change. I asked him last week to schedule a debate on climate change in the Seanad and, in particular, on the principle of a climate protection Bill. As colleagues know, I have a Bill before the House and there is a Labour Party Bill before the Dáil. The Government promised a Bill and I understood it would be published before the Copenhagen climate change talks in December. I note the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, announced yesterday that the Bill to sign us in a binding way to making certain yearly reductions in our carbon emissions will not be published until early 2010. It is crucial such legislation is passed and it is something on which there is consensus, but the Government is delaying the Bill. This House should have a debate on climate change before December, even if the Bill or the heads of a Bill are not published. It is a significant issue. The debate is over and everybody is agreed on the facts of climate change, although I note inThe Irish Times today John Gibbons suggested Pat Kenny is in some way a climate change denier — that is probably stretching the point. The time for political action is now and we need to take action. We should have a debate in this House to try to move the issue on in a political way.
I also ask for a debate on funding for third level education. Colleagues have raised the issue of the delay in the payment of student maintenance grants and the extreme hardship it is causing for students. I back their concerns. The Union of Students of Ireland lobbied us last week and it was useful and helpful to hear the concerns of third level students. It is also concerned about the high and rising cost of the student registration charge, which is now €1,500 per year and which students are required to pay. It is a sort of third level fee, in effect. The facilities provided to students are disimproving. There has been a huge reduction in facilities at Dublin Institute of Technology, for example. Libraries have been closed and classes have been cancelled. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the matter.
I ask again for a debate on mental health in prisons. We heard yesterday from Professor Harry Kennedy on his concern about the high level of psychosis among young men on remand and on the early successes of the diversion programme he is running. I ask the Leader to organise a debate on the matter so that we can give our political support to the diversion programme.
I ask the Leader to arrange a debate in the near future on the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which has yet to be ratified by Ireland. The Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, sent me a letter on the matter on 11 November last. I am a member of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. The Minister's letter stated:
My Department, in co-operation with other relevant Government Departments, Agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are presently putting the outstanding arrangements in place to facilitate the ratification of this Convention before the end of 2009.
Ireland's failure to ratify the convention puts it in the same position as countries like Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. I hope our existing human rights record will demand that we associate with countries that have a better record. It is imperative that we ratify the convention by the end of this year.
The subject matter of the convention was highlighted this morning by the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, who mentioned that 175 children who are asylum seekers are in the State and separated from their families, in conditions that are far worse than they should be. While human trafficking is not an explicit issue in this context, the possibility of a higher threat or risk of trafficking of these young individuals cannot be discounted. Ms Logan also said that, shockingly, 419 separated children have gone missing in the last decade. As Senators might recall, it was reported in June that 22 children are missing from HSE care under asylum schemes. Concern has been expressed that a significant proportion of these children were trafficked into the State for forced labour or sexual exploitation. When they are accommodated in a State hostel, they are kidnapped, in effect, and forced into work. Accordingly, it is vital that this convention is ratified. I ask the Leader to arrange a discussion on this matter. The Minister is doing his utmost to ensure the convention is ratified. This issue is regularly raised at the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. It is important that Ireland is ahead of all other countries. Perhaps the Opposition can raise this issue in Private Members' time.
What about Fianna Fáil's Private Members' time?
I ask the Leader to pass on my welcome for the Taoiseach's signal last night that the current rate of the old age pension will be upheld, as far as possible. We are all aware that elderly people are probably the most vulnerable people in the community. They made an investment in the State by working to get us to where we are today. I would like the Leader to take into account the special request I am about to make. As we speak, the Department of Finance is preparing next year's budget. Many Senators met representatives of carers last week. We are aware that workers in the caring profession look after elderly people every day. They are under pressure in the current economic climate. They are saving the State enormous sums of money by caring for people in their own homes and communities, which is as it should be. I ask the Leader to set time aside at some stage in the future for a debate on the care of the elderly.
I am not sure what the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will say when he launches the international review of waste management policy later today. Perhaps he will mention the proposed Poolbeg incinerator. According to the regional waste management plans that are in operation at the moment, an incinerator is planned for each region. The Minister has not given a clear direction to the local authorities which are engaging with these plans. As they push ahead with the development of five incinerators throughout the country, there is a conflict with the suggestion that a single incinerator will serve the entire country. I hope the Minister this afternoon will address the need to give local authorities a clear direction on waste management in this country. I will be interested to hear whether he does. Perhaps the Leader will take up the matter on behalf of the House.
I repeat the call I made last week for an early debate on right to life issues, including abortion and euthanasia. I note that the Irish Medical Organisation has produced a document on such matters. The related subject of capital punishment was raised last week by the former president of the High Court, Mr. Justice Richard Johnson. It is important for us to debate such matters at an early stage. The Houses of the Oireachtas should set the trend for the direction in which we will go on all of these issues.
I join Senator O'Toole in calling for a debate on competitiveness in the context of the forthcoming budget. I suggest that such a debate should take place next week, rather than in the first week of December. It would be opportune to discuss the matter as public servants are protesting outside this building. I often visit the John F. Kennedy memorial arboretum for a walk. It is in a nice area just outside New Ross. When I visited it last weekend, I was shocked and a little hurt when the person working on the gate told me he is anxious to get out of that position. I understand he earns €31,000 per annum. He said he is getting abuse as a result of the divide between the public and private sectors.
We need to inject some facts into this debate. Those who will gather outside this gate next week are probably oblivious to the comparisons that can be made to show that we have lost our competitiveness. I refer to people in the public service, particularly civil servants. Junior clerks in this jurisdiction are paid between €40,000 and €50,000 per annum. An official in the corresponding position in Northern Ireland is paid between £18,000 and £19,000. Last week, I came across the case of a person with a law degree who is qualified as a solicitor. He is paid £19,000 per annum as a court clerk in the High Court in Northern Ireland. We have allowed salaries and wages in the private and public sectors to get out of line. If something drastic is not done about it, this country will not be able to compete, the economy will not recover and the IMF will have to take decisions that will be extremely hard on everyone. We need to play our part by providing for moderate reductions in salary rates.
Many speakers have referred to vulnerable people, such as the elderly and carers. I gave the House a warning a long time ago about the systematic crippling of State agencies that are charged with protecting the vulnerable. I will continue to use the Seanad to highlight such cases.
I was contacted some time ago by a woman who is concerned about her 87 year old sister, who has intermittent dementia. She is part of the home care package. The home care package is a scandal. It is a very good idea, but it is badly applied. Some €700 is made available to families that require carers. It is paid directly to private agencies that are not regulated in any way. This leads to very inappropriate situations. There are discrepancies between the various charges that are applied after the €700 is provided. I am aware of a family that, over a short period of time, had to pay between €84 and €450 in additional fees. The service is extremely poor. Those providing it often do not have basic functional English. They have no training whatever.
This was confirmed in an excellent article by Eilish O'Regan in theIrish Independent. The article mentioned that the HSE spends €120 million on this system each year. It quoted from a report published by the National Economic and Social Forum which suggested that care workers are sent into people’s homes without being the subject of Garda checks. When the HSE confirmed that is the case, it said that such matters are the responsibility of the agencies. No, it is not. Carers are completely untrained. No training is given. Private companies have acknowledged that they have never been inspected by the HSE. There is poor or no supervision of staff. Complaints just disappear. Some staff refuse to do tasks that are required by their patients. When one woman was called on to collect the pension of an Alzheimer’s patient, she asked for €25 in petrol money. A 78 year old had to be hospitalised because her carer was unable to give her the appropriate medication.
This situation could lead to further scandals like that at Leas Cross nursing home. I am asking for something to be done about it. Guidelines were agreed by some of the private home care people but they were not signed off by the HSE. What is the HSE doing? Dr. Maureen Gaffney has said that there is poor accountability and slow decision making. I agree with her that the connection between national policy decision making and local work practices is poor. I ask the Leader to get the Minister to do something clearly, directly and specifically about this matter.
It will not be long before we enter a countdown period leading to what everybody now accepts will be one of the harshest budgets we have had for a long time. We have had much debate, certainly in the Houses of the Oireachtas but also outside, particularly in the media. In the early stages of that debate one of the biggest difficulties in arriving at a consensus was that people were not sure whether we were dealing with a real crisis. If one likes, we first needed to break through that sound barrier. We have now done that and if we had done it sooner, perhaps the consensus might have been much clearer. There is consensus on one aspect of the crisis, that the vulnerable should not be asked to suffer. Those who have most should pay most in whatever form. I am not just talking about those who earn €100,000 or €200,000 a year; I am also talking about people in secure jobs with guaranteed pensions who, in the main, have done exceptionally well from the Celtic tiger.
I welcome the indication by the Taoiseach last night that pensions for the elderly would not be interfered with. He was sending a further important message that there would be a strong caring element to the budget, not just on pensions for the elderly but also for others who were vulnerable. When people take to the streets or go on strike, which is their right, in the main, the vulnerable are not represented. They usually come as a second thought in some statement in the public arena because they are not organised and do not have a strong voice. Invariably, they will suffer. The Taoiseach sent a message last night that we should keep in mind in coming weeks that the budget will have a strong caring element. That will help to put people's minds at ease. It should also send a message to those who have done well from the Celtic tiger.
Further to what Senator Ó Murchú said and as we approach the budget, one of the great challenges facing us is the degree to which we create new jobs and hold existing ones. I am fully in favour of a debate on the issues raised by Senator Ó Murchú. I also ask the Leader for a specific debate on the creation of new jobs and keeping existing ones. In that context, in recent days we have been advised that one in three restaurants is at risk of closure, which means the displacement of jobs, with waitresses, chefs, commis-chefs and others finding themselves without work. The cost of food here is 24% higher than the European average, which raises questions.
The 250,000 people who regularly shop in Northern Ireland are displacing retail jobs in Border areas and elsewhere in the Republic. In addition, the pending carbon tax and the 4% bio-fuel obligation will lead to an increase in the price of diesel and petrol and the closure of filling stations along the Border in counties Cavan and Monaghan and further afield. While finding solutions will not be easy, the House has a duty to spend a day discussing the matter and investigating options, including the extent to which a reduction in the rate of VAT or excise duties on alcoholic drink might stop cross-Border shopping. We need the qualified professionals to give us the figures to try to find solutions. The House has a duty to respond to the crisis. There are 40 restaurants in County Cavan, 12 of which are at risk of closure.
In calling on the Leader to arrange a pre-budget debate, it is important to consider what the Taoiseach said last night. If we cherish people, the budget must protect the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled and those in the caring profession, particularly carers. If we place a high value on the work the people in question do, the budget should not cut back on their services and not hurt the old and the disabled but protect and fortify them. We do not need simple words from the Taoiseach at some event. What we need is strong cogent action by the Government. Where I disagree with Senator Ó Murchú is that we have not seen such a plan from the Government. It is make it up as one goes along budgeting. We saw this in its handling of the banks crisis and the budget last year. The cuts of €4 billion need to be spread evenly across all areas.
In the light of the Cathaoirleach's ruling on the Adjournment matters, which I respect, I ask the Leader to facilitate as a matter of extreme urgency a debate on the role of the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Transport in the maintenance and upkeep of roads. As the Leader said in giving a weather forecast at the end of a debate yesterday, we have seen inclement weather and the roads are falling apart. In my area in Glenbrook Passage, Carrigaline and Monkstown the roads are falling apart. What will it take for the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Transport to put in place a proper road maintenance programme? Local authorities cannot do it, as they claim they do not have the money to do so. Who will do it? Who will maintain the roads to ensure road safety?
I support Senator Walsh's call for a debate on the economy and our competitiveness. I, again, make the point that it is an absolute disgrace for a member of a Government party to stand up in the House or elsewhere to say there is a possibility the IMF might come in and take over. This means the Government is telling its people that it considers it a reasonable course of action because matters are so bad for it to hand over responsibility for the governing of the country to another body not elected by them and which would not be accountable to us. We have heard this statement from Ministers and regularly in this House.
The Government has destroyed the country.
Bearing in mind that this is a mess for which the Government is responsible, it is appalling for a Government party member to say to the people that if they do not do what it is needed, the Government will bring in the IMF. I asked the Leader to do this previously and I am asking him again. He should stand up and say this is not acceptable. Fianna Fáil is in government and it is its job to govern the country. It is not acceptable for Government party members to stand up and say it is an acceptable course of action to call in the International Monetary Fund to pull the country from the mess into which the Government got us and from which it is not capable of pulling us.
I am also relieved to hear the Taoiseach's hint to the effect that the old age pension will not be cut. There are many other deserving groups in society which have similar hopes they will not be unfairly targeted in the coming weeks. Senator O'Toole is right to stress the bona fides at the heart of the public sector and the concerns of workers in the public sector. Like him, I would like it to go out loud and clear that nobody wants to target the public sector unfairly or hit out at the good work that so many in that sector are doing. However, if we are serious about protecting the interests of the most vulnerable, particularly older people in the context of the old age pension, other groups such as carers and those looked after by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, we must wonder at the wisdom and propriety of strike action. If we fracture unity by going out on strike — even if we have a legitimate grievance — the more vulnerable sectors will lose out. They will suffer because others are more vocal and influential. That is why I very much regret there is to be strike action next week. I said several months ago that there will have to be an accounting in the future whereby those who make a disproportionate sacrifice now for the sake of the unity we need in dealing with our crisis are acknowledged and somehow recompensed. However, the planned protest action is not the way to go.
I am concerned at the recent report and comments by the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan. While we may aspire to treat the children of the nation equally, it is disgraceful that we do not treat the children of other nations with any dignity when they come to our shores and are dependent on us. It is appalling to think of the neglect that takes place, with children being looked after by security personnel during the day. That is no way to treat minors in our society, whether Irish natives or otherwise.
A report in today'sIrish Independent indicates that hospital consultants in many hospitals are not treating the required number of public patients, with some consultants operating a case load that consists of up to 80% private patients. Consultants are paid large salaries in respect of which it took a long time for contracts to be agreed. Who is responsible for ensuring they do the job they are paid to do according to their contracts? Is it the hospital manager, the Minister for Health and Children or the Health Service Executive? Is it proposed that the situation be allowed to continue as it is? The Minister must come into the House to provide some answers in this regard. It was she who spoke about the improvements for public patients that would flow from agreement on a new consultant contract. Recent reports clearly show that has not happened.
The same newspaper includes a report on yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on the Constitution, at which the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, proposed the abolition of county and borough councils throughout the State. Is this one of the Minister's kites — another of thefaux pas he makes from time to time — or is it Fianna Fáil and Government policy? The Leader may be well qualified to answer that question.
I join others in congratulating the national soccer team on its performance last night notwithstanding the disappointing outcome. Like some members of the Irish team did during last night's game, several Members put their hand up in this Chamber last Tuesday to call on the Minister for Finance to take certain action regarding the remuneration of the chief executive officer of a specific banking group. That particular game has not yet been fully played out but I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on his endeavours——
For God's sake.
——on a whole host of issues.
Who did he appoint yesterday?
Senator Callely should be allowed to continue without interruption. I ask the Senator to direct a question to the Leader.
He behaved diplomatically and discreetly and achieved what he hoped to achieve.
It was an insider job. There is a cartel.
Perhaps we should all put up our hands in a positive way in acknowledging that those on the inside who know the marketplace are saying that international investors are feeling increasingly comfortable about purchasing Irish bonds. Moreover, the National Treasury Management Agency succeeded last Tuesday in selling more than €1 billion in bonds, bringing the total raised from the sale of bonds this year to €33.8 billion.
We are obliged to raise more money in this way than any other European Government.
Senator Callely must be allowed to continue without interruption.
That offers a degree of encouragement.
My understanding is that the Land Registry has an index of registered owners of folios, which makes those owners readily identifiable, but that the Registry of Deeds includes no such provision, making it difficult to establish with certainty the owner of particular properties. A simple procedure should be followed when a deed is being registered in order to provide transparency in respect of ownership.
Will the Leader arrange a debate on the funding of local authorities? I have called for such a debate on numerous occasions and it is apt that it should take place now in light of the views expressed yesterday by the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, on the abolition of city and county councils. As Senator Cummins observed, the Minister has made statements on this matter on previous occasions. He is the Minister responsible for the mess in which local authorities currently find themselves and now he proposes to abolish them. However, the Minister is correct that local authorities do not have sufficient funding to fill potholes, cut bushes, maintain public lighting and so on. I hope the Leader will facilitate a debate on this issue before Christmas.
Will the Leader write to FIFA in regard to the injustice done to the Irish team arising from the clear double hand tap by a French player in the lead-up to that team's goal in last night's match? The Leader should request FIFA to adopt the system in operation in rugby where video playback is used to clarify these types of issues. This is not a frivolous matter.
It is a matter of great importance because it was this particular goal which qualified France for the World Cup, dashed the hopes of the Irish players to play in the international arena and ensured we lost out on the spin-off of that participation in terms of franchising, finance and so on. Although it was not intentional, an injustice has been done. Nor is it the first time such a high-profile controversy has arisen. In the 1980s English people were outraged when their team suffered the injustice of a clear handball goal from their opponents in a famous World Cup match. This is an issue of international concern and it will continue to be a cause of controversy until the situation is resolved.
I congratulate the Minister for Finance on the way he handled the appointment of the chief executive officer of Allied Irish Banks. I am amazed at the contention that he should have gone elsewhere because of the difficulties in the Irish banking sector. The reality is that by far the greatest difficulties were in the international banking sector; that is where the problems arose. Why then should we seek an international candidate? I have no doubt that if an international candidate had been appointed, the Opposition would be asking why an Irish person was not chosen.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Finance to clarify the remarks by the Governor of the Central Bank regarding the dangers of capping salaries and his intimation that this could lead to an engagement in risky loans? Has the culture in this regard not changed? If not, where does the regulator come in? This important issue is the lead story in today'sIrish Independent. I ask the Leader to bring a response from the Minister to the House next Tuesday as to what precisely the Governor means by “risky loans”. If we cannot be certain that such risky activity has been addressed then it is a very bad day for Ireland and we are all headed down the Swannee.
It is my understanding that every Member of this House is provided, upon election, with a copy of Standing Orders by the Clerk. The latter never disappoints us in terms of her efficiency. It is not appropriate for any Member to address the Cathaoirleach as Chairman. Standing Order No. 4 specifically states that the Cathaoirleach must be addressed as precisely that. It demeans the House if the Cathaoirleach is not addressed in a manner consistent with Standing Orders. One Member consistently fails to do so and I find that offensive. It brings the House into disrepute.
Is this relevant to the Order of Business?
It is related to the Order of Business. It is a point of order.
It is not a point of order. It is a matter for the Chair.
Will the Cathaoirleach direct the Member to address him in the appropriate manner?
Senator Leyden to his credit introduced the Registration of Wills Bill as a Private Members' Bill and it is time the other House took the Bill. I have received a number of complaints from constituents that would make one sit up and take note. The Bill was never more needed and I call on the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to indicate when the Bill will be brought forward in the Dáil and passed into law. I was spokesperson at the time Senator Leyden introduced this important Bill.
Responsibility for the legislation has been transferred to the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
I refer to the comments of the Ombudsman for Children regarding the accommodation provided for unaccompanied minors. I raised this issue last week on the Adjournment, as I have done on a number of occasions over the past two years. I referred, in particular, to the fact that residential accommodation for children with disabilities, unaccompanied minors and adults with intellectual disabilities is exempt from inspection. I was pleased with the Minister of State's response that next year a number of the residential units that house unaccompanied minors will be closed and, following a reorganisation, they will come under the remit of the inspectorate of children's services. The Minister of State noted that a result of the economic times we are in it will take a little longer for inspections of accommodation for adults with intellectual disabilities to be organised. Will the Leader arrange at this earliest convenience for the Minister for Health and Children to attend the Chamber? It is not acceptable that we can debate issues raised in the Ryan and Monageer reports, for example, and speak about the vulnerable people who were abused in the past and yet when it is within our capacity to ensure such abuse does not happen, we have not taken the steps necessary. I appreciate these are difficult economic times but none of us wants to look back in 20 years with regret that we did not expand the inspectorate.
Over the past year the Irish Farmers' Association and the Irish Exporters Association have called for a State supported short-term export credit insurance scheme. I raised this matter on the Order of Business last week and, subsequently, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment informed the IFA and the IEA that it would not provide this insurance. I call on the Minister to publish the KPMG report, which states not enough companies require this insurance and it does not affect many people. The multinationals are responsible for 90% of our exports while the remaining 10% are generated by indigenous companies, of which two thirds operate in the food and drinks industry. I demand that the report be published. The bureaucrats in the Department have no understanding of the pressures on indigenous food and drink companies, the rapid deterioration of sterling by 30% over the past two years, the lack of competitiveness, costs and so on. Jobs have been lost in the food industry and sales have dropped to €8 billion. We have a crisis in our indigenous industry and the bureaucrats in the Department employed KPMG to produce a report when they knew that 90% of companies, the multinationals, had their own insurance. I am calling for insurance to save our food and drinks companies.
I would like to be associated with Senators Twomey, O'Toole, Bacik, Coffey, Walsh, Norris, Ó Murchú, O'Reilly, Buttimer, Donohoe, Mullen, Callely and Healy Eames in congratulating the Irish team, its coach, the FAI and everyone associated with the team. They did Ireland proud. The players were magnificent, uplifting our people for two hours last night. An incredible injustice has been done to them and I hope FIFA will introduce video replays and follow the example of rugby and other sports. It was important to us as a small nation and I congratulate everyone concerned. It was one of the finest games of soccer I have ever seen an Irish team play.
With regard to all matters pertaining to the budget, a special debate will take place on Tuesday week, 1 December, and I look forward to everyone's contribution. It will be an all day debate without time limits.
Remarks were made about the IMF. This Government is experienced and the country is fortunate to have such an experienced Government.
It is experienced at leading the country into recession.
And paralysing the country.
With massive numbers of house repossessions and 400,000 unemployed.
I want to give the young Senators the benefit of my experience. On 9 December we will do as a Government what we had to do in 1987 when——
That is some experience.
——you lot put the country into the way it was.
We gave it back to Fianna Fáil in good hands.
The Leader should reply to the questions raised on the Order of Business.
You made a monumental mistake, Leader, and you know it. The Government has wrecked the economy.
I welcome the Taoiseach's comments last night. We can trust him as a former Minister for Health.
They were just words.
He is a caring Taoiseach who can be relied on regarding those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We have good pensions and we are here for as long as the people elect us. Those of us in secure positions are being called on to share and, in the national interest, we all have to do our bit. I look forward to us doing that for the next two years at least.
Senator O'Toole referred to the one-day strike. I wish it would not take place. I listened attentively to the Senator's contribution and to the serious concerns of many of his colleagues. Everyone in trades unions, Government and Opposition agrees €4 billion must be raised this year and again next year. A serious challenge confronts us all and party politics should be left outside the doors of both Houses for the next two years in the national interest in order that we play our part.
Fianna Fáil put us in the position we are in.
We have the great ability to do so and we should put our energies and our brains to the best use for the nation.
Senator Bacik called for a debate on climate change. That is a timely call and I will do everything I can to arrange the debate before the Copenhagen convention.
I thank the Leader.
The Senator asked for a debate on student charges. This could be raised during the budget debate but I have no difficulty allocating time for such a debate. She also called for a debate on mental health and prisons. Senator Corrigan asked for a similar debate and I have agreed this will take place.
Senators Leyden and Mullen called for a debate on the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Comments were made about asylum seekers and the abuse and disrespect of the human being. I will do anything I can to help in arranging a special debate on the issue. I will liaise with colleagues to see if it can take place before the Christmas recess.
Senator Coffey called for a debate on the Government's waste management policy announced today. I will arrange for that debate to be held and hope it can take place early in the new year.
Senator Walsh called for a debate on the right to life, capital punishment and everything related to that issue. I will have no difficulty in arranging such a debate.
Senators Norris and Buttimer called for a debate on the HSE and the great work done by carers, the unsung heroes of our society. I join the call that we support them in every possible way. They provide great value for money, assist the State and show great respect to senior citizens.
Senator O'Reilly outlined to the House the fact that one in every three restaurants was in danger of closure. I understand 80% of restaurants are losing money. I hope the Minister for Finance will address this in the budget. The restaurant trade is a large employer. The Senator outlined the difficulties being experienced in his own area. I also have much experience and know the importance of competitiveness, whether in wages or the cost of food and electricity. The second largest cost item on a balance sheet used to be insurance. It is now rates. If wages and other costs are being reduced, rates must be reduced also. Everyone is playing his or her part. The issue of rates must be addressed because they are threatening the tourism, leisure and restaurant industries. I agree with the sentiments expressed by my neighbour, Senator O'Reilly.
Senator Buttimer called for a debate on the funding of roads by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This is timely and will present a serious and long-term challenge. There will be no difficulty in allocating time for such a debate.
Senator Cummins asked if hospital consultants were doing the job for which they were being paid. He also asked the Minister for Health and Children to come to update the House on the matter. I will have no difficulty in arranging such a debate.
Senators Cummins and Burke referred to remarks made by the Minister for Transport about county and borough councils. County and borough councils have made a tremendous contribution during the years. I do not think this is the Minister, Deputy Dempsey's area of responsibility.
That is not what is reported in the newspapers. The Minister for Transport said he would abolish them.
It is the responsibility of another Minister. I fully support the sentiments expressed by Senator Cummins and salute those who are working hard in local councils and have, for generations, given of their time with little gratitude or recognition in return.
The Minister said he would abolish them.
I want to come back here too and we will be in a much more difficult position next time than Opposition Senators. They are in a privileged position.
Senators Callely and Hanafin expressed their support for the tremendous work being done by the Minister for Finance in the national interest in very difficult circumstances. I commend the Minister, as I did yesterday, and will assist him in every possible way in these very difficult times.
Senator Callely called for the Registry of Deeds to be fully computerised in order that everyone would know, at the touch of a button, the portfolio owner of every plot of land and property in the State. It is about time this happened and I support the Senator's call.
Senator Glynn made a very good point about Standing Orders. We should do everything we can to support the office of the Cathaoirleach. I, therefore, support the Senator's expressions. He also spoke in support of the Registration of Wills Bill, introduced by Senator Leyden. I will bring this matter to the attention of the Chief Whip to see if it can be progressed.
I thank the Leader.
Senator Mary White called for the introduction of a State supported export credit insurance scheme for the food industry. I agree with her and will arrange a debate on the KPMG report which is of the utmost importance.
Go raibh maith ag an Treoraí.
We must protect Irish jobs. We would not be worth our salt, as Senators, if we did not back their protection. I will discuss the matter with Senator White after the Order of Business and hope a debate can be arranged before Christmas.
I understand Senator Phelan is celebrating a joyous occasion today. We all congratulate him on the great event and look forward to participating with him later.