Order of Business.

As Leader of the House and on behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I welcome and congratulate Senator Paschal Mooney who, as we all know, was born, bred and reared in his native Drumshanbo, County Leitrim. This is a proud and memorable day for him, his wife, Sheila, and their children as he takes his seat in Seanad Éireann having been elected once more on the Agricultural Panel. As we all know, he was first elected to the Seanad in 1987 on the Cultural and Educational Panel and went on to contest successfully five elections. During that time he was Fianna Fáil's spokesman in the Seanad on foreign affairs and a member of many joint and House committees which he represented ably and well. He is also a past member and chairman of Leitrim County Council and County Leitrim VEC. Most recently he served as chairman of Fáilte Ireland North West.

Drawing on his vast wealth of knowledge and experience gained over many years in public life, Senator Mooney made a major contribution in respect of a wide range of topics discussed in this House. I have no doubt he will be equally vocal in his contributions to the 23rd Seanad. On behalf of everyone present and all those who have known Senator Mooney through the years, I warmly congratulate him. I look forward to working with him in the remaining two and a half years of this Seanad.

I call Senator Fitzgerald.

Are we taking the Order of Business?

I will announce it now.

That would be a great idea.

I thought the Leader had announced the Order of Business.

There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

In view of the fact that so many Members had indicated a wish to contribute, I thought the Leader had already announced the Order of Business.

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re allocation of time, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2010, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Bill 2009 — Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 2 and, if not previously concluded, to adjourn not later than 5.30 p.m. and resume at the conclusion of No. 37, on which spokespersons may speak for ten minutes and all other Senators for seven minutes and on which Senators may share time, by agreement of the House; and No. 37, Private Members' motion No. 21 re Seanad reform, to be taken at 5.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 7.30 p.m.

I join the Leader in congratulating Senator Mooney on his re-election to the Seanad. Those of us on this side of the House wish the Senator all the best. We look forward to working with him. We know he has a strong record of hard work in the House and he is welcome back.

As the House reconvenes, the country faces many challenges. I wish to focus on yesterday's announcement by the Minister for Finance in which he outlined the Government's approach to the banking crisis. When one examines past events, it is clear that the capacity of the powerful in this country to act in private and secret was a major factor in the collapse of the banking system and the damage to the economy. The idea that the investigation into the cause of that collapse should underpin this culture of privacy and secrecy is a damning indictment of the Government which is comprised of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. When the Leader announced the Order of Business, the very least I would have expected from him was an announcement to the effect that the Seanad would have an opportunity to discuss the inquiry to which I refer. The views of Members should have been sought on this topic today, particularly in view of fact that it is of concern to everyone and has been the subject of continual media coverage in recent days. If we are to restore credibility to the Dáil and Seanad and if we are serious about reform — the House is due to debate a motion on Seanad reform later this evening — we should have an opportunity to discuss this matter today. Even if Members on this side of the House disagree with the way the Government is proceeding, they should at least be given the opportunity to outline their views. In such circumstances, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to the effect that the House should discuss the banking inquiry today in order that Members might have an opportunity to indicate their views. Those on the Government benches ought to hear what those of us on this side have to say on the establishment of such an inquiry. The Dáil and Seanad are being undermined by the approach being taken by the Government. It is a very serious issue for all of us. At a time when people are so cynical about politics and there is so little faith in politics, it further adds to disillusionment and cynicism which we cannot afford.

I remind the Leader that he has promised a debate on A Vision for Change and mental health services. While the House was in recess the Inspector of Mental Health Services published another report. It is quite clear that A Vision for Change is not being implemented and I ask the Leader to do what he said he would do and have a debate in this House. This week is the fourth anniversary of A Vision for Change and it deserves a proper debate in this House.

I also wish to be associated with what the Leader and Senator Fitzgerald said in congratulating Senator Mooney on his re-election, welcoming him to the House and wishing him well in his restarted career. I wish him the best of luck. I hope he can bring some reform to his party's policies in certain areas, to which I look forward.

I completely agree with the points made by Senator Fitzgerald about the need for a discussion on the banking inquiry. It is not that I completely agree with the Opposition position on this, nor do I completely agree with the Government position. However, if something is being discussed everywhere else except in Seanad Éireann then there is something wrong about our arrangements. That is the crucial issue and it should be discussed here. We should also look at our own consciences. The airwaves are almost polluted now with politicians piously pontificating about everything around them. We can all look around and find fault with businesspeople, builders, bankers and others without looking at our own record, which leaves much to be desired.

In the past couple of weeks I looked back at some of the debates on the crucial issues. The most crucial issue in recent times was the establishment of the Financial Regulator in 2004. It is very interesting to look back on the debates held in this and the other House. Suffice it to say that all parties welcomed the legislation. The only voice raised against the Financial Regulator at that time came from these benches, where Senator Ross pointed out that it was utterly inadequate to deal with the issues that existed. However, at the end of the day it did not go to a vote — we all agreed to it, particularly the two main parties. On Committee Stage, Senator Cummins made a very strong argument that penalties against the banks in particular were far too low — how right he was. However, at the end of the day we voted for it.

The year before that in the establishment of the IASA legislation dealing with company regulation and the question of directors' compliance statements every single group in this House opposed my proposal on compliance statements so much so that the Minister of the day and then Tánaiste had to pull back having come under fierce pressure from Members of all parties and none and soften that provision. I firmly believe that if that directors' compliance statement had been implemented as it was originally drafted it would have led to a very easy conclusion as to what we do with bank directors who act improperly. I do not want to go into detail or mention anybody, but if we had done as we had requested at that stage, there would have been no doubt about it. However, at the end of the day we all voted for that legislation and people on all sides of the House talked about it being burdensome legislation.

I do not want to hear people talking about everyone else making mistakes. As many mistakes were made in these Houses and regulators were given insufficient power at all levels. Those two pieces of legislation were presented by then Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, whose final comment was that it was business-friendly legislation. That is what governed all that legislation. We also need to take some responsibility for what happened. Let us not walk away from our responsibilities here. We need to be very honest and straightforward about it. This is complex. It is not just about businesspeople and bankers. It is also about ourselves, the political classes. We did not give enough authority to regulators and others. Apart from the Members in my own group, the only people who gave me substantial support on the compliance statement were those in the Labour Party. Then Senator McDowell supported it strongly. The idea of a statement from directors of companies that they believed they acted correctly and honestly was considered a bridge too far. That is where we are and we should be absolutely clear that we have a great deal to answer for also.

I join the other voices in welcoming and congratulating Senator Mooney back to Seanad Éireann. I wish him every success — I hope he will not take this personally — in the short time he will be here.

He is not going to Europe yet.

I congratulate him and his family on his achievement.

I hope everybody's stay here will be just as short as Senator Mooney's. That was not a personal remark directed at him.

As regards the banks, Senators Fitzgerald and O'Toole are absolutely right. It is extraordinary that we are not discussing the issue today. I ask the Leader to address it directly. I suspect he will say there is an issue about the availability of Ministers. We respect that and understand the position. However, it is not necessary for the Minister for Finance or a Minister of State at the Department of Finance to be here for us to have a debate in the House. The proof is that each time we have discussed the banks, there has been a queue of Ministers in and out of the Seanad during the course of the debate. I believe I counted seven on one occasion. Therefore, it is not, in fact, necessary for a particular Minister to be here for us to have such a debate. I ask for it to take place today and respectfully second Senator Fitzgerald's motion to the Order of Business. We should debate the issue today because everybody else is talking about it.

The type of inquiry a committee of the Oireachtas may undertake is a live issue in the country. The Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara case is in place, on which I have two brief points to make. First, there is the question of the restrictions on the Oireachtas in making findings of fact which could touch on the personal culpability of individuals. I understand clearly that there is such a caveat contained within that decision. Second, there is the issue as to whether the Oireachtas ever had lawful authority to carry out such inquiries. These issues are very much on the table.

My party brought forward legislation in the other House to deal with the second of these two issues, but it was rejected by the Government. On the first issue, I do not accept that it is not possible for a committee of the Oireachtas to hold a meaningful inquiry into what went wrong in the banking system——

——without touching on the personal culpability of individuals because there are other places in which that matter should be dealt with. I am a strong supporter of those who say the criminal justice system is where criminal charges ought to be dealt with. However, this does not prevent serious politicians who claim to have credibility from having an inquiry into the lending practices of the banks to determine what strategies were in place, why AIB and Bank of Ireland now proclaim they had a difficulty because Anglo Irish Bank was doing certain things and they had to follow suit. We need to know what strategies were employed and, as Senator O'Toole rightly said, the history of regulation, including that by politicians. These issues do not turn on the personal culpability of individuals in terms of the level of criminality, rather they are legitimate questions which ought to be pursued in a public inquiry. I believe they could be dealt with, without any worries on a constitutional level, by a committee of the Oireachtas. We could deal with that matter in the debate, as I am sure the Cathaoirleach will tell me if I go on about it for too long.

The second issue I want to raise can be addressed by the Government, that is, the extraordinary statement or indication to the effect that the commission of inquiry will hold its investigations other than in public. What is the reason for this secrecy? What is the exact position? Last week the hapless Senator Boyle was telling the country that the Green Party was going to a deliver a public inquiry. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, has learned a great deal since he went into Government because he is telling us that black is white and that the inquiry will be held in public. It is a question of saying, in effect, "Well, we are a small party in government; we tried and pushed, but could not deliver." However, the Minister does not say this, rather he says it will be held in public. What exactly is going on?

Apparently, the Taoiseach said this morning that the commission of inquiry could decide to hold hearings in public. That is a different line. If he is prepared to contemplate the commission of inquiry deciding to hold hearings in public, what is stopping the Government from including it in the terms of reference that the inquiry will be held in public? There is an overwhelming public interest in this inquiry being held in public. The impact of what has happened to the banks and those to whom they loaned money is in the public domain. The 300,000 empty houses are there to be seen plainly by everybody and the impact on people's lives is also there to be seen. There should be an inquiry and it should be held in public.

I join others in welcoming Senator Mooney back to the House. I know the House will be a much better place for his participation. In my first term here, I learned much from him and I hope to continue to learn from him as he participates in debates up to 2012. I am sure we are all confident that this Administration will serve its full term.

I would not count on it.

Contrary to other speakers, I welcome yesterday's announcement that we are going to have an inquiry into the banking crisis. Last week, there were many empty seats at the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service when we discussed the issue. I welcome the fact, however, that many more people want to discuss it now. I welcome the Government's approach whereby we will have two preliminary reports, one by the Central Bank and another by a so-called wise international expert. That will help us to frame the appropriate terms of reference for a statutory commission to investigate this matter. Like anybody else, including all my colleagues, I share the anger over why we are in these difficulties. Much pain is being felt by many householders all over the country as a result of a reckless regulatory financial regime, internationally and nationally.

I would love it if we could line people up, metaphorically speaking. However, it would seem the media and others would like, in reality, to see the guillotine set up in St. Stephen's Green to begin the beheadings. Thankfully, however, we have due process. I am confident it will provide us with the pound of flesh which all of us rightfully seek. I believe the public deserve it. I am not prepared, however, to tell the Munster team — to use a metaphor — next Friday night that by their team selection today they will lose the game. Unlike Fine Gael which would like to abolish this House, I still have some respect for our democratic institutions. I believe in this Administration's capacity to establish the necessary terms of reference to give people peace of mind and give them their rightful pound of flesh, which they deserve.

I wish to call for a much more important debate on the draft legislative package on reforming the EU's financial supervisory and regulatory framework. After all, that is what will ensure that this mess will not recur. I am seeking that debate as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Having listened to Senator Boyle earlier in the week, I understood it was most likely that we would have a public inquiry. Instead, however, we will have this whitewashed, secret approach behind closed doors. Senator MacSharry is in cloud-cuckoo land if he thinks it will deliver, especially as it will not be transparent, which is the bottom line. We all want a meaningful public inquiry. My sympathy goes to Mr. Honohan, the Governor of the Central Bank, concerning how he will investigate his own staff. There are questions about the legality of that and whether he will be able to deliver upon it. I am very disappointed about this matter.

I wish the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, well in facing his difficult illness. He has all my sympathy as well as that of my constituents in County Westmeath. I want to let him know that, on a personal level, we are very supportive of him and the way in which he has dealt with this sad news. I am sure he will do very well in every way, however.

I support Senator Fitzgerald's comments on A Vision for Change, the report of the expert group on mental health policy. The Leader has given commitments that we would have such a debate. Senator Corrigan has always advocated a debate on that report. Two wards in our local hospital, St. Loman's, were cited as being unfit for human habitation. That is shameful in this day and age. It is urgent that we have a debate on A Vision for Change.

I share Senator McFadden's views on the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, whom I wish a very speedy recovery. He is a courageous man and has given great leadership. He has proved to be a tremendous Minister for Finance. He has shown great courage in his difficulties and has greatly encouraged those with similar difficulties. We wish him every success. We very badly need him to continue to work for us.

I join Senators in commending Senator Paschal Mooney on his return to the House. He is an extremely able politician. He put up a great performance in the elections to the European Parliament on 5 June. He received an enormous number of votes in the North West constituency. It was a great achievement in the circumstances. The Senator guaranteed a seat for Fianna Fáil in the European Parliament. I know what it is like being out of the House for a number of years and I was out four times longer than Senator Mooney. It is great that he is back and I am delighted he is here. This Chamber is back to where it was in the past. I wish the Senator well.

Senators Norris and O'Toole tabled a motion on so-called head shops, which matter was raised on the Joe Duffy show, "Liveline". There is an Adjournment Matter tabled on this subject also but I do not know whether it has been accepted. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Curran, to the House to discuss head shops? Senator Wilson raised the issue in November 2008 when he fought a very serious campaign on the growth of so-called head shops. In an article in theIrish Mail on Sunday on 17 January it was stated the new cocaine in the head shops is 100% legal. Head shops are using a loophole in the law to flood our cities with drugs that have tipped youngsters into a life of psychiatric treatment. The article reveals the shocking truth behind what occurs. The article was by Dr. Chris Luke of University College Hospital, Cork, who said young people will die as a result of the availability of these drugs.

It has come to our attention that there is a proposal to open a head shop in Roscommon town. This is causing tremendous concern. There was a protest on Castle Street, Roscommon, on this issue. It is not a question of any one shop because they are technically legal. They are paying their rates.

That is mentioned in motion No. 22.

I recognise the motion and commend the Senators thereon.

I am glad the Senator is following Joe Duffy in regard to the motions he tables.

We are not promoting the Joe Duffy programme in the House.

This is a very serious issue. There are serious drugs being peddled in these shops and they are causing life-long difficulties for young people. We have a duty in this House to address the problem. I recommend to Senators Norris and O'Toole that they introduce a Private Members' Bill on this matter and try to bring it through this House as quickly as possible. It is a matter of grave urgency. Something must be done about it immediately. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, or the Minister of State, Deputy Curran, to address it in the House. The national drug control centre should also be involved. It is a total anomaly that head shops are allowed to operate. People are very concerned. Approximately 70 people were protesting this morning in Roscommon. This reflects concerns about such shops throughout the country. The shops represent the greatest growth industry and the drugs are extremely dangerous. They are a replacement for the illegal drugs that are available on the streets.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, namely, that we take No. 1 with discussion at the conclusion of the Order of Business.

I congratulate my good friend, Senator Paschal Mooney, who is one of the finest orators I have ever heard in this House. He lent his eloquence to the defence of human rights consistently during his previous term in the House. I take pleasure in welcoming him back.

There are some sad things happening, particularly the election of Mr. Scott Brown in Massachusetts. This is appalling when one considers that he has been elected in the heart of liberal Irish-America to replace Senator Edward Kennedy. The American people, in spite of everything they know about Iraq, have elected somebody who openly espouses waterboarding and says it is appropriate to torture people. He is not fit to be elected. The American people in that constituency have shown themselves not to be fit to carry the torch of western values. They certainly do not speak for me.

There was welcome news in the legislative programme that I received from the Department of the Taoiseach today. It lists the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill. Will the Leader inform the House when this Bill will be finalised? It is an important fund. I have worked with Ms Trina Vargo, one of those involved in it, and it does much credit to the country. The Mitchell scholarships are so highly regarded that last year a potential student turned down an interview for a Rhodes scholarship to come to Ireland on one. It is the best public relations Irish universities could possibly have. The former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and the Taoiseach have said the scholarships would be supported. I am glad that after a long delay the financial measures to match funding will be put in place. I would be grateful if the Leader could give some information on the exact status of the Bill.

Since the House last sat, several issues have emerged which have been good, distressing, sad and horrific. One of the good news stories was the re-election of Senator Paschal Mooney to the House. One of the distressing items was the Minister for Finance's illness and how it was brought into the public domain. The sad matter was thedeath of Cardinal Daly. I was privileged to be at his funeral, a very joyous occasion in a sad way.

In October I commended people working together for new beginnings for Northern Ireland. One of the new beginnings was the Gaelic football tournament between the PSNI, the Garda, the New York Police Department and the London Metropolitan Police Service, held in south Belfast and which the Democratic Unionist Party Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Mr Nelson McCausland, attended.

That week the PSNI team was captained by Peadar Heffron. He now remains in a critical but stable condition in the Royal Hospital, Belfast. Having visited the hospital, I commend Peadar, his wife, Fiona, and their families for their dedication, quiet dignity and great determination to see him through his horrific attack.

Will the Leader set aside an hour this week to allow us to say those people who dare to say they carry out these attacks in the name of republicanism are not representing the people of any part on this island? We must say these attacks are not acceptable, that we have moved on and that the Good Friday Agreement was accepted by the majority of the people of this island. If these attacks are an effort to stop Gaelic-speaking, Gaelic football players joining the PSNI, we must be of one voice to say it is not acceptable and it does not represent us or any others on this island.

If we left such a debate go beyond this week, we would do a disservice to our future. We have a new future, signalled by many events but none more so than that particular football tournament in October. I would like to think the House, all parties united, will send a clear and loud message of condemnation from the Twenty-six Counties to our friends in the Six Counties. We must say these attacks are not what we want and do not represent our views. Instead, we want to see those who blew up this gentleman caught and prosecuted. Anyone with any information should come forward. We must be clear in our unity on this subject.

Senators

Hear, hear.

There were many events during the Christmas and festive season which warrant comment today, one of which I would like to mention, namely, the death of Mr. Jens Bang, a Danish citizen and former European Commission official and my father-in-law. I have a specific reason for mentioning this event. In Denmark, when a person dies, the death is recorded in a central register, thus ensuring all public authorities, including the tax authorities and those who deal with pensions and social welfare issues and the electoral register, as well as banks, doctors and dentists, are immediately informed of the death. That is how the Danish system works. This means that in Denmark it is not possible for a person to claim for 23 years the pension of a dead person, as occurred here and reported in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on 15 January. The amount involved was €140,000.

We have had repeated public statements from the Minister for Social and Family Affairs on the need to tackle social welfare fraud and reports on this matter from the Comptroller and Auditor General. There are also problems with the electoral register. Late last year there was reference to dentists arranging appointments for dead people. Such instances of fraud and criminality are resulting in bleeding of funds from the public purse. We need to consider the introduction of an integrated civil registration system as in place in Denmark to ensure our public authorities have the basic information required to deal with fraud, the cheating of the system and ensure they are in a position to provide an effective service. We have a PPS number system, but it does not work. There have been recent reports of PPS numbers being traded. In investigating issues for a few individuals I learned that people often have two PPS numbers accorded to them, which is creating problems in the system. We need to put in place an essential administrative infrastructure in this regard. A starting point should be the introduction of an integrated civil registration system of the type mentioned. I ask the Leader to allow time for a debate on this matter with a view to dealing with the issue of wholesale fraud on the public purse at a time when the public finances are so stretched.

I welcome Senator Mooney back to the House and congratulate him on his election. We have had the honour of representing County Leitrim for more than 20 years. While the region is not represented in the Dáil, it has two representatives in the Seanad to fight its cause. I also take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Mooney's family. They were involved in politics a long time before I became involved in County Leitrim. I have no doubt that it is heart warming for his wife and family to see him returned to the Seanad. When speaking to him yesterday, I mentioned that it must be a source of comfort to attend a count knowing what the result would be.

It is true that Seanad by-election counts do not have much space for what might be described——

——as people who are in the mood to watch a political bloodbath and the casting of political sweat, as we have all witnessed.

Today air traffic controllers went on strike for four hours. While we all accept people have a right to strike, in so doing the air traffic controllers disrupted air travel and caused the cancellation of up to 160 flights. I do not believe all of the available methods to solve the dispute, by way of the various resources available to employers and unions, were utilised. This serious issue must be addressed. It might be useful if we were to have a debate in the House on how unions and employers deal with such strikes. I would call this a wildcat strike. It cannot be called anything else, but the damage it does to this country and to the outside view of it is something that must be looked at. I am asking this in the hope that the Leader will arrange for a debate on how the labour laws are used to deal with and try to prevent strikes. Today's action does nothing only cause serious disruption to people who want to travel and, on top of that, it damages the good name of Ireland in the international scene.

I join others in welcoming Senator Mooney to the House. I have not had the pleasure of working with him previously, given that I am a relatively new Senator, but I look forward to doing so in the future.

I ask the Leader for a debate on overseas aid. It is a topic that is uppermost in many of our minds as we see the horrific effects of the dreadful earthquake in Haiti. It certainly put our problems with water shortages, the big snow and the freeze, etc. into perspective for all of us in the past week. I congratulate the Government on sending aid so promptly to Haiti. However, it shows the need for us to ensure we maintain our levels of overseas aid spending which I was distressed to see cut in the budget. A debate on this would be appropriate at this time.

I also want to raise a different issue for debate with the Leader, that is, the effect of the public sector pay cut on a particular group of individuals, namely, research contract staff in universities and third level institutions. This was raised with me by the Trinity Research Staff Association, but clearly it has implications across third level institutions. It seems that these contract staff, many of whom are paid by the private sector by trusts and research funds and who have no security of employment because they are only on contract, will be made subject to the public sector pay cut as if they were civil servants or tenured public servants. If we cannot have a debate, I wish to table a matter on the Adjournment. I will have support from my colleagues among the university Senators. It is an issue we need to look at.

I support the call made by Senators Fitzgerald, Alex White and O'Toole for a debate on the banking inquiry. Listening to an interview with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, it really seems as if the Green Party and Fianna Fáil are speaking about two different inquiries to be conducted in parallel, one in private and one in public, one with a short timeframe and one which could go on until after the next election. In terms of the timeframe and the way the inquiry is to be conducted, it seems that the Green Party and Fianna Fáil are speaking in two voices.

Twin-track approach.

We need to know the exact nature of the inquiry. When the Minister, Deputy Gormley, states he is satisfied with the shape of it, all we can conclude is that this inquiry is likely to be pear-shaped because it does not seem it is being put together with any sort of coherence. It reminds me of a quote in the US used famously in the 1960s — the rich get richer and the poor get prison. In the US they have reformed their criminal justice structures on white collar crime to ensure people are made accountable where the banking system collapsed and inquiries were conducted in a timely fashion. We have much to learn from that. Unfortunately, in Ireland, it seems the rich still get richer and the poor still get prison.

I welcome and congratulate Senator Mooney, a Senator once again. It is nice to see him in the Chamber. I hope he enjoys what I hope to be two more years of a full term or, indeed, two and a half years.

On the banking inquiry, we need to establish the terms of reference but it is interesting to hear everyone getting into such a lather of sweat over it when the terms of reference have not yet been decided. I hope that, collectively, we will all come to agree those terms of reference. We need to keep in mind the objective of such an inquiry.

That is correct.

The impression one gets here is that some want to see some politicians out skewered on a spit. That will not serve any purpose. We do ourselves an injustice if we allow such an inquiry to take place.

I have heard people say there is no one better than Professor Patrick Honohan, who was just appointed to his new role, to have that independent overseeing role.

What is the big secret then?

When that is decided, people then change their mind on it. What we all need to do for our country is ensure we continue to have the confidence of the international banking sector, which was certainly the case after the budget last month. What the country needs is a robust banking system. Yes, we need an inquiry, but, by God, let us have a good one that will help us to build a better banking system for the country. Let us not play politics with the issue. We will have an opportunity to have a political dimension when there is an election. Time and again one hears it suggested the people do not want it. The reality is that the Government was elected and continues to enjoy the support of both Houses of the Oireachtas. Until that changes there will not be an election and the parties in government will continue in office.

On that note, there is a little good news, although it goes to show that good news stories never make the news. Last week we heard our very fine Minister for Health and Children inform the country of a development. Unfortunately, at an earlier stage she had to postpone screening for cervical cancer for young girls but it is now being introduced.

Only for first years.

Better than that——

It is only for first years.

No interruptions, please.

What she got for the country was value for money.

What about second years?

She put it up to those providing the service and stated they would not be able to provide the service——

What about the value of a life?

I am surprised at the Members heckling me.

No interruptions, please.

The Minister saved the country a fortune. It is more like her we need who will not simply say "Yes" at any price.

The Senator is right.

One negotiates; in that way one will have a better public service for all the people. I am just sorry the Opposition did not take the opportunity to applaud her. I hope we will have the same level——

There was a report in the health supplement withThe Irish Times yesterday that indicated how much more expensive screening was in Ireland than in other places. The Minister stated to the pharmaceutical companies that they should give the vaccine to us at the going price in England. It is high time we achieved such value for money.

More of such tough negotiators as her is what we want.

What about second and third years?

Members, please. There should be no interruptions.

It would be lovely to hear the Opposition applaud the Minister. That is my final point on the matter. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.

In the last session the Leader promised that we would have a debate on the issue of domestic violence. It is early days but I again call on the Leader to make it one of our priorities. I realise many are expecting to listen to such a debate which I hope the Leader will arrange in the very near future.

I wish to be associated with the warm words of welcome for Senator Mooney. He always contributed well here and we look forward to witnessing him continuing in that vein. I also wish to be associated with the words of welcome for his wife, Sheila, and family.

We all have our own views on how the banking inquiry should proceed, what its terms of reference should be and so on. However, the fact is that the public has a right to know the truth. As legislators, we have a right to ensure it knows the truth. Some €54 billion in bonds will be issued to the banks in the coming months when the transfers begin to roll through to NAMA which is a done deal at this stage. We hope for the sake of the country that it will be successful. However, my major concern is that we get the economy working properly again. To this end, we need a robust banking system. However, the banks are not positioning themselves properly to restore confidence and win back trust.

Despite the few honourable exceptions who fell on their sword, let us consider the many who still serve on boards and in senior management positions. These are the ones who made gross mistakes, steered us onto the rocks, signed off on irregular and risky lending practices. None of this should have taken place. They were misadventures. Surely their removal could take place without prejudicing an inquiry. The public interest directors appointed by the Government should insist on this, if necessary at the direction of the Government, as we must get the economy working. Sadly, this will not happen without a robust banking system. For that reason I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Fitzgerald.

I welcome Senator Mooney back to the House. He gave great service to his county of Leitrim for many years and I know he will continue to do so. Leitrim is now very well served with two great Senators. I am delighted to see the Senator back, for himself and his family, and I believe he will be able to make a major contribution to this House.

I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport to the House to discuss emergency funding for roads, particularly the minor roads in south Carlow. Carlow was badly affected and was one of the coldest places during the 30-day period. The temperatures there were -10° Celsius and -15° Celsius. Consequently, the smaller roads in the south Carlow and Mount Leinster areas have suffered greatly. Kilometres of road have disintegrated and families are now cut off from going into the town of Borris to do their normal day-to-day shopping. Farmers are cut off in that area when they try to get to their lands and farms to feed their sheep and cattle. There should be an emergency fund, not necessarily for County Carlow, but for roads that were very badly damaged during that particular bad period. From what I can see in the south Carlow area, what happened was that the extreme frost and the flooding disintegrated at least four to five kilometres of road, which is phenomenal. I would like to see the Minister in the House for a full debate on that. I am sure there are other parts of the country that suffered equally badly. I would like to see the Minister holding an inquiry into the areas that were badly affected in order that money can get directly to them first. There are areas that suffered somewhat but this is extreme and something should be done about it.

I concur with Senator O'Malley in supporting the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and what she has done. She has done a great deal for the young people of this country by getting good value for money. There is a lesson to be learned in every Department, namely, that when one is spending money of that magnitude one must look for the best price for the product one is buying. For far too long in this country we allowed ourselves to pay more than our European partners pay. I congratulate the Minister in that regard. However, I ask her to look at the situation in accident and emergency departments, one of the areas in health that is letting us down badly. If it could be solved a great number of problems in the health services would be dealt with and brought up to the standards we deserve.

I add my words to those congratulating Senator Pascal Mooney. He is very talented and has shown a great interest in a wide-ranging number of topics. I am delighted to have him back. He has been a Member of the House ever since I came to the House 16 years ago and I have always found him very interesting.

That is a great record.

I support Senator Norris's call for a debate on the first item. The best part of the proceedings of this House very often takes place on the Order of Business. To restrict that is something we should decide not behind closed doors but in this House and, therefore, I formally second the motion made by Senator Norris.

I have a concern about the unbridled use and right to strike. The air traffic controllers' strike today is a disgrace.

We have a real problem with the economy. We must get our costs down, become competitive and use modern technology. For people to close down, not only our airports and the aeroplanes that fly from and into them but also all passing traffic across the Atlantic which must now veer away from us, is not acceptable. The air traffic controllers in the US went on strike the very week former US President Reagan was inaugurated in 1981. He told them that if they did not go back to work, they would be dismissed and would never work again as air traffic controllers. He stuck to his word and there has been no strike by air traffic controllers in the United States since.

I am a great admirer of this House, the Constitution and how we do things in this country. However, when one looks abroad one can see other ways of doing things. I can offer three examples. A commission of inquiry into the Iraq war is taking place in the British Houses of Parliament. The inquiry has brought former Prime Ministers and others before it. It is open to the public and its work is visible. It is clear that it is investigating this issue. I am not sure why we cannot do that. Perhaps the Abbeylara inquiry has something to do with it or perhaps the Constitution does not permit it. If so, we must re-examine how we do these things.

The second relates to something mentioned by Senator Ivana Bacik, namely, how the Americans deal with white collar crime. Bernie Madoff was in handcuffs and in jail within weeks of being caught. Perhaps the reason is that he admitted his guilt, but it is an awfully long time since we have found anybody guilty of white collar crime in this country. There might be something we could do differently in that regard.

Third, I drive a German car. When I got the car it already contained a first aid kit and a triangle for use in case of an emergency. I understand this is the law in Germany and France. The first aid kit costs €10 to €15, while the triangle costs €5 to €10. It would not be a huge cost to introduce legislation in this regard, particularly when one considers the last few weeks and the accident rate we experienced.

On that basis, there are some things we can learn from other countries. Many of the standards we have set in this country have been followed in other countries. Let us ensure we do not close our eyes to the fact that sometimes we can learn from what happens elsewhere too.

I welcome back our colleague, Senator Paschal Mooney. He was and is a very conscientious and diligent parliamentarian. In this instance it is gratifying that the person who was most deserving of the position got it.

Will the Leader arrange for a debate on the Government's proposal to investigate the banks, which I fully support? The question at issue is not very difficult. It is about lending, the amount of lending and the purpose of the lending. To suggest there is something untoward to be found other than the answer to that question is not realistic. The majority of the people who work in the banks have done their job correctly and well. However, there were a few who did not, and there was a rule from the top which dictated the policy on lending. The biggest difficulty was the type of lending. It appears to have been off balance sheet or off the public accounts. People were getting massive bonuses, in line with those in New York, not on the quality of the lending but on its volume. The upshot has been that the banks and the people who owned the banks have had their share values virtually wiped out. The practices of the bank officials who were responsible for that must be checked in the future. Given that the new Basel requirements will mean less bank lending because the reserve ratios will be higher, we must ensure that whatever lending takes place in the economy is well and properly directed.

Third, I wish to raise the proposed debate on Haiti and the necessary work taking place there. I praise the Americans in particular in that regard. They receive terrible criticism at times, yet we see them doing wonderful work in ensuring their neighbourhood is well looked after by getting in there quickly with as much aid as possible. That should be commented on and commended. If they are looking for expertise for rebuilding Haiti, the Israelis could give them good advice on how to rebuild a nation.

They can give good advice on how to demolish it.

I wish Members of the House well for the new year and congratulate Senator Mooney on his re-election to this House. In particular, I wish the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, well with his recovery.

I have two questions for the Leader. Will he ask the Taoiseach to confirm that he will do the same for all public servants as he did for the senior civil servants? In a sneaky Cabinet move on 23 December, their pay cuts of 12% and 15%, respectively, were reversed to 3% and 5%, respectively. What was that about? How could it be fair? Why is he giving preferential treatment to senior civil servants who are on salaries of more than €165,000 per annum? This is where public trust and confidence has been lost. Is it the case that the Taoiseach is afraid of them? Are they covering up for the Government? I would respect a response to this question from the Taoiseach, through the Leader of the House. I will persist with this question until I get an answer.

There is another cover-up with the banking inquiry. If there is nothing to cover up, why is it not being held in public? We need three dimensions to the banking inquiry. Senator MacSharry said there was regulatory recklessness, but there might also have been political recklessness. Did the concept of the Financial Regulator not originate from the office of the Minister for Finance? At the time the Minister for Finance was the current Taoiseach. There must be openness if there is to be a banking inquiry. In fact, we should not have a banking inquiry at all unless it is open and transparent. Let us not waste any more public money and our very scant resources. The way the inquiry is currently framed is a sham. Does the Taoiseach have respect for the taxpayers, whose futures have been mortgaged, whose homes are at risk and who have lost their jobs? He is seeking to waste their money on an inquiry that is less than transparent.

I look forward to receiving replies to those two questions from the Taoiseach through the Leader of the House.

I welcome Senator Paschal Mooney to the House. His contribution to Irish life is well known throughout the country.

Like Senator Hanafin, I commend the United States on its efforts in Haiti. Too often people in this country criticise the United States at every opportunity but when given a chance to praise it for its great efforts, they remain silent.

Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, to the House to discuss the steps that must be taken with regard to Kenmare hospital to ensure planning permission is obtained, the tendering process proceeds and the facility is put in place this year?

I wrote a letter to her about it the other day.

Members can discuss that later. I call Senator O'Reilly.

I congratulate my neighbour, Senator Paschal Mooney, on his re-election to the Seanad and wish him well. I ask him to convey our good wishes to Sheila and the family. As I was first elected to the House on the Cultural and Educational Panel with Senator Mooney, I know him very well. We have always worked well together. He is certainly a very fine parliamentarian and has a great grasp of the issues.

The people we represent have been watching for something in recent months. They were watching, first, to see if there would be an inquiry into the banking sector and, second, to see if the inquiry would have any meaning or depth. In a manner of speaking, we have given them an inquiry, but we have failed the people in that it is not open and transparent. It is bad for democracy, this Parliament and the political process. It is wrong that hard-pressed taxpayers whose wages have been affected by these events must be told on television that there will be a secret inquiry and no open or transparent process.

In matters of public policy and public administration, there is no need for a commission-style inquiry. The inquiry should have been held in an open forum. It should have been an Oireachtas inquiry. Notwithstanding the Abbeylara case, it would have been possible to examine policies, decision making processes, administration and public policy. We have done the people and ourselves a wrong because we have added to the public's cynicism and disillusionment and people's disconnect from the Houses, which is a great pity. We should have had an accountable process in this Parliament.

Senator Quinn made an interesting point when he cited the UK's inquiry into the Iraq war as a comparison. Prime Ministers, the great and the good are being brought forward to be questioned in public. It might not be too late for us yet. Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Government to consider changing the inquiry. Otherwise, it will be a disgrace. The IMF reckons that our banking crisis will cost taxpayers approximately €24 billion. It is not right that they will not see a public inquiry. The Americans who started their revolution of independence stated, "No taxation without representation," which was the battle cry at the Boston tea party.

Questions to the Leader.

There should be no cuts in people's incomes without their seeing what is occurring.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I join others in congratulating Senator Paschal Mooney on his return to the Seanad. I knew him for many years while I was a county councillor and I always believed he presented a positive and professional image of the Seanad. He will continue doing so.

Those of us involved in party politics know that loyalty is easy when one is winning, but not so easy when one is not winning. Despite the fact that Senator Mooney accrued more than 40,000 votes and might not have been treated in the most tender fashion by his party, he stayed loyal. I am delighted he has reaped the reward for this and for his abilities.

Will the Leader raise a matter with the Minister for Transport and, if necessary, ask him to appear in the House for a debate on safety procedures at Dublin Airport? In recent days, a number of incoming flights needed to be diverted to Belfast and elsewhere. A small number of landings needed to be aborted virtually at the last minute. I am informed this is due to the airport's low-visibility fog system not working effectively. During slack periods late at night and early in the morning, groundworks were carried out on some of the runways. When freezing fog is the norm, safety should always be first and development works on runways should be second. I believe my information is correct and I experienced one of the flights in question. Will the Leader raise this issue with the Minister as a matter of urgency?

I agree with Senator O'Malley's remarks concerning the Minister for Health and Children. There was a resounding silence to the recent good news, but the Minister has been pilloried for the past ten years.

That is not true.

She has been vindicated. She is a woman of strength and prudence and should be recognised as someone who puts the taxpayer and the health of the nation first.

I congratulate Senator Mooney on his re-election to the House. I am sure he will do a wonderful job as usual.

I express my sincere sympathy, solidarity and support for the people of Haiti. I compliment the response of the Irish aid agencies in particular and the Government. It is imperative that we give every assistance possible to the people in that disaster. I am sure we will get an opportunity to discuss the matter at a later stage.

I compliment Senators Norris and O'Toole and the other Independent Members on putting motion No. 22 on the agenda. I hope it will be addressed as a matter of urgency. Head shops are causing havoc and severe health problems for many. There is no control, licensing or regulation of the products being sold. Will the Minister for Health and Children attend the House immediately to address this problem? Last year, Senators Wilson and McFadden raised the matter of BZP, which thankfully was banned a number of days later. All of the products being sold in the shops in question must be controlled and licensed, since they are doing untold harm to many of the people using them. I ask that the motion be dealt with as a matter of urgency and that the Minister attend the House to respond to people's concerns.

I join Senator Keaveney in expressing disgust at the car bombing of a gentleman in the PSNI. He is fluent in Irish and played Gaelic games. We should hang our heads in shame that he was treated like this by so-called republicans. Those thugs should be brought to justice urgently irrespective of whether they are receiving succour on this or the other side of the Border.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I will be brief, as the Cathaoirleach is under pressure for time. I congratulate my good friend and colleague, Senator Mooney, on his election to the Seanad. I pay tribute to him for his dedication and commitment to the House and various organisations for two decades. I warmly congratulate him, Sheila and his family. We have missed him for the past two and a half years. He mentioned that he might require a pairing soon, but I hasten to say that he should consider himself to have been paired for the past two and a half years and that no pairings will be forthcoming in the near future.

Like many Senators, I welcome the Government's inquiry into the banks. While this might not satisfy some inside and outside the House, I am confident the Government is doing as much as it can not to hinder the investigations carried out by the Financial Regulator and the Garda. I look forward to the outcome of all the investigations.

As Senator Coghlan and others have pointed out, the public have a right to know what went wrong in our banking system. However, it is important that we not take our eye off the ball in terms of banks. Small and large businesses have closed and are about to close the length and breadth of the country simply because they cannot get credit. This is the public's most immediate concern. No credit is available, but the banks are, if the House will excuse my unparliamentary language, screwing the ordinary person daily. We should not let them off the hook in this respect.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Senator Cummins pointed out that Senators McFadden, Healy Eames and Keaveney and I campaigned for more than two years to have the party pill BZP banned, given its detrimental effect throughout the country. We should not rest on our laurels in that regard. We should continue campaigning and fighting and we should highlight, on a daily basis, the destruction these head shops are causing in towns and villages throughout the country. The House should debate No. 22 on the Order Paper in the names of Senators Norris and O'Toole as quickly as possible. The latter should take the form of an all-party motion.

I pay tribute to Andrew Grene, a native of Belturbet, County Cavan, who was tragically killed while working for the United Nations in Haiti. I take this opportunity to offer my condolences to Mr. Grene's relatives and friends in Belturbet.

I join previous speakers in offering congratulations to Senator Mooney. I wish the Senator well in the future. I also join Senators McFadden and Healy Eames in wishing the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, a speedy recovery from his challenging illness. My mother has just finished treatment for cancer and, thankfully, has fully recovered. I am aware of the difficult treatment regime to which the Minister will be subjected and I wish him the very best as he faces into it. To date, the Minister has dealt with his illness with courage and dignity.

Will the Leader arrange time for an urgent debate on the state of the public water supply system? That system is creaking at the seams and on the first occasion on which it faced a challenge it was unable to cope. In 2007 Forfás compiled an extremely informative report on our national water supply system and concluded that we spend over €500 million per annum to produce drinking water. Some 48% of that water is lost or simply disappears during the journey from treatment plants to people's taps. When it reaches people's homes, only 15% of it is used for drinking. The remainder is flushed down toilets or used to wash cars, water gardens etc.

There is a need for an urgent and radical reappraisal of how we produce and use drinking water. As part of its NewEra document, Fine Gael proposed the establishment of a semi-State national water supply company. I wholeheartedly support this concept. It is farcical that there is no interconnection among the 34 local authorities when it comes to water supplies. One could imagine what would happen if the ESB had 34 electricity generating stations located in the various counties and if the supplies provided by these terminated at county borders. It would be as ridiculous as that which obtains in respect of water supplies.

On Monday morning last, the River Avoca in County Wicklow burst its banks but there were people in south Dublin who had no water. In south Galway, thousands of acres of land remain flooded while some 50% of the towns in the county, including that in which I live, have not had water since Christmas day. It is farcical that we are doing nothing to collect a resource which falls from the sky, free of charge.

Sustainable Energy Ireland, which administers the greener homes scheme, has sensibly put in place a grant-aid system in respect of solar panels, pellet-fuelled stoves etc. This represents a wise employment of Government funds to encourage a more sustainable use of a natural resource. It is time we considered water harvesting as a mechanism to ensure we have a constant and reliable water supply. Provision in this regard should be made within the grant-aid system to which I refer.

On this our first sitting day in 2010, I wish everyone well and look forward to working with all Senators in making good progress with our endeavours. I join previous speakers in congratulating Senator Mooney, his wife, Sheila, his family and friends on his re-election to the House. I wish the Senator well.

I also offer my condolences to Senator Regan on the death of his father-in-law. The Senator raised a very interesting issue in the context of the Danish system of control relating to statutory authorities. I believe some work in that regard has been done in this country. There are issues in respect of data protection, the sharing of information and the creation of big brother scenarios. I listened with interest to Senator Regan's comments and perhaps it might be possible to make progress along the lines to which he refers.

I am of the view that the vast majority of people have a low threshold for strike action and industrial unrest. Members of the public recognise that more productive outcomes can be achieved by way of negotiating. It is regrettable that due to the fact that new equipment which is designed to improve air passenger safety was being introduced, air traffic controllers felt compelled to take action. The latter was followed by a reaction from the Irish Aviation Authority, which gave rise to the situation in which we now find ourselves. Those involved should seek a resolution without delay.

I listened with interest to the comments of previous speakers in respect of a banking inquiry. Both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have stated that the public is entitled to a full examination in respect of what went wrong. The Government is intent on providing what everyone wants, namely, an inquiry into what went wrong. I received a document from a former Fine Gael Minister — it made for interesting reading — who has been through a tribunal of inquiry. Anyone who has not already read the document to which I refer should do so. The document would lead one to say that we should learn from our past mistakes with regard to the appointment of tribunals of inquiry, some of which did not fulfil the purpose for which they were established.

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have endeavoured to establish an inquiry, restore public and international confidence in the Irish banking system and do that which was outlined by Senator Wilson. We need a functioning banking system because there are individuals and small and large businesses which are suffering, not as a result of bad practices employed or decisions taken by people within the banks but because of a lack of liquidity in the system. A cash injection is required in order that we might kick-start the economy. If a debate is to take place in the House in respect of the inquiry, provision should be made to discuss fully the liquidity that will be injected into the system in each of the four financial quarters of this year.

I also welcome the re-election of Senator Mooney. I do not know the Senator but I am sure we will engage with each other during the coming months and years.

I support the calls for a public inquiry into banking. I do so not because other politicians are requesting such an inquiry but because ordinary people, who understand what is happening, are seeking it. We are doing a great disservice to the public interest by not having a fully transparent inquiry into banking. It is time for honesty and truth. While the Government has promised to establish an inquiry, we must ask why there is a need to keep it secret. Why will the inquiry be held behind closed doors? Why is the period to which it will relate being limited to events which took place prior to the end of September 2008? These are pertinent questions and they must be answered.

If we are to restore confidence in the banking sector and in the economy, this would be a good starting point. By establishing an open inquiry, the Government could take the lead in this regard. Will the Leader ask the Taoiseach and the Government to cast off the cloak of secrecy with regard to the inquiry, restore full confidence and transparency and give the people something genuine, open and honest with which to engage?

I support the comments of previous speakers regarding the condition of the road network following the recent adverse weather conditions. Not only am I referring to local and secondary roads in this regard but also to the national and primary routes that have been seriously damaged. There are many roads which are littered with potholes and craters and which have been affected by serious subsidence. As late as last week, the Minister for Transport, who is responsible for the funding of our roads, stated publicly that he would not provide emergency funding to local authorities. I am very surprised at that statement because I am sure he is hearing from representatives, like the Leader and others from the other side of the House with Fianna Fáil and other Government party councillors throughout the country — not that there are too many Green Party councillors — about the damage to our road network which is essential for the everyday life of business and society. It is essential for the Minister to listen to those representatives and provide emergency funding because if he is not listening, he is obviously in cloud-cuckoo land and is not in touch. It is essential that funding be provided for local authorities to reinstate these roads.

Like many of my colleagues, I warmly welcome Senator Mooney back to the House. I was very pleased to support him as a candidate in the European Parliament elections. He secured a fantastic vote and while he did not make it, many people knew he was around. I was pleased in a practical sense because he does not just talk the talk but also walks the walk. He was very easy to sell because as a Member of the Oireachtas and as a member of Leitrim County Council, Senator Mooney has been one of our finest public representatives. I welcome him home again. I am sure that as in the past he will show himself worthy of again being a Member of the Oireachtas.

A few years ago a sub-committee of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children published a report on the adverse effect of pharmaceuticals on society. It would be worth debating this document. Colleagues mentioned certain outlets selling certain preparations. Another practice should be outlawed, which is ordering drugs on-line. It is very hard to eliminate it, a point strongly made in the report.

The number of people who have lost their lives through knife crime in recent times is very worrying. It again calls into question how legislation is failing to deal with these crimes. There is a legislative void in dealing with knife crime. We should ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House and debate the matter. Anybody who goes out into the community with a knife in his or her pocket is not doing it to tend to his or her fingernails or pare a pencil. They are bringing it to use it maliciously and a mandatory sentence should be given to a person carrying a knife that is capable of inflicting serious bodily harm or death as has been seen in recent times. I ask the Leader to consider that request favourably.

Guím gach rath ar mo chomhghleacaithe don téarma amach romhainn. As others have done I welcome Senator Mooney to the House. I both envy and sympathise with him because it is not normal that one gets to hear so many tributes to oneself in one's lifetime outside one's retirement. I also sympathise with him because the number of tributes paid to him is greatly in excess of the number of vocational panels to the Seanad and I foresee difficulties. None of that in any way takes from the tributes that are undoubtedly deserved. He comes with a great reputation already and I look forward to hearing his contributions to debates and to engaging with him as others will do.

I was also very pleased to hear Senators McFadden and Keaveney, who are both always very fair, raise the media treatment of the Minister for Finance over the Christmas period. I ask the Leader for a debate at the earliest opportunity on the media and how they operate. I am not talking about a session in which everybody comes in and vents their own personal spleen, vendettas or gripes against journalism. There is already too much of politicians giving out about the media. We do not need a culture in which people constantly give out about the media. We need a culture in which people hold the media to account. We will do so by identifying that the libel laws alone are not sufficient to protect people, whether in private life or in public life from the depredations of the media. We need a more thorough analysis of how the media operate. While we need to consider that under the heading of privacy, we also need to consider issues like taste and decency, and fairness and balance. We can all outline occasions and instances where the media have been unfair. However, we live at a time when all institutions are coming under scrutiny and there is very little support for self-regulation. While I commend the work being done by the press council, that does not cover broadcast matters. There is no sense that the broadcasting regulatory authorities have any teeth at all. We clearly need to reconsider how we can hold the media to account in a way that does not impact unnecessarily or inappropriately on media freedom.

I say this with great sympathy to individual journalists who are caught up in a web of bad practice because of the pressure they face from their editors and media bosses. This is not targeted against any individual journalist or media practitioner. However, we definitely need a debate on how we can get the media to observe better standards. It was simply not acceptable to hear a series of journalists in recent weeks defend, as they had to do, bad practice. The most that some would say was that they would not have done it that way themselves, as if there were no objective standards which all should uphold. Clearly the timing of telling that story was a matter that should have been negotiated with the Minister's family. The idea that anybody was done a favour by being given merely two days over Christmas is an insult to our intelligence.

Senators

Hear, hear.

I am asking seriously for a debate on the media in which we will not be hearing just rants about the media, but also constructive thoughts about how we can get the right balance between media freedom on the one hand and the right of all members of the public, including people in public life, to good standards on the other.

On a number of occasions in the past year I have raised not only the good work being done by hospitals but also the good work being done by the Irish Hospice Foundation. It has a particular programme for hospice-friendly hospitals. It has raised the important matter of how we get our hospitals up to the standards they should attain particularly regarding end of life care. I am talking about facilities for people who are terminally ill to be able to settle sensitive matters with their families or facilities to allow people to stay over in hospital with people for whom they are caring. There can be insensitive treatment of people in our hospitals simply because the facilities are not there and good practice has not been established as a norm. Our hospitals should be run like hotels in terms of the quality of service given to people at every level including food and beverages, medical care and the space and quality of facilities afforded to loved ones.

I would like a debate on the quality of our hospitals. I know it is not an easy time to talk about major capital investment in our hospital care, but if we are serious about promoting good health in our society and helping people to get well we must provide them with an environment conducive to good health care. I would like a debate about the hospice-friendly hospitals of the Irish Hospice Foundation and the agenda of quality health care generally.

I also concur with what has been said about the air traffic controllers strike. Senator Quinn rightly mentioned the response of President Reagan in 1981, which was seen as a drastic response at the time. However, we should be asking where is the patriotism of people who at a time of crisis take such a step with the impact it has on our reputation abroad and the major inconvenience caused to our citizens. I accept great and sensitive work is done by our air traffic controllers, but they are certainly not at the rough end when it comes to remuneration. It is a shame that this has happened and it calls into question people's awareness of the serious crisis this country faces. It is beyond me that they could contemplate such an action.

I mention overseas aid as mentioned by Senator Bacik. The crisis in Haiti has concentrated our minds on the importance of solidarity with people in less fortunate parts of the world, particularly parts of the world that are prone to natural disasters. I had the honour of hosting the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Stafford Carson, this afternoon. He had met the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Power. I heard about the great work and fundraising being done within the Presbyterian community supporting Irish efforts abroad. To use a word beloved of the Taoiseach, it is vital that the State continues to provide aid commensurate with the people's commitment to the developing world and in particular to people in crisis. I certainly hope that this is the year in which we will get back on track towards reaching our commitment of 0.7% of GDP in terms of overseas development aid because we have lost ground in this regard. I hope that situation will be reversed.

I welcome Paschal Mooney's re-entry to the Oireachtas as a Senator. I was told by an usher today that I am now the third newest Member of the 23rd Seanad, after only six weeks in the House, and this is something of a shock and surprise. I reiterate the call made by numerous Members as regards a debate on the commission of inquiry into banking. It is sheer political opportunism by the Opposition to continually dismiss the commission and discredit its findings as a whitewash. This is cheap political points scoring which takes away from the credibility of this House and the Lower House. As the Taoiseach said this morning, we have already debated ad infinitum many issues in this respect. It is not good enough to have an Oireachtas committee which merely facilitates the appearance of the Taoiseach before it so that the Opposition can start to batter him from all angles and try to discredit him.

That is not the same.

A member of the Opposition has already proclaimed he would love to take down the Government, regardless of how this might be done. Such a proposal would therefore seem to indicate a desire on the part of the Opposition just to get its pound of flesh, as opposed to focusing on the issue at the centre of the problem.

On a separate issue I encourage the Leader to facilitate the examination by the House of the consequences of the bad weather we have had over the Christmas recess. I believe a national strategy is needed, as I was inundated with telephone calls over the Christmas. In other counties, for example, Donegal, Wexford, Cavan and Monaghan, there was a degree of flexibility as regards how local people could treat their roads. As the representative of a very large rural area in south Louth, I heard from a great many people who were willing to do this work if the facilities were provided. The problem is that disparate county and city councils are working under different rules and regulations and a centralised, co-ordinated response by the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, should be the way forward.

I conclude on those points while urging the Leader to arrange for debates on these two motions as soon as possible.

I begin by also congratulation Senator Paschal Mooney on his re-election to this House. I served with him in the previous Seanad and he was a very hard-working and sincere Senator. I wish him and his wife well. Our thoughts are not far away from the late Senator Peter Callanan whose untimely death gave rise to this vacancy. We think of him today and in the future as we wish Senator Mooney the best.

I have two points to make. I believe the banking inquiry should be held in public and that the template to be used by the Government should be that of the DIRT inquiry where for a relatively short period an effective parliamentary committee was in place which yielded a dividend to the Exchequer in terms of money and also held people to account. It is not good enough to give the banks €54 billion and let them ride into the sunset, so to speak, while they evict young people from their houses and literally render generations homeless. This is after the recapitalisation and the bailout of the banks, which still hold thousands of young couples to ransom by locking them into fixed-term mortgage interest agreements. I know of one particular case where a young couple are paying an interest rate of 6.9% and the penalty to get out of that agreement is not affordable. All the while interest rates have been teetering around the zero rate. Such situations are pathetic.

As regards road funding, I believe the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, was short-sighted in announcing he was not going to allocate extra funding to local authorities in terms of restoring the roads to their normal levels before the frost, ice and flooding. The Government might consider one element which would enable local authorities to raise the much-needed finance themselves. While the licensing authority for cars and other vehicles such as tractors, buses, etc. in Cork is based in Cork County Hall, all moneys collected in Cork city and county go to the Exchequer. Cork County Council pays staff to collect the money locally, but it all goes to the Exchequer. I do not believe this is a good use of money, particularly when it is considered that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Martin Cullen, when Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, wasted €50 million on electronic voting machines. I believe local authorities need autonomy in terms of fund-raising and should be allowed to retain moneys collected at local level.

On behalf of the Green Party, like everyone else, I welcome the return of Senator Paschal Mooney to the House. As a fellow Connacht man, I am delighted we are beginning to redress the imbalance.

Like other Senators, I call for a debate on Haiti because it is very important. Our troubles with snow and floods pale into significance relative to what is going on there. I ask the Government passionately to give any assistance it can. It has been put to me by various people that our Defence Forces could look at helping out in that jurisdiction, if requested, in so far as this is possible.

I also support the call for a debate on media very strongly, given the way things are going in this country in relation to politics, since I believe the media are unhelpful at the moment in that regard. It would be quite something to have a live debate on RTE television and radio from the Seanad, so that we might get our points across unedited. Quite often, the difficulty with media is that we are talking about spin and the segmenting of the things we actually say. It would be important to get matters before the public, live and directly, rather than having debates edited all the time.

I would welcome a debate on head shops as being of importance, although I am not going to talk on this. I would very much welcome a debate on drinking water as well. I have two brief points to make in this regard. Under the present Government there has been unparalleled investment in the treatment of drinking water in Ireland, despite what people believe, and I very much welcome that. Drinking water is the basis of life and it is crucial that it is available for the people. I would stress, however, that water in flooded areas and in rivers cannot be confused with clean safe drinking water. It is not the same thing, despite that people continually ask why we cannot have enough water in our reservoirs, given that there is so much lying in puddles throughout the country. Water does not just jump into the reservoirs and enormous investment and work is needed to ensure it can be safely distributed. When people make such comparisons, they can be somewhat disingenuous.

I welcome that the banking inquiry is taking place, and that is crucial. The Green Party has been solidly behind that from day one and we are delighted that this banking inquiry will now go ahead.

That is the high moral ground.

I am getting to that matter, Senator. There are three portions to this banking inquiry. The first, which is very important, is the scoping of this inquiry, and it is crucial. We do not want to see the banking inquiry going down the same route as the Flood, Mahon and other tribunals which have taken years, including the conclusions to the beef tribunal.

We all want that.

That is not the format we want. Many Members of the Opposition are talking about this particular inquiry as if the scoping has actually happened and as if the terms of reference are in place. They are not. That is going to take place and it is important that people do not prejudice the scoping.

The second portion is the commission of inquiry and if people refer to the legislation governing the commission, they will find that there are particular regulations in place in that regard. It is important we look at those and the Green Party is very committed that as much information as possible should come into the public domain. In fact, all the information from the inquiry has to come into the public domain. Members of the Opposition are incorrect who say there will be no public element to this at all. There will, of course, be a public element.

Is the Senator happy with it?

We are working strongly to ensure public transparency and accountability will be maximised from this inquiry and we continue to work for that.

People need to observe the whole procedure.

I join my colleagues in welcoming Senator Paschal Mooney to the House and wish him all the best for the future. I hope he enjoys his time here and I am sure he will make a very positive contribution to the House, as he has done in the past.

I also express my condolences to the people of Haiti for the awful catastrophe that occurred there over Christmas. At times such as this one sees people give of their best and I pay tribute to members of the international community who have given of their time in going there and helping out in the relief effort, including people from Ireland. I was speaking to a family earlier, one of whose members is working in Haiti, trying to save lives and help people there to recover from the disaster.

All our local authorities did as much as they could in the recent cold spell, but they suffer from a lack of funding. In County Meath, for example, the county council is under serious pressure to try to make current budgets last. When extraordinary events like the recent cold spell occur — it only happens once every 30 years or so — local authorities will not be prepared to cope if they do not have money in the bank. In east Meath, we saw tens of thousands of people without access to the road network because gritting could not take place. There were insufficient funds and salt supplies and we need to learn from this. Adequate funding is required from central government because local government cannot raise such funds through rates. The Leader should arrange a debate in order that Senators from all over the country can share their experiences. Perhaps we could then learn about what went well and where mistakes were made. When the next emergency arises we will then be better prepared to help people go about their business.

I am glad to know I was not the only one who was somewhat moved or distracted by the occasion at the beginning of the Order of Business, as Senator Fitzgerald awaited details of the Order of Business. The Leader of the House made a fine welcoming statement and, although I do not believe a word of it, I am grateful to him.

It is on the record. The Senator must be grateful and should remain humble.

In my mad rush to get back into this House, I ignored the protocol of first meeting with the Cathaoirleach, for which I apologise. I could not help but reflect that my dearly departed parents were looking down on all that has happened in the last while. My father would have been very proud and my mother would have believed every word of it. Mothers are proud of their sons and believe they do everything right. God rest my mother who died almost a year ago.

I thank all sides of the House for the overwhelming welcome I have received. Politics is a rough trade. I have been a victim of it, as have many of my colleagues. As they have gone through the electoral process successfully or unsuccessfully, they will know what I am talking about. The last two and a half years have been somewhat grim in that regard. When one reflects some mornings on not really having a reason to get up, one can empathise to a great degree with those who have no jobs. As there is a growing number of such people in the economy, I hope everything that is done both here and in the other House will make some contribution towards improving the lot of those who have suffered from the economic downturn. That is what we are about.

I record my appreciation of Senator Joe O'Reilly, as I have not had an opportunity to do so publicly up to now. We both campaigned in the European elections last year and I want to thank him for his personal courtesy and friendship towards me at all times. He is a perfect gentleman. People who say that politics is lacking in humanity could listen to what has been said here today across the House. It is a reflection of the warmth I have received from all sides of the House. Politicians are criticised by a harsh media, yet there is a great basic humanity and decency about them irrespective of the ideological differences we may have. We must have such differences in order for democracy to function effectively.

I also thank the Taoiseach who proposed my name to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party before Christmas. Political parties can be somewhat harsh in making pragmatic decisions about whom they should support with an eye to the next election. However, as the Taoiseach said in his own remarks as reported to me, there are exceptions. I am pleased and thank God that I was the exception in this case. The contribution that I made, modest and all as it was, both as a Member of this House and also in the European elections, was recognised as the Taoiseach said. It showed a side of the Taoiseach that perhaps the media and public do not often see — a basic decency and humanity, for which I am grateful.

I thank my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party who came out and voted in such strong numbers, as well as our colleagues in the Green Party who showed solidarity in that they all supported me. I also received support across the political divide. They know who they are and I am grateful to them. It shows that in some cases personal relationships transcend political ideology.

Mitigating circumstances.

I echo what Senator McCarthy said in that we should all spare a moment of silent prayer for the late Senator Peter Callanan. The vacancy caused by his death created the opportunity for me to return to the House. I pray that God may grant Sheila and Peter's family all the grace they need to get over their tragic loss. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

I could not help but reflect on what Mark Twain once said about his own misreported demise. My political demise has been greatly exaggerated. I am glad to say that I am a living embodiment of it by returning to the House. I should say it is in the public interest, but I will be honest and say that for purely selfish reasons I hope the Government lasts at least until July 2012.

I do not want to sound maudlin, but I again thank everybody for their kindness. I look forward to engaging in debate in the future in the best interests of all the people of this country. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Before the Leader replies, I welcome Senator Mooney back to the House. I congratulate him, with his wife, Sheila, and their family, on a successful election. I wish him well for the future and know he will make a major contribution to this Seanad. I call on the Leader to reply to the Order of Business.

Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, MacSharry, McFadden, Leyden, Bacik, O'Malley, Coghlan, Quinn, Hanafin, Healy Eames, O'Reilly, Wilson, Cannon, Callely, Coffey, Carroll, McCarthy and Ó Brolcháin all expressed views on the challenges facing the Government regarding the continuing banking issues. We all know that the global downturn created the banking issues.

The big question, which I only heard from one Senator, concerns what the Government and banks are doing to keep funds going for small and medium enterprises. The credit line is urgently needed. This is the first sitting day of the new year. We broke a record last year by sitting for 100 days. This is the Upper House and I want to hear meaningful and positive discussion. We must stop this head-hunting. Let us help the Government and assist the nation. There has been a lot of bluster here for almost two hours.

The Senator is a master of it.

I am very surprised. That is a disgraceful comment.

A Senator

The Leader should give over. He is patronising us.

I am pleased that the figure of 55 minutes in the motion down for today shows its worth. It focuses Members on the issues. The banking issue will be discussed next Tuesday and we can discuss it every week from then on if we want to. It is scheduled for discussion here next Tuesday. I am informing Members in order that they can be well prepared. Unless banks start lending money to SMEs, however, thousands of people will continue to be unemployed in the early part of this year, as Senator Wilson said. In the interests of assisting the people, we should bring pressure to bear on banks and governments. Money must be in circulation because, if not, thousands more people will be unemployed. Senator Mooney has outlined to the House the importance for every citizen of having something to do every day. Over 400,000 people are unemployed.

Let us have the debate today.

From this day on, I want to see the energy and experience of all Members of the House being reflected in their contributions. They have made their point about the banking inquiry, but solving the matter is far more important. When solved, we can have open inquiries. There are two inquiries taking place, including one very serious one under the auspices of the Garda Síochána. There must be due process. I have no doubt that everything that could be done is being done. The Minister for Finance assured the people in this regard yesterday.

I wish the Minister for Finance well. He is making a massive contribution to the country and showing real leadership. Thousands of people hope he will be able to turn the economy around. As I stated, unless the United States comes good, Ireland will not. To be honest and fair, there are very few countries that are able to come good without the assistance of the United States. The bottom line is that we have a brilliant Minister for Finance. Please God, he will get over his illness. We all wish him well.

Senators Fitzgerald and McFadden called for a debate on A Vision for Change. This is the fourth anniversary and I congratulate everyone concerned. The commitment I made stands. I hope the debate on mental health and A Vision for Change will take place within the next two weeks.

Senator MacSharry referred to the reformation of the EU framework and everything that concerns it. I will consider this issue and revert to the Senator.

Senators Leyden, Norris, Cummins and Wilson referred to the serious issue of head shops. Motion No. 22, tabled by Senators Norris and O'Toole, reads, "That Seanad Éireann urges the Government to introduce legislation aimed at regulating the sale of dangerous, non quality controlled and indeterminately compounded substances through so called ‘Head Shops' ". I will have no difficulty in agreeing to an all-party motion on the issue. I will give it top priority and discuss it with the leaders and Whips to determine how we can debate it in the House as soon as possible. I congratulate all my colleagues on bringing the matter to the attention of the House. I congratulate Senators Norris and O'Toole on placing the motion on the Order Paper.

Senators Norris and Quinn welcomed the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill. I will inform the House when it is proposed to take it. It is listed to be taken this session, as we know from the legislative programme of the Chief Whip.

Senator Keaveney offered her condolences on the death of Cardinal Daly. I join her in acknowledging all the good and great work that the cardinal did in Ireland in his long life. I knew him reasonably well. He was in a neighbouring diocese, Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. He was in Longford for some considerable time and in charge of the papal visit to Clonmacnoise. It was unfortunate to see what happened to St. Mel's Cathedral over Christmas.

Senator Keaveney also referred to Mr. Peadar Heffron. We send him and his family a message of support and sympathy. Senator Cummins referred to the abhorrent and terrible beatings carried out in the name of republicans. I wish Mr. Heffron well. Please God, he will make a full recovery. He is certainly under serious pressure. I join Senator Keaveney in sending a message of goodwill to him and his family.

Senator Regan has referred to the procedures that apply when one dies in Denmark. I express sympathy to the Senator and his family on their recent bereavement. He stated deaths in Denmark were recorded in a central register. Thus, everyone knows who has passed on to his or her eternal reward and one cannot claim the pension of a deceased person for 23 years. In this regard, we must support the Minister for Social and Family Affairs in combating fraud. I support the Senator's expressions.

Senators Ellis, Quinn and Callely expressed disappointment at the air traffic controllers' strike. In these difficult times we would prefer, in the national interest, if it did not take place. Everyone should negotiate and express their difficulties at the conference table. Ireland plc should not be closed down by any organisation or group of people, however serious the cause, without thinking seriously about the implications. I hope common sense will prevail and that such a strike will not happen again.

Senators Bacik, Hanafin, Daly, Cummins, Mullen, Ó Brolcháin and Hannigan commended those who were assisting the poor, unfortunate people of Haiti. What we see repeatedly on news bulletins is unbelievable. I note the work Charlie Bird is doing in Haiti. We wish former US President Bill Clinton and the current US President, Barack Obama, well in their efforts. I note that Mr. Denis O'Brien was on the streets in Haiti and that he gave financial support amounting to €5 million to the people of the country. I commend all the Irish groups involved. They are a shining example of what can be done by communities. There is a great push by the Irish to raise funds. The entertainment industry is no exception. Colleagues of mine are organising concerts and everything is being done to raise funds to help the poor people of Haiti. The House sends its condolences to the family of Mr. Andrew Grene who lost his life in the earthquake. Next Wednesday, in the presence of the Minister, we will have statements on overseas development aid and what we can do to help the Haitians. In my lifetime I have never seen anything like what has occurred.

Senators O'Malley, Butler and O'Sullivan welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health and Children on cervical cancer vaccinations. Great value for money has been achieved. The initiative will protect all young girls, the next generation. I wish the Minister well. The savings made have been considerable.

Senators Butler and Carroll called for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address in the House the difficulties experienced on foot of the inclement weather, particularly in rural areas. Last night we saw television footage of the damage done in the Mount Leinster area of Carlow. I understand the Minister has written to every local authority asking for an up-to-date estimate of the amount of emergency funding that will be necessary. Senator Carroll referred to the need for a co-ordinated national emergency plan. The Minister might update the House on the current position in this regard. I will make my request to him after the Order of Business. We will definitely have him in the House to discuss this issue in the next two weeks.

Senator Quinn referred to the various backup services needed for motor transportation. I fully agree with him.

Senator Daly asked for the up-to-date position on Kenmare hospital and asked that the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, state in the House when tender documents would be issued. I will pass on the views of the Senator Daly to the Minister after the Order of Business.

Senator Healy Eames requested the response of the Taoiseach on senior civil servants' pay. I will revert to the Senator directly on the issue. I understand the response is already available.

It may not be to the Senator's liking but it is certainly available.

I certainly know the response is available, which is why I am making a commitment to the Senator that I will let her have it.

Senator O'Sullivan called for the Minister for Transport to address safety procedures at Dublin Airport. This is a very serious issue and I will pass on the Senator's views to the Minister's office this afternoon for a reply.

Senators Cannon and Ó Brolcháin raised the need to review policy on public water supplies. Senator Cannon said only 15% of all treated water was used for drinking, while the rest was used for other activities. This is an alarming statistic and an area in which we must plan for the future. We must examine ways of harnessing rainwater for these other activities without requiring costly treatment. This is a serious challenge for local authorities.

Senator Glynn referred to the on-line availability of pharmaceutical drugs and called for a debate on the issue, with which I have no difficulty. He also called for a debate with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the misuse of knives. It has developed a whole new dimension, with young people losing their lives in the past few weeks. It is just horrific. I will have no difficulty in requesting the Minister to attend the House to discuss the issue.

Senator Mullen called for a debate on holding the media to account and ensuring taste, decency, privacy and the observing of better standards. I support the Senator's call and will endeavour to arrange such a debate. The Senator also raised the issue of the quality of care in hospitals and hospices, a debate we can also have.

Senator Ó Brolcháin called for live broadcasting of the Seanad. I am pleased to inform the House that we are well advanced in this matter at this stage. With other Seanad colleagues, Senator O'Toole and I have taken it to the Joint Administration Committee which is examining it. We have had two meetings about the matter and will update the House on progress after the next meeting of the committee, previously known as the Broadcasting Committee.

Two amendments have been proposed to the Order of Business. Senator Francis Fitzgerald has proposed the following amendment: "That statements on the Government's proposal for an inquiry into the banking crisis be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 27.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • de Búrca, Déirdre.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

Senator Norris has also proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 1 be taken with debate." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 27.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • de Búrca, Déirdre.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Malley, Fiona.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Feargal Quinn; Níl, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.