The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund Regulations 2010 — back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; and No. 2, Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2010 — Committee Stage, to resume at the conclusion of No. 1 and to adjourn at 1.30 p.m. if not previously concluded.
Order of Business.
As a matter of urgency, the House must debate the banking crisis with the Minister for Finance. To some degree, the Government's economic policy is unravelling before our eyes, while at the same time taxpayers are committing themselves for unbelievable amounts of money. We have paid €11 billion in direct aid to the banks. We will buy approximately €50 billion worth of junk bonds from the European Central Bank. We have a bank guarantee of €400 billion and we are still at it. The Government is committed to spending billions more and buying stakes in our major banks which, it is clear, are still operating to their own rules, which I would expect them to do to some degree. However, we are investing billions of our children's future into banks without yet knowing whether it will work. We need to have a serious debate on this issue. We cannot do what the Minister for Finance is doing and state that everything is hunky dory because Europe supports us. Europe does not support us. All Europe supports is that we do not cost it money; it does not give a hoot whether we bankrupt ourselves.
We also need a serious debate about what is happening in the public sector. Public sector workers are refusing to answer phones or to take any part in the reorganisation of health or other services. Even if it is only inconveniencing people, we know such inconvenience can be a huge issue for ordinary people seeking social welfare payments or medical cards. In the health services, it has the potential to cost people their lives unless we get it sorted out fairly quickly. Will the Leader call on the Taoiseach to come to the House to discuss this issue before it escalates to a point where it has a detrimental effect on citizens?
Yesterday, comments were made on the quality of patient care in the health services. Prior to the most recent general election, the Dáil debated the Medical Practitioners Act which had a section on assuring the competency of doctors. Three years later, that competence assurance programme has not started. Such a programme for doctors, nurses and other professionals in the health service is how we will curb the Michael Nearys of the future. The Minister must do more than legislate; she must ensure these programmes work and get them working immediately.
I was disappointed that the Leader did not find time yesterday or today for a debate on banking.
He gave us a very solemn promise on Tuesday——
It was voted down. It was not accepted.
From the response we got from the Leader we understood there would be a debate within the next couple of days.
I still think it is crucial. The Leader himself has been clear on the importance of this debate. I agree with him in regard to the issues we have to consider, including the third banking force, our relationship with the European Union, the timetable for NAMA and the Government's best projections for the economy for the rest of this year. I would like to debate the figures in the budget, which appear to be on course at this stage. We need these debates in order that people can express confidence in or criticise what is happening. Given that next week will be three months since the Budget Statement, it would be useful to hold a debate on the budget's very positive forecasts for Government debt at all levels. Are they still positive? The projections for unemployment were also positive. We need a debate on this matter and banking is a crucial part of it. I support the calls made by Senator Twomey for a debate and I would like one to be arranged for today. I am not proposing an amendment to the Order of Business but the Leader needs to deliver on this immediately.
I wish to raise the issue of student maintenance grants. A number of us met representatives of the Union of Students in Ireland this morning in Buswells Hotel to discuss the impact on students of delays in grant payments. I found out just this week from the Department of Education and Science that in my own county of Meath, 140 students have not yet received their first payment which was due in October. They have had to pay for rent, clothing and food from their own pockets throughout the winter because the Government has dragged its heels. We can rectify the situation by introducing the student support Bill 2008. It has been in existence for two years. I ask the Leader to use his good offices to find out what is happening to that Bill.
I welcome the publication by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, of the heads of a Bill enabling the election of a mayor for Dublin. However, it is clear from his proposals that further scrutiny and improvements are needed before the proposed legislation is passed into law. We could do worse than learn lessons from what has been done in other jurisdictions such as the mayoralties of New York and London. I saw the benefits a directly elected mayor can bring when London established such an office in 2000. Two years ago, I campaigned with my colleagues from the Labour Party in Dublin South-East on behalf of a former mayor, Ken Livingstone. Although the object of our affection was not successful on that occasion, I have no doubt that when it comes to Dublin's mayor, we will be successful. In scrutinising the Bill in this House, I want to examine the powers conferred on the mayor and the issue of the discretionary budget, which is necessary. It it is clear from listening to the Minister that he will not meet his original timetable of holding an election in June. Although he expressed certainty that the election would be held before the end of this year, I doubt he will be able to do so because it is clear from his Government colleagues and senior officials around the capital that many people do not want this legislation and would prefer to see it kicked to touch The Minister needs to push on with his proposals while ensuring real powers are devolved to the mayor. The legislation has the potential to provide excellent news on service delivery for 1 million Dubliners, but improvements are needed before we put it through the Houses.
I wish briefly to address the Adjournment matter I tabled for the Cathaoirleach's consideration.
It is out of order.
I accept and appreciate the decision of the Chair. The new TETRA system, which I warmly welcome, will allow digital communications with Garda stations throughout the country. The system began to be rolled out in counties Cavan and Monaghan just before Christmas. Unfortunately, it is causing interference to television reception in the towns of Mullagh, Cootehill, Shercock, Bailieborough, Clones, Castleblayney, Ballybay and Monaghan. This is a particular problem for elderly people who depend on terrestrial television for entertainment. Many of them follow the soaps.
I have ruled on the matter. Is the Senator making a request of theLeader?
Will the Leader facilitate a debate in this House with the Ministers for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the difficulties the TETRA system is causing to vulnerable people in the aforementioned towns and, no doubt, in other areas as it is rolled out? I welcome the introduction of the new system and do not deny its necessity. It is possible to rectify the problem by purchasing a piece of equipment that can be placed on one's aerial but it costs €300. In these times of hardship, that is a lot of money for elderly people.
We cannot have a debate.
Will the Leader arrange a debate on this matter? I respect the Cathaoirleach's decision in regard to the Adjournment matter.
In the past 12 months I have regularly called for a debate on law and order, to no avail. We have had no debate on law and order. We are only two months into 2010 and eight people are dead because of gangland murders. There were 20 deaths in 2009 but we have already reached 35% of that figure this year. Despite rushing legislation through this House to make gang membership a criminal offence, no arrests have yet been made under this provision and nobody has been convicted for a gangland murder in the past three years. As we all know, the drug trade fuels gangland crime and it is thriving.
Security in our ports and airports falls far below the required levels. Two container scanners are expected to cover every port in the country. This is an absolute disgrace.
Last year alone, 2,174 mobile phones were seized in our prisons. Criminals continue to run their operations from jail. If the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform cannot secure our prisons, how can he secure our streets? We need him to come to the House to account for his very poor stewardship. He can snigger and mock in the other House, yet he cannot be accountable to us for the appalling condition of law and order in this State. He needs to come to the House at the earliest possibly opportunity. We have been waiting 12 months for a debate on law and order. Crime is rife on our streets but we cannot have a debate in this House. It is an absolute disgrace.
He has been here for every Bill.
He has not come here to discuss crime.
The facts are the facts.
He has not been here to discuss the issue.
No interruptions, please.
He has been busy elsewhere.
I suggest the repeated requests for a debate on the banking crisis are fuelled by concerns about the lack of credit from the banks to small and medium-sized enterprises. Perhaps the Leader would consider widening the debate on banking to include proposals on job creation and resolving this severe imposition on small and medium-sized enterprises. Everybody knows they are hanging on by their fingernails in the hope that NAMA will free up credit. In facilitating this debate, will the Leader examine the role of Mr. Trichet, the European Central Bank and Germany, which seems to be the driving force protecting the euro? In the light of what is happening in Greece, there is a growing view among economists that we at least need a debate around the question of having a devaluation of the euro. If that were to happen, I suggest in the context of a request to the Leader, this would be of enormous benefit to this country as a trading nation. We have suffered grievously in recent years because of the strength of the eurovis-à-vis our two main trading blocs, the sterling area and the dollar area. Perhaps we need to get clarity and to find out exactly why the European Commission is delaying a decision on NAMA in order that we can get the concept rolling and, I hope, then release credit where it is needed most not only to protect jobs but also to create new ones.
I endorse what Senator Hannigan said about the student support Bill. Many of us have already been lobbied this morning about that in Buswells Hotel. The Leader of the House might be able to tell us where the Bill is and what is happening to it. I think it is sitting somewhere in Merrion Street and has been for two years. The least the students should get is some indication of when it will be published and come before these Houses.
Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport. There was a missing ingredient at that meeting, namely, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who for some reason is one of the lead players in the controversy surrounding Ryanair's effort to get into hangar 6. Will the Leader of the House ask the Tánaiste to come to the House to explain the Government's position on this? I notice she is quoted this morning as saying it would not be in the interests of Aer Lingus shareholders for her to combine with Michael O'Leary to ask Aer Lingus to move out of that hangar. As far as I know she is not in the business of acting for the other Aer Lingus shareholders. The reason the Tánaiste has that key shareholding is because she is meant to act in the interests of the nation and the taxpayer. I do not know whether she is muddled or muzzled but it is about time she decided whose interests she is acting for — Aer Rianta, the taxpayer or the other shareholders. She does not seem to know. I suggest she come to the House and sort this out because there is a growing suspicion that whatever the rights and wrongs of this ongoing spat there are at least three parties whose prime motivation is to thwart Michael O'Leary and Ryanair rather than the interests that they are meant to represent. It would be a great pity if a major decision was taken on the basis of personal animosity or a personal difficulty, which all of those three parties have got with that company. I have one question which Mr. O'Leary himself asked yesterday. If this was Bill Gates or Michael Dell, would they get the same treatment as Michael O'Leary? I suggest they would not.
One would hope so.
Could the Leader of the House give some consideration to the proposals, suggestions and speculation that a major reconfiguration of Departments is about to take place? This House could have a good input and advise and make recommendations to the Government. There is much experience in this House as far as the configuration of Departments is concerned. For instance, I hope that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs will be retained but one could add culture to that because it is an additional part of rural life.
We can have a debate if Senator Leyden is seeking one but I do not want speakers putting forward their views on the Order of Business. We can hear them if the Leader agrees to have the debate.
As a former Minister for trade and marketing, I think that those areas of responsibility should be introduced as a Cabinet portfolio because it is so important. Members of this House would make a great addition to the Cabinet.
Is Senator Leyden applying for the job?
As a Senator, one would have no constituency considerations.
Canvassing will disqualify.
One could travel the world on behalf of this country for trade and industry. That would be worthwhile.
I ask whoever is trying to spike the progress of NAMA to desist and withdraw their objections to the European Council and the Commission. There is an ulterior motive behind it. I know who it is and what they have done. They should withdraw it.
Name and shame.
Wait for chapter two next week.
On a point of order, Senator Leyden should correct the record. It would be highly unlikely that one individual could block the progress of NAMA. It is clear that the European Union has concerns about it.
I did not name anyone.
I call Senator Cannon.
Next week I will have a further edition.
No interruptions, please, or Senator Leyden will go out the door.
Senator Leyden was the same yesterday. He did not name the people. He is afraid.
Senator Buttimer changed the record of the House last week.
Please, Senator. I will not put up with that.
I appreciate that.
No interruptions, please. If Senator Leyden interrupts once more then out he will go.
Thanks. I will make it easy, I will go.
I would like——
Senator Leyden, I will not allow Members to go around the House and talk to other Members when someone is speaking. That is not in order.
He is like a bold child.
Is it possible to extend and continue the debate we had last night on special educational needs? The debate was far too short. Several Members on this side did not get an opportunity to contribute. We need the Minister to return to the House so we can continue to question him on policy. I was quite appalled at what I thought was very juvenile behaviour on the part of the Minister; something I have not seen from any other Minister in the Chamber. On numerous occasions he interrupted——
We are not going back on a debate that was held last night but the Senator is entitled to ask the Leader for another debate.
I ask that we continue the debate because sufficient time was not given to this issue——
——which occupies the minds of many parents and children. It was cut short, and I ask that it be extended.
Two hours was allocated as usual for that Private Members' debate.
Not alone did the Minister interrupt our education spokesperson——
——but he also engaged in a despicable piece of spinning.
No, to be honest, I was present for much of the debate.
He said the primary reason special educational needs services were being cut back was because he had a concern that having an SNA might somehow impinge on a child's sense of independence.
SNAs give them independence.
I never heard such nonsense in my entire life.
If that is the sort of spinning going on——
——in regard to this serious issue, we need to have this debate continue.
Beidh coicís na Gaeilge ag tosnú an tseachtain seo chugainn agus b'fhéidir go mbeidh an Ceannaire in ann roinnt ama a chur ar fáil chun é seo a phlé agus cuireadh a thabhairt don Aire, an Teachta Éamon Ó Cuív, teacht isteach chun stádas na Gaeilge a phlé linn.
Next week will be a benchmark for the Irish language. It will be the commencement of the Irish language fortnight. As we know from previous years this is a very comprehensive promotional effort for the Irish language. Perhaps the Leader could invite in the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, to update us precisely on the draft 20 year strategy which has now been published. In recent weeks the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs had a comprehensive debate. Seven Irish language organisations were invited to the meeting to debate the strategy. The meeting was transmitted live on TG4 for two and a half hours. That was a first for the Oireachtas. Tomorrow the committee will travel to Connemara and will meet representative groups from all the Gaeltacht areas, starting at 9 a.m. and finishing at 6 p.m. tomorrow evening. It would be timely and opportune next week, given the fact that it will be Irish language fortnight, to invite the Minister to participate in a debate with us on the status of the Irish language. One thing of which we are all well aware is that there is huge goodwill for the Irish language at present. It is no longer a political football. We now find young and old want to see comprehensive proposals and policies to build on that goodwill. If one looks outside this country, whether at Moscow, New York or London, there will be Irish language celebrations and activities throughout the fortnight. There will be Irish language celebrations and activities throughout the fortnight. I hope it will be possible for the Leader to allocate time next week because most of the people organising this are young, full of energy and inspirational and they will look to the Oireachtas for support and endorsement. We should not let that opportunity pass.
I join colleagues in asking for a debate on the financial system but it should cover the economy generally and not be confined to the banks. I walked through the Hibernian Way and Creation Arcade on my way to Leinster House earlier. Approximately 50% of the shops are closed and the remainder have sales with reductions ranging from 50% to 70%. That hits one when one physically sees it. I commend the President and Dr. Martin McAleese on their initiative to seek ideas for jobs. This is positive and creative.
I am astonished to hear Members say Mr. Michael O'Leary should be supported in his efforts to evict Aer Lingus. He is a very colourful, flamboyant, brilliant and successful businessman but he is a robber baron and it would be astonishing in terms of financial morality if we were to stand over a situation where contracts, leases and so on could be just torn up willy-nilly because jobs which may or may not be there are dangled in a cruel fashion in front of a hungry workfoce. This is the kind of thing we witnessed at Shannon Airport where we were prepared to give into financial gangsterism and sacrifice all our principles of morality and decency. I will oppose this, although I admire the business enterprise of Mr. O'Leary.
The House should congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs on managing to get into Gaza. He is a courageous man. I have been there in similar circumstances and it was not pleasant. Apart from the appalling conditions in which people are living that I had to witness, I was in an UNRWA van with both sides shooting across us. There was thin metal between me and death. The Minister should meet Hamas representatives. The peace process in Northern Ireland was successful because we overcame our revulsion at bombers and gunmen and we dealt directly with people. This is not the same. A legitimate government has been driven into a corner. It behaved badly but, by goodness, it is nothing compared to the crimes being perpetrated against the people of Gaza.
I support the calls for a series of debates on job creation. I welcome the speculation in today's newspaper about a Cabinet reshuffle with an emphasis on the creation of jobs.
The Senator might be in.
Would the Senator like a job?
Senator Ó Brolcháin to continue, without interruption.
I do not know what Opposition Members are guffawing about.
Will the Senator accept a position?
Senator Ross could be appointed.
The Government has put together an excellent document about the smart economy. Many types of jobs are being created. The green economy, in particular, is providing tens of thousands of jobs every year and it will continue to do so.
What will the Senator's party do for the 500,000 unemployed?
The west has a great opportunity to substitute €6 billion in renewable energy projects for €6 billion in fossil fuels, which equates to a €12 billion increase in the economy. There are great opportunities if we take them.
I reject the notion that Michael O'Leary is the only man in the country who can provide jobs. Many people could provide jobs and we need to focus on a holistic attitude to job creation. Sustainable jobs must be created, not jobs that will disappear to another country on somebody's whim. We need jobs we can keep for good in order that we have a sound base for the economy. It would be appropriate if, in due course, the Taoiseach could come to the House to debate the Government's jobs strategy. That should be the focus for all of us and the party politicking that is going on is disingenuous. We need to take this matter seriously as a Government and as a House.
With 500,000 people unemployed.
I seek a debate and action as a matter of urgency regarding the practice of upward only rent reviews, which has crept in. This practice is threatening jobs in Wilton shopping centre in my city of Cork and, as Senator Mooney said, many sole traders are struggling and there are major issues regarding their survival. This practice is bad and legislation needs to be amended or enacted to bring about change whereby people who are doing business can operate and trade in an environment which is competitive and which will allow them to survive and create jobs.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business and call for the Minister for Education and Science to come to the House to discuss two issues — the student support Bill and special needs education. Last night I was appalled by his response to Senator Healy Eames prior to the debate on special education needs commencing properly——
——and in his contribution.
He did a disservice to the parents, children and teachers engaged in special needs education. This morning——
Will the Senator kindly respect the Chair? I asked him to cease raising this matter earlier.
I respect the Chair.
I ruled on it earlier. I do not want to go back over last night's debate. The Senator can seek a debate on the matter from the Leader.
I respect the Chair completely.
I hope so.
What have I said that is wrong? The Minister engaged in a naked political attack based on——
Senator Cannon raised that issue.
——the motion before the House last night.
That was last night and the issue was given the required time.
I seek a debate on behalf of——
The Senator is entitled to seek a debate but that is all.
I seek a debate on behalf of the parents, teachers and children involved. Last night the Minister in his press statement used more provocative remarks about the Fine Gael Party. That is guttersnipe politics. Will the Leader defend what he said last night? Will he defend the Minister's press statement?
That can be raised in the debate.
If that is the politics of the Government parties, they deserve to face the people.
I am disappointed by the comments about the Minister for Education and Science. I was present throughout the two-hour debate last night when we had——
We are not going back over the debate. The Senator should put a question to the Leader.
I would like to reassure parents that the Minister stated last night no child would be deprived of a special needs assistant.
That is the truth.
They are being deprived.
We had the debate last night and many Senators contributed.
Perhaps before we have the debate on the powers of the new lord mayor of Dublin, we should have a discussion on the effects of this change on the four local authorities in Dublin and those in counties Meath, Wicklow and Kildare. We should discuss the proposed new structure and the role of the councils and the county manager. Before the Bill is introduced, the House should be informed about what is likely to be coming down the road regarding the lord mayor's powers, whether they will be worthwhile or whether the office will just be another layer of bureaucracy. That is my worry about the concept of the lord mayorship. It is one thing to refer to the role of the lord mayor in London and New York but Ireland is a different country and I wonder whether many committees will be abolished as a result of the creation of the lord mayor's office. This is related to local democracy at the endof the day and I want to be sure the views of every person will be reflected by the local authorities.
Will the Leader arrange a debate on the timing of debates? It was deeply ironic that yesterday on the same day we debated the welcome initiative relating to children's rights, we also debated the outrageous cuts to the number of SNAs for children with special needs. It is wrong that, on the one hand, the Government is speaking forcefully about the rights of children while, on the other, it is cutting services to vulnerable children.
I also seek a debate on the preservation of our history. This has been an historic week in the context of political upheaval and resignations. I refer to a matter raised by Senator Quinn weeks ago regarding the National Archives. It has been proposed that the National Archives of Ireland and the Irish Manuscripts Commission should be merged into the National Library of Ireland, which has given rise to an enormous concern among archivists and historians. This was mooted in October 2008 and Senator Quinn raised the proposal in this House on 20 January. The proposal has generated considerable publicity and a good deal of controversy and I seek a debate on it and for the Government to inform Members whether it intends to stand over it. It would be against all current thinking on the need to preserve national archives independently and would, as some commentators have remarked, enable us to mark the 90th anniversary of the Four Courts bombardment in a highly disturbing fashion, in that it again would result in the downgrading of the preservation of our records.
On foot of the excellent "Prime Time" documentary broadcast last week, I seek a debate on maternity services and the need for an inquiry into the barbaric practice of symphysiotomy. It appears as though this practice was carried out in Irish maternity hospitals until the mid-1980s, long after it had been utterly discredited in maternity hospitals elsewhere. An independent inquiry is needed in this regard and the Minister for Health and Children has not given an adequate response as to the reason she will not permit one. I express my support for both the survivors of symphysiotomy and AIMS Ireland, an organisation which seeks improvements in maternity services in Ireland, in its call for a comprehensive debate on the issue of consent in maternity care, the treatment of women in maternity hospitals and on the reason an independent inquiry is not being held into the barbaric practice of symphysiotomy.
I spoke briefly yesterday on the Border economy. I wish to return to the subject with a little more hope in my heart following the announcement that Warner Chilcott intend to establish 200 jobs in a new pharmaceutical facility at Mullagharlin, just outside Dundalk. It is a town with a proud manufacturing tradition that has reinvented itself a number of times from being a railway town to a shoe manufacturing and brewery town. I hope this pharmaceutical announcement marks the beginning of Dundalk taking its place in the new smart economy. It is a tremendous testimony to the work of the local authorities, from which I have just departed, that in tandem with the IDA they have created a key site for high quality inward investment in Ireland in recent times at Finnabair Industrial Park. That park, which comprises approximately 150 acres of serviced sites with adequate gas, electricity, transportation and communication links, makes possible announcements such as the one yesterday. It is an indication of how local authorities, in tandem with the IDA, and with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which I also commend in this regard, can work together to make smaller local regional centres attractive. It bodes well for a place that has suffered dreadfully. Initially, this was through the scourge of the Troubles, which have since passed although it still occasionally raises its awful head. More recently, it has suffered from the asymmetry between the economies on either side of the Border and which must be addressed. I welcome this announcement and commend all who have played a part in it.
The need for a debate on banking and on the economy is still top of Members' agenda. While they have been pressing the Leader hard on this issue recently, he simply has been stringing them along.
That is not true.
Every day in this Chamber, he is, "with words clothed in reason's garb,'' endeavouring to make "the worse appear the better reason."
That is not true.
Everyone knows we are at a standstill. NAMA has not yet been sanctioned by the European Commission nor have the plans and proposals of our major banks for the next five years. As Senator Mooney stated previously while citing President Trichet, it should get on with it. This is a matter of great urgency for this country and unless the Leader can get an answer from the Government or can get a representative from the Government, I suggest he should invite the Governor of the Central Bank to appear before the House in order that Members can have this debate.
On another matter, I am disturbed by the proposals of another honourable man, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, regarding a ban on stag hunting to which Fine Gael is completely opposed for good reasons. It is a legitimate and worthwhile country pursuit and sport that is highly beneficial for tourism. I cannot discern where cruelty is involved. However, I was startled to learn that he also is contemplating deer culling. I hope the Minister only proposes to cull Sika deer because I would not like to see the native Kerry red deer being disturbed in any way because——
That is a red herring not a red deer. The Senator does not believe that.
Not too long ago, Members were at great pains to ensure the protection——
This is nonsense.
This is not appropriate for the Order of Business. Does you have a question for the Leader?
——of the Kerry red deer.
This is out of order.
I wish to ask the Leader about this matter.
It should be relevant to the Order of Business.
This is a red herring.
It is not.
No, it is a red deer.
It is a green shoot.
It pertains to what the Minister has said.
While one may joke about this matter, it is serious.
This is not a joke.
It is not too long since this native species was threatened with extinction. Before any of them are touched or before any move is made, there should be consultation with the Kerry Deer Society and I seek proper counts and figures.
Yesterday, the restraint unions in general have shown was quite properly raised on the Order of Business. It is only right that restraint should be shown. The unions have been asked to undertake a task of bearing the responsibility of ensuring that the economy does not crumble. In fairness, notwithstanding a few exceptions, this has been upheld and it would be worthwhile for this House to have a debate on the role of unions, particularly because it is likely that there will be growth in the economy in 2012, 2011 and perhaps in the last two quarters of 2010. With this in mind, it is incumbent on Members to tell unions that the sacrifices that have been made at this time will be remembered and will not be forgotten and that this has not been the first time the public service has come up to the mark and has done what was right for the economy.
As for the economy, I note there has been another call for a debate on banking. Unfortunately, the Opposition appears to have two sets of proposals, the first proposing there should be credit in the market and the second criticising the fact the Government is taking shares instead of cash. The €240 million that has been left in Bank of Ireland will provide €2.4 billion worth of lending and I would much prefer for the State to take shares and leave the money in the banks in order that the economy can grow.
The Government promised dividends.
It misled people again.
No interruptions, please.
The European Union has insisted that shares be taken rather than cash. With this in mind, the subject is worthy of debate.
I formally second the proposal by Senator Buttimer to have a renewed debate on education and in so doing, to repudiate any attempt to muzzle my good colleague and Fine Gael spokesperson on education, Senator Healy Eames.
That would be hard to do.
The Senator should direct questions to the Leader.
I also wish formally to second the request for a debate by Senator Wilson on the TETRA system. While I welcome the system as such, the interference with television reception is not acceptable. Steps must be taken to deal with this matter and householders should not be left out of pocket. Senator Wilson did a good job of mentioning a list of towns in counties Cavan and Monaghan and effectively has left me speechless.
He recorded them all.
There is no election now.
I wish to move on.
The Senator should ask questions of the Leader.
I wish to move on briefly to another important item, on which I appeal to the Leader to facilitate a debate as soon as possible. I refer to the complete lack of a relationship between what is charged to consumers in retail outlets and what farmers receive at their farm gates. On average, retailers charge — this has been checked out — five times the amount that farmers receive at their farm gates. A farmer receives 20% of the retail price for cheese, 36% in the case of milk——
Does the Senator seek a debate on this issue?
——34% in the case of potatoes and farm incomes are at an all-time low.
This Senator can make these points during the debate, if the Leader agrees.
I ask the Leader for a debate on the reason there is this difference. Why is it that a farmer will only get 27% of the price of pigmeat compared with 51% 15 years ago? We need a debate on why farmers earn an average annual income of €13,000, why their prices at the farm gate are so low, why retailers are charging certain prices and why the consumer is paying over the top. This is a serious issue.
A couple of weeks ago, I called for a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013. I again request that the Leader ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to attend the House to discuss this important matter. As there have been preliminary talks in the European Union, it is time we had a debate in this House. A number of Senators on the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have met Mr. George Lyon, a Scottish MEP, and some Irish MEPs to discuss this issue. Will the Leader treat bringing the Minister to the House as being urgent?
Tacaím leis an méid a dúirt an Seanadóir Labhrás Ó Murchú. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh díospóireacht againn sa Teach maidir le coicís na Gaeilge. Tá go leor le plé againn agus tá gá le cinnireacht uainn ar aon nós. Ba mhaith liom go háirithe go ndéanfaimid plé ar Raidió na Gaeltachta agus an gearradh siar ar chraoladh an aifrinn seachtainiúil. Ní bhfuaireamar aon scéal ar ais go fóill maidir le sin. Ní maith liom na ráflaí a chloisim ach oiread maidir le go mb'fhéidir go mbeidh malgamú idir an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta agus an Roinn Ealaíon, Spóirt agus Turasóireachta. Níor mhaith liom é sin. I would not like to see the loss of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, which rumours suggest will occur.
The Union of Students in Ireland, USI, and its president, Peter Mannion, are to be commended on keeping the issue of education, especially the needs of students who are being hard hit, on the agenda. The politician-friendly booklet made available by the USI this morning makes a number of significant points, not least of which is the fact that our current system for processing grant applications is anachronistic. For example, it is remarkable that students must fill out a 26-page form that sometimes requires 20 pieces of supporting documentation and this cannot be done on-line. It is remarkable.
The Minister has decided that new applicants for the back to education allowance will be ineligible for the grant. This raises issues of legitimate expectation. Are new applicants people who are already within the system or are they people who are applying to attend college for the first time? When one considers the sacrifices made by mature students in returning to education, those who are in the halfway place between working life and studying life, it is important that they not be compromised given the importance of getting people into education in a bid to deal with our problems.
I wish to raise the issue of head shops. We have a troubling new reality among us. Not only are manipulative and predatory people running these shops, they are also supposedly running delivery services for their mind-altering substances in the most dishonest way.
I will finish now. They are dishonest in that they do not declare that the substances are not for human consumption.
I call Senator Coffey.
We need legislation. Let us hope it will be before the House soon.
This time last year, the Government appointed a national strategy group to commission a report on higher education under the chairmanship of the economist, Dr. Colin Hunt. In November, the Minister for Education and Science informed the Dáil that the report would be published by early 2010. In an Adjournment debate yesterday, I was informed by the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, that the report will not be published before the summer. It is a critical report and clarity and certainty are required where the role of our higher education institutions in developing the economy and creating and supporting jobs is concerned. It is a 20-year strategy. I urge the Leader to ask the Minister to publish the report, which is important for everyone, without further delay.
Will the Leader arrange for a debate on the Government report, Developing the Green Economy in Ireland, which was published in November and signed by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Coughlan, and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Ryan? The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, must not have read the document because he criticised the Fine Gael Party for its proposals regarding the establishment of a single water authority. In the report, it is clear the Government is supportive of our idea. Progressing the report's contents would benefit every Senator and the economy and we on this side of the House would be willing to debate them.
I support the call made by colleagues for a debate on the proposed reorganisation of Departments. I welcome the apparent suggestion of a Department with responsibility for public service reform and another Department that will focus specifically on the need to train and educate the unemployed. However, I wish to make two points. First, these proposals are being driven by the McCarthy report which has not been properly debated in the House. It will have significant implications for major decisions that will be made in respect of the country. Second, I want to emphasise the point that, despite my welcome, new Departments are not the answer to the difficulties we are facing. Rather, we need a new attitude, a new awareness of the challenges we face and a new willingness to develop fresh ideas to tackle them.
I refer to the debate in the House on Ryanair and hangar 6, a matter touched on by Senators Ross and Norris. I reject the growing distaste articulated by some for a business that is willing to get out there, hustle, argue and sell itself to drive its business. This is the spirit our businesses need at home and abroad.
They need a willingness and determination to project themselves and to fight their corner at home and in overseas markets. I would go so far as to suggest that it would be good to see the Government take the same attitude.
I refer to the judgment of the Special Criminal Court as regards the Omagh bombing. One can read today about how the issue of falsified Garda notes has dogged both trials of Colm Murphy in connection with the Omagh bombing. There was no evidence before the courts on which a jury, properly charged, could convict the accused. This is an extraordinary indictment of the Garda Síochána and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission must investigate the matter. I say this reluctantly because I understand what it is the Garda is up against in trying to deal with these types of atrocities, but the falsification of notes is an extraordinary turn of events and has destroyed the prospect of a conviction in the case. In the public interest, the commission can initiate an inquiry without having received a complaint. If a complaint is necessary, making one would be warranted. This situation is most unfortunate and unsatisfactory. Another investigation into Garda activities must be carried out this week.
I acknowledge the presence in the Visitors Gallery of our councillor, Mr. Shane P. O'Reilly, and congratulate him on his family's recent success. Senators Twomey, O'Toole, Hannigan, Mooney, Coghlan and Hanafin called for an urgent debate on banking. The Finance Bill will be before the House on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 24-26 March. As we all know, Committee Stage in the Dáil is being deliberated. A timeframe has been allocated.
Senator Mooney suggested that a devaluation of the euro could be considered. Whatever the possibility of that occurring, I understand the euro's strongest point is that it keeps interest rates down. Given the fact that this is a small nation, I hate to think what interest rates we would be charged were we not in the euro. They would be mind-boggling.
Senators Mooney, Norris, Ó Brolcháin, Hanafin and Donohoe called for a special debate on jobs. It will be held next Wednesday. As many colleagues are anxious that we discuss the subject, I will consult party leaders at our meeting on Tuesday. I will continue it the following week, if necessary. All of next Wednesday afternoon will be devoted to a special debate on everything to do with the creation of jobs.
Senator Twomey called for a debate on the public sector. That may be tied in with the jobs debate if leaders agree. I would have no difficulty with that. The Senator also referred to health services and a new medical council Bill. I will do everything I can to facilitate his request.
Senators Hannigan, Ross and Buttimer spoke about the student support Bill. The Bill has not been published but I will make inquiries as to when that might happen.
Senator Wilson made a strong point in support of his native Cavan and neighbouring County Monaghan. As a Senator who lives on the Ulster border I fully agree, as does Senator Joe O'Reilly, with Senator Wilson's serious concerns at the huge interference suffered by the people of Mullagh, Cootehill and Ballybay, which was well represented in the House for many years. Bailieborough and Ballina are also seriously affected. When the ESB placed pylons across the country I remember that our car radios were affected when we drove under them. Now that Cavan and Monaghan have come into the 21st century we have digital services and the area has been opened up. Others are now discovering this "hidden Ireland" which we have known for some time. We now have the same opportunities as other places. Those of us who attended the recent meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly saw the effect of the huge investment in tourism in Cavan, particularly the magnificent four and five star hotels which have been built there. It is fantastic to see this happening and we fully support the people of Cavan, through Senator Wilson's representations here. I know that all colleagues will join the Government Whip in his request.
Senator Cummins called for the Minister to come to the House to speak about law and order and gangland crime. On Tuesday next, the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009 will be debated in the House and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who always attends when his Bills are being debated, will be present. I know the Senator is a champion in this area. I ask colleagues to bring these matters to light when speaking in the debate on Second Stage. If Senators of various parties and groups wish to have additional time for Second Stage of this Bill I will discuss that with the leaders on Tuesday. Whatever time is required will be provided so Senators can make their strong views known to the Minister during the debate on Second Stage.
We will be speaking to the Bill then.
Senator Buttimer raised the issue of upwards only rent reviews, which is of grave concern to many business owners who are concerned about the survival of their businesses. I will make inquiries in this regard. As the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible for this area it could also be highlighted on Tuesday next.
Senators Hanafin and Ormonde called for a debate on the new mayor of Dublin. Under the proposed legislation the mayor will have a range of substantial powers to establish and deliver a vision for Dublin. This is to be welcomed. It is part of the programme for Government that the mayor will have powers to draw up strategic plans for land use, planning, waste management, water services and their implementation at local level. The Dublin local authorities will be obliged to comply with these plans. It is timely that we should have a debate. The views of colleagues in both Houses and in local authorities as to how the Minister and his Department can be assisted in implementing this innovative proposal will be very welcome, as Senator Ormonde said.
Senators Ross and Norris referred to yesterday's lively proceedings of the Joint Committee on Transport. I saw excerpts from the meeting on "Oireachtas Report" last night. I was disappointed that colleagues who excelled at the meeting were not featured in the transmission. Of course, everyone waited with bated breath for Senator Ross's contribution but we were denied it. Innovation and the creation of jobs is a serious challenge. Ireland has been proud of the success of Aer Lingus, carrier of the national flag and the shamrock throughout the world. In bad times, many of us were delighted to see Irish planes arriving at Kennedy Airport bearing the shamrock logo. Aer Lingus has excelled in that area. All airlines are going though a difficult time at present and every job is a godsend. We should do anything we can do to help Mr. Michael O'Leary. The Government and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment are doing everything humanly possible in this regard. Other hangars have been proposed. The lease has been signed, as Senator Norris has said, and the contract is in place.
What is the Minister doing?
Contracts must be honoured by every Government.
Who owns Aer Lingus?
Irrespective of what party is in government, contracts must be honoured.
Can the Leader tell us what the Minister is doing? Can he outline that to the House?
Senators Leyden and Donohoe spoke about the configuration of possible new Departments. This is something we can consider and discuss in the House.
Senator Coghlan raised the matter of NAMA. I understand it will be cleared in Brussels in a few weeks. I know the Senator has first-hand information on this matter. From where he is sitting this morning he does not have to look far to be fully briefed on it.
Will it be sanctioned?
I will endeavour to update the House on the Order of Business next Tuesday.
The Leader speaks in riddles, as ever.
Senators Cannon, Buttimer, Ormonde and O'Reilly called for another debate on special educational needs. I congratulate everyone concerned on last evening's wonderful debate on this matter. The Minister of State was present in the House. I will consult the leaders with a view to providing any time needed for a debate on this matter. Much legislation is waiting to be debated. Every session next week will be devoted to legislation, with the exception of the special debate on jobs.
Senators Ó Murchú and Mullen called for a debate on the Irish language. I have already given a commitment to arrange this debate and I am endeavouring to have it take place. I will speak to colleagues later today to arrange a time for it in the next two weeks.
Senator Norris congratulated the Minister for Foreign Affairs on his efforts in relation to Gaza. I join the Senator in this regard and wish the Minister well in his efforts.
Senator Coghlan expressed concern for the Kerry red deer. The Bill will be debated in the House later today when this can be discussed when the Minister is present.
That is the dogs Bill.
All of this can be discussed when the Minister is present.
There is a slight difference between dogs and deer.
The same Minister is responsible for both matters.
The Leader is inadvertently misinforming the record.
Senator Bacik referred to the "Prime Time" programme. I support the efforts of the "Prime Time" team. We congratulated them in the House yesterday. The matter of the National Archives can be brought to the attention of the Minister for Finance when the Finance Bill is debated in the House.
On the Order of Business yesterday, I agreed that a debate on maternity services would take place. I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Bacik.
I thank the Leader.
Senator Dearey mentioned the 200 new jobs in Dundalk. I congratulate the Ministers for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Justice, Equality and Law Reform in this regard. Having a Minister at the Cabinet table makes a major difference to a town. I know what was done for Athlone by my own colleague. We have seen what happened from time to time throughout the country. I congratulate the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern. Like Senator Dearey, I support the local authority, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. A European head office is a boon for an Irish town such as Dundalk. We congratulate everyone concerned in making this happen. I join Senator Dearey in that. We are in the same constituency.
Senator O'Reilly referred to the groceries order, the prices being paid to farmers and the prices the consumer must pay. I very much agree with him in this regard. It is about time the groceries order was revisited, perhaps by the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Senator might influence his colleague, Senator Coghlan, who is on that committee, in order that this could happen at the earliest possible opportunity.
Senator Carty called for a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy. This would be a very timely debate and at the appropriate time in the very near future I intend to allow an all day debate on the challenges facing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and everyone involved in agriculture, on the Common Agricultural Policy, what it has done for our country and for our farmers and on where we are going in the next ten to 15 years in this area. I thank the Senator for bringing it to the House's attention.
Senator Mullen has serious concerns about head shops, as have all colleagues in the House. I understand the legislation is at a very advanced stage and will be in the House in the next few weeks.
Senator Coffey asked if the report on higher education would be published soon. I will make inquiries into that. He also called for a debate on developing the green economy, which would be very worthwhile. A forum like the Seanad could really tease out this issue. There is potential for a large number of jobs in this area in future. Senator Ó Brolcháin brought this issue to our attention in recent weeks and I have no difficulty allowing a long period of time for us to discuss this issue with the Minister.
Senator Regan referred to the judgment in the Special Criminal Court yesterday in regard to the Omagh bombing. The Minister will be in the House next Tuesday and we should do anything we can as legislators, as Senator Regan correctly pointed out.
Senator Buttimer proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That statements on the student support scheme and special educational needs be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?
- Bacik, Ivana.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Cannon, Ciaran.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Cummins, Maurice.
- Donohoe, Paschal.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Hannigan, Dominic.
- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- McCarthy, Michael.
- McFadden, Nicky.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Norris, David.
- O’Reilly, Joe.
- O’Toole, Joe.
- Regan, Eugene.
- Ross, Shane.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- Twomey, Liam.
- Brady, Martin.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carroll, James.
- Carty, John.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Corrigan, Maria.
- Daly, Mark.
- Dearey, Mark.
- Ellis, John.
- Feeney, Geraldine.
- Glynn, Camillus.
- Hannigan, Dominic.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Leyden, Terry.
- MacSharry, Marc.
- McDonald, Lisa.
- Mooney, Paschal.
- Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
- Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
- O’Brien, Francis.
- O’Donovan, Denis.
- O’Malley, Fiona.
- O’Sullivan, Ned.
- Ormonde, Ann.
- Phelan, Kieran.
- Walsh, Jim.
- White, Mary M.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.