The Order of Business is No. 1, Finance Bill 2010(Certified Money Bill) — Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business. The business of the House shall be interrupted between 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
We have learned today that the State must invest another €9 billion in the zombie bank, Anglo Irish Bank, simply to keep it afloat. We have also heard damning reports on the State-owned Dublin Docklands Development Authority which appears to have had an incestuous relationship with senior management of Anglo Irish Bank, which is hardly a coincidence. Three reports on planning, financial affairs and corporate governance issues in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority are in the hands of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. We understand they have huge implications and consequences in terms of exposure for the taxpayer. We must know about the role of the Government and ministerial decisions in the operation and oversight of the authority. There is a need for the Deputy Leader's party colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, to publish the reports on this very sorry affair as soon as possible. We understand they are already in the public domain. It is important that, as Members of the Oireachtas, we see and debate them accordingly. I, therefore, call on the Deputy Leader to arrange a debate on the authority and the involvement of Ministers in the decisions taken to increase borrowings at the authority which have left the State in a financial quagmire.
All of this is happening at a time when the unemployment figure has surpassed 436,000 on the live register, the highest ever recorded and double the EU average. I remind the House that more than 85,000 of these are under 25 years of age. There have been almost 100,000 redundancies in the past year in many factories in many sectors, including manufacturing, engineering, pharmaceutical and construction. Agencies such as FÁS, the VECs, third colleges and the enterprise boards will play a significant role in re-skilling and retraining the people concerned to help them find gainful employment again.
The European Union provides assistance through the European globalisation fund to an amount of €500 million per annum. I draw the attention of the House to something I have discovered in working with the Waterford Crystal workers, that is, there has been little or no communication between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and the State agencies responsible for the roll-out and operation of the fund in this country. There is confusion in respect of Dell, SR Technics and Waterford Crystal, as a result of which thousands of redundant workers are awaiting assistance urgently. Not only that, other companies are entitled to access the fund, but the Department has been asleep at the wheel and made no application on their behalf. I refer to Teva Pharmaceuticals, ABB, Honeywell and Bausch and Lomb in Waterford with combined job losses in excess of 1,000. No application has been made to the fund on their behalf by the Department, which is a disgrace. In the construction sector thousands of workers have been made redundant but no application has been made to the fund on their behalf. I, therefore, propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation come before the House to debate this issue and the respective roles of the Minister for and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and all relevant State agencies in assisting redundant workers to access the fund, which would help them greatly.
I support the view that this is the ideal House in which to discuss the report on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. There is much to be discussed in this regard. It is not a party political issue or one on which the House needs to divide but this is the place in which to examine the issues raised. Many issues have emerged from the report, including the charge of political involvement. We cannot blame the political classes or the public sector for this one. This is an issue to be examined to find out what exactly has been taking place, including the cross-breeding or in-breeding between the authority and Anglo Irish Bank. We should have such a debate as soon as is practicable; I do not suggest we hold it today. I wish to debate the issue only when we have access to the report but I seek a commitment from the Deputy Leader that we will have such a debate.
I raise another issue of concern to me, that is, the image of Ireland. Ireland has the youngest population in western Europe. It has an image of being bright, of fresh youthfulness, with a get-up-and-go attitude, etc. There is, however, a threat to our marketing brand which may be polluted, infected and corrupted by worn, wrinkly, 60 year olds in charge in various parts of the country. We should ask the Government to address this issue as a matter of urgency. We should pass a law to ensure no one aged 60 years would be allowed outdoors during daylight hours to ensure the image of the country would not be undermined in order that the issue of our public brand could be dealt with. A newspaper in Middle Abbey Street and another in Cork have made great play of the age of members of the Cabinet. It is disgraceful and nauseating. It would be helpful to know the ages of the editor and the editorial bosses in the firm on Middle Abbey Street.
I am sure my colleague, Senator Ross, could help me in that regard. I am appalled that the great newspaper with offices on Middle Abbey Street is in the ownership of a septuagenarian man. This cannot be right. For God's sake, we cannot have newspapers run by fellows in their 70s. What is the country coming to? We should take a stand on the matter.
I refer to the idea of having a Cabinet post for the arts, culture and tourism. Who would want anyone to look after these sectors? Is it not simply the bottom step of the ladder and the trapdoor out of office? Is this of importance to us? Should we bother having a Minister with responsibility for these sectors? I make these points seriously. The idea that certain responsibilities are unimportant or that people aged 60 years or more should not be involved is appalling, uninformed and ignorant. My colleague, Senator Quinn, did Trojan work here to ensure ageism was included in the grounds for discrimination. I am not completely disinterested because I am 62 years of age but it is of no relevance to me whether people know of my age. However, to make a judgment on the quality of people based of their age and insinuate that people of a certain age are not fit for office is unacceptable. We may criticise the Government and will continue to criticise individual members of it but this is something we should walk away from and query where we are going. Is this not discriminatory?
I have been notified that an amendment my party and I have tabled to the finance Bill has been ruled out of order because it involves a potential charge on the people. I accept this is in accordance with procedure and I will deal with the matter if I get an opportunity to do so when we come to debate the Bill. However, in the expectation that I will not get very far in expressing my disappointment at the ruling, I call on the Deputy Leader to arrange a debate in the Seanad in the not too distant future on the compelling case made by many involved in the debate for a Tobin tax. This issue is highly relevant in the context of where we are and the debate on the banks generally, not only in this country but also internationally. It does not appear the proposal will get an airing in the debate on the finance Bill but the Deputy Leader might arrange for the Minister to come before the House on some suitable occasion to allow us to debate the matter.
I am pleased the Deputy Leader is taking the Order of Business because I wish to repeat the call that the reports referred to this morning on RTE, copies of which apparently the company has received, be published now.
Will the Deputy Leader indicate why they have not been published? He indicated that he believed they should be published quickly when the former Senator de Búrca explosion occurred a few weeks ago. Will he indicate when they will be published and, if he cannot do so, the reason for the delay? We are informed by RTE that the Minister and the Attorney General have them. The Attorney General has seen them and the Minister received them last month. Apparently, the process is ongoing. Will the Deputy Leader indicate the nature of this process? Will he explain the procedures which are being followed? If there are such reports, I will not be as generous as Senator O'Toole. I am not prepared to absolve in advance the Fianna Fáil Party and its leadership in respect of what has taken place. In fairness, I may do so when I read the reports but I wish to see them first before I make up my mind.
Will the Deputy Leader assist me on one aspect of what has been stated this morning, that is, planning permissions given by this body were considered non-compliant? That is the phrase used by RTE which did not inform us with what the agency was not compliant. I presume it meant the agency was not compliant with the planning code, as we understand it. If that is what is intended to be conveyed, will the Deputy Leader confirm this and indicate whether he, like me, believes it is extraordinary that an agency, set up for a very good reason to foster development in a particular area, could end up being used as a conduit to circumvent the planning code and cut corners? We have seen so many corners cut in recent years by persons in the private sector. We hope we will not find out now that this public body was set up to facilitate private individuals and institutions to circumvent the law.
Yesterday the Reverend Ian Paisley sat in the House of Commons for the last time. In many ways Reverend Paisley represents the metamorphosis which took place in political life in the North of Ireland. In many ways his contribution was essential to the final outcome of the peace process. In a gracious manner, when he spoke in the House of Commons yesterday, he stated that he hoped that we would never return to the bad old days.
It was sad that on exactly the same day the Orange Order in the United Kingdom called for protests against the visit of his Holiness, the Pope, to Britain. One representative of the Orange Order in the North of Ireland has stated that it will protest against any suggestion that he might visit Northern Ireland. I would see this as a return to the bad old days.
There is an echo in this of the time that the Orange Order came to Dublin and we all supported its right on that occasion to march down O'Connell Street. I call on the fine responsible members of the Orange Order in the North of Ireland, of whom there are so many, to dissociate themselves fully from this statement yesterday by the Orange Order regarding the Pope. It is unhelpful, archaic and out of place in a modern world. When one thinks of the other difficulties which have come about in the world as a result of religious issues, often resulting in violence and tragedy, it behoves everybody who has any faith whatsoever to be tolerant towards each faith whenever that opportunity arises.
I support Senator Coffey's call for a debate on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the report on it. I find myself strongly disagreeing with what Senator O'Toole said, that it appears at this stage that the political classes may have had nothing to do with it. Even before this report is published, we can already be clear about two points. First, the set-up of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority is a classic example of the way Fianna Fáil has governed this country. If there is something to be done, they set up a body that is not accountable to anybody, give it a significant amount of power and money to do a job, and if anything goes wrong, they then wash their hands of it. When we look back at the way this country has been governed and the quangos which have been put in place to do it, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority will be seen as the best and the most damaging example of that.
The second point on which we are already clear is that ministerial involvement appears to have been needed to increase the ability of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to borrow for the purchase of land for which the taxpayer now must pay. It is not the political classes but one group within it, namely, Fianna Fáil, that has everything to do with this. This report is not only an investigation of the Dublin docklands, but may end up being, as I believe it will, an indictment of how Fianna Fáil has managed this country.
It is reported today that social welfare offices may be closed today as part of the ongoing industrial dispute that is taking place. I appeal to the people who could be involved in this decision not to do this. The last people who are responsible for what is happening in this country are those going to social welfare offices to collect their benefits. As awfully bad as it is to see one's income reduced, it is a hell of a lot worse to see one lose one's job. It would be unconscionable to see those people ending up having to pay a price for it.
Approximately 3,000 marriages of foreign couples are now invalid and illegal. The General Register Office has informed the foreign embassies that marriages performed by the diplomatic missions were not recognised under the 2004 Civil Registration Act, which came into force on 5 November 2007. This is vital to those 3,000 marriages and the children who have emerged from those marriages who will be declared outside of wedlock. It is a serious situation. We should bring about an amendment to the Act that would recognise those marriages as having taken place abroad on the normal basis. I ask the Deputy Leader to request that the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Ó Cuív — the register was under the Department of Health and Children previously but it has moved — would come into the House. It would provide an opportunity for this House to deal with current issues of importance to people. I hope that the Deputy Leader will arrange this with the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, who I am sure would be anxious to come in early next week.
I agree with Senators Coffey, Donohoe and O'Toole. It is imperative that we have a debate on the DDDA now. The DDDA situation stinks to high heaven. It is quite obvious that what was going on in there was completely unacceptable. What we do not know is the facts. There is political accountability for what happened in the DDDA because the Government appointed the chairman and the board. I want the Ministers involved, who all are still Ministers, to come to the House and explain why they appointed Mr. Jim Lacey, Mr. Seán FitzPatrick and Mr. Lar Bradshaw and what qualifications these people had. These people are involved in very serious controversies and it is perfectly legitimate for us to ask the Ministers to explain the qualifications these people had for sitting on such an extraordinarily sensitive board. I am not drawing any conclusions from that one way or the other, and there is no innuendo in what I am saying, but we must have Ministers explaining these appointments because State boards in this country are an absolute scandal.
I would be interested in what the Deputy Leader has to say because he had a noble record on this issue when he was in Opposition which, unfortunately, he appears to have sacrificed now he is in Government. I would like him to give Members a commitment that he will ask those Ministers. Ministers and not just the persons themselves should be accountable for this. We always say let us have them in before an Oireachtas committee explaining themselves, but the guys who make the appointments should give us the explanations and the appointees' qualifications. Some of these appointments are nakedly politically and the only reason they are appointed is because they are supporters of various political parties.
One political party.
One political party recently and certainly since the DDDA was founded because that was only in 1997.
Time now, Senator.
Certainly, one of those I have mentioned is a fund-raiser for Fianna Fáil. Is that the only reason that he was appointed?
Senator Ross may raise that in the debate, if he gets the debate.
That is what I am asking for. We have heard a great deal about the Anglo Irish Bank pay rises. There appears to be a kind of elite at the top of the public service which can break the freeze or reductions in public service pay. This has arisen not only at Anglo Irish Bank but among higher civil servants numbering approximately 600 and in the case of the guys at the top of NAMA, which was missed because we were in recess last week. Mr. Frank Daly, the Chairman, is getting a 70% increase. I cannot believe it. It slipped through when everybody was in recess. The other directors are getting up to 30%. This is crazy.
This is my last sentence. Apparently, at the top of the Civil Service in the Department of Finance there is a hidden hand who can slip people through these restrictions which other people at the bottom must endure.
I welcome what I would consider the responsible comments of Senator Donohoe on the various industrial action going on. It is important that we on all sides of the House should make the comments on social welfare. It is atrocious that, potentially, people who have recently lost their jobs stand unable to collect social welfare. Being unable to get a passport is one matter, but people who are already in dire difficulties not being able to collect the minimal payments which people receive on social welfare is a matter which Senators on all sides of this House should stand against.
I would welcome a debate on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority when the report is published in good time.
What is a good time?
It is appropriate that there would be a debate. However, I want to make the important point that lessons need to be learned from these issues relating to the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.
I am sick and tired of listening to these debates as if Dublin were the only place on the planet. Many projects in other ports such as Cork, Galway and Waterford are also important. Mistakes were made with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. However, a large development for Galway city is planned involving the area around Ceannt Station and the harbour. This is a much more significant development to Galway than the Dublin docklands one was to Dublin but here we are just fussing about Dublin all the time. In any debate on docklands it is important lessons are learned and all harbour authorities examined.
Senator Coffey has raised serious matters and I second his amendment to the Order of Business. As Senator Ross said, we have long known there is a huge stink off the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. We need to lance this boil now. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has the report on the authority. I am sure the Deputy Leader will agree that in the interests of transparency, it should be published without further delay. It has gained some circulation already in sections of the media. Those who ran the authority were running an independent republic within the Republic. They were a law unto themselves.
The Senator should call for a debate and not make a Second Stage speech on the matter.
I want a debate, of course. However, there were serious irregular planning practices taking place with the authority that apparently will cost the State much money in ensuing litigation which is piling up. Owing to the interconnection between the authority and Anglo Irish Bank, alluded to earlier, it is necessary that aspect is included in a debate. Such a debate is ideal for this House because it is more objective and less partisan than the other House. The Seanad would do such a debate more justice.
The Senator should check the voting record.
Come off it. What about the 30,000 jobs it created?
Senator Coghlan, without interruption.
The Senator wants to abolish this House.
I did not say anything about abolishing it. I am saying these are proper matters for the House to debate, a point with which I am sure the Deputy Leader will agree. The earlier we can debate both these subjects the better.
Will the Deputy Leader comment on the proposed directly elected mayor for Dublin? I understand these elections will not take place until next year because the legislation will not be published until the autumn.
While the Deputy Leader is taking the Order of Business——
No, the Senator can raise it next week.
The other matter I want to raise concerns the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and all Members are interested in it. Will the Deputy leader explain why the White Paper on Local Government is ready but will not be released?
Will the Deputy Leader organise a short debate next week on the issue of the south-east air and rescue helicopter service being withdrawn from its Waterford site? I know Senators Coffey and Cummins raised it on the Adjournment during the week and it was raised in the Dáil last night. It is important the issue is kept alive. A debate, which would be short with only seven Members speaking, would be important to those families in the south east who have lost members at sea.
I appreciate the Minister's argument that modern helicopters are faster, more effective and can fly through fog and various other adverse weather conditions. At what stage can one say one can save a life? What happens if the helicopter happens to be 20 minutes late or half an hour late? If the helicopter is twice as fast, we should be able to save more lives. It does not mean one locates it twice as far away. While I support the work done this week to highlight this issue, a debate next week on the matter is necessary to get the Minister to change his mind on the decision.
I agree with Senator Ó Brolcháin on the report of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, which needs to be debated, that there is life outside Dublin. In Wexford, Rosslare Port is strategically important to the national economy. Recently the port manager there informed me that as our planning laws end at the shoreline, any port development that involves construction in the sea cannot go ahead because of the ridiculously bad delays in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Rosslare Port cannot be developed the way the people want to because the infrastructural planning laws do not provide adequately for port development. This area needs to be properly debated.
I join others in calling for a debate on the disturbing reports concerning the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. People in Ringsend and Sandymount have always been aware of a stink coming not just from the nearby sewage treatment plant but also from the goings-on in the authority.
There should be a question to the Deputy Leader.
There are certainly parallels between the rotten borough of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the one that was FÁS.
Since the Deputy Leader is taking the Order of Business, will he give an update on the progress with the climate change Bill? Heads of the Bill were promised to be published before Easter which gives us one more week for a debate on it before the House goes into recess? As he will be aware, there is a domestic and international momentum for this legislation. Since the collapse of the Copenhagen summit, it is expected that national legislatures will introduce their own climate change legislation. The Deputy Leader will recall I introduced a Climate Protection Bill in the House and which is still on the Order Paper.
Will the Deputy Leader give a date for the debate on women's participation in politics and, in particular, the report produced by the justice committee on it? This was promised to us many different times by the Leader. Given that Deputy Mary White has now taken responsibility from Deputy Moloney as the Minister of State with special responsibility for equality, human rights and integration, will the Deputy Leader give Members a date, as early as possible after Easter if it cannot be done next week, for when she can take such a debate in the House? It would mark an historic occasion that for the first time in 90 years one of the Houses formally debated the issue of women's participation in politics. It is an opportunity for the Seanad to steal a march on the Dáil by having the debate first.
I too would like a debate on the escalation of the public service work to rule. It is particularly serious now as the most vulnerable are going to be hit if the social welfare offices across the country close. I am conscious that those who would be affected do not have lines of credit, overdrafts, credit or debit cards or even savings. The very people who need welfare money immediately are going to be hit by this escalation of the work-to-rule. Some of the stories we have heard about the Passport Office seem to be mean-spirited such as people turning up with the correct documentation only to be told they are missing something, that the passport is in the post or it is not ready when it is clearly marked on the computer system that it is. The public support the union involved so desperately needs for its action is not only being lost but raising a reaction against the work to rule. I call on the union to consider its actions.
We know sacrifices have been made. I suggest when the Government is dealing with the social partners, the emphasis should be made that when the good times return, the sacrifices made by the public service would not be forgotten and that benchmarking would continue on an upward trajectory.
As they are all on the Front Bench on the Government side, I compliment the Green Members for taking control of the Seanad.
There should be a question the Deputy Leader and no comments on any Members.
On his Twitter account this morning, the Deputy Leader referred to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, having to clean up the mess in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Has the Deputy Leader seen the report? If so, what did he mean by having to clean up the mess? I agree with Senator Coffey and Senator Donohoe, and formally second the amendment to the Order of Business if this has not already been done, that the authority is the epitome of Fianna Fáil cronyism. It was set up by Government, it has rewarded political patronage and Senator Donohoe is correct in pointing out the involvement in accessing money to buy land. The taxpayer must now pay off this sum. When can we expect the report to be published and why has there been a delay? Will the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, come to the Chamber to explain the whole report and indicate what he intends to do?
I agree with the comments made by Senator Donohoe about the staff in the social welfare offices. As a proud advocate of public sector workers, I appeal to the workers in the social worker offices not to hit the most marginalised and vulnerable people. They should think before engaging in further industrial action. The unions should hit the Government and the representatives of the Government, not the people.
I previously raised in the House the issue of redundant SR Technics workers and the fact they have been let down so badly by this Government. There is an opportunity for workers to avail of the EU globalisation fund to access training similar to that availed of by Dell workers in Limerick. The Government failed to respond to this opportunity in a timely way, with extreme delays in applying and an application only being made in October. In January, additional information was sought by the Commission. In an official response to a Labour MEP, the Commission stated that as of 26 February it had not received the additional information requested. A follow-up question this week reveals the Commission has not yet received the additional information. If the Government is serious about assisting this group of highly skilled, hard-working people, it must come clean on the reasons for the delay. The former SR Technics must wait six to seven months to get EU support to pay for third level and retraining packages and initiatives because of this debacle. It has been more than a year since the announcement of the SR Technics closure at Dublin Airport. I have been contacted by many former workers concerned that their social welfare payments are running out and that there will be nothing in place thereafter. Former SR Technics workers do not deserve this scandalous treatment. I call on the Deputy Leader to raise this as a matter of urgency with the incoming Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure this matter is not overlooked in any lead-in time while he is taking up his brief. It is a matter of extreme urgency and must be given the priority it deserves.
I support the calls to address the difficulties that pertain in the public service. It is important we make the point that the constitutional right to travel must be honoured. Whatever action is necessary to address the difficulties in the Passport Office, they must be addressed. That may require difficult political decisions and I would like to think the House would support such a decision once it ensures people have their constitutional right upheld. Last Tuesday I brought to the Leader's attention how President Reagan addressed the air traffic controllers dispute. We should not lose sight of the options. There seems to be a cushion against this measure being used in Ireland. I hold strong views on the strength of feeling we should have about constitutional rights, irrespective of the designation of citizenship.
Regarding banking and financial difficulties, NAMA has been introduced and we hope it will address the heavy burden of debt associated with construction. There is a major burden of debt on individuals and householders and there does not seem to be the same emphasis on an organisation to assist those individuals. On occasions this pushes individuals to do things they would not normally do. This is linked to the actions and attitude of banking officials. We must address this and discuss it and I ask the Deputy Leader to enter into discussion with other party or group leaders to come up with an appropriate forum or mechanism for this debate.
The EU globalisation fund was designed to assist unemployed people to get back into the workforce through training, education and assistance in setting up their own businesses. EU officials were in Waterford last week for a public meeting organised by Mr. Sean Kelly, MEP and Senator Coffey. The EU officials responsible for the implementation of this fund were shocked to hear the State agencies have not yet been informed or briefed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on their role in the roll-out of this fund. There has been no communication between the Department and the agencies, some of whom were present at the meeting. This is an absolute disgrace. It is another case of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment being asleep at the wheel.
Senator Ryan alluded to SR Technics workers. Three applications were made, one for SR Technics, one for Dell and one for Waterford Crystal, yet EU officials told us the construction sector or other companies can be linked to make application for funds to help unemployed people. This Government has been asleep and has not made applications for this group of workers. This matter must be debated in the House and I support the amendment to the Order of Business. We are talking about jobs, which should be the number one priority for each of us in this House. This must be debated in early course.
The French Government made an announcement on Tuesday, which was reported yesterday, that it would abandon its intention to introduce a carbon tax. The French Government said the tax would make France uncompetitive against a number of countries in Europe without a carbon tax. This is a reminder that we would like to see some things, such as a carbon tax, but other matters take priority at this stage. One of these priorities is jobs and the economy. While we would like to see a carbon tax at some point in the future, if the French Government has decided it will not introduce it until there is European agreement on taxation — which there will not be, I gather — we should rethink our intention to introduce a carbon tax at this point.
There are other things people wish to aim at in this area. One example is the €64 million the EU has allocated to encourage freight to move from road to rail. It sounds very good but the Rosslare to Waterford rail link has carried no freight since 2006 when the sugar companies closed down. The revenue it receives only amounts to 2% of the cost of running the rail link. I can understand the urgency, the need and the wish to switch from road to rail but there are some things that will not happen through wishful thinking.
If we are to move on something, I refer to an old hobby horse of mine. Next Sunday, we will wake up in better humour because there will be an extra hour's daylight every evening for the next six or eight months. This is because we are changing the clocks on Saturday night. If we joined central European time, we would get an extra hour every evening the whole year round. The good news is that Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister in the UK, is now considering this. We tried this 20 to 30 years ago for three years but we moved away because Britain changed. I ask the Deputy Leader to get the Minister to encourage the British to move in this direction. The benefits from energy saving, lives saved on the roads and tourism are such that moving one hour ahead and joining France, Germany, Spain and the rest of Europe has all sorts of benefits. We would not have to do it on our own if we can encourage the British to move at the same time.
The cesspool that was the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the FÁS authority is a departure from the idealism and the high standards perpetrated by the first generation of leadership of this Republic. It is a departure from core Christian values and proper ethics. I believe that many aspects of the Celtic tiger and many manifestations in corporate governance were a reflection of that departure. Senator Ross is right. Government cannot shirk responsibility. The Ministers who appointed these people must——
The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.
——accept accountability. The matter needs a long and thorough debate in this House. I ask the Deputy Leader to facilitate the debate without division as a first step to an acceptance by this House that all was not well in the state of Denmark, and that a change is needed.
I ask the Deputy Leader to arrange a debate on professional fees being charged in this country. The mantra among economists and politicians is that we must become cost effective and a low cost economy. I understand there is anecdotal evidence of a decline in the price of clothes and certain commodities but I have solid evidence that there is no decline in lawyers' fees, doctors' fees, architects' fees and a range of other professional fees. We cannot run a Stalinist state but Government still has a role in price control and in interfacing with professional bodies. The professional bodies must control their own houses but Government has a role in the consumer price area. I ask the Deputy Leader for a debate on professional fees as a step towards becoming a low cost economy.
I appeal to the Government to ask the Taoiseach to get directly involved in regard to the negotiations between the unions and Government to determine how we can get out of the current industrial action. We must bear in mind that last December it was the Government that evicted those organisations from Government Buildings. We warned at that time that if that course of action was followed in the manner in which it was we would be in the middle of industrial turmoil caused largely by Government.
We must bear in mind the recent developments. We have seen a disgusting increase in salary for staff in Anglo Irish Bank and an equally unjustifiable increase in salaries for the directors of NAMA yet we expect nurses, gardaí, teachers and local authority workers to fund that. If the Taoiseach will not get stuck in directly to address this matter it will only get worse.
Yesterday, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames raised the extraordinary position where under the cancer strategy we have designated specialist centres, Galway being one, but that the €12 million needed for life-saving cancer drugs is not being allocated to Galway. I ask the Deputy Leader to follow that up with the Minister for Health and Children and ensure that urgent action is taken to remedy this position. If our cancer specialist centres are to mean anything, they must surely have the money to administer drugs that are necessary for cancer treatment.
I ask Senator Boyle to outline his response and that of the Green Party on two reports, the first of which is the lost at sea report. Does he support the lost at sea report being referred to a committee for full discussion as the Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has requested? Is he pursuing that at Government and Cabinet level? Second, does he support the accounts of Dublin Docklands Development Authority being referred to the Committee of Public Accounts?
This morning I referred the serious budgetary and life-threatening position at University College Hospital, Galway to the Joint Committee on Health and Children for a full and open investigation. I want the books to be opened. They will be opened. They will be willingly handed over by UCHG to highlight the historical under-funding at that hospital but, more importantly, as Senator Fitzgerald said, since Galway was designated a centre of cancer excellence Government policy has failed us. The €12 million allocated for cancer drugs for end of life care for patients has now been cut by €3 million because the cancer drugs have not been made available, and 30 specialist posts have not been delivered. I ask the Deputy Leader to indicate in his reply when the Minister, Deputy Harney, will come into the House to address this issue, which I raised yesterday. I even called a vote on it. This issue must be debated in the House.
Is this going on in every other centre throughout the country? The position in Galway is very serious. It serves 1 million people from Donegal to north Tipperary. There is a historical under-funding position. St. James's Hospital, which is comparable, gets €100,000 million more in its budget. The position on the cancer centre policy is very serious and the Minister must be brought to book on this issue. I look forward to hearing the Deputy Leader's reply.
Senators Coffey, O'Toole, Alex White, Donohoe, Ross, Ó Brolcháin, Coghlan, McDonald, Bacik, Buttimer, O'Reilly and Fitzgerald raised the issue of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority report. The position on the news report on RTE this morning is that RTE has seen a copy of the report. The report was commissioned by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It is a series of three reports undertaken by the recently appointed chair of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Professor Niamh Brennan, as part of a wider appointment of a largely new board in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. It was received by the Minister in February. The Minister immediately passed it on to the Attorney General's office for legal vetting. That process of legal vetting is ongoing. It includes handing out copies of the reports to the people mentioned. That is expected to be finished within a matter of weeks. It is anticipated the report will be published in April and there will be a debate in this House on the contents of the report. I expect the Minister to be very forthcoming in such a report. As a Member of this House and like all current and former Members, I have not seen a copy of any of the reports. We should all await their publication before we discuss the wider issues. I am led to believe there are no specific political references but the wider political issues involved are a matter for debate in this House and I look forward to such a debate taking place.
On the question of whether the public service actions are appropriate and how they are being dealt with, most Members expressed an opinion that they are not appropriate, particularly in circumstances where talks are being organised and are set to take place and there is a hope of a resolution of the issues involved. It is particularly counterproductive that these actions, whether they are of the work to rule nature we have seen or threatened all-out action, only serve to lessen the economic circumstances we are collectively trying to overcome and make resolution of the economic issues all the more difficult. I appeal to all those currently involved in undertaking actions or authorising any future actions to consider the consequences of those actions.
Senator Coffey raised the issue of the European Globalisation Fund. He was joined by Senators Ryan and Cummins on that issue. As Senator Coffey pointed out, the European Globalisation Fund is €500 million for the 27 member states of the European Union and the degree to which Ireland can apply for it is quite small. Ultimately, it is our own Exchequer and Government that is responsible for meeting the training needs of all the workers involved but if administrative issues arise in the three cases mentioned here, I will have those brought to the attention of the Department and ensure an appropriate response is given to the Members.
What about the redundant workers in other companies? Is an application being made on their behalf?
The Deputy Leader is replying to the Order of Business.
I am not aware of that but we will see whatever information is available. As a consequence I am not prepared to accept the amendment to the Order of Business because the Finance Bill is important legislation and we must devote as much time as we can——
There is nothing more important than jobs.
——to ensuring it is passed today. Senator Alex White referred to the proposal regarding the introduction of a Tobin tax. I would be supportive of such a tax. This would require some degree of international co-operation. The proposal was put forward as an international development issue by the previous French President, Jacques Chirac. We could find allies within the European Union in regard to having such a tax considered. It is a tax on international currency transactions. I believe this House should have an opportunity to debate the issue.
Senator Ó Murchú referred the ending of the political career of Dr. Ian Paisley who has been a personification of all the issues that have been part of the history of these islands for the past 50 years and asked that this House wish him well on his retirement. The more pertinent point made by Senator Ó Murchú related to religious tolerance here and in other jurisdictions. I am not too sure if the Senator was making a request for a debate on the issue but the point is well made. There may be opportunities during particular debates to raise the issue again.
Senator Leyden referred to the illegal weddings that have taken place in embassies here, a point for the newly appointed Minister to address. I will bring the matter to his attention. Senator Coghlan asked about legislation in regard to local government and Government reform being brought before both Houses. As I understand it, there is a process involved in respect of the legislation for the election the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the White Paper on local government. Legislation is also required for Seanad reform. This matter is being dealt with in that order by the relevant section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The priority is first to produce the legislation for the election of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. A Cabinet sub-committee is dealing with finalisation of the White Paper on local government. It is hoped announcements in this regard will be made fairly soon.
Senator McDonald called for a debate on the helicopter rescue service in the south east. The Green Party is holding its annual convention in the Waterford area this weekend.
I hope Senator Boyle receives a great reception.
The sunny south east.
I am anticipating a great reception.
There will be a lot of people waiting to meet and greet Senator Boyle.
The Deputy Leader, without interruption please.
I hope the Senator does not need the emergency services.
I have always been fond of that part of the country. The helicopter rescue service is talked about quite regularly. It would be useful to have a debate on the issue to hear the reasons for the decision, the timetable involved and if the issue, as many in the south east believe, is likely to be a false economy and might put lives at risk.
Senators McDonald and Ó Brolcháin referred to port development outside the Dublin area. Senator Buttimer will be aware of the plans for the Cork docklands area. Part of the delay in that regard has been——
A Government commitment.
——the taking of a decision in regard to whether to adopt for Cork the model adopted in Dublin. The reports before the Minister, which we will have an opportunity to debate in this House, will inform that process. I am confident there will be good news in that area in the near future.
The Government should publish the report.
Senator Buttimer, please do not interrupt the Deputy Leader.
The report will be published.
It has not published the Cork docklands report yet.
Please allow the Deputy Leader to reply without interruption.
Senator Quinn referred to the French Government's decision in regard to a carbon tax. I believe the Senator may be slightly misinformed in that the French Government did propose the introduction of a carbon tax, which was not really a carbon tax, but it was struck down in the French court as unconstitutional because it was being applied in an unequal manner. The French have now decided not to go ahead with the proposal as planned.
Senator Bacik asked about the climate change legislation. I do not have a date for when it will be published but I know the Bill is well progressed. I will try to get specific information on the matter for Senator Bacik.
I was informed that heads of a Bill would be published before Easter.
No interruptions, please. Senator Bacik should allow the Deputy Leader to reply to the question she asked.
It is a priority.
Clearly not a Government priority.
No interruptions, please.
Jobs for the boys is the priority now.
Self preservation is the priority.
Senator Buttimer, please do not interruption the Deputy Leader.
I ask Members to allow the Deputy Leader to reply without interruption.
Forget the principles.
I will have to ask Members who continue to interrupt to leave the Chamber.
The truth hurts.
I am grateful for the sudden interest in climate change on the part of Members opposite.
On a point of order——
On a point of order, Senator Bacik introduced a year ago——
I was not referring to Senator Bacik.
——-with the full support of all Members on this side of the House a Bill dealing with this issue.
The Bill was introduced by Senator Bacik in October 2007.
I was referring to the more——
Please allow the Deputy Leader to continue without interruption.
Senator Boyle must feel cheated now.
I was referring to the more animated contributions made during the past few minutes.
The hothouse is getting to Senator Boyle.
Senator Buttimer, please.
There are a lot of emissions coming from that side of the House.
Senator Bacik also called for a debate on the participation of women in politics, an issue which will be handled by my colleague, Deputy Mary White, in her capacity as Minister of State with responsibility for equality and integration. I have spoken to Deputy White about this issue. We are hoping to allow time for such a debate next week. It was originally thought the debate could be scheduled for next Thursday. The Minister of State is not, however, available on that day. It might be difficult to allow time for debate on the matter next Tuesday or Wednesday as the House will be dealing with legislation. I will give a commitment that the issue will be taken in the House on its return following the Easter recess. It is important that debate takes place. The fact that the Minister with responsibility in this area is a female Member of the other House only recently appointed as Minister of State will add a certain poignancy to that debate.
Senator Reilly called for a debate on professional fees, the introduction of which I would support. There has been much talk about our having to reduce our costs. This is an area which adds unnecessary inflation to many transactions. This House would be well served in having such debate.
Senators Fitzgerald and Healy Eames referred to the Galway cancer centre, an issue raised yesterday on the Order of Business. I believe the questions asked have been forwarded to the Department. I am not aware of any particular responses but will seek them for the Senators.
When will the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, address this issue?
Senator Healy Eames should allow the Deputy Leader to respond to her question.
The business for next week is being decided upon. The Minister is not available next week and as such the matter cannot not addressed until after the recess.
I ask the Deputy Leader to ensure the matter is ordered for taking following the recess.
I will make that request.
I thank the Deputy Leader.
No interruptions, please.
I will now address Senator O'Toole's impassioned contribution in regard to ageism. I must admit I am in two minds about this because I am part of the generation that is being stymied by too many people in their sixties holding positions of power.
Nothing stymies Senator Boyle.
That is not Senator Boyle's only problem.
The people of Cork South-Central are discerning people.
Please allow the Deputy Leader to continue without interruption.
I believe Senator Buttimer is making a point against himself.
That is why I said it. We are in the same boat but my boat is rising and Senator Boyle's is sinking.
On the Bill dealing with ageism, this issue also comes within the remit of my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for equality and integration, Deputy Mary White. The House would be well served in having a debate on this issue. I thank Senator O'Toole for raising the matter.
Senator Fitzgerald mentioned the Lost at Sea report. The Taoiseach stated in the Dáil that he has no difficulty with the matter being raised again at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I believe the Government Whip on that committee has also stated he has no difficulty with the matter being raised again. The issue of the Lost at Sea report is immaterial. What we need is consistency in regard to officers of the State raising concerns in terms of how they interact with the Oireachtas. I believe the Ombudsman should come before Oireachtas committees to speak on issues of concern to her. I am confident this will happen.
On the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the Committee of Public Accounts, there is nothing precluding the Comptroller and Auditor General examining any area or following through on any report. I believe it would be of value were he to do so in this case.
Senator Coffey has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate on the respective roles of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and all State agencies in assisting redundant workers and the operation of the European global fund be held today." Is the amendment being pressed?
- Bacik, Ivana.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Cummins, Maurice.
- Doherty, Pearse.
- Donohoe, Paschal.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Hannigan, Dominic.
- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- McCarthy, Michael.
- McFadden, Nicky.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Norris, David.
- O’Reilly, Joe.
- O’Toole, Joe.
- Phelan, John Paul.
- Quinn, Feargal.
- Ross, Shane.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- Twomey, Liam.
- White, Alex.
- Boyle, Dan.
- Brady, Martin.
- Butler, Larry.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carroll, James.
- Carty, John.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Corrigan, Maria.
- Daly, Mark.
- Dearey, Mark.
- Ellis, John.
- Feeney, Geraldine.
- Hanafin, John.
- 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.