Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, Ó Brolcháin, Healy Eames, Ormonde, Norris, Regan, Ó Murchú, Bacik, Donohoe, MacSharry, Feeney, Hanafin, Mooney, Cummins, Daly, Quinn, Leyden, Walsh and Dearey expressed their shock, horror and disappointment regarding the humanitarian mission interrupted by the Israelis. Many calls have been made for the international criminal courts to be asked to investigate the matter. Reference was made to brutality, the misuse of Irish passports and the massacre of humanitarian workers. There were also calls for an international convention on the events that have occurred and, in particular, a call from one Senator for a trade embargo. I join with the Senator who expressed serious concerns about the safety of everybody from Ireland on the Rachel Corrie. We wish them well. The Minister will be in the House from 7.15 p.m. until 9 p.m. tomorrow to give us an update on the serious situation there. I assure the House that each day we will have an opportunity to be updated on this and I will consider how to structure a full debate, following the briefing debates until the debacle has ended. I have no difficulty with allocating time daily for this to take place.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Regan, Donohoe, MacSharry, Buttimer, Mullen, Coghlan and Mooney raised the codes of the Seanad. As the Cathaoirleach correctly pointed out, at present, the Seanad has no function in that regard. The code of ethics in the Seanad is under the stewardship of the Cathaoirleach and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I thank the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission for making available on-line information on the various expenses connected with membership of both Houses.
Senator Ó Brolcháin sought a debate on the rent costs, investments by landlords and everything relating to the challenges facing the retail sector. I have no difficulty with arranging for a debate on the matter.
Senators Healy Eames, Ormonde and Buttimer called for a debate on second level education, absenteeism and other aspects of education, including the €600 million invested by the Government this year in the capital building programme. As I said on a previous occasion, I will arrange for such a debate to take place. Senator Ormonde also asked that the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Power, be invited to the House to discuss the amounts of aid being given by Ireland and the various countries receiving that aid. This is a worthwhile proposal and I support holding a debate on it.
Senators Glynn, Feeney and Quinn congratulated RTE on its "Prime Time" programme last night and called for a debate on everything relating to the protection of children and the agencies responsible for children. I have no difficulty with holding such a debate. I have already given the House a commitment to invite the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, to the House in the next few weeks for a further debate on this issue. Senator Glynn also spoke about the dangers of head shops for society and I support the call he made.
Senator Buttimer asked about the future funding of sport and referred in particular to the swimming pool grants and the capital funding programme. As everybody knows, resources are scarce and not available for that at present. The lottery funding has transformed sporting venues and every parish in the country has benefitted from it. I hope these funds will be made available again at the earliest opportunity, hopefully by the end of next year or early in 2012.
Senator Keaveney called for a debate on the future of post offices, the extra business now being proposed for them and their security, particularly in Border areas. I agree with the Senator in this regard and with regard to the safe delivery of everything that is being transferred to and proposed for post offices. I will arrange for a debate on the matter. I understand the drafting of the sunbed legislation is at a very advanced stage. It will be before the House very soon.
Senators Donohoe, MacSharry, Coghlan and McFadden sought a debate on banking. As I told Members, there will be a debate on this matter once a month to hear updates and discuss the various reports that are now available for our consideration. That debate will definitely take place in June.
Senators Feeney and Quinn congratulated RTE for the "Frontline" programme last night and particularly Deputy Michael Noonan. Everybody's heart went out to Deputy Noonan last night on a personal level, and to his wife Florence and the entire family. It showed the difficulty that many families experience. Unfortunately, the incidence of this disease is increasing. With people living longer, this disease appears to be affecting them in a major way. I wish the Deputy, his wife and his family well, as well as everybody who assists them. I have already put a debate on the elderly into the diary. In the morning the Minister will discuss the entire health portfolio, particularly everything relating to the HSE, and in the afternoon there will be a discussion on the elderly. The following week the Minister of State with responsibility for children will be in the House to discuss his portfolio. There will be no shortage of time to discuss and exchange views about the health portfolio with the Minister, in the presence of the officials.
Senator Hanafin welcomed the editorial opinion in The Wall Street Journal, one of the most respected, if not the most respected, newspapers in the world’s financial circles. It held our country up as a model in terms of the courage and foresight of the Government in the decisions it is making in the national interest. Many other countries are following our example and citing this country as a shining example in encouraging their people and political parties to do the same thing.
Senator Coghlan again outlined his great concern about the world heritage site in his constituency. We certainly support the calls he has made in that regard.
Senator Mooney spoke about EU scrutiny and Seanad reform. I have already discussed this and the Minister for Foreign Affairs wishes to play a full part in the Seanad conducting EU scrutiny. I am due to have a meeting with the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Dick Roche, to confirm how to set aside a timeframe for this, and I will discuss it with the leaders of the groups in the House at our meeting next Tuesday.
Senator Dearey sought a debate on health and raised the shortage of junior doctors. I support him in this regard and when the Minister is here in the next few weeks we can discuss it and find out what progress is being made. I understand an advertisement campaign is taking place at present to ensure there will be enough junior doctors available as we approach the winter months.