The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the provision of health services by the HSE, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 2 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed seven minutes, on which Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, with the Minister to be called upon ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate for closing comments and to take questions from leaders or spokespersons; No. 2, Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 — Report Stage, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and adjourn at 5 p.m., if not previously concluded; and No. 35, Private Members' motion No. 16 on confidence in the Taoiseach, to be taken at 5 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m. The business of the House shall be interrupted between 2 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.
Order of Business
Róisín Ingle's first two sentences on the front page ofThe Irish Times this morning are revealingly chilling and I am sure for many they were overwhelming. Everyone who read them will have been hugely moved by them:
At 3.25 p.m. yesterday, with the sun beating down on a packed Guildhall Square in Derry, a pair of hands poked through the metal grille covering the windows high up in the building. They gave the thumbs-up sign to loud cheers from thousands of locals gathered below.
That marked the arrival of public vindication, the acknowledgement and recognition for the relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday in January 1972. As we know, they had waited too long and had to fight too hard. I welcome the heartfelt and much welcomed statement of the British Prime Minister yesterday. I asked yesterday for a debate on the report which for many families in Northern Ireland and wider society was a long time coming. As the banners on the streets of Derry read yesterday, "Set the truth free." We all welcome the Saville report and its findings.
In its report the Mental Health Commission referred to the inhumane conditions in psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities in 2010. We have all been horrified by what we read about institutions in the Ryan and Murphy reports. Irish society was appalled last year when we saw documented what individual children had gone through in these institutions. It is extraordinary that we have institutions that are totally unfit for purpose. So unfit for purpose are at least three adult psychiatric hospitals that today the Mental Health Commission indicated they should not take in new patients from January and February next year. They should not take in new patients from today. The question is: what has been happening to our mental health services? Why did they not receive priority during the Celtic tiger years? What will happen now that resources are more limited?
How can we, as Senators, try to give greater priority to dealing with mental health issues? There is no doubt mental health services have been the Cinderella of the health service. Many Senators on both sides of the House have spoken about the issue on a number of occasions. We must use our collective will to ensure action is taken. The Minister has the blueprint. What the Mental Health Commission states today is that this issue is still not receiving priority and that there is no clarity on the funding mechanisms to be used, despite all the promises and good intentions of the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney. I accept he is well intentioned and wants to achieve change, but he will not witness that change, unless he has momentum behind him. This House could help him in that regard. I ask the Leader to arrange another all-day debate on mental health services before the end of this Seanad term to bring momentum to the debate and secure political action in order that people will not face the kind of services we were ashamed to reveal were prevalent 50 and 100 years ago. They cannot be allowed to continue. We must do something now.
During the years we have been regularly critical of much of what the United Kingdom has done on this island but one can only stand in awe at the performance and sheer raw courage of Lord Saville in putting the Widgery report to the sword and the facts in front of us. The statement by the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron — I am not his greatest fan — in the House of Commons yesterday was uninhibited and breathtaking. In many ways, it was also unexpected. As Senator Fitzgerald said, it brought extraordinary vindication and consolation to those who had spent a lifetime dealing with an issue of justice, defending and trying to restore the reputations of innocent people killed on Bloody Sunday. I support strongly the need for a debate on the Saville report in order that we can record our appreciation and acknowledgement of what has been done. It is not easy for a sovereign government to put up its hand and state it made a mistake and got it wrong. A lesson can be learned by politicians on this island also. It seems the old mantra of "Never explain, never apologise" went out the door at approximately 3.20 p.m. yesterday afternoon when the Prime Minister spoke in such terms.
Another lesson can be learned from the report in terms of the tribunals. It is interesting that there is a rule that people may not criminalise themselves in the evidence they give to tribunals, except in one significant regard, namely, that if they swear to tell the truth, they can be found guilty and charged with perjury, a serious charge. It is something worth remembering in the tribunals, given that issues arise in terms of obstruction and non-co-operation. I would like the Leader to assist in providing a clear understanding of this point. Those who do not tell the truth in their evidence to tribunals under oath cannot be dealt with by way of criminal charges, but I assume they can be charged with perjury. I look forward to having a debate on the Saville report.
One other issue came to the fore some weeks back, namely, the proposal to computerise all the records of the Land Registry. What is left of our history as a nation is to be found in Land Registry offices which contain information on how we divided our land, shared, bequeathed and bought it. We could learn more from the Land Registry records than from many history books. Our history, culture and heritage are bound up in its offices. As I understand it, the proposal — daft as it seems — is that once the information has been computerised, to destroy all of the hard copy records, as it is considered there will no longer be any need to hold them. We should stand firmly against that proposal. I do not know if Members have followed the work of Diarmaid Ferriter, not just in his programme that was broadcast last night but during the years, almost all of which is based on the extant records available to him in order to learn how we have lived our lives culturally and otherwise. This is invaluable documentation. I ask that the appropriate Minister — I think it is the Minister for Justice and Law Reform — be invited to come to the House to explain his plans for the documentation held in Land Registry offices and also to allow us to have a free and open debate with him. It is not a political matter; it is one on which Members on all sides would share a view.
I am happy to allow Senator Norris to make a Bloomsday entrance into the Chamber.
He is in full bloom.
I agree with my colleagues on what occurred yesterday. Senator Fitzgerald captured the essential emotion of the occasion. It was a deeply, searingly emotional event for the people directly involved, the people of the city of Derry, the wider population of Northern Ireland, this country and the United Kingdom. It was an event of truly momentous importance, not just for what the Saville report states which is at the centre of it, but also for what it means at a very high level for the quality of democracy. We should not forget that for years on end many of us had bemoaned the fact that the British establishment was so protective and defensive, as Senator O'Toole said, but given what it has now done, it behoves those of us who were so critical to acknowledge that Britain has found within itself the ability to acknowledge gross and grievous wrongdoing. That is what occurred yesterday. The statement of the British Prime Minister is extremely welcome in that context. I accept clichés are common in debates of this nature, but it genuinely is a milestone for democracy internationally because it shows that in a democracy there is and should always be available an independent judiciary and option to scrutinise, analyse and, if necessary, criticise the actions of the state. One of the tests of a democracy is the availability of an independent facility in the system that can deliver this kind of report and analysis. It has taken many years to produce the report, about which many would be critical and sad. People will also be critical of the expense and very often the over-legalisation of the process. Despite the fact that we may be critical, including of tribunals in this country, of the time inquiries take and delays, we should never be tempted to throw out the really sacred, important democratic facility to call on an individual such as Lord Saville, an independent judge, to examine carefully, without fear or favour, the actions of the state and produce a report such as he has produced.
There are lessons for us to learn. Yesterday was about Derry and the events of Bloody Sunday which Senator Dearey stated yesterday that he remembered. I am sure everybody in this Chamber remembers them. I remember being off school for the day of mourning. I regard the report as the bookend at the other end of the process that ensued. Yesterday was such an important day. There are lessons to be learned, not just those mentioned by Senator O'Toole but also the wider lesson on the need for independent scrutiny. Let us not, when talking about the tribunals, be tempted to set aside this crucial facility in a democracy. Yesterday was genuinely a great day for democracy.
I endorse the welcome given to the Saville report. The events of Bloody Sunday were most unfortunate. There is no doubt that they were a catalyst in the elevation of the then civil protest to an all-out war. Many lives could have been saved during the years had the matter been dealt with appropriately in the early stages. When the then Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch, spoke out on the issue, he was ignored internationally.
I am concerned about the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 which is to be taken in the House today. I ask the Leader for clarification thereon. It was introduced to the House approximately three months ago and dealt with over two or three weeks. It has not been dealt with for about two months and I am concerned that it is being rushed through the House today on the basis that amendments will be made in the Dáil. That is the understanding I am being given. If so, it demeans the constitutional status of this House. It demeans it if we are being asked to vote down amendments tabled by Fine Gael today only to find out next week or the week after that they will be accepted in the Dáil and that the Bill will be brought back to this House in three or four weeks in order that we can rubber-stamp it. Senator Coffey has put a lot of work into the Bill.
We cannot pre-empt what will happen with the Bill which will be before us later.
I accept that. As deputy leader, I am flying the flag to state this type of process is disingenuous and devalues the status of this House, for which we are always making the case. I do not mind Bills being tweaked as they move from one House to another, but if substantial amendments are being made in the other House, it throws cold water on this House and those who hold particular views on the Bill in question. I welcome the Bill, on which I spoke on Second Stage. We are receiving dishcloth treatment if we are being asked to do what I have described. I am very concerned that it will happen and we should oppose it. If there were only one amendment rather than a series of substantial amendments, matters would be different. If a Minister consciously allows what I am concerned about to occur, he has scant regard for this House. I want to fly the flag in that regard today. I am deeply concerned and ashamed that it should happen.
Today is not just Bloomsday. On this day in 1977 the people made one of the most massive mistakes of all time by voting in Fianna Fáil with a record majority.
Senator Buttimer to continue without interruption. He should not seek interruptions across the floor.
We have been paying the price since.
The Senator should put questions to the Leader.
My question is whether the Leader recognises that that Fianna Fáil Government reintroduced car tax and that water rates are about to be introduced. Does he recognise that the people are being taxed far too much by his party in government?
Senator O'Donovan is absolutely right. I ask the Leader to intervene before we take the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009 with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to spare him and his colleagues the ignominy and embarrassment of having to vote against what are recognised as fair amendments by this side of the House.
In the Dáil——
Is the Senator pre-empting what might happen with the Bill?
The Cathaoirleach knows what will happen also.
The Bill will be taken shortly.
I ask the Leader to intervene with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to accept the fair-minded amendments proposed by this side of the House.
I reiterate my comments of yesterday and call for a debate on the Saville report. As one who has a deep interest in what happened on Bloody Sunday, I pay tribute to the families of those who died and were injured on that awful day for Irish society. Yesterday, as Senator O'Toole rightly said, was a day we learned about the need to have an independent judiciary. This should always be the case. I welcomed the report yesterday. Importantly, the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, showed himself to be a real leader yesterday by his remarks in the House of Commons. The report banishes the Widgery report and, more importantly, promotes civil and human rights and shows we should all be proud in standing up for them.
I add my voice to those welcoming the Saville report. It is a great day for this country. Despite all the bad and negative political developments in Ireland, all people and parties can be proud of the work done to help bring peace to the country. Our model is unprecedented historically and everybody in the House should be proud of it and his or her part in achieving peace. Circumstances seem to be improving.
I want to back up the remarks made on the Property Registration Authority. It is very important from an historical perspective and Senator O'Toole made a very good point. We should debate in the Seanad the need to keep the records, although I welcome computerisation and the freeing up of the Land Registry. It is important that the public can gain access to it easily and simply.
Like Senator Alex White, I want to mention Bloomsday. It is important to mention that it is such a beautiful day.
I call for a debate on the patronage of schools. Such a debate has been called for before. It is particularly poignant because the recognition of ABA schools is about to occur in terms of patronage. I refer to the recognition of schools for people with special needs. We need to have a debate on what exactly constitutes patronage. Is it concerned with religion or the ethos of a school? In the view of Educate Together, it is a philosophy of educating pupils from different walks of life, with their parents. Patronage has changed completely. We need a debate on how we govern our schools and the nature of patronage. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Education and Skills to the House for such a debate.
If anything has eased the pain of the Troubles in the North, it is acts of empathy with the other side, walking in other people's shoes. I remember, in particular, when Mr. Alex Maskey of Sinn Féin moved towards the Protestant community in regard to the First World War and how deeply and profoundly it affected him. I am somewhat concerned that in our tributes to Lord Saville and Mr. David Cameron we forget that those who died in Derry were not the only ones who died. Mr. Tommie Gorman who showed all the power, empathy and emotional intelligence he has shown all his life, including during the Troubles, reminded us last night of what had happened at Teebane, Whiterock, on Bloody Friday and in the La Mon restaurant bombing.
I still remember the night I saw on the road the false teeth that belonged to a Protestant workman who was taken out of a van at Whiterock and gunned down. I ask Members to understand the feelings of the Protestant community when they look at what happened in Derry yesterday. It was a moving and wonderful occasion for the Nationalist people. However, everything is connected in this world — "only connect", said Shakespeare — and the Protestant community must have felt left out in a way. It would not be good for Seanad Éireann to convey the feeling that we are unaware of or are insensitive to the other tradition and what it suffered.
I thank Senator Buttimer for reminding me of the events of 1977, when I was first elected to this House. I thank him for the best wishes.
They were not best wishes at all.
I am the only Member present who was elected on that date. By the way, it was a great Government under the late Mr. Jack Lynch.
A question for the Leader.
The conclusions of the Saville report are clear. There is no doubt that what happened on Bloody Sunday was "both unjustified and unjustifiable" and wrong. The command to go into the Bogside in Derry should not have been given. These were the words of Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, yesterday and they are most welcome. For the families and community of Derry it was an emotional and healing day. It improved the relationship between these islands. It was a Conservative government under Mr. Ted Heath, as far as I know, that gave the order to go into the Bogside so it is right and proper that a Conservative Prime Minister apologised to the people of Ireland and particularly to the people of Derry and the families of the 14 dead and the injured. It puts an end to the whitewash of the Widgery report, which was a sham. This is an excellent report.
The decision to hold the Saville inquiry was part of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a condition laid down by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and former Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair. They should be recognised for their contribution in this regard. Mr. Blair told the then Taoiseach that he would do his utmost to arrange for the new inquiry and report. It was a precondition of the negotiations. For the former Taoiseach, who has sometimes been misrepresented, yesterday was a special day as well.
Yesterday's report from the Mental Health Commission made a recommendation that no further admissions be made to three institutions after next February. This is a serious matter. I welcome the report. One of the institutions is St. Ita's in Portrane. I grew up in Portrane and many of my social activities as a young man took place around the hospital in terms of playing sports, socialising and dancing within the hospital and with the community there. We were on first name terms with many of the inmates. I have a great attachment to Portrane.
Deputy Moloney is a very convincing Minister. His brief is this area and I do not doubt his commitment to it. Last week I visited Portrane with the Minister with regard to inching forward the opening of a unit there for intellectual disability, even though it was ready last September. However, we are getting closer to it and I respect his position. The Mental Health Commission recommendation will bring the matter to a head, and for that reason I welcome it. There will be no further admissions after next February. However, what about the people who are currently there? What about the inmates who will continue to be there after next February? What will happen to them? They will remain there and continue to suffer. Many of the reports use the phrase "inappropriate conditions", but "inappropriate" is not an adjective that conveys the real problem. "Disgraceful" is the adjective that should be used, and everybody should be aware of that. For the people working there, Portrane has been allowed to become run down over many years. Several Governments of different shades have been involved in this.
Deputy Moloney must be given every resource and support to accelerate the solution to this problem, including for the people who are in the institution and will be there after February.
Is the Senator seeking a debate on the issue?
Yes. I ask the Leader to bring this to the attention of the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Harney. It must be elevated to that level and the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, must be given whatever supports he requires to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion.
In congratulating Senator Leyden on the anniversary of his election to the Oireachtas I note that my father, Paddy Keaveney, lost his seat on this day in 1977. That is the other side of the coin.
With regard to the phrase that the Saville report sets the truth free, I hope the truth being set free frees the lives of many people. Without taking from their memories of their loved ones who were killed and injured that day, I hope it frees the lives of the many people who have spent the last 38 years seeking justice to get back into real life. When I turned on the television yesterday afternoon I had already received a text message from some of my family in Derry saying that Derry was manic that day. They considered it manic due to the helicopters flying overhead. It was reminiscent of what might have been the scene on that particular day. It was definitely the scene in the days afterwards just in terms of audio. There is much discussion in the context of the World Cup about the use of the wonderful plastic tubing that makes a great deal of noise. The helicopter flying over Derry was very much part and parcel of daily lives. It was funny and strange to turn on the television yesterday and hear the intense noise of the helicopter again but to hear it in a fresh context and a new environment, where good news was due to emerge and there was good support for the families.
The civil rights song was "We shall overcome". This particular quest for truth took 38 years for this group of people. How would history have been changed had this action been taken much earlier? What would have been the difference? We cannot deal with that but I agree with Senator Harris that if we cannot deal with everyone's past, we cannot move on for the future. That is part of the debate I am seeking from the Leader. Yes, it should be about the Saville report but also about how we can deal with the past for everyone so they can be set free too.
I too welcome Lord Saville's report. Thirty-eight years is a long time to wait for justice but, thankfully, the victims and the families feel that justice has been done. Everything is connected, as Senator Harris said, but the moment yesterday when people felt vindicated in their great loss was needed. What I considered most striking was the merit and bravery of the new Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, saying: "We got it wrong and we are sorry".
I believe that bravery is needed by this Government. Last night, I was struck by the denial yet again of the Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, on the "Tonight with Vincent Browne" television programme that this was a home grown crisis. This denial makes the pain of the recession and its fall-out greater for families who are suffering.
Does the Senator want a debate on it?
I was particularly struck by the grandparents and parents of young graduates whom I met last week when the Seanad did not sit. There are three graduates in one family, highly qualified solicitors and psychologists, with no hope. They are in pain and are now seeking passports to travel. I ask the Leader to ask the Ministers, Deputy Mary Coughlan and Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, to present solutions to this House so we can keep our graduates in this country. Our country has invested in these graduates, as have their parents, but now we are prepared to let them go. We fervently state education is the way forward, but yet we are prepared to throw it all away so easily. It is time we looked to the hope of the young generation and invested in keeping them here.
Like my colleagues, I warmly welcome the developments over the past 24 hours on the publication of the Saville report on Bloody Sunday. As most have said, at last we now seem to have the truth and acknowledgement of actual events by the most senior officials. Like others, I can remember those events. I was at that stage a young person who could be easily influenced, I suppose, by what I was witnessing in my country and the emotion that went with it, and was happy to lend my solidarity to go on the protest march here in Merrion Square and participate in the events that happened at the embassy at that time. I would like to think we would have a long and fulsome debate on the report and I will look to the Leader to give details of when he intends to take that debate and what length of time he will give to it.
Will the Leader indicate where one may source the required information to participate fully in debate because I am somewhat perturbed about the health debate today? I am not happy with the briefing documents that have been made available and I am not too sure what briefing documents have been made available by the HSE or the Department of Health and Children other than the briefing documents available from the Leader's office. Yesterday, I raised the issue of the need for a paediatric immunologist and the fact there is not one in Ireland. Today, I read in the newspapers that there are over 120 posts vacant in hospitals which will bring some of them to closure. Surely if we are to have a health debate we should have this type of information available to us, either from the HSE or the DOHC, so we can make a meaningful contribution to the debate. I ask the Leader to respond.
On a point of order, what briefing documents from the Leader's office are being referred to? What are they? I have never heard of them.
It is a matter for the Leader to reply to what has been said.
I conclude by supporting my colleague, Senator O'Donovan, on the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill and the points he raised about amendments.
Yesterday, I joined thousands of people in Derry, in Roosevelt Street, to complete the march that was due to complete 38 years ago from Roosevelt Flats to the Guildhall. It was an experience that will be etched on my memory for many years. As we gathered, there was the tension and anticipation of not knowing whether the findings of the Saville report would exonerate the civil rights marchers on that day. There were the scenes in the Guildhall Square as we got information coming from the families that, indeed, the Saville report had justified the claims that have been made for the families for the past 38 years and have proven for once and for all that those civil rights marchers were innocent and that on 30 January 1972 the British Army did, indeed, murder 14 innocent civilians on the streets of Derry and injure 13 others. It was an important day for Derry. It was an important day for the whole of the island of Ireland.
There has been much talk since about whether there should be prosecutions, what about other victims and what about victims from the Protestant community. When we have a debate — I am sure we will have a debate in this House and the findings of the Saville report deserve a full and lengthy debate — we also need to look at the issue of all victims. My party has always stated there can never be a hierarchy of victims——
——whether that is British Army personnel, an innocent civilian on the streets of Derry or somebody who was involved in armed activity from any of the other armed groups. There can be no hierarchy of victims. Each father, each mother, each son and each daughter all grieve the same. To take this process on instead of only reflecting on the findings of the Saville report, which needs to be done, we need to look at how we bring justice to all others and how they find the truth also. We know of the Ballymurphy massacre where 11 persons were killed by the same paratroopers. We know of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and the Bloody Sunday inquiry. I welcome the statements made in the House of Commons by the British Prime Minister Cameron, but let there be no doubt that if it was not for the families' 38 years of labouring for justice, we would not have got to that point. We need a truly transparent independent international inquiry.
I will finish on this point.
The point is that some are trying to play politics with this about issues in which republicans were involved. For those who were the victims of the republican activities——
No, time. Senator Doherty has made his point. There will be a debate on that if the Leader agrees.
——republicans have been to the courts, republicans have served 100,000 years in prison.
I call Senator Mary White.
What emerged yesterday was that the British state——
Senator Doherty must observe the rules of the House.
——killed innocent civilians in Derry and that is something that should be remembered and debated in this House.
I ask Senator Doherty to resume his seat and observe the rules of the House.
It is an important moment to remind ourselves that after the partition of Ireland in 1921 the Catholics were discriminated against in housing, jobs and justice, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s was killed off by the events of Bloody Sunday. Yesterday, I listened to the live speech by David Cameron on BBC in my office. It was a momentous event to see and hear a British Prime Minister admit that the British state had killed innocent people. As has been stated already, it was the families of those who were killed on Bloody Sunday who drove this, sought the truth and overrode the whitewash of the Widgery inquiry.
The question inThe Guardian yesterday — I do not want to delay but I want to put it on the record — was: “should the paratroopers held by Saville to have been out of control and to have lied about their actions afterwards, be prosecuted, either in a criminal case or a private, civil action? ... Murder is murder”, wherever. I am a pacifist by nature. I have total empathy for all the innocent people who died over the 30 years’ civil war, but it must be said that the Nazis were pursued after they killed innocent people in the war and there is no doubt that Saville left it open and did not give immunity to the paratroopers. Yesterday, the Financial Times stated:
The 1998 amnesty of paramilitaries, essential to the peace process, and the lapse of 38 years, makes prosecutions problematic — but that it is now up to the Northern Ireland's devolved justice system. For now, the UK state has apologised. The Parachute Regiment should follow, as should compensation for those unlawful killings.
First, I want to comment on the issue regarding the mental hospitals. I ask the Leader to have an urgent debate on this issue. Specifically, a number of facilities are due to close in February with no alternative in place and it seems strange that one agency in the State can dictate that these centres are supposed to close in February next and that the other State agency responsible for looking after patients who have mental health problems states it has no money to provide alternative accommodation. We will see patients with mental health problems being essentially squashed in to existing overcrowded facilities and that will not work. I want a serious debate on that issue and answers from the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, when she comes in.
We all welcome the Saville report but the insight of an Irish version of the Saville report would not go astray either. We are good at commenting on incidents that happened outside of this jurisdiction but often we have failed to have clear, transparent and accountable versions of the Saville report for atrocities that happened during the Troubles on Irish territory.
We have no clear answers on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, what exactly happened and if there was collusion, or on a number of other incidents. We are good at being critical or supportive of what happens outside this jurisdiction, but we are poor at looking at ourselves and openly discussing some of what happened on this territory during the course of the Troubles.
I concur with others in seeking a debate on the Saville report. The joy of the people yesterday was something to behold. There was a stark contrast between the state corruption of the Widgery report and the integrity of the state yesterday, both in the content of the Saville report and also in the comments of the British Prime Minister. They were welcome and have helped to bring healing and closure to the families involved.
I support the comments of Senators Harris and Keaveney to the effect that many other victims of the 30-year Troubles are still endeavouring to come to terms with them, including the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, as Senator Twomey stated. I have taken a particular interest in that matter, since I was involved in the hearings of the Barron report, and I renew my call to the Taoiseach, the Government and the Houses to re-intensify their efforts to give those families closure. The Dáil decided to refer the report to the House of Commons, but I understand nothing has come of it. We should pursue the issue.
On a note of joy, while everyone is enjoying the GAA championships and the World Cup, we should not forget the success of Mr. Billy Walsh, coach of the Irish boxing team, and the team itself in Moscow. They brought honour to themselves and to this country. Knowing Mr. Walsh as I do, no finer person could achieve and enjoy such a success. He has dedicated himself to the sport of boxing.
In the Leader's reply to me on 12 May, he mentioned he was endeavouring to bring the leaders of the various groups together to respond on the issue of the tribunals. He suggested he would be meeting the leaders a short time afterwards to determine whether it would be possible to agree an all-party motion on the serious challenges facing the State in terms of tribunal costs. The Leader rightly stated that the leaders needed to come together to formulate a motion. Doing so would be of major significance to the Seanad. Has the meeting been held and what were the responses of the other leaders? I have spoken with a number of them and I understand there is support.
The Senator has gone way over time.
I ask that the motion or a debate be tabled for next week.
InUlysses, James Joyce reminds us all of our shared humanity. Bloom, as he walks around Dublin, considers his repressed Jewish people all over the world. I never believed I would see a Nationalist crowd in Derry applauding a British Prime Minister who told the truth fearlessly. It was extraordinary.
Bloom would use the imaginative force so movingly evoked by Senator Harris to encompass also the plight of the Palestinians. I am unashamed to condemn utterly the murderous assault on the peace flotilla. In what was the equivalent of Bloody Sunday for the Israelis, a group, nearly equal in number, of innocent and peaceful protestors against an outrage against humanity in Gaza was slaughtered by Israeli commandos.
Unlike some of my colleagues, I welcome that the Government has expelled an Israeli diplomat. It did so in a dignified way and made clear there was no specific accusation against that person. It was to show our complete disapproval of the way in which the Israeli authorities secured and wrongly used passports from friendly countries to murder a Hamas person in a third country. The worst aspect was the use of false information by Mossad agents to suggest they were the children of Holocaust survivors to get special German passports. This was a betrayal of everyone murdered by the Nazis.
I call upon the Israeli authorities to end their cynical, heartless and contemptible exploitation of the Holocaust for their political purposes. It lets everyone down, including the tragic victims of Auschwitz and every other terrible camp.
Yesterday, the German Government shamefully and forcibly deported a series of Roma people and their children back to what are effectively death camps in Kosovo. They are located on top of a great concentration of lead, mercury and other heavy metals where children have been dying for years under the administration of the United Nations. Will the Leader bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs so the latter might ask for this process to end and lodge a protest with the German Government?
All right-minded people would have to welcome the result of the Saville report and the comments of the British Prime Minster, David Cameron, MP. To some extent, the report is cold comfort to the relatives of the 14 people who were murdered, but there are many more victims, as Senator Harris stated. As to whether the people who committed the Bloody Sunday atrocity should be tried, the answer is, "Yes". When one hears of an individual twice firing on a wounded person on the ground to ensure he or she had conclusively "done the job", to borrow a phrase, there is only one place for that person, namely, a court of law where justice would be meted out in the appropriate way.
Like other Senators, I have repeatedly articulated my opinion on the adverse effects of the substances sold in head shops. It gives me no pleasure to inform the House that, over a five-day period, young men and women numbering in the double figures were admitted to the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar and treated appropriately. This number does not take into account the people treated by general practitioners and MIDOC. In the main, the substance used was Whack. It is time we whacked the head shops and the peddlers therein and put them out of business once and for all.
Having mentioned the regional hospital, I am pleased to be able to report that, following my statements in the House last year regarding the loss of our dermatologist to Beaumont Hospital because she did not get the appropriate supports from the HSE, a replacement consultant dermatologist has been offered the job and will be taking it up during the coming months. This is good news.
I will refer briefly to the comments of Senators Ryan and Twomey. I support the closure of the old psychiatric hospitals, having worked in one for more than 30 years, but they must be replaced with appropriate facilities. I will tell the Minister for Health and Children that, when the health boards' visiting committees — the Cathaoirleach was a member on one — visited those institutions, the adverse conditions were reported and addressed.
We have gone way over time.
The same is not occurring now. Most of those persons are never visited. The only people they see are staff.
I join with others in welcoming yesterday's publication of the Saville report. We would all welcome the clear findings vindicating the innocent victims of that terrible atrocity and allocating blame. All of us have also welcomed the British Prime Minister's apology yesterday. It was good to hear, but matters must move on and the findings and facts of that day must be examined in the context of a criminal investigation to determine whether prosecutions can or should be taken. This is clearly the next step and is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland. I call on the Leader for a debate on the matter, as it is important that people in the House and elsewhere discuss the findings further.
I join with others in calling for a debate on the report of the Mental Health Commission and its concerning recommendations that three psychiatric institutions should take no further admissions from next February. Senator Ryan spoke in eloquent terms about the appalling conditions in Portrane. As we all know, we have been containing members of our communities with psychiatric illness in the most appalling and inhumane conditions for far too long. I am glad that the spotlight has been placed on these institutions and I hope there will be a report.
I support Senator Norris, who yesterday referred to the visit of the Iranian foreign Minister and the brutal manner in which his private security guards manhandled certain people who were democratically protesting against his visit. With justification, they were protesting against some of what he had to say and the appalling human rights breaches of his Government.
We need a debate on the manner in which diplomatic visitors to this country can allow their security staff to commit assaults on our citizens and residents.
Like all Senators who have discussed the Saville inquiry, I welcome the results and look forward to the debate. There is no doubt that the truth sets us all free. As a result of the humble and accurate way the British Prime Minister spoke yesterday, in a mature way it will improve relations between the two sovereign states, and it has done a lot of good in terms of healing an open wound.
Many Senators spoke about all the victims of violence and it was heartening to see the minute's silence in Derry yesterday for all the victims of violence. We should remember them. We should also remember what Bishop Daly said, namely, that the Saville report puts this issue to rest. There is no doubt that when we consider Northern Ireland today and the relations between the two sovereign states, the United Kingdom and Ireland, we have a position where civil rights have overcome injustice. That is a great day.
I ask the leader for a debate on the shadow financial market because the difficulties that were created in the international financial market have not been properly addressed, and they need to be addressed at EU level. In other words, the danger has not dissipated. It could happen again. The type of financial instruments that were used, the misselling and the lack of regulation must be dealt with now. The amount of moneys involved are enormous but let us not forget that it was not just the fall of Lehman Brothers that caused the problem. It was the misselling of products and the fall of Bear Stearns, J.P. Morgan, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, AIG, HBOS, Lloyds and TSB. It was the fall of all those banks that created an international financial difficulty. We must address that matter.
British justice has had its days of shame, and we are all aware of the various miscarriages of justice that have taken place over the years. Yesterday, the Saville report, although not strictly a creature of the British justice system, did much to make atonement for past wrongs. Whatever about the issue of whether prosecutions will follow, I hope everything possible is done in that regard.
It is important to say that yesterday was a celebration of the telling of the truth. The people who committed evil acts in the past know the truth about what they did is now out. I hope that sends a message to evil doers everywhere that in time the truth does come out. That is a powerful message and let us hope there will be further truth telling, as other speakers have mentioned, about other killings——
——and torture over the years in Northern Ireland.
The Joint Committee on Health and Children heard some interesting comments yesterday from the Carer's Association. Clare Duffy was pointing to the fact that there has been a massive under-reporting of the number of children under 18 who are caring for relatives. It is probably not something we think about much and when we do we probably think there is much good in terms of the emotional maturity and compassion of the person but there is also the danger for young people in caring roles of lost opportunities in life and that their emotional growth could be damaged. It appears there are 28,000 such young children and we should be grateful to the Carer's Association for what they had to say but we should also note what the chief executive, Enda Egan, said in pointing out that this is not an issue on which there has been specific focus in our society, nor are there specific State supports for such carers. I ask for an early debate on that issue to allow us discuss it.
President McAleese is in China accompanied by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. I will conclude on this point. China is of huge value to this country. Trade is worth €4 billion. There are approximately 150 countries with trade links——
Time Senator, please.
——but I would like a report from the Government as to what exactly has been said about the issue of human rights.
The Senator should be brief. One more Senator wishes to contribute.
It is also the country where it is illegal——
——to have a brother or a sister.
It is a country where there is a closing down of the Internet and other communications and I hope that as much as we are doing for our economy, and rightly so——
I call Senator McCarthy.
——we do not forget to raise those important issues as well.
Senator, respect the Chair. I call Senator McCarthy and ask him to be brief.
I am aware Senator O'Donovan has consistently asked for a debate on marine related activities and how the whole area of the marine can be used to rejuvenate coastal rural economies, especially as we find ourselves in the midst of an economic crisis. I was in Brussels with some members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in recent weeks and we made a contribution regarding Ireland's response to the Green Paper on the Common Fisheries Policy, the review of which is imminent. I ask the Leader if we could have a general debate in regard to the marine but a debate of a few hours on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, O'Donovan, Buttimer, Ó Brolcháin, Harris, Leyden, Ryan, Keaveney, Healy Eames, Callely, Donohue, Doherty, Mary White, Twomey, Walsh, Norris, Bacik, Hanafin, Mullen and Glynn — 22 Senators — welcomed the Saville report. Yesterday was a historic day, and thank God we all lived to see it. It was one of the most important days for anyone to be a Member of either House of the Oireachtas. I think of very sad days, and I congratulate RTE for its tremendous live coverage which allowed the people of Ireland see that justice was done for the 14 innocent people who were murdered, their families and all the victims, as mentioned by Senator Harris and many other colleagues, and the minute's silence that took place to remember all of them.
I recall being in Derry ten days after Bloody Sunday and being taken out on the bridge, left with my hands up over my head for an hour and a half in pouring rain. That is the sort of torture that went on for the people of the North of Ireland in those times. It was hell on earth for anyone trying to make a living or run a business in that part of the country. I feel proud and privileged to be here today and to look back on that time. The events that took place were wrong, and we must remember all those of all political persuasions who put their lives on the line, the almost 100,000 innocent families who were maimed and also the 3,000 who died in that terrible period of 30 years or more.
Yesterday was a splendid day and I wish everyone well. I am aware the Taoiseach is meeting the relatives today. The church leaders will have met them by now to congratulate them on their determination and hard work over the 38 long years they waited to see the events that happened in Derry yesterday. I will allow the longest time for a debate. I will consult with the leaders after the Order of Business to see how we will allow every Member of this House to welcome the news and the Saville report.
Lord Saville was a man of courage. I agree with the sentiments expressed here today. The British Prime Minister made the utterances we all wanted to hear on television yesterday. I want to mention all taoisigh of our country including the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. Tony Blair played a huge role also. Our current Taoiseach and all past taoisigh and Ministers for Foreign Affairs played a major role in ensuring this day would happen. I congratulate everyone concerned on all sides. As I said, we will allow the longest time possible to ensure all Members of this House can make a contribution in regard to welcoming the report for which we all waited so long.
Senators Fitzgerald, Ryan, Twomey and Bacik called for an urgent debate on mental health and referred to the three institutions that were unfit for purpose and about which we heard on our radio stations this morning following the publication of the Mental Health Commission report yesterday. I have no difficulty in asking the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, to come back to the House. The Minister has been very generous with his time. He has come to the House on every occasion he was asked to do so. As we are all aware, he got a reasonable allocation in the budget despite the fact that resources were very scarce. I welcome the new 55 bedroom unit, the foundation stone for which he laid in Mullingar last Monday week. Under his remit of mental health he is endeavouring to do his utmost in regard to improving the standards in that area. He deserves all our support and I have no difficulty in the House having this issue discussed before the summer recess, on which Senator Fitzgerald asked for a commitment. I have no difficulty with such a debate taking place.
Senator Buttimer pointed out that on this day 33 years ago in 1977 a good Corkman, Mr. Jack Lynch, took the position of Taoiseach, an event of which we are all so proud. It is extraordinary how time flies.
Senator Walsh has also offered his congratulations to Mr. Billy Walsh and the five young men who brought back medals from the European boxing championships. I have already welcomed this and congratulated everyone involved on the Order of Business yesterday.
Senators O'Toole and Ó Brolcháin have raised the matter of the Land Registry's proposal to destroy its hard copy records once it has computerised them, records which cover our history and heritage for generations. This is a matter we in the Seanad should take to our hearts and on which we should get the Minister to attend a debate. I accept that to gain speed and efficiency documents in the registry must be computerised. Under no circumstances, however, should its records dating back 300 years be damaged. They are a great advantage to the country in terms of tourism. We all saw the huge interest in the 1911 census when the returns were published on-line. I will have a debate on the matter in the next few weeks.
Senators O'Donovan and Buttimer referred to the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill which will be debated in the House today and tomorrow, if Senators so wish. I assure Senator O'Donovan and the House that the Bill will not be rushed. I will do anything I can to assist colleagues in their serious concerns about the legislation and ensure its passage. Many Members on all sides of the House made contributions on the legislation in good faith. We are trying to assist in making it acceptable to the people we represent in the House.
Senators Healy Eames and Ó Brolcháin called for a debate and an update from the Minister on the issue of schools' patronage and provision for special educational needs. Senator Healy Eames also raised her serious concerns regarding education. I have no difficulty with having such a debate at the earliest possible time.
Senator Callely sought briefing documents for the forthcoming statements on health services. As Leader of the House, I have one job and another as leader of the Fianna Fáil group. Senator Alex White wanted an update on how I assisted colleagues on the Fianna Fáil side. I always do my best for any Senator who seeks a personal verbal or written briefing. If any other party leader wishes to avail of the assistance that colleagues need in the House from time to time, I strongly advise them to do so.
Does the Leader write all the briefing notes himself?
There is a large amount of very valuable briefing material available to Members. I work closely with our colleagues in the Oireachtas Library and advise any Member who wishes to be briefed on any matter going back to the foundation of the State to use the facility. The Oireachtas Library service ispar excellence. I cannot speak highly enough of the assistance its staff give Members on an hourly basis, not just a daily basis. I hope that clarifies the matter for the good Senator.
It does to some extent.
I know he was not being mischievous.
Senator Walsh raised the length and cost of the ongoing tribunals of inquiry. I will discuss this matter with the other leaders at our next meeting and endeavour to arrange a debate on them before the summer recess. As Senator Walsh rightly said, we waited 12 years for the Saville report which cost €200 million. The tribunals of inquiry have cost €1 billion, which is unacceptable. The length of time they are taking needs to be discussed by colleagues. We will endeavour to have an all-party motion on all the tribunals, their length and cost before the summer recess. I will allow the amount of hours and days required. It will be discussed at the next leaders' meeting to see how it can be placed on the Order Paper.
Senator Norris raised the plight of the Palestinians. I fully support his sentiments regarding the Minister for Foreign Affairs expelling the Israeli Embassy official who allegedly had misused Irish passports.
It was not done by that official.
No, it was done by the Israeli authorities.
The official in question happened to be the one to be singled out.
It was not done by that official alone.
I beg the Senators' pardon. It was done by the Israeli authorities.
I wish Senator Norris a very happy Bloomsday, in respect of which he is one the greatest ambassadors.
I will bring the matter of the Roma sent back from Germany to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs after the Order of Business.
Senator Glynn raised the matter of a new substance, Whack, available in head shops. The Minister for Health and Children will be in the House after the Order of Business for statements on health service provision. She can be asked if a simple ministerial order will automatically ban each new substance at new substances come on stream nearly every day. We in the Oireachtas would have no difficulty in giving her the responsibility to make such ministerial orders. As Senator Glynn has pointed out, it is alarming what we are being told in Mullingar about this new substance, Whack, which is really dangerous. I know colleagues will raise the matter of its availability with the Minister later.
I also welcome the recent appointment of a much needed dermatologist at Mullingar hospital.
Senator Hanafin called for a debate on shadow financial markets and the mis-selling of financial products. This would be a timely debate which I hope will take place before the summer recess.
Senator Mullen raised yesterday's proceedings at the Joint Committee on Health and Children which highlighted the work done by 28,000 young people in looking after our senior citizens. I congratulate everyone concerned. As I have always said on the Order of Business, every carer deserves a gold medal for what he or she does. They are brilliant. We certainly will not be found wanting in terms of any support we can give them and having the issue debated in the House.
Senator Mullen wished the President, Mrs. Mary McAleese, and the Minister well on their visit to China, one of the largest markets in the world. I know there is a huge opportunity in terms of job creation for our people in doing business in that market. I was part of a trade mission at one time and it was a wonderful experience. There are many opportunities available to all of our large Irish companies to export to this market. I also take Senator Mullen's point on the issue of human rights in China, a view we all share.
Senator McCarthy called for a debate on marine related activities. I will have no difficulty in arranging such a debate in the future.