The Order of Business is No. 1, report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges on procedure on personal explanations, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2010 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1, with Second Stage to conclude not later than 2 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 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 to reply to the debate on Second Stage not later than 1.50 p.m., with Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken thereafter; No. 3, Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010 — Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 2 but not before 7.15 p.m. and conclude not later than 10.15 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed seven minutes and on which Senators may share time, by agreement of the House; and No. 37, Private Members' motion No. 16, regarding employer job (PRSI) incentive scheme, 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 3 p.m.
Order of Business
In respect of No. 3, is it to be taken at the conclusion of Private Members' business?
That is correct, yes.
Not No. 2.
Will there be a gap in the middle of the afternoon?
There will be a sos from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Will the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill then be taken at 3 p.m.?
There will be a sos from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.
What will happen at 3 p.m.?
I call Senator Coffey.
Members will deal with Committee and Remaining Stages of the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill.
That is not on the Order Paper.
I call Senator Coffey.
I have ordered it.
That is a little dictatorial of the Leader. He runs the business of this House in a most disgraceful manner.
Please, I call Senator Coffey.
The Senator should speak to his leader.
First, I do not have a leader.
That is obvious.
Second, I am sure that Senator O'Toole will give Senator Cassidy plenty to think about when he speaks as our group's representative.
Please. I call Senator Coffey.
It is quite obvious that the ordering and scheduling of legislation in this House this week and next is both condensed and rushed. This is a direct result of not sitting a couple of weeks ago when Members had the opportunity, as they had an entire week off. Members on this side of the House sought the continuation of order and business in the Seanad but this was refused by the Leader and this is the result.
Yesterday, I was happy to be part of an Oireachtas delegation that met a delegation from the Australian Parliament in Leinster House. It is clear that Australia's economy has not been hit to the same extent as has other countries. The delegation was directly asked the reason Australia has survived the international recession to a large degree. First, Australia has, and always has had, a strict banking regulatory regime. Second, their budgets have introduced fiscal stimulus into their economy through the use of infrastructure projects to help to create and to sustain employment.
I suggest these are similar policies to those the Fine Gael Party has been submitting to the Government for consideration over the past two years. I note Fianna Fáil Members have tabled a Private Members' motion this evening regarding a positive step. While I will give credit where it is due, this measure again was suggested by the Fine Gael Party. I refer to an initiative whereby PRSI breaks would be given to employers to take on employees. Although Fine Gael suggested this two years ago, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are only implementing it now. Faster responses to the challenges posed by unemployment and recession are required from the Government.
In addition, last week I asked for a debate on youth unemployment specifically but was dissatisfied with the response I received from the Leader. While Members are running out of time in this session, I will ask again. A total of 56,000 students sat their leaving certificate examinations last week and it is to be hoped that most of them will enter third level education. However, many people will graduate from such education this year with no real employment prospects, other than emigration, which no Member wishes to see. A man who has three adult children in his house, all of whom are graduates with professional qualifications, contacted me recently. He is in anguish and is concerned about their mental health and this must be of concern to this House. I appeal to the Leader and to the Government to consider the issue of employment in respect of those who are under 25 and to come up with some ideas or plans that will return them to the workplace. They are educated, talented and have something to offer. Local authorities and State agencies could take them on in internships. Similarly, there are schools and community development projects that could be developed. We must begin thinking about and implementing such measures fast, before the nation as a whole becomes demoralised.
On the point raised by the Leader and my colleague, Senator Norris, during the earliercontretemps, had the House been sitting two weeks ago at least Members would not have had these problems.
It was not available.
While I am aware of all the external pressures, the Leader will note it was my view at that time that Members should sit and I changed my own arrangements three times to accommodate this. This is the reality in respect of where we are going.
No, it is not.
It is not the issue of the single Bill on today's Order of Business but the fact that over the next two or three weeks, Members face great congestion. I note the Leader shares this view but still it does not make life easier for Members who are trying to organise themselves to deal with the business.
Moreover, Senator O'Toole did not agree to this on behalf of our group.
He is not the Senator's leader so.
As for the question of where we are going, Members need to have time in which to tease out matters. This really is the issue and the congested nature of the next ten days will make it highly difficult to do business.
On the issue raised by Senator Coffey, I welcome the Government's decision to extend the Luas project and to connect the Luas lines and the entire inner city.
It is of great importance to take on those people who would wish to push us back into the dark ages. If one considers the points expressed by the United States at the G20 and G8 meetings over the weekend on the importance of maintaining confidence in building and investment projects, this proposal is good in all sorts of ways. Socially, it is highly attractive for the people of Ireland and for the people of the capital in particular. Commercially, it is highly attractive to those who run businesses and from an infrastructural prospective, it is essential. Moreover, Members on all sides agree on this point and Garret FitzGerald once devoted an entire television programme to explaining the daftness of not connecting the two Luas lines during their original construction. Moreover, my colleague, Senator Norris, has made this point many times in this House.
This is not a political issue and Members should stand together to make the point that this is an investment that also will have employment opportunities. Moreover, it is commercially clever enough, in that it is a public private partnership and the Government will not be obliged to put its hands in this pocket until considerably later. These are attractive measures that Members should welcome and this point should be conveyed to the Minister. While Members may have difficulties with aspects of the details of the project, as a general principle this needs to be done, should have been done previously and certainly it is highly welcome that the Government now has committed itself to so doing.
I wish to add my voice to those who have been critical of the last-minute change in the Order of Business. It is most unsatisfactory that Members order of their business in such a chaotic manner.
It again emphasises the need for further debate on Seanad reform. Any such debate must consider both the structures of the Seanad but also the manner in which Members organise their business. I note that the former Minister, Michael McDowell, has stated publicly that he has moved from being an abolitionist with regard to the Seanad to being pro-reform of the House. Members must consider the means of reform and how best to order their business in order that they deal with more legislation. All Members would welcome this and would welcome having more time to deal with legislation in an orderly fashion. Certainly, today's Order of Business strikes me as being unduly rushed in respect of dealing with the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill and the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill.
I seek a debate on crime and on prisons in light of the horrific shootings in Dublin on Monday last. While Members have debated legislation on organised crime in the recent past, a broader debate is required on how to deal with crime in a rational fashion, that is, in a manner that addresses the difficulties in prosecuting and investigating organised crime, rather than with the knee-jerk reaction of some commentators who have argued for the throwing out of the jury system, greater use of special courts and so on. I note the Director of Public Prosecutions has not referred organised crime cases to the Special Criminal Court and perhaps Members should consider more supports for juries and better ways of dealing with crime. In addition, prisons should be examined because it is clear that a massive overcrowding problem exists therein. Far too many people are being sent to prison for short sentences for non-violent offences and groups such as the Irish Penal Reform Trust have offered some highly constructive ways of diverting offenders in order that jails can be freed up and used for those who are engaged in the most serious crimes, in violent crime and in organised crime.
First, along the lines referred to by Senator O'Toole, I equally warmly welcome the application for the railway order for the DART twin tunnel underground from East Wall to Inchicore. This application and other transport measures, such as that mentioned by Senator O'Toole, will greatly assist commuters in the Dublin area. I ask the Leader to obtain from the Department of Transport their timelines and schedules for public transport infrastructural works such as the metro, the DART underground and the connecting of the green and red Luas lines mentioned by Senator O'Toole. Such information should include the entire question of public transport connectivity and integration, which of course includes the introduction of a single fare for use on all such public transport services.
If possible, I also ask the Leader to arrange for a progress report from the Minister for Finance on the NAMA process. I understand that NAMA's aims are twofold. First, it is to reduce construction debts and assist the financial institutions to recapitalise and second it is to work with developers over a ten-year period to find suitable work-out solutions on the various sites. I was pleased to read in a newspaper today that one such project in Tallaght was mentioned. I seek to find out whether Members can learn of progress in respect of the NAMA process, of which I am highly supportive. I understand many of the people concerned have the necessary financial expertise to assist. I would very much like to receive a progress report on the work-out solutions proposed.
I refer to the serious rise in the incidence of suicide, as documented in the report yesterday, and ask the Leader for a debate on the matter. Perhaps we could include it in a debate when the Minister for Health and Children comes to the House. Funding for suicide prevention measures has been cut dramatically. There has been a 24% increase in the incidence of suicide. Last year 424 people died by suicide and to date this year the total is 527. There is a clear link between unemployment and the recession——
——and how people are able to conduct and manage their lives due to not having a job and job insecurity. I urge Members to participate in the suicide ASIST programme which is useful. It is a suicide first aid course. I have done it and would highly recommend it. One is equipped to deal with people. In our daily work we meet many people who are down on their luck. One could ascertain the signs, help people and give them encouragement. I urge the Leader to highlight the matter with the Minister and ask that funding not continually be cut for mental health services.
It is welcome that the Minister has published the legislation dealing with sunbeds. We should consider other preventive health measures that could be taken. As part of the programme for Government there was to be an annual health check for everyone in the country. Prevention is better than cure. It is less expensive to deal with people when diseases or illnesses are detected early. One's mental health should be included in the annual health check. There has been much controversy in recent days and probably will be in the coming days on the priorities set within the programme for Government. The health initiative should be very much to the fore.
In the context of the legislation dealing with sunbeds, a few of us have a good colour because of the recent sunny weather. It is important, however, that we take preventive measures to look after our skin between now and the end of the summer. The legislation is even more important, given that one can use totally unregulated sunbed providers. One might have exposure to a sunbed for a few minutes while waiting to be served with a DVD. It has been proved that in many instances there is such a lack of regulation that three times as much radiation is given off than in an average X-ray. Therefore, it is important that the legislation is dealt with early in the next term. I ask the Leader to bring it to the attention of the Minister that we would be more than delighted to address the issue of sunbeds and also the preventive measures to be encompassed in the promised health check which should include one's mental as well as physical health.
First, I wish to comment on the ordering of business today. I find it very difficult to operate professionally when we witness this kind of thing. On the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, it is clear from the Order Paper that the Order for Second Stage is to be taken. Without notice, we are suddenly told all Stages will be taken. Senator Cassidy said I should ask my leader about the matter. The implication is clear, that he had agreed to this. However, we do not have a leader but a representative.
That is very misleading.
I made that clear. I asked Senator O'Toole, our representative, about the matter and he said nothing whatever had been agreed. When I pointed this out to the Leader——
The Order Paper only shows the Stage a Bill has reached. It is a matter for the Leader to order business.
I was talking about the way in which the Leader had dealt with the matter. The Cathaoirleach said, very disingenuously, that I did not have a leader. I never used the word "leader". We have a representative. I will certainly——
I have a leader.
I know Senator Ross thinks he is. I know he thinks he represents the Church of Ireland as well. It would be very interesting to see if he ever attended.
Did the Senator say the Cathaoirleach had used the words "your leader"? It was not me.
I beg your pardon. No, it was the Leader. That was simply muddying the water.
I welcome the fact that the principle of the motion on the situation in Uganda and Malawi has been generously accepted by the Government side. There has been a slight amendment to the wording. Will the Leader provide time for a debate on it since it has been unanimously agreed to by Members of the House? I gather it will be an all-party motion. Perhaps the names of all Members could be added to it. Given that there is unanimous agreement, the matter could be disposed of in half an hour or an hour. I had a meeting with the bishop from Uganda who appealed desperately for such support and resolution. He is a man of extraordinary honour. For supporting the rights of gay people in Uganda he has been turfed out of his job, house and everything else. He is a married man with ten children. He is one of the most remarkable Christians I have ever met and deserves our support.
Like my colleagues on the other side, I welcome the fact that an integrated travel system will eventually be provided in Dublin. It is imperative——
The only thing I will say to Senator Buttimer is that we will soon have to get a silencer for him because whenever some of us rise to speak he has to jump up after us.
I remind Senator Ellis of how bad a job the Government is doing.
You are just like a turkey cock.
Members should speak through the Chair.
I knew Senator Ellis would get embarrassed.
Let us have questions, please.
Senator Buttimer definitely reminds me of a turkey cock because he is always gobbling.
The Senator should not talk to a Member across the floor.
People in glasshouses should not throw stones.
Members should not comment on other Senators.
That is a disgraceful personal attack.
Senator Ellis's performance is great.
I welcome that decision.
In the past month to six weeks I have raised the matter of discharges from treatment units for one-off rural houses where there are no guidelines from the Department and the EPA, both of which stated they were not in a position to do anything about the matter. I am delighted that the Department has now informed me that it will be in a position to issue guidelines at the end of September or the beginning of October. This will help to alleviate the problem we have all experienced in rural areas with one-off houses and the discharges from them.
We are all anxious on both sides of the House to save the Leader from a charge of conduct unbecoming in the ordering of business.
That is at the discretion of the Leader.
I discuss matters with all of the leaders. As we have heard from Senator Norris, matters have not been agreed.
I am just going on what we have heard this morning.
Do not mind Senator Norris.
Senator Coghlan should ask the Leader a question.
I am anxious that the Leader will spell out for us what he proposes to do in the next two or three weeks. We have had an admirable practice of not taking more than one Stage of a Bill, especially of not taking all Stages together. I do not say that is what the Leader had in mind, but there is concern that there will be congestion. We do not wish to see a kaleidoscope, so to speak, in the final weeks. As we have always been anxious to do, let us have sufficient time to debate matters.
Last week I asked the Leader about Dingle, but he did not give me an answer. It is a long time since the people of Dingle spoke in the plebiscite. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, gave a commitment.
Dingle has its own representative in the person of Senator O'Toole who is present every day.
I know. I am here every day, too, and very much respect Senator O'Toole. I agree with the remarks of Senators Coffey, O'Toole, Bacik and Norris. The Leader must tell us when the Dublin mayoralty Bill will be brought before the House. It is supposed to be included in the list of Bills to be taken. The people of Dingle are still waiting. It is years since the matter was decided.
Today I am not asking that any item be included in the agenda because it will be condensed between now and the end of the session. However, I ask that at the beginning of the next session we have a long debate on Seanad reform. There has been much discontent in the House in the past two sessions and it starts on the Order of Business. At times we are told the ordering of business depends on whether a Minister can attend in the House, but I do not know whether that is a sufficiently good answer. In the first week after we return in September or October we should have a long debate on Seanad reform, starting with the Order of Business and the structure of the Chamber. I support Senator Bacik who has also asked for a debate on the issue. I hope the Leader will grant permission to have such a debate on one of the first sitting days after the summer recess in order that we would at least know what the structure was and how we would do our business in the future.
May I refer to an article carried in theSunday Independent last Sunday? Mr. John Mulligan from Boyle, County Roscommon made a complaint at Clontarf Garda station in Dublin——
No, that matter is before a committee.
I am entitled to ask this question.
The Senator may ask a question, but I do not want any names mentioned in the Chamber.
It is a question for the Leader and the Minister for Justice and Law Reform.
There are people involved in the inquiry.
The House is deliberating on the matter.
It is a question for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform on whether the Garda is following up on the complaint made about Senator Callely's expenses. It is an important issue. While I acknowledge that there is a committee dealing with the issue, the complaint is a separate matter. Has it been followed up under the Criminal Justice Acts? I ask that the Minister respond to that question.
I support Senator Keaveney's call for a debate early in the next session on the banning of sunbeds. In recent days we have all become aware that there is about to be a public debate on the slapping of children by their parents as a form of correction, but we should really focus on and debate the use of sunbeds by children. There are parents of girls as young as seven and eight years who bring them to sunbeds in order that they will have a proper tan in receiving their first Holy Communion. Children getting ready to be confirmed are also exposed and subjected to sunbeds. I use the words "exposed and subjected" because a young child does not know the damage ultraviolet rays emitted by a sunbed can do to her young skin. One would imagine parents should be more responsible in what they are exposing their young children to. The Minister for Health and Children will be in the House immediately after the Order of Business. If the short Bill we are to deal with next is passed quickly, we might be able to have a word with her and ask her to ensure she will attend a debate on the use of sunbeds early in the next term. The subject merits a lot more debate than the issue of correcting children by slapping them.
I join other speakers in asking the Leader to outline the schedule for the next two and a half weeks. It is important that we have a clear understanding of it.
My question to the Leader is based on the Cathaoirleach's ruling this morning which I respect on my Adjournment matter. Did the Cathaoirleach declare that my Adjournment matter was out of order on the basis that the Minister for Transport had no official responsibility for the provision of rest areas on major roadways and motorways? Who is responsible in government? The Minister for Transport is supposedly the person in charge, yet he has no responsibility. The Leader is in charge of ordering business in the House, but he said this morning that he had no responsibility and that it was a matter for the leaders. The Green Party, including the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, now has no responsibility for anything other than banning stag hunting. Why did the Minister not accept amendments to the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill? It is clear, on the basis of the comments of the Chief Whip in the Dáil and the Minister, that there will be amendments made to the Bill in the Dáil.
One man lost the Whip over it.
Deputy Cowen has said he was not responsible for the collapse in the banking sector and the economic meltdown, yet he has held the positions of Minister for Finance and Taoiseach. Is the Government in complete denial and not in charge at all? Is it a dream and is everybody else at fault for the problems? Who is in charge in this House? Is it the Leader? Is the Taoiseach in charge of the country? If not, let us call a general election.
Is this in order?
Does the Senator have a question?
Does the Leader agree with Deputy John McGuinness who said this morning that the Taoiseach would not lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election?
He has a better chance than Fine Gael's man.
I welcome the report issued today stating the Government will intervene in the matter of personal debt. I welcome, in particular, the provision whereby the Government will preclude banks from preventing customers from continuing with tracker mortgages when renegotiating. That is a good intervention. We have had many on the issue in the House.
I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister to come to the House——
Will there be a definitive announcement?
These are very important issues.
The Government is seeking to prevent banks from charging penalty interest to those who, because of the unprecedented economic downturn in the past couple of years, are in arrears and unable to meet their commitments and covenants with the banks. That is very much to be welcomed. Many Members on all sides have spoken about taking a balanced and holistic approach to these matters. It is essential to rescue the banks from the predicament they have got themselves into, thus requiring us to rescue the economy.
A report issued today states there has been a 25% increase in the number of suicides and that the increase is attributable to the difficulties in which people find themselves because of the economic downturn. I very much welcome the approach of the Government and hope all sides will do likewise. I ask that the Minister be invited to the House to discuss the issue. Perhaps we can make suggestions on what can be done in order that people will become hopeful and pass through this cycle into better times.
The outgoing governor of Mountjoy Prison, Mr. John Lonergan, is on record as saying his one regret is that he did not refuse to accept new prisoners when Mountjoy Prison was full. The only solution the Government has to overcrowding is to release prisoners early. That seems to be what it is doing. Up to one in four prisoners was released prematurely in the past year or so. This has dreadful consequences for victims, society and the Garda Síochána. The system of justice is breaking down. Prison overcrowding will have to be addressed properly. Senator Bacik and I have asked on numerous occasions in the past two or three terms for a debate on the issue. I again ask the Leader to accede to this request and have the Minister for Justice and Law Reform come to the House to discuss the issue which is causing stress among gardaí and victims of crime. People who are given a prison sentence repeatedly commit crimes when on temporary release, which is causing havoc in the system. The problem must be addressed. We were told when Deputy John O'Donoghue was Minister that there would be a system of zero tolerance. The revolving door is revolving all the time. It is worse than it ever was and the problem will have to be addressed. I ask that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform come in to the House and specifically deal with this subject.
I welcome the statement by the National Treasury Management Agency that a €1.5 billion bond which was issued this week has been three times oversubscribed, which is an indication of the international confidence in our fiscal position. I also note that €1.4 billion was raised in the domestic retail savings market through prize bonds, saving certificates and the new national solidarity bond, which we promoted in this House. The national solidarity bond is taking off. It has been a considerable success. If we can raise more funding within the State for projects such as the Luas extension, it would be far more beneficial to the economy.
It is an endorsement that we have €16.4 billion already borrowed and available to the State. It is an indication of the confidence in the Government by the international agencies.
A bad deal for the saver.
I raise one note of warning for the future. If there is a change of Government and Labour gets into Government, they will have great difficulty in borrowing on the international stage.
What Senator Leyden raised is interesting. If he had listened to Mr. Eddie Hobbs this morning on TV3's "Ireland AM", he would have heard him state clearly why the national solidarity bond is a bad deal for the saver.
Questions to the Leader. We are not going through what was on television.
It is a bad deal for the saver because it is not linked with inflation.
Is Mr. Hobbs standing for Fine Gael?
How is his Brendan Investments getting on?
Last week Senator O'Donovan lost the whip in here. Last night Deputy Mattie McGrath did. If Fianna Fáil continues to let the Greens run riot with rural pursuits, soon jockeys will lose the whip.
That is rubbish.
That is what will happen to horse racing and to point-to-point racing.
A jockey is going nowhere without a whip.
My question to the Leader is fundamental. Why did Fianna Fáil allow the Greens to renegotiate this deal as part of the programme for Government that will put rural pursuits and rural Ireland on the back foot once again? It is not good enough.
They had to give them something.
They had to give them something, that is the answer.
Questions to the Leader.
No matter what, they only looked after their obligations and honoured their commitments. I welcome it.
It will be fishing and shooting next.
Yes, it will be fishing and shooting next. Watch the point-to-point.
Up the mountains.
Senator Leyden need not worry. He should watch his own leader.
On a positive note, I welcome the new lifeline thrown to mortgage holders who are in trouble today. This is something for which I, Senator MacSharry and many others have been looking for quite some time. What I want especially is a debate on the terms and conditions that will apply to that. Of course, it is the smart thing to do. There is no point in putting people on the street, otherwise we all will be looking for social housing. For the first time I am seeing the Government listen——
——to an expert group that says it is important to protect the householder and the mortgage holder.
I call Senator Ó Brolcháin.
Now we need equally an explanation as to why Anglo Irish Bank is not paying back, and there is no long-term plan around terms and conditions, for the €22 billion lent to them——
I call Senator Ó Brolcháin.
——the amount we borrow as a nation on an annual basis.
I ask Senator Healy Eames to resume her seat.
I will try to show the Cathaoirleach a bit of respect. I ask the Leader for a debate on political reform, which is important here. I note there is a number of very unrepresentative debates in this House and, indeed, in the other House, and that political lobbying is what is running riot. We need to be very careful. There are rules in relation to referenda in terms of the funding for political lobbyists, but in the case of normal Bills that are passing through this House there also needs to be rules because quite often debates are extremely unrepresentative in their importance.
Who is lobbying the Greens?
Give us the election and we will provide reform.
We discussed in the programme for Government the issue of corporate donations to political parties and that is an important matter for us to work on in a debate in this House. We need a good debate on exactly what is influencing Members in this House, not only the influences of their constituents but the influences of strong lobbying. There are obvious instances on the other side of the House——
Who is lobbying the Greens?
——-of strong lobbying which has caused an unrepresentative view to be portrayed.
They are 2% in the polls. Unrepresentative is right.
That debate is crucially important here in the coming term and I hope the Leader will take on the debate on political reform.
The Greens are unrepresentative.
One of the assets each of us have in this nation is an Irish passport. One is reminded of the value of an Irish passport by the two recent incidents, one in Saudi Arabia and one, allegedly by Russians, in the United States. Some years ago I introduced a Bill here banning the sale of passports. I was happy to see it initiated in this House and a Bill, not mine, later became law. It is a reminder to us of how valuable the passport is. Will the Leader draw the attention of the Minister to ascertaining whether there is a need for better controls on the issuing of passports and for better passport technology? I am not sure there is because the passports that were used are probably out of date or at least are passports issued previously. There is now a tight control in many aspects of technology to ensure forgeries are not easily made. It is a reminder to us of how valuable an Irish passport is and how the use of an unauthorised Irish passport damages each of us in the future. I urge the Minister to ensure that whatever controls are needed are put into place.
I have already asked the Leader for an urgent debate on the impact of alcohol on young people. I refer to a document sent to me by Mr. James Doorley of the National Youth Council of Ireland, Get ‘em Young: Mapping young people's exposure to alcohol marketing in Ireland. Young people's drinking of alcohol is a serious issue in this country. The figures produced in the research show that up to 37% of boys between the ages of 15 and 17, up to 41% of girls between the ages of 15 to 17 and up to 12% of girls between the ages of 12 to 14 admitted to being drunk in the past month. We got a promise in the programme for Government that the Government would bring in legislation to cut back on the amount of advertising of alcohol at sporting events for young people. I have a serious problem with advertising of alcohol at sporting events and at music events for young people. Young people, particularly young men, emulate their heroes who they see playing rugby, soccer, Gaelic football, hurling or whatever. I really need to get the Minister urgently to let us know if she intends to deliver the legislation on this. There is evidence that when people start to drink early as children and young people, their brains are seriously damaged. They end up getting into trouble with the law, becoming addicted and many pregnancies occur due to alcohol. I really want to get the Government to deliver on this exposure of young people to excessive marketing of alcohol at sporting and music events.
Again it appears that a foreign nation has used Irish passports to pass off citizens as respectable and law-abiding persons. The State wishes to have good relations with Israel and Russia, but we could not allow a situation to continue where Irish passports, which are universally accepted, would be abused in this manner. It is something of a caricature to have the spy Murphy using an Irish passport with a Russian accent. This is beyond the Pale.
A bit more than beyond the Pale.
Whereas we want excellent relations, our sovereignty must be respected. Our passports need to be respected by these countries with which we wish to have excellent relations.
In recent weeks, there was a request in this Chamber for an apology for the economic situation. An explanation was given and the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach dealt with the matter in an open and transparent manner, as requested by the Opposition. In light of the statements by the IMF, OECD, EU and other commentators to the effect that the Government is handling the economy well, will the Opposition benches not do the country a service and leave time for the leaders of their parties to comment on how well the Government has handled the crisis?
Externally, but not internally.
The Senators are not entitled to interrupt any speaker.
The rate of unemployment is 13.4%
Some 435,000 people are out of work.
The House discussed Israel's abuse of Irish passports in murderous activities. People were particularly appalled. Senators Quinn and Hanafin have mentioned the issue of another Irish passport being used. Ireland holds a particular status, in that we seem to be friendly with every country and every country is friendly towards Ireland. One reason is that we never colonised another country and had no ulterior agenda in our interactions.
We were not able to colonise.
One could also state that Ireland has helped many developing nations. Many Senators have raised the issue of Israel's use of our passports and, given that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, has been courageous where abuses in other countries are concerned, I would expect him to report to the House on the responses Ireland received. Some of Israel's spokespersons were arrogant when replying to the issues raised, which is not the sign of a friendly country. After the summer recess, perhaps the Leader could allow for an all-embracing debate, not just on the specifics, but on the overall issue of security of passports. If this situation continues, our international travellers will find themselves more scrutinised than previously, which would be a great pity. The only way to approach the situation is to publicise our responses to the abuses. Even if the replies are satisfactory, they should also be publicised.
Senators Coffey, O'Toole, Bacik, Norris, Coghlan and Buttimer were anxious to know what legislation will be before the House ahead of the summer recess. I remind colleagues that the details of which Bills and affairs will be discussed in the House are issued on the preceding Thursday. On the first sitting day of each week, I meet the leaders of the various groups as a matter of courtesy and seek their opinion on the speaking times required for spokespersons and other Senators. This is a good and open practice and I am grateful for the help I get from the groups' leaders in ensuring the smooth running of the House. Where Bills are initiated in the Dáil, we must wait for them to be passed in the Lower House before discussing them.
Senator Ormonde and others referred to Seanad reform. We should consider what we have achieved in our lifetimes.
Nothing much since 1916.
What have we achieved?
The Seanad used to sit for half a day, but we now sit for three days per week.
What do we do?
It used to be an achievement to have one or two Bills initiated in the Seanad every year, but we now initiate up to 30% of all legislation. Like in the Dáil, guillotining Bills was an old practice in this House, but they are not guillotined under my leadership.
The Leader knows well that they are guillotined. He is misleading the House.
Under our Constitution, the Seanad is a distinct advantage for the people, in that they can feel safe in the knowledge that every line of every section of every Bill is discussed. I thank colleagues for their great dedication through the years. I also thank this Seanad for ensuring this is the case. The House has achieved a great deal.
No real reform, though.
I have been in discussions with the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, concerning EU scrutiny. When the House returns for the autumn session, EU scrutiny will comprise the Seanad's entire business one Thursday every month. I will discuss this with the group leaders and the Minister of State. I ask those who represent this House in Europe for their help with the considerable amount of EU scrutiny work the Seanad will need to do in terms of the portfolios of Ministers and EU Commissioners. I intend to invite Commissioners to be present during our discussions on legislation that the House feels is of importance so that we can tease out our EU scrutiny role in the national interest. These matters must be debated.
No interruptions, please.
Senator Coffey and others referred to how Australia and Canada are not experiencing an economic downturn because of their strict financial regulations, particularly on house loans and so on. We can only learn from their experience.
They also have good Ministers for Finance.
We will not continue if the Leader is repeatedly interrupted. Certain Senators constantly interrupt no matter who speaks. They do not seem to agree with anyone. I will ask them to leave the Chamber during the Order of Business.
Like Senators O'Toole and Callely, I welcome the €5 billion Luas project, the related activity, particularly in the north of Dublin city, the considerable employment it will provide and the public private partnership outlined. It is a good deal for Ireland and the people in the north of the city. As to the changes that will be made and the timeframe in respect of the public transport service, I will revert to the House and allow time for the Minister to update it on the proposals and progress to date.
Senators Bacik and Cummins called for a debate on crime and prison sentences. I agree that the statistics regarding the one in four early releases is unacceptable. I will see what I can do to arrange for a debate at the earliest opportunity, although a significant amount of legislation is before us for consideration.
Senator Norris asked about No. 15. Many of the leaders signed the all-party motion, which the Senator tabled for our consideration. Signing it was a pleasure and it will be available to be put on tomorrow's Order Paper.
Can we make provision for a brief discussion to pass it?
Yes. I will allocate 30 or 45 minutes before the summer recess.
Senator Callely referred to NAMA's progress and working out solutions. I have given the House a commitment to ask the Minister to update us from time to time.
Senator McFadden and others referred to the increase in the number of suicides. According to the latest figures, 527 people committed suicide in 2009. This is alarming and one's heart goes out to the bereaved families. I would have no difficulty in arranging a debate on this issue. The Minister for Health and Children will be in the Seanad at least twice to table Bills before the summer recess. Perhaps this matter could be brought to her attention so that we could see what funding is required. I agree with Senator McFadden that this is urgent and needs to be addressed.
Senators Keaveney and Feeney discussed legislation on sun beds and health care for those who use them. They also asked for positive measures in respect of mental health. I have no difficulty with passing my colleagues' strong views on to the Minister of State. The Minister of State has always been forthcoming with his time in coming to the House as regards mental health issues and I have always commended him in relation to the contribution he received in the budget and all he is trying to achieve in his portfolio.
Senator Feeney talked about the correction of children, slapping and the various issues that are being discussed in that regard. I shall pass her views on to the Minister of State with responsibility for children.
Senator Ellis spoke about the EPA study as regards discharges from one-off houses. I am pleased that the Senator has made progress in this area, particularly in relation to the serious concerns and the challenges. I am glad that he will have the report in September.
Senator Coghlan raised the matter of the Dublin mayoral Bill and the issues involving his beloved County Kerry, which he has to be complimented on. We all support him every year by going there on our holidays. I shall report back to the House in relation to the progress of this Bill, within the next few days.
Senators Ormonde and Ó Brolcháin talked about what we are doing in the Seanad and the useful work that is taking place here. I have no difficulty in having this debated and discussed after the summer recess. I hope that the Bill will make steady progress in relation to the Seanad reform proposals that were given to the Minister some time ago. The other legislation had to take precedence, but perhaps this can now be given the priority it deserves. In the event, we shall all look forward to the proposals submitted on behalf of the various parties being debated.
I would say to Senator Regan that this House cannot direct the Garda Síochána, as we all know. The Cathaoirleach is already dealing with this in another forum.
It is a question for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, to know that there was no political interference in the matter.
No interruption, please.
Senator Buttimer raised issues of concern he had on the dog Bill. I note those. Senators Walsh and Healy-Eames spoke about banking, matters affecting hard-pressed mortgage holders, and in particular the concerns of people with tracker mortgages. I certainly welcome that, and they also dealt with the difficulties presented by additional interest being added as penalties. This is completely unfair and it is unacceptable, particularly in relation to the demands of Members of the Oireachtas as representatives of the people who are funding the banks at the present time. Anything to do with helping the hard-pressed mortgage holders, particularly those who are unemployed and are finding it very difficult for the first time in their life, is to be welcomed. These comprise the future generation that we have to protect and assist. All sides of the House are united on this and I certainly will pass on the strong views of the Seanad after the Order of Business.
Senators Quinn, Hanafin and Ó Murchú talked about the value of the Irish passport and noted how respected we are throughout the world as Irish men and women if we hold an Irish passport. I certainly agree with everything that has been said this morning in this regard and will pass on the views of Members. If the Minister wishes to update the Seanad on difficulties experienced with the Israelis involved in the use of Irish passports, I certain have no difficulty in making time available.
Senator Mary White called for an urgent debate on alcohol marketing. The Senator outlined alarming and disturbing figures to the House this morning: some 37% of boys between 15 and 17 have got drunk in the past month; some 41% of girls between 15 and 17; and 12% of girls from 12 to 14. These are shocking statistics being brought to the attention of the House this morning, and certainly this requires urgent action. The Minister for Health and Children will come to the House on two occasions and this issue should be brought to her attention to see how it may be dealt with in a responsible and urgent manner. I thank Senator White for bringing this to the attention of the House.
Senator John Hanafin stated that the IMF, the OECD and the various other respected organisations throughout the financial world recognise the way the Government is dealing with the challenge to our financial status in the world. I certainly concur. When we leave Ireland we find everyone is saying how good Ireland is at dealing with the issues head-on, and I should like to think——
Read yesterday'sNew York Times.
ReadThe Wall Street Journal.
Yes, readThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
I read theFinancial Times yesterday morning, and The Wall Street Journal, in particular, yesterday, as well. I should like to concur with Senator Hanafin on his remarks in this area.
Is the Order of Business agreed?
With due respect, a Chathaorligh, I have asked on two occasions for a response with regard to youth unemployment, and I have not heard from the Leader either his view or the Government's——-
I have no control over what——-
The Senator complimented me on the Private Members' motion tonight.
That is not on youth unemployment.
The Leader is like the Government, he is not listening. He did not answer any questions I put to him today.
The Leader is not listening.
- Boyle, Dan.
- Brady, Martin.
- Butler, Larry.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carroll, James.
- Carty, John.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Corrigan, Maria.
- Daly, Mark.
- Dearey, Mark.
- Ellis, John.
- Feeney, Geraldine.
- Glynn, Camillus.
- Hanafin, John.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Leyden, Terry.
- McDonald, Lisa.
- Mooney, Paschal.
- Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
- Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
- Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
- O'Donovan, Denis.
- O'Malley, Fiona.
- O'Sullivan, Ned.
- Ormonde, Ann.
- Walsh, Jim.
- White, Mary M.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.
- Bacik, Ivana.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Cannon, Ciaran.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Cummins, Maurice.
- Donohoe, Paschal.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- McCarthy, Michael.
- McFadden, Nicky.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Norris, David.
- O’Toole, Joe.
- Phelan, John Paul.
- Prendergast, Phil.
- Quinn, Feargal.
- Regan, Eugene.
- Ross, Shane.
- Ryan, Brendan.
- White, Alex.