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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 Jul 2010

Vol. 204 No. 1

Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 — Second Stage; No. 2, Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 — Committee and Remaining Stages; and No. 3, Central Bank Reform Bill 2010 — Second and Remaining Stages. It is proposed that No. 1 be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 3.45 p.m. Spokespersons may speak for 15 minutes and all other Senators for eight minutes. Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, and the Minister will be called for concluding comments ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate. It is proposed that No. 2 be taken at 4.30 p.m. No. 3 will be taken at the conclusion of No. 2 but not before 7.30 p.m. Spokespersons may speak for 12 minutes and all other Senators for seven minutes. Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, and the Minister will be called on for concluding comments ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate. There will be a sos from 3.45 p.m. until 4.30 p.m.

There is another item on the Order Paper, No. 3, motion for earlier signature of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010.

I will return to the House on that matter.

I propose that the earlier signature motion be taken as No. 3.

What the Leader announced initially as No. 3 will now be taken as No. 4.

That is agreed. My apologies to the House.

I call Senator Cummins.

It seems there is confusion on the Order of Business.

It was not written down; that is all.

For a start, that is a source of confusion.

I have already apologised to the House.

The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 is to be taken at 4.30 p.m and will conclude well before 7.30 p.m., when we will be asked to deal with the other matter. Will we begin dealing with the Central Bank Reform Bill at 7.30 p.m.?

It will be taken not earlier than 7.30 p.m.

Therefore, it is possible we will have a break of about two hours between the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the Central Bank Reform Bill. What is the reason for the delay?

Because I want to have the Minister for Finance in the House this evening to allow Members to make their submissions to him personally.

The business should have been ordered in such a way that there would be no gaps.

There will be no gaps.

There is confusion.

It is bad management.

The national development plan seems to be in tatters, going on recent newspaper reports which suggest the level of funding for infrastructural projects up to 2013 will be cut from approximately €40 billion to €23 billion. This means many road and rail projects will be axed. It seems there is no joined-up thinking on the part of the Government and no plan to tackle the scourge of unemployment which is wreaking havoc in every corner of the country. Take, for example, the construction of rest areas on motorways. Three are under construction, but it appears nine other projects will be shelved. Members in this and the other House asked that such areas be provided when the roads were under construction, which would have saved money. We now learn that nine such projects will be shelved. This shows that there is no joined-up thinking and no vision for the future so far as the Government is concerned.

On another matter, persons who are unemployed have to wait up to three months to receive jobseeker's allowance. Balbriggan, the Leader's town of Mullingar, Navan and Longford are the towns worst hit in this regard. It is a disgrace that people who paid PRSI on a weekly or monthly basis all their lives must wait up to three months to receive jobseeker's allowance. This is not the first time we have raised the issue on the Order of Business, on which we have had pious platitudes from various Ministers but no answers. There is no excuse for people not receiving their benefit payments in proper time. I ask that the Minister account for his stewardship and that immediate steps be taken to ensure people will receive their benefit payments at the right time.

Earlier this year the Taoiseach pledged to bring telephone and Internet betting within the tax net by May this year but we still have seen no legislation in this regard. When can we expect to see such legislation, as the funding raised would be of paramount importance to the horse racing industry and all those employed within it?

I also believe the House should adjourn to discuss the massive changes to the national development plan being proposed. My concern should be shared on both sides of the House. The changes would have a negative impact on badly needed infrastructural development projects and on the economies of local areas in terms of job creation and certainly would have safety implications, as outlined by Senator Cummins in terms of the provision of rest areas on motorways, an issue on which we had long discussions in the House last year and the previous year. This would be regressive, counterproductive and pessimistic at a time when we want to boost the economy. The metro project proposals in Dublin to the construction of bypasses around towns such as Tralee and road works in Belturbet, Sligo, Tipperary and elsewhere would have an impact on employment throughout the country. These are the projects the Government should be looking to develop. It is what the country needs and should be considered in terms of the impact on employment. This will have more of a potential impact on the economy than the closure of Dell three times over. That is what we are talking about and we need a discussion on it. We should examine the issue so the people who advised Ministers can hear the political, social and infrastructural impact of what they are proposing. It is okay for people sitting in offices to think a couple of million euro can be saved this year or next but the long-term regulatory, safety, infrastructural, employment and economic impact must be seen in context. All these need to be considered and we should discuss what seems to be an anti-employment measure coming from Government sources. We should stop the issue at source and find time to discuss the matter in order to bring our views to the Cabinet right now.

When will we have the debate that is meant to continue on the HSE. Dr. Chris Luke almost had to close his accident and emergency department in the Mercy Hospital, Cork, last week due to a chronic shortage of doctors. This mess has been well flagged and Dr. Luke has indicated there is a problem with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the Government and the Irish Medical Council that has created the problem. Doctors are working day and night and must be paid enormous sums in overtime. Such doctors could easily make a mistake that would not be in the best interests of the patients.

I have spoken on numerous occasions about the moratorium on staff in hospitals and the effect on the delivery of health services, overcrowding in accident and emergency departments, the blocking of beds by patients fit to be discharged and other issues pertaining to the HSE. Will the Leader indicate when the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, will return to conclude the debate on the HSE? When she was here the last time she was not allowed to answer any questions because the Government speakers kept telling her how wonderful she was to make a speech without any script. The Minister made a speech but answered no questions, although many relevant questions were asked, and we are still interested in answers. It was agreed with the Leader that there would be a resumption of this debate but when will it happen?

Before calling the next speaker I welcome to the Visitors Gallery a former Member of this House and the Lower House, Mr. Pat Gallagher, the Offaly county manager. He is welcome to the House.

I bring to the attention of the House the issue of cuts within disability services. I appreciate that there may not be time in the remainder of the term to have the Minister before us as a matter of urgency. I ask the Leader to organise a debate for the early days of the next term. I appreciate the Minister of State intends to speak to service providers in the coming days about the implementation of these cuts and I ask the Leader to convey to the Minister of State to also speak with representatives of the HSE. It would appear from the amount of money service providers are being asked to cut that disability services will be the only service to bear the brunt of these cuts.

There are other areas within the HSE and we cannot expect, of all sectors, the disability services to carry this burden, particularly as we come to the summer. There are families who have made plans and organised holidays with other children and depend on the provision of respite care. I was absolutely horrified by the statement issued last night indicating there is an intention to seek to move people who are living in community group homes back to institutions. That is unacceptable and it is not Government policy. Under no circumstances can it be allowed to happen.

I am concerned by the issues raised by my colleagues, Senators Cummins and O'Toole. With regard to the Central Bank Reform Bill, would it not be better to use the time more judiciously, with a gap between Second and Remaining Stages? A sos would allow Members to table amendments for Committee Stage. It seems the Leader is seeking to kaleidoscope the whole issue from 7.30 p.m. without a gap. Senator Cummins has indicated there could be a gap to have it earlier. Why not take Second Stage earlier in the day and then have a break before Committee Stage in order that Members might submit amendments? Perhaps the Leader will respond to this proposal.

I agree with the comments made in respect of the national development plan. There is no way the plan should be dropped. What is proposed constitutes a major retrograde step. If the plan requires amendment or if the timescale relating to it needs to be reordered, this should be done. In the context of the economy, what is proposed seems to be an anti-jobs measure. That is quite disgraceful, particularly in the context of current circumstances. The proposed Tralee bypass is included in the plan. Tralee is a major county town and is being choked by traffic. There are numerous other examples I could offer but I do not wish to delay the Order of Business by referring to them all. The news that emerged this morning is shocking and the House should use its influence to have the national development plan amended and reordered in the way I have outlined.

The debate on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 is due to take place in the House tomorrow and on Thursday. At this late stage, I request that the leader of the Green Party in the House should see to it that a free vote is allowed on the legislation. There is a mood among members of the public to the effect that there has not been full and frank debate on this matter. The lack of such a debate in the Dáil could be compensated for by ensuring the Bill is fully discussed in this Chamber. If this matter had been dealt with properly, a referendum would have taken place. I again call on the leader of the Green Party in the Seanad, who has some significant influence in this area, to seek a free vote on the Bill. I am aware that many of my colleagues would like such a vote to take place.

In light of the fact that the economy could recover quite strongly in 2011 and 2012, I again request that consideration be given to the position with regard to jobs. In particular, I am of the opinion that the allowances that were previously provided in respect of property-related developments should be transferred to jobs-related developments.

I support what previous speakers stated in respect of the ordering of Seanad business. I request that the Leader arrange a debate on how we order our business. In the brief time during which I have been a Member, each summer it appears we are affected by a chronic condition I term "Julyitis", which results in a large number of Bills being rushed through the House. A number of important amendments relating to credit unions have been tabled in respect of the Central Bank Reform Bill, all Stages of which are due to be taken tonight. I agree that there is a need to impose a more orderly structure on debates in the House.

Another example in this regard is the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010, which is due to be taken later today and which was only passed by the Dáil last week. Again, there appears to be unseemly haste in the context of having the Bill, which contains an unfortunate provision relating to the closure of St. Luke's Hospital — a noted centre of excellence for the treatment of cancer patients which is located in Rathgar in Dublin — passed. My party and Fine Gael have each tabled an amendment to this Bill, which should not be rushed through the House because it is worthy of much more detailed consideration.

I request that the Leader make time available for a debate on job creation, in light of extremely worrying reports at the weekend with regard to projected job losses in the banks. This is a matter of real concern, particularly in light of the fact the banks are guaranteed by the State. There is a need to maximise the number of jobs that can be created and sustained. There is one key area in this regard in which the Green Party, in particular, should be interested. We must maximise the number of jobs in all sectors. One such sector is tourism. Cycling tourism has grown exponentially in recent years. The inaugural Sky Ride Etape Hibernia is due to take place in the Burren and throughout County Clare on 22 August next and thousands of cyclists from abroad are due to travel to Ireland to take part. However, there has been no joined-up thinking in respect of it because Irish Rail will not transport bicycles on trains. This may seem to be a small issue but it is one of enormous importance to cyclists who wish to travel here to participate in cycle races, experience Ireland's culture, contribute to the economy and assist job creation. These individuals experience enormous difficulties when trying to transport their bicycles throughout the country.

Will the Leader ask the Minister for Transport to discover why Irish Rail no longer transports bicycles on its trains? The company used to transport bicycles in the past but it has stopped this practice. That is a real shame because, as a cyclist, I am aware how difficult it is to get from one end of the country to the other in order to take part in a cycle race.

On the matter to which Senator Bacik just referred, I accept that it is not so important during the summer months but in winter it is essential that people ensure they use proper lights on their bicycles. People who do not have lights on their bicycles are a cause of danger to themselves and others.

I always have lights on my bicycle.

Fianna Fáil has fallen off its bike.

The chain has come off the bike.

I wish to recognise the significant funding that is being announced today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for cross-Border co-operation. Some 37 groups will get approximately €457,000 to work on peace and reconciliation projects. I also note that a member of the Opposition who spoke on national radio last Sunday begrudged the receipt by City of Derry Airport of moneys. The person in question could not understand the value of supporting this infrastructure. I emphasise that the infrastructure in question is of great value to the 48% of the airport's customers who are from County Donegal. It is beneath contempt that an Opposition spokesperson should begrudge those who benefit from all-Ireland co-operation on infrastructural development and peace and reconciliation projects.

I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs to state when people will be able to view on RTE an advertising campaign that is currently being broadcast on UTV. The advertisement in question involves a cartoon in which two children from the Unionist community are playing with red, white and blue drums and batons. When one of the batons goes up on a roof, two children dressed in Celtic jerseys come along. It looks as if there is going to be a fight, but instead the children in Celtic jerseys use their hurleys to bring the baton down from the roof and they all play together. This good advertising campaign will help young people to reach mutual understanding. It would be as valuable for people down here who do not understand, or do not want to understand, the other community on the island of Ireland.

I would like to propose an amendment to the Order of Business to urgently request the attendance in the House of the Minister of State with responsibility for people with disabilities, Deputy Moloney. Over the weekend and last evening, all Members will have seen devastating reports about families that have been left bereft of services. The HSE in Galway is now asking for a second cut of €2 million this year to be imposed on the services provided by the Brothers of Charity in Galway. I understand that such cuts are likely to spread throughout the country. More than 100 families are bereft because they expect to lose all respite services within two weeks. The Leader and I are both aware that such services represent the only lifeline of those who look after adults and young people who have disabilities. Further cutbacks are coming down the line. It has been suggested that five or six community houses will be closed and multidisciplinary posts in areas such as occupational therapy and speech and language therapy will be lost. I fear that the Minister of State does not know that the HSE in the western area is affecting people with disabilities in this way. I would appreciate it if the Leader would attend such a debate today.

I would also like to ask the Minister for Transport to say where he stands on the western rail corridor, which offers new hope to the west and north west. The sections of the line that have been opened — most recently that between Ennis and Athenry — have been successful. We received devastating news this morning about the Galway city outer bypass. What are we doing? Are we trying to choke people on the eastern entrance to Galway? I am lost for words. I ask the Minister for Transport to address that matter as well.

I support Senator Corrigan's call for a debate on the decision to move people who need psychiatric care from residential hostels back into psychiatric institutions. The Leader will appreciate that the HSE has been tasked with saving money. While it is important that it should do so, it should not be done on the basis of rolling back progressive policy. That is what is happening in this case, however. If the decision to return to psychiatric hospitals those who have been removed from them in recent years is upheld, A Vision for Change will have been shelved, in effect. I am aware of a specific case in which this is about to happen because of a health and safety issue in a hostel. I acknowledge that the issue in question is a real one. We should not address such issues by moving people back into hostels. We must object to this in the strongest possible terms because this is about the policy which has been agreed. We must insist that the HSE adhere to it. I acknowledge, however, that it must find the necessary savings.

Yesterday, when the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, spoke to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, he made a welcome concession on the banking inquiry. In response to a Labour Party amendment he said he would allow the inquiry to move beyond the September deadline, an issue that had been the source of legitimate contention in all parties for a long time. I worry, however, that if the inquiry lasts for only another month, it will not go far enough. The concession will be an empty gesture if the inquiry is not allowed to examine what has been happening in the banks up to this day. Most Members will be aware that only the other day it suddenly emerged that the top bankers had been lying to NAMA. There is now the extraordinary situation where NAMA which had been projected to make billions of euro will now almost certainly make losses——

——as a result of the bankers lying about the way the loans had been serviced. If they are to be allowed get away with this, what is the point in having an inquiry, for example, up to the date of nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank on 15 January 2009? If they continue to do exactly the same things, the inquiry will have no effect. I suggest, therefore, that we look more deeply into this issue and invite the Minister for Finance to come to the House to explain — not merely to the committee but to the Seanad — how far the inquiry will be allowed to look. Putting restrictions on it is protecting the Government and the bankers. That is being done deliberately. We must ensure that if there is an inquiry, it will teach us the lessons of the past in order that we can adapt them for the future. There was a press report today which I believe is accurate that Anglo Irish Bank would have its plan agreed to in principle. However, the bank is indulging in a kind of fantasy world, with the co-operation of the Government, in stating it will continue as a bank which lends to business. That will not happen. It will not rise from the ashes as a commercial entity.

I call Senator Walsh.

We should not tolerate this because, again, the bankers are misleading the politicians.

I support the calls for a debate on the national development plan. It is important that we focus on such issues because they impact on the provision of infrastructure and competitiveness in general and, as was said, are significant in terms of employment creation. As someone who has supported the Government on the challenges faced and the difficult decisions it has been brave enought to take, I have said consistently that the manner in which we deal with the difficulties will determine how successfully and quickly we will eradicate them. I know the temptation might be — I do not say this is the case but moving in that direction must be resisted — to cut capital expenditure excessively rather than current expenditure. I was unhappy with the Croke Park agreement simply because I did not see how it was sustainable to maintain salaries at a level well in excess of that in other European economies. A second issue on public sector reform is the number within the service who are not performing and whose rate of productivity is at minimal level. Even good civil servants to whom one speaks recognise this and say such persons are a source of an embarrassment to them. Until we eradicate them from the system and save money, our difficulties will continue. I hope the debate will be broadened beyond the national development plan to include other issues.

I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on what constitutes human rights. I refer to a gentleman by the name of Anand Grover, a UN reporter who issued a report on the situation in Poland. Not only did he find against the country on its restrictive abortion laws, he found that freedom of conscience on the issue of abortion was not tolerated. We need to debate these issues, otherwise we are going in a direction to which I believe nobody would subscribe.

I am amused at the silence and glumness of the Senators opposite.

I am taking questions to the Leader, the Senator should never mind giving his opinions.

Does the Leader intend to have a sos today to facilitate the meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party to discuss a motion of confidence in the Taoiseach?

Is that the question the Senator is putting to the Leader?

The Senators opposite are gloomy and I know the Taoiseach is under pressure, but the best thing he could do now is to resign and let us all have a general election. If ever we had proof——

Does the Senator have a question? We are on the Order of Business.

I have asked the Leader one question already. If we ever had proof that this is a failed Government, we had it this morning with the proposed cuts in disability services in terms of respite care. Senator Dearey rightly raised this issue instead of Senator Healy Eames.

I did not raise that issue.

In regard to the national development plan, which has now been shelved, postponed or halted, there is no jobs stimulus plan, no vision for the future, no reaching out to workers who were employed in the construction industry and there is no sign of hope for people.

What is the Senator's question for the Leader?

My question is — I know the Senators opposite are embarrassed by the Government, I appreciate and understand that——

What is the Senator's question for the Leader?

Can we have a debate on the national development plan before we break for the summer recess?

Moving on to the area of health, when the Minister, Deputy Harney, was here last week, the Members opposite were gushing in their praise of her. This morning we heard an eminent accident and emergency consultant talk about patient safety and the welfare of junior doctors when he almost closed an emergency department in Cork city. Is that the kind of health service the Leader wants?

There is also the issue of the banking inquiry and Senator Ross was right in what he said; the Minister for Finance is shielding the Taoiseach, his predecessors and other people. Let us have a full, open banking inquiry.

We will have a debate on that this evening; the banking issue is on the agenda for later.

I appreciate that and I understand the frustration the Cathaoirleach feels in the Chair. I understand that. I share it.


The Senator should not be questioning my——

I understand the Cathaoirleach's job.

I am fair to everyone.


I ask the Leader, through the Chair——

I do not like to hear such a comment from anyone.

I was not impugning the Cathaoirleach's impartiality. In fairness, I was not.

The Senator should move a motion if he thinks I am not fair.

I understand the Cathaoirleach's frustration.

I am frustrated with the foolish questions that are being asked. The Senator should get to the point and ask his questions. Everyone here is in the same boat.

I have asked no foolish question this morning. I have asked very genuine questions——

Rambling questions.

Cathaoirleach, the Senator's time is up.

——on behalf of the people who put me in here.

We need questions, not a speech.

I had three questions and my final one is——

The Senator should be succinct and he should quickly get to the point.

My final question is——

His last question took a few minutes.

We all get two minutes but Senator Buttimer gets——

No interruptions, please.

I advise the Senator that empty vessels make the most noise.

No one knows that more than me.


I call Senator Boyle.

Can I ask the Leader a final question?

No, the Senator's time is up.

My final question is——

No, I am not taking the Senator's question. I will take it tomorrow morning. I call Senator Boyle.

In terms of the public sector, Senator Walsh——

No, Senator. The Senator has asked a number of questions and his time is well up. I have called Senator Boyle.

I agree there is a need for a debate on the national development plan in this House. It has been well flagged that there will be €1 billion in cuts from the capital programme in the budget to be introduced in December. Members should examine where those cuts can and should happen or whenever a cut is proposed, comment on why it should not be made. Our capital expenditure as of now is one of the highest in Europe as a proportion of gross domestic product and will remain so even after a cut of €1 billion. The area on which we need to have this debate is on getting the balance right in our infrastructure. We have had a great deal of expenditure on our roads in the past ten years. I would like to see greater protection of our rail infrastructure in particular and in regard to negative decisions such as the Rosslare-Waterford line.

The Senator should not forget the west.

It is on that area that we need to have the debate. We have advanced the motorway programme to the extent that it is now largely completed. Given the state of the public finances, there are projects that can and should be put on hold. It is on that area that we need to have a debate on the national development plan.

In regard to the banking inquiry — we may have an opportunity when dealing with the Central Bank Reform Bill to discuss the wider issues in this respect — it should be pointed out that the Minister has been very co-operative and that the reports that have been produced have been very open and blunt. The Bill coming before us today represents an innovative approach towards regulation that we lacked so badly in this country. There is no doubt that the import of the two reports, particularly Professor Honohan's report, is that the main culpability for our banking crisis lies with the banks. While we have had some movement, in terms of new chief executives, board members and chairs of boards, there are people who are still in place who have made——

That is correct.

As Deputy Michael Noonan said, it is pathetic.

No interruptions. The Senator has had her opportunity to speak.

We are paying for the effects of those. One of the effects of having the commission of inquiry is to identify those people in order that they can be removed from our banking system once and for all.

I look forward to the debate on carers which will take place next week. I ask the Leader to draw to the Government's attention the need to facilitate Irish carers who are returning home from abroad to provide full time care for family members. The current operation of the habitual residence conditions is affecting many of these very deserving people. We need the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Ó Cuív, to waive the habitual residence condition in respect of such people. When one considers that there are 160,000 family carers in the State, who are probably doing work to the value of €2.5 billion, it should be clear to all of us that such people are perhaps the most efficient and cost-effective arm of the health service.

For too long we have treated them with disregard by not catering adequately for their needs, not just in terms of their financial entitlements but also their mental health and the various social supports they need, given the very important work they are doing. They are among the most important components, in terms of social glue, in our society. I hope that during the current difficult financial times this category, in particular, will not be forgotten, given the old adage that a stich in time saves nine. Investment in the work of carers is money saved down the line in the health service. I wanted to put that on the record because I would be grateful if the Leader would draw the attention of the Minister to the topic in order that instead of coming in here next week and listening to what we have to say we could get some commitments from the Minister during the course of the debate on carers.

I share the concern of Senator Ross. I ask the Leader, if there is an opportunity at some point, to bring the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, before the House, perhaps when we debate the Central Bank Reform Bill, to outline his reaction to what, as Senator Ross correctly said, has been a group of bankers at senior level in this country who have been lying through their teeth, not only to the Government but to the people and NAMA. It is time they were rooted out.

It is an extraordinary situation that the loan book was being lied about to such an extent that, as one commentator put it yesterday, in real terms a loan which was taken out on a field at a particular value of many millions of euro three or four years ago is now worth nothing more than the value of a field. There have been no factories, hotels or apartments built on it. A high level of subterfuge and treachery has been going on in the Irish banking sector and it is time it was rooted out once and for all.

I also share the concern and anger which has been expressed on both sides of the House regarding respite care. Senator Corrigan initiated it and Senators Deary and Healy Eames also spoke on it. The issue of respite is something that strikes at the very core of a family which is dealing with somebody with a disability. Whatever the budgetary reasons or justifications being given by the HSE, this is an untouchable area. For a HSE official to say it was going to work through the proposal to cut the services of the Brothers of Charity in Galway further is totally unacceptable.

It is unfortunate the HSE has been set up legally in such a way that all of us in this House and the other House seem to be impotent. The Minister of the day seems to be impotent regarding decisions being taken the HSE. It is long past time that this scenario was changed and I plead with the Leader to give some opportunity for the House to express its deep anger at what the HSE is doing and the callous unchristian attitude which it seems to be adopting towards those who are suffering from mental ill-health.

I second that. What day next week will we have a debate on carers? I understood it was to take place this week but I would like to confirm we will have it next week.

I second Senator Healy Eames's amendment to the Order of Business to hold a debate today on the issue she and other Senators raised regarding HSE cut backs in respite care. Since I entered politics and public life, notable advances have been made in care in the community for people with mental disabilities and illness and, in some cases, the physical removal of walls around the old mental institutions. It is not acceptable that the HSE is discussing the possibility of taking people from their communities and putting them back in to these institutions.

I agree with Senator Ross in regard to the banking inquiry and the projections for NAMA. In regard to Senator Mooney's comments, I am surprised the Government was so naive as to take the word of these bankers, who are largely responsible for the difficulties in which we find ourselves, in respect of the commitments given to NAMA. It would be very useful if we could have a discussion with the Minister for Finance on the latest media revelations on NAMA and the terms of reference of the banking inquiry before we rise for the summer.

I concur with the Senators who called for a debate on the national development plan. I am particularly interested in hearing what the Minister for Transport has to say on the western rail corridor, which is probably the most viable and cost effective project in the national development plan.

I support the calls for a debate on carers. As the father of a child with disabilities, I think it is important we avoid acting in a knee-jerk manner. I am sick of the business of allowing the latest crisis to determine where money is going to be spent. We have to consider care in a holistic sense and it is important that services such as early intervention do not suffer because somebody decides there is a crisis and a pile of money needs to be moved to another area. We must be sensible and rational so all aspects of caring are considered equally and that we provide the best possible services to children and other people who need care.

I wish to return to the issue of opinion polls, which I raised on previous occasions. We need a proper debate on opinion polls and legislation around them. An opinion poll recently published in my constituency turned out to be a hoax. It was published on the front page of a local newspaper as if it was factual. The organisation purported to have carried out the opinion poll turned out not to have done so. Bogus opinion polls and polls conducted in a fashion that is not up to scratch can affect public opinion and need to be debated. I believe we need to introduce legislation in this area.

I support the calls for a debate on the national development plan. Since the beginning of the year, we have been hearing that €3 billion in cuts and a €1 billion reduction in capital spending are coming down the line. However, it is only when constituents read today's newspapers to see where these cuts are being proposed that alarm bells begin to ring in their ears. Of the 40 projects outlined in today's newspaper reports, five are in Donegal. From my point of view as a representative from that county, this shows it is being singled out in terms of investment being withdrawn. We need to start discussing this issue. I do not concur with Senator Boyle that we are agreed on these €1 billion cuts. If there are alternatives, we should debate them. We must have a real debate on what the cuts will mean in terms of people's ability to travel along good roads and railways and for the future of our regional airports. Furthermore, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people in the construction sector want to get back to work on building these roads and rail lines. We must invest in our transport infrastructure to ensure we are competitive when the upturn comes again. The Government's decisions will make this more difficult. I call for an immediate debate on the issue and ask the Leader to give an assurance before the Seanad rises for the summer recess that the Minister for Transport will come before the House for a full and lengthy discussion on the matter.

It is important when the House discusses the major issues of the day that we find time to think of the most vulnerable in society. In that regard, I compliment Senator Corrigan who has been proactive in raising important issues. The issue she raised today deserves our attention. We have all observed how people with psychiatric problems have been helped by being given a new life in the community. This gives them new hope and helps their families and communities which have responded by trying to help. Any suggestion this approach may be abandoned and replaced by hospitalisation is wrong and presupposes that the individuals in question would not be aware that they were moving from the community into the hospital setting. To do this would cause deep hurt and increase hopelessness. The House has an opportunity to show that it will act as one on issues of this nature. We must bear in mind that anyone can experience psychiatric problems, particularly in the stressful society in which we live. I call on the Leader to ascertain whether we can produce an all-party motion on the issue, which is not always on the radar. This would show that, notwithstanding the problems we are experiencing, we take a human attitude towards persons who are vulnerable. I ask the Leader to consider doing this in the coming days.

In the light of Senator Ó Murchú's request for an all-party motion on the rights of human beings, I ask the Leader if he will take the all-party agreed motion, No. 14, which I had some role in suggesting, on the position in some African states, including Uganda and Malawi. I gather it has been agreed with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Leader gave an indication in conversation with me that he would provide a short period of perhaps 30 minutes or one hour to enable it to be passed through the House and sent to the appropriate authorities.

I join colleagues in expressing concern about an article in The Irish Times which indicates that the European Commissioner, Mr. Joaquin Almunia, has expressed grave doubts about Anglo Irish Bank and the National Asset Management Agency, including about the possibility that there will be further exposure in property from the element within the bank that is regarded as the good bank. There was some confusion the first time I expressed my view — it resulted in outraged squawking — that the principal banks should be merged in one bank of Ireland through a clean surgical cut with Anglo Irish Bank which should be taken out into the Atlantic and sunk. I still believe this should be done, as it is not necessary to maintain the bank. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, a decent man who has faced with great courage personal health issues and the financial state of the country, indicated that the bank was of systemic importance. What that means is that we are determined to save the system rather than people. We will pour additional billions of euro into Anglo Irish Bank in the next few months, while people in Galway, for example, have respite care services withdrawn. I heard a mother speak about her son who, after ten years, had just settled into a routine. The withdrawal of her respite services will cause a complete disaster for the child in question. This case is being replicated all over the place.

I was the first person to argue that we should examine critically the ratings agencies. Let us also examine Goldman Sachs, even though an Irishman was at one stage in charge of the company. At the weekend I read in London that Goldman Sachs had helped to precipitate a famine in Ethiopia in order that it could gamble on world food prices. Let us attack the system and take down these blackguards.

I shall try to calm down the atmosphere a small bit. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the planning process as soon as possible and in particular the so-called "fast tracking" of planning for major infrastructural development. I ask for this because of our recent experience in the constituency of Kerry North-Limerick West. Members may have read last week that the final go-ahead was given for the LNG gas project at Ballylongford. I was involved in the early stages of that project as a member of Kerry County Council. I was elected to this House three years ago and it took three years for the fast-track planning process to finally click in and give the green light for this very important project which will create 500 badly needed jobs in the vicinity and ensure that the country has energy security for many years to come.

Side by side with that we had another application for major infrastructural development by Endesa, the Spanish-based power company to construct a new gas power station in Tarbert, which is only three miles from Ballylongford. We were expecting the all-clear on that last week when An Bord Pleanála decided to announce that it would take at least three or four more months to pontificate on it. Some 500 jobs are at risk. We are very fortunate that both these entities seem to be recession-proof in terms of their capital and there is no danger of the projects not proceeding. However, there is a salutary lesson to be learned. If this fast-track process is working, we do not know about it in Kerry. I ask the Leader to expedite a debate on it as soon as possible.

I ask the Leader to accommodate a debate on how we treat asylum seekers. I understand we are in very challenging times and we need to be conscious of how we spend every single euro. However, some asylum seekers are not being processed for five years and some may have been here for as long as ten years. They are in concentration-like camps. We need to review how we are treating people. The Government has stated the people are being moved from Mosney for economic reasons. Like Senator Ó Murchú I ask that we talk about human rights, how we treat people and the value we give to human life. These people are being treated really shabbily. Their claims should be processed immediately and if they are to be deported, they should be deported immediately and not forced to hang on for up to ten years.

I strongly support Senator Corrigan and others who have rightly objected to the concept of people who have a psychiatric aspect to their illness being returned to psychiatric hospitals. Many good people in the psychiatric services give an enormous amount of their time and significant resources are put into preparing for return to the community people who had been institutionalised. It is hard to credit that anybody would put forward such a suggestion. This is not alone turning back the clock, it is going back to the ice age. This is a daft proposal and whoever conceived it does not deserve to be in the position he or she holds. This is one of the most negative proposals ever. It would turn the psychiatric services back to where they were in the 1940s or even earlier. It is a crazy suggestion. The Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, has done tremendous work since he took over responsibility for the psychiatric services. I hope that time can be found in the near future for him to come to the House to debate the matter. I know this crazy proposal is not of his making. Whoever made it does not deserve to be in the position he or she holds.

I join the Cathaoirleach in welcoming back the former Senator and Deputy, Pat Gallagher, the county manager in Offaly. It is nice to see him again.

Senators Cummins, O'Toole, Coghlan, Hanafin, Bacik, Walsh, Buttimer, Boyle, Ó Brolcháin, Doherty and Ó Murchú expressed concerns regarding the national development plan.

I welcome the Taoiseach's commitment to continue to spend 5% of GDP on capital projects. I also welcome the creation of hundreds of jobs announced yesterday in the areas outlined by Senator Cummins, including the provision of service stations on motorways, inlcuding, I am pleased to say, on the M4 and M6. I look forward to the day when they will provided on all motorways. The Minister for Finance will be in the House this evening to take the Central Bank Reform Bill 2010 and all issues relating to the banks and the national development plan should be raised when he is here when we will be able to get the up-to-date position.

It is completely unacceptable that those seeking jobseeker's allowance, in particular in the areas mentioned by Senator Cummins, including my area and that of other colleagues, Mullingar, must wait for more than three months. How anyone expects them to survive is beyond one's imagination. I will pass on the strong views expressed in the House on this serious problem to the Minister after the Order of Business.

Senator Cummins also raised the issue of telephone and Internet betting. I will make inquiries in this regard. When industry representatives were present last week they expressed their serious concerns. I will see what I can do about the matter and come back to the House on it.

Senators Prendergast and Buttimer asked when the Minister for Health and Children would come back to the House to resume the debate on health issues and give the up-to-date position on the HSE. The Minister will be back in the House next week when the debate will resume.

Senators Corrigan, Healy Eames, Dearey, Buttimer, Mooney, Phelan, Glynn, Norris and Ó Murchú all expressed shock at the articles carried in the newspapers on disability services. They spoke about the great work being carried out, in particular in respite care services. I will endeavour to have the responsible Minister in the House before the summer recess, if at all possible. I join colleagues who spoke about the Brothers of Charity service in Galway. We want to be the champions of those on the margins. Faceless bureaucrats are endeavouring to turn back the clock, as mentioned by Senator Glynn who has considerable expertise, as he has worked in this area all his life. Those of us who were members of health boards worked hard to have people returned to the community. Respite care services are urgently needed. One's heart goes out to the families affected. We would not be worth our salt if we did not back them up and support their calls. I will endeavour to have the responsible Minister in the House to give us the up-to-date position and, if at all possible, an assurance on what we want to see happen for those who need care and attention.

Senator Coghlan asked about the Central Bank Reform Bill 2010. I will allow time to elapse between Second and Committee and Remaining Stages.

Senator Hanafin called for a free vote on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009. As we all know, the Whip system is in place and applies to all Bills. It is a Government decision and those on this side of the House must obide by such decisions.

Senators Bacik and Keaveney referred to tourism and the need to help those who wished to bring their bicycles here while on holiday. It is unacceptable that Irish Rail will not allow people to transport their bicycles on its trains. Everyone who wants to come here to enjoy what the Emerald Isle has to offer should be allowed to do so, whether they want to walk, use a bicycle or a motor car. I will contact the office of the chairman of CIE, Dr. John Lynch, immediately after the Order of Business to ask him to change this regulation, particularly when the economy is going through such a difficult period. We should do everything possible to do help those involved in the tourism industry in rural areas. There is a wonderful opportunity to do so, as we are having one of the best summers we have had in years. I will do everything I can and come back to the House on the issue later in the week.

I join Senator Keaveney in welcoming the provision of €457,000 for peace and reconciliation projects. I also welcome the provision of funding for Derry Airport. This is a godsend for the people of counties Derry and Donegal. I refer to the advertising campaign mentioned by the Senator. Such a campaign would also be ideal for the South. I will pass on her views to the relevant Minister.

Senators Healy Eames and Ó Brolcháin referred to the success of the western rail corridor and asked the Minister for Transport to come to the House to update it on his future plans for the link. I will have no difficulty in making this request. I understand the Minister will be in the House in the coming days when colleagues may be able to avail of the opportunity to find out the up-to-date position.

Senators Ross, Buttimer, Mooney, Phelan and Norris referred to NAMA projects being affected by the information emanating from banks. As I said, the Minister for Finance will be in the House this evening when Senators may avail of the opportunity to ask questions and express serious concern about Anglo Irish Bank and related issues.

Senator Walsh called for a debate on human rights. I have already given a commitment that a debate will take place after the summer recess.

Senators Phelan and Mullen called for a debate on carers. The debate will take place next week. Given that so many Senators have offered to speak on the issue, I will be in a position to allow the debate to continue, if necessary. As Senator Mullen correctly said, there are 161,000 carers whose work has been valued at €2.5 billion. They are the unsung heroes of our society. Anything the House can do will be done. I congratulate carers who are doing such wonderful work. We will give them whatever support we can.

Senator Ó Brolcháin referred to opinion poll results carried in Sunday newspapers and how questions were framed. It is an issue at which we can look closely. The House has excelled in this regard. The last time legislation dealing with the matter was brought forward, Senator Ross brought to our attention in the early hours of the morning the fact there was no provision for an embargo on the production of opinion poll results on election day. I will have no difficulty in the House reviewing the matter.

Senator Norris referred to the all-party motion which would be taken this week. Senator O'Sullivan referred to planning regulations in regard to the Ballylongford project that would result in the creation of 500 new jobs, something we wholeheartedly welcome. He also referred to fast-tracking of applications in regard to the Tarbert power station, which project has the potential to create another 500 jobs. I will make inquiries in this regard. The planning legislation will be brought before the House next Tuesday when there will be an opportunity for us to receive an update on what is happening, from Senator O'Sullivan's point of view, in County Kerry.

Senator McFadden referred to the issue of asylum seekers. I understand the immigration, residence and asylum seeker protection Bill will be published shortly. I fully agree with the Senator on the importance of human life and respecting the rights of the people concerned in these difficult and dark times. I will do everyting I can to update the House on when the Bill will be brought before the House for its consideration.

Second Stage of the Central Bank Reform Bill 2010 is due to conclude at 10 p.m. At what time will the Minister reply to the debate on Second Stage?

He will be called upon to reply ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate.

At 9.50 p.m.

That is correct.

Senator Healy Eames has proposed the following amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate on the effects of the reduction in respite services provided by the HSE in the Galway area for persons with disabilities be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 30.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.


  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Maurice Cummins and Fidelma Healy Eames; Níl, Senators Niall ÓBrolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.