Order of Business

I would like to express my and the House's regret on the sad passing of one of the oldest retired Members of the Oireachtas, who passed away in August at the age of 95. Séamus Dolan was a native of Blacklion, County Cavan, and served as a Fianna Fáil Deputy and Senator from 1961 until his retirement in 1981. He was a teacher and a farmer, was born in 1914 near Blacklion and was first elected to the Dáil in 1961. Following the 1965 elections in which he was defeated, he was elected to Seanad Éireann where he spent the rest of his national political career. Following a four-year absence from 1969, he was again re-elected to the Seanad fin 1973. His greatest honour came in 1977 when he was elected Cathaoirleach of the House and served until his retirement in 1981. As we all know, he was a great Irishman and was very proud of his country, his history and the Irish language. As a fluent Irish speaker, he took every opportunity to promote the Irish language and its use. I extend our sympathy to his wife Bríd, his daughters, sons and grandchildren.

We hope to pay tribute to Séamus Dolan at a future date, along with tributes to former Senator James Dooge and to have the families present. It is with deep regret that we learned of the death of former Senator, Professor James Dooge, who passed away on Friday, 20 August 2010 at the age of 88. Jim was a former Minister for Foreign Affairs and a leading Member of the Seanad for almost 30 years. He played an important role in the development of the European Union. He is the last Senator to have been appointed to the Cabinet and one of only two Members of the Upper House who have had that great distinction. Jim was predeceased by his wife Ronnie and daughter Melissa. He will be sadly missed and we extend our deepest sympathy to his family and grandchildren. On behalf of the House, I offer them our sincere sympathy. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.

I only heard this morning of the sad passing of former Senator Evelyn Owens. We will pay tribute to these three Senate colleagues at a future date and give Members an opportunity to express their sympathy.

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding time allocation for the Order of Business; No. 2, motion regarding defence of legal action; No. 3, statements on the provision of health services by the HSE (Resumed); No. 4, motion regarding the Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme 2010; No. 36, Private Members' motion No. 15, regarding end of life care in hospitals. It is proposed that Nos. 1 and 2 shall be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business. No. 3, statements on the provision of health services by the HSE, shall resume not earlier than 4.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 5.30 p.m. Spokespersons have already made statements and all other Senators will have seven minutes. They may share time with the agreement of the House. The Minister shall be called upon ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate to make closing comments and take questions from leaders or spokespersons. No. 36, Private Members' motion No. 15, shall be taken at 5.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 7.30 p.m. No. 4, motion regarding the Credit Institutions (Eligible Liabilities Guarantee) Scheme 2010, shall be taken at the conclusion of No. 36 and conclude not later than 7.30 p.m. Spokespersons may speak for 12 minutes and all other Members for ten minutes and Senators may share time, by agreement of the House.

Two items are to conclude simultaneously at 7.30 p.m. I believe the Leader has made a mistake.

With regard to the expressions of sympathy, is the Leader proposing that there will be official Seanad tributes to deceased Members at a later date?

I will make a proposal at a later date.

I seek clarification. With regard to the debate on the extension of the guarantee scheme, the Leader said it would conclude at 7.30 p.m.

No, it is to commence at 7.30 p.m. and conclude at 9.30 p.m. If additional time is needed, I will propose an amendment to the Order of Business.

No, that is fine.

Before I call Senator Fitzgerald on the Order of Business, I wish to refer briefly to No. 2 on the Order Paper. As the House will be aware, I informed all Members by letter that Senator Callely had initiated judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the seven members of the Committee on Members' Interests of Seanad Éireann, the committee and Seanad Éireann. The House is required by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Acts to authorise a legal team to conduct a defence of the legal proceedings. Under Standing Orders, this function is assigned to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on behalf of the House and the committee has already met to discuss the matter. The Leader has proposed that No. 2 be taken without debate. The case is due to be heard in the High Court next week. I, therefore, ask each Member to refrain from commenting on the case. I look forward to receiving their co-operation in the matter.

The Seanad resumes at a time when the most serious and critical issues face the country. To recap, the unemployment figure has increased to 442,417, an annual increase of 5.4%, while the cost of borrowing has skyrocketed to a level we could never previously have imagined and is reaching close to unsustainable levels. It was 7% yesterday, but, thankfully, there has been a slight decrease today. The Anglo Irish Bank debacle continues and now a bank which we were told would need several billion euro looks like it will need €30 billion. We await the final figure tomorrow. The people are concerned about the slow pace at which the issue is being dealt with. They are asking why it has taken two and a half years to get close to the hard numbers for one bank, not to mind to begin to solve the problem. Why has it taken two and a half years to arrive at these figures? A lot has happened in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany in those two and a half years. The United States has managed to set up its own NAMA, deal with the issues and turn a profit in the same period. The people are looking for leadership and concerned about the slow pace of decision-making by the Government. That is why so many want an election and a change of government. The Government majority continues to shrink and destabilise as Independent Deputies, Fianna Fáil Senators and other backbenchers say they no longer trust the Government. The people are looking for leadership. One of the problems in not dealing effectively and swiftly with the economic and banking crisis is it has begun to affect front-line services, and the people who are paying the price for the poor decision-making are those trying to access such services.

I want to highlight what is happening in the health service. We heard that front-line services would be protected, but the HSE has explicitly stated they will be affected. Every Member is dealing in his or her local community with the issue of elderly persons going into hospital and finding that their home helps are no longer available to them when they return home and that they have to go to the end of the list again. Basic community services, including those for the elderly, are, therefore, being cut back. Deputies Mattie McGrath and Grealish have raised issues relating to local hospitals, while Senator McDonald has rightly voiced concern about the impact of health cuts in County Wexford. Statements on the provision of health services will resume later. However, I ask the Leader to take motion No. 17, which expresses concern about these cuts and specifically asks questions about continued health services being provided throughout the country. It reads: "That Seanad Éireann expresses its concern at the implication of Government health policy on hospitals in Wexford, Galway and Tipperary and seeks an urgent debate on this issue". I propose that amendment to the Order of Business in order that we can have that discussion, show our support and get answers on exactly what is happening to the health service throughout the country.

On a number of occasions in the last session the fact that we should be discussing what is happening on the industrial relations scene with regard to unions, management and various social partners was raised in this House. Proposals came from both sides, from Senators MacSharry, Bradford and others, that we should have this discussion. In the meantime the Croke Park agreement has been passed, and the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Calleary, has been given responsibility for its implementation.

The Croke Park deal, as written, is very good for this country. It is the opportunity to introduce change in the public service which would make it a model of best practice internationally. There is a prize to be won here, with continuing and long-term gain for the taxpayer and the common good. It is proposed to reduce the size of the public sector by more than 15,000, with the accumulated gains that accompany that. There is also a commitment to efficiency. The promise to the workers on the other side is that their wages will not be cut in the meantime and their jobs will be secure, which are prizes in themselves.

What is happening now, however, is that people are saying it is just another agreement and will not be implemented. I have been involved at the heart of many of these agreements. This House should take ownership of the change management which is proposed in the Croke Park agreement. This House should get regular updates from the Minister of State on what progress has been made. This agreement will affect the economy in many ways. I have heard people say that the Croke Park agreement will not be implemented. That suits many people on the trade union side, who are opposed to it. It equally suits people at senior levels, who believe that the change might apply higher up the food chain on this occasion and cause problems for them.

The reality, however, is that the public servant who is contemplating changing his or her car, installing new windows, extending the house or spending a weekend in Cavan does so on the basis of the certainty of his or her income. If people say this agreement will not happen, there are two consequences — the commitments to no cuts in salary and no compulsory redundancies also go by the board. We must tell people: "This is what you get. It is good, precious and protected. Make it happen." We must also tell people on the other side that we are taking over the ownership of change. When I speak about vested interests in this regard, people tend to think of the person at the bottom of the food chain, the teacher or civil servant. However, this goes right to the top. This requires commitment at all levels to deliver. The only way we will see it happening is if the Minister comes to the House and says: "This is what is proposed, this is what must happen and, if it does not happen, this is the outcome." The people on various sides of the argument who are making noises about not buying into it for various reasons must recognise that if they are not in, they do not get the protections in the agreement.

We stand on the cusp of an opportunity to make the Irish public sector the most effective and efficient in Europe. Recall that a couple of months ago we saw Greece in chaos on a number of occasions due to public sector workers. Last month it was Italy and two weeks ago France was closed down. Today, Spain has closed down. We must value what we have in this country in that regard. There is a great deal to be won in this country and it will only be won if people insist that the commitments be delivered by all sides. The Government has given a fair commitment and it is for the other side, of which I am a part, to ensure it delivers as well. It will only be delivered if everybody recognises that it must be delivered. Members of this House should hear on a monthly or bimonthly basis about the process. I propose that the Leader arrange a very early discussion, in the next couple of weeks at least, and invite the Minister to the House to outline what is at stake, what the gains are, what the prize is and what we can do. This certainty might encourage people to open up their deposit accounts and start spending some money. We must remember that 84% of the workforce are still going to work every morning and we need to get them spending that money.

On the point about confidence and people's confidence in the future, unfortunately we must record the fact that whatever about the mood in this House and the mood in Leinster House, there is a palpable mood of despondency and fear throughout the country that has not changed since the House last sat. If anything, it has got worse. We have a responsibility to address this. The principal responsibility lies with the Government but I accept that the Opposition and the people involved in public life have a great responsibility also. The difficulty for the Government, especially during the summer when there were many examples, is that most people have now taken the view that the Government, far from being able to produce a solution or be part of the solution, is itself part of the problem.

I refer to the question of engagement with people. It is reported in the newspapers today that the Taoiseach stated — I do not have the exact words to hand but he is quoted in this morning's newspaper — that the Government is trying its best to persuade people on the international front that we are doing the right thing. I can understand the Taoiseach attempting to do this but when is he going to start persuading the people of this country and addressing the issue of confidence and belief on their part? In the spring, Members on the Government side repeatedly referred in the House toThe Wall Street Journal and various other newspapers in America which they thought were praising Government policy. I do not see them referring to that newspaper or other publications that have commented recently on the deterioration in the economic situation in this country.

On the question of confidence, I agree that the Government should be engaging with the people, and this has been a serious failure on the part of the Government, the Taoiseach in particular. I do not want to hear another reference to turning the corner. What does the phrase mean? The people are able to put up with bad news, the truth and honesty, but they do not get that from the Government. They get this happy-clappy soft soaping where everything is fine and we are turning the corner. How many times have we turned the corner? We are going around a roundabout, such is the sort of corner we are turning. The first time this phrase was used was a year ago and the Minister for Finance is still saying it. The Government should level with the people. Let us have facts and honesty. The first place we should have it is in this House today in respect of Anglo Irish Bank. We have the ludicrous scenario whereby the House will be asked to extend the guarantee today but will only be told the story about Anglo Irish Bank tomorrow.

What sort of nonsense is that and what way is that to treat Parliament and the people? The Government should level with the people. Let us have the facts. We can take it and the people can take it. The Government would be much better off to level with the people and give them the facts, however negative they are, so that the people can be part of this great confidence building exercise in which we all want to see them engage.

In recent days the business editor of the BBC, Robert Peston, described the situation of Ireland's economy as being hideously and perilously close to a cross between recovery and Armageddon. In my view this is fair comment. We are on a precipice as to whether our economy can and will recover. I am of the view that it can, should and will. This session of the 23rd Seanad could be one of the most vital in the history of the institution. Following on Senator Alex White's contribution, which I thought was unfortunate in some aspects, he is correct to say that how debates are conducted in this House in the coming weeks will be very important. I request that these debates, when they arise, would be conducted in the right spirit. We as a political system are engaged in an exercise.

Whenever an election is held and whatever the result of that election, the resulting Government will have to proceed along similar lines as have already been agreed with the European Commission to the effect that this year's budget will have an adjustment of €3 billion, followed by similar adjustments in each of the budgets for the following two years. The effect of these adjustments will be in the very areas which Senator Fitzgerald has outlined. While the Opposition may take as many pot shots as it likes, it should not be dishonest with the people by saying that things can be better with just a change of faces. We are in a very dangerous situation and it requires people to be honest about how, collectively, we can get out it.

Many Members wish to contribute to the Order of Business and I ask for questions to the Leader.

Nothing better underlines the bad place we are in as a country and as a people than the fact that 80 people have their electricity disconnected every day. In 2010, 13,824 people have been disconnected. It costs €86 to have the disconnection completed, which is reprehensible. It costs €88 to reconnect, which is criminal. That should be paid from profits, from a VAT reduction or out of efficiencies. It is criminal that people getting their lives together through no fault of their own and who are able to reconnect, should be charged these sums and put into a debt trap. From November 2007 to October 2010, electricity costs have increased by 6.4% despite the fact the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Ryan, and the Government tell us there has been no increase in energy costs. This is wrong. There has been an increase according to the Commission for Energy Regulation.

Some €30 million has been returned unused to the Government from the Sustainable Energy Ireland fund. Whether it is due to incorrect marketing of the scheme or the application of the scheme, the pick-up is not adequate and the application of the scheme is inadequate. That figure condemns the Government at a time when we need to create jobs in the sector.

The justification for the current price increase, which will kick in on Friday, is the public service obligation and green energy. That is a good thing but there are other ways of dealing with this. It can be dealt with from profits, from efficiencies or by examining VAT rates or a combination of these. It should be put on hold in the emergency we are in. The energy price increase that is coming is not sustainable. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that we have a specific discussion on the lunacy of the proposed electricity price increase, a debate on the lunacy of charging unfortunate people for disconnection from and reconnection to the electricity service and a debate on the entire energy sector this afternoon so we respond to the reality of people's lives in the shocking Ireland we are in.

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on the new initiative by the Government to create 150,000 jobs over the next five years? It would be worthwhile for this forum to discuss the issues on a regular basis. We have a role that is either relevant or redundant. The Seanad has a very important role at this stage, particularly in respect of the creation of 150,000 jobs through Enterprise Ireland and tourism. In that regard, 15,000 extra jobs can be created in tourism in the next five years. I ask the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport to call in the main stakeholders, including Mr. Michael O'Leary, Aer Lingus and the ferry companies. Without access to Ireland, we will not get that growth in tourism. Whether one likes him or hates him, Michael O'Leary is the most important person in the airline industry in Europe.

He was not a few months ago.

We should put the past in the past. Whatever differences there have been——

He proposed scrapping the €10 travel tax.

We are where we are.

Questions to the Leader. No interruptions.

——that is over and done with and we must look to the future. We need people who have provided service to the State, including Mr. Dermot Desmond, to come on board and to create and fulfil the 150,000 jobs.

We need less red tape.

Senator Leyden is flying solo.

Some 10,000 jobs are gone from the licensed vintner trade and it is wrapped up in red tape with regard to renewal of licences, young people being on premises and dance licences.

We have a role to highlight the issues in this House and become relevant. Members of this House could be brought in by the IDA and the tourism authorities to promote the country abroad.

We will be in government soon.

Members of this House could work longer and better for the country without an increase in pay.

It is many months since I said in the House that the Government in confronting the financial crisis should take decisive action by amalgamating the three principal banks, nationalising them in one clean, surgical sweep and taking Anglo Irish Bank out into the middle of the Atlantic and sinking it. I have repeated these sentiments on a number of occasions and, as far as I know, they have never been reported by any journalist. I make them again today. When I first made them, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, a man for whom I have great respect and admiration and a man of courage and integrity, said Anglo Irish Bank was of systemic importance. That means the system must be saved at the expense of the people. I do not think so. It is time we considered the people and challenged the system. It should be challenged on a Europe-wide basis because this is part of a global problem.

We had our own vanilla bubble and did make a complete mess of things in a spectacular way, but what about the ratings agencies, about which I have been speaking for the past year — Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch? They were criminally complicit in the entire mess that originated in America — a bubble of froth from the New York Stock Exchange. They are not basing their estimates on real, scientific analysis but on what they call market sentiment. The market is a wonderful concept, but it does not operate for the corporate bankers, corporate gamblers, swindlers and preferential bondholders. Market forces are suspended for the big people. It is the Leona Helmsley effect. She was right — it is only the little people who pay taxes. We were told the figure would be €4 billion. I was advised by a very remarkable man, Mr. Peter Mathews, who I hope to God will be given a senior position in administering the destruction of Anglo Irish Bank, with some other commentators, in the interests of the people. He said it would cost €30 billion. We now know that is a fact. What a tragedy. What could that €30 billion which has been poured down the drain have done for hospital services, education, infrastructural and transport projects? That is why I seek a continuing debate on the matter because it is a catastrophe.

While I do not endorse physical attacks on the Houses of the Oireachtas, I can understand the anger that lies behind them because people are witnessing their jobs disappear and houses being repossessed, while the corporate gamblers get away with it. This is appalling and it is a worldwide phenomenon. Mr. Warren Buffet, a remarkable man, has decided to give away three quarters or more of his enormous financial reserves. That is a conscientious decision and he is now being followed by 50 other billionaires in the United States. I wonder why. Have they got a whiff of the tumbrils? They are not doing it from philanthropy but because they know there is a crisis brewing. I stand with the workers of the other 11 European countries who are protesting today. We should forge alliances with the Greeks, the Portuguese, the Spanish and with all those countries which are threatened to put it up to the system that it must be radically challenged.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business in the light of the Cathaoirleach's remarks. I am forced to accept what he said about Senator Callely's situation. That is perfectly appropriate. I do not intend to mention it, but when the Cathaoirleach says, as he regularly has to, that there is not time to hear all of the informed views of Members of the House, I do not think it is appropriate that we should pass a resolution limiting the time available without a discussion. We should have one. I, therefore, propose that we take No. 1 with discussion.

Will the Leader provide an update on No. 1 on the Supplementary Order Paper in my name and those of my colleagues dealing with the proposal to relocate the Abbey Theatre to O'Connell Street? We need something visual to lift the people in the run-up to 2016, something of which we can be proud because the bankers, the churches and the Oireachtas have let us down. The one thing that survives is the brilliance and majesty of our creative artists which we should celebrate within Europe in a new and imaginative way. I ask the Leader for an update on that matter.

I echo the words of Senator Leyden in regard to the announcement of the jobs creation strategy outlined yesterday by the Taoiseach. In particular, I want to focus on tourism. I had the pleasure some weeks ago to attend the great dig that took place at Annagassan in County Louth, where the ancient Viking site of Linn Duchaill was discovered. According to Dr. Mark Clinton, the dig supervisor, and Dr. Eamonn Kelly, national keeper of treasures and ancient artefacts, this has the potential to highlight more Viking treasure and artefacts than in all of Scandinavia. As an example, York in England has made huge income from having a Viking site. If we focused on what we have on our own island, we could do the same. Agriculture and tourism heritage are two issues that cannot be copied anywhere throughout the world. While the Government has the smart economy plan and it must be pushed to the maximum, we should also keep a key focus on tourism and heritage. We have this great site in our midst in the north east. If we look at what other countries have done with similar ancient sites and how they have developed and marketed them, we could create a huge impact for our country and for the region. I look forward to the Leader's response.

As we struggle on a daily basis to come to terms with the present banking and economic crisis, we see the real casualties, to whom Senator O'Reilly referred. They are the people who cannot pay day-to-day bills such as electricity and fuel bills while millions of euro are being spent on special advisors to the Government, on banking and on legal mechanisms — on advice that seems to be failing.

I want to take up the offer of Senators Leyden and Carroll to have a debate on jobs and employment. In the past two years, unemployment in the south east, where I come from, has climbed from 6% to 18.1%, with very high profile job losses such as at Waterford Crystal, TEVA and ABB Transformers. However, these are only the headline job losses. Small and medium enterprises are haemorrhaging jobs on a daily basis, an issue which needs to be tackled urgently.

The Government talks about creating 150,000 jobs. It is high on PR spin but there is very little on specifics. This is the ideal Chamber to debate that issue. A good place to start is in regard to refocusing on manufacturing and competitiveness. Let us not give up on manufacturing because that is what is keeping our country going, namely, the products which our small businesses are manufacturing in small factories throughout the country and exporting to Europe and the wider world.

We took our eye off the ball in the past 15 years under the stewardship of this Government; while it was propagating the property bubble, it forgot about manufacturing. We need more blue collar jobs. Yes, it is nice to have the smart economy and that high profile jobs would be created but we need decent, ordinary jobs for day-to-day living. I call on the Leader for that debate on jobs and particularly on manufacturing.

I look forward to the debate we will have on the banking situation in the next few weeks. However, I am cognisant that we should have facts presented before the House. To suggest that interest rates are at unsustainable levels is nothing short of nonsense. In the 1980s we had a debt-GDP ratio of 130%, 18% unemployment and 18% inflation, and we got through that. I hear radio commentators talking about an extra 0.2% on our interest rates when we paid a multiple of that in the 1980s and we got through it. In fact, we were paying 33% of all taxation income on debt repayment in the 1980s when it is currently 18.7% — that is the difference.

It is finally time to put this issue to rest. Things are not as bad as the Opposition would want the people to believe. The reality is there is an awful lot of talking down of the economy.

Bertie said that too.

There are many positive elements. All efforts at job creation should be welcomed.

Second, it is a very fortunate aspect of the Seanad that we get to speak about international events. A recent event at the United Nations will have resonance throughout the world, namely, the Iranian President's questioning of whether terrorists undertook the 11 September 2001 attacks. There is no doubt but that it was 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who undertook those attacks. More than 90 nations lost people when up to 3,000 people died in those attacks. Of those, 500 had direct Irish connections, be they Irish citizens or Irish-Americans, or were members of New York's brave police and fire departments, of whom we are so proud. It is an affront to democracy and history for anyone to blame the Jewish people for something with which they had nothing to do. It is reminiscent of the 1930s.

Last night, the President pointed out that the Seanad was a place where we could be fearless in speaking, but I am afraid that we are always flunking. We have had months and months of worked up public anger about the banks, which has all been very well, but two groups benefited from the Celtic tiger, namely, the property groups allied with the banks and the public sector. While Anglo Irish Bank is a bad situation, it is a manageable one. What are not manageable are our public sector finances. The State's liability in terms of public sector pay and pensions increased by €6 billion in the past five years. The elephant is in the room but no one will touch it. The media cannot touch it because the public sector is articulate and buys newspapers. RTE is a part of the public sector,The Irish Times is a trust and you are locked in and institutionalised. I say “you” because I feel distinct from Senators in this matter. There is a conspiracy of silence in the Oireachtas about the public sector. No one will tackle or speak about the issue or point out that, even had we managed Anglo Irish Bank and had there been no banking crisis, we would have a crisis in the public finances.

Nothing will be done unless we tackle the pay and pensions side of the public sector. Its members are the only group in the country who are permanently insulated against the horrors of the economic recession. They seem to feel they are entitled to it. There is no such entitlement. A member of a political party in the House told me last night that, when she was canvassing recently, she came to a house where a single woman had lost her job, had no one to turn to, was caught in a mortgage she did not know how to service and was told by her bank when she asked for interest finance that it was turning her back towards a mortgage. She asked what she could do and to where she could turn. At the next house, a public sector worker in receipt of more than €80,000 per year whinged about the levy. What kind of world does that person live in? Let us get a grip, starting in this House.

Before we have the budget and ask the productive middle class of the private sector, the productive blue collar workers or the welfare mothers to carry the can, we should turn to the fat cats of the public service to carry some of it. We should start with ourselves by taking a 20% cut before turning to any other part of the economy.

I used to be opposite Senator O'Reilly on the communications and energy portfolio. I disagree with his call for an emergency debate on electricity prices. It would be fair to point out that there have been reductions in recent years. While the point he raised about the PSO is an interesting one, it has been debated in the House previously.

Some have called for a specialisation of the Seanad. Last night, the President paid the Seanad a nice tribute, but she set us the challenge of raising the bar. We need to focus on four areas, three of which are economic in nature and fundamental to how the country evolves in the short, medium and long terms. These areas are banking, the deficit — this is a pseudonym for public overexpenditure — and unemployment. The fourth area is that of Northern Ireland.

Regarding the deficit, I agree with all of Senator Harris's comments, in that there is a conspiracy among left-wing pseudo-socialists in the House and political parties to avoid discussing the significant escalation in the cost of our public service. Last week, I listened as the Committee of Public Accounts queried the most senior people working in our universities and the Higher Education Authority, HEA. I do not think anybody could have listened without being shocked and appalled at the unauthorised payments or the practices on allowances. Highly paid lecturers and professors in our universities receive up to 50% more than their counterparts in the neighbouring island. They lecture for six hours per week and work a maximum of 15 to 20 hours per week. These are part-time jobs. Every day of the week, evidence of this can be seen in the news media and on our televisions, where they are all pontificating about our economic and banking situations, what we should be doing and where we should be going. We heard nothing from them previously.

We need to look at the issue of the public service. It increased by 150,000 people in the decade from 1998 to 2008.

Who increased it?

The cost went from €9 billion to €20 billion.

It was increased by Deputy Bertie Ahern.

We cannot have a debate.

The man Senator Walsh supported.

There was a consensus in the Opposition that insufficient money was being spent on it and that it should have been further increased.

Fifteen years in government.

Nobody on the opposite side is in a position to throw stones. It has to be tackled collectively.

Who is in government?

We cannot pass on to the next generation inflated salaries, guaranteed jobs and a pension scheme that one cannot buy in the private sector. That cannot be passed on to people in the private sector — the productive sector — who are struggling to meet their mortgages and the cost of living. It is time we faced up to the issue and held a proper debate on it.

I second the proposal by Senator Fitzgerald to amend the Order of Business in regard to widening the scope of the debate on health to encompass the motion she has tabled on the Order Paper. Perhaps the Leader will save us a vote by agreeing to the amendment.

I also second the proposal by my illustrious colleague from County Cavan, Senator O'Reilly, in regard to charges. Finally, I support Senator Norris's proposal that motion No. 1 be taken with debate.

Two ones and a two.

Is it not motion No. 1?

Is the Senator seconding the three amendments that have been proposed?

I am seconding them if that is allowed. I am in the Chair's hands. I appreciate that we will have some certainty by tomorrow regarding the final estimate by the Department of Finance of the taxpayers' exposure Anglo Irish Bank. However, we are equally concerned to bring certainty and finality to the entire banking sector. I am speaking about the real systemic banks, AIB and Bank of Ireland. I am aware the latter bank had a successful rights issue by way of recapitalisation but AIB is in a tricky situation in light of what is going on between Santander and M&T Bank in the United States. This needs to be resolved because taxpayers are exposed through the increased stakes in these institutions that the Minister for Finance has taken on their behalf. As the Leader will no doubt appreciate, these stakes will probably increase further.

The Minister waxed eloquent in the past about a third force in banking but this proposal appears to have dropped off the agenda. The proposal is important for the future of our economy and the availability of credit. We know how people have been squeezed and the anxiety that all the financial institutions feel to renew the arrangements of clients in order to clobber them with increased interest and reduce the availability of credit. This is a serious issue and I am aware it is close to the Leader's heart. He often refers to ICC, which no longer exists. I would like to hear from him and, more importantly, the Minister about the position of the proposal for a third force. It has slipped off the agenda and we have heard nothing about it for the past 12 months. It needs to be resurrected. What proposals, if any, have been made to amalgamate weakened institutions in order to strengthen competition in the economy?

I wish to speak about the legislation for a mayor of Dublin. It is an all-encompassing item due to be published which the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, referred to yesterday. As I understand it from what can be read today, the position of the present Lord Mayor of Dublin, who resides in the Mansion House, is to cease with local elections in 2014.

I know there were private briefings for Members on the Government side from two Ministers, Deputies Dempsey and Pat Carey. This is a very important matter for this institution, given the composition of our electorate consists. Four local authorities will be involved, although I know we have not yet seen the Bill. I fail to see how, with the powers of managers, this will work out. Will the Leader arrange for a briefing for this House on the functions, powers and responsibilities being proposed for the mayor, who will be known as a lord mayor and dispossess whoever is in the Mansion House after the 2014 local elections? I look forward to hearing from the Leader.

That is called self-interest.

It is not, it is in the public interest.

There should be no interruptions.

I do not want to go into the detail of how we will discuss the banking guarantee extension later today, with a full day of debate on the economy tomorrow. When one considers the attack, as it was, on the gates of Leinster House by a member of the public today, it brings home the level of anger of that particular individual. It is testament to the kind of anger we have all experienced in recent months and years as difficult decisions have had to be taken and as serious amounts of money have been committed to rehabilitating our banking position. The effort has been absolutely intolerable to most of us because of the magnitude of money involved but that does not deduct at all from how necessary action is such.

The cost for Anglo Irish Bank, should it be in the region of €30 billion, would mean that the servicing of that debt in the context of our national debt would be approximately €1.5 billion, which is very significant.

It is an absolute disgrace.

It relates to servicing our national debt. What is much more pressing, as has been alluded to by many, is dealing with the deficit in 2010 of €18.5 billion. To follow on from Senator O'Toole's comments, it would be beneficial for us to have a report on progress in the Croke Park agreement, the efficiencies that have been introduced and where we are getting more from less in that regard. Do we need to revisit any aspects of the deal?

Senator Harris mentioned that the cost of public services had increased substantially by €6 billion over recent years. While neither individuals, families nor constituents would like to contemplate further cuts in the likes of public sector pay and services, the reality is that it is inevitable. At the earliest possible convenience and at least every week over the next four weeks, there should be a debate on these matters so that Members of this House can feed directly into where we think the money can be cut best. There is no question that the process will be very painful for every household in the country but we must work together to ensure we identify the services that people can best do without. The reality is that is what we will be doing. There is no money and the process is about sacrifice and cuts. We have no other choice.

The pantomime of who is to blame and what could have been done is for yesterday. What is for discussion today is our future. I say this irrespective of what I read in theFinancial Times and what is written by the Dublin-based correspondent of The Wall Street Journal, whom I last heard defending an article of his by saying he was only repeating what was stated in the Irish press. As an Irish citizen, I believe in the ability of the people in this room on all sides and in the other House to get through this mess, which as Senator Hanafin has said is much worse than the position in the 1980s. We will do it and we must tell the public, confidently and collectively, that we will do it.

It has been most interesting to hear Senators MacSharry, Walsh and Harris speak with a positive attitude on action that can be taken. We will have a debate tomorrow on the economy and I am delighted it is happening. I thank the Leader for organising it.

I support the words of Senators Norris and Coghlan who asked whether we must limit the Order of Business as a number of Senators wishing to speak will not get in each time. I suggest we have such a debate. I do not like the thought of item No. 1 being taken without debate because it should be debated. The most valuable, vibrant, interesting part of the day in the Seanad is very often the Order of Business. By all means, let us limit the length of time we have to speak to one and a half minutes, but let us make sure we will all have the chance to speak. We should debate the issue today.

I raise one other matter. In spite of all the challenges facing us, we should not put the issue of education on a long finger.

Two figures stood out for me during the past month. When the leader of Hewlett Packard announced the creation of 50 jobs — not very many — he was asked what qualifications would be needed by candidates. He said they just had to be able to speak a second language. The reporter said, "That means no Irish need apply." We have the worst figures for language training in Europe. The number of pupils in secondary school in Ireland who learn two languages is 8%, compared to 60% on average elsewhere in Europe. We have to do something about this. Even worse, however, is the figure for primary school pupils. The percentage who learn one other language is 3%. The average figure elsewhere in Europe is 60%. In a number of countries, for example, Sweden and Luxembourg, 100% learn a second language. Even in Italy the figure is 99%. I mention this because it is the sort of issue we should challenge and debate in the House. Let us look to the future, on the bright side and at having a can-do attitude. However, we will not be able to do this if we do not give younger people some chance to compete in the future.

Like other colleagues, there is positivity in my voice. It is always great on the first day back when everybody is full of jizz and ready to go. I was not going to come into the House; I was working in my office until I heard Senator O'Toole speak about looking for a progress report on the Croke Park agreement. I join him and other Senators who endorsed his request that the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, come to the House today, or on a day the Leader can agree for him to come. Let us get the debate going to see where the Croke Park agreement stands. There are very good and generous commitments on all sides, for pay rates to be frozen and there to be no compulsory redundancies. That is a huge commitment on the part of the Government and the State to offer to public sector workers.

I agree with everything Senator Harris had to say. He speaks with such conviction and passion. He is a man of common sense and a wonderful orator. What he has to say flows from him. I often think, "God, why could I not think of something like that to say." It comes so easily to him. However, every worker in the public sector is not a fat cat on a fat cat salary, but nobody knows that better than the Senator. There are people, whom I represent, who are struggling very badly. However, I have no doubt we will witness positivity arising from the Croke Park agreement. As Senator O'Toole said, if workers can be given an assurance that there will be no further pay cuts in the next few years, it will loosen the purse strings a little and give them the luxury of being able to buy another car, perhaps to build a small extension, go on a family holiday and do the things we are all crying out to do but are afraid to do because we simply do not know what is around the corner, financially, for any of us. For those looking for a new or secondhand car——

Questions to the Leader, please.

——the car scrappage scheme has been wonderful. Throughout the summer I heard calls for us to extend it. It has enhanced the car industry which, as we know, was struggling until the scheme was introduced.

I agree with those who have spoken about all Members of the House being committed to getting the country out of the terrible mess in which it finds itself. I listened to Deputy Lucinda Creighton the other day on "Morning Ireland" and she talked about people being fed up hearing politicians blame each other and listening to the media pairing one set of politicians against another. Now is the time for us to be responsible. We should all act as befits those elected to these Houses to do the job we have to do. There is a responsibility on every one of us. We all want our country to come out of the terrible abyss it is in. We are proud Irish people, and I say that both to politicians and the media. I am delighted to see a section of the media present that we do not often see in this House. They are taking an interest in the House now. There is an onus on them to be responsible, to watch what they say and how they say it and not show us up in a bad light, whether in Ireland or abroad and especially when others are looking in. There are solutions to this problem and we can get ourselves out of it.

Will the Leader put the issue of anorexia, my old hobby horse, on the agenda for debate? We need the Minister of State with responsibility for that area of health, Deputy Moloney, to address the Seanad because more young boys and girls are being affected. Boys as young as seven and eight as well as young girls are suffering from anorexia. We used to think it was a female problem but it is across both genders.

I agree with Senators Leyden and MacSharry that we can work our way out of the difficult place in which we find ourselves. In doing so, however, we must have more than the facile public relations stunts carried out by Government day after day which lack any type of innovative thought or resources to tackle the biggest issue facing the country, namely, the jobs crisis.

Some months ago the Government announced a revised national development plan, essentially the reheating of an older development plan, which was to create 270,000 jobs. Yesterday we had another reheated plan which promises to generate 300,000 jobs. That is 570,000 jobs over the next five years or 2,000 new jobs a week from now on. If the Government reheating old tired ideas is the only inspiration on offer to the 120,000 young people who have left our shores in the past two years, then I truly despair.

The biggest fallacy in yesterday's statement was the Government's claim that it is going to create jobs. Governments do not create jobs, business people do. In doing so they must be allowed and encouraged by Government. Rather than doing exactly that, our Government over the past three or four years has chosen to put brick walls in front of every business in this country. The head of IDA Ireland, charged with generating new business, tells us that high energy costs act as a barrier to growth. Businesses in Northern Ireland pay 14% less than we do for electricity. We have the fifth highest electricity prices out of 31 European countries and the Government is now thinking of increasing those charges again. If one is so unfortunate as to have one's electricity disconnected, the Government makes money by charging VAT on both the disconnection and the reconnection fees.

Despite several assurances that our banking system is finally fixed, nothing could be further from the truth, and it has taken the ECB to tell us that honest fact. Over the summer, how many business people have we met with innovative ideas that could generate jobs in a real economy if they only had support from the banking system? The truth is they do not have that support.

Businesses are being strangled by a hopelessly outdated commercial rating system. The rates being charged to businesses in 2010 bear no relationship to their earning capacities. A rates revaluation programme that began in 2001 — almost ten years ago — to reassess rates in the 88 rating areas has only managed to assess three areas in that time. In those three an average reduction of 30% in the commercial rate was achieved.

Is the Senator looking for a debate?

I am looking for a debate. That shows up the non-performance and lack of innovative thought on the part of the Government and this Oireachtas in supporting small business. That is where the regeneration will begin. It is not happening and needs to begin urgently.

Picking up where the previous Senator left off on supporting small business, I call on the Leader to facilitate a debate on a subset of that theme, namely, sustaining employers. My experience over the summer has shown that many employers are paying themselves last and are among the first to take the hit in terms of pay within their small businesses. They are doing all they can to pay employees some type of decent wage but it is increasingly difficult for them. Senator Boyle spoke about the precipice we find ourselves on and many businesses find themselves in such a position. Employers are the bulwark upon which employees depend and if they find it is no longer possible to continue in business, they tend to bring down their employees with them. An intervention to stop that domino effect that is worth considering is something akin to the scheme for sustaining employment that is being targeted at 10,000 employees at present. If something similar could be done for employers, this would have a multiplier effect in that it would provide a certain safety net for them. The sector is very poorly served in terms of pension provisions and access to welfare when employers find themselves unemployed. Many of them fall between the cracks in the system. It needs to be reconfigured to address their needs. This is a plea, as a small employer, on behalf of a sector that is being overlooked and upon which many people on modest incomes depend. Small employers are the bulwark that people need to maintain their livelihoods.

I agree with Senator Cannon about rates. The situation has changed so dramatically that the Valuation Office needs to up its game significantly. Three out of 88 is a hopelessly slow rate of revaluation, and rates are an enormous burden, especially when rents are falling. The rateable valuation stands out in stark contrast as one of the key blockages to competitiveness within small towns and among small businesses. That is a major issue and a good deal of consensus exists on how it should be tackled. While I am asking the Leader specifically for a debate on sustaining employers, I would welcome it in the context of a wider debate such as that called for by Senator Cannon on supports for the small and medium-sized enterprise, SME, sector generally.

I join Senator O'Toole in asking that the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, would address the Seanad in the context of a discussion in the House on the Croke Park agreement. While I respect the rights of Senators to express their opinions and while Senator Harris and I are ideologically opposed on this, I find it disingenuous that he should pillory the public sector worker when the Taoiseach he supported and to whom he bent the knee introduced benchmarking——

Questions now to the Leader, not across the floor to another Member.

I am coming to the question. That Taoiseach increased the profile and the staffing of the public sector. How can the Senator still say he was a great Taoiseach?

When are we going to have this real debate about the public sector? The public servant I know has not made a fortune and is suffering like everyone else. He or she is in negative equity and there are families whose children are unemployed or have emigrated. While their jobs might be secure, they have taken a pension levy and a pay cut. Let us focus on the top tier of the public sector which has been rewarded by the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil ideology of bonuses and so on. Let us start with reform of the public sector as proposed by Fine Gael. It was Fine Gael, the Senator may recall, that predicted in 2004 that benchmarking would be the disaster it has proved to be. Let us not create a social class war in this country. As Senator Dearey said, small and medium-sized enterprises are in trouble. The public sector is in trouble. It does us no good to come into this Chamber and ask that the public sector be hit yet again. As a proud member of a public sector union, I will not put up with it. Reform is on the agenda, and the teachers' unions stepped up to the plate regarding the Croke Park deal.

The ASTI and the INTO did. Let us not come in here and divide people. The crashing of a cement truck into the gates of Leinster House this morning was a symbol of the anger of the people, although it was not right. If we were in France, Greece or Spain, our streets would be full of people.

I note that on today's Order Paper, under the heading of non-statutory papers laid before the Seanad on page 928, there are six items dealing with the appointment of special advisers to Ministers. Are these new appointments? What about the moratorium on public sector recruitment? Why are these items buried in the Order Paper? They may be legitimate appointments. They are items Nos. 43 to 45, inclusive, and Nos. 51 and 52. Who are these people and what are they being appointed for? How much are they paid?

The problem is that we have a two-tier public sector, with fat cats on the top level and ordinary workers on the bottom level who are being pilloried and made into sacrificial lambs. Let us not divide the country more. The people want change and leadership. They are not getting it from the Government, which is like a clapped-out three-wheel bike being propped up by the Green Party and a few Independents. Fianna Fáil does not know what it is doing. Let us have a real debate about public sector reform.

We are a proud and resilient people with a history of oppression. The most common question I have been asked throughout the summer, and especially in recent days, is, "Are we getting there?" People want to know how we are faring as a nation. Have the cuts and austerity measures paid off? Has all the money we have given to the banks made a difference? I fear we are losing the war. That is a genuine fear — it is not about being negative. I am asking for proper stewardship. To echo what Senator Alex White said, who decided we should vote on the bank guarantee tonight when we must wait until tomorrow to get the information on Anglo Irish Bank? The Government decided. That is putting the cart before the horse.

Senator Dan Boyle asked whether we thought new faces would make any difference. I say "Yes." Who would give €1 million in one year to a fat-cat public servant, as we heard last week? I refer to Mr. Somers, who is a decent man — but why make that decision? Who gave the money to Patrick Neary and Rody Molloy? Who paid them off? The Government did. Meanwhile, there is human misery in Galway, in the HSE west area. I spoke with the clinical director of University College Hospital Galway just before I came here this afternoon. That hospital and Merlin Park University Hospital must find €19 million by December. They have just given €15 million and they are stripped to the bone. He said that any further cuts would threaten patient safety.

Does this Government stand over threats to patient safety? It is a simple question. I have no doubt the Leader will say "No," but if that is the case, I ask him to ensure that University College Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital are not faced with €19 million in cuts between now and 1 January, which will threaten patient safety. I look forward to hearing the Leader's reply.

I cannot but agree - and wholeheartedly at that - with what Senator Alex White had to say when he pointed to the inappropriateness of having a debate about the guarantee this evening and a debate about the state of things generally, including matters relating to Anglo Irish Bank, tomorrow. That is the kind of incongruity that will contribute to the continuing disquiet about the way in which our political process works. We are at the start of our legislative year, and we will need something more than slagging matches across the Chamber if we want the public to re-engage with the political process.

I note that it is now almost a year since the motion "That Seanad Éireann deplores the delay in implementing the recommendations of the Report on Seanad Reform and demands of Government that it do so immediately." was placed on the Order Paper. We have had two debates with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about Seanad reform. What was interesting was that the first debate — the one furthest back in time — was the one in which the Minister was most confident in his promise to introduce Seanad reform. We were told that a wider pool of university graduates would take part in the next election to the Seanad. In the second debate, which took place more recently, the Minister had pulled in his horns considerably in that regard. It would be good to find out from the Minister what is to happen regarding Seanad reform and regarding the extension of the franchise, in the context of the university seats, to graduates of other universities and third-level institutes. It seems there is no good reason to delay the necessary reform.

It is all the more incumbent on the political class to conduct a debate on the working of our institutions precisely because there is such disenchantment about how Government and the legislature have operated in recent years. The debate could start with a useful and necessary debate on Seanad reform, but I hope we will also have a debate soon on the relationship between the Government and the legislature. When we blame the Government for the lack of stewardship in the past and a failure to establish good systems of regulation, we must acknowledge that one of the reasons the Government failed so dramatically was that it was under no pressure from its rank and file in the Oireachtas. We have a system that is quite authoritarian. In Britain, it is much more common for the Government to lose votes in the House of Commons and for the House of Lords to hold up legislation it is unhappy with. Someone once said about the House of Lords that one could not justify the way it is elected, but sometimes it seems to do the job. Hell would freeze over before anything so dramatic would happen here, with the Government losing a vote because a majority of elected representatives felt a measure was inappropriate.

The Senator's point is made.

If we are so spineless and unimaginative about policy and legislation, is it any wonder we end up with the Government making bad choices, failing to exercise the necessary oversight and allowing the country to make serious mistakes to the detriment of everybody? I ask for a bit of imagination, creativity and determination, in this and the other House, in debating how our system is working and whether it is serving people properly. Instead of just serving ourselves and trying to secure our own re-election, we should ask the hard questions about how our system has worked to date and how we could possibly improve it.

We must all accept that we have a smaller purse, and we must look at the big picture and recognise that we cannot make realistic calls for expenditure in this or that area. The fact remains, however, that we have a purse, and in all times of challenge there must be thrift and there must be intelligent choices about what is in the purse and how it is to be spent. I spoke recently to a graduate who has a master's degree but in an area in which he cannot find employment. He wants to go back to third level education and do another master's degree, which would take 15 months.

We will have that discussion another day.

I will finish shortly. I ask for a debate on this because I want to see the Minister for Social Protection, whom I esteem highly, come in here and address this point. This person wants to do a master's degree in information technology — an area he believes there will be employment — but he cannot get the back to education allowance, he tells me, because he has a master's degree. Is it better that this man continue to receive social welfare for 15 months, or that he be enabled to better himself by receiving the back to education allowance in an area in which he believes he may find employment and in which there is still demand for services? I have a great deal of time for the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, but it would be good if he would tell us how that system is working. We know there is pressure on resources——

The Senator has made his point.

——but that is all the more reason for us to make intelligent choices.

If one is involved in politics long enough, one has a sense ofdéjà vu when one hears what is being said in both Houses of the Oireachtas, but so as not to become too cynical, I try to bring some humour into the situation. Senator Mullen has mentioned the great changes we are supposed to make and how we are supposed to stand up for ourselves. In the short time I have been a Member of this House I have seen a few side deals being made behind me to ensure the Government continues to win votes in the House. We should start a process where we see the Government lose votes behind me rather than across from me.

We would be delighted to vote against the Government on issues of substance.

Questions for the Leader. No interruptions, please.

It is a matter of interpretation as to whether it is an issue of substance.

We are independent of the Government, as is the Opposition.

No interruptions, please.

I have obviously struck a chord. It is amazing that we are being asked to face up to the problem collectively. This means the Government is in the dung heap and needs our support because it does not want to take responsibility. This is a little like Mighty Mouse in the constituency and Mickey Mouse when one reaches Dublin. We have seen this happen a lot.

Questions for the Leader, please.

What I have said could be interpreted as being cynical, but we must look at the situation with a sense of humour. When we discussed benchmarking a number of years ago, I cannot recall Fianna Fáil colleagues collectively facing up to what Fine Gael wanted — accountability, reform and transformation of the public service. Instead, Fianna Fáil just paid out. Now it realises reform and accountability are necessary and that there is need for a change in the way the public sector works.

It is interesting to see supporters of the Government reject the Croke Park agreement on the floor of the House. The agreement was agreed by the Government, but it is obviously being rejected by Fianna Fáil Members of the House. I would hate to test their resolve by putting a motion on the agreement to a vote because I have a fair idea ——

Does the Senator support it?

I believe Senator Harris would.

No interruptions, please.

When Senator Harris speaks, he speaks with conviction, but, unfortunately, there is not the same strong conviction in the comments of other Government supporters in speaking against the Croke Park agreement. I agree there is a need for serious discussion of a number of issues in the House. The reconfiguration programme for hospitals has caused fear and mayhem in hospitals outside the greater Dublin area. Those involved in small and medium-sized enterprises are also being hammered. I do not mean "hammered" in the way it might be used by some Fianna Fáil Members, but such businesses are being hammered. There is a need for serious and urgent debate on these issues in order that we can face up to the problems in society. While I may be humorous when mentioning these problems, they are serious.

I have listened with interest to what my colleagues have said and agree with Senator Twomey that there is a sense ofdéjà vu. Senator Harris has caused a political disturbance by presenting us with a real image of where Ireland stands. I recall that 18 months or two years ago he predicted there would be almost 500,000 people out of work. Some of us sneered at the time and others jeered, but, sadly, he has been proved to be correct. He and others who spoke about Anglo Irish Bank are correct to say it is a national scandal of unprecedented proportions that almost €30 billion has gone down the tubes. That sum is approximately 1.5 times the current and annual budget deficit and the expected deficit next year and puts in focus the clear need for deficit reduction and reform. We in this House have a grave responsibility to tackle the economic crisis. Last night the President spoke about the importance of the House and its role. If we want to live up to our role and responsibilities as legislators, almost every discussion here in the next few months must be about economic matters, in particular job creation.

I wanted to say something different, original or important today, as we all do, but we never reach the appropriate heights. I read in the editorial in theIrish Examiner today an admonishment directed at the Members of the other House, but it is opportune for us to reflect on the same paragraph:

The 166 members face a challenge none of their living predecessors had to consider, a challenge. A challenge that requires a unity of purpose alien to our political culture and practice. Every last member of the Dáil must, from today, concentrate on the bigger picture. In this last chance saloon point scoring is more than a minor irrelevance, it is a poisonous distraction from the terrible challenges of the moment.

I ask all of my colleagues to reflect on this and respond accordingly and positively between now and Christmas in order that we can prevent the country from going down the tubes.

I support Senator O'Reilly on the issue of energy costs. It is appalling that in the case of electricity there is a disconnection fee of €97.61 and a reconnection fee of €99.98. It is appalling that those who cannot afford to pay electricity bills running into hundreds of euro must pay a fee when their supply is cut off and a further outrageous sum to have it reconnected. It was brought to my attention at a committee meeting today that one could no longer pay €5 a week in the post office towards one's bills. I am not sure whether An Post or the ESB is responsible for this, but I urge the Leader to find out who is and appeal to An Post, the ESB and the Minister to ensure people will be able to continue to pay a small amount at a time towards their bills in order that they do not face disconnection. I am aware that even people living in middle class areas are without electricity. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is shouldering a massive burden in supporting them. It is an outrage that the ESB charges such exorbitant sums for disconnection and reconnection. This issue must be addressed. This is how the people are being affected. I urge the Leader to address the issue to ensure a stay is put on disconnections.

Senator Bradford hit the nail on the head with his request for a new tone of debate. I wish to pick up on his request and put two questions to the Leader. There is a growing fatalism in the discussion on the future of the country and its economic security. The most concrete example I have of this is the number of commentators who say or infer it would be an acceptable course of action for Ireland to access the same fund to which Greece has access because it has access to a lower interest rate on the financial markets than Ireland. The message should be given clearly by this House — by all Members, irrespective of their party — that this would not be an acceptable course of action and should not be countenanced by Ireland or any political party. Huge mistakes were made in wielding sovereignty in the past ten years. The solution to these terrible mistakes is not for us to hand over sovereignty to an outside body. Whatever needs to be done in terms of public expenditure changes and at the level of taxation to avert this must be done. If an Opposition party such as Fine Gael believes something is being done incorrectly, it has an obligation to spell out what it would do differently. We find ourselves in perilous waters and the inference that this is something the country is willing to consider must be completely rejected. In rejecting this possibility there is a need for a new honesty in discussing issues. Deficit reduction is the greater cost we face. However, at its heart there is not only a debt problem but a jobs and economic growth problem also. The only way economies have been successful in dealing with debt levels is not by cutting debt but by finding a way to secure growth. Any initiatives brought forward, whether by Government or Opposition parties, must be treated seriously in order that we can find the job capacity and confidence to enable us to grow out as opposed to accepting that cutting the debt on its own will be the answer.

I share the opinion of Senator Donohoe and others about acting responsibly and extend their request to the Irish media in general. I echo the words of the Minister of Finance at a recent seminar when he accepted, as all of us do, the right of a free press in a democratic society to express its opinions as it saw fit, but we are, as Senator Donohoe and others said, in the middle of a deep national crisis. I had a conspiracy theory dating back to the Troubles. Many of the news agencies were based in London. Therefore, any news about the island of Ireland was filtered through the London media which nearly always inevitably gave one side of the case, to the detriment of the Irish side. However, in this crisis, the news is not being filtered through the London media. What is happening is that the international news agencies and, by extension, those involved in the financial sector are taking their lead from the headlines and stories being printed and disseminated in the Irish media. There was a perfect example last month in the middle of the so-called silly season. One bank, Barclays Capital, stated Ireland was managing its affairs as best it could in the circumstances but that it could at some time in the future go to the IMF. The headline in the best selling national newspaper the following day stated Ireland was going to the IMF. That was irresponsible journalism and as bad as inaccuracies in this House. It is incumbent, therefore, on the Irish media to be responsible, as they have a responsibility to be accurate in what they print, particularly in the current climate where every utterance in Ireland is picked up by the international media.

I would like to paraphrase Senator Mullen whose command of English is excellent. The creativity and imagination shown by the Government in the past few days in putting forward a national strategy to create 150,000 jobs in the next few years are to be commended and I hope the Leader will pass on that good wish. There will be an emphasis on tourism. I was astonished to hear a senior editor at a Sunday business newspaper on the Vincent Browne programme in recent days rubbishing the industry and more or less questioning why we were not placing the emphasis on indigenous industry more. Our most important indigenous industry after agriculture is tourism. It affects every town and village, but if that is the view of a Dublin based business journalist, what hope is there for a proper dissemination of news?

I also congratulate the county town of Ireland, Carrick-on-Shannon. Ireland had two entries in Entente Florale, a flower display competition between 12 European nations. Ireland took gold through Carrick-on-Shannon and silver through Emly, County Tipperary, last year's national tidy towns competition winner. I compliment both communities because this was a voluntary effort on the part of people who have great pride in their community. When there is such an achievement at local level, I no longer despair and hope the hope being portrayed by the great people concerned means the country will get out of the current climate.

Hear, hear. Well said.

Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, Boyle, O'Reilly, Leyden, Norris, Coffey, Hanafin, Harris, Walsh, Coghlan, MacSharry, Quinn, Feeney, Buttimer, Healy Eames, Mullen, Bradford, McFadden, Donohoe and Mooney all expressed serious views of the economy and where we find ourselves as a nation following the summer recess. I have scheduled an all-day debate on the economy tomorrow which will roll over to next week, if necessary. Nothing more could be relevant to the business of the House than hearing the views and serious concerns of Members about the economy. They outlined genuine experiences in order that the Government could include them in its thinking, particularly at Estimates and budget time.

Senators O'Toole, MacSharry, Harris, Feeney, Buttimer, Cannon, Twomey and Mooney referred to the achievements of the Croke Park agreement. As Senator O'Toole said, we should see how we can support the great efforts being made by everyone, including the Government, to arrive at agreement. As Leader of the House, I have had nothing but 100% support from the Fianna Fáil group. Senator Twomey may have tried to direct a view that there was a difficulty in this regard. This side of the House was firm on the Croke Park agreement, as were many colleagues on the other side of the House. One party leader did not want to express a view or opinion on it, but I will have no difficulty in setting time aside occasionally for the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Deputy Calleary, to update us on progress. Senator Harris has strong views and made proposals in the House from time to time, which have come true. If this can be done on a bimonthly basis, I will have no difficulty in ordering such business in the next few months.

Senators Leyden, Carroll, Coffey, Cannon and Mooney welcomed the Government's strategy to create 150,000 new jobs and I would like to be associated with their comments. Our exports have increased substantially on the figures for last year. As Senator Donohoe correctly said, we will get out of this through growth. Export figures are one of the most uplifting features of where we are. No politician or journalist commenting on the second quarter economic figures which highlighted a downturn of 1.2% referred to the main difficulty experienced by business people during the period, the challenge presented by the ash cloud. Our airports were closed on three occasions and, on one occasion, for five days. It was a magnificent and a marvellous second quarter return considering the uncertainty, particularly in the business and tourism sectors. Business people could not come to Ireland and all tours were cancelled. Why is there not more accurate reporting of the facts, whether within government or the media? I hope there will be growth of more than 1.5% for the year. I am confident this will be achieved. Tomorrow is the last day of the third quarter.

Last week 200,000 people attended the national ploughing championships, a three-day event. This broke all records, while 90,000 attended two Michael Bublé concerts at the weekend. Currently, people have €96 billion in savings. We have to open our eyes and realise that almost half of the population are saving more than three times the European average. There is a huge positive aspect to the country and we have to work on the positives. One would go bust working on the negatives. When I read about the downturn in magazine readership and national radio listenership figures, it is easy to work out that people are fed up with bad news.

The whingers' channel is gone. We must look forward to the future on both television and radio. Where is the balance in broadcasting? Where is the regulation in the Broadcasting Act? I intend to review that Act on the floor of the House during this session to examine if balance is included in the Act and, if so, why it is not being adhered to.

I make that comment because over the summer recess one could see clearly——

Deputy Willie O'Dea was on "The Late Late Show", therefore, there will be no more of that.

The Senator and I have much in common — we were both rejected by our electorate. We were rejected by the people of Westmeath and Wexford——

That is true. I accept that.

—— therefore, we must listen and learn as well. I am prepared to do it and I hope the Senator is too.

Do not use the word "rejected"; I do not like that word.

Well, we were not accepted.

The Leader is replying to the questions raised on the Order of Business. There cannot be interruptions.

He is inviting comment, a Chathaoirligh.

Senator Norris called for an update from the Government on what has been agreed in the programme for Government regarding the Abbey Theatre moving to the GPO in O'Connell Street in time for 2016. I will invite the Minister to the House so we can debate the up-to-date position in that regard as soon as possible.

Senator Carroll spoke about promoting the major tourism attractions in his constituency. I have no difficulty with organising a debate on this issue at the earliest opportunity.

Senator Hanafin made a very worthwhile contribution, particularly with regard to 11 September 2001 and the 500 people who lost their lives who had strong and close Irish connections. Some were Irish citizens. I agree with his sentiments in that regard.

Senator Coghlan asked about the Bill providing for the election of the Dublin mayor. The Bill will be published in this session and, I hope, passed by both Houses before the Christmas recess.

What about a briefing?

It is on the A list of legislation for this session.

Ministers are speaking about it but we have not heard anything.

Senator, the Leader is replying to the questions.

Senator Quinn and Senator Mullen raised the issue of a second language. The low percentages of 8% and 3% having a second language is serious. This must be treated as a matter of extreme urgency. I will speak to the Minister about it and refer back to the House to let Members know when this can be debated. We can discuss what future plans there are to ensure young students have a second language in order that they can compete for employment, given that multinational companies continue to locate in this country in massive numbers.

Senator Feeney sought a debate on anorexia. I have no difficulty with arranging such a debate at the earliest opportunity.

Senator Dearey requested a debate on sustaining employers. These are the people who created what was known as the Celtic tiger economy, parts one and two. I agree with him and will arrange a debate on it in the near future.

Senator Healy Eames spoke about statements on the HSE and her serious concerns regarding hospitals in Galway. Statements on the HSE will follow the Order of Business so we can get an update from the Minister at the conclusion of that debate.

Senator Mullen raised Seanad reform. The submissions from the various groups have been with the Minister for more than 12 months. I will make inquiries to find out where it is on the priority list. The Senator also spoke about the Minister with responsibility for social employment coming to the House to update Members on qualifications in certain areas. I will make that request.

Senator McFadden asked that people be allowed to place small amounts of money in post offices, particularly to deal with ESB bills. Over the years the country has been very well served by post offices and by credit unions. We will try to pursue this difficulty within our constituency because it appears to be a problem in the Longford-Westmeath constituency. I will do everything I can to assist the Senator with that request.

Senators Bradford, Donohoe and Mooney called for us to work together to help solve the difficulties being experienced at present, particularly the challenges in the economy. I look forward to many colleagues making a contribution in the debate tomorrow and, if necessary, I will continue the debate on the economy into next week.

Three amendments have been proposed to the Order of Business and I will take them in the order in which they were proposed. Amendment No. 1, "That No. 36, motion No. 17, be taken before No. 1," was proposed by Senator Frances Fitzgerald. Is the amendment being pressed?

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

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • 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.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Bradford and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Senator O'Reilly, "That a debate on the increase in the price of electricity and the cost of disconnections and reconnection be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

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

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • 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.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Bradford and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

Senator Norris has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 1 be taken with debate." Is the amendment being pressed?

Yes, in light of no assurance from the Leader.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 28.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Feargal Quinn; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.