Order of Business

The Order of Business is as follows: No. 1, motion regarding victims directive opt-in, referral to joint committee, to be taken without debate; No. 2, motion regarding the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011, referral to joint committee, to be taken without debate; No. 3, Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011 — Order for Committe Stage and Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 2 and conclude not later than 5.45 p.m.; No. 4, motion for earlier signature of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 3; and No. 4a, statements on school transport, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4.

For the information of Members, next week we will deal with the remaining Stages of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011, the Defence (Amendment) Bill and the commencement of the Public Health (Tobacco) Bill. We will also begin consideration of the Finance (No. 3) Bill, dealing with civil partnerships, on 13 July. We will have much legislation to deal with between now and the end of the session. We will be sitting up to Wednesday, 27 July, and it is more than likely that we will sit on the Fridays of 8 and 15 July.

I thank the Leader for outlining the business but we have a fundamental problem with the Order of Business, which must be addressed. There have been at least three and possibly four or five changes to the order in the past couple of days, the most recent change received half an hour or 40 minutes ago. That was to include statements on transport at 5.15 p.m., which I know was highlighted late last week but was removed from the Order Paper. I am sure the Leader will appreciate the difficulty we have as all spokespersons in the distinct groupings require time to prepare and see what business is being dealt with. I know it is early enough in the session but we cannot continue to have as many changes to the business as it is very difficult for any group to plan its business for spokespersons.

I am putting the Leader on notice of another point fundamental to the Order of Business. We will oppose the order most strenuously tomorrow and discuss the issue in more detail then. Committee and Remaining Stages of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011 was initially listed for Thursday, which is the correct time following Second Stage on Wednesday. The legislation is very important and my group on this side of the House supports it and many Members have called for the introduction of the Bill to give the Minister without Portfolio, Deputy Howlin, the requisite powers. However, Second Stage of the Bill is to conclude at 1.30 p.m. tomorrow and after the sos we are to go straight to consideration of Committee and Remaining Stages. There is a motion, without debate, on Thursday for earlier signature of the Bill. That is no way for the Government to treat this House. Proper debate is required on very important fundamental changes to the structures of Government and Departments. I was quite happy when I saw on the Order of Business last Friday that the Final Stage was put back to the Thursday. Who decided to move it forward to Wednesday, and to permit a one hour break, basically a sos, between Second Stage and Committee and Remaining Stages? That is not the way to deal with this important legislation. I would like answers to those questions. We will oppose the Order of Business today and tomorrow. Given that the Fianna Fáil Group is supportive of this legislation, as I believe most Members are, it should not be rushed through the House.

I wish to raise two other issues. Yesterday, the Minister for Education and Skills said he was unaware of the pay levels in the third level sector and the vast numbers of people earning six figure sums. Will the Leader bring to the attention of the Minister for Education and Skills a very extensive report conducted by the Committee of Public Accounts, of which I was a member in the last term of the previous Dáil, into third level remuneration and pensions and additional pension rights being given to lecturers and senior members of our third level colleges and institutions against the advice of the Department of Finance, given that the schemes come under the management of the National Treasury Management Agency and instructions were given not to increase the benefits or the liabilities of the schemes? I am surprised the Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, said he was not aware of these details and of the remuneration and pensions issues.

Does the Senator have a question?

It is a request. Will the Leader bring to the attention of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, the all-party Committee of Public Accounts' report? Members of his own party, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Róisín Shortall and Deputy Tommy Broughan were involved in its production. It would be very helpful were the Leader to do so.

Will the Leader arrange a debate with the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Róisín Shortall, on the continued importation of what were previously known as legal highs? The previous Government and all Members of the Dáil and Seanad enacted very effective legislation to ban head shops. We now learn that thousands of these substances are coming in via Internet orders. I would like to know what steps the Minister of State is taking to address this very serious issue.

In recent weeks some of my Labour Party colleagues have asked that the Minister for Health come into the House to explain to Members the whole reconfiguration process of small hospitals. There are issues in regard to Roscommon hospital, the accident and emergency unit at Portlaoise hospital, and many other hospitals. The HSE's policy seems to be to slash and burn and we are not aware of a plan B.

Enda Kenny announced it.

Just to let Members know, last Friday evening I attended a meeting in the Department of Health with many other Oireachtas Members. The one issue on the table was the reduction in hours at the accident and emergency unit at Roscommon hospital, from 24-7 to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and closed at weekends. Although the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, said that if he was able to recruit junior doctors he would put them in place, the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, rejected the idea and said it would still be an unsafe place in which to practise. During our discussions with the Department's officials and HIQA, Deputy Luke ‘Ming' Flanagan, who arrived late, got into a rant in regard to the running of the health service and suggested to a senior official in the Department that he should——

Senator Kelly, that is completely out of order on the Order ofBusiness.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I have to conclude. He called for the senior official to go and get a rope and commit suicide. I want——

That is not relevant. Does the Senator have a question for theLeader?

Call Deputy Flanagan into the House.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I am getting to it. I call on Deputy Flanagan to withdraw thatremark.

The Senator cannot do that. That is completely out of order on the Order of Business. Does he have you a question for the Leader?

I think the Deputy should apologise to——

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I need to conclude.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader of the House?

I will park it, but I need to conclude.

Does the Senator have a question?

After that, I have, but I need to explain the next part of this.

Senator, what you are after saying is not relevant to the Order of Business at all.

It is completely out of order.

I need to conclude. On Monday a senior representative of the HSE came to Roscommon and not only said——

Senator, have you a question for the Leader of the House?

I have. A senior man from HSE West came to Roscommon and said not alone were we losing our accident and emergency unit but we were also losing our coronary care and acute surgery services.

As the father of the House, I object strongly to this disorderly behaviour.

Does Senator Kelly have a question for the Leader of the House?

I ask the Chair to constrain what is happening.

Senator Kelly, please.

We are under great difficulties in this House.

Senator Norris——

If this kind of behaviour continues, this place will be properly dissolved.

——that is not a point of order.

I am calling on the Minister——

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader of the House?

Will the Minister come in, explain the reconfiguration process to us and tell us if inappropriate remarks by people are going to affect the future of health services in Roscommon and many other places?

I am taking a deep breath. I have a couple of questions for the Leader. I want to take a moment or two to bring myself to them. A recent headline in an Irish newspaper sent a shiver down my spine, even on a warmish day in June. The headline in question read "Civil Service chiefs told to produce radical plans to cut costs." I am aware of the state of the nation's finances. I noted the recent statements by Ministers to the effect that Ireland has lost its economic sovereignty. While I fully support the Government's obligation and duty to its people to regain this sovereignty, I am deeply concerned that in the process, we may lose our social sovereignty and, specifically, the social wealth that has been created in recent years by actors in the social, community, cultural and voluntary sectors. This social wealth has been built by tens of thousands of people throughout the country who are putting their shoulders to the wheel. Many of them are paid for what they do, but many of them are volunteering as well. They are building the capacity of our communities to respond imaginatively to the need to provide health, social, cultural and educational services for our people.

We have been told that the heads of Departments are being charged with, among other things, outlining options to rationalise grant and subsidy schemes to be replaced with single affordable schemes. While I am in favour of such an approach, in theory, I believe leading actors in the social, community and voluntary sectors should be consulted to ensure a balance is maintained between efficiency gains and fairness; and between models of service provision that work and fresh approaches to emerging need, especially for those who are most vulnerable and those who are caught in the trap of intergenerational poverty. People in the social and community sector are professionally competent and well organised. It would not take much effort to develop an efficient form of ascertaining their views on how to design more effective grant and subsidy schemes.

Furthermore, we have been told that heads of Departments should identify services that could be outsourced or transferred to the private sector. There has been some comment on this in the media. If it is helpful to outsource some services, why not consider doing so with those who are building the social not-for-profit sector, as well as people in the private sector? In the last decade, organisations like Social Entrepreneurs Ireland have been building the capacity and effectiveness of social enterprises. They have discovered exceptionally creative ways of harnessing philanthropic sources to work in partnership with them in building these capacities. The heads of Departments would do well to examine the ongoing potential of social enterprise to contribute to regaining our economic sovereignty. I ask the Leader to raise these issues with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Furthermore, I would like the Leader to invite the Minister to come to the Seanad and thereby give Members an opportunity to inform the comprehensive spending review that is currently taking place.

I regret some of the earlier interchanges. I know it is early in the new Seanad. I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach for sending material on the conduct and business of the House to all Members, new and old. We should all reflect on that. We should remember that we are on trial. Certain things are precluded under the Order of Business. The Cathaoirleach handles situations very well. I will always support him in that regard. We all need to refresh our minds about this.

I am opposing the Order of Business because I believe what the Leader has proposed regarding the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011 is, in fact, a guillotine. Guillotines are not part of the tradition of this House, nor should they be. For that reason, I will vote against the Order of Business. I will ask my colleagues on the Independent benches or somebody else to second me on this.

Would the Leader raise directly with the Government the case of some Irish soldiers who fought in the Second World War? The House will remember that I and others here raised the case of the so-called Shot at Dawn, who were terrified youngsters, many of whom came from the Irish countryside who, when they got involved in places like Passchendaele, had shell-shock but were still shot by court martial. In the Second World War, many people throughout Europe felt horrified by the emergence of the Nazi party, with its racial policies and extermination camps. Nearly 5,000 Irish soldiers left the Army and joined the allied forces to fight against Hitler. Some 4,983 died on the Normandy beaches. After the war, in an extraordinary act of vengeance, they were court-martialedin absentia, which, I believe, is not legal but it was done. This was wrong. They were presented with no opportunity to defend themselves. Natural and constitutional justice was violated and these men were court-martialed, including, astonishingly, even those who had died defending democracy on the Normandy beaches. I ask the Leader to bring this to the attention of the Government and ask that it might consider advising the President to issue a retrospective pardon because, apart from anything else, there is still a small number of these survivors left alive and we should honour them.

Will the Leader investigate the position of Glencree Reconciliation Centre? I have been advised by the secretary of the National Association of Compass, which is the Co-operation of Minority Religions and Protestant Parent Associations (Post-Primary), that they have traditionally, approximately for the past ten years, brought students on a three-day course to Glencree and have just been informed that due to budget cutbacks Glencree will be closed to such courses from July. That is a matter of great regret. Glencree is something of which we all can be proud. Training young people is valuable and I ask the Leader to bring this to the attention of the Minister as well.

I compliment the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, on his handling of the bonus that Mr. Collier at DAA thought he could draw down at this point. There is a serious issue here with regard to the bonus culture that has been cultivated over many years for the CEOs of semi-State companies. These CEOs command incredible salaries. In 2009, the CEO of ESB claimed €752,000 in pay, bonus and pension contributions; the CEO of DAA, €568,000; and the CEO of An Post, €500,000. These are incredible salaries. When one hears Senator Zappone speak of this country's social sovereignty being at risk and how we are fighting to hold down services such as those of which the Labour deputy leader spoke today, we must send out the message from this House that this bonus culture is over. Everybody should join in this message, that this is unacceptable. If one thinks it is reserved merely to CEOs, one would be wrong. An article inThe Irish Times today states that semi-State companies paid millions to senior managers in bonuses. It is not merely about CEOs. I am conscious that the Minister, Deputy Howlin, will be in the House tomorrow and we need to discuss this. We need to talk about how we can request these persons to volunteer to take cuts in the absence of it not being possible to enforce them legislatively. I request the Leader, who is looking at this with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to invite into this House the CEO of each of the semi-State companies in turn to ask them to defend, first, their service delivery and what they provide to the State and, second, the value for money they provide and that immoral bonus culture in which they have been involved for many years. That culture is over. It must be over, otherwise this country is going down faster than we might even have expected.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has issued licences to two companies, in what is referred to as the Lough Allen basin but takes in the counties of Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon, in order to involve themselves in exploratory mining to assess the natural gas potential of the acreage in the area. Already, this has generated considerable concern especially among tourism interests and those concerned about the environment, as I would hope we all are, with regard to the possible adverse impact that drilling could have. They intend to use a technology known as fracking, which sinks deep wells and uses an astonishing amount of water mixed with chemicals to release the gas and then pipe it. As a result of the concern expressed, I call on the Leader to request that the line Minister come to the House to allay the concerns of the people in the areas I have mentioned, in particular because a film called "Gasland" is being shown throughout the counties I have mentioned. I understand a local film producer has initiated this process. My colleagues from Leitrim and Roscommon will be familiar with it. The film is creating a certain mild hysteria, primarily because only one side of the argument is being put forward. Admittedly, the film is based on activities of two or three years ago but it shows the experience of fracking procedures in America and how it yields the most astonishing results, such as turning on one's tap and having an explosion come out of it as a result of the mixture of chemicals.

I do not wish this issue to become another Corrib gas controversy. Allegedly, there is more than 6 billion cu. ft. of gas in the Lough Allen basin which, were it to be taken out, could generate some €120 billion for the economy. There are two sides to this discussion and I am keen to ensure that misinformation is not allowed to continue to be disseminated to a concerned public in the areas to which I have referred. This is a matter of vital national importance because of the potential benefit to the country if all the licensed obligations are adhered to. I call on the Leader to indicate when the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, is due to come to the House in order that the issue can be properly aired in the Parliament to allay the fears of the people in the areas to which I have referred.

I call Senator Harte.

One last thing and most important of all, in support of Senator Norris, I second the motion, primarily on the basis of principle. As the Cathaoirleach is aware, the former Leader of the House made it a point of principle that during Government time there would be no guillotines.

No amendment is proposed.

I second the amendment to the Order of Business.

No amendment is before the House.

Senator Norris made a proposal to amend the Order of Business, as I heard it.

No. He is opposing the Order of Business. There is no amendment.

Then I propose it.

Senator Mooney reminds me of Peter Falk, God rest him, who said, "Just one more thing", which was Colombo's famous catchphrase.

It showed I was getting my priorities right.

Perhaps Senator Mooney will be wearing a white coat the next day. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Health to the Seanad to discuss the issue of Letterkenny accident and emergency unit, which is 90% completed. We are awaiting the receiver to sort out the issue in respect of McNamara Construction. The reason I raise the issue today is because I was at a meeting last night involving a cancer group and Oireachtas Members. It was put to us that even if the accident and emergency unit were completed next week, no staff are available to man it. The accident and emergency unit was due to open this September but it appears it may be 2012, more than 12 months from now, before it opens. If it were completed tomorrow, indications from the HSE are that no staff are available to run the accident and emergency unit to make it viable. I call on the Minister to come to the House to clarify the issue to my satisfaction and that of the people of the north west who have been waiting on this accident and emergency unit for years.

If the Seanad is to be of any use, the Minister must explain the position to the House in order that I can return to County Donegal on Thursday with an answer for the people concerned. I ask the Leader to seek clarification from the Minister as to whether the accident and emergency unit — whenever it opens, whether tomorrow, next month or at a later date — will be staffed.

I have questions on several procedural matters. I have heard Senator John Kelly speak in the House on several occasions and he is always interesting and well informed. However, in this instance, given the scrutiny associated with the issue, I encourage the Cathaoirleach to exercise his right to stand up. It is not in his nature to be too hard on Members on any side of the House, but it important that we are seen to observe the appropriate protocols and Standing Orders relating to the work of the House.

I understand it is the Leader's intention to initiate a process, whereby there will be leaders' meetings at least once a week before the Order of Business. In that context, I propose that it would be good practice for group leaders to be informed in advance when it is intended to take more than one Stage of legislation in the course of a given week. I fully support what Senator Darragh O'Brien said in this regard. We must not slip into bad practice in rushing legislation through in the space of a week. It is important that Members are given an opportunity to consider legislative proposals and reflect carefully on amendments. That can only happen if the passage of legislation is spread out over more than one week.

The Leader will agree that our Special Olympians deserve our admiration and support. Aisling Beacom, Mary Gavin and Peter Oxley are our latest sporting heroes, testament to the triumph of the human spirit. In this time of difficulty we should look to what their achievements say about the dignity of the human spirit and person. From a position of vulnerability, they offer great leadership to us all.

In the light of how well the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, did at the weekend on the issue of the pay of chief executive officers of semi-State companies, it begs the question of what the Government proposes to do about bonuses paid to other staff in these companies. We have it from the office of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, that there is no tradition of Government intervention in the fixing of salaries for staff other than chief executive officers. However, by the same token, there is no tradition of the Executive intervening in the regulation of judges' pay, but it is proposed to sort out that matter by means of a referendum.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

What is the Government's attitude on this issue? If the talk in recent days about pay in semi-State companies is to be more than merely symbolic, we must have a clear course of action in terms of the regulation of bonuses for other employees of these companies.

I advise Members not directly engaged in Seanad business this afternoon that a briefing will take place at 4 p.m. on tomorrow's Private Members' motion on whistleblowers, to be addressed by Mr. John Devitt of Transparency International Ireland.

My party colleague, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, has stolen my thunder somewhat on the issue I wished to raise. I join her and others in congratulating the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, on his timely intervention at the weekend which forced the chief executive officer of the Dublin Airport Authority to forgo a bonus of €106,000. However, I read with dismay in this morning's newspapers that other semi-State bodies and boards might approve significant bonuses for their chief executive officers. The Leader must impress upon the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, that at a time when ordinary people are being put to the pin of their collar to meet their basic daily requirements, it is obscene that any chief executive officer paid from the public purse should be in receipt of such a bonus. No bonus should be paid to any chief executive officer of any semi-State body in the coming year. I ask the Leader to press this point with the Minister in order to ensure it is Government policy.

This morning, all Members were dismayed by reports on early morning radio and insome newspapers that the facilities of these Houses may have been used to manipulate a competition.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

I believe it is on the basis that——

Senator, it is not relevant.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

I ask the Leader to inquire or put in train an inquiry as to whether the facilities of the Oireachtas were used to manipulate a national competition. If the sort of moneys that were mentioned this morning——

Senator, that is not relevant to today's Order of Business. Have you a question for the Leader?

I have. I ask the Leader to make inquiries and to ask the appropriate authorities within the Houses to check whether Oireachtas facilities were abused in a national competition.

Senator, that is not relevant to today's Order of Business. I call Senator Reilly.

A Chathaoirligh, may I raise a point of order on which I seek advice?

Senator Norris, on a point of order.

It is a point of order.

Who is chairing this meeting?

I beg the Senator's pardon.

Senator Norris, on a point of order.

I am asking the Cathaoirleach to rule on a point of order for me. I stated that I was opposing the Order of Business and apparently I should have proposed an amendment. One of my colleagues on this side of the House has proposed a change. Do I have the right technically to second it although I have spoken already?

No, Senator, you do not. You stated you opposed the Order ofBusiness.

Therefore, I cannot second my colleague's proposal.

No, you cannot.

Because I have spoken already.

What proposal did you or the Senator make?

I understand Senator Mooney has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business and I was proposing that I could second it.

Senator Mooney did not make any proposal. He was seconding Senator Norris's proposal but the latter did not make any proposal either. Senator Norris stated he was opposing the Order of Business.

I wish to reiterate some comments made by previous speakers. Members learned today that Bord Gáis Éireann and the Dublin Airport Authority approved €1.9 million and €2.1 million, respectively, in bonuses last year. Other semi-State bodies such as EirGrid, Bord na Móna, An Post and the Irish Aviation Authority also paid bonuses but refused to disclose how much. The aforementioned €4 million in bonuses, for example, could have reversed the cuts to the rural transport scheme Members will discuss later. One must remember these are semi-State companies and some of the boards concerned attempted to rationalise such bonuses as being performance-related. What about the teachers, nurses and the hundreds of thousands of other workers across the State who are doing more work for less money with no pat on the back, no little earner on the side and no reward?

I acknowledge the Minister, Deputy Howlin, will be in this House tomorrow to deal with legislation and I completely agree that as a legislator, he should do so. However, I ask the Leader to bring him back another time, I hope as soon as possible, to discuss the review of performance-related bonuses to semi-State bosses and employees that is to be undertaken in order to ascertain who is undertaking the review, what is its timeframe and terms of reference and whether this House is to have a say in this matter. The programme of Government has scheduled at least 34 other reviews and I seek to establish where this one will fit in.

Although I do not wish for me or my party to sound like a broken record, I note the review of the JLCs is before the Cabinet today. While the wages of the lower paid in society are set to be targeted, this House has not yet had an opportunity to inform this debate. Consequently, I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, to appear in this House to discuss his recommendations as a matter of urgency before Members hear about it in a press conference later or on some other day.

I ask that the debate on primary school transport, which initially was scheduled for tomorrow but has now been rescheduled for this evening, be extended. It is unacceptable that, although we are heading into a crisis, only one hour and 15 minutes have been allocated to debate this issue. The litany of cuts that will take effect in September will have a massive impact on children, families and schools and such——

The Senator may raise such matters during the debate this evening.

If the Cathaoirleach will give me a chance, I wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business.

The Senator is proposing an amendment.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that statements on school transport be extended until 8 p.m.

I support calls by Senators Kelly and Harte for a debate on the reconfiguration of local hospitals and for the Minister for Health to appear before the House. It is an important debate Members should be having on the balance that must be struck between the creation of centres of excellence and the need to ensure access to local services in different areas. I am struck by what Senator Zappone said about the need to ensure social wealth and social sovereignty. We need to ensure that we support local communities as best we can, even though we are in a very difficult economic climate. It would be useful also to have the Minister for Health in the House to debate the future plans for the health service. Perhaps the most exciting and radical proposal in the programme for Government concerning health is the plan to introduce universal health insurance. There have been debates in the media on this subject in recent weeks and it would be very useful to have a debate in the House on how best to ensure universal access to health care as in the programme for Government and to hear directly from the Minister as to how he proposes to build to its introduction over the lifetime of the Government.

I also ask for a debate on the environment and on eco-transport in particular. During national bike week it is useful that we would debate the need to ensure a reduction in carbon emissions, greater reliance on bicycle and on methods of transport that do not increase our level of emissions. We must look to the younger generation who are taking a lead in this regard. I was in Holly Park national school in Newtownpark Avenue this morning. The school has just won its third green flag for water conservation and is working for a fourth flag for eco-transport. There is great interest in the green flag scheme across the country as everyone will be aware, with more than 2,000 schools obtaining green flags. There is a great interest among schoolchildren and students generally on the greater use of bicycles and eco-friendly transport and this House should lead on this subject.

On the matter of the schedule of business for this week and in particular with regard to the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, I am not opposed to the use of the guillotine as it is a reasonable option for a Government to take although others have differing views. I am not stating this is my party's view. However, the way the business of the House has been scheduled for this week, with Committee Stage on Thursday being at the last minute rescheduled to Wednesday immediately following Second Stage and with the legislation only printed yesterday, is completely unreasonable. There are those of us who want this House to be a place for serious debate and also a place for formulating legislation and creating benefits for the public rather than just the pub chat that serves for debate at times in this House when Members can talk about anything but what is on the agenda or anything other than the legislation put forward.

Senator Zappone raised a very important issue in light of theThe Irish Times article of yesterday. It is important for the Independent group to note that if the Government sticks to its plan not to raise income tax and not to touch the welfare budget, then the reality is that the groups and organisations represented by the Independent group will be devoid of funds. That is the only way the Government will be able to do what is necessary. I refer to college fees and the cessation of funding to various organisations. It is about time the Independents stood up to the Government instead of giving it unquestioning support.

I ask that the Taoiseach come to the House. I refer to a report from Reuters on 24 May which states that a Greek default would hit others in the eurozone. Bloomberg also reported that Norway, the richest country in Europe, would not be an investors' haven because it would be sucked into the turmoil resulting from a Greek default. The Bank of England is making contingency plans for a Greek default because it is very worried. However, the Taoiseach has the answer. He has been reassured that countries such as Ireland will be protected from any fall-out from a potential Greek default. I want the Taoiseach to come to the House to talk about his little-known comment of last week. What does he know? Is he codding the people? Has he received reassurances that all of these other bigger and wealthier countries have not received? What reassurances has he been given that Ireland will be protected? Is he talking through his hat?

Will the Leader ascertain what the IMF makes of the fact that the chief executive of the ESB is on €15,000 a week, that the chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority is on €11,000 a week and the chief executive of An Post is on €10,000 a week and it goes on. I join colleagues in commending the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, for saving the taxpayer an extra €2,000 a week. However, this is only a drop in the ocean. What is happening is a joke. It is akin to what one would see in a banana republic. The Government at this stage needs to direct all semi-state companies to not pay bonuses to any management, senior or junior. The bonus culture is what has this country the way it is. There was a notion that we were playing with Monopoly money. People who were supposed to work as public servants running our semi-State companies in the interests of Ireland and its people were being paid lulu money. It is absolute madness. I am sure we are the laughing stock of Europe and that the IMF has an awful lot to say about it, given the fact it is bailing us out on a monthly basis. I ask the Leader to establish the view of the IMF of the bonus culture.

I agree with the Senators who referred to the airport issue. We had a good debate here on tourism, during which we drew attention to the fact that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, wrote to the regulator in regard to airport charges and we gave the date requiring a 41% increase in them.

Was the bonus paid to the gentleman in question a reward for bypassing the regulator to get a 41% increase in the charges? The business of the three airports is down by 25% and productivity by 23% because they only reduced the staff by 2 to carry 25% fewer people. Bonuses in those circumstances are the same as bonuses which unfortunately we are stuck with paying to bankers who demolished 98% and 99% of the value of their banks. We have to fight that bonus culture. I ask the Leader to convey our thanks to the Minister, Deputy Varadkar.

Will the Leader arrange a debate on the McCarthy report on the disposal of State assets? Its key part showed that State company after State company operates as an independent republic. As Senator Reilly said, they have played no part at executive or any other level in the economies in which everybody else in the country has participated.

I am concerned about No. 4 on the Order Paper. I have been critical in the past of the use of Article 25.2.2°, particularly regarding legislation in areas like transport. The Constitution entitles the President to read a Bill and sign it between the fifth and eighth day. If Departments cannot meet deadlines it is wrong that this House should be asked to intrude on the discretion and entitlements of the President. It should be one of the reforms we are all talking about. We should not impose on the kindness of the President.

Departments should meet the deadlines, allow her the full time to determine whether legislation should be referred to the Supreme Court and not rush the procedure. We should not stop the payment of people's pensions or social welfare. We should use Article 25.2.2° very sparingly in the life of this Seanad.

It is interesting to note that those who are the longest serving Members of this House were loudest in their calls to have Senator Kelly sanctioned and ruled out of order. We were asked and could do well to reflect upon that. Perhaps we could also reflect on the fact that Members of the previous Seanad brought it to the state where the public is discussing abolishing it. New and old Senators could contribute.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

It is. I have a question to ask the Leader. On a substantive issue, perhaps we could all reflect on our contributions. It is obvious from the comments of my Labour Party colleagues, Senators Bacik, Kelly and others that the confusion surrounding the health service and the strategy underpinning what is happening in it indicates that all is not well.

Letterkenny hospital, Roscommon hospital and a litany of others such as St. Mary's Hospital on the north side of Cork city could be added to the sorry list of those whose core functions are being removed despite election promises to the contrary. I support Senator Bacik in her calls to ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, here to dispel some of the confusion.

We all know that in a vacuum every sort of rumour flourishes. The Minister should come in here and explain his plans and those of the HSE for the proper organisation of our health service.

I second the proposal by my colleagues, Senator John Kelly, Senator Jimmy Harte and others that the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, be asked to attend the House to give an outline of his health policies, particularly concerning the difficulties we are encountering in Roscommon. There is concern about the Government's proposal to downgrade the accident and emergency unit at Roscommon hospital to an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. service from Monday to Thursday, and 8 a.m to 5 p.m. on Fridays. As the only Fianna Fáil Oireachtas Member in County Roscommon, I was excluded from a meeting that took place on this issue last Friday, although I heard reports about the politically incorrect comments that were made there.

We cannot have a discussion on meetings that are taking place in Roscommon. We are on the Order of Business. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

The Leader should ask the Minister to attend the House to explain these matters. The Minister wrote a letter entitled: "Dear people of Roscommon, I'm going to lie to you now."

(Interruptions).

No, that is not what he said. He said I would like to confirm——

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I would like to ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Health how he could send a letter to the people of Roscommon saying that the accident and emergency unit would not be downgraded, and that if it closed, he would reopen it. Those are the lies. Let us be clear that the Labour Party is in government. Senator John Kelly said that the future of the hospital was very safe in Labour Party hands.

Senator Leyden, that is a very serious charge to make against the Minister.

The Senator used the word "lie".

No. I want to make this quite clear, he did not say that. He said, "Dear people of Roscommon...". At that stage, he did not say at that stage "we are going to lie to you", but he has lied to them.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

The Minister said that in the event of the accident and emergency unit being downgraded "we are committed to reinstating a 24/7 service". If that is true——

The Senator knows that he is not supposed to use the word "lie" in the House.

But a lie is a lie.

It is completely out of order.

I can prove it.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Last Friday, the Minister was asked a question by Senator John Kelly and others, and he said: "That was then, this is now. I'll take the hit."

Does the Senator have a question?

The Minister is going to take the hit, yet he is not in the constituency at all. Yesterday, the Taoiseach said that from 11 July——

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

It would be appropriate for the Minister for Health to attend the House to make a statement concerning the letter he sent to the people of Roscommon before the election giving those commitments. The people have been misled. Labour share the responsibility for this and Michael D. Higgins will suffer a fate at the hands of the electorate in the presidential election. The people will respond to this.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business. I call Senator Sheahan.

There is a serious situation in Roscommon. The people of Roscommon have been betrayed by the Labour Party and Fine Gael concerning the accident and emergency unit at Roscommon County Hospital.

On a point of order, I will not stand for Senator Leyden, whose Government brought this country into the hands of the IMF, accusing the Labour Party of this. It is an outrageous accusation.

I call Senator Sheahan.

The Labour Party is in coalition now and if it cannot stand the heat, it should get out of the kitchen. They are all culpable.

I ask Senator Leyden to respect the House, and call Senator Sheahan.

From that, I take it Senator Leyden may be the Fianna Fáil candidate for the áras.

I might be better than some of them that are going.

My colleagues and I have been approached by people — I am talking about middle Ireland — who can no longer afford to go to the doctor or dentist. I have often wondered if there are ways in which price reductions could be imposed on these professional services because, as they currently stand, they are untouchable. An elderly constituent told me recently that this has been done by Governments in the past through pricing orders. I ask the Leader to establish — be it through the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform — whether we could use pricing orders as a mechanism to reduce the cost to families of consulting doctors, dentists, solicitors, accountants and other professionals. Perhaps the Competition Authority could become involved, in addition to consumer protection authorities. I have been asked why such prices have not been reduced. Prices have not reduced when one considers some doctors claim up to €750,000 a year under the medical card scheme. Why would they need to drop their prices and thereby cut the cost involved for a family or a family member attending a doctor? I call on the Leader to explore, be it with the Minister for Finance or someone else, if a mechanism of pricing orders could be introduced to reduce the cost of professional services for families which are struggling to cope.

I am not sure what I am about to second, but I believe it is Senator David Norris's proposal? Will the Cathaoirleach explain exactly for what Senator David Norris called because Senator Paschal Mooney——

Senator David Norris said he was opposing the Order of Business.

I am opposing the Order of Business on the grounds that——

There has been no amendment proposed to it——

There is no amendment.

——except the one proposed by Sinn Féin.

Am I correct in understanding Senator Paschal Mooney proposed an amendment to it? I am sure I heard him propose an amendment.

He said he seconded Senator David Norris's amendment, but Senator Norris said he was opposing the Order of Business; he did not propose an amendment to it.

To be fair, the Cathaoirleach asked me whether I was proposing an amendment, but I am very happy with the position. I accept his ruling, but I will be opposing the Order of Business on the grounds that the use of a guillotine has been imposed by the Government in defiance of what it stated it would do.

Senator Feargal Quinn to proceed, without interruption.

For many years in this House we avoided the imposition of the use of the guillotine, although not totally, but there have been very few exceptions. I would hate to find that on the occasion of the debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill the Government is determined to impose the use of the guillotine to ensure the debate will conclude at 5.45 p.m. in order to discuss the matter of school transport. The debate on the Bill should not be guillotined at this stage. Therefore, I support Senator David Norris's view on the matter.

Senator David Norris raised another matter, that of Glencree Reconciliation Centre, with which I have been involved for many years. I was very disappointed to hear that it was to stop doing a great deal of the work it did. It is a real reminder of what happens when we cannot afford to do the things we want to do. Senator Katherine Zappone spoke about the danger of losing our social sovereignty; we have almost lost our economic sovereignty. If we are to determine how we will continue doing things we have been able to do in the past, we should make sure we take the right steps. The right steps are not the ones taken in Greece in which there is to be a 48-hour strike. Is there anything as ridiculous, with the country going bankrupt and in serious danger of losing its——

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

My question to him is how are we going to solve the problems we face. The answer is in our own hands.

I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate on the report of the National Competitiveness Council entitled, The Costs of Doing Business in Ireland 2011, issued today. It reminds us that while we have brought down our costs, some of them are not within our control. The price of fuels which are imported — compared to the cost of a number of items that have enabled us to make ourselves more competitive — is not in our own hands. This is the type of issue we should debate and I ask the Leader to give us an opportunity to debate it in the next few weeks.

I would like to take up one other point raised by Senator David Norris. We all feel sorry for those who left the armed forces — I believe they numbered 5,000 — at the time of the Emergency at the beginning of the Second World War and now there is condemnation in that regard. However, one must take account of the other side also. If we accept the point that during an emergency——

Does the Deputy have a question for the Leader?

Yes. I would like to be able to debate that issue also. During an emergency, if a national army finds that 5,000 of its voluntary recruits leave to join another army for whatever reason, it is correct that it cannot allow a blind eye to be turned to this. While I understand the difficulty, it is a difficult situation to deal with. We have a national army and must recognise that it has duties and responsibilities.

Tempers inside and outside the House are running very high in the health debate. Clearly, there are many issues to be raised concerning local and regional hospitals, cancer services and the moratorium on recruitment which is affecting the opening of the accident and emergency department in Letterkenny and other services. I spoke to a person in a very senior position in the mental health service the other week who said the only ones really affected by the moratorium were people on the ground — nurses and porters. They are the ones who have been hit most. However, in running high temperatures, calls for people to take a rope and hang themselves are not appropriate.

The House is entitled to express its outrage and concern about such behaviour, no matter where it occurs or who commented. We have that right and ought to use it.

Will the Leader urge the Minister for Health to attend the House to at least give a progress report on the reconfiguration of hospitals and to address the points on the moratorium and the difficulties arising across the country? I concur with my colleagues who have made this request.

Rinne mo chomhghleacaí, an Seanadóir Ó Maonaigh, pointe maidir le fracking agus acmhainní nádúrtha. Tá sé spéisiúil gurb é an Rialtas deireanach a thug ceadúnas go leanfaí ar aghaidh leis an fracking atá ar siúl i Loch Aillionn. Iarraim ar Cheannaire an Tí go mbeadh díospoíreacht i bhfad níos leithne againn maidir leis na hacmhainní nádúrtha sa tír seo. Ba cheart dó cuireadh a thabhairt don Aire Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha teacht isteach chun labhairt linn maidir leis na ceadúnais faoi chúrsaí gáis, fuinnimh gaoithe agus ár gcuid tonnta, srl.

Will the Leader organise a debate on the issue of our natural resources, given how Senator Paschal Mooney correctly raised the issue of fracking? The fracking licences were granted during the dying days of the previous Government. We must consider the issue of licensing in respect of our natural resources——

——to determine where the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources stands on the issue, whether we will use our natural resources for the good of the country or whether we will impose regimes more favourable to taxpayers than has been the case. Ba mhaith liom go n-iarrfaí ar an Aire teacht isteach agus déileáil leis na ceisteannna sin.

Ba mhaith liom freisin tacú leis an leasú atá molta ag mo chomhghleacaí, an Seanadóir Ní Raghallaigh, ar Riar na hOibre; sé sin, go leanfaidh an díospóireacht go dtí 8.30 i.n. anocht. I second my colleague's proposal on the Order of Business that the sitting be extended to 8 p.m.

Ba mhaith liom go dtiocfadh an Tánaiste nó an Taoiseach go dtí an Teach le míniú dúinn cé atá i gceannas ar chúrsaí gnóthaí eachtracha sa Rialtas. I call on the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste to attend the House to explain who is running the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, given some of the recent statements made on the Gaza flotilla. How is it that they have done a U-turn since their time in opposition when they indicated their support for the flotilla? The Minister for Justice and Equality also made comments recently that were inflammatory.

Five Senators have indicated their wish to make contributions on the Order of Business, but we are over the time allocated. I will call Senators Mark Daly, Marc MacSharry, Jim Walsh, Colm Burke and Jim D'Arcy first tomorrow.

The schedule has been changed a number of times during the past week. I apologise for this, but it was changed to facilitate a request to include an early signature motion in respect of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011. The Government is anxious that the commencement order pertaining to the new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform be signed early next week in order that the Department can get on with its important work. The Government has decided that all Stages of the Bill will be taken tomorrow. As a result, the debate on school transport which many Members have been requesting for some time was removed from the schedule. When I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Ciaran Cannon, to attend the House during the week to address the issue, he kindly acceded to my request and will be present from 5.45 p.m. to 7 p.m. today. The issue would have been off the agenda completely had I not asked the Minister of State to address it.

We did not know that. We appreciate that the Leader had good reason.

Will the debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill not continue afterwards?

That is the position. That is the only time the Minister of State is available to come into the House.

Senator Kelly——

On a point of order, the Leader should request that Ministers facilitate the House rather than have the House facilitate Ministers. It is important to point out that it is the obligation of Ministers to come to this House.

That is not a point of order.

It is a point of order for the House.

It is not a point of order.

On a point of order, I objected to the Leader's proposed guillotining of the debate on the Social Welare and Pensions Bill 2011, which applies because the Bill will not be completed prior to commencement of the debate on school transport but it could be continued following that debate.

There is an earlier signature motion before the House in relation to the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2010. I advised the House three weeks ago that the Bill would be brought before us today.

Senator Kelly and others called for a debate on health issues. I wonder at times if Members are listening to my response on the Order of Business. I gave an undertaking that the Minister would come to the House next week to debate health issues, yet Members continue to call for debates with the Minister for Health. How many times do I have to repeat that the Minister will come to the House next week?

The requests in that regard are from the Government side. I am aware that the Minister for Health will come into the House on 7 July.

Regardless of from what side the requests were made, I wonder if Members are listening when I reply to the Order of Business. I try to be as concise as possible and to keep the House informed of what legislation or other business will be brought before us. I intend to continue to do so. The Minister for Health will come to the House to discuss the issues raised.

Senator Zappone called for a debate on the social and voluntary sector, which should be consulted in regard to the design of grant schemes. I agree with the Senator who could raise the matter during tomorrow's debate on the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011.

Senators Norris and Quinn raised the issue of retrospective pardon for Irish soldiers who fought in the Second World War. I share the Senators' views. It is a wrong that should be put right. I will make representations to the Government on the matter. What happened at the time was wrong and should be rectified.

Senator Healy Eames and others called for a debate on the salaries and bonuses paid to CEOs. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, dealt adequately with that matter last weekend. The right result was achieved as a result of their actions. The message that the bonus culture is over has gone out loud and clear. The Government is not only focusing on chief executive officers in all the State bodies. While it does not have a problem with the payment of small performance related payments to other staff, the criteria under which people qualify for such payments must be robust and such payments should not be taken to be semi-automatic, which has been the case up to now.

Senator Mooney and others called for a debate on licensing for exploratory mining in counties Cavan, Leitrim and Roscommon. I will invite the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to come to the House in the next session to discuss that and related matters. I understand this matter was addressed in a reply to a parliamentary question in the Dáil last week, which information I will try to get for the Senator.

Senator Mullen congratulated the sporting heroes involved in the Transplant Games and the Special Olympics, who in terms of what can be done are an inspiration to all of us. We congratulate all who competed in those games, in particular those who won medals.

They are true ambassadors for the country.

Senator Mullins raised the question of telephone calls, which is not a matter for this House but one which should be addressed by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, as I am sure it will be.

Several Senators referred to the salaries of CEOs. Senator Barrett referred to the McCarthy report on the sale of State assets, which is certainly a matter we will address in the House.

Senators Gilroy, Leyden and others referred to the health service and several Senators called for the Minister for Health to come to the House. There were exchanges when Senator Leyden spoke. We should have more respect in the House because such exchanges as we had today do little to enhance the standing of the House.

This is the type of thing which causes the public to ask why the Seanad should not be abolished. I ask Members to consider what the public and other Members of the House think when we have such statements and interjections. It is a matter on which we should all examine our consciences. We are talking about saving the Seanad but some of us are doing damn little to achieve that.

The truth must come out. That is what it is all about.

Senator Sheahan referred to pricing orders and professional fees for the medical, legal and accountancy professions. It is a matter which the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, possibly intends to tackle through legislation.

Senators Quinn and Norris referred to the Glencree centre. I agree it is sad that some courses must be stopped because of financial constraints. While we will certainly have a debate on the report of the National Competitiveness Council, we will probably do it in the next term as we had debates on competitiveness in the past two weeks and we should not have another in this term.

Senator Reilly has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That the time allocated to No. 4a be extended to 8 p.m.” Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 31.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • O’Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O’Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe.
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 19.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • O’Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators David Norris and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.