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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011

Vol. 209 No. 11

Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 1, motion regarding the approval by Seanad Éireann of the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011, to be taken without debate; No. 2, motion regarding the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, to be taken without debate; No. 3, motion regarding the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters, to be taken without debate; No. 4, motion regarding the proposal for a Council decision on the signature of the agreement between the European Union and Australia on the transfer and processing of passenger name record data, to be taken without debate; No. 5, motion regarding the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the agreement between the European Union and Australia on the transfer and processing of passenger name record data, to be taken without debate; No. 6, statements, questions and answers on agriculture and fisheries, to commence at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 2.15 p.m., with the statements and questions on agricultural matters to conclude no later than 1.15 p.m. — following the Minister's opening remarks questions will be taken in turn, with group spokespersons to be called first and the same format will apply during the subsequent discussion on fisheries; No. 7, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2011 — Second Stage, to be taken at 3 p.m. and conclude not later than 5 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than 4.55 p.m.; No. 8, Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] — Report Stage, to commence at the conclusion of Private Members’ business and conclude not later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded; and No. 18, motion No. 4, Private Members’ business, to be taken at 5 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m.

I hope there will be a good attendance in the Chamber for the question and answer sessions relating to agriculture and fisheries. These sessions represent a new departure and I hope there will be a good exchange between the Minister and Senators.

I congratulate Senator Ó Clochartaigh and his wife on the arrival of their new son, Ríain. Sinn Féin has been adding to its numbers in recent weeks and should keep going in that regard.

The Taoiseach is due to attend tomorrow's emergency summit of EU leaders. We wish him and the Government well in their endeavours in respect of this important meeting. I am particularly concerned that European leaders have spent the past four months dealing with, in effect, a crisis in the eurozone. They have been operating in a piecemeal fashion and we are no closer to a resolution. I was concerned at the Taoiseach's indication yesterday that he has not held a single bilateral meeting in the four-month period since the Government was formed. In other words, he has not met any of his European counterparts individually to put forward Ireland's case.

We are consistently told that efforts are being made to secure a reduction in the interest rate on the bailout. I have always maintained that the importance of such a reduction is greatly overstated, as the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, acknowledged. However, it is important that, rather than merely talking about it, we do our best to put the issue to bed. I wish the Taoiseach well in his endeavours.

Given that the Lower House is not sitting next week and will not sit this Friday to discuss the outcome of the European summit, will the Leader set aside time next week and invite either the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance or the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the Chamber for a discussion on the eurozone crisis? This issue will affect every citizen of the European Union, including the Irish citizens who we in this House represent. Unless the Union moves with far greater haste than it has heretofore, we will have a crisis on our hands and no mechanism to deal with it. This Chamber, and the expertise therein, can play an important role in this. Time should be set aside next week to discuss the outcome of the European leaders' meeting and Ireland's strategy for dealing with the debt crisis and a possible debt restructuring which must be on the table.

I join in congratulating Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and his family on their new arrival.

I welcome the new format announced by the Leader for today's discussion with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. A question and answer session has the potential to be far more productive than the traditional set-piece speech by the Minister.

I welcome the appointment of Mrs. Justice Susan Denham as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Mrs. Justice Denham has a great track record of reform and will be a popular and worthy choice. It is also something of note that she will be the first woman to serve as Chief Justice in the State. In the context of that welcome announcement, I ask the Leader for a debate in the next term on the proposed referendum on judicial pay about which there has been a great deal of controversy. This House has a worthwhile role to play in debating the appropriate wording of the referendum proposal on reductions in judges' pay. I took a view when the issue was first mooted some time ago that it was not necessary under the Constitution to have an amendment in order to reduce judicial pay if it were done as part of a public sector levy or tax. Several lawyers agreed with that interpretation, but the then Attorney General took a different view, as does the current Attorney General.

Given that a referendum is now promised, we must be careful to ensure the wording is tight enough to safeguard any abuse or singling out of the Judiciary. There is not much public sympathy for judges in respect of the reported opposition to the referendum, but it is important that we get the wording right. This House could play a useful role in debating the appropriate wording. That debate might include a review of the 2009 Private Members' Bill introduced in opposition by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, in which he put forward a much tighter wording than that currently being circulated. This is an important issue regarding the separation of powers and the role of the Judiciary within State structures. We must have a comprehensive, careful and informed debate. This House is a suitable forum for such a debate and it should take place in early September.

I too take the opportunity to congratulate Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh on his new addition. Here is another child whose rights we must fight for and I assure the Senator we will continue to do so.

I echo what Senator Darragh O'Brien said in regard to the European leaders' summit. I am extremely concerned, as are many citizens, at the way in which the European Union has dragged its feet and has not taken the necessary decisions to address the crisis. The latest signals are not encouraging in advance of tomorrow's summit. When the Heads of State meet at an EU leaders' summit, we expect action. We should send a clear message in this regard.

I join Senator Ivana Bacik in congratulating Mrs. Justice Susan Denham's appointment as the first female Chief Justice in the history of the State. She is an excellent role model and it is encouraging that the two most senior legal positions in the State are now occupied by women. We are in safe hands for the future.

We have taken a welcome step forward in the provision of a new national children's hospital with the Minister's approval of submissions of plans to An Bord Pleanála. I was very much involved in the debate on the location of the new hospital and have come to the position that we need a national children's hospital and must put our full support behind it. This House must do everything it can to support that process, notwithstanding the many obstacles that will undoubtedly be put in the way.

I remind Members of the Private Members' motion my colleagues and I will put forward this evening on the important issue of the social, personal and health education programme in schools. This programme incorporates the relationship and sexuality education programme which, despite being a mandatory part of the curriculum, evidence suggests many schools are failing to implement. I encourage Members to contribute to the debate.

I wish to be associated with the congratulations to Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh. One of the happy benefits of the new arrival is that the Senator will no doubt pass on his beautiful and fluent Irish, thus helping to underpin the future of our language.

I also join other speakers in welcoming the appointment of Mrs. Justice Susan Denham as Chief Justice. It is a remarkable advance and part of the incremental progress we have made since the election of Ms Mary Robinson as President. I have known Mrs. Justice Denham since we were colleagues in Trinity College.

I hope the Leader can assist me in respect of an issue of which I became aware only by coincidence when I visited County Kerry last weekend to see the former residence in Derrynane of Daniel O'Connell, a man I admire greatly. On Valentia Island I was approached by local people who are concerned about the closure of their local hospital. I do not usually deal with the issue of the closure of individual hospitals but this is a particular instance involving a small community facility. I intend to raise the issue on the Adjournment, but there will be no coverage of that and it is an issue that needs to be covered. Throughout the country and Europe, the system is being put above the people, which is the wrong approach.

A report was commissioned by the former Minister for Health, Ms Mary Harney, on the impact of the fair deal arrangements on community-supported hospitals. Before that, there were three categories of facilities, namely, private hospitals, State hospitals and community supported hospitals. The latter were greatly disadvantaged by the decision to subsume them into the private hospitals category. The facility on Valentia Island houses some 20 people. I met every single one of them and was very moved to observe how the community is rallying around them. They are all of considerable age, one of them being 100 years old. If these people are transferred to three hospitals up to 100 km away, the community will be devastated and one of the last remaining institutions on the island will be removed by the Government.

Some €500,000 was recently invested in the hospital and the cost to the Exchequer of closing it will be twice as great as the cost of maintaining it. It is an insane book-keeping exercise. Are we going to put communities, like the community on Valentia Island, first? Are we going to allow them to visit their older people? Even people who have no relatives — there are very few of them — are accommodated within this community. I saw it myself and was greatly moved by it. I will raise the matter, with full facts and figures, on the Adjournment, but I am asking the Leader to give me some information on the status of the inquiry initiated by the former Minister, Ms Harney. It would help me to make the case on behalf of an island community which deserves our support.

With regard to Senator O'Brien's comments on the so-called bailout — this is not a criticism — in my young days in Haggardstown a bailout was when one got £20 from a friend when one was stuck. When one gave it back two or three weeks later, one gave the friend £20, not £26. Our so-called bailout is a stitch up. We must——

Hear, hear. We must have courage.

——get the interest rate reduced. We must reduce it from 5.9% to the approximate cost of interest, which is 2.9%. That would be an assistance. Otherwise it is moral hazard. The European Union must face the fact that it is part of the moral hazard or there could be worse down the tracks for it if it does not support the countries.

I congratulate Dundalk Outcomers — the organisation of the gay, lesbian and transgender community in Dundalk that recently celebrated gay pride week in a series of events — for the manner in which this organisation has highlighted the concerns of and promoted the welfare of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. These courageous people——

The Senator is wandering a little from the Order of Business.

No, this is very important. I am addressing my remarks to the Leader. If we are to establish a true republic in the 21st century, we need to support and affirm diversity and move away from the closed society which has caused so many problems for our country. This organisation has asked me to pass on its members gratitude and admiration to the Members of this Seanad who have supported amendments on the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 in favour of equal treatment for civil partners and the taxation changes in the Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011. This Seanad can be used as a forum for the new republic and I ask the Leader to bear that in mind when framing the debates in the Chamber.


I concur with many of Senator D'Arcy's comments on Europe and on GLEN, The Gay + Lesbian Equality Network. I told the IFA last night that last summer I indicated to GLEN that it surpassed the IFA in the professional approach it took to campaigning and lobbying. While I have reservations about civil partnership legislation, I think the acceptance of diversity is good, but the primacy of marriage needs to be emphasised, in a society where values such as that are being undermined continuously and often unintentionally by the State acting in a way that leads to dysfunction in sections of society.

I support the Leader and the other Senators who spoke on the Europe Union. I mentioned last week there is a dearth of leadership in Europe, both in the economic and financial structures, including the ECB and also at political level. It is unconscionable that almost three years into the most significant economic and financial collapse that we have seen in our lifetime, the greatest since the 1930s, we see the same replicated today. We grew up learning in awe about how bad the 1930s were and the number of people of Wall Street who committed suicide as a consequence of the losses at that time. There is a dearth of leadership in the United States and we should have a debate in this House on it.

To think of the ongoing partisan politics in Washington in a situation where the American fiscal position is almost, if not, insolvent. I think we should ask not just for a slicing of the interest rate, but a significant reduction. There should be a small margin on the base rate. As I said before, Mr. Michael Soden was the first person I heard indicating the depths of the likelihood of the collapse we were facing in June 2008. He said recently that what we need is 20 to 30 year loans. We need to articulate that. I am disappointed that the Minister for Finance has not come to the House for a real incisive debate when we have the capacity and capability to enlighten it and to enhance the decisions and the approach of the Minister and his Government.

I too had the pleasure of attending the IFA showcase of Irish Food and the expo of Irish Food. I am surprised that there are so many here this morning, it was so appealing. The Taoiseach made an excellent speech at the showcase, he reminded us of the critical importance of the agri-sector and of artisan and small producers to the economic recovery. At that event, Ms Darina Allen, who is from Cullahill, County Laois, made the point that everyone, particularly those of us in Leinster House, should try to support Irish producers and their produce at every opportunity. I was also glad to see two Laois artisan producers, G's Gourmet Jams from Ballinakill and Rossmore Farmhouse Ice Cream from Rathdowney being part of the showcase.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I do. We learned of a downside at that function. Many of the producers we met last night raised the shocking situation where many of them and others around the county are left severely out of pocket due to the closure and subsequent buy out of Superquinn by another company. In fact, the estimates range from €28 million up to €100 million. I call on the Leader to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, because more jobs will be lost this week, in what I believe was sharp practice and shoddy work. Superquinn did not close down overnight. This was a planned close down and the purchase and buyout was not something that happened over 24 hours. In fact, 90 days credit was squeezed out of these small producers and I understand from talking directly to them, that some of them are owed anything from €35,000 up to amounts ranging into the millions. They cannot sustain that. Some of them are in tears today. They are shattered because their own businesses will now go to the wall. I believe the banks had a role to play in this because they clawed back what was owed to them over the 90 days. If this kind of sharp practice continues it will put people out of business. Most small Irish producers and companies cannot sustain that loss in terms of their cash flow. It is wrong that cheques were issued to these businesses on Friday by people who knew they could never be cashed.

The Senator has made his point.

I congratulate Senator Ó Clochartaigh and his wife on their new arrival.

I concur with previous speakers in respect of the calls that gave been made consistently for both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Finance to come into this Chamber. We will be shortly going into recess but I hope the Leader of the House would reflect on the demands that have been made by Members from across the political spectrum and from the independent groups for either the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Taoiseach to come to the House. The EU summit is taking place this week.

Unfortunately, the Italians, the Greeks and the Portuguese have done a far better job of negotiating on behalf of Ireland than the leaders of this country, which is appalling. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if the ambassadors of those countries would attend the House.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill is before the Dáil. Bills have been tabled by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil and I ask if the Government will support these Bills. They were tabled because of the vacuum following the High Court ruling in respect of JLCs. The previous Government introduced a similar Bill and, in consistent form, spoke from both sides of its mouth by introducing the Bill but leaving it on Second Stage. There is a fear on the part of the trade union movement that something similar will happen to the Bills introduced yesterday in the Dáil. This is an important issue and we must protect vulnerable workers.

The EU pensions directive has not been implemented by this State. Like me, the Leader is from Waterford and he will be aware of what happened to the Waterford Crystal workers. Thousands of them were left without adequate compensation and redundancy but also without pensions. The failure of the State to implement the European pensions directive, and the fact that the previous Government supported the British Government in the Robins v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions case is a disgrace. Many workers may find themselves in the same position as the Waterford Crystal workers.

The workers' union, Unite, is taking the Government to the European courts and I hope it wins its case. There is a strong legal argument to suggest it will. In advance of that, the Government should do the decent thing by implementing the European directive and making sure the Waterford Crystal workers are properly compensated for what happened to them because of the failure of the Government to act. I hope there will be time put aside to discuss the directive, its implications and the need for this country to implement the full terms of the European pensions directive.

I assure Senator Norris that Valentia hospital is being taken care of. Flying visits by the Senator to Valentia will not save the hospital but those on the ground are doing their utmost.

Senator Sheahan needs all the help he can get.

That is not appropriate. Does Senator Sheahan have a question for the Leader?

I do, and it concerns funding from banks. Someone who contacted me this morning has secured a grant from BIM to expand his shellfish business. This grant accounts for 50% of the sum yet he cannot secure the other 50% from the bank and so he cannot expand his business and create more employment. I assure the Leader that BIM would not grant funding to the company if it was not viable. However, the banks cannot see fit to match the funding. I ask the Leader and the Minister to do everything they can to secure funding for small businesses that are creating jobs. Something must happen soon.

Senator Whelan raised a related issue. Is there a code of practice in place for receivers when a business goes into receivership? I know of one business in my locality that has been in receivership for 15 months. The business has not been closed for a single day in the time the receiver has been in situ. Another business in my locality was closed down on the first day of receivership, two months ago. Is there direction for receivers when they take over a business in terms of how they delegate and carry out their functions?

I join my colleague from County Kerry in seeking a discussion on Valentia hospital. Senator Norris is welcome to come back tomorrow evening to attend a meeting in Valentia about the future of the hospital. This boils down to the famous, all-powerful organisation HIQA that seems to write reports or, in the case of Roscommon, not write reports. This is then used by the HSE and the Government to justify the unjustifiable. Regarding Valentia hospital, HIQA has provided a timeline to meet standards that we do not need and that are too expensive. It is like telling everyone in the country they can only drive a Lexus or a Mercedes. The people of Valentia have a hospital that is fit for purpose and it does what it needs to do. HIQA and the HSE want to close it down and reduce the number of beds. Everyone must have a private room and every room must be en suite, even though most people are not capable of using the en suite facilities because of their age. However, HIQA insists on it, showing there is no relationship between reality and practicality and standards.

I have no doubt Senator Sheahan will be at the meeting tomorrow night. The hospital is necessary on the island as Caherciveen hospital has a reduced number of beds available because of HIQA. Otherwise, people will be required to travel to Killarney, which is an hour and 20 minutes away depending on how fast or slow one drives. We should have a plethora of Ministers available to us next week when they have finished their duties in the Dáil and we look forward to seeing them all addressing these issues in the Chamber.

I congratulate Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh on the birth of his baby.

On the Adjournment yesterday evening I raised the issue of the pan-European emergency telephone number for missing children, 116000. The reply from the Minister of State was detailed and a commitment was given but without outlining a timeframe. Perhaps the Leader can ascertain the timeframe for the number being introduced to this country.

I agree with my colleague, Senator Sheahan, on his comments on the banks and the code of ethics and the code of practice for receivers. I go further by saying we need to review company law in this country. Examiners have been appointed to companies for justifiable reasons, in order to save jobs, and this has worked in a number of cases. However, my problem is where there is a write-down of debt of some 85%-90% and after 12 or 18 months the company is profitable and the people who suffered the 85%-90% write-down get nothing. The directors of these companies pay themselves bonuses and dividends. There must be a review of company law.

There should be an examiner system in this country and it has worked well but when a company returns to buoyancy and makes money, there should be a reasonable expectation that the company honours the debts written down by the examiner. I would like the Leader to speak to the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation——

We should get the Minister to attend the House.

——and the Minister for Justice and Equality to bring company law up to the standards people reasonably and justifiably expect. I look forward to hearing a positive response.

I wish to inform the House that an important person in Irish medicine passed away this morning. Professor James Fennelly was the first medical oncologist, founder of cancer medicine in Ireland, who I am sure treated the relatives of many Members of this House. Not only was he the first but for 15 years he was the only medical oncologist in the Republic of Ireland. I could not let the occasion pass without paying a brief tribute to the memory of this fine man and to pass on my best wishes to his family.

I would also like to congratulate Mrs. Justice Susan Denham who brings to her new appointment as Chief Justice a wonderful curriculum vitae and track record. I am not being ungallant but I note that she is in her 65th year and I am delighted to see further evidence, as we saw yesterday with the Minister, Deputy Quinn, of the folly of our current position of forcing highly talented and productive people in many areas of Irish life to arbitrarily step down from being productive members of society and become dependants of the State overnight merely because they have reached a chronological number.

I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Health when he comes to this House for his much anticipated visit if he will devote a few minutes to the vexed issue of medical education. I am sorry if I sound like a broken record on this issue but I refer to the accounts in the newspapers this morning of a fitness to practice hearing of the Medical Council in which a young doctor from a European medical school, who was noted by her senior colleagues while at work in a hospital in the jurisdiction of our Republic to have exhibited evidence of deficiencies in basic medical knowledge and when subjected to an informal assessment was found to have gross levels of deficiency, such that the Medical Council has sanctioned that doctor. The full scale of the sanctions are not yet known. I do not wish to appear to victimise this individual doctor. The failure is not the doctor's; it is ours. We are about to embark on this great experiment of bringing in hundreds of foreign doctors to a new and as yet untrained acute assessment system to plug the gaps in a country whose health service has more medical schools per head of population than any country in Europe. If we are to deal with the many problems of our health service it is essential that we deal with the fundamentals of health service reform in the term of this Oireachtas and not in some putative future Oireachtas when there could be a different Government. Also, we must finally turn the focus onto the need to fundamentally reform medical education and training in this country.

I join my colleagues in congratulating our other colleagues on the new arrivals. It is wonderful. Nothing is more important than having children. One of the unanticipated truths of the peace process was the notion that we all now believe we should make love, not war.

I call Senator Coghlan.

Indeed. I, too, would like to congratulate Senator Ó Clochartaigh on the arrival of his son.


Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption.

We have already congratulated Senator Cullinane.

I join my two Kerry colleagues, Senators Sheahan and Daly, in wishing well the good people of Valentia. The visit of Senator Norris and his interest in the subject is welcome. Please God, they will overcome the Health Information Quality Authority intervention and the necessary requirements in that regard. I wish them well and hope we will hear more about it. We will offer whatever assistance we can.

I welcome very much the appointment of Mrs. Justice Susan Denham as the new Chief Justice. She is a long serving judge. I believe she was appointed to the High Court in 1991 and to the Supreme Court the following year. She has a long list of achievements to her credit. She chaired the commission that set up the Courts Service. She is a reformer by nature and hopefully her appointment will lead to many further improvements and change for the better during her tenure.

With other colleagues, I congratulate Senator Ó Clochartaigh and his wife, Mali, on the birth of Ríain. As I did not get the opportunity to do so publicly, I also want to congratulate Senator Cullinane on his recent arrival.

Last week we had a very good debate on the unfinished housing estates which are a blight on the countryside throughout the length and breadth of the Twenty-six Counties. During that debate a number of issues were raised by me and other colleagues, including a question on the number of those estates that are owned and run by the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA. The answer was 28, and a number of colleagues and I urged the Minister to make contact with NAMA to ensure it provided funding to secure those estates on a health and safety basis.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Willie Penrose, who kept his word and within a few days ensured that NAMA provided over €3 million to clean up the mess in those 28 estates and secure them for the families and their children living in them. The Minister of State took this House seriously and ensured that the views of the elected representatives in this House were heard.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na Seanadóirí ar fad. D'airigh mé uaim iad le cúpla seachtain ach is deas an rud a bheith ar ais ina measc. Tá mé thar a bheith buíoch dóibh as na focail deasa a bhí le rá acu.

I thank Members for their kind words. I will send their good wishes to Mali and the children. We have had a good deal of negative discussion on the area of health but I want to thank all the staff in the University College Hospital Galway who treated us fantastically in the past few weeks. They were very much under pressure but the front line staff were fantastic and treated us in a wonderful way.

That was juxtaposed at a meeting I attended last night, and this refers to a question I want to raise with the Leader, when I met a group of parents of children with special needs. It brought home to me how lucky we are that we have healthy children. The frustration being experienced by those parents requires a specific debate on the area of special needs but the conundrum the Leader might find himself in is in regard to the Minister he should ask to come into the House. That is the problem for those parents. They are trying to deal with a number of organisations, including State and semi-State run organisations and voluntary groups. They are dealing with the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Health, county councils, etc. They are frustrated and are at the end of their tether. They told me terrible stories of mistreatment, treatment not being made available, promises broken and a quality of service that is not up to scratch. I call for a specific debate on the area of special needs and disability. I ask that it not be included as part of a broader debate on health issues because it is an area requiring specific discussion. I am aware there is a great deal of expertise in this House on that area so ba maith liom glaoch ar son sin. Ba mhaith liom freisin, mar an duine a d'iarr go mbeadh díospóireacht ann maidir le cúrsaí iascaireachta, fáilte mhór a chur roimh an díospóireacht inniu.

I am grateful that we will have the debate later on fisheries but I am disappointed the debate will be limited to an hour because there are many issues in the area of fishing. That is the reason I called for a specific debate on it. It remains to be seen whether an hour is long enough for the debate but if it turns out that it is not, we should allot more time to debate the wider range of issues that will be highlighted.

I welcome the debate, however, and the new format. It is welcome that the CPP is taking a number of ideas on board and trying different things. I hope it will give all Members of the House an equal opportunity to take part in the debate and ask questions because the Sinn Féin delegation found it difficult at times, even with an ever-increasing mandate, to contribute at the end of debates when our time is limited. We hope today will show that the format can be changed and things can be improved.

We were promised at one stage that we might be allowed bring forward a Private Members' Bill during this term. I ask the Leader to clarify whether that will happen.

I have raised the issue of acmhainní nádúrtha, natural resources, with the Leader on a number of occasions, and I am aware he has a full agenda of issues. However, given the review being carried out on the licensing of gas and oil operations off the west coast, the issues associated with the Lough Allen basin and the issues arising over wind and wave energy, it is really important that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources be invited to the House in order that we can ascertain Government policy and determine how to ensure the natural resources of this country are used to the benefit of every citizen, agus gur féidir linn a chinntiú go mbeidh na hacmhainní nádúrtha atá againn a úsáid ar mhaithe leis na páistí atá ag teacht aníos agus na glúinte atá ag teacht inár ndiaidh.

Given that the two days we are to sit next week are the last two before the recess, I plead with the Leader, Senator Maurice Cummins, to invite the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, and the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, to the Seanad next week. The Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Dinny McGinley, promised and the Taoiseach hoped this would be the most efficient Seanad ever. As far as I am concerned, the most crucial issue in the country is that of jobs. I have spoken about this non-stop.

During the last recession, when Connie Doody and I started up Lir Chocolates, I saw how people were transformed when they moved from unemployment to having a job. It is not just a question of money but about social intercourse and meeting people every day. I saw people's self-confidence change in a matter of months when they were able to do a job successfully. I understand from experience of not having a job what this is like.

With regard to the points made by Senators Whelan and Sheahan on the Superquinn issue, we should have questions and answers on companies going into liquidation. As I stated yesterday, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, is coasting on the good export figures. The harsh reality, however, concerns what is happening to the suppliers of Superquinn. So many domestic retail businesses are closing down and are in jeopardy because they do not have access to cash to keep running. This is the harsh reality. In general, we have a dynamic, capital-intensive export industry but the service and retail industries that do not export, because it is not part of their business, are in dire need of cash. I want the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to advise the House on what he is doing to secure cash flow.

I want to hear the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, state whether he is fighting passionately to renegotiate the terms of our own. When my husband and I were young, we probably spent too much of what we borrowed from the bank. We had to return to the bank and renegotiate to have the interest rate lowered. I recall the great relief when it was lowered. Imagine what it would be like for Ireland if its interest rate were lowered and the term of its loan were lengthened. The rate and the term are holding us back. Ireland is not Greece, Portugal or Spain and has a dynamic export sector, but it will have a very flat, dying domestic sector unless the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Finance take this issue by the scruff of the neck.

I join Senators in congratulating Senator Ó Clochartaigh and Mrs. Justice Susan Denham on her appointment.


Hear, hear.

Regarding the leaders' summit, we will endeavour to have in the House next week a relevant Minister to deal with the outcome. We will, however, be very busy with legislation for a couple of days. A considerable volume of legislation is being placed on the Order Paper of the House, and legislation is our first priority. If it fits in with the schedules of the relevant Ministers, we will try to have them here. Tuesday and Wednesday of next week will be fairly packed with legislation, however.

Senator Bacik called for a debate on a judicial pay referendum. We can consider this during the next session.

Senator van Turnhout referred to the support process for the national children's hospital. We all agree that we must proceed with the project at this stage. I note the Senator's comments on the SPHE programme. The Private Members' motion in this regard will be taken this evening.

Senator Norris referred to Valentia Island and fears over its residents' county hospital. I note his points in this regard and believe it appropriate that he is to raise the matter on the Adjournment at a later stage. I was delighted to see the Kerry contingent in the House was fully united regarding the hospital.

The Senator is welcome.

It does not happen often.

It is very welcome to see such unity.

The HIQA requirements present a problem for practically every residential home and nursing home. If, however, something went wrong in any of the hospitals or homes, we would all be up in arms in the House, but I agree the questions asked and red tape put in place by HIQA seem to be excessive. I say this as one involved with a residential home in my city, Waterford. The volume of red tape, the questions and vetting procedures are such that if every i is not dotted, everything comes back to one. While HIQA has a very difficult job to do, the issue of red tape will have to be addressed.

Senator D'Arcy referred to the bailout. We are certainly learning an awful lot about Haggardstown in the House. It seems to be a very interesting place.

We would all agree with the Senator's support for the concept of future diversity.

Senator Walsh called for the Minister for Finance to be invited to the House. He was here yesterday but, on foot of the leaders' discussions, he may be in a position to come here next week. I am not sure.

Senator Whelan referred to the IFA function. We all agree the function last evening was a wonderful showcase for Irish food and food producers.


Hear, hear.

It was absolutely wonderful.

I take on board Senator Whelan's points on Superquinn and the difficulties arising from its sale for suppliers and small businesses. It is presenting great difficulties for the producers involved. I hope some kind of settlement can be made to assist them.

Senator Cullinane referred to the industrial relations Bill and the EU pensions directive. Waterford Crystal workers were treated shabbily, and that is putting it very mildly. I am sure the union is taking the Government to court over this, as the Senator stated. I am sure we will be addressing this after the judgment.

Senators Sheahan and Conway referred to the availability of credit. I hope Mr. John Trethowan of the Credit Review Office will get involved in these issues and that the people suffering from a lack of credit will go to him to try to sort out their problems. I stated yesterday the Minister for Finance had written to the banks seeking a report on a quarterly basis on the amount of credit they are giving to small businesses. Credit for small and medium-sized businesses comprises the lifeblood of our economy. I have no doubt this matter will be pursued by the Government. The need for changes in company law is noted.

Senator Crown called for a debate on the reform of medical education. He referred to Professor James Fennelly who was the first and only medical oncologist in the country. Many families throughout Ireland are very thankful to him for his work in this area over many years. We are all grateful to Professor Fennelly and join in expressing our condolences to his family on his sad passing.

Senator Wilson called for a debate on unfinished housing estates and his point is very good. The point was made in the House to the Minister on the need for NAMA to provide funding for these unfinished housing estates. I join with him in complimenting the Minister on grasping the nettle and ensuring NAMA will provide more than €3 million to upgrade and finish unsightly unfinished housing estates in several areas of the country.

I am sure we all join Senator Ó Clochartaigh in complimenting the front line staff at University College Hospital Galway. He also called for a debate on special needs and disabilities. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, was in the House yesterday and he has agreed to return early in the autumn to speak on education and skills and spend a couple of hours taking part in a similar type of statements and questions and answers session which we will have today with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Coveney. We shall see whether the hour suffices for the session with the Minister, Deputy Coveney. If not, we can re-examine it.

I understand the point Senator Ó Clochartaigh made about Sinn Féin's speaking time but while it may have missed being included on possibly one or perhaps two occasions, if one looks at the record one will see it has had more speaking time than any other group in the House.

Senator White called for the Minister for Finance to attend the House next week along with other Ministers, including Deputies Bruton and Reilly. As I stated, legislation is our first priority but we will endeavour to bring some Ministers before the House. I am not confident it can happen but we will see what we can do.

Order of Business agreed to.