The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on early intervention and family support services, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 1.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, the contribution of one Sinn Féin Senator not to exceed three minutes and the contributions of all other Senators not to exceed one minute when asking questions of the Minister. Private Members' business will be No. 23, motion No. 8, to be taken at 3.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 5.30 p.m.
Order of Business
Gach uile seachtain táim ag labhairt faoi cheann de na fadhbanna is measa in Éirinn sa lá atá inniú ann. Arís, a Cheannaire, táimse chun labhairt faoi na daoine atá i ndeacracht maidir lena morgáiste atá ag dul in olcas. Fós ní dhearna an Rialtas tada i dtaobh an Keane report. Tá daoine amuigh ansin ag fulaingt agus tá cuma ann nach bhfuil an Rialtas ag déanamh aon rud chun cabhrú leo. An Samhain seo caite, dúradh linn ag an Aire Stáit, Teachta Brian Hayes, go mbeidh mortgage arrears implementation strategy foilisithe acu roimh an bhuiséad 2012. Fós, níor chualamar tada faoi. Níl sé maith go leor a Cheannaire gur gheall an tAire Stáit, Teachta Hayes, go mbeadh sé curtha i gcló agus anois ní thiocfadh séós comhair an tSeanaid chun freagra a thabhairt duinn. Cuirim an cheist arís. An mbeadh am curtha ar fáil go féidir leis an Aire teacht chuig an Teach agus freagra a thabhairt dúinn le na cúiseanna nach raibh an stratéis seo foilsithe go fóill?
Rud amháin eile maidir leis an straitéis fiche bliain don Ghaeilge. Tá sé seafóideach i mo thuairimse go bhfuilmuid go léir anseo inniu i rith Seachtain na Gaeilge ag labhairt ár dteanga agus faoi láthair tá sé faoi bhagairt leis na cinntí atá déanta ag an Rialtas seo. D'fhógair an Rialtas cúpla míó shin go bhfuil sé i gceist aige Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga a dhúnadh mar oifig reachtúil neamhspleách, agus a chuid feidhmeanna ar fad a chur isteach faoi Oifig an Ombudsman mar chuid dá phlean athchóirithe don earnáil phoiblí. Is oth liom a rá gur rinne siad é. Tá sé tragóideach nach bhfuil Fine Gael in ann é leanúint ar taobh inar dtír fhéin. Tá sé mar aidhm ag Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 líon agus caighdeán na seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a chuireann comhlachtaí poiblí ar fáil don phobal a mhéadú agus a fheabhsú, ar bhealach eagraithe, thar thréimhse ama. Tá sé i gceist ag an reachtaíocht áit agus spás a chruthú don teanga i saol poiblí na tíre. Níl sé ag tarlú anois faoin Rialtas seo. Is cuma leo faoin straitéis fiche bliain. An rud is mó, má tá an teanga curtha faoi íonsaí mar seo lá in aghaidh lae, i gceann cúig bliana, breathnóidh muid siar agus cuirfidh muid an cheist "cad a tharla leis an teanga?" Má leannan sé ar aghaidh, beidh gach feabhas a bhí déanta ina praiseach.
Cosúil le Seanadóir Ó Briain, ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá as Gaeilge i seachtain na Gaeilge. Níl go leor Gaeilge agam anois ach bhí fáinne airgid agamsa nuair a bhí mé ar scoil cúpla bliain ó shin.
Beidh lá na mban ann amárach. Quite a number of occasions will mark national women's day tomorrow. I welcome the fact that we will finish our debate on the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 next Thursday, which will introduce for the first time enforceable targets for the selection of female candidates by political parties. I welcome the other events that will take place. Senator O'Keeffe and I will host a coffee morning in the Private Members' dining room to which all are welcome. It is in aid of Safe Ireland, an organisation that combats domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Given that tomorrow is women's day, will the Leader arrange for a debate on advertising standards? It has been brought to my attention that there has been some seriously offensive and sexist advertising, particularly on Facebook and across social media, concerning nights out in Dublin nightclubs, one in particular. These adverts have been the subject of a large volume of complaints to Facebook. Some of them have been pulled, but others have gone up. A Facebook group is devoted to trying to stop this advertising. I have been in contact with the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, ASAI, about the matter but its remit does not extend to social media. This matter probably falls under the remit of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte. Will the Leader invite him to the House to debate extending the jurisdiction of the ASAI in order that it can have the power to adjudicate on social media? The importance of that form of media is increasing, as is the number of serious abuses therein due to a lack of advertising standards.
I welcome today's publication by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality of a report on the heads of the insolvency Bill. Senator Darragh O'Brien referred to people in mortgage arrears. The Bill will play an important role in allowing people to resolve their serious debt issues. That the Bill will cover secured and unsecured debt is important. The banks did not want that, as it means mortgages will be covered. We support this provision. The most important recommendation in the report stems from the advice of every group that presented to us, including the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, and New Beginning, namely, the need for an appeals mechanism to be included in the Bill so that banks will not have a veto on debt settlement procedures. This is an important issue for people in mortgage arrears.
I express my support for the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Patrick Honohan, and the Minister, Deputy Noonan, in Frankfurt today in respect of the Anglo Irish Bank promissory notes. Recently, Professors Karl Whelan, Brian Lucey and Stephen Kinsella addressed the finance committee on this matter. It is fair to say that Senators from all sides of the House support them, the Minister and the Governor in what they are seeking to do.
In terms of parliamentary control over public finances, promissory notes could be called a departure from best practice at best, and perhaps even a sleight of hand. Apparently, the decision was that the Government did not want to ask the Oireachtas to raise extra taxation to pay for the episode in question and the markets would not lend it the money, which led to the idea of promissory notes. Previously known as letters of comfort, they have been seriously criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
I invite the Leader to convey to the Minister for Finance not just our support for the latter's efforts but the fact that, in a reform agenda that is badly required, there would not be much of a role for letters of comfort or promissory notes. The Oireachtas must have control over moneys spent. This was a particularly disastrous episode, any reversal of which would benefit us immediately. Going straight to the principals is better than any minor relief, such as extend and pretend. The issue of promissory notes could be a major boost for morale, as alleviating the consequences of what the banks did to the country would be important. This could be the start of the process of reforming the public finances.
According to a recent Deloitte report, 85% of chief financial officers agree that ministerial trips abroad are beneficial to the economy. Given the fact that arrangements have been made for St. Patrick's Day, we encourage the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the other Cabinet members travelling to the US to raise the issue of the undocumented Irish. I have raised the issue previously and I am encouraged by the willingness of some US Senators to tackle it. A number of people have contacted me about family members who are abroad and cannot return home for funerals, weddings and so on. It would be great to be able to sort this problem out for some of them.
Far be it from me to divert from my friend and colleague from County Leitrim. He might be sincere in his comments, but my colleagues and I were excoriated while on that side of the House by the then Opposition because Ministers were travelling abroad during St. Patrick's week. The criticism was not exclusive to the Opposition, in that it came from the media as well, which branded every ministerial trip abroad, specifically during that week, a junket. It was as if Ministers were flying around the world having a great time. I have consistently supported ministerial trips abroad, particularly during St. Patrick's week.
On a point of order, a recent Deloitte report states that 85% of chief financial officers——
Senator Mooney to continue, without interruption.
——agree these trips are beneficial.
We always believed they were beneficial.
I agree with Senator Comiskey, but I am astonished by the turnaround that inevitably occurs when governments and oppositions shift.
Senator Comiskey was not a Member then.
Government Members do not like the truth.
I raised the issue in the House and at the tourism committee two years ago. Not only was I excoriated, but the media came down on me on the basis that I was supposedly attempting to stifle its right, which I stoutly defend, to investigate the public cost of Ministers travelling abroad.
Ignoring Senator Comiskey's remarks on the report, something needs to be said. This is the one time of year that everyone's focus is on our small country on the periphery of Europe. We are but a dot on the map of the world, yet a series of iconic attractions, including Niagara Falls, the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and Fifth Avenue in New York, have been lit up in green. I believe the Brandenburg Gate may also be included. What other country could get this type of free advertising for its size? I applaud the Government on sending its Ministers out wearing the green jersey, which I have always supported. If the journalists are listening, I hope they will give a fair wind, particularly this year, to Ministers going abroad. By all means they can investigate what it is costing the public purse; that is not the issue. As Senator Comiskey has said when speaking about that report, the issue is that our Ministers are going out there to try to bring people to the country. Every additional 60 visitors to the country results in one new job. It is simple economics not rocket science. I applaud the Government and the Taoiseach and hope they will give the highest possible profile to the country. I hope the Taoiseach will hand over the bowl of shamrock.
Following the remarks I made two years ago, one individual went on a local radio station to ask why President Obama would not come here in order that we could present him with shamrock here.
He eventually came.
That indicates the level of — I will not say ignorance — lack of understanding among the general public, which has been fuelled to a large degree by the media through the years. This is about the week of St. Patrick's Day — the most important week for the country's economy and the future well-being of the country. I applaud the Government on what it is doing.
I thank the Senator for supporting my issue.
Aontaím leis an Seanadóir Darragh O'Brien go bhfuil sé in am rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi mhorgáistí agus na daoine atá i bhfiacha. Tá cúpla mí imithe anois ón lá ar tháinig an Keane report amach. Aontaím gur cheart don Aire teacht isteach chun an ábhar seo a phlé sa Seanad. Os rud é go bhfuil mé ag aontú leis an Seanadóir O'Brien chomh minic, caithfidh go bhfuil sé iontach cliste.
Go raibh maith agat, a Sheanadóir.
Tá páirtithe na Seanadóirí ag leanúint na bpolasaithe céanna. Níl aon difríocht eatarthu.
Iarraim ar an Cheannaire cuireadh a thabhairt don Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála teacht anseo agus an polasaí atá ag an Roinn sin maidir le tíortha san Mheánoirthear a mhíniú dúinn. Tá go leor comhlachtaí tógála, ailtireachta agus innealtóireachta ag iarraidh obair a fháil sna tíortha sin, ach níl mórán cuidiúó Enterprise Ireland á fháil acu faoi láthair. Nuair a bhí an tAire, an Teachta Bruton, anseo tráthnóna inné, dúirt sé go ndéanfadh sé a dhícheall feabhas a chur ar sin. Tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh feabhas ar chúrsaí. Iarraim ar an Cheannaire cuireadh a thabhairt don Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála chun an Meánoirthear a phlé.
Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom beannachtaí agus dea-ghuí a thabhairt do na hAirí agus Airí Stáit go léir a bheidh ag taisteal thar lear ar son an Stáit seo ar Lá Fhéile Pádraig. I am delighted my colleagues have said what they have. It is very important for us to send these ambassadors abroad. I am only sorry nobody is going to Brazil and some of the other BRIC countries. I have consistently said we get good value out of this and it is terribly important in helping to brand the country. I hope the media support this, but there is not much hope of that. Having listened to the radio this morning, they did not seem to be on board. I hope they will get on board and support the country. In addition, I hope the Government jet is used more frequently because it is a capital asset that is decreasing in value all the time it is on the ground. It should be used as much as possible. In addition to the decreasing capital value, it needs air crew and ground crew on standby. It needs to be flown around the country twice a week if it is empty to keep it going. We are wasting money in not using it, but the media consistently go for this because it is a soft, easy, sexy story, even though it is not true. I want efficiency and I want the Government jet used as much as possible to make Ministers efficient. If it is misused or abused, then, as a taxpayer, I want to know about it. However, I do not want the Government jet left lying idle on the tarmac with people taking economy trips when they should be taken in comfort. In very serious negotiations they should be facilitated with every resource of the State. If they do not do an efficient job, then hold them up, but do not tell lies about the misuse of assets.
I support Senators Comiskey, Mooney and Norris on Ministers going abroad. While every country has its national day, St. Patrick's Day is recognised worldwide — it is the only time the world turns green. England has St. George's Day and Wales has St. David's Day, but they are not world recognised as St. Patrick's Day is. It is a time when we can sell our country and I support the Ministers in doing so.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine to come to the House and make a statement on tuberculosis control. Since 1 January a tuberculosis outbreak is considered a significant outbreak if two or more animals in a herd fail. If it is four months or more since the neighbouring farmer's last test, his or her land is also locked up. This is more bureaucracy and red tape in an industry that is going well. I would like the Minister to explain——
That would be a matter suitable to be taken on the Adjournment.
I would like the Minister to come to the House to explain why this was introduced. What documentation or statistics are available to back this up? It will have a major impact especially at the fall of the year with the weanling trade. A person, whose neighbour's herd has an outbreak with two or more animals down, cannot sell his or her weanlings, which is ludicrous. Has this requirement been introduced as a way of providing jobs for the boys? I want the Leader to invite the Minister to come to the House to explain this change, which will have significant impact on the cattle trade, particularly the weanling trade and also the pure-bred trade.
Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis na Seanadóirí atá ag úsáid a gcuid Gaeilge. Is breá an rud é an méadú suntasach atá ag teacht ar úsáid na Gaeilge sna Tithe seo a thabhairt faoi deara. Ní hamháin go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go mbeimid ceannródaíoch ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, ach is maith an rud é freisin go bhfuilimid ag tacú leis an dream atá fostaithe sna Tithe seo a bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus a thugann an-seirbhís dúinn. Deirim "fair play" leo siúd nach bhfuil acu ach cúpla focal agus atá ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Molaim iad siúd atá ag déanamh é sin. Is fiú a lua go bhfuil tacaíochtaí breise ar nós Ceart agus GaelSpell ar fáil ar na ríomhairí do dhaoine atá ag iarraidh cruinneas teanga a fhorbairt. Molaim do dhaoine na háiseanna sin a úsáid.
In onóir na hócáide céanna, is breá an rud go bhfuil roinnt Gaeilge á labhairt anseo inniu. Is mór an trua é nach bhfuil lá iomlán Gaeilge againn sa Seanad. Lé cúnamh Dé, beidh sé sin againn amach anseo. Rinne mé iarratas é sin a eagrú i mbliana ar an gcoiste stiúrtha a bhíonn againn. Ba mhaith liom iarratas a dhéanamh go hoifigiúil go mbeidh an Seanad ábalta lá Gaelach a eagrú, mar atá sa Dáil agus sna coistí inniu, an t-am seo an bhliain seo chugainn. Bheadh sé iontach maith agus léireoidh sé ceannródaíocht uainn.
Is dócha gurb é an rud is lárnaíó thaobh an straitéis 20 bliain de, agus ó thaobh cur chun cinn na Gaeilge de, ná ceist an oideachais. Ba bhreá liom dá bhféadfaí an tAire Oideachais agus Scileanna a thabhairt isteach anseo ionas go bpléfimid an gaeloideachas, ach go háirithe. Baineann an t-ábhar seo le ceisteanna ar nós na scoileanna Gaeltachta, na scoláireachtaí do mhuintir na Gaeltachta, an plean atá ag an Rialtas do thodhchaí an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta, na gaelscoileanna, Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta agus an Ghaeilge sna coláistí oiliúna. Tá an cheist deiridh a luaigh mé iontach práinneach. Muna bhfuil an Ghaeilge ar a dtoil ag na múinteoirí atá ag obair inár scoileanna, tá an rás rite. Tá sé iontach tábhachtach dúinn an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn i measc an dream a bheidh ag múineadh ár gcuid páistí sna scoileanna amach anseo. Mar a tharlaíonn sé, tá cuid de na múinteoirí sin ag eagrú cur i láthair maidir le ceist an oideachais sna coláistí oiliúna sa seomra AV idir cúig a chlog agus sé a chlog tráthnóna inniu. Ba mhaith liom go dtiocfadh Seanadóirí go dtí an cur i láthair sin, más féidir. Beidh sé iontach tráthúil. Os rud é go bhfuil an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna chomh cinniúnach agus chomh lárnach i gcur chun cinn na Gaeilge sa Stát seo, tá sé iontach tábhachtach go dtiocfadh an tAire, an Teachta Quinn, isteach le haghaidh díospóireachta faoi leith ar an ábhar seo.
Ag leanúint leis an Ghaeilge sa Teach inniu, tá Foras na Gaeilge ag iarraidh deireadh a chur leis an 19 eagras a fhaigheann airgead ón Státchiste agus samhail iomaíoch mhaoinithe a chur ina n-áit. Ní aontaím leis sin ar chor ar bith.
Tá an ceart agat.
Is mian le heagrais ar nós Comhaltas Uladh, Comhluadar, Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael, Seachtain na Gaeilge gníomhú mar ionstraim aontaithe darbh ainm Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge, a new branch of all of those organisations atá ag teacht le chéile le forbairt agus plean níos straitéise don Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar bhonn uile-Éireann agus idirnáisiúnta. Céim radacach atá ann, all of those organisations coming together go fad-téarmach agus ba mhaith liom sin a fheiceáil in áit an méid a mhol Foras na Gaeilge, samhail iomaíoch a bhunú, a competitive model. Tá na heagrais ag moladh samhla comhpháirtíochta, a partnership model, agus tá siad cinnte go mbeidh na heagraíochtaí eile Gaeilge in ann struchtúir éagsúil comhpháirtíochta a aontú má thugtar deis dóibh. Tá mé ag iarraidh go dtabharfaidh Ceannaire an Tí seo an deis sin dóibh agus iad a thabhairt le chéile. Iarraim ar an Cheannaire go dtiocfaidh an tAire chuig an Teach le héisteacht leis an mholadh sin agus é a chur chun cinn.
Deirtear go bhfuil thart ar 70 milliún Gaeil scaipthe ar fud na cruinne. Is ionann é sin agus a rá nach bhfuil náisiún na hÉireann ar an oileán seo amháin, tá sé in aon áit a mbailíonn na Gaeil le chéile ann. Tá ard-mheas tar éis teacht ar an tír seo toisc na Gaeil seo a bheith ag feidhmiú thar lear. Níl aon amhras ná go bhfuil siad tar éis cabhrú linn ó thaobh turasóireachta de agus i ngach slí eile. Táim cinnte nach mbeadh an tsuim chéanna ag Uachtarán na Stáit Aontaithe sa Tuaisceart ach amháin an gradam a bhí bainte amach ag na Gaeil sna Stáit Aontaithe. Tuigimid go maith nach mbeadh próiseas síochána ann ach amháin an tsuim a bhí ag Uachtarán na Stáit Aontaithe sna deacrachtaí a bhí ann ag an am.
Guím gach rath ar an hAirí agus ar an Taoiseach a bheidh ag taisteal thar lear chun bualadh lenár ndaoine féin chun meas a thaispeáint agus aitheantas a thabhairt dóibh agus buíochas a ghabháil leo agus ár dtacaíocht a thaispeáint dóibh freisin. Tá súil agam, aon áit a dtéann siad ann, go mbeidh siad ag míniú do na Gaeil nach bhfuil dearmad déanta orthu. Tá an-chuid daoine óga tar éis dul ar imirce as an tír seo le déanaí. Ba chóir taispeáint dóibh go bhfuilimid ag smaoineamh orthu agus go bhfuilimid fós ag cabhrú lena chéile.
Éinne atá i gcoinne an Taoisigh agus na n-Airí a bheith ag taisteal thar lear chun aitheantas agus buíochas a thaispeáint do na Gaeil, ní thuigeann sé an tábhacht a bhaineann leis seo. Éinne a bhí ag taisteal thar lear agus a bhuail leis na Gaeil agus a fuair comhairle uathu, tuigeann sé go mbíonn siad ag súil go mór leis an gcuairt sin gach bliain. Tá súil agam nach mbeidh díspeagadh nó masla tugtha don obair sin agus tááthas orm anois go bhfuil sé le tuiscint go mbeidh an Stát seo ag dul amach chun bualadh leis na "comh-Ghaeil" atá scaipthe ar fud na cruinniú.
Déanaim chomhghairdeas leis na Seanadóirí a bhfuil an Ghaeilge go flúirseach acu. Tá náire orm nach bhfuil sé chomh flúirseach sin agam féin.
I share in the congratulations to the Government on taking a brave decision in the current economic climate to send Ministers abroad during the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. I have never criticised any Government that decided to avail of the wonderful opportunity to showcase our country on St. Patrick's Day and the days leading up to it. It is significant that the Government has decided to utilise the resources and contacts we have abroad to maximise the benefit to the country on this occasion. If ever we needed to attract tourists and to promote business, it is now. One difference from what previous Governments have done is that the arrangements have been made on a cost-effective basis. There has been bad publicity in the past but perhaps there was excessive expenditure as well and perhaps we did not get the best bang for our buck on all occasions. I hope that many additional visitors will come to our country.
I welcome the announcement by the Government yesterday that the former Member and the chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Dr. Maurice Manning, has been appointed by the Government to chair a group of leading authors and academics to advise the Government on the centenary commemorations of the major events during the period from 1912 to 1916. This is a significant development. I hope we will see an attractive programme of events that will bring many visitors to our country in the coming years. The House has a role to play and I call on the Leader to organise a debate and a discussion on how we can contribute to these celebrations, how to best advise the Government, how to put forward concrete and constructive ideas and how to best leverage the wonderful opportunities we will have in the coming decade to showcase our country and to increase significantly the number of visitors who will come to the island.
I draw the Seanad's attention to an article by Eilish O'Regan, the health correspondent of theIrish Independent, written on Tuesday, 6 March entitled “Probe into top-ups for €150,000 charity chiefs”. I mention it because I call on the Leader to hold a debate on the charities sector, which gets €1.5 billion in State funding. There is an urgent need for the Government to outline plans to introduce a mandatory system of registration for charities operating in Ireland and to do so in the interests of financial transparency. I call for a debate on charities in order to maintain public confidence and to continue the outstanding valuable work that they do.
Níl mórán Gaeilge agam ach táim ag dul chuig ranganna Gaeilge gach seachtain agus tá ceist agam don Cheannaire. An dtiocfaidh an tAire Oideachais agus Scileanna isteach chun plé a dhéanamh ar an gcóras nua atá curtha i bhfeidhm do scoileanna atá tar éis múinteoirí a chailliúint de bharr laghdú sa chóimheas idir daltaí agus múinteoirí? Tá an fhadhb seo le feiceáil in áiteanna iargúlta go háirithe.
An tAire Post, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta was with us yesterday. There was most a most disappointing presentation from the Minister. He failed to acknowledge that the most important issue facing Irish companies is the lack of access to credit and cash. We need the Minister for Finance to attend the House to explain. The banks have received €70 billion from the State to date. Professor Honohan has described this as the greatest financial bailout of banks in history. Last week, Professor Honohan, said they had a special conference in the Central Bank to discuss the whole issue of small companies accessing credit. He said that credit conditions to small and medium companies are tougher in Ireland than anywhere in the euro area, both in terms of costs and availability.
Irish small and medium companies are the greatest generators of employment, yet the Government has totally failed to get cash flowing into the economy. At yesterday's meeting with the Minister, I had the monthly economic bulletin from the Department of Finance, which graphically shows that the availability of credit to companies is plummeting month by month. According to that economic bulletin, the annual rate of growth in private sector credit advanced to Irish residents was minus 3.8% in December 2011, accelerating from a 1.9% decrease in November 2011. We have a credit access crisis.
Is the Senator seeking a debate on this issue?
I have already said that I would like the Minister for Finance to attend the House to tell us what he is going to do in this regard. Some €3.5 billion was supposed to be released into the economy by AIB and the Bank of Ireland every year, but they are not doing so. At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, Deputy Micheál Martin said that if banks will not release funding then it is time to introduce legislation to force them to do so. I was disappointed by what the Minister said yesterday. He is listening to the banks and is being taken in by them, but he is not listening to business people. Everybody knows there is no money available. I know the Minister, Deputy Bruton, is well intentioned but the banks are bluffing. We have a liquidity crisis and an economic crisis due to the failure of getting cash into the economy.
I also welcome the fact that Ministers are continuing the practice of travelling to the United States and other countries to promote Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. Like others, I would caution Ministers to be frugal in their spending when abroad. They should stand in solidarity with the people here who are struggling and whose interests they will be promoting overseas. They should send a clear message to everyone that business can be done in a cost-effective manner. In that case, everybody would accept the concept of Ministers travelling abroad not just for St. Patrick's Day, but every time such an opportunity presents itself. I suggest that if any Member of this House would like to go abroad, there are many parades in different parts of the world where there will be no Government representative in attendance. For the sake of an airfare to America or other countries, it would probably be a useful exercise in promoting Ireland.
Where is the Senator going?
I am going nowhere.
I agree with Senator O'Donnell's call for a debate on moneys that are being given to various charities, particularly those operating in the area of disability. In yesterday's newspapers, we saw how many chief executives of charities, who earn six-figure sums, are refusing to declare their bonuses on the basis that such bonuses were not being paid from taxpayers' support. The bonuses are being paid from subscriptions they raise from citizens and, as such, they have a duty and responsibility to be transparent and up-front. It is appalling that a chief executive of a charity would tell the Government they are not prepared to declare their bonus on the basis that the bonus was collected through fund-raising. At the end of the day, it is all coming from the same source, the people of Ireland.
Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?
If these charities are not prepared to play ball and be transparent, legislation will be required in order to force them to do so. I ask the Leader to invite both the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Health to clarify the situation concerning charities, including bonuses and transparency, and whether legislation is required. If it is required, when will we have it?
I join previous speakers in welcoming the fact that our Ministers are going abroad. I will not repeat what others have said, but we do need to run the country like a business. In times when businesses are cutting back in certain areas they still market and network, which is what we need to do.
We have no money to do it.
That is the way it has to be done. I would appreciate it if the Senator would not interrupt me. I did not interrupt her when she was speaking.
That is silly.
I congratulate my colleagues, including Senator O'Donnell, on raising the charities issue.
The Senator interrupted me in the past.
I am still being interrupted, a Chathaoirligh.
Senator Noone to continue, without interruption. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?
I join Senators O'Donnell and Conway in calling for a debate on charities. I recently did some work on certain methods that are being used by charities, including "chugging". I do not know whether Members are familiar with the method but it is basically where people accost members of the public on the street and try to get them to give their bank details in order that money can be transferred monthly by direct debit. This falls into the same areas mentioned by other speakers in that it needs to be regulated. Given that charities are doing it, people may feel they should not speak out against such methods, but charities are run like businesses. As Senator Conway said, some of the directors and other senior employees in charities are earning huge sums of money. We need to stand up to charities and ensure that they are properly regulated. I call on the Leader to have a general debate on charities as soon as possible.
Ba mhaith liom ar maidin cúpla focal a rá faoi na hAirí atá ag dul thar lear. It is heartening to hear Senators Comiskey, Mooney and others speak so positively about the promotion of Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. There is no doubt that our national day is a unique asset and must be used properly to achieve maximum marketing effect. The message must go out loud and clear that now is the time to invest in Ireland's recovery. Building on the "Invest in Ireland" event that former US President Bill Clinton hosted recently, it is opportune to have follow-up meetings with business leaders and trading partners because we must harness that goodwill.
What about the availability of credit for indigenous companies?
Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption.
There is great faith in Ireland abroad and in our ability to make this recovery. We must enlist the aid of all our friends throughout the world, including the Diaspora, who are willing to offer it. Let us do so. This is about trade, tourism and investment. It is a huge marketing drive that must be saluted. I am glad that we are all singing off the same hymn sheet on both sides of the House. I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on those important matters of trade, tourism and investment after the St. Patrick's Day holiday.
Has any progress been made regarding the scrutiny of EU legislation in this House? I know the Leader has been working on that matter. On several occasions, various Members have asked about this. Has any progress been made to date on that front?
At the weekend, I met a person on disability allowance who will be leaving the country shortly. The person was bragging that they could continue to draw disability allowance for three months after leaving. I ask the Leader to clarify whether that is true.
That is a matter that would be suitable for an Adjournment debate.