Order of Business (Resumed)

Senator Darragh O'Brien raised the question of mortgage relief which he has raised on several occasions. I have pointed out on those previous occasions that the Government in the 2012 budget introduced an expanded mortgage interest relief scheme for those first-time buyers who purchased their homes during the boom years of 2004 to 2008. These are the people most likely to be in mortgage arrears. The Government is taking urgent action on mortgage arrears. It has also agreed to new personal insolvency legislation, which Senator Bacik has mentioned, which will allow heavily indebted people trapped in unsustainable mortgages to be given a chance to restart their lives. The Government is very aware of the problem of mortgage arrears and the impact on families. We will be living with the effects of this dramatic crash of the property market for many years to come. The Government's primary focus in this area is on helping those who genuinely cannot pay their mortgages. I will, however, endeavour to have the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, come to the House at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss that issue again and outline the policy in more detail.

On the point raised about the Irish language, the Senator can be assured that the Government will not pay mere lip-service to the Irish language, rather it will promote policies to encourage the use of the language at every possible opportunity.

Céard faoi an Choimisinéir Teanga?

Senator Bacik asked about the sexist advertising of night clubs on Facebook being a matter for the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland. I will raise this matter with the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, to ascertain if there is an intention to introduce legislation in that regard.

I agree with Senator Barrett that letters of comfort or promissory notes are a devastating matter for Ireland. This is a very expensive arrangement for the taxpayer and currently under negotiation with the troika. It is to be hoped that we can find a less expensive alternative arrangement than that negotiated previously. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, is making progress in ongoing negotiations. The troika and the Minister are working through the technicalities and we hope for a good result for the country in that regard.

Senators Comiskey, Mooney, Ó Murchú, Mullins, Paul Coghlan and others asked about ministerial travel abroad for St. Patrick's Day. As has been stated, the country could not buy the publicity it receives from St. Patrick's Day. As Members have stated, it is of paramount importance that Ministers are abroad promoting the country and letting it be known that it is open for business. I can assure Senator Mooney that the shamrock will be presented by the Taoiseach in a Waterford Crystal bowl, as was the custom for many years.

I had been hoping it would be a Leitrim crystal bowl but perhaps when we have a Taoiseach from Leitrim.

Senator Comiskey asked about young undocumented Irish in the United States. This is a matter which will be addressed by many of the Ministers who will visit the United States. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, and the Taoiseach have been in discussions with American officials on this matter. It is hoped there will be a successful outcome.

It is not working.

Senator Jim D'Arcy asked about trade with the Middle East and other areas. The Senator has raised this issue on previous occasions and in particular with regard to Libya. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade agreed to attend to that matter. He may provide an update for the Senator in the next month or so.

Senator Pat O'Neill asked about TB controls in place since January. I am advised that the new policy was introduced this year by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, following consultation with the farming organisations. Under the new policy, owners of herds which are neighbouring a herd experiencing a high-risk breakdown are prevented from selling cattle on the open market but not for slaughter, until the herd is tested to demonstrate it is not infected by TB. The objective of the policy is to prevent farmers with a holding adjacent to a farm where there is TB from selling potentially infected animals to other farmers. Experience has shown that many animals from these herds are sold to other farmers and subsequently bring down the other herds with TB. The policy is designed to protect farmers from buying infected animals. Farmers whose herds are restricted under this policy are free to sell cattle to the meat factories and can have the restriction lifted at an early date simply by having their herds tested.

I note Senator Ó Clochartaigh's points about having a lá lán-Ghaeilge sa Teach seo. We can try to arrange it. We had a debate recently which was conducted in Irish for the most part and there were wonderful contributions from all sides of the House. I am sure this can be repeated in a future debate. On the same subject, Senator Keane asked about bringing organisations involved in the promotion of the Irish language together under Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge. I will bring this matter to the attention of the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, and it may be possible to have a debate in the House.

Senator Mullins asked about the centenary celebrations and the committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Maurice Manning. A number of celebrations will be held in the coming years. One of those celebrations, on the third Home Rule Bill, will be held in Waterford on 11 April, to which I look forward.

Senator O'Donnell asked for a debate on the charity sector and the mandatory system of regulation for bodies in that area. We can raise this matter which was also raised on the Order of Business yesterday by Senators Conway and Noone. The issue of salaries was discussed. The House passed a Charities Bill some years ago. I do not know if these issues are covered in that legislation but if not, we can return to the subject and arrange a debate.

D'iarr Senator Landy go dtiocfadh an tAire Oideachais agus Scileanna go dtí an Teach. I informed the House yesterday that the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, would attend the House for an all-embracing debate on education on 19 April.

I cannot agree with Senator White about the visit to the House yesterday of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton. He gave an excellent presentation to the House, as was acknowledged by many Members. He even answered Members who were not present, those who had asked questions but did not remain to listen to his answers. I assure the House the Government is totally committed to bringing the banks to heel in addressing the question of credit for small businesses.

It is not working.

Senator Conway asked that Ministers travelling abroad be cost effective and frugal in manner. I can assure Members it is the intention of Ministers not to have any wastage in that regard.

Senator Coghlan also referred to St. Patrick's Day. We can arrange a debate after that date on trade, tourism and investment.

Senator Sheahan mentioned a debate on EU legislation in the House. I notified the House I had written to the commission in that regard, seeking extra resources that would allow Senators to address this matter. Only last week I had a meeting with HR personnel in Leinster House on that issue. I hope we will have progress that will allow us to have a debate on European affairs and legislation, including EU directives. I hope there will be news on that matter soon.

Order of Business agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 11.35 a.m. and resumed at 11.45 a.m.