Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion on the report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine entitled, Report on the Grocery Goods Sector: Increasing Equity and Transparency in Producer-Processor-Retailer Relationships, to be taken at 3 p.m. and conclude not later than 4.30 p.m.; and No. 3, Private Members' business, Civil Law (Missing Persons) Bill 2013 - Second Stage, to be taken at 6.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 8.30 p.m. The reason the Bill is being taken so late is the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, is not available to take it until that time and wants to be here to deal with it.

I am proposing that we cancel business for tomorrow when we were due to take Report Stage of the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Committee Stage was taken yesterday, during which it was outlined that a number of new amendments were to be introduced on Report Stage. To give Members a chance to examine these amendments and, if they wish, table their own, I am proposing, at the request of Senator Thomas Byrne, that we take Report Stage next week, not tomorrow. Also, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, was due to come into the House tomorrow for statements, but I am told she will be delayed in the other House and unable to attend. As we do not have any other business ordered, I do not propose to deal with any business tomorrow.

It is disappointing that the House is unable to sit tomorrow. While I understand the points the Leader has made, apart from what Senator Thomas Byrne said about the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, the Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock, outlined clearly yesterday a substantial amendment to insert a new section into the Bill which those of us on this side of the House and other Senators deserve to have an opportunity to examine properly.

I ask the Leader to arrange for an urgent debate on the fishing industry. The whitefish fleet is at crisis point. In the past couple of days 15 boats were tied up at Kilmore Quay at the request of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA. That is ludicrous. Two boats had fish over quota, but the SFPA tied up the entire fleet, a total of 21 boats, and put 115 jobs at risk. Our whitefish quotas are totally inadequate. This is hereditary. I am not being political. In the past 40 years our fishermen have worked with their hands tied behind their backs. This is recognised by the fishing associations all the way from Rossaveal to the south coast and up to the Leader's county, to Kilmore Quay and Howth. If the SFPA and the authorities want to work rigorously within the law every boat from Donegal to Castletownbere to Howth will be tied up, day in, day out because we do not have the quota. In 2012 the French were entitled to take 24,000 tonnes of monkfish from our waters and the United Kingdom, 14,000 tonnes, but Ireland can take a mere 2,300 tonnes.

It is ridiculous.

Last year Ireland used 98% of its quota for monkfish, France used less than 60%, leaving 10,000 tonnes of monkfish that it could have caught in Irish waters but did not, while the Irish boats could not access it because of our quota regime. The United Kingdom did not use its full monkfish quota. Ireland caught 92% of its quota of megrim - a whitefish - in Irish waters, not the Bay of Biscay, the Mediterranean or the North Sea, whereas France caught only 43%. The French did not catch almost 60% of its megrim quota, but our boys are being tied up and criminalised for these offences.

It is disgraceful.

We all love prawn cocktail. In area 7, in our coastal waters, Ireland caught 104% of its prawn quota last year. Up to a few years ago prawns were not a quota species. As the French caught 11% of the quota, they did not take up almost 90% of their quota of the fish available around the coast outside our door, so to speak. Although there is scientific evidence that the fish are there, the Irish boats are being tied up day in, day out and jobs are being put at risk. It is crazy. This scientific evidence comes from the Marine Institute and from the European Commission which each year study the various species of fish. It is a disgrace. At a conservative estimate, 7 billion Irish fish have been taken from our waters in the past 40 years. When we were in financial difficulty the Commission was able to dictate exactly what we should do, telling us not to burn the bondholders and to support the banks, which we did, yet when we seek and demand a bit of extra fish quota to keep our fishermen and boats at sea and to sustain jobs we are given the thumbs down. It is about time we stood up and fought.

I will seek an amendment to the Order of Business today on this issue, to ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to come into the House as a matter of urgency. The Seanad is not sitting tomorrow. I will demand that we sit tomorrow and have a long debate on fishing. It is crazy that 7 billion fish were plundered from Irish waters. Successive Governments have made mistakes. I have challenged Fianna Fáil Ministers year in year out.

The matter about sitting tomorrow will be decided at the end of business today.

Irrespective of whether we sit tomorrow, I want to make the point that I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business today to the effect that the Minister come to the House today to deal with the important issues I have raised.

Fishing is rarely raised here, but it is vitally important that we debate it from time to time. The result of the quota will be to decommission 50% of our boats if we comply with the law and that is a serious issue. Half of the trawlers and half of the fishermen have gone from the port of Castletownbere which is close to where I live. There are 700 employed in the fishing industry in the Castletownbere region, either directly or processing on the shore. Half of those jobs will go. It is a scientific and economic fact that a recent survey of Beara Peninsula showed that 70% of the economic output on the peninsula was due to the fishing industry. If we consider that, we can also consider Rossaveal, Kilmore Quay and Dunmore East in the same light. I will push very hard for an amendment to the Order of Business on this important issue. It is very serious that at any given time half of the whitefish fleet can be tied up at the behest of the SFPA. There is something ludicrously wrong in that. It is about time that the Minister demand extra quota or fair play from Europe for Irish fishermen in Irish waters.

The Leader's announcement about tomorrow's business is unfortunate, but it is most unusual that we would have to do this and it is important not to rush into taking Report Stage of the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 given the extensive amendments announced by the Minister yesterday and the views expressed on Committee Stage last night. There is a positive reason for this. We should not rush prematurely into Report Stage.

Yesterday on the Order of Business I welcomed the fact that President Michael D. Higgins would make an official visit to Britain next year. It is great to see that this is finally happening. It is extraordinary on one level that it has not happened before now. The President spoke at the Hist. in Trinity last night and pointed out just how significant this visit would be for Anglo-Irish relations and the peace process. Could we have a debate in the new year, perhaps around the time that the President makes this visit, about the ongoing difficulties in the peace process? I am particularly concerned about the proposition made by the Northern Ireland Attorney General, John Larkin, that there be no further inquiries or inquests into murders that occurred before the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement. The Tánaiste disagreed this morning with that proposition. It highlights the issues that recur in the peace process which is not by any means a smooth process. We need to review it and to consider the obstacles and difficulties that arise.

I congratulate my Labour Party colleague, Senator Aideen Hayden, who will launch the annual report of Threshold, the housing organisation, today. The Senator does Trojan work as chairperson of Threshold. She has made a very important call for a much more rigorous certification process for the private rental market to ensure local authorities certify private rented accommodation and that people would no longer have to live in substandard accommodation. Will the Leader invite the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to the House to debate that issue and the private rental sector generally and how best to regulate it in the interests of protecting tenants' rights?

I very much support the decision on the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013. It is the appropriate decision, but I am disappointed because this is the second time we were scheduled to have a debate on youth justice, which is a critical issue. I have prepared twice for this debate and look forward to it. Will the Leader reschedule that debate at the earliest opportunity? There are many critical issues for us to raise. I support Senator Denis O'Donovan's passionate and compelling call for a debate on fisheries policy.

The special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, spoke at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children yesterday. He gave us a master class on children's rights and all that needed to be done and the committee fully agreed with him. He called for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport, based on the compelling evidence that he had seen in the review of child deaths that alcohol was seen as a risk indicator. We need to wake up to it as a contributory factor. I support his call. Will the Leader arrange a debate on alcohol-related harm, particularly on how Ireland could introduce minimum pricing in co-ordination with our colleagues in Northern Ireland?

Senator Mark Daly mentioned yesterday the Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012 that he, Senator John Crown and I have brought forward.

We had an excellent debate on it in the Seanad and I know we have cross-party support. Parallel to this Bill, the Minister announced yesterday he is bringing in legislation on plain packaging on cigarettes, which I support. He has asked the health and children committee to prioritise it and accelerate it through. While I am happy to do this, I am reluctant because we have a Bill sitting on the agenda here that will directly contribute positively to children's health and, for no reason that I can understand, it is being delayed. As Senators Mark Daly and John Crown and I have put a tremendous amount of work into addressing any of the issues raised by the Department, I ask the Leader to urgently ask the Minister when that Bill is to be brought before the House. It is an initiative that could be taken quite quickly to protect children's health.

If it is agreeable to Senator Denis O'Donovan, I second his proposal for an amendment to the Order of Business. The fishing industry has over the entire period of my time in this House been treated with contempt. This is ridiculous and has been a very foolish strategy on the part of all Governments.

With regard to the Order of Business, I agree with Senator Jillian van Turnhout, but I am even more outraged by the situation. It is not just a question of postponing legislation. It is the way this House is treated by the Government. Once again, we have no legislation, and the public sees this and the press may very well comment upon it when there are strange gaps. This is not the fault of the Leader. We had a leaders meeting this morning and it became absolutely clear it is because no Minister was available to take business in this House - not one single Minister. I do not believe the Government has learned the lesson of the referendum. The people put us back here and they said they wanted us to do work. Some of us pointed out that we have worked very hard but we have been hindered continually by the Government. This rotten, undemocratic practice is still continuing. We should not let this occasion go without letting the public know that this is the Government again deliberately obstructing the Seanad and treating it very much as a second-class House.

We spent some time yesterday talking about our allowances and I suggested getting rid of the whole damn lot and giving us a wage for the job, letting it be taxed and all the rest of it. That is what I think should happen. We are talking smallish amounts of money and we now discover that people who are in the public service on €200,000 plus are getting another €40,000 or €50,000 out of the sweet shop. I wonder how many other areas of public life this is happening in. We should look into this matter. In these times we need to look at everything that can be done to create a decent economy.

I would welcome a debate on the remarks of the North of Ireland Attorney General, Mr. John Larkin. It is an extremely difficult situation but at least he has the virtue of telling the truth and facing the facts. It is a huge ask for anybody who has been bereaved in the barbarous events that went on in Northern Ireland to draw a line under it and say we have to put that in the past. However, at some stage, that has to happen. I think the Attorney General is quite wise and speaking appropriately when he points out that, because of the time lapse, it is very difficult to get a conviction, and that because of certain agreements that were made, issues were fudged. For example, when the disarmament of the IRA happened and it destroyed its weapons and explosives, it was part of the agreement that no forensic tests would be done on any of that weaponry; therefore, a huge body of evidence was destroyed which could have been crucial in these matters. Again, in regard to the disappeared - what a horrible word and what a reproach that it should happen in this country to people like Jean McConville who were taken out and savagely murdered - when their families look for their bodies, there is an agreement that there will be no inquest, no autopsy and no forensic report. There is a complete absence of evidence in many of these cases. I believe we should have such a debate. It is an enormous amount to ask and I am not sure how many of us would be prepared to take that, but it would be such a step forward. On the other hand, however, we must continue to demand that the bodies of those who have been murdered and disappeared should be recovered. I believe the Attorney General of Northern Ireland made a series of extremely good, logical points. We have to try to assuage the natural emotions of others, but that is the way forward.

I raise an issue of concern in regard to questions that are tabled at the health committee when I am looking for answers in the public interest. In September I tabled a question in regard to section 38 and 39 organisations which are receiving funding from the HSE and the Department of Health. Over €3.4 billion of the health budget is paid out to 2,680 organisations and I tabled a very specific question looking for specific answers. I am disturbed to find that I received a generic answer to the questions I tabled to the health committee in mid-October. I find that a report, which I understand was completed as far back as March this year, was not made available to me in that answer, yet it is now being made available to every member of the media who just writes a letter looking for it. I am appalled that the health committee was dealt with in this manner by the HSE and the Department and I am looking for answers as to why this report was not made available to the health committee in mid-October. We have an opportunity to table questions looking for answers and transparency once every three months. At least the Department and the HSE should have had the decency to advise us of the existence of the report and that it would be made available at some stage in the future. Not one sentence in that reply mentioned the existence of the report. I am appalled it is now being released to the media. As a member of the health committee and a spokesman on health for Fine Gael in this House, I still have not got a copy of the report. I am asking the Leader to raise this issue with the Minister and the Department in order that any Member of this House who tables a specific question at the health committee gets the answer.

I support my colleague pm the issue of a debate on the fishing industry. I also remind colleagues there is a briefing today at noon by Kieran Staunton, the president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, in the Members Dining Room about the issue of the undocumented Irish who are currently residing in the United States and the legislative proposals before the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.

I also support the call in regard to the statements by Mr. John Larkin, the Attorney General for the North of Ireland. I find it amazing that a man would propose such a thing when we consider the lack of co-operation from the British Government on the topic of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the biggest crime committed in this State in the last 50 years. There is ample evidence that there was collusion by the British Government and the British state in those killings of Irish citizens and that elements of the British army were involved in assisting in the explosions that happened in Dublin and Monaghan. What we see is that he wants to sweep the issues under the carpet. Let us remember it is the British state that is not co-operating with the Irish State on this issue, yet he wants this all to go away because, if the evidence came out, it would show that the British Government and elements of the British state were involved in that atrocity. There is also the issue of Bloody Sunday and that of the murder triangle that was exposed by Anne Cadwallader in her book, where off-duty RUC men and off-duty reservists in the British army were involved in killing Catholics in Tyrone. The Unionist community too is feeling betrayed because its members were killed by paramilitary organisations simply for being Protestant. The reason I am asking the Attorney General to consider his position is he appoints the Director of Public Prosecutions and sets the tone in the prosecution office. If he is saying these things should not be pursued, that sets the tone for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He is saying it will prove difficult to convict the people concerned. In fact, he admitted on radio, which is beyond bizarre, that it will be more difficult to pursue paramilitaries than to pursue state actors. On the international stage, by contrast, people responsible for war crimes during the Second World War - Nazis who were in charge of gas chambers and concentration camps - are still being put on trial and imprisoned, rightly so. The same should apply to anybody who was involved in collusion and murder in the North.

I take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the briefing we are to receive from Mr. Kieran Staunton, which Senator Mark Daly was instrumental in organising. The plight of the undocumented Irish in the United States can easily be forgotten on this side of the Atlantic. Given that a minimum of 50,000 of Irish citizens are affected, however, it is an issue that should always be at the top of the agenda.

I welcome the agreement by the Cabinet yesterday, on the recommendation of the Minister for Health, to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products. We are engaged in a war with the tobacco industry, a ruthless body that will stop at nothing to promote its product. It was a brave decision by the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, to press this initiative. It has been done in New Zealand with some success, and we will be the first country in Europe to embrace plain packaging. The leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, showed the same bravery when, as Minister for Health, he introduced the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants in the face of vigorous lobbying and a vicious campaign of opposition. In fairness to the then Minister, he stuck to his guns and did what was right. The current Minister is also doing what is right. Although I understand the frustrations expressed by Senators Jillian van Turnhout, John Crown and Mark Daly in regard to the legislation, I am totally supportive of what is being proposed. In fact, I would support an outright ban on tobacco products in this country. I hope it will happen at some point in the future, because cigarettes destroy people's lives and cost the State an absolute fortune. Will the Leader arrange for the Minister for Health to come to the House for statements on the various measures being taken to combat smoking and the interdepartmental approach in respect of the health issues, education strategy and incidence of tobacco smuggling? It is vital to educate young people on the challenges they will face in future if they embrace smoking. I would also like to know when it is planned to implement the proposal on plain packaging. It is a critical debate for the future health of the nation.

I support Senator Denis O'Donovan's very eloquent call for a debate on fishing. We have extraordinary expertise in this House in the person of Senator Denis O'Donovan, together with other colleagues. It is an issue on which we might well expect to make a unique contribution and on which we might usefully engage the public by way of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee.

I welcome the publication of a briefing note by the Department of Justice and Equality on the family relationships and children Bill, which is a very positive and long-awaited development. I praise the Minister for his commitment to modernising the very outdated law in this area. Our laws must reflect the lived realities of families throughout the country. The publication of a briefing note on this very sensitive issue, which is relevant to large numbers of people in the State, will allow us to examine and review it before the heads of the Bill are presented for debate. It is a very constructive way of legislating.

Last week I took part in a high-level workshop at King's College on effective parliamentary oversight of human rights. Several international experts and academics contributed to the discussion, from the Philippines, Australia, Canada, South Africa and throughout Europe. I presented a paper setting out my views on the effectiveness of our parliamentary oversight in the area of human rights. I will be submitting that document to the justice committee and hope to return to this House with some points for discussion. With that in mind, will the Leader indicate when we should expect to see the legislation establishing an Irish human rights and equality commission? The Minister indicated some time ago that its publication was imminent, but we are still waiting. The heads of the Bill were published in May 2012.

It has been a month since the Taoiseach came to the House to hear our views on Seanad reform. Will the Leader provide an update on how the Taoiseach is getting on in terms of proposals for reform? Has he met party leaders and when are we likely to see progress in this regard?

I welcome the Leader's announcement in regard to the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in respect of which we discovered only yesterday that there will be an entirely new section. It is understandable that the request from the Opposition should be acceded to, and I am glad it has been done.

In putting forward his amendment to the Order of Business, Senator Denis O'Donovan makes an excellent prima facie case for an examination of fisheries policy. What has happened is maddening, with people needlessly tied up at ports right around the coast. It is happening not just in Castletownbere but also in Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Dingle Harbour. The Senator makes a great case for an examination of the matter. The Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, has done some great work on these types of issues in Europe in the past and it is important that we hear from him in early course. I assume, however, that it will not happen today.

We should be careful not to get too caught up in what Northern Ireland's Attorney General has said about drawing a line under the past. As Senator David Norris said, we must consider the passage of time. Anecdotally, there is evidence available, but making it stand up in court after 25 years is another thing.

There is no forensic evidence.

Precisely. The United States envoy to Northern Ireland, Mr. Richard Haass, is meeting representatives of the five parties in the second week of December and there are serious issues to be discussed in regard to events of the past, flags, parades and so on. Of course, we hope for a satisfactory outcome to these discussions. Closer to home, the end of this month will see the publication of the report of the Smithwick tribunal, which is bound to raise questions in regard to collusion. I have no doubt there was collusion on both sides. Whether we like it, however, we simply must get real in regard to what happened in the past.

I welcome the Leader's decision on the taking of the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. It would have been a shame to have to debate it tomorrow, given the number of unanswered questions from last night. I warmly welcome the Leader's intervention during that debate.

Today it was announced that J. P. Morgan had agreed to pay out a record €13 billion settlement after admitting it had regularly overstated the quality of mortgages it sold to investors. That is exactly the type of practice we were discussing last night. I see that the New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, was involved as were Department of Justice officials. Perhaps our diplomats in the United States might report back to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on how the authorities in that country managed to secure a much more satisfactory solution than we have done in regard to the conduct of bankers and accountants. The press release from the United States Department of Justice indicates that it started these negotiations, which were concluded yesterday, in September this year. We began to investigate similar matters in this State in September five years ago without, as yet, achieving results. The Minister indicated that the Attorney General did not wish to prejudice hearings in the Anglo Irish Bank case. As we know, however, there are questions to be answered in regard to Ernst & Young and the EBS, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Bank of Ireland, and KPMG and AIB, Irish Life and Permanent, Postbank Ireland and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. All of these investigations are on hold.

Another unsatisfactory aspect last night was the refusal of the Minister to answer the simplest questions such as what the cost savings were in his policy, which I support, of moving from the High Court to the Circuit Court. Worse than that, his officials advised him that it would be too much work and they did not want to answer the questions. A little more respect for Parliament is required. That also arises in respect of Senator John Crown's Bill on smoking. This House was not abolished; it is still here. This raises questions about the general unwillingness of the higher bureaucracy in Ireland to participate in freedom of information in the widest context. Last night was a bizarre example of it. I am pleased that this has been postponed so there can be extra thought and research. In this light, can we invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House to debate white collar crime, how to combat it and why it is taking so long to do so since 2008? Such a debate should include the role of accountants.

I agree with Senator Martin Conway regarding the proposals for packaging of cigarettes. We are aware of the difficulties with the tobacco lobby, an issue Senator Sean D. Barrett has raised on many occasions. I am delighted there are strong moves afoot to introduce that type of packaging. Sometimes practical actions are what is required and the sooner this legislation is brought forward, the better. We must seriously address the issue of smoking. There is a higher incidence of smoking in Ireland than in almost every other European country, and that is a great concern, given the number of young people in this country. I support that action and the continued work by the Government and the Department of Health on making Ireland a smoke-free zone by 2025. It is obviously a very ambitious target but it is good to have that target.

On Universal Children's Day I welcome the chief inspector's report on education in primary and secondary schools in Ireland. Covering 2010 to 2012, it is a huge piece of work and many people have taken part in it. What is more important are its findings. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Education and Skills to the House to debate the findings of the report? It is good to see that both primary and post-primary schools are largely well managed, most teachers are working effectively and the learning is satisfactory. Parents and teachers were questioned, along with teachers' representatives. Importantly, however, there are problems with the teaching of mathematics, Irish and English. As some of these problems are quite serious, there must be a debate on the matter to assess where we go from here. This type of information should not be just left in a book. We should use it to draw up plans and as a basis for offering our advice and suggestions.

I dtosach báire, ba mhaith liom fáilte ar ais a chur roimh Jody Blake. Ní raibh mé anseo inné agus tá sé iontach í a fheiceáil ar ais. It is great to see her back here in full health.

Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an Seanadóir Denis O'Donovan maidir leis an díospóireacht ar chúrsaí iascaireachta. Tá géarchéim ann faoi láthair agus tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh an plé sin againn.

Many people are mentioning various issues regarding the North, including legacy issues. That is right and it is important we debate it and do so in a rational manner. There are arguments both for and against, on both sides, on those issues. To refer to something I have not mentioned for a while, on a number of occasions I said that one of the ways to address this is to invite the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister from the North to address the House. Drew Nelson from the Orange Order came to address the House and Members considered that a positive move. I appreciate there have been difficulties getting a reply from the offices concerned, but perhaps it is something we should follow up on again. From our perspective we will do what we can to encourage the Ministers to come to the House. It would be important in the light of a number of things that have happened in the recent past such as different addresses by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on certain occasions and the Haass talks and in the light of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It would be a very important debate.

Last July we sought a debate on vision health in Ireland on foot of a presentation we were given. More than 220,000 people in Ireland are blind or visually impaired, despite 75% of the blindness being preventable. It is estimated that by 2020 the State will be spending €2.5 billion per year in this area. It is an issue that affects many people and families and is costing the health service a great deal, yet it is quite curable in many cases. A focused debate on vision health in Ireland would be very useful at this juncture.

Senator Colm Burke raised a very important issue regarding section 38 funding. This issue has been close to my heart in the past two and a half years and I have been highlighting it since I became a Member of the House. Colleagues in the House often raise issues relating to the intellectual disability service providers and the various non-governmental organisations, NGOs. I have always asked them to ask one question, "How much is the chief executive officer and the management team being paid?", before they protest on behalf of that agency. The salaries in these groups are more than 40% higher than what the HSE pays these pay grades. We saw what emerged yesterday, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. It will be drip fed, which is unfortunate. Senator Colm Burke should have been given that answer a couple of months ago. I seek a special debate in the House on section 38 funding, the salaries paid to the people concerned and what level of control we have over them. I do not believe a CEO in any of these agencies should be paid more than a principal officer. That is a fair wage. It is beyond me how anybody can justify drawing a salary of €220,000 in the intellectual disability service sector and in excess of €300,000 in respect of rehabilitation care. I can name all of them, including the Brothers of Charity Services, Daughters of Charity Services, St. Joseph's, St. Michael's House and so forth. I have no fear of naming the people concerned. Senator Mary Moran has spent six to eight months trying to get a set of accounts from one group, but she cannot get it. This money is given by the Government to these people to spend on our behalf. They are spending a heck of a lot of it, and much of it on themselves. In addition to the salary I mentioned, there would be a new car every two years, more than likely, and a free telephone. They do not put their hands in their pockets to buy them. The Leader has heard me raise this issue repeatedly. In the past two weeks I put the matter down as a special subject for debate at parliamentary party level. We must stop this. A total of €3.4 billion is going to these groups. Another key issue is the advocacy groups. They provide no service at all. They advocate on behalf of the clients. I firmly believe all the money given to advocacy groups should be stopped immediately. It is going to pay the CEOs €150,000 to €200,000 and what they primarily do is tell the HSE or the Government what my daughter or, in Senator Mary Moran's case, her son, needs. There are many other parents in the House. We do not need anybody to act on our behalf. We can do it ourselves. We do not need an advocacy group. That money must be stopped now and spent more appropriately on the front-line services that all Members rave about in the House. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House for a special debate on section 38 funding and what we are getting for it. There is €3.4 billion involved, which is serious money. The next time Members receive a representation from any of the people concerned, they should ask them how much they pay their CEO. They will be stunned at the levels of pay.

I agree with the proposal made by Senator David Norris that this House should have the opportunity to debate the comments of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland. I also agree with the tone of caution in his contribution. I do not believe it is possible that those remarks were a solo run on the part of the Attorney General. I believe there is a choreography taking place to normalise political life in Northern Ireland, relationships between the Republic and Northern Ireland and relationships between Ireland and Great Britain. I presume the visit by the Queen was part of this and that the forthcoming state visit by the President to Great Britain is also part of it. The difficulty with the Attorney General for Northern Ireland's comments is that it has created a knee-jerk debate, as we have seen in the broadcast media this morning. This is a complex and complicated issue. There is still a great deal of raw emotion among the public and there are many bereaved people who have been condemned to suffering for life. As there are many such issues, I am not sure what the Attorney General for Northern Ireland felt he could achieve.

When one considers that it would require legislation not just in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, but also here, has there been any debate? I have commented here in the past on the vacuum that has been left in the peace process. I have seen it myself on my many visits to Northern Ireland. When there is a vacuum, that is the time difficulties will arise. I would have thought that this discussion initiated by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland would have taken place with all the parties and people involved. I also felt there should have been choreography attached to this. I can never understand why a truth and reconciliation commission was not set up because that should have been the very first thing that happened. As a result of it not being established, every day, we now see elements of this debate absolutely removed from the overview that we should have. That is not helpful to the peace process. I do not think the debate which began yesterday will be helpful to the peace process. That is why I feel this House can play a very definite, important and central role. It would not involve getting excited or emotional but if we had a rational and methodical debate realising that the net result can be negative or positive, this House will have made a major contribution. I appeal directly to the Leader because of its seriousness that he consider in the very near future - perhaps next week - initiating this debate but discussing with the other leaders the form of that debate, the methodology for doing it and how we hope to have any input into the debate, which I think will very quickly go off the tracks outside if someone does not try to focus it in the early stages.

I strongly support the call made by Senator Sean D. Barrett for a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality in respect of white collar crime. People in this country are rightly outraged that it is taking so long for anybody to be brought to book for the hardships imposed on them through recklessness within the financial services industry. I hope the settlement by J. P. Morgan will provide some opportunities for the Government to look at options to reduce the burden on the Irish people.

Senator Mulcahy made a very impassioned plea here for a debate on section 38 funding. The figures he quoted are certainly worrying. When one couples that with the top-up payments to senior staff at Irish hospitals, one sees that we need a very open and frank debate on how our finances are being spent in respect of the provision of health services.

In the past 18 months, people were rightly outraged at the loss of life in the garment manufacturing industry in Bangladesh given that we pride ourselves on health and safety within our factories and manufacturing systems. I am pleased to note that since the major outcry, there has been a speedy response and 112 brands and retailers have signed up to the Bangladesh safety accord. This now covers 50% of the factories operating in Bangladesh and has secured the safety of over 2 million garment workers in that country, mainly young women. The power of people and customers and the strength of politicians' voice have been heeded. However, there is one very disappointing feature of that accord. A very significant Irish-owned company operating in Ireland - Dunnes Stores - continues to ignore the calls of consumers, campaigners, public representatives and its own customers and has not signed up to the Bangladesh safety accord. Why is a reputable company and major employer not signing up to this accord? I ask every Member of Seanad Éireann to put pressure on Dunnes Stores to sign up to this accord, which is in the interest of poorly paid employees and ensures they are safe and have a living wage. It is most important that a company that is well regarded and strongly supported by the Irish people should sign up to this accord as a matter of urgency.

A probably apocryphal story is told about a country which had been decolonised following a long association with the United Kngdom and decided as a symbol of its independence that it would move from having all the traffic driving on the left British-style to driving on the right as happens in most other countries in the world. Having had a high-level bureaucratic and civil service analysis of the implications of this, they came to the conclusion that the shock of doing it might be too great and that initially it should only apply to trucks, buses and heavy vehicles.

I sometimes think the same philosophy is being applied in our attempt to reform the health service. The reality is that we are moving towards a model of complete independence for the health service from the bureaucracy of the HSE and the Department of Health if the programme for Government agreed by the two Government parties is initiated. If we move to a system where everything is based on insurance, I hope mostly but not exclusively not-for-profit social insurance, there will be a market of hospitals competing against each other, some of which are publicly owned, some of which are owned by charities like universities or perhaps professional associations and some of which will be owned by for-profit companies. My hope is that most of them will be owned by not-for-profit companies. As part of that, there will be a move from the current beauty contest used by the Department of Health in deciding where the funding goes to one based on productivity. Institutions that are good and high-quality and which attract more patients - patients who will have absolutely equal access based on a single-tier, freely negotiable insurance instrument which is equal in its access but not equal in its premium because rich people will pay more than poor people - will end up doing better because they will attract more business. With appropriate policing to prevent doctors from over-diagnosing, over-testing and price gouging and institutions from profiteering, the system can work. It is the German system, which works very well.

We must understand the - I guess the more polite word is half-baked - attempt to move us gradually towards a reform of the health service is like the country that is putting some of the traffic on the left and some of it on the right. We have a system right now where some hospitals are entirely funded by the State but act entirely independently in terms of their management and board structures. This is the ultimate reason that we have had this understandable reaction to the disclosures concerning the top up of executives' pay. We have in-built inconsistencies because these hospitals have their hands completely on public money but still have entire independence to appoint not only their boards, which are uninterrupted by freedom of information and are not appointed by Governments, but their research committees and entire management structure as they see fit. While we are looking at reforming our health system, we must have a very critical look in the short term at the board structure of hospitals, who appoints them, how answerable they are, who they are responsible to and how they make decisions without being answerable to anyone. Clearly, these were board-level decisions to top up these salaries. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Health to visit the House to clarify this and to tell us if he has any remedial action to suggest.

I did not have the opportunity to do so yesterday, but I extend my good wishes to my great colleague and friend, Senator Jimmy Harte, and to wish him a speedy recovery. Many tributes were paid to him yesterday. He has contributed so much to this House and is such a popular figure that I think we all wish him a very speedy recovery.

I also welcome the announcement of the first State visit by an Irish President to the United Kingdom in April 2014. I look forward to discussing many aspects of this visit in the House in the coming months.

I second and concur completely with the views expressed by Senator Tony Mulcahy on the need for a debate on section 38 funding.

The Senator and I have worked on this matter during the past two years, and we have been astounded by some of the answers we received when we tried to inquire into funding, accounts and the money's destination. All of our salaries are public knowledge. It is only right and fair that we should debate the issue. We should be entitled to a breakdown of CEOs' salaries, particularly given yesterday's news about the top-ups to the top managers at some hospitals. During the past year, I told the House about my experience with one of my children at Crumlin hospital. The parents' quarters were in an appalling condition. So much could be done. Like Senator Tony Mulcahy, I am requesting a debate on this issue of value for money. Services such as respite care, catering, physiotherapy and occupational therapy are being cut. Let us examine what we are getting for our money.

Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an rún atá curtha chun tosaigh ag an Seanadóir Denis O'Donovan i dtaca le cúrsaí iascaireachta agus na deacrachtaí atá ag iascairí na tíre seo, go háirithe iad siúd a bhíonn ag díriú ar iasc geal. I support Senator Denis O'Donovan's comments on the fisheries sector's difficulties. We have debated the Common Fisheries Policy, but it does not address many of the issues surrounding quotas. It is dreadful to think foreign fishing vessels can enter our waters and catch a fish species when our boats cannot and are tied up due to quota restrictions. The Minister must do something. He cannot continue to blame the European Union. There must be bilateral agreements or a mechanism through which our boats can continue to fish when the species are present. I hope Senator Denis O'Donovan's amendment will be accepted.

An féidir leis an gCeannaire díospóireacht a eagrú ar an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge? Is beag dul chun cinn atá déanta i dtaca leis an straitéis sin. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh an tAire Stáit ar fáil anseo sa Teach chun an ábhar seo - an easpa dul chun cinn i dtaobh an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge - a phlé go mion.

Senator Tony Mulcahy and others raised the issue of the €3.4 billion in funding for NGOs. Since every other sector of society has taken a reduction in the current economic climate, we must review and debate this situation. We should examine strategically funding for NGOs, given its substantial level.

A similar issue is that of top-up funding for public servants, including hospital consultants and managers. It is not exclusive to them, though, as ministerial advisers have been given top-ups also. The public lacks faith. Visitors to local hospitals try to purchase goods in their shops or pay car parking charges so as to support them. Now we are finding out that money is going to subvent salaries. It is unacceptable. We need to know what level of knowledge the Government had of these top-ups.

I missed the Order of Business yesterday due to a meeting in the Houses. I pay my best wishes to our colleague, Senator Jimmy Harte, following his tragic circumstances. We wish him a speedy recovery. He is a good colleague and it is a difficult time for him, his wife, Mary, and their family. He is in our thoughts and our prayers.

I welcome Jody Blake back. It is great to see her and I wish her well. She will keep us all in check.

I will be brief. I join Senator Denis O'Donovan's call for an urgent debate on the prices achieved by the fishing industry. If the Leader cannot accommodate such a debate today, perhaps he will be able to do so tomorrow.

I commend the Leader for acceding to my colleague, Senator Thomas Byrne's request for a postponement of the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 until next week so as to facilitate colleagues in briefing themselves on that complex legislation.

It is unfortunate that the statements by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, have needed to be postponed. I ask the Leader to arrange for that important and necessary debate as soon as possible.

Will the Leader invite the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to the House to discuss her plans regarding the demolition of so-called ghost estates? I understand the initial estimate was approximately 40 estates, but there are hundreds of such estates the length and breadth of the country.

I take the opportunity to congratulate Gráinne Smith of Butlersbridge in County Cavan who was named the Intermediate Player's Player of the Year. I wish her well in the future.

The acting Leader of the Opposition, Senator Denis O'Donovan, as well as Senator Paul Coghlan and several other Members, raised the issue of fishing quotas, an issue to which I referred yesterday on the Order of Business. Following last year's negotiations, many people, including Senators on the other side of the House, lauded the Minister. Significant progress was made. However, the fishing industry has been suffering because of a lack of quotas for the past 40 years. A comprehensive meeting of EU industry stakeholders on mackerel quotas is under way in Clonakilty in Senator Denis O'Donovan's constituency. Actually, I do not know whether it is happening this week or next week, but the international mackerel industry is worth more than €1 billion. That said, the Seanad is overdue a debate on the issue. I have asked the Minister to attend today, but as I have not received a response, it is unlikely that I will be able to arrange it now. I have also asked him about attending tomorrow, but it is short notice. If we can manage it, we will. I will try to arrange a debate as soon as possible.

Regarding Kilmore Quay, the Senator is aware that all matters relating to the operational enforcement of sea fisheries law are appropriate to the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, which I understand is in contact with the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning some issues pertaining to the situation at Kilmore Quay. The SFPA acts as an independent law enforcement agency of the State and it would be inappropriate for me or anyone else to comment on law enforcement issues that may be the subject of legal proceedings in due course. However, that is a side issue. The Senator is seeking a debate on the fishing industry which I will try to arrange. It is not for the lack of asking the Minister, but in fairness to him, he has attended the House several times to address agricultural and fisheries issues. I will try to bring him back to facilitate the Senator and everyone else who asked for this debate, but I cannot accede to the request to amend the Order of Business to that effect.

Among others, Senators Ivana Bacik, David Norris, Mark Daly, Paul Coghlan and Labhrás Ó Murchú referred to the remarks made by the Northern Ireland Attorney General. Constructive points have been made by all Senators. This is what the Order of Business should always be. I noted Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú's point on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and if the House can be of assistance, it should be.

We are overdue a debate on Northern Ireland in the House. I will ask the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach to attend to address that important issue.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout referred to the EU justice debate. It is regrettable that it has been postponed on two occasions, but I am sure we will find another date in early course with the Minister. I note the Senator's request for a debate on alcohol, including sponsorship of sports events by alcohol companies. I also note her point on legislation to ban smoking in cars which was introduced by Members of this House. As I pointed out yesterday, the Department of Health is seeking legal advice on one outstanding issue and will bring the Bill back. I agree with Members that it is unacceptable, given that the Bill was brought before the House almost two years ago, that it should take so long to get that advice, if there is one outstanding legal issue. It is simple but effective legislation to deal with an important item and it should have been brought before the House before now. I have brought the matter to the attention of the Minister and his departmental officials. It never ceases to amaze me how matters can be delayed for so long in the ether.

I note Senator David Norris's points on the Seanad being an equal legislative part of the Oireachtas under the Constitution.

Senator Colm Burke mentioned the treatment of the Joint Committee on Health and Children by the HSE concerning questions posed to it. The answers to the questions are now coming out because of media requests. It is unacceptable that Members of this or the other House should not receive answers to questions when they are available. I will assist the Senator in any way I can in resolving that matter which should not have arisen.

I have noted Senator Mark Daly's points on Northern Ireland and the murder triangle. This was an issue not alone in the book he mentioned by Anne Cadwallader but was also addressed comprehensively in the Barron report.

Senator Martin Conway has notified the House that there will be an information seminar in the committee rooms today on the subject of the undocumented Irish. The Senator also referred to the plain packaging of cigarettes. This matter has been raised by Senator John Crown and other Senators who have outlined that there will be strong lobbying by the tobacco industry. However, they complimented the Cabinet on agreeing to proceed with the legislation. I hope we can debate the issue before the legislation is introduced, but if the Bill is due to be published early, that may not be necessary.

Senator Katherine Zappone welcomed the briefing note on the family relationships Bill from the Minister for Justice and Equality. I will inquire for her when the legislation is due for publication.

As regards proposals from the Taoiseach on Seanad reform, we have not yet had a meeting with the leaders, but I hope we will do so soon. I understand a number of people in the Department of the Taoiseach are working on the issue of Seanad reform, but we will await the Taoiseach calling the leaders together to see what the proposals contain.

Senator Paul Coghlan wished the US envoy, Mr. Richard Haass, well in his deliberations in Northern Ireland. I am sure we all hope the negotiations will go well.

Senator Sean D. Barrett referred to the settlement by J. P. Morgan in the United States. This indicates the lack of progress made in reaching settlements here and bringing people to account. Whether it is the fault of the legal system or otherwise, it is unacceptable. The case was brought in the United States in September and there was a settlement in November, which points to the inadequacies in our system. I will try to arrange a debate on white collar crime with the relevant Minister. The same debate was requested yesterday by Senator Catherine Noone.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe mentioned the chief inspector's report on schools, which is an important one. I know that the Senator has asked the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House to debate it and I am sure he will do so in the near future.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh referred to the Northern Ireland First Minister and Deputy First Minister. I have made exhaustive requests to have them come here and it would be wonderful if they could address the Seanad. I will continue to make representations in that regard, but the matter is outside my control.

A Vision for Change deals with an important subject. I will request one of the Ministers at the Department of Health to attend the House to address the matter.

Senators Tony Mulcahy and Mary Ann Moran referred to the funding of section 38 bodies in the health service. They have referred to the salaries the CEOs of NGOs in the disability and charity sectors receive. The salaries highlighted appear to be excessive and it is said many more have not yet been highlighted. The Senators also questioned the role of advocacy groups and their funding. This is something we need to discuss at length when we can get the Minister for Health or one of the Ministers of State at his Department to address the matter.

Senators Michael Mullins and John Crown spoke about top-up payments to senior people in hospitals. Senator Michael Mullins also referred to the safety accord for Bangladesh. It surprises me that not all companies in Ireland have signed up to that accord which tries to secure the safety of poor people on low incomes. All companies should be encouraged to sign up to it.

Senator John Crown made a good contribution on reform of the health service, including the inherent, inbuilt inconsistencies in the HSE. He called for a discussion on the accountability of boards. We could listen to the Senator on that issue for much longer than a minute or two on the Order of Business.

I have time now, if the Leader would like me to speak.

I look forward to that happening at the appropriate time.

I note Senator Mary Ann Moran's points on the funding of section 38 bodies, a matter she has raised on several occasions. With other Members, she also extended her good wishes to our colleague, Senator Jimmy Harte, who I am sure will be back with us soon and continue to win matches, as was said yesterday.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill talked about Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Dinny McGinley, to attend the House to discuss that matter again.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson referred to ghost estates and called on the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to address the House on the matter.

A number of Senators yesterday requested a debate on it. I have made the request to the Minister of State who I am sure will be with us soon to debate it.

Senator Denis O'Donovan has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Minister with responsibility for fisheries on the quota system for the fishing industry and the negative effects it has on the livelihoods of fishermen be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 27.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.


  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan.
Amendment declared lost.
Question, "That the Order of Business be agreed to," put and declared carried.