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.