Finance (No. 2) Bill 2013: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages

SECTION 7
Question again proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill."

The purpose of Senator Kathryn Reilly's recommendation is to suspend the application of this measure until the Minister signs a commencement order and that the Minister would not be enabled to sign such a commencement order until a report examining the effects of the proposed arrangement was prepared and laid before the Dáil. If I were to accept that recommendation, the proposal would not take effect in the next calendar year and the budgetary arithmetic would be out by the amount of the yield from the measure - €18 million 2014.

We have a report on this issue which was prepared by the Commission on Taxation. The commission consulted widely and received thousands of representations from all interest groups and individuals about all aspects of the tax code and the recommendations it had made. We are not operating at random but as a result of a recommendation from the commission in its report in 2009. With one exception, its recommendation was to have a single tax credit simpliciter paid to the primary carer, as the commission called it. I accepted Senator Jim D'Arcy's advice and amended the section in the Dáil in order that in circumstances where the primary carer would not have an income to enable him or her to avail of the tax credit, it could be yielded to the other parent. That goes beyond the recommendation made by the Commission on Taxation and it was a very good proposal made by Senator Jim D'Arcy.

Because of the very strong advocacy by Senator Darragh O'Brien, it is similar to previous inputs to the debate. It would be a very compelling set of arguments if there were tax credits applied across all families and if all children had tax credits, but they do not. Couples living together, either cohabiting or married, who have children do not receive tax credits under the tax code. The Senator is asking me to provide two tax credits in respect of certain children. I understand the argument and I am prepared to provide one in the circumstances I have outlined, but I am not prepared to provide two. That is the adjustment being made. It is fair when one takes account of the fact, which I repeat, that there is no tax credit for children in families where the parents are living together. That is the reason I am not accepting the argument.

We can draw on the experiences of other countries. The details of the Dutch example are quite revealing because it has a good record on social policy issues. In Canada there is only one tax credit along the lines I am proposing and if there is a dispute about who should receive it, nobody receives it under the law. It is to incentivise couples to come to amicable agreements rather than being compelled to do so by the law. There are different ways of doing things and different countries have different approaches. Canada also has a good record on social policy and child care issues.

The making of the commencement order simply stops the thing from happening for at least 12 months. The time to receive a report is when the provision is implemented in order that we can see how it is working. Without the measure being implemented, there is nothing a report can tell us that we do not know already and which has not been the subject of this debate. It will be a matter of opinion. If the 100 day issue creates practical difficulties, I give a commitment that I will return to the Houses of the Oireachtas and remediate whatever difficulty emerges.

To clarify, I have not argued for the status quo; none of us has. We all recognise that changes and reform are required in this area. I am not asking the Minister to continue the double credit but simply to allow the credit to be shared in some cases, as happens in Holland and which could be done here. The Minister is partially allowing it where somebody cannot claim the full credit. If he or she is not working, he or she cannot claim the tax credit. However, in other instances there are residual amounts or there is an agreement that it is split 50:50. Many parenting agreements are now 50:50 and, thankfully, in recent times parents have stepped up to the mark to share the responsibility. Therefore, they should be able to share the credit. That is our view.

I am not arguing to retain the status quo. However, given the budgetary pressures on the Minister, the difficult Department he must deal with and the difficult juggling act in which he must engage with the figures every year to try to balance and present his budget, this is purely a financial measure which the Department has not thought through in terms of the social consequences. The Minister could save money by reforming it, in which I would support him. That is the point. I am not asking him to retain the system as it is; neither I nor my colleagues have argued for this.

If a couple are in the situation where sharing gives a better result for both of them, there is nothing in law to stop them from making an arrangement where they both benefit. Obviously whoever has the higher taxable income takes the credit and pays additional moneys to the person who does not. There is nothing to stop that happening and people can amicably make the arrangement. On the other hand, anybody losing their credit and, therefore, having adjusted income down, is entitled to get a maintenance order adjusted to reflect the new circumstances if one wants to go the legal route.

It is the responsibility of parents to provide for their children. The origins of this particular tax credit was to enable persons, who were inhibited from returning to work by the costs of maintaining children to do so, in circumstances where the burden of caring for a child rested on the shoulders of one person rather than two parents. A lot of the time it was used for child care rather than anything else.

That is the best we can do in these circumstances. I am not going to defer it for a theoretic debate. I am, of course, prepared to review it because we review everything we do in tax. If there is a difficulty and it is not working as we intended, in respect of the 100 day issue, then I shall come back in.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 17.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Averil Power and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 8

I move recommendation No. 10:

In page 22, line 23, after “proportionately.” to insert the following:

“The amounts referred to above shall increase annually in line with medical inflation as measured by the consumer price index published by the CSO.”.

Section 8 amends the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to bring in new limits on the levels of insurance premiums where tax relief can be granted. This amounts to €1,000 per adult and €500 per child. On Second Stage, we had a long discussion with the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes. He batted admirably for the Minister for Finance but he still could not convince me that this was something that would affect only gold-plated plans. He accused me of quoting the Minister for Finance out of context.

Yes, I never said that.

That is the spin coming out of Government Buildings.

I never said it.

I think it was in there somewhere. The Minister of State, Deputy Hayes, stood up for the Minister for Finance so he is watching Deputy Noonan's back. He did what he was told yesterday.

We trenchantly oppose section 8. The amendment softens the blow by suggesting the amounts referred to shall increase annually in line with medical inflation as measured by the consumer price index published by the Central Statistics Office. The Minister's limits are €1,000 per adult and €500 per child and we suggest that each year it should be allowed to increase in line with medical inflation. That does not mean we support the restriction in the section, which amends section 40 of the Taxes Consolidation Act. The Department provided figures yesterday suggesting only 47% of policies are affected. The bottom line is that the policies of the wealthy are being affected but the vast majority of people lobbying the Department and Members are those with normal plans, the equivalent of VHI plan B. Generally speaking, they are people from the age of 50 upwards and they will find it difficult to find another insurer. There have been significant increases in net premia on the basis of the reduction in tax relief.

It is the worst possible time for the Government to do this when the private health insurance sector is in crisis. Tens of thousands of people have left the market, most of whom are young healthy people and this further increases the premia. There is also been a change in stamp duty on the risk equalisation and it will further increase premia. The Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, has introduced a charge for someone like me, a taxpayer who just happens to have private health insurance, for something I do not receive. If I go to a public hospital, I will be charged €800 per night where the public patients will be charged €80 per night. This is being done by the Minister for Health rather than the Minister for Finance. It means public hospitals will cherrypick and prefer someone who they can take in at €800 per night to someone they can take in at €80 per night. More and more people will leave private health insurance. People are still struggling to pay but they make a family decision to have protection in place. The amendment suggests that while we do not agree with the reduced amount of €1,000 and €500, the Minister should increase the amounts in line with medical inflation as measured by the consumer price index.

I listened to the speech of the Minister for Finance with more than the usual level of attention when he was speaking in the Dáil. In regard to income tax, he said, "This will restrict the exposure of the Exchequer on premiums paid for gold-plated medical insurance policies". I support my colleague Senator Darragh O'Brien.

Senator Hayden should quote the full paragraph.

Would the Minister like me to?

Yes, because I am being misquoted. Senator Hayden should quote the full paragraph.

It states:

In relation to medical insurance relief, I have decided to cap the amount of premium on which tax relief will be available to €1,000 per adult and €500 per child. This will restrict the exposure of the Exchequer on premiums paid for gold-plated medical insurance policies, while not affecting the majority of individuals who avail of more standard levels of medical cover.

I am not arguing with the Minister that it was not a fair comment.

That is not what is being quoted.

That is not what is being quoted.

That is not why I rose. Clearly, in the fullness of time when this Government rolls out its programme for Government in regard to free GP care and so forth, it is my hope that we will be well on the way to a medical system where people do not fear the annual increases in their medical insurance premiums because they will not need them. However, I accept we are not in that position yet and I have some sympathy with where the Senator is coming from.

I am particularly conscious of the fact that many older people are very nervous and concerned about the cost of medical care. To be fair, a number of people do not believe they will be adequately taken care of under the public health system and feel they must have private medical care to protect themselves. I have some sympathy with what the Senator proposes in this recommendation but I do not think it is practical or even relevant to the cost of medical insurance. The consumer price index does not reflect medical insurance premiums.

That is not what I mean. The Senator would want to read it again. I referred to medical inflation.

Senator Hayden, without interruption.

In any event, what I was going to propose was that the Minister - I do not think he can do it in this Bill - keep a basket of medical insurance premiums under review to ensure the limits reflect gold plated policies, or call them whatever one likes, rather than the policies many people believe they need to protect themselves in the current environment have. It may not be something that can be enshrined in law but I suggest the Minister's officials keep the three principal medical insurers and the policies they offer under review so that the limits reflect what could be regarded as standard policies per se.

The consumer price index shows the cost of medical insurance and it increased by 86% in the past four years. There seems to be no control of costs in private medical insurance and much of the time it is a transfer from the consumer, who pays the premium, to the company which transfers it on to settle the bills of consultants and private hospitals. By capping it at €1,000 per adult and €500 per child, those on the lower cost policies are fully protected in respect of their tax credit and those above that point lose 20% of the tax credit because the tax credit is not at the marginal rate of tax but at the standard rate of tax, which is 20%. If a single person has a premium of €1,200, the cost of the measure to them is one fifth of €200. If it is capped at €1,000, so it is €200 at the standard rate of tax, which is €40.

The point I am making is that the real exposure of the Exchequer is from the gold plated policies. If I was explaining it again, I would not have used that expression because it gave ammunition to my opponents but it happens to be true that the exposure is from the very expensive policies. Of course, they will pay more. I have been advised by members of all parties that budgets should be progressive and that those who can afford to pay should be the people who have the impositions placed on them. Let us examine the measure on the grounds of progressivity or regressivity. Only 44% of taxpayers have private health insurance, so the proposition not to do this is that 56% of taxpayers should subsidise 44% of them. That is not progressive. When one puts into the mix the fact the cap is at €1,000 and that anybody who has insurance of less than €1,000 per adult and €500 per child is not affected at all by this measure, one can see that it is a progressive and a targeted measure.

It is the second most expensive tax credit in the tax code. In 2013, the taxpayer will subsidise personal medical insurance to the tune of €0.5 billion and Revenue has estimated that if we allow it proceed as it is proceeding, the subsidy will rise to €1 billion in 2020. I cannot justify that when people on very low incomes who buy a few household goods or a packet of cigarettes or have a pint are effectively subsidising the higher income people who have costly medical insurance policies to that extent.

I believe private insurance is a good thing. I am an advocate of private health insurance but somebody had better do something about the costs. It rests with the companies in the first instance. I cannot see why the extravagant bills being presented to the insurers are always honoured, much of the time without their being checked. I ask the medical insurers to control their costs because astronomical amounts of money are being paid and much of the time for limited enough medical interventions. That is the argument I would put forward.

If the Senator requires additional information, he can see how it progresses. The credit cost €404 million in 2011, €448 million in 2012, €500 million in 2013 and it is projected to cost €1 billion in 2020. The credit is not being removed; it is simply being capped. The Senators can do the sums themselves. If somebody is paying €1,500, he or she will pay an extra €100. He or she will get the credit up to €1,000 and then it is one fifth of the balance above that. I know some people who have very high cost medical insurance will pay a lot. If one is paying €3,000, it is capped at €1,000, so it is one fifth of €2,000, which is a good bit of money. It is an extra €400. I would assume that if one was paying €3,000 for one's medical insurance, one could afford it. I do not see why there should be a transfer of resources from people who are relying totally on public health, which is 56% of the population, to the top tranche of the 44% who are availing of medical insurance. Those are the arguments.

There is a context also. We had a very difficult budget where a lot of tax had to be raised. It is a series of bad choices. One would like to be in a position where one did not have to raise taxes, and I hope we will get back to that before too long. In terms of raising taxes, we have to be fair and put the burden on the people who can best bear it and eliminate tax credits which are no longer necessary. One could object to any one of them but when one lines them up against the other choices available to raise the same amount of money, one would return to these kinds of choices. At least it is a progressive measure. I thank those who have supported this measure and I commend it again to the House.

I diverted from the recommendation and spoke about the section. What is the Minister's view on the actual recommendation that he would effectively index link the tax credit in line with medical inflation? I do not mean purely medical health insurance premiums; I am talking about medical costs. That can be done because it is in the basket for inflation. This would be a way to recognise the fact that all medical costs have gone up. I agree with the Minister that the private health insurance companies need to look at their own costs and charges. However, pressure is being put on that sector by the Minister for Health as a result of a number of initiatives he has taken, including further increasing the stamp duty and the additional charges for beds and so on.

If it continues like this, with no certainty in the market, providers will leave. Medical health insurance companies will be put out of this country. We will be then left with the VHI.

I have no idea where the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, is going with his universal health care plans. No-one knows. I have consistently asked for debates on that issue in the House. If this could be put in the context of the Minister's plan, it might be possible to argue that we do not need private health insurers in the long run but it is not clear to me what he intends to do. The bottom line is that we can argue about figures as much as we like but a sizeable chunk of the population have been negatively affected by this measure. I expect it to be counterproductive in the sense that it will push a lot of people out of private health insurance.

To pull back from the section and deal specifically with the recommendation, does the Minister accept that there is some validity in it? Will he consider it?

I support section 8 and did so on the night of the budget. This is a subsidy which members of the Houses of the Oireachtas intended to be for sick people but it has been transformed into a provider subsidy, as the Minister has just described. I fear that the same thing has happened with pension subsidies. It is the industry which benefits and not the consumer, the intended beneficiary. The figure provided by the Minister of an 86% increase in four years is astounding. Apropos of the recommendation from Senator O'Brien, data from the Brookings Institution indicates that medical inflation in the United States is finally coming in below consumer price inflation. The United States has traditionally had the highest medical costs in the world, equating to 17% of gross national income. Our rate of 11% probably puts us second, or very close to it, on the list. The Minister is right to ask the awkward questions about what this subsidy is for.

I have mentioned the 2010 Milliman report on private health insurance in Ireland in this House previously. That report found a limited focus on investing in ways to manage claims, regardless of the risk profile of the population or the need to limit inappropriate treatment with no proven medical benefit. What are subsidising here? The Minister is right to ask value-for-money questions. The Department of Health must have a stronger focus on the sector because we cannot continue with 85% increases in four years. The aforementioned report also found that there is considerable opportunity to reduce utilisation through avoiding unnecessary admissions and reducing the length of stay. The report contains data on the average length of stay for inpatient admissions. In Ireland, the average is 10.6 days while best international practice is 3.7 days. Senator O'Brien has already referred to the charge of €800 per night for seven unnecessary days in hospital. Page 37 of the Milliman report refers to the fact that attempts to reduce the average length of stay for inpatients have run into "push back" from medical consultants.

This is not gold-plating. These guys are solid gold the whole way through. They do not plate the ornaments. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that we decide that we are only accepting 3.7 days and are not going to pay for 10.6 days. That would be one way to tackle the problem as opposed to the method opted for in the budget. My recommendation was judged to be outside the scope of the Bill but in it I was trying to increase the Minister's chances of being able to do it, if HIQA gives us references for length of stay and appropriateness of treatments.

Senator Burke wins the Peter Mathews prize for advocacy on the question of the cost of drugs. That is one of his leading topics. Newspapers today are reporting that some drugs here cost more than twice the reference rate in Spain. In some instances, our drugs cost 90% more than elsewhere. We are trying to help sick people here but it looks like a tax break for tax payers is benefiting the insurers rather than sick people. In terms of recommendations to try to stop the cost going from €0.5 billion to €1 billion, some reference point is required so that we can judge whether treatments are unnecessary or excessively expensive and would not meet the qualifications set by Milliman. Mr. Pat Mc Loughlin is preparing a report on this area for the Department. He has already submitted a report on cost-saving in local government. We must confront this issue head on. This is a tax break that has ended up benefitting seriously rich people in this country and not sick people. I believe the Minister is right to tackle it. As long as a tax break continues, we must deal with average length of stay, the cost of drugs and the appropriateness of medical procedures. We must figure out why we pay so much more than the Spanish for our drugs and why we have such high levels of unnecessary hospitalisation for excessively long periods and why the bill for all of this-----

The Senator is moving away from the scope of the recommendation now.

-----ends up on the desk of the Minister for Finance. Next year the section might need to be even stronger.

If the current rate of inflation continues into next year, we will go over the 100% mark, equating to a doubling in a five year period. The costs are doubling and the tax break is available which is why we are moving from hundreds of millions to a figure of €1 billion by 2016. The people on the other side of the House who are criticising the Government for bringing in the types of budgets we have introduced in recent years will also be decrying the continuation of these types of tax breaks. When costs go beyond a point that is reasonable, we must do something. That is why we are here.

I thank all of the Senators for their contributions. On Senator O'Brien's precise question about indexation of this new measure, I would be opposed to that because I want to keep control of the cost of tax credits in the hands of the Minister for Finance of the day. I do not want to index this because that would transfer the control of costs totally to the companies and they would just keep ratcheting them up.

A number of assertions were made in the debate which are not factually correct. One is that everybody will give up their health insurance as a result of this measure. Health insurance is very inelastic and does not respond very much to price rises. Despite the fact that prices went up by 86% in the past four years, the number of those insured dropped by only 7.5%. That was mostly due to the recession and people losing their jobs. It is quite an inelastic product and does not respond to price changes very quickly.

Despite the fact that costs have gone up so much, two of the insurance companies, Aviva and Laya Healthcare, have both indicated that they are going to increase their prices by approximately 5% from the start of next year. All of the health insurance companies operating here are profitable. Laya Healthcare is now the second largest insurer and made profits of almost €5 million last year. It has increased membership by 5.5%, from 450,000 to 475,000. VHI recorded an after-tax surplus of €54.3 million last year. However, when once-off credits are excluded, the remaining surplus was €16.1 million for the year. The insurer recorded a €7.2 million loss on its core health insurance business but this was offset by profits made in its dental, travel and international business. Premium income was up by 9% to €1.43 billion, as rising individual premiums more than made up for the 50,000 fall in customer numbers. It was reported earlier this year that Aviva had made an operating profit of approximately €28 million in the first six months of 2013 in Ireland. This was more than double the profits from the same period last year. These figures relate to Aviva's life and general insurance business but are not further broken down to allow examination of profits achieved from its medical insurance offering.

Companies have to make a profit so that they can continue in business.

I am not one of those advocates who object to profitable companies. I need to control the costs of the subsidies for medical insurance, which are being paid by the taxpayer. I think medical costs have gone out of hand and must be controlled. The insurers are in the best position to control them. It is not sufficient for insurance companies to pay consultant fees, which seem high, and when they run short of money raise the premiums at the end of the year. We cannot continue on that basis. I know health insurance is an inelastic product and the companies feel they will maintain their customer base. I ask health insurance companies to control the costs by putting more pressure on the service providers and not automatically pay the bills when they receive them. I advise policyholders to look again at the multiplicity of insurance policies that are now on offer across the companies and see if they can get the same cover for less. A number of constituents have told me that when they examined policies across the companies they were able to get the same for significantly less.

I will now respond to the point made by Senator Barrett. I like to give certainty on policy so I will not be revisiting this next year. As long as I am the Minister for Finance, the cap on tax relief for health insurance will be €1,000 per adult and €500 per child. I need to give certainty to the industry.

Recommendation, by leave, withdrawn.

Recommendation No. 11 in the name of Senator Sean D. Barrett is ruled out of order. It is outside the scope of the Bill.

Recommendation No. 11 not moved.
Question put: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 10.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Averil Power and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 9

Recommendation No. 12, in the names of Senators Darragh O'Brien and Thomas Byrne and the other Fianna Fáil Senators, is ruled out of order.

It is ruled out of order because it involves a potential charge on the people. As it is now 3.45 p.m.-----

-----I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Seanad of this day: "That in respect of each of the sections undisposed of-----

On a point of order-----

-----that the section is hereby agreed to in Committee, that the Schedule and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee-----

-----this Government promised that there would be proper oversight of legislation.

-----that the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without recommendation-----

Instead, it is guillotining the Finance Bill before we have seen all the recommendations.

-----that Fourth Stage is hereby completed, that the Bill is hereby received for final consideration and that the Bill is hereby returned to the Dáil."

We have only reached section 9.

Question put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

On a point of order, there is a very serious constitutional issue here today.

There is no point of order.

We have got through just nine of the 84 sections in the most important Bill of the year. The Bill has been guillotined without debate, which is not what the public voted for in the referendum.

A walk-through vote has been called.

Question put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 16.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Averil Power and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.

I welcome the transition year students from Balla, County Mayo, to the public Gallery.

It must be a very special county.