Order of Business

I wish the Cathaoirleach and all other Members a very happy new year. The Order of Business is No. 1, Local Government Reform Bill 2013 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 9 p.m.

I thank the Leader for his good wishes. I wish all my colleagues a happy new year and look forward to a very productive session in 2014.

Two committees are questioning Irish Water in detail. It is appropriate that be done in the committees. A question that needs to be answered in respect of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, is that he said he did not micromanage any aspect of his Department. I do not think €180 million is a small amount of money. An example of what he and the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, have done is that they have literally thrown Mr. John Tierney and senior officials in Irish Water under the bus. The Minister, who will be in the House this afternoon, has many questions to answer. We debated the Water Services (No. 2) Bill in great detail here, for which I commend the Leader. That is one thing the other House did not do. These are very serious issues. People are extremely annoyed about what they are hearing. The lack of governance within the Departments appears to be at the crux of the issue. Irish Water passed all details to the Minister and his Department. As they were signed off on and approved, let us not fool anybody about who is responsible. The Minister is responsible. At the appropriate time, when the Committee of Public Accounts and the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht have finished their deliberations we should have a debate on the specific issues around cost and the roll-out of metering.

I ask the Leader to request the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to come to the House at the earliest possible opportunity. I had more regard for the Minister of State and her Department than I do now. On 31 December they issued a circular to all local authorities stating the housing adaptation grants, housing aid for older people and mobility aids grants were being cut.

Let me outline some facts and we will cut through all the Government spin and bull that we have been listening to in recent weeks. These cuts were not announced in the budget or by the Minister of State. She should have come into the Dáil and the Seanad and set out her reasoning for this, but she did not. The circular was sent to local authorities on New Year's Eve. If that is not trying to sneak something in under the radar I do not know what is.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I want the Leader to give a commitment that the Minister of State will come to the House at the earliest possible opportunity to answer questions on the issue because the Government press office and the spin doctors within Government have managed to say the mobility grant is being increased next year.

That is a laugh. One should take a look at the figures. When the Government took over in 2011, €80 million was being spent on housing adaptation grants for the elderly and the disabled.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader? He is eating into other Senators' time.

I am trying to inform some of the Members and will conclude on this. Some €80 million was being spent in 2011. The Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, said on radio that the grant was actually being increased and that the criteria were not really being changed but being made more focused. That is absolute rubbish. The Government has halved the amount of money allocated to local authorities, whether Members opposite like it. I have all of the figures for each county to hand. The Government has also made it far more difficult for people to avail of the grant and this has increased the amount the elderly and the disabled must pay towards the adaptation of their housing. Perhaps the Leader might state why the Minister of State did not appear before the Dáil or the Seanad to announce these measures. Why was it left until New Year's Eve for a faceless official in her Department to send a circular to every local authority in the country to state the scheme had been changed drastically?

With Senators Maurice Cummins and Darragh O'Brien, I wish all colleagues in the House a happy new year. I hope we will have a productive and fruitful year.

Let me refer to the controversy over Irish Water which has been the subject of considerable public debate. I very much welcome the fact that two Oireachtas committees are examining it and scrutinising the consultancy payments in greater detail. I refer to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Committee of Public Accounts. I hope we can have a debate in this House, perhaps in the coming weeks, once more information is forthcoming through the committee hearings. It is appropriate that the committees conduct hearings and are able to ask the questions before we have a debate on the floor of this House.

With regard to the housing adaptation scheme and the comments made thereon by Senator Darragh O'Brien, I remind him that there is an increase in the allocation for the housing adaptation grant for 2014.

From what did the Government bring it down?

I listened to the Senator. I have the figures for each county also and it is very clear that there has been an increase, of over €4 million. The amount for the budget this year is over €38 million.

What was it in 2010 and 2011?

As the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, has made clear, the purpose of the changes is to ensure maximum value is gained from the funding invested in the programme and that funding is targeted at the most vulnerable. The changes follow from a review conducted by the housing agency. The review is available on the agency's website, housing.ie. There has been a good deal of misinformation and scaremongering about this issue. It is important that those concerned about the matter examine the facts, the results of the housing review that took place and the new criteria. Detailed guidance for local authorities is to be issued in the coming weeks. The guidance will draw attention to the flexibility required at local level regarding the grant and it is said no one will be prevented from receiving grant support owing to an inability to pay. We need to be very clear about the facts and the housing adaptation scheme.

I welcome the news that Dublin City Council voted yesterday to reverse the proposed cuts to the homelessness budget. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate in the House with the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, on these issues. We could focus particularly on homelessness. My colleague, Senator Aideen Hayden, has done a lot of work on this issue and been vocal in calling for a debate on homelessness in the House. I am sure the Minister of State will be happy to debate it. It is important that we have the debate with factual information available to us. I have the facts available to me.

I have them also and refer the Senator to the figures from 2010.

Even the Senator cannot dispute the fact that there has been an increase in the allocation.

I absolutely dispute it. That is a lie, actually.

Senator Ivana Bacik to continue, without interruption.

The figures from 2010 and 2011-----

Please, Senator.

The budget allocated in March 2013 was €34.2 million. The initial budget for this year is €38,410,342.

That is the Senator's press office working in overdrive.

By any calculation by any primary school mathematician, that amounts to an increase.

That is rubbish. The Senator should go back one year.

I ask for a debate on homelessness.

I, too, wish everyone a happy new year.

I warmly welcome the establishment of the Child and Family Agency and was surprised to learn this morning that it was to be branded with the new name Tusla, which apparently is a completely new word reflecting a shared desire for a new beginning and forging a new identity. I wonder why we cannot call things what they are. Why must we make up a word in order to brand the agency?

On the Child and Family Agency, the good news is that at the Joint Committee on Health and Children I established with the Minister for Health that no historical deficit will be transferred to the new agency. However, that is where the good news ends. The agency has a budget of €545 million. We established yesterday that the budget does not meet the anticipated costs for 2014 and we are not giving the agency a fighting chance. It has not even got off the starting line. There is an agency that is to herald a new start with a €545 million budget and we are not giving it a fighting chance. In parallel, there is Irish Water where several Ministers and officials have defended, and even supported, the establishment costs which, according to the briefing document of September 2012, are €180 million. Establishment costs are important. The Child and Family Agency got zero for establishment costs. It has no start-up budget. Its funding is not sufficient. No doubt it will have a deficit this year. Are we throwing out the baby with the bath water? I would ask that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs clarify what is the budget, where are our priorities and will we wait until January next year when we will have a furore over what happened in the Child and Family Agency.

I add my new year greetings to those we have heard and wish everybody a productive year working on behalf of those who have elected us and the broader society.

I ask the Leader to bring to the attention of the Minister for Health information which came to my attention, unfortunately, after the HSE service plan meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children yesterday. The information suggested the problem with respect to the waiting list for dermatology appointments is still really critical. While it has been brought under one year in several Dublin centres, I am aware of at least one Dublin centre where it is longer than one year. I am aware of one centre outside Dublin where it is two years. I am aware of another two centres outside Dublin where it has been brought down, but by the recourse of taking patients who are on long-term waiting lists and getting them private appointments in Dublin. Unfortunately, it now transpires that some of these private appointments are with persons who are not on the specialist register. In one other hospital where the waiting list was ten years, it has come down to six years. There is still a big problem which needs addressing.

Second, I ask the Leader if he would bring to the attention of the Minister of Health this document which I have in my possession which shows that a statement made on behalf of the Department of Health before Christmas was based on faulty information which was provided for it. I believe it was a sincere statement by the Department but it was given the wrong information. It states that an independent inquiry had taken place into the fraudulent billing by the administration of St. Vincent's Private Hospital to VHI and other insurance companies for drugs which had, in fact, been supplied to that hospital for free as trial supplies. As it happens, I have here in my hand the contract and the terms of reference for this allegedly independent investigation. The investigation was, in fact, initiated and commissioned by the management of St. Vincent's Private Hospital - the same institution which should have been under investigation. It was paid for by the management of St. Vincent's Private Hospital. Its terms of reference were drawn up by the management of St. Vincent's Private Hospital. Of its seven major headings, it could be argued that six had nothing whatsoever to do with the circumstances of the dishonest billing.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I have asked the Leader to bring this to the Minister's attention. It was stated that this contract between PwC and the management of St. Vincent's Private Hospital - the entity which had done the dishonest billing - would only be made available to the entity whose moneys were taken, that is, VHI, if it had the approval of St. Vincent's Private Hospital. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister if he thinks this satisfied any definition of an independent inquiry and to that end, I will cross the floor and provide the Leader with a copy of it.

Like Senator Darragh O'Brien, I ask that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government come to the House to have a discussion on Irish Water and its establishment, to get information on it and the costs associated which are the subject of committee hearings. It is appropriate that we wait until these committee hearings have finished in order that we have the full information. We should not gloss over the fact the State is spending €1.2 billion in providing water services at present and if we are to move from a system involving 34 local authorities to one entity dealing with water supplies and wastewater, then we need to know where we are going. I support the view that we look at it and prepare reports on where we stand and what investments are needed.

All Members are aware there has been under-investment for many years and I would hate the current controversy or debate surrounding the establishment of Irish Water to lead to any negativity. Bord Gáis Energy has an excellent reputation and experience in dealing with a network that involves customers on an individual basis, which is where its expertise lies. It has a strong track record in that regard and we must get this right because €1.2 billion per year is not to be sneezed at. It is a lot of money. Moreover, it is estimated that by using the existing experience of Bord Gáis, €90 million is being saved through efficiencies. While I welcome the discussion, I would not condemn it as I believe there are some necessary start-up costs. Moreover, Members will get to the background information and a debate will be held in this Chamber on the entire subject of Irish Water. I am sure the Minister would welcome such a debate and an opportunity to tease out the questions that are arising.

I wish the Cathaoirleach and everyone a happy and productive new year. While the gloss and glow from the halo of Members' referendum success still glows brightly, my wish is that they should be productive and work together to ensure this House will be a stronger place by this time next year. Can the Leader apprise Members as to when he hopes to have a debate on rural development or redevelopment? Second, I refer to an issue I have raised a number of times previously. As fresh announcements have been made by the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, when is it likely that Members will have a debate on the issue of CAP reform and Pillar 1 and Pillar 2? The Leader might try to facilitate an early debate on this subject.

My major concern is the plight of those farming communities, particularly in disadvantaged areas, in which, instead of Santa Claus coming for Christmas, the Minister or someone within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has taken huge amounts of money from disadvantaged farmers under the single farm payment scheme. In many instances, the cuts amounted to as much as €5,000 or €6,000. These amounts are substantial for these farmers and the cuts were unilateral, unjust and unfair. Moreover, no notice whatsoever was given. On Monday night I attended a public meeting in Bantry, chaired by a Sinn Féin candidate, to which 500 farmers turned up. Many of these disheartened farmers were expecting the payments before Christmas as they usually were made between October and December. This was money that was needed to pay the feed suppliers, the credit unions and the banks for money the farmers had borrowed during the appallingly difficult spring of last year after a very long winter which lasted until the end of May. Lo and behold, they got their cheques. Some of them received no cheques, while others received cheques reflecting a cut of 30% to 40% to what they were entitled to or deserved. It is an appalling scenario.

As some of the people who attended the meeting were from south Kerry, I note this is widespread in counties Cork and Kerry. I am unsure whether it is widespread throughout the western counties and the north west. However, this is such a severe cut that it will do huge environmental damage. It is not so long since farmers were encouraged to keep their furze breaks, to keep the land preserved for the corncrakes, the birds and the bees and to protect the fauna. However, what will happen next spring when burning is allowed on farmland during the month of March? Incidentally, the period allowed is very short; in Northern Ireland, the burning season lasts until mid-April. Farmers, to compensate for lands that have been taken away from them, will take out their matches and burn all around them. They will take out their diggers and dig away scrub and areas that should be there for preservation. Were Éamon de Buitléar alive, what is happening would have him turning in his grave. It is a serious situation as approximately €50 million has been taken out of the rural economy as a result of these cutbacks.

Does the Senator have a question?

I ask the Leader to try to ensure the Minister will reverse these cuts, if possible. Second, if these cuts cannot be reversed, can some form of moratorium or derogation be given to the farmers concerned to enable them to reconsider what is happening? The reason this has happened is this eye from Mars or the eye in the sky has come out and taken photographs from many miles up. It is being stated people have a certain amount of farmland and are over-claiming. This is a furtive and devious way to do that and it is unfair to the farming community. The matter is so serious that I propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I ask that the Minister or the Minister of State responsible for this area come into the Chamber today for an urgent debate for one hour to give answers to the very depressed farmers - some of whom are suicidal - who were left without money for the Christmas period and who are facing a bleak spring.

I thank and pay tribute to members of the emergency services, particularly ESB, eircom and council workers, who worked outdoors in terrible weather conditions throughout the Christmas period while the rest of us were by our firesides.

A serious and worrying development occurred at the Liebherr crane factory in Killarney last night when workers at the plant voted to reject Labour Court proposals to resolve an ongoing dispute with management. I am a strong advocate of workers' rights who believes workers should share in company profits. I ask both sides in this dispute to compromise. The Liebherr factory, which is more than 55 years old, is the largest industrial employer in County Kerry, with more than 670 employees. It also outsources work to many other companies. This morning, I wrote an e-mail to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, requesting that he intervene to break the impasse at the company and seeking the re-establishment of the national implementation body to resolve the issue. While I am awaiting a response, I seek the support of the Seanad for my call on the Minister to intervene in this matter. I ask also the Leader, through his good office, to invite the Minister to the House to discuss the re-establishment of the national implementation body to assist workers. The Liebherr case highlights the fact that such a body has been absent in this country since the collapse of national partnership. Every other modern economy in Europe has such a body in place. I seek a debate on the matter as soon as possible.

I wish all Senators a happy new year. My first question for the Leader is on Ireland's international taxation strategies and policies. A recent article by Carl O'Brien in The Irish Times revealed, through a freedom of information request, that the Department of Finance authored a document entitled Principal Risks to Ireland's Corporation Tax Strategy, in which it outlines significant concerns that international moves to tackle tax avoidance could make it less attractive for multinational companies to locate here. Mr. O'Brien's article lifted the veil on internal Department of Finance discussions. I suspect the Minister's decision in the most recent budget to close a loophole on stateless companies arose from a recommendation made in the Department's report. Is one budgetary measure sufficient to address the potential for reputational damage to Ireland arising from these matters? Should we not plan for international moves on anti-abuse taxation measures for multinational companies? These are urgent issues. As we begin a year in which we have a real chance for recovery, where is the parliamentary oversight of this issue? Where is the matter being investigated? I understand the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform has established a sub-committee on global taxation. Is the sub-committee examining this issue? Has it commenced an investigation? If so, when will it be completed? Who is appearing before the sub-committee as witnesses? Will the chief executives of multinational companies come before it? If not, why not?

On Seanad reform, I agree with one point made by Senator Paul Coghlan in an opinion piece written for The Irish Times earlier this month in which he stated we needed to focus on how the Seanad could operate effectively as a key element in our participatory parliamentary democracy and that we owed it to the people to ensure this happened. I am concerned, however, by the implication later in the article that constitutional change may be required to reform the system of nominating and electing Senators, as that is not the case. I understand the Committee on Procedure and Privileges is to review and produce recommendations for procedural reforms of the Seanad. When I was doing various media interviews earlier in the week following the publication of a document by Democracy Matters, I was repeatedly asked what the Seanad is doing to reform itself.

What is the Seanad doing to reform itself? I understand the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will be meeting after the Order of Business. Will the issue be discussed in that context? I ask the Leader to set out the process and timeframe for how we will decide for ourselves how our business can be more effective and efficient in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

I offer my deepest sympathy to the family of Tom O'Gorman who died tragically the other night. I knew Tom-----

I remind the Senator that the case is before the courts.

I knew Tom when we were both students in UCD. He was an affable and charming individual.

I also express my personal disappointment that following yesterday's Cabinet meeting, emergency funding was not made available to families in the Quilty area of County Clare who have been flooded out of their houses as a result of the recent inclement weather. It would have been appropriate to make funds available to construct an emergency rock armoury in the Quilty area to protect the 14 homes in question given the fear about the further high tides due on 1 February. I ask the Leader to use his good office to encourage the relevant Departments to make emergency funding available to Clare County Council in order that it can secure these families' homes. As Members will be aware, serious damage was caused to the coastline of County Clare and neighbouring counties as a result of the bad weather. An application needs to be made to the European Union Solidarity Fund and other European Structural Funds to ensure adequate defence mechanisms are put in place to ensure we do not see a repeat of this devastation. This is important for private as well as public property. We must not discriminate in this context between public and private property because at the end of the day the private property is owned by citizens who pay taxes in this country. I ask the Leader to arrange an urgent debate on the flooding crisis that arose over Christmas, this week if possible.

I advise the Cathaoirleach that what I am about to say will not have any impact in terms of legalities. I wish to say a few words about Tom O'Gorman, whom I was privileged to know and be friends with for approximately 20 years and who was so brutally taken from us in the early hours of Sunday morning. I had the pleasure of being in his company on Friday evening and, like all his friends and loved ones, I was shocked and devastated by his tragic death and the unnatural manner of his passing. I thank the Garda and the emergency services personnel who see things nobody should have to see. They do their work well and in doing so make life more bearable for us all. Tom was a gentle person, who was blessed to be free of cynicism or dishonesty of any kind. He was highly intelligent and a clear and honest thinker. He was incredibly witty and funny, as well as enthusiastic and idealistic. His vocation was to be one of life's thinkers. I do not think he would have been as happy as an engineer, a businessman or a surgeon. He expressed his gifts and talents in his research and advocacy, primarily for the Iona Institute but also in his use of social media and his personal engagement with people. His behaviour in public mirrored the private man. He had a deep affection for children and a concern for their welfare. He was horrified about anything that could endanger or threaten them and he saw the protection of unborn children as a core part of a just and civilised society. That something so terrible could happen to him is hard for us to comprehend. He is the latest victim of the strangeness of the world and there will be others. However, Tom would insist - it is important for us to do likewise on his behalf - that good, not evil, is ultimately in charge and that somewhere in the fullness of time his dramatic and violent departure from this world will be comprehended, accounted for and even turned to account in a way we cannot understand. In human terms, his time was too short, but those who knew and loved him are confident that he succeeded in all the important things.

May he rest in peace eternally and may all those who knew and loved him be consoled. We will miss him sorely.

I agree with the observations this morning of the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, with regard to the bonus culture that is apparent in Irish Water. We await more details, but I oppose such a culture, and I suspect everybody in the House does so too.

I welcome the Government announcement on the rural development programme and the billions of euro being put into rural development. It is a very important announcement and it is critical that funding is being spent across a range of issues, with disadvantaged area payments remaining the same, a new environmental scheme in the form of GLAS, grant aid for young farmers, the partial convergence scheme put in place for payments and a co-operation scheme for artisan food producers. That is all very welcome and it is good to have that certainty at the beginning of this year, with the funds in place for the next seven years. I ask the relevant Minister to come to the House to discuss this and also to debate the potential merger of Coillte and Bord na Móna. There is much confusion, disquiet and uncertainty about whether this may or should proceed, and the topic should be raised with the Minister at the earliest possible convenience. I ask this in the context of the good news I have mentioned.

I wish the Cathaoirleach and every Member of the House a very happy, prosperous and peaceful new year.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, as the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, is to be in the Seanad from 3.45 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to the Order of Business. I propose that an hour be set aside to discuss the debacle at Irish Water, given that the Minister will be present. I am sure many of us will attempt to raise some of these issues during the Local Government Reform Bill 2013 debate and be ruled out of order. As the Minister will be in the Chamber, it would be useful for him to answer questions being asked of him by people outside the House. He should be answering such questions in the Seanad.

The Leader is aware that before the Christmas recess, we had a very lengthy debate on the Water Services (No. 2) Bill. Although the debate on the Bill was guillotined, there were many hours of debate. We in Sinn Féin, with members of Fianna Fáil and Independents, raised many questions about salaries, the cost of establishing Irish Water and the transfer of assets from local authorities to Irish Water. We were accused by those on the Government side of asking the same questions over and over again and going around in circles. I stated at the time that we were asking the same questions because we simply were not getting the answers. We did not get answers about salary caps and bonuses when we asked questions. Not once did the Minister of State present indicate that bonuses were in place. We also asked about the cost of establishing Irish Water and not once were we told that up to €80 million was spent on consultancy fees. We also asked about the transfer of assets but did not get the required information. The Bill was rushed through the Dáil and the Opposition walked out because Members were given only a couple of hours to discuss it. This is not new governance or the new way of doing politics that the Government promised. Debates on Bills like this are guillotined and they are rushed through and Oireachtas Members are not given the information required before they can pass Bills.

I am proud of the fact that I did not vote for the Water Services (No. 2) Bill and buy a pig in a poke. That is what I stated at the time. I stood against the Bill and I am very proud I did so. I believe I have been proved right on the issue again. As the Minister will be in the Chamber, the Leader should agree to set aside one hour to discuss the debacle in Irish Water. I concur with the comments of my party leader that the Minister has been involved with far too many debacles and should resign his post, as it is quite obvious he is not up for the job.

I speak on an issue on which I have commented many times in this House and which was highlighted last night in a very interesting and informative "Prime Time" debate. The scourge of obesity is a very serious issue in the country, not least among children, with one in four people now obese. Obesity accounts for a serious number of health issues which must be dealt with by a health service that is already struggling. These include cancers and the 80% of type 2 diabetes that is caused by obesity. These statistics are well known by people at this stage but it seems that we are not coming up with a multi-faceted policy to deal with this issue. Who is at fault? Is it parents, society, the food industry or policymakers?

The response must be multi-faceted and from all sides of society, not least ourselves. I have sought a debate on the issue on numerous occasions and hope it can be dealt with in the new year. It is too simplistic to target particular food types, as happens with sugary drinks. It would help if fiscal measures can be put in place to reduce the amount of sugary drinks children drink. Sugary drinks cost less than water in shops, which makes no sense. We also need to educate mothers. An obese mother is more likely to give birth to an obese child and to a child who will have serious problems with obesity throughout life. We measure the weight of children between zero and four years but in other countries this practice extends beyond four years of age. We must consider it in this country as it works effectively elsewhere. There are major psychological elements to it and it is multifaceted-----

The Senator is out of time.

If the Cathaoirleach will bear with me, I am nearly there. I welcome the measure implemented by Lidl in removing all sweets from around cash registers in an effort to help parents with the pestering children can partake in.

The Senator should not promote Lidl here.

Senator Catherine Noon is way over time and is eating into other speakers' time.

What is she trying to bring an end to now?

I know I am over time, but I will ask the Leader if he can arrange a public consultation on this topic in the House, with a view to inviting the Minister afterwards to discuss the issue. It is not being dealt with.

I concur with Senator Catherine Noone on the issue of obesity, but she should not promote one company over another.

No, I am complimenting it today.

The Senator should do it privately.

My nephew is a buyer there.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I do, it is about the Parental Leave Bill 2013. I call on the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, to update us on the progress made on that legislation. The Leader is attentively listening and writing down what I am saying, which is great. I first introduced the Bill in July 2013 as part of a series of innovative initiatives contained in a Fianna Fáil policy paper promoting women entrepreneurs in Ireland. I am alarmed at the casual progress made on the Bill to date. Its purpose is to provide fathers with the opportunity to share the maternity leave allocation of 26 weeks from the workplace if the mother wishes to do so. Such flexibility in the workplace with maternity leave would give fathers a more active role in caring for the child while also providing women entrepreneurs with the opportunity to devote more time to developing and growing businesses and, subsequently, creating what we need most in Ireland, namely, employment. Everyone in the room knows that the responsibility to raise young children rests almost entirely with women. Currently, two and half times more men than women create businesses. The only way to create jobs is to encourage enterprise, but we cannot do this if we are failing to use the brains and skills of half the population of the country, the women of Ireland.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Yes. I also propose an amendment to the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005 to see adopting parents entitled to adoptive leave, if they so wish. I ask my fellow Senators to support the amendment. Adoption is just as life changing as having a biological child and this must be recognised. I am quite patient and will wait to see if the Leader can get the Minister to respond. I will not necessarily table an amendment today, but I feel very strongly about it. There was a great response to the Bill from the women of Ireland. It is important to move on this as a social right of fathers.

I wish colleagues a happy new year and hope we will have a productive Seanad session. I also wish a happy new year to colleague, Senator Jimmy Harte, and his family.

I hope he will be back with us soon this year. I know that he remains seriously ill. I ask the Leader to pass on our best wishes to him.

I congratulate the Fine Gael and Labour Party councillors on Dublin City Council who last night managed to block a reduction in funding and in fact managed to secure a small increase in funding for homeless services. We have seen a doubling in the number of people presenting as homeless in the greater Dublin area. There is a change in the category of people presenting as homeless. Now, we are seeing more people presenting as homeless because they cannot afford to secure housing. Given that the Government did not reduce funding for homeless services in the budget, I am at a loss to understand how the issue would have arisen in Dublin City Council.

It is because the local property tax is not going the local authorities.

Senator Aideen Hayden should be allowed to speak, without interruption.

I reiterate my call to the Leader for a debate as soon as possible on homelessness.

I also call on the Leader to provide for a debate on home repossessions. A recent Department of Justice and Equality expert group report on repossessions has advocated improving the structure to make it easier to secure repossessions of homes. I have sincere reservations about how repossessions are conducted, who determines whether a mortgage is unsustainable and who is acting as judge and jury on repossessions. I ask that we would have a debate on repossessions with the Minister for Finance and another debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality on the operation of the insolvency service. It is time to review the operation of the service at this stage.

I agree with Senator Aideen Hayden, but I wish to challenge one thing she said, because The Irish Times, which is usually a reasonably reliable newspaper-----

The Senator must be joking.

-----indicated that there was a cut of €5.6 million in homeless services and a cut of €3.2 million in housing adaptation grants. It was for that reason the members of the city council had to behave in the very honourable and correct way outlined by Senator Aideen Hayden.

I was also horrified to learn of the tragic death of Mr. O’Gorman. I had never heard of him and never met him. He seems to have been a decent man, but nobody deserves that kind of end. I heard about it through the international media while I was abroad.

I support my colleagues who have asked for a debate on the Water Services (No. 2) Bill. A number of us raised the exemption of Irish Water from freedom of information legislation. In the newspapers this morning one can see the consultants are all the same old suspects. Half of them are the ones who got us into the financial mess. They gave bad advice. What on earth are we doing? We are still wasting money all over the place. Twice the going rate was paid to move a cargo company in connection with the incinerator at Poolbeg. We are wasting money all over the place and the individual does not matter a damn. I was lucky enough to win a few bob, thanks to Rupert Murdoch who had to cough up for libelling me, and I shoved it into the post office prize bonds. I took it to the post office with my passport-----

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Yes. Could we have a debate on banking? The banks will not even cash their own bloody cheques.

With regard to the Irish Water issue, the Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, said one could not make an omelette without breaking eggs. Who asked him to make an omelette in the first place? I did not. I do not want an omelette. I never ordered one and the people did not want one either.

The Senator is over time.

As for the eggs he used; there is a rank stink of gas off them as far as I am concerned because the whole thing is-----

The Senator is over time.

I am sorry. May I make one point?

The Senator has exceeded his time for today.

It is shocking that information was not given through Parliament, not just here in the Seanad but also in the Dáil. It had to be extracted. Thank God for Sean O’Rourke of RTE.

The Senator is over time.

Questions were asked, but they were not answered properly. That is an abuse of democracy. Thank God that at least the Seanad survived.

I join colleagues in extending good wishes to everybody for 2014 and particularly wish our colleague Senator Jimmy Harte well. I hope the positive newspaper reports we saw recently will be borne out and that he will soon be back with us.

I strongly support the call for an urgent debate on flooding.

Many counties, including parts of my county of Galway, have been seriously hit. We need a full debate on all aspects of flooding and how we can compensate people who have been seriously affected.

I strongly support the call made by Senator Catherine Noone for an urgent debate on obesity. I agree that the public consultation structure is the ideal way to deal with this. At the beginning of each year, we all make new year resolutions. Many individuals and communities are doing great work in tackling obesity, but we need to start work in our schools to highlight the issue. Public consultation would be the way to go.

I welcome the publication today of the long-term strategic plan for Ireland's peatlands. For the first time, it sets out a long-term vision for the protection of a sample of Ireland's unique bog habitats and recognises the range of uses of peatlands, including turf cutting. The natural heritage area raised bog network will be reconfigured to avoid an impact on 80% of turfcutters. I am particularly pleased that out of 1,263 active plots in category 2 sites in county Galway, just over 100 will be affected.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I call for a debate on the strategy published today with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, in the near future to enable us to have an input into how it is finalised.

I know the issue of the travails of Uisce Éireann have been well ventilated in the past few days, and this is appropriate given the waste there is within the system and the little accountability demonstrated. I would like to raise a couple of important issues in regard to Uisce Éireann that have not appeared on the radar. First, we should not have been surprised by the spending on consultants. There is a propensity within the public service and local government to engage consultants at the drop of a hat for a range of issues. This happens despite the fact that a local authority might be laden within engineers within the system. To some extent, this is done to insulate those in the organisation from accountability, but that is wrong.

Also, there is very little openness in the recruitment of people into the public service and State companies. We have talked about this previously, but I ask the Leader to consider a debate on the issue. There needs to be greater mobility between the private sector and the public sector. People in the private sector must have the opportunity and equal access to jobs in the public sector and similarly from the public sector to the private sector. Both sectors would gain immeasurably from this because of the different strengths within each sector, with each helping the other.

I concur with the comments made by Senators Martin Conway and Rónán Mullen about Tom O'Gorman. Senator Rónán Mullen made an eloquent and appropriate tribute, better than I would do. Mr. O'Gorman's death is a tragedy. Those of us who might occasionally engage with the Iona Institute would be familiar with him. He was a fine gentleman who did excellent research and was a fine person. His death is so sad. I would like to go beyond his death to the fact that in the first week of January there was almost a murder per day.

The Senator is way over time and I have a list of Senators who wish to contribute.

I would like if we could have a debate on this issue. There was a time when Fine Gael was a party concerned with law and order. However, the current Minister has apparently abandoned all pretence of that. I would like to think we could hone in on this issue. It is unacceptable that these murders pass and become last week's story this week.

I wish a happy new year to everybody and a fruitful new year to Uisce Éireann. It is a huge task to set up a new organisation, bringing-----

The business already is in place. It is not a new task.

Senator Cáit Keane to continue, without interruption.

I support the call made by Senator Darragh O'Brien for a debate, because it is important that all of the facts are brought to the floor of the Seanad and the Dáil. I believe the Minister will have no problem with this.

The fact of the matter is that €2 billion-----

They were concealing information-----

Senator Cáit Keane to continue, without interruption.

The fact is, Senator Walsh-----

The Senator must direct her comments through the Chair. Does she have a question for the Leader?

I congratulate Senator Jim Walsh on being the only Member to have used the term "Uisce Éireann" during his contribution. The term is included in the legislation.

The Senator is using up her time.

I have no problem with a compliment coming my way.

I just wish to point to the €2 billion in savings by 2020. Nobody in the House has mentioned that at all, but it is a fact.

We will have to wait and see about that.

Who knows what the savings might be?

Nobody mentioned the savings that will be made by a doubling of the capital investment and the leakage-----

The Government has suspended existing water and wastewater programmes.

I am supporting the calls for debates on Uisce Éireann and homelessness. I welcome what Senators Aideen Hayden and Ivana Bacik have said about Dublin City Council reversing the cuts to its homeless services budget.

On the question of coastal protection, as a native of Connemara, I wish to point out that my area was very badly hit during the recent storms. The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, announced that every local authority has been instructed to apply for up to 90% of the funds they need for coastal protection measures. The applications must be submitted by 21 January. Galway and all other affected counties should apply for funding under that scheme. Funds are being made available, although I know Senator Martin Conway was speaking about private houses.

I join in the extension of new year good wishes to my colleagues.

During our last sittings before Christmas, we proved the value of the Seanad when, for 18 hours, as Senator David Cullinane said, we discussed the Water Services (No. 2) Bill. All of the things we predicted then have happened. All of the amendments we tabled have been proven worthwhile. Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh sought to make provision for local authority involvement in Irish Water, while others wanted to enable the involvement of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, and we wanted the utility to be subject to freedom of information requests. We also called for investments by Irish Water to be appraised by the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. We wondered why an energy regulator was put in charge of water, given that they are completely different commodities. I thank the Leader for the time allowed for that debate and I hope he conveys to the Cabinet the fact that this is a most useful House and had it been listened to before Christmas, many of the current difficulties would not have occurred. This is a wise House which will assist the Government in policy making. Unfortunately our offers of help were turned down, but that was not the Leader's fault.

"Down the drain" was the title of an editorial in The Irish Times on 6 January 2014 which referred not to Uisce Éireann but to €225 million spent on Dublin transport projects which now have a residual value of €10 million. The author argued that "huge financial cost has been incurred, but with no public benefit accruing from the project". Legislation is expected on the abolition of the Railway Procurement Agency and its integration into the National Roads Authority. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to include measures in that legislation to ensure that capital investment appraisal in this area does not show the kind of waste that is highlighted in the aforementioned editorial published in The Irish Times.

I voice my concern at the situation which could develop at Liebherr (Ireland) Limited in Killarney. It appears that a majority of the 300 workers there who are members of SIPTU have voted against a resolution. There are over 670 people employed at the plant, on an average of €55,000 per annum. I appeal to everybody involved to step back from the brink. I also appeal to everyone to take on board the statement made by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, today on the matter. I also appeal to everyone to take note of a statement issued by SIPTU, which I have not yet seen. All of the industrial relations machinery of the State is available. There is plenty of room for talking and one cannot beat dialogue. That is the only way this problem is going to be resolved. Liebherr (Ireland) Limited has been based in Killarney since 1958 and is one of the greatest industries in County Kerry, if not in the entire south west of the country. It has expanded and had great success during the years, to the benefit of the industry and the employees who have worked there.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence and appeal to everybody to step back from the brink and engage in dialogue immediately.

Cuirim fáilte ar ais roimh Sheanadóirí. I dtosach báire, ba mhaith liom tacú leis an leasú atá molta ag mo chomhghleacaí, an Seanadóir Trevor Cullinane, go mbeadh uair an chloig againn inniu le plé a dhéanamh ar Uisce Éireann agus an praiseach a bhaineann le sin.

I concur with the Senators who have called for a debate on the fall-out after the storms. Massive damage has been done along the west coast. I still find it surprising that no Minister has been to visit any of the areas in question. It would have been very useful to see the major clean-up operation that has been going on. Much work had to be done. I was very lucky to be on Inis Oírr yesterday for the launch of the report of the Oireachtas Joint sub-Committee on Fisheries about rejuvenating rural communities. The Minister has agreed to have a debate on fisheries as soon as possible and hopefully that can be brought forward and the report might form the basis of the debate. It was a very good report and was welcomed by many people from different areas.

Fishermen were hit very badly by the storms and I have tabled an Adjournment motion on that issue. Another group affected by the storms that did not get much publicity is a group of residents in direct provision in the Eglinton Hotel in Salthill, Galway, who were totally surrounded by water during the floods. On the legislation list published I note that the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 is still in limbo. It has been on Committee Stage since 2010 and there is no indication as to when that will be brought forward. Will the Leader find out if that Bill will be progressed in the near future? As people would have seen on "Prime Time" recently, not only is the Bill in limbo, but the people living in direct provision are also in limbo. We must address this as a matter of urgency.

I wish everyone a happy new year and a productive 2014.

I raise the issue of surrogacy and the number of people travelling abroad, which was debated on television recently. With no legal provision in this country, children born abroad and coming into this country are not entitled to be adopted and citizenship is an issue. We are leaving a series of medical and legal issues sitting there. We must deal with this through legislation and examine the best way forward, particularly when one considers that the amount of money the person going through the pregnancy receives is very small compared with what the agencies that organise this charge. We cannot ignore this issue, but must tackle it. I ask the Leader to raise it with the Minister for Justice and Equality and have a debate in the House, but we must also consider legislation and examine the best way forward for everybody involved.

I join in the new year wishes. Guím athbhliain faoi shíocháin don Seanadóir.

I had a brief history lesson in the context of Irish Water and the figure of €50 million spent on consultancy fees, which seems to be bandied around as if it is of no consequence. A recent newspaper report indicated, and there has been much talk about the fact, that this is the largest single semi-State organisation that has been created since the ESB. A recent newspaper piece stated that in 1927, the ESB was formed in one room with a chair, a desk, a chairman and a secretary. There was no talk about €50 million or even €50,000 at the time, yet look at how the ESB has grown. I wonder if people are aware of the outrage in the country about the €50 million. How has it been broken down? Has any benchmark been used? Yesterday the figures were given on the companies that received amounts of money but was there any benchmark to show why they received those amounts? Even €1 million in consultancy fees is an enormous amount of money. We have endured cuts through debate in this House, and listened to Ministers over the last six months cutting €10 million here, €12 million there and €15 million there, that directly affect people's lives and livelihoods. However, €50 million is being thrown around like snuff at a wake. It is not good enough. It is long past time that some statement was made on how the benchmark is used. In the legal profession a benchmark can be put on fees put forward and, in some cases, they are reduced.

What benchmark is used in terms of the amount of money given out to consultants? The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform should come to the House and explain what criteria are to be used, if none are in place, to ensure public money put out like this is tendered for properly and benchmarked properly.

I second Senator Denis O'Donovan's amendment.

I wish Senators a happy new year and wish us all every success in our role in the Seanad in 2014.

I welcome the positive news story of the significant investment in the rural development programme and I call on the Leader to ask the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, to come to the Chamber at his earliest convenience. It is a good positive news story for job creation in rural areas.

I also call on the Leader to ask the Government to expedite the provision of emergency funding to local authorities as a result of the damage due to the storms. In Galway city a preliminary report putting the cost at €1.3 million has been made. The county area will have a significantly higher figure. Coastal erosion is a huge issue, even with regard to the extension of the promenade to Silverstrand. These defence mechanisms need to be put in place now and it is critical we expedite the funding. If it is a matter of tapping into the EU Solidarity Fund we need to work fast on these issues and it cannot continue for a number of months.

I wish my colleagues and friends in the House a happy new year. This has not been a nice new year for everybody.

I was very saddened by a call I received last Sunday with regard to the horrific death of Tom O'Gorman. He was a very fine thinker and researcher and someone I had got to know recently. I offer my sympathy to his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Yesterday I spent four and three quarter hours at a committee meeting discussing Irish Water and was shocked by what I heard. I learned there is absolutely no respect for Members of the Dáil or the Seanad. Uisce Éireann made it very clear to us and documented that every decision and cent was signed off by the Department but when people tabled questions-----

I am sorry, Senator-----

I have a question for the Leader. People tabled questions to the Minister, of which Uisce Éireann was aware, but it had no responsibility to answer them, but the Minister did not answer them either. I learned that rushed legislation, secret deals, and no answers except for a €50 million leak-----

These are issues the Senator can raise during the debate.

I am coming to my question. This is despicable politics by the Minister. I am ashamed to say it, but it is true. It is not good enough for him to state he did not know, otherwise why is he in the position? We need a debate in the House on Oireachtas reform, which is required to ensure good parliamentary practice whereby Members of the Seanad and the Dáil are not viewed with contempt. We are the voice of the people.

The Senator is over time.

They rely on us and we are being viewed with contempt. It is not good enough.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, today announced the new name for the reformed junior certificate will be the junior cycle student award, JCSA. I agree with the Minister that most parents and teachers are supportive of the need to overhaul the junior cycle for the good of students, but teachers have legitimate concerns. One cannot fly an aeroplane without a pilot.

One can with drones and there are plenty of them in government.

That would be a bit of an omelette all right.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

A flying omelette.

Drones are seriously destructive.

I look forward to the first meeting of the working body on junior cycle reform.

The working body comprises the ASTI and the TUI, management bodies, students and parents. I am sure that it can deal with any concerns and that we will have a great new junior cycle curriculum. Before the Christmas break the Leader said that he would invite the Minister for Education and Skills and he may have stated a date for the debate. Such a debate would enable us to receive an update on the important reform of the junior cycle programme.

I wish to comment on Senator Paschal Mooney's reference to €50 million. Roughly the same amount was spent on e-voting machines that are now stored in a shed in Trim.

The Senator can make his point during the debate.

I was amazed to hear the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport mention on the radio recently the possibility of a rail strike. We debated such a scenario during the debate on the critical utilities Bill. Eight countries in Europe do not allow strikes to take place in certain critical utilities. The debate on the Bill was adjourned. I ask the Leader to arrange for us to continue the debate and to consider widening the debate. The Bill dealt with water and electricity. Perhaps we should consider adding other essential utilities. The danger posed by a strike could do great harm to the country and, therefore, we should take steps to widen the debate.

I wish everyone a happy new year.

I support the call for a debate on obesity, but it has been ongoing for many years. Who should take the blame for obesity? Is it the Department of Health, the Government, the food industry, the drinks industry or the education system? Is it the fault of the schools or parents? Is there lack of education on the matter? How do our social habits compare with ten, 15 or 20 years ago before the onset of the Internet, iPads and various tabloids?

Two years ago I carried out research for my Points for Life initiative on physical activity in primary schools. As part of my research I visited an obesity clinic to conduct an interview. As I waited for my interviewee I saw a vending machine full of crisps and sweets, the foods that we should not eat. Obesity is a complex issue and concerns genetics, depression, habits and laziness. There is an old adage that says "You are what you eat." One must find a balance between the fuel that one puts in and the energy generated. It is all about balance and motivation. safefood Ireland's current television campaign advises parents on the appropriate foods to buy for their children. However, "Operation Transformation" is a six week wonder that will not last. The Department of Health spends €15 billion on sickness but very little is spent on investing people with responsibility for their health and preventing obesity. I support the call for a debate on obesity.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to make a contribution at this late stage. I join other colleagues in wishing everybody a happy new year and look forward to a productive session.

I agree with Senator Jim D'Arcy's call to arrange for the Minister for Education and Skills to attend, as soon as possible, in order to discuss the proposed reform of the junior cycle curriculum.

I also join in the call by other colleagues for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to attend the House to discuss the very damaging revelations circulated by the media, and not through the Department or a committee of either House of the Oireachtas. We must discuss the issue as a matter of urgency. However, Fianna Fáil does not support the amendment to the Order of Business tabled by Sinn Féin requesting that an hour be taken from the so-called Local Government Reform Bill. We have only four hours to discuss 480 amendments. I agree that the Minister should attend, as a matter of urgency, but we cannot allow time to be taken away from a debate on very important legislation. The suggestion is an affront to democracy.

It is an affront and an insult to the people of this country that local government is no longer local government. It has been sabotaged and the seats have been taken from the rural parts of the country and put into the major urban centres. It is not acceptable and we will not support any amendment that takes time away from this debate, which is very important for democracy and local democracy.

A number of Members have raised the question of Irish Water or Uisce Éireann. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Committee of Public Accounts have examined the issue. I have arranged for the Minister to come to the House next week for a debate on it.

I thank the Leader.

I remind Members that we debated the Water Services (No. 2) Bill for 18 hours in this House.

A point was made about Seanad reform. The primary function of this House is to engage in the scrutiny of legislation. That should not be forgotten by anybody in considering the issue of Seanad reform or Oireachtas reform. We do our duty in a good manner and I hope we will continue to do so.

On housing adaptation grants, I have asked the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to come to the House to address the matter in early course. I hope she will accede to my request.

Senators Ivana Bacik, Aideen Hayden and other Senators raised the question of homelessness. Prior to Christmas I asked the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to come to the House to address the issue. I hope to have a positive response from her and that she will come to debate both issues in early course.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout raised the issue of the Child and Family Agency and the budget for same, which I understand was addressed at the Joint Committee on Health and Children yesterday. If she has further questions on the matter, I suggest she table an Adjournment motion to receive a comprehensive response from the relevant Minister.

Senator John Crown raised the matter of waiting lists for dermatology services. With regard to the document he gave me on an alleged independent investigation at St. Vincent's University Hospital, I will hand it to the Minister.

Senators Denis O'Donovan, Hildegarde Naughton and others raised the issues of rural development and CAP reform. I have arranged for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, to come to the House next week to discuss developments announced yesterday in respect of both issues. After that I will try to get him to come to deal with the question of fisheries, a debate I had promised before a debate on rural development. He will be here next week and I will try to have him come here shortly afterwards to deal with the question of fisheries, on which we have called for a debate for some time.

Senators Marie Moloney and Paul Coghlan referred to the Liebherr dispute. There is no doubt that the company is of paramount importance in Killarney and County Kerry. I agree that all of the industrial machinery of the State should be utilised for the purposes of dialogue with a view to reaching a conclusion which will be favourable to all sides. It is essential that dialogue take place as a matter of urgency in view of the comments made by the company.

Senator Katherine Zappone referred to the international taxation strategy and asked if a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform was examining it.

I do not know, but I believe it is the duty of members of the committee to have the issues debated. The committee is the place at which they should be discussed. I urge its members to raise them at a meeting of the committee.

Seanad reform and procedural measures will not be debated today by the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges which is to meet after the Order of Business. We have a very lengthy agenda for the meeting, but I assure the Senator that I will be raising procedural measures for discussion by the committee within the next month.

Senator Martin Conway and several other Senators referred to flooding and the extent of the damage caused throughout the country. An initial estimate of the cost of cleaning and restoring public infrastructure after the storms is €65 million. Some €20 million is required to repair road infrastructure, while €35 million is required for coastal works. Some €10 million is required to meet a range of other costs. Almost two thirds of the total estimate arises from two counties, namely, County Clare, for which an estimate of €23 million has been produced, and County Galway, for which an estimate of €18 million has been produced. Next is County Waterford, for which there is an estimate of €7 million. I have arranged for a debate on the matter next week. The three issues on which a debate was sought, namely, flooding, rural development and Uisce Éireann, will be debated in the House next week.

Senators Martin Conway and Rónán Mullen, among others, referred to the tragic death of Mr. Tom O'Gorman who was known to many Senators. We express our sympathy on his death.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe referred to Irish Water and rural development measures. We will be discussing them in the House next week. The Senator may refer to the merger of Coillte and Bord na Móna during the debate.

I do not propose to accept the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator David Cullinane because we will be having a debate on the issue next week.

Senators Catherine Noone and Eamonn Coghlan raised the question of obesity and mentioned the need for a multifaceted approach to tackle it. Senator Eamonn Coghlan said we should invest in prevention. We had a number of debates on the issue last year, but we will try to have the Minister come to the House to discuss it again.

Senator Mary White referred to her Bill, the Parental Leave Bill. I understand the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Social Protection are discussing it and considering various measures because the subject matter of the legislation falls within the remit of both Departments. I assure the Senator that work is being undertaken on the issue. I will try to obtain a further update for her.

Go raibh míle maith agat.

Senator Aideen Hayden referred to homelessness. I hope we will have the relevant Minister in the House to discuss the subject. With regard to repossessions, there was a call for a review of insolvency services. I will raise the issue with the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Our friend and colleague Senator Jimmy Harte is seriously ill. I spoke to his wife and passed on the good wishes of everyone in the House. We certainly wish him a speedy recovery.

Senator Michael Mullins called for a debate on the strategic plan for Irish peatlands outlined by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan.

I will ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue.

In response to Senator Jim Walsh and other Senators who asked for a debate on Irish Water, we will have one. I note Senator Jim Walsh's comments on the issue of law and order also. I have heard it commented that no legislation or greater amount of gardaí could have prevented some of the murders that, unfortunately, took place in the past few weeks.

Senator Cáit Keane raised the issue of coastal protection. I have mentioned the problems in that regard and we will have a debate on it next week.

Senator Sean D. Barrett mentioned the merger of the Railway Procurement Agency and the NRA. I hope to have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, speak to us on the issue.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh referred to the report on fisheries. I have mentioned that we hope to have the Minister in the House to discuss that item specifically. Also, I will try to find out the current status of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010.

In response to Senator Colm Burke on the issue of surrogacy, I understand there will be a Bill which is on the A list to deal with the matter. I will ask the Minister to introduce it as a Seanad Bill in order that we can deal with the matter before the other House. I understand the legislation will be brought forward soon.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames raised the issue of Oireachtas reform. As I said, this House, in particular in dealing with the Water Services (No. 2) Bill 2013, debated the issue of Uisce Éireann comprehensively. A total of 18 hours was allowed for discussion of the issue.

Senators Jim D'Arcy and Diarmuid Wilson referred to the announcement made by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, and the concerns of teachers, which should be addressed. I agree with them and will certainly invite the Minister to come to the House to discuss the reform of the junior cycle programme, as requested.

Senator Feargal Quinn spoke about a possible rail dispute and his Critical Utilities (Security of Supply) Bill 2013. I hope there will not be a rail dispute which would be very damaging to the country. I am sure all of the industrial machinery of the State will be put in place to prevent any such dispute.

I think I have covered most of the items raised by Members.

Senator Denis O'Donovan has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That an urgent debate be taken today with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the delay in payment and cuts to the single farm payment." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 30.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • 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.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

Senator David Cullinane has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a one hour debate with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on Irish Water be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

On a point of order, the proposed amendment was that one hour be taken from the time allocated for the debate on the Local Government Reform Bill 2013 to go towards a debate on Irish Water. That is why we are not supporting the amendment. The distinction is important; it was not just for a one hour debate.

The amendment is, "That one hour be taken from the time allocated for the debate on the Local Government Reform Bill 2013 to go towards a debate today with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on Irish Water." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 39.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Senators David Cullinane and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.