The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform 2015, to be taken after the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 6 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed six minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed four minutes. Dr. Maurice Manning will make the opening statement. With Mr. Joe O'Toole, he will be called on to reply to questions not later than 5.45 p.m.
Order of Business
I welcome the holding of the debate because I hope it will provide an opportunity for Members on all sides of the House to ensure they will not be bumped into accepting recommendations from people who seem to think we should just lie down and accept what they say as gospel. There are many dimensions to the issue of Seanad reform, while the working group has made many recommendations, but that is a matter for discussion later in the debate.
I again bring to the attention of the House the question of English language schools, a matter I raised last week. As Members will be aware, there has been a protest outside Leinster House and also outside the immigration services of the Department of Justice and Equality by non-EU students who find that not only are they losing their schools but also their money. The latest information is the next school that is tethering on the brink and may close is the IEA on Dominic Street. It was reported on RTE earlier that the owner of the school had left the country. It is true that he has left. He is a Brazilian and left the country a few weeks ago because he was afraid of his life that the school would have to close. He has all of the money which he is not going to pay back. I understand a group of students in Brazil have already approached him to look for their money back. I have spoken to people involved who are concerned about their jobs, as well as to students who are concerned about the loss of their money. Can we get some indication of what is the thinking in the Department of Education and Skills on this issue? Can we find out who is the regulatory authority? According to reports, on the one hand, the students are being told it is the Garda, but, on the other, they are being told it is the Department of Justice and Equality or the Department of Education and Skills. It is a very serious problem. I understand from figures supplied by the Department of Justice and Equality that the sector is worth €800 million to the economy, a huge amount of money.
I have no doubt that the announcement made today by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on the allocation of €317 million for social housing will be repeated from the rooftops by Members on the Government side of the House. It was salutary listening to Fr. McVerry earlier on RTE Radio 1 when he pointed to the reality. It is an empty formula. A total of 1,700 social houses will be built over three years which means, as Fr. McVerry said, we will focus on 2% of those who are homeless. There are more than 100,000 people on waiting lists nationwide and Fr. McVerry expects an extra 25,000 to be added to the lists as a result of the banks foreclosing on those with distressed mortgages, yet we are talking about a paltry 600 houses being provided a year over a three year period.
Will the Leader provide clarity and establish exactly what will happen to those houses that have been boarded up across local authority areas? As he will be aware, we have had a number of debates on the issue in this House. It emerged that one of the greatest sinners in that regard was Cork City Council, in the ownership of which there were significant numbers of boarded-up houses. I am not singling out Cork City Council specifically, but it is one of the local authorities that have been dragging their feet in this regard. Can clarity be brought to the question of boarded-up houses in the ownership of local authorities as the issue was raised in the Minister's statement today? The making available of these houses, with the building of the 1,700 houses about which the Minister spoke, would go a long way towards easing the pressure in the provision of housing.
As Fr. McVerry stated, even one homeless family being taken out of hotel accommodation or substandard housing is to be welcomed.
I agree that we should have a debate on the need for regulation of language schools and the protection of the international students attending those schools in Dublin and throughout the country, but the closure of a number of these schools in recent months appears to be a particular concern. It would be good to have the Minister for Education and Science in the House to discuss what can be done about that.
In terms of social housing policy, I welcome strongly the announcement today by the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, that €312 million has been approved to facilitate the construction of 1,700 social housing units by 2017 but anyone who heard the Minister on "Morning Ireland" this morning, and I urge colleagues to listen back to it as it was a very good interview-----
I heard it and was quoting from it.
If anyone heard that-----
Senator Bacik, without interruption.
I also listened to Fr. McVerry at lunchtime but if I could make my point, the Minister, Deputy Kelly, was very clear that this was part of a much bigger social housing strategy the Government is pursuing which will enable the availability of 35,000 units by 2020. It is a much bigger picture when one looks at the other ways in which housing units will be made available, including, as the Minister emphasised this morning, tackling the issue of voids - vacant units that are in council ownership. Fr. McVerry fairly acknowledged that it is not just for the Minister to direct policy on this but that councils need to take a lead on it and take greater responsibility. We saw recently Dublin County Council behave appallingly in vetoing a proposal that would have seen quite a number of housing units swiftly made available in the north inner city. There was a display of "NIMBYism" in the council in that vote. We must be careful about where to apportion responsibility, and Fr. McVerry acknowledged that it was welcome to see the focus on construction.
It needs to be said also that this is the first major investment in local authorities for many years. There was huge neglect of this area during the boom. Waiting lists were allowed to grow over the boom years and there was a stalling of social housing construction under the previous Fianna Fáil-led Governments. We are finally seeing an effort being made to tackle this serious problem, and I very much welcome that.
I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, that the LE Eithne will be dispatched to assist in the rescue operations in the Mediterranean. I commend the Italian Coast Guard in particular and all those involved in the rescue of 6,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend. Huge numbers of people took to the seas and were rescued, with very few lives lost. It is a tragedy when any life is lost but it is certainly welcome that much larger numbers are being saved.
I ask the Leader for a debate on privacy law. We had an excellent debate over the weekend at the Burren Law School in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, in which I am involved, on the need to ensure a balancing of privacy rights and the right to freedom of expression. A privacy Bill has been drafted but it has been in abeyance for some time. I would like us to have a debate on that issue in the House in due course.
I would like to congratulate RTE on an outstanding "The Late Late Show" on Friday, particularly the segment on the equality referendum. I thought Colm O'Gorman and Una Mullally spoke magnificently. They spoke from the heart, and they told the truth. It was extraordinary that all the "No" side could dredge up was a single mother and a gay man. Gay men who are opposed to marriage are 0.0003% of the population so one has to look carefully to find one, but well done to RTE on managing to locate not one but two of these curious phenomena.
I noted also that Senator Walsh spoke from the audience in support of civil partnership. That is wonderful. I remember the way he went on in this House when he was so bitterly opposed to it. He put down septic, disgraceful amendments and then voted against it. Perhaps, after the passage of this referendum, we can look forward to all those on the "No" side saying-----
Have you a question for the Leader?
No, I do not, and I do not have to have one.
This is the Order of Business, Senator.
Yes, this is the Order of Business.
We are not rehashing the debates that took place in the Chamber previously.
I look forward to all those on the "No" side joining us in saying how wonderful civil marriage is after the referendum passes.
With regard to the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev. Dr. Martin, I believe he is right to consider the question of whether the church should be involved in civil marriage. I have never thought it should be involved.
I always have felt we should be like the French and should separate the State and the church. I see no spiritual reason for churches of any kind, including my own, to be involved in the division of spoils, which is basically to what this idea of civil marriage accounts. He is perfectly entitled to look after it; well done. I think they should have thought of it before they were faced with the equality referendum.
I wish to raise one other matter with the indulgence of the Cathaoirleach, namely, the horrible situation in Nepal. A woman named Edith Wilkins started the Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation, which is located in Darjeeling, India, very close to the borders of Nepal. It has 28 Nepali-speaking volunteers, including two Irish people. The Nepalese Government is hampering matters by imposing a tax and all kinds of regulations and so on. The Irish Government has given €1 million, which at the time I stated was welcome but too small. The Edith Wilkins trust, which is on the ground with Nepali-speaking people in the area, has been told the funds all have been allocated to the traditional funding recipients. I ask the Leader, as a matter of urgency, to write to the Minister mentioning the Edith Wilkins trust and asking that it be included for some small amount of money because the trust is in the position-----
Senator, you are way over time.
I apologise, I will end on this point. It is in the position to do the greatest amount of good.
I welcome the good news of another positive announcement for the agriculture sector made this morning by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, of the beef genomics scheme. This will put €52 million annually into the pockets of Irish farmers and will make payments to 35,000 different beef farmers. It is an important announcement of a scheme that will improve the breeding of livestock, as well as having a positive effect on the environment, where it will monitor the on-farm carbon assessment of the beef herd. That is all very good news. I also welcome the €370 million for rural housing and while all Members would like to see more money put into rural housing, one must start someplace. I note my local town of Manorhamilton will benefit from an investment of €1 million, which will provide seven new units. Coming from a county with a very low population, this news is very welcome.
I ask the Leader for a debate, as soon as is practicable, on the fishing industry. It is a while since Members had a debate and there are many issues with which the fishing and coastal communities are having severe difficulty, particularly quotas and so on, as well as over-regulation and it is important to have that debate. With the permission of the Cathaoirleach, I wish to welcome a group of transition year students from Beara community school who are in the Visitors Gallery. They are most welcome to the Oireachtas and to the Seanad and I am delighted to welcome them.
Might I also raise the issue of the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly? While the announcement per se is welcome, it is important to note a valid point made by Fr. McVerry in respect of the problem with rent allowance. If the facts he cited are true and if 500 people will lose their accommodation each year because the rent allowance they receive from the State is not adequate, particularly in the Dublin area where rents are extremely dear, it is a matter of severe worry and concern. While I do not wish to throw a bucket of cold water on the announcement, which is a positive step, there must be joined-up thinking by the Minister, Deputy Kelly, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection in resolving the crisis for those people who cannot get accommodation, some of whom end up homeless, which is very sad.
I agree with my colleague on the announcement today by the Minister, Deputy Kelly, relating to the 1,700 additional social housing units to be delivered over the next two and a half to three years. Nobody will pretend that this is the be all and end all but it is a beginning and other announcements on other issues will be forthcoming. However, the Senator also makes a very important point on the entire issue of rent supplement and people losing their homes because of rents. It is important to bear in mind that the Minister, Deputy Kelly, who is a man for plain speaking, has made it abundantly clear in no uncertain terms that he intends to deal with the issue of rent increases. He has never rowed back from that position and has made it clear that in the next couple of weeks, Members can look forward to an announcement on the issue of rents escalating out of all boundaries in respect of any other costs in this economy.
This would be a good time for the Leader to bring the Minister to the House to talk about the social housing programme, in particular, and also the other aspects such as the contributions of the approved housing bodies. There is a tendency when one hears a good news announcement to decry it, as a certain leader of a homelessness organisation did today. It is part of an overall package and strategy that cannot be taken in isolation. We need yet again to have exposure of the overall strategy and examine it, particularly given that an article in one of the newspapers today states the number of repossession orders has risen by 500% in the year to date by comparison with the same period in 2014. Nobody is pretending that we are not in the middle of a housing crisis, but there are some very good measures being taken by the Government that need to be recognised.
It has been highlighted that Ireland is one of Europe's top performers economically. That is not exactly news to this House, but, yet again, it has been noted that there is serious concern about mortgage arrears. We are expecting a Government statement on this issue in the next two to three weeks, but it would be very useful if the House could have its say on some of the issues we believe should be part of that strategy. I ask the Leader yet again whether we could have the Minister for Finance in the House to talk about the mortgage arrears crisis and social housing in general. Senator Gerard P. Craughwell should note that I look forward to the debate tomorrow on receivers in this context. The debate will be very useful in considering the overall issue we are facing of mortgage arrears and what is a housing crisis.
I compliment the Tánaiste on her interview this morning on Newstalk. She very firmly put back in their places yet again rumours from the two airlines that Aer Lingus was about to be taken over by British Airways. It was announced in a Sunday newspaper that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, had "signed off on the deal". The Tánaiste clarified the position most skilfully. This has been a tactic of the airlines concerned, their PR departments and stockbrokers. Ever since the controversy arose, they have been leaking to a susceptible journalist from time to time the story that the arrangement was a done deal. Why have we allowed a UK quango to intervene in a relationship between two Irish airlines? Why is it not mentioned every time there is a proposed anti-competitive merger in the European aviation sector, which this would be, slots would have to be divested at hubs such as Heathrow Airport and not protected, as the proponents of the deal say would be the case? Why is the consumer interest not taken into account? Why are we not recognising that British Airways has a track record of never serving regions? It offers no north Atlantic services from Scotland. The Scots might have something to say about this and other matters on Thursday. There are no such services from Manchester which has a population of 15 million or from Birmingham which has a population of 11 million. There are so many unsavoury aspects to this deal. For the Tánaiste to take a stand against it and seek proper evaluation is correct. Members will recall the announcement one Sunday morning that the trade unions were in favour of the deal. I believe Ingrid Miley’s phone nearly went into meltdown as people rang to say, “No, we have not agreed.” It is about time some respect was shown for Parliament by those promoting the merger, which should be discussed here. Hiding behind Irish Stock Exchange takeover rules is not acceptable. I commend the Tánaiste for what she said this morning.
I support those speakers who spoke about English language schools. The Leader of the Seanad, Senator Maurice Cummins, and I referred ages ago to an airline pilot training school that went under in the same way over a year and a half ago. It is definitely time we grasped the bull by the horns because students are being left high and dry.
I look forward to the debate on Seanad reform later in the day.
I welcome the announcement of an extra €312 million for housing. I was a little disappointed to hear the very negative comments coming from the Opposition side. I recognise that Fr. McVerry is doing great work, but it can get to a stage where one becomes totally frustrated.
That €312 million should be recognised as part of the €4 billion announced for housing. In south County Dublin there are 89 projects and €17 million is coming into Dublin south-west. I was on the council for 20 years and we were crying out for housing. This is one of the biggest initiatives we have seen in Dublin south-west. When one breaks it down like that, it actually means something.
I know that Fr. McVerry criticised the council, but South Dublin County Council is particularly active in recirculating the voids. That is another issue to which the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, referred today. It is not just one project because there are the voids, NAMA and the construction of council houses. Many Senators have mentioned the banks, in particular. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other Ministers have said that something will have to be done about the banks. The Government will take action if the banks do not do so themselves.
At the weekend, I visited a woman who is in mortgage arrears due to the interest being charged. Those people will become homeless, so it will come back on the State and local authorities to rehouse them. This is the first major project in this regard and I welcome it.
I would also like a debate on the language schools.
I congratulate the Leader on arranging today's debate on Seanad reform. I must admit that I had some doubts as to whether it would happen because it takes so long for things to happen. The Leader has moved on it, however, and I am delighted to see that former Senators, Dr. Maurice Manning and Mr. Joe O'Toole, will be here today for that debate. Nevertheless, I want to ensure that something happens following that debate. My worry is that we will have a debate on Seanad reform but nothing will happen.
To a certain extent, that is what occurred with the debate on defibrillators. The other day, Senator Kathryn Reilly mentioned the death of a man in Cavan because no defibrillator was available. It is two years since we debated defibrillators here. I adjourned the final debate on the basis that the Minister promised he would investigate the opportunities for doing something about it. He then published a report saying it would be too expensive to put defibrillators everywhere. They do not have to go everywhere, however, but they should go where they are needed. Lives are being lost and it seems a shame that the Government has not acted to ensure that every premises with a reasonable number of people coming into it would have a defibrillator available. The fact is that after two years nothing has happened, other than a report stating the basis on which nothing is being done.
I wish to add one other point concerning what Senator Bacik said about the LE Eithne going to the Mediterranean. It is great to see that happening. A horrific number of deaths have been occurring and yet little is being done about it in the Mediterranean. I am not sure what the answer to that is. If the LE Eithne , which, I think, is going to the Mediterranean on Friday, saves people who otherwise would have died and lands them on beaches or in ports in Malta and Italy, what happens then? At some point, the people of Malta and Italy will say this is not good enough and that we cannot just unload people from sub-Saharan Africa in their countries and expect us to look after them. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction. I hope that development brings about the success we all hope it will.
Last week, I raised the Ireland's Ancient East initiative, which is most welcome. My own county of Louth has so much to offer discerning visitors. The land of legends include the medieval town of Carlingford, the Cooley Peninsula, Queen Maeve, Cúchulainn, Ballymascanlan, the Kildemock jumping church at Ardee, Ardee Castle and the Viking village at Annagassan.
I remind the Cathaoirleach that in County Louth we pay our due taxes, as do those involved in the tourism industry. As County Louth has a great deal to offer, I call for an urgent debate on how the wee county has been omitted. Looking at the map, I see the route extends from Cork to Newgrange in County Meath. I note that it includes Muiredach's Cross at Monasterboice, which is most beautiful and the tallest remaining Celtic high cross in Ireland. The situation must be rectified and County Louth recognised on the map. The literature must explain to discerning visitors what the county has to offer. I would like to know who compiled it. People are tweeting and I am being mentioned on social media as the cause of my town and county not being included. I am not prepared to stand back and accept that and want someone to explain to me how a county which has so much to offer was left out. It is on the east coast and the natural end point of a route from Cork to Carlingford.
I note the situation regarding English language colleges. I had the pleasure of visiting China in 2000 as the guest of a general in the Chinese army. We were held in high esteem as educators, but what is going on in these private colleges will destroy our international reputation. I, therefore, support calls for an urgent debate on the matter.
The second issue I wish to raise is the marriage equality referendum. I do not care what side one is on, but I have been challenged in the House to confront my own conservatism. I have spent the weekend listening to lies and misinformation being spread all over the country. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, who is director of elections for the referendum, to provide some clarification, particularly on the issues of surrogacy and children.
I support the call for an urgent debate on the issue of mortgage arrears and welcome the debate this afternoon on Seanad reform. I support Senator Terry Brennan on the absence of the beautiful county of Louth from the new eastern way. We need to do something about this as a matter of urgency.
I support colleagues who have called for an urgent statement from the Minister for Education and Skills on language schools. It is obvious that there is serious criminality involved. Ireland's image is certainly being badly besmirched abroad. The issue must be addressed. It is probably also one for the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald.
It is welcome that the Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, has confirmed that the LE Eithne will sail later this week to the Mediterranean to assist in the rescue mission for those unfortunate people trying to escape from Africa. There is no doubt that the numbers coming to Europe now pose major logistical problems for many countries. As such, it would be appropriate to have a debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on the Government's intentions and attitude towards our efforts to alleviate the problems many countries will encounter as a result of the number of refugees coming to Europe.
I welcome as a start the €312 million announced by the Minister the Environment, Communications and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, to fund a housing programme to address the major housing crisis. In my county of Galway €9 million will be spent on providing ten houses in Athenry, 30 in Ballinalsoe, 25 in Tuam and six rural houses elsewhere. It is only a start but a welcome one nevertheless.
I agree with colleagues about the urgent need to address the issue of vacant local authority houses. It is unacceptable that houses which become vacant and need some repairs are left for long periods of time not just in Dublin but throughout the country, including in County Galway. The issue of rent allowance must be addressed and it is hoped the Minister for Social Protection will make some comments about that soon. I would like to see a situation where when homes are repossessed, the Government could intervene and get some of them converted into social houses so that the person being evicted could continue to occupy them. This would certainly be one way of ensuring that the numbers on the housing list do not continue to grow. At the pace of investment we see, it will be many years before the homelessness crisis in this country is addressed in a meaningful manner.
I support the need for an urgent debate on language schools as this situation is happening way too frequently. We are an embarrassment. It is totally unfair to the poor young people who spend their money this way. It is letting everybody down. Could the Leader arrange for the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House to speak on this issue? It has gone on for many years.
The mortgage arrears crisis is building. I understand there are about 8,000 civil repossession bills before the courts. We look for urgent solutions here every day to prevent further homelessness because that is what is created when people's homes are repossessed. It solves nothing. Bank managers are telling me that they want the Government to instruct them to do deals. They cannot necessarily get that approval from their boards but that is what they are looking for. I ask the Leader for an urgent debate on this matter with the Minister for Finance.
One of the key reasons I rise today is to condemn the very inappropriate intervention by the boss of the IDA last week to seek a "Yes" vote in the marriage referendum. Was he instructed by An Taoiseach or the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, who is his line manager? Is the IDA now supplying funds to the "Yes" campaign? These are the types of questions that are emerging. It is completely outrageous and such an abuse of position.
Has the Senator a question for the Leader?
As a person from the west, an area which badly needs jobs, I support everything about the IDA in terms of jobs but I would never support its intervention in respect of the sovereignty of the people in the democratic process. What is the Government's role regarding this man's abuse of his position? I would like to hear a reply to that question.
I very much support my Louth colleague, Senator Brennan, in his call for greater attention to be paid to Louth in respect of the Ireland's Ancient East initiative. When Queen Maeve and her husband Aihill were lying in bed in Cruachan in County Roscommon, he boasted about the strength and potency of his white bull and she told him she knew a man in Cooley who had a bigger bull than him, it gave rise to the greatest saga in European history, let alone Irish history.
What relevance has this to the Order of Business?
I enjoyed the bit about Thoor Ballylee. Anything which excludes the Táin saga from the Ireland's Ancient East initiative is wrong. It is a disgrace. We need change and accountability and we need to know why it was excluded and what will be done about it.
We need to know why that was excluded and what is going to be done about it. That saga could be the basis of a great tourism product for Ireland. I fully support what he says. The Táin saga introduced us to Setanta, Ferdia, Fergus Mac Róich and the Gáe Bolga.
Diarmuid agus Gráinne.
We need all of it to be recognised, including Diarmuid agus Gráinne. We could extend it to Slieve Gullion, where Fionn Mac Cumhaill hunted wild boar under a geis, and bring in south Armagh. In an article he wrote for The Irish Times, Diarmaid Ferriter was complimentary about the 2016 centenary commemorations but he also suggested they were an opportunity to revisit the fact that history is no longer a subject in the junior certificate cycle. That was a mistake. According to the Book of Revelations we are all searching for that white stone on which our name, or our identity, is written. History is an important part of our identity. It was a big mistake to exclude history from the junior certificate and I ask that the Minister for Education and Skills reconsider that decision.
On a point of information-----
There is no such thing on the Order of Business. I call the Leader.
-----history is still on the junior certificate syllabus.
It is not a core subject.
Senator Mooney raised the issue of Seanad reform, which we will be discussing after the Order of Business. Today's debate will give us an opportunity to make preliminary observations on the report. I am sure that we will have further debates before any Bill is introduced. I look forward to the debate.
Senator Mooney and others referred to the issue of English language schools. Last week I asked the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House to make a statement on the matter and I hope she will accede to that request next week. I agree with the Senators that the issues arising pose a threat to our international reputation in this area. There is a need for greater regulation. These schools are worth €800 million to the economy. It would be useful, therefore, to have the Minister outline her intentions for their future.
A number of Senators raised the issue of social housing. The 1,700 houses to be constructed over the next three years will be new units. As has been rightly pointed out, they are only a drop in the ocean but the intention is to provide 35,000 units over the next five years. Local authorities will be also dealing with boarded up units and they have been asked to come forward with shovel ready proposals for which money can be allocated. In my own local authorities in Waterford city and county, grant aid amounting to more than €6 million has been provided for housing construction, with eight houses to be built in Ballybeg, six in Larchville, 20 in Ballinroad and eight in Portlaw. This is a way for local authorities to progress shovel-ready projects because the money will be forthcoming for them.
We have gone back to a situation where local authorities can buy homes from the private sector. There are many ways to address our housing crisis. The Government is doing everything possible to address this.
Senator Bacik also spoke about boarded-up housing and the NAMA units that will come on stream. She also mentioned the rescue of more than 6,000 migrants in the Mediterranean over the weekend. Other Senators mentioned it too. It is a very serious problem. It is all right rescuing the people but when they arrive on the shore, what happens? It is an all-EU project. The EU will have to come up with proposals and solutions because it cannot be left to the Italians, the Maltese and others to deal with this problem.
Senator Norris spoke about the debate on “The Late Late Show” about marriage equality. I note his points on that and on the Edith Wilkins foundation, which is doing such good work in Nepal. I will certainly bring that matter to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Senator Comiskey welcomed the beef genomics scheme announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney. It will certainly improve the quality of our breeding herd and will be of great benefit to many in the farming community.
Senator O’Donovan called for a debate on the fishing industry. We had a debate on that subject a couple of months ago but we will ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to come in to address it again.
Senator O’Donovan and others spoke about rent allowance being inadequate. There is a question about whether raising the allowances will result in rents being raised too. Will it be a vicious circle?
The Government will announce proposals on mortgage arrears, which Senator Hayden addressed, in the next couple of weeks. I have been in contact with the Minister for Finance. When those announcements are made, he will be willing to come to the House to discuss the proposals. Senator Hayden also asked that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly, come in to speak about mortgage arrears and housing. That request was tabled several weeks ago. I hope the Minister will accede to the request and come to the House to debate that matter.
Senator Barrett spoke about Aer Lingus. No decision has been made. The Government will decide, based on the best advice and evaluation available. The Tánaiste made that very clear this morning.
Senator Keane spoke about housing and about the English language schools, which I have dealt with.
Senator Quinn spoke about defibrillators and called for an update from the Minister for Health. I will ask the Minister for an update. As he rightly pointed out, there was a report which mentioned the cost and it would be very difficult to provide one in every place mentioned, but there has to be middle ground.
Senator Quinn and other Senators welcomed the positioning of the LE Eithne in the Mediterranean and called for an all-Union solution to this tragic problem.
Senators Brennan and Jim D’Arcy spoke about Ireland's Ancient East. They are right to highlight the omission of Louth. It can and will be rectified. I think Monasterboice is mentioned but Senator D’Arcy gave us an historical masterpiece on the Táin Bó Cúailnge. He was certainly not speaking bull.
We have never forgiven them in Connacht.
As has rightly been stated, history is no longer a core subject but it is a very important part of the junior certificate curriculum.
Senator Craughwell raised the issues of English language schools and housing. I note the points made by him. Senator Michael Mullins also raised the issue of English language schools. He also called for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to address the House on the refugee crisis. I have asked the Minister to do so and hope he will be in the House soon to discuss it with us.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames raised the issue of mortgage arrears. The Government will make a statement on the matter in a number of weeks and I hope the Minister for Finance will come to the House to address it. With regard to the boss of IDA Ireland, to the best of my knowledge, he was not instructed by any Minister to make any statement on the referendum. It is a matter for the gentleman in question to speak on whatever issue he wishes.
We had the historical masterpiece of Senator Jim D'Arcy. I have addressed most of the subjects raised.