Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Choice of Court (Hague Convention) Bill 2015 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 1 p.m. and adjourned not later than 3 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; No. 2, statements on the report of the working group on Seanad reform 2015, to be taken at 3 p.m. and conclude not later than 6 p.m., if not previously concluded, with Dr. Maurice Manning to make an opening statement, the contributions of all Senators not to exceed ten minutes and Dr. Manning and Mr. Joe O'Toole to be called on to reply to questions not later than 5.45 p.m.; No. 3, Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 - Second Stage, to be taken at 6 p.m. and adjourned not later than 8 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 70, Private Members' business, non-Government motion No. 20 re conditions of work, to be taken at 8 p.m. and conclude not later than 10 p.m.

I thank Senator Colm Burke for raising the pancreas transplant issue directly with the Minister for Health in a Commencement debate matter. Having read the Minister's reply to the Senator, it is welcome that a special clinic will be held on 24 July to deal with the eight patients who are currently waiting for transplants. This is very welcome but I believe that if we had not raised this matter time and again, this would not be happening. I welcome the announcement following the cross-party effort on the issue. I commend the Senator for raising the matter and thank him for his assistance in this regard, particularly on behalf of the people waiting for a transplant. I compliment him on what he has done.

In regard to No. 2, the statements on the report of the working group on Seanad reform, I welcome the fact we will have two former colleagues in the House on this matter. I have been reading about this report with interest and have my own views on some of the proposals, which I will mention later. I am not sure how workable the proposals are, but my main concern is the role of the Government, particularly of the Taoiseach, in this. The Taoiseach has not met any of the leaders of the Opposition in regard to these proposals. We do not have an existing, sitting Senator on the working group and I see that as deficient. The Leader should have been part of the group. If there was to be only one sitting Senator on it, that should have been the Leader. Since the referendum on the Seanad was defeated, we have had only one meeting with the Taoiseach. We were told there would be a series of meetings on Seanad reform and how it would be done.

I do not disparage in any way the work that has been done by the working group but it appears that what is proposed now is to rush through some proposal document. This is not doable between now and the next election and is probably not doable at all. The proposals contained in the report would probably ensure a Seanad election would be more expensive than a Dáil election and, as set out, would cost taxpayers a lot more.

This does not make any sense and I am worried that it is a box ticking exercise by the Taoiseach and the Government in order that when he goes to the public, he will be able to say he has a detailed Seanad reform plan which he knows will never be implemented. I am concerned that we are just going through the motions and that what will happen later today is a false debate. We will be having a chat with two well respected people, former Senators Maurice Manning and Joe O'Toole, but they have no power. They have produced a report, but let us be straight - the only person who can make any change is the Taoiseach but only if he wants it to happen. I am wary of this process. Has the Taoiseach indicated to the Leader that there will be a meeting of group leaders with him on Seanad reform? Will he follow through on his commitment which he gave more than two years ago to work with the Seanad to improve the workings of the House? The Leader has introduced many valuable changes and I know that he would have made more if he had been sanctioned to do so. He has changed the workings of the Seanad in the past four years, for which I commend him. However, I am concerned that this is a case where, having produced a report on Seanad reform, it will be a matter of saying "off with you now" and that during the general election the Taoiseach will say he brought forward reform proposals. Most of us know that none of it is going to happen. We are to spend three hours listening to statements on the report of the working group, yet I cannot get certain Ministers to come to the House to discuss various matters. We could spend three hours discussing things which really will happen and really affect the public.

I add my voice to those who have welcomed the announcement yesterday of the new allocation of special needs assistants by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. Up to 610 additional SNAs will be allocated from September 2015. When the Minister spoke on radio this morning, she made explicit the Government's commitment that every child with an assessed care need would have access to SNA support. The new allocation reflects a significant increase in assessed needs, of which her Department has become aware, and is very welcome for many parents around the country. It means that the allocation of full-time SNA posts will rise in September to 11,820.

Also welcome is the announcement made by Vodafone of 200 new jobs in Dublin, with the European sales centre to be located in Carrickmines.

I commend Senator Jillian van Turnhout for her initiative in putting together an all-party Oireachtas group on children's future health which will work with the Irish Heart Foundation. I commend her for the successful launch of the all-party group this morning. Colleagues in the Dáil and the Seanad were present at the launch, including Senator Marie Moloney. Professor Donal O'Shea and Miriam O'Callaghan were also in attendance. I look forward to having a debate in the House, perhaps in the autumn term, on the work of the all-party group which will address the issue of children's future health on a cross-party basis and with a view to taking real action.

I will start by referring to the children's future health cross-party group which we launched this morning. I thank Senators and Deputies, across parties, who joined me. They included Senators Ivana Bacik and Marie Moloney and Deputies Clare Daly, Billy Kelleher, Sandra McLellan, Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Thomas Pringle. I thank the Irish Heart Foundation for supporting us in our work with a secretariat, with the Children's Rights Alliance, Social Justice Ireland and Healthy Food for All. The need for a cross-party group on children's future health is to be found in the reality that one in four children in Ireland is overweight or obese and that one in five children goes to bed hungry. We hope that, as a cross-party group, we can agree on actions to be taken in this area. Later this year we will launch the first ever study of food marketing to children via the Internet and social media which is being carried out by the Irish Heart Foundation. We will work with anyone and everyone who wishes to work on the issue of children's future health.

I wish to raise an issue with the Leader regarding the children's rights referendum. Yesterday there was a decision on costs when the Supreme Court dealt with the legal challenges. The President signed the children's rights referendum Act into law on 28 April which was a glorious day. However, if one looks at the Office of the Attorney General's website, www.irishstatutebook.ie, concerning the 31st amendment to the Constitution it states the result of the referendum "is currently the subject of a legal challenge". On Friday last I wrote to the Attorney General to seek clarification. As I had contacted her office prior to that but without success, I decided to write to her. I have been advised that the Office of the Attorney General will not update its website until the Constitution is reprinted, a matter I have found that comes within the remit of the Office of Public Works. When I contacted that office, it stated it had completed a print run in February and had no intention of completing another in the foreseeable future because it was waiting to include the latest amendment in the next print run. The result of the marriage equality referendum is being challenged in the courts. This is unacceptable and an impasse. The Office of the Attorney General's website states there is a legal challenge to the 31st amendment to the Constitution - the children's rights referendum. To me, it feels like children are being told to wait again because we have to wait for a reprint of a book. I do not understand it. The President signed the Act into law on 28 April and we have waited long enough. There are children who did not receive their rights during the period of two and a half year while the outcome was being appealed. I respect the concept of democracy, but there were children waiting to be adopted who turned 18 years of age during that period and whose rights were extinguished. I have written to the Attorney General and the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works, but I would be grateful for any guidance, help or support the Leader could offer. At the very least, the websites should be accurate.

I repeat my call for a discussion on the implementation of the proposals made in the working group's report on the direct provision system which was published last week. It is a weighty tome, but much of it requires to be implemented. We need to see action on the proposals made in it. I, therefore, ask for a debate on the issue at the earliest opportunity.

Next Thursday in the Taney parish centre I will be holding a public meeting aimed at stopping burglaries. It follows a meeting I held in May on tackling crime and burglaries in the Dublin Rathdown area. More than half of the people who attended that meeting had had their houses burgled, which is serious. On 30 June the CSO published figures showing there had been a surge of 8% in the number of burglaries in the past 12 months. I am calling for the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, to come to the House to discuss with us what she intends to do and how she will increase the numbers of gardaí to halt the increase in the number of burglaries. A surge of 8% nationally is frightening. It was folly to close the Garda station in Stepaside. The constituency of Dublin Rathdown is very close to the M50 which those who want to carry out burglaries in the area can use to get in and out easily. Based on my experience, I am passionate about the need to revamp the Neighbourhood Watch scheme. At the public meeting next week I will have three brilliant speakers: the chairman of Crimestoppers, Mr. Tim Dalton; the local community garda in the area and Ms Noreen Barron who will speak about the Neighbourhood Watch scheme.

We will all go.

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme was very successful for a number of years, but it now needs to be totally revamped. It is a perfect partnership between gardaí and the local community.

Is the Senator proposing an amendment to the Order of Business?

I am proposing an amendment to request the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to speak about the surge of 8% in the number of burglaries in the past 12 months and state what she intends to do about it.

After the severe storm damage caused in recent years in various parts of the country, including Galway, there was a Government commitment to provide for coastal and river flood protection works. I am glad to say a risk assessment is now taking place in Galway with a view to drawing down funding from the OPW, the lead Government agency in providing long-term flood defences. The Government's catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme will consider the long-term effects of flooding, as well as the impact of climate change and rising tides. There will be a public consultation process in Galway and other affected areas across the country. I urge anyone affected by flooding to become involved in the consultation process. There will also be a risk assessment, the findings of which will contribute to a draft flood management plan for local areas. I also understand works on the Clare river in Claregalway are being held up by legal difficulties, but it is hoped they will be overcome shortly.

I welcome the announcement yesterday by the Minister for Education and Skills of an additional 610 special needs assistants. Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Our Lady of Good Counsel national school in Johnstown, Killiney, County Dublin. A summer course on physical literacy is being held there for primary teachers. Today I thank the Minister for Education and Skills and the Professional Development Service for Teachers for listening to me and taking on board the points for life initiative I launched in the Seanad four years ago.

As part of its well-being team, the Professional Development Service for Teachers has established a number of staff who have been assigned to upskill national teachers in the area of physical literacy. The design of the fundamental movement skills, which I have been talking about consistently for some time, is in the final stages and, once completed, they will be rolled out on a trial basis throughout 2015 and 2016. This is all part of the national physical activity plan and the Get Active framework announced in recent years. The teachers who attended this seminar this week and previous weeks were absolutely blown away by what they have learned in terms of fundamental movement skills, the foundation we build in children and how important this is. They are really encouraged and enthusiastic about going back to school.

This is only a seed that has been sown and I would like to see it blossom as quickly as possible in the school curriculum in the next few years. A number of teachers mentioned to me yesterday that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is responsible for writing the curriculum on numeracy and literacy in schools. The teachers I spoke to yesterday have encouraged me to ask for the Minister for Education and Skills and the NCCA to take on board now the writing of a proper curriculum for physical literacy in schools. I thank the PDST and the Minister and all those teachers who have enthusiastically taken on what we have been trying to get through the Seanad in recent years.

I ask the Leader if it is possible to arrange for statements on technological universities before the summer recess or if not, as early as possible in September. Is the Leader in a position to update the House on the work of Michael Kelly and a university for the south east? He has been meeting stakeholders. He was to complete a report and furnish it to the Minister and one hopes the findings will be published. This is a hugely important issue for the people of Waterford city and county. It is massively important that this is delivered. There is a concern that we are into the last year or less of this Government's term of office. To be frank, we are no closer to having that university in Waterford and for the people of the south east than when this Government came into office. This is not all the fault of the Government as it is more to do with internal politics in the region and for other reasons. It is hugely important. We cannot allow this to slip under the radar and not to go ahead. It was in the programme for Government as a clear promise and we must ensure it is delivered. I am sure the Leader will concur it is hugely important, not just for the people of Waterford city and county but for the entire south-east region, that this university is delivered. We have been, in educational terms, operating with one hand tied behind our back for far too long. I met Michael Kelly and the Minister for Education and Skills. I know that Government Deputies and Senators and Opposition Members have been pushing this issue and working very hard in the locality to ensure this is delivered. It was envisaged the report would be published well before now but there is a concern as to why it has not been published yet. If the Leader is not in a position to answer today, will he get an update from the Minister.

I wish to seek support for 470,000 asthma sufferers in this country. Ireland has the fourth highest asthma statistics in the world. In my own county of Tipperary alone, there are 15,000 people suffering from asthma, approximately 10% of the population. In 2011, the Government approved a clinical programme for asthma but, to date, this programme has not been implemented. There are a number of facets to this programme but the ones I will highlight in particular are the provision of one free GP visit per year for asthma sufferers, which would cost approximately €2.5 million, the provision of an Asthma Society of Ireland advice line, which would cost approximately €150,000, and a recognition that asthma is a long-term illness. The number of people suffering from asthma increases during the summer and many people will experience asthma along with hay fever. For a person who suffers with asthma all year round, it is a debilitating disease and it deserves to be recognised as a long-term illness.

The Government, in good faith, approved the strategy four years ago but it is time for action. There has been some loosening of the purse strings in advance of the budget and money could not be spent in a better way than by providing the services I have outlined for asthma sufferers. Perhaps the Leader would request the Minister for Health to come to the House to have a debate on this subject before the summer recess.

I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Mary White. A few weeks ago Senator David Norris and others raised the issue of an alleged village called Susiya on the West Bank. A number of us had received information on this by e-mail. I decided that in this instance I would contact the Israeli embassy to establish exactly what its position was. Inevitably what happens in this House whenever issues of Israeli-Palestinian relationships are raised, we hear about the Palestinian side. If the House will allow me, I will read relevant parts of the response I received. The Israeli embassy response states that Susiya is not and never was a recognised village. It states that there is an archaeological site there showing signs of ancient Jewish habitations from 1,500 years ago. In recent years clusters of illegal structures have been built around Susiya in breach of planning and zoning laws. The embassy response also points out that it is a Bedouin settlement which is a largely barren territory that is controlled by Israel and is state land according to the Oslo Accords.

This issue was raised by way of a Commencement matter by Senator Terry Leyden this morning.

Yes, but I wish to give the Israeli side of the argument. They say the authorities in the area have offered alternative lands nearby which will improve the petitioners' quality of living, enabling access to civil infrastructure systems and improve access to educational facilities. They state the offer does not obstruct the continuation of the same agricultural activities in the lands to which the petitioners lay claim, that their petition will be heard by the Israeli Supreme Court next month, and that the authorities will heed any decision reached by the court. The final point of the embassy is that in the broader context the attempts to portray the issue of Susiya as a human rights issue are egregious in that the issue relates to illegal building and any attempt to portray it as anything else merely confirms that it is being used as another propaganda tool to generate hostility towards Israel. I wanted to put that statement on the record of the House. It is a matter for Members of the House to decide on who is right and wrong, but time and again in this House we have heard one side of the argument and I wanted to give the other. Whether one supports it or otherwise, they are entitled to their point of view.

I ask that the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs would come to the House, tomorrow if possible but certainly next week, to afford this House the opportunity of discussing the Greek crisis. As a House we have not voiced any opinion on the Greek crisis as it has developed over recent weeks. Particularly in the light of the decisions that are imminent this weekend it is very important that this House has an opportunity to express its views and to hear the Government view. There are conflicting signals coming from the Government on what exactly is the Irish Government's attitude towards Greece. We are hearing, on the one hand, about the great empathy we have with the Greek people but, on the other, there are suggestions we are siding with the German bankers. I do not think that obfuscation and ambiguity should be allowed to stay on the record any longer.

We need clarity. We on this side of the House have made it quite clear that we support the efforts of the Greek Government to get its people out from under all the austerity that could continue for at least a decade, a situation I do not think anyone would find that acceptable.

We all know in this House how difficult fuel fraud is for the Revenue Commissioners who have direct responsibility for it and the serious threat this criminal activity poses to legitimate businesses, North and South. Senator Wilson recognises how well these people perform in their illegal activity dealing with stretched petrol and laundered diesel. I welcome the recent announcement by the Minister for Finance regarding the introduction on 1 April 2015 of a new and more effective product for marking rebated fuels that was identified as a result of a joint process conducted with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in the United Kingdom. The work of Revenue officers in testing fuel for the presence of the new marker will be supported by mobile equipment that will allow on-the-spot analysis of samples. We wish them well. Anything that can be done to strengthen the Revenue Commissioners' hand in combating this must be done.

I know that the issue arose at the previous meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh. The report that was adopted in this Chamber at the plenary session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in February recommended that a task force be set up. The Revenue Commissioners cannot deal with this on their own. The PSNI in the North and An Garda Síochána in the South cannot deal with this on their own. There are 34 Border crossings in the Dundalk region alone. These people have been known to break roadblocks on occasion. Apart from that, it is impossible to police 34 Border crossings so we must get real. It must be done an all-agency basis that involves the Revenue Commissioners, the Customs service, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency in addition to An Garda Síochána and the PSNI. These people have been in business on the Border for 20 or 30 years. If this is not adopted, they will remain in business for the next 20 or 30 years.

I support the point made by Senator Paul Coghlan. I have said a few times in this House that the criminal organisations we are talking about are largely run by the Provisional IRA. Whatever difficulties they pose for small businesses, the threats, intimidation and tactics they use to control and subjugate their own communities are quite abhorrent. There does not seem to be a massive amount of will on the part of the police to tackle them. I do not know whether it is down to resources. It seems that this artificial peace process is being protected at all costs.

I also wish to raise the issue of the N20 motorway between Cork and Limerick. I wished to raise the matter under the Commencement debate today. It relates to connectivity between Ireland's second and third largest cities. It is a major barrier to investment in County Limerick in particular but also in the south, south-west and mid-west regions. If we do not have that kind of road connectivity between two of the country's major cities, it is quite inhibiting. My Commencement matter was ruled out of order because a similar matter had apparently been raised a couple of weeks ago so I amended my Commencement matter in such a way as to make it different. I have been in contact with a civil engineer of considerable experience based in Austria who has proposed a different public private partnership model from the one used by the National Roads Authority and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. This model is an enhanced public private partnership model that could go some way towards solving the issue of connectivity between Cork and Limerick. I use the road quite often. There are always tailbacks between Mallow, Buttevant and Charleville and there are some terribly dangerous accident blackspots in Rockhill, Anahid Cross and O'Rourke's Cross. This project has been put on the long finger for far too long and is something County Limerick really needs. Will the Cathaoirleach consider a Commencement matter I will resubmit? I hope it will be taken because it is the only opportunity I will get to hear from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport about this very important project.

I agree with the need for this House to have some sort of debate on Greece. It is an international crisis that, regardless of the way it is resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the European project as we know it. Regardless of whether it is resolved satisfactorily or not, Europe has changed as a result of the Greek crisis. It would be no harm if the Leader were in a position to organise a debate to clarify the Government position, which I have no doubt is very clear. Like the Irish people, the Government empathises with the people of Greece. Some of the ill-informed and misconstrued comments on the Government position were regrettable because they are not true and the Taoiseach and other Ministers have made that clear in recent days.

On a more positive note, the aviation industry in this country is doing remarkably well. I am delighted to be able to tell the House that AerCap, one of the world's leading aircraft leasing companies, has created 100 jobs, 50 of which are in Dublin in Senator Darragh O'Brien's area and 50 in Shannon. These are high-end and highly sought after jobs in the area of technical aircraft leasing as well as legal, treasury and finance jobs. AerCap has had a tremendous growth trajectory over recent years. It now has about 2,000 aircraft, the latest of which is being delivered to Dublin Airport today. We all remember the great dream that was Guinness Peat Aviation. Unfortunately, due to bad timing and a bad initial public offering, it did not lead to the international stardom and success for which people had hoped. We now have far more balanced and measured development of the aircraft leasing business. Ireland is the world leader in aircraft leasing. No one can come near us. We need to play to our strengths. The 100 new jobs are an incremental step in the development plan of an aircraft industry that does not just involve flying planes but encompasses the industry around it, particularly aircraft leasing. I hope we will see in due course many more jobs in aircraft finance, engineering, marketing and so on. There is no reason Ireland cannot become a world hub and expert in the aircraft business. I again welcome this jobs announcement which is a great vote of confidence in counties Clare and Dublin. It shows the expertise this country has in the area.

I agree with Senator Martin Conway's point about the need for a debate on the European Union, the euro and where we are as the fallout in Greece continues. The future of the European project is very much in doubt, especially in light of the role the euro has played in the debt crisis in Ireland and other countries in Europe. We see the weakness of the euro project in Greece. We saw it in Ireland. It is the only currency in the world that does not have the fiscal reasonability that goes with a currency from where it is printed, namely, the ECB. We do not have that with the euro and we have seen the difficulties this presents. We should have a debate about this, Ireland's position in the European Union and the European project in general, including the euro. We may not have time before the recess but perhaps the Leader might arrange it when we return in early September.

I also call on the Leader to facilitate a debate to discuss the undocumented Irish in the United States.

It is an issue in particular at this time of year when families like to be together over the summer months, but many are locked in the United States because they cannot come home, due to the three-year and eight-year bar. There is an alternative which would allow approximately 25% of the undocumented Irish to avail of a waiver scheme, according to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform group, whereby visa waivers can be given at the discretion of US embassies abroad without the need for congressional, Senate or presidential approval. Mexico was facilitated with 58,000 such waivers in 2011, and in fact Mexicans got 8,542 waivers last year. Ireland only got 118 waivers last year while the North and Britain got 2,250 waivers. There is a real opportunity for the US ambassador to Ireland to consider a mechanism to approve waivers to facilitate some of the undocumented in the United States to become legal citizens there. To be fair to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, he has raised the issue with US officials but we should have a debate on it here. I am not sure if there is a mechanism for the Seanad as a group to facilitate a discussion with the US ambassador to Ireland on the issue. In terms of thinking outside the box, perhaps the Leader could think about it over the summer and we could revisit the matter in September.

Last week we had welcome news in my county whereby a wind farm development proposed for Fourmilehouse in County Roscommon was refused planning permission. The reason it was refused was because of the impact it would have on a rare breed of swan. I read in today's newspaper that a proposed wind farm development in Doonbeg in County Clare was refused planning permission because of the impact it would have on a rare mussel. In the past, some wind farm developments have been refused because of the potential effects on a lesser horseshoe bat, or even a snail. We have never had a decision from An Bord Pleanála refusing planning permission because of potential adverse effects on human health and well-being. People are not even taken into consideration. A couple in my county, Michael and Dorothy Kane, had to move out of their home because of the effects a wind farm development had on them. They moved to County Leitrim. They were driven demented by the development. Politicians often say we must put people first, however, we are putting bats, snails, swans and mussels ahead of human beings in this country.

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, is trying to introduce new set-back distances for wind farms from people's homes. He is meeting resistance from within Government circles. I ask the Leader that we would urge the Minister to introduce the new guidelines as a matter of urgency, and most certainly before the summer recess.

To follow on from Senator John Kelly's point, a wind farm application was thankfully refused in County Meath recently. The whooper swan was one of the reasons, but also the very important heritage we have in County Meath. I am sorry to say that heritage is being further threatened by EirGrid, which has put in a planning application for a gigantic and extremely ugly overhead power line at a time when we are told that nothing is happening in that regard and that the Taoiseach has stopped various projects. That is not the case in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. There is a major proposal to put a 400 kV line from Kilmullen in south County Meath all the way up to Kingscourt and beyond into Cavan and Monaghan. It will have a severe impact on the heritage and tourism potential of County Meath and on the enjoyment of life and health of citizens there who, as Senator John Kelly rightly pointed out, are the most important people in the process. It is the people whose will and view should be listened to by the authorities.

This particular type of project was stopped in its tracks in County Mayo because there is a Taoiseach in the county. This project was also stopped in its tracks all through the constituency of the former Minister, Phil Hogan, but in County Meath, despite the fact that five of the six Deputies in County Meath are Government Deputies, they seem to have had no influence whatsoever on the project. Planning permission has been sought but it is not too late for the Government to say it is unfair and unjust on the people of County Meath. In the meantime, because it is going through the statutory process, it is important that everybody in County Meath, not just those under the proposed route of the pylons, would take part in the An Bord Pleanála planning procedure. They should lodge their objections, and if they cannot afford the €50 fee they should join with others to put in an objection. It is important that the public knows that people can join together in one objection to save money because it is very expensive to go through the process.

I hope that someone will listen to the people, and to those who have been campaigning on the issue for almost eight years, and will say that the lines can be put underground. The people of Meath support an interconnector route but it must be put underground. Who would have thought the field of Tailteann, the area where the Tailteann Games took place - that famous celebration in ancient Ireland - would be utterly destroyed by what EirGrid is proposing? It is outrageous and disgraceful and the people of Meath will not accept it, in particular the people who own the land, who in effect are the caretakers of the land of Meath for the next generations. They will not let EirGrid on to their land to build the project, in which I support them.

My colleague, Senator Mary White, mentioned the increased number of burglaries in the past year. Each and every part of the country has witnessed that. Only last weekend a young man who opens and closes a church on the Cooley Peninsula was at the church to close it at 9.10 p.m. in his new jeep. It takes him a couple of minutes to close the church. When he came out the jeep was gone. The problem is the quick access to Northern Ireland because within five or six minutes anyone committing a burglary on the Cooley Peninsula or in my home town of Carlingford can be in a different jurisdiction. I call for an increase in the number of gardaí in Border counties in particular because of the number of access points to Northern Ireland.

We need more gardaí all around the country.

Senator Paul Coghlan mentioned 34 crossings in my county alone. I did not think anybody else knew that but he has been working very hard in the Border counties in recent months. It is impossible to patrol 34 crossings but a greater Garda presence would help.

My town of Carlingford is thankfully becoming the tourism capital of the country. I say that with all due respect to Killarney, Westport and Kilkenny. The population of the town increases threefold with discerning visitors from Friday to Monday. We need a greater Garda presence in the town. I am delighted so many thousands are coming to visit at the weekends. I call on the Leader to appeal to the Minister to ensure more gardaí are deployed in Carlingford, and in Border towns such as Castleblaney and Cavan which have access to Northern Ireland. We need a greater Garda presence.

Senator Darragh O'Brien raised the issue of pancreatic transplants and rightly praised Senator Colm Burke for the answer he had received from the Minister for Health who attended the House this morning. I hope we will see progress on the matter.

Everybody will have an opportunity to make his or her reservations known about the report on Seanad reform to its publishers, former Senators Maurice Manning and Joe O'Toole.

The Taoiseach has not been in contact with me about bringing the various groups together, but he did indicate to me last week in a brief conversation that he intended to set up an implementation body in early course to deal with the Seanad reform proposals.

May I be helpful on one matter? I do not mean to interrupt, but on a point of order, I have received just now a text message containing Government information, that the Taoiseach's office states it will be meeting us today to discuss the matter. I am just letting the Leader know. We need to have the information clarified.

I was not aware of that, but, as I said, I can inform the Senator that the Taoiseach mentioned to me briefly that he intended to set up in early course an implementation body to deal with the Seanad reform document that had been published. Perhaps the meeting has something to do with this.

Senator Ivana Bacik and others welcomed the additional special needs assistants announced by the Minister for Education and Skills. We now have 11,820.

Senator Ivana Bacik also referred to the additional jobs in Vodafone, while Senator Martin Conway referred to additional jobs in the aviation sector. Therefore, the good news on the creation of jobs is continuing and long may it continue. We have the lowest unemployment rate for quite some time. It is 9.7% and decreasing as we continue to implement the Action Plan for Jobs.

Senator Ivana Bacik also welcomed the all-party group on children's future health, while Senator Jillian van Turnhout outlined the work it proposed to do. We all wish it well in its efforts.

On the children's rights referendum, the result is now law, about which there is no question, as the President has signed the legislation. Why the website of the Office of the Attorney General is not reflecting this, I do not know. However, the referendum result has been enforced in law.

On the system of direct provision and the report published only last week, we will certainly try to facilitate a debate on the issue. I do not know whether we can hold it before the end of the session in a fortnight.

Senator Mary White referred to burglaries, a matter also raised by Senator Terry Brennan. I compliment Senator Mary White on her electioneering and holding a meeting on the issue in her new constituency. There are joint policing committees in the area which I presume are working hard with the local chief superintendent in determining how the number of burglaries can be minimised.

They need the Senator's help in dealing with the issue in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

On Senator Terry Brennan's point, the Government has reopened the Garda College in Templemore. Many more gardaí have come on stream and they will be followed by more. However, the deployment of gardaí is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. I suggest to the Senator that the local chief superintendent make a case to the Commissioner, on whose part I am sure the allocation of resources will be very fair.

Senator Hildegarde Naughton referred to proposed flood defences in Galway and the works proposed to be undertaken by the OPW. I compliment the OPW on the works it has carried out to flood defences in many parts of the country. I am thinking of areas such as Clonmel, Waterford and Kilkenny where it has done an outstanding job, on which it should be complimented.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan referred to his Points for Life initiative and the successful seminar for teachers held yesterday. We will certainly offer any help we can to the Senator in that regard. It is a wonderful initiative that should be promoted in schools throughout the country.

Senator David Cullinane referred to and called for a debate on technological universities. On the specific matter of Waterford and Carlow institutes of technology, we are awaiting the report of Mr. Michael Kelly. As he mentioned, many of the delays were due to internal politics in the system, but I hope progress is being made. The Government mooted the possibility of a university in the south east and included its investigation in the programme for Government, on which we have seen action. That is a far cry from letters from former Taoisigh days before elections were called, which was the end of it as far as the universities were concerned. While we are making some progress, I would like to see a lot more on the matter. I hope there will be developments soon.

Senator Denis Landy referred to the implementation of a clinical programme for asthma sufferers. There is certainly a need for further action in that regard. Free GP care for the under-sixes will be of assistance in the matter.

Senator Paschal Mooney referred to the Palestinian village of Susiya and the need for balance in outlining the Israeli position. There was a Commencement matter on the subject this morning. It is important that there be balance in all our discussions.

On the evolving Greek crisis, I will try to have the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, come to the House next week. Ireland supports the objective of having a sustainable and mutually beneficial agreement acceptable to all concerned that would return Greece to growth within the eurozone. The Government's position is that we want it to stay within the eurozone. The Minister is attending a Eurogroup meeting, while the Taoiseach will be attending a special meeting of the European Council. We will wait to see what proposals are discussed at these meetings and, if possible, I will try to arrange a briefing for the House next week. However, we will be sitting all week when we will have a very busy schedule.

Senator Paul Coghlan referred to the new marker to combat fuel smuggling, which is to be welcomed. We have seen an all-agency approach to the creation of the new marker. I agree with the Senator that there is a need for a task force to deal with the issue of diesel laundering and for all agencies to be involved. Senator James Heffernan suggested the Provisional IRA was still actively involved in this activity.

On the road infrastructure between Cork and Limerick, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, would welcome any proposal Senator James Heffernan has to make. I am sure that if the Senator was to write to the Minister, the Minister would take on board his points and discuss them with him. As the Cathaoirleach mentioned, there was a Commencement debate on the matter a month or so ago, but I am sure the Minister would listen to the Senator's proposals. I agree with the Senator on what he had to say about the Cork–Limerick road, on which there are many black spots, just as there are on the road between Waterford and Limerick which is one of the poorest roads in the country.

Senator Martin Conway referred to the aviation sector and the creation of 100 jobs in leasing, which are to be welcomed.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill referred to the undocumented Irish in the USA and the possibility of their availing of a visa waiver scheme. As he mentioned, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has been actively involved in the matter, as has the Minister of State, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan. I am sure they will continue to be actively involved and I will bring the matter raised to their attention.

Senator John Kelly referred to wind farms and the need for An Bord Pleanála to take greater cognisance of people's concerns rather than those of swans and so on. He urged the Minister to come forward with and implement the new guidelines as soon as possible. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister.

Senator Thomas Byrne spoke about an EirGrid project in his constituency and urged people to make submissions to An Bord Pleanála. I am sure they will do so.

I have addressed the issues of burglaries and the allocation of gardaí raised by Senator Terry Brennan.

Senator Mary White has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality on the 8% surge in the number of burglaries in the past 12 months be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 25.

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • 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.
Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 10.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.