The Order of Business is No. 1, Gender Recognition Bill 2014 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and adjourned not later than 3 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 2, motion re report of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on farm safety, to be taken at 3 p.m. and conclude not later than 5 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contribution of the proposer not to exceed ten minutes, the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes and the proposer to be given four minutes in which to reply to the debate not later than 4.46 p.m.; No. 73, Private Members' business, non-Government motion No. 21 re one-parent family payment, to be taken at 5 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m.; No. 3, Houses of the Oireachtas (Appointments to Certain Offices) Bill 2014 – all Stages, to be taken at 7 p.m. and adjourned not later than 8 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, the Minister to be given five minutes in which to reply to the debate on Second Stage and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; and No. 4, Teaching Council (Amendment) Bill 2015 – Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 8 p.m. and adjourned not later than 10 p.m., if not previously concluded.
Order of Business
I shall first deal with specific items on the Order Paper. Why are we taking all Stages of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Appointments to Certain Offices) Bill 2014 today? As I have said time and again, taking all Stages at once is a poor practice to get into. I have tabled an amendment that asks colleagues to examine the legislation. I do not understand the urgency. I know the Bill is relatively short and I know what it is trying to do. I am concerned that the provision is allowing the commission to set a time limit and a term for certain appointments, such as for the Clerk Assistant of the Dáil and Clerk of the Seanad. We realise that the posts are important, not just for the jobs that are being done in the Houses but outside of the Houses with regard to their positions on the Referendum Commission, SIPO and in terms of constituency boundary reviews. I am not sure how well thought out taking all Stages is. I will raise these points during the Bill. The Fianna Fáil group has tabled an amendment seeking to improve the legislation. I do not believe all Stages should be taken. The Leader should allow more time. I saw the schedule in advance and tabled an amendment which probably facilitates taking all Stages. That in itself is a pity but I did not want to miss the opportunity to table an amendment.
It goes without saying that we need a debate on the figures for Irish Water that were announced today. Before I say it I think we should ban the phrase "solid start" from the Seanad because every Government spokesperson has said "This is a solid start". It certainly is not and is farcical. We have wasted €785 million setting up Irish Water and, based on the returns now, the Government will lose about €35 million this year.
There must be a debate on it, and perhaps a more reasoned debate than the one the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, had on radio this morning. It should be one in which he can answer a few questions and not put it to people that they will all pay in the end. The issue of the household charge, on the last occasion, was different because the Government brought in the big guns of the Revenue Commissioners. In this instance, that option is not available. We must discuss it because it is a massive spend by the Government. I will assume we will have a debate on Irish Water either today or tomorrow, but I will await the Leader's response on that.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 73, non-Government motion No. 20 be taken before No. 1. I am glad Senator Colm Burke is present because, on behalf of the Government, he has done a good deal of work with regard to the consultant post that is vacant in Beaumont Hospital for a pancreas transplant surgeon. The reason I am proposing the amendment is that the answer Senator Colm Burke was given by the Minister is factually incorrect. There are a number of items in the response given by the Minister. He said that transplant patients had been contacted by Beaumont Hospital and St. Vincent's University Hospital about the setting up of a special clinic, but that has not happened. It did not happen on the date on which the Senator was given the response, and there is no mention anywhere of the post being filled. The Minister does not mention what surgeon will take that post. The response also stated that the transplant co-ordinators would be reactivated, but that has not happened.
I thank the 26 Senators from all parties and none who signed the motion prepared by Senator Mark Daly and me. It is an important motion. People are waiting for pancreas transplants but they cannot get them. Last week I said that 15 pancreases that could have been used for transplant were not used because that post is still vacant. I formally propose that No. 73, non-Government motion No. 20, be taken before No. 1, so we can tease out these points with the Minister and he might correct the statement he made last week. I will advise Senator Colm Burke separately of the items in the Minister's response that were incorrect.
I commend the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland for the work it has been doing for a number of years on the issue of undocumented migrants living in Ireland. Today it published a poll, conducted on its behalf by Red C Research, which shows that 69% of Irish people wish to see the position of undocumented migrants residing in Ireland regularised. At the justice committee meeting today we are due to discuss the report of the Migrant Rights Centre. Indeed, we have discussed its proposals already, but we will discuss this later today. However, I ask the Leader to schedule a debate in the autumn on the regularisation of undocumented migrants. It has a particular resonance in Ireland given that many of us have been working for many years to secure a regularisation of the position of undocumented Irish citizens living in the United States.
I also seek a debate in the autumn on education. It is hugely welcome that the junior cycle reforms were signed off yesterday, as was noted and welcomed by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. They are very welcome for parents as well. However, there is another pressing issue in terms of enrolment policy and, in particular, the religious nature of most of the patronage of our primary schooling. I met this morning with parents from Terenure Educate Together, which is a new group that has been established in the Dublin 6 area to seek a new multi-denominational school for Dublin 6. It already has enormous support in the local area and it will be pressing ahead with the campaign for recognition of its school. Indeed, I was chair of a local group in Dublin 8 which achieved the recognition of a new school, Canal Way Educate Together. There is a pressing need for this, as is shown by all of these start-up groups throughout the country co-ordinated by Educate Together. Many parents are seeking a new form of education for their children, a multi-denominational education in a school that is not under religious patronage. I hope the Leader will arrange for a debate on school patronage and admissions and enrolment policy in the autumn.
On the issue of health, I commend all those involved in the making of the programme on cochlear implants that was screened on RTE One last night. It was a strong endorsement of a programme in our health service that is entirely publicly funded and is a real success story for the many individuals, adults and children, who have had their hearing restored as a result of this surgery.
I second Senator Darragh O'Brien's proposed amendment. I also share the concern expressed about the Houses of the Oireachtas (Appointments to Certain Offices) Bill. It is inappropriate for it to be shoved through, even though it is a short Bill. There should be time for reflection and amendments, particularly amendments on Report Stage. What most concerns me about the Bill is the attempt to set specific time limits for the offices of Clerk and Clerk Assistant of the Seanad and the same two offices in the Dáil. I have been a Member of this House for nearly 30 years, and I served first under a very fine Clerk of the Seanad who went on to be Clerk of the Dáil. We benefited greatly from his experience. If one is Clerk of the Seanad and one holds that position for a limited period - there does not appear to be any mechanism for reappointing the same person; it is just about setting a particular term - where does that person go afterwards? Where is the next appointment after being Clerk of the Seanad? One can become Clerk of the Dáil or go nowhere. It is a very complex job. One must have a great deal of knowledge, experience and understanding of the rather curious ways in which this House works. I am not sure it is appropriate to set specific limited times for this office. It is better to leave it vague. In the 30 years I have been a Member of this House we have been extremely well served by the various people who were Clerk of the Seanad, although we might have had differences of opinion with them from time to time. I do not wish to see that situation disturbed. I am not sure from where this arises, because I have not seen any great difficulties, certainly not in Seanad Éireann. It is not for me to talk about the Dáil, but in the Seanad we have had no difficulties whatever with the operations of the various clerks under whom I have served. It is a pity to tinker with this important office at this stage. I hope the Leader will be able to say we will take Second Stage today and the other Stages tomorrow, on Friday or whenever else.
I was disappointed to hear what Senator Darragh O'Brien said on the transplant issue. I certainly will follow it up, as I will be meeting with the Minister within the next 24 hours on the matter.
The employment of consultants is an issue I have raised consistently over the last four years. We face major challenges filling posts in the next two to three years. We also have challenges whereby hospital modernisation did not occur at a time when we had the funding. At 8 a.m. last Monday I attended a meeting with staff at South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork. Its three theatres need to be refurbished and replaced. The situation in which people working on the front line have been putting in requests only to have them ignored has been ongoing for a long period. It has happened across the board. It is something we must tackle now that the level of funding available for health is due to increase. We must work on that area. We can have all the consultants we wish, but unless the theatres and beds are in place, we cannot provide the service that must be provided.
With regard to the health service overall, it is important to realise the number of people who are going through hospitals. I have just received the figures for 2014. There were 1.18 million attendances at accident and emergency departments in 2014, which equates to more than 27,776 per week. In addition, there were more than 3.2 million attendances at outpatient departments in hospitals, which equates to more than 61,000 attendances per week. In that context, in fairness, we have a huge number of front-line staff who are providing an excellent service. That should not be ignored. We should acknowledge the work that doctors, nurses, care assistants and all those working on the front line are doing in the health service. Yes, there are issues that must be resolved, but we must give leadership in trying to resolve those issues and allocate the funding to provide the support they need.
Today we met relatives of the 11 innocent civilians who were murdered in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, in 1971. Listening to their stories was absolutely harrowing and emotional in the extreme. The 11 people who were murdered by the parachute regiment of the British army included the parish priest who was killed while carrying a white flag. They also included a mother of eight children. In fact, 57 children lost a parent on that occasion and nobody has been held accountable for it. If justice had been administered then, we would never have had Bloody Sunday. It was quite clear that all the relatives were asking for was that an independent panel, which is not a major undertaking, would be set up immediately to examine the cases. Some of the people who were shot were left lying all night, without any medical attention whatsoever, as they died. It is very easy to say we should forget the past but if one was a relative of those who were slaughtered on that occasion, it would be very difficult not to seek to have the names of their loved ones cleared. The relatives want an independent panel set up, something which would not take very long to do. The only way they will get that is if the Irish Government is determined, acts with energy and focus and continues to ask the British Prime Minister to do what is right. If 11 people had been gunned down in Manchester, London or Birmingham, there is no doubt that an independent inquiry would be set up in a matter of days. Some 40 years after that terrible atrocity, which came after the introduction of internment, nothing has been done. We know full well that even if we decide to ignore it, it will not go away. Whether it happens in ten or 20 years time, this matter has to be dealt with properly. Anybody who heard the relatives speak today would say that not only was an injustice done to the unarmed and innocent civilians who were slaughtered but a continuing injustice is being done to their relatives.
I ask the Leader for a debate on third level education, in particular grants. Fortunately, more students than ever are accessing third level education in this country but there are serious inequities within the grant system. I refer to the disregards available to the agricultural and farming communities compared to the eligibility for people subjected to PAYE incomes, in particular those in Dublin and other urban centres.
I ask that the debate also cover the issue of student housing. In recent times, UCD has increased the cost of on-campus accommodation by 17% and we are also aware, from a study that was done, that it costs approximately €11,000 per annum to keep a student in a third level institution. That figure is rising considerably due to the high cost of accommodation. What plans does the Government have to alleviate the student accommodation difficulties? What does it intend to do with the vast tracts of lands available to our third level institutions to deal with the issue of student accommodation?
I support the call from Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú for a debate on the Ballymurphy massacre. More importantly, the Irish Government should show real support and put pressure on the British Government to accede to what is a legitimate call for an independent panel of inquiry to be set up. I support everything Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú said.
I also want to refer to the fiasco that is Irish Water, something that will not go away for the Government unless it puts its hand up and admits it has made a monumental mistake. It is a massive policy failure. The Government has had to come to the House three times with amendment Bills regarding water charges. It is planning to bring two Bills before the House this week and next week which will allow the Government to give more power to Irish Water, through the courts, to take money from people's salaries and pockets, something that is unprecedented. The reality of why that is the case has been exposed because the vast majority of citizens have not paid their water charges. The madness of the Government's policy is that €180 million of taxpayers' money has already been spent on setting up Irish Water. We know tens of millions of euro have been squandered on consultants and there was major controversy over the establishment of Irish Water. Large amounts of taxpayers' money have been wasted and the Government will give €100 to hundreds of thousands of people in the State, some of whom may not have paid their water charges in the first place, through the water conservation grant. That means the Government, if the figures are correct, will make a loss. The logic of its approach to setting up Irish Water was that there would be investment in our water services but because of its failure to convince people of the fairness of the policy, Irish Water will operate at a loss. In Dublin two of the largest anti-Government rallies that ever took place in the State involved the issue of water. We saw the same in Waterford city, where almost 10,000 people took to the streets not so long ago. There is a popular rebellion against the unfair water charges. Rather than the Government accepting that, it has tried to railroad through two Bills that force on citizens charges they simply cannot afford, or do not want, to pay. That is the reality.
The Government should go back to the drawing board on this matter. It has been warned by the Opposition time and again but it is not listening and has received an answer from citizens who have not paid their water charges. As one such citizen, I will continue not paying this unfair water charge.
It is absolutely outrageous to have Deputies and Senators on the airwaves telling people to break the law and not pay their water charges. Such people are paid out of the public purse.
Why? Legislation has been-----
Senator Michael Mullins to continue, without interruption.
We all know our water and sewerage infrastructure needs major investment.
What about Siteserv?
The people of County Roscommon recently had €26.8 million invested in water infrastructure.
Senator Michael Mullins to continue, without interruption.
Some 11,300 people were taken off a boil water notice in Killeglan and Castelrea in the past couple of weeks. They agree that Irish Water must succeed. At the end of the day, the public representatives to whom I referred are misleading the public in the same way some of them misled the public about septic tank charges whereby they claimed such charges would be much higher than those which were eventually levied by the Government. People need to get real about this issue. Investment is required. Some 675,000 people have paid already. There must be fairness in the system and everybody must make a contribution.
I very much welcome the publication of the heads of the criminal justice (victims of crime) Bill by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, yesterday which was approved by the Cabinet. The landmark Bill will strengthen the rights of victims and their families and will ensure that victims and their needs are put at the heart of the justice system. Under the proposed Bill, a victim will have the right to receive comprehensive information on the criminal justice system, their role within it and the range of services and entitlements they may access from their first contact with a Garda station. It is long overdue and a further delivery on the commitments in the programme for Government. The Minister for Justice and Equality and the Cabinet are to be complemented.
I ask the Leader to consider, in the next tranche of the public consultation process, the worrying issue of the large number of people who lose their lives through a lack of water safety awareness.
We published a report on farm safety, which was very successful. It helped shine a light on this issue, which we will debate later today. In terms of farm safety, we have the Health and Safety Authority, the farming organisations, which comprise powerful cohesive groups such as the Irish Farmers' Association and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, ICMSA, but when it comes to a person losing his or her life in a swimming pool, at sea or being swept off rocks, there seems to be very little in the way of support or investigation into such tragedies. It would be worthwhile if the Seanad were to focus on how we can make people more aware of the danger posed by of water, whether it be the sea, rivers or lakes. The number of people who die as a result of drowning each year is three times the number who are killed in farm accidents. I have not noted any group or organisation, be it a Government organisation or a local authority, shining a spotlight on the dangers posed by the sea or the tragedies that have occurred. This is an issue on which we should reflect. In the case of road accidents, there is the Road Safety Authority and other such organisations. Perhaps this issue is one on which the Oireachtas should focus. It would be worthwhile to have a consultation process and get people together to examine whether there is a safety code covering the danger posed by water. It is frightening for me, having been born along the shoreline in Bantry Bay, to hear each summer of youngsters who were having fun in the water being lost at sea, and the increase in the numbers is a worrying trend. I urge Members of the Seanad, and particularly the Leader, to take a lead on this issue and examine whether we can do something about this in the next Seanad term to ensure that next year there will be a reduction in the number of people who are tragically downed at sea or in our rivers.
I wish to raise an issue on behalf of people who are deaf and blind in this country. According to the 2011 census of population, there are 1,749 people who are deaf and blind. They are not currently provided with services. Services are provided for deaf people and services are provided for blind people, but no services are provided for people who deaf and blind. Recognition has been given to this group across Europe. As far back as 2004, many EU member states recognised the group, including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Denmark, but to date this country has failed to do so. They have dual sensory impairment. I request that the Leader contact the Minister for Health to ask him to help this group of people. On 28 May this year, representatives of the Anne Sullivan centre in Stillorgan came before the Joint Committee on Health and Children, which unanimously supported their case and wrote to the Minister on their behalf. The first step this group is seeking is recognition by the State and thus by the Minister for Health. They are not seeking funding at this time but they are seeking recognition. I ask the Leader to positively respond to this in order that we can start to help the 1,749 citizens living among us in our community who, unfortunately, are both deaf and blind.
I support Senators Labhrás Ó Murchú and David Cullinane on the issue of the Ballymurphy massacre. It is no secret that I carried a weapon for two armies in my life and I never carried a weapon without an instruction booklet in my pocket which informed me as to when I could and could not open fire. From what I heard this morning, there was an indiscriminate series of assassinations, which is all I could call them, in Ballymurphy.
I would like us to have a full debate in this House on the matter.
It gives me no pleasure to ask for a debate on Irish Water in this House. Water charges are an additional tax our citizens are being asked to pay and they have clearly refused to pay it. The figure of 43% in respect of those who have paid the charges is no great win for anybody. What is upsetting about this is the amount of money that is being pumped in to try to sell this, including some €600,000 in advertising, and the installation of water meters all over the place for no purpose. We need a debate on Irish Water in this House, as we need to decide where we are going with this.
Senator David Norris drew attention this morning to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Appointments to Certain Offices) Bill. I am getting concerned about the number of Bills that are appearing before the House to be taken without debate or on various Stages. With respect to the point the Senator made about the Clerk of the Seanad and the Clerk of the Dáil, I wonder how many politicians would be happy if they could serve only for a certain period of time and were no longer allowed to serve thereafter.
It is probably something we should bring in.
Perhaps it is. The bottom line is that we need independent people. Having served as president of a teachers' union, I know that without a general secretary on whose independence I could always rely-----
A cat has nine lives.
Yes. I have actually had ten. This is my eleventh career.
The next one will be President.
Without an independent adviser, I could not have moved forward. I ask that we take more care in bringing in these Bills.
I also agree with Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú in regard to the appalling murders in Ballymurphy. I am sorry I did not get to meet their relatives, owing to another engagement I had this morning. Let us be honest about this. We all know that the Taoiseach has met them and agrees wholeheartedly with them, and has raised their concerns with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron. I have no doubt that these are matters that will not be dropped, and the Taoiseach has raised his concerns about the murder of the Pat Finucane and others. Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú recounted how a priest waving a white flag was shot in cold blood. Nothing more dastardly could happen. We all share that concern. We are ad idem on that and, hopefully, we will continue to pursue what the Senator called for.
I ask the Leader to organise a debate on the post office service. We saw what happened in recent days when the banks in Greece were shut. If we have a properly functioning post office service, in the event of a similar situation arising in Ireland, at least we would a post office service. What the Government is doing with the post office service is an omnishambles. This system will fall apart and many areas of rural Ireland will be left without a post office very shortly. We saw what happened in England, where the post office service was cut to a third of its former capacity.
I also support my colleagues who have called for the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, to come into the House today for a debate on pancreatic transplants. I received an e-mail from a person who is awaiting a transplant. He stated the speech given by the Minister on Wednesday was, unfortunately, incorrect in several ways. He also stated that Beaumont Hospital had not written to all post-transplant patients and patients on the waiting list. It simply did not happen. I am not blaming the Minister, as he was reading from a script prepared by his officials, who are misleading him and telling him lies. We have had that with the Taoiseach in the Dáil, when he was given bad information in regard to lbrahim Halawa. Joint assessment clinics are not in place for these patients. None of the patients has been contacted. As the Minister pointed out, the service has continuously advised people to go accident and emergency departments, which is probably the worst place a person on the organ donor waiting list should go, because he or she could contract an infection.
I also support my colleagues in calling for a debate on the Ballymurphy massacre. While the murder of Fr. Mullan was atrocious, the murder of Joan Connolly can only be described as horrific. Having been shot in the head and in face, she said, "It's all right, son," and while walking around wounded and disorientated, was shot again three times. It deserves a debate in this House, although obviously not before the summer recess. The Taoiseach and successive Taoisigh have met British Prime Ministers, yet the system there will not release the files in regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the biggest mass murder in the history of the State, the murders in Ballymurphy and the Pat Finucane case, which is in breach of an international agreement. They said they would set up an inquiry and yet they have failed to do so.
The Senator is over time.
These are supposed to be our neighbours and friends.
Will Senator Heffernan get a chance to speak or do I need to share one minute with him?
I also request that the Minister come in and update us on the transplant situation. In the past few years, those in charge of transplant policy in the country have felt it has been very unco-ordinated. We have seen other examples of problems in the health service where one critical retirement or one strategically important person going on maternity or ill-health leave has caused chaos in various services, such as in dermatology in Waterford, famously, a few years ago. It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is a certain lack of forward-planning in some aspects of the transplant service. It is critically important and it is something we get very right here in some ways and very wrong in others.
There is a broader issue. Further disclosures came out last weekend in support of something I said in this Chamber last year, namely, that there appeared to be extreme irregularities in the way waiting list figures in general are calculated. Some patients are only being put on waiting lists after having been given a definite date, while patients who are waiting to get the date are not counted as waiting list patients. This must be clarified because it is distorting all the metrics. As these metrics are increasingly being used on all sides of the debate for electoral purposes, it is critical that we get the facts correct.
I received a telephone call before I came in, stating that the Department of Health has defended its decision not to provide a drug called Kadcyla for breast cancer patients on the grounds that it has not been shown to be superior to other drugs. I do not wish to give this House a lengthy lecture on the details of the treatment of HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer, but that statement, if made, is factually incorrect. I am not advocating for Kadcyla. The company that makes it has very serious questions to answer about the predatory pricing structure it has put in place for this drug, but if we are to make informed decisions about it, we need to know the facts.
When the Minister comes in, I ask him to give us an update on vaccination rates in Ireland. I have had occasion to go over the figures for vaccination in this country over the past few years and I fear we are not doing well. There have been a few tragic examples. Approximately a decade ago there was an outbreak of measles in north Dublin, which led to deaths. It is critical that we get our facts straight on vaccination for all diseases that are publicly vaccinated against in this country.
I am grateful to finally be able to speak.
There is a system in place in the House.
There is, but-----
If the Senator had been in the Labour Party, he would have spoken already, but I think he is better off over there.
I think I probably am too. As a non-aligned Independent, I do not get a great deal of speaking time. That needs to be looked at. Perhaps it should be written into the Order Paper that we should get a better shot at speaking.
Form a group.
Last month, Philomena Lee, of the Philomena Lee Foundation, received the Fitzgerald Bible Bruff Award. Her story is not unique. It is the story of many women and children on these shores. In Ireland, we have a shameful and diabolical way of treating victims of institutional abuse in particular. This morning, I met with many of the survivors of the Magdalen laundries. There are a number of things they are not happy about. One is that we are still stigmatising and labelling these people, as if they had committed some horrendous crime. As part of the redress, as I understand it, they have been issued with medical cards. I have a copy of one here and it beggars belief. "Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Act, 2015" is printed quite clearly on the top of the card. It is wrong on every level and it goes to show the sterile, cold-hearted insensitivity at the heart of bureaucratic officialdom in this country. It is unwarranted, unnecessary and downright wrong that the HSE, in giving redress to these women, who have suffered so much and who have given their lives in our gulags, has given them this extra slap in the face. It is disgraceful. I am not calling on any Minister to have a look at it, but I am calling on the HSE to recall those medical cards and at least issue them in a more sensitive fashion, because this is not right.
I might have made this call before, but obviously it is not going to happen this side of the recess. I ask the Leader for a meeting with the Minister for Finance where we would have a pre-budget debate. It would be interesting to get the diverse views of the Members of the House on aspects of the budget.
I saw last week while I was away that there was some comment about inheritance tax. Those who read the papers on Sunday saw that business people are now establishing companies abroad to avoid the impact of the inheritance tax. The threshold for inheritance tax in Ireland was increased to over €500,000. Some people are trying to help out their own children with house acquisition, particularly in the metropolitan areas, which is very costly. The limit is very low. I have a case of a person of very limited means who has come into an inheritance from their parents. It involves a property abroad, which is leased on a long-term basis, and a certain amount of cash. Most of this cash will go to pay the inheritance tax and because of the long lease on the property, all they will have is an income from the property, which will wash out the social welfare they are getting at the moment. Having got what seems like a relatively good inheritance, they will be no better off. That is very unjust. This is after-tax money that parents are giving to their children. That needs to be looked at, as does the link with grandchildren.
Similarly, the area of capital gains tax needs to be looked at. There are reports that people are moving offshore because of the implications of capital gains tax, which is now pitched at 33%. When it was at 40% there was very little income coming in and while there was criticism from some politicians when the former Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, reduced it by half, to 20%, it actually doubled and trebled the take of money. At this stage, given our levels of unemployment and our need to recover from recession, we need any impetus we can get by way of investment. One way of doing that is by making it attractive for people to invest. It is not attractive at the moment. The whole system is far too complex. Many people who have incurred losses are unable to make write-offs because of the complicated nature of the accumulated capital gains tax legislation over the years. We could usefully have a debate with the Minister on that prior to the budget.
Today and tomorrow in Dublin Castle the National Economic Dialogue, sponsored by the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, is being held. This is all about our economic agenda facing into the budget. It is important that we get our choices right in these days for the benefit of the economy and of our people. About 150 people are invited from all areas of life, from the community and voluntary sector and from unions and business, IBEC and ISME, for example.
It is strange to relate, but no representatives of the tourism industry have been invited or are present, to my knowledge, despite the fact that comparable areas of employment such as the agricultural sector are represented. It is right that the important area of agriculture is represented because, directly and indirectly, it provides employment for about 250,000 people in this country. To take an example, Adrian Cummins, who is the chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, has pointed out that 220,000 people work in the tourism and hospitality sector. In addition, the tourism sector can claim credit for a quarter of the jobs that have been created over the past five years. We have had 30,000 new jobs in the sector in the past four years, and it is hoped 50,000 new jobs will be created in that area. Therefore, tourism is doing its part. At this time of the year, when the minds of many people turn to tourism, it seems strange that when tourism organisations apply to be involved in important economic talks, they are told that they cannot be facilitated. I find such a stance hard to understand. The Government committed several years ago to the creation of a vibrant tourism economy that would be jobs-focused. It gave a commitment that there would be a particular focus on that area. It seems strange, if it is the case, that representatives of the important tourism sector are left out of the conversation at this time.
I agree with the comments made by Senator Jim Walsh on the desirability of having a debate or an exchange with the Minister for Finance on budgetary options. I raised the same matter with the Leader last week. I asked that we be realistic when we come back after the summer recess, but I said it would be an appropriate topic for an early debate.
I agree with what colleagues have said about the Ballymurphy massacre. Unfortunately, I was absent from the presentation this morning. However, I think every atrocity committed on this island needs to be fully investigated. It is only when there is full transparency and a full recognition of what was done that the healing process can begin properly and conclude properly. I have asked before that we reflect on the necessity for a truth and reconciliation commission, and I do so again.
On the issue of atrocities, last night I watched a fascinating TV3 programme on the planning that went into the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. Life in politics moves quickly, but it is hard to believe that 20 years ago, on 7 June, that man was gunned down in the service of the State.
A cold-blooded murder.
I agree that it was a cold-blooded murder. His colleague Ben O'Sullivan was very lucky to survive the attack. While we have missed the 20th anniversary of Jerry McCabe's murder, it is appropriate that we remember him and all of the other members of the forces of the State-----
And the public.
-----who died defending the institutions of the State on behalf of the people.
Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh ar maidin do chur i láthair a bheidh ar siúl in Óstán Buswells ag a haon a chlog inniu, eagraithe ag na 13 bunscoil ar na hoileáin amuigh ón chósta, cúig cinn nach bhfuil ach aon oide acu agus ocht gcinn a bhfuil beirt mhúinteoirí acu. Léireoidh mé an fhadhb atá ag cuid de na scoileanna. The problem for some of the schools located on our offshore islands is the number of teachers. Five of the 13 primary schools located on offshore islands have only one teacher. That is totally unacceptable from a teaching point of view, given that that one teacher must act as principal, teach all of the classes, look after all of the pupils, and take care of health and safety, supervision, etc. We have only 13 island schools in the country. A presentation on this issue will take place at 1 p.m. in Buswells Hotel, and Councillor Seán Ó Tuairisg from Galway will lead the delegation. It is vital that the Department of Education and Skills adopt a policy under which no school on an island can have fewer than two teachers from the points of view of health and safety, child protection, education policy, etc. We are talking about only five schools that are being left behind. For example, Scoil Náisiúnta Inis Meáin has nine pupils enrolled for September. Half of the pupils speak fluent Irish, but one pupil, who is from Belarus, speaks very little English and some of the other pupils speak only English. That means the teacher faces a major task in acting as educator in that particular role. We need a debate on the matter, specifically on the Gaeltacht Irish language policy in terms of education, but also particularly with regard to offshore island schools. I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate on the issue.
Senators Darragh O'Brien and David Norris referred to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Appointments to Certain Offices) Bill 2014. The Bill passed through all Stages in a short period in the other House. If this House believes we should take Second Stage today and Committee and Remaining Stages on another day, I will facilitate it in that wish. I will amend the Order of Business to that effect if that is its wish.
Irish Water was mentioned by several Members. As much as 46% of the total has been collected to date. For the same period - the first three months of operation - after the introduction of the household charge, 43.8% of the total was collected. There is nothing new in these figures. The money collected will increase significantly as the months pass by.
I do not propose to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Darragh O'Brien that non-Government motion No. 20 be taken before No. 1. I have made inquiries about the availability of the Minister for Health and he is unavailable this week. His schedule is almost 100% full for the next few days. It is impossible, therefore, for him to come to the House this week, but I will try to get him to come next week. We will relay the information Members gave to the House this morning.
Senator Ivana Bacik mentioned the report of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland which was to be discussed at the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and sought a debate on it in the future. She also sought a debate on education and the issue of school patronage. As we have had a couple of debates on that issue, we will see whether it is necessary to have a further debate in the coming few months.
Senator Colm Burke mentioned the employment of hospital consultants and the need for greater infrastructure, particularly in some areas in Cork. He mentioned that 1.8 million people had attended accident and emergency units in 2014, while almost 3.2 million had attended outpatient departments. Certainly, there is a need to acknowledge the workload of everybody involved in the health service. We compliment them on their work.
Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, among several other Senators, mentioned the families of victims of the Ballymurphy massacre. They have called for an independent panel to be set up. I can assure the Senator and all those who raised it that the Government will continue to press the British Government on this and several other matters and ask for the relevant files to be released. There is no doubt that a grave injustice was done and continues to be done owing to the lack of an independent panel. The Government will continue to press as strongly as possible for such a panel to be set up. The other matters raised on previous occasions will be addressed.
Senator Aideen Hayden mentioned third level grants, as well as housing and student accommodation on campuses, on which matters she sought a debate. I will ask the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House to debate them during the autumn session.
Senator David Cullinane addressed the issue of Irish Water. There is a need for fairness in the system. The Senator mentioned that grants were being given to people who had not paid. I do not think that has happened or that it will.
Senator Michael Mullins outlined the need for investment in water infrastructure. The people of County Roscommon are certainly appreciative of the fact that boil water notices which they had to endure for many years are a thing of the past now that good clean water is available to them.
Senator Michael Mullins also welcomed the publication of the heads of the victims of crime Bill. Their publication is to be welcomed, given that Members have raised the matter in the House previously.
Senator Denis O'Donovan suggested that in the light of the deaths of a number of people, the Seanad Public Consultation Committee engage in public consultation on the issue of water safety. We will have a debate later today with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, on the committee's most recent report on farm safety. Irish Water Safety certainly does a great job. If we can help to highlight the issue by having it considered at the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, we will consider that suggestion.
Senator Denis Landy, rightly, has highlighted the plight of people who are deaf and blind. As he mentioned, this matter was addressed by the Joint Committee on Health and Children earlier this year. We will relay his concerns to the Minister for Health.
Senator Gerard P. Craughwell suggested water meters were being installed for no purpose. I assure him that they have detected the leakage of millions of gallons of water in many parts of the country.
I think the relevant figure is 6%.
The leaks which are being fixed would not have been discovered if meters had not been put in place.
Senator Mark Daly spoke about the Ballymurphy massacre and the position on transplants at Beaumont Hospital. I have addressed these matters.
Senator John Crown called for updates on the transplant service and vaccination rates. He also mentioned a number of other health issues, including waiting lists. As I said, we will try to get the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, to come to the House before the close of the session next week. He is not available to come this week.
Senator James Heffernan, rightly, pointed out that a lack of sensitivity had been shown to the victims of institutional abuse in the provision of medical cards. They were certainly glad to receive the medical cards provided by the Government after a long fight. I agree that, rather than publishing the details mentioned by the Senator, more sensitivity needs to be shown. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Health and the HSE.
Senator Jim Walsh called for a pre-budget debate. Senator Paul Bradford made a similar request last week. They are especially interested in discussing the position on inheritance tax and capital gains tax. We will try to arrange such a debate.
Senator Rónán Mullen suggested the tourism industry and the Restaurant Association of Ireland were not represented at the National Economic Dialogue, a pre-budget forum. I am not aware of who was invited to attend. The Government has certainly done wonders for the tourism industry by reducing the VAT rate to 9% and getting rid of the travel tax. Those involved in the industry can rest assured that the Government will look after their interests, just as it has done in the past. I agree that if people involved in the industry were not invited to attend the National Economic Dialogue, it was remiss of those who had failed to invite them.
Senator Paul Bradford said every atrocity on the island needed to be investigated. I agree with him. He recalled the brutal killing by the IRA of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. It is hard to think over 20 years have elapsed since the brutal murder of a man who was going about the business of protecting the citizens of the State. We should all recall the work being done by members of the Garda and the Defence Forces. We should never forget the brutality of the attacks on democracy they have and continue to come up against from some subversives.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill spoke about the plight of 13 schools on offshore islands, including some one-teacher schools. I suggest he table this specific item to be discussed during the Commencement debate in order that he can receive a reply from the Minister for Education and Skills.
Senator Darragh O'Brien has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 73, non-Government motion No. 20, be taken before No. 1." Is the amendment being pressed?
Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Byrne, Thomas.
- Craughwell, Gerard P.
- Crown, John.
- Cullinane, David.
- Daly, Mark.
- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- Heffernan, James.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Mooney, Paschal.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Norris, David.
- Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
- Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
- O'Brien, Mary Ann.
- O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
- O'Donovan, Denis.
- Power, Averil.
- Quinn, Feargal.
- van Turnhout, Jillian.
- Walsh, Jim.
- White, Mary M.
- Zappone, Katherine.
- 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.
- Sheahan, Tom.
- Whelan, John.
Is the Order of Business, as amended, agreed to?
I have outlined that we cannot get the Minister for Health to come to the House today. He will not be available for the next three days.
Can the Leader get a Minister of State at the Department of Health to come? We have won the vote on the Order of Business. As the amendment has been agreed to, the Leader will have to get some Minister to come. If the Minister for Health is not available, some Minister will have to come to answer questions about the matter.
Does the Leader wish to amend the Order of Business?
The amended Order of Business has just been agreed to.
Does the Leader wish to suspend the sitting-----
The Order of Business was amended to enable No. 73, non-Government motion No. 20, to be taken before No. 1.
Tá brón orm, a Chathaoirligh, but the House passed the amendment. As the House has agreed to the amended Order of Business, it is up to the Government to provide a Minister to take the debate on the very serious matter of the filling of a transplant post at Beaumont Hospital.
Will the Leader suspend the sitting until-----
I will suspend the sitting until 1.30 p.m. to allow me 25 minutes to find a Minister to come to the House.
Is that agreed? Agreed.