I propose that statements be taken immediately after No. 4, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2015. Anybody who wishes to discuss the matter should be here. We will allocate one hour for the debate.
Senators Marie Moloney, Máiría Cahill, Michael Comiskey, Michael Mullins, Diarmuid Wilson and Colm Burke, among other Senators, spoke about the flooding and storm damage we have seen in the past few days. Everybody has lauded the work of the emergency services in their efforts to help people. Senator Marie Moloney outlined the fact that services were available from the Department of Social Protection, a matter about which Senator Michael Comiskey also spoke. Senator Máiría Cahill extended her sympathy to the family of Ivan Vaughan, a gentleman in his 70s who was swept away in the floods, and wished the 14 year old who went into the waters off Hook Head a speedy recovery. I understand she was part of a scouting group that was visiting Hook Head. I am sure we all wish her well. Senator Michael Mullins said the flood defences which had been put in place in the past few years were holding up. That is the message coming from most areas where flood defences have been installed. Senator Diarmuid Wilson expressed the wish that people who needed aid would receive it. Finance has been put in place under the capital plan. Therefore, there is a plan in place for the alleviation of flooding in the areas we see on our television screens so often. Senator Colm Burke also spoke about flood defences and the need for proper design and planning. He mentioned the United Kingdom in this context. The defences that have been put in place in Ireland are holding up well. The Senator argued that a rates waiver should be considered by local authorities. That is a very good idea.
Senators David Norris, Gerard P. Craughwell, Terry Brennan, Cáit Keane and Paul Bradford mentioned the "RTE Investigates" programme aired last night. They rightly pointed out that corruption was a cancer in public life. The revelations in the programme are shocking and go against the definition and spirit of public service as we know it. It is unacceptable for any public representative to use his or her position for financial gain. Senator Cáit Keane mentioned that the Government had strengthened the Freedom of Information Act, established the whistleblower framework and legislated for the creation of a register of lobbyists to increase transparency. Local authority members are designated as public officials in the new register of lobbyists and their interactions when lobbied must now be reported by lobbyists, thus shining a light on the practice for the first time. The Government has put measures in place to counteract such lobbying. I hope these measures will bear fruit and that we will not see what we saw on our television screens last night. Senator David Norris questioned the methods employed by RTE in the programme and I note his points in that regard. I agree with Senator Paul Coghlan that, in the case of those who received letters from RTE that were found to be wrong, it should as a matter of courtesy issue letters of apology to those whom it upset. I understand how Senator David Norris felt in being wrongly accused. Anybody who is wrongly accused would be shaken. Letters of apology should be issued by the national broadcaster where it made false allegations against people.
Senators Sean D. Barrett and Máiría Cahill spoke about the death of Fr. Gerry Reynolds and praised his work during the peace process. I join in their praise.
Senator Paul Coghlan referred to vulture funds and their non-attendance at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. He raised the matter on the Order of Business last week. I agree that these companies should be held accountable and, if possible, compelled to appear before the committee.
Senator Tom Sheahan spoke about loan sharks, legal and illegal moneylenders and the exorbitant interest rates charged. He is right that there are so-called legal moneylenders who are charging exorbitant rates. He advised people to go to their credit union. We have all witnessed people go to these loan sharks to look for a small amount of money and, in some cases, they have had to pay double, if not treble, the amount they actually borrowed. They are in continuous debt as a result. The credit union is the place to go for help.
Most of the other matters raised concerned flooding and the "RTE Investigates" programme. I think I have dealt with them.