The Order of Business is No. 1, Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m., with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed six minutes each.
Order of Business
I am sure we all congratulate the Irish soccer team on their performance last night. We all know the famous quote that sport builds character, but what is more true is that sport does not build character as much as it reveals it. What we saw last night was true grit from the Irish team to get a result. The President of Ireland has extended congratulations not only to the management and players but also to the fans who have been true ambassadors for the country. He has also extended congratulations to the other Irish team that have performed so heroically during the tournament and, equally, their fans are ambassadors for the island. On behalf of the House, will the Leader contact both managements and teams to congratulate them on reaching the last 16 in the tournament?
I raise the issue of insurance pricing, the gouging by insurance companies, the profiteering we have seen recently and the absolutely obscene demands being made. Let us take these as the facts. Since the beginning of the year there has been a 20% increase in insurance premiums. In the past 12 months they have increased by 34% and since January 2014 by 60%. If people ring an insurance company today to renew their insurance policy, they will face, at an absolute minimum, a 20% increase. That is with a full no claims bonus and a clean record. There are 2.1 million vehicles on the roads in Ireland and their owners are all required by law, as they should be, to have insurance. However, the price gouging and profiteering we have seen by insurance companies mean that we will all pay more, not only for insurance but also for the services provided by those required to have vehicles on the road to provide services for us. We do not have the 2015 figures, but we know that in 2014 the actual payouts by insurance companies compared to 2011 showed a decrease of 36%. However, we have seen insurance premiums increase by 60%. We have called for the establishment of a task force. I am sure all Senators agree that the Government needs to take action and regulate. The task force needs to examine why we have seen such price increases and what can be done about it. Is it due to the legal profession which is blamed by the insurance companies? Is it due to payments made by the Injuries Board? Is it due to overregulation? Is it due to fraud? What is the issue? There is no one answer, but one thing the House and the Government can do is to regulate the insurance industry because at this stage it is profiteering and making obscene demands which will cost us all. The House must take a leading role in challenging the industry on what is doing.
I am not a fan of soccer, but I congratulate the Irish team. It was a really splendid goal; I gather it was a header, but I was not watching the match.
The Senator's information is very good.
The result has given the entire nation a lift and I gather the President, His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, was bouncing up and down with joy. It is great to see the Head of State enjoying himself and expressing the delight of the people.
My principal reason for contributing is to propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that we take No. 6, Immigration (Reform) (Regularisation of Residency Status) Bill 2016, before No. 1.
I also congratulate the Irish soccer team. It just goes to show that the underdog sometimes wins. We all look forward to what will happen in the next few weeks.
I refer to the vote today in Britain and part of the Thirty-two Counties. I make a final appeal to all those with a vote to vote in Ireland's interests and in favour of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union. Partition is a barrier to economic growth and social inclusion in Ireland. As a Brexit would compound this, it is important that this message be conveyed in a positive way. Sinn Féin is focused on finding all-Ireland solutions to most of our urgent problems. A Brexit would go against this and certainly not benefit those who most need an all-island approach to health, enterprise and other issues.
I refer to the rural development programme and the Leader programme, particularly the programme for County Mayo which will come onstream in the coming weeks. I am mindful that the budget has been cut by millions of euro. In County Mayo alone €9 million has been cut from it. This is crucial for communities in rural Ireland. While the Government is happy to post updates on issues such as broadband and the spring economic statement, communities are suffering cuts to the multi-annual funding to which I have referred. I call on the Minister of State with responsibility for the roll-out of the Leader programme - we are not yet clear on who it is; perhaps it is the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring - to come before the House to enable us to discuss it in a way that would be of most benefit to the communities we serve.
I have expressed many reservations about the political influence that will be exerted on the Leader and rural development programmes. No such influence was exerted when the programmes were managed by local development companies. Given the new format of having the programmes come under county councils, we all have a responsibility to ensure they serve the interests of people on the ground and are not used as a political slush fund. Every project, whether in the community or the enterprise sector, must be treated on its merits and implemented for the economic and social development of communities. I would appreciate it if the Leader requested, as a matter of urgency, the Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue.
I will take a few moments to draw attention to the amendments proposed in the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill, to be taken this afternoon. The legislation will go through-----
The Senator can reserve her speech for the Second Stage debate this afternoon.
She may make a comment now.
If other Senators want to understand the implications of the Bill, they are welcome to speak to me before it is discussed this afternoon.
I join other Senators in congratulating the Irish soccer team on a wonderful and deserved win against Italy last night. It was a superb match and the team played great. Like many others, my small daughters who play soccer and I were glued to the television. We all wish the team the best of luck on Sunday when they play France. I agree with Senator David Norris that the sight of the President celebrating at the match was wonderful. It was also a good day for Galway United since our Head of State is also its number one fan and has a long track record of interest in and enthusiasm for football.
On a more serious note, on the day Britain votes in the referendum on membership of the European Union, I speak again in support of the "Remain" side. Like other university Senators, I have a large number of constituents who have a vote in the referendum and have been doing all I can to urge them to vote "Remain". I know that the Irish community in the United Kingdom is generally in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union. It is in Ireland's interests, including our economic interests, and those of social Europe that we all wish to see progressed that Britain vote to remain in the European Union.
Many of us attended an event in Buswells Hotel yesterday organised by One Foundation at which we met the foundation's youth ambassadors. It was an interesting event in terms of international development and solidarity issues. I commend One Foundation and other non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam for organising an event at 4 p.m. yesterday on the Ha'penny Bridge which a number of us attended to remember Jo Cox and celebrate her legacy in a minute's silence.
I congratulate the Irish soccer team on last night's wonderful performance which brought back memories of 22 years ago when Ray Houghton scored. We have all lost friends and family members who were around at that time and remembered them last night because it was a joyous and wonderful occasion.
Radio reports this morning suggest Ryanair and Aer Lingus will charge €488 for a one-way ticket to Lyons, which means that a round trip will cost almost €1,000. This will price the ordinary man out of attending the match on Saturday, which is a disgrace. I ask both companies to put on the green jersey, reduce their prices and allow everyone who wants to travel to Lyons to do so. I am sure the House will agree that we must not allow the ordinary man to be priced out of the market. I know that Deputy Mick Wallace is in France having a wonderful time because I heard him speak on radio this morning. I wonder why we are all here when we should be in France.
Perhaps Mick might pay for all of us to go.
I ask Ryanair and Aer Lingus to, please, reduce their prices and let the ordinary person travel to Lyons. If nothing else, we will shame them into doing so.
We will like hell.
I, too, congratulate the Irish soccer team.
Like previous speakers, I was taken aback by a report in this morning's edition of the Irish Examiner under the headline "Harmful drinking is the 'norm' in this country and causes three deaths every day". The report notes that new data released by the Health Research Board show that young drinkers aged from 18 to 24 years have the most harmful drinking habits in the country. It continues:
The quantity they drink and the pattern of their drinking is putting them at increased health risk at a young age, and later in life, according to the study.
The research found alcohol is responsible for up to three deaths every day and that 50% of Irish drinking can be described as binge-drinking...
Alcohol Action Ireland said the latest research shows that the nation’s attitude to alcohol is placing an unsustainable burden on the health service and taxpayer.
The reason I raise the issue is the statement by Alcohol Action Ireland that the "Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is the first legislation of its kind in Ireland, as it treats alcohol as the serious public health problem". We need more information on this legislation. In 2014 Irish drinkers consumed on average 11 litres of pure alcohol each, which is equal to 29 litres of vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer. It is not only how much Irish people drink that causes harm but the way they drink. In 2013 the HRB alcohol diary survey showed that more than 50% of Irish drinkers consumed alcohol in a harmful manner, too much alcohol in one sitting and more than the recommended number of standard drinks in one week. We must find out more about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill from the Minister because society must address these harmful effects. An evidence based public health response is needed, of which the measures proposed in the Bill are an example. I ask the Leader to seek answers from the Minister on this issue and invite him to come to the House to address this serious problem. The drinking behaviour of young people aged from 18 to 24 years has serious consequences for their health and families. For this reason, we must address the long-term implications of this behaviour.
I raise the important issue of rehabilitation services. This morning I attended the launch of a campaign by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland under the title "We need our heads examined". We do. I joined my colleagues, Senator Maria Byrne and Deputy Maria Bailey, to support health care professionals, patients and families who were fighting for better quality rehabilitation services. Every year, 25,000 people need rehabilitation services for neurological conditions such as stroke, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. There are major gaps in the service which is under-resourced and underfunded.
Three steps must be taken. First, proper inpatient rehabilitation facilities are required to allow patients to gain timely specialist access to rehabilitation services. Second, better and properly resourced community rehabilitation teams are needed because the current teams are ad hoc and fragmented. Third, long-term rehabilitation-specific services are required to help people who are coping with a long-term disability. I stand with the Neurological Alliance of Ireland in calling for better rehabilitation services for everyone.
Action must be taken on foot of the neuro-rehabilitation strategy published in 2011. I ask that the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, address the House on this important issue. Significant improvements have been made in acute care services and further improvements are also needed in rehabilitation services.
With regard to services in the west, the rehabilitation unit planned for Roscommon County Hospital must progress as quickly as possible. I ask that a project team be appointed without delay to progress this plan and ensure the needs of those who require rehabilitation services, many of whom do not have a voice, are met.
They are trying to cope with their illness or disability and we need to advocate on their behalf. I am doing so and will continue to do so until we see action.
I second the request made by my colleague, Senator David Norris, that No. 6, Immigration (Reform) (Regularisation of Residency Status) Bill 2016, be taken before No. 1.
In recent days I have suffered from a condition of almost sudden deafness in one ear. The other one was never good. Yesterday afternoon I came into the House to participate in a debate on waste disposal and was appalled by what I saw. We had invited a Minister to come to address the issue of waste disposal and listen to our views and then proceeded to abuse and shout at him. It got to the stage where I could no longer tolerate the level of noise in the room and left. I was, therefore, denied an opportunity to speak about the issue yesterday. Incidentally, I would have supported Sinn Féin's position, but I was denied an opportunity to do so. That is something I did not experience in the previous Seanad and I did not experience it in my time chairing meetings at trade union level, both within the Teachers Union of Ireland and across the four teacher unions. We should never invite somebody to the House to shout at them. We give them all the stick they deserve on legislation. I see Senator Paudie Coffey looking at me. He took some stick in the previous Dáil-----
A fair share.
-----but we should do so in a respectful way. I ask the Leader to call the leaders of groups and the Whips together to discuss the issue of discipline and how we behave in the House. We are Members of the Upper House of the Oireachtas, Seanad Éireann. We are supposed to be grand old advisers to the young guns in the Lower House to calm their ire and slow them down a little, but last night we would have made a first year class of hooligans look respectable. We should all sit down and consider the way we do our business. I looked at the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the person who replaced him and felt sorry for them because it is extremely difficult to chair any meeting. Seeing a chairman struggling to get people to be quiet is simply not what the people expect of their parliamentarians. I ask that we all examine the way we do our business.
The behaviour of Members is a matter for the Cathaoirleach who is off today, but I will have a word with him.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
I join other Senators in congratulating the Republic of Ireland soccer team. It was the bravery of Robbie Brady and the skill of Wes Hoolahan that resulted in the goal being scored. It was almost more significant than the goal scored by Ray Houghton because it was scored literally at the death. They were under the cosh, but the result was fantastic. This may be a question for the Clerk of the Seanad, but there are two soccer teams on the island, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, both of which have made it through to the last 16 in the tournament. They are supported by 6 million people and have gone through to the next round. Is the Seanad honouring this achievement allowed for under Standing Orders? Nothing brings people together more than sport. We could hold a form of civic reception for both teams-----
That is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
On a point of information-----
A point of order.
-----Standing Orders are silent on the issue. If he so chooses, the Leader could suspend Standing Orders to send congratulations to the two teams.
With respect, it is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
It is of such significance in terms of symbolism that we, as Members of the Seanad, should look to see if it is possible to bring the two teams to the Houses of Parliament for a form of civic reception to honour them. I am making that request.
We will raise the matter with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Éirím le labhairt faoin bhua aréir. Tá sé ráite ag a lán daoine cheana féin. I wish to be associated with the remarks made in congratulating the Irish team on the win last night. Senator Kieran O'Donnell's proposal is interesting because it is important that we have an opportunity to honour and recognise the achievements of the two teams and, in turn, the supporters who have represented the country so well. Before I left it to join this august institution, we agreed at Belfast City Council to host the two teams at Belfast City Hall. We might, therefore, bring the Members of the Seanad to Belfast City Hall when Belfast City Council is doing the honour. I jest.
Equally, it is welcome in the South.
It is a good proposal and I support it.
Let me expand on the congratulations. Important points have been made about health issues and I suppose the darker side of the culture associated with sport. A discussion worth having is how we can utilise sport development in health promotion - the Minister could be invited to the House for a debate on the issue - because the two naturally complement each other. Someone who is good at sports and is training, whether for his or her local GAA club, boxing club or soccer club, is instilled very early in life with how to treat his or her body and community with respect. That is something on which the two Ministers on the island could work to promote. I believe there was an all-island men's health promotion last week. That is something at which we could look to initiate a specific discussion. The Ulster Council of the GAA previously conducted an overt health promotion campaign among GAA players entitled, Drink, Drugs & Sausage Rolls, to instill in young GAA athletes how to look after themselves and avoid some of the dangers posed.
I make the point which my leader made previously that this is the day of the referendum on Brexit. At the conclusion of business I will leave to go up the road to vote and I will vote in favour of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union. It is a very considered position. As a society in the North-----
Excellent. Unionist Sinn Féin.
I think it is great.
I am more in favour of a Brexit from Ireland, but we will have a discussion about that matter on another day. If Members or anyone watching these proceedings have or has friends or family in the North, I call on them to get on the telephone, go on Facebook or text them about voting.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach might be aware that a number of US Representatives and Senators have begun a sit-in at the US House of Representatives. They started yesterday and the aim of their effort is to force Congress to finally consider introducing stricter gun controls. I offer my support to them in making their request, remembering, in particular, those who died in Orlando and, closer to home, the violent death of the MP, Jo Cox. I ask the House to join me in supporting the action which is led by the US Representative from Georgia, Mr. John Lewis, who is no stranger to organising sit-ins.
Comhghairdeas leis an Aire nua. I wish to be associated with the comments made by my party's acting leader, Senator Mark Daly, on the great success of the two Irish teams in Euro 2016. Long may it continue.
I raise a matter of great concern to do with Mullingar Army barracks. I call on the Leader to ask the Government to immediately invest in Mullingar. As he will know, the barracks has been closed for a number of years and been used by different groups, but there are serious concerns about the condition of the barracks, which is grave. At a minimum, it is a health and safety concern.
It is being used by several groups in the community, including Westmeath GAA. It would be an ideal location for a museum, an issue which has been discussed many times.
I am sorry to interrupt, but this would be a suitable subject for a Commencement matter. The Senator might consider doing so.
We can expand on it next time.
That was just an appetiser before the debate.
I am always open to receiving the Leas-Chathaoirleach's great advice - such wisdom. However, I have serious concerns. The Deputy for the area, Deputy Robert Troy, has called a public meeting after being asked to chair one by various community groups. It will be held in the barracks tonight. This is a live issue in Mullingar and must be addressed. We need a plan, albeit not the one in Kildare, which was to sell. The location of the barracks is ideal and there is only a small amount of land attached to it. There must be some investment. We cannot just wring our hands and throw it to the wolves. Does the Leader have ideas in this regard and is there a plan for the barracks?
I support my colleague, Senator Maura Hopkins, in calling for the money for rehabilitation services to be reallocated. A total of €7.85 million was allocated a year ago and it must be put to use immediately.
For anyone who is not familiar with what has happened at Roscommon County Hospital, €20 million has been spent on it in the past five years; the endoscopy unit is open; there is an air ambulance service; rehabilitation services comprise a further project being planned, while the Mayo Roscommon Hospice is building an eight-bed palliative care unit. One would not believe it, but the only problem at the hospital now is that there are not enough parking spaces to meet the increased capacity. If ever Senators are driving through Roscommon, I urge them to call to see what is a most wonderful facility. After five years of negativity, the hospital is now much safer. They should speak to the consultants and managers. Sometimes good news never gets out and we only hear the bad news. Do not ask me - ask the consultants and managers at the hospital.
Was last night not amazing? The President showed great enthusiasm and vigour. Seeing him there summed up everything. We are very proud of him. I was on a double-decker bus 28 years ago when the Republic of Ireland played England in Stuttgart. It brought great confidence to the country. I want the British to remain in the European Union and hope they will vote that way, but every morning I now wake up I think to myself that it has been 28 years since we beat England and that it is a great day. The French media, in commenting on Northern Ireland and Republic fans, stated that, in terms of football, Ireland was unified. One person mentioned that watching the two sets of supporters was good for the soul. That is good news. Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill will agree that this will translate in future marching seasons, but we must build on it and not be afraid. The Seanad should shout this good news loudly because we have come a long way.
I join Senators in congratulating the Irish soccer team on a fabulous performance last night. It is fair to say that we on these islands are not blessed with the most gifted of footballers, but they are gifted with heart and determination which they showed in abundance last night. In discussing bravery we should also mention the team management of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane. They made brave decisions in their team selection. While they were heroes at full time, they were within five minutes of being pilloried by the media today. It was a thin line and they deserve compliments.
The real winners are the supporters. Pictures of their smiling faces beaming across our television screens last night were a joy to behold. The manner in which supporters from the Republic and the North have conducted themselves has been a credit to them. I listened to the French ambassador on a radio station this morning. He mentioned the headlines that the fans were making. He stated that, if there were a cup for the best supporters, it could be handed to the Irish people now. We can feel very proud of this. They are a credit to the nation. The mayors of Paris, Bordeaux and Lille have all discussed the way in which the Irish have conducted themselves. The supporters deserve credit. The joy and satisfaction that the team and supporters have given us have lifted the nation. This shows the power of sport, what it can do, how it can strengthen people and the joy that it can give. My son was lucky enough to be in the stadium last night. He told me that everywhere he looked, people were hugging and smiling at complete strangers. It was a super experience for those who were fortunate enough to enjoy it.
For a small nation, we punch above our weight in sport. Every euro that the nation spends on sport is worth twice as much to us. This weekend we will have the joy of watching Northern Ireland play Wales on Saturday and the Republic play France on Sunday. I hope we will see joy after the Henry handball incident which I am sure has been mentioned several times.
The under 20s rugby team will be playing in the World Cup final against England on Saturday. Combined with all of the GAA matches, sport is fantastic and we are fortunate.
On a more local level, Monaghan General Hospital closed more than a decade ago, causing stress and annoyance for the people of that county. At the time, the HSE announced that a new primary care centre would be built in Monaghan to address the issues that surrounded the hospital going off call. More than a decade later, we are still waiting for that facility to be built but not one block has been laid and people are concerned. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Health to address the provision of this much-needed facility?
I second what my colleague, Senator Gerard P. Craughwell, had to say. This is the Upper House of the State's Legislature. Some people may not view it as such, but I do. I respect it and I am privileged and grateful to be here. I intend to use it in a civil way. It is not a place for the shouting, catcalling and booing that we heard yesterday. It is a place for argument, discussion, debate, communication and, above all, listening. The behaviour in front of our gentleman Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, was outrageous. I did not enter the Chamber because I did not want to be seen looking on silently. Using our technology without discretion is an affront to human communication, as is sometimes the case when the Leader is answering questions while the Members who asked them are texting on their phones. The lack of acknowledgement of the Chair on the way in and out of the Chamber is appalling. If one was leaving a kitchen or one's sitting room when visitors or friends were present, one would say, "Excuse me," or give some indication that one wanted to leave or enter in the middle of a conversation. The casual use of this Chamber as if it was some kind of inn, tavern, well, bus stop or snug at the back of a pub is appalling. Some Senators ask tortured and urgent questions as if their lives depended on them, but they do not even bother to wait for an answer from the Leader who goes to a great deal of trouble to try to understand what they are saying and accommodate what they are seeking. That is outrageous. I do not want to be part of such a House, such a lack of civility, such a lack of standards, such bad manners and such a lack of respect. Neither do I want to be part of that visualisation on national and international television. This is the Upper House of Parliament and we need to show example. Who will take us seriously if our manners and level of respect are so lacking? In my history of working in communications the one thing that got different politics and ideas across was civility.
I intend to make this speech every day next week until we recognise some standard here.
I join colleagues in congratulating the Irish soccer team. As a keen sportsperson who has travelled worldwide to many matches, I support Senator Ray Butler's motion that calls on Aer Lingus and Ryanair to reconsider their prices because they discourage people from travelling to matches. It is a disgrace that people are being asked to pay upwards of €1,000 to fly to France for just one day.
This morning I attended a campaign launch organised by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland with my colleague, Senator Maura Hopkins. I support her call that the Minister for Health come here to address the issue. One thing I learned this morning at the event was that, by European standards, Ireland should have 270 inpatient beds. We have less than half that number in the whole country. Another stark fact that I learned was that there were no regional inpatient specialist rehabilitation centres in the entire country. There are only three community rehabilitation teams in the entire country, but European standards recommend that a country with a population of this size should have nine. We badly need these matters to be addressed.
I join all colleagues in congratulating the two teams that have done us proud in the past few days. I am looking forward to the match on Sunday, in particular, and hope there will be a positive result, but regardless of the result, we will support our team. It would be nice to get back at France for the infamous hand ball incident.
Yesterday I met Mr. Kevin Donoghue, president of the USI. We spoke about its key issues and core requests. We, in Sinn Féin, stand with it in support of its key demands. It has simply asked for affordable third level education, but we do not have that in this country. Instead, we have hundreds of students dropping out of third level education because they cannot afford the registration fees. The USI has carried out a study of fees that shows almost nine out of ten students fear dropping out of college owing to financial reasons. Students are missing lectures and working during exam seasons just to scramble to get enough money together to pay their fees. The stress this puts on students is pushing them to breaking point, with three out of four students saying they have considered dropping out. The fear that these students live with is a direct result of regressive education cuts made by the last Government and, unfortunately, it appears to be continuing under the new Government. I ask the Leader to call the Minister for Education and Skills into the House to debate this important issue.
I, too, congratulate the Irish soccer teams for their superb performances to date, in particular the Republic of Ireland's team and their management. I congratulate the fans because they are probably the best advertisement for tourism that this country could ever have. Their outstanding behaviour, generosity and sense of fun and craic have been acknowledged. They have shown that people can have a good time without causing problems for others.
I echo what Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell said, with the following line. If one seeks to learn, one has got to listen. Yesterday the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government came here to speak, but he was continually interrupted. I fail to see how the Senator concerned can learn anything if he is not prepared to listen.
Today I wish to raise the same issue as the acting leader on the far side, Senator Mark Daly. I am being kind when I say the insurers are behaving in a very peculiar fashion in the premia they are trying to extract. I know people who got quotes recently that were double what they were paying. Therefore, it would be appropriate for the Leader to invite the Committee of Public Accounts to invite the insurers to attend a meeting. I am fully aware of the fact that the committee cannot force the insurers to attend, but their response to the invitation would speak volumes about their attitude to the public.
I wish to be associated with the remarks, made by the vast majority of Members, congratulating the Irish soccer teams. In particular, I congratulate the Republic of Ireland or FAI team and wish them well on Sunday. Last night's result was magnificent. The players showed real determination and heart. The management got their tactics right and deserve credit, as do the fans. I agree with all of the complimentary remarks made about the fans. I heard the interview given by the French ambassador this morning. He outlined that all of the French media had paid high tributes to the Irish fans above all others. We should all recognise that the Irish fans are acting as ambassadors during Euro 2016.
I wish to touch on another issue. Today the Brexit vote takes place in the North and across the water and the result will have huge political and economical consequences for the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the European Union. Unfortunately, other threats have emerged in the European Union. For example, there is a high dependence on the German economy and Nordic countries. Also, the less well-off countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy are in a state of negative equity, with a negative balance sheet of almost €1.5 trillion. I call for a twofold debate on the European project. We should have one debate on the euro and eurozone and another on the European Union. The European Union comprises more than just the eurozone countries. There are question marks about solidarity and the European Union meeting the principles that led to its establishment in the 1950s under the Treaty of Rome. We must question whether it currently meets its founding principles in the solidarity being shown and the humanitarian aid being provided for Syrian refugees and others. I suggest we hold a twofold debate. There is an economic argument and also a humanitarian-solidarity side. It may not be possible, however, to have the debate before the recess. I ask the Leader to arrange for it to take place as quickly as possible because the economic stability of the European Union will be a major issue in the next six to 12 months.
I, too, congratulate both Irish soccer teams. It is a great achievement for them to reach the final 16 in Euro 2016. I say, "Well done," to everyone concerned - the management, players and their backup support.
I refer to an important Supreme Court decision issued in the past few days as it concerns checks and balances. I advise everyone to read the decision. I refer to a case in which the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, SI No. 551 of 2011, was declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court overturned that decision in the past few days and set out clear guidelines for secondary legislation. It advised that there must be checks and balances. It means that when we delegate powers, we must ensure there are clear boundaries when dealing with legislation. I will refer to the decision because it is relevant to all of us. From now on, when dealing with legislation, we must not delegate too many power and must retain our role in providing for legislative oversight. Were the Oireachtas required to legislate for every aspect of a particular statutory scheme, it would quickly become mired in detail and the task of predicting future developments precisely, as opposed to legislating for existing trends which might change in terms of detail. Instead of continually re-legislating, primary legislation should set boundaries as to what could be provided for in subsidiary legislation.
This would allow subsidiary legislation to be flexible and address future developments. In this way no derogation from the constitutional imperative to exercise the democratic function would be involved. It is suggested we can delegate, but it is important that we retain our right to ensure a matter is kept under the control of the Oireachtas. The judgment is important in that it sets clear boundaries for what we can delegate and how we control the derogation. This highlights the importance of our role and that of Dáil Éireann. Certainly, the Supreme Court has outlined the powers we can delegate to Ministers to ensure statutory instruments do not go beyond the powers delegated to them.
I wish to be associated with all the words of congratulation to the two Irish soccer teams. It is a great day to be Irish. I was proud to see them qualify and reach the last 16 in the European championship. It was a marvellous day and uplifting for the country.
I concur with Senator Ray Butler in what we are seeing with the airlines and what I would call the exploitation of our fans. They are ordinary people who have saved up, wish to support our national teams and be associated with their successes on and off the field. There is exploitation and I call on the Leader to ask the airlines to be fair. All anyone is asking for is for them to be fair and allow people to attend to support their national team.
I take the opportunity to mention another great national sports event which took place last weekend and one with which I was closely associated. The national Féile na nGael championships took place in Waterford and Tipperary when hundreds of young teams played hurling, camogie and handball. Teams throughout the island, north, south, east and west, came together to build new friendships. While competing on the field of play, thousands of youngsters created friendships which will last for the rest of their lives. They had congregated in counties Tipperary and Waterford for what was truly a remarkable national event. I express my appreciation to the GAA and all of the volunteers, coaches, parents and mentors who give of their time freely to organise such events. This aspect often goes unnoticed. I highlight in Parliament what an event such as this does for young people. It is a great national event. The same applies to rugby, soccer and many minority sports. Members have spoken this morning about the ability of sport to build bridges. Youngsters learn to build new relationships, networks and teams throughout their adult lives and it will stand to them forevermore.
I call on the Leader to organise a debate on the funding of third level colleges, universities and institutes of technology. Funding is essential if we are to equip graduates to the best level possible to compete globally and internationally. They must have access to the best equipment, research facilities, laboratories and engineering equipment. I have heard concerns expressed by representatives of industry. Unfortunately, in recent years because of cutbacks, facilities and equipment have been affected. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House to debate this critical issue. If we are to have the best graduates, colleges need to be properly equipped. I am, therefore, calling for a debate on the matter.
I have timed it well. I see that the Leas-Chathaoirleach has taken up the cudgels on my behalf in dealing with the matter of seagulls. I am glad that it is in safe hands.
Will the Leader arrange for the relevant Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue of energy security? I am asking the question, in particular, because of the threat to our gas supply posed by the ever-perilous situation in eastern Europe. For example, the supply from Ukraine is anything but assured. As the Leas-Chathaoirleach is aware, a sizeable delegation from County Kerry was present in Leinster House yesterday to discuss the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in the Shannon Estuary. The project has been on the books for some time and I referred to it several times during the last term. It has never been more advantageous and timely for the project to come on stream with the support of one of the major global providers. Sometimes gas supplies from the interior of landlocked countries, for example, African and Asian states, cannot be piped. However, gas can be liquefied and transported in huge liners up along the Shannon Estuary where it can be degasified in a process to create energy. This will assure us long-term energy security. Will the Leader ask the relevant Minister to come to the House? In fact, there are two Ministers involved, but I reckon the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Denis Naughten, would be the most appropriate. He could outline his views on the matter. In the previous Government the former Minister, Pat Rabbitte, was close to doing something, but it did not quite materialise. I hope the Leader can facilitate my request.
I will begin by joining the 14 Senators who referred to the European football championship. I join them in congratulating the Irish team on their performance last night. A nation held its breath for the last five minutes of the match, plus injury time. It was a great result and I congratulate Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane, as well as Michael O'Neill and his team on their success. It is important that we celebrate the victory sensibly and pay tribute to the team for their display. Many had given them no chance and, if I am to be honest, I was one of them. However, by their character and skill, they ensured a great result. We talk about the result in Stuttgart in 1988 or the Giants Stadium in New York in 1994, but in this case Wes Hoolahan will be remembered forever.
Senators Ray Butler, Paudie Coffey and James Reilly referred to the cost of flights. It is disappointing and unacceptable that airlines are gazumping or engaging in price gouging to make profits at the cost of fans. Our fans have been renowned throughout Europe, both this week and last week, for their sense of fair play, fun, revelry and decency. It is a pity, therefore, that the airlines are engaging in this activity to maximise profits. It is exploitation at its worst. I call on Aer Lingus and Mr. Michael O'Leary of Ryanair, a good contributor to Irish sport in his own right, to recognise the importance of the match next Sunday. I will write to them as Leader of the Seanad and hope the House is united in calling on Ryanair and Aer Lingus not to exploit fans or engage in gazumping but to encourage them to travel by laying on extra flights. This would help to create a carnival next weekend when we can overturn what happened in the Henry hand ball incident some years ago. It is an important issue. It is about the airlines this week and next week could be about the cost of hotel rooms for those attending concerts. We have to get real. I, therefore, appeal to Ryanair and Aer Lingus to work with the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Football Association to encourage our fans to travel. It is important that they do this.
Senators Mark Daly and James Reilly raised the issue of the cost of car insurance I very much agree with them that costs have spiralled upwards. As I have stated in the House already this week, this is the reason the Minister for Finance has asked officials in his Department to put together a review of policy which will involve the Department of Finance, the Central Bank, other Departments and agencies and the insurance industry in examining the factors that are contributing to the exorbitant increase in the cost of motor insurance. The group could then produce a set of recommendations to yield an improvement in the functioning and regulation of the insurance sector. The Senators are right. It is important that the matter be examined as part of a comprehensive review to benefit the motorist and person who needs car insurance. We should work to ensure people are insured appropriately and properly and that we will not see an increase in the number driving without insurance.
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh referred to the Leader programme. This week the Minister announced funding for the Leader 2020 rural development programme.
A total of €250 million will be available for investment in rural enterprises and communities. The funding will be provided based on a strategic approach and priorities agreed at local level. I have spoken to the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring, about the issue and can assure the Senator that the latter, in particular, will not be found wanting when it comes to County Mayo. As matters stand, 80 strategies have been finalised, with more to come. This is an opportunity to invest in rural Ireland to attract enterprise and promote job creation in local tourism and community development projects. I will ask the Minister or the Minister of State to come to the House to discuss the opportunities the programme will present.
A number of Senators referred to Brexit. It is very important, even at the eleventh hour, to appeal to people in Northern Ireland and across Britain to vote to remain in the European Union. It is very important to us as a country, economically, as it is to the European Union, that they do. Whatever our concerns about the European Union, the old Irish saying, Ní neart go cur le chéile, applies today. It is important that we stand together. The European Union is better with the United Kingdom inside rather than outside. The United Kingdom is our most important trading partner and it is important to us that it remain within the European Union. Again, I appeal to those Members who have not already done so to engage with their friends and relatives across the United Kingdom and ask them to vote to remain.
I am very happy to accept Senator David Norris's proposed amendment to the Order of Business.
Senators Gerard P. Craughwell, Marie-Louise O'Donnell and James Reilly raised the matter of decorum in the Chamber. It is important that, as Members of the Upper House, we debate issues with decorum and good manners. As someone who is known to have engaged in raucous behaviour in the House in a previous life, on mature reflection-----
We cannot discuss that matter now.
While I may sound like poacher turned gamekeeper, it is important that we debate and engage on issues properly. The Senators are right that we must conduct our business in a dignified manner and a way that befits Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. I watched some of the debate in the Chamber yesterday and was disappointed. To be fair, the Minister had come to listen and engage with us and for us-----
He got a bit of a going over from the Labour Party also.
The term pot and kettle also applies to Labour Party Members. It was a Labour Party Minister who signed the statutory instrument, but we will not go back over that matter now. I will discuss the issue raised with the Whips at our next meeting and ask them to ensure we conduct our business in a manner that befits Members of the House. I thank the Senators for raising it.
The use of mobile devices in the Chamber is a matter for consideration by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Sometimes I am just noting on my iPad the point being made by a speaker and do not mean to be rude. I think Senator Gerard P. Craughwell thought I was not listening to him, but I was. That is the main reason I use my iPad and apologise if it appears to be rude.
Senator Lynn Ruane referred to the Bill to be discussed this afternoon. I look forward to the debate on it.
Senator Ivana Bacik made reference to the event organised by One Foundation. It was a good one and I am sorry that I missed it as the foundation is doing great work.
Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of alcohol misuse. She is right that alcohol is the very harmful drug of choice for many of us, but the issue is being addressed by the Government. The Public Health (Alcohol Bill) has been restored to the Order Paper. While it will not be taken before the summer recess, it is in train and was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the health committee, of which I was a member in the last Oireachtas. I would be happy to speak to the Senator and provide her with further information on what is a very important issue about whch we must keep talking in order to raise awareness.
Senators Maura Hopkins and Maria Byrne referred to rehabilitation services. I am happy to invite the Minister for Health to come to the House to discuss the issue. A strategy has been developed, but there are questions about its implementation, on which we must follow up.
Senators Maura Hopkins and Frank Feighan referred to the situation at Roscommon County Hospital. While it could be the subject of a Commencement matter, I am happy to ask the Minister for Health to come to the House to discuss the issue.
Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile raised the issues of sport promotion and North-South relations and co-operation. It is imperative that we use Healthy Ireland, the framework created by the former Minister for Health, Senator James Reilly, and the special action group created under it to work on a joint implementation strategy.
Senator Kieran O'Donnell made an important point about the lack of a State awards system to honour our sports heroes, North and South. I hope the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will consider the matter and break new ground. Why can we not be bold and ambitious and introduce such a system? It is an important issue, on which the Senator made a very fine point.
Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the important issue of gun control, a matter which, thankfully, does not arise here. Members of the United States Congress are engaged in a sit-in, led by Congressman John Lewis, a renowned parliamentarian and activist whom I had the privilege to meet a number of years ago. We spoke about the issue of gun control in the wake of events in Orlando and I hope it will form part of the bilateral discussions between the Government and the US Vice President Joe Biden.
Senator Aidan Davitt referred to the Army barracks in Mullingar, for which a strategy was put in place. It is being reviewed and the Taoiseach has been in contact with Senator Gabrielle McFadden on the matter. I agree with Senator Aidan Davitt that the barracks should either be used or sold. The Army barracks in Ballincollig in Cork city was sold. As a result, the town has grown exponentially and is now one of the jewels in the crown for Cork County Council. Perhaps that model might be considered for use in Mullingar.
Senator Robbie Gallagher spoke about primary care services in County Monaghan. I am happy to raise the matter with the Minister for Health and invite him to come to the House to discuss it. I encourage the Senator to raise by way of a Commencement matter. Primary care services are the way forward. While I hate to single anyone out, when Senator James Reilly was Minister for Health, he was a pioneer in promoting primary care services, although he was often criticised. There are now over 90 primary care centres throughout the country, but if there are deficits, they must be addressed.
Senators Paul Gavan and Paudie Coffey raised the issue of the funding of third level education. The Minister for Education and Skills will come to the House before the summer recess to discuss education issues. It is important that we improve access to education and fund third level education adequately. The Senators referred to the USI president, Mr. Kevin Donoghue, whose term of office will come to an end soon. I pay tribute to him because he has been a very impressive president of the USI. He has been impartial in his dealings with us and very fair and assertive in representing students, for which I commend him. I wish him well.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill raised the very important topic of the euro and suggested that in the context of the Brexit referendum it would be opportune to have a debate on the European Union. I hope the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Dara Murphy, will be able to come to the House to engage in such a debate. I will put the matter on the agenda.
Senator Colm Burke referred to the recent Supreme Court ruling in the context of the need for checks and balances. That is a matter I will take up with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges because it is important.
Senator Paudie Coffey made reference to Féile na nGael which took place last weekend. It is a tremendous competition and those of us involved in the GAA understand and recognise its importance. I commend all those involved, including the host clubs and the families involved. I also commend clubs for preparing their young players and Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, through its uachtarán Aogán Ó Fearghail, for the work it has done in promoting its games among the under-14s.
Senator Ned O'Sullivan raised the issue of energy security. I agree that we should have a debate on this important matter. Any such debate should include a discussion on the Whitegate refinery and of future plans for that facility.
Senator David Norris has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 6 be taken before No. 1." The Leader has indicated that he is prepared to accept the amendment. Is it agreed to? Agreed.