The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re arrangements for the sitting of the House on Friday and Tuesday, 15 and 19 July 2016, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, statements on the summer economic statement 2016, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 3 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be called on to reply to the debate not later than 2.55 p.m.; No. 3, Health (Amendment) Bill 2016 - all Stages, to be taken at 3 p.m., with the debate on Second Stage to be brought to a conclusion within 60 minutes, the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be given five minutes in which to reply and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; and No. 4, motion re Criminal Justice Act 1994 (Section 44) Regulations 2016, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3 and conclude within 40 minutes, with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be given five minutes in which to reply.
Order of Business
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I extend our congratulations to Theresa May on her election as leader of the Conservative Party and the second female Prime Minister of Britain. In the wake of Brexit she will face many challenges in implementing and negotiating a Brexit for the United Kingdom. I hope Ireland can continue to keep its place as one of Britain's main trading partners which we have enjoyed for many years.
Yesterday I was angered and disgusted to hear the continuing narrative across the airwaves that Ireland had engaged in leprechaun economics. The Central Statistics Office, CSO, figures published yesterday announced that Ireland had seen a massive increase of 26% in GDP. I cannot imagine that any constituent, represented by this House, has felt this increase in his or her pocket. However, if these figures are true, perhaps the Minister for Finance might stand over them. If it is the case that the figures are inflated because of technology companies' intellectual property, IP, assets and aircraft leasing companies relocating here, it is incumbent on the Minister for Finance to clarify this. If accounting methods are out of date, they must be updated to ensure they represent a true figure of our economic growth. With Brexit on the horizon and at a time when we need to be presented as capable and professional, Ireland is being laughed at by the financial world and is being made a mockery of. In the wake of Brexit, Ireland needs to fight for any upside from Brexit. We need to encourage foreign companies to come to Ireland to do business and to send a message that Ireland is a great place in which to do business and that it is open for business. Ireland needs to show that the economy is stable and that we are the right place in which to locate. Perhaps the Leader might ask the Minister for Finance to clarify the CSO figures and issue a statement on the matter.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence be brought before the House. This is not because I like to pull a stunt. There is a very serious issue about a lieutenant-colonel in the Defence Forces who had applied for promotion to the rank of colonel and was unsuccessful in the competition. Subsequently it was found that the marks awarded to some of the candidates had been incorrectly awarded and that as a result the lieutenant-colonel had not been promoted when he should have been. He had to retire at the age of 58 years which meant he lost out on the rank of colonel salary, pension and gratuity. He could have become the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces at some stage. However, the matter has been ongoing and the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces made a ruling on it. The ombudsman received a letter from the Department in which it states:
I have carefully considered your observations on the case. I do accept there may have been a level of ambiguity and lack of transparency surrounding the award of length of service remarks to candidates in the promotion competition and this is regrettable.
It goes on to state that in regard to the suggestion a further gesture be offered to this particular lieutenant-colonel: "I am advised it would not be policy nor practice to offer same based on the findings of your office". We are talking about a man who has served this country in Lebanon and Iraq. He was the last Irish officer to leave Iraq before that country became a war zone. He was the last Irish officer in Lebanon when it closed down some years ago. The man has an exemplary distinguished record. He was hard done by and wronged in a promotional competition. The ombudsman found in his favour but there is somebody in the Department of Defence turning around and saying the Department does not agree and it will not look after this guy. On the right of any Minister, are the officials advising that Minister? On the left of the Minister is the ombudsman who is there to advise when a wrong has been done. This man has been dealt the most horrendous blow to his distinguished military career. I regret having to ask the Leader to bring the Taoiseach before the Seanad today. If he cannot do so, I ask him to arrange a debate on the functions and role of ombudsmen generally and, in particular, the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. I am really appalled by this.
I know that many Senators hail from coastal communities around the country and I am from Tramore, County Waterford. I bring the Leader's attention to a serious failure in policy that is having an impact on the sustainability of livelihoods in coastal communities and has implications for biodiversity and marine habitats. Ireland signed up to the EU marine strategy framework directive in 2008 and under the directive, we were required by 2012 to have designated a network of marine protected areas. We have failed to comply. It is time we got serious about recognising the value of our marine natural heritage from an economic and social perspective. If we are to protect the sustainable fishing practices of small coastal communities and sustain livelihoods, we must comply. What is the objective in having these sites? These are the building blocks of marine sustainability. Marine protected areas are essential nurseries for fishing species and it enables them to replenish. Many fish stocks are under threat, as Senators know, and this threat comes chiefly from the presence of super-trawlers depleting stocks. It also comes from our failure to adequately protect the foundations of the food supply chain. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will shortly publish the programme of measures for implementation of the marine strategy framework directive and I ask that we put aside some time in this House to debate the report and have the Minister present for it.
Approximately two weeks ago I raised with the Leader on the Order of Business a request for the Taoiseach to come before the House. With the settling down of what happened two weeks ago, a serious discussion must be held with the Taoiseach on new politics and how the Constitution is treated. Through sleight of hand, Article 28 of the Constitution, relating to collective Cabinet responsibility, was avoided. The Attorney General's opinion was clear on the legislation. Officeholders have stated they do not care what is in the Constitution and they will vote for legislation even if it is in breach of the Constitution.
Every time a difficulty or issue is raised, we speak about new politics. New politics is now getting a name for reckless or shady politics, or even no politics. Some officeholders are not carrying out their functions. There has only been one transfer of functions to a Minister or a Minister of State since the formation of the Government and we still do not have a Minister responsible for the environment. I put the Leader on notice that I will be proposing an amendment to the Order of Business next week if he cannot come back with a time and date for the Taoiseach to come to this House and debate what is new politics and explain exactly what he means by the term. The general public is seeing this with every issue that arises. The eighth amendment is being kicked to the citizens' convention and water charges are going to a commission. The school admissions policy discussion is being put back for a year. We now have a Government with no politics or agenda. We have a responsibility in this House to debate, discuss and advise the Taoiseach on what we believe is new politics. I believe it is about moving on this country for its citizens rather than hanging on to office positions without power. I ask the Leader to go to the Taoiseach and ask for a date and time next week to come to this House and explain his vision of new politics. The public sees it as reckless and sometimes shady.
I raise an issue relating to water safety, particularly regarding the protection of piers, slipways and harbours. We are at the peak of the summer season, with schools on holiday and tourism numbers at their peak. Tragically, over 140 people are drowned each year for various reasons. Some drown tragically and by suicide but that is not the point I want to make. We all remember the tragedy in Buncrana last April, when five members of the same family lost their lives. That highlights how easily an outing can turn to tragedy in seconds. Everybody would wish that such a tragedy would not happen and should never happen again. I understand the slipway in Buncrana has seen additional protection installed as a result of what happened. We should not have to wait for a tragedy for this to come about. There are thousands of tourists, particularly along the Wild Atlantic Way, who do not have local knowledge or know how easily this type of event can happen. In my county of Mayo, there are 700 km of coast and 78 facilities like those I mentioned. I happened to visit one a couple of weeks ago and saw with my own eyes how dangerous they can be if a person does not have local knowledge. These facilities are public by nature and generally open to the public and it is important that they remain public. Each council has a water safety development officer whose remit is to ensure risks are minimised, but I suspect it would be an impossible task to erect barriers, bollards and gates at every pier, slipway and harbour to prevent cars either accidentally or otherwise going into the water. I assume when additions, extensions and refurbishments are done, safety is taken into account. I ask that at some stage the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government is brought before the House to indicate the instructions to councils or the subventions made to carry out this work. We need to have it carried out before we see further tragedy.
I wish to address the leader of the Fine Gael group about a disappointing matter. Three weeks ago I tabled a Commencement matter for the attention of the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, relating to the Tír na nÓg respite services. I am very disappointed because on the day I received an insufficient reply. What should happen when a Minister is called to the House to address an urgent issue in one's home town but one cannot contact anybody or get a reply? Yesterday we spoke about reforming the Seanad. I ask the Leader for reform when a Minister is brought into the House to deal with a specific and urgent question. I had another question about the Holy Angels centre, but I received no answer on it either.
We need to have a protocol in place that will ensure we keep in contact with the Minister of State. I understand not everything can happen overnight, but as a new Senator I am very disappointed that there is no comeback or follow-up. I ask the Leader to address that serious issue because, as I said to the Minister of State that day, I will raise it every month until it is addressed.
I attended a briefing this morning by an organisation called WALK which works with young people with intellectual disabilities at which I met two amazing young women, Jessica and Niamh. Jessica is a young girl with intellectual disabilities who struggled with depression because she could not find the right work for her or any place to go. Due to her so-called intellectual disability - although, to me, she is a beautiful, inspirational young woman - she ended up having to work in a dry cleaner's, which drove her to attempt suicide. Thankfully, she was not successful in that attempt. Jessica is a beautiful, creative young woman who deserves her rightful place in this world, as does Niamh, a young girl with Down's syndrome who passed the junior certificate and leaving certificate examinations with As, Bs and Cs, which is fantastic. She deserves to be in the workforce. WALK is running out of funding. Its funding will be cut by next Christmas and those two young women are devastated. They deserve to be in the workforce doing normal jobs like everybody else. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, as all of us would wish. It is the responsibility of those of us in Leinster House to make sure WALK receives the funding it deserves. It should not have its funding cut by Christmas this year and it should be allowed to continue its work. I recognise that and also commend the organisation.
Iarraim ar an gCeannaire díospóireacht a eagrú ar stádas na Gaeilge sa tír seo le grinnstaidéar a dhéanamh ar na stratéisí atá in úsáid againn chun an teanga labhartha a fhorbairt agus a mhéadú. Sílim nach bhfuilimid ag baint go leor trialach as an nGaeltacht. Ba chóir cabhair a thabhairt do níos mó daltaí ar fud na tíre - ón nGalltacht, mar a déarfá - tréimhse a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht. Tá sé iontach cabhrach do na mic léinn óga, do fhorbairt na teanga agus don phearsantacht iomlán. Is rud iontach é má chothaíonn na mic léinn agus na daoine óga tuiscint ar ár n-oidhreacht, ár stair agus ar shaol nádúrtha na Gaeltachta. Tá mé lán-chinnte faoi seo: ba chóir dúinn níos mó mic léinn óga a stiúradh agus a mhealladh chuig an Ghealtacht. Os rud é go bhfuil feabhas ag teacht ar chúrsaí eacnamaíochta anois, ba chóir dúinn cabhair a thabhairt do na daoine óga dul ann. Sílim go bhfuil sé riachtanach agus ba mhaith liom díospóireacht a bheith againn ar an gceist iomlán sa Teach seo go luath.
I second Senator Gerard P. Craughwell's amendment to the Order of Business. In doing so, I encourage the Leader to ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence to come to the House as soon as possible to discuss a number of issues relating to that portfolio.
The preliminary 2016 census results which have just been published show that the population of County Cavan has risen by 4% to 76,092 and that the population of County Monaghan has risen by 1.3% to 61,273. I ask the Leader to inquire when a constituency commission will be formed to examine the drawing up of boundaries for the next general election, as it is well known that my county of Cavan was butchered by the commission when it last met. Senator Joe O'Reilly will agree with me.
I call on the Leader to inquire when the commission will sit. I ask that a practising former politician who knows what it is like to canvass in and represent a constituency be allowed to sit on the commission. The Clerk of the Seanad sits on it and does an excellent job, but I ask the Leader to ensure a former practising politician also be allowed to sit on it to provide the common sense needed in this regard.
Coming events cast dark shadows before.
I wish to discuss a matter of procedure with regard to Commencement matters. This is the ninth morning in a row I have submitted a Commencement matter which was not accepted. That is over three weeks. I have had one Commencement matter accepted since this Seanad resumed. We need to examine the procedures here. Many Senators want to get the benefit of a Commencement matter discussion, but we are not getting it. I ask that some new procedure be adopted under which more Commencement matters would be accepted each morning or, if they are not accepted but are deemed to be appropriate, that the Minister be asked to give a written reply. In that way, at least five or six Commencement matters would be taken each morning. I submitted nine Commencement matters that were not accepted and I ask the Leader to examine the matter. The House will adjourn within the next ten days but it is appropriate that we examine the issue now to ensure all Members of the House will have access to information they require and be able to raise issues that are important to them.
I ask the Leader to provide time for a debate on the charities sector. In 2013 I put a detailed question to the Joint Committee on Health and Children and the HSE on the charities sector and, interestingly, the information that was to be released to the health committee was released to the media four or five days before the health committee sat. As a result, the Committee of Public Accounts took over the issues relevant to the health committee and advised the committee that we could no longer deal with that issue while it was dealing with it. The Committee of Public Accounts focused on one or two charities, but 2,600 charities receive funding from the HSE. Last year, the total funding from the HSE, including capital grants, to various charitable organisations was €3.72 billion. In that regard, 1,847 charities received less than €100,000, but that still adds up to €34 million. Many organisations receive funding and there is a great deal of duplication, but we need a serious debate on how we can get value for money while at the same time helping these organisations to deliver the service they want to deliver. I am calling for a full debate not only on funding from the HSE but also on funding from other Departments, as well as the charities regulator. I do not believe the charities regulator is adequately funded or that it has an adequate number of staff to deal with the issues arising. The issues that other members of the health committee and I raised as far back as 2013 are coming back to haunt us because we were not given the time to deal with the ones we wanted to address. The way the Committee of Public Accounts dealt with it is coming back to haunt it also because certain people had personal agendas and aimed to take hold of that entire area. That is wrong. It should not have been taken out of the control of the health committee. The Members of this House should have had an input into it.
Many Members of the House have experience and can make a contribution on the issue. We should have an appropriate debate on it.
I refer to the WALK PEER programme in Ardee, County Louth. The group made an excellent presentation in the AV room, hosted by our party leader, Deputy Gerry Adams, earlier today. I have worked with similar programmes. Young people can access employment and further education through such programmes and they are crucially important. It is an excellent model of delivery of employment for people with disabilities, particularly young people. It is a model that needs not only to be supported and financed but to be replicated in other areas. It gives young people an opportunity to access career paths, something they deserve, regardless of their abilities. We need funding for the comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities. I ask the Minister responsible to come before the House to discuss employment opportunities and how he will resource the comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities. There is no point in having a strategy unless the resources are provided to implement it.
Today, 14 July, is Bastille Day and I am sure colleagues will join me in wishing all our friends in France and French ex-pats around the world all the best. They have gone through a very difficult time in the past few years. It is time to highlight that Euro 2016 was a major success, perhaps not for the French football team in the final but for a lot of the participating nations, especially our near neighbours Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland. The marching season has taken place in the past few days. Things are a lot better than they were and welcome, as I said three or four weeks ago, the fact that supporters of the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams mingled and worked together. It is not a panacea, but it certainly helped. I congratulate all those from the various parties who helped to ensure it was one of the most peaceful marching seasons in recent years and I hope things move forward. I know that the situation is difficult.
It is interesting that Boris Johnson has been appointed as Foreign Secretary in the United Kingdom, something that brings challenges and difficulties. I again ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to come to the House and outline his views on how we can best connect and work together to face all of the challenges that have arisen since Brexit.
We received an e-mail from the Restaurants Association of Ireland yesterday regarding a matter that, I understand, Senator Robbie Gallagher raised yesterday, namely, the struggle it is having in finding chefs in the country. It referred to a shortage of 5,000 chefs. The name of the organisation rang a bell with me and I wondered what it was. It is the same organisation that called for a freezing of the minimum wage until 2020 and refuses to engage in setting up a joint labour committee, even though legislation has been passed. It is now stating it cannot find staff. Is it any wonder that is the case, when it is doing everything it can to keep down wages and keep people on poverty rates of pay? Rather than focus on the shortage of chefs, I ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to the House to discuss the scandal of organisations such as this receiving large subsidies of €650 million a year, while at the same time refusing to engage with the legitimate organs of the State on the establishment of a joint labour committee to ensure we have proper decency and terms and conditions in the industry.
We are in a rather uncertain period in the aftermath of the UK referendum result on 23 June. I am delighted that the staff complement dealing with Brexit in the Department of the Taoiseach has been seriously beefed up. That is necessary as we head into the crucial negotiations that will take place at EU level. Arising from that, one area that is vital to the economy and which could be adversely affected is tourism. It is vital to every part of the country. In that light, I encourage the Leader to have an early debate on tourism in order that we can hear from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport what plans he has for the domestic tourism market.
I agree with Senator Diarmuid Wilson's analysis of the census report that has been issued this morning. In many ways, it will be very important for Ireland, not just in terms of how political institutions deal with population increases - the population is now 4.6 million - but on an infrastructural level in terms of how we cater for such an increase. My county of Cork has had a population increase of 23,000 people in the past five years, which will have a knock-on effect on infrastructure. It will affect basic things we have discussed in the Chamber such as the Dunkettle interchange and the Ballincollig bypass, as well as Irish Water. The census reports are very important, but we have to build on them and put infrastructure in place in order that we can deliver the services required for the vast numbers of people now living in the country. The population of Cork has increased by 23,000 which will have a major impact politically. Realistically, a constituency commission will probably add another Dáil seat to Cork if the requirement is 30,000 per Deputy. If and when a commission is established it will have to consider such issues, because boundaries will have to be changed. For the first time ever, there may have to be a real change in boundaries in Cork. That may suit some people but not others. It is something we have to look forward to.
I spent 40 years waiting for Cork South-West to become a four-seat constituency. Senator Tim Lombard might get his wish.
In Fingal we have experienced changes that made very little sense to us, with the capital of the constituency and Fingal divided in two at one point. We are now pleased to be back as one unit. I am not sure how one could avoid serial rows and accusations if there were a former politician on the commission. Gerrymandering is something that is strong in everybody's mind.
It is terribly important that we support charities and the great work they do - the vast bulk do phenomenal work. From my time as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I know that voluntarism in the youth sector is phenomenal. Some 40,000 volunteers support hundreds of thousands of young people in this country. We are unique in terms of the level of participation we have. Whatever we say and whatever regulations are introduced in order to cut out fraud and so on, we need to continue to support charities not just with money but also with moral support for the great people who spend so much of their free time supporting worthy causes. I agree with Senator Colm Burke. When I was Minister for Health I instigated the inquiry into irregular payments in certain section 38 and section 39 institutions, which led to the findings about the Central Remedial Clinic and others.
I refer to the census. I could not agree more with Senator Tim Lombard when it comes to infrastructure. Fingal has the fastest growing population in the country, a fact underpinned by the census which showed growth of 8%. Therefore, we need to plan for infrastructure. I would like the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to outline the current plans for a metro. I would be grateful if the Leader would invite the Minister to the House in the autumn to give us an update on the current status of the project. It is essential for a young population to be able to access education facilities and businesses that wish to do business in north county Dublin. It is essential for the airport and its further development and it is also essential for international traffic to have quick access to the city centre where people may wish to do business.
I will add to what other speakers said about the boundaries review. I live in the constituency of Dublin Rathdown, as do a number of other Senators, including Senators Kieran O'Donnell, Gerard P. Craughwell and Neale Richmond. Dublin Rathdown experienced the single largest butchering of any constituency the last time around in that it went from being a five to a three-seater. No other constituency lost 40% of its area. For any area to lose that many constituents is unfortunate and unhelpful and it would be better if this was not done in the future. Will the Leader bring in the relevant Minister at some stage to talk about the boundaries review and what the process will be the next time around?
It is now mid-July, and within a month or so, leaving certificate examinations results will come out followed by CAO offers and the annual search for student accommodation throughout the country but particularly in south Dublin which is one of the most expensive places to find property. Could the Leader bring in the relevant Minister or authority to discuss how we could provide additional on-campus accommodation throughout the country but particularly in the areas where housing need is greatest? The less student accommodation there is, the more private housing is taken up by students, which deprives families and other people of the chance to get into the housing system or onto the housing ladder. It would be helpful if we discussed how we can provide additional on-campus student accommodation, especially in areas where rents are very high. This could offset some of the costs students and their families face.
Ministers come here quite frequently. Invariably, many of the debates are adjourned. It would be good practice for a Minister to be given the last five minutes of every debate in which to respond. The debate on broadband last week involving the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources contained very new and fresh information. The questions put from the floor were very insightful and the debate was cutting edge, yet the Minister did not respond at the end and the debate was adjourned. By the time the Minister comes back, much of the information will be stale and old. We speak about Seanad reform. I firmly believe a key focus should be on amending the way we do business in the House to make it more relevant and fresher. From now on, if a Minister comes here for a debate involving many speakers, he or she should respond during the five minutes at the end of the debate. If we adjourn it, the Minister should come back again. We had a very insightful debate last week on broadband to which the Minister did not respond. That debate was in the other House two hours later and all the work we did here was stale. If we are doing the work, the House is entitled to get feedback and rewards for the effort we put in. This is a very small measure that could yield substantial benefits to the House and the public looking in. I want us to be seen as being increasingly relevant. Debate and questioning here are of a high quality, but they are of no use unless we hear from the Minister on the day.
That is an issue to be dealt with on the Order of Business on each given day. The roll-over of debates is the exception rather than the rule. As it is not very common, the question of whether the Minister responds or the debate rolls on is a matter for the Leader and the order of the day.
May I obtain clarification on the point because it is something about which I feel strongly? The Cathaoirleach is saying-----
It is possible on any one day-----
The Order of Business is agreed to every day. If the Senator has an issue, he can object to it. That is a matter for the Leader.
In respect of the point raised by Senator Colm Burke, I have the responsibility for choosing Commencement matters. It is probably not a matter for the Leader but the multiplicity of Commencement matters is extraordinary. An average of 12 or 14 are received and I am only allowed to pick four. At one stage, I thought that we could manage five, but given the way they roll on, it would conflict with the Order of Business, which cannot be permitted. I was quite happy for us to take five instead of four. It used to be three. The difficulty I have is that I must try to be fair to all groups. Some Members come in every week and if somebody comes in every two months or has an important issue, I must give them preference also. I try to be fair, but it does not always pan out. I will never have the ideal, but I am cognisant that the situation was difficult today. The way it panned out was that two Fine Gael Senators were chosen because there was nobody from Fianna Fáil who had tabled a Commencement matter. I tried to balance it and try to be fair. There is no utopian solution. I will take responsibility, but I will talk to Senator Colm Burke privately about it.
This is not a criticism of the Cathaoirleach in any way. I am just saying that if there is a large volume of Commencement matters, procedure needs to be looked at in order that we can receive ministerial replies in writing rather than having to wait for a reply.
I thank all 18 Members who raised issues on the Order of Business. Senator Catherine Ardagh referred to the CSO figures. I think we addressed this topic yesterday, but it is important to understand concern has been expressed about the CSO figures for growth and how they have been compiled. The CSO has accepted that there might be a need to look at how it measures and presents them. The fundamental underlying point is that, as a country, we are beginning to emerge into a better space. Employment is increasing and unemployment is on the way down, which means that there are more people back at work. Consumer spending is increasing and there is a feel good factor in the economy. The Taoiseach and the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform have said the Government will not use the figures presented yesterday in the budgetary forecasts and budget preparations. It is important that we be sensible. We all agree that the figures need to reflect the real position rather than a transient or one-off situation. Senator Rose Conway-Walsh also asked yesterday for this issue to be discussed.
Senators Catherine Ardagh, Diarmuid Wilson, James Reilly, Gerry Horkan and Tim Lombard referred to the preliminary census figures. I congratulate the CSO on its presentation this morning and thank it for the timely publication of the figures which show that there are 4,757,976 persons in the country, an increase of 3.7% since 2011. Members rightly referred to the boundary review commission, which is to be established subsequent to the publication of the figures. It will present an opportunity for the Government to reflect on the size of the population and the numbers of public representatives. I hope the commission will be given sensible terms of reference and that it will be equally sensible in the presentation of its findings. Senator James Reilly spoke about gerrymandering, which is sometimes the wrong word to use. What we saw the last time with regard to members of the commission was a mismatch of everything. Many in this House were affected, but we will not get into that row again. I hope we will have a boundary review commission, see an increase in the numbers in the Dáil and boundaries that will be reflective of community and county boundaries. I thank Senators Diarmuid Wilson and James Reilly for raising the issue of the division of Cavan. As somebody who was affected the last time, I hope the issue in Cork will also be addressed.
Once we get the issue in Cavan sorted out, we will deal with the issue in Cork.
That is the subject of another debate.
Senator Gerard P. Craughwell mentioned a case, into which I will not go. On foot of him raising it, my office contacted the Department of Defence. It has been the subject of a Commencement matter. To be fair, the issue is important to him, but I think he will agree with me that the Taoiseach, as Minister for Defence, does not have control over matters such as promotion and hiring and firing within the Defence Forces. Rather than divide the House, I would be happy to talk to the Senator afterwards about how we could reach a resolution to break the impasse.
The matter he raises is important. It illustrates the need for transparency in making public appointments and the interview process, in particular. For all of us who have gone for interview for posts of responsibility and promotion in our jobs, there needs to be a clear marking scheme and a transparent awarding of points in order that we can have confidence in the integrity of the promotion system, whether it be in the Defences Forces, the education sector or even the Houses of the Oireachtas. I will be happy to speak to the Senator again about this issue afterwards if that is okay with him.
Senator Grace O'Sullivan referred to maritime affairs. Commissioner Vella is involved in drafting the maritime strategy framework, on which I will be happy to have a debate in the autumn because it is important. I compliment the Senator on her performance on the RTE maritime programme recently. It was an enlightening interview.
Senator Kevin Humphreys raised the issue of collective Cabinet responsibility. I will be happy to have the Taoiseach come to the House, but I do not think he will be here before the summer recess. It will not happen next week because his diary and our schedule are full.
I raised this matter with the Leader two weeks ago.
Senator John O'Mahony raised the important issue of water safety and referred to the role of Irish Water Safety in that regard. It is important that we send a message to the effect that it is important that people take care in harbours and on piers during the summer and that those who use our waters do so carefully and are sensible when using equipment. They should not contemplate consuming alcohol and then going swimming or on the water in a boat or on a hovercraft.
Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor referred to the protocols for Ministers appearing in the House. I will facilitate any Minister in coming to the House at the request of Members, but I cannot ask him or her to do A, B or C. However, I will raise the issue mentioned by the Senator with the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. She could also intervene with the HSE.
Senators Frances Black and Rose Conway-Walsh referred to the presentation made earlier by the WALK organisation and the role it was playing in helping and working with people with disabilities. It is an important issue and I am sure we can make representations to the relevant Minister on the funding issue raised by both Senators. I pay tribute to the organisation for the work it does.
Labhair an Seanadóir O'Reilly mar gheall ar chúrsaí samhraidh sa Ghaeilge. Tá na daltaí agus na mic léinn óga atá sa Daingean nó i nDún na nGall inniu ag foghlaim agus ag úsáid na Gaeilge. Tá an ceart ag an Seanadóir go bhfuil sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go bhfuil ár ndúchas á fhorbairt agus á phlé in áiteanna ar nós an Daingin ina bhfuil cúrsaí Gaeilge ar siúl. Tá suim mhór ag an Seanadóir O'Reilly sa Ghaeilge agus sa chultúr. Nuair a bhí mé ag caint leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Kyne, dúirt sé liom go bhfuil suim mhór aige teacht isteach sa Teach seo. B'fhéidir go mbeidh sé anseo tar éis an tsamhraidh.
Senator Diarmuid Wilson seconded the amendment proposed to the Order of Business, but I hope we will be able to arrive at an accommodation with Senator Gerard P. Craughwell.
Senator Colm Burke raised an issue about a Commencement matter which the Cathaoirleach has addressed. However, the Senator made a fundamental point, with which I completely agree, about the charity sector and the way in which the committee system was treated. When the Committee of Public Accounts seizes of an issue, every other committee has to stop dealing with it. The Senator is correct that the Joint Committee on Health and Children, of which we were both members in the previous Dáil, had representatives of the HSE before it to discuss section 38 and section 39 organisations. It was the sectoral committee with responsibility for dealing with such matters. Perhaps there might have been a much better outcome if issues had been left to that committee. It is more disappointing that, as part of the quarterly meetings the committee held with the Minister and HSE management, the Senator had tabled a question which was relevant to the matter he raised earlier and received a substantive reply, but it was given in advance of the meeting, deliberately or otherwise, to members of the media, which prevented a proper debate from taking place at the committee because the issue was in the public domain. This issue poses a question about the role of sectoral committees. To be fair, the committee system works well. The committee clerks with whom I have worked are extraordinary people and the commitment of members is equally important. We should examine the issue raised by Senator Colm Burke in the broader context of Oireachtas reform and how sectoral committees do their work.
Senator Frank Feighan has pointed out that it is Bastille Day. I wish our French brothers and sisters a happy holiday. The Senator is correct that Euro 2016 was a wonderful experience. I compliment France, as the host nation, and pay tribute to the Irish fans.
I compliment the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and wish her and her Cabinet every success. The appointment of Boris Johnson is certainly interesting. As a campaigner on the "Leave" side, he will play a key role in developing relations, not just with Ireland but also with the European Union and other countries. It is important that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade who came to the House to debate Brexit return in the autumn to discuss how we will play our part in the world in the post-Brexit era.
I agree with Senator Paul Gavan up to a point about chefs. It is extraordinary that there is a huge skills shortage in the hospitality sector. I am conscious that when I was a Member of the House previously, those of us who opposed the changing of the system in this sector were ridiculed, but, unfortunately, we have been proved right. The issues raised by the Senator about salaries, working conditions and flexibility need to be addressed. I will be happy to include them in a debate on the overarching policy on the hospitality and catering sector. It is predominantly young people who work in it and they are not prepared to work longer hours for less money when there should be greater flexibility. This relates to Senator Paul Coghlan's point about tourism. We need a hospitality and catering sector that will roll out the red carpet and is welcoming, but the men and women who work in it must be respected and valued, particularly in terms of their pay and working conditions.
Senator Paul Coghlan also referred to Brexit, an issue to which I have referred. He also referred to Fáilte Ireland. We should have a debate on tourism, not least because of the matter raised earlier but also because of issues related to hotel room availability in Dublin and the escalating cost of accommodation at a time when the Government has reduced the VAT rate for the sector. It is being abused by the Irish Hotels Federation.
The IHF has an obligation to reflect on its role in promoting the tourism strategy and attracting tourists to the country.
Senator James Reilly referred to the importance of transport. I will happily ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House for a debate on the issue.
Senator Gerry Horkan made reference to the Central Applications Office and the leaving certificate examination results. The examination papers are being corrected. There are people in rooms across the country busily correcting papers and I wish them well. The future of a generation is in their hands and I hope it will go well for them. However, it is important that, as part of the housing strategy to be unveiled next week by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, the provision of third level student accommodation be addressed because the issue is significant for parents in terms of affordability, for students in terms of availability and for communities which are, in some cases, ravaged by rented houses and other associated difficulties.
Senator Kieran O'Donnell referred to the adjournment and rolling over of debates. I will be happy to do whatever the House decides. The point raised by the Senator is a good one as sometimes a debate loses its impetus. I thank Members for participating in the debate yesterday and reassure them that it is not the Government's intention to stall Senator Michael McDowell's Bill on Seanad reform. However, it is important to give Members an opportunity to contribute on Second Stage, if they so wish. The Government will not oppose the Bill. The debate yesterday was good. As I said, it is important that Members be given an opportunity to articulate their viewpoint on how Senators are elected.
I ask Senators to withdraw the amendment proposed to the Order of Business. I am happy to work with them to find a solution.
Senator Gerard P. Craughwell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence attend the House to deal with a matter concerning the Defence Forces." Is the Senator pressing his amendment?
I very much respect the efforts of the Leader to keep the business of the House going and acknowledge the fact that the Taoiseach cannot be dragged here at the drop of a hat, but this is not about the individual case mentioned but about the Department's disregard for the role of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces.
The Taoiseach chose the Department of Defence as his ministry and that is part of the problem. He is so busy these guys are running away with themselves.
We cannot reopen the debate.
I will not press the issue to a vote now.
The Senator has the option of raising the matter again.
I assume that the Labour Party will be raising it again next week.