The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re arrangements for the sitting of the House on Tuesday, 11 October, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re European regulation on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters, matters of parental responsibility and international child abduction, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, motion re appointment of members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 2; and No. 4, statements on the action plan for education, to be taken at 2 p.m. and conclude not later than 4 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 upon to reply not later than 3.55 p.m.
Order of Business
We will not oppose the Order of Business, but we note - it happens in every term - that legislation proposed by Members on both sides of the House is not being progressed in the way it should. I know that the Leader will address the issues we have raised, including corporate manslaughter, the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 which he has placed on the Order Paper for debate on 19 October and the Bill tabled by my colleague, Senator Terry Leyden, dealing with the registration of wills. We have tabled quite a number of Bills, as have other parties, which could be taken in the House. I know that statements are valuable but legislation is also important.
Next week we will discuss the budget. The very disturbing case of Kifca McNamee from County Meath who has a neurodegenerative disorder was mentioned on the news last night and is in the public domain. She had received assistance for 30 hours, but this figure was cut to 19 hours. She works for the local authority in County Meath and while at work she had received assistance for three hours, but this was cut to 30 minutes, a drop of 83%. She can no longer go out socially and no longer receives physiotherapy. She lives at home with her father, sister and niece. She is not the only one who has been affected, but she is a clear example of how the system works. If Kifca does not receive the assistance she used to receive-----
The Senator should not name people in the House.
Her name is in the public domain.
The alternative to providing the 30 hours of assistance she used to receive, including three hours a day while at work, is that she must be place in residential care which would cost the State ten times as much. I ask that Kifca and all those who are seeing the number of hours being cut receive assistance instead of facing the grim alternative of being placed in care for the rest of their lives. That is not how we should treat citizens in this day and age.
The issue of insurance has arisen again. The State Claims Agency has exposed the insurance companies and the lies they have been telling us about the cost of claims and the level of compensation increasing, as a result of which they are charging more. Since the beginning of year, the cost of insurance has increased by 28%. In the past 12 months it has increased by 34% and since 2014 by 60%. In 2014, according to the records we have available, the amount paid out in compensation to claimants decreased by 36%. We have price gouging by the insurance companies which are profiteering in hiking up insurance premiums. People are going out of business as a result. It is highly unacceptable that the insurance companies seem to be acting as a collective in pushing up premiums.
There have also been cases of insurance companies suspending and eliminating life cover or cover for critical illnesses. Critical illness cover refers to five illnesses, including cancer. In one case highlighted yesterday people who had been paying premiums for critical illness cover for ten years were told by a company that cover was being discontinued from November and that they should contact other companies. This is another form of price gouging and profiteering by the insurance industry. People who need cover for peace of mind are having it withdrawn by insurance companies.
We also have the sudden disappearance from the market of insurance companies established in other jurisdictions, for example, Setanta Insurance, which disappeared overnight, leaving 14,000 people without insurance and policyholders left to pick up the tab.
Banking is another financial sector which is subject to regulation and appears to be doing its own thing and profiteering. Ultimately, citizens are losing out and businesses are being affected. People are driving without insurance. By law, the 2.2 million drivers in the State must have insurance. We force them to have it and they should have it, but we are not giving them the protection they require. The Leader has organised debates on this issue before. The State Claims Agency has exposed the fact that insurance companies are not paying out nearly as much as they claim to be. The Government must take action on this issue.
I appeal for an increase in funding for youth work. There are more than 40,000 volunteers in youth work agencies and organisations which do tremendous work with young people. Given the improvements in the economy, this area should receive particular attention, although I accept that money is not available for everything. I would appreciate it, however, if the Minister were to make provision to increase funding for youth work because the value for money received transcends the ratio of return on each euro invested. Youth work has an immeasurable value in communities.
Elderly people more than shared the burden during the economic downturn and must pay many charges. The elimination of the telephone allowance has caused considerable difficulty for them, especially those who live alone. The Government should listen to the request to have the allowance restored, even if it is done in two budgets. One is reminded of the great posters put up by Age Action Ireland with the message that old age is not a problem but loneliness is. It is critically important for people's mental and social well-being that they have the ability to make a telephone call without worrying about the cost and stay in touch with their family who are often far-flung and, in the case of those do not have many surviving family members, their neighbours.
I plead to the Minister for Health to reduce the prescription charge and ensure sufficient funding is made available for mental health services, an issue which affects people across the country.
I ask the Leader to make arrangements for a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I was elected to the Seanad on the Agriculture Panel. The horticultural and food sector is in crisis. Two major mushroom growers have closed in recent weeks. The programme for Government features only four sentences on horticulture. It includes a commitment to the Origin Green initiative and refers, on page 113, to the Food Wise 2025 policy and, more importantly, Bord Bia's excellent strategy for the period 2016 to 2018. The strategy covers only a short period, however, given that we are approaching the end of 2016.
I recently took time to visit north County Dublin, an area with great potential where a large amount of organic produce is grown. Bord Bia has been very successful in the area of organic produce and the Origin Green initiative. This is, however, becoming more and more difficult, with the mushroom trade crumbling in recent weeks and months. I will not take up Senators' time by speaking about all of the factors involved. However, there is a crisis in organics and horticulture. Surely this area has potential for employment creation and we should provide more training in horticulture. I use the word "horticulture" because it tends to be lumped into the broader remit of agriculture with meat, poultry production and other sectors. The horticulture sector offers enormous potential, particularly given the demand for organic produce. We must tie it in with the strategy and principles of Origin Green. We must look at this and support sustainable development on the land. We must support farmers who may be interested in moving from livestock to organics.
I agree with the former Minister and chairman of the Fine Gael Party, Senator James Reilly, on the restoration of the telephone allowance. The Senator carries much weight in his party and I would be terribly disappointed if the change proposed is not made in the budget. It must be made because people in urban and rural areas are living in isolation. The simple measure of giving them back a telephone is a very practical, reasonable, fair and appropriate response. I ask that this issue be raised and look forward to-----
I thank the Senator.
I will go downstairs to my office in a few minutes and welcome it because it is extremely important. Senators, Deputies and local councillors should call on the Government to make this a major priority in the budget.
Bhí sé tráthúil inné go raibh muid anseo ag plé na Breatimeachta agus ag an am céanna go raibh Príomh-Aire na Breataine, Theresa May, ag déanamh ráitis a chuirfeadh beagánín imní ar dhuine. I draw attention to comments made by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, at the Tory Party conference yesterday. It is ironic that at the time the Seanad was discussing the implications of Brexit for Ireland, the leader of the UK party that had created the crisis was dictating how the process would be managed. I emphasise the lack of action taken by the Government on some of the issues that are coming to light. The Prime Minister's speech took a sinister turn when she claimed that she would no longer allow members of the British army to be hounded by left-wing lawyers. This is a chilling and veiled threat, given that the British state murdered Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer in Belfast. All Senators will agree that the work of lawyers, especially those dedicated to the protection of human rights, must remain independent and free from harassment and threats from those who are ideologically opposed to fundamental human rights. I hope the Government will make it clear to the Prime Minister that whatever plan she has for England's exit from the European Union, there can be no rowing back on human rights legislation that was hard fought for over many years and in negotiations.
I note an article on thejournal.ie this morning which draws attention to comments made by the Home Secretary, Ms Amber Rudd, in which she proposed that UK companies hand the government a list of all foreign workers employed by them in a plan designed to ensure British workers would be given preference in creating new jobs. While the full details of the plan have yet to be published, the measures are believed to be designed to include all non-British workers, including citizens of European Union member states such as the Republic of Ireland. This flies in the face of what the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, described last night as our special relationship with Britain. It will certainly be of concern to Irish people working in Britain.
On the issue of whistleblowers, the Protected Disclosures Act was hard fought for. As well as protecting those who make protected disclosures, there was a general expectation that there would be a change in culture towards those who made such disclosures. Thankfully, most people believe those who make disclosures are performing a civic and patriotic duty. I hope others in authority will allow due process and not hinder or harass those who have made disclosures in a perfectly legal manner. Those who would discredit or harass people who make disclosures are the law-breakers and it is their actions that are repugnant to the laws of the State. It is noticeable that the Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, appears to have run for cover on the issues that have come to light in recent days. The Minister for Justice and Equality should come to the House to debate the implementation of whistleblower legislation and the manner in which whistleblowers are being treated. The purpose of the Act is to protect them rather than those who may seek to quieten their voices. I hope we will have such a debate in short order.
Last night, at about 10.30 p.m., I understand all Members of the Oireachtas received an e-mail or a letter from an author of a book many years ago called The God Squad by Paddy Doyle. I will quote from the e-mail:
There's no glamour in being disabled. What really is infuriating is that politicians talk about "THE DISABLED" as if we are [a] homogenous group to be pitied, patronised and prayed for. [...] We are at the bottom rung of the ladder and it appears we will remain there.
That rhymes very well with what we saw and has been referred to by Senator Mark Daly regarding the young woman in County Meath, Kifca McNamee, who has Friedreich's ataxia, a condition that weasels its way into every-----
We cannot name names.
It has already been-----
I know that, but even if it is in the public domain, we are not supposed to-----
No, it is not proper.
It is in Standing Orders.
There is nothing to say-----
It is not proper to name names.
There is nothing to say one cannot.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for his help. Friedreich's ataxia is a progressive condition, but really what it does is weasel its way into every fibre of a person's body and takes him or her down. As a young person in her teens, the girl in question had expectations, like anyone would, even if they were only the ones her parents would want for her, but they were expectations of having a half-decent life. She has had to deal with all of the compromises and she and her family have had to take it on the chin. What is absolutely unacceptable is, as has been said, a cut of almost one half in what was already an inadequate number of personal support hours. The three hours of assistance she had available to her to help her stay at work were cut to 30 minutes. She has talked about the consequential pain and anxiety she feels regarding personal hygiene and toileting issues when she is at work when she does not have that support. None of us needs to come into this House or go on television to talk about our toileting needs, ebbs and flows or movements, but that is what someone felt she had to do in public last night.
There is no recovery for people with disabilities or their families. There is a continuation of the many cuts made and that, I am sad to say, is a fact and the reality. Last week I made comments to the Taoiseach here. I asked for confirmation that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, would be ratified by the end of the year. I asked, not as a special plea, that the budget prioritise something to make sure Ireland would have a decent infrastructure for all of us and all of our loved ones. I said that, of the modest amount of money available to him, €300 million would be a decent start. The Taoiseach said he would meet me and that that meeting would take place, but he did not confirm that the legislation would be passed by the end of the year. That issue needs to be dealt with, as does the fact that he suggested to me afterwards that the €300 million would not be available. If it is, it is; if it is not, it is not. We will know on Tuesday. However, the bottom line is that people with disabilities - 600,000 people and their families - will continue to be on the wrong side of the recovery.
I hope the Leas-Chathaoirleach will join me in welcoming a special occasion for County Tipperary. The GAA All-Star nominees were announced last night and for the first time in the history of football in County Tipperary we have five nominees. The Leas-Chathaoirleach's county has four. It is a great day for County Tipperary. I would like to-----
For the record, that is really not relevant to the Order of Business but carry on.
Do not celebrate too much.
My party leader, Deputy Brendan Howlin, is launching the Labour Party's alternative budget, Building a Shared Prosperity, in which it sets out its desire to invest in public services, support families and clearly stamp out our ground on child care: the provision of child care at a maximum cost of €4.25 per hour for children up to 12 years of age. Our alternative budget also seeks to index link all social welfare payments and raise wages for working people to a living wage.
That brings me on to my second point. I call on the Leader to request the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to come to the House for a debate on the horse racing industry, the future of which is in crisis. In saying that, I congratulate another Tipperary man - at least, we adopted him - Mr. Aidan O'Brien for training the first three runners home in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last Sunday in Paris. However, the reality is that trainers such as Mr. David Wachman and Mr. Colm Murphy and other small trainers cannot compete and are leaving the industry.
On the other side of the coin is the reappointment of the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, which is totally in breach of public policy. In addition, the Irish Stable Staff Association, headed by its general secretary, Mr. Bernard Caldwell, is trying to fight the cause for staff who are expected to work for €9.75 per hour. If they go away to attend a race meeting, for example, from Tipperary to Ballinrobe, from which they may get home at 1 a.m., they will receive €40 extra. That is unsustainable and people are leaving the industry. We need a debate on the issue urgently and I ask the Leader to organise such a debate.
I also raise a flag on behalf of one of the groups which made a submission on the budget, namely, the Irish Wheelchair Association, representatives of which we met last week in Leinster House. I will raise just one issue that struck me very deeply. One of the people who was with us was wheelchair-bound. In order for her to catch a train from County Mayo to Dublin, she must inform Iarnród Éireann a week in advance, as otherwise she cannot get on or off the train. I ask that in the budget that single issue be addressed on behalf of the Irish Wheelchair Association.
I support wholeheartedly Senator James Reilly on the restoration of the telephone allowance.
I reiterate the now urgent call for an extension of the slurry spreading season. The date on which farmers will no longer be allowed to spread slurry, 15 October, is fast approaching, but I am receiving an increasing number of communications from farmers and agricultural contractors who have not had an opportunity to spread slurry at all this year on account of waterlogged lands. It is no secret that we, in the west, have been particularly afflicted. Faced with the prospect of trying to do so between now and 15 October, it is neither feasible nor tenable and unless an extension is provided for, we face the possibility of overflowing slurry tanks which would pose their own environmental hazard. I call on the Minister with responsibility for the environment to take the necessary steps in that regard.
I ask that a sports capital grant be introduced and that it be weighted in favour of rural areas where people find it very hard to raise matching funds or raise funds at all. There have been great benefits in previous rounds of sports capital grants that really allow rural communities to thrive and, in particular, young people to participate in sports and youth development programmes. I was particularly struck by an item published on balls.ie in which the serious disparity in the expenditure of the GAA's development moneys was highlighted, with most of the money going towards the development of sports facilities in Dublin. While this is an internal matter for the GAA, it shows that in more rural areas and other counties investment is not taking place, notwithstanding the fact that the Irish Sports Council puts €1 million of taxpayers' money into the GAA every year. I have worked with a number of the GAA groups in my county and helped to them secure sports capital grants. They are very committed and do a fantastic job as volunteers in every parish in the country, but along with other sports organisations, especially in rural Ireland, they need extra help to make sports facilities a reality. I, therefore, ask that the sports capital grant programme be reopened and weighted in favour of rural areas.
Today is the 125th anniversary of the death of Charles Stewart Parnell, one of the greatest Irishmen of all time and I would like to mark the occasion. He served as leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party and was the "Uncrowned King of Ireland". He played a significant role in the land reform and Home Rule movements. His death occurred 25 years before the 1916 Easter Rising.
If he had lived and succeeded, without the scandal involving Kitty O'Shea - am I allowed to mention her?
It is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I am terribly sorry that, 125 years later, she is still not allowed to be mentioned in the House.
On this occasion, I support Senator Terry Leyden.
I compliment T. Ryle Dwyer on his excellent article in the Irish Examiner which states Charles Stewart Parnell felt the brunt of the church over his personal life. He was badly treated by it and it should offer an apology for its treatment of him. He was undoubtedly one of the most gifted parliamentarians this country has produced. He had 80 members in his Irish Parliamentary Party and brought about developments in the House of Commons which changed the course of history.
This is interesting but rambling. It is not relevant to the Order of Business.
It is significant to mention it.
The Senator may well think so and may be right, but I am talking about what is relevant to the Order of Business.
His last speech was made in Creggs, County Galway where a monument was erected by the people of the area and opened by Eamon de Valera in the 1940s.
I raise the matter of coverage of the Oireachtas by the media. RTE, as a public service broadcaster, has a responsibility to cover and report on issues of national significance. Last night in this Chamber we had an excellent debate on the CETA and the TTIP, two international trade agreements the terms of which were negotiated secretly. The public of Europe were kept away from the negotiations and their views were not entertained. Under the proposed agreements, the direction of policy will largely be handed over to multinational corporations, which is a matter of concern. I highlighted two items yesterday. One was about Argentina where a subsidiary of Enron was secured to provide water services. The company, however, provided filthy, undrinkable water at outrageous prices. When the Argentinian Government took action to reduce the price and produce drinkable water for its citizens, the court held against it and fined it millions of pounds. In the case of Slovakia the public interest and the public good were held to be less significant than the profits of a company. What standard of morality is this? The motion was tabled by Senator Alice-Mary Higgins and it was a very passionate debate.
As the father of the House, the Senator knows well that we cannot reopen last night's debate.
I am talking about the coverage of it. This morning no newspaper covered it and it was not covered on "Oireachtas Report".
This is not relevant to the Order of Business.
It is very relevant and the Leas-Chathaoirleach should take an interest in the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House. There was not one single mention of Seanad Éireann in the whole of "Oireachtas Report". It might as well not have existed. It was an evening on which there was a fantastic debate and the Government was defeated. The motion was passed, despite the resistance of the Government. If that is not worth covering, I do not know what is.
The record will show what it shows.
This is a dereliction of duty on the part of the media. There was a Senator on "The Late Debate" and he did not even mention it, despite the fact that he had taken part in the debate and knew all about it. What is happening to the coverage of Seanad Éireann by the broadcast and print media?
I wish to talk about a report prepared by IEDR, the dot ie digital health index. It is an interesting report that raises a large number of relevant points. Poor connection is central and fundamental to SMEs. When SMEs were asked what the main barriers were to their getting online, 21% stated poor connection was one. In recent months business owners have brought to my attention the fact that the greatest obstacle to doing business is not having a proper mobile phone signal. During the Seanad election we would all have seen that in certain areas of the country there were no mobile signals whatsoever. In my constituency which is really a suburb of Dublin with towns such as Kildalkey, Kilmessan, Longwood, Clonard, Ballivor, Enfield and Oldcastle there are no mobile phone signals whatsoever. The bigger cities may not be affected but business is not confined to them. I call on the Minister responsible to call to task the mobile phone operators which, month after month, take the hard-earned money of the people and businesses of Ireland for what can only be described as a disgraceful service. I ask for clarity on what they mean by "unlimited"? We all sign up to contracts and pay €50 or €75 per month. In a country with a population of 4.5 million, that is a lot of payments of €50 or €75 per month, but the bill can go up after six, nine or 12 months. We want legislation on what "unlimited" means in the case of mobile phone and broadband services because it is a rip-off compared to other countries. We should bring forward legislation to provide that if mobile phone service providers do not provide countrywide services, their licences should not be granted or renewed.
Last night Sinn Féin tabled a motion in the Dáil seeking all-party support for the provision of 24/7 mental crisis intervention services without delay. This is certainly not an issue on which to score political points. Our families and communities cannot wait for a service any longer. We have spoken ad nauseam about this issue and for far too long. The stark reality of the non-provision of this service is that citizens in every town, village and city across the State are taking their lives and there simply is not an adequate 24/7 support service available to help those who present at all times of the day or night to deal with their suicidal thoughts and the unbearable mental anguish they suffer. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil tabled amendments to Sinn Féin's motion. Fine Gael's amendment noted the need for a 24-hour service but provided for no meaningful commitment. It also commited to increasing investment.
With respect, the Senator is referring to a Dáil motion.
I am speaking about it today in the Seanad to ask colleagues to talk to their friends and other politicians and urge them to vote this afternoon. This is about mental health services and is really relevant. We have been banging on about the issue for a long time, for some ten years. Over 70% of A Vision for Change has not been implemented.
I have to deal with what is relevant to the Order of Business in this House.
Fianna Fáil's amendment mentioned seven-day services in two years but did not commit to the provision of a 24/7 service. The timeline for seven-day services is far too long and the non-committal of the Government is deeply worrying. Members of this House and the Dáil should not stand back and allow this to continue. Citizens are dying and crying and begging for help. I welcome the Green Party's initiative on mental well-being in schools. Young people and the new generation will see the stigma removed, with mental well-being made a top priority. I am appealing to all Senators to talk to colleagues and urge them to vote "Yes" to the motion, without amendments, in the Dáil debate at lunchtime. Be accountable; be responsible; be compassionate and make this a top priority.
In 2003 the 24-hour consultant-led emergency unit at Ennis General Hospital was reconfigured to a doctor-led day facility for people with minor injuries.
Part of that reconfiguration was the upgrade of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, County Limerick to which people from counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary could go to avail of emergency services. Unfortunately, the facility in the hospital has not yet been built. While it is due to open in 2017, it is still in construction phase. What happened in respect of reconfiguration in the middle of the last decade involved putting the cart before the horse. It was announced in County Clare this morning that Shannondoc, the out-of-hours GP service, was being dramatically scaled back. The out-of-hours services in Ennistymon and Kilrush will be amalgamated in one facility in Milltown Malbay. While services will continue in Ennistymon and Kilrush at weekends, this is certainly a significant blow in providing doctor cover at weekends. I call on the Minister for Health to make a statement setting out his views on the reduction in the Shannondoc service. What does he propose to do about it? I also call on him to carry out a review of the service provided by Shannondoc in County Clare in the past few years. It is my contention that it provides a very important service and that its presence in County Clare is extremely important. If people from Loop Head find themselves in difficulty, are they now expected to go to Milltown Malbay to see a doctor when until now, they could have gone to Kilrush? It is not appropriate or acceptable and the Minister needs to intervene. My understanding is there is an issue with retaining doctors, particularly for the red-eye shifts. I want the Minister to give his views and review the matter urgently.
I wish to raise a few points before the budget announcement next week. There are many competing priorities and everyone, including economists and lobbyists, will have different opinions. One group that was referred to today should be the first port of call for attention in the budget, namely, people with disabilities. Senators John Dolan and Mark Daly raised the issue. We heard yesterday about the situation in County Meath, but that is only one case. People living with disabilities who are challenged on an hourly basis, some of whom are in chronic pain, should be the first point in allocating any additional support from the recovery in the economy. There is a commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government. The Minister of State with responsibility for dealing with disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, has given a commitment that legislation to give effect to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be passed before the end of the year and I hope that will happen. In addition, funding is required to give effect to the legislation and support implementation of the convention.
Bhí mé féin agus an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh ag Buan-choiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán. Tá moltaí déanta ag na heagrais Ghaeilge a tháinig le chéile go mbeadh airgead breise curtha ar fáil do chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta sa cháinaisnéis. Bhí ciorruithe géar ar an earnáil sin le roinnt blianta anuas. Tá moladh déanta go mbeadh ar a laghad €18 mhilliún ar fáil thar trí cháinaisnéis nó thart ar €4.5 mhilliún i mbliana. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil moladh déanta ag mo chomhghleacaí, an t-iar-Aire Gaeltachta, an Teachta Éamon Ó Cuív, go mbeadh €6 mhilliún ar fáil an bhliain seo chugainn agus go mbeadh €1.5 mhilliún den €6 mhilliún ar fáil do chúrsaí infreastruchtúir sa Ghaeltacht. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé sin ar fáil fosta.
Last week Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile, rightly, welcomed the agreement between the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association and the Orange Order on marching in Ardoyne. I wanted to welcome the agreement, but, unfortunately, I became involved in a local issue in the Seanad. The agreement is of huge significance and something for which we must congratulate all of the parties involved. I know about the work being done on the ground, which is incredible. When issues arise, we have cameras and television crews highlighting all that is negative, but this is very positive. One man I want to thank is Fr. Gary Donegan from Holy Cross Church. He has worked every evening for many years to ensure outbreaks of hostility do not occur. It was very depressing, therefore, to see how he was verbally attacked by people who were very upset, which I can understand. I see that a man has been arrested for making threats to a journalist and that the matter has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. We must ensure nobody can threaten journalists in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. I will not comment further on the matter, but this is a hugely significant moment. I thank all of the people, organisations and political parties involved in reaching the agreement.
We are very concerned about flooding on the River Shannon. The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Seán Canney, will today announce confirmations of water levels with the various bodies. A lot of work has been done behind the scenes by various groups, including the local authorities, Bord na Móna and many local groups on small remedial schemes which I believe will be very helpful. I am not sure about what is happening in one area and need to be convinced that the ESB is fully living up to its responsibilities. It needs to come on board on Lough Allen and outline exactly what it intends to do because there has been far too much subterfuge and it has not worked effectively with the local community. I have already spoken to the Minister of State about the matter. He must meet the ESB and local communities to address the issue.
Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall a bheith chomh ghasta agus gur féidir. When the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade was here yesterday, I referenced Modeling Irish Reunification, a major piece of research commissioned by the University of British Columbia, Vancouver into the economics of Irish unity. The report has received some limited coverage in this state in recent months since its publication. The author, Dr. Karl Hubner, is in the city today and will be briefing members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement at 2.30 p.m. I, therefore, encourage Members who are available to come and avail of the opportunity to engage with Dr. Hubner on his research, particularly in the light of the issues that have been consistently raised here since the Brexit vote. We must actively pursue and explore every option open to us. I think everybody in this House agrees that, ultimately, the best option for the people, both North and South, is the reunification of the country. This paper identifies the very tangible economic and income benefits that would come from it.
Ba mhaith liom fosta trácht iontach gasta a dhéanamh ar an méid a dúirt an Seanadóir Ó Domhnaill. Bhí muid uilig - bhuel, roinnt mhaith againn - thall in Óstán Buswell's inné ag bualadh le hionadaithe ó Chonradh na Gaeilge. Shíl muid go rinne siad sár-jab ag déanamh stocaireachta orainn ó thaobh chúrsaí Gaeilge de agus na héilimh atá i measc phobal na Gaeilge,Thuaidh agus Theas. Dar ndóigh, i budget Shinn Féin, a d'fhógair muid ag tús na seachtaine seo, bhí muid ag iarraidh níos mó ná mar a bhí á lorg ag Conradh na Gaeilge a chur isteach i dtionscadail teanga agus Gaeltachta ar fud fad na tíre. Admhaíonn muid an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an teanga agus an méid buntáistí, tairbhe agus cúrsaí dearfacha a thagann ó a bheith ag infheistiú i bpobal labhartha na Gaeilge. Mar a dúirt an Seanadóir Ó Domhnaill agus an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh roimhe seo, sílim gurb fhiú seal a chaitheamh ag comhrá ar chúrsaí Gaeilge agus cúrsaí infheistíochta sa teanga agus sna pobail Ghaeltachta a bheith againn.
I offer my sympathy to the staff of Cameron in Longford and their families. They were told unceremoniously yesterday afternoon that their jobs were gone. I am concerned about the IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland funding invested in the company. What are the implications? Is that funding lost? I am also concerned about the number of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland visits to County Longford which is suffering quite badly. I ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor, to come to the House to address the issue of what will happen to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland funding if a company pulls out. This company has pulled out and taken its manufacturing operations elsewhere where they can be done cheaper. It is devastating news for County Longford.
I support what Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said about Conradh na Gaeilge and cúrsaí Gaeilge, which are very important. Now that some money is available, Conradh na Gaeilge and cúrsaí Gaeilge should be considered for further funding.
I have been invited to speak at the Stop the War Coalition conference in London on Saturday about the US military's use of Shannon Airport. I will be proud to share a platform with Mr. Jeremy Corbyn who has always been a friend to Ireland and the peace process, in particular. This week something very strange happened. Shannonwatch which has done amazing work in detailing what happens at Shannon Airport had been planning to hold a conference to mark 15 years of US military occupation of the airport. Three hotels had accepted the booking but then subsequently cancelled it, leaving Shannonwatch without a venue on Saturday. This speaks to the issue of silence regarding the use of Shannon Airport. There is an awkward silence. It is as if the Government knows that it is complicit and completely wrong in supporting the US military's adventures in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq which have caused so many deaths, but it just does not want to talk about it. We need to talk about it. It is an absolute disgrace that our neutrality has been shamed in this way for 15 years. As someone who lives in Limerick, I am disgusted that our local politicians refuse to talk about the issue. If they want to support the US military's adventures, they should make their case. If we think it is wrong, we will make our case, but the issue cannot be ignored. It is time to break the silence on the use of Shannon Airport. That is why I will be speaking on Saturday and ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the issue with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I was intrigued by Senator Máire Devine’s submission on the health care issue. She raised a very important matter and I fully agree with her in many respects. However, there is a ten-year strategy committee to which I am seeking to have Senators appointed. I now understand Sinn Féin is opposing that proposal. I am intrigued that Senator Máire Devine is telling us what we should tell Members of Dáil Éireann when we would have that opportunity if we had Senators as members of the ten-year strategy committee. I am intrigued as to why Sinn Féin is opposed to having Senators as members of a a very important------
The Senator should not mention something that will happen in the other House.
She raised the issue.
The record will show that I corrected the lady.
You did not restrict her.
The Chair must try its best.
I am trying to raise this issue as to the reason a political party, a group in this Chamber, is opposing Senators being added to a very important committee. It is important that the House be aware of the position. I am raising that issue because I think it is important.
As regards the position of Members of this House, there is agreement.
It now appears that Sinn Féin has taken an opposite view.
I cannot speak about that matter.
It is intriguing that it now appears that some Senators are no longer interested in the ten-year health care strategy.
It is an issue for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
We will need to roll out an increasing number of home care packages in the coming years. I am concerned about whether adequate training is available for those who want to provide such services. The Minister for Health should come to the House to outline what is proposed. It is an area in which numbers will grow very fast and it is important that we be able to respond accordingly. I ask the Leader to raise the issue with the Minister.
Members will join me in expressing sympathy and extending condolences to the victims of Hurricane Matthew which is destructive and causing flooding in moving through the Bahamas. According to reports late last evening, the death toll in the Caribbean had risen to 26. Four people reportedly had died in the Dominican Republic, while 22 had been killed in Haiti. I understand the overwhelming majority of homes in the south west of Haiti have been affected, with tens of thousands of people in shelters and hospitals overflowing. People are taking refuge in schools and churches. Requests continue to be made for government help in transporting those whose homes have been devastated, many of whom live in poverty-stricken conditions. In February my colleague asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, to make a statement on the growing unrest following demonstrations and protests in Haiti after the postponement of the presidential election. Eight months on, the election planned for Sunday has been postponed in the wake of Hurricane Matthew which today will move through the Bahamas where evacuations are under way. It is 7.20 a.m. there and the hurricane continues to gain strength having been weakened somewhat by mountainous terrain in Cuba. I am sure I speak for all sides of the House when I send condolences to and express solidarity with those who have been injured and the loved ones and the communities of those killed. The Minister should urgently assess the situation and determine if Ireland can play a part in assisting in responding to the humanitarian crisis.
I join the Members who yesterday proposed a vote of sympathy to the family of the late Mr. Bobby Molloy who was a Member of the other House and had held many portfolios as a senior Minister. I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to his wife, Phyllis, and their family.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State with responsibility for tourism to come to the House. The tourism industry is very important to the country. Much has been said about agriculture and tourism. The weaker sterling is having a severe effect on tourism, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit vote. The Minister of State with responsibility for tourism should come to the House to explain the plans of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. The tourism market in Northern Ireland and Great Britain is very important to this country. They provide the biggest group of visitors to Ireland and we appreciate that business. It is important to hear the plans of the two bodies mentioned for the tourism industry.
The 108 family resource centres throughout the country do valuable work. They presented their pre-budget submission yesterday. They are governed by their representative body, the Family Resource Centre National Forum. As somebody who managed a community development project, I know at first hand about the valuable work done by the centres to combat disadvantage and strengthen and empower children, families and communities. It is vital that this work be underpinned and the appropriate resources provided. The centres are operating on a budget of €12.2 million, but to do the work they need to do, they need €16 million, which is not much more. The funding body is Tusla and the budget for the family resource centres represents only 2% of its entire budget. Some 20% of the projects are at risk of closing and many staff have been put on notice. That is not good either for the staff involved or the people they serve. The issue needs to be addressed immediately.
I call on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Health to come to the House for a discussion on the excellent value for money the family resource centres deliver on the ground in their communities in dealing with domestic violence and mental health and many other issues to help families and communities which have suffered as a result of the under-resourcing of the mental health budget and the non-implementation of A Vision for Change. The centres are at the coal-face and need to be funded and resourced. We cannot have staff in them operating on their own. There are real health and safety issues involved. I would appreciate it if the two Ministers came to the House to discuss the issue.
The news that emanated from the midlands yesterday was very serious, although it had been flagged for the past month. My colleague, Deputy Robert Troy, had referred to the jobs in question and the issue had also been covered in the local newspapers in recent weeks. We have talked about Brexit ad nauseam and this shows one of the repercussions. While the loss of the 170 jobs might not be directly linked with Brexit, it played a very influential part. I call on the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to come to the House to address the issue. It is another blow for the midlands. We discussed the situation at the Imperial Tobacco factory in Mullingar only recently. There seem to be continual blows to general manufacturing operations in the midlands. I appreciate having the time to raise this issue in the House. We all have to pull together to try to sustain what jobs we can. This issue is particularly important in areas outside the M50 belt.
I thank Senators for raising many important issues. Obviously, health and disability services have dominated the Order of Business, having been mentioned by Senators Mark Daly, James Reilly, Victor Boyhan, John Dolan, Máire Devine, Rose Conway-Walsh, Martin Conway, Brian Ó Domhnaill and Colm Burke. On the news item last night, those of us who were involved in the disability sector will recognise that what is happening in the particular case is incorrect, wrong, morally reprehensible and should not be happening. I have asked the Minister responsible to come back to Senators John Dolan and Mark Daly on the matter.
The provision of home care packages is important, as is the point made by Senator Colm Burke that we have an ageing population. In the disability sector, particularly in congregated settings, there are profound needs emerging. As people get older, these needs will become more complex. This needs to be reflected in the overall health budget. Equally, as Senator Máire Devine said and we all agree, it is not a political issue but about ensuring there is a sequence and a continuation of policy through a cross-departmental approach in the areas of social protection, housing, health and education. This means, as we move towards greater use of congregated settings, that there will be support in the community, that people will be looked after and receive home care, respite care and personal support hour packages. It is important that we recognise the health budget is about ensuring a continuum. This is something at which we might look again. As I said to Senator John Dolan in the context of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, it is perhaps an issue we might deal with by bringing people in and putting the pressure on the Government to ensure policy will have an overarching emphasis. In the HSE service plan €330 million has been set aside to deal with issues such as the provision of home care packages, including intensive home care packages. Whether they are for the elderly or the disabled, it is important that provision be made for the making available of home care packages. Equally, the provision of respite care also needs to be addressed in the budget.
The Bill mentioned by Senator John Dolan is on the Government's A list for publication and has been referred to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is critical that it be signed by the end of the year. We have asked the Department to initiate the Bill in this House and I have already met the Senator to discuss the issue. With regard to other items of legislation, it is my hope we will have time slots for two Private Members' Bills this session. That is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to decide, but I hope it will happen.
The issue concerning the insurance sector is very important. The Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is chairing the task force, while Deputy John McGuinness is Chairman of the finance committee. I hope they will take on board the views of Senator Mark Daly on the State Claims Agency. It was an interesting revelation, if I can put it like that.
Senator James Reilly mentioned the value of youth work. It is important that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, come to the House, with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton. I agree with the Senator that the value of youth work can be seen not only in monetary terms but also in the tangible benefits gained by young people. I commend all those involved in the youth work sector who do enormous work.
Senators Victor Boyhan and Michelle Mulherin referred to the agriculture sector. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, will come to the House on 25 October when we can discuss the matters raised. The matter raised by Senator Michelle Mulherin of the deadline for slurry spreading has been raised by other Senators. I hope the Minister will take on board the points made.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh linked the issue of human rights with the Pat Finucane case. The Senator is right that it was hard fought for and should not be diluted in any shape or form. I do not think any of us would stand for it if that were to happen.
Some of the remarks made at the Tory Party conference this week were extraordinary. On Brexit, it is important that the British Government recognise that this country will suffer the most from the decision made and as such, it is important that we maintain our special relationship. However, when we hear Ministers say the NHS will be run by English people only, we must wonder on what planet they are living. That cannot and should not happen.
We both benefit from the movement of people. I was flabbergasted. Although I will not go on a rant-----
They would be hard-pressed to run the NHS without Irish nurses.
That is the point to which I am coming. We have seen representatives of the NHS come here to run advertising campaigns. Our nurses and doctors go to England and come back having benefited from the experience. To be fair to the Taoiseach and Ministers, there is a very strong Brexit team in operation across government. I hope we will maintain the emphasis in a rolling debate in this House.
On Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh's comment on the Garda whistleblower and the Department of Justice and Equality, in her statement yesterday the Garda Commissioner said she was not privy to any attempt or aware of anyone targeting the whistleblower. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Taoiseach have been very strong on the issue. There has been no derogation from or dilution of the Government's approach, which is that the allegations made are serious and should be listened to. The Minister has been proactive on the matter and said the rule of law should be applied and a just procedure put in place. It is important that we note the remarks made by her yesterday at the justice committee and the Taoiseach's in the Dáil that the allegations made should be followed up.
We should invite her to come to the House too.
The Minister is coming to the House next week. It is another request to which we have adhered.
On the matter raised by Senator Denis Landy, the Leas-Chathaoirleach ruled out of order the reference to the number of All-Star nominations received by Tipperary.
The Senator is not present either.
It is good for the diversity of sport to see the weaker counties being recognised - in football anyway - although I say that with tongue in cheek.
Senator Denis Landy mentioned the horse racing industry. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, is due to come to the House to discuss this important industry. The Senator also raised the issue of child care. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katharine Zappone, is due to come to the House to discuss it.
Senator Michelle Mulherin referred to the sports capital programme. It is important that the programme which we discussed yesterday be re-established for the calendar year 2017.
Equally, it is important that we recognise the importance of the programme in terms of the benefits it brings to local communities. I do not agree with the Senator that there is an urban-rural divide. It is important, however, that all sports organisations benefit from the programme.
Senator Terry Leyden referred to Charles Stewart Parnell. All I can say is Gladstone commented: "I do not say the ablest man; I say the most remarkable and the most interesting." It is fitting that we remember Charles Stewart Parnell today on the anniversary of his death.
Senator David Norris raised the ongoing issue of the level of coverage of proceedings in the Seanad. I did not see "Oireachtas Report" last night, but it is disappointing that it did not cover-----
The existence of the Seanad was not even mentioned.
It is a matter we could take up with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the Oireachtas Broadcasting Unit.
Let me, please, interject. It would be very useful if the Leader were to do that, but if he was to provide specific instances from the Official Report, it would really put the matter in context. I beg his pardon for interrupting.
The Senator is the father of the House.
I am only partly suffering from insomnia. I do not watch the programme every night it is on. I will get somebody to watch it for me. The point the Senator made is relevant and important. This is the Upper House and the second Chamber of the Oireachtas. If the programme is meant to cover proceedings at committees and in the Dáil, it should also cover proceedings here. I have said before that we need to give programmes a reason to cover our proceedings. The problem is that it is broadcast late at night. Perhaps RTE might examine how it covers proceedings in the Oireachtas. We will take up the matter with it.
Senator Ray Butler raised the issues of broadband and connectivity in the context of small and medium enterprises. He is correct. It is equally important that mobile phone providers be taken to task because the coverage is appalling. At a time when we have invested significant amounts of money to improve broadband services and connectivity, I am baffled by how there has been a deterioration in mobile phone coverage in the past few years. Mobile phone providers have an obligation to explain the reasons.
Senator Máire Devine referenced the mental health issue. It has been debated in the Dáil. She is correct and made a good comment. Mental health services are a priority for the Government. In that context, the issue of weekend cover is one that needs to be examined and discussed. The result of the vote in the other House is beyond our remit.
If it is the case that Sinn Féin does not support the appointment of Senators to the all-party committee, I hope Sinn Féin Senators will ask their party colleagues to allow other Senators to be included. Many Senators have expertise in health matters and should be part of the discussion of the health strategy. They would bring a body of experience to it.
As far as I know, the matter was discussed at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Senator Martin Conway referred to ShannonDoc. What he had to say was disappointing. The issue is linked with GP retention. The call he made was valid and I will ask the Minister for Health to liaise with the centre on the matter.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill referred to disability services and na cúrsaí Gaeilge. Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Gabrielle McFadden also referred to the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. I was not able to get to Conradh na Gaeilge yesterday, but the Minister of State responsible has committed to coming to the House. I mentioned the matter to him today. We need to synchronise with him and find a date in his diary.
Senator Frank Feighan again referred to the agreement reached in Ardoyne. We condemned the attack on Fr. Gary Donegan.
The Senator also mentioned the flooding on Lough Allen and the work being done there. I hope the ESB will address the issue. I am sure it is watching proceedings and that its public affairs staff are dealing with the matter, on which they might revert to the Senator.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill referred to the research being carried out in Vancouver into the economic benefits of reunification. I did not read the report, but we should have a debate in the House on what will happen post-Brexit and so on. It is critical that we also consider the benefits and positive aspects of Brexit.
Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Aidan Davitt mentioned the job losses in Longford. Senator Gabrielle McFadden asked a very good question about the money being allocated by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. She asked where that money would go and highlighted the need for an explanation from the two bodies for what was happening in Longford. With Senator Aidan Davitt, she has highlighted on a number of occasions the need for job creation in Longford. I will ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, to come to the House to address the issue.
I wish Senator Paul Gavan well at his conference at the weekend. I did not realise Shannon Airport was occupied. I travel to it regularly. Being the gateway to the Atlantic, it is a very important airport. I did not think our policy on neutrality had changed. This is a neutral country.
What about the 2.5 million American troops who pass through the airport? Does that indicate neutrality?
The position on the American troops has been well documented. It is an issue about which we have spoken. The important point is that Shannon Airport is the gateway to Europe.
Senator Colm Burke referred to home care packages, the importance of training staff and the ten-year health strategy. I have emphasised that it is key that Members of this House be part of the discussion of the strategy. I hope we can all support that proposal.
Senator Fintan Warfield mentioned Hurricane Matthew which has killed 26 people as it has trundled its way up the east coast of America. I have spoken to friends of mine in Florida who were preparing for it yesterday. The humanitarian situation in Haiti is of concern. I will take up the matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan.
Senator Paddy Burke highlighted the importance of tourism, in which context he referred to Brexit and the linkage with sterling. I will be happy to have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, or the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick Donovan, come to the House to discuss the issue.
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh referred to the important work done by family resource centres and the need for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, to come to the House to discuss the issue. I will be happy to facilitate such a debate.