The Order of Business is No. 1, Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to be adjourned not later than 3.30 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 2, Private Members' business, Corporate Manslaughter (No. 2) Bill 2016 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4 p.m., with the time allocated to the debate not to exceed two hours.
Order of Business
I have mentioned the issue of industrial relations on previous occasions and do so again in the House this morning because, in the coming weeks, four sectors of our public services will be going on strike. Approximately 2,000 gardaí are embarking on an administrative strike. They will not be processing files or interacting with senior management. It is also understood that they will not be attending court as witnesses in prosecution cases and this will have a savage impact on our criminal justice system.
Tomorrow, 17,000 teachers who are members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, ASTI, will go on strike. This will affect two thirds of the secondary schools in our country. It may not be felt so much this Thursday but after the mid-term break it will have a serious impact on parents of younger children, particularly those in first and second year, who will have to engage child minders at great expense. Non-consultant hospital doctors are also threatening to strike and nurses' unions are also considering balloting their members on the issue of bed to staff ratios.
What is the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform doing about all of this? He should come into this House and explain what is being done about industrial action in the public sector. The Lansdowne Road agreement is in place but I heard the former Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, on "Morning Ireland" this morning saying that it should be collapsed, even though it was one of his initiatives. I do not think anyone has a solution at this stage but we must take this more seriously or the country will be at an absolute standstill.
I rise this morning with good news about teachers. I was in Portlaoise last weekend with the TechnoTeachers Association, a voluntary group of woodwork and mechanical drawing teachers. It was wonderful to see the project work produced by 15 year old children under their tutelage and to see those teachers meeting on their own time in order to progress their subjects. We must take our hats off to them. Not everything about teaching is bad.
I also attended a parade at the weekend in Collins Barracks organised by ex-Sergeant Paul Clarke to commemorate the heroes of Jadotville. It is a sad reflection on this country that we did not do those heroes proud. We have not issued them with a medal for the service they have given to this country.
They were the first members of the Irish Defence Forces to serve overseas and they deserve our respect.
On the issue of industrial relations, and with respect to my colleague, the Lansdowne Road agreement is the only agreement in town. Right now, it is running off the rails and we must do something about that. Yesterday, Mr. Eoin Ronayne of the Civil Public and Services Union was on the "Today with Seán O'Rourke" programme, calling for the reopening of the Lansdowne Road agreement in order to bring in all of the unions. If this does not happen, we run the risk of the entire agreement collapsing. I agree with my colleague that the Minister needs to come into the House. I urge the Leader to invite him so that we can have a proper debate on this issue. We do not want to see schools closed from 7 November onwards.
Today, I want to speak about the horrific situation in the refugee camp in Calais known as the jungle. I commend the efforts of the Not On Our Watch organisation, backed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and other civil society bodies, on its work on a campaign to relocate 200 unaccompanied minors from the camp in Calais to this State. These are children fleeing persecution and horror. They did not start the wars or provide the ammunition to continue them. They could be any of our children. Children as young as eight have arrived at Calais on their own and they know that people do not want them. Imagine what that feels like. As a nation, we know what is was like when the signs in the doorways of our once unfriendly neighbours bore the words "No dogs and no Irish". How quickly we forget.
It is no longer good enough for us to say that this is a complex problem and to wring our hands.
Leadership on this issue must come from those in government and Members of the Oireachtas. I commend Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy and her calls for a national effort. Like most others, I want the Ireland of the future to be a multicultural and dynamic society where we embrace difference and diversity. We should never allow unfounded fears to fester and rot the minds of individuals and communities.
Today, I call on the Taoiseach, as a matter of urgency, to lead the way by doing two very simple things. First, he should contact Karen Moynihan from Terenure who has been doing wonderful work with the Refugee Youth Service, which works with unaccompanied children in this refugee camp. Second, he should pick up the phone to his French counterpart, President Hollande, and offer this State as a place where these 200 children can be relocated and placed within families where they will know that they are loved and wanted. After all, we like to wear the badge that we are a kind and friendly nation that truly cares about humankind. It is now our time to show the world that we truly deserve this badge of honour.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 8, the Micro-plastic and Micro-bead Pollution Prevention Bill, be taken before No. 1 today. We see the impact of plastic waste on our marine ecosystems in the rivers and oceans of the world. This plastic is filling habitats and demonstrates a careless disposal of waste. Most shocking of all, these little plastic beads, which are contained in face washes and shower gels, are intended to go into the water system. From there, they make their way into the marine food chain. Our EU membership involves obligations to look after our marine environment. The marine strategy framework directive obliges Ireland to ensure its seas and coasts have a good environmental status by 2030. Yesterday, the Italian Parliament passed a Bill to ban microbeads following the path set by the US, the UK, France and several other countries. I hope this Bill will go some way towards addressing the challenge of pollution in the marine ecosystem.
I second Senator Grace O'Sullivan's amendment. It is a very important Bill. These microbeads stay in the environment for decades, if not centuries, so I congratulate the Senator on bringing forward the Bill.
Industrial relations in this country are disastrous at this stage. I thought it was quite hypocritical of Fianna Fáil to raise this issue considering it crashed and burned the economy. The effects on the public sector are in direct relation to the way the economy was run during 14 years of Fianna Fáil rule. However, Fine Gael must take responsibility for the length of time and inaction involved. Deputy Howlin showed leadership when he collapsed the Haddington Road agreement into the Lansdowne Road agreement to reflect the changing circumstances of the economy. Unfortunately, we have seen inaction and lack of engagement, negotiations and leadership in this area since the formation of the Government. One group cannot be treated differently from another. There is a need to look again at the Lansdowne Road agreement and collapse it into a new agreement that would encompass the entire public sector.
The Government has an agreement with Fianna Fáil that is fundamentally cowardly. Fianna Fáil should have gone into a coalition Government instead of this myth that it is not in power or has no control and that if anything goes wrong, it is Fine Gael's fault and if anything goes right, it is Fianna Fáil's doing. We need leadership in this area. Otherwise, we will go into a year of strikes and industrial unrest. I second Senator Ó Ríordáin's proposal when he rose in this House asking for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, to come to the House and have a discussion. Even at this late hour, the Minister should come to the House and reassure us that at least there is a plan because nobody else thinks there is a plan. There is plan of no engagement or discussion and the thinking is that everything will go well and the Government will face it down. That will lead to an economic crash. We talk about what happened in the referendum in the UK where the people decided to leave the EU. The industrial unrest we are facing into could destroy all the good work of the past five years in trying to rebuild our economic independence. It could all be lost for the lack of a plan and a lack of engagement. I ask that the Minister comes to the House as soon as possible to discuss what his plan is in respect of industrial peace for our nation.
I wish to raise the issue of where we are going with electric cars. The question of how we can deliver an electric car programme that can work within our economic means is a key issue for our society. We need to promote electric cars as much as possible. The benefits are well known in terms of the carbon footprint but also in terms of their cost. There have been major changes regarding how long an electric car will last on a motorway in terms of kilometres. It could be the key driver in our economy in terms of reducing our carbon footprint. I have seen initiatives such as Drive4Zero in Cork, which gave electric cars free parking and free access to bus lanes. We need to roll this out nationally. We need a national drive to make sure people can move over to electric cars for the benefit of society. Could the Leader ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the Chamber so we can discuss this issue and put together a plan for the next decade, as every other country in Europe has, so we can ensure we can move from the petrol and diesel regime to an electric car regime?
Since the Seanad commenced its sitting this morning, over 200 calls will have been received by the emergency call answering service, which is responsible for all 999 and 112 calls. In 2015, it received 1.8 million calls, an average of 5,100 per day. The reason I raise this issue today is because Hallowe'en night is only days away and, unfortunately, has become a byword for stories about attacks on our emergency services. I ask the Leader to consider scheduling a debate on our emergency services and how they are protected in carrying out their work on our behalf. It is not just a Hallowe'en problem. In May, a gang of around 15 youths attacked firefighters in Limerick city. One firefighter was struck over the head with a pool cue. In April, a firefighter in Dundalk was hospitalised after his crew was attacked with missiles. Nationally, there are hundreds of incidences of assaults on gardaí every year. Nurses are regularly victims of unprovoked assaults, prison officers are routinely hospitalised and fire officers and paramedics are often more in danger from the thugs who attack them than from the incident or fire to which they are responding.
A couple of years ago, my colleague in Fianna Fáil, Deputy Dara Calleary, proposed the Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill 2012, which is designed to crack down on assaulting or threatening an emergency worker in the line of duty. A central part of this Bill was a proposed minimum jail term of five years for anybody convicted of assaulting or threatening the life of a member of the front-line emergency services while they are on duty. We need to get real about this type of behaviour. Anyone who goes out of their way to assault, harm or threaten an on-duty emergency responder should know that the law will come down heavily on them. Throwing rocks at an ambulance and its crew as it brings a sick man to hospital, as happened last Hallowe'en night, is the behaviour of thugs. We now have a crazy situation in many accident and emergency departments whereby there are as many security guards as there are consultants or doctors on duty. This is farcical.
This thuggish behaviour requires the Oireachtas to act. I strongly believe that assaults on our on-duty emergency services personnel should incur a much stiffer penalty than currently exists, to act as a deterrent.
As there is no Member from either of the Independent groups indicating a wish to speak, I will exercise discretion and allocate the speaking slot to the only Independent Senator in the House, Senator Norris.
I wish to raise two issues. The first is No. 9 on the Order Paper, which criticises the Bank of Ireland for undemocratically stopping the bank accounts of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. There was general support for this motion, including significant support from the Government, and many Senators' names are attached to it. When can Government time be allocated for the motion be taken? If it is not taken soon, the urgency will be lost.
The other issue is the Confucius Institutes. UCD has accepted one of these. They are centres for the teaching of the Chinese language, apparently, but they have also been described by China's former Vice Premier Li Changchun as an important part of China's propaganda set up. That is very interesting. The institutes have been used across the United States to stop visits by the Dalai Lama, for example, and to stop discussions in universities about the situation in Taiwan. Where universities allow such discussions, they must subscribe to the One-China Policy, so it is clearly a propaganda arm. A sum of €3 million was provided by the Chinese Government for the institute in UCD, another €3 million was provided by the Irish Government and UCD put in €1.4 million. That was a total of €7.4 million, but the bill has risen to €10.2 million and it is now seeking extra cash. I am glad the Department of Education and Skills has refused to give any more. It is right, because I believe we must look into this institute.
American and Canadian academics have expressed considerable concern about this. Confucius Institutes have been established on 465 campuses in 123 countries, so they are a significant part of China's soft power approach. In December 2014, the Canadian Association of University Teachers called on all universities currently hosting Confucius Institutes to stop doing so. In other words, it called for a halt to this development. The American Association of University Professors made the same call to universities in the United States. Its statement said the Confucius Institutes "function as an arm of the Chinese state... and advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate". I have spoken on academic freedom and freedom of conscience on many occasions. In fact, I and a very distinguished representative of UCD tabled amendments to the Universities (Amendment) Bill relating to the question of academic freedom. The amendments were so significant that they were taken up wholesale by the Swedish Government, so I am not speaking from a background of anti-Chinese prejudice. I am not prejudiced against the Chinese, but questions must be asked when a country funds a propaganda arm of another state with which there might be serious disagreements.
I will conclude by putting this in context. Quite recently, Members of this Parliament were warned by the Government not to attend celebrations of the Taiwanese Government. I believe we must draw a line in the sand where China is interfering in-----
That is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I think your genial presence makes it relevant, sitting there like a Buddha.
Listen, enough of that. I call Senator Coffey.
Others have raised concerns about the public unrest regarding public sector pay. This is a very critical time in the economy's recovery and we are in real danger of unwinding the solid progress that has been made. In addition, our economy is seriously exposed to Brexit and other outside influences that can affect the recovery currently under way. The public sector pay agreements were agreed by the majority of the public sector unions in the Lansdowne Road agreement. What they signed up to in terms of restoring incremental pay must be respected. I urge caution and restraint, and I ask all politicians, both independent and members of parties, to adopt a responsible approach to what is a very sensitive issue at present. I agree with other Members that we should invite the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to the House for a debate not only on public sector pay, but also on the services that the public sector unions provide for our citizens. If we are upright and honest about this and if we are calling for pay increases, it behoves all of us as policy makers to show where savings can be made in services so pay can be restored to the levels that people are claiming. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House for such a debate. It is important that we identify the services we need and how we will fund them. It is also important that we understand the reality of the current economic circumstances and that financial resources are finite and must be distributed in a fair and equitable manner.
I also ask the Leader to establish when the boards of the various hospital groups will be appointed. Over three years ago the previous Government set out a vision for the reform of acute hospital services and the hospital groups were the main plank of that reform. The hospital boards must be appointed to have a proper governance structure with full accountability and autonomy. To date, I have found it difficult to establish when those boards will be appointed. The groups and the chief executive officers are in place, but the boards are still not in place. The structure will not be complete until they are appointed. Will the Leader establish the position in that regard for the House?
I echo the call for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to come to the House to outline the strategy regarding the industrial unrest. Indeed, we are facing a winter of discontent. I am also a little wary of Fine Gael and its privatisation policy for public services. We need investment, not disinvestment.
I wish to bring to the attention of the House the data released by the Child Care Law Reporting Project last week. The data concern the number of care order applications which were made in courts throughout the country with regard to children where there is deemed to be a serious or immediate risk to the health and welfare of the child. In 2004, there were 9,864 care order applications. By 2015, the number had increased to 14,124. The main reason put forward for the significant increase is care order applications, applications for extensions and reviews of current care orders. The data reveal that there is a significant increase in care order applications from 1,800 to 3,413. A large amount of information is contained in the figures and they should be explored further. We can surmise as a result of the figures that Tusla is doing more intensive work, which is to be welcomed. We can also surmise that more children are at risk around the country. There are many regional variations in terms of applications, orders and orders rejected. For example, in one county there were 1,400 applications last year while in another county there were only 14. There must be more research to examine the reasons for this imbalance. I suggest that the Minister be invited to the House for a debate on the work of Tusla with regard to care orders.
Yesterday, we saw the new leader of the Conservative Party in Britain flexing her muscles in 10 Downing Street, with the new runway at Heathrow being given the go-ahead. In addition, four new nuclear plants are planned for Great Britain.
Planning permission was granted yesterday for a nuclear reactor plant in the Hinkley area. We all remember Sellafield and the way the Irish people were treated and the way that material was dumped into the Irish Sea. Have the Irish officials spoken to their UK counterparts? We need more information on what is happening here. We need information on the size, location and design of these plants, how secure they will be and the planning times that are envisaged. When will these plants be up and running? There is no point asking questions when the horse has bolted and is halfway down the road. This will impact on the people of Ireland similar to how Sellafield impacted on them when the material dumped contaminated the Irish Sea and nuclear waste destroyed many lives. Will the Leader request the officials to meet their UK counterparts and see what is going on and what is planned?
It has been an honourable tradition by distinguished people nearing the end of their lives to bequeath their documents and archive papers to the State. Traditionally, people in the worlds of letters and politics have done this.
I just hope that I am not near the end of my life.
The Senator will have an opportunity again tomorrow.
I think of neighbours from Listowel, Dr. Brian McMahon and Dr. John B. Keane, who bequeathed their papers to University College Dublin and Trinity College, respectively. It has been the tradition of those who held the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann to come to an arrangement to give their papers, the papers of an outgoing President-----
May I gently remind Senator O'Sullivan that we should not be discussing a President in the House.
I am not discussing Presidents per se. I am discussing a tradition whereby those who held the office of President, such as Eamon de Valera, Paddy Hillery and Cearbhail Ó Dálaigh, have bequeathed their papers to the State. In fact, the current incumbent, President Michael D. Higgins, has already given his papers to date to the National Library. A new precedent appears to be being set in the west. I am not going into any personal-----
The Senator cannot name anybody
I think it is fairly significant that private auctioneers are being asked to put a valuation on something as precious as the archive of a prominent person in our State. I will not go into further details.
We cannot criticise those who are not in the House.
I accept the Chair's concerns but I have a valid point as there has been public comment on this issue for quite a while. We must respect the rights of politicians to do what they will, but where the State becomes involved and outside auctioneers are putting a value on something as precious as this, it is time for the ordinary people to express their concern.
This is not relevant to the Order of Business.
This is where I am expressing my concern.
I thank the Senator
This is very opportune and timely. I say to the Senator that Fianna Fáil members in my own town were afraid to call a bridge after the same President. The Fianna Fáil attitude toward that particular President is pretty political.
Senator, we cannot name people.
It is easy to work out when one mentions a bridge to know where she is from.
Mayo is not crawling with Presidents.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, to this House. The media has covered the draft rail report which was carried out by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann which painted a very bleak picture of the finances of Iarnród Éireann, citing annual losses in the running of the operation and the requirement of capital investment. One of the propositions that is very alarming is that it might be better if we have fewer railway lines and reduce rail services to those between Dublin and Cork, Dublin and Limerick and Dublin and Belfast. The Minister needs to clarify there is no agenda and no destruction of railway lines in this country. I ask him to endorse the Government policy that we are to invest in public transport. Public transport does not mean just public transport in the three or four cities I mentioned. We have a requirement for public transport in the west as well.
An annual census is carried out by the National Transport Authority which looks at the number of passengers on every railway line on a given day of the year. On the given day of the most recent census, there were 1,100 passengers on the western rail corridor between Galway and Limerick, which by hook or by crook, they are determined should not grow and should not continue. Compare these figures with the passenger numbers on the Limerick to Dublin line, which offers four extra services in each direction and which had only 130 additional passengers.
The general line that people in the west get is the numbers using the service, the critical mass and that we do not have the population and so on. The truth is that all public passenger rail services are subsidised by the taxpayer and none more so than the DART service, which one would think should be commercially viable in its own right. Given that the figures for passenger numbers in the headcount conducted by the western rail corridor exceed the target numbers, we need a reality check about the future of the public transport system and the future of our rail lines, which should not be that they are going to be turned into cycle tracks.
If we are to have balanced regional development, which is at the core of the issue, we need to invest in railways and roads or else we will always be coming with the poor mouth. One of the key aspects of balanced regional development is investment in infrastructure, and transport infrastructure and connectivity is very important. A debate on transport infrastructure is long overdue. The Minister needs to come to the House to provide reassurance and tell us what is in store for us.
Yesterday in the North the Minister for Health, Ms Michelle O'Neill, MLA, launched a visionary ten year plan for her Department. Central to the ethos of the Minister is a universal health care system free at the point of delivery. The plan, Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together, came about after consideration of the report of an expert panel led by Professor Rafael Bengoa, entitled Systems, Not Structures - Changing Health and Social Care. This report set out the need for radical and fundamental change in the health care system. It identified that a system designed for the 20th century was no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century. There was uniform support, endorsement and ratification from the Executive yesterday for the Minister's report. She presented the initial outline plan and aspirations of the report to the Assembly yesterday. It has been welcomed by the health care sector and, by and large, by the trade unions who represent the vast array of workers within the health care sector in the North.
One of the key issues that the Minister, Michelle O'Neill, MLA, has been working on with the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has been greater harmonisation and co-operation at a cross-Border level on the issue of health, which is of such critical and fundamental importance. We have seen and can all acknowledge and appreciate the very real benefits that come about as a result of the cross-Border co-operation planning, strategising and work, not least in the role of the children's health care and congenital heart disease network that has been very warmly and positively received throughout the country.
I propose today and through our leader Senator Conway-Walsh at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges that we invite both Ministers to the House after the Christmas break.
We should extend an invitation to both Ministers for Health to come to the Seanad to address us not only on the emerging issues from the very far-sighted plan of the Minister, Michelle O'Neill, but also to discuss the existing cross-Border co-operation around health care, what they believe are the benefits of that and what they can do to improve and build on it in the time ahead.
I join my colleague, Senator Craughwell, in acknowledging and recognising the bravery and service of the men who fought in the siege of Jadotville. I worked on behalf of one of those men over the summer and I do not know if it came out of my work but I was delighted about the ceremony to commemorate those men on 17 September in Custume Barracks, which I attended. There was an issue regarding medals and I understand a certificate was allocated. I agree with Senator Craughwell that something further could be done related to a military tradition. The awarding of a certificate was a compromise. Many of the men seemed to be satisfied with it but I agree with the Senator that we might be able to go a little further in recognising the bravery of those men and the fact that they represented our State in what were difficult times. I urge anybody to look up Netflix or to go to the cinema to see "The Siege of Jadotville". It is an inspiring film that tells about life at war and also about the political machinations that went on behind the scenes. Those men were caught in a situation that was not of their making. They were very brave and I am delighted the State has recognised their bravery.
The Vatican has issued new guidelines not to scatter ashes after a cremation. That is something of which I was not aware. The guidance is that ashes should not be kept at home and should be kept in a place approved by the church. End of life issues are something with which we are not too familiar.
The Senator is learning all the time.
Unfortunately, people die and people are not familiar with the cost of a burial plot or the formalities involved. I and many Members deal with these issues for people. The Department responsible, the Department of Social Protection, should be contacted and asked what exactly it is doing to highlight this sensitive issue. That could help people to be aware of the assistance that is available in times of emergency.
I wish to raise the issue of children with arthritis waiting for appointments. The number of children waiting more than 18 months to see an expert in juvenile arthritis has increased from 22 to 110 between January and the end of August this year. That is a 400% increase in the number of children and teenagers waiting at least 18 months. Figures released up to the end of August reveal that a total of 565 children are still waiting to be seen by one of only two specialists in this area. If left untreated, juvenile arthritis can quickly lead to permanent joint damage, muscle wastage and the deformity, not to mention the trauma a child and his or her family experience as a result. With this condition, it is vital that children are seen as soon as possible by a rheumatologist. Irreparable damage can be caused to joints while this waiting continues, in addition to damage of an emotional nature.
Two consultants are based in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, and they provide care to more than 1,200 children aged between three and 16 suffering with this condition. Ireland has only two paediatric rheumatology consultants and we are ranked as having one of the lowest number of paediatric rheumatologists in Europe. I join Arthritis Ireland in calling on the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to appoint a third consultant to this area. Allowing children to continue to suffer is simply not acceptable. I plead with the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Harris.
I want to speak on two matters. First, I want to speak on the issue of-----
One issue is all that Members are allowed to raise. The leaders are allowed to raise two issues.
Are there no concessions?
Go on and just do it.
Senator O'Donnell should not ask a question like that.
Look for forgiveness instead of permission.
I want to raise a matter of major importance. We have had eight deaths on our roads in the past four days. In the year to date, there have been 157 road deaths while there were 162 road fatalities for the entire year in 2015. We are now only five off the number of people who were killed on the roads last year; 31 more people have been killed on our roads than at this time last year. There has been a 25% increase in the number of road deaths, from 126, which in itself was not an acceptable figure, to 157. Will the Leader ask Moyagh Murdoch, chief executive officer, and Liz O'Donnell, chairman, of the Road Safety Authority to come to this House prior to the Minister coming in to speak on those figures?
People were killed on the roads in Limerick recently. One factor involved is the huge build-up of traffic. I travelled to this House this morning by train and it took me nearly three quarters of an hour to get from my home to the railway station, which is only a distance of a mile and half. The profile of traffic has changed. During the recession, many people did not have jobs and those who had work were able to find accommodation nearby. Now people are commuting. There is a need for a national debate on the way the structures and demographics have changed. It is now two months prior to the end of the year and with a figure of 157 road deaths, we have nearly the same number as for last year in total. I ask for a debate on this issue in the House with the chairman and the chief executive office of the Road Safety Authority.
The second issue I wish to raise is the new children's hospital in Dublin.
The Senator is now into injury time.
This is very important. I ask that the Minister, Deputy Harris, and the HSE accommodate people travelling from Limerick and rural Ireland in terms of gaining access to the hospital. People will arrive at the Red Cow roundabout on time but it will take more time to get to the hospital and I ask that they be looked after. I am told the reason the hospital is on the site of St. James's Hospital is because it needs to be near adult services. However, there is a human dimension for parents bringing children up to the hospital.
These two issues are very important.
I endorse the comments of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh on the campaign being conducted by Not On Our Watch with regard to the unaccompanied children who are at present in Calais in the so-called jungle camp. It is incumbent on all of us to do whatever we can to relocate these young children into states that are democratic and peaceful. That includes not only this State, as alluded to by Senator Conway-Walsh, but also states like Britain and the Six Counties of Ulster that are under the governance of Britain at the moment and, in particular, under the governance of Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party. I encourage the Senator to speak to her comrades in Northern Ireland and request that they progressively follow this campaign to relocate these unfortunate young children.
Regarding the rolling debates on Brexit, when does the Leader intend to bring the Minister of State with responsibility for defence into this House-----
-----particularly in regard to the security of our State and of the Border? As I have mentioned here on numerous occasions, the closure of Dún Uí Néill Barracks in Cavan has caused huge concern-----
It is a disaster.
-----to the communities in the Border region that they serviced. The Army, in conjunction with the Garda Síochána, protected this State for decades and now a large portion of the Border is unprotected. Two viable improvised devices were located in a housing estate in Cavan town last weekend. This is the work of dissident republicans. It is the work of people who can go about their business unhindered because we do not have our Army on the Border.
Our stretched members of Garda Síochána are doing their best but the aid to the civil power is missing and it needs to be reinstated as a matter of urgency.
I want to endorse the comments of senior Senator David Norris on the diktat the Government issued to its Deputies, Senators, Ministers and Ministers of State not to attend a Taiwanese celebration of their country held recently. It is amazing that a Government would encourage democratically elected Deputies and Senators not to attend a function to celebrate a progressive democracy. To be dictated to by an oppressive Communist regime such as China is regrettable and a disgrace.
Hear, hear. Well said.
I support Senators Mulherin and Kieran O'Donnell with regard to inviting the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to the House to deal with a number of issues but in particular the increased volume of traffic on our roads in recent years and the pending report on traffic on our railways. We could have an interesting debate with the Minister on those issues. Recently, we have seen a huge increase in the volume of lorry traffic on our roads. Previously, lorries could carry 44 tonnes in weight but as a result of a derogation in place for 2 tonnes, lorries may now carry 42 tonnes. That means there will be extra lorries on our roads. It is appropriate that we would have the Minister in the House to debate traffic management with respect to our roads and railways.
I thank the 19 Senators who raised issues on the Order of Business. On the industrial relations issue raised by Senators Ardagh, Humphreys, Coffey, Craughwell and Devine, it is important that we all speak with one voice in calling on the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, ASTI, the Garda Representative Association, GRA, and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI, to engage and reach a meaningful conclusion. I disagree with Senator Humphreys because the Government is available and willing in this regard and as he knows well, under the previous Government the Lansdowne Road agreement was the umbrella all the unions came under.
There was a strategy under the previous Government.
It is important that we use proper language and that we understand what is at stake here. As Senator Coffey rightly said, the economic recovery of our country is fragile and there is a duty of care on the Minister and on the Government to act responsibly. I appeal to all-----
One cannot do that if one's head is in the sand.
Order please. The Leader is responding.
My head is very much in the air. As a former-----
Everything we do in government is about equality. I do not intend to engage in a public war of words here because as a member of the ASTI and somebody who wants to see this issue resolved, I am aware there are young people in the Public Gallery, some of whom are doing examinations, but as Senator Craughwell rightly said, there is a multiplicity of schoolteachers across the country doing a huge amount of voluntary work, whether it is projects, plays, musicals, training teams and so on. We must recognise the importance of the work they do both outside and inside the classroom but what the Government has committed to is pay restoration, whether it is for the new entrants or the existing teachers. In that regard I will not be lectured to by some of the Members opposite because it was their policies that resulted in the need for us to bring in the financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation, and they should reflect upon that. We must ensure that we have a sustainable public service that is not based on privatisation, as Senator Devine said. I certainly do not want to see the public sector privatised and nor do I see many in Fine Gael who want to do that, so that is a misrepresentation but we must have an efficient, well-resourced, well-managed public service. I appeal to those on all sides to come back to the table and engage because it is vitally important that a resolution is achieved. Nobody wants to see members of An Garda Síochána, schoolteachers or any public sector workers on strike, and we all recognise the hardship that resulted from the cuts that were inflicted but the fundamental point is that this Government, as did the previous Government, have started to restore pay.
I thank Senators Craughwell and Feighan for raising the issue of the men from the 35th Battalion who fought in Jadotville. A presidential unit citation was presented to the soldiers and the next of kin-----
-----in the barracks in Athlone by the Minister of State, Deputy Paul Kehoe. It is important, and I have always said this in the House, that we recognise the sacrifice and the heroism of former members of our Defence Forces, who are celebrated across the world, whether it is the Congo, Lebanon or wherever. To be fair to Senator McFadden, she has been very involved in this issue also because of the importance of the Army in her area. We will continue to work with the Minister to see if we can bring about a resolution to this matter. I cannot promise that we will but I am happy to take up the matter further.
Senators Conway-Walsh and Wilson spoke about unaccompanied minors and the refugee crisis that is engulfing parts of the work, in particular in the so-called jungle, in Calais. It behoves all of us to play a role in ending the misfortune taking place there. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, has agreed to come to the House to address the issue of unaccompanied minors. She stated in the United Nations that Ireland is willing to play its part to address the issue. A global response and co-operation to end the suffering must be forthcoming.
On the matter raised by Senator Grace O'Sullivan, I have offered the Senator a date for the Bill. It is not one that is conducive to her schedule but I am happy to sit down with the Senator and agree a timetable at the group meeting at 2 p.m. I have it on the calendar for the month of November but I am happy to discuss that with the Senator with a view to reaching an accommodation on the Bill. I appreciate the importance of it.
Senator Lombard raised the issue of electric cars. We will have the Minister, Deputy Naughten, come to the House to address that issue.
Senator Swanick raised the issue of attacks on emergency first responders. It is deplorable that any member of the emergency services is attacked under any guise. Regardless of who they are, we must always show respect for the role played by emergency services personnel. They do tremendous work. They put their own lives at risk in the protection and safety of others and we should stand united in the condemnation of these attacks. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to address the issue the Senator raised.
Senator Norris referenced the motion in his name and those of the Sinn Féin Senators in the main. If he wishes to take it by way of a Private Members' motion, that is up to his group. I know the Senator is not a member of a group but he may wish to talk to them. I have no issue in terms of-----
I understood from the Leader earlier that one hour of Government time would be made available.
I would be happy to talk about it at the group meeting at 2 p.m.
The Leader can discuss it with the Senator outside.
With regard to the Confucius Institutes or Buddha - I am not sure which one the Senator wants me to address - but the-----
Once the Buddha remains awake, everything is all right. The Senator can carry on now, without interruption.
The Senator makes an important point about investment in education. Equally, the issue Senator Wilson raised about Taiwan is important. Those of us in this House who are part of the Taiwan friendship group recognise that we have a one-China policy but it behoves all Members of the House to promote relations-----
How did we get to the One China policy? It was never discussed in either House, nor in the foreign affairs committee-----
-----but the civil servants slid it in undemocratically.
The Senator will have to have a chat about that outside the House. The Leader to respond.
It is important that we work with Taiwan to forge links and develop relationships. I know from our own relationship with Taiwan and the representative here, Simon Tu, that it is very positive. It is important that we keep all options open, recognising that we do have a One China policy.
Senator Coffey raised an important issue regarding the appointment of hospital groups. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to discuss the appointment of the boards in particular because we have created hospital groups but need to have hospital group boards appointed.
Senator Devine raised an issue about Tusla. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to address that.
Senator Butler raised the issue of the nuclear plant being built at Hinkley. I note from yesterday's press release that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Mr. Greg Clarke, along with his Chinese counterpart, welcomed it.
The Senator makes a good point about nuclear energy and its potential impact here. I would be happy to invite the Minister to the House.
Senator Ned O’Sullivan raised the contentious issue of the bequest of former Presidents’ papers and archives. I will not name the person the Senator referred to but it is important to recognise that there may be a need for a presidential library or centre of sorts. I am sure it would be nice to have one for former President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh in Cahirciveen, a beautiful setting. The centre the Senator refers to is a living institution. The president he refers to has spent time in the National University of Ireland, Galway dealing with human rights. There has been some newspaper commentary on this recently. Rather than criticise it, we should find out how former American presidents set up their presidential libraries. I am glad that Senator Norris is not at the end of his road. Maybe in time we could have a Norris library somewhere, given the great work he did in many landmark cases.
I have already overloaded the library with my old rubbish.
Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the North-South issue and I would be happy to bring that matter before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP.
Senator Feighan raised the matter of ashes. I am not a member of the Vatican. The Leas-Chathaoirleach is probably closer to it than I am in the matter of the distribution of ashes.
The Senator is well up in matters of State, I understand.
Senator Gallagher raised the matter of juvenile arthritis and the need to appoint a third consultant. I would be happy to invite the Minister for Health to the House in that regard.
Senators Kieran O’Donnell, Paddy Burke and Mulherin raised the issue of transport. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, will be in the House on 16 November.
Senator Kieran O’Donnell also raised the very important topic of road safety and the increase in the number of fatalities this year. They are people who die. They leave loved ones who have to grieve and there are huge implications for the lives of many who are left behind. We are approaching the bank holiday weekend. It is crucial that people slow down and do not drink. The clocks will go back and people will be out late. Tiredness, speed, the odd second on the phone sending a text or whatever can jeopardise the lives of others on the roads. It is important we do not do that, not just this weekend but in general. I would be happy to invite the Minister to the House. Bringing in people from the Road Safety Authority is a matter for the CPP.
Senator Kieran O’Donnell rightly raised the changing demographic on our roads now that more people are back at work. It is important that education in road behaviour increases because people are commuting further and taking risks. I see it in the mornings when people are taking kids to school, going to work, leaving a bit later or getting caught in traffic and taking shortcuts. It is crucial to re-educate people, along with enforcement and engineering.
The Senator also mentioned the national children’s hospital and the importance of people being able to gain access to it. I would be happy to invite the Minister for Health to the House to deal with that subject.
Senator Wilson raised the very important issue of Brexit and the Minister of State with responsibility for defence. He is scheduled to come to the House but the Government is recruiting in the Defence Forces. In the White Paper it commits to recruiting 9,500. There are 400 being recruited this year. As the economic recovery is beginning to be felt throughout the country, it is important that we recruit.
Is the Government giving a commitment to reopen Dún Uí Néill Barracks?
The Minister of State is coming to the House and will be happy to deal with that question as well.
Senator Grace O’Sullivan has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 8 be taken before No. 1." Do I understand that the Senator has reached an accommodation with the Leader?
Yes, I have reached an accommodation with the Leader. I will agree a date with him.
The amendment is withdrawn.
If that is the proper procedure in order to accept a date with the Leader.
The amendment is withdrawn for the moment.