The Order of Business is No. 1, motion of referral to Joint Committee on Health of EU directive on illicit drug trafficking, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; and No. 2, Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m.
Order of Business
I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves and his family on his appointment. I look forward to continuing to work with him. It has been a pleasure so far and we will continue in that fashion.
On 9 November 2016 I entered this House and raised concerns about the undocumented Irish in the United States of America after it had become apparent that Mr. Donald Trump had won the election and would become President of the United States of America.
That day I called on the Government to establish a special task force to work on behalf of the undocumented Irish. However, no task force was established and nothing appears to have been done by the Government. As with Brexit and most problems, the Government ignores problems until such a time as they turn into a crisis. The Government must stand behind the undocumented Irish in the United States and urgently establish a task force to make representations on their behalf.
Of the numerous executive orders signed by the President of the United States, the newest anti-immigration policies scare me the most. I am sure many of us will take a stance on them today in the House. I formally oppose, in particular, the anti-immigration, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim policies of the President of the United States. What is most disturbing and which shows a serious erosion of the rule of law is his sacking of Ms Sally Yates, the US equivalent of the Attorney General, for refusing to defend the new anti-immigration policies, which include the 120-day stay on the already meagre refugee programme and the 90-day ban on entry into the USA by nationals from seven countries with majority Muslim populations. When the Taoiseach visits the White House in March, I hope he will take the opportunity, on behalf of the many people who will never get a chance to meet the President of the United States, to raise the concerns of many Irish people about his immigration and other discriminatory policies. To do otherwise and just turn up for a photo opportunity and present a bowl of shamrock would let many people down.
I thank the Cathaoirleach and congratulate Mr. Martin Groves on his new post, in which I know he will perform extraordinarily in every way.
I alert the House to something extraordinarily historic and creative that happened in County Mayo this week - Westport House was acquired by the Hughes family. I bring up their name because the matter is in the public domain. They bought Westport House, one of the greatest landmarks and jewels in the crown of County Mayo to keep it alive and give it a future. It was a national, regional and local triumph. It is a place of great beauty, creativity and imagination for tourism, art, geography, history, music and architecture. As a business family in the town, they have kept it alive forever. All of the jobs are saved by their generosity and new direction. It was done with no rancour whatsoever. I congratulate Mr. Cathal Hughes, chairman of the Hotel Westport. In this House we talk about jobs, architecture and beauty and our own counties. This is a national icon. I also congratulate Mr. Harry Hughes and Mr. Owen Hughes, Mr. Peter Hynes of Mayo County Council, the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring, the Department and the Taoiseach. Mr. Cathal Hughes - one of our own in the west - said he intended to put €50 million into something that was our own to keep 200 jobs, understand and articulate the importance of Westport and Mayo as a county and to ensure the house would be maintained in creativity, history, beauty and imagination in perpetuity. They are exactly the kind of generous businessmen, thinkers and educators every county needs and has. It took courage to do it without rancour and disturbance. I am glad to see it. It is a change. It is one of our own, buying one of the great houses to keep it in perpetuity for the people of County Mayo. It is extremely important, especially in a world that is fluctuating.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves on his new position, in which I wish him well. If he does it as well as he has done his other job since I came here, I am certain that he will enjoy success. He will have our co-operation in doing the job.
I commend the Hughes family for their initiative in buying Westport House and congratulate all involved. At the end of the day, they were the ones who put their hands in their pockets. They have a proven track record and it is good for Westport. I hope it will work out well for them.
It certainly could not be in the hands of better promoters than the Hughes family.
I refer to the executive order introduced last week by US President Donald Trump to halt the US refugee programme and the introduction by him of a travel ban for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries. They are in breach of EU and UN obligations and amount to the subversion of proper standards of decency and equality. I am firmly of the view that this arbitrary ban is wrong and will be totally counterproductive. It will undermine efforts to improve relations between peoples of all faiths and nationalities. Generations of Irish people fled starvation, poverty and conflict to make a new life and contributed to the building of America. Millions of their descendants are among the most outraged at the recent moves. It is worth noting that many Americans are opposed to President Trump's policies. The Government should refuse to impose the ban on citizens from the seven countries in question seeking to enter the United States through the pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports. We have organised a protest tomorrow at Shannon Airport on this very issue. We need to ensure the State's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and other international agreements will be fully observed. The question is whether the Government will take the opportunity to advise the undocumented Irish in the United States not to be alarmed by recent developments. I know that many people are frightened. Will the Taoiseach meet them when he is in the USA to hear from and talk to them about the issue? The focus of his visit has to be on engaging with the diaspora, standing up for the undocumented Irish and maintaining our strong ties with Irish America. Will the Government indicate in the strongest possible terms the Irish people's total opposition to the racist, anti-woman and anti-immigrant policies of President Trump? There is a big job of work to be done and we are relying on the Taoiseach to do it. We, in the Sinn Féin Party, will be doing likewise.
I commend the farming organisations, including the IFA and the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association, for the protests they have organised today on the delays in making GLAS payments to 10,000 farmers. That is wrong and my colleague, Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, will talk further about the issue.
On my own behalf and that of the Civil Engagement group, I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves and wish him the best of luck in his new role as Clerk of the Seanad.
Like everyone else, I express my disgust and horror at the executive order issued by the Trump Administration last Friday. President Trump's defence is based on national security grounds, but no nationals of the relevant countries were involved in the events of 9/11 and the central shared feature is that they are all Muslim-majority nations. President Trump campaigned on a platform of nativism and racism, but many commentators said his radical policies would never be implemented. However, recent events have proved them to be wholly wrong. I am horrified that a US President believes he is justified in pursuing this course of action. He is targeting members of one of the world's largest religions based on the actions of extremists, a religion which has 3.3 million followers in his own country. He is absolutely failing in his duty to represent all Americans. It is clear that we must take every opportunity available to us to oppose and resist the discriminatory policies of this President which fly in the face of the values of the Irish people and Irish society. We value diversity which we appreciate is one of our greatest strengths. We oppose discrimination and those who engage in the politics of division. I support the call that the provision of US immigration per-clearance facilities be reviewed to ensure we are in full compliance with constitutional and statutory requirements. If it is discovered that we are colluding on Irish soil in imposing this discriminatory ban, we should no longer offer the service at Irish airports.
I join others in congratulating Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment as Clerk of the Seanad. It is well deserved and I look forward to working with him.
I join other speakers in recording my strong condemnation and that of the Labour Party of the executive order issued by President Trump.
With many others in this city, on 21 January I took part in the women's march to express our opposition to what we saw as the sexist, misogynistic policies of President Trump. However, his actions since, particularly at the weekend in issuing the executive order restricting immigration, have gone further. As others said, this very much deserves outright condemnation by those of us who are concerned to ensure we do not see racial profiling and what amounts to an effective ban on Muslims in that it is a ban on citizens of many countries. As others said, the executive order has serious implications for us in Ireland. If one looks today at the website of the US Embassy in Ireland, one will see a notice on the front page telling anyone who is a citizen, or a dual citizen, of one of the seven countries mentioned not to apply for a visa, not to continue with a visa application already in train and to cancel an interview if one has been granted one. These are Irish citizens who also happen to be citizens of one of the seven countries named in the order.
We then saw the dismissal of Ms Sally Yates as Attorney General by President Trump because she had taken the view that she could not be sure of the lawfulness of the executive order, in particular its effect on those who had already been through a process and who now it appears will be denied entry to the United States. These are all very serious questions. I call on the Leader to bring the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, before this House to answer a number of private notice questions that my colleague and our party leader, Deputy Brendan Howlin, tabled in the Dáil today but which were disallowed. He asked that the Taoiseach outline the circumstances which had led to his request for a complete review of the operation of pre-clearance facilities, in particular that he explain whether there were possible legal implications for Ireland arising from possible complicity in the implementation by US authorities of policies that might have the effect of causing discrimination based on race or religion. He also raised the question others have raised, namely, whether the new US restrictions fly in the face of the international legal obligations on each state towards asylum seekers and those seeking refuge. Therefore, I ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade before this House this week to answer these questions.
I also support my party leader's call for the Taoiseach not to attend the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the United States on 17 March if the restrictions remain in place. We all hope the US legal and democratic system is sufficiently robust. As we have seen, a number of judges are refusing to implement the order in the case of people who have been through the visa process. I hope we will see the executive order being reversed or repealed before St. Patrick's Day. However, we must take a stance as Irish people in support of our own values and against these discriminatory and highly troubling new orders emanating from President Trump.
I share the concerns expressed about the recent developments in the USA. However, how we respond to and deal with this international challenge which is what it is is very important. It is important that the Taoiseach visit the White House on St. Patrick's Day. I disagree with and strongly reject what the leader of Fianna Fáil in the Seanad has said about the Government. The Government is concerned about the undocumented Irish. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, is in Washington engaging through the Irish Embassy and consulate with American officials. He will highlight the concerns of the undocumented Irish. The Government appointed a Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora. It also appointed a Member of this House, Senator Billy Lawless, who is a strong voice for many Irish emigrants in the United States of America. Therefore, it is unfair to be political on this very important issue for all of us. I ask the leader of Fianna Fáil in the Seanad to take back what she said today. Thousands of Irish people have used the pre-clearance facilities in Dublin and Shannon airports and continue to take advantage of them. Simply abandoning them will not achieve what I think we all wish for in respect of our shared concerns about immigration. We must be very careful in how we approach the issue.
I turn briefly to another major challenge facing Ireland, namely, Brexit. The economic challenges facing the country cross many sectors, including the agrifood sector, but one sector which can be particularly vulnerable is the energy and IT sector. As an island nation, now is the time for us to engage with our European partners to invest in an energy interconnector and a high-speed broadband interconnector with mainland Europe and a transatlantic broadband connection with the United States of America. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to be isolated or at a disadvantage in any way if a hard Brexit occurs.
Now is the time to put the fundamental parts in place in planning infrastructure in order that Ireland can compete internationally with no disadvantages as an island nation. Our European partners can help us in that regard. I ask the Leader of the House to arrange a debate on these issues in order that Ministers can outline their plans for how they propose to deal with these challenges.
I congratulate Mr. Groves on his appointment and know that he will do an excellent job.
I support my colleague, Senator Catherine Ardagh, in her comments on the need to establish a task force for the undocumented Irish in the United States, of whom there are 50,000, for each of whom, there are ten people at home who are worried about their future. That represents 10% of the population of this island who have somebody in the United States facing deportation.
In his executive order President Trump singled out the Muslim community. It is the headline we are hearing and it is truly appalling. It is sectarian and racist and meant to be so. On the campaign trail he promised that he would target and ban Muslims. This has nothing to do with terrorism but with people's religion. In the small print and of particular concern to the undocumented Irish, he has ordered the hiring of an extra 15,000 enforcement officers. He has told people in "sanctuary cities" such as San Francisco and Boston that they can no longer have a system under which law enforcement officers are not allowed to ask about anyone's immigration status. They must now start to ask about the immigration status of anybody they question about a particular crime or even something as small as running a red light.
The Mayor of Boston, Mr. Martin Walsh, has stood up to President Trump and stated he will not implement this instruction, as have many other mayors throughout the United States. President Trump stated he would only get rid of criminals among the undocumented 11 million people living in the United States, but his definition of "criminal" has again been broadened, which means that all 11 million could quite easily fall within the scope of the definition of those to be deported. There will be no comprehensive immigration reform Bill in the United States any time soon, or at all, but we were very close with the McCain-Kennedy Bill in 2007. In 2013 the Senate passed a Bill by 68 votes to 32 that would have given 10,500 visas to the Irish. I know that Senator Billy Lawless and Mr. Ciaran Staunton of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform worked very hard on that Bill.
We are asking for a task force to be established because we have spoken to people in the Irish-American community. We have spoken to people in pastoral centres in New York, Boston and San Francisco and they will need resources to help those who will be arrested. They will need to provide counselling resources for those who will find themselves isolated and fearful about their future. We need a task force to ensure resources will be provided for the Irish-American community, including the 50,000 people who are under threat of deportation at any moment.
I congratulate Mr. Groves on his appointment. I was going to say it as a young rookie, but I will keep the "young" out of it. For the few months I have been a Member of the House, Mr. Groves and his staff have been so courteous to me. I wish him well. His appointment is well deserved.
On Friday, 27 January 2017, President Trump signed an executive order halting the entire refugee programme for Syria for four months. Citizens from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen will be blocked for a period of three months. The executive order also included permanent legal residents and dual citizens who held a passport for any of the countries listed. The result was confusion and fear among immigrant and refugee communities across the United States and at major airports. The reaction of ordinary American citizens to this un-American act, however, has been nothing short of extraordinary. On Sunday I stood as a Senator for the global Irish in solidarity with immigrant and refugee community groups at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Over 4,000 people turned out in an impromptu show of force and defiance to denounce President Trump's executive order.
There were similar protests in New York, Boston, Denver and at 33 other airports across the United States. At one stage more than 50 people had been detained at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Citizens and green card holders with valid visas were detained by customs and border control agents operating under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. New York Federal Judge Ms Ann Donnelly, a good Irish-American, granted a stay on deportations and eventually everyone who had been detained was released.
On Sunday I met a young man from the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society in Chicago. His parents are from Iraq and both of them have a green card. They have spent ten years in Iraq working for American non-governmental organisations helping to rebuild a ravaged country. Recently, Othman Al Ani's mother travelled to Egypt to visit a son who she had not seen in eight years. As of Sunday, she remained trapped in Egypt and unable to return home as a result of the ban.
America is a country of laws, but it is also a country of values. It has always been outward looking and welcoming to immigrants of all faiths and from all lands. The executive order does not reflect the spirit of the American people or the country's leadership role in the world. I do not believe President Trump's actions serve the interests of Muslims who are banned from entering the United States, the 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the United States or the 34 million people in the United States who claim Irish ancestry. I call on the Trump Administration to rescind the executive order. I call on it to follow the words of Pope Francis who has admonished us to welcome the stranger and those fleeing suffering or persecution. In this climate the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States are watching closely in fear and trepidation. President Trump stated in his presidential campaign that those who had overstayed their visa were more guilty than those who had sneaked across the border into America and that would include Irish people. It is my hope we can present a united voice in this country that will have a lasting effect. I hope we can come together in a collective way to tell President Trump exactly what the citizens of Ireland think of his actions in the past few days. He may wish to build walls to divide nations, but that cannot be our objective.
I fully support the Taoiseach in not rejecting the invitation to visit the White House. Ireland is the only country that has this honour on its national day, which we have enjoyed for the past 60 years. Many countries are envious of our special relationship with the United States. We need dialogue. For advocates of immigration reform in the United States like me and others, it is essential that we keep open the gates of communication. I stand ready to work with the Government to represent the interests of our most vulnerable citizens living abroad. I call on the Taoiseach to continue to raise this issue at the highest levels of the US Government.
I heartily add my words of congratulations to Mr. Groves on his well deserved appointment.
At the weekend there was distress at airports in the United States and elsewhere as a result of President Trump banning travel from seven countries with a Muslim majority. He has turned his back on the plight of refugees. No matter what a person's faith is, he or she deserves to be protected from conflict and helped to find safety. I add my voice to all who have appealed to President Trump to show grace and understanding. His ban does not target terrorists but vulnerable people and, disproportionately, those of the Islamic faith. His action cannot be defended and should not continue. It is only with understanding and co-operation can we hope to end the conflict and discourage terrorism.
On the question of the Taoiseach's visit, it is vital that he travel to Washington on our national day. It is a unique opportunity to meet President Trump face to face and deal with these issues, not least for the 50,000 undocumented Irish. I am sure the Taoiseach will deal with the matter in his own inimitable way. If I may so, he is our trump card.
We have every confidence in him.
We do not.
When all is said, I can never have confidence in him.
President Trump would do well to remember the words of the great Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty who saved thousands of Jews, prisoners of war and others in Rome during the Second World War, namely, that God has no country. We must help and show goodwill to all.
Dúirt an Cathaoirleach ina chuid fhocal maidir leis an gCléireach nua-cheaptha gur onóir mhór é an ceapachán seo do chlann Martin Groves agus dó fhéin, ach is onóir mhór dúinne é a leithéid de Martin a bheith ceaptha sa ról mar Chléireach.
It is a huge honour for us that Mr. Martin Groves has been appointed Clerk of the Seanad. He has been exemplary in his work to date and very supportive of every Senator across the board. I congratulate him and look forward to working with him in his new role.
I have called regularly for a debate with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for the diaspora, Deputy Joe McHugh, which we have not had yet. I concur with many of the sentiments expressed. What role is the aforementioned Minister of State playing in this scenario? We need an urgent debate with him within the next seven days, if possible, because there are two major international issues looming, one being Brexit and the other being the situation in the USA, which is changing daily. We need to know what role the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are taking in supporting the diaspora across the board but most particularly in Britain and the United States. What steps are being taken to look after their rights as Irish citizens? It is a little ironic that Fianna Fáil is now calling for the establishment of a working group because when it came to supporting votes for the diaspora, it was not so quick to respond. It is important that we have a good debate with the Minister or the Minister of State, which has not happened to date.
The issues being raised about the treatment of people who come from different backgrounds, religions and countries and so forth should lead us to point the finger at ourselves and ask how we are treating both migrants and those seeking asylum in this country. We still have the absolute scandal of a direct provision system which should be dismantled. I would certainly welcome a debate on that issue.
On the question of migrants, I have been doing quite a bit of work recently in Galway with people working in the hospitality industry. It is very clear to me from the work I am doing there that we have people involved in that industry, especially migrants, who are being very seriously abused. A debate on working conditions in the hospitality industry is overdue. It is very important that we have such a debate to ensure we can address abuses of all types, be they contractual or related to working conditions, as well as physical, sexual or verbal.
While I have called on the Leader to schedule a number of debates, it is imperative that we have a debate within the next week with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for the diaspora.
I join my colleagues in offering the warmest of congratulations to Mr. Martin Groves who has been exemplary in the support he has given to us all, especially the Senators who are new to the Chamber. I wish him every happiness in and enjoyment of his new role and know that he will perform it wonderfully.
I am not going to reiterate all of the points made about concerns about the executive order, one of a number of very concerning executive orders issued by the new President of the United States of America. The executive order, commonly known as the Muslim ban, has been of particular concern because it has immediate relevance for Ireland. While we can talk about symbolic protests against it, we also need very concrete action in Ireland in how we respond to an executive order which is not just discriminatory but which is also very much designed to sow division. As someone who was an immigrant in America in the past, I am very much aware of the spirit of inclusion and diversity that is at the heart of what has made and grown that country.
There are concerns about the Aviation (Preclearance) Act of 2009 which very clearly requires compatibility with Irish law. It is imperative that there be urgent action to ensure what is happening in airports is compliant with our UN obligations to refugees, the European Convention on Human Rights and our own laws, particularly in respect of national origin and ensuring equality on that basis. If we cannot be satisfied in that regard, we must consider whether we can continue the pre-clearance facilities. We have seen widespread opposition, led in many cases by Irish-Americans in the United States, including the Mayor of Boston, Mr. Marty Walsh, who led one of the initiatives in respect of cities of sanctuary. I urge the Taoiseach and other Ministers to visit Boston and engage with Mr. Walsh. That would be a constructive measure and show solidarity with the Irish-Americans whom Mr. Walsh and others are representing.
I was part of the Irish branch at the women's march in Washington where we saw the growing opposition in the United States.
We are seeing a very systematic silencing of opposition, about which we need to be very robust. I refer, for example, to what has happened in the case of the National Parks Service, the global gag rule, etc. There has been a diminution of checks and balances which has allowed Mr. Steve Bannon, an individual about whom I am concerned and to whom I referred previously in the House, to have been recommended for membership of the National Security Council. In that context and the context of statements made in recent months on torture, I ask that we review the position on the use of Shannon Airport. Valid concerns have been raised about the US military's use of it and the need to address them is more urgent than ever.
When the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade comes before the House, as requested by my colleague, Senator Ivana Bacik, I ask that he also address the European Union's immigration policy and the partnership framework agreements we are making with countries such as Afghanistan on repatriation. There is a real concern that the European Union needs to observe the highest standards of transparency and equality in its migration policies. I request that we have a debate on this matter, the agreement between the European Union and Turkey and other agreements.
I join others in congratulating Mr. Martin Groves. It is an excellent appointment and I wish him well in the post.
I, too, condemn President Trump's actions in the strongest possible terms. I do not want to repeat what has been said, but we in this country need to do everything in our power to influence the repeal of the relevant executive order, which is just astonishing. The world is truly shocked. Regarding the invitation to the White House, it is more important than ever that we avail of such diplomatic opportunities. There is no other place the Taoiseach should be on our national holiday.
On pre-clearance facilities, as Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said, we need to look at the legalities. However, we must also be very careful not to put the issue on the table in negotiations because the provision of pre-clearance facilities is something for which we are envied. We must, by all means, be happy in carrying out that function, but we also need to be extremely careful before we put the issue on the table. There is a queue of other countries waiting to have pre-clearance facilities, particularly as they lead to a greater influx of people into a jurisdiction.
I have raised on many occasions the issue of alcohol consumption. A recent study in The Lancet placed Ireland in the top five countries in the world for the highest estimated alcohol intake during pregnancy. The study concludes that 60% of Irish births show evidence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and that one in every 67 mothers who consumes alcohol during pregnancy will deliver a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause problems with neurological development and growth and may result in learning difficulties and other such problems for children. The findings are truly alarming. Prevention is obviously very easy and requires greater awareness and education. I call on the Minister, to whom I have written, to consider the issue. In the light of the report to which I refer, clearly we have much to do. It is no big boast to say Ireland is in the top five countries for alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
I join others in congratulating Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment. I have no doubt that he will be a huge success in the position.
I refer to the availability of substitute school teachers at primary and secondary level. School principals throughout the country are reporting having to make 20 or 30 telephone calls to try to get teachers to step in when needed, unfortunately without success. The issue is causing serious problems at primary and secondary level. When a school cannot find a substitute to stand in for a teacher who is absent, a number of things must happen. Sometimes a class is divided and that causes disruption for students. Teachers cannot attend in-service days and principals are sometimes obliged to stand in for colleagues. Smaller schools are particularly badly hit, especially those with fewer than three teachers. Principals have no choice but to use their learning support or resource teachers to cover classes. This means that those who need the most help are, unfortunately, being discommoded and left out. Ultimately, they are the ones who lose out.
The situation is very frustrating, given that the first cohort of newly qualified teachers with four years of training behind them completed their studies last year. Unfortunately, other countries are benefiting from the expertise of this country's teachers and nurses who have been educated to a very high standard but who are jumping on aeroplanes to travel to Dubai or the United Kingdom. It is a very unsatisfactory situation for the Minister to be overseeing and I would like it to be addressed for once and for all in order that children do not lose out.
I join everybody else in congratulating Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment as Clerk of the Seanad. I am probably one of the Senators who depend most on him. My dependence on him is almost palpable. The only fear I have about his appointment is that my direct line to him might be severed.
I am sure it will not be. Mr. Groves cannot speak while the House is in session.
I remind the House once more of the double standards in the treatment of physical health problems and mental health issues. By the time the third or fourth week of January comes around, we have often forgotten the new year's resolutions made at the start of the month. I have not forgotten my resolution to continue to tell the House, on the Order of Business in 2017, about some of the realities facing children in the treatment of mental health issues on a daily basis. I will focus on the admission of children to adult psychiatric units. Senators will be aware that I introduced a Bill in November 2016 to prevent this practice from continuing, but they probably do not know that the main reason for the practice is the unavailability of an out-of-hours service for children. In other words, no mental health services are available for children after 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and all day at the weekend. After 5 p.m. on a Friday children who are in trouble will either be placed in an adult psychiatric unit or left to handle their own issues with their families. Senators might recall that before Christmas three young people in County Cork took their own lives. There has been a suggestion the reason behind these suicides was the absence of 24/7 treatment. When are we going to realise crises do not stop at 5 p.m? In this country many suicides are attempted at the weekend, particularly on a Sunday. In November the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, launched a campaign in which she committed to providing increased out-of-hours services for children. I wonder where she is with this. To where is the €15 million, not the €35 million, provided for in 2017 being allocated? I would like the Leader to ask the Minister of State to report to the House immediately on the progress being made in the implementation of this service. I would also like the Minister of State to clarify whether 24/7 treatment facilities will be available at Portrane.
I join other Senators in wishing Mr. Martin Groves well in his new role following his well deserved appointment. He has always worked extremely hard for everyone in this House. I wish him well in the future and look forward to working with him.
I join others in condemning what has happened in the United States in the past seven to ten days. I do not think it is the way forward for a peaceful world. A great deal of progress has been made in the past 50 years. Approximately 63 million people were killed in wars during the first 50 years of the last century. We seem to have forgotten quickly that horrendous atrocities occurred during that period. I accept that atrocities are occurring in the Middle East and other places. We need to work together to make sure there is peace. We should try to make progress with the peaceful resolution of conflicts. I do not think that is being helped by what is happening in the United States. Like Billy Senator Lawless, I know people in the United States who have worked with the United Nations and retained the passport of their country of origin.
They are now worried about their position. They worked for 15, 20 or 25 years and are now retired. They are concerned about their future in the United States. Some of them are married to Irish people.
The US President referred to the threat to people living in the United States. I have examined the figures. The number of murders associated with Islamic extremists is nine. The number of people killed by armed toddlers is 21. The number of people killed as a result of being knocked down by a bus is 264. The number of people killed by Americans is over 11,000. These are the figures for one year. The chances of a person being killed by an armed toddler are greater than by an Islamic extremist. This shows how silly the process undertaken by the US President has been. It is important that a message be sent to him, loud and clear, that he does not have support in this country and throughout the world. The Taoiseach should go to the United States to ensure we send a clear message on our views.
People have been focusing on what the US President, Mr. Trump, and his Administration have been responsible for in recent days. They have talked about a lack of empathy and compassion. Yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of the death of Luke Kelly. When I think of someone who showed empathy, compassion and love for those who needed it, I think of Luke Kelly because he showed them in abundance. He reached the hearts of so many in this country and throughout the world. It is long past time that a statue was put up to his memory in this city. I posted a message on social media in recent days and never had a response like it. People really feel strongly about this issue. I call on the Leader to raise it with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Heather Humphreys, or whoever he believes is the relevant Minister. He should determine whether State funding is available and whether there is precedent for making it available. The answers could enable us to commence the process. I assume it would happen in partnership with Dublin City Council. Those involved would source a location and put up a statue to Luke Kelly.
The second issue I want to raise relates to delays in the making of GLAS and AEOS payments. Farmers have reached an agreement with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the farmers' charter of rights 2015 to 2020. All of the farming organisations have been out protesting today. They have made the point that if any other payment in the State that is made as of right, for example, a social welfare payment or the old age pension, was one or two days late, it would not be tolerated. The matter would be sorted out, rightly so. The farmers affected have been waiting since October. The problem affects 9,000 farmers and the average payment involved is €4,000. Their farms are not sustainable without this money. The issue has been raised in the Chamber and we have been assured on numerous occasions that the matter will be resolved by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed. I call on the Leader to ensure the moneys will be released to the 9,000 farmers affected as soon as possible in order that they can get on with the making of their livelihoods.
I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment as Clerk of the Seanad. I thank him for his support, especially when I first came into the House. He still supports me and I appreciate all of his hard work.
I thank Senator Catherine Noone for highlighting the issue about which she spoke eloquently - alcohol and pregnancy and the fact that the country was among the top five in the statistics. Prevention is important in that regard, but I believe the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill can play a major role also. I encourage the Leader to ask his party members to support the Bill. It is imperative that it get through in its entirety.
I thank Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn for mentioning Luke Kelly and endorse his comments 100%.
I was in Queen's University Belfast last night to attend an interesting event organised by the university law society to discuss Brexit, the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London last week and its implications for the North.
I am very concerned. At that event, among top professors and lawyers there was a great deal of certainty about the position of the UK Government, but there was a general lack of knowledge about the position of the Irish Government and what demands, if any, would be made in the forthcoming negotiations. That is very worrying. With the UK position on immigration, it seems certain that a border will have to be reintroduced on the island of Ireland which will deny Irish citizens living in the North freedom of movement. The Prime Minister has spoken about retaining the freedom of movement between the two countries, but this does not seem possible. Will the Government insist on the North getting special status in the negotiations? Freedom of movement on the island must be a red line issue. It is vital. The great repeal Bill will end the European Union's legal supremacy in the United Kingdom and give Parliament the power to absorb pieces of EU legislation into UK law and scrap elements it does not want. Is there a danger that EU legislation dealing with equality issues may be scrapped, thus undermining the Good Friday Agreement? As co-guarantor of the Agreement, will the Government insist on this not happening?
I, too, congratulate Mr. Martin Groves who has been very good to us in recent years, in this and the last term. It is appropriate that he was given this appointment. I wish him well and hope we will all be here for many years to work with him.
The Senator is plamassing him now.
Like many others, I have been watching nightly what is going on in America with the newly elected President Trump. Sometimes I wonder if it is a nightmare from which I will wake up or is it reality. Unfortunately, it is very real. For many years I have taken a position on the US military's use of Shannon Airport and believe it is not appropriate that it should have free access to it. There should be inspections. Even as a councillor, I tabled motions on the issue at Clare County Council, all of which were defeated, which was not surprising. Now that the newly elected President has made it clear that certain forms of torture are quite appropriate in his view and that he will endorse their use, we need to have extreme inspections of military planes using Shannon Airport. The time is appropriate to have a debate on whether it is appropriate for the US military to use Shannon Airport.
This is a neutral country. We have always prided ourselves on our neutrality. I do not accept the business case for the US military using Shannon Airport. So be it if it goes to Germany or some other country with its business. With the current leadership in America, I would be quite happy to see that happen. In the intervening period I call on the Leader to request the relevant authorities in this country to ensure all US military flights will be subjected to extreme inspections to ensure no rendition is taking place.
Like everybody else, I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment. I had the pleasure of dealing with the man during one of the most stressful periods of his life, the by-election, and found him to be more than professional. It is a tremendous appointment and I wish him well for the future. I hope I, too, will be here for many years with him.
On the issue of President Trump, the press has a huge case to answer. On the day millions of women all over the world marched against President Trump, his press officer said the press had reported the wrong number of people who had attended his inauguration. What did the press do? It swallowed it. It is printing what he wants it to print.
For God's sake, what happened to the media that would hold people to account? What happened to the media that once would have questioned the likes of President Trump?
I also congratulate my colleague, Senator Billy Lawless. On Sunday evening in Chicago he was representing Irish people with fears. That was a brave thing to do for a man who worked and had his business interests in the United States. He was not shy today in standing up and criticising the new administration. We are extremely lucky to have a man of that calibre sitting in this Chamber with us.
On Brexit, with Senator Frances Black, I attended the seminar at Queen's University Belfast last night at which we had some of the greatest legal brains on the island speaking about the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling. I am rather shocked. It is the third or fourth seminar, debate or conference I have attended at which Brexit has been the topic of discussion. At one I was the only representative from this country. I understood Brexit was the single greatest issue facing the economy. Therefore, I am asking why members of the Government parties are not attending these meetings.
The one held in Brussels organised by Friends of Europe. It was a conference on Brexit.
Who was invited?
There were only two representatives from Ireland at the conference in Bratislava - Senator Terry Leyden and I. Last night at the conference in Belfast there were two representatives, neither of whom was representing the Government. Are we serious about Brexit or are we not? I am calling on the Taoiseach to make a state of the nation address on precisely what the Irish priorities are. I am not asking him to show his hand in the negotiations, but I am asking him to set people's minds at rest in order that we know what we are talking about. I have seen two people from the Taoiseach's office at committee meetings and they were really good as to what it was they were doing. I am asking that we have clarity quickly.
I extend my congratulations to Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment as Clerk of Seanad Éireann. I say, "Well done," to him. It is well deserved. Most of all, I ask him to enjoy it, if he can.
I refer to the legal challenge made against the operation of the Committee of Public Accounts which was alleged to have been a witch-hunt against the previous CEO of the Rehab Group. I welcome the finding that the court has no power to intervene in utterances, comments, observances, expressions, etc. made by Members of the Oireachtas in the Houses as set out by the Constitution. I do not think any of us was in any doubt that this would be the finding. I am glad that the separation of powers in the Legislature has been respected and reinforced. It is of paramount importance that we have the power in this House, the Lower House and the committees to investigate matters of public importance, uphold the public interest and protect our constitutional democracy. There are further judgments due and pending in the near future and I am sure we all look forward to the findings with interest.
I thank the Senator for her brevity.
I, too, regret President Trump's executive order concerning immigrants and refugees. I certainly think it is a retrograde step in promoting solidarity with some of the world's most vulnerable people. However, there were no protests against the Obama Administration's mean and ungenerous approach to the admission of Syrian refugees, if the United States is compared with other countries. It is the right of the US Government to decide who it lets into its country, even if we do not like its decisions. If we were not willing to make pre-clearance facilities an issue over the fact the United States already allowed capital punishment and continued to be enthusiastic about it, I do not think we should be so in this instance either. It seems that there is an element of selective compassion about the responses across the board. There will be things President Trump will do that will horrify us. There will be things that he will do with which we will agree. We must be mindful of our position and need to be consistent.
To turn to a matter that we can influence in this House, ba bhreá liomsa dá dtiocfadh an tAire, an Teachta Heather Humphreys, isteach sa Teach chun plé a dhéanamh linn ar an seasamh atá ag an Rialtas i leith na Gaeilge.
Beidh sí anseo Déardaoin.
Táim ag súil leis. Tá Ard-Rúnaí nua ceaptha ag an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta. There is a new Secretary General in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. We wish Ms Katherine Licken the very best.
Ní Gaeilgeoir í. Níl Gaeilge aici, bíodh go bhfuil an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht mar chuid dá freagrachtaí. In fairness, it has been said she will work on her Irish within a reasonable timeframe. However, the fact is it was not a requirement, as Mr. Julian de Spáinn of Conradh na Gaeilge said, gur "údar díomá" dó é nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge ann mar riachtanas do phost mar sin. Proficiency in the Irish language should be a requirement for senior jobs in the Civil Service, particularly where the responsibility for the Irish language is involved. I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, as during his time as Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, he went to the trouble of acquiring a sufficient level of proficiency in Irish to do his job. The Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, promised to do the same when she was appointed. I would like to hear from her, not as a matter of point scoring but as a matter of providing feedback for us, on whether she took steps in that regard.
Tá an t-am istigh.
I am very disappointed with my own alma mater, NUI Galway, or UCG as it was in my time, the governing authority of which took a decision recently that proficiency in the Irish language would not be a requirement in selecting the next president of the college. It went through on the nod. Fair play to Deputy Catherine Connolly who raised the issue in the Dáil. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, shrugged his shoulders and said the university's decision was something with which he could not interfere.
He could not either.
Fair play also to Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív who brought forward legislation on this very point to make it a requirement that the person appointed to such an important job have Irish. The Government did not oppose it at that point. It seems that a lot of lip service is paid to the Irish language. However, when one considers the amount of goodwill towards NUI Galway because it is a bilingual university and because it is so associated with the Irish language and culture, it is a disgrace that it is not a requirement in the appointment of a president that the person either have or will within a very short time seek proficiency in the Irish language.
Ba mhaith liom féin mo chomhghairdeas a sheoladh go Máirtín Groves ar a cheapachán feasta. I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves on his appointment.
I wish to expand slightly on what Senators Frances Black and Gerard P. Craughwell said about Brexit. I particularly wish to draw the attention of the Leader and other Members to the report issued recently from the policy department for citizens' rights and constitutional affairs at the European Parliament. Its forthright conclusion is that Brexit will have a direct impact on the institutional arrangements of the Good Friday Agreement. That is not political point scoring or academic speculation but the European Parliament and its membership telling us that the vote in England to remove Northern Ireland from the European Union against its will is not just undermining the democratic mandate expressed by the people in the North but will actively and institutionally undermine the precious arrangements enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, of which the people in the North and the rest of the country voted overwhelmingly in favour.
The report goes into considerable detail on the processes and effects Brexit will have on the European Union, Britain and, most importantly in this instance, Ireland. At the core of its findings for Ireland, it concludes that, while the European Union has brought many benefits in terms of funding streams and structural supports, it will have more than just a financial impact on Ireland, as I said, but will also have a significant impact on the Good Friday Agreement. I quote from it:
The impact will be both political, in particular since the Good Friday Agreement – an international agreement – will require alteration, which could lead to instability in the region as well as to tensions between Ireland and the UK, and economic/technical, as the re-establishment of a hard border between the North and the South could provoke a reversal of improvements in cross-border trade.
That lays out the challenge for us very clearly. Through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and the broader Seanad, we should seek, as advocated by other Senators, to engage as a matter of urgency with the policy department for citizens' rights and constitutional affairs at the European Parliament to discuss and I hope expand on its findings. As an institution, this Seanad should make it very clear that we respect the democratic mandate in the North.
I was disappointed when the Taoiseach did not make it clear in his engagement with the British Prime Minister yesterday that we respected the democratic mandate expressed in the North and that, as an institution, we would and should, as a right and a matter of principle, argue for special status for the North to enable it to remain with the rest of Ireland in the European Union, as applies to other states and arrangements across the Continent.
Ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Martin Groves ar an bpost nua a ghlac sé. As Leader of the House and on behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I congratulate Mr. Martin Groves who is an honourable, professional and decent man on his appointment to the position of Clerk of Seanad Éireann. During my tenure as Leader I have always found him to be impartial, fair, a thorough professional and an absolute gentleman. I wish him longevity in the post and hope many of us will stay here as long as he has. I congratulate the Chathaoirleach for making this wise and inspired decision. I hope Martin will get the balance right between music, playing the drums and work in order that he can continue to play a role in the evolution of Seanad Éireann.
There is no doubt about that.
We are fortunate to have a good and wise man in the position.
He will not hear such praise again until his retirement.
In welcoming the new I also acknowledge the old. I also commend Ms Deirdre Lane for her work during her tenure as Clerk and wish her well.
Sixteen Members referred to the executive order signed by the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, as well as pre-clearance facilities at and the use of Shannon Airport and the visit of the Taoiseach to the White House on St. Patrick's Day. Irrespective of one's political ideology, it was an extraordinary decision. To see fear and panic on the faces of refugees or ordinary American citizens in trying to go about their daily lives last weekend was appalling. Irrespective of those who protested, to hear the testimonies of people who had been separated from their loved ones and to see people preparing to welcome strangers into their homes beggared belief. Preventing people from entering the United States because of their religious faith is un-American. As the Taoiseach has made clear, it does not stand with the American values many of us share. It is not a policy I share. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, is in discussions in Washington with the American Administration on the matter. What is extraordinary is that rather than making it the United States of America, President Trump is dividing people. Irrespective of the views expressed by Members, either pro or anti, there are genuine concerns and it is important that the Government express them.
On the point made by Senator Catherine Ardagh, the Government created a post of Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora which was held by Jimmy Deenihan and is now held by Deputy Joe McHugh. The Taoiseach appointed Senator Billy Lawless as a representative of the diaspora. The Senator has been strong in standing up for it in travelling across America. There is a need for engagement and I would be interested to hear Senators Catherine Ardagh and Mark Daly flesh out the idea of a task force and what it could achieve. While not ruling it out, there are a Minister of State and a Senator responsible who are working on behalf not just of the undocumented Irish but also those who work in pastoral centres in many parts of the United States on behalf of families and this country. Senator Mark Daly is correct that engaging with the diaspora is critical to maintain strong ties with it.
Equally, it is important that the Taoiseach, on behalf of the people, travel to the United States of America, visit the White House on St. Patrick's Day and engage with the new President, as well as the Secretary of State, Mr. Rex Tillerson, if approved; the Vice President, Mr. Mike Pence, and other members of the US Administration.
We have access to the highest office of the land in America, to the most powerful person in the world. On behalf of the many hundreds of thousands employed in this country and across the world with Irish-American links and having regard to the investment links between the two countries, it would be foolish to cut those ties. It is about diplomacy, access and being able to speak up on behalf of Irish people. The Taoiseach and Ministers will travel not only to Washington DC but also cross from the east to the west coast of America to make that very point. It may not be business as usual and the usual imagery of presenting the President with a bowl of shamrock. Strong words may and should be said to the new Administration. I am confident that the Taoiseach; the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan; and the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, as well as Senator Billy Lawless and others will do so on behalf of the people.
I wish to make a point about pre-clearance facilities at Irish airports. I commend the Mayor of Boston, Mr. Marty Walsh, whom I have never met or to whom I have never spoken, for his remarks on RTE at the weekend and yesterday which were measured and considered. They were not knee-jerk, inflammatory or populist but very sincere. They were from a man from Connemara-----
He has good breeding.
-----who became mayor of the most Irish-American city in America, with due respect to Senator Billy Lawless and the city of Chicago. He deserves great credit for the words he expressed.
Boston is a sister city of Belfast.
Regarding pre-clearance facilities at Irish airports, I accept the bona fides of many Members and those who comment on social media and elsewhere, but as someone who has travelled extensively across America, I believe the removal of pre-clearance facilities at Irish airports would hinder business. We must be careful to ensure we will not sever our economic ties with America. I welcome the Taoiseach's remarks in the Dáil this afternoon and yesterday that there will be a review of the facilities. It is worth pointing out that they were used by 1.8 million passengers at Dublin Airport and 204,000 at Shannon Airport. They include tourists, visitors and business people from many parts of the world. The facilities are important. They allow persons travelling to America to avail of the immigration service on this side of the Atlantic. The important and fundamental point is that Irish law continues to apply. The Taoiseach's remarks in calling for a review of the pre-clearance facilities are to be welcomed, but we must ensure we will not hinder in any way the free movement of people.
I very much look forward to the executive order being modified. We know what has happened since Saturday when there was a change for green card holders. I am sure those of us who condemn what has taken place will work to ensure there will a change to the executive order.
Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell spoke about Westport House. I join her in congratulating the Hughes family on their €50 million investment to ensure the retention of jobs. I pay tribute to the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring; the Taoiseach and Mayo County Council for the work they have been doing. The Senator is right in saying this is both a national and a regional triumph. It is important that Westport House continue to provide the service it has been providing.
On Brexit, at the risk of provoking a row with my good friend Senator Gerard P. Craughwell who raised the matter, as did Senators Frances Black and Paudie Coffey, the Taoiseach was not engaged in a debate yesterday at Queen's University because he was in the most important place he could have been, namely, Government Buildings, engaging on and discussing the issue with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
That is the problem - it is all talk.
I would much prefer to have the Taoiseach in Government Buildings engaging with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, rather than in a debating chamber at Queen's University.
I do not want to have a row with Senator Gerard P. Craughwell, but the Government has been engaged-----
I was not talking about the Taoiseach. Perhaps some of his party's soldiers might come along to the meetings.
Let me make the point-----
The Leader always does.
-----that as a political party, Fine Gael has appointed Deputies Alan Farrell and Fergus O'Dowd as co-chairmen in considering its response to Brexit. I invite the Senator to join me in my home city of Cork where the Taoiseach will speak at a public meeting on the issue on 13 February.
That shows that, in addition to the very successful meetings we have had in many parts of the country about Brexit, another would be more than welcome.
But we do not know what they are doing.
I accept the point that we cannot lose sight of the importance of Brexit. That is why the Government created a second Secretary General post in the Department of the Taoiseach to deal explicitly with issues related to Brexit. It is also why the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, has confirmed that an extra €2.6 billion is being made available to support the economy in responding to Brexit. It is important that we keep the issue in the political diary and on the political agenda. It is a little unfair to suggest, therefore, that the Government is not engaging. The Taoiseach has travelled throughout Europe. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has also travelled, while the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy, is engaging on the issue. It is important that we understand Ireland will be to the forefront with its European Union partners in working to find a solution. Yesterday the importance of this country and the North-South divide was highlighted to ensure there would not be a hard border.
Senator Paudie Coffey raised the issue of interconnectivity in Europe and referred to the importance of energy projects. I will be happy to have the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Energy, Deputy Denis Naughten, come to the House to address those issues.
Senator Joan Freeman referred to the importance of mental health services. The Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, will be in the House tomorrow to respond to a Commencement matter to be raised by Senator Gabrielle McFadden. The Minister of State has travelled the country and committed to making available the funding she secured in the budget for mental health services. It is important that we work together to highlight the issue and that the moneys which have been secured be ring-fenced, whether for youth mental health services which the Senator rightly mentioned or the provision of 24-hour support to ensure the availability of people out of hours, an issue on which we all need to seek a solution. We all commend the Senator for the work she is undertaking in another capacity. As she rightly said, the problem is one that does not stop at 5 p.m. in the evening or at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. It is important that we work together to ensure there will be a different approach to how we respond to mental health needs. A Vision for Change, a document that has evolved into Government policy, perhaps needs to be changed and amended. To be fair to her, the Minister of State is committed and has worked with the Health Service Executive in recognising, in its service plan, that there are action points to be implemented.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh asked for the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora, Deputy Joe McHugh, to come to the House. I hope that will happen in the coming weeks.
Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Martin Conway mentioned Shannon Airport. We should not react the way we sometimes do when it comes to Shannon Airport. There is an international agreement that we must honour in keeping with our neutrality, as I am sure the Government will do and is doing.
The issue of green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, payments was raised by Senators Rose Conway-Walsh and Pádraig MacLochlainn. I can inform Members that today the president of the Irish Farmers Association, Mr. Joe Healy, met departmental officials. On Friday 1,164 members of the farming community received payments. I understand there are around 9,000 outstanding payments since October. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, is committed to dealing with the matter to ensure payments will be made as quickly as possible. There will be weekly payment rounds. It is important to mention that in some cases GLAS applications must be validated to satisfy EU regulations since the scheme is co-funded by the European Union.
Senators Frances Black and Catherine Noone raised the very important issue of alcohol misuse, in the context of which they referred to fetal alcohol syndrome and the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. To respond to Senator Frances Black in particular, it is not a matter of Fine Gael supporting the Bill but of all Members of the House supporting it, whether they be Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Independent, Fine Gael or Labour Party Members. It is important that there be all-party support for it. We all want to see a reduction in the level of harm caused by alcohol misuse.
Senator Máire Devine referred to the decision of Mr. Justice Kelly in the High Court in the Angela Kerins case.
I will not get into the minutiae of the ruling, but I welcome the decision of Mr. Justice Kelly which is worth reading. Those of us who are Members of this House have a responsibility not to allow that privilege to be abused. We cannot abuse that privilege by ridiculing a person, although I am not saying any of us has done so.
We have to be careful in how we use that privilege in order that we do not rely on people-----
We should use it responsibly.
That is important.
Ba mhaith liom a rá leis an Seanadóir Mullen, cé nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge go flúirseach agam, gur mian liom mo chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Katherine Licken as ucht an post nua atá glactha aici sa Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta. Beidh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Kyne, istigh linn ar an Déardaoin chun cúrsaí Gaeilge a phlé. The point made by the Senator about the use of the Irish language is one to which we all subscribe. If at all possible, we should be able to use and support the use of the Irish language. I am amused because if the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, had a hand in the appointment or reappointment of the president of NUIG, the Senator would accuse him of interfering in the appointment process.
It is about not the person but the requirement to have Irish in making the appointment.
It is important to indicate that the Minister must stand far from the process. He cannot be involved in it.
He could do what Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív did and introduce legislation.
The Minister is responsible for the Department. As in any other university, the governing body of NUIG has the power to appoint its president. As a Corkman, I pay tribute to Dr. Michael Murphy who is retiring from his position as uachtarán of Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh. I wish him well and every success in his retirement. He has been an exemplary and extraordinary leader of the college for the past decade. Under his leadership, it has seen growth and expansion.