The Order of Business is No. 1, Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and conclude not later than 2.45 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be called on to reply to the debate not later than 2.35 p.m.; No. 2, statements on amendments to councillors' conditions, to be taken at 3 p.m. and adjourned not later than 4.30 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed five minutes each; and No. 3, Derelict and Vacant Sites Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 2, with the time allocated for the debate not to exceed two hours.
Order of Business
I read today in The Irish Times and saw yesterday at the health care committee that the chief of the HSE made a statement that the HSE could not progress the national children's hospital at the St. James's Hospital site. This is absolutely shocking. The Government knew about this hospital being constructed before the general election. It waved the site around. It has already spent money on consultants, on a board and on liaising with local residents. It is absolutely shocking to hear now, just when contracts were about to be signed, that this hospital will not go ahead. It is like a couple without a deposit or any mortgage approval saying they are going to buy a house. What this Government has done is absolutely disgraceful. It dangled a beautiful hospital in front of the eyes of the sick children of this country when it had absolutely no intention of going ahead with it. It is a disgrace. I would like the Minister for Health to attend the Seanad today to explain to us exactly what is going on and what his intentions are for this hospital. This hospital must go ahead. It is so important that the children of this country have the highest quality standard of care. Anything less than that is unacceptable.
I would also like to raise the issue-----
Is the Senator proposing an amendment to the Order of Business?
I am proposing that the Minister for Health attend the Seanad today to address us and give us a proper detailed update on what is going on with the national children's hospital.
Is the Senator proposing it as an amendment to the Order of Business or simply making a proposal?
I am proposing an amendment.
I apologise for interrupting. I just wanted to clarify the matter.
The second matter I would like to raise is the job losses in Leixlip at the Hewlett Packard plant. It was confirmed just before we came into the Seanad today that these job losses will go ahead. It is a massive blow to the local economy which has apparently been in recovery since 2014. I have worries that this may be a sign of one of Mr. Donald Trump's protectionist policies. However, the use of cartridges is on the decline. My heart goes out to the families of the 500 people who have suffered these job losses. I hope the Government will take steps to replace these jobs and ensure IDA Ireland makes a trip to Leixlip in order that the workers do not go too long without employment.
I call Senator Rose Conway-Walsh. There is a gap and she is the only one in line.
There is a gap and I am very happy to fill it.
That is okay.
In fairness, the Senator is more than that.
I thank the Leader. Listening to yesterday's debate on the scandal of waiting lists, I very much welcome Fine Gael's conversion to Sinn Féin's position, one that has been roundly criticised as fantasy economics by the Leader on many occasions. For many years Sinn Féin has produced alternative budgets that honestly set out the measures needed to address the shortcomings in the health service. On many occasions, the Leader has used these as a stick to beat Sinn Féin.
I would also like to see a debate, as was called for by Senator Martin Conway yesterday, on exactly how we fund health care in the future, rather than statements on the difficult choices regarding tax and expenditure that will have to be made. In the last budget Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil chose the €290 million in tax cuts over increased capital spend. Sinn Féin clearly demonstrated how €267 million extra could be spent on 500 additional hospital beds, reducing the prescription charges by €1 each and increasing ambulance cover, as well as improving mental health services.
What is difficult for an economic illiterate like me to understand is why the Government would choose to facilitate a tax avoidance measure for foreign vulture funds amounting to up to €350 million while at the same time denying citizens vital treatment unless they have the money to pay privately. I cannot reconcile that. At this moment, I know a man who is in absolutely excruciating pain waiting for vital treatment in my constituency in County Mayo. We have continued over successive Governments to give away all of these tax breaks and provide loopholes for people who do not need the money. That we are giving away all of this money is impossible for me to understand.
I would welcome it if the Leader of the House and the leader of Fianna Fáil explained to me why these choices are made. I cannot explain to the people I am here to serve why it is done.
This morning my colleague, Michelle O'Neill, has confirmed a financial package to deal with waiting lists in the North after the Assembly elections. However, the real solution lies in an all-Ireland health service, which would mean people not having to travel from County Donegal to Galway for chemotherapy owing to a lack of staff in Letterkenny. Any debate here on the future of health care must include a discussion on an all-Ireland approach to health which is an all-island issue.
I hear the Leader constantly talking in the background about tax. I am not proposing a high-tax option; it is a fair-tax option providing for a proper education service and particularly a proper health service for all the people on the island.
I am sure the Leader will give a satisfactory response.
I doubt if it will be satisfactory, but I wait in anticipation for words of wisdom.
The "Prime Time" television programme recently highlighted the primary school in Moyross that introduced mindfulness into teaching in the classroom. The effects were found to be mentally, emotionally, socially and physically stimulating for the children. Perhaps it is something that might be spread across all schools throughout the country, starting with primary schools and moving on to secondary schools. I recently attended a secondary school event with the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, along the same vein. There were dance classes as well as songs. It was all about working together in unity and harmony. It was a very positive initiative.
I second Senator Catherine Ardagh's amendment to the Order of Business.
There have been five confirmed cases of the H5N8 avian bird flu in Ireland. In December the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, introduced regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring the compulsory housing of poultry, which I welcome. It was a necessary move in order to avoid the spreading of the disease.
Last night's "Ear to the Ground" programme indicated that a major problem was coming down the tracks for poultry farmers who sell their produce as free-range. Hens that are housed for 12 continuous weeks will lose their free-range status. I want the Minister to address the issue and outline the provisions he may be putting in place. It would be serious for those producers to lose their free-range status due to their prudence in obeying the rules to try to avoid the spread of the disease. There needs to be a plan for the status of those free-range producers if the 12-week period is reached. Can some alternative rules be put in place temporarily because of the special nature of the curent situation?
As some Senators will know, Tesco is Ireland's largest private employer, employing more than 11,000 staff. Unfortunately, Tesco has also decided to go down the road of union busting. It has hired a specialist firm of lawyers who engage in union busting as a career. It is trying to drive Mandate, a fine trade union, out of Tesco. We know this because some of the most loyal and hard-working staff in Tesco have been told their terms and conditions are to be cut unilaterally later this month. As a result, Mandate has had no choice but to ballot its members and as things stand today they are to go on indefinite strike across nine stores with probably another 15 to follow from 14 February, St. Valentine's Day. Tesco is not making these cuts because it is somehow short of cash. In fact, it has just bought out the biggest wholesaler in Britain. It is doing extremely well. It will not reveal its profits in Ireland, but we believe they are in the region of €200 million to €250 million a year. It does not have to do this; it is not in financial difficulty. Its sole reason for doing this is greed. It wants to cut the terms and conditions of the longest-serving staff purely to increase its profits further. It is the largest private-sector employer in the State. I am asking the Leader to bring the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to the Seanad to discuss the matter which affects people throughout the State and to make a clear stand on this. Nobody in this Chamber should stand over Tesco's policy of greed and disloyalty to its longest-serving staff. I would welcome a clear statement of condemnation from the Leader on Tesco's despicable behaviour towards its own staff.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, to come to the House to discuss the implications of apparent and obvious changes in American policy on immigration and trade. Last week the Ornua chairman, Aaron Forde, pointed out that already five Ornua graduates have been refused visas to enter the United States and two staff in the United States were initially refused a renewal of their visas, although I understand that has been sorted out. That is notwithstanding 30 years of operating in the United States, marketing Irish dairy products. Its success is shown by the 20,000 tonnes of Irish cheese and butter sold in the United States, with Kerrygold the flagship company there. This obviously has serious implications, not just for Ornua.
In addition, we heard the bad news of job losses in Leixlip. Some 150,000 people here work for US multinationals and 250,000 people work in Irish companies in the United States. We also have the issue of the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States. Many of us might not agree with the approach of the current US President in putting America first, in terms of making the country safer and his attitude to Muslims, in particular. We are seeing fall-out in the tightening of regulations affecting Irish people who have obviously a track record there and in respect of whom there should not be a question about getting visas.
There are issues related to trade - America requires trade as do we - andillegal immigrants. When one talks about making America great, if the people concerned were not in America, how great would it be? It seems that many people living there do not want to do those particular jobs. It is now more important than ever that the Taoiseach should meet President Trump and have a conversation in the real world and keep communications open. In the meantime I would welcome a debate here grounded in the reality facing Irish companies, Irish citizens and the undocumented from the fallout from the changes that are apparent in the new Administration there. That would be a more constructive debate for this Chamber to have, rather than some of the side jabs being made.
I do not know what to say after the previous contribution. I seem to remember the very same voice in this Chamber on the day after the American presidential election saying we needed to get used to the new world order and that the era of political correctness was over. A congratulatory message was sent from the same individual to the newly elected President. I am delighted we have had such a Pauline conversion to the realities of the new regime in America.
That is not the reason I am contributing. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, on her achievement yesterday in getting the medically supervised injection centre proposal through the Cabinet.
This incredibly important legislation being shepherded by the Minister of State ill save lives. Often in the Chamber we debate health and public policy issues, but, as this legislation comes to the House, I appeal to all parties that I know support the legislation to do so robustly and without fear because the issue of street heroin injection means we are dealing with the most vulnerable of citizens. I was involved in the formulation of the legislation in the previous Government and I am delighted to see the Government has taken it on. It is in the programme for Government and being delivered. It is not the role of people in opposition to pick holes in Government policy all the time. We will oppose when necessary, but we will also support when necessary. The Minister of State is to be congratulated. It is a proud day for her and the Oireachtas that our drug policy is becoming much more enlightened. She is doing an excellent job in that regard. I hope to stand in the Chamber and see the legislation go through the House in the coming weeks.
We will discuss the Derelict and Vacant Sites Bill in the Chamber with the Minister today. I tabled the Bill as a member of the Civil Engagement group and a member of the Green Party. Both groups are motivated by a desire to increase fairness in our society while working with politicians of other parties and none to advance fairness and equity. The Bill is not radical. From speaking to those involved in the formation of existing Government plans, it is clear the Department and the Minister wish to go further in applying a levy to derelict and vacant sites and get them back into use. The Government's incentive initiatives to enable people to get the sites back into the housing supply are welcome. My aim with the Bill is to help the process and add another weight to the scales of ridding cities and towns of eyesores and empty spaces. Government plans simply do not go far enough to address the issue. Derelict sites can be covered up with paint and they are no longer considered derelict. Vacant sites the size of a basketball court are exempt from the levy. These do not reflect the urgency of the housing crisis. It is not our desire to penalise or afflict the comfortable. We are simply trying to work with the Government and others to ensure the best outcomes for all. Should the Bill not make it through to Committee Stage, such a measure cannot be brought forward again for six months. If Senators are wavering in their support for this common sense legislation, I appeal to them to discuss their concerns with me or my colleagues. We are interested in advancing any action to improve the homelessness situation in the country through any measure that will help restore viability and livelihood to our urban and rural communities. I hope in particular that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Senators will consider the common-sense measure contained in the Bill to be worthy of depth and examination. If anyone has any doubts we are available, and we respect-----
I am not sure whether canvassing is allowed, but the Senator has made her point.
I am interested and intrigued by the contribution of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh on Sinn Féin's position. Sinn Féin's position on our jobs policy was that we were getting it all wrong. We have created 188,000 jobs in the past five and a half years. Unemployment has decreased from 15% to 7.1%. As a result, we now have more money coming in to provide a better health service. An extra €1 billion is being provided this year to the health service which we would not have been able to put in if people were not back at work. I remind the Senator the level of corporation tax has increased by more than 70%. It is at its highest level ever and will continue to rise in 2017 and 2018 because of the number of companies, the number of people employed, the amount of work being done and the amount of exports. We face major challenges in health and there is no question about this, but we need to look at the entire area.
When Fianna Fáil was in government, it abolished the health boards. The idea was to have a central management system, but it is quite obvious now that this is not working. As I stated previously, the number of managers keeps increasing as does the number of clerical assistants. We have more than 16,000 people in administration. It would be interesting to look at the ratio of administrators to front-line staff in other jurisdictions. This is an area where we need to examine major reform. We need to get value for money. I am not convinced we are getting value for money. We are the second highest contributors to health care in the OECD but we are not getting value for money and we need to look at reforming the system. I ask the Leader for a debate on how we bring about this reform. It is not just with regard to hospitals. Sinn Féin proposed-----
The Senator is testing my indulgence. He should resist making party political statements.
Sinn Féin proposed that we reduce consultants' salaries to less than €100,000 a year. Its members seem to have forgotten that.
The Senator can make these points in the forthcoming debate.
Ba mhaith liom mo dhíoma agus imní a léiriú faoin ráiteas a rinne ceannaire an DUP, Arlene Foster, le cúpla lá anuas, maidir le hAcht na Gaeilge agus nach mbeidh a leithéid ann má bhíonn an DUP sa rialtas ó Thuaidh. Ba mhaith liom a mheabhrú don Cheannaire go bhfuil dualgas ar an Rialtas anseo, mar go bhfuil Acht na Gaeilge mar dhlúthchuid de Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta, oibriú leis na páirtithe ar fad le déanamh cinnte go gcuirfear Acht na Gaeilge i bhfeidhm. Tá súil agam go ndéanfar raiteas láidir ag cáineadh an méid a dúirt Arlene Foster ó thaobh Acht na Gaeilge.
Go deimhin, bhí ráitis mhaslacha anseo an tseachtain seo caite ó thaobh lucht na Gaeilge ag an Seanadóir Ó Ríordáin. Sílim gur chóir dó leithscéal a ghabháil le pobal na Gaeilge mar gur chuir sé-----
-----i gcomparáid iad leis an Talibán.
An Talibán. Tá difríocht ann.
Ná cuir isteach air. Ar aghaidh leat, a Sheanadóir Ó Clochartaigh.
On Monday, Mr. Artur Mas, the former president of Catalonia, with two former Ministers, came before the High Court in Barcelona for a five-day trial. Tens of thousands attended the demonstration in support of the defendants, who are being prosecuted for helping to organise a non-binding vote on independence in 2014 in which more than 2 million people voted. The vote took place because the Spanish Government refused to facilitate a democratic vote on Catalan independence. The impressive turnout sent a clear message that the Catalan people want a democratic, legal and binding referendum to be held. They are being accused of civil disobedience for organising an informal independence consultation. If found guilty, they could be banned from public office for ten years. There is also the continued prosecution of the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Ms Carme Forcadell, for facilitating a debate and vote on independence in the Catalan Parliament. The prosecution of democratically elected politicians for holding popular polls and consultations puts at risk the very democratic standards that people hold dear throughout the world. We should send a very strong statement from the House that we do not agree with what is happening. I call on the Leader to facilitate a discussion on the prosecution of politicians in Catalonia for supporting a democratic vote on independence. I also ask him to call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to come to the House to outline the Government's stance on this issue.
I also commend the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, for opening the first injection centre in Dublin. It does much to show that we are trying to tackle the serious drug addiction problem, particularly in Dublin. As did Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, I very much welcome it.
Several months ago, Ms Nicola Sturgeon addressed the House and everyone called for Scottish independence. She received a rock star welcome. It was ironic to see every Senator taking selfies with her. There was a certain mood and there still is now. I see today in a poll in the Scottish Herald that 49% of people, an increase of 3%, state they want Scottish independence as against 51%, a decrease of 3%.
It quite obvious that there will be Scottish independence which will have huge implications for the island of Ireland. We are living in interesting times, all as a result of Brexit. The Republic of Ireland will, however, remain a committed member of the European Union, in which many are not fully aware of the position of the island of Ireland. The mood is in favour of Scottish independence; one never knows, therefore, what will happen on the island of Ireland.
It is a pity Senator Colm Burke has left the Chamber because I was given an education on how we had got to where we were in the health crisis. The Minister for Health appeared on the national broadcaster to say he was ashamed and heartbroken at the revelations made. I think he is a decent man, but the policies he has put in place and the ones put in place by Fianna Fáil before him are indecent. There has been chronic under-investment for many years in every corner of the health service, from primary care services to home care packages, nursing units, community hospitals and acute hospitals. When there is such a situation, it creates the bottlenecks that result in so many citizens being on trolleys. In recent days we have learned that in nursing units and community hospitals in County Donegal and, no doubt, throughout the State elderly people are being told that no respite care services will be available to them because beds need to be freed up for patients from the major acute hospitals. We are robbing Peter to pay Paul again. Similarly, if one looks at the numbers on waiting lists, the reason they are increasing and there are so many cancellations is the use of the full capacity protocol whereby people are told their procedures or operations have been cancelled because beds must be freed up in hospitals in which so many beds have been closed. One could not make up this stuff. Let us be real. The solution to the crisis lies in adequate investment. I argue that there is a need for a five-year plan to ensure adequate investment in the provision of beds and nurses. The crisis will not be solved overnight, but a clear five-year plan needs to be outlined now. It is not enough for a Minister to say they are ashamed or heartbroken at the latest crisis or scandal.
My next point concerns broadband. I propose that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment come to the House to update us on the timeframe for the roll-out of broadband. The rural development action plan was launched recently, but everybody who represents a rural area knows that we need a timeframe for the provision of broadband for every home. Will the Leader, therefore, ask the Minister to come to the House to debate the matter?
I concur with Senator Catherine Ardagh on the devastation felt by the employees of Hewlett Packard who are to lose their jobs. It is very harsh news to receive and my thoughts are with them on this very bleak day for them and their families. A lot of people living in Mullingar travel daily to the Hewlett Packard plant. As I know quite a number of those involved, my thoughts are certainly with them at this difficult time for them and their families.
I agree with my fellow Senators in calling on the Minister for Health to come to the House. If it is true that the waiting list figures are being massaged and that we have not been hearing the full truth, it is alarming. The people of Ireland are certainly entitled to better than this.
Last week the director general of the Irish Prison Service, Mr. Michael Donnellan, told the Committee of Public Accounts that Irish jails had become modern asylums, with many inmates suffering from severe mental health issues. One aspect of the problem concerns the welfare of prisoners discharged from the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum and transferred to prison. They may have posed a danger to themselves and others but integration into the prison environment poses further challenges for them. Last week one man said on "Today with Sean O'Rourke" on RTE that he had been treated in the Central Mental Hospital for 15 years having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. Depending on their condition, other patients spend far less time receiving therapeutic care at the Central Mental Hospital and are returned to prison following a clinical assessment. I would like the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Health to provide a detailed update on provisions for the continuity of psychiatric care and the monitoring of such persons on entering the prison system from hospital. What support do these inmates specifically receive prior to discharge and what follow-on treatment and health services can they expect to receive subsequently while in State custody? I echo the call of the Irish Penal Reform Trust for the roll-out nationwide of institutional high support services for mentally ill prisoners, including those in Mountjoy Prison and Cloverhill Prison. In August 2006 a 21 year old man was killed in Mountjoy Prison by another inmate who had been transferred there from the Central Mental Hospital. The 2014 report on his death highlighted failures on the part of prison and psychiatric services. Up to 30 people who are psychotic or awaiting admission to an acute mental health facility are in prison at any one time. How are these waiting lists managed? What is the current level of communication and co-operation between health care and prison staff in the different institutions in dealing with these cases? We need to look very seriously at this issue. Prison is the last place people who are mentally ill should be incarcerated. There is an urgent need for the Government to address this growing problem among the 3,700 inmates in custody.
I sympathise with the 500 people who will lose their jobs following the announcement made by Hewlett Packard this morning. It will affect not only Kildare and Dublin but also counties like my own, as well as Longford, Leitrim, Sligo and others.
Like others, I was horrified watching the "Prime Time Investigates" programme on Monday evening on waiting lists. Unfortunately, the news was not new to some of us as public representatives. We knew that it had been happening for quite some time, but it had been denied on a regular basis by the HSE. Having listened to commentators in the past couple of hours, many international experts suggest the availability of funding is not the difficulty. A total of €15.1 billion is to be invested in the health service this year, yet there is a chronic shortage of health personnel, some of whom we discussed during a debate on legislation yesterday. There are horrendous waiting lists. Somebody somewhere must be responsible for managing this colossal amount of money and it is time that this question was asked. Regarding Senator Rose Conway-Walsh's comments on the new leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland and her commitment to tackling waiting lists there, per head of population they are worse than in the Twenty-six Counties-----
That is why we need a united Ireland and a whole island approach, as the Senator knows.
Please allow Senator Diarmuid Wilson to conclude.
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh and her colleagues who have been in government in the Six Counties with the Democratic Unionist Party for the past ten years should be ashamed of themselves. They cannot wash their hands of the responsibility they bear as members of a government for ten years.
The Senator should address the Chair, not invite debate.
Let me address the position in the Twenty-six Counties and Sinn Féin policy.
If we had followed its policies and its record in Northern Ireland is anything to go by, we would have had an even worse disaster.
Fianna Fáil did a great job in government, did it not?
As the Leader has all of the answers, give him a chance.
I thank the 15 Senators who raised matters on the Order of Business. I join Senators Catherine Ardagh, Aidan Davitt and Diarmuid Wilson in offering solidarity and our thoughts to the men and women employed at Hewlett Packard in Leixlip who have this morning heard the appalling, tragic news of job losses. It is most disappointing and words will be of little solace to those who work there. I hope the arms of State will work to assist them in re-engaging in the workforce as quickly as possible. I have heard the contributions of some Senators, but this has nothing to do with Brexit or the policies of President Trump; rather, it is about the company restructuring its policy globally. There are other Hewlett Packard entities in Galway and Cork and it is important to stand with the workers today. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, has engaged with the company. As Senator Diarmuid Wilson said, this is not just about the plant in Leixlip where 10,000 people are employed, although it is a pivotal flagship for IDA Ireland. It is important, however, that we engage proactively with the men and women who work there to assist them in every possible manner.
Senator Catherine Ardagh referred to the national children's hospital. As a former Chairman of the health committee who was on the St. James's Hospital site with Senator Colm Burke and others, I played a role in ensuring the project would be prioritised. The contract has been awarded to BAM and is worth €3 billion. The comment of the chief executive of the HSE was made at a private meeting of the health committee, although, in my opinion, he should not have made it because it has muddied the water. I share Senator Catherine Ardagh's concern and join her in asking for the position to be clarified. I ask her not to push the matter to a vote because the Minister for Health who is prepared to brief her and any other Member of the House personally has to make a business case to the Government which is committed to this flagship project. The contract has been approved by the HSE directorate. The priority of the Government is to ensure the project is built. The discussion has moved on from considering the different sites proposed. We have a site and there is a contract and the Minister has to make a business case to the Cabinet in order that the project can begin. As we are all united on the need for a national children's hospital, I appeal to the Senator to allow what I have outlined to happen, rather than divide the House.
Senators Rose Conway-Walsh, Colm Burke, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Aidan Davitt and Diarmuid Wilson touched on the importance of the health service to us as a nation. Leaving aside the harrowing distress outlined on the RTE programme, in 2017 the Department of Health will have funding of €14.1 billion to meet current expenditure and €454 million to meet capital expenditure. Going by the economics and mathematics of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh which are of a higher standard than mine, these figures represent an increase of €977 million on the budget for 2015, or an increase of 7.4% on the original voted budget and 3.5% on the final projected outturn. I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Diarmuid Wilson that if the voodoo economics of Senator Rose Conway-Walsh's party in the North were to be transferred to the South, there would be bedlam. We would have tractors on Grafton Street.
Its Members can come into the House and spout their great theories, but it is a high tax and high spend party.
Can the Leader explain why so many people are in pain?
The Senator is not interested in the answer.
I am really interested in it.
The Senator is never interested in it.
I ask the Leader and the Senators who are interjecting to, please, respect the Chair.
This is a never-ending lecture.
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh is never interested in knowing the real facts. Her party wants to tax people and spend its way out of everything.
We learned the real facts on Wednesday night.
There is an election in the North and some day it will be found out up there also. Its policies have done nothing to help communities in the North.
How many Fine Gael politicians stand for election in the North?
The Government must balance the need for foreign direct investment and to create jobs. Senator Colm Burke is right: when we took over in government, 15% of citizens were unemployed; today the figure is 7.1%. That means more men and women are at work, contributing to the State in order that more can be spent on health services. There is an extra €2.6 billion for capital infrastructure, but Senator Rose Conway-Walsh's party wants to tax people and spend, while forgetting about the borrowing constraints and the need to save for a rainy day. It cannot be done. They are not adolescents at home who are depending on mummy and daddy for pocket money. The State has an obligation to spend and provide for its citizens. That is what we will do.
It also has a responsibility not to leave hundreds of thousands of people in pain, which is what the Government is doing.
This and the last Government rescued the people-----
That is why they are in America and Britain.
-----with no thanks due to Sinn Féin which both here and in the Dáil opposes everything every day.
It has not rescued people who are in pain and waiting for treatment.
One cannot have it both ways.
The Leader cannot have it both ways. If he was not full of admiration for himself-----
The Senator's party has discovered in government in the North that it cannot do everything. The proof lies in the economy. Farmers will receive no payments from the European Union.
The Government is withholding GLAS payments.
It is also reflected in hospitals and the education system. Schools and police stations have been closed, while the health system is in rag order.
Senator Maria Byrne referred to the subject of mindfulness. I will be happy to have the Minister for Health come to the House to discuss it. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Helen McEntee, was here last week to speak about it.
Senator Mark Daly referred to the importance of the poultry industry. While I did not see the programme last night, I will be happy for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, to come to the House to discuss the issue. It could also be the subject of a Commencement matter. As it is linked with Brexit, it is important to debate it.
Senator Paul Gavan mentioned Tesco. During the week I received a response from Ms Christine Heffernan. I am not sure if the Senator received one, but I will be happy to send him a copy of it. She said there had been no change to the contracts and that Tesco and the unions were in discussions. She also said Tesco was happy to engage with the mechanisms of the State.
That is not true.
I will forward a copy of the e-mail after the Order of Business. I share the Senator's view that there is an obligation on Tesco, as an employer, to treat its workers fairly and with respect. That means combining pay and conditions together because, in some cases, workers are on or just above the national minimum wage and require protection. If what the Senator says is true, it is not good enough.
There is a mandate to ballot.
I appreciate that, but it is important to note that there are mechanisms of the State that could and should be used by all sides in that regard.
Senator Michelle Mulherin raised the issue of immigration. While we have discussed it, I will be happy to have the Minister responsible come to the House to discuss it again.
Senators Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Frank Feighan thanked the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, and complimented her on the initiative to establish injection centres. It is important to credit the Minister of State for being able to pursue and have the legislation approved. As Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said, it will help to save lives.
Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the issue to be debated during Private Members' business. All I can say as Leader of the House is that the Government has engaged with the Senator and is willing to engage further with her on it. It is one for the Minister to discuss in the House today.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh, tá díomá orm freisin faoin ráiteas a rinne an Príomhaire, Arlene Foster. Tá an-tacaíocht ag an Rialtas dár dteanga dúchais. As I said yesterday in response to Senators Lorraine Clifford-Lee and Mark Daly, I agree that the decision made by the DUP on the Irish language and the Irish language Act was very short-sighted. One day they said "No" but the following day they found the money for Irish summer schools and to implement the Irish language Act. It is important that, as a state, we continue to support and promote the use of our language under the Good Friday Agreement in both the North and the South. It is the first language of the State and I hope that, as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, post-Brexit and following the elections in the North, those who want to speak the Irish language will be supported in any manner or form. I stand with Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh in that regard.
I am not going to get involved in the dispute or issue of a Catalan referendum on independence. Anybody has a right to express a viewpoint, whether he or she is a parliamentarian or a citizen. That is what we cherish in a democracy. Certainly, I would not support the imprisonment or reprimand in any shape or form of anybody for expressing a view or protesting about it within the laws of the land.
Will they keep denying Catalonia independence also?
And Irish independence.
The issue of the unity of the country is not the preserve of Sinn Féin.
It is the preserve of all of us. If one goes back to the Good Friday Agreement, it is about consent and all of us working together if we share that viewpoint, as I do. As such, it is not the preserve of Sinn Féin but about all of us having that aspiration.
I never said it was not.
I am just making the point. Every day Sinn Féin Senators mention a 32-county Ireland. Every political party is in favour of that principle. How we get there is what we must work on. It is important to make the point that it is not just the preserve of Sinn Féin.
We absolutely welcome that statement.
We do not need to be patronised.
I ask Members to, please, respect the Chair.
We look forward to the Government putting pressure on the British Government to open the legacy files.
Please allow the Leader to conclude.
I have every confidence in the Taoiseach who is leading the negotiations for us on Brexit. He has done a very good job in the six years since he took office.
Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn raised the issue of broadband. I will be happy to have the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, come to the House to discuss it because the Senator is right that the roll-out of broadband is central to the development of rural Ireland to 2040 and as a counter to Dublin and urban areas. We need to expedite the provision of broadband in rural areas.
Senator Rónán Mullen raised the very important issue of prison services and referred to the remarks of Mr. Michael Donnellan on myriad issues. I will be happy to have the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and perhaps the Minister of State at her Department, Deputy David Stanton, come to the House to discuss them.
I mentioned Senator Diarmuid Wilson when I discussed health issues.
I ask Senator Catherine Ardagh not to divide the House but to allow me to get the Minister for Health to brief her. I have asked him to come to the House to discuss the matter.
The amendment is being pressed.
Senator Catherine Ardagh has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate take place today with the Minister for Health on progress on the national children's hospital."
- Ardagh, Catherine.
- Bacik, Ivana.
- Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
- Conway-Walsh, Rose.
- Daly, Mark.
- Daly, Paul.
- Davitt, Aidan.
- Devine, Máire.
- Gallagher, Robbie.
- Gavan, Paul.
- Higgins, Alice-Mary.
- Humphreys, Kevin.
- Kelleher, Colette.
- Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
- Nash, Gerald.
- Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
- Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
- O'Sullivan, Grace.
- O'Sullivan, Ned.
- Swanick, Keith.
- Warfield, Fintan.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.
- Burke, Colm.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Byrne, Maria.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Conway, Martin.
- Feighan, Frank.
- Hopkins, Maura.
- Lawless, Billy.
- Lombard, Tim.
- McFadden, Gabrielle.
- Mulherin, Michelle.
- Noone, Catherine.
- O'Donnell, Kieran.
- O'Mahony, John.
- O'Reilly, Joe.
- Reilly, James.