Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to conclude not later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded, by the putting of one question, which shall, in terms of amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Maurice McCabe controversy. I welcome the cross-party consensus in regard to the establishment of a public tribunal of inquiry but I also look forward to hearing the Ministers' clarifications in respect of certain questions in the Lower House. I look forward to listening to them answer those questions later today.

I wish to raise two items on the Order of Business. The Minister supplied Members with a list of schools across the country with DEIS status. The Leader of the House will know that this is a bugbear of mine. This will be the sixth time I have raised the issue of the Assumption girls' national school, Walkinstown, in the House. There is a boys' national school, a girls' national school and a girls' secondary schools in the area. These schools are on an island in a sea of DEIS schools that do not have DEIS status.

The Assumption girls' school in Walkinstown is in an area of very high disadvantage. We hear of difficulties in the inner city with drug and crime gangs in the Crumlin area. The children attending this school come specifically from the area of Drimnagh and Crumlin. What is most shocking is that when the boys and girls attending the Assumption junior school proceed to secondary school, the boys go on to Drimnagh Castle secondary school which has been given DEIS status and the girls go on to the Assumption secondary school in Walkinstown, which has not been given DEIS status. This is an anomaly, which discriminates between boys and girls. The boys in Drimnagh Castle are getting a better education than the girls attending the Assumption secondary school. This issue must be examined.

It is outrageous that this school, whose case I have raised six times, has not been given DEIS status in the recent allocation. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Education and Skills how on earth his Department is coming up with the criteria to allocate DEIS status? It says it has access to PPS numbers and knows whether parents are in receipt of social welfare allowances and that schools are asked to submit second, fourth and sixth class results. The Department is saying that if a school is doing well, and the teachers are busting their asses to get good results for their kids - excuse me; my apologies.

What kind of language is that in the Seanad?

The Senator, without interruption.

Where are we now? Are we at a bus stop or are we in the Seanad?

Schools are being penalised for getting good results for their kids and teachers are being penalised for working too hard. That is outrageous.

The second matter I would like to raise relates to the Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium, which was unexpectedly closed. I was meant to go to the stadium this evening but I learned that it has been closed. This is part of the Irish Greyhound Board's decision to shift races from Harold's Cross to Shelbourne Park in a move designed to cover the cost of developing the new track in Limerick, which cost €21 million to complete. The Harold's Cross Greyhound Stadium is an historic venue in Dublin and opened in 1928. It is a very important part of the local history and community in Harold's Cross and in the wider Crumlin and Drimnagh area. In addition to the contribution it makes to the local community, it also makes money. It makes financial sense to maintain the track. It is not operating at a loss. The decision to close the track, and its potential sale, has infuriated both me and the Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association, which has been protesting against the sale since the news first broke. I would ask the House to support the Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association and call for the decision to sell the track at Harold's Cross to be reversed. It is a short-term decision that will damage the local community and greyhound racing in the long term. It is appalling.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 13 be taken before No. 1. I have a seconder.

I will call the seconder in due course.

Senator Gerard Craughwell is the seconder.

He can do that when he rises to speak.

Over recent days, the information that has come to light regarding the vilification and what can only be described as inhumane torture of Garda Sergeant McCabe has shocked people right across this nation. At the outset I commend the strength and raw courage of Maurice McCabe, his wife, Lorraine, and their family. Their quest for truth, transparency, openness and honesty on how An Garda Síochána serves this State is deeply appreciated by all right-minded citizens. This has been a long and painful journey spanning over three Governments, led by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, starting out when Maurice McCabe raised concerns about corrupt practices in the hierarchy of An Garda Síochána in 2008, and then continuing publicly when he and Garda John Wilson brought their concerns into the public domain. The past eight years have seen a concerted campaign by some who call themselves journalists and many other people in authority to discredit, bully and undermine Maurice McCabe and other whistleblowers who attempt to root out despicable and possibly criminal behaviour within An Garda Síochána and other agencies of the State.

How can the Leader expect people to have confidence in this cobbled together Government, propped up by Fianna Fáil, when they have witnessed it preside over a police service in which there is a completely unacceptable level of dysfunction at management level and over a child protection service which asks us to believe the most incredible fairy story I have heard since Bertie told us he won the money on the horses? Why did the Leader oppose the Sinn Féin amendment to the terms of reference of the commission that would have allowed the investigation of contacts between members of An Garda Síochána and the Government, Oireachtas and other State agencies? When was the Taoiseach briefed about the child sex abuse allegations made against Sergeant Maurice McCabe?

I ask the Leader to amend the Order of Business to allow the Minister, Deputy Zappone, to come to this House to make a statement on the mismanagement of Tusla in this regard. This is very important because many citizens and many children rely on Tusla to-----

Is the Senator proposing an amendment to the Order of Business, rather than asking the Leader to do so?

I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business. Clarity needs to be brought to this matter so that we can have confidence in the many cases that are being dealt with by Tusla at present. People need to know that our child protection services meet the needs of all these children and families.

I want to express my concern and disgust regarding the treatment of Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family. I just had to mention this on the Order of Business today. As we all know, the greatest fear of any parent is to be accused of mistreating or abusing his or her children. It is an absolute nightmare. The treatment of Maurice McCabe by the organisation he continues to serve and by Tusla has been shameful.

I read this morning in the Irish Examiner that a garda who has made complaints of malpractice is saying he has been subjected to intimidation and harassment. For example, a minor incident between this garda and his wife was referred to Tusla. It is reported that this case is known to the Minister and the Garda Commissioner. How many more cases are known? Does the Leader agree that there should be full disclosure of any files held by Tusla regarding any other Garda whistleblower? This should include the name of the person who made the initial report to Tusla.

If public confidence in the Garda is to be restored, it is essential for everyone involved in the mistreatment of Maurice McCabe and his family to be held accountable. The role of Tusla also needs to be investigated because the credibility of this organisation is in serious trouble. A full public inquiry is needed now. Anything less will prolong the agony of the McCabe family. It is time for all agencies and individuals with any knowledge of Maurice McCabe's mistreatment to be heard. I hope Sergeant McCabe is heard at last and is treated with the dignity and respect he and his family deserve.

A significant gender gap in the fitness levels of teenagers has been revealed in the results of a report that has been published on foot of the Irish Life Health schools fitness challenge, which was carried out in Irish schools last year. The most concerning aspect of the researchers' findings is that the gender gap widens as teenagers make the transition through secondary school. In first year, boys are 32% fitter than girls, but this increases to 41% in fourth year and so the trend continues.

The researchers found that a significant proportion of girls drop out of sport for social and academic reasons as they make the transition through education. These findings are unsettling from the perspective of childhood health and obesity, which is an issue on which I regularly work. When adolescent girls fall into unhealthy lifestyles at a young age, it becomes increasingly difficult to reverse that pattern in later life. Girls should be encouraged at home and in school to continue to play sports throughout their years in education. If they are not aware of the long-term benefits of sporting activity, they need to be informed of them.

Playing sports can be particularly beneficial for physical and mental health, especially when the pressures of the leaving certificate, etc., start to manifest themselves. I believe we are struggling to deal with this issue in general. I have called on numerous occasions for a debate in the House on childhood obesity. I hope we can have such a debate with the Minister of State, Deputy Corcoran Kennedy, in the near future. We could discuss many matters that come under this heading. The stark findings of the report I have mentioned represent one such matter. I would welcome an opportunity to debate them with the Minister of State.

It is clear that we will not be having a commission of investigation into the issues surrounding Sergeant McCabe because there has been a political move towards a full public inquiry or tribunal of investigation. As a result, this week we will not be dealing with the business that was originally slated.

The Leader might, at some point over the next few days, inform the House what he knows about the ordering of business to provide space to consider the legislation that will be required. All of us in the House support Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family. He has been treated scandalously by the State and its agencies. The conduct of the Government in recent days has drawn the public's attention to the dysfunctional arrangements made in the administration of the State. It has shortened the lifetime of the Government because it is very difficult to see how the public can continue to have trust in a Government that has behaved in the way it has in the past few days. We have had several contradictory statements from Ministers and I understand the opportunity has not yet been taken in the Houses to correct the record. The people need to have confidence in the Ministers who are administering the State. Because of the way they have behaved recently that certainly is not the case. It would be useful if the three Ministers in question which include the Taoiseach were to set the record straight on what they knew and when. Is it the case, in fact, that some people knew an awful lot about this matter and then decided to forget it? In the meantime, Sergeant McCabe and his family should be at the forefront of our concerns. As I said, the Labour Party fully supports the idea of a full public inquiry or tribunal in order that these matters could be aired in public. Given the experience of Sergeant McCabe and the O'Higgins examination of the issues involved, it is fair to say Sergeant McCabe would not have any confidence in an examination of matters of this importance that would take place behind closed doors. As parliamentarians, we should acknowledge and reflect on the seriousness of a State agency having an open file on allegations of child abuse against an individual, as well as a file on his family, and this information being propagated with impunity by others. I would not be surprised if we were not just dealing with matters before a tribunal of inquiry but also, potentially, looking at a criminal investigation at some point down the line.

I wish to raise an issue I have raised previously in the House - the chronic and severe shortage of substitute teachers in the State's schools, which issue has been to the forefront in the media in recent days. The situation has become so bad that it is anticipated that some schools may actually have to close because they have no other choice as they have no substitute teachers to stand in. The Irish National Teachers Organisation estimates that, on average, 800 to 1,000 substitute schoolteachers are needed on a day-to-day basis, but currently there are only 30 stand-by teachers available for 3,300 schools. That is a chronic figure and illustrates how bad the system is. It is at breaking point and principals may have no choice but to close schools. Recruitment fairs are very much in vogue in third level colleges. Very attractive packages are offered to young teachers coming out of college. In places such as Abu Dhabi and in the Middle East generally tax free packages are offered, plus perks, to individuals willing to go there on 12-month or two-year contracts. That is what the State is competing with. People are voting with their feet and taking up these contracts. When a school cannot find a substitute teacher, a number of things happen. A class is divided creating a larger one. This means that the most vulnerable children and those with special needs are the ones to suffer and lose out. I ask the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Education and Skills and ask him to ensure action is taken immediately to ensure the crisis will not move beyond this point.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that consideration of No. 1 be adjourned at 7 this evening.

Will the Senator repeat that, please?

Senator McDowell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That consideration of No. 1 shall be adjourned at 7 p.m."

Senator Boyhan is seconding the proposal.

He can second it when he comes to speak.

I wish to make a point of order. Does Senator McDowell want to have the Bill finished tonight or to continue it on another night?

He is proposing that it be adjourned.

I wanted to ensure that I understood the Senator's request.

I heard the word "adjourned".

The purpose of our amendment to the Order of Business is that consideration of No. 1 should be adjourned at 7 p.m. this evening. That means the item would be put back to another date.

Anyone looking at the proceedings in the other House today would see the considerable toing and froing on the Opposition. They are discussing who knew what and when. That has become a greater issue than the real issue at stake. Who cares who said what and to whom they said it? Who cares where it was said? Who cares who knew what and at what time they knew it? To me, it is like they are schoolchildren because of the way they are carrying on.

What is important is that a man's reputation has been damaged and his family is distressed - as any family would be. What we in the Oireachtas need to do is restore this man's good name as quickly as possible and restore confidence in the Garda Síochána, whose members do an excellent job day in, day out on our behalf. I call on politicians from all parties and none to stop using this as a political issue to make political gains.

It is a political issue. Is Senator McFadden mad?

Senator McFadden, without interruption, please.

We should allow the tribunal to find out whether a deliberate smear campaign was waged against Sergeant McCabe. We should allow him to have his name cleared. We need to find out, through the tribunal, by whom this was perpetrated and we should not use it for politics.

I wish to echo not what the previous Senator has said but the comments of other Senators in their condemnation of the vile, nauseating and atrocious attempt to denigrate Sergeant McCabe in recent years.

I have another concern with regard to this matter. Notwithstanding the need to play politics with it – it is political – we need to consider the damage it is causing to Tusla and the children we are trying to protect through that agency, as set up by the Government. That is of utmost and equal concern. This is relevant for vulnerable children and those who, perhaps, have been misguided in their recording in Tusla. That matter is seriously concerning, but let us deal with it on another day.

I second the amendment to the Order of Business from Senator Conway-Walsh. St. Valentine's night of 36 years ago is burned into our collective memories. A total of 48 young people on the north side of Dublin never came home. They lost their lives in the Stardust fire. These young people lost their lives and hundreds of their friends and lovers were injured horrifically. Words cannot fully describe the extraordinary pain visited on the affected families, including mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, for the past 36 years as a result of that dreadful night in 1981. The journey these families have had to go through began then and continues to this day. It has included the flawed Keane report of 1982, which added much pain to the families, and the Coffey review of 2009, which contained an unpublished recommendation for a new inquiry.

The Government now has the power to take action and help discover the truth. Moreover, it has the power to create a commission of investigation. The State claims it needs new evidence. The families have handed over that new evidence. The State can now go ahead and attempt to uncover the truth of this murky night in our collective history.

The families of those who died long before their time, those who were injured physically and psychologically and their parents and sisters continue to vigorously pursue the truth for their loved ones. We should all be ashamed of the inaction of this Government and previous Governments, as well as the thwarting and procrastination in respect of this horrific tragedy visited on young people from working-class communities in this city. They are seeking justice and we need to assist them in every way possible.

I agree with some of the sentiments expressed. What has occurred regarding Maurice McCabe and his family is atrocious. There are answers that he needs and there are answers that we need. A full public tribunal of inquiry is what is required.

The cut-and-paste exercise in putting together a report is also an important element. If that is the standard in how an extremely serious report is prepared, then very difficult questions must be answered regarding what is a very dangerous way of completing something which could lead to a full investigation of a person and which could involve criminal prosecution. There are many questions to be answered in this matter. There are also many questions to be answered as to why it has taken so long for this issue to be dealt with within Tusla and why something of this nature has been left to fester. That is exactly what has happened. It has been left to fester within both the Garda and Tusla. The sooner the public tribunal is set up and the issues are fully aired, the better. If information comes through that people were involved deliberately in trying to muddy a person's name and destroy that person's family, those who were party to that type of business must be prosecuted and the appropriate penalty imposed on them for ruining someone's life. This is an extremely serious issue. It is something we cannot allow happen in any part of the State. We have checks and balances in this State with the Oireachtas, the Judiciary and State agencies and it is important all those checks and balances work properly. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with in the shortest possible period.

The Harold's Cross dog track has been in existence since 1928 and the announcement of its closure has greatly saddened the local community. In the context of the week that is in it, sometimes speedy decisions may end up resulting in a great loss to the local community. A local area plan is badly needed for that area. A new secondary school is also badly needed in that area and the Harold's Cross site could be ideal in that regard. There is talk of the site being put up for immediate sale, which is a concern. I would be grateful if the Leader would raise this issue with the Minister concerned. Currently, the zoning on that site is Z9, which means that only 5% of the site can be developed. If it is the board's intention to sell the site with its current zoning, the likelihood is it will lie sterile for several years because I do not believe there will be any great intention on the part of the council to change the zoning. It is an important site not only for the local community but for the city. I ask the Leader to raise with the Minister the future use of the site, encourage him to fund a local area plan and to engage with the Department of Education and Skills to see if it can facilitate the provision of a second-level educational institute on that site. I would be very grateful if the Leader could raise this matter with the Minister as soon as possible and come back to me on it.

I do not want to labour the point regarding the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry. However, I must state that Tusla is an organisation that most people hope they will never have to get involved with because it is generally the most vulnerable children who are cared for by it. Separate from or independent of the inquiry relating to Maurice McCabe, there is now a belief that an agency of the State is cutting and pasting allegations from one file to another. How can people who make suggestions or allegations of there being a difficulty that could involve a child who is at risk - whether it be within their family or their wider home or school community - have faith in Tusla?

The responsible Minister needs to explain to the House how this kind of behaviour could happen. If people are not willing to report to Tusla, there will be children who will ultimately not receive the protection and service they need from the State when they need it.

Last week the sod was turned on the Cherrywood development in south Dublin. The number will come to 8,000 housing units which will be able to accommodate 20,000 people in an area at the end of the Luas Green Line. It is important that the Leader ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House to discuss how 20,000 more people will be handled on the Luas Green Line which has been operating at full capacity for some time during the day. It is all very well and we would love to believe everyone who will live in Cherrywood will be self-sufficient and attend schools and places of work there. However, that is not realistic. While it is fantastic that these homes will be created, many of the people who will buy and rent homes in Cherrywood will want to use the Luas. We need a wider debate, not just about the Luas service to Cherrywood but also about mass transit generally in Dublin. Its transport infrastructure is creaking and needs to be tackled soon. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport needs to address the House on what he is doing to deliver quality public transport services in the greater Dublin area.

I also welcome the decision to hold a public inquiry on the situation involving Sergeant Maurice McCabe and hope the truth will come out. It has been a difficult few years for the McCabe family and now we will have the right mechanism to get to the truth which must be heard.

I want to raise an issue which I do not particularly like raising. On the way to Dublin this morning I was listening to the radio station Shannonside Northern Sound. Last Sunday there was a Gaelic minor football match in Cavan. A lady, the parent of two of the players involved, gave her account of racist abuse suffered at the match which effectively ended in mayhem. I understand the GAA will deal with the matter. It was harrowing to hear, however, that in this day and age there are still racism and sectarianism in sport. The GAA has done a lot of work in this regard, with the FAI, under the Show Racism the Red Card programme. This is, however, a complex problem and there are spectators and players who think they can get away with it. This is a wake-up call. I was taken aback by the account of the lady in question who, while passionate about the GAA, would not like her children to play again. While the GAA will deal with the matter correctly, there is no place for sectarianism and racism in sport, especially among young people. I blame the parents who believe they have a right to use racist and sectarian chants. We must ensure we put a stop to it. During the years, as a former Glasgow Celtic supporter, I remember attending old firm matches between Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow which is infamous for sectarianism. The two clubs involved, with the Scottish FA, the IFA in Northern Ireland and the English FA, have done much to work together to deal with the problem. While the incident to which I am referring happened at a Gaelic football ground, we need to do much more to ensure there will be no place for sectarianism and racism in sport.

I formally second Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business.

Tusla has been spoken about. In my office I have a complaint from parents who brought an issue to Tusla. Six weeks later another group of parents from the same town went to it to report a similar incident. It informed them that they were telling the same story as Mr. and Mrs. Bloggs six weeks previously. The entire story was told to the second family which was a complete and utter breach of confidentiality. We have heard much about the Garda, but Tusla is a dysfunctional organisation which needs a root and branch examination. With respect to the Garda and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, I will not be lectured about politics and what has been done.

Politics has destroyed this man's life. Yesterday we had one of the most senior Garda officers return to his post after malicious allegations against him were rejected. He is now sitting in his Garda uniform, as is the Garda Commissioner. Both will appear in front of a tribunal in Garda uniforms. The most senior garda in this country, the Commissioner, will be in charge of an organisation that may be asked, under discovery, to release documents. It is completely untenable for the Garda Commissioner to remain in place right now.

The Garda Commissioner must step aside. She has no alternative. I am not for one moment saying that she has done anything wrong, but the man who was restored to his job yesterday said she did something wrong. He pointed the finger at her and said that he was instructed to go out and damage Sergeant McCabe's-----

That will be a matter for the inquiry, Senator. We are not going into detail like that here.

I am afraid that has already been done. Did the Commissioner not appoint her husband to investigate it?

We cannot make that allegation against somebody who is not present here.

This is not on. The Commissioner must step aside. I will leave it at that for now.

I thank the Senator and call Senator Paul Gavan.

I begin by sending out greetings of solidarity on behalf of my party, Sinn Féin, to the Tesco workers who are on strike today. They are striking for decency and respect at work. I hope that everyone in the Chamber will join with me in saluting their courage today.

I was at another picket line this morning and it is one that has not reached the headlines for some reason. The picket line is at Kerry Foods in Charleville. The picket line resembled something from Wapping in the 1980s. We had multiple cameras installed by the company. We had a whole host of heavies and security guards present. Last week, Kerry Foods bussed in strike-breakers from Britain for the day to replace workers on a legal trade dispute. The most shocking point of all is that the management of Kerry Foods is refusing to attend the Workplace Relations Commission regarding the dispute which is about changes to job patterns and workers' rights.

I ask that the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation come to the House as a matter of urgency. Some 250 jobs are at stake. I see colleagues from Limerick and Cork here and I appeal to them to engage in this process because this is extremely serious. The company is engaging in practices like demanding that workers who have worked for 30 years now ask permission before they go to the toilet. Imagine that. Imagine the humiliation of that, when one has worked for a company for 30 years and now has to put one's hand up and say "Please sir, can I go to the toilet?" That is how Kerry Foods is humiliating its workers. Its stance on refusing to engage with the Workplace Relations Commission is nothing less than outrageous for a company that made €700 million last year and has received millions of euro in grants from this State. I ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to come to the House as a matter of urgency. There are 250 jobs potentially at stake here and we need to discuss the situation and demand that the management of Kerry Foods respects its workers and engages with the industrial relations machinery of the State.

I want to support Senator Gavan in his remarks on industrial disputes that are ongoing today. The Tesco issue is one that I feel quite strongly about. This does not have to be a divisive issue in this Chamber and I want to echo the call for the Minister in charge of this area to come to the House to talk about her vision for workers' rights in Ireland. Over the course of the last five years, on a statutory and legislative basis, Ireland is the only country in Europe to have had improvements in workers' rights, thanks in no small way to the efforts of my colleague, Senator Nash. However, regardless of discussions in the transport area where management is talking about profit margins, unsustainability and all the rest of it, it is quite galling to see that we have a huge multinational organisation, Tesco, making massive profits in this country and yet trying to pit one worker against another. It is quite gratifying and inspirational to see the voices of workers who are willing to step outside their own area of employment and to put their necks on the block for their fellow workers because of what management is doing.

Let us be honest about this. Across parties in this Chamber, we have an opportunity to talk about the vision we have for work, for the future of work and for the rights that underpin that work. The European Union, of which we are a proud member, has helped in that endeavour. I join my Sinn Féin colleague in calling for the Minister to come to the House to outline her vision, if she has one. This will not go away; these disputes will continue. Media will always second-guess the motivations of workers and unions. At this point it is appropriate for the Minister to come and articulate in this Chamber whatever vision she may have. We can collectively underpin that agenda in this Chamber to ensure we stand for something much more basic and important than profit margins.

I offer my support to Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family. We need to have that public tribunal of inquiry in order to get to the truth and the sooner the better for everybody's sake.

I agree with the Tesco workers, as that issue needs to get sorted.

We are all aware of the boundary changes, including a proposed change in my area, which I believe will not happen and which is very unfair. It was proposed for Graiguecullen to come into Carlow from Laois. Nobody ever mentions the services. I live in an area called Graiguecullen; I would say it is called no-man's land. The people in Graiguecullen live two minutes from Carlow town. They access every service they can from Portlaoise. If they have to go to the hospital or have to have their teeth attended to, they have to go to Portlaoise.

Housing is a major issue. A person is not allowed to be on two local authority housing lists and is limited to being on one, which is unacceptable. Whoever is looking at these boundary changes should be accountable. There is not one word about the people of Graiguecullen and the services they access. It is all about Laois County Council losing nearly €1 million in property taxes, which is unacceptable. I call for the Minister, Deputy Coveney, to come to the House to address the matter. The services for the people of Graiguecullen should be addressed. It is not about money, but about people and their livelihoods.

I second Senator McDowell's amendment to the Order of Business.

Garda Sergeant Jerry McCabe and his wife, Lorraine, have been vilified and demonised. A terrible travesty has happened to them. I do not intend to use my time here in the Senate to carry out some sort of tribunal. This afternoon I sat in the Dáil Gallery and watched the Taoiseach announce a public tribunal of inquiry, further to a robust parliamentary process from all sides of the House. I think that was welcome. It is democracy at its best to see all parties stand up and question the Taoiseach. At the end of the day there is now a commitment to have a public tribunal of inquiry. It behoves everybody, particularly those in the Houses of the Oireachtas to let that work take its course.

We have ideas and suggestions. We all have opinions based on the media but the media had a role in all this too and propagated all this propaganda, and very few people have said it. They too are running up and down the corridors for the sound bite and the story, and running out on the plinth. Everybody in this business has fed into it and it is a disgrace. I particularly thank Senator McFadden, who touched on it when she made the point that there has been a lot of conjecture and commentary. The real people at the centre of this story are Sergeant Jerry McCabe, his wife, Lorraine and their children.

They deserve justice, an apology and an acknowledgement of what happened. More importantly they deserve redress. I will be interested to see the redress. I ask the Leader to confirm that the Seanad will have to approve the terms of reference. When will the Minister come to the House with the terms of reference for this public inquiry?

Tá na figiúirí a tháinig amach ó daft.ie inniu ag cur an-imní orm. Léiríonn siad go bhfuil ardú an-suntasach tagtha ar phraghas tithe ar cíos.

The most recent daft.ie figures regarding the rental sector are very disturbing. We see massive increases once more - up to 10.9% in my home county of Galway and 10% in Galway city - on top of the huge increases that have already taken place. Prices in the rental sector in Galway have almost doubled since 2012. I was very proud to stand yesterday with the Galway Housing Action Group, which is drawing attention to the issues surrounding homelessness in Galway city. It is quite ironic, then, that I have been sent documentation concerning irregularities in the allocation of housing under the affordable social housing scheme that has been operated by Galway City Council. According to the documents I have been sent, former senior management officials were allocated housing under the scheme who did not fit its criteria. That a retired head of a particular department whose income would be publicly known to be in excess of the limits allowable under the affordable social housing scheme was given a house is a very serious matter. Furthermore, I am told he already had a primary residence prior to purchasing the house. I am informed that other senior officials were awarded houses in excess of their needs as well - for example, three-bedroomed houses for single occupancy.

I think a Commencement matter concerning this issue has been tabled.

It is believed that these senior officials cherry-picked the higher-spec houses and inevitably breached the waiting list for these sought-after dwellings.

Does the Senator want two bites at the cherry?

This is a very serious issue of allegations of officials-----

I am just pointing out that a Commencement matter concerning the issue has been tabled.

My understanding was that it had been-----

The Senator's time is up.

-----turned down as a Commencement matter.

It has not been selected for tomorrow but it may be selected another day.

It is an issue that needs to be brought to the floor of the House. I wish to know whether the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government is aware-----

-----that this has happened. Is he aware that it has happened in other local authorities?

Tá an t-am istigh.

If so, what does he intend to do about it?

I thank the Senator.

There are people languishing on housing lists and it would appear-----

I thank the Senator.

-----that there are housing officials taking houses ahead of them on the list, which is absolutely disgraceful. I hope the issue is taken as a Commencement matter before the end of the week.

Now for something completely different. The Leader will know that I attended the Government's all-Ireland civic dialogue on Brexit yesterday. The purpose of yesterday's meeting was to focus on the implications of Brexit for the human rights aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. These are very critical and harmonious rights and entitlements right across the entire island. I took great heart from the civic dialogue and the broad range and comprehensive number of groups and organisations present, some with great experience and the wherewithal regarding the issue of human rights and equality to come together to concentrate and focus minds on these important issues. I commend the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, on this occasion and the Government. I thought it was particularly important that yesterday's meeting focused on the Good Friday Agreement and aspects thereof because, as we move ahead in a post-Brexit scenario, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the decision by voters in England and Wales to remove my part - the northern part - of Ireland from the EU against our will is going to have direct implications for the Good Friday Agreement. Not only are the Governments of the North and South co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, but what is probably more important and more open to challenge is the fact that the people of this State overwhelmingly endorsed with their vote the Good Friday Agreement. Unlike other learned colleagues in the House, there are those of us who can see clearly that there is a direct subversion of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement as a result of this vote. We have a British Government and a British Parliament that, as late as last week, when debating the Bill to trigger Article 50, flat-out rejected any amendment that took into consideration the unique situation put forward as a result of the Good Friday Agreement.

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs is telling us very clearly that Brexit will alter the Good Friday Agreement. What are we to do about it? We need to get beyond rhetoric and sitting back wishing, hoping and praying and start to stand up not just for the clear mandate from the North in terms of our desire to remain, but also our clear desire North and South overwhelmingly-----

The Senator has gone over time.

-----to initiate and imbed aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. To conclude, a Leas-Chathaoirligh-----

-----although Senator Devine may already have done so-----

In that case, I second Senator Conway-Walsh's amendment to the Order of Business.

Sorry, I did second the amendment.

I thank the Senator. I call on the Leader to reply.

I thank the 20 Senators who have contributed to the Order of Business. As many as 13 Members have rightly mentioned the treatment meted out to Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family. At the beginning of my reply as Leader of the House, I remind all Senators that we are not the judge and jury of what the Government has proposed, that our language is important and that what we say matters. I appeal to all Members to be cognisant of these facts. People are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and, therefore, everything that we say or do is important.

All of us in this House share the view that Sergeant McCabe, his wife, Lorraine, and family deserve justice. There are many strands to this unedifying story. There are questions to be answered. It is incumbent on us to ensure that they are answered and that the truth is revealed. This afternoon, the Taoiseach announced in the Lower House that the Government will establish a public tribunal of inquiry, under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, into the alleged smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe. It is important that truth and justice are arrived at and that the eminent judge charged with the task is allowed to do his or her work. If there is a deliberate smear campaign against Sergeant McCabe, then those who carried it out should not be immune from prosecution and should be held to account for their actions.

In terms of the questions posed on terms of reference, the information that I have indicates that we should have some material to debate within the next 48 hours. As members know, we already had an issue scheduled on the Order Paper for Thursday next but events have led to a change.

It is important that the presumption of innocence still stands for any citizen. Equally, on a personal level, I hope that the truth comes out and, as Senators Boyhan and McFadden have said, that this will not be a political matter. I was irked by some of the comments that many Senators have made in terms of their ability to come in here today-----

-----when their party was involved in matters. Their leader - and the leadership of their party - hid behind the truth. They did not rush to offer assistance and instead ran away. Let us have a proper debate on the matter. Let us hope that the inquiry brings an answer that is in the interests of the McCabe family, the person that is Maurice McCabe and his wife, Lorraine.

Very valid points were made about Tusla. Senator Conway-Walsh raised an issue. I am happy to inform her that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will come before the House tomorrow. She cannot come here this evening because she is answering questions in the Dáil, as per the Dáil Order Paper. She will come to this House tomorrow evening. I shall arrange with the Whips later tonight or in the morning to arrange a time for her visit.

I agree with Senator Craughwell and others who raised the need for Tusla to be transparent and accountable. There is political accountability and it is called the electorate. They make their decision. As I said during the Order of Business last week, that there is no longer an acceptance by those of us who have been elected to the Lower or Upper Houses to see public bodies that are non-accountable. That day has passed. There must be a change in how they are held to account.

Fair play to the Leader.

In respect of any inquiry, I fully agree that, in my opinion, the file that was created was not a copy-and-paste job. The person who carried out the job should be fired automatically. Those who are not held account should be held to account by us as well.

One would need to be fairly sure.

I know. We are elected representatives so we have political accountability. There are those who hide behind Chinese walls when answering parliamentary questions, Topical Issue debates or requests from us, as parliamentarians, as public representatives or as messengers of the people.

That can no longer be allowed to continue, irrespective of what Department or agency is involved. We are the ones who are accountable. Senators and Deputies can be voted out of these Houses, but the people concerned cannot be voted out. That point should not be lost.

Senator Catherine Ardagh referred to a DEIS school. The Minister for Education and Skills has published his plan to tackle educational disadvantage, but I share the Senator's concern about how some schools are allocated or, more specifically, not given DEIS status. As in the Senator's constituency, there are some schools in mine that do not have DEIS status when they should have. The Senator could raise the matter in the Commencement debate, but it is important that we invite the Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue. It is also important to acknowledge that his announcement yesterday included 108 actions to help every child in school to achieve his or her potential. That translates into 110 schools receiving additional supports, from which 28,000 pupils will benefit. This is about improving literacy, numeracy, school completion rates and ensuring more children aged 11 and 12 years will go on to attend post-primary education where they will be able to attain their potential. I am a former teacher and taught the leaving certificate applied programme in educationally disadvantaged areas. It is important that we allow every child to reach his or her potential. The Minister is identifying a new model of education to deliver on the objective of ensuring more children will stay in school. We will see a different model whereby they will have the ability to be educated. However, I agree with the Senator that there is a need for that model and status to be explained properly because there are some schools that we believe should have DEIS status.

I am happy to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell to allow No. 13 to be taken.

Senator Catherine Noone referred to the Irish Life Health fitness challenge. It is important that we invite the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, to come to the House because the nation must tackle the issue of obesity. We are heading into the final weeks of "Operation Transformation", which programme, in tandem with the Healthy Ireland project, promulgates the need for fitness, healthy eating and physical activity. The Minister was due to hold an event today, but it was cancelled. Collectively and in a cross-party manner, we should get ourselves moving to tackle the problem of obesity.

Senator Robbie Gallagher also raised an education issue. We should acknowledge that the Government has recruited more teachers. There are an additional 2,400 teachers, as well as an additional 900 special needs assistants, SNAs, employed. Part of the reason schools cannot find teachers is that they are already employed. It is good that we have more teachers employed and that there is increased activity. However, I accept the Senator's point that it is a nightmare for school principals. I will invite the Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue.

I will not accept Senator Michael McDowell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business because it is important that the Bill be passed. We have waited a long time for it.

It is more important that it be debated than passed.

As the Senator knows, I am happy to have the debate. The time up to 9 p.m. has been allocated for the debate on Report and Final Stages of the Bill.

I will be happy to allow the Senator to move a recommittal motion if he so wishes. I am not seeking to be obstructionist. I have worked with the Senator and the Seanad Office to ensure amendments will be allowed to be tabled. It is an important Bill for which there is cross-party support. It is about having it enacted. While I understand the Senator's concerns and I am not having an argument with him, an amount of work has been done on the Bill. A huge campaign was undertaken on the part of the Parliament, citizens and the non-governmental organisation, NGO, sector to ensure the Bill would be a priority in the last as well as in this Oireachtas. If one looks at the statistics, one can recognise its importance. What I have proposed in terms of recommittal and allocating the time up to 9 p.m. for the debate is a very fair compromise which I hope the Senator will accept. As I said, I am not trying to be obstructionist. The process will not deprive him of the opportunity to speak and move his amendment.

We may differ on the actual amendments or the process involved but the House is anxious to get the Bill passed, as is the Minister. That said, I appreciate where Senator McDowell is coming from on the matter.

Senator Devine raised the issue of the Stardust tragedy. She is right that today, on Valentine's Day, it is important we remember the young lives that were lost. There has been significant commentary by Government in terms of what is happening, and we should allow that work to continue and reach a conclusion. It is also important that we recognise the young lives that were cut so tragically short on that dreadful Valentine's night. I share Senator Devine's concerns and agree that we need to see justice prevail.

Senators Humphreys and Ardagh raised the issue of Harold's Cross greyhound track. It is important to put on the record that Bord na gCon has statutory responsibility for the development of the greyhound industry. It has been charged with that task. A report was commissioned to look at the future of greyhound racing. That independent report made several recommendations regarding Bord na gCon's financial performance and future prospects. Bord na gCon has considered that report and has decided to put the stadium at Harold's Cross on the market, which will allow for a consolidation, a reduction in the debt levels of the organisation and an increase in the board's capacity to provide support and assistance to the greyhound industry.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, will have the final consent with regard to the sale of Harold's Cross. Any specific proposals for such a sale will be considered in line with the Indecon recommendations and the need to reduce Bord na gCon's debt burden. All of us agree that we should have a vibrant greyhound industry and we should all work to see that happen. If the Senators wish to table a Commencement matter, that might be a way of having the issue addressed in the short term, but I am happy to try to get the Minister to come to the House in the coming weeks to discuss the matter.

Senator Horkan raised the issue of Cherrywood. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, will be in the House tomorrow and the Senator will have the opportunity to debate that matter with him then.

Senator Feighan raised the issue of racism in the Gaelic Athletic Association, GAA. As a member of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, I can say that the organisation has done huge work in combating racism and promoting integration in our society and our new communities. The GAA deserves to be commended on that but any slippage in that regard must be shown the red card and must not be tolerated.

Senators Gavan and Ó Ríordáin raised the issue of Tesco and the industrial action taking place today in some of its stores. I also stand with the workers of Tesco who, in some cases, have been treated very poorly. There was a debate on the issue on the radio today which outlined some of the remarks made about this dispute. We also had a contribution on the issue last week by Senator Gavan. There is a Labour Court recommendation that some members of the Mandate trade union have refused to accept. We must acknowledge the importance of the retail sector. I would encourage all sides to engage with the industrial relations mechanisms of the State to arrive at a resolution. It is important we do not do anything to undermine the rights of workers and I would be happy to invite the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, to the House to discuss the matter as well as the wider issues of work and employment. In that context, it is important we put a value on work. This Government and its predecessor have been instrumental in getting people back to work.

Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of the electoral boundaries and I know that Graiguecullen is very close to her heart. I am happy to invite the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, come to the House to discuss that matter. Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of the daft.ie report and I am happy to invite the aforementioned Minister to the House to discuss it. However, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach said, it might be better to raise this as a Commencement matter for this week.

I put it down for today-----

Okay. It is a matter for the Cathaoirleach to decide on that and adjudicate.

It can be taken on another day. There were a lot of matters submitted today.

Senator Ó Donnghaile raised the matter of the all-Ireland civic forum. The Minister is very keen to see this continue because it has raised some very important matters. I welcome the Senator's remarks about the benefits of yesterday's meeting.

As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, it is important to see human rights continuing to be upheld in all parts of the island.

I would be happy to bring the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, to the House tomorrow, if that is acceptable to Senator Conway-Walsh.

I do not propose to accept Senator McDowell's amendment to the Order of Business.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 13 be taken before No. 1." The Leader has indicated that he is prepared to accept the amendment. Is the amendment agreed? Agreed.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on alleged mismanagement at Tusla arising from unfounded allegations concerning Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

We accept the Leader's commitment that the Minister will come to the House tomorrow.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

Yes, on the proviso that the Minister will come to the House tomorrow.

I will try to get a time for the Minister to come to the House. It will probably be after Private Members' business, but let me come back to the House on that.

Will the Minister definitely come in tomorrow?

Yes. She will definitely be here tomorrow. To help the House, I hope it will be sometime between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., depending on when we have concluded Private Members' business. I will come back to the House on that.

Is that agreed? Agreed. The amendment is withdrawn.

Senator McDowell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That consideration of No. 1 be adjourned at 7 p.m." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 35.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Ruane, Lynn.

Níl

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Victor Boyhan and Michael McDowell; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony..
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: "That the Order of Business, as amended, be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 37; Níl, 4.

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Victor Boyhan and Michael McDowell..
Question declared carried.