The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the referral to committee of the Companies Act 2014 regulations, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, statements on the Rebuilding Ireland second quarterly progress report, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to conclude not later than 6.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each, the contributions of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to reply not later than 6.35 p.m.; and No. 3, statements on JobPath, to be taken at 6.45 p.m. and to conclude not later than 8.15 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each, the contributions of other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to reply not later than 8.05 p.m. Following the requests of some Members there will be expressions of sympathy on the death of Mr. Martin McGuinness, former Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, at the end of today's business at 8.15 p.m., or earlier if business finishes earlier than scheduled. The Fine Gael Party will put forward one speaker and I suggest that each group does likewise.
Order of Business
Obviously the Order of Business must be agreed to. In view of the fact that the Leader has acceded to a request that a special time be set aside later this evening for tributes to the late Martin McGuinness, it would be futile to allow everybody to do the same at this stage. It is up to Senators to decide, but there is no point in duplicating tributes. The Leader has made the magnanimous decision to set aside time later today and Members can speak then, if they so wish. I do not wish to stymie anybody as the passing of Martin McGuinness is an important event to be marked.
Ba mhaith liom ar son Fhianna Fáil agus ar mo shon féin comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann agus le cairde Martin McGuinness agus lena pháirtí, Sinn Féin. Polaiteoir den scoth ab ea é. Bhí ról an-tábhachtach aige i bpróiseas na síochána. Cuimhním go maith ar an lá stairiúil deich mbliana ó shin nuair a bhí sé i Stormont le Ian Paisley, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern agus Peter Hain. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Ba mhaith liom freisin cúpla focal a rá mar gheall ar an dtubaiste i gceantar Iorras i gContae Mhaigh Eo. Blacksod Lighthouse is situated at the very tip of the Erris Peninsula. It remains the centre of the search operation under way around Blackrock for Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116. Mr. Vincent Sweeney is the keeper of the lighthouse and it was he who was on duty awaiting the return of Captain Dara Ftizpatrick and her colleagues to refuel. Sadly, they never returned. As we all know, weather and sea conditions have played havoc with the search operation for Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby.
It is somewhat prophetic that a weather forecast from the same lighthouse, relayed by Mr. Ted Sweeney who was Vincent's father, just after 2 a.m. on 3 June 1944 contained a warning about a force 6 wind and a rapidly falling barometer at Blacksod. On receipt of this information, General Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed by one day the planned invasion of Normandy by allied forces. The actions of one man in Blacksod, County Mayo helped to avert a military catastrophe and changed the course of the Second World War and eventually led to the fall of Nazi Germany. Despite immense technological advancements since that day in 1944, the perils of the north Atlantic Ocean and the unpredictability of the weather remain the same.
There are around 300 people, mostly volunteers, involved in the massive operation to find the helicopter and the remaining members of the crew. Unfortunately, weather conditions and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean pose an immense challenge. All of us who have been involved with the volunteers - I include my colleague, Rose, in this - want to see the families reunited with their loved ones. There is a quiet resolve on the Erris Peninsula to complete the task in hand. The response of the local community has been truly incredible. They are responsible for three distinct aspects of the mission. The first involves the provision of local knowledge from fishermen neighbours and friends who have been instrumental in the search. The second is the land search by local volunteers that has yielded important parts of the wreckage. The third is the welfare of the searchers and members of the emergency services. Food has been provided for 250 people each day.
What is unique about the operation is the collaboration between the air accident investigation unit, the Garda, the Irish Naval Service, the Air Corps, Civil Defence, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, RNLI, Mayo County Council and the Irish Lights vessel Granuaile. They have all worked together under the direction of the Irish Coast Guard.
As I have said previously in the House, on every single call-out members of the Irish Coast Guard are exposed to dangers, with which no other workers, apart from members of the emergency services, are faced. There are many people alive today in Ireland who owe their lives to the bravery and skill of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and her fine colleagues. It has been touching to hear so many such stories as the nation has expressed its gratitude to these brave heroes. It was striking to listen to the brave words spoken by the family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick: "We feel like the lucky ones now because we have her. We can kiss her. We can hold her."
Over the weekend I was in Blacksod Lighthouse with Mr. Vincent Sweeney and some of the immediate family members of the three missing crew members. Another D-Day is being planned. I know that I speak for every person involved in the search operation in County Mayo and the nation when I say we all hope the families of Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith will have their own D-Day when their loved ones are discovered.
As the first speaker on behalf of the Independent group of Senators, I express our deep sympathy to the family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick on their tragic loss and our warm support for the other families still awaiting news of loved ones also on the helicopter. I also express our condolences on the sudden and tragic loss of Derry footballer, Ryan McBride. I want also to express my personal condolences to the family of Martin McGuinness who played a major role in the Good Friday Agreement which led Sinn Féin to embrace the democratic process, thus ensuring that peace has prevailed on our island ever since. I express my sincere gratitude to Martin who died very tragically and suddenly.
On a more uplifting note, I warmly welcome the Taoiseach's announcement of plans for a referendum to allow millions of Irish citizens living abroad to vote in Irish presidential elections, which is something that I have personally campaigned for over a number of years, along with most of the immigrant community groups in the United States and United Kingdom. I recognise that there are many citizens residing in this State who are fearful of allowing such a large number of persons abroad to vote for a President of the country they love but do not live in. I call on those people and any other party that is not intending to support this referendum to give the Irish diaspora a chance. Second only to ensuring the undocumented Irish receive regularised status within the United States, this initiative means so much to the US diaspora with whom I spent the last number of days as part of the St. Patrick's week festivities, as in previous years. When the Taoiseach asked me if I would accept his nomination as a Member of this esteemed Seanad, he promised this referendum and he has delivered on that promise. I can think of no better way to bring tangible meaning to Article 2 of the Constitution, which recognises that the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage. The Irish love being Irish abroad. We love the Irish when they return home. Like any other Irish man or woman residing in this State, they are entitled to a vote in regard to who should be the next Uachtarán na hÉireann. My only regret in respect of the Taoiseach's proposal is that the referendum will not take place in advance of the next presidential election.
This is disappointing. I ask the Government to reconsider holding the referendum at a much earlier stage.
On Sunday last, along with a number of organisations, I attended a rally in Daley Plaza in Chicago to protest in solidarity with the Muslim immigrant community that has been unfairly targeted by President Trump's unconstitutional executive order. Speaking at that rally Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said: "Whether they come from Damascus, Syria or Ireland or from Colombia or South America, immigrants who work hard and love this nation ought to have a way to earn their citizenship." This is the immigrant community that I know; the diaspora that I represent. They care not just about the sum of their own parts but also of others. These are the voices that will be reflected in future presidential elections in Ireland if the referendum passes. I ask that the Government give these people their voices sooner rather than later.
This morning was like no other morning in that we woke up to the realisation that our friend and comrade, Martin McGuinness, had passed away during the night. I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Leader for making provision for statements at a later date but I do not think Members should be curtailed from making their own personal contributions in regard to the passing of Martin McGuinness. I express my heartfelt sympathy to Bernie and his children. Martin was not only a political leader for us in Sinn Féin, he was an inspiration for peace and freedom around the world.
We had already had a horrific week in Belmullet and Blacksod, as Senator Swanick has already said, with the tragic accident that has taken the lives of Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.
On behalf of the whole community of Erris and the wider Mayo area and my party, I extend our sympathy to the families of the crew of R116. They will forever remain in the hearts of the people of Erris and the people of Mayo. All we want at this stage is for Mark, Paul and Ciarán to be reunited with their families. I commend the work of the Irish Coast Guard, all those involved in the search in Blacksod and all the people in the local community, including the local fishermen, all of whom have done everything they could over the past week to support the families and help with the search. If there is one positive action to come from this horror, it must be that we now put the Irish Coast Guard on a statutory footing, and we must do so as a matter of urgency.
The area of the search in Blacksod Bay was one with which Martin McGuinness was very familiar, having been to the Inishkea islands and Inishglora. I thank all the previous speakers from all political persuasions and none for the deluge of messages and expressions of sympathy I have received from them this morning. Republicans across Ireland will mourn Martin's passing because he is recognised across Ireland and internationally as a statesman and peacemaker. Martin was a regular visitor to the west, particularly to Mayo, in both a personal and political capacity. He joined me on many occasions on the election trail and had a genuine connection and affinity with all those he met. He came to Mayo during his presidential campaign in 2011 and was received with great warmth. He was also a regular visitor to the west in a personal capacity and believed strongly in the potential of the region and its need for investment. He had a keen sense of the importance of rural Ireland to the republican project. Although we have lost a great leader today, a wonderful legacy of peace has been left with us. We must now continue and achieve what Martin started. The aims of Irish freedom and unity were central to his life, and we owe it to him to make these his legacy.
I also extend my sympathy - I know Martin would want to do likewise - to the families of Ryan McBride and Maureen Haughey, who passed away during the week. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.
I thank the Senator. I understand it has been a difficult week for her in more ways than one. In case people took me up wrong, I just did not want a rehash of matters. However, if Senators wish to pass comments of sympathy on the death of Martin McGuinness, I will not stymie that. I call Senator Black.
I offer my condolences to Captain Dara Fitzpatrick's family. I can only imagine what it has been like for them. I pay tribute to her and to Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby on the great work they have done down through the years and I hope and pray that Mark, Ciarán and Paul are found soon. I also pay tribute to all the volunteers and crew who are out there looking for them at this time.
I am also deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the great man, Martin McGuinness. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and party colleagues today. I was privileged to meet Martin on many occasions due to the fact that my father comes from a small island off north Antrim. Martin went there many's the time to meet the islanders, and I met him myself on many occasions. I also met him through my music. He was a great leader. He was a very warm and charismatic man. He was a gentleman. His work on bringing peace to this wonderful country of ours will be a lasting legacy, and he was instrumental in delivering that peace. His desire for equality and justice was a driving force in all he did, and I think it is generally recognised that without Martin McGuinness there would not be a peace process. There is now an onus on all of us to complete the work about which he was so passionate and to strive ever harder for an Ireland in which everybody is treated equally, irrespective of background or tradition.
I would also like to say he was a great poet. When I was doing a gig in the Creggan at one time, he gave me one of his poems. He was a great fan of Seamus Heaney. I am very saddened today to hear of his passing. He was a young man and he will be sorely missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Listening to colleagues, I am conscious of what a sad day it is, with so many condolences being offered. On behalf of the Labour Party group, I would like to join with others in offering condolences to the family of Martin McGuinness and to his Sinn Féin colleagues here in the Chamber and elsewhere on their sad loss. As others have said, his legacy as a key negotiator and facilitator of the peace process will live on. For any of us who had the pleasure of meeting him, he was a very warm, pleasant and, indeed, humorous individual. It is fitting that the Leader has added time today for condolences to be offered. I am also glad we have the opportunity to offer condolences on the floor of the House during the Order of Business, which is important on the day his death has been announced. I want to express my own sincere sympathies to his family, friends, colleagues and comrades.
On behalf of the Labour Party group, I also want to offer condolences to the family of Ryan McBride, the Derry City footballer who died so tragically and so young. I want to note those terrible losses in Derry this week.
Along with others, I offer condolences to the family of the crew of rescue helicopter R116, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Mark Ormsby and Ciarán Smith. We offer our sincere condolences to their families, noting that the search for the three missing crewmen still continues. Others have spoken very eloquently of the immense bravery that has been shown over many years by the personnel of the Coast Guard and the rescue services, like Captain Fitzpatrick and her crew. I want to say how much we are all thinking of them at this sad time.
On more mundane business, I join with Senator Lawless in welcoming the announcement by the Taoiseach that a referendum will be held on giving voting rights to the diaspora in future presidential elections. I was part of the Constitutional Convention that made that recommendation. It is an important one and I hope we will see it take effect very quickly, even if the concern is that this is just an aspirational comment by the Taoiseach and not a real commitment. I am glad to hear Senator Lawless say he was made a promise, so I hope we will see that promise kept and see that referendum delivered in early course.
I commend our colleague, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, on his initiative in organising an Irish Stand event in New York last Friday to make a stand against some of the narrow values espoused by President Trump. I believe it was an important occasion to mark.
I ask the Leader for an indication as to whether the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017, scheduled for tomorrow, will be taken through Committee and Remaining Stages, given five amendments have been put down for this Bill. There is some controversy over it and the Cathaoirleach was kind enough to facilitate us in separating Committee Stage from Second Stage. Given only one hour is allocated on the schedule, I ask that either it be adjourned tomorrow if the Bill does not conclude, or that Committee Stage and Report Stage are separated, which I believe would be preferable, given the number of amendments from different colleagues, including Senator Nash.
On another matter for tomorrow's business, I am glad to hear the Government will not be opposing the Pensions (Equal Treatment in Occupational Benefit Scheme)(Amendment) Bill 2016 that I and my Labour Party colleagues are proposing on Second Stage in Private Members' time. I will circulate colleagues with a briefing on that Bill before Private Members' time tomorrow. I very much welcome the support in principle from the Government for the Bill.
I welcome the fact a settlement has been agreed between the Clerys workers and Natrium.
It is great to see that after 20 months of campaigning for justice. Many of us stood on the protest with the Clerys workers, who were treated so abominably by Natrium. I am glad to see a settlement has been reached to the satisfaction of the workers. I ask that we would have a debate in early course on the need for legislation to ensure this sort of thing does not happen again to workers in the future. This settlement does not obviate the need for legal change to ensure companies cannot leave workers high and dry in the way Clerys workers were left so shamefully 20 months ago.
Given I have an unavoidable long-standing prior commitment tonight, I would like to join with colleagues in expressing sympathy to the family and friends of Martin McGuinness and to the Sinn Féin Party.
It is a reasonable definition of leadership to say that a leader should be fit to embrace change, identify the need for new directions when appropriate and bring people with him or her in doing that. Martin McGuinness exemplified that in an enormous way. To be fit to adapt to change and interpret the environment according to changed circumstances is a particular ability and the capacity to bring others along when doing it is a great facility. I am of the view that he had that and he was a man of peace.
When he embraced the peace process, he engaged in an extraordinary set of personal initiatives during that time in order to reinforce the process. They were all very courageous and not easy, and some of them were politically risky for him, I am sure. He merits our sympathy and I commend the Leader on setting aside time to discuss that tonight. I live in the Border area. As I think I said to Senator Conway-Walsh earlier, a fitting tribute to Martin McGuinness would be a continuation of the peace process, a building of peace on our island, a strengthening of peace at community level and the abolition of sectarianism wherever possible by interchange between North and South, etc. I offer my sincere sympathies to all Martin's colleagues.
I join colleagues in paying tribute to the late Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. She was a woman of exemplary courage and was an exemplary giver all her life. She had a strong family connection in my area. Her family on the Fitzpatrick side come from Cootehill, County Cavan, and its hinterland. A number of her aunts and uncles are neighbours of mine. The former Ceann Comhairle, Tom Fitzpatrick, was a granduncle of hers. I offer my sympathy to her family.
May I finally-----
The Senator is way over the limit.
I will leave it at that. I had wanted to address another public issue but I will wait until tomorrow.
I join Senator Swanick and others who have expressed sincere sympathy to the families of the crew of the rescue helicopter R116. It was an horrific accident to happen to people serving the State and caring for other people. It is really hard to take when something like this happens.
The death of Martin McGuinness signals another very sad day in Irish history. He changed the ground and the rules in the context of Northern Ireland. Nobody could dispute the great work he did. I pass my sympathy to his wife and family.
On behalf of myself, Senator Swanick and the Fianna Fáil Party, I offer condolences to the family of the late Maureen Haughey, who was laid to rest this morning.
She was a formidable lady steeped in Irish political history.
Like most of my colleagues, I look back over the past ten or 15 days as very black days in Ireland. My condolences go to all. I will have more to say tomorrow on an article in one of today's newspapers by Ger Aherne, a former general in the Irish Army.
A week after I was elected to the Seanad, I got a letter from a garda recounting for me the events that led to me leaving the British Army in 1974. My mother and father were put through an horrendous time with phone calls at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. telling them I had been shot or was going to be shot. There were all sorts of threats. They are a matter of public record.
When I was elected, the media made a big deal of the fact that 11 Sinn Féin votes elected me.
Looking back over those 40 years, I note how far we have come, how far Martin McGuinness brought this country; how close he brought this country to full peace. I cannot let Martin McGuinness be passed over as an irrelevancy by anybody and nobody in this room or in politics has done that, thank God. There have been one or two serious attacks on him. Martin McGuinness brought us to a level of peace that many of us in this room could never have imagined. I sometimes wonder if we have been brought as far down the peace route in the Republic as they have in the North of Ireland.
I cannot begin to understand what it took for Martin McGuinness to cross the road and shake the hand of one of the most vile people who ever walked this planet, that is, Ian Paisley, but Ian Paisley also crossed that road, and between the two of them, they brought peace to Northern Ireland.
I am deeply grateful that this world had a Martin McGuinness, I am deeply grateful that he commenced the peace process. I pray to God he rests in peace alongside Ian Paisley but I pray to God more that the people who are left behind will continue on the legacy. We must move to a point of constitutional legality for everybody and one should remember the people who founded this State also were once regarded as terrorists.
I join in the tributes to Martin McGuinness, who made a huge contribution to building peace in Northern Ireland. It is probably true to say that without Martin McGuinness, the peace process may not have happened. He was one of the driving forces behind the Good Friday Agreement and that will be his lasting legacy.
I had the opportunity to get to know Martin very well in my role as Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and as Co-Chairman of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I found him very personable and engaging. The evidence is clear of a man who showed great character to do what was needed to advance the cause of peace.
I believe The Irish Times obituary today captured the man perfectly when it stated:
Ireland came to know two Martin McGuinnesses. One was, for much of his life, a man of war and conflict, dedicated to fighting, as hard as he could, the British authorities, police, army and intelligence services.
The second McGuinness was a man of peace and reconciliation, who for a decade worked hard at building bridges with both London and unionism, from fighting the British state to negotiating with it, from being denounced by the Rev Ian Paisley and ascribing bigotry to him, to chuckling with him.
His contribution to building peace was without doubt one of his great qualities and today, without doubt, we lost a chief architect of the peace process. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Bernie, and their four children and to his colleagues and members of Sinn Féin.
It has been an awful week. Like all of my colleagues, I extend our sympathies to the families of the crew of Helicopter Rescue 116, to the family of Ryan McBride, to the Haughey family and, of course, to the family of our comrade Martin McGuinness. I will speak on Martin later and I appreciate the time given by the Leader in that respect.
I acknowledge the tremendous victory of the SIPTU members, to which my colleague, Senator Bacik alluded. It was a 21-month campaign, a campaign by a fighting union, and I want to pay tribute to my colleague Ms Ethel Buckley, in particular, who is head of SIPTU's services division. She gave a commitment at the last SIPTU conference that the union would never give up on the Clerys workers and it has been as good as its word. It is a good day for working people to get that settlement.
Finally, I propose that leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 to provide for additional protections for employees in the service sector to ensure they receive tips or gratuities paid by customers and to provide for related matters. This Bill is No. 16 on the Supplementary Order Paper and I move that it be taken in Private Members' time.
There is a proposal that No. 16 be taken before No. 1.
I second that.
We do not need to do that at the moment. We can do it later and the Senator is down to speak.
As I am afraid I will not be able to be here at 8 p.m., with the Cathaoirleach's indulgence, I would like to say a few words about the late Martin McGuinness. The following quote came into my mind: "Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee". Death is always a sad event. I have no difficulty whatsoever in sending my heartfelt condolences to Mr. McGuinness's family. It is always sad for the family. In recent weeks I thought to myself how terribly frail and pathetic he looked on television. It was moving to hear him talk about the decision forced on him to have to leave politics. However, he did have a dark past. He was involved in the murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten. For that reason, it is remarkably gracious of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, to send a personal note to his family. He was involved in the Warrenpoint massacre. He was also involved in persuading a former IRA informer to come back to the North by talking to his mother. Within hours of his arrival, the informer was murdered. In the presidential campaign I said to Mr. McGuinness: "Martin, you did not get that luxurious fleet of buses on the average industrial wage." He laughed. The most important and significant part of his career, however, was the second half - his political and military career when he courageously turned towards the path of peace. Without his intervention, the peace process might not have happened. For that reason, I salute him.
I am also glad to be reminded of the passing of Maureen Haughey who was a remarkably gracious and decent person. She held her dignity throughout a series of assaults on her husband and her family. She stood by him with remarkable fortitude. We are lucky to have such people, not in public life but in supporting public figures. I am happy to add my voice of support in sending a message of sympathy, mine in particular, to her son, Deputy Seán Haughey, who was a decent Member of this House for a while.
Like everybody else, one can only be saddened by events in the past two weeks. Certainly, the loss of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, R116, and its crew reminds us in a real way of the dangers so many servicemen and women face when they go to help others and us. I saw the helicopter frequently passing over the beach at Rush. I offer my sympathy to the families of Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby. Senator Joe O'Reilly mentioned Captain Dara Fitzpatrick's grand-uncle. Her dad was the sheriff to whom we all had to submit our election forms for many years. I express my particular sympathy to him and also to the family of Ciarán Smith from Oldtown, County Dublin. His dad still works and gives service in one of our schools in Donabate.
I also express my sympathy to Sinn Féin and the family of the late Martin McGuinness. I would not profess to have known him as well as many others. However, when I did get to know him, I was struck immediately by his warm personality. He led a remarkable life for somebody who had turned to violence early on, presumably through frustration. He turned to the path of peace and became a key figure in achieving a peace we all now enjoy but one which we must always remember is fragile and one we will have to continue to work hard to maintain. To Martin's family, I extend my deepest sympathy.
The Irish Cancer Society is holding its 30th national fundraising Daffodil Day event on Friday. One might ask what its relevance is. Several national newspapers over the weekend reported that a senior consultant in oncology had expressed serious concerns about the shortage of beds and lack of consultants to deal with patients with cancer. It is an absolute disgrace.
According to this eminent surgeon, cancer patients are now having their surgeries cancelled in significant numbers as hospitals struggle to cope with the lack and shortage of beds. I believe this message was conveyed to the Minister for Health by a delegation of top doctors from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association at a meeting in recent days. It issued a stark warning to him and I presume he is taking on board its concerns. The doctors are seriously concerned and will now have to step up a campaign to bring the public with them to make this a major political issue. In a week when we are rightly out fundraising to support the work of the Irish Cancer Society, which most people are happy to do, consultants in oncology face desperate circumstances in the treatment of their patients.
Will the Minister for Health be brought to the House as soon as possible to address a number of key issues? How does he intend to reduce the number of patients waiting for hospital admissions? How will he open additional hospital beds, as agreed in the programme for Government? How will he address the issues of staffing and resources, particularly in the area of oncology, in respect of which the consultants have expressed serious concern and about which they have written to a number of parliamentarians? How will he deal with the shortage of staff?
Having discussed this with a number of consultants today, I am reliably informed that there were 400 full-time hospital consultant posts unfilled. The Minister needs to address that. We have a crisis in the health services. I am not in the business of knocking people and I want to hear how we are going to have answers and solutions to address this. It is very important to have the Minister in the House as soon as practicable and possible to discuss this specific issue.
I will not be around later because of another issue arising in the Dáil. I extend my sympathy on the death of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and the three missing crew of Rescue 116. God speed to the Irish Coast Guard and the local community in their determination to bring home the three missing crew members.
This morning we are mourning the deaths of two of Derry's proud sons, Ryan McBride, who died young and suddenly, and the Sinn Féin leader, Martin McGuinness, who was not yet old. Martin's legacy will be etched in our collective mind. I refer to his courage, conscience, integrity, honour and his love for his native Derry and this island. Through his leadership, initially in the civil rights movement and then as a proud IRA volunteer defending his community, as a Member of Parliament and Assembly Member, as Minister for Education and as deputy First Minister at Stormont, he displayed nobility of spirit, as befits an extraordinary statesman. We in Sinn Féin and others across this island and beyond bathed in his easy, warm and relaxed personality that embraced everyone. I offer my deepest condolences to his family and those in his home town of Derry. Farewell Martin. Your watch is ended. We will sorely miss you.
I second Senator Paul Gavan's proposal.
I join others regarding the sympathies offered in recent weeks. The reference to Derry losing two sons in recent weeks is very true. The loss of the soccer player, a fantastic player, was an awful tragedy. We learned today about the death of Mr. Martin McGuinness. It has been an awful few days, to say the very least. Obviously, the loss of Rescue 116 in Mayo was an awful tragedy for Ireland. That has to be noted also.
Today I wish to raise the issue of the incinerator in Ringaskiddy. For the fourth time, An Bord Pleanála has refused to make a decision on the planning permission. The matter has dragged on for nearly 17 years. We are through our third application and the people at the lower harbour are waiting anxiously for a decision. To have postponed this decision again, for which we have been waiting, has been very disheartening for the public connected to the lower harbour. The 240,000 tonne toxic waste incinerator has been opposed religiously by the entire community over recent years. It has been a major issue and a major thorn in the side of the Cork community.
We need to do something to ensure that An Bord Pleanála makes a decision as soon as possible. An oral hearing was held, which I attended, in July 2016 yet still we have not got the result from the board. I hope we can get this decision from An Bord Pleanála. To postpone it for a fourth time is totally inappropriate. We need to move forward and make a decision so that the people of the lower harbour, and County Cork, can get on with their lives.
My condolences to the McGuinness family. It has been a bad weekend in general terms for the people of Derry. I should also mention, although it has been well mentioned already, the tragedy that occurred off the Mayo coast.
Today is World Down Syndrome Day. Every week, two to three women give birth to lovely little babies with Down's syndrome. Much has been done over the years to improve the supports for families but I do not believe that anyone can turn to those parents at that point - it is not always two parents - with hand on heart and say we are able to give all the supports that are needed. As that is still a stretch for Ireland, I draw that to people's attention on a day like today. Families are trying to find money for assessments. Organisations such as Down Syndrome Ireland and others are trying to support them with practical measures such as speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and whatever.
The other point that must be made is that many children with Down's syndrome can have other complications such as heart conditions and arthritis. In their later years, many of them will face the onset of dementia of one kind or another. Thankfully, the longevity of children with Down's syndrome in the past 30 or 40 years has increased from 30 to 35 years. In the past, parents were told that if they got 30 or 35 years out of life with their child they were doing well. They now live into their 50s and beyond. That is a compliment to the improvement in services but we are not keeping pace in that regard.
This is an occasion to applaud parents, families and communities that do their best and to remind ourselves, those in the other House and the Government that real issues arise for people. For two or three families this week, that challenge will arise out of nowhere. That is the reason ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is important. Also, real issues arise now for parents who are becoming elderly in respect of how their son or daughter will be provided for when they pass way. I pay tribute to those parents and express my condolences to all those who have been bereaved so sadly in the past week.
I echo to the word what Senator Dolan has just said and the way he said it.
When I learned of the death of Mrs. Maureen Haughey, and I would like to be associated with messages of condolences to her family, I was struck by something that was said when her husband, Charles Haughey, died. At his funeral, RTE's John Bowman said that whatever one thought of his political views from all sides, there was no doubt about his greatness because greatness is about one's impact on events. The same words are relevant when we think of Martin McGuinness today. However, without in any way resiling from our disagreement with the path of violence towards a resolution of any human dispute, one can certainly say that there was greatness in the choice he made for peace when he came to make that choice, in the way that he led others, in the way he co-operated with past opponents and so on. On a personal note, having met him, he was a very gracious man.
There are others who we remember, including the families who are suffering who still have not found the remains of their loved ones as a result of last week's tragedy off the west coast.
We think of Bishop Eamonn Casey who did so much in the area of social justice, which should never be forgotten.
All those who have been bereaved or lost deserve to be remembered.
A few Mondays ago, the Capuchin day centre for homeless people hit a record high when it had 710 people for dinner. It normally hosts between 500 and 600 per day at its lunchtime meal. On the same day, 160 families received baby food, nappies and clothing from the centre, which is run by Br. Kevin Crowley, one of society's living heroes. Up to 1,600 food parcels are currently given out on Wednesday mornings and Br. Crowley said the people with whom he works live in constant fear of the unknown because they dread what might happen to them or their families in the future. Despite economic growth and rising disposable income levels, it is clear people in Dublin, and throughout the country, are left behind and are utterly reliant on charitable assistance. Last month's survey by the CSO on income and living conditions indicated that the consistent poverty rate showed little recent change, going from 8.8% in 2014 to 8.7% in 2015 and a recent report by the Samaritans claimed social and economic inequality was putting people at increased risk of suicide.
In recent weeks, in both Houses of the Oireachtas, there has been considerable and deserved spotlight on things that happened in the past but the focus must also remain on the considerable number of our citizens who are being let down by the State now and who find themselves in various states of inequality. Children are bearing the brunt of the inequity, especially those in lone-parent households and in homeless families whose sense of dignity and self-respect is being eroded on a daily basis but yet there are no significant street demonstrations calling for a change to this.
Before Christmas, Br. Crowley said he met a mother of three who had been placed in emergency accommodation in Malahide, north Dublin. She had no money and nothing to eat. She had to leave her children alone in the accommodation because she had to go back to the Capuchin service in the city centre for food. Today, we welcome our Government Ministers back from around the world and I am mindful we often call for Ministers to come to this House to discuss various issues. They would do well to visit Br. Crowley's facility on Bow Street to see just how unequal Irish society remains in 2017.
I join with colleagues in offering my sympathies to the families of Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith on their tragic loss and the huge difficulties they have endured in the past week. I also sympathise with all the people who have worked with them through the years and I hope the search operation is successful and locates the bodies of the three missing persons. It brings home the dangers and the risks taken by people who provide back-up support services and we need to acknowledge it more often than just at the time of a tragedy such as this. I also convey my sympathies to the family of Martin McGuinness and to the Sinn Féin Party on their loss. It is appropriate that Members recognise his contribution to bringing about the peace process in Northern Ireland. It is important that the peace process continues and that we make further progress.
I support what Senator Boyhan said on the lack of consultants, something I have been highlighting for over five years. In 2012 I said we would face serious consequences for the way we were approaching the employment of junior doctors. There are 400 vacancies and we are not just competing for them within Ireland or in a UK or European market. We are competing for medical consultants in a world market and we have not responded appropriately so we now face major challenges. I agree with Senator Boyhan that we need to deal with this issue.
Gan dabht ar bith, tá ár gcroíthe ar fad trom inniu mar gheall ar chloisteáil faoi bhás Mhartin McGuinness. Táimid an-bhuíoch don Cheannaire as ucht an t-am a thabhairt dúinn tráthnóna le hómós mar is ceart a thabhairt dó. We welcome the opportunity to give a proper account of the graciousness and the wonder of Martin McGuinness later on. I am looking forward to that.
I also join in the condolences that have been conveyed in the House to the families of Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith. At a further time, it will be important to have a look at the really important role that the Coast Guard plays. We all hope that the speedy recovery of the missing bodies will happen. I would also like to be connected with the condolences and sympathies conveyed to the family of Ryan McBride and the Haughey family.
There was a very important legal hearing yesterday. Mr. Peter Mulryan, one of the people who suffered due the situation in the mother and baby homes, was granted leave for a full hearing to gain access to his records from Tusla. I believe that is a very important milestone. I hope that the State will fully co-operate in providing information to those people who are still looking for information on what exactly happened in those homes.
I would also like to be associated with the sentiments of Senator Lawless on the referendum on voting rights for the diaspora. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I do not see why we would be dragging our feet on this referendum. I call on the Government to publish the options paper around the voting rights as soon as possible and to look for the speedy passage of that legislation.
I would like to invite Senators to a briefing we have at 6 p.m. in the AV Room on the implementation of the International Protection Act and the ongoing situation in direct provision centres. There is a very serious situation there at the moment causing difficulties for people who are seeking asylum. I hope that some Members will come along to listen to the stories that will be told. There are serious legal implications and issues being brought to the fore. I hope that we could have another debate in the near future in the House on the implementation-----
I propose the reintroduction of my Bill.
The Senator can do that. I would be very grateful if the Leader could facilitate that debate on the International Protection Act and its implementation since it was brought in.
We are running out of time. I will allow Senator Mark Daly and Senator Warfield to contribute.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. I too would like to extend my sympathies to the families of the crew of R116, along with the Haughey family. Mrs. Haughey was a formidable lady, a daughter of a Taoiseach, a wife of a Taoiseach and in her own right made a contribution to Irish life and society. I extend my sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Martin McGuinness, who made an extraordinary journey in his time on this planet.
I ask the Leader to organise a debate about the ongoing scandal of Brazilian beef and the concern among Irish farmers around this issue that could affect them so directly.
I also raise with the Leader the civil rights issue for members of the deaf community and the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill that we have spoken about many times in this House. We have put the House on notice that we will amend the Order of Business for the last week of March, which is next week, and put the Bill through Committee and Remaining Stages. We asked the Government to provide its amendments by 15 March. Those amendments did not arrive on 15 March but I understand that the amendments are on the Minister's desk. He has them. I would be anxious to sit down with the Minister in advance of Committee Stage next week to make sure that the amendments are workable, make the Bill better and do not take away from the purpose of the Bill. We will give those members of the deaf community their rights.
According to the confidence and supply agreement, there is supposed to be ten weeks between Second Stage and Committee Stage. We have gone through all of the necessary processes and have been to the justice committee. The Bill has gone through pre-legislative scrutiny and we are now awaiting Committee Stage which, with the agreement of this House, will happen next week. I do not wish to have an amendment on the day and then have to take Committee Stage and put all of those amendments through the process in the one day. That is not the way we should do it. Working with the Minister and the Leader, I hope that we will be able to get this Bill through the House in this session.
I thank Senator Dolan for his contribution and his awareness raising around World Down Syndrome Day. I have the pleasure of calling my uncle Seán one of my closest friends.
He brought such wonderful joy to the Warfield family and everyone he met. My fondest memories with Seán are standing on the banks of the Camac in Inchicore watching St. Patrick's Athletic.
Before I mention Derry City, Senator Dolan's contribution reflects the need for a diversity of voices in this House. As a League of Ireland fan, I extend my sincere sympathy to the family of Ryan McBride, to Derry City football club, and to everyone who has called the randy Brandywell home.
I also convey my deepest sympathy to Bernadette and the broader republican family on the death of Martin McGuinness. Martin was a colossus of contemporary politics and a committed activist throughout his life. His political activism started in his youth. At 21 he witnessed the shooting of 26 unarmed civilians on the streets of his city, Derry, and from that period onwards Martin McGuinness spent his lifetime opposing occupation and fighting for self-determination. His pivotal role within Sinn Féin alongside Gerry Adams as a persuader for peace among republicans was truly remarkable. He had conversations which would lead to that peace being realised, to the Good Friday Agreement and to a legal and political pathway opening for the achievement of Irish reunification. That was Martin's vision. That was his aisling. In public life, Martin was one of the most kind and gentle figures I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Senator Black mentioned his poetry and his love for Seamus Heaney, and little did I know as I picked up a copy of North on Parnell Street yesterday that we would wake to such sad news today. Martin's love of the arts extended to music, and he was always extremely supportive on that front, including to musicians like Senator Black. I express my condolences to Bernie, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Before we continue I would like to be associated with the votes of sympathy to Martin McGuinness's wife and family. I have said here before on the record that it was a loss to this Chamber that he was unable to come and visit and speak to us here when invited to do so. I was looking forward to it. That did not happen and it cannot happen now. I cannot blame the previous Cathaoirleach because there were logistical issues. It was regrettable that it did not happen as it would have added to the gravitas of this Chamber.
As someone from a coastal community, I am no stranger to sea tragedies, particularly around west Cork and off our coastline. I convey my sympathy to all those concerned in the terrible tragedy off the Mayo coast. It is made more poignant by the fact these people give their time to try to rescue fishermen and sailors and people who are out at sea and get into difficulty through their own fault. It is a terrible tragedy, and I do hope that the three missing persons from the helicopter will be found. Searching for bodies is nothing new to me in the area where I live. I do hope there will be success in this regard.
I thank the 21 Members of the House who contributed to the Order of Business. To begin, i dtús báire, ba mhaith liom ar mo shon féin agus ar son Fhine Gael mo chomhbhrón a bhronnadh ar mhuintir McGuinness agus ar pháirtí Shinn Féin ar bhás Martin McGuinness.
Death is always sad. It is a period of mourning and of loss for family and friends and those left behind. Since we last met our nation has been gripped by tragedy and by loss of life. Our nation has been affected by the dreadful news of the terrible accident involving the crew of R116, the very sad passing today of Martin McGuinness, the very sudden and untimely death of young Ryan McBride in his prime, the very sad passing of Maureen Haughey and the passing of Bishop Eamon Casey.
Many of us woke up this morning to the sad news of the death of Martin McGuinness. As a person and as a politician, he made a contribution and a difference to the lives of all of us on our island, and it is fair that we should cast aside our political differences and pay tribute to him as somebody who played a key role in forging peace on our island. In his life, he will be rightly remembered as a peacemaker. He made the move from being a commander in the IRA to a person who recognised the importance of peace, reconciliation and the gesture of reaching out.
He forged a relationship and friendship with the late Ian Paisley, which was a testimony to the man. In addition, he shook the hand of the Queen in welcoming her to the North. He made government and the institutions of the Northern Ireland Assembly work, which shows that he was a negotiator and a facilitator. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Boston Airport and also being next to him on a radio broadcast as I was about to be eliminated in the last general election and he wished me well. He was genuine and generous on the two occasions I met him. To his wife, Bernie, and family who have lost not just a father, a husband and a grandfather but also a friend and to the Sinn Féin Party which has lost a colleague and a friend, we extend our sympathy. His legacy will be one of peace and the abandonment of sectarianism.
The tragic accident that befell the crew of R116 numbed the nation. The loss of Dara Fitzpatrick, a captain and leader in her role, shows her courage and the preciousness of life. We extend our sympathy to her family. As a House and a nation, we pray that the bodies of the missing crew members, Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy and Ciarán Smith, will be found and returned to their families in order that they can say one last goodbye to them. The events in the aftermath of the tragic accident, as outlined by so many Senators today, underline the importance of the work of the Irish Coast Guard and the bravery and courage of the men and women who go out in very dangerous conditions, often late at night, and put their own lives at risk. We thank all those involved for their work and bravery. We thank the community in Blacksod Bay, the 300 people to whom Senator Rose Conway-Walsh referred, who are involved in a voluntary capacity in helping to bring closure to allow the families grieve. We thank the professionals involved in the rescue effort. We hope they will soon be successful in order that the families can say goodbye.
The Haughey family are this afternoon burying their mother and grandmother, Maureen Haughey, who bore being the wife and daughter of a Taoiseach with great dignity. She was the daughter of Seán Lemass and the widow of Charles J. Haughey. She was also the mother of Sean Haughey, a former Member of this House and a sitting Member of the Dáil. We extend our deepest sympathy to all of the Haughey family on their sad loss. She gave to the nation the importance of civic life.
Senator Fintan Warfield very eloquently touched on the death of Ryan McBride. It is unbelievable that a young man could play soccer on a Saturday afternoon and be dead on the Sunday morning. That shows how precious life is. He was a young man who had assumed the captaincy of his club which he loved and for which he had played a leading role in the campaign this year. He was a great leader on the pitch. We extend our sympathy to his family on his untimely death.
Bishop Eamonn Casey was a pastoral leader and will be remembered for many things. As Senator Rónán Mullen said, he was a champion of social justice. As a seminarian in Maynooth, I had the pleasure of meeting him and recognised the importance of his work in Trócaire. When they were not very popular, he was a huge champion of the Irish in the United Kingdom. Many will recall his near-death experience at the funeral of Óscar Romero and his stance against the then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, will be remembered. He will be remembered for other reasons also. We extend our deepest sympathy to his son, Peter, and the wider Casey family.
Senators Lawless, Bacik and Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of the Government's decision, and the Taoiseach's announcement in Philadelphia, to extend the franchise in the Irish presidential election.
As Senator Bacik has said, it comes on foot of the decision of the Constitutional Convention. In acknowledging the remarks of Senators Ó Clochartaigh, Lawless and Bacik, there is a lot of work yet to be done before a referendum comes to pass. I hope that the global Irish civic forum, which will take place in Dublin, will be the platform within which we can put detail to the announcement by Government. It will be an opportunity to have a debate on the future of presidential elections and the role of the diaspora and how they will be able to vote, if it is carried by the people. The caveat is that it will be a referendum of the people, which will happen in time. It is important to recognise that the Constitutional Convention, in its fifth report, made a very strong recommendation on this issue. I thank the members of the convention again. It is an important decision by Government to allow a referendum to be put to the people to amend the Constitution around Irish citizens who are resident outside the State having a vote in presidential elections. I hope we will be able to have that debate in a calm and timely manner.
Senators Bacik and Gavan raised the issue of the Clerys workers, and in particular I compliment Ethel Buckley. It has been a good day for the people in SIPTU, and for all of us, in that we will be able to see a development take place that recognises the workers' rights and recognises the way they have been so badly treated in the debacle that happened. I hope that whatever happens on the site will be fitting for O'Connell Street in our capital city. I also pay tribute to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Brendan Carr, for the role he played.
I remind Senator Bacik that I am open to examination on the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 tomorrow.
I thank the Leader.
I know that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, is anxious to get the Bill passed as soon as possible but I would be very happy to look at how we can accommodate some of the needs of Members. The Senator knows that I have always tried to do that and I will also endeavour to do that tomorrow.
Senator Craughwell made reference to tomorrow's agenda and the issues around the Army. We had hoped to have the debate on the Defence Forces. We recognised the importance of the issue for some Members and deferred the debate until after St. Patrick's Day. The Minister of State, Deputy Paul Kehoe, has returned only today from Lebanon and I am hoping to have a discussion with his office for the debate to be included in the coming weeks. It may not be this week or next week, but it will certainly be in the next couple of weeks.
That is very much appreciated.
I have touched on the matter raised by Senator Gavan.
Senators Boyhan and Colm Burke raised the issues of oncology and consultant posts. Notwithstanding the remarks by Senator Boyhan, it is important to put on the record of the House that national outcomes for cancer patients have improved. While we recognise that there are issues to be addressed, with an economy emerging from recession we will have more money to spend and we can invest wisely in our health system. I hope that part of the Future Health document will address the issues raised by Senators Boyhan and Colm Burke around oncology and consultant posts. This is a matter to which we need to refer back.
As a former member of a health committee, which I chaired, Senator Burke has had regular interventions with the HSE around staff recruitment, staff retention and the need to go to the international market. He has now been proved right. With respect to Senator Boyhan's contribution on cancer, I would say that the number of newly diagnosed cases is rising by 6% to 7% annually and it is projected to reach nearly 55,000 cases by 2030. As a nation we need to build on the success of the national cancer strategy we adopted in 2006 whereby we have eight centres of excellence. We need to look at how we can reduce the risk of cancer and also have a strategy that reflects upon the needs expressed by Senator Boyhan. I would be happy to have the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, come to the House in that regard.
Senator Lombard raised the subject of the proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork. I believe it is absolutely unacceptable that a decision has been deferred for the fourth time. The process is elongated now by An Bord Pleanála, which I know is independent, but it is a huge imposition on the residents of Ringaskiddy and the adjoining areas of Monkstown and Passage West. This battle has been going on for nearly two decades.
We had the oral hearing this time last year. It is understandable that people become cynical and frustrated when they see a board interjecting at this stage for more information. The Senator is right. We need more information.
Senators Dolan and Warfield raised the issue of national and World Down Syndrome Day. I join both Senators in recognising that there is a need to continue to support people with Down's syndrome. The Minister has made changes to the medical card scheme. There is a need to thank the staff of the many organisations who look after people with Down's syndrome, and also to thank their parents and their families, and companies which employ people with Down's syndrome. A number of friends of mine are gainfully employed. I know a young man who is working in a canteen in Cork and it is a great source of joy to him that he can go into work every day, do his job and be recognised as being equal. I know we have a road to travel in this regard and I hope that we can do it.
Senator Mullen raised the issue of the Capuchin day centre, homelessness and poverty. I am happy to have the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Varadkar, come to the House. The issue will be addressed today when the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, comes to the House to address the Rebuilding Ireland report.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of the court case yesterday of Mr. Peter Mulryan. I welcome again the fact he has been given access to his files through Tusla and the International Protection Act. I would be happy to have a debate on that issue.
Senator Mark Daly raised the issue of Brazilian beef. I would be happy to have the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, come to the House.
On the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill, while I think coming in here finger-wagging is not the way to do business, I am quite happy to take the-----
I gave plenty of warning. I am not finger-wagging.
The Senator did not let me finish. I am quite happy to come in here next week, pass the Bill as it is and not oppose it on any Stage next week. However, I do not think the Senator wants to do that, to be fair. I do not want to pass a flawed Bill which will fail to achieve what we both want to see happen, which is to uphold the rights of the deaf community. My office has been in touch with the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, and I believe the amendments are not quite ready yet. I do not think that coming in here finger-wagging and insisting that the Bill be taken next week is the way to go. It could cause a division in the ranks or create the wrong impression. I have not got the information yet, but there were some proposals to go to Cabinet today from the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath. I am not quite sure whether they are there yet. I am happy to work with the Senator to ensure the Bill is passed by Easter, if possible, rather than having a deadline of next week. The Bill has to be debated in the House. I do not want to pass a Bill which is flawed, but I will happily do it. I have the same interests as the Senator and the same motivation to have that Bill passed. I do not think the Senator wants to have a flawed Bill passed. However, I will pass it next week, no bother. I will not divide the House at all on it.
Senator Warfield is right. It is important that in this House we have a diversity of voices.
I am happy to accept Senator Gavan's amendment to the Order of Business.
The Leader has indicated he is prepared to accept the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Paul Gavan: "That No. 16 be taken before No. 1." Is the amendment agreed? Agreed.