I will respond to all of the Senators who raised matters on the Order of Business.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of rapid housing and I take her comments on board. Significant pressure has been put on local authorities to respond positively, including a quicker procurement competition. The timeframe, apart from the Poppintree project, is for tenants to be housed as soon as possible and local authorities are being put under a lot of pressure to get people into houses by 2017. I am certainly willing to ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter. I also note the Senator's comments, and those of Senator Ruane, about the festival in Ballyfermot, which sounds like a very positive event. Along with Senator Horkan, she also mentioned the 50th anniversary of the free travel pass, which no one would dispute has been a very positive thing for the country.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of the Irish Postmasters Union strike. The Government remains committed to a viable post office network. There has been considerable change in postal services, nationally and internationally, but the commitment is still there. I am willing to ask the Minister to come to the House for a general discussion on the matter, perhaps after Easter. Along with other Senators, the Senator also raised the issue of the elderly home care package. I heard the Minister on the radio this morning. This is a discussion document and nothing has been decided. There is to be a public consultation but there has been an acknowledgement that the existing system is in need of some repair. There is no doubt that the Minister is open on this and the Senators who raised the issue are entitled to make positive suggestions on the document. We need to have patience and not to assume the worst. The Minister has acknowledged that there are problems with the existing system and we should remain open-minded and positive about what can be achieved in this area.
Senator Black asked about direct provision, which is very serious, especially in the case of children. The Minister of State has been bereaved and we apologise for the fact that the schedule needed to be amended. Following the Senator's and Senator Mullen's comments, a debate would be very useful and it would afford them the opportunity to raise the issues they raised passionately today.
Senator Bacik raised the Bus Éireann dispute. I was very disappointed that the series of Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, discussions ended without agreement. Today is day 19 of the all-out strike but it has been referred to the Labour Court and both sides will engage with the court as it seeks to resolve the outstanding issues. We all hope to see a fair and acceptable deal emerge so that the disruption to people's travel arrangements, about which Senator Horkan spoke, can end as soon as possible.
Senator Bacik also raised the horrific events in Idlib in Syria, which are completely unacceptable. We all condemn the attack unreservedly, which underlines the need for full accountability for war crimes in Syria. I would agree to the joint motion the Senator suggested in this regard. She also spoke about the Garda conference. My understanding is that the Minister's diary would not allow it and the Minister of State was unavailable, having been bereaved. I will, however, pass on her comments. As for the cyclists group, I urge Members to support her in her efforts, which have been ongoing for a number of years.
Senator Hopkins asked about stroke services, which is a very serious issue for many families throughout the country. There have been improvements in acute care. The Senator raised the problems there have been with rehabilitation and I will ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue. Senator O'Sullivan raised a very important issue regarding Northern Ireland and urged support for Northern Ireland politicians to come together and make an agreement that is palatable to all sides.
Nobody wants Northern Ireland to be ruled from Westminster again. That would be a very retrograde step, and I would certainly support the Senator in her comments.
I agree to provide the written statement from the Minister. She had it in her hand here earlier but because of a vote in the Dáil was unable to deliver it. I will ensure it is e-mailed to Senator Ó Clochartaigh. The issues that he raised are very significant. There are people working in very difficult areas for those who need support. The Minister is agreeable and I will make sure that happens.
Senator Byrne raised the positive development of 47,000 school meals being provided in a collaboration between the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Social Protection. We all should hope for a good uptake on this. It is very positive and it is also an opportunity to ensure positive nutrition and to provide children who may not otherwise have received a very nourishing breakfast with food. We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I would be concerned that this a good quality meal, and we will see that as the scheme is rolled out.
I have mentioned already the festival in Ballyfermot. Senator Ruane also raised the issue of two individuals in her constituency who were murdered, which is a tragedy. I pass on my condolences to the families. A debate in this House on criminality and the routes out of it in the near future, perhaps after Easter, is a very constructive suggestion.
Senator Leyden, in an unusual move, is positive about the new scheme introduced by Minister of State, Deputy Canney, concerning the relocation of families affected by flooding and moving them to higher ground. I acknowledge his positive comments.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the debate which had to be adjourned, which I have explained. He also raised the issue of the Luas. I share his frustrations in many ways, but we must be patient in the name of progress. Construction started in June 2013 and it is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2017. An additional ten million passengers will use this new network. Anyone who uses the existing network finds it a very beneficial mode of transport. The cost of the project is €368 million and it is one of the largest capital investment projects undertaken by the Government. There will be 13 new stops, with eight in the core city area, and it will connect the two existing lines, which is positive. I share the Senator's frustration on the way that it has disrupted the centre of the city. He also asked for a wider debate on transport, which I agree would be a useful one.
Senator Colm Burke referred to the issue of home care packages and I have already spoken about that issue. Senator Mullen raised the asylum seeker issue and the International Protection Act 2015. It is a reasonable suggestion that the time be extended from 20 to 25 days but I do not know what the reaction of the Minister might be to that. I am certainly willing to pass on the Senator's comments. I have mentioned already that a debate on asylum seekers and direct provision by way of update, if nothing else, as to how Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is progressing with his work in this area would be useful. I know he feels very passionately about the area of direct provision, in particular.
Senator Lombard raised the issue of solar farms, which I must confess I do not know much about. It would be good to hear from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on that, and if legislation is required, we should certainly bring it into being.
Senator Devine raised the issue of Irish Water and without getting into the politics of it I will say that the committee is still in session. It is hearing legal evidence, based on the wish of the Senator's party, among others, to hear that legal evidence in the committee. It was happening until quite recently and has now been adjourned to 5.30 p.m., to the best of my knowledge. It is very evident that no party in the Houses of the Oireachtas wishes for Irish Water to be privatised, so it is a non-issue. The committee is still ongoing and we will all hope for a positive outcome from that. Perhaps some people will not because they have made such a platform of Irish Water that they will miss it when it is resolved.
I have addressed the issue raised by Senator Horkan, the 50th anniversary of free travel and Bus Éireann strikes, satisfactorily I hope. Senator Feighan raised an issue which he has raised several times in the House about the Commonwealth. Certainly with Brexit looming we do have to come up with ideas and perhaps open the debate on our history. I would be willing to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to come to the House. Perhaps this issue could be discussed in the context of an overall debate on innovative ways to deal with Brexit although we have assigned one day a week to Brexit. Maybe that could be brought up at the Seanad Special Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
Senator Craughwell brought up the issue of the Kinsale community school which he visited recently and wanted to acknowledge education practitioners throughout the country. We all acknowledge the essential work they do on a daily basis. A debate on further education would be useful. SOLAS exists but an update from the Minister for Education and Skills on it after Easter would be good.
Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of home care packages and the discussion document which has been published today by the Minister. It is a discussion document and we have the right, as does the public, to contribute to that. I think we would all agree with Senator Butler that the Irish ladies soccer team deserves congratulations on its win last night. Although they have been negative for the past few weeks the publicity for the issue has been positive. I think many more people attended the match and the timing of the match was good because children were off school and were able to attend. I also note the Senator's comments on Harold's Cross and Shelbourne Park. The situation is a mess and I will certainly attend the briefing to hear from representatives of the greyhound industry. If there is anything that can be done by the Government I am sure it will be done but my understanding is that there were serious debts involved and the Harold's Cross situation was restructured in order to satisfy those. Obviously it is a very important industry in Ireland, along with horse racing. We all have a great affection for greyhound racing and if there is anything the Minister can do I am sure he will do it.