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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 20 Jun 2017

Vol. 252 No. 6

Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Standing Order 70A, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 2, motion re amendment to the orders of reference of the Special Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1 with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed five minutes; No. 3, Inland Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 2 and to be adjourned at no later than 7 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; No. 4, motion re Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998; and No. 5, motion re Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 3 and to conclude within 40 minutes, with the time allocated to the group spokespersons not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be given five minutes to reply.

Today I would like to use my time to raise the issue of the appointment of Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal. What we have seen in the past week is ducking and diving by the Taoiseach and members of the Cabinet. All they seem to pivot back to is the line that Máire Whelan is that eminently qualified for the post. I am sure that the three High Court judges who formally expressed an interest in appointment to the Court of Appeal, whoever they are, were also eminently qualified for this post and clearly went about seeking the opportunity to serve on the Court of Appeal in accordance with the legislation. The former Attorney General never expressed any interest in the post at the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board meeting she recently attended in May.

What is being rightly questioned here is the process used by the Government to appoint Máire Whelan. Yesterday we saw the Taoiseach whisk Máire Whelan to Áras an Uachtaráin, a move clearly designed to quell the potential and public outcry over the barefaced croneyism on display here. Not only is the Taoiseach showing contempt for the Parliament and members of the public, he is showing utter contempt towards those members of his own new Cabinet who sought a review of this decision at Cabinet today. It is a shame that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, did not raise serious questions at the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday. Perhaps if the Minister had paid as much attention to Máire Whelan's appointment by Fine Gael as he did to securing the re-opening of the Stepaside Garda station he might have been able to prevent such a flawed appointment. He passed on this opportunity last Tuesday to ask tough questions about this appointment and everything that he says now is simply too little too late.

In order to fully understand how this debacle arose, we need honesty from those Government Ministers who were party to this decision. I believe it is incumbent on the Taoiseach and on the Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, to provide an open and honest explanation as to how this appointment unfolded. The following questions must be answered. We now know from Leaders' Questions just an hour ago in the Dáil that the incoming Taoiseach knew that Máire Whelan's appointment was possible as he entered the Cabinet room last Thursday. He had been informed the evening beforehand that it was a possibility. The public needs to know who advised the incoming Taoiseach that it was a possibility and why, on the eve of the decision being put to the Cabinet, the Taoiseach says that he was only informed of it being a possibility. For such an important appointment, why was the incoming Taoiseach only advised of it being a possibility? Are we to believe that the decision was only made by the Minister between the Monday evening and the following morning?

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald chose to make the recommendation of Máire Whelan, ignoring the three High Court judges who had expressed an interest in this post. Did the Tánaiste come to this determination on her own? The Taoiseach stated today that he was only informed that it was a possibility and that he had no part in drawing up this memo. Did the Taoiseach confirm to the Tánaiste that he would support Máire Whelan's nomination? Did the Tánaiste discuss the matter with the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny? We know that the Tánaiste had a conversation with the incoming Taoiseach on Monday evening but who else did she discuss this matter with?

The Tánaiste should set out exactly when the former Attorney General expressed an interest in the position on the Court of Appeal. She did not express an interest in the post just a few weeks ago at the judicial appointments advisory board in May. When exactly was the Tánaiste made aware of the former Attorney General's interest in being nominated to the Court of Appeal?

Finally, did the Tánaiste discuss with Máire Whelan in advance of the Cabinet meeting how she would nominate her? Did she specifically agree with Máire Whelan that she should remain in the room while the Cabinet determined her fate? I believe it is in the public interest that the Government is held accountable for what we have witnessed in the past week. It is for that reason I formally propose that the Tánaiste be called to this House to provide answers to the questions people rightly want answered.

I welcome Deputy MacSharry back to his old House.

I would like to raise three matters: the appointment to the Court of Appeal vacancy; Rebuilding Ireland and the shift or change in Government policy in that regard; and the new Government. I will be brief. I understand, from the media and my engagement with people, that at least three High Court judges had written to the Attorney General, Máire Whelan, indicating that they wanted to be considered for the vacancy at the Court of Appeal. I also understand that then Minister for Justice and Equality had sought a list of candidates from the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board and that the latter "was not in a position to recommend anyone for appointment". There has been much talk of the appointment being in accordance with previous convention and within the law. I do not intend to spend much time raking over the coals of the appointment. I do not doubt or question the integrity or capabilities of the appointee, Maire Whelan. However, I do believe in learning from experiences. Following on from this experience, there is a need for greater clarity regarding the appointment of judges. Members will recall that I introduced a Private Members' motion on 15 September 2016 in respect of the appointment of judges and the establishment of a judicial council. That motion was unanimously agreed by the House but, sadly, no progress whatsoever has been made. Perhaps the Leader will follow up on that matter.

In regard to Rebuilding Ireland, the Taoiseach, on the appointment of Deputy Eoghan Murphy as Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government said:

Rebuilding Ireland is working but it may not be enough and so I am tasking him to review it within three months and to consider what additional measures may be required, including consideration of a greater quantum of social housing build, a vacant home tax and measures to encourage landlords to remain in or enter the rental market.

Within 24 hours of that statement being made, the outgoing Minister, Deputy Coveney, issued an unusual statement on his website in which he set out his record in regard to Rebuilding Ireland and the rationale of moving on, which I think was brave and the correct thing to do because it set out his stall. I invite people to take a look at both statements, one of which is available on Deputy Coveney's website and the other in the Official Report. The Taoiseach has now indicated that there will be shift in policy in Rebuilding Ireland. It is important to note this. It would be timely and appropriate that the new Minister, once he has settled into his new office, would come to the House to discuss this issue in the context of the third review of the commitments provided for in Rebuilding Ireland.

I take this opportunity to wish the Taoiseach well. I also wish the new Ministers and Ministers of State well in what is a challenging job. There are many people who are disappointed but that is the nature of politics. In regard to the new appointees, I wish them well. Leo's potent, political objective has taken him thus far but his toughest tests are yet to come. I wish him well.

I am sure Tom Gilmartin, wherever he is, is having a good laugh about Fianna Fáil's commentary on cronyism and corruption. Along with Frank Connolly, he wrote the book Tom Gilmartin: The Man Who Brought Down a Taoiseach and Exposed the Greed and Corruption at the Heart of Irish Politics. Rather than comment further I will allow the people of this country to decide for themselves who are the masters of cronyism and corruption.

I wish to extend my sympathy to the victim of the events in Finsbury Park. I worked near there for several years and I know the area very well. What happened the other night was atrocious.

The main topic of my contribution today is Grenfell Tower. We should all think about the silhouette in the window and what it means in terms of the people who have perished, why they have perished and the absolute inequality that the tragedy in Grenfell Tower exposes.

It is the tragedy of people being treated as lesser citizens. I am very familiar with the borough, having been born in King's College Hospital, which is close to Grenfell Tower, and I am very aware of the contrasts between the filthy rich and the wealthy of that borough and the hard-working residents of Grenfell Tower. The way the latter were treated in terms of the refurbishment of the tower, the materials used and so on led to the loss of many lives. In that context, it would be remiss of us not to examine the housing stock in this country. I ask that the new Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government would come to the House to discuss the condition of our housing stock. I know many tenants who have been paying rent for 30 to 40 years without ever having had any refurbishment work done on their homes. These tenants must be listened to in terms of the work that needs to be done, particularly work that is required in the context of health and safety like rewiring and so forth. The clerk of works system that operated previously in this country must be reintroduced in order that there are proper, independent inspections of properties. We also need proper funding for local authorities to enable them to carry out essential works. I also ask that our engagement with the Minister would also include a discussion on housing aid grants for older people. The criteria for such grants have been restricted in recent years and people have been left with leaking roofs, bad wiring and so forth. The third and final housing issue I would like the Minister to address is the need to lift the restrictions on the tenant purchase scheme. These restrictions prevent people purchasing their council houses and doing them up themselves. The councils do not have the money to carry out such work.

I seek clarification with regard to the motion in respect of the special joint committee. Am I correct in understanding that there will be five minutes for a debate on that?

Just to clarify for the Senator-----

The Leader will be called on to respond at the end.

I am sorry but the Senator is not really entitled to do this. I ask the Leader to be quick because this is out of order

Just to clarify for the benefit of Senator Higgins who, to be fair, was late coming in, I have allowed for debate given that the motion refers to an issue that was raised in this House. I have allowed for a spokesperson from each group to contribute rather than having no debate at all.

That is perfect. I was actually here but I just wanted to clarify that to determine whether I needed to use my time on the Order of Business to speak to that issue. I thank the Leader for that.

I am glad to be of help.

I appreciate it. As was mentioned, we will be speaking on the motion. We have tabled an amendment in respect of the order that has come through from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. We are very concerned about the motion, especially with regard to its effective barring of substitution on a new committee, but we will have an opportunity to speak to that when the motion is being debated, as I understand it.

I would like to echo the points made by Senator Conway-Walsh in respect of housing. It would be very appropriate to have a debate in this House on that issue. We also need to look at a question which, as I understand it, is being debated in the other House this week, namely, the concern in respect of developers who do not meet health and safety standards but who still proceed to be awarded public contracts. That is something we need to look at more closely as part of ensuring we are far more rigorous in the way we do public procurement and enforce regulations. We have seen the tragic consequences of an inadequate approach to regulation. In that context, I appeal to everyone in this House to abandon a phrase which has been very toxic, that is, "the burden of regulation". Maybe we could decide as a House never to use that phrase again. Let us talk about regulation being effective and how it is streamlined, managed and so forth, but let us not talk about regulation as a burden. That language was used in the UK and the former Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, spoke about the need to attack the health and safety culture.

I believe that health and safety is of paramount importance for us in this State.

Today is World Refugee Day and Ireland still has not stepped up to its responsibilities. I know this is an issue that has been strongly felt in this House and we have debated it back and forth. We need to find ways to move the debate forward, and I appeal to the Leader to do so, and specifically to look at European strategy and the agreements which the EU continues to sign with Turkey, Libya, South Sudan and with many regimes that have extraordinarily questionable human rights standards in respect of the redirection of refugees and immigration control. The EU holds moral responsibility for the experiences of those who seek refuge and who find themselves directed to these very questionable situations.

During the appropriate debate, I will have the opportunity to return to the key issue of the motion on the establishment of a committee on the eighth amendment to the Constitution.

I join Senator Conway-Walsh in expressing sympathy to all of those who were caught up in the appalling tragedy of the awful fire at the Grenfell Tower in London. We are still seeing reports of increasing numbers of people having been killed. I send sincere sympathies to all of those who are bereaved by the tragedy. I agree that it would be useful to have a debate on the state of housing stock in respect of fire safety and especially on the practice of cladding blocks of apartments, which clearly has particular implications in the Grenfell Tower tragedy. I understand we are still waiting to see what exactly was the cause of the fire and of it spreading so fast but it seems that quite a number of experts have suggested that the cladding was a big factor. I also wish to express sympathy to the family of the man who was killed in the Finsbury Park mosque attack.

All of us in the House would also like to express sympathy to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, on the sad loss of her wife, Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan. The Minister was a colleague in this House prior to the last general election.

I join Senator Catherine Ardagh and others in their comments on the process of the appointment of the outgoing Attorney General, Máire Whelan, to the Court of Appeal. It is rich to hear Fianna Fáil criticising the practice of cronyism but certainly the process of the appointment appears to have been deeply flawed. I join my own party leader, Deputy Brendan Howlin, in calling for that decision to be reviewed, as he did last Friday.

In the context of the announcements today by the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, I ask for a debate on women in politics. I join others in wishing him well as Taoiseach but I was very disappointed to see the lack of commitment to ensuring we have a more balanced gender representation among Cabinet and Ministers of State. Many of us thought the Taoiseach might use the Minister of State appointments today as a means of addressing the imbalance that exists in the Cabinet. It is very disappointing that there was not more promotion of women in the Cabinet, but in the Minister of State appointments the Taoiseach has missed an opportunity by demoting one very able woman and not promoting any new women to the ranks of the Ministers of State. For one who has very overtly and explicitly modelled himself on Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, I believe it is a terrible shame that the Taoiseach has missed this opportunity. Those two leaders in France and Canada have explicitly moved to ensure better gender representation in their Cabinets by their choice of Ministers. It is a real shame and a missed opportunity that the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, has not done the same in Ireland. I ask the Leader for a debate on the need to ensure the promotion of women in politics, to ensure enhanced gender balance among our political representatives, and to ensure support for the Women For Election group, an organisation that has done a significant amount to bring women forward and to support women in running for political office. It is very important.

Finally, I join Senator Higgins in wishing everyone a happy World Refugee Day.

As I was driving to Dublin today, I listened with interest and immense sadness to a report on RTE Radio 1 regarding people who were suicidal or who had attempted suicide having difficulty accessing appropriate psychiatric services, especially in out-of-hours times. The programme outlined cases of people in these situations who had presented to emergency departments of their local hospital as recommended on the HSE website.

They were triaged by a nurse on duty and in many cases had only a telephone conversation with a consultant psychiatrist before being discharged as medically fit. Once discharged some of these people went on to commit suicide. This is not a new issue and indeed it is one I raised here in February with the then Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Deputy McEntee. The discussion on the radio today was particularly timely because I received a call yesterday from a family in a similar situation. A girl in her early 20s who attempted suicide several weeks ago, had a violent outburst towards her parents on Friday night and was taken by ambulance at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning to a local psychiatric hospital, spent the day there and was discharged and sent home in a taxi at 10 p.m. on Saturday, some 17 hours later.

If I or anybody else presented at the emergency department on a Friday evening with cardiac arrest, a brain haemorrhage, a stroke or any other severe physical illness and had been discharged and subsequently died, people would rightfully ask questions. Why should it be any different for a person presenting with severe mental health issues?

We know that every community in Ireland is affected by suicide and self-harm and that the emotional turmoil associated with such ideation does not confine itself to out-of-hours' times. Nobody suicidal should ever be turned away. Will the Leader please ask the new Minister of State with responsibility for mental health to come to the Chamber and have a debate and hear comments from the Senators with regard to specific steps that can be taken to fix the problems associated with access to help, especially out-of-hours?

I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by my colleague, Senator Ardagh, to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to address the appointment of the Attorney General. It is important that this issue is clarified and I support her call for that.

Every year 2,500 people in Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer. Of those, 1,000 lose their lives each year. Bowel cancer is the second most deadly cancer after lung cancer. It is striking, however, that up to 500 fewer of those people would lose their lives if two simple steps were taken, lifestyle changes and availing of a free bowel screen. I encourage all those who are eligible, males and females between the ages of 60 and 69, to undergo this test.

The Irish Cancer Society is very concerned that only 40% of those eligible are undergoing this much-needed test. A leading expert in this field, residing in Scotland, has indicated that if all eligible people were to go for screening the number of deaths could be reduced by 30%. That is a striking figure. It is vital that the Minister for Health allocate sufficient funds to the promotion of this test and the age group of those eligible be extended to ages 55 to 74. It is imperative that this be done without delay and I ask the Leader to ensure that the Minister provides sufficient funding to save these lives.

Several people have spoken about the appointment of the former Attorney General, Ms Whelan, to the Court of Appeal. Everywhere the woman's name is mentioned we hear about her qualifications. Her qualifications are not the issue. The issue is the process. If this happened in a public service job the employer would be before the Labour Court. Was this woman sitting in on a meeting of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board when the decision about the three High Court judges was made?

It is something else to tell us that three High Court judges were not capable of promotion to the Court of Appeal. Did the former Attorney General sit in on the Cabinet meeting that decided on her appointment? We are told we cannot find that out because of Cabinet confidentiality. This is the worst form of stroke politics ever, but as bad and all as that is, the political comment on it over the weekend, of huffing and puffing and getting as far as generating the wind to blow the house down and then deciding we would not blow the house down, really takes the biscuit. Is it any wonder that the people of this country are totally cynical about politics and politicians? What has gone on in this country over recent days with the appointment of this woman to a tainted position? She has tainted the court by taking the role.

Please, the lady is not here to answer for herself. I am not going to allow that. Please desist.

The Cathaoirleach has no choice.

I have a choice. I am in the Chair, and the Senator will not challenge the Chair, with respect.

We should get the Minister for Justice and Equality in here this afternoon.

Please be orderly, Senator.

What has happened here is disgraceful and it taints us all.

The Senator is entitled to his opinion. His time is up.

I would like to send my condolences to the people of the tower block in London, and also to the Portuguese people as a result of the forest fires which have claimed the lives of up to 70 people. There are going to be three days of national mourning in Portugal.

I was delighted, along with everyone else, to hear about the deal done to get Irish beef back into the US market. I have to say, however, that I am not very happy to see that the cartel, the beef factories, are slashing beef prices by up to €50 per head this week. The move comes despite a reported shortage of manufacturing beef across Europe. There is a shortage of beef and so prices should be going up. The cartel, however, is taking them down. This is an attempt to panic farmers at a time when good grazing conditions and farmers busy at silage and hay are making cattle scarce. The cartel, which has been allowed in this country, is putting the gun to farmer's head again, as it were, and cutting prices to get them to run into the factories.

I read in the newspaper that good weather all across Europe is positive for farmers as the barbecue season looks like it will drive beef demand upwards. It is not going up but coming down in this country. It is a disgrace. I would like to have the Minister into the House in order that we can see what he is going to do to ensure fair play for farmers. This is not good enough.

It is World Refugee Day today. There are millions of displaced people around the world with no home and no country. I am organising a group of women and men from direct provision to come in tomorrow morning to do a presentation, and it would be great if as many people as possible, or their representatives, could make it to listen to the stories these people have to tell.

I want to go back to the issue of Linn Dara in Cherry Orchard in Ballyfermot. Half the beds there were closed three weeks ago. We have been in negotiations with Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy McEntee. I have been in constant contact with my union, the Psychiatric Nurses Association. There are solutions but they have not been implemented. I imagine that the reshuffle was more of a priority than our children, who have had to attend at accident and emergency departments and wait 24 hours. They are at real risk. My colleague, Deputy Louise O'Reilly, asked some political questions yesterday and received some responses. The figures we received on child and adolescent mental health services are shocking and concerning. Only 53% of the staff deemed necessary to implement a Vision for Change exists in child and adult mental health services.

That means 47% of staff are missing and have not been appointed. Adult services are slightly better, if one could say that, as 78% of staff have been appointed. In Dublin South-Central only 52% of child and adolescent mental health staff positions are filled. That cannot continue. How many wake-up calls are needed?

UNICEF launched its report on children yesterday, including children in emotional distress and those with mental health issues. Ireland came 34th out of 37 nations surveyed. A total of 22.6% of children here, aged between 11 and 15, stated they had experienced two or more psychological symptoms in the past or more than once a week. That is shocking and insupportable. The closure of Linn Dara is insupportable and it is shameful. I hope the new Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Deputy Jim Daly, can be proactive and not sit back and rely on bogus reviews that sit and gather dust. We need to act and there is no time like now. We needed the services yesterday.

This is the first sitting day since the passing of Ann Louise Gilligan and I wish to pay tribute to her in the Seanad not only for the impact she had on my life but the impact she has had on generations of lives across the community in Tallaght. She cannot be faulted on the level of work and commitment she gave to working-class communities as well as the LGBT community for many years. A quote she used comes to mind and I will read it:

The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.

I really feel that what Ann Louise gave to the women of Tallaght was space, and she facilitated the room for healing so that students and women could become themselves. I wish to remember her here today and send my condolences to the Minister, Deputy Zappone.

Reference has already been made to the fact that today is UN World Refugee Day. I congratulate the University of Limerick on becoming a university of sanctuary. Yesterday, at the first Department of Justice and Equality citizenship event held at the University of Limerick, the president, Dr. Des Fitzgerald, made the announcement that the university would become a university of sanctuary. There will be initiatives to welcome asylum seekers and refugees into the university community. That is a very welcome initiative. A total of 17 refugees and asylum seekers will be in receipt of scholarships from September 2017. The university also stated there will be a three-year action plan to promote access and culture. The university has said the knowledge and commitment of refugees and asylum seekers will be a key driver in the movement to designate not only Limerick but the mid-west region as a place of sanctuary. That is very important, especially on UN World Refugee Day.

It is extremely fitting that Limerick has been mentioned in the previous contribution. I do welcome the fact that the University of Limerick has announced it will be a sanctuary university. It is UN World Refugee Day. However, I wish to raise an issue which perhaps the Taoiseach himself could come into the Chamber to discuss, namely, the comments made by a Fine Gael councillor in Limerick, Stephen Keary, who is due to become the next Mayor of Limerick. It is fantastic that the University of Limerick will become a sanctuary university and it is wonderful that we have laudable statements on UN World Refugee Day but that individual has made racist, anti-immigrant statements in recent weeks. Our own Labour Party councillor in that part of the world, Elena Secas, who is of Moldovan extraction, is disgusted by what he said. The new leader of Fine Gael does not seem to find the capacity within himself to censure the councillor, criticise him or perhaps even expel him from the Fine Gael Party, or at least make sure that his name does not go forward to be the first citizen of Limerick.

Senator Ó Ríordáin is a long-standing Member and knows we should not refer to people outside the House.

Hold on, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

Senator Ó Ríordáin knows we should not refer to people outside the House who are not in a position to defend themselves.

This is the era of new politics. We now have a new Taoiseach who, in the context of the person that he is and his background-----

Does the Senator want the Taoiseach to address the House?

-----for many people represents a new opportunity for this country. We have five appointees to positions as Ministers of State not one of whom is a woman. We also have a councillor in Limerick making racist comments. This individual is due to be Mayor of Limerick and there is absolutely no word from the Taoiseach on the matter. I would like to discuss the-----

The House is not actually aware of what it is the Senator-----

-----comments made by this individual at a public forum in Limerick over which he is standing. These were anti-immigrant and racist comments-----

He is not here to defend himself, as the Senator well knows.

----and on this of all days we have to call him out.

The Senator's time is up.

I want to know what the Leader believes the response of his party and the Taoiseach should be-----

The Leader will respond, I have no doubt.

-----to a councillor who is making racist and anti-immigrant comments.

That is the Senator's opinion.

Is he welcome in Fine Gael and should he be Mayor of Limerick?

The person the Senator is referring to is not here to defend himself.

I agree with Deputy Ardagh on the comments she made.

I raise the very sad loss of Mr. Thomas Power from Waterford, who, as I am sure all Members are aware, passed away at the weekend. He went to Waterford hospital complaining of a pain in his chest but the cardiac unit was not open. As we are all aware, for a long time the people of Waterford and the south east have been fighting for this unit to be opened. It opens Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed at weekends. Mr. Power was told he would be taken by ambulance to Cork but he died on the way. That is a disaster. It is tragic and so sad in terms of the loss of a young life. The fact that the unit needs to be open 24 hours a day has been raised constantly with the Minister, Deputy Harris. We do not have a 24-hour service in the south east. It is unacceptable that people are expected to suffer heart attacks between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m on weekdays. If they suffer heart attacks at any other time, there is no service available. I call on the Minister to come before the House and provide an assurance that this cardiac unit will be open 24 hours a day. Statistics show that 80% of heart attacks happen after 5 p.m. I offer my sympathies to the Power family. It is disgraceful that those of us living in Waterford and the south east do not have access to a proper service. It is unacceptable. We are being treated as second-class citizens and I am of the view that this is down to funding. I ask that the Minister, Deputy Harris, come before the House and clarify this issue. I also call for the unit in question to be open 24 hours a day.

I echo the words of sympathy to the Minister for Children, Deputy Zappone, on the death of her wife, Ann Louise Gilligan. I did not know Ann Louise but I served with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, on a committee for five years and found her to be a great colleague and a very inspiring person. Our hearts and our sympathy go out to her at this time.

I support Senator Conway-Walsh on the need for a debate in the House - I appeal to the Leader to facilitate it - on the condition of Irish public buildings in terms of the cladding, sprinkler systems and alarms used and the fire safety measures in place. We need an inventory of those, and we need to learn a lesson from the tragedy in the United Kingdom. Along with other Senators, my heart goes out to the people of Grenfell Tower.

I wish to raise the issue of young children who public health nurses and teachers notice need assessment for potential conditions, such as autism, dyspraxia and dyslexia, that will affect the kind of support they need in education, in life and in terms of their development. The waiting list for those young children is too long. Thank God, with the recession having passed, we are now in the process of building a normal society. In order to build a normal society, we need to consider this question and reduce the number of children on the waiting list to zero. In County Cavan, where I live, we have a wonderful Enable Ireland centre, which has great staff and beautiful facilities.

I visited it recently and it is an excellent place, but there is, I am told, a two-year waiting list. That cannot continue. I ask the Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer, himself a former Chairman of the health committee and a former teacher, who has the sensitivity on this issue, to arrange this debate as a matter of urgency. We must have a whole debate on it, bringing in the relevant Ministers of all Departments where it impacts. These children cannot be left in limbo. They must be the first to benefit from the fact that we are now in a different space economically. In conclusion, I ask for a review of the waiting lists for children for psychological testing and assessment. The current position is bizarre, wrong and, in fact, unconstitutional.

Ba mhaith liom tacú le Senator Murnane O'Connor. I understand where she is coming from. I had a heart attack five years ago and was very lucky to be only a mile and a half from the hospital. People in Waterford should not be second-class citizens in this regard, nor should anyone else. What she is saying is fundamental. Go raibh míle maith agat as ucht a thabhairt os comhar an Teach seo.

Speaking of second-class citizens, I congratulate the new Taoiseach, Ministers and Ministers of State on their appointments and wish them every success. God knows, we need strength, leadership, depth and conviction to help Ireland get to where we need to be in this world of economics. However, I express my disappointment, and that of many in the west of Ireland, that we do not have a Cabinet Minister from Galway. It is the third largest city in Ireland with a population of 250,000 people. However, in this and the previous Government, we have not had a senior Cabinet Minister. I hear it on the streets in Galway and all over the place and I express my and other people's disappointment at the fact.

I ask the Leader to invite the new Minister of State with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the islands, Deputy Joe McHugh, to address the House on the Scéim Gaeilge which is in place to promote Irish in the Gaeltacht and Ireland generally but which, frankly, is not working. It has not worked during the term of the previous Government and it is not working under this one. I was born, reared and live in the Gaeltacht. Irish is my first language and English is my second. One of the major reasons the scheme is not working is because we are not focused on the people. We tell people, companies and communities to draw up a plan to promote Irish but it is purely academic and of no benefit whatsoever. What people from the Gaeltacht want is the opportunity to get up and work. We do not want handouts, we want the opportunity to have a job. Ten jobs in a rural Gaeltacht in Kerry, Donegal or Galway or any other part of rural Ireland are worth perhaps 500 jobs in a place like Dublin. I ask for us to focus on that and for the Leader to invite the Minister of State to come to the House to talk to us about his plean Gaeilge and his vision so that we can help him along that line.

It was interesting to hear the comments made on the appointment of the former Attorney General. It is important to note that 16 of the 29 Attorneys General of Ireland have been appointed to the High Court. A number of others were appointed to positions at European level. I refer to Mr. Peter Sutherland SC and Mr. Justice John Murray. In fairness to Ms Máire Whelan, there is no question or doubt that she has the competence to serve on the Court of Appeal. It is a prerogative of the Government constitutionally to make the appointment to any position on the Superior Courts. People may complain about the procedures, but constitutionally it is the Government that makes the appointment.

People criticise the Judiciary here from time to time, but over the last 80 or so years, it has served this country well. Judges have pushed out the boundaries of the law when the Oireachtas, Ministers and taoisigh have refused to tackle the issues. In quite a number of areas constitutionally, there are established rights for citizens on which the Oireachtas was not prepared to introduce legislation.

It is important we have that separation of powers. The Minister and the Government appointed Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal. It must be remembered that the Court of Appeal was set up six years ago because we had a backlog in the Supreme Court and getting a hearing in that court could take four years. We set up a proper procedure to ensure the backlog was dealt with. It is important that access to the courts is within a reasonable time. Over the past six years, we have changed some of the issues on that. The criticism about Máire Whelan's appointment is wrong. She has the ability and experience to serve and to perform as a member of the Court of Appeal.

She was also the nearest thing we had to having a Minister from Galway.

There are two Ministers from Galway now.

There is a Minister next door too.

International research has indicated that the children of alcoholics and drug addicts are far more susceptible to mental and physical illness as a result of the experience they suffer at the hands of parents who engage in substance abuse. The plight of these children is largely hidden from the public gaze. The recent audit by the Government's special rapporteur on child protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon, is important. His audit of the exercise by the Garda of the provisions of section 12 of the Child Care Act is important because it graphically lays bare the grim effects of alcohol and drug abuse on young people in the family home. Dr. Shannon told RTE's “Morning Ireland” that insurmountable burdens are placed on the child protection system because of society's failure to address alcohol as a fundamental problem. While the personal stories in the 318 page report were illustrated in the media, the poor quality of life endured by these children has since left the spotlight.

Will the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, come to the House to tell us what supports are available for these children? I acknowledge it as a time of grief for her and our sympathies go out to her. As soon as appropriate scheduling permits, it would be good to hear from her.

In February 2017, the all-party parliamentary group of MPs in Britain launched a manifesto calling for political support and funding for children whose parents misuse alcohol. In April, the British health Minister announced that children living with alcohol-dependent parents were to be prioritised in the strategy to address their needs.

Irish children living in such homes need to have their unique circumstances recognised by the State, given the harm they endure. In light of Dr. Shannon's report, it is time for the Department to commission a new comprehensive survey to assess the extent of the risks faced by children whose parents abuse drink and drugs. In the meantime, the Government could consider the provision of additional financing to advocacy groups to help support and counsel children living in homes where parental addiction is a constant presence.

I add my voice and congratulations to the new Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. It will be interesting and we all wish him well. Some good things have already been said. Following from what I said last week, however, I was disappointed the Taoiseach announced so baldly that there would be a referendum on the eighth amendment in 2018. As I said in response to Senator Bacik last week, there is a committee which is supposed to be looking at the Citizens’ Assembly report. If we are to have respect for the parliamentary process-----

I am sure that will be debated further in the House.

I am making a fair point and I am not attacking the Taoiseach.

The Senator is. The Senator is also one minute over time.

I understand that.

Time is important.

This is simply a question of whether we respect committees of this House or not. Is committee work to be mere window dressing or choreographing, or is there to be respect for it? All I am asking is that there would be respect for a committee process. Notwithstanding his ideological opposition to me, Senator Ó Ríordáin would agree with me on the point of procedure. The Taoiseach ought to have left that.

It is about allowing people to have their say.

I would like to join Senators Ruane and O'Reilly in expressing my sympathies to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, on her great personal loss at this time.

I wish to raise the issue of the pyrite and mica report that was published this day last week amidst the hurly-burly of changes in the Lower House and us getting a new Taoiseach. At that stage, I requested that the report be debated in this House because it is very important. I understand the Leader is proceeding to make that invitation to the Minister of State, Deputy English, who it has been confirmed will remain in his role and who has done a fine job. The report is long awaited and very welcome. It is the first official acknowledgment that the problem manifesting itself in blockwork in counties Mayo and Donegal is owing to pyrite and mica. The report and the engineering solutions offered are stark. With pyrite in blockwork, the most effective solution seems to be to remove the affected blockwork, which in some cases is the entire inner and outer sleeve of the walls of the house, and to rebuild. This is both a daunting and traumatic prospect for many people in Mayo and Donegal and a very expensive one. This brings me to asking the Leader to have the Minister for Finance in because apart from getting the solutions in place, they will also have to be paid for. We need a remediation scheme in order that the affected distressed homeowners can be financially assisted in respect of these solutions. We also need to debate how to get to a point whereby people who have carried out the works will get a certificate of structural soundness to enable them to sell and mortgage their houses. If a house has pyrite it is pretty much blacklisted. It is any homeowner's worst nightmare. For most people, it is their main asset and it is truly traumatic. As we look towards the next budget and the arrangements that will be made for how moneys available are divvied up, we need a scheme similar to that put in place on the east coast for people affected by pyrite heave. I ask that this is given due urgency. People are waiting in Mayo and Donegal.

I acknowledge the Leader is here to toe the party line and represent his party. I am sure he is delighted to be still sitting where he is after a change of leader and so on and rightly so, because he has been a good and fair performer. Without fear of contradiction, the biggest problem facing our country at present is Brexit and the fallout therefrom. I would be very surprised if anybody could contradict that. I was among the first people to call for a separate, specific Minister with responsibility for Brexit. We debated it here on a number of occasions. I do not think it was a big request; it was quite a good and logical idea. I see the Leader shaking his head.

I have given the Leader leeway by acknowledging he had to toe a certain party line but there was no man like Enda. He was the man, he had to deal with it because he had the contacts and nobody else in this country could look after it by-----

It is nice to hear that from the Opposition.

I am talking through the Chair and I would not interrupt anybody, particularly those in Fine Gael.

The Senator is being complimented.

I have to be honest about it. The argument was that nobody but the ex-leader of our country could look after the Brexit portfolio because he had the connections in Europe. It was rehashed here on three or four occasions as if it had to be written in stone. When he departed as leader, I waited for the Cabinet reshuffle after which I thought we would have a Brexit Minister, Deputy Enda Kenny. Consequently, I could not believe it when I heard the news that instead, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, who the Leader knows well, would be the Minister with responsibility for issues with the North.

I hate to interrupt the Senator but this has no relevance to the Order of Business.

It is fully relevant.

Unfortunately, the Senator's time is up.

I am finishing. I am getting there. If I had not been interrupted I would be long finished.

I will take-----

No. Please, Senator Feighan, you will be next.

I am only at the-----

With respect, I must ask Senator Davitt to wind up.

I will just continue.

I cannot let him continue.

Deputy Simon Coveney is now dealing with Northern issues, which is an extremely important portfolio.

He is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

One of the most important issues is Brexit.

Nothing to do with the Seanad.

There was a reshuffle. We have now appointed a new Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs.

I am extremely surprised that we could not have made one for Brexit. It was a no-brainer, and it is a missed opportunity.

The Senator has gone one minute over time.

I ask the Leader to go back to his party leader and discuss it post-haste.

I listened to Senator Murnane O'Connor discussing the very emotive topic of health. We all agree that we would want state-of-the-art facilities to deal with accidents in our own areas. She is absolutely right to raise it in this forum. I left my office in Roscommon town this morning at 10 o'clock and an ambulance passed me on the way to Athlone. At Knockcroghery, I saw the ambulance pull in and I saw the air ambulance arriving. This was another sign of success and a different approach to medicine.

Six years ago, 5,000 or 10,000 people protested, with about 3,000 outside the gates here. Prophets of doom were saying that people would die, that it was awful and that the hospital would close. More than 500 people work in Roscommon hospital. Not one person that I know of has died in the past five years and hundreds of lives have been saved. The air ambulance and its paramedics have brought hospital accident and emergency services to the people. I am not saying the same applies in Waterford.

Sometimes - I saw it in Roscommon - people have used health and other such issues as a political football, which can be unhelpful. There are people whom we trust and they should be the people who make those decisions. It should not be politicians making such decisions. It is wrong that politicians make life-and-death decisions. In my area, the best thing was done six years ago for the patients in County Roscommon and further afield. The proof is in the pudding. However, unfortunately it got political because the national and local media did not want to hear the truth and they still do not want to hear the truth. We will always have discussions on health and sometimes it may not be the right forum but the Senator was right to raise it here as an issue.

The doctors are looking for it to be kept open.

Sorry, Senator-----

I am so happy that hundreds of people are alive today in County Roscommon six years later. We had an accident and emergency department that only had ten people using it a day and most of the people said that it was spiralling out of control. Unfortunately, the experts and HIQA were not listened to and the politicians at the time used it as a political football. All of that is in the past and we should highlight that.

Before I call the Leader to reply, it would be helpful for me to deal with Senator Ardagh's amendment, which called for a debate with the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Fitzgerald, on the appointment of the former Attorney General to the Court of Appeal to be taken today. I regret that I must rule the amendment out of order on the grounds that it requires a Minister to answer in this House for a matter in respect of which she has no current official responsibility.

I join other Senators in expressing sympathy with a former Senator and the current Minister, Deputy Katherine Zappone, on the very sad passing of her wife, Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan. The tribute Senator Ruane paid in writing to her is one we should read and reflect on. I pay tribute to Ann Louise on a life well lived as a fearless campaigner, advocate and educator, and as somebody who believed in giving to society. In her own life, she was an ambassador for all things that are good about Ireland in terms of the power of education, the importance of campaigning and the strength of love.

I pay tribute to her and sympathise with the Minister on her very sad loss. We are with her in spirit and stand in support with her. I thank Senators for their remarks on what was a very sad day last week for the Minister, Deputy Katherine Zappone, and the family of Ann Louise Gilligan. All of us will, in our own way, pay tribute quietly to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, as well.

I thank Senators for their congratulations to the new Taoiseach, Cabinet, Attorney General and Ministers of State, including Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran. Senators Ardagh, Boyhan, Conway-Walsh, Bacik, Gallagher, Craughwell and Colm Burke raised the matter of the appointment of the former Attorney General. I begin by joining Senator Colm Burke in outlining that 16 of the 29 previous Attorneys General of various types and hues have been appointed to judicial positions either here at home or in the European courts. It is a question of competency. The Government's prerogative is to appoint judges. It is important that we not rush to populism. When I hear members of Fianna Fáil in particular speaking about stroke politics and cronyism, I wonder whether they are the same ones who were silent when their own people were appointed by their party leader while he was a Minister. I ask Senators to reflect on the number and type of people who were appointed to boards and other positions.


The Taoiseach stated that the correct procedure was followed, the Tánaiste recommended Ms Máire Whelan to the Cabinet as the stand-out person for the vacancy and the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board did not have a recommendation for the post, so the Government came to the decision to appoint someone. I do not know whether Senator Ardagh has heard me but I want her to understand what happened. The correct procedure was followed. In addition, the Taoiseach did not instruct or ask the President to expedite the appointment. As the Senator knows well from her legal background, the President can and does appoint members of the Judiciary within days of their nominations.

The Tánaiste, as the Cathaoirleach ruled, is no longer the line Minister and, therefore, is not the appropriate Minister to attend the House. I am happy to ask the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, to attend. I submitted a request to him in advance of today's Order of Business in the belief that there might be an amendment to it. I hope that he will be here on Thursday, if the House is agreeable. It is important that we allow for due process. If we have a discussion on the appointment of Ms Whelan in itself, then we will stray into matters that are not necessarily connected with the import of the decision.

The Business Committee has left to decide the Dáil's business and I am unsure as to whether it has returned yet. The appointment will stand no matter what happens. It is up to us to ensure that the judicial appointments Bill is fast-tracked and passed by the House. I am told that the Minister for Justice and Equality is available to come to the House on Thursday. That would be important.

Senators Conway-Walsh, O'Reilly, Colm Burke, Butler and Bacik raised the issue of Finsbury Park, Grenfell Tower and Portugal, where there were tragic deaths of innocent people. I join Senator Conway-Walsh in paying tribute to those who died and hoping that there will not be such a socio-economic divide in our country. It cannot be allowed to happen. The Senator was right to highlight the matter on the Order of Business. Given what Senator O'Reilly said about the type of cladding used, there is a need for building and fire safety regulations to be monitored, inspected and, if necessary, changed.

I agree that it is a matter of absolute importance. Where I disagree with the Senator is that I do not know if the local authorities have the competency or personnel to do this. It may need a different approach, which I think we all agree should be taken. We cannot allow a tragic consequence to happen in this country like happened in London last week. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has met with the Dublin fire chief and will meet with all other fire chiefs in the coming weeks. He has also asked the National Directorate of Fire Emergency Management to meet and to assess this country's readiness for fire emergencies. In addition to this, each local authority has been asked to review and come back with their plans for their multi-storey social housing units. This also requires local authorities to ensure that early warning systems and alarm detection procedures and systems are in place. Through the Private Residential Tenancies Board private landlords and the management companies of private apartment complexes are also able to ensure that there is an answer to the question the Senator raises.

Fire safety precautions and readiness are extremely important. Whether we follow what happened in England or not, the Senators are absolutely correct that awareness should be raised and also that the fine line between being ready and prepared on the one hand and ensuring such a catastrophe never happens on the other should be put in place. I hope that all of those involved in the management of our property units will respond to the Minister because it is imperative that we do not allow what happened in England to happen here. I will ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to come to the House to discuss this matter as a matter of urgency. It is critical. Irrespective of where we are from or who we represent, what happened last week is a tragedy. We must stand with the people and ensure that the monument left there today is one that we never see in this country. All of us as public representatives at local and national level must work with those charged with responsibility at both private and public level to ensure that there are no fire traps or death traps in either our social or our private housing units. We are lucky perhaps that we do not have the same height of building but we do have apartment blocks and management companies in this country. We must ensure that no short cuts have been taken and that there is a rigorous inspection of these premises and units.

Senators Higgins, Bacik, Ó Ríordáin, Byrne and Devine pointed out that today is World Refugee Day. I accept that more needs to be done and that we must continue to be a place of welcome and refuge. We cannot be seen to be a cold house or a cold place for people seeking refuge here. This is where we as a nation must ensure that the good work being done today continues. It is also important that we pay tribute on this World Refugee Day to our Defence Forces, who have rescued and saved so many refugees in the Mediterranean. President Higgins today asked us to pause and pay tribute to 65 million refugees and to ensure that we leave no-one behind. That is our task, irrespective of our ideology, governments or political parties. As citizens and as people we must ensure that no-one is left behind. We have a moral duty to do that. I welcome Senator Byrne's comment about the University of Limerick as a sanctuary university, where 17 people will have the opportunity to be educated on scholarships.

I have not read the remarks attributed to Councillor Keary-----

"A major drain on the State."

The Leader to respond, without interruption.

If I may continue?

The councillor has apologised for his remarks. I do not in any way condone any inflammatory, racist or intolerant remarks.

"Stick a chain on them."

Please, Senator Ó Ríordáin.

That is the reality of it. In my party he would have been kicked out.

The Senator is out of order.

I am out of order? This joker down in Limerick is out of order.

I have to keep order here. The Leader is responding. Senator Ó Ríordáin can find another opportunity to do that.

I understand that the councillor has apologised for his remarks.

I have read his remarks and I do not believe he has apologised.

Allow the Leader to continue, please.

Sometimes it is good to listen.

With the greatest respect, I hope nobody is listening to this man.

I will not tolerate further discussion of this issue on the Order of Business.

Do we take racism seriously or not?

The Senator is out of order. Allow the Leader to respond, please.

As Leader of the Seanad I was happy to allow Senator Alice-Mary Higgins to explain the rationale behind her-----

I ask the Leader not to encourage further debate on the issue.

I am responding to the question regarding the Special Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. I am explaining to Senator Higgins why I am allowing for debate on the matter. It is important that we have this debate in the House.

Senator McFadden raised the important issue of mental health and the need for implementation of A Vision for Change, which is the framework and blueprint for building positive mental health across all communities, in particular youth mental health and specialist services for people with mental illness. I wish the new Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, every success in his new role. Senator Devine raised the issue of Linn Dara today as well. I agree with the points made by Senators Devine and McFadden. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, to come to the House to discuss the specific procedures around admittance of people to hospital outside of working hours, as raised by Senator McFadden, and the matters raised by Senator Devine, which matters she has raised previously. We are all agreed that mental health services have been the Cinderella of the health services for far too long. There is need for a real debate on how we can implement A Vision for Change. Money has been ring-fenced for this area. There is increased funding in the mental health budget and it is important that this is felt on the ground.

Senator Gallagher raised the important issue of bowel cancer screening. There is a critical advertisement being run on radio in this regard, which I heard this morning in my car on the drive to Dublin. We must encourage people, particularly men, to engage with this service. I am happy to invite the Minister of State to the House for that debate. The Senator's point that bowel cancer screening should be extended to all groups is an important one.

Senator Boyhan spoke about Rebuilding Ireland, which is the bedrock of Government policy on housing. I wish the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Ministers of State, Deputy Damien English and Deputy John Paul Phelan, well in their new roles. I will be happy to ask the Minister to come to the House for a debate on Rebuilding Ireland. Each Minister will try to add his own stamp to the Department.

Senator Butler raised the issue of Irish beef. I congratulate the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, on his mission with Bord Bia to Washington DC yesterday and today where he had important engagements in the White House and with the US Department of Agriculture and Food. We welcome the opening up of the US beef market to Irish beef. Senator Butler raised the important point of beef prices being cut by the factories. The European Commission commodity price dashboard shows Irish beef prices have risen by 4.1%. There is no reason factories should be cutting the price at this time. I will be happy to have the Minister, Deputy Creed, come to the House on his return from the US.

Senators Murnane O'Connor, Ó Céidigh and Feighan spoke of the tragic death of Mr. Thomas Power in Waterford. I extend my sympathies to his family. To be fair, the issue raised by Senator Murnane O'Connor in regard to the cardiac unit has been well promulgated by Senator Coffey when he spoke in this House on the Order of Business and in the past by other Members from the south east. There has been a huge debate on the issue. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has engaged with various stakeholders in that regard. I am happy to ask the Minister to come to the House again on that matter. Again, I sympathise with the Power family on their tragic loss.

Senators Reilly and Devine raised the issue of child adolescent mental health services and the lengthy waiting lists for assessments for a range of conditions.

Senator O'Reilly correctly raised the tremendous Enable Ireland facility in Cavan. Senator Reilly is correct that we need a debate. These children cannot be left in limbo. All of us understand the frustration of families with children who have a disability, families of children with autism, ASD or special educational needs, and that they require urgent intervention. As we emerge from recession, as a Government and as a country we need to ensure that the benefit of the recovering economy is felt by people who most need it; in this case as articulated by Senators O'Reilly and Devine.

Senator Ó Céidigh raised the matter of Roinn na Gaeltachta and daoine na Gaeltachta. Déanaim mo chomhghairdeachas leis an Aire Stáit, Teachta Seosamh McHugh, ar an bpost. What the Taoiseach has done is quite innovative regarding the Irish language. He has appointed a Minister for Irish and Irish affairs to sit at Cabinet, which is important. It is not just about the Gaeltacht, it is about cúrsaí Gaeilge. I wish the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, well. I agree with Senator Ó Céidigh that the plan did not work, notwithstanding the tremendous work done by former Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne - and I pay tribute to him for his work in the role of Minister of State with responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs and natural resources. We now need to see a focus on people and on the importance of jobs, employment and the creation of small indigenous industries in Gaeltacht areas. Attracting industry to locate there is important. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House in respect of the matter raised by Senator Ó Céidigh.

Senator Mullen raised the issue of children who are born to parents who suffer from substance abuse. It is a very important issue and I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House. The Senator also asked about the Special Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. There will be a meeting tomorrow about the committee. Senator Mullen is correct in that all Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas must respect the work of the committee system within the Oireachtas and that we do not pre-empt or prejudge any committee's work, not least the committee on the eighth amendment of the Constitution. I wish all members of the committee, myself included, every success in their work. Whatever the outcome that is presented to the Government, and whatever Government decides, it is important.

The issue of pyrite was raised by Senator Mulherin. The Senator has been strong in the House in her articulation around the need for action for the people of Mayo and Donegal who are affected. We very much welcome the report. The Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, is thankfully retaining that position from the point of view of the issue in the report and I am happy that he has committed to coming before the House on the matter.

Senator Davitt raised the issue of a Minister for Brexit. I wish to pay tribute to Deputy Dara Murphy for his work as Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs. He was a very powerful ambassador for our country. I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, with special responsibility for Brexit, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, every success in their new posts.

I am not sure which Minister's post he would like to have been given but I believe that our former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, has served our country in outstanding ways in Europe in positioning us in the Brexit negotiations. The proof is, as we have seen, in the position paper outlined. The Brexit negotiations commenced yesterday. It is going to be two years of endeavour and I hope we will see a positive outcome. I thank Senator Davitt for raising the matter.

Senator Feighan touched on the issue of the air ambulance in Roscommon, which is an important outcome for the people of Roscommon.

The amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Ardagh has been ruled out of order by the Leas-Chathaoirleach, and I am happy to accept that.

I would like to address that matter and the Leas-Chathaoirleach's refusal in ruling it out of order and the Leader's offer.

The Leader has responded. I am afraid the Senator cannot raise it. As she probably understands, the Minister-----

I would like to put it on record that it is absolutely outrageous that the Tánaiste-----

The Ministers do not have constitutional responsibility to this House, it is to the Dáil.

-----who was the Tánaiste last week and who is the Tánaiste today, and who is the lady who drafted the memo in Cabinet last week-----

I have made a ruling for the current time, and that is it.

-----and who is still a member of the Cabinet today, cannot come to this House and address-----

With respect to the Senator she is showing disobedience, which is unlike her.

-----the House to tell us exactly what happened regarding the appointment of Máire Whelan.

With respect, my ruling stands.

It is absolutely outrageous.

The Senator is out of order, I am sorry.

Order of Business agreed to.