The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the Report of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills entitled: 'Report on the eligibility of maintenance grants to students - Wake-up SUSI.', to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude no later than 2.15 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply to the debate and No. 2, Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2017, Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken at 2.15 p.m.
Order of Business
Yesterday, the Tánaiste's presence in this House raised more questions than it answered, especially on the revelation that "the email" was found in the Department on 9 November, after Deputy Kelly raised a parliamentary question. It is curious and extraordinary that it was withheld from the Taoiseach until 16 November, one week later. Furthermore we still do not have the full contents of the email. We do not have a screenshot, that one would expect in this day and age. We cannot see if it was part of a thread, or if there were other recipients on the email. We cannot see whether it was a response to a previous email and if it was actually replied to.
The Taoiseach in the Dáil also criticised the management of the Department of Justice and Equality for its failings to provide complete information. This begs the question whether the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan was aware of this email, and why he did not tell the Taoiseach about it. Why did two Ministers in the Cabinet allow the Taoiseach to mislead the Dáil? The Taoiseach must be absolutely furious about this matter. We still do not know whether the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald read the emails and understood the contents, the gravity and the seriousness of them and why she failed to act on them or even more why she failed to question the contents of these emails. Why did she continue, ever after May 2016, to express her full confidence in the then Garda Commissioner? Surely her confidence failed back in 2015.
There are many more questions arising from her presence in this Chamber and by yesterday's revelations. We need to see the Tánaiste return to this House to address some of the matters.
I wish to raise the flash flooding in Mountmellick. I commend the fire brigade, the Army and the local authority on their efforts last night to ensure there was no loss of life. I heard on the radio many of the residents commended their efforts. Will the Government ensure that the humanitarian access fund is put in place and that residents and businesses whose property was seriously damaged are allowed to access these funds in a smooth and easy manner so that they can get on with their lives and start rebuilding their life? Flash floods like this episode are becoming more frequent and more common and we need to put in place a proper flood prevention strategy to ensure that lives are not harmed in the future.
Iarraim ar an gCeannaire an tAire a iarraidh isteach anseo le labhairt linn mar gheall ar straitéis RTÉ. Is craoltóir poiblí é RTÉ agus ceapaim gur mhaith an rud é don Seanad dá bhféadfaimis a fháil amach an straitéis agus an fhís do RTÉ agus céard atá ar siúl ag an stáisiún.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, to give us an outline of the strategy for RTÉ, the national public service broadcaster. I know that RTÉ is faced with many challenges and it would be very good for this House to have a debate on the public service broadcaster and where it is at, the direction it is taking and its strategy to reach that point. Some 4.2 million streamers stream into RTÉ on a monthly basis. The online feed is very important. RTÉ is key as a public broadcaster to the future of democracy in Ireland for example. RTÉ has 1 million listeners to its radio programmes on a weekly basis. Having said that, RTÉ faces significant competition in the market. The landscape is changing. RTÉ has roughly 30% to 33% of the overall marketplace, which has diminished significantly in the past number of years. The cost of operating RTÉ is roughly €350 million a year, an increase of 7% on the 2015 figure. The main reasons for that were the European football championship, UEFA EURO 2016, the Olympics in Rio in 2016 and the celebrations and special programmes for the centenary commemorative events. RTÉ is funded as follows - €160 million comes from commercial revenue and approximately €180 million comes from the licence fees. The problem with the licence fees is that it is not all collected. RTÉ does not get all of the revenue from the licence fee. There is a significant gap of an estimated €15 million plus a year in the licence fees that remain unpaid. RTÉ is key to small firms that are involved in television and radio productions and the allocation for expenditure to buy in home produced programmes has dropped by 40% since the year 2008. I am keen to hear the Minister's view on the Irish language broadcasting on TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta.
Céard é an plean atá ag RTÉ ó thaobh TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta? Tá sé sin fíorthábhachtach ach ní dhéantar aon phlé air, beag ná mór. Dar liomsa agus go leor daoine eile, tá TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta fíorthábhachtach agus fíorlárnach ó thaobh chraolachán na tíre seo. Ba bhreá liom tuairimí an Aire agus tuairmí RTÉ a fháil mar gheall air sin agus ba bhreá liom dá bhféadfaimis ceisteanna a chur le soiléireacht a fháil ar an straitéis agus an fhís do TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta.
RTÉ is deeply involved in discussions on the sale of some of the property in Donnybrook for approximately €100 million. It will be good to find out their strategy for spending and investing that money.
Other colleagues, I am sure, have questions to be clarified by RTÉ, and I believe it would be appropriate to talk to the Minister about the strategy for our national broadcaster.
Tacaím leis an méid atá ráite ag an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh. Sílim go mbeadh sé an-mhaith dá mbeadh díospóireacht againn maidir leis an gcóras craoltóireachta poiblí anseo in Éirinn. Aontaím leis an méid atá ráite ansin. Aontáim cuid mhaith leis an méid atá ráite ag an Seanadóir Ardagh ar maidin maidir leis an Aire, Teachta Frances Fitzgerald. Sílim gur fágadh níos mó ceisteanna ná freagraí tar éis an seisiún a bhí againn aréir. We unfortunately have to return to the issue of the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Fitzgerald. It is quite clear that there are a number of issues that still have to be addressed concerning the debacle that has emerged.
I spoke to somebody with a legal background this morning who raised a couple of interesting points with me which I would like to put on the record here in the hope of getting answers to them. Has the confidentiality of the tribunal itself been breached? Our understanding is that on the second day of oral hearings there was a meeting at Garda HQ regarding its strategy. We understand that there was an email that afternoon to the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald. Section 11 of the Commission of Investigation Act makes it an offence to disclose evidence given at a commission of investigation. All proceedings in a commission of investigation are private except in exceptional circumstances. Therefore, as it is an offence under section 11 to disclose evidence, has an offence been committed? Surely the Garda, a Minister for Justice and Equality and officials from Department of Justice and Equality should be aware that is an offence.
A number of parties were connected to the emails that have gone over and back. It is very important to know who those officials were. Who was party to the emails, and why? If an offence was committed, was it reported? Did the Minister, officials or any member of the Garda report it? That leads to the question of where the information came from. Was there a leak in the commission itself? Was the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, herself not shocked by all of this? If somebody divulged information to any of us from a family court hearing, we would be concerned. Why would an in camera meeting of the commission not cause the same concern in a Minister for Justice and Equality, particularly when it was such a high profile issue at the time? So far the story just does not stack up. From speaking to political colleagues across the Houses, I do not think that many people in these Houses believe the story we are being given.
The potential offence gives rise to questions about the judgment of the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, at the time. Does the Leader have confidence that we are getting the full story? From our perspective on this side of the House, we are not sure, and we are certainly not confident that we are getting the full story.
This is a Second Stage speech.
It is imperative that the Tánaiste gives a full and comprehensive account of all aspects of this case at this stage, and that justice is seen to be done, as the Leader often says to us. If a breach has happened, was it reported, and, if not, why not?
I wish to raise two issues. The first relates to the Tánaiste's contribution to the Seanad last night. I believe it is time we invited the current Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, to the House. His Department seems to be completely incapable of giving factual information to the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach will have to correct the record of the House for a third time because of information that was given to him by the Department of Justice and Equality. It also appears that an email that was discovered, which was the centre of the controversy, was not communicated to the Tánaiste for a full week.
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, made a bizarre outburst in the Dáil last week when he accused my colleague, Deputy Alan Kelly, of conducting a smear campaign against him. As we are trying to get the bottom of this situation, all the while remembering that Sergeant Maurice McCabe is the person we should be most concerned about in terms of a smear campaign, I respectfully ask again that the current Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, be invited to this House to account for his Department's handling of the current situation.
I ask for a debate with the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne, who currently has responsibility for the national drugs strategy. When the new strategy was launched in July, a commitment was given that a 12-month working group would be established on the issue of the decriminalisation of drug use. That was a welcome development, and as the Leader and the Members of the Seanad will know, myself and Senator Lynne Ruane have drafted a piece of legislation which would give effect to the decriminalisation of addiction and drug use. We were willing to go with the new strategy and to give it the time and space it needed to bed itself down although we did not necessarily believe in having a separate strategy towards the end goal of decriminalisation of drug use. It is now November, almost December, however, and there is no sign of this working group being established. I respectfully ask that we invite the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne, to the House to discuss the establishment of the working group on the decriminalisation of drug use. It is a very serious issue.
I believe there is broad agreement around the House as to how we could look at this issue, and there is great humanity in this House when it comes to the issue of drug use and addiction. We are determined that this working group will be set up, that it will do its work efficiently, and that at the end of a 12 month period it will come to conclusions that would hopefully lead us to adopt a drugs strategy such as that in existence in Portugal. However, four months on, we are no closer to having that working group established. I would like the Minister of State to come in so that we can work with her to ensure that we get that working group established and to work for those in our country who are suffering from the effects of addiction.
Yesterday, we had a visit from the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Community and Local Government, Deputy English, and a surprise visit from the Minister for Housing, Community and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to Fingal to look at a particular type of pre-made construction. These are very fine steel structure houses where most of the work is done in factories, under cover. These houses are currently retailing at €450,000. I am not suggesting that is the sort of house that ultimately would be used, but it shows the quality that is available.
The issue I wish to raise today is housing and planning not just in Fingal, but country wide. We currently have no proper register of planners in this country. Anyone can call himself or herself a planner - I could do it. We need a register, and the Institute of Planners in Ireland, IPI, want it. They want the situation which pertains to other professions put in place whereby people must have a minimum level of qualification to be able to provide the services they say they can provide, a proper code of conduct, and, most importantly, a code of ethics. We have seen far too much development in this country. I am not here to score political points but to address an issue. Estates have been built all over the country in places where nobody wants to live. Proper planning would not allow that and we need a proper register for IPI. We need to be able to assure people that if they go to someone describing himself or herself as a planner, they will be dealing with somebody who is properly qualified and has the skill to deliver proper planning to that person or that company which will result in quality outcomes for those who live and work in the area where that planning will apply.
I would like the Minister to come to the House and to tell us how he can progress this issue, because it is critical. I do not need to talk through all of the problems we have suffered in the past because of bad planning. We have an opportunity now, particularly when we are looking at building so many houses. I mention Fingal because it is an area that is growing, has the youngest population in the country, and will be the site of many new houses, offices and new industry. Let us take the opportunity to put a proper register of planners in place so that we can all feel protected and get the service we require.
Based on commentary I heard on the radio this morning, it is important that we, as public representatives and Oireachtas Members, highlight a phenomenon of recent years that has come more to the fore, namely, the famous Black Friday on which phenomenal offers and bargains will be advertised, particularly online. It was stated on the radio programme to which I was listening that many people who intend to purchase items online are not aware of the VAT and import duty laws. If one purchases an item from outside the EU online to the value of €22 or more, one is liable for VAT in Ireland. If the cost of the item exceeds €150, one is also required to pay import duty plus VAT. I do not believe many people are aware of that. They are buying items online at what seem to be exorbitantly low prices but when, on delivery, they are hit with these VAT bills, the price differential may not be as inviting as it originally appeared. All the while, these purchases are being made at the expense of local traders. We are duty bound to encourage citizens, where possible, to shop locally, particularly in rural Ireland in order to try to keep the small shops and businesses open.
I would also like to highlight the phenomenal number of fictitious sites that will be set up especially for this weekend only because those behind them know that their potential clients and customers are at their most vulnerable as a result of all the advertising that has been taking place. Apparently, an astronomical number of sites selling fictitious goods will be set up. Those who operate the sites in question will get the bank details of many vulnerable customers. We cannot do enough to highlight this issue. I encourage the Government and the relevant Ministers to issue press releases to warn people about that to which I refer. An unbelievable number of scams will occur over the weekend on the basis of the Black Friday myth, which is what I would call it.
I think the scams have already started.
First, I congratulate the emergency services in County Laois. Many of the those involved with the emergency services are volunteers and they are never found wanting when there is a crisis. My former colleagues in the Defence Forces are out again doing their job.
There is a bit of a frenzy going on in politics at present. I am not here to speak for the Tánaiste, although I have some sympathy for her in the context of the difficulty in which she finds herself. Nor am I here to condemn Deputy Kelly, who placed information that was brought to him in the public domain. There is a sinister undercurrent to what is going on. Clearly, there are people who work for this State who are prepared to withhold information of which they are aware until an opportunity arises. What is their agenda? What are they trying to do? This is something that can destabilise an entire democracy. We have whistleblower legislation in place. Why are they not using that? The McCabe family has gone through hell. When they were going through the worst of what they experienced, why, if it was known about, was the information that has now been leaked not brought forward? We need to be very careful about what is happening in this State. It is possible for people in public jobs to destabilise or undermine a Minister. I am not speaking for the Tánaiste, Deputy Fitzgerald. I want to make that very clear. She is well able to speak for herself.
If there has been wrongdoing, the facts about it will eventually become clear. We need to look at the deeper issues that are involved. It concerns me greatly that there may be disgruntled employees in Departments who would work in the morning to destabilise a Minister and, in so doing, perhaps destabilise the entire Government. Democracy deserves better from its public servants . When information is brought to the attention of or leaked to those of us in public life, the first thing we should do is consult the whistleblower legislation and examine the position regarding protected disclosures. Perhaps that is the way we should proceed.
I welcome the reported reopening of Ballinspittle Garda station in Cork this morning. This is a very important step. The station in Ballinspittle is one of a number that were closed in 2012 and 2013. In many ways, the reopening is about trying to tackle rural crime. Having Garda stations in villages such as Ballinspittle is very important. It is an extremely positive that the Minister, as part of a pilot programme, examined the position with regard to reopening this station. It is now reported that the station will reopen. That is very positive for the local community, particularly the people who live in Ballinsplittle. The entire peninsula on which the village is located requires a Garda station. It is on the periphery. The recent campaign by the community to achieve this reopening must be acknowledged. I hope similar communities can be supported in their battle against rural crime, which is a major problem for them. This Garda station will hopefully do its best to ensure that crime in the area will be tackled.
The Department of Justice and Equality has a great deal to answer for, not only in the context of the ongoing issue of emails relating to Maurice McCabe but also in respect of Garda stations, a matter to which my colleague just referred. The Committee of Public Accounts was told by the assistant Garda Commissioner that he would not prioritise Stepaside Garda station but would put the resources into the north and south inner city of Dublin, where the crime rate needs much more focus and attention.
I want to bring to the Leader's attention a report, Opportunity Lost, by the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, which has been just been published. The report criticises aspects of the Department of Justice and Equality's administration of the Magdalen restorative justice scheme. Mr. Tyndall indicates that the Department of Justice and Equality would have been aware of links between the units where women lived and the Magdalenes. The Department gave undue weight to evidence supplied by the religious congregations involved. It was manifestly unfair of the Department to exclude women on the basis that they might not have been able to apply for inclusion on redress schemes. The eligibility criteria were not disclosed to the women when their applications were denied and no interview or information process was established. Mr. Tyndall has called for the matter to be investigated further. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to come before the House in order that he might indicate how we will ensure that no woman is left behind as a result of this latest traumatic development? I would like the Minister to outline the steps that will now be taken.
I wish to raise Britain's imminent departure from the EU, about which we are all aware and which has been discussed at length in this House. Europe will tell us how much it is doing for us, that it is standing both behind and shoulder to shoulder with us, that it will help us over this and that we will not be at a loss due to our closest neighbour leaving the EU. The first tangible thing that the EU could have done for us in this regard. would have been to relocate the headquarters of the European Banking Authority from London to Dublin. I would have thought that out of all the different organisations that will be obliged to relocate from London, the European Banking Authority would have been perfect for Dublin. If the EU is intent on cushioning the blow, assisting Ireland and living up to all of the great talk coming out of Brussels, then relocating the authority's headquarters to Dublin would have been a logical step. This is, of course, a great story because Dublin was judged to be a better location than Frankfurt and Berlin and to be on an equal footing with Paris. What did those responsible for relocating the authority's headquarters do? They put the names of Dublin and Paris into a hat and then drew one out. I cannot believe that Paris was favoured over Dublin at a time when Ireland is going to be more disenfranchised than any other member state as a result of Brexit. Given the fact that we have the International Financial Services Centre, at which many American financial institutions have operations, one would have thought that Dublin would have been the logical choice when it came to relocating the headquarters of the European Banking Authority.
I am extremely disappointed. We will have to fight harder on the European front. I ask that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, raise this issue when he is next in Europe. What is Europe's intention? If it is going to give us some tangible help, which it said it would, what will it be? If we have lost out here, will we get the next agency that is due to move?
I agree with what Senator Craughwell said. I do not think I need to go into it any further. It raises a very serious issue. I believe there is accountability but I am very concerned about the way this issue has developed. The Tánaiste has given a full explanation and everything she has done in respect of this matter has been above board.
On another matter, I am frequently contacted by people who have had serious accidents, who are in hospital and who need to be transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. There is quite a long waiting list for that facility. I know there is work under way to replace the facility. It is, however, the only real rehabilitation centre in the country. I am aware that other hospitals have rehabilitation facilities, but the services they offer are not as comprehensive as those available in Dún Laoghaire. Over 20 years ago, it was proposed that a unit be built in Cork. For some reason, that was taken off the agenda. The last major hospital facility to be built in this country opened in 1998. Three are now being built in different areas of Dublin - the national children's hospital, the maternity hospital and the facility in Dún Laoghaire. There is, however, a need for a new rehabilitation centre to cover all of the Munster region. There would be a huge long-term cost saving to the health service because, while a person is waiting to be admitted to the Dún Laoghaire facility, he or she is occupying a hospital bed. That results in a huge cost to the State. The only way forward is to ensure that we have rehabilitation facilities available once a person has been stabilised in a hospital and once the hospital can do nothing further for the person other than wait for him or her to get into a rehabilitation facility. We need to draw the Minister's attention to this issue and we need to have it on the agenda in respect of the future planning of health services. In particular, it should form part of the ten-year plan.
I want to express my disbelief at the Government's decision to approve our involvement in the European Union's permanent structured co-operation, PESCO, at a recent Cabinet meeting. Involvement in PESCO is the biggest policy decision relating to the Defence Forces since Irish soldiers were first sent on UN duties in the 1960s. Article 29.4.9° of the Irish Constitution specifically states that the State will not adopt a common EU defence where such a defence would include the participation of the State. The Government's decision to join PESCO runs totally contrary to that article. The clear aim of PESCO is to jointly develop the EU's military capabilities and to make them available for EU military operations. These missions are not confined to peacekeeping missions and would allow the EU to intervene in conflicts such as those in Libya and Syria, outside of UN and NATO structures. PESCO is being driven by France and Germany, which are both key members of NATO. In reality, the strategic aims of PESCO are inseparable from those of NATO. By signing up to this and in addition to committing to providing troops to PESCO missions, the Government would also be committing to trebling current spending on defence at a huge cost to the Irish people. Despite having been at odds with what is now being proposed and committed to during debates on the Lisbon Treaty, the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, is hell-bent on rushing this through the Oireachtas with little debate over the next fortnight. Sinn Féin calls on the Government to halt its headlong move into this fledgling EU army. This Cabinet decision should be reversed if Irish neutrality is to be protected and enhanced.
I am bit surprised at the brevity of contributions, but it is great.
It must have been a pleasant surprise for the Leader.
I thank the 12 Members-----
I will give the Leader a YouTube moment if he wants one.
The Senator is doing quite well on YouTube as it is. I thank the 12 Senators who made contributions to the Order of Business.
Senators Ardagh, Ó Clochartaigh, Ó Ríordáin, Craughwell and Colm Burke raised issues in respect of the Department of Justice and Equality, Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the Tánaiste. It is important that we understand that this is about a parallel process, as Senator Boyhan put it last night. We established a tribunal of inquiry, the task and aim of which is to ascertain the full facts and to present a report. We will then deal with the contents of that report and any recommendations or ramifications. I reiterate that there is no obfuscation from this side of the House. All the facts are out there. All we want to see is justice for Sergeant McCabe and his family - pure and simple. It really amuses me to hear some people at times coming in here talking about protection of whistleblowers when their own legacies and their own parties' protections of whistleblowers are quite appalling. In this House last night, in the Dáil yesterday and again during Leader's Questions in the Dáil today, the Tánaiste answered the questions. She had no role in respect of the strategy. The advice of the Attorney General last night, which was read out in the House, was quite clear. It would have been illegal to get involved or to interfere. If that happened the drums would be beating in a different way this morning. That is the reality. Let us make it clear, the email referred to this morning had no implications because the Tánaiste did not get it until 15 May.
I agree with Senators. That is why the Taoiseach has asked the Department of Justice and Equality to see how the Toland review is being implemented in the context of what has happened. I was never a Minister - Senator Ó Ríordáin was a Minister of State in the Department of Justice and Equality - but there is something radically wrong when one sees misinformation being given to the Taoiseach three times. That beggars belief and is not acceptable. If one listened to "The Late Debate" last night, the former Minister, Alan Dukes, spoke about his difficulties in the Department of Justice back in the 1980s. This is 2017. I do not want to get involved in a blame game but something is radically wrong in the operation of the Department. However, if the Minister was involved in day-to-day activities she would be accused of political interference and there would be no independence.
We on this side of the House have nothing to hide. This is about ensuring that the full facts emerge, that the tribunal is left to do its work, that the Toland review which is being carried out is implemented in full and that we put in place robust strategies in all Departments to ensure accountability. As politicians, we are the only people who are actually accountable. We get voted in and we get voted out. There needs to be real accountability. We cannot continue to have debates about who did what and who did not, who knew when and who knew what. It is about time the Chinese walls were taken down.
What is the Leader going to do about it?
For the Senator's information, we have done three things, namely: carrying out the Toland review; implementing it; and reforming the Civil Service.
Why is it still happening?
I would like to know the answer to that question too. Unlike those who come in here and wave flags and beat drums, at least the Government - of which my party is a part - is taking its responsibility seriously.
That is why we have this fiasco.
It is called taking responsibility. It is something the Senator's party has sometimes done in the North but has not done in the South. It might start to do so. That lack of responsibility was illustrated by the remarks of some of the Senator's colleagues last week about passing budgets in local authorities. The Tánaiste made matters quite clear in her contribution last evening. The email states, quite clearly, "neither the Attorney nor the Minister has a function relating to the evidence a party to a Commission of Investigation may adduce." It is there in black and white. There must be accountability. The Tánaiste is accountable to the House.
Who wrote the email?
Who wrote it?
The Tánaiste has made the information available to the tribunal. We either have a parallel process and a political witch-hunt or we allow the tribunal-----
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. A political witch-hunt.
The Senator will be on YouTube again for that remark.
I ask Senator Ó Ríordáin to respect the Chair. He should address his remarks through the Chair.
I join with Senator Ardagh and other Members of the House for complimenting the emergency services on their effective work yesterday, particularly in Mountmellick but also in parts of Laois, Kildare and Dublin. The yellow warning given by Met Éireann certainly was correct, given the volume of rain and blockages in the road network. Laois County Council is to be commended on its activation, in particular the fire service, civil defence, the engineering staff and the outdoor crews. As Senator Craughwell said, the Defence Forces also deserve a mention. The Minister, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, is on his way to Mountmellick and he is also to be commended. The Government is aware of the situation and works with local authorities and other agencies to ensure there is a plan and an ongoing review of the situation. It is important that people who are discommoded are back in their houses as quickly as possible. I sympathise with all the people who are affected as it is unpleasant to spend a Wednesday afternoon having one's house evacuated. I hope all arms of the State support them in the course of the clean-up.
Maidir leis an cúpla focal ón Seanadóir Ó Céidigh, aontaím leis go bhfuil obair agus seirbhísí RTÉ an-tábhachtach, go háirithe i leith Raidió na Gaeltachta agus TG4. Ba bhreá liom an tAire a thabhairt chuig an Teach chun cúrsaí RTÉ a phlé. Senator Ó Céidigh and Senator Ó Clochartaigh referred to RTÉ and the Irish language, and to TG4 and Raidio na Gaeltachta, and I would be very happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter. It is an important service and it is important that people are informed through Irish. Senator Ó Ríordáin asked about the national drugs strategy. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne, was in the House to discuss the strategy but I would be happy for her to come back. It is an important issue and decriminalisation has received wide support from across the House. It is important we continue to bring the issue to the fore and we can do that through the legislation about which the Senator spoke. The public mindset has changed, through education and the debates we have had in this House. It might be best if the Senator put down a Commencement matter as we have a lot of legislation to deal with in the coming weeks.
Senator Reilly mentioned the visit of the Ministers, Deputy Eoghan Murphy and Deputy Damien English, to Fingal yesterday. I welcome the announcement of 200 permanent emergency beds and we will ask the Minister to come to the House to debate the issues raised by the Senator on planning and planners. I commend Senator Paul Daly on raising the important and topical issue of Black Friday. It is an Americanism that has crossed the ocean to us. It is frightening to see so many people being duped by fictitious websites which take all their details. It costs them lots of money and their details get into the public domain. Dermott Jewell spoke about Black Friday on the radio this week and I commend him on his work. The Senator is right that there is an implication for VAT and import taxes and it is important to have a debate on it. It will not take place today but we need to do something on it because it is an issue that is not going away. More and more people are buying online and there are implications of which they are not aware.
Senator Lombard and Senator Devine mentioned the six Garda stations that are being reopened and I welcome that fact, and Senator Lombard asked specifically about Ballinspittle. I did not hear the remarks from the Committee of Public Accounts this morning but I remind Senator Devine that the acting Garda Commissioner Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin, signed off on the six stations, including Stepaside, being reopened. I do not know the name of the garda who was before the Committee of Public Accounts this morning but it is important that there is no political interference in policing.
The assistant Garda Commissioner made that statement this morning.
Does Senator Devine want gardaí not to have a say in these things? Does she want it to be politicians who open Garda stations?
The criteria were set by the Government and the Department of Justice.
It was the acting Garda Commissioner who signed off on it.
He would have changed it.
The Senator cannot have it both ways. I agree with the Senator on the issue of restorative justice for the women in the report Opportunity Lost. I have not read the report but I note the comments attributed to Mr. Peter Tyndall, the Ombudsman. The Secretary General in the Department of Justice and Equality has a different viewpoint and the Minister has said it needs careful and considered reflection. It is important that the women get redress and that the State supports them. I would be happy to have a debate on it. The Minister has made it clear it needs careful and considered reflection because there is a disagreement between the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice and Equality which has to be worked out.
Senator Davitt asked about the banks and we will have statements on the decision relating to the European Banking Authority. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy is going to come to the House. I wish to praise him, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy McEntee, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, for their work. It was disappointing that it was decided by the drawing of lots as this was not the way the result should have been arrived at. We overcame Frankfurt and I am confident we would have secured it on the basis of a marking regime. We will debate it next week.
It is Frankfurt's way.
The country being most disenfranchised is Ireland so it is hard to believe it could not have been weighted so as to give us preference. We are out on a limb now.
The Senator can make those points next week.
I thoroughly agree with Senator Davitt. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy McEntee, did Trojan work to pursue the issue across Europe. We were very unlucky. Everybody thought Frankfurt would be the victor.
Senator Colm Burke referred to the need for future planning on health to include national rehabilitation and I fully agree with him There is a need in the Munster region for a national rehabilitation unit similar to the one in Dún Laoghaire, because it would take some pressure off. We need to see this issue in future health care planning. We have already had a debate on the Order of Business this week on the issue around PESCO, raised by Senator Warfield, and Senator Alice-Mary Higgins had a Commencement matter debate with the Minister on the subject. Rather than rehash the debate, the Minister's reply was quite clear to the effect that we would not breach any of our agreements. This was in the Lisbon treaty which was passed by the Irish people. I would be happy for the Minister to come back to the House on the issue.
Can the Leader confirm that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan, will address the House on the current controversy?
We had the Minister in the House on the last occasion and I have no problem with him coming again.