The Order of Business is No. 1, Private Members' business, Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m., with the time allocated to the debate not to exceed two hours; and No. 2, Technological Universities Bill 2015 - Second Stage, to be taken at 6.45 p.m. and to be adjourned no later than 7.45 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes. I remind the House that tomorrow evening this debate will resume at 5 p.m.
Order of Business
Last week, I raised the issue of a primary care centre at Curlew Road which was promised by the Government in 2012. It was apparently still in the Government's plans when my colleague, Deputy Billy Kelleher, tabled a parliamentary question in 2015. Today, at 3.13 p.m., I received a note from the HSE stating that the site does not form part of the funded plan for development. Can the Leader say how this site fell off the plan for development, having been there between 2012 and 2015, and why this is the first we have heard in writing on this matter? Is this related to the questions which my party leader, Deputy Mícheál Martin, asked in the Dáil earlier? Is there a serious issue related to the HSE budget deficit? Is this the reason that this project has been sidelined? I call on the Minister, Deputy Simon Harris, to come to the Chamber to address this issue.
I also wish to raise the mortgage to rent scheme. I welcome the terms of the scheme, which offers a 2% fixed interest rate over a lifetime of 25 years. I would be very happy with those very favourable terms and welcome them for all young couples. However, the big issue is supply. I know a young couple who have been in the market to buy a house in Crumlin for the past month. When this scheme was announced last weekend, house prices jumped dramatically from the €280,000 bracket to the over €300,000 bracket. First, we should review the scheme to ensure it is working and having the correct effect. Second, as I have said before, we must ensure that we have a State-wide house building programme. Without addressing the matter of supply, we will never correct the housing market.
We should support the Irish Farmers' Journal in its campaign to promote the suckler herd in Ireland. It is a major story online. We should do so whether we are based in urban or rural areas as farming knows no divide or boundaries. The save our sucklers campaign is being co-ordinated by the Irish Farmers' Journal and is supported by the IFA. As part of this campaign, it has issued a letter to EU Commissioners Phil Hogan and Cecilia Malmström, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed. I thank the Minister, Deputy Creed, for coming to the House recently and giving us a comprehensive and detailed account of his stewardship in agriculture, although time did not permit him to cover all areas. I acknowledge that he came to the House and I thank the Leader for organising the debate.
Time and again, it has been said that farming is the backbone of rural Ireland, and I agree. Whether people live in urban or rural areas, our economy relies on agriculture. It is important that people support the suckler farming sector and this campaign, acknowledging how the trade feeds into and sustains rural communities. People can go online and see the campaign for themselves but I will share four key messages that I have take from my engagement with this campaign.
First, the campaign seeks a fully funded Common Agricultural Policy. Second, it calls for EU protection of the Irish suckler herd because of the quality and supremacy of Irish beef and the need to protect the Irish beef trade and the local and international economy associated with it. The third point is the need to safeguard farm income. That is particularly important when we talk about sustainability and rural communities. Finally, it calls for a payment for suckler cows. A sum of €200 has been suggested. That is a matter for the Minister and the lobbyists to pursue. I ask my colleagues here to engage with their communities, whether rural or urban, and to look at the Irish Farmers' Journal online and read for themselves the importance of this national campaign.
I also remind my colleagues and ask them to spread the word in their own communities about the four public consultation meetings on reform of CAP 2020. Those meeting were announced on Friday. They will be announced in the public press if they have not already been. There will be a series of meetings and the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, is taking most of them. He will be touring around the country explaining it to people and listening and engaging with farmers on their input on CAP 2020.
The first issue I will raise is that of flood defence barriers, in particular the length of time it is taking the Office of Public Works, OPW, to approve works that need to be done. It is absolutely unacceptable. Areas like Carraholly, Rosmindle and Kilmeena near Westport have been waiting since 2014. During the floods of 2014, the damage that was done there needed to be repaired immediately. It has taken four years to get to this stage and we have not even got approval yet. There are two things wrong with that. First is the length of time and the cost of drawing up plans. All that needs to be built is a simple wall - a flood barrier for the communities. It is totally wrong that four years later nothing has been done. I ask that the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, come in here to tell us exactly what he will do and what he is doing to speed up this process because four years is absolutely unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that the OPW and other consultants have failed to engage with or listen to local communities when they have the resolutions to many of these problems. We are spending millions on consultants without consulting with the local communities that are most affected by it. I would like the Minister of State to come in here to address that.
The other issue I will raise is a hidden aspect of the current crisis in our health service in the care and management of those living in constant pain. Many of these people, who have already been through the health system and are now living with pain, need access to continual care. I was alarmed to be informed about it by a constituent who applied to attend the pain management clinic in Galway in 2016 and who is still on that waiting list. She was recently told she will have to wait at least another 18 months. The end of year waiting figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund for pain management does not include any figures for University Hospital Galway. There is a suspicion that the figures for the pain management clinic at University Hospital Galway have been included in the figures for anaesthetics. If this is the case, it is a worrying development. Having long waiting lists is bad enough but they should at least be transparent and fair in terms of how they are operated. Leaving patients with indefinite waiting times and confusing waiting lists is totally unfair. We need clarity from the Minister for Health that if people are placed on the waiting list for vital pain management treatment, they can at least track their progress and gain some idea of when they will be seen. While we may all have different solutions and priorities for fixing the health care system, we absolutely need reliable figures for waiting times to properly access how it is performing. It is grossly inhumane that we have people in really bad pain around this country waiting years for basic pain relief management. I ask the Minister to come in to discuss that.
I will raise two issues. First is the issue of the section 39 workers who, along with their representative body, SIPTU, unfortunately have come to the conclusion that they have no option but to go on strike on 14 and 15 February. The Government must take this issue quite seriously. They are people employed in voluntary organisations who have service level agreements with the HSE. They are coming to the end of their tether. I remind the Government that when the Labour Party was in government, we spent a huge amount of time and energy trying to restore people's pay by bringing in legislation that has effectively helped to restore the pay of contract cleaners, security workers and people in the public service. The eye has been taken off the ball in this regard. We have industrial action from special needs assistants, SNAs, teachers who are deeply upset about the lack of pace in pay equalisation and now we have section 39 workers. Unfortunately, the Taoiseach has form in cracking down on workers' rights in some of his previous pronouncements. The supposed leader of the Independent Alliance has made scurrilous remarks about the trade union movement in the past.
I hope that is not the type of rhetoric that will be used to deal with this particular issue. Nobody wants to see section 39 workers on strike. I wish the Government would deal with this issue and begin to restore their pay because they do not want to be on strike. I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate in that regard.
Second, I want to raise the issue of schools, particularly those on the north side and south side of Dublin, which are selling their lands to private developers. We have an issue in St. Paul's, Raheny, whereby the Vincentian order was handed land from Dublin City Council in the 1950s but has now sold that land to a private developer. A planning application for a huge development has been made, which will effectively destroy St. Anne's Park on the north side. We also have a situation on the south side, about which Councillor Deirdre Kingston in Dún Laoghaire has alerted me, whereby the Edmund Rice Schools Trust is asking the Minister to disband the board of management of Clonkeen College due to the latter taking a court case to prevent the selling of lands in that school.
It is about time the Minister for Education and Skills got out from behind his desk, came into this Chamber and began to discuss the reality of communities across Dublin and, I assume, across the country losing playing pitches and community facilities because religious orders are selling them off to private developers. In this quite concerning case, the trust wants to abolish the board of management that is taking this case and is asking the Minister to facilitate that. I believe the Minister has a real role in this situation. I ask the Leader to facilitate his arrival in the Chamber in order that we can stop the religious orders from selling off lands, selling out local communities and trying to abolish the boards of management of the schools that are doing such a great job both in this school and in schools nationwide.
It is great to see everybody doing "Operation Transformation" after Christmas. I want to talk about diabetes and getting regular check-ups. More than 200,000 people in Ireland have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and I would safely suggest that another 200,000 to 300,000 people do not know they have diabetes. As the World Health Organization last year stated that by 2030, more than 40 million people will have died worldwide from diabetes-related problems, it is going to be huge as we move forward. A survey undertaken in the midlands over a five-year period found one striking piece of information, namely, 61% of those who are diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes will make life-changing decisions to put their life back on track as best they can, which is huge.
The Minister said last year he was thinking of funding free blood check-ups for diabetes and putting in place some type of system. I have seen Diabetes Ireland carry out mobile check-ups such as those which took place in Navan last year outside Lidl. The event was sponsored by Lidl and was attended by many people. I ask the Minister to give Diabetes Ireland the money to put more of these mobile units on the road countrywide.
I thank Senator Norris. It is a simple check-up involving a prick to the finger to check the blood. It only takes two or three minutes but can save many lives, as well as saving a lot of money for the health service. I ask the Minister to come to the House to let us know what he intends to do with regard to funding blood checks to diagnose people who technically are diabetes sufferers.
People were horrified and saddened by events last week in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, which is on the Monaghan border, when an 83-year old woman, Pat Davidson, was found with serious injuries after a burglary in her home. This lady suffered a fractured spine, a fractured pelvis and a fractured skull and she was put into an induced coma.
I am sure Members will join me in wishing her a full and speedy recovery. As we can imagine, this incident has caused great concern and fear in the community, not only in County Tyrone but throughout the country. What makes it more sickening is the fact that the suspect, who is believed to be from Dublin, has many previous convictions. Whether the individual is the culprit or not is neither here nor there, but it raises concerns about the ongoing issue of criminals, many of them dangerous, who are continuously being released on bail.
One measure that could reassure the public is electronic tagging, and the role this could play in assisting gardaí in trying to monitor the movements of these criminals. Recent statistics show almost 80% of burglaries are committed by 5% of criminals. The programme for Government, as the Leader is aware, has a commitment to fast-track a new Bill to provide for electronic tagging of people on bail. Surely we should be embracing advances in technology to assist gardaí in the prevention of crime and the promotion of justice. Interestingly, recent statistics show that electronic tagging would cost €6 per day compared to the cost of €163 per day to keep someone in prison. Will the Leader bring the Minister to the House to update Members on the situation of the Bail (Amendment) Bill? Will this legislation be fast-tracked? Surely we need to do everything possible to protect the elderly in our community. I hope this latest sickening episode will be the last.
Ballinasloe in County Galway is a town that has made real progress in the Tidy Towns competition in recent years and I strongly commend the local community, committee and council in this regard. However, as a community the people of Ballinasloe continue to be plagued by the issue of waste. In 1999 community representatives took the urban district council to the High Court in their efforts to block the development of a landfill in the town. As a result of that High Court order, on 31 December 2005 that landfill ceased activity. Ever since, the quality of life of people in the town has improved greatly. However, events took a turn in recent weeks when it emerged a private operator proposes to develop on the outskirts of the town a waste transfer facility to serve the midlands. I have many concerns, and I attended a public meeting recently which reflected serious concerns on behalf the public about the environmental impact of the development along with infrastructure issues.
Today I want to focus on the issue of environmental impact assessments for such projects. I have been informed that, at present, waste facilities, such as the one proposed for Ballinasloe, do not have to provide an environmental impact assessment in their planning or waste permit applications if they propose to handle less than 25,000 tonnes of waste per year. I am also aware this system is easily worked around, as operators simply submit applications marginally below that limit. For example, an operator can make a submission for 24,500 tonnes and not be subject to an environmental impact assessment.
I call on the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, to amend this 25,000 tonne threshold in planning and waste licensing applications, respectively, to ensure all projects, whatever the tonnage, be subject to environmental impact assessments. It seems wrong that a project of this scale would not be subjected to the full rigours of an environmental impact assessment to ensure all factors, including the impact on the health of the community and the suitability of local infrastructure to cope with such a development, are considered. I ask the Leader to have a debate in the Seanad on these matters.
I thank the Vótáil 100 committee. Today, it launched the centenary of women getting the vote in 1918. That led to Countess Markievicz being successful in her election on a Sinn Féin platform. I thank it also for the badges it has given out and I look forward to engaging with its programme of events.
I want make Members aware again of the Pearl of Wisdom campaign. I ask that they wear their badges between 28 January and 3 February to support and encourage women to avail of cervical cancer screening. Over 300 women in Ireland are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and there are 90 fatalities. Along with the human papillomavirus vaccine, HPV, regular screening is an effective way to prevent cervical cancer. I want this House to promote that message.
In breaking news, the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, has come out with figures showing that Ireland's hospitals are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. Today, the number of patients on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards swelled to 644. Yesterday, the figure was lower but it has increased by 100 in less than 24 hours. I welcome the statements but I do not know how much good they will do. Hopefully, we can confirm that the Minister, Deputy Harris, will be coming in for statements on emergency waiting times in our hospitals, as well as to talk about the capacity issues and implementation and action required following the Sláintecare report.
I had an agreement with Senator Humphreys to raise an issue but, unfortunately, he does not appear to be here. He suggested that we raise a situation with which the Cathaoirleach is familiar, namely, a visit from RTÉ. One morning last week, I got a message suggesting a meeting during the day. I met Ms Deirdre McCarthy, the managing director of radio, and Mr. Richard Dowling, who is the political assignments editor. Basically, they were talking about moving the entirety of political commentary online. This would be an absolute disaster. I told them I would oppose it strongly. They said there is a small audience. I said that is entirely their fault. If they do a rotten programme rather than a good one and do not attract listeners, then that is their problem. They should set about doing something about it and making it more interesting. Irish people are politically literate, interested in politics and there is no reason they should not take an interest in the broadcast of these important matters affecting every member of society.
The broadcast time is shifted all over the place. Sometimes it could be 11 p.m. and the next day it could be 2 a.m. How on Earth can an audience be held if the time keeps shifting? Ms McCarthy and Mr. Dowling said they want to migrate online. I said why migrate? Why not expand? Of course they should go after the new market online. I do not use it. However, many young people do. Many middle-aged and even older people do as well. We should incorporate that and not cancel out political commentary. I gather the idea is to get rid of "Oireachtas Report", the "Late Debate" and so on. This would be absolutely disastrous. I also pointed out there was great negligence in the coverage of Seanad Éireann. I gave the example of when Senator Alice-Mary Higgins put down a motion on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, CETA, between Canada and the EU. We had a good discussion. I spoke with Fianna Fáil, it abstained and we defeated the Government. We defeated the Government on an important policy issue.
There was no mention whatever that night of Seanad Éireann and nothing on the Canadian trade agreement. However, a couple of days later some female Member of the Dáil mentioned it, in passing, on the Order of Business and she was interviewed. It was quite extraordinary. I serve notice to colleagues that this is what RTÉ intends doing.
Senator Norris should host "Oireachtas Report."
I thank the Senator. That is a rather frivolous suggestion.
The Senator is running over time.
I want to serve notice to colleagues that this is what RTÉ intends to do.
We should oppose it-----
-----as we opposed when RTÉ tried to close the long-wave transmission, which was so valued by elderly Irish people living in Britain. We stopped RTÉ from doing so. Therefore, I think we can, once again, with the best will in the world towards RTÉ, intervene to stop it closing the terrestrial broadcast of political issues.
It is very important for the Irish people to be kept informed about what is going on.
The Senator has run out of coverage.
I welcome the wonderful cooperation between the trustees of Muckross House and the National Parks and Wildlife Service on many matters.
Where is Muckross House?
I thought the Senator understood where it is.
Do tell us?
It is in Killarney.
It is outside the M50.
It is in Killarney.
Muckross House is located by the side of the lake.
Please do not tease the Senator for representing the Kingdom.
The house is beside Middle Lake or Muckross Lake.
It is outside the main house.
Senator Norris, I will gladly take him there again.
I have been.
I know he has.
I was not.
I simply want to mark the occasion whereby the two entities cooperated to allow a famous Jack B. Yeats painting of the then lady of the house to be purchased at Sotheby's of London some time back. Neither party could have purchased it on their own but together they managed to do so. The painting is very interesting because it was Jack B. Yeats-----
I am surprised that the Senator did not purchase it himself.
Was the painting by Jack B. or John B.?
It was Jack B. It was his first big commission in 1872.
That was John B.
Sorry, John B.
It must be John B. who was the father of Jack B.
I stand corrected.
I thought so as Jack B. did not do portraiture.
The correction is noted, Senator Norris.
The painting was completed in 1873 because the work was postponed due to the death of his son Robert "Bobbie" Butler Yeats. The painting depicts the lady of the house sitting in the gunroom of Muckross House with her Maltese terrier. The chair on which she sat and the wallpaper depicted in the painting are still in the house. Apparently, when the painting was finished the woman's husband and lord of the manor refused to take the painting because she had absconded with one of the staff.
It was alleged to have been the footman and she never returned.
Good for her.
Very democratic of her.
RTÉ had better record this.
The portrait survived because it ended up with a friend of the painter, Mr. Edward Dowden at Trinity College. Following Mr. Dowden's death the painting was returned to the Yeats family.
The painting was auctioned and was successfully bought. Now it will hang where originally intended.
I look forward to the first official visit to Killarney by the newly-appointed Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Josepha Madigan, when the painting will be officially hung. Please God, her visit will take place soon.
I want to raise an issue that has come into the public domain in the past few days. I refer to the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, being invited to carry out an investigation into an incident that took place in one of the maternity hospitals, which has now ended up in the courts. I want to raise concerns about the way we have dealt with some of the issues that relate to medical care.
Over the past three to four weeks I have met members of the medical profession ranging from GPs to junior doctors to medical consultants. The one worrying aspect to emerge was that medicine in this country now operates in a defensive mode. In the past 12 months we have paid out €80 million for medical negligence claims in maternity care. That shows we have a huge challenge.
In 2003, a report set out that by 2012 we should have 180 medical consultants working in obstetrics-gynaecology. Instead, we currently have 130 whole-time equivalents. Now because of the level of litigation and complaints, more and more people who are very good medical practitioners are drifting away from working in the area. Such a situation has caused a major problem. It means that even if a vacant consultant position does arise the post will not be filled. We need to face up to this challenge now. We have 130 consultants when we should have 180. Even if we try to replace consultants by bringing in ten new consultants per annum, the measure will not replace the number of consultants who retire. We must tackle the demands being placed on hospital services as regards making sure that we give adequate support to the people who work on the front line.
Previously, I raised the fact that the HSE had no problem employing an extra 2,000 administration and management staff. However, it appears to have a difficulty giving the necessary support to people who are working on the front line. We face a very big challenge and, unless we confront it in the next three to four years, we will not have people to fill the roles of medical doctors or even nurses. One hospital has lost 250 maternity nurses in the past four to five years because they have left the hospital system. This is a major challenge. We should debate it and deal with it.
I thank the 11 Senators who raised myriad items on the Order of Business. Senator Ardagh referred to the primary care centre on Curlew Road. I am not familiar with the specific case but I liaised with the Minister's office after she raised the matter on the Order of Business last week. It is important to reassert the Government's commitment to primary care. It is the most important issue in the health sector and we are prioritising it under the Sláintecare report. It is about ensuring people can access primary care in their communities. I am of the view that more primary care units are needed. This Government - like that which preceded it - has been committed to building and opening new primary care units. However, I am not familiar with the issue at Curlew Road to which the Senator refers.
Regarding housing, we should all welcome the Government's initiative last week and recognise the significance of what the Government announced. I am reluctant to create a political row this afternoon but when I listen to some Members speak about housing, I wish they would cast their minds back to the lost decade of which they and their party - particularly its leader, who was at the Cabinet table - were the architects. In addressing the issue of social housing and homelessness this Government, through Rebuilding Ireland, is committed to investing in housing.
It has not built any new homes. When it was awash with money, it did not build any.
I understand there are statements on housing tomorrow.
Some 25,892 individuals had their housing needs met last year under Rebuilding Ireland. The Government exceeded its overall target for new social housing supports in 2017 by 23%.
That includes allocations from the rent allowance to the housing assistance payment, HAP. It is not new building.
That is more than 4,800 additional tenancies. The 2017 level of support was an increase of 36% over 2016 or 6,847 more households. Will I continue? I know the facts. I realise the Senator does not wish to hear good news on housing-----
It is good when the bar is low enough.
-----but I will be happy to debate it with her tomorrow as well. I agree with the Senator that there is a generation of young people who wish to be able to buy houses and live in their own homes. They do not wish to be renting or to be on city or county council housing waiting lists. I accept that fully, but please do not mislead the House by saying that nothing is happening and no social housing is being built. I can bring the Senator to my city, Cork-----
I can bring the Leader to Dublin South-Central and show him that nothing has been done since Fine Gael got into power.
-----and introduce her to people who have received keys to their homes under Rebuilding Ireland. They have their homes and are living as a family. I will bring the Senator to the houses.
I can bring the Leader to-----
She can look at them and marvel at the wonder of people being housed under Rebuilding Ireland. Then I will bring her across to Dean Rock estate where houses are being constructed as we speak. She can see them and acknowledge that we are building houses. She cannot ignore the fact that, on her party's watch, the construction sector was decimated, the banking system was on its knees and the troika was here. Does she remember the troika?
Try to stay in the present day.
The problem is that Senator Gallagher does not wish to remember that. We have to tell him, to remind him that his party can never be trusted again to be in government by itself. That is why we have a confidence and supply arrangement, whereby we can work together to ensure we never return to what was done in the boom-and-bust era of Bertie Ahern and Charlie McCreevy, when the Senator's party leader was at the Cabinet table and was happy to acquiesce.
I think the people are more interested to learn what the Government is going to do about housing rather than in a history lesson, with respect.
Senator Gallagher is the education spokesperson and knows the importance of history.
That can be raised tomorrow during the debate on housing.
One can learn from history. That is why Rebuilding Ireland is the cornerstone. Yes, we have a road to travel and I accept we have a great deal of work to do. It is unacceptable that people are waiting. That is why the Government made an announcement on the affordable scheme last week. It is important that we build more houses and we create the environment in which to do that. Members will find that there is no reluctance on my part as Leader or from Members on this side of the House to do that. It is about ensuring that we house people of all ages and in all communities. It is critically important that we give people hope and confidence. That is what Rebuilding Ireland is about.
Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the Irish Farmers' Journal suckler herd campaign. Senator Boyhan is correct, as we all know €1 invested in our beef sector underpins €4 in the economy. It is a very important element of our economy. As the Taoiseach said at the AGM of the IFA the farming sector is a very important part of our country. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, has announced six public meetings under the 2020 consultation on the Common Agricultural Policy, which will be reviewed in June of this year by the EU Commission. It is important that we hear all the different voices. That is the reason that the Minister, Deputy Creed, is investing in the beef data genomics programme, BDGP, scheme in terms of the herd. It is an important part of the agricultural sector. I would be happy were the Minister to come to the House in that regard.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of flood relief. It is important to understand that the issues she raised are critically important to the people in the communities she has named. I think it is a bit unfair to say the Office of Public Works is not engaging because from my experience in the city of Cork, and I know from Senator McFadden who has raised the matter in this House, the OPW engaged with communities in different part of Ireland around flood defence needs. I am not familiar with the area that Senator Conway-Walsh raised. I know the Senator raised it last week as well and stated there is a need to up the level of engagement. I would be happy to have the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, come to the House. The then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, added special responsibility for flood relief to the role of the Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works. It is important to give Deputy Moran, who replaced Deputy Canney, the opportunity to come into the House to have that debate. I would be happy to facilitate it.
Senator Conway-Walsh addressed the issue of chronic pain. As a former Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health, I invited Chronic Pain Ireland to come before the committee. Dealing with chronic pain is an extraordinary situation in our health system as there is no one condition in some cases, people fall between the cracks. We need to have this issue addressed and I would be happy for the Minister for Health to come to this House. It is critically important that people who are in chronic pain but whose condition remains uncategorised receive a fair hearing.
Senator Ó Ríordáin raised section 39 organisations. I thought he was in government in the past five years with another party as well. I am sure he has forgotten that.
One can see the difference now.
The country is flying now. Senator Ó Ríordáin is correct.
In the wrong way for workers. They want their money back.
We need to address the issue with section 39 organisations and I would be very happy to have that debate in the House. As Senator Ó Ríordáin knows quite well, those organisation were not directly funded by the HSE. He has raised the differences in their pay and conditions. Anyone who works in the health system is entitled to and deserves to have equal and fair pay. Those of us who have been advocates of that for a long time will continue to work for that.
They were not going on strike when we were in government.
The whole country did not go on strike when the Senator and his party were in government.
I know and it was great.
It is amazing how Members forget things when they leave government.
No, it is amazing why people want to go on strike now - SNAs, teachers, lecturers-----
Please, allow the Leader to continue.
I will have the Senator remember that teachers went on strike when we were in government together.
The SNAs threatened to go on strike as well. There were also issues of potential strikes with ambulance service staff. We can have an argument if the Senator so wishes.
The troika was running the country then.
I think we were of a similar mind.
The Senator will have a tougher job with me than with the Fianna Fáil Party.
No, it is quite easy to deal with the Senator.
Senator Ó Ríordáin should not be sensitive.
The Leader should not be antagonising other Senators.
He should move on to Clonkeen Community College.
Leader, we are-----
I know Senator Ó Ríordáin has a very strong social media campaign with regard to the issue at St. Anne's Park.
It is more than just social media. There were 3,000 people there at the weekend.
I ask the Senator to reflect on the possibility that in this case-----
I am reflecting.
-----it is a matter for local authority zoning. The Senator might do well to liaise with some of his councillors on the ground with regard to aspects of planning like the local area plan and the city plan. I am not familiar with the designated sites that have been raised by the Senator because it is not my area.
I ask the Senator to let me finish. He might do well to listen sometimes rather than objecting the whole time.
Ceart go leor, a mhúinteoir.
I am not necessarily against what the Senator is trying to achieve here. I ask him to give me an opportunity. Perhaps it might be more advantageous to raise this issue as a Commencement matter with the Minister. To be fair to the Minister, he is not hiding behind his desk.
My information on this issue is based on my time on the city council. As a former local authority member and a former Minister of State, Senator Ó Ríordáin will be aware that there may be a planning issue with local area plans here. I agree with him that there is an issue. If moneys are allocated or there is redress to be made, the organisation or institution should deal with local authorities and with the Government. I am not familiar with the cases mentioned by the Senator, which involve Vincentian lands at St. Anne's Park and Clonkeen. I have given my answer. It is important for us to look at the possibility of having a Commencement debate on the matter. I will get the Minister to come to the House in the next couple of weeks, if I can.
It is important to have this matter addressed. I do not disagree with the Senator.
I appreciate that.
Senator Butler spoke about diabetes, which is a source of concern. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has increased beyond acceptance. In fact, it doubled between 1998 and 2015. It is thought that one in 15 people suffers from type 2 diabetes. I know that Diabetes Ireland had a national screening day in November. I would be happy to invite the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter.
Senator Gallagher referred to the unfortunate incident in Aughnacloy involving Ms Pat Davidson. I agree with him that every effort should be made and every avenue should be utilised to combat crime and bring those who are guilty - the perpetrators - to justice. I would be happy to have the Bill relating to electronic tagging, CCTV and people on bail brought to the House as soon as possible. The Senator is right when he says we need to use every opportunity we can to protect people and to bring those who commit crimes to justice. In the past week, a gang of thugs - not people - travelled on the motorway from Dublin to my own area of Cork and rural parts of Cork.
Thugs from Dublin.
It is a very serious matter.
I know that.
People are travelling on the motorway to rob and harass old people, in particular. They came from Dublin in this case.
In most cases.
I am not making a slight on Dublin. To be fair, the gang in question was apprehended by gardaí. One of the reasons gardaí were successful in this case was that they were able to use CCTV to get a visual of the particular van. I fully support any efforts we can make to bring these gangs to justice and to bring an end to this type of crime in our country.
Senator Hopkins complimented those involved with Ballinasloe Tidy Towns. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House for a debate on the waste mentioned by the Senator. We need to highlight and keep on top of this important issue.
I join Senator Devine in congratulating all Members of the House who were involved in today's launch of Vótáil 100. I thank the Cathaoirleach for participating in that event. I compliment Senators Devine and McFadden along with Senator Bacik, who is the chair of Vótáil 100. It is an important year of celebration. Equally, it is critical that we support the Pearl of Wisdom cervical cancer campaign, which enables women to be screened and highlights and promulgates the importance of screening. Those who make comments otherwise about vaccinations and screening should reflect on the prevalence of cancer in our society. I think the Pearl of Wisdom campaign is worthy and deserving of our support. I am not sure what the rules of the House are regarding the wearing of emblems, but I certainly join Senator Devine in supporting this campaign.
Senator Norris raised the issue of his meeting with RTÉ. As I said in reply to a question on the Order of Business last Thursday, I met with the RTÉ representatives and they were due to meet the Cathaoirleach today, if I remember correctly, or perhaps later this week. Senator Norris has raised the issue of the "Oireachtas Report" programme being reduced or eliminated. There are three parts to the discussion we should have on the coverage of the Houses of the Oireachtas. I agree with Senator Norris that the type of programme in question is critically important. In its current format, "Oireachtas Report" is not an appetising programme for many, not least because of the change in its scheduling. The second issue is the format and the third is that some believe such coverage is irrelevant to their lives. I understand that RTÉ is moving to an online model, which is where many people now access news and political coverage, often through using an iPhone, iPad or another device. The matter is probably beyond my remit and it is up to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission or the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach and others to ensure there is fair, balanced and reasonable coverage of Oireachtas proceedings. That matter can be taken up with RTÉ. We, as Senators, cannot put our heads in the sand and say that everything we do is perfect because it is not but there is a duty on RTÉ as a public service broadcaster to cover proceedings in the Oireachtas. There is a movement away from the traditional forms of communication and coverage of news of which we, as politicians, possibly should be more aware.
RTÉ does not have to abandon terrestrial broadcasting.
I accept that. I do not believe it is moving away from programmes such as "The Late Debate" because a new series of presenters for that programme has been announced and it is broadcast on Tuesday to Thursday, inclusive.
The new presenters are all women.
The new presenting line-up is all female, which is good, and I welcome------
Why is that good?
In the interests of gender equality-----
It is all about different voices and it is------
It should be about whether the new presenters are any good, not their sexuality or what they have between their legs.
On a day when Vótáil 100 is being marked-----
It is important that we continue to engage with RTÉ on its coverage of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the committees. Senator Norris has made an important point.
I join Senator Coghlan in congratulating Muckross House and the National Parks and Wildlife Service on their co-operation in respect of the John B. Yeats painting that Senator Coghlan very graphically described. I hope the wallpaper is holding up and that there will be no further adultery in the grounds of Muckross House.
I am not accountable for what happens there but all are welcome.
I am sure Senator Coghlan will not be roping in anybody soon.
Can the Leader expand on that?
I agree with Senator Colm Burke on the need for a debate on the issue of litigation in our health service and, in particular, in regard to medical indemnity insurance and the cost of that, as well as the need to protect the men and women who work in the health service. Senator Burke is a very strong champion of our health service and has repeatedly raised the issue of the increased recruitment of administrative staff ahead of staff for other parts of the service. I will not make reference to the issue of HIQA undertaking an investigation at the National Maternity Hospital because that is still before the courts but it is important that the matters raised by Senator Burke are debated in the House.