If needs be, I am quite happy to come back and amend the Order of Business. I am quite happy to do that if it is okay with the House.
I agree with Senator Ardagh and share the frustration of customers of AIB with the way they have been treated so badly. It is important that AIB is held to account for all of this. It has been accused of concocting a notional tracker rate of 7.9% which affects 4,000 people. The bank has agreed it was wrong to deny people the option to switch. The Central Bank has extended and included that cohort of people in its ongoing tracker mortgage examination. There should be a code of conduct for banks. They are and should be about the customer, not just about profit for the bank. I agree with Senator Ardagh that it is important to treat customers fairly and that they are given the right information. The Central Bank has said customers can engage with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman and that the compensation paid can be banked and will not be lost. It is unfair of the bank to treat customers wrongly. It should be very fair in that. I agree with Senator Ardagh on that.
On the issue of education which was raised by Senator Ardagh and Senator Lombard, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, announced a number of recruitment package measures earlier this spring to address issues in science, home economics and the Irish language. Senator Lombard raised the issue of home economics. The number of places in St. Angela's College in Sligo has been increased. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, has convened a specialist group dealing with teacher supply which had its first meeting this week on the matter. We have forthcoming conferences of the teachers' unions over Easter. It is important we look at the issue of pay inequality. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, as the Minister with responsibility for education, has prioritised investment in education where we have seen investment of up to €1 billion in the past two years. There is an issue of pay inequality. Those of us who have been in the education world and who have been in the classroom recognise the importance of pay equality. We have seen an increase of more than 5,000 additional posts in the past two years. I hope we can see further progression on the road to equality of pay for teachers. I thank all of our teachers for the work they do and wish them well in their conferences next week. It is important we resume that debate after the teachers' conferences because we will hear from a number of the unions about the issues affecting teachers. It is important in tandem with pay that we continue to augment the work of teachers with the increase in special needs assistants, that we continue to create and build new schools and invest in facilities in our education sphere, whether third or second level.
Senator Craughwell raised the issue of addiction services in Cork and the need for a detox centre there. I agree with the Senator's comments. Huge work is being done in Cork by organisations like Fellowship House, Tabor Lodge and Arbour House and there is a need for a continuation of investment in addiction services under the national drugs and alcohol strategy through the HSE and other organisations. There is a huge need for detox beds and step-down facilities to be made available. I commend all those who work in the services because it is important that if any deficits exist in the programmes, whether in Cork or any part of the country, that we reach out and work through organisations like Arbour House and Tabor Lodge. I am quite happy to have that debate. Perhaps it would be best to raise it as a Commencement matter. The Senator also raised the issue of education which I have addressed.
I join with Senator Conway-Walsh in welcoming the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill and hope it is enacted quickly. The Senator raised the issue of Clare's Law and it is one we should give consideration to. It is important that we not only protect women, but also men who are in relationships and dating relationships, and provide information and protection to all people.
Senator Nash raised the issue of the AGSI conference and its decision to form a union. As the House is aware, these issues arose in the past with regard to the Workplace Relations Commission. The Garda associations were given direct access to pay determination mechanisms which allowed them to participate in and engage on an equal basis with other public sector representative bodies.
Senator Nash said it is not necessarily about being able to have trade union status. At the time the Minister created a working group under the chairmanship of Mr. John Murphy which presented its first report on the issue. It stated that Garda associations should not transition to become trade unions and noted that trade union status was not necessary for them to access the WRC and the Labour Court or to represent their members.
Another working group was established which is now in its second phase. I do not think it is a question of procrastination or delaying the process. Rather, it is about trying to find a mechanism whereby we can allow members of An Garda Síochána to have access to mechanisms of the State. The Minister wants to work with the Garda on building a stable industrial relations framework so that we can work together. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House regarding that issue.
Senators Byrne, Norris and McFadden congratulated Senators Humphreys and McFadden on their very important briefing today. I apologise for not attending. Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease are very much to the fore today in our communities, in part because of the tremendous advocacy work done by the Parkinson's Association and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association. I agree with Senator Byrne that there is a need to look at the issue of specialist nurse positions and neurology. Senator McFadden is correct. The State has a duty to provide services and should not expect the voluntary sector alone to provide them.
I am not privy to the heads of the Bill to which Senator McDowell referred. The Minister referred to it in his speech yesterday and outlined his thematic approach to the publication of his policy paper in March. He brought the heads of the Bill to Cabinet yesterday. As the Senator knows, the Bill is a separate issue. I am sure if the Minister is asked about it on Committee Stage today, he will be happy to enlighten the House. It is important that in tandem with the referendum Bill, there is a debate on what the Minister and the Government are proposing.
Senator Mulherin raised the issue of eating disorders. It is very important issue which we need to address. A lot of investment has taken place across the country in various units and organisations. There is a difference of approach in terms of how eating disorders are treated. Community settings are recommended. The Government and the HSE have invested in services for obesity and eating disorders. I would be happy to have a debate following the Easter recess.
Senator Gavan raised the issue of Catalonia. I wish him well with the briefing tomorrow. I will not make any comment on the affairs of another country. It is important that we have an informed debate on what is happening in Catalonia. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter.
Senator Higgins missed my contribution on data protection. There will not be a guillotine per se. We have already had 15 hours of debate and there will be another four hours today, which brings the total to 19 hours. The Senator said the debate might not finish today. I am happy to resume it and I will not curtail it. There were four hours allocated to the debate in order to give structure to Members.
Like Senator Feighan, I welcomed the passage by the House of Lords yesterday of the Northern Ireland marriage equality legislation. I join with him in welcoming the invitation issued by the Brexit committee to Secretary of State, David Davis, yesterday. I hope he takes it up. All members of the House of Commons and House of Lords should visit the Border to see what it means in real terms. It is not an imaginary border; it will have a significant impact. We must ensure there is no hard border. There is a duty on the United Kingdom to bring forward a solution because it is it which voted to leave. In saying that, the best way forward is to extend an invitation to the UK Brexit committee to address the Seanad and meet us in order to continue to explore ways in which we can overcome the issue.
Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of early years education. As she knows, the Government has invested highly in that sector over the past five years, and that continues. A universal subsidy for children has been introduced, but the issue she raised in terms of pay and conditions for those who work in the sector is a contentious issue and one we must all work to try to address. A balance needs to be struck between parents, providers and workers, a balance which I would support. We are lucky that the quality of our early years education is so high. I agree with the Senator that the issue needs to be addressed.
Senator Gallagher referred to the Mater Private Hospital. I am not aware of the issue, but I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House. It is a complex issue. If the Senator has information, perhaps he could table a Commencement matter. That might be a quicker way of getting an answer. The issue needs to be addressed.
If the debate on data protection has not concluded by the end of the allocated time I am happy to allow it to roll over if the need arises.