The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding arrangements for the sitting of the House on Wednesday, 9 May 2018, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion regarding appointment of a member to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, motion regarding Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 regulations, back from committee, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of No. 2; No. 4, motion regarding Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 regulations, back from committee, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of No. 3; No. 5, Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 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 not less than five minutes to reply to the debate; No. 6, Private Members' business, Civil Law (Costs in Probate Matters) Bill 2017 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 5, with the time allocated to this debate not to exceed two hours; and No. 7, statements on corporate manslaughter, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 6 and to conclude within 40 minutes, with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be given not less than three minutes to reply to the debate.
Order of Business
I ask the Leader to clarify the position in respect of Nos. 5 and 6.
No. 5 is the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply to the debate. No. 6, Private Members' business, is the Civil Law (Costs in Probate Matters) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 5, with the time allocated to this debate not to exceed two hours.
I thank the Leader for that clarification.
I know we had plenty of time for Brexit last week and we will have another debate on Thursday to mark Europe Day, but I would like to speak about Brexit again in the context of Boris Johnson's latest pronouncement. He said during his visit to the US that the customs partnership is a crazy plan because it will create a whole new web of bureaucracy. He has gone against his own Prime Minister on this issue. Of course, he has not offered a different plan other than to come up with what has been termed the "Boris border". This type of seamless and frictionless border has not been tested because it does not exist anywhere in the world. We know this because a month ago, it was confirmed in a House of Commons report that no technological solutions, other than the theoretical, are available anywhere in the world to keep the Irish Border open if Britain leaves the customs union and the Single Market. The enterprise secretary in Westminster has said that thousands of jobs will be lost if Britain does not sign up to one or the other because of the extent of Britain's reliance on frictionless trade with the EU.
I thank the Leader for organising statements on corporate manslaughter. I propose to circulate to Members a letter from the Irish Haemophilia Society on this issue. This is relevant because the hepatitis C scandal is being seen again in a new guise. Neither the hepatitis C scandal nor the CervicalCheck cancer issue that is now before us can be attributed to mismanagement alone. Once more, the health service has covered things up by not informing people when they should have been informed. That is what happened 27 years ago in the hepatitis C case, which resulted in two tribunals, more inquires and recommendations. In 2006, the Law Reform Commission recommended that a corporate manslaughter Bill should be introduced to ensure people who fail to act are held to account, not by losing their jobs, resigning or going off with their pensions, but by going to jail for up to 12 years. Such a Bill has not been passed in this House, however. There are times when we do statements. Maybe the next legislation we debate should be the Committee Stage of the Corporate Manslaughter (No. 2) Bill 2016. I will raise this again during the statements on corporate manslaughter. Why are we talking about investigations by commissions of inquiry? Such investigations should follow criminal investigations and interviews carried out by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda. We can put in place the systems that are required after that. People have died as a result of mismanagement. We were told in this House less than two years ago that there was no need for the Corporate Manslaughter (No. 2) Bill 2016 because people could go to jail under existing legislation. That can be tested now on foot of a Garda investigation, rather than an investigation set up by this House or the other House.
Last week, I spoke about the need for us to get behind or beneath the Ministers when disasters like the cervical screening disaster take place. I explained how the Carltona doctrine or principles allow public servants, including those who took decisions and hid information in this case, to remain faceless. I want to see Tony O'Brien go, but there are other people who need to go too. If he goes, what about the people beneath him who did not report? Where does the responsibility lie?
All too frequently in this world, we look for the head of a big name, while the wrongdoers continue to do the same thing. Nowhere is more the case than in the health service where we have had scandal after scandal, yet the wrongdoers always remain in place and there is no accountability. I am all for protecting workers and ensuring they are treated fairly and correctly. However, when senior officials deliberately set out to hide information that cost people their lives, there must be accountability. Surely it cannot stop at the desk of the Minister or chief executive officer as they cannot have their finger on every pulse at all times.
My colleague, Senator Mark Daly, spoke a few moments ago about the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Boris Johnson. The EUobserver website features an interesting article under the title, "At Northern Irish border, Brexit risks hard-won peace". It begins as follows:
In Belfast's Alexandra Park stands a very hard border. A three-meter high wall cuts through the hilly green meadow, separating the republican Catholic and the unionist Protestant communities.
The piece then discusses the risks presented by a border in the event that Brexit goes wrong. The utterances of the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Johnson, and some other British Ministers indicate that Brexit is going wrong. As I have stated numerous times, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Helen McEntee, have done a tremendous job. However, all of their work will come to nothing if the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom falls apart and the Brexit negotiations collapse. It is beginning to look as if that could happen because the clock is ticking and nobody seems to have a clear idea of where we are going. One of my fears arising from the current cervical screening disaster is that the importance of Brexit may slip off the agenda. For this reason, I seek an assurance that Brexit remains a high priority.
Last week, I asked for a debate on corporate governance in the public sector, with particular reference to the Carltona doctrine, which protects individuals who clearly act wrongfully in their positions, and how this principle made its way into the Ministers and Secretaries Act.
The cervical cancer screening issue has created a number of knock-on issues in terms of legislation. We must, in legislation, address open disclosure and the issue of corporate manslaughter. Major questions also arise regarding procurement and ensuring the best and most appropriate outcomes in this area. I will bring proposals to the House on this issue before the summer. I hope all sides will work with me on that.
Facebook has announced it will not accept advertisements purchased abroad in the lead-up to the referendum on the eighth amendment. I first highlighted this issue last November at the World Forum on Democracy, which focused on big data. In recent months, I have been pressing relentlessly for the implementation of necessary regulation and legislation in this area and for social media platforms to step up and take some responsibility in the interim.
Just a few weeks ago, officials from Facebook appeared before a meeting of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment at which I and others challenged them to take action in response to the large amount of political advertising and sponsored content being targeted at Irish voters, including advertisements from unaccountable, unidentified and international actors. We urged them to ensure Ireland would not be another bad example of this practice. The committee was informed that Facebook did not have the technical capacity to provide the transparency required. I urged the company to stop selling advertising if it could not deliver transparency.
When I made the same demand last week, I was informed it was almost impossible to meet, yet today Facebook has agreed to stop selling advertisements to unaccountable international actors in respect of our referendum and the decision which is for Irish people to make as part of our electoral process. The company's decision is correct and in line with the spirit of our electoral laws.
Nonetheless, our electoral laws and online regulations need reform and the ultimate solution must be legislation. The onus is on Google, through its advertisements, and Youtube to take responsibility and ensure they follow the spirit of our electoral laws by also declaring that they will not take internationally purchased referendum advertisements. I urge Google and Youtube which are linked and any other relevant platform to take action.
As well as the legislative work needed for online regulation, there is a concern about a loophole in the Data Protection Bill 2018 which could potentially allow parties or candidates to hire companies such as Cambridge Analytica or Cantor. That is not in the true spirit of Article 9.2(d) of the general data protection regulation. It exceeds what is included in it. It behoves the Government to take the opportunity to get this right from the beginning by ensuring we close any loophole which could be manipulated in that way. I hope the Minister for Justice and Equality will take this on board.
I welcome the announcement made by Facebook that it will no longer accept advertisements aimed at the upcoming referendum on the eighth amendment if funded by organisations outside the country. From today such advertisements will be rejected. The Irish Times reports that a combination of machine learning and good old-fashioned people power will govern this initiative. Facebook has some automated tools at its disposal that would help to identify and reject advertisements. In case anything slips through the net, the advocacy groups and the transparent referendum initiative will have an input into the reporting process. These groups have dedicated communications channels with Facebook. While there are no facilities for ordinary citizens to contact Facebook directly and report advertisements, one could bring an advertisement to the attention of the advocacy groups and the transparent referendum initiative. I encourage all citizens to be proactive in the absence of legislation.
We are in the full swing of the referendum campaign that has taken an unprecedented turn. undecided8 has been shut down thanks to the stellar investigation carried out by the tech journalist Gavin Sheridan. However, as he knows, it is only a start. The State has a responsibility to the voting public which has been targeted by a foreign source which is seeking to deceive undecided voters and its resources are greater than those of the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, and the Referendum Commission combined. It is undermining their work. This should absolutely be a call to action for Google, Youtube and the State. The State is failing to give resources to SIPO to investigate effectively whether campaigns are receiving donations from international sources. Will we continue to have zero defence against foreign influences on public votes and will the online free-for-all continue?
I acknowledge the transparent referendum initiative.
The Senator is not allowed to come back in.
That is all I want to say. I simply acknowledge the transparent referendum initiative.
Ten minutes was given to dealing with this topic by way of a Commencement matter today before the Senator even mentioned it. Senator Fintan Warfield was off the blocks ahead of the Senator.
I propose that No. 20, Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2017, be taken before No. 1.
I refer to the death of a former Deputy, Monica Barnes, who was not a Member of this House. I do not think there will be formal-----
I see; therefore, there will be the possibility of formal statements being made. She was a very old friend and I express my sympathy to her family.
She was a remarkable woman. She was very maternal. She was one of the founders of the National Woman's Council of Ireland, NWCI. She held passionate views which she expressed strongly but she was never nasty. There was not a nasty bone in her body.
Another thing I would like to draw to the attention of the House is the increasing spread of a noxious form of political correctness around the place and employed by civil servants around this House. I sent a letter to a group of my voters. It was returned to me on the advice of the joint services committee, I believe, because the letter had the temerity to mention two words, one of which was "abortion" and the other of which was "referendum". It is bloody ridiculous if, as a public representative, one cannot exercise one's freedom to express one's opinion on these matters which are a matter of significant current national debate. What kind of little earwigs are there around the place who are trying to stop people from expressing opinions? It is nonsensical. I would like to see something done about it. Is somebody somewhere, apart from myself, going to stand up and say, "Enough is enough". We are elected public representatives. We are elected with the intention of expressing our views publicly and it is not up to some little nitpicker to say one cannot use the words "abortion" or "referendum" in a communication with the electorate. It is absolutely nonsensical. I would like to ask the Leader if he can do something about it. Can he raise the matter and see what the committee is at? Why is it doing these sorts of things? Why is it curtailing freedom of expression for public representatives?
I understand the point you make, but there is a political fortification behind that decision which the civil servants are endeavouring to implement. Maybe the Leader can raise the matter at a higher level. I do not think it is emanating from the civil servants within the House. There is a political foundation for it.
I am subject to correction.
I would like to echo the comments of Senator Norris on Monica Barnes, who was a superb public representative and fought passionately for what she believed in. She was one of the individuals in our political system who would have spread enlightenment and brought the country forward.
In regard to the second point the Senator raised, I would agree with him if I felt there was any attempt to curtail the right of an elected representative to make his or her views known to his or her constituents or electorate. I am sure the Leader will address that.
I also want to mention that on 26 April I highlighted the very serious issue of the lack of school places for children with autism spectrum disorder, ASD, in the country, in particular in Fingal, specifically Skerries. There were certain inaccuracies during the course of that debate, which I want to clarify. Síolta provides an excellent preschool service for children with ASD free of charge. Georgina, who was one of the parents I mentioned, is very pleased with her tutor.
Today I want to ask the Minister for Health to publish the two reports commissioned in August 2017, one by the Department of Health and another by the HSE, in respect of autism and those on the ASD spectrum. We were told they were two essential pieces of work in order to further inform the Bill which was to ensure we have a national strategy for people in the country who have autism. I know the Minister, Deputy Harris, is extremely busy, especially over the past two weeks with CervicalCheck and the referendum on the eighth amendment, and much else besides. We need the reports to be published and the ASD Bill to go to Dáil Éireann. We need an ASD strategy, and it should contain an action plan such as that which we had for jobs and have for housing. An action plan is badly needed so that our children and adults with autism can make their full contribution as citizens to their country.
Failing that, I would like the Minister to come to the House and explain what is delaying that Bill, which we first debated a year ago last Thursday. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss these reports and the Bill.
I wish to inform the House that over 71,000 people have signed the petition in support of this Bill so the message is loud and clear. This is an issue that will not go away. It is an issue that is urgent. Somebody mentioned earlier that the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking for these children whose parents watch in anguish when they see more time pass that does not allow them avail of the services that could allow them progress. I thank the Cathaoirleach. I ask the Leader to raise the issue with the Minister and encourage him to publish these two reports.
I am sad to say I am raising yet another issue with the Health Service Executive, HSE. I am getting calls from people anxious about whether the Government is making investigations into the drug sodium valproate, branded as Epilim, after it emerged that it was linked with birth defects and developmental issues. The HSE said it was preparing to create a register of all the women in Ireland whose babies may have been damaged in the womb by the drug. Again, we have families wondering if they are on the register of people affected by this drug. We are still talking about what will happen to the women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal and here comes another one.
There may be as many as 400 Irish children with birth defects and developmental issues because their mothers took Epilim. Before 2014, there was no warning label on the drug's packaging. The Oireachtas health committee heard last month that there was a mismatch between risks of the drug being known and women being told about them. Health professionals in the United Kingdom were warned about the dangers of the drug ten years before those in Ireland were informed. There was also the difference between what health professionals knew and what patients were told.
Again, there is a problem with communications. Why does the culture still exist whereby doctors can withhold patients' information and leave them in the dark about their own medical history? Primary care should always put the patients first. If something shows up on a test and the treating doctor is informed, the patient - man or woman - needs to be contacted over the telephone. There should never be a practice of sending a text telling the patient to make a new appointment to discuss the matter. Patients should make an appointment, but they should not have to pay another fee. The fact that they may be asked to pay a fee for going back to the doctor is another issue. That practice has to stop.
Patients must be able to trust that they are getting the full facts as soon as possible from their doctors, who in turn must feel free to be able to share the sensitive information without fear of legal consequences. That has to include issues that become apparent about drugs which were prescribed in the past, but there must be change from the top down. Too many Departments are keeping things from Ministers, the way the HSE keeps things from its patients across all areas. Not only does the left hand not know what the right hand is doing, no one knows what is going on.
We need to call time on that. Enough is enough. We can no longer reel from one controversy to another and act as if it is business as usual. The HSE has got to work better for us. We are paying for it. We can no longer hear the words, "lessons were learned and it will not happen again". Our citizens voted for us. We work for them. We should be their voice.
In terms of the HSE, the Taoiseach has said there needs to be radical change. I am sure people are rolling their eyes now wondering what will change. If we are still sitting here and getting it wrong, there has to be change. I would like the Minister to tell us exactly what is happening with this drug.
Is the Senator calling for a debate on that?
I am, yes.
I wish to raise two simple matters. First, can the Leader update us in the coming days on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016? This Bill was No. 100 of 2016 and was sponsored by the Leader, Senator Buttimer, on behalf of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I understand there are some difficulties going on in the background with respect to this Bill, which require further work. Clearly, the Minister is aware of all of that. I had some discussions with parties on this Bill in recent days and I am led to believe there are now difficulties with it and the progression of the legislation appears to have been stalled, but let us get the correct version of what is happening. The Leader might forward me a briefing note on it. The Minister, Deputy Katherine Zappone, is busy. She is doing a great deal of good work but the Leader might provide me with a briefing note or some clarification on the status of this Bill, where it is now and when it is proposed that the next Stage will be taken.
I formally second the amendment proposed by Senator Warfield regarding No. 20 on the Order Paper.
I also raise the issue of the CervicalCheck helpline which has been raised. Between 11,000 and 12,000 calls have been made to the helpline but only about one third of these calls have been returned. The helpline has stated calls from women who had a diagnosis of cancer are given priority, which is proper order. In recent days, 500 calls were made to people who were concerned about their tests. The CervicalCheck helpline could not give a date, however, as to when the rest of the calls would be addressed. That is not good enough. The Minister has made funds and resources available to GPs to look after patients who have concerns and to do repeat smear tests.
While the Minister is busy and should not necessarily be requested to attend the House, would it be possible for Members to get a briefing or update on where we are at with this helpline? We must not forget the thousands of women whose lives have been saved because of smear testing. That should not go unmentioned. We must urge women to continue to have smear tests done.
I echo the words of Senators Higgins and Warfield with regard to the announcement by Facebook that it will restrict foreign advertising on the eighth amendment for the duration of the referendum campaign. This is to be welcomed and we hope Google will follow suit.
There may be a loophole, however, with regard to Internet ad-handling companies. These are Irish-based companies which can receive funding from international companies to advertise on their behalf on the Internet. We have to be cognisant of this. There is a short window of opportunity for international companies to advertise and, in some cases, give false information to the Irish people. We are in the lead-up to the referendum on 25 May. It is important that the Irish people receive correct information and there is not interference from foreign companies with digital advertising. Irish companies, which are in the business of ad handling, should be aware that Facebook has taken some leadership today, and it we hope to see Google do likewise. I hope these Irish-based companies, for the want of a few bob, will not advertise foreign companies and take advantage of a potential loophole.
I join other Senators in marking the passing of former Senator and Deputy Monica Barnes. I attended the funeral this morning and the homily given by the priest was very fitting of the varied career she had both in politics and education. I know we are thinking of her husband, Bob, and her family at this time.
A recent survey found Irish people have an 80% positive viewpoint of immigration and migration in general. This is to be welcomed. When one looks at the atmosphere in the UK, France and across continental Europe where, unfortunately, far-right nationalist parties are beginning to gain traction with anti-immigrant rhetoric, it is good that Ireland, an open country with its own history of migrants - I know myself as someone who emigrated many years ago - is proud of and celebrates immigration. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, or the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, to discuss the possibility of an international immigrant day in Ireland in the near future?
I thank the Senator for his brevity. I call Senator Coghlan.
Senators Mark Daly and Craughwell referred to the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Johnson.
If one were to pay attention to some of his comments, one might have cause for concern. However, I prefer to listen to the Business Secretary, Mr. Greg Clark, the Brexit Secretary, Mr. David Davis, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Philip Hammond, and the Prime Minister, Mrs. May. We are well aware of the divisions within the British Government and the Tory Party. However, they all know they have to avoid a hard border within Ireland and they do not want a border between the islands of Ireland and Britain. These are matters for negotiation and we will have to be patient while the negotiators hammer out the issues behind all our backs in Brussels.
Another debate on this would be welcome but not until the outcome of the leaders' summit in June is known. I plead with Members to be patient until then. I wish Michel Barnier and all the other negotiators well as they attend to their work diligently. Let them at it.
Before I call the Leader to reply, I would like to be associated with the marks of respect and condolences offered to the family of the late Monica Barnes. I served with her on the justice committee and I travelled abroad with her. I always found her affable and she was a formidable but fair opponent. She will be a loss to politics. If my memory serves me correctly, her father was from Dunmanway in west Cork where he served as a police officer. She had that west Cork link and she was a close friend of a great ally, and sometimes foe, of mine, the great former Deputy, P.J. Sheehan. They were great friends but her west Cork connection may be where she got her fighting skills from.
I thank the 12 Members who contributed to the Order of Business. On my own behalf and on behalf of my party, I offer my sympathies to Monica Barnes's husband, Bob, and her family. I commend her on a life well lived. She should be extolled for her diligence as a public servant. She probably was the epitome of the wing of Fine Gael many of us want to be part of. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few weeks ago at the back door of Leinster House and she was full of life looking forward to the referendum campaign. She was due to take part in a press conference last week. That shows how vulnerable we all are and how precious life is.
Monica Barnes was a politician I grew to admire and I had the pleasure of meeting her on a number of occasions. She was always effusive in offering support and encouragement. As previous speakers said, and as has been reported in the media, she worked tirelessly on behalf of women and her constituents. She did the State a huge service and I extend my deepest sympathies to her family.
Senator Daly raised the issue of Brexit and the ongoing machinations within the UK Government. It would be preferable if we did not get involved in that. The Government is clear regarding the priority of Brexit and its position on it. There has been no deviation from that. As Senator Coghlan said, Mr. Barnier and Mr. Tusk have been clear regarding the Commission's approach and it is incumbent on us to allow for progress to be made at the next Council meeting. We are clear as a Government on what is our position. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy McEntee, will continue to represent the Government and build alliances throughout Europe. It is important though, as Senator Daly correctly said, that the issue be well flagged and that we highlight the rolling maul that is the British position while, at the same time, recognising that we have an obligation and a duty to respond as a Government on behalf of our citizens and on an all-island basis.
I am glad the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, will be in the House later on regarding corporate manslaughter. I would be happy to have that matter discussed. I would remind Senator Daly that his own party has Private Members' time any time it wishes to bring the Bill forward. That time is available to Fianna Fáil. The Government is not blocking the Bill coming back as he knows quite well. It is a matter we will tease out with the Minister for Justice and Equality this evening.
Senator Craughwell raised the issue of accountability. It is important that we recognise that there is a need for accountability. The Government has been very clear on that, on the matters of the health system or on any matter to do with governance of public bodies, moneys, utilities or services. People want accountability and the Government wants it. We demand that and it should happen.
There is a question that must be posed and I do not fly a flag for anybody, other than the Irish citizens that we represent. What do we want to have here? Do we want to have the HSE chief executive gone now or do we want to see the mess cleaned up? This is a tragedy. This is a scandal. I do not believe it is served by saying a head is needed, and I do not say that Senator Craughwell is saying that to be fair to him. This is about ensuring that everything that can be done in the next few weeks to reassure the women of Ireland and the families can be done so that we will never revisit this again. I agree with Senator Craughwell that there is a need to have a high priority in terms of corporate governance and what it means to be in a position of responsibility. I fully subscribe to that viewpoint. People cannot be left to walk away and left without having to pay the price of being held to account. I am always of that viewpoint, but let us get to the facts. That is why we have established an independent investigation. Let us then make our decisions based on the results that come back. I am happy to debate that at any time.
I refer to the points made by Senator McFadden on the issue of cervical cancer. I am told the helpline had nearly 11,000 phonecalls. There are over 7,600 callbacks to be made. Some of that involves a clinical consultation, some of that involves a doctor or nurse being involved and checking and collating information. In accepting some of the criticism that has been made, I think it is important to reassure people that the quality of the callback that will be given is important as well. We all accept that the concerns and fears of the women and families must be addressed and we must do everything possible to ensure that the callback from the telephone helpline takes place in a timely, prompt manner. I hope that will happen.
I know the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, and the Taoiseach have been very strong and strident on the returning of calls and the provision of accurate clinical information. We must respond in a matter of days rather than prolonging it for people. That is something we need to see continually kept at the heart of this. We must give information to women and reassure them, as the Taoiseach and the Minister have done, on the smear test and redress.
I refer to the issue of Facebook as raised by Senators Higgins and Warfield. I welcome the decision of Facebook to ban paid political advertisements from outside the jurisdiction. I commend the transparency campaigners who have highlighted the need for this type of influence to be stopped. It is also important to recognise that Facebook has a responsibility which today it is living up to. As Senator Higgins rightly said, if there are anomalies regarding the GDPR in Article 9.2(d) then let us get it right rather than having to continually revisit it.
The whole issue of social media advertising, as well as publishing on social media, is an area where we need to see quick action taken. Senator Warfield tabled a Commencement matter this afternoon in which he mentioned the Russian election. Of course we do not know that the Russians influenced the American election yet but we will await some of the results. I believe it is important that we call out people who interfere in our democracy. I welcome the fact this is taking place.
The level and type of campaigning has changed. As Senator Warfield said in his remarks earlier, it is important to recognise that the way we do business is different now. This means we must all be aware of the consequences. It is important that we have an electoral commission in our country that will grapple with the idea. This morning we saw a most despicable attempt to denigrate and degrade the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, by certain people who put up posters outside his constituency office on a route to a school. It beggars belief that this could be tolerable or acceptable in any democracy. I condemn such behaviour in any shape or form. As politicians, we can argue within the four white lines of the Dáil, Seanad or council chambers. We can participate in elections and we are held to account. We have rules and regulations under which we are governed, but some of the behaviour is unacceptable and should be called out for what it is: thuggery of the worst type.
I join Senators Norris and Reilly in seeking clarity with regard to the publication of materials. You are right, a Chathaoirligh, that it is not from the Civil Service, to be fair. I believe it has to do with the issue around the McKenna judgment and what can and cannot be used by the Houses of the Oireachtas when it comes to the printing of material. I do not believe we are precluded from communicating with our constituents but we are prohibited in electoral contests, whether for the Dáil or the Seanad, or in a referendum from expressly asking for a "Yes" or "No" or a number one vote. However, it raises a question that perhaps we could look at through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges or perhaps in a wider forum such as the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. The question relates to how we communicate with people and what we can and cannot do.
Senator Reilly raised the issue of his Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill. Again, I am happy to have the Minister come to the House. It is not that we are trying to preclude the Bill from coming back. There are issues the Minister is keen to get right in the Bill, from what I am told. Again, we will be happy to see that come back. I commend Senator Reilly on his work.
Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of Epilim medication. I know that in 2014 and 2017 the European Medicines Agency strengthened and enhanced the advertising restrictions on its use. I suppose it is fair to say that the majority of doctors, GPs and nurses do not communicate bad news over the telephone. They do so in a certain way. Communication over the telephone is not the practice but Senator Murnane O'Connor might be best advised to raise it as a Commencement matter. She may get a more expeditious response in that way.
Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone. My information for the Senator is that the work around amendments to the Bill continues as we speak. Several issues are outstanding, from what I am told. I do not have the specific information the Senator is looking for. Amendments were being worked on but I do not have any new information or an indicative timetable for the Member. However, I would be happy to keep him involved when I get that information for him. It is important legislation that we need to see coming back to the House. I am happy to take Senator Warfield's amendment to the Order of Business, which I forgot to mention that.
Senator O'Sullivan referenced Facebook, and I have responded on that point. Senator Richmond has an interesting proposal relating to an immigration day. As he said, it is important to recognise that 80% of people have a positive viewpoint. That is something I welcome. I certainly concur with Senator Richmond that we cannot allow a situation where we adopt a far-right approach in our rhetoric, behaviour or attitudes. One of the best things that happened was when Alan Shatter was Minister for Justice and Equality and he brought in the citizenship ceremonies. We also have need for an ongoing integration policy that must live up to the highest standard.
I commend Senator Richmond on his proposal. I thank Senator Coghlan for his remarks on Brexit. I am happy to accept Senator Warfield's amendment to the Order of Business.
Senator Fintan Warfield has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 20 be taken before No. 1." The Leader has indicated that he is prepared to accept this amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.