The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding a reasoned opinion and a proposal for regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council and streamlining measures for the advancing of the realisation of the trans-European transport network, to be taken on conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken at 1 p.m. and to be adjourned no later than 3 p.m. if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 3, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 3 p.m. and adjourned no later than 10 p.m., if not previously concluded.
Order of Business
Today I will raise an issue on behalf of the Irish Haemochromatosis Association. Haemochromatosis is a common hereditary iron overload disorder and one in 83 Irish people are predisposed to have this condition. More than 20,000 Irish people have already been diagnosed with haemochromatosis and there are still well over another 20,000 people in Ireland who are undiagnosed. The most common symptoms are chronic fatigue and joint pain. Anyone who is concerned about same should go to their GP to get a ferritin test.
What is of major concern is that every time people with haemochromatosis go to get what is called a venesection, where their blood is cleaned, it costs €80. This has to be done up to 100 times per year. It is of major concern to people who do not have a medical card or health insurance. These people should not be charged for this and should be treated in the same way as those on dialysis or receiving chemotherapy. The long-term illness scheme is very outdated and does not take into account many illnesses which we now have much more information on, such as haemochromatosis. I ask the Leader to relay this matter to the Minister to consider waiving this €80 fee.
I refer to the schoolboys trapped in the cave in Thailand. I commend the boys for their resilience and the rescuers for their perseverance and professionalism in risking their own lives to save these boys. The eyes of the world are on this situation. I understand that to date there are two boys left in the cave as well as their coach, some rescuers and an army doctor. We also send our sympathies over the diver who lost his life trying to rescue these boys and we hope that this ends as a happy story and they all come out safely.
I mention the visit of Mr. Harry Windsor and Ms Meghan Markle to Ireland. I hope we all wish them a céad míle fáilte and that they have a lovely time visiting our beautiful country.
On Saturday afternoon, a sad and tragic accident claimed the life of William Dunlop in the Skerries 100 motorcycle race in north Dublin. The Dunlop name is synonymous with road racing in Ballymoney and across the island of Ireland, the UK and the among the international motorcycle racing fraternity. I extend our sympathy and support to William's wife and daughter and to the wider family circle. A huge void has been left in the wake of this sad and heartbreaking loss for the family, the sport of motorcycle racing and for Northern Ireland.
In 1939 there was estimated to be 350,000 horses involved in farming in Ireland. Most farms and rural families had a horse or horses for work, as part of recreation or a revenue generator for the family. The horse was and continues to be a critical component of the rural fabric of Ireland. Ireland is currently the world's third largest thoroughbred breeding nation and it is with this in mind and the current impasse in Brexit negotiations that I raise concerns about the thoroughbred industry.
To its credit, Horse Racing Ireland commissioned a study by Deloitte into the economic impact of Irish breeding and racing in 2017 which uncovered some significant figures. Irish racing and breeding generated a total expenditure of €1.84 billion in 2016 and is without question one of the most important industries on this island. Per capita, Ireland has 50 thoroughbreds per 10,000 people, amounting to ten times that of any other country. It generates around 28,900 direct and indirect jobs, mostly in rural economies. Jobs across a wide range of industries and skill sets are evident in this industry. In addition, the value of Irish foal exports sold at public auction in 2017, 80% of which was to the UK, was a staggering €271.6 million.
For this industry, Brexit uncertainty is a massive concern. There are 26 racecourses in Ireland, two of which are in Northern Ireland and it attracts over 1.28 million people annually with over 80,000 tourists swelling the numbers, often combining business with pleasure, taking in a race meeting while sampling a rural landscape, local culture, food and drink and the hospitality in the area. Tens of thousands visit from Great Britain and further afield, regarding Ireland as a Mecca for quality bloodstock, breeders, trainers and race yard staff. They regard Ireland as the shining light in the thoroughbred industry globally and it is.
That is so especially when one considers that up to 75% of runners at British fixtures are Irish or French bred. Britain and Ireland operate currently a single entity for Stud Book purposes and a tripartite agreement exists between Ireland, Britain and France to facilitate the free movement of stock between the three jurisdictions. Any threat or challenge presented by Brexit could prove catastrophic for the industry.
Brexit raises serious questions. What will the impact be on the movement of horses and labour? What are the implications for the all-island status of the industry and the potential impact on the two Northern Irish racecourses? What tariffs or restrictions will be imposed which could impact on trade or movement? What taxation incentives could be introduced to Britain that could disadvantage the Irish industry? The industry is not resting on its laurels. It is professional, proactive and it is making plans. It has already submitted a proposal to the EU Commission to establish a third equine category under EU animal health law that will protect movement and trade for breeding and competition horses, require official veterinarian control and oversight and which could facilitate trade and movement with any other qualifying country, not just Great Britain. Uncertainty and lack of clarity is unhelpful to the industry, the importance of which to the Irish economy cannot be underestimated, irrespective of whether one is urban or rural.
These concerns should be raised across a number of Departments, including the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and, given the importance of agriculture and the rural economy, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which is inextricably linked to this and could be adversely impacted. I ask, therefore, that the Government make representations in the House to address the concerns of the thoroughbred industry and answer these pressing questions.
“The dream is dying” declared Boris Johnson yesterday in his resignation letter to Theresa May. It reminded me of the old Waterboys Song “England is dying”, from which it is worth quoting a couple of lines. It is particularly apt when one thinks of Boris:
Still he sings an empire song,
Still he keeps his navy strong,
And he sticks his flag where it ill belongs,
Old England is dying.
While it is easy and, yes, enjoyable to see the Tory Party with its illusions of empire sink ever further into crisis on Brexit, the consequences for our country North and South grow more serious by the day. The gleeful declaration by Andrea Leadsom last night that the European Court of Justice would have no more say over matters involving Britain and that there would be an end to freedom of movement for EU citizens are just two of a number of worrying statements coming from this quarter. Like many, I worry that this British Government may well prove incapable of negotiating a Brexit agreement. By accident, rather than by design, we may end up with a hard Brexit. As such, I call for a further debate on this issue, in particular to discuss the Government's readiness for this possibility and its contingency plans at EU level to ensure there is no hard border on this island. Brexit was a Tory solution to a Tory problem. The backstop or Irish protocol agreed last December is the bottom line for Ireland and the British Government cannot and must not be allowed to negotiate downwards from that position.
The second issue I raise today is the Government's decision to proceed with plans to delete the reference to a woman’s place in the home from the Constitution. I understand a referendum is scheduled for 26 October. Instinctively, one wants to think this is a good thing to do, but I join those who have expressed concern as to why the Government chose to ignore the advice of the Constitutional Convention and its own departmental task force on the matter. Both the Convention and the Department of Justice and Equality advised against repeal simpliciter and recommended instead making the constitutional clause gender neutral and including carers within or beyond the home. This is an opportunity to do something positive, recognising the rights of carers and the crucial role they play in our society. A third option not considered but highlighted by Laura Cahillane, a law lecturer at the University of Limerick, would be to recognise that care work in the home is of such importance that the State will ensure that those who choose this role are sufficiently supported financially. Given the huge costs of holding a referendum, all options surely should be explored before the question is brought to the people. Rather than rush in to hold a referendum on this issue in the absence of any real discussion, it is important to ensure there is proper debate. Frankly, that has just not happened so far. As such, I call for a debate on that issue.
On behalf of the Labour Party group, I welcome the news that President Michael D. Higgins has announced that he will seek a second term in office. He has served this country with great distinction as our President. I hope that colleagues of all parties and none will see fit to support his candidacy for a second term.
I welcome also the launch this morning by our Labour Party colleagues, Deputies Jan O'Sullivan, Brendan Howlin and others, of the party's national housing strategy. I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on housing when we return in September to ensure we have the opportunity to debate these important and original proposals for affordable housing for all. The proposals include the delivery of 80,000 housing units in a five-year period of Government on the basis of an investment of €16 billion through the mechanism of a single national State agency to be called the national housing development bank. The idea is that the bank would be given the powers, land, expertise and money to deliver housing and to replace existing agencies like the Housing Agency and the Housing Finance Agency. Of particular importance is the proposal that housing executives would be created in a selection of local authorities on a regional basis to ensure the consolidation of expertise and resources to enhance the capacity of local government to deliver and develop social and affordable housing. We have a range of other proposals and I ask colleagues to look at the policy document so that we can have an informed debate in September on this vitally important issue.
I welcome the Leader's announcement that we will have the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill today on Second Stage. It is an important initiative to make our roads safer for all. I appeal to the Leader to arrange a further debate with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in September on the need for more initiatives for road safety, in particular the safety of cyclists. Colleagues will be aware that there have been horrific fatalities among cyclists this year on the roads and there is a real problem in the lack of resources and policies on cycle safety. Things like the Luas tracks have made cycling in Dublin city centre much more dangerous. There have been a huge number of accidents where people have got tyres stuck in Luas tracks. There is a way to make Luas tracks safer for cyclists and we need to debate that as well as more general initiatives to ensure cycle safety and that we see a decrease in the number of accidents and fatalities among cyclists. I urge colleagues who are car drivers to be mindful of cyclists on the roads.
I rise today out of concern at the fact that St. John’s Hospital in Limerick had to close its small minor injuries emergency department yesterday. This was helping to relieve the significant pressure on the accident and emergency department at the University Hospital, which is overcrowded again today. It is because there were not enough staff to manage the unit, albeit it reopened at 8 a.m. this morning. I am very concerned that St. John’s Hospital which was helping to deal with minor injuries could not open yesterday. It is a big problem. Patients were diverted to the University Hospital.
The second matter I raise is the Creative Ireland programme and the €200 million announced to provide for things like film production. Troy Studios is a film studio based in Limerick. As part of the €200 million Creative Ireland programme, there is discussion of increased tax incentives and funding for training. I have raised here on many occasions the importance of training and apprenticeships. There are people on an apprenticeship programme in Troy, which is a positive, good news story. I am just using this as an example. No matter what high end film production companies come to film in Troy, people will have the skills sets to apply for positions. It is very important. I ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to come to the House to debate the future of the Creative Ireland programme and the way it can be used productively on a national basis.
I thank the Leader for outlining the Order of Business which I welcome. I welcome also the proposal to adjourn this evening at 10 p.m. The Leader might guarantee to the House that there will be no extension of that as there were a lot of rumours yesterday to the effect that we might sit later. While they were obviously unfounded, it would be nice if the Leader confirmed that we will adjourn this evening at 10 p.m.
That is up to other Members. They are after gestating some parts.
That is rubbish. We are dealing seriously with a ridiculous Bill which the Leader's party does not support.
Senator Norris's behaviour yesterday was play acting.
Mine was superb.
The Senator's behaviour yesterday-----
I did not interrupt Senator Norris.
-----was such that he might have been on stage in the Gaiety as the dame in a pantomime.
Sexism is rampant in County Cork.
Members might listen attentively to one another.
This is a discussion about the Order of Business, which is not necessarily what everyone talks about on the Order of Business. Yesterday we resumed on amendment No. 22 of 111 amendments to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and we finished at 10 p.m., not having concluded the debated on amendment No. 29. Therefore, 83 amendments have yet to be dealt with. It was helpful yesterday to have a sos between 6 p.m. and 6. 30 p.m. I ask the Leader to amend the Order of Business to include a small sos to allow the Minister and his officials, as much as anybody else-----
A sos between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. would be good.
The Senator can watch the match on his phone.
The garden party will be on.
We all want to go.
I am trying to make my contribution. I saw the Leader's tweet this morning. He must be getting tired because it is the second last Tuesday of the session. He is anticipating not only the last week but the second last one. I will be nice to him on the Order of Business.
I met a man at the weekend who told me that one has to tell people about a matter 40 times to ensure they remember it. I remind the House of my contribution last week regarding the confidence and supply agreement last week. The agreement was signed up to by the negotiators for Fine Gael, Deputies Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, now the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, the then Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Enda Kenny, and my party leader. It provides for a review by the end 2018. While I am sure any preliminary talks would be welcome, the deal to which everybody signed up provides for a review. Perhaps the signatories did not believe we would get this far and they may not have read as far as the bottom of the second page when they signed it but that is what was in it.
The main point I wish to raise is that of cycling safety, to which Senator Ivana Bacik alluded. We have a Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, who is very interested in judges and judicial appointments. It seems he is less interested in his own brief. He has a junior Minister, the Minister of State, Deputy Brendan Griffin, dealing with tourism and sport and he seems to be doing that adequately and well-----
-----but the Minister seems to be spending far more time on judicial appointments and other matters, including Garda stations, than he is on his own brief of transport. Cycling is a positive activity for all of us. I want to acknowledge the death at the weekend of Shane Duggan, a 16 year old from Straffan. We must make our cycling infrastructure safer and spend more money on it. That would be to everybody's benefit, including car users as the more cyclists there are, the fewer motorists there will be. Cycling in this morning, I shaved one minute off my personal best time for the journey. Almost everyone who cycles is taking a car off the road which makes it easier for everyone else. It reduces emissions and fossil fuel use. It is important that the House has a discussion on cycling. We are about to spend €4 billion on MetroLink, about which Senator McDowell outlined many concerns. Cycling infrastructure is very cheap to provide and it delivers a great deal. I request that we have an urgent debate on cycling, including cycling safety but not only that aspect, possibly before the recess if that is possible.
I think the Senator was quicker on the bike this morning than he was on the Order on Business.
The Cathaoirleach was not here for all of it,
The clock was set. I call Senator McDowell.
That is very harsh on Senator Horkan.
That was a compliment to him.
He is an extraordinary Acting Chairman.
I will have to amend that.
I am saving my voice for-----
He is saving himself.
He is wearing a jacket.
I request the Order of Business be changed to provide for a sos between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. It is inhumane to expect people to continue straight through from early afternoon until 10 o'clock at night.
Hear, hear. The three or four of us who were here.
I ask the Leader to consider that proposal and to be gracious enough to accept it. He is silent for the first time.
I will reply to it when I am replying to the Order of Business.
If the Leader does not accept it, the Senator can always take a certain course of action when the Order of Business is being agreed to.
It is a formal request to change the Order of Business.
The Senator should launch a campaign for the Presidency.
My colleague, Senator Bacik, welcomed the announcement by the President of his intentions. It is deeply regrettable that he has gone back on his word and decided to seek a second term. However, he can explain that to the electorate over the period of the election. I am deeply disappointed at some of the political elites in this House who have decided to close off the nomination process-----
-----for those who would seek to run for the highest office in the land. We must look within and ask ourselves where our democratic souls are. It is rather disgusting that we, as political elites, seek to close off an election process but such is life.
Despite the regret I feel today, we will move on and upwards. I ask those in Leinster House who still have a democratic soul to think of nominations and to ensure that we have a competition for this office as we move forward.
I agree with Senator Marshall on the importance of the horse racing industry for the country. I wish the incoming chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, Mr. Nicky Hartery, well in his new role. He performed very well before an Oireachtas committee last week when he spoke about funding for Horse Racing Ireland. A review of the betting tax, currently set at 1%, could generate a key part of HRI funding. I ask the Leader to request that the Minister review the tax in the run-up to the budget.
I also raise the draft guidelines on wind turbines. There is a code of practice regarding interaction with the community and a proposal on a preferred draft approach. Will the Leader indicate when the draft proposal will become a proposal?
My greatest bugbear of all time is Seanad reform. The cathaoirleach of the new Seanad reform committee is present. Perhaps he will give us an update on the progress that has been made since he was made chairman of the committee.
He is preoccupied with something else.
He might give us a brief summary of what has happened to date.
I am not sure that is within his remit but I am sure he will be able to answer for himself. I call Senator Devine and apologise for surprising her.
That is fine. I was just conversing with my colleague. I will raise two issues, the first of which is the closure of Linn Dara child and adolescent mental health service, CAMHS, in Cherry Orchard. This day service programme was closed on a hush-hush basis on Friday. That means there will be no day programme services for child and adolescents suffering with mental health throughout the Dublin-mid Leinster region, which covers not only Dublin but Kildare, Wicklow and the counties in between. I intend to raise this issue as a Commencement matter and I hope it will be chosen to allow me to address the Minister on it.
Could the Senator repeat that? I missed the start of her contribution.
That is because the Leader was talking, but I will forgive him.
I was not talking. I was just trying to take a note of the matter.
It is Linn Dara CAMHS.
It is based in Cherry Orchard.
The Senator has tabled a Commencement matter and the issue might be dealt with in that way.
It is a juvenile service-----
It is not, it is a day programme service. I wish Members would stop interrupting me.
The Senator should look at herself.
Can I start again?
I remind the Senator it is difficult for me to allow a debate on the issue if it is also likely to be selected as a Commencement matter. In other words, she cannot have two bites of the cherry.
I wish to again raise the case of Emma Mhic Mhathúna. As we know, cancer has spread to her brain. She, this brave warrior for Ireland and Irish women, is using her compensation money and calling out for cytologists and the use of the laboratories in universities that are quiet over the summer period. In her own words, "there's no point in waiting for CervicalCheck - we need to ... [do this] ourselves." The 3,000 smear slides must be examined and this brave women who is gravely ill has taken it upon herself to do what the HSE should be doing and to do it out of the compensation she received from the HSE and Quest Laboratories.
I am glad that Michael D. Higgins has at last announced his candidacy. I hope there will be a contest and an election as I believe it is important for the office of President. I might find myself voting for him if he is the best candidate but the people who are on the wireless all the time should stop farting about and should start looking for nominations. It would show that they are serious about it.
In respect of the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis, I am absolutely delighted they are gone. Mrs. May should have fired them long ago as they are useless. As Senator Bacik pointed out yesterday, Boris Johnson made a complete and utter bags of his resignation letter. He put in two paragraphs blackguarding the European Union for preventing him, as Lord Mayor of London, from introducing regulations that would have affected the windows of articulated lorries and the placing of mirrors when, in fact, it was the British Tory Government that prevented it and the proposal actually came from the European Union. What an idiot. Now he is up the creek polishing one of his own little turds, to use his own words. I laughed at him when he said the poor United Kingdom would be a colony. It is about bloody time. It colonised three quarters of the rest of the world so they might have a lash at what it feels like to be a colony. I am half English but I am bloody delighted.
Will the Senator say that to Harry?
I will say that to Prince Harry. I am one of the few people in this House who received an invitation, in deference to my strong royalist sympathies.
If Senator Conway does not interrupt again, I will call on him to speak.
I also welcome the clarification from Áras an Uachtaráin this morning that President Higgins will seek a second term. It is inevitable that we will have a presidential election.
We need an ethical presidential election because many presidential elections in recent times have descended into a farce.
I refer to what happened with RTÉ's "The Frontline". I call on the Standards in Public Office Commission to have another look at the guidelines for presidential elections because they seem to be very dirty elections. It should not be like that and it does not have to be.
It does not do anything for the dignity of the office of President to have a campaign of skulduggery, so it is time the Standards in Public Office Commission brought out firm guidelines on managing it and on making it clear what should and should not be done, and what can and cannot be done.
We have had a great period of sunshine and tourism is doing exceptionally well. Tourism is our oil and our gas, with our scenery and our people being our greatest natural resource. I would like a debate with the Minister for tourism on a long-term strategy. We need significant capital investment in tourism because we do not get this weather too often. We need to ensure we have a tourism infrastructure that is not weather-dependent and embraces the different weather we have by giving people the opportunity to have a great experience irrespective of the weather.
On this morning's Commencement matters, three Senators had very serious issues we wanted to address to the Minister for Education and Skills but he was not present. I understand that he cannot be here all the time but three of us wanted to raise our matters with him. The Leader responds to the points we raise by telling us he will bring the Minister into the House, but last week I had another Commencement matter on education that was replied to by the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English. I am not being disrespectful to any Minister but the Leader needs to make this a priority. If we put forward a Commencement matter, the Minister to whom it is addressed should come to the Seanad and not send in other Ministers who cannot answer the points we make. We put forward Commencement matters to get the Minister in to reply.
Senator Murnane O'Connor is right.
I ask the Leader to make this a priority from September. If the Minister cannot address us, the Commencement matter should be put off until another date. We can wait. I came in today to meet the Minister for Education and Skills but did not get him.
I propose an amendment to the proposed Order of Business, that there be a sos between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Is the Senator seconding Senator Craughwell's proposal?
If Senator Craughwell formally moved it, I formally second it.
On what basis does the Senator want a sos?
On humanitarian grounds.
People are entitled to an evening meal.
The Senator does not have to explain. An amendment has been proposed.
Three or four of us were here for six, eight or 12 hours at one time.
May I ask the Senator why he wants a sos?
It is so that we can have a tea break during the long debate.
The Senator does not have to explain.
Any reason for opposing the amendment is a pretence that this matter is urgent and needs to be rushed through the House. There is plenty of time to discuss it and the only person who thinks it is urgent is one member of the Cabinet. The Minister told us it would take many months, possibly between eight and 18, to get the whole process going once the Bill is passed, so there is no huge urgency and we do not have to pretend there is.
On the presidential election, the Constitution provides that it is an elected office and it envisages that four county councils or 20 Members of the Oireachtas are entitled to nominate somebody for the position. The Constitution also states that an outgoing President can renominate himself without any such formalities so it is undemocratic to do a dog-in-a-manger act and prevent people from standing by not using the nomination powers we are given as Members of the Oireachtas to ensure there is a contest. Sinn Féin has at least 20 seats in both Houses and I hope it exercises its right.
There are another 30 or 40 Members of this House who are in a position to see if there is anybody, not necessarily from within this House, who is a worthy and appropriate candidate. This is a democratic State so we should not have shoo-ins by the arrangement of the powers that be.
Is Senator McDowell seconding Senator Craughwell's presidential campaign?
I come from a group of Independents which has all the talents. We have at least three aspiring Presidents among us and I ask if any other group in the House can match that.
I cautiously welcome the outcome of the Chequers negotiations last weekend. I think British politicians are eventually coming to their senses.
It is time for reflection now because a bad deal for the United Kingdom is a bad deal for Ireland and for the European Union. I hope there will be a change of mind regarding Brexit. I hope also that Brexit will not happen and that this is good news.
I agree with Senator Conway and Senator Norris on the presidential election. The previous presidential election was a race to the bottom.
It was a jamboree of insults. People's good character was dragged through the mud, and nobody appeared to apologise.
No, but they paid for it. There were ten libel actions.
I suppose Senator Norris is well able to stand up for himself after that. It is time the Seanad debated this issue and came up with some code of conduct regarding the media and various political parties because the previous presidential election sent out the wrong signal in terms of all the candidates. No one would get involved in such an election, particularly if it were similar to the previous one.
On a more sombre note, tomorrow, 11 July, we will remember Srebrenica, which became synonymous with those dark days in 1995 when in the first ever United Nations declared safe area, thousands of men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. The victims, predominantly Muslim, were selected for death on the basis of their identity. That was the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War. We should remember what happened in Srebrenica in 1995, which must never happen again. I hope we will remember it.
I ask the Leader for a debate on home care packages with the Minister of State at the Department of Health present. I acknowledge the significant increase in the provision of home care packages in the previous budget but for some reason since January or February, certainly in respect of the south side of Dublin city, almost no home care packages have been awarded. People have contacted me who wanted to bring their parents home to pass away in their home but they have not been able to access a home care package. I want to be fair. There has been an increase in the provision. There was an effort to reduce the trolley crisis in that respect but people are entitled to a home care package. It helps the hospital system because it takes the patients out of acute beds. If something has gone wrong in the way they are being awarded, it needs to be addressed. I hope the Minister of State will come into the House at some stage and address the matter, not on a localised basis but on a national basis.
I have raised Commencement debates in respect of the Poolbeg west or former Irish Glass Bottle Company site on which an additional 500 affordable rental and social housing units were to be built, which was a deal done to get the strategic development zone. Nothing seems to be happening in that respect and rumours are rife around the city that because of the cost of those units, it will not happen. NAMA is involved in respect of the site; the receiver is acting on behalf of NAMA. We need action. We cannot forgo 500 units in a key location in the city centre and be left with a huge loss in that respect and a major gap in the Government's policy on the provision of affordable and cost rental housing. The matter was raised in Commencement debates in the House on several occasions but we have heard nothing back since it was announced that negotiations were taking place. An Bord Pleanála will make a decision shortly and we are in danger of losing 500 units for the capital city, which are badly needed. The Minister of State needs to address the House on this issue.
First, I raise an issue brought to my attention by a bus driver in Mullingar, which culminates in respect of news I heard on the wires this morning about a Bill, framed by my colleague, Senator Gallagher, on assault and abuse of people working in the emergency services. Given the horrific accounts I heard at the weekend from a local bus driver, it is possible we could consider extending that Bill and the good work Senator Gallagher is doing to include other people who serve the public such as bus drivers, council workers, and so on. There are many people who come in for both physical and verbal abuse in their work that is not canvassed or necessary. They need our protection. Senator Gallagher is framing a very good Bill and it is possible that it could be extended further to include such workers.
Second, I agree with Senator McDowell on the great work he is doing on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
Will he be back with his own Bill?
He is right that all these issues need to be teased out and ventilated. I put off work on what would have been an extremely busy day yesterday, unannounced, to be here to support the topics being discussed. As Senator McDowell is Chairman of the Seanad reform committee, I hope he will ensure they will be ventilated robustly in this House, including all the changes and every issue that needs to be brought before the House, and that, as Chair, he will give it as much attention and fervour as he has shown in respect of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
I certainly will.
In equally the same manner.
Yesterday, despite all the votes taking place in the House, and I was here for most of them, I was still able to attend a conference in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland where Professor Ian Frazer, who developed the human papilloma virus, HPV vaccine, gave a lecture. It is sad that there were protests outside the college and outside the Dáil by people who were alleging that the vaccine has negative effects. The evidence in Australia is that there has been a 90% drop in the number of women under the age of 30 who are infected with the virus as a result of the comprehensive programme operated in Australia since 2007. Australia introduced the programme of vaccination for girls in 2007 and for boys in 2013. The number of women with the HPV virus between the ages of 18 and 24 has dropped from more than 22% to 1%. That is clear evidence from Australia that the HPV vaccine works. It is successful in respect of nine strains of the virus. It has worked very well yet we are hearing negative comments being made about the vaccine programme here in Ireland. The uptake of the vaccine here dropped to an uptake of 50% two years ago but that is back up to 60%. From September, we should have a comprehensive programme to get out the information on the vaccine to ensure the uptake is increased to 70% or 75%. We should also introduce the vaccine for boys, which was done in Australia. I ask the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister and that, if possible, the Minister would come into the House at the start of the next term to outline the programme to ensure that Oireachtas Members are fully aware of its benefits. At a time when we are talking about failures in the system, we should talk now about the positive developments that have occurred in this area. In that regard, we need to make a big effort in the coming months.
The Seanad is scheduled to debate the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill for more than 18 hours over the next two days but as we spend our time debating what really results from a pet topic and a petty grievance of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, life is going on in the real world. If we were to consider the necessary reforms around the appointments of judges, we should be considering the serious problems that continue to face the legal system.
Indeed, both the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Justice and Equality should direct their minds to what the President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Peter Kelly, said when he placed a statement on the website of the Courts Service last Friday. His statement is worth reading into the record. He said:
As a result of a shortage of judges in the High Court, it is necessary to redeploy judges from their designated duties so as to ensure that trials in the Central Criminal Court, Family Law, Wards of Court and Commercial List cases do not have to be postponed. As a result, it is regretted that all cases in every other High Court list are at risk of having to be adjourned at short notice.
It is extraordinary that Mr. Justice Kelly has been placed in this position. There are currently three vacancies in the High Court. We have delays in hearing cases, which already have been added to by the shenanigans of the Minister, Deputy Ross, in delaying appointments to previous vacancies. He has, effectively, held these appointments hostage in order to secure political concessions on other issues.
Last May, the President of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Justice Birmingham, stated the court was facing "an immediate crisis" due to the shortage of judges. There is currently a 20-month waiting time for appeal hearings in that court. Last week, an entire jury panel was sent home as there were no judges available to hear cases on the list. The problem is not confined to the higher courts. An "RTÉ Investigates" programme in December 2017, as we will recall, showed a shocking level of chaos at District Court level with drink-driving legislation not being properly applied, lengthy delays in bringing prosecutions, cases being struck out due to a lack of resources and administrative chaos allowing repeat offenders to evade proper justice. This is what undermines confidence in our justice system not the current arrangements for the appointment of judges. It is populist attacks on the Judiciary led by Government figures in recent years that has undermined public confidence in the justice system. We should direct our minds to these matters. What is going on is certainly not good governance in respect of the administration of justice.
Last week, Mr. Justice Frank Clarke published his report into the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Sergeant Mick Galvin at Ballyshannon Garda Station in County Donegal in May 2015. Sergeant Mick Galvin's death was a terrible tragedy for his wife, Colette, their three children, their wider family circle and his Garda colleagues and community in that particular region.
The report raised serious issues about the way the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, goes about its business. The report highlighted shortcomings in how GSOC went about its work. Mr. Justice Clarke stated there can be no doubt but that he "was both an outstanding member of An Garda Síochána and also an outstanding person". He continued by stating Sergeant Michael Galvin was not involved in any wrong-doing. This is, and was, the clear outcome of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, inquiry.
I have a few questions arising from Mr. Justice Clarke's report. Was there a need for a criminal inquiry? Why was the file sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions when GSOC's inquiry found nothing to report? I also note that members of the force who were under criminal investigation were not informed they were being investigated. Tragically, in this case, Sergeant Mick Galvin was not informed of the outcome of the inquiry to the effect that he had no case to answer. I can only imagine the stress, worry and annoyance that this incident caused him and his family. As a result of the report, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI, has sought an urgent meeting with GSOC on items that spring from the report. I ask the Leader to use his good office to facilitate a meeting. I fully appreciate there always will be tensions between GSOC and An Garda Síochána. Both have a job to do and both deserve space and time to do such work. The report has clearly shown there are many shortcomings that need to be addressed. Again, I ask the Leader to use his good offices to facilitate a meeting between An Garda Síochána and GSOC in order that all concerned know exactly where they stand and what is expected of them.
I wish to mention the new Rural Link programme that seeks to alleviate rural isolation, which has worked well for the past few months. The programme has joined towns and villages. People now have an opportunity to connect with their community, to shop locally and meet grocers, butchers or whoever. The service has now been expanded and a pilot programme, comprised of an extra 60 routes nationwide, will commence between now until the end of December. Next Friday, a service from Kinsale to Clonakilty will commence.
I wish to note that the Local Link service will provide a night service. It will give people the opportunity to attend social events and ensure they are not tied to staying in their houses late at night. People will now have connectivity and, therefore, will be able to enjoy a normal lifestyle of meeting people and socialising in the local community. The initiative is very important and the pilot scheme must be supported. The public must get behind the initiative in order for it to be a success. I hope there will be general support for the pilot scheme and that people will avail of the service. If so, then we can argue for the scheme to be extended. The Local Link initiative has been a great success, as many towns and villages have been connected and I hope people will avail of the new scheme. The day service has been a great success and the night service has the potential to be as successful.
I support the contribution made by Senator Colm Burke. I was disappointed to see anti-vaxxers outside Leinster House yesterday. They have a right to protest but I could not help but notice the large number of young people and children among the protestors, that is, the people who these vaccinations protect. A number of months ago, I received my final vaccination at the gay men's health service clinic located on Baggot Street in Dublin. I wish to highlight that the HPV vaccine is available free of charge at the point of delivery for all men under the age of 26 who have sex with men. I wish to emphasise that vaccines work and they protect our future.
This is the time of year when every League of Ireland fan gets behind their representatives in Europe. I wish Cork City well as it takes on Legia Warsaw at Turner's Cross, Cork, in the Champions League. For the first time in 12 years, Cork City has qualified for the Champions League. The club had issues with Revenue, went out of business and then the fans took it over. I am excited about the future of domestic football and wish the club well.
I welcome a significant milestone, namely, the approval by the Cabinet of the patient safety Bill at the end of last week. This legislation will now proceed to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health for consideration. This is a very concrete measure to address the serious shortcomings that exist and have been exposed by the CervicalCheck scandal. I refer to the fact that women were not given serious medical information about their health. People in authority lacked both common sense and decency and did not see fit to give the women vital information that not only impacts on their health but on their lives.
I hope the Bill will be passed by Christmas and it behoves us all to ensure that happens. The legislation will go beyond merely holding organisations responsible but also will hold responsible individuals in positions of authority. I believe the legislation will create a culture of mandatory open disclosure whereby it will serve to address and correct the current mindset of "we know best." I welcome the legislation and view it as progress.
The legislation also will include a definition of serious patient safety incident, which includes wrong site surgery, patient death or serious disability associated with a medication or diagnostic error. The legislation will make it crystal clear that people are entitled and deserve to know about serious health matters that pertain to them-----
The Senator voted against the legislation.
-----and that they should not be kept in the dark.
I would like to wish the England team well in its quest to win the World Cup. I congratulate Harry Kane on his work so far.
Football is coming home.
He has Irish connections. In fact, his uncle-----
He has Limerick connections.
He has Mayo connections as well.
Excuse me, Senators. Four other Members wish to speak and, technically, we are over the limit. I ask for no more interruptions.
Of course. I want to talk about a much more serious matter. This week, as we witness another Tory implosion, we have again to be concerned about the instability created for Irish business and jobs. One has to question the capacity of Westminster to resolve the Brexit issue. The fact remains that in order to-----
There are six or seven that would make all the difference.
I had to listen to the Senator all day yesterday. Give me a chance today.
The fact remains that in order to avoid a hardening of the Border and to protect the rights of the Irish and EU citizens in the North, the island of Ireland must remain in the customs union and the Single Market and must remain part of the EU human rights framework. Theresa May has to explain in detail how her proposals will achieve that. She talks about honouring the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement but we await the publication of the British Government's White Paper. Irish business exports equate to €26 billion right across the sectors, from agriculture and fisheries to manufacturing, food and beverage, motor industry, education and services, as well as health, energy, transport, tourism, social protection and pensions. We need certainty in all of these areas. Two years down the line, we need more than ambiguous comments on a soft Brexit. We certainly need the backstop agreed in principle and this needs to be enshrined in legal text.
I ask that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, would come to the House next week to debate the details of the White Paper that is due to be published tomorrow. In the run-in to the October EU meeting, it is vital we would have a summit in September. We must iron out all these issues because all the businesses and sectors that I mentioned need certainty to be able to plan their business. Many jobs across this island depend on it.
I would like to offer my sympathies to the families of Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney, who were drowned in a disused quarry on the outskirts of Ennis. I spoke about this issue many months ago given many quarry owners went bust during the recession and just walked away. In my constituency, there are several quarries like this and there are others all over the country. The bonds that quarries paid were just a fraction of what it took to fix those quarries and get them back into some shape or form, whereas most of the quarry owners just went bust and walked away. At Longwood, Rathmolyon, there is a quarry where young kids from the area swim. People were dumping their cars into the quarry and when anyone came around the corner and saw it, it was like landing on the moon. It is a massive, open, man-made lake. These quarries are the legacy we have left for future generations. They are all over the country and it is a crying shame.
I am sorry to say this is not the last tragedy we will have. We need strong legislation when it comes to quarry owners and the opening of new quarries because the legislation in place is not sufficient. I call on the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to come to the House to discuss new legislation for quarries as we move forward.
I join with Senator Rose Conway-Walsh in her congratulations to Harry Kane. His grandmother was from Caherconlish and Caherline. In what might be a good omen for Limerick hurling, his great-great-grandfather was a member of the first all-Ireland hurling team for Limerick in 1897, so that could augur well for Limerick in the hurling final this year.
I am sure that thought will sustain him.
He might keep putting a few over the bar.
My own grandmother is from Caherconlish.
We are already over the allotted time.
On a more serious matter, the weather is an issue for farmers in Limerick. Extremes of weather are very difficult for farmers and agriculture is a huge element of our industrial and business base. We had extremes of rain not long ago and we now have extremes of sunshine. Many farmers are being forced to do their second cut of silage now because the grass is burning up. While I know time is limited, I ask that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine would make a brief appearance in the Seanad prior to it breaking up. In some cases, yields have reduced by two thirds. Not only is the grass burning up, but farmers are being forced to take a second cut of silage ahead of time, which is bringing the yields back. Prevention is far better than the cure.
I ask the Leader to make contact, if possible, with the Minister, Deputy Creed, with regard to having a brief discussion on the matter. It is hugely important that we deal with this. Farmers are making contact with me because they are getting worried. I request the Cathaoirleach and the Leader to arrange for the Minister to come to the House. While a census is ongoing with regard to farmers' fodder requirements into the future, the problem is that current extreme weather conditions are having an impact on farmers.
I would also like to refer to the statement on the Courts Service website last Friday by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly, President of the High Court, where, among other matters, he reminded us that a core guarantee of the Constitution is that justice is done within a reasonable timeframe. It is vital that criminal cases are dealt with expeditiously to protect both the victim and the rights of the accused person and vital that commercial cases are dealt with in good time so businesses and international investors can be confident their interests will be protected. We need a fundamental discussion about the Judiciary and the courts system, which is not covered, if I may respectfully say so, by the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill which is occupying so much time.
The Senator must have missed some of the debate.
I was here for a lot of it.
The Senator can raise that with the Minister later.
I ask that we would, at some stage, have the Minister for Education and Skills to the House to discuss school buildings. There are many situations where an extension to a school is taking place and it might suit to have a larger classroom that the community is able to use after school hours. This would probably require a change of policy in regard to the type of classrooms or extensions to national schools or secondary schools that are permitted. I ask that the Minister would come to the House to discuss such a change of policy in the context of a community advocating a different size classroom, which would help the community provide other activities after school.
I ask the Leader to respond as efficiently as he can.
I thank the 27 Members for their contributions. Senator Ardagh raised the important issue of hereditary haemochromatosis patients and the issue around therapeutic venesection services for patients. The whole issue of therapeutic venesection services for medical and GP visit card holders is being considered by Government as part of the consultations with GP representatives on the GMS contract.
The Department of Health and the HSE met with the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, in May and articulated and outlined the Government's position. It is to be hoped that we will see amendments to the Health Act 1970 which will accommodate what Senator Ardagh referenced in her contribution.
I join with the Senator in commending all involved in the heroic rescue of those children rescued to date in Thailand. I sympathise with the family of the diver who drowned and commend him for his dedication and bravery. It is an awful tragedy and we are all watching with collective deep breaths, hoping and praying that these young boys and their coach will be rescued. I commend all involved.
In their very fine contributions Senators Marshall and Lawlor outlined the importance of the Irish thoroughbred industry in the context of Brexit and the fact that it is an industry worth €1.84 billion to our country. In yet another thoughtful contribution Senator Marshall outlined the importance of the industry. For the information of those of us who are interested in horse racing, two thirds of our horses are exported to the UK, but the professionals and workers in the industry will also be affected. Our thoroughbred industry, North and South, is faced with a huge issue in terms of the racecourses and the services ancillary to racing in the context of Brexit. I know the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association held a briefing in the early part of this year on the issue of Brexit. It is an issue that needs to be continually monitored and addressed. I commend Senator Marshall on his contribution. Horse Racing Ireland has also been involved in negotiating with the Government on the issue.
I join with Senator Marshall on my own behalf, on behalf of Fine Gael and on behalf of all of the House, in sympathising with the family of William Dunlop who died so tragically last Saturday. When we heard the news on Saturday afternoon it was another reminder of the tragedies the family has had to endure in a sport they very clearly love and are so good at. No words of mine will adequately express our condolences and sympathies to his wife and family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Senators Gavan, Davitt, Feighan and Conway-Walsh raised the issue of Brexit. The resignations in the UK Government are a matter for the House of Commons and the Prime Minister. I welcome the publication of the White Paper.
It is not published yet.
There is a continuing uncertainty around what the UK Government actually wants and stands for. That does not help anybody, especially not those of us who are the UK's near neighbours. I was hoping Senator Gavan would launch into a tune or two but he did not. I am not sure whether it is the case that he is afraid that it is coming home. The Government will continue to work with our European partners on the issue of Brexit to get the best deal for us, as the Senators all know. I would be happy to have a debate on Brexit before the summer recess if we can. I know that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, and the Taoiseach have been very involved in discussions and in communicating with our UK counterparts over the last 48 hours.
Senator Gavan also raised the issue of women's place in the home. As a former member of the Constitutional Convention, I remind the House that the Government is not obliged to take the convention's advice. Making that decision is a matter for the Government. The Government has made a decision to delete Article 41(2) of the Constitution, or at least to propose that deletion to the Irish people in the hope that they will acquiesce. I know Senator Gavan agrees with that but the Government believes it should not seek to confine the place of women in the Constitution. It also believes, as the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, said, that men and women should live the lives they choose. I know that Orla O'Connor of the National Women's Council of Ireland welcomed the referendum. I hope the referendum can take place. As part of what the Senator has said, what needs to happen is an informed debate as to what we are campaigning to abolish, and why, in order to educate people on the reasons for the change. I hope we will see the Citizens' Assembly and the Constitutional Convention continue to do their work. I am a big advocate of that.
Senators Bacik, Craughwell, Norris, Conway, Feighan and McDowell all referenced the announcement by an tUachtarán, Michael D. Higgins, that he intends to nominate himself to run as an Independent candidate for the presidency when his term of office expires in the autumn. I wish all who seek the office well. It is my belief not as Leader, but as an individual Member of the House, that there should be a contest. It would be healthy for our democracy, notwithstanding the fact that I believe Michael D. Higgins will win the presidency given the level of support he enjoys. I do believe we should have a contest however. As Senator McDowell said, there is an avenue open to all people who seek a nomination to do so by gaining the support of four county councils or 20 Members of the Oireachtas. It is not about the elite of the elite. There is an avenue prescribed under the Constitution. If Members want to change the Constitution, they should put forward a constitutional amendment.
Fianna Fáil has closed off its councillors.
Well there is an avenue. To be fair to Senator Norris, he strove manfully and courageously to achieve nomination the last time. He had many a setback before he got the nominations but, to be fair to him, he got there.
That is what democracy is about. It is about allowing people to exercise democracy by casting their votes. On Senator Bacik's point, I look forward to having the debate on housing and to reaffirming the Government's commitment under the action plan for housing, Rebuilding Ireland. We will have a debate with the Minister, Deputy Ross, on the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill today. We will have further debate on the matter in the autumn.
Senator Byrne raised the issue of St. John's Hospital in Limerick and the very disappointing news that it was temporarily closed yesterday. The Senator is right to highlight the issue. It is annoying to see a hospital accident and emergency department closed for any reason. That issue should be worked on by management on the ground. I join with the Senator in welcoming the Creative Ireland fund. Senator Byrne has become a very strong advocate for Troy Studios in Limerick. She is right to highlight its wonderful work. It is a beneficiary of Creative Ireland and it is of benefit to the region.
Senators Horkan, Davitt, McDowell and Craughwell all raised the issue of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 and the matter of a sos. I am not saying the case was otherwise, but the business of the Seanad and the business put forward by the Government or by private Members takes precedence over any other business. That is the priority. We do not take a break for committee meetings or other events around the House.
There are three or four people who were here for the entire eight or 12 hours.
We might be better off if Senator Norris was not here at all sometimes.
The Leader might think that because I am doing my job, which he does not particularly like.
Some of the Senator's rhetoric yesterday was bordering on the hysterical. He would have been better advised to stay shtum to be honest.
That is the Leader's nonsensical point of view.
I will not take lectures from Senator Norris or from anybody else about the role my party played in the formation of our State, about how we appoint judges or about why they are appointed.
I do not have the slightest idea what the Leader is talking about.
We have certainly always looked for independence for the Judiciary. I will not take hysterical lectures from anybody.
Who, I might ask, is hysterical now?
I will defend the work Fine Gael has done since we came into government. I will not listen to the windbaggery of some around here who are playing to the Gallery and the Fourth Estate-----
-----and trying to get cheap headlines. The Senator would be better off working to make amendments to the Bill rather than getting hysterical headlines.
The Leader should not be sidetracked. He should address the Chair.
The record of the Fine Gael Party of appointing judges in government is second to none and we will continue to do the right thing as the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, said yesterday. We will not take lectures from Senator Norris, or from anybody else for that matter.
It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.
That was a great little stunt.
Is the Leader agreeing to the amendment?
I am coming to that. I know the Senators are all in summer eve or holiday mode today. Some of them are bordering on being cranky, hysterical and whatever.
The Leader is bordering on something himself now.
The Leader has a little bit of heat rash himself.
If the Cathaoirleach had to listen to some of the 27 Members who spoke in the House this morning and to some of the stuff they have said, he would be like that himself. I always try to work with people in the spirit of good will. Yesterday we had a sos from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
As such, I propose that we have a sos from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
We started at 2 p.m. yesterday and finished at 10 p.m., with a break from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. We are resuming the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill at 3 p.m. If business is extended to 10 p.m., then instead of breaking from 7 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., I propose that we break from 6 p.m. until 6.30 p.m. If Members want an hour, we will extend to 11 p.m.
That is up to Members.
I suppose Senators will-----
I would be happy to do that, but let us be clear. There is a job of work to be done.
Some will not be here.
The House's priority is to do its business, not to go off elsewhere. I am not saying that Senator McDowell would. He wants to break for food, which is fair enough.
The sos is for sustenance.
Is the Leader proposing an amendment on a 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. sos?
That break would be fair enough, and if Members want an extra hour after 10 p.m., I can extend our sitting to 11 p.m. I am happy to have a break between 6 p.m. and 6.30 p.m.
If the Leader is happy, then we are happy.
Go raibh maith agaibh.
We thank the Leader.
Senator Lawlor raised the issue of draft guidelines for wind turbines. A code of practice is available and in place, but I would be happy to have that debate. Equally, the impeccable Chair of the Committee on Seanad Reform will at some point bring an interim report to the House. I am not sure, as we have not discussed this, but we would be happy to work together on Seanad reform. There is a job of work to be done, but holding the debate on it that has been requested by Senator Lawlor for now would be premature.
Senator Horkan raised the issue of the confidence and supply arrangement. I understand that there was a request from An Taoiseach to Deputy Micheál Martin to meet. I am told that that request has either been responded to or is being responded to. I hope that both gentlemen will sit down and have a detailed conversation that will be mutually beneficial to them and the country.
Stability is important.
I agree with Senator Horkan on the need to continue improving our cycling infrastructure. Our roads are a dangerous and busy place and there is a code of behaviour that needs to be upheld by motorists and cyclists. I would be happy to arrange for a debate.
Senator Devine raised the issue of Linn Dara, which the Cathaoirleach has said may be better taken as a Commencement matter. That is good advice.
The tragic scandal affecting Emma Mhic Mhathúna and all of the other women involved is one that none of us condones. We all want to see an outcome that is to the benefit of the women and families involved. I hope that the Scally inquiry will have a clear, crystallised outcome and that we will be able to hold people to account, put a structure in place to prevent a recurrence and provide answers.
Senator Conway discussed tourism. The growth in numbers from the UK, wider Europe and North America is to be welcomed. He is right, in that our scenery and people are important assets. I hope that the céad míle fáilte will continue to be given to everyone.
Senator Murnane O'Connor referred to her education Commencement matter this morning when the Minister was at a Cabinet meeting. I have no jurisdiction to require Ministers to take Commencement debates. I have asked them to attend the House to address issues specific to their Departments, but the Senator will recall that we sat yesterday and, therefore, commenced today at 10.30 a.m., which coincided with the Cabinet meeting.
On a point of order, we would have no problem with delaying our Commencement matters-----
That is not a point of order.
-----until another time. The Leader must ensure that happens. There is no point in Senators wanting to address a Minister if he or she does not attend.
A number of people have complained. The only point I will make is that-----
It will be on the agenda the next time.
-----the leaders group might consider in the new term whether there is a better way of doing this.
It is not working this way.
It never works for the Senator, to be fair.
That is not-----
That is not very charitable, Leader.
Excuse me. Take that back, Leader.
I will not.
That was disingenuous. I am here to do a job and address the Minister. That comment was not-----
I explained two things to the Senator, but she did not listen to me.
Then the Senator chose to ignore me.
I did not.
First, I have no jurisdiction to require Ministers to attend for Commencement matters. Second, the Minister was at a Cabinet meeting this morning. He is a good Minister, but he has not perfected the power of bilocation yet. If the Senator had listened to me-----
-----and not chosen to ignore me, she would have heard me say that Ministers should attend the House to take Commencement matters relevant to their portfolios. I agree with the Senator on that.
They are not attending. The Leader needs to look at this issue.
The Senator is not listening to me.
I am listening. Go on.
I believe the Cathaoirleach is-----
Put it on the agenda. Many of us are in the same-----
The Cathaoirleach's point is that this could be examined as part of the ongoing debate on Seanad reform.
I have not finished yet.
The day's commencement is the wrong place to raise Commencement matters. We should have a part of the day given over to Topical Issues like in the Dáil or we should revert to having Adjournment debates. The issue with the latter is that Ministers do not know when we will finish, so we should have a built-in time for Topical Issues. The commencement of the House should involve the ordering of our business, not Commencement matters.
The Leader is right.
We should have Commencement and Adjournment debates.
We should have both.
It needs to be on the agenda.
It is on the agenda.
The Committee on Procedure and Privileges should consider it.
I join Senator Feighan on the need to remember those whose lives were lost in the atrocity at Srebrenica. We should always remind ourselves that nation states around the world must be vigilant in upholding people's right to practise different faiths. I commend the Senator on raising the matter and thank him for calling on us to remember those who died.
Senator Humphreys mentioned the important issue of home care packages. I agree that there is an issue locally and nationally. We will debate the matter with the Minister. The housing units in Poolbeg should also be addressed.
I have already addressed the issue raised by Senator Davitt.
Senators Colm Burke and Warfield discussed the HPV vaccine and the fact there is a need for us to advertise and promote the benefits of vaccination. Vaccination works, and we must reach the figure of 75%. I agree with Senator Warfield that, while people had the right to protest yesterday, the message they sent was wrong and out of kilter with what we are trying to achieve.
Senators Mullen and Coghlan referred to the remarks by Mr. Justice Kelly. As the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, stated yesterday, the Government will continue to appoint members of the Judiciary. There are vacancies. Three new Court of Appeal judges and one High Court judge have already been appointed. There has been an increase in the number of appeals. Prior to the establishment of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court had a four-year waiting list. The Government has taken the initiative and moved three judges from the specialised Commercial Court to the Circuit Court. The Government is appointing judges and will continue to do so. The Senators can raise this matter during the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
Senator Gallagher referred to Mr. Justice Frank Clarke's report on the death of Sergeant Michael Galvin. The Senator is right about there being a tension between the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, and the Garda. It will always be there, but the matters identified in the report need to be resolved. I hope that whoever can broker a resolution will do so. It needs to be done urgently.
Senator Lombard discussed Rural Link and the welcome investment by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, in tackling rural isolation. It is good to see this initiative being unfurled across the country.
I join Senator Warfield in wishing Cork City every success tonight in its European endeavours.
The team has a wonderful record in Europe. Turner's Cross will be a fortress tonight.
Senator Mulherin raised the issue of the Cabinet's decision on the patient safety Bill. It is an excellent decision by the Government and I hope that it will overcome the shortcomings that have been identified in the HSE cervical cancer scandal.
Senator Butler was right to mention the legacy of our quarries and to remember the two young lives that were lost. I sympathise with the families.
We in Cork would be happy to give England the World Cup and Cork rather than Limerick the All-Ireland. The issue of the fodder crisis is exercising farmers. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has set up a fodder group, led by Teagasc. It met last week to address the effects of the warm weather, which has slowed down grass growth. The Minister has been communicating daily with the various stakeholders.
With the current spell of warm weather, it is a particularly stressful period for livestock and farmers. The advice from the Department is that the Minister will continue to monitor the situation. There is a need to monitor this with a view to taking action in the autumn. I will endeavour to have the Minister come to the House to address the matter.
Senator Paddy Burke raised education and the school building programme. He argued that the continually evolving curriculum is putting pressure and strain on school buildings and classrooms which need to be changed to suit the modern-day style of education. It is a very important debate.
If Senators McDowell and Craughwell are amenable to the request to suspend the sitting between 6 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. I would be happy to do that. If we go for the full hour, we will resume again to sit from 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. Rather than divide the House, I would be happy to suspend from 6 p.m. until 6.30 p.m. if that is what Senators want.
In a bit of breaking news, I am sure the House will be glad to hear that the 12 young lads and their coach have all been successfully rescued in Thailand. Congratulations to all those involved in the rescue. It was an amazing achievement and it ends on a happy note. While the sun has been shining here, they have gone through several days of extreme stress and difficulty.
Senator Craughwell has moved amendment No. 1 to the Order of Business: "That the Order of Business include provision for a suspension of the sitting from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m." Senator Buttimer has moved an amendment to that amendment: "That "7 p.m." be deleted and "6.30 p.m." be substituted thereafter." That would mean there would be a sos of 30 minutes.