It would have been some journey. Senator Gallagher is right, in that he was a decent and honourable man who was sincere, forthright and open to diversity and inclusion. I pay tribute to him. Unfortunately, I could not get to his funeral. He was a wonderful mentor to the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and was proud of her elevation to Cabinet.
One of my most enduring memories of the former Deputy, Seymour Crawford, was his ability to bring people around him and to be a catalyst for fun and good discussion. I sympathise with his family. Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Senator Ardagh referred to the school closures. It is a disgrace that 40 schools have to be inspected like this. Oversight of schools building projects is vastly different today than it was ten years ago when some of these schools were built. The issues that Senator Ardagh has raised relate to schools built in 2009 by Western Building Systems under a design-and-build contract on behalf of the then Department of Education and Science. Phase 2 builds, which were delivered in 2015, are unaffected. The programme of fire safety assessments was initiated by the Department in 2017. It includes all works constructed by Western Building Systems in the 2009-17 period that had not previously been assessed for fire risks as well as a representative sample of 25 other schools. During this week, over the mid-term break and the week after that, the Department intends to conduct structural assessments of all schools constructed by Western Building Systems.
In September of this year, the Chief State Solicitor's office, on behalf of the Department, initiated legal action against Western Building Systems in respect of the four schools in which fire-related works have been assessed or carried out. It is important we ensure students and staff have certainty and, critically, safety. We reflect on the great announcement in 2007 of public private partnerships. A rapid-build programme for new schools was announced then. We must learn lessons from that decision as well. I welcome yesterday's announcement.
Senator Ardagh also raised the issue of over 70s and the expenses they face seeing their GPs. I will have the Minister come before the House to discuss this issue.
Senator Boyhan raised the announcement yesterday concerning the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. We had a discussion about this on the Order of Business yesterday. I again commend, as did Senator Bacik, the decision of the Minister, Deputy Zappone, and the Government to have this forensic excavation. As I said yesterday, it is about respect and dignity and ensuring we individualise, personalise and bring a sense of dignity to this very difficult and traumatic period. I commend Catherine Corless again for her tremendous work.
I join Senator Bacik in condemning outright the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. No administration can condone what happened. The drip feed of information is deplorable. There is now an obligation on Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding the actions it has taken so far, to reveal the whole truth of the matter. Anyone who is in any way interested in upholding and promoting human rights must condemn this killing unreservedly. I hope the Minister will come before the House to discuss the matter; I will endeavour to have him do so. There can be no equivocation on this. I would be equally happy to have the matter of incitement to hatred legislation debated post the referendum. Like Senator Bacik, I hope people will vote "Yes" in Friday's referendum.
Senator Richmond raised the importance of Europe and discussing its future. As he rightly said, we had the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, before the House prior to the summer recess. Given the impending Brexit date and the need to have a discussion on the future of Europe, I hope we will have this debate post the Hallowe'en break.
I would be happy to accept Senator Paul Daly's amendment to the Order of Business. I know that the Cathaoirleach and Senator Conway in the last Seanad did work on farm safety. The figures for incidents and deaths regarding farm safety are far too high, and I commend Senator Daly on being proactive in this regard.
Senators Craughwell and McFadden raised the issue of the Defence Forces in the context of adjudication matters. The Defence Forces were the first sector to be engaged with on these matters. Outstanding adjudications and findings in the public service pay deals are in some cases not yet fully implemented. As we know, financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation is being unravelled and the measures removed from people's pay. We have a public service stability agreement on pay which is addressing outstanding issues, and discussions in this regard are ongoing. I welcome the fact that the adjudication has stated that payments will be made to the range of specialties that Senators Craughwell and McFadden have raised, including cooks, technicians, rangers and account holders. I hope, and I would caution, that any action that might do nothing other than further delay these long-overdue payments would be reflected upon by the unions and others. Like Senator McFadden, I urge both sides to negotiate further to see if a solution can be arrived at that would allow for a satisfactory outcome to the matters raised by the Senators.
Senators Leyden, Horkan, Coghlan and Feighan raised the matter of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly meetings yesterday and on Monday in London. I welcome the discussions and compliment all involved in them. The point made by all Members of the House who are members of BIPA is the importance of the assembly, especially now, given the Brexit timetable. More specifically, post Brexit, it will be equally important to have the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly enhanced and strengthened. I urge Senator Leyden to explore the possibility of more meetings of the assembly than have been held until now, given the importance of the relationship post Brexit. I join him in congratulating everyone involved in the discussions and I sincerely hope that the Speaker of the House of Commons will visit these Houses on foot of Senator Coghlan's advocacy on the Cathaoirleach's part. I am sure the discussions of John Bercow, Senator Coghlan and the Cathaoirleach would make for interesting dinner table conversation.