An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to adjourn at 3 p.m., if not previously concluded or to resume at the conclusion of No. 4, Private Members' business; No. 2, Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 3 p.m. with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and all other Senators not to exceed six minutes; and Nos. 3 and 4, Private Members' business, First Aid and Mental Health in Schools (Initial Teacher Training) Bill 2018 - Second Stage and First Aid and Mental Health in Schools (Existing Teachers) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later and not to be debated together. The time allocated for the debate shall not exceed two hours.

I will try to adhere to the Cathaoirleach's clarification of the existing rules which I appreciate and, as somebody who is quite often in the Chair, I will try to stick to my three minutes and abide by the rules as best I can. I wish everyone a happy new year; although it is 23 January it is my first time speaking on the Order of Business this year given that we are only back since yesterday. I also want to congratulate the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach and everybody involved with Monday's events. I will not dwell on it but it was a good day and a nice commemoration of the first sitting of the First Dáil.

I will try to stick to the three minutes allocated to me as acting group leader. It is not possible to stand up today without addressing the continuing saga of Brexit as it unfolds. It is a serious matter as we all know and it is coming at us with only 65 days until 29 March. We had the Minister in here last night and to be fair to him he spoke well on much of what is going on. I am supportive of him but there were various reactions on Twitter this morning to a certain Cabinet Minister on the radio which did not augur well. I have a lot of time and respect for the man in question but we have to get real and be honest with the people about all the possibilities. We want a deal. I would prefer if the United Kingdom was staying in the EU but it does not seem to want to do that or to have a second referendum. The UK Government and Prime Minister are certainly not in favour of that at the moment but it would be better if they did so. We need to be honest with the people about what plans are in place. I am sure there are plans in place because I do not believe that we cannot have plans in place. The EU Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said of course there would be a hard border if there is no deal as there has to be a border between a non-EU territory and an EU territory. That was possibly a very honest statement but we need to know. We need the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and other Ministers in here probably almost daily; even though they have many other things to be doing they need to share their plans on transport, agriculture, trade and every aspect of our economy and society with us.

I also want to touch on the impending nurses' strike. Notices have gone out cancelling certain elective procedures and appointments that are dependent on nurses on these particular days. I understand that the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, talks are today but I urge the Minister, the nursing organisations and the Government generally to examine this issue carefully, to take on board the concerns of the nurses and to look at exactly what they are looking for. The last thing we need, in January in particular but at any time of the year, is a nurses' strike that affects patients.

I refer to mobile phones. A survey in a recent Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, report has found that 40% of children own a mobile phone by the age of nine, which astonished me. As a result, 84% of primary schools have had to implement strategies dealing with mobile phones in their schools and 68% of schools say they have encountered problems as a result of smartphone and social media use within and around the school day. We all know that technology can be beneficial but we need to examine this so maybe the Minister for Education and Skills would come in at some point and tell us what policies he is putting in place in order to ensure that people do not experience workplace bullying. I think I stuck within my three minutes.

The Senator had ten seconds to spare.

As most in this House are aware, I have been an advocate for the rights of Irish emigrants, particularly to the US, for several decades now, and during that time our campaign has seen many highs, along with many lows. I would like to update the House regarding the Irish situation.

In 2007, we were close to nationwide immigration reform that would have protected the undocumented Irish and potentially closed off the divisive debates currently occupying the immigration scene in the United States. In 2013, Democrats and Republicans came together and many put their careers on the line, to settle immigration reform once and for all, again in a manner that would have helped the Irish undocumented, and all the undocumented across the United States. This also fell at the final furlong. In 2018, at the end of the congressional term in the US Senate, our fight faced another setback, this time in our campaign to get Ireland 5,000 or so US non-immigrant E3 working visas. Where we succeeded in what was then a Republican controlled House of Representatives, we failed in a Republican controlled Senate. In the end, however, my experience in this long campaign is that our fight for improved rights and conditions for immigrants, has been a progressive one, even if that progression has been all too slow. The principle however, that the question of Irish immigrants can be dealt with across both party aisles, in the lifetime of this administration has now been firmly established.

As many in this House will recognise, sometimes one's greatest rivals in politics, are those from within one's own party, and on this occasion, Ireland got caught in the middle of an internal Republican Party dogfight. Like this House, the US Senate has its own Standing Orders and rules, and Senator Cotton of Arkansas was able to place a hold on the E3 visa legislation, thereby avoiding a debate and a subsequent vote, which would have succeeded if it had been placed on the floor. The reason Senator Cotton prevented a vote on the floor was because a piece of legislation which he sponsored on immigration had been blocked by Senator Grassley from his own party, and we became the fall guy in this dispute. In short, the timing was not right. Speaker Paul Ryan, a man who was opposed by the right wing element of his own party for his perceived progressive stance on immigration, was willing, on his way out of public life to try to achieve the granting of the surplus E3 visas for the Irish. This shows that Congressmen and Senators of every creed and hue, can be persuaded by the Irish cause.

This legislation was not about the undocumented Irish and it was not about amnesty. This was about creating a level playing field for Irish people looking to work in the United States, by increasing from 1,200 to over 5,000 the number of Irish people who could come to work legally in the US. Ireland is in fact comparatively low to other nations in the number of visas we receive every year and this would have equalised the situation, through benefiting from the unused E3 visas that the Australians receive. We will keep this fight alive as we always have and I am convinced that within the next two years of this congressional term, through bipartisanship, we can achieve solutions for Ireland and use that success to build momentum towards the bigger causes of the undocumented Irish and wider immigration reform in the United States.

Is the Senator calling for a debate in the House on this matter?

Today I want to talk about the new Bill that will be introduced by my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, in the Dáil tomorrow. It is the no consent, no sale Bill and its central message is quite simple but fundamental. A loan secured by a mortgage of a residential property may not be transferred without the written consent of the borrower. This is already in the voluntary code of conduct that the banks are supposed to adhere to and several years ago Deputy Noonan said that should be best practice among all of the banks yet the flouting of this principle has left some families in limbo and many more worried about the future. The Bill aims to place control back into the hands of customers.

A mortgage is the most important product that most people will purchase in their lives and it is a commitment over many years that requires people to be able to plan and budget for unforeseen circumstances. Many of these mortgages that are being sold off are performing mortgages. They might be interest rate only mortgages or mortgages where deals have been struck with the banks; to all intents and purposes all of these consumers rightfully think that they have performing mortgages because they are in constant contact with the banks. They are not the small cohort of people who refuse to pay their mortgages, they are those who are doing their best. There may be those who, because of the recklessness of the same banking institutions, lost their jobs in the recession and now on top of the banks being instrumental in them losing their jobs and the downturn in the economy, the same banks are coming back and selling off what is most treasured to them to vulture funds, namely their home and their mortgage.

That cannot be allowed happen. This Bill will ensure this cannot happen without the consent of the borrower. These banks paid no corporation tax for many years, they charge interest rates which are well in excess of the European Central Bank rates and the vulture funds they sell to have charitable status so they pay minimal tax. I encourage all parties and all Members of this House to show whose side they are on and show up at the audiovisual room this afternoon at 2 p.m. when my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, and David Hall and Carly Bailey will give full details of the Bill. I ask that the Minister for Finance come to the House to have a full discussion on vulture funds and the behaviour of the banks.

I am pretty sour and annoyed this morning. I took a call at about 9.30 p.m. last night from a young man, a wheelchair user. He had been looking for me since 8.30 p.m. He has a job, one of the minority in a minority in that respect. He uses a powered wheelchair which he requires because he is significantly physically disabled. His wheelchair broke down. The Health Service Executive, HSE, has a contract with a company which I will not name to provide an out-of-hours emergency service. He rang the number he should ring a couple of times but got no answer. He rang another number that he had used before for the out-of-hours service and talked to somebody he knew. He told them the battery in his wheelchair was dead. The response, while understanding, was that nothing could be done about it as it was not an emergency. That is what the man reported to me. Luckily he was within ten or 15 minutes walk of his home. His 77 year old mother and his sister came to his aid. How can something like that happen and how can somebody say so easily that this was not an emergency? I do not know what I am calling for this morning in respect of this case but it is a wake-up call for us. Something needs to happen and I will certainly follow up this matter.

The Democratic Programme of the first Dáil states:

The Irish Republic fully realises the necessity of abolishing the present odious, degrading and foreign Poor Law System, substituting therefor a sympathetic native scheme for the care of the Nation's aged and infirm, who shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation's gratitude and consideration.

"Infirm" was as politically correct a term as could be used 100 years ago and I thank the writers of that document for that. More commonly people referred to imbeciles, cripples and the deaf and dumb. Our language has moved on but the young man to whom I referred was left stranded. The final thing he said to me was that what really bothered him was that this would happen to other people. He said he at least could use his voice and make phone calls but what about somebody who cannot or somebody who is caught in the middle of nowhere?

We are all aware that we need water to live, thrive and survive. I commend progress now being made in developing water infrastructure following decades of neglect by previous Governments.

Irish Water has a planning application before Westmeath County Council for a raw water intake works and a water treatment plant at Portaneena outside Athlone. While I understand why we need a new water source and I am not necessarily against the proposal to take the water from Lough Rea, I am concerned that the planned extraction point in Portaneena is the wrong one and will have a serious long-term effect on the environment and the local amenity. Irish Water should change its plan and instead take the water from the main lake.

As a child I spent a lot of time on and around the river in this area and know it well. The unique nature of this area makes it unsuitable for an abstraction point. It is not ideal to put a large industrial-style facility in an idyllic location which is availed of by tourists and locals alike. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to the House to have a debate on the procedures used by Irish Water in circumstances such as this? Will he use his good offices to ask the Minister to direct Irish Water to consult meaningfully local stakeholders before proceeding any further with the work at Portaneena? Irish Water has already lodged one planning application which was turned down as inappropriate without any meaningful consultation. It must now take stock before trying to railroad through another plan, which is likely to be contested and flawed costing us all in terms of money, time and biodiversity.

I was staggered to read over Christmas that after 47 days of being issued, a hospital bill for cancer patients who do not have a medical card or private health insurance inpatient charges of up to €800 had not been paid. After a year of treatment such as chemotherapy or radium therapy, the patient is referred to a debt-collection agency under the HSE policy. Cancer has taken over from heart disease as the most common cause of death in Ireland. We are sending debt collectors to these patients' houses. That is unacceptable and heartless.

Children younger than 18 years who have been diagnosed with cancer within the past five years are automatically entitled to a medical card. The HSE has a system in place for the provision of emergency medical cards for patients who are terminally ill, in palliative care or who are seriously ill and in urgent need of medical care that they cannot afford. These are issued within 24 hours of the receipt of the required patient details and the letter confirming the condition from a doctor or medical consultant. All cancer patients, regardless of prognosis should be automatically approved for a similar medical card. Cancer patients can be given a discretionary medical card but there are no common rules for applying for the discretion and there are serious delays in the application system. My office is dealing with an incredible number of patients who are finding it extremely difficult to get approval. Meanwhile, the hospitals do not apply the same delay and send demand letters promptly.

When patients receive a diagnosis of cancer, they should never see a bill for their treatment and we should be able to assist people to access treatment abroad without their having to resort to loan sharks, crowd-funding or begging. This is a very serious issue. There are many people who are sick with cancer who are constantly fighting for medical cards but they are not getting them. We need to address the money because it all boils down to money. Access to medical cards depends on what applicants are earning. If they are barely over the limit, they get no help. Every cancer patient should have a medical card. I will raise this matter with the Minister for Health. I have raised it with him before but so many people called my office over Christmas that I became very concerned. We need to address this issue.

That seems to be a matter that would be worth raising for the Commencement debate. That depends on what the Leader says.

I endorse everything Senator Lawless said on the E3 visa legislation and I commend and thank him. We in this House owe him and others in both Houses of the Oireachtas a debt of gratitude. It is important work and it is continuing. I can see why the Taoiseach of the day appointed Senator Lawless. I wish him well with that and I hope we can use our connections to push the matter along.

I thank the Leader for agreeing to arrange for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, to come here in early February to discuss Bethany Home. When I spoke here yesterday I was not fully aware of the debate that had taken place in the Dáil and the numerous politicians and Senators who had engaged with the media since yesterday afternoon on this. It is a shame that this group of people has been excluded from redress, for whatever reason. Over half of the people I first met from Bethany Home ten or 15 years ago are now dead. Before Christmas I met two of them outside Leinster House. They are looking for an apology and I understand from today's newspapers that some form of an apology is due shortly. There should be an acknowledgement that people who were in care in the State were hurt and betrayed, regardless of who maintained or cared for them and who reneged on that.

We as a State should step up to the plate. I again acknowledge the words of An Taoiseach in the Mansion House on Monday where he alluded to those issues. I ask everyone in this House to use their contacts and their efforts to allow these people to have an opportunity to tell their story in the final days of their life. It is important that people are believed, allowed to tell their story and are given redress. Why in this country do we continue to go on and force people to go through terrible pain to be believed? We need to do something about that. I thank the Leader for facilitating and arranging for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, to come to the House to discuss the issue in more detail.

I wish to raise the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which we passed in this House, on 10 October 2018. It is important legislation that will hopefully change our outlook on alcohol. I raise the issue in light of statements that have been made in the press in recent days regarding taxi loads of students and others turning up at early houses in Cork city at 7 a.m. It is a an issue at the moment. Our affinity with alcohol must be addressed, in particular cheap alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences.

I took issue with the Bill but I always supported the minimum pricing of alcohol as that would put a base price on alcohol, which is something we have long needed to do. The Bill must be enacted because we must put a base price on alcohol to prevent situations such as those witnessed in recent weeks such as the so-called Christmas Day celebrations in November, freshers' weeks and rag weeks, among others, whereby large volumes of cheap alcohol make it onto the streets mainly through off-licences and supermarkets. The issue must be addressed. The way we decided to do it was through minimum pricing and that tool was to put a floor price on alcohol. We need the legislation to be enacted because society needs the measures it contains to be put in place.

It is frightening that in some places alcohol is cheaper than water. That is crazy. One can also buy alcohol cheaper than milk. That is not right. That is a real problem for society. We need to change what we are doing and address the issue. The Bill has the ability to do that. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister, Deputy Harris, to this House to discuss the status of the Bill in terms of having it signed into law. I realise there is a European dimension to the issue. Perhaps we could move away from the concerns in that regard and enact the other elements of the legislation in order to provide for a better society.

I was contacted during the week by members of the deaf community about funding for the Irish Deaf Society. Despite a promised decision on funding by the HSE in November, the society has yet to hear of a decision and there has been no indication of when a decision on funding will be made, good or bad. The Irish Deaf Society is now unable to make key business decisions. The HSE and the Government are fully aware of the situation and, what is more worrying, are not acting. They are, therefore, risking the closure of the service. I was informed earlier that the society will cancel classes from the end of February. That will be the first operational decision it will make that acknowledges the lack of funding and as we go into the next month, it will be more and more difficult to reverse inevitable actions.

The deaf community is now planning protests and the Irish Deaf Society is now planning for the closure of the much needed services of the organisation at large. Given that this House initiated and endorsed Senator Mark Daly's Bill to give Irish Sign Language official recognition and that the legislation has been signed into law, in addition to the fact that the State is now a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we should reflect on the fact that having ratified rights for the deaf and hearing impaired community we are still failing to provide vital services to facilitate those rights. I call on the Leader to see if the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, could come into this House to discuss the issue as soon as possible because the longer the situation continues the greater the risk that is posed to core services.

Yesterday, I complimented all the staff and the people involved in the centenary of the Dáil on Monday. I am a firm believer that Ireland should have more association with the Commonwealth of Nations. That would help when 70% of the people born on the island of Ireland reside in commonwealth countries. What difficulty do we have in that regard? I was heartened to find in the booklet I received on the day of the centenary that the Democratic Programme states:

We declare in the words of the Irish Republican Proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first President. Pádraig Mac Phiarais, we declare that the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation"

It goes on to state: "We affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the Commonwealth". What happened since that time? In 1949, under my Government we declared Ireland a republic. That was great and it was welcome but by doing that we were ineligible for membership of the Commonwealth. The rules were amended two weeks later to allow the Republic of Ireland to remain, in the same way as India and South Africa, but our stubbornness decided that it was not for us. The Government declared the Republic of Ireland Act which effectively recognised the state of Northern Ireland. As Éamon de Valera rightly said, by being members of the commonwealth, we had a foot in both camps. Now is the time to stand by the words of the First Dáil in 1919 and say that we affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the commonwealth. It is not Frank Feighan who is saying it; it is the people who set up the State in the first Parliament of this country. We should have an open and frank debate about the merits of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth of Nations, not the British Commonwealth. It is the Commonwealth of Nations since 1951. There are 31 republics among the 53 countries in it and we are a republic of which we should be proud.

I ask the Leader to allow for a debate in the near future on tourism. It is important to have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, in to discuss provision in the coming months in the event of a hard Brexit or whatever happens in the UK. There are many issues ranging from sterling to ports and airports that will have a bearing on this country in terms of tourism. We should debate the issue with the Minister in the House. Tourism is important to the economy and is one of the greatest contributors to it. Tourism bodies are anxious about what might happen. There could well be delays at ports and there are question marks over flights in and out of the UK, which is one of our largest tourism markets. I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister to come to the House at an early stage.

I call on the Minister, or rather the Leader, to respond. I almost elevated him to a Minister.

I am not sure what that means. I thank the 12 Members of the House for their contributions on the Order of Business. On foot of your opening remarks, a Chathaoirligh, on my behalf as Leader of the House and on behalf of all Members, I commend you on your discretion, fairness, flexibility and good humour to all of us. Those who criticise you for your manner of chairing do you and your office a disservice because I greatly appreciate your impartiality. You do not agree with everything the Government says or does but you maintain the integrity of the office that you hold with the utmost respect. I cherish and value your impartiality, courtesy and absolute integrity. I ask all Members, including myself, to respect you as the Chair.

You have a tough task at times but carry it out in a manner that is fair to everybody. Some Members who criticise the Cathaoirleach should reflect on their own behaviour because it does a disservice to the House when one's impartiality is questioned. I know you did not ask for commentary on it but it is important that Members recognise the value of the Chair we have. Former Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke, was the same when he was in the Chair. Keeping 59 other Members in check is not an easy job, never mind Ministers who come in. Members should reflect on their contributions, especially on the Order of Business, and I welcome the Cathaoirleach's remarks at the beginning. I will try to keep my remarks short. I know Senator Craughwell reckons they go on too long but I will do my best.

Senator Buttimer only has ten minutes.

I appreciate that. It is important we stand in solidarity with our Cathaoirleach, who should not have had to come in this morning to read out that information for Members. I ask all Members to reflect on their contributions, especially on the Order of Business. I can take the political battle. The Cathaoirleach is impartial and apolitical. I know he gets it from all sides.

By way of clarification, I was urged to do it at the start of December but had a brief word with my esteemed and learned Clerk, who suggested that I leave it until the start of the new year.

That was good advice.

A new year's resolution.

That is a good point.

Senator Horkan raised Brexit. It is important we all stand with the Government in wearing the green jersey. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, commented that it is about us as a country holding our nerve. It is a matter of ensuring that the current backstop proposal relating to the Border is the only option on the table. Michel Barnier said that the question of limiting the time for the backstop has already been discussed twice by European leaders. This is the only possible option because an assurance is of no use if it is time limited. It is important to recognise that we need a Brexit withdrawal agreement. That is a matter for the United Kingdom, especially for Prime Minister May and the UK Parliament. The Government has been clear. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, outlined time limits for legislative proposals. We will have that debate again in due course.

Senator Horkan also raised the nurses' strike. I will not speak for long on that. We have a public sector pay agreement. Notwithstanding the fact we agree on how much we value our nurses and the work they do, we have a public service pay agreement. It is important all sides engage and do not use patients as a pawn in the negotiations. We saw what happened yesterday with a breakaway union. We recognise the HSE deals with unions. It is important we have dialogue and maintain that level of engagement.

Usage of mobile telephones by younger people is becoming increasingly prevalent. Senator Horkan mentioned that 40% of all children own one by the age of nine. It is a high figure and we will have that debate in due course.

I commend Senator Lawless on his work. I was in Washington DC before Christmas, and know the respect and value he has brought to this House. His work with Irish immigrants in North America is unbelievable. He referred to the E3 visa. It is disappointing to see what happened. As he said, under the rules, a person can hold it up. I commend Ambassador Mulhall and deputy ambassador Lonergan and also Deputy John Deasy on the work he has done on Capitol Hill and in parts of the United States, opening doors and working to ensure we got to where we wanted to be. The US Commerce Secretary and the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, deserve credit for the role they played. It might not be universally popular but they have opened doors for us in a variety of ways. I hope the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora will come to the House to have that debate. I commend Senators Lawless and Boyhan on the work they have done.

Senator Conway-Walsh raised Deputy Pearse Doherty's Bill. I am sure we will have it in this House in time. We all stand for homeowners and those who are fighting the banks. There is no denying that. The Minister has been clear about his role in it. We will have that debate in due course.

Senator Dolan raised the issue of the wheelchair user who was treated poorly by the HSE and the company with the service-level agreement. It is important we always show respect to people who are in need of a service because of a disability. The out-of-hours service-level agreement should reflect the need for this person to be catered for at all times. As Senator Dolan rightly said, that person has a voice that he or she can use. A Commencement matter from Senator Dolan might be a more expeditious way to get an answer. I am happy to take it up with the Senator afterwards.

Senator McFadden called on the Minister with responsibility for Irish Water to come to the House to address the issue of engagement with Irish Water planning in Westmeath. I would be happy to have the Minister to come to the House to discuss Irish Water. Given the Cabinet decision yesterday, it is perhaps opportune to have a debate on the role of Irish Water and water usage. We can address this as part of that debate.

Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of cancer patients. We had this discussion in the House before Christmas. We all condemn treating cancer patients in this manner. There are unfortunately exemptions which need to be followed up by patients. Hospitals need to be sensitive about the way in which they deal with cancer patients. A code of conduct relating to that is required.

I thank Senator Boyhan for his remarks regarding the Minister, Deputy Zappone, coming to the House. I am sure she will address the issue he spoke about with regard to the Bethany Home. I think the Minister wants to have the final report before adjudicating further. She will be here to address the issue.

Senator Lombard raised the joint policing committee meeting in Cork last Monday with regard to the misuse of alcohol and early morning houses hiring extra security to monitor their premises. The Government is committed to minimum unit pricing being introduced. In October, after 1,000 days, the Dáil passed the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, the first time that we have used legislation to regulate alcohol misuse. If I may be partisan and familiar for a minute, the comments of Councillor John Buttimer about Cork yesterday were very relevant. They related to the need for a multi-disciplinary task force for Cork and many urban areas with universities and colleges which could bring different stakeholders together to see how we can combat the misuse of alcohol, present an alternative and promote common sense drinking. I think we all share the desire to reduce the harm of alcohol in society.

Senator Warfield raised an important issue, the funding of the Irish Deaf Society. It has a meeting coming up. Many of us are concerned that there will be a potential suspension and withdrawal of many different services it provides. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to come to the House to address the matter. Perhaps Senator Warfield will submit a Commencement matter. I will endeavour to have the Minister of State come to the House because the issue is important.

We will not go back over the history of the Commonwealth and where we are today. It is fair to say we are part of a European Union that values us as a country but Senator Feighan has done a lot to build bridges between North and South in our country and he deserves credit.

Senator Paddy Burke raised the issue of tourism in the context of Brexit and the need to see the tourism sector enhanced and strengthened in light of the challenging international climate. I would be happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, or the Minister, Deputy Ross, come to the House.

There is a break before the next item will be taken, which is thankfully not a frequent occurrence.

It is a result of your intervention.

I am not sure if it is just that. Will the Leader propose that we suspend until 12.45 p.m.?

I propose that we suspend until 12.45 p.m.

Order of Business agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 12.20 p.m. and resumed at 12.45 p.m.