I ask the Deputy Leader, Senator Noone, to outline the business of the day.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion for earlier signature of the Local Government Bill 2018, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; and No. 2, statements on progress in relation to climate action, to be taken at 12.45 p.m, with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes each and all other Senators not to exceed six minutes each.
The Government's policy of being reactive rather than proactive has come home to roost again. The lack of foresight in ensuring more resources and more laboratories were available to read cervical screening tests after free tests were offered to women has caused even more anxiety among women. The Taoiseach made a statement at the time that plaintiffs in these medical negligence cases would not have to pursue their cases in court. We now know this statement to be untrue and a knee-jerk comment by the Taoiseach made in the wake of the cervical scandal controversy.
The CervicalCheck programme has been hugely successful and saved many lives but we need to be very proactive. We need to consider the Scally report and ensure its recommendations are implemented. They cover open disclosure and quickly introducing the simpler HPV testing system. We need to encourage women to continue to get cervical screening tests and do so in a positive manner. We must be pragmatic and ensure sufficient resources are in place if we promise further services to women.
On a second matter, the waiting lists for primary care psychology appointments, more than 6,500 children are waiting for a first appointment according to Dr. Shari McDaid, the director of Mental Health Forum in Ireland. We are celebrating the 14th year of A Vision for Change, the programme for mental health services. It is a very ambitious document and many of the policies set out in it have been successfully introduced. Unfortunately, however, many have not been implemented. Dr. Shari McDaid, in an interview on "Morning Ireland" this morning, described A Vision for Change as a car without wheels. She explained that to put wheels on the car we needed a cost implementation plan, that we needed to know where we wanted to be in the future and how much it would cost and that we needed to put that into action and stand by the budget. In the past, Governments have not stood by mental health budgets and there have been serious deficits in them. We have raised this issue when discussing the child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, and the closing of Cherry Orchard Hospital. This week 500 psychiatric nurses went on strike, which means that nurses are being taken from the system and there are fewer services for children.
Yesterday we introduced a Private Members' Bill providing for investment in teachers to ensure they would have more expertise in first aid and be able to identify children experiencing anxiety issues. As the old proverb goes, mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. Cáin na n-óg agus críonfaidh siad. We must invest in children because investing in adults is that little bit too late.
The Cathaoirleach spoke yesterday about providing guidance regarding the Order of Business. He was dead right and spot on. I reflected on it and all Senators will have received correspondence from the Cathaoirleach's office on the matter. I will make a suggestion to the Deputy Leader. In his letter the Cathaoirleach makes the valid point that Members may support, oppose or seek to amend the Order of Business. That is our function on the Order of Business in the Seanad.
We are at somewhat of a disadvantage because the Leader has a copy of the Order of Business. I accept that it is his business. The top desk and the Cathaoirleach will have a copy of the Order of Business, but we are being asked to consider, accept, reject or amend it but we do not have sight of a copy. I do not expect there would be a problem in that regard but it would be helpful if we had a copy. I did speak to the Leader on the matter before Christmas and he was generally receptive to the idea. Will the Deputy Leader raise the matter with the Leader of making available a handful of hard copies of the Order of Business? The Leader brings a draft Order of Business to the House, not the accepted Order of Business until we discuss it. It would be helpful to all involved if we could have a few hard copies of it when the Leader comes to the House each morning.
On a daily basis in my office I receive complaints from people who have great difficulty in getting carer's allowance. I am told reliably that it takes between 16 and 26 weeks for people to have their carer's allowance application processed. The average time for the fair deal process is eight weeks.
We meet people who are waiting months for home care packages. I spoke to an 82 year old man who minds his 82 year old wife and they were waiting for a home care package. He was told that it would be easier and quicker to get her into an old people's home. That is not very nice to hear when one is trying to care for one's spouse and support him or her. I would appreciate it if we could we have the relevant Minister with responsibility for the carer's allowance and home care packages to come to the House at some time in the future to specifically deal with those two issues.
As it stands, there will be a nurses' strike in less than a week, the second strike in the 100-year history of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO. The Government has stuck to the line that to accept the pay claim would breach the public sector pay agreement. The agreement has been breached already as far as nursing is concerned. When I talk about nursing, I am cognisant of the fact that nurses are supported by a valuable team of care workers who also have to be recognised for the valuable service they give within all health institutions. As it stands, the Government employs up to 1,000 agency nurses per day, with many being paid up to 20% more than HSE nurses. The salary for Deputies was increased in the budget, increasing to more than €98,000 per year. The public sector pay agreement was to end the two-tier pay scale which affects 10,000 nurses. Problems with conditions at work and retention will not be addressed by refusing to engage with nurses. We all saw the photo of the young nurses on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. They asked the Government to simply give them a reason to come home. That is another issue. Nurses return to this country and as their qualifications and experience abroad are not recognised within the system, they end up starting again on a much lower point on the pay scale than they were on for many years.
I am also deeply concerned that even more elective procedures and surgeries must be postponed. The current health care system is not acceptable. Citizens continue to die prematurely because of the failure of the State to provide timely diagnosis and treatment. That is a fact and it is wrong. I want the Minister for Finance to come into the House and at the very least explain why the Government will not even engage with the nursing unions. We all accept that pay claims and industrial disputes happen but the public has an expectation that the Government will do its best, through negotiation and mediation, to ensure vital services are not impacted on. I call again on the Government to engage with the nurses to provide the dynamic to effect positive change and make a career in nursing attractive to current and future nurses and to ensure nurses and other health care staff are working within institutions and an environment that is safe, not the high-risk environment in which they are forced to work every day.
I raise the issue of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. I raised the issue on many occasions prior to Christmas. An all-party working group on dementia and Alzheimer's disease is operating in this House. We had one ask for the HSE national service plan 2019, namely, for eight advisers to help citizens who were suffering from this terrible disease to access the proper services. We were led to believe on many occasions that the request would be acceded to. Some advisers are operating around the country and doing an excellent job. The benchmarking of the service being provided has shown it to be excellent. It has helped many citizens who are suffering from the disease and their families by working with them and providing training to ensure the person suffering from the disease can stay at home for much longer and can receive the proper supports. Unfortunately, there has been no increase under the HSE service plan. I ask the Deputy Leader to ensure the Minister for Health comes into this House as soon as he is available to discuss the HSE service plan and supports for people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It is a crying shame that more than 50,000 citizens have been left with a poor service. One simple measure could make a major difference not only to them but also to their extended families.
In July 2017, 18 months ago, this House unanimously passed a Bill on autism and demanding a national strategy. There were no dissenting voices. Eighteen months later, the Bill has not moved so much as an inch towards Dáil Éireann. In the meantime, 60,000 families with children with autism mark this passing with anxiety and worry. A year in the life of any child is critical, but a year in the life of a child with autism is even more so because it is difficult to catch up on the missed opportunities. The early interventions that they should be having, which they are not having, will impact on them much later in life. We know that if children with autism get early intervention they can do very well. They can remain independent and stay out of institutions, go to school, be part of their communities and contribute to society in a major way. Why has this Bill not gone to Dáil Éireann? I request that the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, come into the House to explain why a Bill which received unanimous support and which had the online support of 77,000 people by means of a petition, now lies dormant with no further action. It is not good enough to produce reports on the state of children with autism and still not respect the wishes of this democratic House regarding the needs of those children and their families. I hope the Deputy Leader will get the Minister in here. I know he has a lot of other problems on his mind, but he needs to come to the House and tell us why this Bill is not proceeding. To be honest, parents would much prefer to see the Bill being debated in the Dáil to obviate the need for him to come here at all.
I compliment the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk of the Dáil, the Clerk of the Seanad, the staff of the Dáil and the Seanad, the Office of Public Works and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission on the event to mark the 100th anniversary of the first sitting of the First Dáil on 21 January 1919 which was commemorated on the same day in 2019 in the Round Room of the Mansion House and a marvellous success. It was a fitting tribute to the men and women who established the First Dáil. I salute their courage, commitment and bravery. They were subject to arrest for sedition against the Crown and the Government of the United Kingdom, yet they went there openly and were prepared to form the First Dáil.
The Government of Great Britain may have learned a lesson from its actions in 1916 but I do not think it ever accepted the ability of those men and women to establish a new state following years of oppression.
The excellent graphics at Monday's event, the wonderful presentations by all concerned, including the Cathaoirleach, and all of the material available in the Mansion House should be put in place in this room when the Seanad returns to its original home in Leinster House. This is an excellent room which could be used to commemorate the first 100 years of the Dáil and, in the future, please God, the Seanad. The graphics and audiovisual presentation in the corridor are second to none. They are of the highest standard and an example of the ability of Irish people to create displays of this type. I do not think anyone who was present at Monday's event would be anything other than impressed by the audiovisual presentation. All that material should be retained for students who come to visit Leinster House. There are plenty of display walls. The area in the coffee dock and the material in the corridor and throughout the House should all be retained carefully and put on display again. It was well done. If there is any duplication, I suggest the relevant material be retained in the Round Room of the Mansion House as another location where people might appreciate the work. Through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk of the Seanad and the Leader should table this as a proposal or a recommendation from Seanad Éireann to the Government, the Office of Public Works and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission.
I thank the Senator for his kind remarks.
I echo Senator Leyden's kind remarks. Perhaps he might go further and recommend that we stay here altogether and use the old Seanad Chamber for such noble purposes. However, that may be a matter for discuss on another day.
I am sure Senator Boyhan would have something to say about that.
This room is too cold.
Monday's events were very good. It is tempting for us, looking across the water at the chaos our friends in Britain are experiencing as a result of Brexit, to run away with ourselves, start to feel condescending and clap ourselves on the back for how well we do things. Anybody who listened to Jimmy Sheehan, the founder of the Blackrock Clinic, discussing the new national children's hospital on radio this morning or who was present at yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on Health would come to the conclusion that the project has been an unmitigated disaster from the outset and that it reflects badly on the entire political class. I felt sorry for the representatives from the HSE and the Department of Health officials who tried to defend a bad situation at yesterday's meeting. However, I was obliged to wonder at the righteous tone of politicians who seemed to have forgotten that the political class had got us into this mess. In that context, every member of Cabinet received a dossier from the Connolly for Kids group before the final decisions were taken. Some 60,000 signatures were presented to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, who reluctantly accepted them. A detailed submission was made to An Bord Pleanála and oral submissions were heard. The point was made all along that the risk of spiralling costs, which look likely to go over €2 billion, was not the only issue. This matter cannot be spun in the way that is being attempted, namely, to the effect that the project will cost a fortune but that we will have the best hospital in the world, particularly when there are problems that money cannot solve because of the choice of location, the fact that the largest search and rescue helicopters cannot land there, parking issues, the fact that there is no co-location with a maternity hospital and a lack of room for expansion. All of these problems relate to the fact that a greenfield site was not chosen. As Dr. Sheehan stated this morning, it is difficult to know whether anything can be done now.
I have listened to Senator Humphreys refer to the fact that the HSE service plan does not make provision for the dementia advisory services that are needed. I know something about the challenges in getting the services needed to care for persons with dementia. The scandalous waste of money on this project is not an indictment of the HSE or the Department of Health in the first instance but of the political parties. The Government and Deputy Micheál Martin were unhelpful. Deputy McGuinness was the only person in Fianna Fáil who paid any attention to the Connolly for Kids group. Sinn Féin was less than useless, yet one of its members spoke in the righteous tones to which I referred at yesterday's meeting. There are questions to be answered about the political parties and, yet again, the unacceptable waste of public money, bad decision-making and group-think that has marked this matter from beginning to end.
Before Christmas, in Trim, County Meath, a person who lived alone died. This individual had no immediate family. The local community raised €6,000 and the community welfare officer gave €3,000. The community got together and the spirit displayed was reported on by The Irish Times, The Star and all of the major newspapers. Various articles detailed how the community gathered to help bury the lady in question. She was a great community person. Her name was Margaret Lang. Seeing the community bond gives great hope for the future and I thank the community of Trim.
I want to address the good work the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust does to repatriate people to Ireland because of tragedies or sudden death. Last year the trust repatriated over 100 people. This organisation is funded entirely by voluntary donations and charity. I ask that the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection come before the House to discuss this matter and indicate whether it might be possible to provide funding for the trust on a yearly basis. Airlines charge ridiculous rip-off prices of anywhere between €20,000 and €40,000 to transport bodies back to this country. That is a disgrace. We should examine this matter in order to discover whether it might be possible to legislate and get the airlines to see sense in the context of what they charge at times when people are desperate and vulnerable. Airlines are ripping people off. Coffins are kept with passengers' luggage on aeroplanes but at a cost of between €20,000 and €40,000. I ask that the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection come to the Seanad to discuss providing the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, a fabulous organisation, with a yearly funding allocation.
Young people in towns and cities are looking for sustainable places in which to dance, staggered opening hours and closing times and public transport home. On a number of other nights this week, a campaign group, Give Us The Night, is holding meetings about the recent closures of clubs in Dublin. Hangar which was located in St. Andrew's Lane closed last year and District 8 and the Wright Venue are due to close at the end of the month. No new nightclubs have opened in Dublin in the past ten years.
There were about 350 people at the public meeting. They included nightclub operators and promoters and people who create the culture of the night such as DJs, staff, students and club-goers. The vitality of night-life culture is caught up in this perfect storm of gentrification, planning and licensing. Dublin and all other Irish cities seem to be going in entirely the opposite direction to our European neighbours. Britain has made moves towards retaining and advancing night-life options. It has established a night-time mayor. It values its night-time economy, at around €66 billion per year.
Is that a nightmare?
The commonly recognised timeframe in this sector is about 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. but in Dublin we are all out on the street at the same time between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.. Our discussions on a directly elected mayor should include a night mayor.
It sounds like a nightmare.
Is this a conversation we are having here? Does the Senator know the scene himself?
I am intrigued.
I understand Senator Mullen's interest in what Senator Warfield is saying but I think he should be allowed to conclude.
I would welcome an invitation.
There is always an open invitation.
I do not get out much.
I gathered that.
There might have to be a special arrangement made for Senator Mullen. Ar aghaidh leat.
I will leave that to the Cathaoirleach. I am calling for the Minister-----
And probably me.
I am calling for the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to discuss licensing and how we can rethink this system and have a mature conversation - we have started on the wrong foot - about how we can rethink the system and not restrict night life. We need to recognise its contribution towards the culture of the island.
An issue that has arisen recently and which was brought into focus at a demonstration this morning on Dawson Street is that of trainee pharmacists. Since 2015, trainee pharmacists in Ireland are required to complete a five-year integrated Master's programme with one of the three accredited pharmacy schools - UCC, Trinity College Dublin or the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI. The new format involves two unpaid work placements of four and eight months in years 4 and 5, respectively. In addition to this unpaid work, the fees for the fifth year have increased from €3,000 to €7,500 in UCC, €8,500 in TCD and €9,000 in the RCSI. As a result, each pharmacy student is looking at a cost of approximately €25,000 over the course of the degree. These students, whose skills will be badly needed by the country on their graduation, are facing a long course combined with unpaid work and, in many cases, seven days a week of combined study and work to make ends meet and complete their courses.
I want to ask the Government if this is acceptable. The Higher Education Authority has refused to fund the fifth year of the pharmacy programme, leaving colleges to foot the Bill. The colleges have inevitably passed it on to students. It is paramount that we act now to remove the blanket ban on payments to students to prevent pharmacy courses from becoming elitist. To that end, students from UCC, TCD and the RCSI are calling on the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to remove the blanket ban immediately. That is what they were doing this morning. I support them at a time when we need medical professionals and support from pharmacists. We need the students to get the support to get their master's degree without experiencing poverty or difficulty in pursuing it.
I was not going to mention the pharmacy issue but it is an important one and a debate in the House on it is pertinent.
I will raise an issue of which the Cathaoirleach is very much aware, particularly in our part of the world, namely, the crisis in the beef industry. The weekly kill has gone from over 40,000 head of cattle before Christmas to 36,000 last week. We have a significant crisis of over-supply and dropping prices and Brexit around the corner which could have a major impact on the beef industry.
It is an issue of confidence for the industry. The beef forum has to be activated. It must meet in the next few weeks to discuss how we deal with supply. There will be a large kill in the next number of weeks. We need to find markets for it. The Food Wise 2025 policy was put in place ten years ago but there are no markets now. It is becoming a significant issue for the number of cattle going through the system. The real issue is farmers are being squeezed and prices are being cut. They are 20% below the UK average. It is having an enormous effect on rural Ireland and industry, which is dwindling away because confidence in the market is slipping away.
The beef forum needs to be reactivated as a priority. It would be helpful if the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine came to the House to discuss these issues regarding the beef industry and Brexit. An amazing statistic is that 75% of the beef that entered the UK market last November was Irish. The UK market is our main destination for beef. If there was to be a slowdown in that supply chain or, God forbid, if there was to be a hard Brexit, the industry would be affected more than any other industry in the country. The debate would be helpful. I hope we can have it soon because time is passing. The debate needs to happen. It would be appropriate for the Minister to come to the House next week.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 20, National Anthem Bill 2019, be taken before No. 1.
We approach the 110th anniversary of the composition of "The Soldier's Song" which was later translated into "Amhrán na bhFiann". As a key symbol of the State, it is worthy of protection and respect. Other key symbols such as the flag are provided for in Article 7 of the Constitution. The Taoiseach's Department has guidelines and protocols for its use and what should and should not happen with the national flag. With reference to the harp, we are the only nation on earth that has a single musical instrument as its national emblem. That is because of our culture and musical heritage. It is protected by patent law placed on it by the State.
The reason the Seanad carried out a public consultation was the national anthem fell out of copyright protection in 2013. The public consultation was held in the Seanad Chamber and as a result the House has been responsible for the production, in collaboration with the deaf community, of the first ever official Irish Sign Language version of the national anthem. It was a student from Bishopstown community school, Alain Newstead, who identified the fact that until then there had been no version.
On the 100th anniversary of Dáil Éireann's beginnings we should protect the national anthem and give it formal recognition. Through the public consultation, we discovered the State had never formally adopted the Irish language version of the national anthem. It is something that has to be rectified. As we are all aware, the national anthem has been used in advertising and the legislation would put in place a process whereby if somebody wanted to use it, he or she would have to apply to the Department of Finance, as previously required under the copyright legislation. I ask for the leave of the House to publish the Bill and debate the issue.
The public consultation, as a result of the work of this House, means for the first time ever we have protocols for the use of the national anthem. Heretofore that was not the case. There was no one set of protocols for the national anthem. That has now been rectified as a result of everybody in the House and the public consultation process we undertook. The next step is to formally recognise the national anthem and give it the protection that is its due.
Recently, the issue of rural transport has been in the news, as well as drink driving and many other aspects. A lot of work has been done with the rural transport initiative. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, and Deputy Robert Troy have hit on a unique idea of an Uber-style rural taxi service or, as the Minister of State called it, a "Ruxi". In Dublin we have excellent taxis which are good value. In London I have shared an Uber taxi with another person and shall explain how it works. A 30-minute journey in an Uber taxi costs between €5 to €7; there is a pool of Uber taxis; customers are given an estimated price; two people can share a taxi, and as customers must pay their fare using an app, no money exchanges hands.
An Uber taxi which is a privately owned car can transport ten or 15 people as part of the one journey, thereby giving value for money. Uber taxis are the way forward. I understand why the taxi drivers in Dublin would oppose an Uber-type taxi, whereby private car drivers rent space in their vehicles. Uber taxis are a solution to the transport woes in rural communities. Uber taxis are available all over the world; they are available in hundreds of cities in Europe and North America. The availability of Uber taxis is a way to solve our transport problems.
On 19 January I attended a course in self-driving cars that took place at the Institute of Technology, Sligo. The availability of self-driving cars will mean nobody will have to worry about drink driving because these cars can transport a person from A to B. I compliment the institute on its fascinating work with the University of Applied Sciences in Kempten, Germany. The institute of technology has an innovative approach to online learning because almost half of its 6,000 students now study online. I believe self-driving cars are the way forward and it is nice to see a small town located on the west coast of Ireland is at the forefront of such modern technology. In years to come people will be able to throw away their breathalysers because we will have self-driving cars. In the meantime, Uber is the way forward. I do not know why the initiative is not in place in this country because it would be one way to address the taxi shortage, particularly in rural areas. In addition, the initiative makes great sense and is great value.
Senator Feighan has mentioned a good and innovative idea. However, the time at which people leave pubs in County Westmeath must differ from the time at which people in County Roscommon do so.
Like Senator Reilly, I ask the Deputy Leader to invite the Minister for Health to come to the House. However, my issue slightly differs from the noble issue raised by Senator Reilly. The Taoiseach referred to this yesterday. My general concern is about capital projects being kicked into touch and how the HSE has messed up on the back of the national children's hospital debacle. I refer, in particular, to the hospital staff and the community of Mullingar who have raised just short of €1 million in their community to fund a new MRI machine in Mullingar. As part of that initiative, the HSE had given a guarantee and pledged that it would build a sufficient building to house the new MRI scanner in the existing Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar. Unfortunately, we have been told that the project has been kicked into touch and that the finances will not be available until 2022 at the earliest. I am concerned, particularly when a community has gone to such trouble to raise €1 million for a piece of hardware, that the smaller end of this deal will not happen due to mismanagement, of which we are all aware. This would be an opportune time to bring the Minister to the House and let him discuss the projects that will or will not be in trouble.
I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Mark Daly.
As European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week will commence on 28 January, the announcement that up 6,000 women in this country will have their smear tests reread is ironic. This is a worrying time for the women involved. I know that they are due to receive their letters within the next ten days but we have had so much to do with CervicalCheck in the past 12 months. I know that my own constituent, Vicky Phelan, was the lady who originally sounded alarm bells about CervicalCheck. I know that it has been said that the smear tests will be read as a matter of priority but I was frightened to read that it took up to 22 weeks for some tests to be read. That is quite a long time to wait because the norm is between four to six weeks. Twenty-two weeks is a long time for a woman to wait for her results.
I support my colleagues in what was said about pharmacists, which is an issue that concerns the Minister for Health. In the past I raised here the issue of pharmaceutical assistants. Unfortunately, the issue still has not been resolved. Perhaps we might invite the Minister for Health to the House to update us on the smear test issue, pharmacists and pharmaceutical assistant positions.
I take the opportunity to reflect on a meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality that took place yesterday morning. On that occasion we heard from a range of human rights and legal organisations from the North. They are very eminent and respected figures. They made a very stark and sobering series of contributions to members of the committee and, by extension, all Members of the Oireachtas on the real crisis, as they deemed it, regarding the challenge posed by Brexit to rights and equality. The delegations also referred to the real legislative and legal deficit, regardless of Brexit, arising from a failure by the Governments to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement. They say Brexit just peels off the cover that exposes the absence of legislative protections, safeguards and entitlements for Irish EU citizens who reside in the North.
In providing a further platform, I encourage the Seanad to explore ways that will allow us to act as a driver of the bulwark that is necessary to ensure the Government remains steadfast about rights because the Government can do so. The very senior legal academics who attended the committee meeting yesterday encouraged the Government to act entirely within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement and unilaterally legislate for the rights of people who resided in the North. At present, it appears that the only right any of us have is the right to obtain a passport. We need to offset the dangers, threats and jeopardy posed by Brexit being forced on us but within the context of everything else that is going on.
I appreciated the statements and updates the Taoiseach made the other night. He has been here and engaged regularly on this issue. I do not have a specific ask of the Deputy Leader or the Government. However, I encourage Members to read the transcript of the committee proceedings and reflect on the stark warnings given. I have asked the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality to convene a joint sitting with the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement to look at the real threat posed by Brexit and how we can act as a platform in drawing attention to it and encourage the Governments to fix the issue.
I am impressed by the concern expressed about Brexit by my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile. In view of his party's inactivity in participating in the decision-making process in the House of Commons, I do not think Senators can come into this House and outline the failure of the Government. In the past two and half years we have done everything possible to make sure our influence is taken on board in making sure there will not be a hard border and encouraging the UK to reach an agreement in the withdrawal process.
It is disappointing that our colleagues in Sinn Féin will not participate in the decision-making process in the UK. That must be taken into account.
Legislation relating to the boundary extension in Cork was finally passed in the Dáil yesterday and it is welcome. The extension will kick in whereby Ballincollig, Blarney and Glanmire are coming into the city. It is also important that information be made available to people on the changes that are occurring because there is a lot of misinformation on where exactly the boundary line is. New voting registers will be published within the next ten days and it is important that the relevant information be conveyed to people, perhaps by way of public advertising, particularly to those who are on the boundary lines between the city and the county. The Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, and the Department should make sure the two local authorities and the Department get the information out at the earliest possible date. Local elections are not that far away and it is important that people know exactly where their new voting station is because people will be changing voting stations. They should not have to look around for that information on the day of the election. We should get that information out at a very early date.
I have been listening to reports from Davos. I have checked with several of my colleagues and none of them seems to have heard of any major discussion on climate change. I do not know if such discussions have occurred; perhaps they have and have not been reported, or perhaps I just missed them. It seems astonishing that the first and most important matter is Brexit, as far as representatives in Davos are concerned. This is an extraordinary meeting of business leaders and politicians and one would imagine, if they were taking it seriously, that there would be something about climate change. I understand the local villagers in Davos have protested at the number of enormous, gas-guzzling limousines in which these people who are supposed to be concerned about the environment are turning up.
Do not forget the private jets.
I thank the Senator. They are also arriving in private jets and aeroplanes. There is a huge amount of hypocrisy and it is about time that world leaders woke up. It will not really affect me because I am far too old. I will not see the planet crash and burn but others will.
Is the Senator still burning turf?
I certainly am and turf from Senator Paddy Burke's part of the world.
I remind both Senators that there will be a two-hour debate on climate action which will commence in 15 minutes' time or thereabouts.
That shows that this House is taking it seriously, but it does not affect what is going on-----
The Senator can expand on his point during the debate, if he wishes.
As I have a hospital appointment, I may not be able to do so, but I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.
The last word is for Senator Paddy Burke.
He is a well known turf burner.
I must get a bag of turf for Senator Norris.
As Deputy Dooley favours me, the Senator will have to outdo Fianna Fáil.
There have been occasions recently where drones have been tracking lorry drivers and oil delivery trucks in the Kerry region. I ask the Leader, at some stage, to bring the relevant Minister before the House, whether it is the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport or someone with responsibility for aviation or whatever else. We need to discuss controlling drones. Drones were tracking those oil lorries and householders found, after the delivery, that their oil tank had been emptied. It is an invasion of privacy and aids criminals. I would like the Leader, or the Deputy Leader, to bring the relevant Minister before the House. Every drone should probably have a licence, or maybe one should need a licence to operate a drone before one can buy it. We need regulation in this area because it is too bad that drones can track lorries delivering oil and that people can find, the next day, that their tank has been emptied of that delivery of expensive oil at considerable cost and inconvenience to the householders involved. I would like a debate on this issue.
These gadgets closed down Heathrow Airport and also recently caused consternation at Newark Airport, the second biggest airport in New York. It is amazing how little yokes like them can cause such problems, apart from the matter of empty oil tanks.
I thank the Senators who raised issues on the Order of Business.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of CervicalCheck. We are all concerned to hear that women are having to be retested because of delays. I heard a doctor on radio this morning and it is important that the word go out from those in positions of leadership that CervicalCheck has saved an enormous amount of lives and that, despite the issues that are there which will be overcome in the near future, it is important not to scaremonger, although that might be too strong a word. We should be factual in how we speak about CervicalCheck because to do otherwise would instil fear in women. It would obviously be a good idea for the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to come to the House to discuss the issue of CervicalCheck and let us know of any progress made in the implementation of the recommendations made in the Scally report.
I have no problem with the suggestion Senator Boyhan made about making available copies of the Order of Business. I am not in favour of all the paper we use and would have thought an email would be sufficient. I have no difficulty with the suggestion made and will speak to the Leader about it.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of nurses pay and mentioned that nurses were very hard working. The Minister for Finance has made a lot of sense any time I have heard him speak about this issue. We have agreed a pay deal with the entire public service and it is hard to see from where the money is going to come to pay more. There is a significant increase of about €3,000 for nurses in the pay deal. There are definitely issues with nurses' conditions that need to be addressed. The Senator mentioned the word "engagement". That is key and there is engagement. Engagement is the only way forward. We all hope any potential strike can be averted.
Senator Humphreys raised the issue of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. I suggest it is another issue on which the Minister for Health might like to update the House.
Senator Reilly spoke passionately about the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill. I do not see any reason it should not be before the Dáil. I will follow up the matter and find out the reason for the delay.
Senator Leyden complimented the 100th anniversary celebrations of Dáil Éireann. We all agree with him. His idea to have a permanent home for the exhibition is a good one which I support.
Senator Mullen raised the issue of the national children's hospital. It is an issue about which we are all concerned and the Taoiseach and the Minister have expressed their serious concerns. An independent body has been put in place to review the major cost increases. It would be a good idea for the matter to be discussed in this House in the near future.
Senator Butler raised the issue of the repatriation of Irish citizens, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust and a case in his local area. I agree with the Senator about airlines because it seems that, when people are at a vulnerable point, they really slap on the charges. I understand it is a business and that they have to make money. However, when there are difficult circumstances for people which, in the context of how many people fly, cannot be that common, airlines should be more supportive of individuals.
Senator Warfield raised the issue of nightlife in Dublin. I cannot say I was aware that many nightclubs were closing. I would not have thought we had any difficulty when it came to knowing how to party in this city but the Senator raises an interesting point. Having acted as a lawyer over the years, I know how unnecessarily complex the licensing area is.
It is an issue we should debate. It would be interesting to discuss how we want to go forward as a society when it comes to nightlife. I have seen many initiatives lately. I believe a bar that is opening on Capel Street in the near future will sell non-alcoholic beer only. There are ways for us to party and have fun without necessarily loading ourselves-----
Extended opening hours are not about extended drinking times.
The drinking times can stay the same.
Yes. Will those who own businesses want to keep them open while selling the odd drink? It is a difficult one on which to achieve a balance. I know from where the Senator is coming. We could have a very interesting debate in this House on licensing.
Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the issue of trainee pharmacists. It would be a good subject for a Commencement debate. It would allow the Senator to get a full answer from the Minister. Nobody would want trainee pharmacists to be in any way impoverished or have difficulty in this area. Clearly, this issue needs to be addressed.
Senator Lombard spoke about farming. It would be a good idea to have a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, particularly in the context of Brexit. He is a regular visitor to the House. I do not think we can discuss enough the fears because of the ongoing issue of Brexit.
I can accept Senator Mark Daly's amendment to the Order of Business.
Senator Feighan mentioned Uber in the context of rural transport. Uber exists in this country, but the charges are not as cheap as in other countries because taxis here are regulated. If one gets an Uber taxi, it costs the same as it would cost to get a taxi in any other way. It certainly offers a potential solution. The area of hackney and taxi licences is complex. I would see certain red lights flashing when it comes to the reaction of taxi drivers in this city. It would certainly be a good idea in rural areas.
Senator Davitt made the constructive suggestion that the Minister for Health give us an idea of the projects that might be affected by the cost of the national children's hospital, which is obviously the biggest concern in any conversation about the hospital. The Minister might not want to go into detail on the matter.
Senator Byrne raised the issue of CervicalCheck. The irony that this is awareness week for cervical cancer is not lost on any of us. As women, we are very keen for this matter to be resolved in the near future to the satisfaction of the women of Ireland.
Senator Ó Donnghaile told us that the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality had heard from individuals from the North yesterday. It was a very constructive thing to happen, especially in the context of Brexit. The comments on the matter made by my colleague, Senator Colm Burke, were well made.
Senator Colm Burke's suggestion that information needed to be made available to those who would be affected by the boundary extension was constructive. It is something that should happen. A Commencement debate may be required to draw the Minister's attention fully to the suggestion. I can raise it with him too.
Senator Norris spoke about climate change in the context of the Davos meeting. I know that in his comments in Davos today the Taoiseach specifically highlighted the importance of Europe maintaining a united front on climate change.
Senator Paddy Burke is dead right when he says regulation of drones is needed. It is beyond unsatisfactory that issues of concern have arisen in this country and at a major airport in a neighbouring country. We definitely need to think about legislating in this area, an issue which should be brought to the attention of the Minister.
I understand Senator Davitt would like to clarify something. I do not normally allow such interventions.
I did not get in when the Deputy Leader was answering. Does she think we can get the Minister for Health to come to the House? I know she is sympathetic.
The Minister is not available next week. The Leader's office is seeking to ascertain whether he will be available the following week.
I appreciate that very much.
He has just had a baby.
What a proactive leader.
Senator Mark Daly has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 20 be taken before No. 1." The Deputy Leader has indicated that she is prepared to accept it. Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.