The Order of Business is No. 1, Hallmarking (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Second Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and adjourned not later than 2.30 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes each and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each; No. 2, Companies (Amendment) Bill 2019 - all Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 and adjourned not later than 2.30 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the time allocated to group spokespersons on Second Stage not to exceed eight minutes each and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each, the Minister to be given not less than five minutes to reply to the debate and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; No. 3, statements on housing, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 4.30 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 - time can be shared - and the Minister to be given not less than eight minutes to reply to the debate; No. 83, Private Members' business, non-Government motion No. 13 re housing for the elderly, to be taken at 4.30 p.m., with the time allocated for the debate not to exceed two hours; No. 4, Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 6.30 p.m.; and No. 5, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4 and adjourned not later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Many of us on our way to the Seanad today, travelling in our cars, probably passed many nurses on picket lines. They are hardworking nurses who have braved the cold weather to fight for better pay and conditions. The facts before us are that nurses in this country are sometimes paid half of what their colleagues abroad are paid. In Australia, Canada, the Middle East-----
That is not true.
Anecdotally, many nurses would say otherwise.
Anecdotally. Let us base comments on facts.
Please allow Senator Ardagh to put her question.
Let us have a debate on the facts.
The Leader will have an ample chance to come in later.
Obviously, the facts are disputed, but nurses can produce evidence to show that they are-----
The Senator said nurses received half the pay.
Yes, because I have spoken to nurses who have said they are paid 50% less than their colleagues who work in Australia, yet they have the exact same qualifications. In some instances, Irish nurses are being paid 50% less than their colleagues working abroad who have the same qualifications. We know that before they even finish their degree and go out on their own, nurses are considering emigrating. We also know that the nurses we currently employ in hospitals are overworked and stresses are beginning to be felt by patients.
We all have many anecdotes about how the health service is being affected. The other day I met a lady who told me about her experience. She went to hospital because she had a sore leg after falling off her bike. She ended up falling off a trolley and breaking a tooth because her concussion was so bad and the nurse in charge was on her own. It was not a case that the nurse had not looked after her properly but of the nurse in charge being completely stretched in every possible way to meet demands. I ask the Minister for Health to engage with the nurses in a meaningful manner to ensure the strike does not continue. We cannot have six days of nurses being on strike. It is not helpful at all.
The second issue I wish to raise is related to anti-social behaviour and drug dealing on city streets. A technology company that has been in operation for 17 years has been forced to move out of the inner city area because of drug dealing and anti-social behaviour at the door of its premises. Such negative behaviour is not just confined to that area because when one walks from Christchurch to the Guinness Storehouse or Kilmainham Gaol, one frequently sees drug dealing.
It seems to be done without any issue. There does not seem to be any fear of arrest or deterrent whatsoever. I ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to look at this matter. This is a tourist area which contains various distilleries, Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse and people are openly dealing drugs on the street. It is, therefore, a very serious matter. It affects the tourism industry and the communities living in these areas because it is just not nice to have people dealing drugs on one's doorstep.
The third issue I want to raise is one that is hugely concerning to all of us, particularly after the passing of the Brady amendment last night. Ultimately, we learned today that a hard Border would impact negatively on the economy. We have been told that if a hard Brexit occurs, there will be an increase in unemployment of up to 2%, which could be up to 50,000 people. The chat about renegotiating the backstop is very worrying. We wish the Tánaiste and the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy McEntee, the best. We are behind them 100%, but it is very scary, especially with reference to our preparedness. I have a small business and had no interaction with the Government in terms of help, support and how it will affect us; neither has the business community in Crumlin. I am a solicitor and can say the level of conveyancing has dropped. People and the markets in Dublin are very scared. People are not engaging in transactions at the same volume they did in recent months and I believe it is because of the significant fear about Brexit. There is a lot of fear among the business community, particularly if the UK crashes out. I ask the Leader to consider these matters and look forward to hearing his response.
I will make one point about Theresa May. What happened last night was possibly the greatest example of reneging in the history of politics.
I wish to take up what Senator Ardagh said about nurses. I look around at the nurses on strike, their reasons for doing so, the 262 consultant posts that have not been filled, consultants in hospitals who have not gone through the registered training programme and the lack of radiographers and occupational therapists. At the same time, I see an overrun of €1.7 billion on the national children's hospital project. The two do not compute. There is something very unstable about this situation. I am not blaming anybody, but there is something very unbalanced about all of it and the public is getting very tired of it.
I wish to ask the Leader about the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. I have reached the age of an elder, even though I know that I look 37 years old. I am very conscious of how we treat elders. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 has not been commenced and there is no reason sections 3 and 8 which involve advanced healthcare directives should not be commenced. I would like very much to see it happen because they give effect to the requirements of common law. I know that other Senators have worked on this issue and know the intricacies of it, but the fact that these sections have not been commenced gives rise to inappropriate assessments of older people being carried out based on the medical model which is not the total model and not the model that should be the end assessment. A person's basic human rights are involved. Áine Flynn was appointed director of the Decision Support Service in October 2017 and is currently working on setting up her office and putting systems in place. The HSE and the National Disability Association did a lot of work on codes of practice. The codes on advanced healthcare directives are at the final stage. However, there seems to be a lack of drive in the Government and Departments. I have now stood here three times and spoken about it.
As a breach of rights is occurring, I would like some explanation. I know that there are a lot of problems, but aging involves people's rights. People are being put into nursing homes who do not want to be there. They have rights in nursing homes. My mother is in a nursing home. I do not want to present myself as a visual aid example, but I am very conscious of elders in Ireland and how we treat them and wish to see their rights preserved in every way. This needs to come back in and we need to advance it because it is lying around, so to speak. People are in place to do it, but it has not been ignited and a certain activity is lacking. Things are happening with regard to Brexit and nurses are out on the street, but this issue is very important. I saw how many carers and nurses who deal with the elderly were outside the gates of facilities today on Roebuck Road and in other areas where homes operate. Could we, please, have the Act commenced or have a discussion about it?
I endorse the sentiments expressed and points made by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell. We very much need to progress the implementation of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015.
I refer to two recent reports of major significance for the Traveller community. The first contains the findings of the inquest into the Carrickmines fire tragedy which were published last week. As we know, ten people lost their lives in this fire. I acknowledge how difficult the process must have been for the families affected. It is worth noting and it was highlighted in an excellent article by Jacinta Brack of the Irish Traveller Movement in today's edition of thejournal.ie that in the year following the Carrickmines fire, three other fires occurred at halting sites in Ballyfermot, Limerick and Wicklow. Thankfully, there was no loss of life, but safety remains a major concern, especially on overcrowded sites. This matter has not been addressed adequately. I welcome the recommendations made in the report. It is important for all of us to know about them, take them on board and monitor Government leadership and action on them.
According to the Irish Traveller Movement, since the publication of the report of the National Directorate Fire and Emergency Management in September 2016, the threats to the safety of Travellers posed by substandard accommodation remain a clear and present danger. The number of Traveller families living in overcrowded conditions has risen and now stands at more than 1,000 families, an increase in excess of 150 since the report of the National Directorate Fire and Emergency Management was published three years ago. The impact in terms of the numbers of people affected is rising. The Irish Traveller Movement contends that there is a direct correlation between overcrowding and shared accommodation, which poses a fundamental threat to the safety of Travellers.
Three years on, these threats have not been adequately addressed. According to the director of the Irish Traveller Movement, Bernard Joyce, there has been no national audit of Traveller fire safety measures since 2016 and no monitoring report on the completion of the programme from the first review. While some local authorities have worked towards fire prevention strategies, there is no audit of completion or fulfilment. The inadequate provision of accommodation for Travellers is at an all-time high. There have been other fires since 2015. The review of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act under way must take into account overcrowding and the poor standard of existing temporary Traveller accommodation and its overuse for long-term stays. The dangers faced by Travellers living in overcrowded conditions remain. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to outline the measures being put in place to ensure tragedies like the one in Carrickmines never happen again?
I also ask the Leader to invite the Minister to respond to a European Committee of Social Rights report that was also published last week. The report found that Ireland had failed to redress violations in breach of the European Social Charter related to five grounds for Travellers, including insufficient provision and inadequate quality of Traveller accommodation, breaches involving the operation of evictions and the lack of legal aid for those threatened. In the light of both reports, will the Leader ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to give us a full update on the Government's responses to the Carrickmines fire report, the European Committee of Social Rights report and the review of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act that is in train?
I wish to show solidarity with the thousands of nurses on picket lines all over the State and the thousands of patients and vulnerable persons who have had their operations, procedures and appointments postponed. In particular, I wish to show solidarity with and voice my support for those on the picket lines in places such as Castlebar and Ballina in my home county of Mayo. We must remember that many of these patients have waited months and years for operations, procedures and appointments. I know that the nurses on the picket lines today are really mindful of this.
I call on the Government to intervene and resolve this crisis in order that the nurses can get back to what they are desperate and trained to do, that is, provide the highest standard of healthcare in a safe environment and that patients can receive the treatment they desperately need.
We heard about the elderly woman who was duped by a rogue trader into handing over money for tools that she had no need for whatsoever. As someone who lives in rural Ireland, I am appalled and angered by the rising level of crime. Every week people tell me their stories of being threatened, robbed and assaulted. They range from people like this woman being robbed in her own home to businesses being repeatedly robbed, sometimes by the same individuals, families or gangs. These crimes are being carried out, often during the day, by criminals who are sticking their two fingers up at their victims, including shop owners. At around 5 p.m. outside a funeral home in Castlebar last Friday, I witnessed a taxi driver trying to escape injury, while his attacker, accompanied by another man and a woman, kicked and smashed his vehicle while trying to punch and drag him out of the car.
I have two questions. Where are the gardaí and why do we not have enough of them to walk the streets to prevent such crimes? Above all, why do we have a judicial system that enables and facilitates these crimes by letting off repeat criminals?
They leave the courts laughing at gardaí and victims knowing that they are free to attack their victims over and over again. We have had 70 hours of filibustering and what I can only describe as time wasting on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill in this House.
Will the Leader invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House for a full and frank debate on the issue of crime in regional towns and villages? It is unacceptable that we are spending so much time on that Bill, while leaving vulnerable businesses that are already struggling and individuals who are being threatened day in and day out. As legislators, we are doing nothing about it.
I wish to speak in solidarity with the INMO nurses who are on strike. I visited the picket lines in Dundalk and Drogheda this morning. To say the determination of the nurses is very strong is not to put too fine a point on it. Those of us who have been involved in industrial action and the industrial relations process know that it is a big decision for any worker to withdraw his or her labour. There are implications, for example, lost income. For nurses, in particular, who take their jobs and roles so seriously it is a major decision to take. Unfortunately, the nurses in the INMO felt they had no option other than to take action. They are involved in a legitimate trade dispute that, unfortunately, shows no sign of ending. However, I firmly believe a way can be found within the parameters of the current public sector pay agreement to reach a negotiated settlement that would benefit the nurses without significantly impacting on the integrity of the overall public sector pay agreement.
We should not be in this position today, but a lack of imagination and lateral thinking has been shown by the Government side in its handling of the issue. It pains me to say it, but in the context of this and a range of other disputes, the Government has shown a tin ear in its approach to industrial relations. This issue can be fixed if the political will is there, but I do not detect it. A way can be found through the current pay agreement to address the nurses' concerns, while retaining the integrity of that agreement if imagination and lateral thinking are shown by the Government side.
As if we needed reminding, the events at Westminster last night reminded us of the existential importance of the retention of the backstop in the British withdrawal agreement from the European Union. In pandering to the extreme elements of the Tory Party's European Research Group, Prime Minister May has shown a willingness to throw Ireland under the proverbial bus. I stood in solidarity with my neighbours in Carrickarnon on the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland Border last Saturday. The message there was clear - communities on both sides of the Border, be they nationalist or unionist, did not want a hard Brexit or a hard border on this island. We spoke about solidarity with the nurses, but never before has the solidarity of the EU been more important for Ireland than in the retention of the backstop.
On Friday I will meet my colleague, the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, and an SPD member, Dr. Katarina Barley, who has requested to come to Ireland to discuss Brexit and the reality of life on the Border with residents from north Louth. I look forward to welcoming her. It is important that we use all of the channels, connections and networks available to us - Fine Gael is associated with the Christian democrat group and the Labour Party is associated with the socialist group, the second largest political grouping in the European Parliament - to convince our European partners of the fundamental importance of retaining the backstop in protecting Ireland's interests, North and South, and the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.
I highlight the more than 35,000 nurses on the picket lines. As the Leader is well aware, University Hospital Limerick is in the news every day and has been mentioned in the House many times by various Senators. I call for sense to prevail and both sides to come together to reach a resolution. Going into the hard winter season, none of us wants to face continuous strikes. Sense needs to prevail and a solution needs to be found, as it is not right that so many people should be out.
I welcome the €200 million investment by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in the region. On Monday it announced that it would create hundreds of jobs in the pharma sector in the mid-west. It is good news that the mid-west is being seen as a counterbalance to Dublin.
I give my full support to the nurses. I know how hard they work. They play a major role in people's lives from the time someone is a baby to when he or she dies. They do a great job and we should appreciate them. Everyone needs to get air. The Government must get together with the INMO, sit down and sort this out. The nurses deserve it. Nursing is a calling. It is important that we get this sorted for nurses.
I wish to discuss Safer Internet Day which is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for young people and inspire a national conversation. This year it will occur on 5 February. I raise this matter because we were appalled last week when we heard of the sharing of a video of a deceased person following a fatal crash on the M50. That the Garda had to issue a request shows how far we have sunk as a nation. We need to have the conversation that is called for on 5 February about what we can do in these cases. We need to debate the Internet and how to protect children from a world in which nothing is sacred anymore. I call for a debate on how to adjust current legislation so as to bring the full force of the law down on people for their blatant lack of humanity. While we cannot legislate for bad taste, we should be able to legislate against social media companies allowing instant sharing of such imagery before the authorities have even identified the deceased. I was shocked by what had happened and we need to address the issue. We need to have this conversation on 5 February to ensure this can never happen again.
I will bring up this again again with the Minister.
Going back to the nurses, all of us here need to support the hard-working nurses today.
I thank the Leader and his office for sending a copy of today's proposed Order of Business. I acknowledge what I said yesterday. It is his prerogative and nobody else's to bring forward the proposed Order of Business for the day. It is our prerogative, as Members, to accept, amend or reject the Order of Business proposed. That is clear and I will not repeat it. It would be helpful if every Member of the House had the same piece of paper I have in my hand. I am aware the leaders have received it, but I call for every Member to have a copy of the Order of Business in his or her hand because it is important.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business but before so doing, I must note I look forward to engaging in the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 today. It received a great deal of coverage in the media today, particularly in the printed media, but I am looking forward to being here. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business - of course, I have the benefit of having it in front of me - that in respect of No. 5, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), which is to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4 and adjourned not later than 9 p.m., there be an assurance, in the interest of the orderly operation of business today, that it would not be taken before 6.30 p.m. Alternatively, I seek confirmation from the Leader to that effect. I am happy to be here until 9 p.m., but it is a matter for Members. As I say, I am conscious that it is our prerogative, as Senators, to agree the Order of Business.
By way of clarification and to try to be helpful, No. 4, Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018, cannot be taken before 6.30 p.m.
What is the purpose of the amendment? I do not understand its purpose.
No. 5 is to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4 and adjourned not later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded. I am happy, if I receive that assurance. That is all I need.
I do not understand what the Senator is trying to propose.
In essence, the Senator is saying, if I am getting this right in my ceann, that the Leader will adhere to the proposal before us.
The proposal in the Order of Business is quite clear.
I think so.
It is very clear.
There is no amendment as such, if the Leader sticks to the-----
It is to seek clarification.
It is to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4.
What if it is early?
The Senator might do me the courtesy of listening for one second. If No. 4 finishes early, No. 5 runs into it.
That is the point I am making.
We have always done that.
On a point of order-----
At this stage, I want to proceed. The Senator has made a suggestion which the Leader can accommodate and explain in his response.
I welcome the positive news for the tourism sector in the figures published by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, which show that there was a record number of tourists to the country last year. There were approximately 10.6 million visitors, with significant increases from the North American market. This is important because tourism is a critical part of the economy. With this in mind, I ask that we invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to the House, particularly to debate how we might keep the momentum going but also to debate the potential ramifications and proposals to curtail the operation of Airbnb. It is not an issue that we debate often. I believe Airbnb has played a significant role in encouraging tourists to come to the country and making accommodation available. There is a need for a full debate on the matter.
Obviously, Brexit is of grave concern, as is the potential further fall in the value of sterling arising from it and the spending power of visitors from the British market in coming here. I note that the increase in number of visitors from Britain this year was only 1%. It was one of the lowest growth figures for tourism, which is disappointing. The most important element, which I welcome, is the progress made and the level of growth in the tourism sector.
There are rural areas which are underdeveloped and have considerable tourism potential. The challenge for Tourism Ireland and the different agencies given the responsibility to develop tourism is to go to areas such as north Mayo which has considerable potential on the Wild Atlantic Way. Once one hits Westport, one is not as inclined to travel north of it. The Minister must ensure there is proper promotion of these areas that need a boost and put in proper tourism infrastructure, by which I mean tourist information offices. For example, in Ballina the tourist office is run on a shoestring and needs further support to be run in the professional manner necessary to support the region. These are pertinent issues because tourism is often one of the few alternatives for employment in rural areas. I ask the Leader to look at this as something with which we might deal in early course with the Minister.
As this is strike day, I am hardly going to talk about anything else. This morning I have been around in the cold but crisp sunshine to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, St. James's Hospital, both the Rialto entrance and James's Street entrance, and the Coombe hospital on Cork Street. I visited all three and plan to visit some more later.
I think back to 20 years ago. In 1999 I was part of a strike committee, the national nurses strike committee. It took us nine days and nine nights in a row out on the picket line to get the Government to eventually sit down and talk, to realise it needed to be proactive, to understand and work out how to retain, recruit and keep nurses in hospitals looking after the patients. This is the first day of the strike and there are many more planned. I hope it will not take as long - nine days and nine nights - for the Minister and the Department to come to their senses and sit down with nurses. The spirits are high. The public is behind them, despite the spin from Fine Gael and the fourth estate. Listening to RTÉ's Marian Finucane on Sunday and the different radio shows, it was the same old same old, but the public is 82% supportive in the latest poll. Certainly, there was support this morning, with neighbours coming out with tea and buns for the nurses on the picket lines. I hope there will be a resolution of this strike quicker than in 1999.
Like many others, I visited the picket lines this morning in support of the nurses and midwives at Holles Street Hospital. The reason for the striking level of public support for the strikers is people understand this is not simply an issue for some workers but about decent standards and safety for the nurses, front-line staff and patients. It is about ensuring the lifeblood of the health system - nurses - are able and supported to work in decent conditions. That is something that is important for every citizen. People recognise and are in solidarity with the nurses for that reason.
It is unfortunate that we have seen Brexit being thrown up as a reason for not taking action. We should note that it will not be acceptable to use this as the card repeatedly in areas of action. Unless there is a moratorium on increases in the cost of living, rent and the considerable costs nurses carry to live and work in towns and cities, one cannot ask them to continue to live on wages and work in conditions that are inadequate. The UK has been an issue in nursing because we have lost so many nurses to it. We have lost nurses to places all over the world because we are not addressing the decency of conditions they need. I urge the Government to take an active and creative role in seeking solutions and engaging.
In fact, I wish engagement had been intensified in the past month. I go further and remind the Government that just a few weeks ago we commemorated the democratic programme of the First Dáil. We talked about the role of the Government in seeking co-operation from the governments of all other countries to determine standards of social and industrial legislation which consistently improves. We can engage with other countries such as Hungary. I note that another great advocate for workers' rights, Luke Kelly, is being celebrated today by the city of Dublin with the unveiling of two statues. He sang "School Days Over", "Springhill Mine Disaster" and "Joe Hill" and it is wonderful to see him being marked, in particular, in the year after his brother, another wonderful workers' activist, Mr. Jimmy Kelly, a great personal friend of mine and many others, passed away. It is a strong reminder of where people from the ground up stand on workers' rights. I commend Luke Kelly, as I commend the strikers.
I have waited to the end to hear all of the contributions, but it is interesting to note that not one contributor outlined from where the €300 million would come. What service do they want the Government to cut?
Take it from the budget for the national children's hospital. There is an extra €1 billion available.
The Government does not pay anyone. It is the taxpayer who pays and there is only a certain amount of money that comes in in taxation. I have met nurses who have returned from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA and their biggest complaints about pay and conditions here fall under three headings, one of which is the level of taxation. One can earn up to £50,000 in the United Kingdom before reaching the higher tax rate. In Ireland the figure is €35,500. The second issue they raise is non-recognition of further education, one the Department and the HSE must tackle immediately. It is a key issue to be addressed in the context of allowances and time allowed. The third issue is overtime and hours owing, but it is not being followed through. In other words, it is not about overtime but about being given an allowance for hours owing, something which is not taken into account and about which a lot of nurses are very unhappy. Another issue is the huge deficiency in managerial skills in hospitals. I refer to the management of issues as they arise. One example I have come across in the past week or two involves nurses who have been threatened within emergency departments, with no sufficient action taken to provide adequate security for them. The people who cause these difficulties are attending to receive care or are the individuals who accompany them. They also have a responsibility. If we want people to work in front-line services, we must provide adequate security for them. I criticise management for failing to act appropriately in some areas. While there are issues which must be dealt with, there is also the issue of how it will be paid for. The last thing we need is to see a recurrence of what happened in the years between 2000 and 2008 when there were consistent increases in salaries and wages which meant that when the downturn came, we were unable to manage. If one allows this problem to fester, it will spread across the entire public sector. It is something that needs to be dealt with.
I highlight the global health crisis of septicaemia and sepsis which affects approximately 30 million people every year across the world and kills 9 million. In Ireland 3,000 people die from sepsis each year. It claims more lives than heart attack, breast cancer or lung cancer. It can kill a person within 12 hours, as the parents of Sean Hughes from Finglas, Joe and Karen, know all about. Sean was only 15 years old when he suddenly lost consciousness while watching television with his mother and recovering from a simple flu-like illness. Despite the best efforts of his father and paramedics to resuscitate him, he died later in Temple Street Hospital. His parents are calling for a nationwide awareness campaign to highlight the signs and symptoms of sepsis. I support them and hope I will get the support of the House in that regard also.
Sean’s parents want the HSE and health professionals to formulate new protocols for the diagnosis of sepsis and the procedures used because it is important to pick up and treat this killer disease as soon as possible. It is being missed and people are dying unnecessarily. Karen and Joe did not know what sepsis was and are not alone. According to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, it is estimated that only 28% of Irish people have an accurate understanding of what sepsis is. When one presents at an outpatients department or a GP’s surgery, one often sees literature on public information campaigns such as the campaign on meningitis and the FAST campaign on the signs and symptoms of stroke. There is a need for a similar campaign to educate people about sepsis. A similar check list must be created to the ones featured in other campaigns. Sepsis can occur quickly. While one’s immune system normally fights infection, it sometimes fails and people experience multi-organ failure and die as a result of sepsis. However, if it is diagnosed early, it can be treated easily with antibiotics. Anyone, however young and healthy, is at risk of dying from sepsis.
World Sepsis Day is 13 September. It is time to treat this issue with the seriousness it demands. We must ensure people are aware of what sepsis is, understand the risk factors and know how to combat it. By 13 September every household in the country should have been made aware of a disease which kills more Irish people than heart attack, breast cancer and lung cancer. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the issue in the near future.
This morning I speak with frustration. It is a beautiful morning in Dublin, but there was a dusting of snow in Cork, as a result of which we experienced two and a half hour delays to get into the city from Bandon and Kinsale. Where is the winter maintenance plan? There was a major snow event last year, from which it seems we learned nothing. We are moving from January into February and may now be too late. However, we need the Minister with responsibility for local government to attend the House to explain what the priorities are. A dusting of snow in Cork has resulted in school closures and two and a half hour delays on major infrastructure in entering Cork city from Carrs Hill and Bandon, which makes no logical sense in the environment and society we are trying to build. I do not know how it could have happened again and where the winter plan went. Where is the plan for basic things like gritting and the salting of roads? It must be nationally led and a significant plan must be put in place. I am horrified by what I have heard has happened in Cork in the past few hours. The Leader is from that part of the world and knows what the issues are. He is very aware of the morning people have had there. We must have a real debate next week with the Minister with responsibility for local government on what he plans to do about this issue in the next few weeks. If we do not, the country will grind to a halt if there is another fall of snow. It is beyond belief. Have we learned anything in the past 12 months? There will be a cold snap in the next few days and action is needed. We need to see exactly what is planned. What we saw this morning was a complete and unbelievable shambles. One could not have imagined that it would take people from Carrigaline and Kinsale two and a half hours to get into Cork city. This is fairyland stuff and one has to wonder what kind of society we are building. The Minister with responsibility for local government must attend the House to outline what we learned from last year's experience and set out what he changed as a result. It just is not working.
Iarraim ar an gCeannaire cuireadh a thabhairt don Aire, an Teachta Heather Humphreys, chuig an Teach. The GDPR is becoming a major issue for small businesses in Ireland.
It is a significant cost and significant risk for them, be they sole practitioners in services, solicitors, accountants and especially doctors and medics who are dealing with patients, as well as a lot of other small businesses. We should have a conversation or a discussion about it to see what we can do to facilitate small businesses. It is not that they are trying to avoid anything, but it looks like one big brush has come from the EU across all businesses, big and small. The SME sector employs more than 1 million people in Ireland - 98% of all businesses in Ireland are small and medium-sized businesses, particularly in rural Ireland - yet again it is the SME sector that is suffering significantly from this bureaucratic requirement in compliance with the GDPR. The compliance requirements on businesses that employ two, three, four or five people are very similar to those placed on large multinationals.
I send my condolences to the people of County Donegal and the families of the four young lads who were tragically killed in a car accident this week. I cannot imagine the devastation and the heartbreak the families are going through.
I show my support for the nurses who are on strike today. Nurses are amazing. The work they do is beyond the beyonds. They are absolutely amazing. I will never forget when I brought my sister to the emergency department last year. It was like a war zone and I will never forget what I saw there. It really struck me, in my heart and soul, the actual level of trauma with which the nurses were dealing. They were almost in trauma themselves. At one point I asked a nurse to help my sister and the nurse could hardly hear me owing to distress and tiredness. I express my solidarity with and support for the nurses who are on strike today. I really hope the Government will sit down, listen and hear them and at last give them the respect they deserve.
I celebrate Luke Kelly, a wonderful man and one of Ireland's finest performers. It is wonderful to see him being celebrated at last. I congratulate his family and all those involved. I am aware that there will be celebrations tonight in Liberty Hall. I cannot make them, but there will be a fantastic number of great supporters there singing his songs in memory of him. It is a great day. We remember Luke Kelly today.
We all endorse what the Senator has said.
Senator Mulherin has a point about Airbnb and Booking.com. I know first hand from my own town of Boyle where we do not have a hotel that over the winter and the summer many people stay in farmhouses and houses throughout the country. With all of the new apps and modern technology such as Google Maps, they are finding their way to country lanes. This is actually helping the tourism industry and many of the restaurants in the region and areas that do not have huge tourism infrastructure. While Airbnb is causing some issues in Dublin, it has also helped the tourism industry in Dublin and especially throughout the country where we do not have that infrastructure. The amount of people coming to stay in these areas is absolutely magnificent.
Last night 370 Members of Parliament at Westminster voted to remove the backstop and replace it with we do not know what. It is extremely difficult and embarrassing and looks as though the United Kingdom is now negotiating with itself. This is all about uniting the Conservative Party. It is not about the United Kingdom, the EU and certainly not about the island of Ireland. The backstop in the withdrawal agreement was negotiated for two and half years and an invention of the United Kingdom negotiation team as part of the UK red lines. As David McWilliams quoted recently, it is less "Britannia rules the waves" and more like "Britannia waives the rules". In a rules-based democracy this is very dangerous. I am aware that in the House of Commons and the House of Lords the vast majority of MPs and Lords are decent, honourable people who understand what is happening. It is now time for politicians to stand up and be counted. We are moving into a very difficult and dangerous phase in the next few weeks.
The situation in Venezuela is going from bad to worse. The leader of that Parliament has had his bank accounts frozen and been banned from foreign travel. We are seeing Mr. Maduro using the heavy hand to shore up his highly discredited regime. Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis which is endangering the lives of Venezuelans owing to severe food and medical shortages, as we know. Some 61% of the people in the country are living in extreme poverty. Owing to the massive shortages of necessary medicines, it is medical hell for anybody with a severe medical condition.
Last week I met representatives of the Venezuelan community in Ireland who gathered outside Leinster House. They want the Government to take a particular interest in their country's crisis and the challenges facing their people at home and abroad. Some 3 million people have emigrated from Venezuela since 2014. The situation impacts not just on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade's brief but also on the Minister for Justice and Equality's brief. The Venezuelan people in Ireland want the Government to recognise that Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis that is endangering the lives of Venezuelans owing to severe food and medical shortages. They want to see the Government implement the UNHCR guidance notes on the outflow of Venezuelans. That is where the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, comes in with reference to the particular needs of Venezuelans in Ireland due to the crisis in their country and their recognition and status within the country. They also want the Government to recognise Juan Guaidó, the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as the new and legitimate interim president, pending elections. They wonder what the hell Sinn Féin was doing in sending two members to be present at the inauguration of this bizarre person who has been running his country into the ground in the most bizarre ways. On this occasion it would be good if Ministers spoke for Ireland and we did not just wait for the EU to speak for Ireland. I would be very grateful to the Leader if we could receive some response from the Government in early course to this emerging and developing crisis.
I welcome and acknowledge Deputy Willie O'Dea and his guests in the Visitors Gallery. The Deputy is always welcome in this Chamber. It is nice to see the Lower House acknowledge and pay homage to the Upper House.
I too welcome Deputy O'Dea. If any of his guests is from south-east Clare, they are especially welcome.
There will be no canvassing.
I concur with Senator Mullen. Like many of us, last night I watched the Brexit deliberations on the BBC. In the middle of the shemozzle about Brexit, Orla Guerin - an Irish person and a wonderful journalist - was in Venezuela reporting on the campaign. The cameras showed the shops with absolutely no food and people, human beings, going through bins to try to extract something to eat. Ms Guerin interviewed a young family, comprising a single mother and six children who were starving. Anywhere the Government can intervene to try to help in that situation would be most welcome.
We had a very interesting day in the Seanad yesterday when the president of the GAA came to the Chamber. It was a great initiative. I made a proposal to have an all-party friendship group for Gaelic games. I plan on advancing this proposal and will email all Members next week seeking expressions of interest if they want to be part of the group. We will organise some meeting towards the end of February. It is certainly worth noting.
On Brexit and the effect on tourism, I commend those involved in the Cliffs of Moher visitor experience on an initiative yesterday that any new service level agreement with coach companies include a rule about going on to another fee-paying destination in County Clare, to be coupled with proof of an overnight stay. Any future coach operator will not receive a licence to drop off and pick up at the Cliffs of Moher unless it can demonstrate that its guests have stayed a night in County Clare and visited another fee-paying attraction.
That is what I call joined-up thinking. That is what I call using a gold-plated tourism facility to support silver-plated and other tourism facilities in the region. That is where a giant of a facility can help smaller facilities and sustain jobs, particularly in the tourism industry, especially given the imminent threat of Brexit to that industry.
I also welcome Deputy O'Dea and his visitors to the Gallery. I hope he does not come back as a Minister any time soon but he is always welcome to the Gallery. I thank the 19 Members of the House for their contributions on the Order of Business. At the outset I will begin by complimenting the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the Seanad and the Houses of the Oireachtas on the organisation of the visit of an t-uachtarán, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. It was a wonderful occasion that showcased the work of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael but also highlighted the importance of allowing the Upper House to invite people of distinction to make an address. I commend all those involved on their involvement in the organisation of yesterday's event.
Ten Senators, including Senators Ardagh, Conway-Walsh, Nash, Byrne, Murnane O'Connor, Devine, Higgins, Colm Burke and Black, raised the issue of today's nurses' strike. On my own behalf and that of the Government, I will say we all respect and value the nurses who work in hospitals. They do a very difficult job, in many cases in very trying situations, in a very specialised and pressurised field. Significant recruitment has been undertaken in recent years, to the tune of 3,000 new recruits to the nursing profession. Nobody on this side of the House is contesting the value of the nursing profession and its importance in the delivery of a safe health system. However, the Government has a public sector agreement, to which the INMO signed up and agreed. There has been significant pay restoration for many public sector workers. If we breach the public sector pay deal for one organisation, there will be a knock-on effect. The Members opposite me will come in here every day the House sits looking for extra money for different areas and we will have a free-for-all. We benefit from collective pay bargaining. We respect the nurses and their right to go on strike. I have no issue with that whatsoever, but it is important to recognise that the cost implication would be €300 million. As the Taoiseach said yesterday, it is about being fair to all other public sector workers and patients and affordability.
On my own behalf and, as the Leader of the House, on behalf of Government, I will say it is imperative and important that we resolve this issue. As Senator Colm Burke stated articulately in his contribution, there are significant points that need to be addressed with regard to recognising degree qualifications, taxation, posts of responsibility and so on. That can be done. It is disappointing on one level that the machinery of the State opted out on Tuesday evening when it has a role to play in the resolution of this matter.
I hope the issue will be resolved. It needs to be resolved. Everybody wants to be and is supportive of nurses. The capacity for empathy shown by one side of the House this morning is shared across the House. We are in government. Members of the Fianna Fáil Party were in government for long enough. Sinn Féin has not yet reached those dizzying heights here.
It will not be long.
Sinn Féin walked out of government in the North and has not been back in two years.
We walked out of government in the North in seeking marriage equality and language equality for citizens. We did what we had to do.
There is actually a great opportunity in the North to be in government.
It is a pity the vacuum in leadership in the North has not been filled.
By whom should it be filled?
That is a job for Sinn Féin to do.
It is. The Leader can join his mates down in-----
Westminster could do with the likes of Sinn Féin.
Níor chuala mé an Seanadóir Mullen.
We will return to the picket line and leave these matters for another day. The issue of the nurses strike should not be overshadowed.
The issue needs to be addressed. All of us stand with nurses in wanting the dispute to be resolved and in recognising and putting a value on the work they do. I hope this can be done in the short term because, as Senator Devine said, we do not want to go back to the days when Fianna Fáil was in power and we had nine days of disputes.
We also had nine nights.
Senator Ardagh made a point about anti-social behaviour and drug dealing in the city. It is a matter of huge concern. I highlight for the Senator that her concerns might be better articulated to the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, who has responsibility for drugs and the local drugs task forces and to the Minister for Justice and Equality through a Commencement matter. The local joint policing committee could also pursue the issue. We will have the Minister come to the House in due course to discuss the Senator's point.
A number of Members of the House, including Senators Ardagh, Marie-Louise O'Donnell, Nash, Feighan and Conway, raised the issue of Brexit. It is absolutely extraordinary that last night the UK House of Commons again voted to renege on a commitment made by the UK's Prime Minister. As a country and Government, we had an agreement which had been signed up to by the UK Government. Mrs. Theresa May advocated for the need for the backstop. We can read her speeches on the backstop. It is only in recent days that she seems to have changed her mind in order to facilitate and appease some of her own colleagues in the Tory Party. It is disappointing that she has done so. Ireland has been consistent in its position on protecting the interests of the country on an all-island basis. To see the Prime Minister vote against her own deal is disappointing. We have not seen an alternative from the British Government. We need to see it. I was heartened by the remarks of Donald Tusk, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste last night and today. They said our position was not going to change. There is no such thing as a good outcome to Brexit. It is now incumbent on the European Union to stand with Ireland, but it is equally important that the British Government put forward an alternative, as it has not done to date. Doing this deal has taken two years. It is extraordinary. The best thing we can do now is to stand with the Minister, Deputy Coveney; the Minster of State, Deputy McEntee; the Taoiseach; and the European Union in working to ensure a resolution. We need a resolution of the issue of the backstop.
Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell raised the very important issue of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015. I will be happy to take up the matter of the commencement of sections 3 and 8 with the Department. The points the Senator made are very relevant.
Senator Kelleher raised two very important matters regarding the Traveller community. We were all appalled by the tragedy that took place in Carrickmines. We remember those families who are still in mourning today. All members of local authorities and all of us, as public representatives, should read the report on the inquest in Carrickmines because it has very far-reaching implications. We have a responsibility and duty, as elected public representatives, to represent all people, not just some. We should look at the recommendations related to new fire safety guidelines, fire safety champions and the positioning of caravans. We should not just cast it aside because of some people's perceptions of the Traveller community. Far from it; we should be absolutely adamant in ensuring the memorial we erect as a legacy arising from the tragedy is that we never have another Carrickmines. These are human beings and citizens of the country who deserve respect and who deserve to have and should have the arms of local government and the Government around them. I will be happy to have the Minister come to the House in that regard. On the matter of the report of the European Committee of Social Rights, I do not have the information about which the Senator spoke, but I would be very happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy English, come to the House to discuss the matter.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the matter of rogue traders and crime. I concur with her in respect of rogue traders. There seems to be an epidemic of rogue traders throughout the country. I am a member of the joint policing committees of Cork city and Cork county. We have had reports on the issue. It is important that people be vigilant.
Equally, it is important to note that the Government is committed to Garda recruitment and has started a process in that regard. The programme for Government includes a commitment to have 15,000 gardaí by 2021. Last year the Minister for Justice and Equality put in place a process to recruit 800 new gardaí. The Garda College in Templemore has been reopened; resources have been increased to the tune of €600 million; while the overtime budget has been increased to €95 million. The Government is committed to implementing the report on the future of policing. However, I take Senator Conway-Walsh’s point and hope there is greater on-the-beat activity by An Garda Síochána. I know that in Cork there is a commitment to community policing, with the recruitment of more community gardaí. While the Government is committed to doing this, it is important that it be recognised that, as citizens, we have a responsibility to report crime and be vigilant. I know of a number of people who have been the victims of rogue traders, which is both distressing and disturbing. I will take the matter to the Minister and have him come to the House to discuss it.
Senator Murnane O’Connor raised the issue of a safer Internet day. I hope all Members can play a role in making cyberspace safer and educating people on the issue. On Monday I attended the launch of the online bystander intervention by Dr. Louise Crowley at University College Cork. It aims to educate students on sexual and domestic violence prevention, while reducing its prevalence, with unwanted sexual attention. We all have a role to play in that regard, but information and education are also important. I will endeavour to arrange the debate in the coming weeks.
I join Senator Byrne in congratulating Regeneron on its investment in Limerick and the mid-west. The new jobs will be welcomed in the area. I thank all those involved in making this commitment.
Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the timing of items included in the Order of Business. From my understanding of the Order of Business today, the debate on No. 4 cannot start until 6.30 p.m. Accordingly, if No. 5 is to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4, it cannot be taken before 6.30 p.m. Senator Boyhan made the point that it was his prerogative to oppose the Order of Business. However, the job of Members is to debate and pass legislation. Unless we really want to do so, we cannot keep deferring the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill because it is a Member’s prerogative to do so. I saw one anonymous quote from a Senator that it would be a fight to the death. That does not help. Every week I come into the House in a spirit of co-operation and endeavour to work with all Members. However, it is our job to pass legislation. As Senator Conway-Walsh correctly said, some of the behaviour in dealing with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill leaves much to be desired. It is a poor reflection on this Chamber for those in wider society who are watching or listening to the debate and does not help our cause. We can disagree on many other points of legislation. Senator Mullen and I have often disagreed on many issues, but we do not hold up the business of the House. We engage in a proper process, but that is not happening with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and it is disappointing to see the behaviour of some Members in dealing with it. We should reflect on our role and the way we do our business. At one level, Members do not want to use the guillotine or sit late. When do they want to debate the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill? Will we absent ourselves because a Member cannot be here? The Minister was available this week. If I inconvenienced Members, I apologise. However, it is my prerogative to change the Order of Business.
As I said yesterday, the only legislation opposed on the Order of Business was the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. All other amendments to the proposed schedule were agreed to. Some Members made requests to have Ministers attend the House and we will endeavour to facilitate them. I am embarrassed about Senator Humphreys’ requests, about which I have spoken to him. However, I honour commitments insofar as I can. If I cannot do so, I tell the Senator concerned. Our job is to debate legislation and we should do so. If we oppose a Bill, that is fine. However, we cannot hold it up indeterminably. In a previous Seanad the Cathaoirleach had the pleasure of debating the Harbours Bill, but he did not keep the debate going until the end of days. Instead, he let it go after a while. We need to get real about how we do our business. If Senator Boyhan has a difficulty with the times at which business is taken, he can talk to me about it and I will endeavour to work on it. I apologise if Members felt I discommoded them yesterday. However, I have an obligation on behalf of the Government to have legislation debated, passed and enacted. I will always work in a spirit of co-operation. Sometimes, however, we enter a cul-de-sac and there is no reciprocation.
Senators Mulherin and Feighan raised the important issue of tourism. I congratulate all those involved in doubling the number of visitors from North America in the past five years. Tourist numbers have broken the 10 million barrier for the first time. What is most welcome is the increase in business from North America, while European tourist figures are up by 9.5%. What is disappointing and a source of concern is that British visitor numbers increased by only 1%. It is important to recognise that the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, is willing to debate the matter in the House.
I join Senators Higgins and Black in welcoming the celebration of Luke Kelly’s life. I hope it will be a wonderful day.
Senator Swanick raised the important matter of sepsis. I agree with him on the need for an information campaign. I extend my sympathy to the families of those who died from sepsis to whom the Senator referred.
Senator Lombard referred to delays in Cork due to snow. I know that on Carrs Hill and Maryborough Hill there were unacceptable delays of two and a half hours for commuters. I have been told by Cork County Council that at 8 p.m. last night and 4 a.m. today its staff were gritting the main routes. Met Éireann issued a yellow warning alert for the Cork area. However, it is disappointing to hear that commuters were stuck in cars for two and a half hours. It is unacceptable that they were delayed for so long, given that the county council was forewarned.
Senator Ó Céidigh referred to the cost implications of the GDPR for small businesses. In some cases, it has added extraordinary costs for businesses. I will be happy for the Minister responsible to come to the House to discuss the matter.
Senator Mullen referred to the discredited regime in Venezuela. I feel like asking Senator Conway-Walsh to take this part of the Order of Business, given her close ties to Venezuela.
I have never been to Venezuela. However, I believe in the right of countries not to have outside interference in their own affairs.
The Senator had party colleagues there recently and might be able to speak for them.
We should not be interfering.
The point Senator Mullen made was about the humanitarian crisis and the need for this country to show leadership in that regard.
We could have a debate about oil and gas too.
To receive a more expeditious answer, it might be more appropriate to raise the matter in the Commencement debate.
Senator Conway made an important point about his proposal for an all-party friendship group for Gaelic games. I hope, however, that the friendship group will not be looking for tickets. As the Oireachtas has strong links with the GAA, I hope we can advance the Senator’s proposal.