The Order of Business is No. 1, Hallmarking (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Second Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to adjourn 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 to adjourn not later than 2.30 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each, and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply to the debate on Second Stage, and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; No. 3, statements on housing to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to 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 no less than eight minutes to reply to the debate; motion 83(13), Private Members' business, 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.; No. 5, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (Resumed), to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4 and to be 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. These are hardworking nurses who have braved the cold weather to fight for better pay and conditions. The facts that are 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 that nurses receive half the pay.
Yes, because I have spoken to nurses who have said that they are paid 50% less than their colleagues who work in Australia yet they have the exact same qualifications. Yes, 50% less is half of the pay. Irish nurses are, in some instances, 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 that we currently employ in our 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 the woman 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 Irish nurses being on strike. It is not helpful at all.
The second issue I wish to raise relates 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 any deterrent whatsoever. I ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to look at this matter. This is a tourist area containing various distilleries, Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse, and people are openly dealing drugs on the street, so it is 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 will impact very negatively on the Irish 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 regard to our preparedness. I have a small business and have had no interaction with the Government in terms of help, support and how it will affect us, and neither has the business community in Crumlin. I am a solicitor and I can say that 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 amount of 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 I 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 the 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 Irish 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. 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 this. The public is getting very tired of it.
I wish to ask the Leader about the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act. I have reached the age of an elder even though I know I look 37. I am very conscious of how we treat our elders. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act has not been commenced and there is no reason sections 3 and 8 involving advanced healthcare directives should not be commenced. I would like very much to see that happen because they give effect to the requirements of common law. I know other Senators have worked on this and know the intricacies of this, 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 is not the model that should be the end assessment. A person's basic human rights are involved here. 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 regarding advanced healthcare directives are at the final stage. However, there seems to be a lack of drive in the Government and Departments. It is now three times since I stood here and spoke for it.
A breach of rights is occurring so I would like some explanation of this. I know there are a lot of problems, but as we age, it involves people's rights. People are being put into nursing homes who do not want to be there. They have rights in those 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 the elders in Ireland and how we treat them and I 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 is very important. What was interesting was that I saw today how many carers and nurses who deal with the elderly were outside the gates of facilities on Roebuck Road and in other areas where homes operate, so could we please have this 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.
I wish to raise two recent reports with major significance for the Traveller community. The first is 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 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 inquest 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 families 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 since 2016 and no monitoring report of 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 that is 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 and I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to outline the measures that are being put in place to ensure that tragedies like Carrickmines never happen again.
I also ask that the Leader invite the Minister to respond to a European Committee of Social Rights report that was also published last week. The report found that Ireland 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 light of both reports, will the Leader ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to give us a full update of the Government's responses to the Carrickmines fire report, the European Committee of Social Rights 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 this State and the thousands of patients and vulnerable people 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 like Castlebar and Ballina in my home county of Mayo. We must remember that many of these patients have waited months and years for these operations, procedures and appointments. I know the nurses on the picket lines today are really mindful of this.
I call on the Government to intervene and solve this crisis so 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 get 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 and 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 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 our regional towns and villages? It is unacceptable that we are spending so much time on that Bill while leaving businesses that are already struggling and individuals who are being threatened day in and day out vulnerable. 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 that 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 that 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 that 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 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 that will. 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 in Westminster last night reminded us of the existential importance of the retention of the backstop in the British withdrawal agreement from Europe. 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 constituents 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 backstop's retention.
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 rise to 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 for both sides to come together and 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 the 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 to 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 our children from a world in which nothing is sacred anymore.
I call for a debate on how to adjust our 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 happened and we need to address the issue. We need to have this conversation on 5 February and to ensure that this can never happen again.
I will bring this up 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 out today's proposed Order of Business. I acknowledge and put on the record 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. 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 that 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 got 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), to be taken at the conclusion of No. 4 and to be adjourned no later than 9 p.m., there be an assurance, in the interest of the orderly operations of 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 the Members. As I say, I am conscious 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 to be adjourned no later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded. I am happy, if I get 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 into my ceann, that the Leader will adhere to the proposal that is 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 clarification.
It is to be taken on the conclusion of No. 4.
What if that is early?
The Senator might do me the courtesy to listen for a second. If No. 4 finishes, then 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 now call on Senator Mulherin.
I welcome the positive news for the tourism sector in the figures published by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, which show there being a record number of tourists to this country last year. There were approximately 10.6 million visitors, with significant increases in 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 in, particularly to debate how we might keep the momentum going but to debate the potential ramifications and proposals to curtail the operation of Airbnb. It is not an area that we debate often. I believe Airbnb has played a significant role in encouraging tourists to come into the country and making accommodation available and there needs to be a full debate about that.
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 the British market to come here. I note that the increase in visitors from Britain this year was only 1%. It was one of the lowest growth areas for tourism, which is disappointing. The most important element, which I welcome, is the progress and the 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 that are given the responsibility of developing tourism, is to go to the 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 that. The Minister must ensure that there is proper promotion given to these areas that need a boost and put in proper tourism infrastructure, by which I mean tourist information offices. For example, in Ballina, the tourism office is run on a shoestring and needs further support to 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 that we might deal with in early course and have the Minister in.
As today is strike day, I am hardly going to get up and 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 on Cork Street. I visited all three of them and plan to visit some more later on.
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 the hospitals looking after the patients.
Today is the first day of the strike. There are many more planned. I hope it does 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 are behind them, despite the spin from Fine Gael and from the fourth estate. Listening to RTÉ's Marian Finucane on Sunday and the different radio shows, they get on 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 is a resolution of this 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 striking level of public support for the strikers is because people understand this is not simply an issue for some workers but is an issue about decent standards and safety for the nurses and front-line staff and for patients. It is about ensuring that the lifeblood of the health system, which nurses are, 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 as a reason for not taking action. We should note now it will not be acceptable to use this as the card repeatedly in areas of action. Unless there is a moratorium on the cost of living, on rent and on the considerable costs that nurses carry to live and work in our towns and cities, one cannot ask them to continue to live on wages and work in conditions that are inadequate. Indeed, the UK has been an issue in nursing because we have lost so many nurses there. We have lost nurses to all places 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, t 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 a significant risk for them be they sole practitioners in services, solicitors, accountants and especially doctors and medics who are dealing with patients, and also a lot of other small businesses. We should have a conversation or a discussion around that 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 - and yet again it is the SME sector that is suffering significantly from this bureaucratic requirement with regard to compliance with all of the GDPR. The compliance requirements for businesses that employ two, three, four or five people are very similar to those required of large multinationals.
I send my condolences to the people of 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 that the families are going through.
I want to show my support for the nurses who are on strike today. Nurses are amazing. The work they do is beyond beyond. They are absolutely amazing people. 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 the nurses were dealing with. They were almost in trauma themselves. At one point I asked a nurse to help my sister and the nurse could hardly hear me due to the distress and tiredness she was working under. I send my solidarity and support to the nurses 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 want to celebrate Luke Kelly, a wonderful man and one of Ireland's finest performers. It is wonderful to see that he is being celebrated at last. I congratulate his family today and all those involved. I am aware there will be celebrations tonight in Liberty Hall. I cannot make it but there will be a fantastic number of great supporters there singing his songs in memory of him. It is a great day and we remember Luke Kelly today. Go raibh míle maith agat.
We would all endorse that.
Senator Mulherin has a point about Airbnb and Booking.com. I know first hand from my own town in Boyle, where we do not have a hotel, that over the winter and the summer many people stay in farmhouses and houses around the country. With all of these new apps and modern technology such as Google Maps, they are finding their way to country lanes and this is actually helping the tourism industry and many of the restaurants in the region and in 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 around the country where we do not have that infrastructure. The amount of people coming to stay in those areas is absolutely magnificent.
Last night 370 Members of Parliament in Westminster voted to remove the backstop and replace it with we do not know what. It is extremely difficult and embarrassing and it 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, it is not about the EU and it certainly is not about the island of Ireland. The backstop in the withdrawal agreement was negotiated for two and half years and the backstop was 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 going 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 he has been banned from foreign travel. We are seeing Mr. Maduro putting on the heavy hand to shore up his highly discredited regime. Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis and it is endangering the lives of Venezuelans due to severe food and medical shortages as we know. Some 61% of the people in that country are living in extreme poverty. Due to the massive shortages of necessary medicines it is medical hell for anybody with a severe medical condition.
Last week I met with representatives of the Venezuelan community in Ireland who gathered outside the Dáil. They want the Government to take a particular interest in their country's crisis and in the challenges facing their people at home and abroad. Some 3 million people have emigrated from Venezuela since 2014. This 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 due to severe food and medical shortages. They want to see our Government implement the UNHCR guidance notes on the outflow of Venezuelans. This is where the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, comes in with regard to the particular needs of Venezuelans in Ireland due to the crisis in their country and with regard to the 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 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 of ways. On this occasion it would be good if our Ministers spoke for Ireland and that we did not just wait for the EU to speak for Ireland. I would be very grateful to the Leader if we could have some response from the Government to this emerging and developing crisis in early course.
I welcome and acknowledge Deputy Willie O'Dea and his guests in the Gallery. The Deputy is always welcome in this Chamber and 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 are 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 all 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 of six children and the children were starving. Anywhere that the Government can intervene to try to help 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 for an all-party friendship group in Gaelic games. I plan on advancing this and I will email all Members next week for expressions of interest if they want to be part of that group. We will organise some sort of a meeting towards the end of February. That is certainly worth noting.
On Brexit and the effect on tourism, I commend the Cliffs of Moher visitor experience for an initiative yesterday that any new service level agreements with coach companies will include a rule on going to another fee-paying destination in County Clare, coupled with proof of an overnight stay. Any future coach operators will not get a licence to drop off and pick up at the Cliffs of Moher unless they can demonstrate that their 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 to the Order of Business. At the outset I will begin by complimenting the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the Seanad and of the Houses of the Oireachtas on the organisation of the visit of uachtarán an Chumann Lúthchleas Gael. It was a wonderful occasion that showcased the work of an Cumann Lúthchleas Gael but also highlighted the importance of allowing the Upper House to invite people of distinction in to make an address. I commend all 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 behalf of the Government and on my own behalf, I will say that we all respect and value the nurses who work in our 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 to the delivery of a safe health system. However, the Government has a public sector agreement to which the INMO signed up and agreed. Significant pay restoration has been given to 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 is €300 million. As the Taoiseach said yesterday, it is about being fair to all other public sector workers, being fair to patients, and affordability.
On my own behalf and, as the Leader of the House, on behalf of Government, I will say that it is imperative and important that we resolve this issue. As Senator Colm Burke stated very articulately in his contribution, there are significant points that need to be addressed with regard to recognising degree qualifications, taxation, and recognising 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 this will be resolved. It needs to be resolved. Everybody wants to be, and is, supportive of the 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 for marriage equality and language equality for our 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 should not be overshadowed.
The issue needs to be addressed. All of us stand with the nurses in wanting this dispute resolved and in recognising and putting a value on the work they do. I hope that 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 regarding anti-social behaviour and drug dealing in the city. It is a matter of huge concern. I highlight to the Senator that her concerns might be better articulated to the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, who has responsibility for drugs and 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 a government, we had an agreement which had been signed up to by the UK Government. 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 our position in respect of protecting the interests of our 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 that our position is 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 puts 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 to 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 Travelling community. We were all appalled at 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 of the inquest in Carrickmines because it has very far-reaching implications. We have a responsibility and a duty, as elected public representatives, to represent all people, not just some. We should look at the recommendations around 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 Travelling community. Far from it; we should be absolutely adamant in ensuring that 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 our country who deserve respect and who deserve to have, and should have, the arms of local government and Government around them. I will be happy to have the Minister come to the House in that regard. Regarding 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 on that 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 around the country. I am a member of the joint policing committees of Cork city and Cork county. We have had reports on that issue. It is important that people are 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 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.