The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998; and No. 2, motion regarding the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, to be taken at 1.45 p.m., to be discussed together and to conclude within 85 minutes, if not previously concluded, with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given not less than six minutes to reply to the debate. We will pay tribute to our former colleague and friend, John Robb, at 12.45 p.m. for one hour.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the Leader for outlining the business for today. I raise an issue raised a number of times. However, it is important we continue to highlight it on foot of a debate yesterday in the Lower House and, indeed, this being national carers' week, which commenced on 10 June. Yesterday during Leaders' Questions the Taoiseach stated that an extra €30 million is being budgeted for home help and home care this year. He said it would provide 18.3 million hours in home support, an increase of 800,000 on last year. A company called Tyco is involved and home help staff are now being paid for travelling time. That fact has only come to his attention and he is still trying to get to the bottom of the matter. It seems much of the money is being swallowed up. I think the HSE rate is €13.50 an hour while the Tyco rate is €23.50 an hour. We are not really getting a lot of value for this extra money. It would seem to be rather inefficient.
Councillor Martin Baker and Councillor Michael Clarke of Sligo County Council have highlighted the fact that some people have been given lists of private contractors that they can hire themselves if they want. It is a bit insulting that people are not given the help they require. It is important we appreciate that people who remain at home save the State enormous amounts of money by not being in institutions, whether old people's homes, respite care facilities or hospitals. Home care costs a fraction of the cost of residing in an institution.
It does not look good for the Minister for Health or the Taoiseach to say we are spending all this extra money but there is no great value being delivered, the price is twice as high, and the extra provision does not cover much more. The people who need the care are experiencing huge delays and as many as 6,000 people await home care support. I ask the Leader to bring in the Minister for Health so that he can explain to us what is going on with home care.
The Leader might ask the Minister for Health to come in, perhaps on a separate occasion, to discuss an article by Pat Leahy in The Irish Times today. He said that we are going to need another bailout of several hundred million euro before the end of the year to deal with another health overrun. It was said that a 6% increase had already been factored in for this year but it is now 9%. Effectively, that is a 50% increase on expected health spending even though a fairly substantial increase had been forecasted. The rate of the spending increase in May was a third ahead of the anticipated growth for the year. Since 2010, as many as 20 of the 23 major capital projects in health have ended up costing more than the agreed price.
It is concerning that 90% of the capital projects in health are coming in over budget. This is public money and it is important to note that moneys spent when they could have been saved cannot then be better spent somewhere else, whether in health, housing or any of the other areas on which we need to spend and invest wisely. The topic this morning is the home help service in the context of capital project overruns and the general overrun in the health budget. I would like the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to come to the House as soon as possible to debate those matters.
I raise again the issue of small and medium enterprises, SMEs. As the Leader will be aware, having been very much part of the process, as was the Leas-Chathaoirleach, the Seanad prepared a comprehensive report on SMEs, for which many thanks go to Ms Bridget Doody and her team. I am keen that we execute the findings of the report at this stage. Many people put an awful lot of work into it. The Leader is committed to the report and stated previously that he is open to having the Minister come to the House for full and proper debate on SMEs.
The report makes a couple of key requests and a number of recommendations. The main recommendation is to appoint a Minister or Minister of State with responsibility for SMEs. The current approach to SMEs is totally disjointed and we need joined-up thinking and engagement with SMEs.
Last night, I introduced the Leader to members of the board of the Entrepreneur of the Year programme who were here for a meeting with me. They are absolutely passionate about delivering and supporting the mentoring and support of small and medium sized businesses in Ireland. There is a great goodwill towards supporting SMEs.
We will make a submission to the Minister to make changes on capital gains tax to create a proper environmentally friendly investment focus for people to invest in small and medium sized businesses and encourage and increase opportunities for females to be involved in SMEs. Ireland falls below the European average in this area, although the number of women involved in SMEs here has increased significantly in the past six or seven years. That needs to be considered and appreciated.
The unintended consequences of legislation is a serious issue for SMEs. When debating legislation, we should consider the direct and indirect effects it may have on SMEs. I spoke previously about the effect the general data protection regulation, GDPR, is having on small businesses. The GDPR is damn near closing down small GP surgeries in rural areas as well as solicitors and accountancy practices. I would appreciate the Leader's support in this regard.
My colleague, Senator McDowell, spoke on Tuesday about the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018. I hope we can bring the legislation before the House in the next week or two and progress it as speedily as possible through the Dáil.
I have a motion on the Order Paper on the matter the Senator raises. Like him, I look forward to the Leader's no doubt positive response.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
I thank the Senator.
I also raise the looming crisis in home care allocations. We need an immediate debate on the issue and for the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, to hear the concerns of Senators from all areas as to how the current shortfall will impact on the most vulnerable in society. We need to make provision before this crisis worsens.
There are 6,000 waiting for home care supports. My Fianna Fáil colleague stated this does not look good for the Government. It certainly does not look good for the Government and it did not look good for Fianna Fáil when a previous Government cut 32,000 hours in County Mayo in one year alone. The issue does not look any better now, several years later.
There is a problem with recruitment and retention in home care caused by social welfare restrictions. If somebody does, say, one hour of home help in a day, all of his or her social welfare payments for that day are cut off. The Minister needs to examine arrangements that would allow home care workers to be able to provide care without being pushed further into poverty. They cannot take up this work because to do so would leave them worse off.
News that cuts lie ahead and that health spending is set to overrun again this year is causing considerable anxiety in my community and in communities across the country. It is hard to believe that yesterday we were here discussing a rainy-day fund to deal with exceptional circumstances. Surely a looming crisis in how we care for those who need an extra bit of help should allow us to dip into that fund. When the rainy-day fund legislation is back before the House, Senator Kieran O'Donnell will have a chance to accept amendments from Sinn Féin to allow moneys from the fund to be spent when crises such as this one arise.
It costs the State €6,000 per week to accommodate somebody in an acute bed, whereas it costs €160 per week for a home care support package. Surely to God somebody must ask how we can save money here. Money saved in the health service could be used to fund other vital parts of the service. The figures cited show that there are huge inefficiencies. We have had entire debates in this House about inefficiencies and waste in health. It makes no sense that patients who are medically discharged are unable to return home because of the blunt instrument by which the HSE states it has run out of funding and can no longer provide home care supports for them. We need to hear from the Government that it understands the scale of the problem and an indication that it will not allow the list for those waiting for home help hours to grow further. Reassurance and forward planning are needed to avert a completely unnecessary problem. While the problem was created by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael does not need to continue to do the same.
On 13 February this year, a motion in my name was put to the House concerning the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell. A similar motion had been passed unanimously by the Dáil. The motion was looking for an inquiry. It also rehearsed the details of the aggressor's criminal record, his drug convictions, the laxity of the police and the unresolved matters that remained for the O'Farrell family. My motion was passed unanimously in this House as well. Nevertheless, the Government went ahead with appointing Judge Gerard Haughton to look into the matter. That was four and a half months ago and we have heard nothing since. I ask the Leader to make inquiries as to the progress of this report because we need to know. The feeling of the family was that the appointment of a judge was not an appropriate move. It was in defiance of both Houses of the Oireachtas and might be seen as a delaying tactic. I would like some reassurance that progress is being made in this matter.
This morning, the website of The Irish Times features an article on credit unions. It refers to savers in credit unions being forced to move their deposits as the credit unions are now imposing limits on savings. The credit unions are blaming the banks. The European Central Bank rate stands at 0% but its interbank rates are actually in negative territory. I ask that the Minister for Finance come to the House to debate this issue. The Minister should be in a position to contact the banks and encourage them to charge credit unions the European Central Bank rate of 0% rather than the interbank rate.
Plenty of people have their life savings in a credit union. Credit unions are found all over the country, including in rural areas and small towns. We do not want people taking money out of credit unions and putting it under the mattress where it would be at risk. Many young people are trying to save a deposit for a house. They may have built up savings of €15,000 or €20,000 with a credit union after years of hard slog and may now be in a position to borrow double that amount for a deposit. It is vital that credit unions are looked after for community reasons. I ask that the Minister be brought to the House and that we encourage him to consider the idea of charging credit unions the European Central Bank rate of 0% rather than the interbank rate?
Like several of my colleagues I would like to raise the crisis in the home care sector which is affecting the most vulnerable in our society. More than 6,000 people are awaiting funding for home care packages in Ireland today. In my own constituency of Cavan-Monaghan more than 300 people are waiting on home care packages. People are assessed and approved but the funding that would allow the service to take place is not there. In fact, funding for new home care packages in my area has been completely frozen since February.
The State is forcing people into nursing homes and acute hospitals and delaying discharges from acute hospitals. I am not over-egging it by saying that what is going on here is cruelty to our elderly and their family members. It makes no economic sense whatsoever for the State not to allocate funding to home care packages. As Members know, it costs between €1,000 and €1,200 to keep someone in a nursing home for one week. Some €100 would keep a person in his or her home with home care packages. It costs €862 to keep someone in an acute hospital for one day. That is the equivalent of 60 hours of home care packages. Clearly we have a crisis in my particular part of the world. We need the funding which has been frozen to be allocated to that sector immediately. I ask for the Minister to come into the House at the earliest opportunity so that we can debate this very important issue.
I wish to raise the issue of family hubs. Yesterday the Mercy Law Resource Centre, the Children's Rights Alliance, Focus Ireland and Dr. Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, presented to the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. They spoke of really harrowing experiences that children are undergoing in family hubs. Yes, family hubs are better than what we had before, but there are serious concerns about them.
I am particularly cognisant of the views of the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, whose statutory responsibility is to promote the rights and welfare of children and to examine and investigate complaints made on their behalf and the administration of public services pertaining to them. He has strongly stated that the State needs an independent inspector to oversee this area. How can anyone argue with the Ombudsman for Children, Focus Ireland, the Mercy Law Resource Centre and all the rest? Members should remember, these are the hubs where there has been follow-through. This was the subject of a Commencement matter raised in the House earlier. To be brief, I am asking for the Minister-----
Did the Senator not raise this as a Commencement matter this morning?
I am raising it during the Order of Business because I wish to make a further request. Unfortunately the Minister could not be here but when he is back in the House could he specifically deal with this particularly important issue? In the meantime, I will write to the Minister today setting out what Dr. Muldoon has said. I ask the Leader to use his good offices to ask the Minister to deal with this specific area when he comes to the House. The Leader indicated yesterday that this would be in a matter of weeks.
One remembers seven or eight years ago when unemployment was at 15% or 16%, in contrast to the position we are in now. Of course that followed a previous Fianna Fáil Administration, as most people in the House would know. We are now at 4.6% unemployment, virtual full employment. I wish to ask the Leader for a debate on how to review the current work permits system. I get calls from various businesses in the meat industry and the hospitality sector. They are finding it extremely difficult to get people to work in their sectors. It is not just at the higher end of the salary scale that we need to categorise people for work permits. We also need people at the lower end to work in the meat industry, the hospitality sector and the home care sector, as other people have previously mentioned. There is a shortage of staff in those areas. Perhaps we need to have a debate on how to progress this so that we do not have pinch points in our growing economy.
I apologise to the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I thought my turn would take a little longer to come.
I am calling a rota. Sinn Féin is next in line.
I appreciate that.
I am rather strict in that regard.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach is not doing the Senator any favours.
It should be me.
Senator O'Donnell is further down the list. Three Independents indicated ahead of her, unfortunately.
I am never down the list.
I am sure the Senator will put that right.
I rise to raise a very serious matter. I am formally requesting that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine come before the House at the earliest opportunity to address the matter. Members will recall that earlier this year we debated the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2019, which sought to give UK-registered vessels access to Irish fisheries right up to the shoreline. It was a very controversial piece of legislation. It was pushed through the Seanad and the Dáil by the Government under the premise that it would build relations concerning access to fishing waters after Brexit. That was the argument put to the fishing organisations and the Opposition parties.
The fishing representatives are now asking serious questions about when correspondence from the Scottish Government to the Irish Government threatening to enforce a 12-mile limit around Rockall started. When did that correspondence start? Was it taking place as this legislation was being put through? If so, why were the Opposition parties and the fishing representative organisations not made aware of it?
Moreover, it is critical that the Minister comes before this House to clarify the 2013 agreement which has now come to public attention. Everybody was puzzled as to why a usually prudent Scottish National Party Government in Scotland is taking these measures. It turns out they are based on a 2013 agreement signed by then Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, on behalf of the Government in which the Leader's colleague, Deputy Simon Coveney, who is now Tánaiste, was the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This agreement formally recognised the Rockall area as part of an exclusive UK economic zone. This was done in disagreement with Iceland. In other words, in 2013 senior Government representatives vindicated the British claim to the fisheries around Rockall and gave the Scottish Government the legal basis to threaten to remove Irish boats. None of this was made clear in debates on the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2019. This is very serious. I am now formally requesting the Minister, Deputy Creed, to come before this House and make a statement clarifying when the correspondence from the Scottish Government commenced. Was it during the period when this legislation was going through this House? Furthermore, has the Irish Government, without any consultation with the Irish fishing community, signed an agreement with the British Government which basically hands Rockall fishing rights over to it? This is serious and we need urgent clarification. We need the Minister to make a statement before this House as soon as possible. I ask the Leader to confirm that today.
The Senator has gone way over time.
This week during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil the Taoiseach faced a barrage of requests for finance for different things going on in the State. It is most regrettable that he used the phrase "keeping the barbarians from the gates", because lumped in among those demands were the needs of the Defence Forces.
I and the Leader's colleague, Senator McFadden, speak frequently in support of the Defence Forces. The first time I spoke on the issue was on 10 October 2014 and I have harped on about it ever since. We have been told to calm down and relax because the Public Service Pay Commission would deal with the issue. Will the Leader explain something? The Department of Defence, the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence and the Minister of State with responsibility for defence have had the Public Service Pay Commission's recommendations for several weeks now. What is going on that they will not release its report? Is it so bad that they are afraid of a mutiny? Families are desperately waiting to see how they are to be treated. Last month, we lost 15 members of the Defence Forces, 13 of whom purchased their way out. They bought out their contracts in order that they could leave and get better jobs. We read in the newspapers in recent days that Naval Service personnel are leaving the Defence Forces to work in Aldi. For God's sake, if the report is available, let us publish it and see what is in it. By holding it back for so long, we are aggravating matters to the point that people are beside themselves. We are being asked all day every day what is going on and why this report is not being released. If I was to tell the Leader tomorrow morning that I was not prepared to give him information pertaining to his position, he would not like it.
The Senator is stirring it up every day.
This has to stop. Publish the God-damned report and if it is bad, let us find out what we can do to make it better. If it is not bad, it will, I hope, make people happy.
Senator Mac Lochlainn raised an issue regarding Rockall, which is very worrying. All of this is happening because of Brexit. There is no reason to exclude Irish vessels from the waters around Rockall. As stated by the Taoiseach, the situation will change post-Brexit and we need to be very vigilant because 35% of our fish are caught in UK waters. Brexit brings all of these complications. We need to work in a very clear way. I was in Westminster on Monday night and what is happening there is very worrying and is of no help. We now have the Tory leadership battle, which Boris Johnson looks like a racing certainty to win because he has most support among Conservative MPs.
There is a huge nationalist populism in the UK. If we saw it in Europe, we would be complaining. It is there and it is in Ireland as well. One young man who is trying to become the leader of the Conservative Party, Rory Stewart, has brought a bit of sanity to the process. He has shown an interest in Northern Ireland and stated that Brexit will have a devastating effect on Northern Ireland. He has called for a citizens' assembly and asked that more reality than rhetoric to be brought to this issue. It is nice to see one of the Conservative Party hopefuls talking about the damage that Brexit will do to Northern Ireland, which has to recognised here today.
I support the INTO's call for an increase in the capitation grant for primary schools to pre-2011 levels. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the constitutional right to free primary education which has not been vindicated over the years of this State. The Labour Party has published Bills to abolish the practice of voluntary contributions. We have been told by certain school managers that filling the gap would cost the State €45 million. The reason the capitation payment needs to be increased is that parents are filling that gap through fund-raising. Progressive minded people in Europe, particularly in Scandinavian countries, find it mind-boggling that a parents' group would have to fund-raise for the basic provision of school or educational activities, particularly in primary school. We have also suggested that we should have a free book scheme in the Republic of Ireland, as they have in the North of Ireland.
I ask the Leader to facilitate a discussion with the Minister for Education and Skills on how we can access funding to vindicate the right to free primary school education; ensure parents do not have to fund-raise; raise the capitation to such a level that schools can be properly funded; and ensure we have services in the Republic that are taken as a right and taken for granted in the North of Ireland. We have an education budget of approximately €11 billion. If a free primary school book scheme would cost €20 million, and that the shortfall in funding through voluntary contributions to the capitation funding would cost €45 million, it would surely be worth providing the total amount required to vindicate that right. This would ensure that the parental and student relationship with a school is not a financial one but is one based purely on education, growth and development. The Government will find great support from across this Chamber if we were to have such a conversation and vindicate that constitutional right.
That is my first point. On a second issue-----
The Senator is over time.
I support the comments made by Senator Feighan and what the Government has been saying in response to the rhetoric being used in the Tory leadership contest in Britain. There is an awful lot of buffoonery happening with talk of renegotiation at European level, which will not happen. The backstop is going absolutely nowhere. It is important for all of us was to stand firm with the Government on this to reaffirm that nothing is going to be renegotiated. Anybody with leadership aspirations in the British Tory Party needs to be reminded of that. I fear for the future of politics in Britain and that it will mirror what we have in the United States at the moment if, as is likely, Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister.
Last year, the World Health Organization, WHO, designated the compulsive playing of video games as a new mental health condition. We are not talking openly about this issue. Parents are worried and feel helpless when they see the damage being done and they do not understand or know the dangers because we are not having the conversation. Some parents will be frightened. This condition will obviously not impact every child who picks up a games console. It is time that we prepared. Our children are our future and I fear that we are not looking after their mental health properly because we are not informed enough. I recently called for a new joint committee on mental health to be convened because we need to do much more for mental health in this country.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health back to the House. The last time the committee met was eight months ago. When Senator John Freeman and I and a number of others sought to have the committee reconvene, the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, first refused our request and then agreed to do so. The current position is that the committee will be reconvened. I ask the Leader to speak to the Minister of State about this because it is an urgent matter. The committee has not met for eight months.
Are Senators aware that every Microsoft Xbox is set up on an adult setting on installation? Parents who are not technology savvy often allow their child to set up the console and the child would not know how to change the settings. The settings can be changed to filter out all adult content or to have some adult content. These tech-smart kids will be exposed and inappropriate material will be streaming through the headset while parents are totally unaware, even as they stand beside them. As lawmakers, we need to give parents the tools to protect their children and their mental health and we need to do so quickly. Many of our schools are taking part in the national cybersafety programme specifically designed to empower children and parents to navigate through the online world. The online world has a host of tools that we can harness but we continually come up against threats in it. We need to teach media literacy and equip people with the tools to identify addiction and warning signs.
It is a serious matter that the committee on mental health has not met for eight months. I ask that the Leader request the Minister of State to come to the Chamber to address this issue.
I agree with Senators Craughwell and McFadden on the failure to deal with the pay issue in the Defence Forces, which has dragged on for a long time.
There are people in the Defence Forces who are extremely committed to working in and remaining in the Defence Forces but they are not getting the support they require. This review has been long-fingered and we have been waiting for its publication for far too long. We are now competing with the private sector when it comes to retaining people. We have a major difficulty in retaining people in the Naval Service and the rest of the Defence Forces. This issue needs to be dealt with before the end of this term.
I also wish to raise the issue of the healthcare sector and the level of negativity that is being broadcast daily by the national media. Yesterday's edition of "Six One News" contained three reports on the health service, all of which were negative. There is no acknowledgement of the commitment of the people who work in the health service and their dedication to their jobs. Every year, there are 3.5 million outpatient appointments. This means that more than 63,000 people attend outpatients every week. Another 23,000 people attend accident and emergency every week and are dealt with. Yes, there can be delays and there are undue delays but a health service is being provided. We are now talking about the new children's hospital. Day in, day out, there is nothing but negative coverage. We have gone through 22 Ministers for Health who have spoken about building a hospital. We are actually building it and will deliver on it. Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on health, Deputy Donnelly, is criticising an aspect of it with regard to what is being provided for consultants. We cannot get consultants unless we provide the back-up support for them and that is part of their contract. Now Deputy Donnelly is saying that this should not be provided in the new children's hospital. It is wrong that this negativity continues. It is not helping to encourage staff to give and maintain the commitment and dedication they show in providing care for the population of this country.
Yesterday, we had the first hearing of the very delicate Bill on the rights of adoptive parents and adoptees that involves trying to strike a balance regarding a full and frank disclosure of people's identity and who and what they are. I would like to ask where the Fianna Fáil Members were, particularly the women, because this is a serious women's issue - both women who have children and women who become mothers later on. I thought that Fianna Fáil had a great belief in women. We hear it everywhere. The Government Members were here, as were Labour Party, Sinn Féin and Independent Members, but Fianna Fáil Members, including its female Members, were not here. They might have had a thousand excuses-----
I was in the Chair.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach was in the Chair.
Excuse me, I was in the Chair as well.
The Senator was in the Chair.
I am a Fianna Fáil Member too.
I am talking about the women. Men do not have babies; well, not yet anyway. I was very disappointed because every time I listen to Fianna Fáil on radio and television, it is talking about the high moral ground and how the Government is not doing this and that and how Fianna Fáil is holding us all together with a great moral chain link. Well it was not holding any moral chain link together yesterday because its Members were not here. They were not here to stand up for women in whatever way because I know the Government has problems with this Bill and is trying very hard to strike a balance. There are many people who disagree vehemently with the Bill and I am one of them but they were still here to try to argue their way through it, which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is trying to do. Many of us are trying to come to some kind of conclusion where people can have the right to knowledge of who or what they are and their tribe. I am just very disappointed in Fianna Fáil Members. I do not want to hear them on radio and television programmes telling us about women for election and gender equality. I do not want to hear it. They were not here yesterday. I do not care what the excuses were. If they were whipped, they should have undermined the whip for this reason. They should have argued with their party that this was a good time to be here and even make an argument because if one wants to talk about women, one must talk about equality across everything and not just on issues where they are whipped and issues where they are not whipped. They have been very disappointing. Do not let us hear any more moral arguments about Fianna Fáil's great chain belief in how it is going to move the whole country and how it is holding us all together with its moral authority because it is not.
On a point of information-----
The acting Fianna Fáil leader.
Yes. I am not a woman and am quite happy to point that out or clarify that but I was in the Chamber yesterday as Chair. Senator Clifford-Lee was here for a very significant amount of that time. There are three female Fianna Fáil Senators. Senator Clifford-Lee is spokesperson on justice and children and was here for the time I spent in the Chair. I do not know if she was not here when I was not in the Chair but she was definitely here when I was in the Chair.
On a point of order, this is true but she was whipped to within an inch of her life and the leader of Fianna Fáil in the House was not here.
That is not relevant.
Fianna Fáil either believes in women or it does not.
I do, including the Senator.
The Senator did the same last week on the housing Bill. There was nobody here. There was nobody from Fine Gael here for the housing Bill, which is the biggest Bill ever.
That is not correct.
That is true. That is what happened last week.
Senator Murnane O'Connor was missing in action for how long?
I could tell stories-----
If Senator Murnane O'Connor wants to have that argument-----
I could have many an argument-----
The Senators are interrupting Senator Gavan. Let us have order on both sides. I want to hear from Senator Gavan.
The Senator cannot throw rocks, especially not at women.
Order, please. The Senators can have that argument afterwards.
Last week, I was very happy to speak at a protest against President Trump at Shannon Airport. Our departing Oireachtas colleague, Deputy Clare Daly, also attended the protest along with a number of others. It was a very good occasion. I want to raise what is happening with President Trump with regard to Huawei because it really brings home the damage this president is doing. Analog Devices in Limerick, which supplies semi conductors to the Huawei plant, is facing a shutdown next month. We are talking about 1,200 of the best jobs in Limerick. These are unionised good-quality jobs at one of the longest standing employers in the region - an excellent employer. As a direct result of the blacklisting of Huawei by the US Government, according to a report in the Limerick Leader this morning, we are facing a shutdown next month with the loss of 1,200 jobs. I have friends in that plant because of my contacts with the union and I can tell the House that there is real concern. These are some of best jobs in Limerick city. I am trying to put this question in a non-adversarial way. What is our Government doing? I heard the Tánaiste admit that there was no evidence presented against Huawei with regard to these charges of spying but we need to do more than that. We need the backbone to stand up to the US bullying coming from President Trump not just because it is morally wrong but because it is economically wrong. It is damaging. It could cause significant damage. If this blacklist continues, the consequences for those 1,200 workers in Analog Devices could be very serious. Where is the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation? Why are we not hearing from her? What are we doing at European level to say with one clear voice that this nonsense of blacklisting Huawei and the bullying attitude by President Trump must end? I know we all want to be friends with the US but our Government is incredibly subservient when it comes to this administration. We have seen it with regard to Palestine in particular. It is time we heard from the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation with regard to this issue. Jobs could be at risk in one of the best companies in Ireland.
I call on the Leader to respond.
I thank the 16 Members of the House for their contributions to the Order of Business. I wish to make one point, which I do not mean in an adverserial way. Eight Members left during the Order of Business. I thank the Members who stayed for my reply. It is the Order of Business.
As the Leader is aware, it was customary practice in the past whereby former Leaders of the House chose not to respond to people who were not present for their responses.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for his guidance.
That is a very legitimate response. Members should do the Leader the courtesy of walking over and apologising to him if they cannot stay.
The Senator is quite right.
It is totally legitimate. As a basic courtesy, when Members come in here, they should wait for the response.
I appreciate that Senators have committee meetings but this is the Order of Business. At a future meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, I will raise the issue of people being present in the Chamber.
I had thought it the practice to facilitate Senators when they are obliged to leave in order to attend committee meetings.
I appreciate that there are legitimate reasons for some people leaving. This morning, however, 16 Members contributed on the Order of Business and eight have already left.
Senators Horkan, Conway-Walsh and Gallagher raised the important issue of carers. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, the senior Minister, Deputy Harris, and the Government are committed to ensuring that the HSE will deliver its service plan commitments for 2019. We have more home help hours than ever and more people are availing of home help hours than ever before. We have a growing elderly population and that poses a significant challenge for us. People are living longer and their needs are becoming more complex. This year alone, an extra 800,000 home help hours will be used by the HSE. In the first quarter of this year, 4,411 more people commenced home help hour services. In the past four years, there has been an increase of €140 million in the budget to €246 million. In the 2019 HSE service plan, 18 million support hours are available and being availed of by 53,000 people. I accept that a need exists. As has been stated, people staying at home and living in their communities are not in hospital and, as a result, they do not prevent others from accessing beds. An intensive home care package is provided that is aimed at keeping people at home. The Minister of State is working with the HSE and the Department of Health on developing a statutory home help support scheme, the aim of which will be to improve access to home care packages and services on an affordable and sustainable basis. I will have the Minister come to the House to debate the matter.
Senator Horkan referred to an article in The Irish Times. I have not seen it. Even when Fianna Fáil's great leader was the Minister with responsibility for health, the Department had a budget overrun every year. He ran out of the Department screaming, as the Senator knows quite well. Fianna Fáil let the then Minister Mary Harney languish in the Department for almost all the remaining time of the-----
That was a long time ago.
The facts hurt. I am happy to have the Minister come before the House. Every day on the Order of Business and in debates there are calls for more funding for the Defence Forces, home care packages, housing and education. If we were to meet the demands in the manifestoes of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Senator Craughwell, each day we would spend money we do not have.
The Leader should not deflect from the issue.
Either we return to the days of voodoo economics or we try to balance our books and avoid-----
The Leader should look at what the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council is telling people about the economics of this Government, which is spending like there is no tomorrow.
No, it is not.
Yes, it is.
The chickens will come home to roost yet.
The Leader, without interruption.
There are 100,000 more people in employment. Therefore, there is more income coming in.
I would be happy to have a debate on the economic record of all Governments. I would be very proud-----
I did not ask the Leader for that.
-----and a debate on balancing the books and providing funding for the health sector. I have yet to hear any Senator put forward a real alternative budget for health. All people do is say "Spend, spend, spend".
I thought Sinn Féin had costed its programme.
I would really-----
The Leader is goading us now and it is not-----
Why do we have a party-political broadcast?
I am not responsible for the Leader's response.
We know that.
We will hear the Leader now.
Senator Ó Céidigh raised the very important issue of entrepreneurship. I commend him on the role he played on the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, which published a very fine report. He raised the need for us, collectively, to improve and enhance the role of women in industry and business at all levels. I will be happy to have a debate on this matter in due course. I hope Senator Ó Céidigh will be with us to debate the perjury Bill. It was to be taken next week but, for various reasons, that is not now happening. The debate will take place as soon as possible.
Senator Norris raised the issue of Shane O'Farrell and the inquiry. I do not have the answer for Senator Norris on this matter but it is an important inquiry and the Government has appointed an eminent person to chair the commission.
Will the Leader find out whether there has been progress?
I will endeavour to find out for the Senator.
I thank the Leader.
Senator McFadden raised the issue of credit unions, which is important. We need to give consideration to the restriction on savings and the euro rate versus the interbank rate. Senator McFadden has highlighted an important matter and it is one in respect of which we deserve answers. The credit union movement has always been to the forefront and is the bedrock of many communities. I hope the Minister for Finance will come to the House in due course to discuss this matter.
Senator Boyhan referred to children living in hubs. I will endeavour to have the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government come to the House to discuss that matter. He was due to be here this week but, for reasons relating to the taking of legislation, he could not come. I will arrange a debate.
Senator Lawlor raised the very timely matter of the work permit system, which needs to be revised. I will have the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Heather Humphreys, come to the House to deal with the matter.
Senator Mac Lochlainn referred to Rockall. I do not have all the answers to the questions he raised because I am not a member of the Government. I might be a member of the party that is in government but I am not at the Cabinet table. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, met fishing representatives on Friday last. As Senator Feighan correctly stated, it is because of Brexit that we are having this issue. Ireland's position has been very clear. It has been made crystal clear by the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Creed. There is no basis for excluding Irish fishing vessels from the waters around Rockall, particularly as they are there to legitimately pursue fishing opportunities under EU law. As Senator Feighan indicated, 31% of our fish are caught in UK waters. I am open to correction on this. A number of Members of the Lower House tabled a Topical Issue on the matter this week. The Senator has the right to table a Commencement matter. I will endeavour to have the Minister come to the House. The Government is committed to and clear on the position it has adopted.
I seek clarification. The Leader stated that he will endeavour to have the Minister come to the House. Will he request that the Minister-----
It is important to clarify this. Will the Leader-----
The Senator knows the rules. I am not permitted to allow him to come back in. I am sorry, this is the Leader's response. The Senator can pursue the matter afterwards.
As Senator Mac Lochlainn knows, as Leader of the House, I receive requests every day.
Just to be clear, the House has the ability to bring the Minister before it. I do not wish to exercise that right but I will do so if necessary.
The Senator has other options.
I am making it clear I will exercise that right if the Minister is not before the House next week.
We cannot have an argument about it now.
It is the Senator's entitlement to bring a proposal on the Order of Business any day he wants to do so. The Minister is in Japan this week so he is not available. As is the case every week on the conclusion of the Order of Business, we go through the requests and balance them with the need for legislation to be passed. If a Minister is available we ask him or her to come to the House. To help the Senator, he might receive a more expeditious response by tabling a Commencement matter. That is the point I was going to make. In the Lower House this week, a number of Members tabled a Topical Issue on this matter. I am trying to be helpful to the Senator. I have no idea what the Minister's diary looks like for next week or the week after but I will endeavour to have him come to the House. This is the point I am making.
Senators Craughwell and Colm Burke raised the issue of the Defence Forces. To be fair, last night at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting Senator McFadden raised the matter as did several other Members who supported her. All of us are committed to having Defence Forces that are paid well, looked after and valued. Senator Craughwell does not have a capacity in this. We all share this desire and goal. The Taoiseach has stated that the report to which the Senator referred will be before the Government soon.
Why is the word "soon" used?
Why not now? They have had it for the past two or three bloody weeks.
Senator Craughwell is not the Taoiseach.
In fairness, this is bloody madness.
It may well be but I cannot do-----
What is the secret?
I cannot allow debate during the Leader's response.
It is great. All Senator Craughwell wants now is to go on Facebook and show his nominating body that he has been shouting and roaring in the Seanad.
We understand that and it is fair enough.
The Leader is going down the cheap route.
The Senator should look at what he is doing.
Spare me. Who is keeping the report?
Does the Senator understand the process at all?
I ask Senators to bear in mind that this is not a place for schoolchildren.
Senator Craughwell is a former president of the Teachers Union of Ireland and he should know, full well, that a process is undertaken for this.
I never kept a report from my members.
The Senator needs to understand the process. I know he is trying to score political points and that is his prerogative.
We have observed the process all the way.
Can we conclude the Order of Business, please?
I am giving Senator Craughwell a reply he might not like to hear. The Taoiseach has stated that the report will go to Government shortly for consideration. It would not be helpful to engage in speculation, as the Senator and others are doing.
On a point of order-----
Look at the procedure.
-----the information that has been placed before the House today is factually incorrect.
It is not.
The Defence Forces' representative bodies were asked to come to the Department of Defence over two weeks ago to be briefed but they were then told not to come in and to go home.
We cannot have a debate on this now.
Senator Craughwell knows that the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with prioritising matters regarding the Defence Forces. The process included written and verbal submissions from the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Defence and official representative bodies of the Defence Forces.
We know all that.
I will educate Senator Craughwell. The next step is for the report to go to Government for consideration. When Government has given the report consideration, it will be published.
I ask the Leader to move on.
I intend to move on. Senator Ó Ríordáin raised the issue of INTO capitation grants. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House on the matter. Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of gaming and the World Health Organization. We had a debate as part of the Gaming and Lotteries Bill, which was passed in this House this week.
The Leader did not mention the mental health committee meeting. That was the issue I raised.
I cannot allow a debate on this now.
Senator McFadden has informed me that the joint committee on mental health will be a permanent committee.
Can the Leader give me a time for when this will happen? It has been eight months now. Can he give us an update on when it is expected?
The Senator knows well that she cannot come in again on this point.
Senator Colm Burke raised a very important point regarding negativity in the commentary relating to the health sector. A lot of good work is being done and there are many positive outcomes. I agree with him on this point.
I will not wade into the issue raised by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell. It is a matter for each Member to decide when he or she is here.
Senator Gavan raised the issue of Analog Devices and Huawei. The Taoiseach has made it quite clear that we have an open mind on this and he has been very firm that we do not necessarily go down the American route on every matter. We will have a debate with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Heather Humphreys, in due course.