I thank the 19 Senators who contributed on the Order of Business. I join with all Members in offering my sympathies to the family of the late Manus Kelly on his tragic death at the weekend. The story we read about and saw on the news last Sunday evening was distressing and harrowing. As Senators Gallagher, Wilson and Horkan eloquently said, the news was received just before the Ulster final, when everyone was in good spirits, and when people were celebrating what was a wonderful rally in Donegal that a life had been tragically cut short, a life that was packed with activity, family, business and politics. On behalf of the Fine Gael group and the House, I offer our sincere sympathies to the family of Manus Kelly. No word of ours today can ease the family's pain. It is important that we stand in solidarity with the family. It is an emotional issue, as a life that had given much was tragically cut short.
I also join with Senator Freeman in offering my sympathies to the family of the late John Pender, another life that was cut short in tragic circumstances. I offer his family our deepest sympathies.
Senators Ardagh, Conway-Walsh and Humphreys raised the issue of tomorrow's proposed stoppage. As I stated last week, as someone who worked as a porter in Cork University Hospital while going to college, I recognise and understand the importance of the work being done by staff across our health service. Words matter. That is why it is important that we all recognise that, as Senator Conway-Walsh stated, this strike will be settled and the issue will be solved. It is important that SIPTU and the HSE sit down and re-engage with the Labour Court and settle the dispute. The Government is committed to solving this situation. The State has a mechanism that should be used.
We value, we understand and we appreciate the work being done every day in our hospitals. I put it to Senator Humphreys that I say this as a member of the Fine Gael Party. This is what I believe. It is important that this is solved. The Government put a proposal on the table for the phasing in of the payment ahead of 2021. It is important that there is engagement. We should recognise the hardworking staff. They have requirements and legitimate pay claims. There is an engagement being put out there and I hope it continues. I make the appeal today, as the Leader of the House, that this would be done.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of the Harold's Cross site and school places. The Government has purchased that site and it will provide a new primary and post-primary school in the area. There is a commitment to have that school up and running. I believe a national demographic exercise has been carried out but as Senator McDowell has said, a comment to which I also subscribe, perhaps the issue of catchment should be more clearly defined and looked at. I am aware that Senator Ardagh has raised the matter a number of times but perhaps the Senator could raise the issue through a Commencement matter to get a more expeditious response.
Senators Lawless, Ó Donnghaile and Conway-Walsh raised the issue of the forthcoming referendum on voting rights. The referendum campaign began today in this House. We will have that debate in due course. It is an important referendum. Senators referred to articles in The Irish Times. These are opinions that have been expressed by people and there are other people who have differing viewpoints on the question, which is their democratic right. Those of us who are for the referendum and for the question must make our case to the people, and to recognise the role of the diaspora. We should do this as part of the referendum campaign. I look forward to that debate. There will be different viewpoints, which is part of what referenda are about. We must make our case as to why it is right for the people to extend the franchise.
Senator Conway-Walsh's interest, I was going to say "obsession", in the Minister for Rural and Community Affairs, Deputy Ring, continues. We have had the issue of Belmullet hospital in the last couple of weeks. I am sure Senator Conway-Walsh would get a quicker response through a Commencement matter. I have given the Senator the response I have had for the past weeks. My position has not changed but the Senator may have new information that I do not have. Perhaps Senator Conway-Walsh could make this point through a Commencement matter. The hospital is an important issue. Councillor Gerry Coyle and the Minister, Deputy Ring, are serving the people well and I am sure they will continue to do so.
Senator Kelleher raised the issue of St. Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny. I am aware that an additional obstetrician will be appointed. Not all maternity hospitals are in a position to be able to offer a termination of pregnancy service. There is engagement within the HSE and the Department of Health around the matter and a review has been commissioned on the matter discussed by the Senator. It is a serious matter and I hope the review will come back with an answer. We can have that debate again in due course.
Senators Humphreys and Lombard raised the issue of Irish Water, and especially the sewage being dumped into the seawater and the "no swim" notice. Senator Humphreys will be aware that Irish Water is upgrading and improving its wastewater treatment plants. The State has a duty to comply with the EU and national wastewater treatment regulations. For example, there is a €2.5 million project happening at Cork Harbour, which is one phase of the development. Senator Humphreys will also be aware that previously the equivalent of 40,000 wheelie bins of raw sewage was being dumped into Cork Harbour but this has now been halved and will soon be eliminated due to the investment by Irish Water at the Shanbally wastewater treatment plant, in concurrence with the whole issue around Carrigaline, Shanbally and Crosshaven. Engagement is important around the upgrading of wastewater facilities in Ringsend in Dublin. Irish Water is to increase the capacity from 1.6 million population equivalent, PE, to 2.4 million PE, to be able to cope with capacity. The Senator is correct that investment needs to continue. It is a pity that some people played politics with Irish Water in the past. We are playing politics now but to be fair to Irish Water we are making inroads. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to hold a debate on the matter.
I commend Senator Horkan for raising the issue of National Bike Week. It is important. A cycle map was published this week for Cork.
There is a need to promote an alternative to the car. Some Members of this House have an aversion to that but to be fair to the Senator, he is a good proponent of cycling and he demonstrates that weekly by cycling in and out of Leinster House. We need to have a greater debate about what it means to have National Bike Week. There was an interesting debate on the radio this morning about no cars in certain parts of Europe and we should have that debate in this Chamber as well.
Senator Boyhan again raised the issue of the Land Development Agency and I will give him the same answer I gave him the last time he raised this matter, namely, that the Minister is engaging to have the heads of the Bill published. The Bill is not delaying the work of the Land Development Agency. It is up and running and it has a €20 million budget behind it. As the Senator will know quite well, the Bill is required to get the full €2.5 billion but the Land Development Agency is hiring staff, it is working on eight sites that are being progressed, with seven more in the pipeline, and as I said the last time, John Moran is the interim chairman of the interim board. When the Minister is ready he will come back with the Bill.
Senator McFadden raised the issue of An Post and the mail centre. It is a source of worry, not just to Athlone, but also to Cork, and there is no need for An Post to reduce the number of mail centres we have. As the Senator said, Athlone, Dublin, Portlaoise and Cork should be retained and I commend her for raising the issue.
Senator Devine raised the issue of the Phoenix Park. The best answer I can give again is perhaps to raise a Commencement matter. I do not have the information the Senator requires. The points she makes are interesting and pertinent and there is a need for a publicity campaign around the issue. There also needs to be a greater promulgation of what can and cannot be done and I mention the importance of the Phoenix Park. I commend the Senator for walking in the rain last Sunday. I was at the Bessborough commemoration in Cork and it was an atrocious day but I commend her for that.
Senators Feighan and McDowell raised the issue of the Good Friday Agreement. The discourse that is taking place across the water is a worry. There can be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement and I commend Senator Feighan for his great ability to reach across the political divide and to work to ensure that we have the Good Friday Agreement upheld, as Senator McDowell said. It is an international treaty and it is lodged with the United Nations and that is why it is not about us wearing any jersey. It is an international agreement that needs to be honoured, upheld and supported by the European Union. I would be happy for the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, to come to the House in due course.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the credit union movement. I can tell the Senator the Government is committed to same. We recognise the importance of the role played by the credit union movement. The Government is supportive of a strengthened and growing credit union movement. I would be happy to have the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, come to the House to have a debate on the matter.