I ask the very nice Deputy Leader to outline the business of the day.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the very nice Cathaoirleach.
The Order of Business is No. 1, Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Probation Judgments and Decisions) Bill 2018 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m.; No. 2, Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Committee Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken on conclusion of No. 2 and to adjourn at 3.30 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 4, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 3.30 p.m.; No. 5, Private Members' business, Criminal Justice (Public Order) (Amendment) Bill 2019 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4 p.m. or on conclusion of No. 4, whichever is the later, and to adjourn after two hours, if not previously concluded; and No. 6, statements on the summer economic statement, to be taken at 6 p.m. or on conclusion of No. 5, whichever is the later, with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and to all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each.
I would like to raise three matters, the first of which is the closure of a homeless hostel. The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has informed us of the imminent closure of Brú Aimsire on Thomas Street, which is run by a charity called DePaul Ireland. We want to know whether there will be adequate provision of emergency beds. Where will these people sleep from now on? The hostel is full most evenings and people are worried because they do not know where they will be accommodated. I call for a discussion on this in the House because it is quite worrying for people who rely on homeless hostel services in this city.
The second issue relates to a stabbing last night the Liberties. I raised the issue of knife crime last week. There has been a serious increase in the incidence of knife crime in this city but nothing is being done about it. There was a stabbing on O'Connell Street and two stabbings in Cherry Orchard and then this stabbing last night where a young lady in her 30s was stabbed in her home. This epidemic of knife crime is very concerning but we have done nothing about it. We need to consider offences in regard to the sale, purchase and possession of knives. We need to tackle this issue because it is a growing one. I hope I do not have to raise it again next week.
The third issue I wish to raise is today's strike by 10,000 health support workers. A further strike is planned for next week. A pay rise has been agreed and it is incumbent on the Government to stand over what it agreed to as part of the Lansdowne Road agreement. It is unfair that these workers must go on strike. Ultimately, it is the patients who are affected by this action. I call on the Minister for Health to be proactive and engage with SIPTU to ensure the strike planned for next week does not go ahead because patients and this country cannot afford any more industrial action in the health service.
I have spoken many times about the Public Service Pay Commission report on the Defence Forces but I have reached the end of my tether. The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, who has no control over public service pay, but who is doing his best to lead his charge, wrote on 20 June 2019 to his charge, that is, to all members of the Defence Forces. He said:
On the 31st of May I informed you that the Public Service Pay Commission report on the Defence Forces would be published in the coming weeks. It is now most likely that the report will be presented to Cabinet for approval next Tuesday, the 25th of June. The report will be made available to all members of the DF at the earliest opportunity after that and its contents and recommendations will need to be studied in detail. It is my intention with the General staff to visit the majority of Barracks and installations after the publication of the report.
Appropriate remuneration and conditions of service for all service personnel are fundamental priorities for the General Staff.
The representative bodies were told they had to meet the Department of Defence to hear the content of the Public Service Pay Commission's report. Several times over the last month and a half or so, they were told they needed to come in to hear the outcome of the report and yet on each occasion they were told that it would be the following week. Yesterday, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that it was never the intention to release the Public Service Pay Commission report. This has gone beyond a joke. Yesterday, members of the Judiciary received a €12,000 a year pay rise and I do not begrudge them their pay rise. Our Defence Forces are the most loyal citizens of the State and the only citizens of the State who sign away their right to take industrial action and defend this State and yet we treat them like this. Every year Ministers and Taoisigh laud the founders and defenders of this State such as Padraig Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, etc. Maybe it is time we recognised those who gave their life in the service of this State. I intend to read into the record the names of every member of the Defence Forces who has died in overseas service.
The Senator will not have the time.
Senator Craughwell has 15 seconds to do it.
Colonel Justin McCarthy; Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson; Sergeant Hugh Gaynor; Corporal Peter Kelly; Corporal Liam Dougan; Private Matthew Farrell; Trooper Thomas Fennell; Trooper Anthony Browne; Private Michael McGuinn; Private Gerard Killeen; Private Patrick Davis; Corporal Liam Kelly; Corporal Luke Kelly-----
Senator Craughwell is over time.
I beg the Cathaoirleach's indulgence on this.
I am not sure that reading the names of these noble gentlemen or ladies into the record will achieve anything or is relevant to the Order of Business.
What it achieves, as far as I am concerned, is it brings home the fact that the men and women who serve this country are prepared to give their lives on a daily basis for whatever duty they are assigned. They never question it. They cannot march up to the gates tomorrow morning, withdraw their service or turn around and say to the-----
The Senator can call for a debate on the issue.
I am sick of calling for debates.
The Senator has used his four minutes.
The Cathaoirleach is an extremely generous and decent man.
He should not test my generosity. I have to rule on the matter.
The Taoiseach made a statement in the Dáil yesterday. How many times will he push back the report of the Public Service Pay Commission? How many times will the Government tell these struggling families it will deliver the pay commission's findings next week, the week after or not at all?
With respect, the Senator is almost two minutes over his time. I am trying to be fair. I ask him to resume his seat.
I want the Taoiseach to come to this Chamber and explain what it is about the Defences Forces that makes him unwilling under any circumstances to give them their just rewards.
Please resume your seat, Senator.
A Chathaoirligh, please do not ask me to resume my seat.
I rarely rise but I have to be fair, as I believe I am to most people. The Senator has exceeded his speaking time by more than two minutes. I ask him to respect due process in the House and resume his seat.
I have been disciplined all my life. I have always obeyed the rules but somebody somewhere has to disobey.
Will you resume your seat?
Senator Craughwell is looking for a headline.
I cannot tolerate this sort of belligerence. I will suspend the House for ten minutes to reflect on this matter.
To move on, I call Senator Conway-Walsh.
The Cathaoirleach asked me-----
I know Senator Craughwell is looking for a headline. I gave him five minutes and-----
The Senator wishes to make a proposal.
We know that the Government has had the report of the Public Service Pay Commission for more than six weeks. There is no reason for the report not to have been released to the men and women who are depending on it.
The Senator may call for a debate on the matter, but I cannot prolong the Order of Business.
I am proposing-----
The Senator should be very brief.
-----that no business take place in the House today until the Taoiseach, who is also the Minister for Defence, comes to the House to explain the delay in publishing the report. I ask all Members to support the amendment.
The Senator will have the option to vote against the acceptance of the Order of Business if he so desires. That is his prerogative. However, I cannot allow him to stay on his feet because there are another 11 speakers and the Senator is depriving them of their speaking time. The Order of Business must finish by 12.45 p.m.
Is my proposal clear? It is that no business take place in this House today until the Taoiseach comes to the House to explain the impediment to releasing the Public Service Pay Commission report on Defence Forces pay.
Is the Senator proposing an amendment to the Order of Business?
The Senator should amend his proposal that the House not take any other business.
It is too extreme.
If he were to propose that we take statements or have a debate on the issue later today, I would be happy to support it-----
-----but we have other important business to deal with today.
Senator Craughwell is making two proposals. One is that the Taoiseach come to the House, which may not be easy to achieve, and the other is that the Minister for Defence come to the House.
I am inclined to agree with Senator Nash.
I ask the Senator to briefly make his proposal.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that the Taoiseach come to the House to explain why the Public Service Pay Commission report has not been released to the Defence Forces.
That is clear. I ask the Senator to resume his seat. I call Senator Conway-Walsh.
I wish to support Senator Craughwell's amendment to the Order of Business.
Is the Senator formally seconding it?
Yes. I wish to address the issue of carers. It is time that we cared for the carers. Some 355,000 people, or one in ten adults, are unpaid carers in Ireland. Only 81,071, or one in five, of those carers receive carer's allowance. They save the State the massive sum of €10 billion each year. The Government spends almost two and a half times more on the nursing home fair deal scheme than it does on carers. The point I am trying to make is that it is time for us to care for the carers.
I commend Family Carers Ireland on the launch of its pre-budget submission, which contains very simple requests. The first is to reform the means test for carer's allowance. It has not been reformed since 2008. There has been no change in the disregards and the allowable deductions are too limited. This means that many people do not meet the means test for carer's allowance.
We need to give consideration to the fact that carer's allowance is taxable. We do not tax vulture funds or multinational companies and banks are getting away without paying tax for 20 years, but we tax carer's allowance. That must be examined and changed.
Another matter that need to be changed is the restriction of 15 hours a week in respect of carers who work, take up a course in education or engage in voluntary work. That must be extended to at least 18.5 hours per week. We must value our carers.
We need to end the postcode lottery in regard to home care and carer supports. In my county of Mayo, we do not have the home care or carer supports that exist in other areas of the country.
We also need to replace the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant which were withdrawn in 2013. There is no reason these measures should not be brought back in, particularly for people living in rural areas who must travel long distances to hospital and for medical supports since the centralisation of such supports. In addition, the GP visit card should be extended to include carers in receipt of a carer's support package.
I ask that the Minister be asked to come to the House for a meaningful debate on how we treat our 355,000 unpaid carers in this State.
We should have that debate. The Labour Party will propose a motion in the Dáil later this evening regarding additional supports for carers. I hope that the House will unite behind that proposal, which includes many of the propositions outlined in Senator Conway-Walsh's contribution.
The spin that we have seen over the last couple days in particular from Fine Gael on today's hospital workers strike has been remarkable. There has been a common thread and a common pattern running through the contributions of Fine Gael backbenchers over the last couple of days and a succession of Fine Gael cannon fodder has been marched through the doors of various television and radio studios over the last two or three days, claiming that the strike is SIPTU's fault and that, to use the word referenced by the Minister for Health yesterday, it is "extraordinary" that the dispute has not been referred to the Labour Court and that health workers across the country are having their pay restored. These kinds of phrases display a remarkable ignorance of what this particular health dispute is about. Fine Gael is deliberately muddying the waters in this regard. This is not about pay restoration. Rather, it is about the implementation of a solemn deal and a job evaluation review process that was carried out in the context of the existing public sector pay agreement and within the architecture of successive public sector pay agreements. This is essentially about ensuring that our healthcare assistants, porters, chefs and other critical support staff grades across our hospital service are given just reward for the work they do. Their roles were independently and objectively assessed by experts in this field. A deal was done with the Department of Health and the HSE and now the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, is withholding the moneys that are legitimately owed to those healthcare staff. It is pathetic that Fine Gael has chosen to pick a fight with the lowest paid workers in our health service in order to re-establish its damaged reputation in terms of its management of the public finances. It is telling. This morning, I spent some time on the picket line at Louth County Hospital in Dundalk and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, supporting the stance that low paid health workers have been forced to take in a bid to have their rights vindicated. This is a classic upstairs-downstairs type scenario.
There is another upstairs-downstairs type scenario of which I was made aware yesterday. I do not necessarily want to identify the individual, but I know that she is happy for me to do so. A colleague of mine, a newly elected councillor in Drogheda, Councillor Michelle Hall, who represents the Drogheda rural electorate, works as a special needs assistant in Aston Village Educate Together school in Drogheda. She has learned through the school, her union and the Department of Education and Skills that unlike teachers she is not entitled to ten unpaid leave days to attend to her public duties. This is unfair and discriminatory. Fine Gael believes that only doctors and nurses are important in the context of the health service and it likewise believes that only principals and teachers matter in the context of the education system. This is unfair and discriminatory and it needs to be corrected. The Minister needs to respond to this issue immediately.
I reject what has been said by Senator Nash. Fine Gael worked very closely with the Labour Party in a very difficult time. The Labour Party and Fine Gael helped to rescue this country. Senator Nash's comments are not representative of what I believe. We will agree to differ.
As Chairman of Committee A of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, I mentioned yesterday that the committee visited various locations in Northern Ireland and the Republic in the context of its study on illicit trade between Ireland and the UK along the Border in the context of Brexit. There is a particular issue that we need to address, namely, counterfeit goods. A lot of work was done to develop the marker to eliminate washed diesel used, in the main, by paramilitaries or subversive groups. While this practice has been dealt with those involved are cunning, professional smugglers and they have now moved into washing powder, alcohol, meat processing and cheap whites, namely, cigarettes. People who buy these goods need to be mindful of workers' rights, workplace conditions and product origin. These products, in particular the washing powder and cheap whites, are dangerous and the proceeds finance drug gangs and gun crime. We need an information campaign. People who holiday in Spain and so on and purchase counterfeit designer handbags and football jerseys and so on from salespeople along the beach front need to be made aware that they are funding criminal activity. We need to wake up and recognise that these products are not good value. Rather, they are bad produce, the proceeds of which is funding criminal gangs. We need an information campaign or a debate on this very serious issue.
I rise today to raise the issue of electric vehicle charging points, but not the lack of same or the need for more. I have been contacted by a number of people who recently invested in electric vehicles in regard to their inability to access charging points, particularly in rural areas and small villages, as non-electric vehicles are being parked or abandoned in front of them. This is happening in rural areas in particular where there is no paid parking and hence no parking wardens. There is nobody policing the charging points. This issue needs to be raised with the relevant Department. There is need for additional signage at electric vehicle charging points and increased penalties or fines for those who park in front of them. One can imagine the frustration of an electric vehicle owner who, when the battery is almost dead, arrives at a charging point to find a three litre diesel car parked in front of it, which means he or she cannot access it or continue on his or her journey. There is nobody policing charging points in small towns in rural areas where there is no paid parking. I ask the Deputy Leader to raise this issue with the relevant Minister.
If the people who raised this issue with me are speaking to other people about this matter they are probably speaking negatively about electric vehicles, thereby deterring those who might be considering purchasing an electric vehicle from doing so. As we are all aware, this is the direction in which we have to go. The charging points are limited enough. If they are not accessible, this is another black mark against purchasing an electric vehicle. They need to be policed in the areas I have mentioned, although I admit I do not know how this can be done.
I welcome the report on the future of the beef sector in the context of Food Wise 2025. The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine is to be commended on its diligent work and dedication to the production of this report. However, as detailed and referenced in the report, it is not a silver bullet for the industry. No one solution exists to protect the fortunes and futures of those involved in this industry. All involved, including the farming fraternity, the processors, the industry bodies and the Government, have a responsibility and a part to play. The report makes recommendations with regard to unfair trading practices, market information, exports, pricing, CAP support, added value and research funding, all of which are important and relevant. There is a special acknowledgement of the significant threat posed by the prospective EU-Mercusor free trade agreement and the unintended consequences and detrimental impact, potentially, it could have of undercutting Irish beef with the importation of cheaper beef into the European market.
The importance of the Irish beef sector cannot and must not be understated for the socioeconomic benefits it presents for rural Ireland. The importance of retaining people on the land and ensuring that this sector is truly sustainable on economic, environmental and social grounds is paramount, not alone for the rural economy but the entire Irish economy, urban and rural. My concern is that there is no recognition of costs of production and efficiency. We must acknowledge that some businesses are not sustainable if beef is at €6 per kilo. The stark reality is that it will not be that price. The market is the market. The Government must ensure mechanisms are in place to establish cost of production modelling and seek to assist farmers in understanding cutting cost production, maximising efficiencies and maximising profits from a technical farming perspective.
Let us focus on the things a farming business has control of rather than all of the aspects over which they have no influence. Vertical integration of a supply chain and the sharing of risk and rewards across the supply chain must be discussed. The supply chain must become a value chain adding value at every point.
Reports and recommendations are one thing but this must be with implementation and delivering impact. This report is only a starting point to build a sustainable beef industry with support mechanisms, market awareness and sustainability at its core. The committee, with the Minister, now have responsibility to ensure that targets relating to the food sector are set out in Food Wise 2025 and are delivered as part of a sustainable and profitable industry with farmers and their families central to the conversation.
I compliment the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission for organising the all-Ireland food fair to which we were all invited last week in the Members' Restaurant. It was a treat for the senses and the food was absolutely fantastic. I particularly want to single out the Mayo Mountain Blackface Sheep Breeders group who were represented on that occasion by Pat Chambers of Newport and Peter Chambers, who is involved with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is a fantastic success story with a lot more potential. It is a producer group from the west of Ireland with 350 members who sell premium breeding stock and factory lambs. The group works with the Kildare Chilling Company to supply finished lambs. This business has grown from processing 2,000 lambs in 2012 to processing 25,000 lambs in 2018. This means a great and fantastic deal to the local economy. It encompasses a great geographical spread in Mayo including the Nephin Beg wilderness on the Wild Atlantic Way and from Toormakeady to Bangor Erris. There is a lot of species-rich grassland there upon which this particular breed of blackface sheep roam. I believe this to be a unique selling point. This is the way our primary producers need to go to maximise the value for their product. I also compliment the South West Mayo Development Company and the rural social scheme there, along with the breeders and the group secretary, Breege Biggins. It is a real success story that I wanted to highlight. They have a product they can stand over and they need support in promotion so they can go further afield. I sincerely hope they get that.
I wish to speak about this morning's strike that was commenced by health service staff and workers, as Senator Nash has already referred to. We are aware from different strikes in the health services that the spin from the Government and the Department gives a sense that workers and unions just strike for the craic of it and go to the gates and discommode a lot of people, including themselves, their families, patients and those on waiting lists. This, however, is quite false or as a Trumpian would say it is "fake news". It is not as simple as just saying that the Workplace Relations Commission is available. The Department has reneged on an agreement that was made in 2017 for these 10,000 workers for job evaluations and an agreement and a price was put on the cost of that decision. I was with health service workers at the gates of St. James's Hospital this morning and I give a shout out to Patricia Slattery who organised that strike. Workers such as these are the engine rooms of hospitals. The nurses and doctors are seen as the more visible face of hospital staff but these 10,000 health service workers are in the engine rooms providing essential services for our patients. They are marching but it is not for the good of their own health. They are looking to strike also over two or three days next week seeking only the implementation of what has already been decided. As Senator Nash has said, this is not a new pay claim. It is a claim that has been hanging over health service staff for years. Government inaction has made it sound as though these workers are greedy and the bogey guys, but this is not the case. These workers need what is rightly due to them. They are workers on modest wages who work in the engine rooms of our hospitals and health services.
There are a lot of Senators indicating so I ask all Members to be cognisant of the fact that we had a delayed Order of Business and that they please stick to the time of two minutes.
I will respond to some of the issues raised already around the strike. It is important to outline that pay has been restored to that group earning under €30,000 income-----
This is not about pay restoration-----
With all due respect-----
This is not about pay restoration. This is the spin we get. It is not about pay restoration. It is about independent job evaluation-----
The Senator should show some respect to the Chamber and to the-----
This is wrong-----
-----to the Chairman.
This is the truth.
The Senator is only delaying-----
The Senator should show some respect to the health service workers-----
The Senator should show some respect to the Chamber and to the Chairman when he is speaking-----
I ask Senator Conway to stay out of the argument.
The position I am quite clearly stating is that people earning under €30,000 have had their pay restored and it is now 4% above the 2009 pay level. That has not occurred in other sectors of the HSE. This is the first point.
My second point is that an additional 13,000 whole-time equivalent, WTE, staff were taken on in the HSE in the last four years in order to assist and make sure we can continue to deliver the same level of care or an increased level of care. There are now 135,000 people working in the HSE. There were 103,000 WTE workers and that has now gone up to 116,000 whole-time equivalent staff in four years, which is a huge pay cost of some €600 million per annum of additional cost. With regard to the situation we are discussing, yes an evaluation was carried out and yes it needs to be implemented, and the Government is quite clearly saying it will start to implement it from November. There are other issues that need to be resolved and the Government is quite prepared to go back into conciliation on those issues and has made its position quite clear. Let us not go back to the period between 2000 and 2008 when public sector pay went from €8 billion per annum to €16 billion per annum and then-----
Why did the Government agree to a job evaluation process?
If Senator Nash does not want to hear the truth that is fine-----
This is the truth.
That is fine with me. I will not be bullied by Senator Nash-----
This is spin from-----
I will not be bullied by Senator Nash-----
It is misleading of the Government to renege on a deal-----
The Government will not hear the uncomfortable truth and Fine Gael will not want to accept it.
I ask Senator Nash to please resume his seat-----
They do not give a toss about the lower paid workers-----
Senator Nash will please resume his seat-----
-----be it Defence Forces members or school secretaries or anybody else who has increased their work-----
The Senator has put me over my limit-----
I gave my colleagues free rein and I did not interrupt them. The Government has increased the health budget by quite a substantial amount over the past years. We need to ensure we can develop a healthcare sector-----
The Senator has made his point.
-----and develop the sector in a cost-effective way. We are doing that.
I too will lend my voice in support of the health service workers. They have been treated disgracefully. There was a job evaluation, which is being ignored. What is the point of these things if the Government does not live up to it? Consider the jobs being done by these workers. I have a friend who works in a Dublin hospital and there is intimate contact such as taking patients to the lavatory, assisting people in the evacuation of bowels and showering people. They administer to them in all of these ways. Health services workers do a very remarkable job. There is a two-tier system where the judges get their pay. The increase for some judges is as much as the annual income of some low-paid workers.
That is a disgrace.
Senator Norris and the judges-----
I beg your pardon?
The Senator is in favour of the judges every week.
Would Senator Norris have supported the referendum on-----
Please allow Senator Norris to make his point.
I believe I have made the point. The treatment of these low-paid workers is an outrage.
I also draw the attention of the House to the fact that this morning we had the instigation of a group for staff and Members of the Oireachtas who are gay.
I think this is quite historic. I went along and was very glad to see quite a large number of people. They will present a rainbow flag to the Ceann Comhairle, under whose auspices this meeting took place, to be flown on Saturday over Leinster House. It is a great day for diversity in Ireland and I congratulate all involved, especially the Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer.
Across in Buswells Hotel, as we speak, the National Council for the Blind Ireland, NCBI, is holding a pre-budget briefing to outline issues and challenges that blind and visually-impaired people in this country face daily, and their aspirations and hopes about what the upcoming budget will do to help to alleviate some of the many different challenges and issues. One clear example is where somebody who has a visual impairment, who is not deemed to be legally blind but is medically unable to drive a car, does not get a free travel pass simply because he or she does not meet the criteria of being legally blind.
They definitely should.
Absolutely. This affects approximately 200 people in the country and needs to be taken on board and rectified. There is a range of other issues and challenges. Great work is being done by the National Council for the Blind. I encourage Members who have not already gone across to Buswells Hotel to engage with them to consider doing so. The briefing is taking place until 3.30 p.m.
I will not comment on the health dispute. Senator Colm Burke outlined the situation. It is reasonable for any Government to expect the unions to use the apparatus of the Labour Court. Ultimately, disputes in this country are resolved in the Labour Court. I cannot understand why Paul Bell and his union colleagues refuse to go into the Labour Court. The HSE is willing to go there this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Why is the union not prepared to do that? I would like it to give a definitive answer to that because it is appalling.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I am seeking leave to introduce my Bill, the Criminal Justice (Judicial Discretion) (Amendment) Bill 2019. The Bill seeks to introduce judicial discretion to determine periods of time that a person shall spend in prison for the offence and conviction of murder, which we do not currently have. I ask that a colleague second my amendment.
I thank Senator O'Donnell for her brevity and call Senator James Reilly.
I support my colleague, Senator Conway, and remind people that the NCBI is in Buswells Hotel. It does important work and needs our support. I support my colleague, Senator Paul Daly, and reassure him that this does not just affect rural Ireland. Last Wednesday, I was in Malahide and the only available space for an electric car that I could find was occupied by a non-electric car. The same thing happens in Leinster House, where we have two spaces and one was occupied by a non-electric car.
However, I really rise to speak about Brexit and the fact that we may face a very hard Brexit. I call on the Minister for Finance to give consideration to the following. By way of background, Charlie Weston in the Irish Independent talked about the Irish credit unions having €17 billion on deposit but only being able to lend out €4.5 billion. That is a 27% loan to assets ratio which, in any normal institution, would be 50%. The Irish Times reported this month that credit unions are now restricting members' deposits, primarily because the credit unions cannot put that money to work via prudent loans. In October 2018, at the invitation of the 200 year old public bank in Germany, called Sparkasse, which I have raised numerous times here, I visited its headquarters and banking academy where it trains bankers. It has its own university to do that. Its successful, sustainable banking model has worked for more than 200 years, including through two world wars, economic downturns and serious recessions. The bank is available to assist local regions. It has a long tradition of real banking, not just based on turning over property and profits. It is an old-style bank whose staff go to visit a person at a business or farm, assess risks and ability to pay, and support a person through the rough as well as good times.
I call on the Minister for Finance to urgently review the case for setting up a pilot scheme for this bank in the midland counties and in Fingal, County Dublin, to assist businesses with the challenge of Brexit. We need to provide credit to businesses in difficult times at reasonable rates. In the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation's report on the cost of doing business, the cost and availability of credit were two of the main challenges that businesses faced with regard to sustainability. Sparkassen could perhaps partner with credit unions or at least be allowed to come in. The report, which is good, has been with the Minister for quite a while and we should act. He needs to come to the House and tell us what he will do. By his own admission, he has two budget scenarios. One is for a hard Brexit, which will put this country in serious jeopardy, and we will need finance to sustain our people.
I second Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. I am conscious of time. The Government has launched a draft marine planning policy statement. It is important that we have a cohesive, coherent marine planning strategy relating to development. I encourage Members to engage in the public consultation. If they represent coastal communities, they might take it up with their communities and ask them to engage. The public consultation is now open but the period will close on Friday, 9 August 2019, at midday. It is an important document that can be accessed on the website of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
My colleague, Senator Craughwell, proposed an amendment to the Order of Business relating to the publication of the Public Service Pay Commission report. As the defence spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, I fully agree that this report is long overdue and should be published as a matter of urgency. However, Senator Craughwell is correct that we need the Taoiseach, who is personally responsible for the Defence Forces, to attend, not the Minister of State. This is too serious an issue. I ask the Deputy Leader that within the next week, and certainly before the summer recess, the Taoiseach should come to the House and outline the contents of this report which I believe and agree should be published. Morale is at an all-time low within the Defence Forces and it is time that their concerns about pay, conditions and allowances are dealt with urgently. It is long overdue but I think that we should wait until the Taoiseach is available to come in here himself. Frankly, the Minister of State is not acceptable to me as the defence spokesperson. He is the Minister of State but we need the man who has the responsibility to come in here and answer questions when he is available.
We are in fine voice today. Many issues were raised on the Order of Business. Senator Ardagh raised the hostel on Thomas Street. The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, DRHE, has been using the Brú Aimsir hostel temporarily since 2016. The hostel operates on a one-night only basis and has been accommodating 105 individuals. That property was always available temporarily to Dublin County Council from the Digital Hub Development Agency. The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive works continuously to ensure there is adequate emergency supply. The facility will close on 27 June. However, 120 new beds will be provided to replace those previously provided at this facility and by 10 July, the DRHE will increase the supply of emergency beds by 45, meaning that 165 new beds will be provided.
The majority of the new beds being put in place - approximately 95 - are supported temporary accommodation. The Senator will be pleased to hear that nobody in Brú Aimsir will be left without accommodation.
We all regret the stabbing in the Liberties area and we all want to avoid crime. The Government remains committed to a vigorous and comprehensive response to knife crime in our cities and generally. A comprehensive and robust legal framework is in place in respect of knife crime, including heavy penalties for a breach of the law concerned. An Garda Síochána has an extended power of search without warrant in relation to knives and offensive weapons. This is an important issue, especially in Dublin, where many of these crimes are occurring. It could certainly be debated in the House in the near future.
Many Senators raised the strike by HSE workers. The dispute began at 8 a.m. and will have a significant impact on 38 hospital healthcare facilities from today. I support the comments made by Senators Burke and Conway who noted that €17 billion is now being allocated to the health service, the highest such allocation in the history of the State. We all differ on various aspects of this issue but I encourage all parties to go to the Labour Court. The court was established to deal with cases such as these and I am at a loss to understand why it is not being used. An additional 300,000 people have been taken on in the health service, which adds a huge cost to the bottom line of the HSE. Genuine efforts have been made by the Government and I encourage all involved to go to the Labour Court.
Senator Craughwell raised the issue of the Defence Forces. The Taoiseach will not come to the House to speak on this issue as he has had a bereavement. We will arrange a debate on the impact of the Public Service Pay Commission report on the Defence Forces as soon as possible. It was never officially stated that the report would be published this week. The Minister of State stated today that it will be available next week. The issue has been raised in this House on numerous occasions, not least by Senators Craughwell, McFadden and Wilson. Given that it has been raised for nearly a year, taking another few days to get it right should not make a difference and it will be before the House next week.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the important issue of carers. Family Carers Ireland has made many laudable suggestions in its pre-budget submission and I expect the Minister for Finance will take many of them on board in advance of the budget. We will receive many pre-budget submissions in the coming weeks.
I addressed the issue raised by Senator Nash. On the issue of teachers, it is worth noting that the Government has significantly increased the number of special needs assistants.
I raised the entitlement of special needs assistants who are public representatives to enjoy the same rights as teachers with regard to paid annual leave when attending to council duties.
Given that the matter relates to a particular individual, perhaps the Senator will raise it as a Commencement motion in order to get a satisfactory direct response from the Minster.
Senator Feighan raised the important issue of smuggling, some of which was news to me. An information campaign would be a very good idea and I hope it would be feasible. I commend the Senator on raising the issue.
I completely agree with Senators Paul Daly and Reilly that we should come down hard on individuals who choose to park in spaces reserved for charging electric vehicles. Such behaviour is very irritating for people who need to recharge their car battery, especially as we are trying to encourage the use of electric vehicles. It is more challenging to use electric vehicles than other vehicles and every measure should be put in place to encourage their use. This issue should be considered in the context of a debate on the environment or as a Commencement matter. It is certainly a valid issue and one on which most Senators would agree with Senators Paul Daly and Reilly.
Senator Marshall raised the important report on the future of the beef sector, which has been facilitated by Members of this House who sit on the agriculture committee. We all want a sustainable beef sector and I commend colleagues on the report.
Senator Mulherin commended the Houses of the Oireachtas on the food event held here last week. I was unable to attend but there was much positive feedback from the event, if Senators will pardon the pun. I am sure the Mayo Mountain Blackface Sheep Breeders will go from strength to strength and the event rightly highlighted the group's great achievements.
Senator Colm Burke spoke about the strike by HSE workers and made many of the points I have already alluded to.
Senator Norris highlighted the new LGBT committee. What is the correct name for the group?
I am not sure but is it is an Oireachtas group of staff and Members.
That is a welcome development and it is important that a rainbow flag has been presented to the Ceann Comhairle. I understand Senator Buttimer has led on the issue.
Senator Conway noted that representatives of the National Council for the Blind Ireland will be in Buswells Hotel today to outline their pre-budget hopes and expectations. As many Senators as possible should interact with them on their ongoing work.
Senator Reilly eloquently outlined the financial issues arising from Brexit. The report to which he referred cannot be highlighted enough as it is extremely important. We cannot debate Brexit enough and I expect we will have a further debate on it before the end of term because the time available for discussing the issue in the new term will be tight. Much of the Senator's contribution would be very valid in any such debate.
Senator Boyhan highlighted the marine planning policy statement. No more than the beef sector, we all want to see a cohesive plan when it comes to our marine and wildlife. The public consultation aspect of this issue is very important to highlight.
Senator Wilson raised the same issue as Senator Craughwell. As I mentioned, the Taoiseach will not be in position to come to the House today and I do not believe the Senator expected him to do so. A debate will be arranged on the impact of the report in the near future.
By way of clarification, the Deputy Leader indicated that No. 5, the Criminal Justice (Public Order) (Amendment) Bill 2019, would adjourn after two hours. Should that read "conclude" after two hours?
The Bill is to be taken at 4 p.m., or on conclusion of No. 4, whichever is the later, and to adjourn after two hours.
Is it to adjourn or conclude?
It is to conclude. My apologies if I was unclear on that point.
On a further small point of personal interest, I want to put on record my congratulations to Bantry on winning a Tidy Towns award.
I remember that after the Betelgeuse disaster some 40 years ago the town was on its knees. A Tidy Towns committee, some members of which have gone to their eternal reward, has been beavering away for decades and it finally won the big prize yesterday. It is nice to acknowledge the tremendous work it has been doing in a remote town like Bantry.
I believe it won two awards.
Yes, it won two awards, including the overall award, which is important.
There have been proposals. Senator Craughwell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "To provide that a debate with the Taoiseach on the reasons the report of the Public Service Pay Commission has not been released will be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?
Of course I want to press the amendment but I have been placed in a most awkward position. I have just been told by the Deputy Leader, whose word I accept, that the Taoiseach has had a bereavement and cannot come to the House. Three minutes ago, however, I could see on a television screen the Taoiseach answering questions in the Dáil.
He may well be-----
I am constantly being pushed off-----
I will not allow another speech.
This is not bloody well good enough.
The Senator may either pull the trigger and push the amendment, or sit down.
Should I pull the trigger at this stage and find I do not win because the two main parties in the House-----
The Senator can always raise the matter again next week.
We will raise it the following week, the week after that and the week after that. The Government has put the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces-----
I take it the Senator is not pushing the amendment.
-----in the most horrible position. The Government has undermined the Chief of Staff's position in the country.
This is just not on.
The question has been defeated.
I will call a vote on it.
The Senator had his chance and he did not take it.
This is not on. You are a most decent man, a Chathaoirligh, but this is not on.
I asked whether the Senator was pushing the amendment.
I was explaining my position.
The Senator should not begin a spiel or we will have to suspend the House for an hour. I have been tolerant. Is the Senator pushing the amendment or not?
Will the Cathaoirleach let me explain my position, please?
There will be no explanation. The question has been put.
This is grossly unfair.
I will disallow the amendment and move on otherwise.
It is grossly unfair.
The Senator is only looking for headlines.
No, it is damned unfair. The Government the Senator supports has put the Chief of Staff in the most horrible position.
Amendment No. 2, in the name of Senator-----
The Government has undermined the Chief of Staff.
What does the Senator hope to gain?
I hope to get the Defence Forces' self-esteem back.
The Senator is looking for headlines.
Resume your seats, Senators. Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 15 be taken before No. 1." The Deputy Leader has indicated she is prepared to accept the amendment.