I thank the 16 Senators who contributed on the Order of Business. I join with Senators Boyhan, Horkan, Ardagh and others who spoke on the tragic death this morning of former councillor John Bailey. I had the pleasure of knowing him as an elected politician, but also as a member of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael.
He was an extraordinary man, dedicated to his community, his club, Cuala, and his family. I offer our deepest sympathies to his wife Angela and his daughters. The tributes paid to him this afternoon are justified and well deserved. He was an extraordinary person, a man who loved life and who was committed to his family, his local community, the GAA and politics. His maxim was to make life better for people. We sympathise with his family.
Senators Ardagh and Bacik raised the issue of the redress scheme and the decision yesterday of Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill. I join with the Taoiseach in welcoming that decision and I welcome the Taoiseach's apology today to all victims. As the Taoiseach said in the Dáil, the process should have been in place before 1992 to record an allegation of abuse. The Taoiseach also told the Dáil the Government proposes to amend and reopen the scheme in a way that will be responsive to Mr. Justice O'Neill's decision. The State has a responsibility to protect children who are abused. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, will make a statement on the matter in the Dáil tomorrow.
I draw the attention of Senator Ardagh to the decision in 1998 of the then Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Micheál Martin, to take the Louise O'Keeffe case to the Supreme Court. I ask the Senator to read the Supreme Court judgment in that case. It is important that we welcome the Senator's U-turn here today and that of Deputy Micheál Martin, who, as Minister at the time, could have said "No" in 1998 but he did not. I call on him to explain why he did not do so. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has the capacity to say "No" to a case. I commend the bravery of Louise O'Keeffe and I thank her for her courage. We welcome the decision of Mr. Justice O'Neill. What is important now is that we get justice for the young people, now adults, who were abused and that the scheme is reopened. I welcome that the Minister, Deputy McHugh, will make a statement on the matter in the Dáil tomorrow.
Senators Ardagh and Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of the Central Bank levy. The rate recommended by the Central Bank is half the rate of the levy applicable to the high street banks, to reflect the unique contribution that the credit union movement makes in our local communities. I understand the questions posed by both Members this afternoon. I was a member of the credit union supervisory committee of my local credit union. I recognise the importance and value of credit unions and I commend all the volunteers and staff who do great work in our local communities and who work with people of all ages and gender in very difficult and, sometimes, fraught situations. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, was before the finance committee last week, where there was a very informed debate on the matter. I hope that the levy will be reviewed in time.
Senator Ardagh also raised the issue of the environment and the high nitrogen dioxide levels and I am happy to have the Minister come to the House on that matter. Senators Ó Donnghaile, Feighan, McDowell, Conway-Walsh and Bacik raised the issue of Brexit and future relations on our island. It is an important conversation that we need to have and I am happy to provide time in the House. The suggestion from Senator McDowell regarding the establishment of a future relations in Ireland committee is one I wholeheartedly embrace and support. This House has done the State a huge service in terms of the provision of a Brexit committee, the future of which will be before the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, for decision later today. The points raised by all Members of the House are ones that we need to reflect upon. For any candidate of Government or political office to seek to use this country as a leverage to gain support or political advantage is irresponsible and reprehensible. I concur with Senator McDowell in that regard. There is need for a conversation around future relations on our island, while at the same time respecting both traditions. I have not listened to or read the James Nesbitt interview, so I cannot comment on it. As I said, I am happy to have the Brexit and future relations in Ireland debate in due course. The suggestion made by Senator McDowell is one that the Seanad CPP could examine. It deserves consideration. There are a number of committees dealing with the Good Friday Agreement, including the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
If I may make a suggestion, such a committee could be a joint endeavour of the Upper and Lower House. This would give it the significance of an Oireachtas joint committee. If that is not to be, this House should certainly consider going it alone.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. I concur with his remarks regarding the reduction of the grant. I have received the email from Brian Merriman and I hope to meet with him. The points made by Senator Norris are valid and I support them.
Senators Norris and Craughwell have made comments regarding the ordering of the business of the House. With regard to Commencement matters, the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, which the Leas-Chathaoirleach chairs, was anxious to complete a number of pieces of work before the summer recess. One of these was on Senator Colette Kelleher's proposal regarding the Traveller community. We have facilitated a number of very important debates at that committee. A decision was taken between the committee, others, and myself as Leader to hold a meeting this morning from 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. This decision was not made to facilitate any group or grouping within society, but to facilitate the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, which we have also done at other times.