The Order of Business is No. 1, the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to adjourn at 6.45 p.m., if not previously concluded.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I welcome Senator Mark Daly. He has the floor.
It is always great to get a warm welcome from a fellow Kerry man. I thank the Leader for outlining the Order of Business today.
At present, it is all things Brexit and Brexit-related. I know the Government has made strong representations to the British Government on the court case yesterday. The matter has been raised many times in this House by Senator Ó Donnghaile, among others. I refer to the entitlement in the Good Friday Agreement of every citizen on this island to identify as British or Irish, or both, as a person so chooses. The verdict in yesterday's court case stated that one would automatically be a British citizen in Northern Ireland, whether one chose it or not. That is not within the spirit and certainly not within the letter of the Good Friday Agreement. The situation must be rectified. Otherwise, those in Northern Ireland who would classify themselves as being Irish must go through a legal process to say that they are not, in fact, British. When one puts it in the context of Brexit, it outlines the need for clarity to be brought to the issue because identity has been highlighted as one of the key concerns on both sides when it comes to the future of this island and a united Ireland, as Senator Norris and others have pointed out. We must respect identity and make sure people are protected. The court case and this ruling are of concern to everybody on this island and must be challenged.
Brexit is ever with us. We have had numerous debates on it. In the past 15 minutes, the chief negotiator of the EU, Michel Barnier, has pointed out that the British proposals to leave the EU are simply not good enough. He said they are not there yet. He makes a good point when he says it is high time to turn good intentions into legal text. He points out that it must be done by this evening in order to be ready for it to be ratified at the meetings of the Heads of State and of Government on Thursday and Friday. There is also next week and there is also an opportunity for the UK to seek an extension, despite its domestic issues, in order for this to be done correctly, because when the UK leaves, it will do so permanently. Moreover, it must also leave in a way that makes sure that the peace on this island is sustained and maintained.
As pointed out by the Chief Constable of the PSNI and others, we know that in the event of a return to a hard border, there will be a return to violence on this island. The only issue will be its scale. I hope we all agree that this is not something we wish to return to.
I welcome to the Visitors Gallery my niece, Cliona Daly, and her friend, Freddy, who are here on work experience. They have been working very hard all week and will continue to do so, as will we.
We will keep them busy.
Will the Leader clarify that, on the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016, we will be taking Report Stage, resumed, and Final Stage?
Report Stage, resumed, and Final Stage.
I thank the Leader.
The next speaker is Senator Gavan. There is nobody here from the Independent benches.
It is not like them, to be fair. I got a distress call this afternoon from University Hospital Limerick. The Leader will know this is not the first time I have brought up the issue of the hospital. There were 80 people on trolleys there this morning. A month ago, the head of nursing declared to staff that having trolleys in corridors was a red-line issue for her, yet this morning she was forced to instruct staff that there be three trolleys on every corridor of the hospital. Worse than that, the patient dispatch unit also has trolleys in its corridor. My colleague, Ger Kennedy, from SIPTU, who asked to be quoted so people would understand the gravity of the situation, described University Hospital Limerick as akin to Beirut. We have spoken about this on so many occasions. Staff morale is at an all-time low. This is really saying something. God knows the staff have had a hard time in the hospital in recent years.
There is genuine despair over the lack of Government action and over the Government acting at times as a roadblock to progress. I will give a specific example. It was put to me this morning on the train as I came here. There are a number of new nursing graduates, including seven midwife graduates. There is a serious shortage of midwives across the country, particularly in University Maternity Hospital Limerick, yet the seven midwives are unemployed because the maternity hospital in Limerick does not have permission to hire them. The Minister likes to play with terms. He says there is no moratorium. One can call it a pause or moratorium, or whatever one likes, but the fact of the matter is that our hospitals are in crisis and University Hospital Limerick is in no position to hire. That decision rests with one person alone, the Minister for Health, the same Minister for Health who slipped in for one morning and slipped out again without telling anyone in advance what was happening.
I see colleagues from the mid-west present. To be fair to them, they have also highlighted the crisis in University Hospital Limerick. I am acting not on a party-political basis but on the basis that we have had enough. In Limerick, Clare and across the mid-west, we have had enough of our hospitals failing our people, of people dying in corridors and of the crisis getting ever worse. Let us not forget it is only 14 October. Limerick holds the record of 82 people on trolleys. What will the record be in another month, December or January? Is it any wonder that the Government is seeking a quick election? It knows it will only get worse. It is time for action. How long will it take?
I am sorry I was not in my seat when my turn arrived.
I welcome two young men from Cork, namely, Ben Quigley and Adam Hallissey, both of whom are authors with progressivebrief.com. They are both students from Cork. The blog progressivebrief.com contains political commentary.
It is wonderful to see people from university here. My colleague, Senator Buttimer, will agree with me that it is good to see young people in college engaged in political comment and I welcome them.
I also want to welcome my fellow county people from the Presentation Convent, Tuam, County Galway, as it is always good to see a Galway representation here. The ladies are welcome today and I hope they enjoy Leinster House.
As for Brexit and the current position, I again compliment the Government on the way it has behaved itself right through the Brexit negotiations to this point in time, where the last thing we need are leaks. Thankfully, nobody on this side of the country is providing these. As we draw closer, there is a possibility that some of our brothers and sisters on the unionist side may feel that they are being hard done by. I am unsure what way things will work out but listening to and watching Sky News this morning, there is a possibility that there will have to be a change to the position that gave the unionists the level of comfort they think they currently have. We must be extremely careful because there are young men and women in Northern Ireland who may not take that too well. For that reason in particular, I compliment the Government in being extremely sensitive. It is a very dangerous time in our history. I ask that we maintain the level of secrecy, if one wishes to call it that, as we lead up to the final days of whatever will emerge. I hope, as I know everybody in this House does, that we will finish up with a deal that will satisfy all sides. There can be no winners here. It has to be an agreed solution.
I refer to the invasion of Syria by Turkish troops at the direction of Mr. Erdoan. This is clearly the responsibility of Mr. Trump, whose withdrawal of American troops gave the green light to invade. It is a piece of massive hypocrisy that he then announced what he has called the worst sanctions ever seen against members of the Turkish Government and regime. This measure was not Trump's but was because of pressure from Congress and from people within his own Republican Party, who have at last woken up to the type of clown that they have leading them. The Kurds are the most badly treated national minority-----
-----that I can think of. They have been spread between different countries that have refused to give them human or civil rights. They are not allowed, in many places, to speak their own language. The people who will be taken over by this move will also not be speaking Kurdish but will be taught in Arabic. We in Ireland ought to understand the meaning of the deprivation of language. They are a wonderful people. The women, children and other civilians, however, are being mowed down and bombed into filth by the Turkish army assault. It is tragic that in all of this mess, the one person to come out with an advantage is Mr. Putin, who is another stinker. We have handed Mr. Putin a triumph on a plate, which is a pity. I ask the Leader to arrange that a strong protest be made by this House and Government to the Turkish ambassador to let him know our views. It is not much but it is something we can do to show solidarity with the unfortunate Kurdish people.
I thank the Senator, despite his use of a word I did not think was parliamentary.
What word was that?
We will leave it alone now.
Was it "stinker"? The word "stinker" is very parliamentary. There are plenty of stinkers around.
I call the Senator to order, please, and call Senator Conway to speak now.
I share Senator Norris's outrage and sentiments, which will be shared by most decent people. President Donald J. Trump has an awful lot to answer for-----
-----in what he has done.
His actions are appalling. Last week was positive with regard to Brexit. I wish all the parties well and I hope that there is no leaking. The last thing we need is a leak from any quarter. Hopefully common sense will prevail in the United Kingdom and among the DUP, to make people realise that they have many responsibilities.
I share Senator Gavan's concern about Limerick hospital. We have raised it many times here. I would not question the Minister's motivation in going to visit the hospital. He was called on by people across the floor in both Houses to make an unannounced visit and he did that in good faith. He did not tell anybody he was going because that would defeat the purpose. A modular unit is being built as we speak. The money has been provided. There were no roadblocks in providing the money for the modular unit. Within five weeks of it being requested by the Mid West hospital group, the money was sanctioned. That will be a 60-bed unit. It will not solve the problems. I call for the 93-bed additional unit that has been committed to in the Project Ireland 2040 capital plan to be fast-tracked. That would certainly alleviate the pressures in the hospital in Limerick. We need to be mindful of the people who are on trolleys. It is not acceptable. I have great sympathy for them and for the staff who are working in those dreadful conditions. All that we can do is call on management to escalate its discharge policy. The slowness in discharging patients from the hospital into step-down facilities is a problem that needs to be dealt with. The Government can only do so much. I believe that the management in University Limerick hospital group needs to improve the flow of early and fast discharges, otherwise we will see a repeat of the current situation. I accept that it is only part of the problem and that capacity is another significant part. A solution to that capacity problem is on the way, which I consider a partial solution. The ultimate solution is a 60-bed modular unit coupled with the 93-bed unit that is committed to under the capital investment programme.
I would like to talk about An Garda Síochána. Following pressure from Fianna Fáil, there is increased funding of €81 million for Garda numbers in budget 2020, which will deliver up to 700 new Garda recruits. However, I need clarity about something that the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, announced earlier this year, namely, that 800 recruits would join the ranks at the Garda Training College in Templemore this year. However, the budget states that up to 700 are being recruited. The newspapers are calling it a U-turn and another broken promise, caught up in a web of spin and empty announcements.
On a point of order-----
I want clarification.
Sorry, Senator. I have to take a point of order.
On a point of order, it is 700 gardaí and the rest are civilian staff. If the Senator read the report-----
That is not a point of order. I must ask Senator Conway to resume his seat.
That is not a point of order.
If the Senator read the budget in detail, she would know it, bearing in mind that she and her party closed Templemore-----
Senator Conway is out of order. That is not a point of order.
The Minister, Deputy Flanagan-----
Does Senator Murnane O'Connor want me to keep going?
Is it not amazing how Fianna Fáil closed Templemore?
Fianna Fáil closed the college for five years. Not one garda was recruited for five years. Fianna Fáil closed Templemore. It was a disgrace.
I ask for one Senator to speak at a time. Senator Lawlor will get his turn.
Senator Murnane O'Connor should get her facts right.
Will Senators behave please?
The newspapers are calling this a U-turn and broken promise-----
That will not get the Senator elected in Carlow.
-----along with spin and empty announcements. I am giving the facts.
The fact is that Fianna Fáil closed Templemore.
Will Senator Murnane O'Connor address her remarks through the Chair please?
Did the Senator not sort this out before the budget with Deputy Michael McGrath and her Fianna Fáil colleagues?
There will be gardaí going to Carlow because we reopened Templemore.
I have risen here-----
Senator Lawlor is out of order.
-----to speak about the lack of resources for our gardaí.
They do not like the facts.
That does not matter. The Senators will get their turn.
The figure of 15,000 by 2021 was a key demand of Fianna Fáil, in a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael, which has not been easy.
Who closed Templemore?
Is that speech from the third floor?
A boost in numbers would mean a better system. There are people the length and breadth of rural Ireland living in fear because there are not enough gardaí visible in our towns and villages. They want more gardaí.
Who wrote the script?
Every week, I receive complaints about Garda vetting and how people must be vetted for each sports club, educational facility or youth organisation. In one case, a man was vetted 18 times across various sports clubs. He was waiting weeks for authorisation to volunteer for a small club which needed his services because there was too much paperwork.
Is the Senator against vetting?
There should be one vetting per person which would carry through.
For how long?
There should be only one vetting for every activity, a kind of behaviour card, which would feature the Garda's vetting information. Shockingly, people are slipping through with devastating consequences. It is simply not working.
Does the Senator want more vetting now?
We cannot keep asking for more and more from our police force when we are not giving it the resources.
The Senator is in injury time.
The Minister was in the House last week and I spoke to him about resources.
The Minister agreed with me about resources.
The Senator is over time.
That was well read.
We need more resources for our gardaí.
I thank the Senator. She should resume her seat. She has made her point.
I also wish to note-----
The Senator has gone over time.
This is an amendment.
Order. We will hear the amendment.
Senators are being very unfair here. I am only speaking the truth.
Will the Senator move the amendment please?
I want to move an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 12 be taken before No. 1.
I thank the Senator and call Senator Marshall.
What is No. 12?
I will check that for the Leader.
Order. I call Senator Marshall to speak without interruption.
On a more sombre note, 28 years ago, veteran journalist, David McKittrick, BBC journalists, Chris Thornton and Seamus Kelters, political commentator, Brian Feeney, and later David McVea, sat down to write a book. The book would record the stories of every man, woman and child killed during the Troubles, a book that would stand in isolation as the only record of the fate of every one of the 3,700 lives destroyed by the Troubles, including Members of this House and victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It took an arduous and painstaking eight years to complete the task and in 1999 they duly published their work, Lost Lives, as a testament to remember those individuals, every man, woman, child and baby, lest they were forgotten.
The impact this book had was monumental. It included revelations to many families regarding the loss of a loved one, details and circumstances that many had never been aware of. The book has been read and referenced by academics and students and has been shared and studied in churches and chapels, with many readers moved to tears by the sheer scale and loss of human life and families destroyed by the horrors of conflict.
However, that is not why I speak today. Last night I attended the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast to watch "Lost Lives", the film, 20 years on from the book. This is a film best described as "a requiem for those killed in the Troubles". The film is the work of Belfast directors, Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt of DoubleBand Films. For 90 minutes, it weaves together an intricate tapestry of archive footage, music and powerful visual imagery to a backdrop of bombs, gunfire, devastation and destruction.
Probably most strikingly and hauntingly, the voices behind the narrative are not the victims but rather a who's who of Irish acting talent. Apparently none needed to be asked twice to participate. All were willing participants, no doubt seeing the value of this work. They make up a list comprising household names such as Liam Neeson, Kenneth Branagh, Adrian Dunbar, Bronagh Gallagher, Stephen Rea, James Nesbitt, Brendan Gleeson, Roma Downey, Susan Lynch, Martin McCann, Ian McElhinney, Michael Smiley, Bronagh Waugh and Bríd Brennan, all lending their voices to the stories of the lost lives, accompanied by a very moving, emotive score performed by the Ulster Orchestra.
What it demonstrates is the futility of conflict - the hurt, the pain, the loss and suffering of conflict. It is a recognition and a stark reminder that there are no winners, only losers. No one escapes the horror, no one has a monopoly on pain and no one should ever forget because it is by remembering the hell that we fulfil our responsibility to ensure this never happens again.
Probably the most moving moment was at the end credits when every Troubles death is listed year by year on screen, name after name, line after line, concluding with the single name in 2019, of Lyra McKee, murdered by dissident republicans earlier this year. The list is a truly horrifying demonstration of the monumental loss of life. As the credits finished and the lights went up, last night was the first time in my life that I left a cinema when absolutely no one spoke. Not a word was being uttered, highlighting the power of this film, and the painful emotions and memories it evoked. It reminded me of a funeral cortege or that silence associated with the respect and reverence of remembrance.
This film is a very important piece of work. It premiered at the London Film Festival last week and at Queen's Film Theatre, Belfast from Friday, 10 October. It is planned that "Lost Lives" will be screened by the BBC later this year. I urge that this film be seen across the Twenty-six Counties and not just the Six Counties. Someone needs to make sure people can see it. It should be screened in order that we all reflect, and that we all dispel any notion that this was a proud or glorious moment in our history on the island of Ireland because it certainly was not.
The pain and hurt etched on the faces and families destroyed by grief and suffering in this film should serve as a reminder that we never glorify this or go back to these horrors. Everybody on the island needs to view this piece of genius. Everybody needs to ensure these horrors never happen again. I urge the Leader and this House to use their influence to ensure everyone has the opportunity to see this work and to understand that we should never veer into idle chat about identity, culture and nationality in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland without understanding the hell and hurt so many have suffered. All need to see this work, because we all have a responsibility to never repeat the past especially in these turbulent political times.
The report in today's newspaper about University Hospital Limerick makes very stark reading. I have had contact from people who were there as patients in the past 24 hours and from staff. Eighty people are on trolleys and it reached a national all-time high of 82 in the past month. It is frightening to think that we are not into the winter months and yet 80 people are on trolleys.
A person with a family member who is very seriously ill contacted my office. While I appreciate the patient had to be moved to another hospital because of the nature of their illness, the centre of excellence for the person's illness is actually in University Hospital Limerick. While I know it was for the person's safety, it is not acceptable that they were moved.
The injury units in Nenagh and Ennis are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the unit in St. John's is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. However, we need to look at making better use of the other complementary hospitals to University Hospital Limerick because every day, the numbers are increasing. It is quite serious at this stage and is at breaking point.
I asked the Minister to visit the hospital unannounced because I always felt when his visits were announced in the past, certain things were hidden. I understand from speaking to him that he discovered things that might not have come to light, had he announced he was going. There needs to be a plan. The matter was raised at the recent Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health. I understand the extra scanner is under way. It might be a portable one, but anything that will ease the plight of the staff and really ill patients is welcome.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to take No. 13, the Industrial Relations (Joint Labour Committees) Bill 2019, before No. 1.
I wish to reflect on the points so articulately and eloquently put by Senator Marshall. We should never forget what the conflict inflicted on far too many people on this island, on our neighbouring island and elsewhere.
I absolutely agree that "Lost Lives" should be essential viewing for all citizens of this State, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. We must always remember the horror inflicted on our people in those dark days from the late 1960s through to the Good Friday Agreement, not forgetting the tragic loss of Lyra McKee, who was murdered this year. Peace is fragile. We must remember that one of the central tenets of the Good Friday Agreement and one of the things that will make sure we will never return to those dark days is recognising the right of all individuals to their identity as British, Irish or both. As a consequence of a judgment on an appeal by the British Home Office yesterday, the right of Emma DeSouza to be Irish and have her Irish identity recognised by the British state was not upheld. This afternoon the Taoiseach recognised her as an Irish citizen and somebody who has, as a matter of fact, an Irish passport. He has said the issue will be raised again by the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, in meetings with the British authorities and ministers this week. With respect, tea and sympathy are not what is required. We need strong action by the British Government to make sure that, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the right of citizens in the North to identify as Irish will be protected, as is the right to be considered British, and that they will have the full protection of the law in that respect.
I agree with the statement made by my colleague Senator Norris on the behaviour of the Turkish regime towards the Kurdish population in northern Syria. It is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable. The Kurdish people are among the most tormented of races on the planet and this has been the case since time immemorial. The actions of Turkey must be condemned by the House. I know many Turkish people living in Ireland who are good friends of mine, who do not accept what is happening and who find themselves at odds with the decision made by the Erdoan Government to engage in these horrific and reprehensible acts, which do not reflect the wishes of the Turkish people I know, who want to live in peace and respect the rights of the Kurdish people. We know that this genie was allowed to emerge from the bottle by the actions of the US President, Donald Trump. It is entirely unacceptable. I support the proposal of my colleague Senator Norris that we protest to the Turkish ambassador about the behaviour of the Turkish regime in what is happening in northern Syria. It is absolutely unacceptable and should be deplored by everybody in the House.
I second Senator Nash's amendment to the Order of Business.
This morning I attended a presentation made by Senator Freeman in the AV room on the Children's Digital Protection Bill, which we discussed last year and has reached Committee Stage. Its purpose is to safeguard children exposed to legal but harmful and age inappropriate web content and place responsibility on the hosts for the distribution of the information and making it available to children. People can go on the dark web to get step-by-step instructions every day for 50 days on how to self-harm. At the end of the 50 days they will be told how to complete suicide. This is affecting young children aged ten years and younger. We are still in mental health and well-being week. These online forums are seen as normal. It is seen as normal behaviour to be promoted, but it is so damaging. Some sadistic individuals are capturing young children and, after 50 days of induction, asking them to complete suicide. I would certainly not allow a child to enter a room alone with one person not knowing what the conversation was going to be about.
This particular conversation is frightening. There are also special forums on how to be the best anorexic in the world. It is a normalisation of dysfunction. The forums' effect on our children's health and well-being is renowned. At 1 p.m. tomorrow, the community groups Hug and Mental Health Warriors will gather outside the gates of Leinster House to protest for more fit-for-purpose services for our children and for us as legislators to protect our children.
I concur with Senator Marshall on that most wonderful book, Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. It is the best historical journalism that this country has ever seen. It shows that there are human stories behind the statistics. It is a book of remembrance and one that I have taken out of the Oireachtas Library many times. Seemingly, buying the book would cost between €200 and €400. However, I would tell students, public servants, politicians or anyone else to take out the book. If we do not remember our past, we will be doomed to fail in future. I am delighted to see that it will now be shown on screen. It is horrific and harrowing. We sometimes forget that there were 3,700 or so deaths.
On the issue of events preceding matters, partition was conceived in this country on this day 100 years ago. It was the first meeting of the committee that effectively recommended two parliaments, North and South, on the island of Ireland and a council of Ireland. We are in a state of historical analysis. The UK Government has been told to submit by midnight proposals to replace the backstop or else the deal will be off. I was delighted by what happened with Prime Minister Johnson and the Taoiseach last week, as the situation is moving in the right direction. It is a pathway that could allow the UK to leave the EU without crashing out. What we have always said is that we must avoid a hard border and protect our place in the Single Market. Most importantly, the Good Friday Agreement can never be touched or threatened. I hope that, in the coming days, we will devise a proposal and work together so that, whatever happens with Brexit, the agreement will work again.
Brexit has damaged relations on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and the EU and the UK. As politicians, we must work twice as hard to try to repair that damage. There were never going to be winners out of Brexit, but we must ensure that, whatever happens, there is a deal with which everyone is satisfied.
I second Senator Murnane O'Connor's proposed amendment. I agree with the sentiments she expressed regarding Garda resources. I attended a meeting of the Monaghan joint policing committee last weekend at which the chief superintendent outlined his concerns about the lack of resources with which he had to work. I believe he stated that, by the end of the year, he would be down to eight patrol cars to cover his division. He outlined that he had a serious problem and stated that, when he picked up the phone to look for help, he was told that there was no money.
I wish to raise two issues relating to the farming community. Today is the final date for the spreading of slurry. The deadline needs to be extended to accommodate those farmers who are trying to put slurry on their lands. There has been an exceptional period of heavy rain, so much so that lands across the country are impassable to machinery. In some cases, it is not even possible to have livestock out on lands. I understand that many farmers throughout the country have been forced to house cattle because of the ground conditions. The farming community needs the deadline to be extended. I have written to the Minister expressing that sentiment and I hope that the Leader will use his good offices to implore the Minister to extend the deadline.
The other issue relates to the beef exceptional aid measure, BEAM, which is the €100 million fund introduced by Government to compensate hard-hit suckler farmers in regard to beef prices. I was disappointed but not surprised to learn that only half the suckler farmers in the country have applied for this scheme. This illustrates that the scheme is not working and is not attractive to farmers in the first instance. The problem, in part, is that one of the criteria pertaining to this scheme is that farmers must commit to a reduction in their stocking numbers by a minimum of 5% for the following year. The lack of uptake in the scheme highlights that there is a problem with it. Again, I implore the Leader to use his good offices to bring back to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, the message that suckler farmers are hard-pressed with beef prices and ground conditions and they need a break. The Minister needs to review this scheme with a view to making it attractive for farmers to apply for the funding which they so badly need.
I thank the 12 Senators who contributed to the Order of Business. The issues of Brexit and the DeSouza case were raised by Senators Mark Daly, Craughwell, Conway, Nash and Feighan. All of us in this House stand united in the twin declaration of the need to ensure there is no return to a hard border on our island and to protect our place in the Single Market. Rather than add to the rhetoric, as parliamentarians it is best that we allow the negotiations to continue such that a deal and a solution can be found in the interests of all of us on this shared island.
The Taoiseach referenced the DeSouza case and he said that he will raise the matter with Prime Minister Johnson again next week. It is an important case. In my opinion, it goes against the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and it gives further hostage to different sides to argue particular points. The important point is that British citizenship laws are, as the Taoiseach said, out of step with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. In keeping with the comments of many Members here, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, there is a responsibility on both sides to honour and uphold it. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, as part of their engagements, will make that position clear. To make a distinction between national identity and citizenship is an incorrect reading of the Good Friday Agreement.
In regard to Brexit, the comments today by Mr. Barnier are worth noting. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have negotiated and will continue to negotiate in food faith. As stated this morning by the Tánaiste, this is not a time for pessimism or optimism, but rather a time for all of us to hold firm in the national interest.
Senators Gavan, Conway and Byrne raised the vexing issue of trolley numbers in University Hospital Limerick. All Members have raised this matter repeatedly in the House. As Senator Gavan knows, the Government is committed under the capital plan to the 60-bed modular unit. We all understand that one person on a trolley is one too many. There is a need for management and the HSE to come together to put in place a real plan that will eliminate the use of trolleys. Equally, there is a role for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, and SIPTU in regard to the operation of emergency departments and trolley counts, including what counts and does not count. As a Member of the Oireachtas and a citizen of this country it is my view that one person on a trolley is one person too many. However, I have not heard Senator Gavan offer a solution, other than-----
-----the hiring of staff. The Government is committed in the capital plan. Senator Gavan is party to the regime that proposes to spend its way out of everything.
That does not often work.
We will spend more getting them back in four years' time from London.
That poses the question as to how we view our health system. That is especially the case, give the highest ever expenditure announced in the budget last week. There is also the question as to why the accident and emergency department is our first port of call. Where is our primary care system? Why is that not functioning to the level and capacity needed to have people perceive it to be the first point of contact? Why is that the emergency department? We will have that debate with the Minister in due course.
Senator Craughwell welcomed two people from Cork and I join with him in that.
Senators Norris and Nash raised the issue of Syria. It is a source of distress and concern and we all join in the condemnation of what is happening there. The vacuum being created by the policy of the American Administration is being filled by Russia and Assad. It is unacceptable. The geopolitical landscape has changed in the space of a week because of the policy of the American Administration. It is extraordinary that President Trump's own party, the Republican Party, is fundamentally disagreeing with him on this matter. It is not good. As Senators Nash and Norris stated, we all protest and condemn the actions occurring in Syria. In a series of interviews in the last few days, the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, made the Government's position very clear. I would be happy, however, to have a debate on this matter in due course, with the Minister in attendance.
Senators Murnane O'Connor and Gallagher raised the issue of Garda numbers. While I do not wish to engage in political crossfire with the Senators opposite me, they have a very short memory. It was their party, when it was in power, that closed Templemore Garda College, reduced Garda numbers, failed to fill vacancies, put a moratorium in place on recruitment, hiring and promotion and cut the pay and conditions of members of An Garda Síochána. That is their legacy. Under this Government, new members of the Garda have been recruited and the budget for An Garda Síochána has increased by €190 million to include funding for 700 new gardaí and additional staff. Moreover, civilianisation of An Garda Síochána has taken place, meaning that more gardaí are out in the community. Senator Gallagher may shake his head with disbelief but I will bring him to Cork to meet the gardaí who are now in community policing. Members of the Garda are moving out of stations to be replaced with civilians. Just last month, Commissioner Harris-----
How do they get around, having moved out?
There must be a good bus service down there.
A good bus service is right.
I will explain. It is very simple-----
We are not going to have a renewed debate on this matter. I call the Leader to respond.
Senator Buttimer was obviously in the fiction section of the library again.
The fiction section of the library is the one that we see the-----
The Leader to respond without interruption.
It is a bit like the "buy and sell"-style magazine that Fianna Fáil produces. "Here is our budget", it states-----
The Leader cannot promise something and then not deliver on it.
-----but will it pay for it? I remind Members opposite, many of whom were public representatives from 2007 to 2010, what happened then. I will leave things at that.
On a point of information-----
On a point of information-----
What we need-----
I will hear the point of information.
There are no points of information in reply to the Order of Business.
On a point of order, the Leader reminds me of the man in the race-----
Is this a genuine point of order?
It is very much so.
Of course it is not genuine.
It is very genuine.
I will decide that.
If we hear him out-----
There are no points of order during the reply to the Order of Business.
The Leader and this Government remind me of the man in the race-----
That is not a point of order.
-----who is so far behind the rest of the field that he thinks he is leading.
That is not a point of order.
I did not hear it. Will Senator Gallagher repeat that please?
He thinks he is in the lead.
I ask the Senators to resume their seats. I ask the Leader to continue without being provocative.
In the immortal words of a former colleague and friend, Denis Cregan, who served in this House-----
I served with him.
-----it is a long game, played slow. Senator Gallagher should remember that.
The Leader's colleagues mentioned waiting lists, but we have never had so many people on trolleys. I could also mention housing, homelessness-----
We are hearing the Leader now. We are not hearing-----
I remind Senator Murnane O'Connor that the architect of the present dysfunctional health system-----
-----is her party leader, the former Minister for Health, Deputy Micheál Martin. Until her party-----
Through the Chair-----
The Leader always brings that subject up-----
Until Senator Murnane O'Connor's party-----
It would be more helpful for order, were the Leader to direct comments through the Chair, rather than to the Members opposite.
If it was not for Fianna Fáil, the Leader would be speechless.
Senator Murnane O'Connor's party leader founded the HSE and then ran out of office to leave Mary Harney embedded there for almost a decade.
That is Fianna Fáil's legacy and the Senators cannot hide it.
The Taoiseach ran out of the Department of Health.
The Leader to conclude.
I remind Senators Murnane O'Connor and Gallagher of the Garda Vote. There is an increase of €122 million to pay for pay, recruitment costs and the recruitment of 700 new gardaí. Fianna Fáil closed the college.
The Government promised 800.
There are new resources for a range of issues. I will be happy to have a debate on justice with the Members opposite any time they wish.
I admit to a lack of knowledge about Senator Murnane O'Connor's question about vetting. She either wanted vetting or she did not. I am not quite sure. We can never-----
On a point of order-----
Let me finish.
We must always err on the side of caution regarding the protection of children and minors in the State. I will be happy to have a debate on vetting but if the Senator thinks it would be more expeditious to deal with it as a Commencement matter, she should do that.
On a point of order-----
Points of order should not be raised on the concluding remarks.
The resources are not available and the Garda is put to the pin of its collar. People are not being vetted in enough time.
The Senator can hold that for the debate.
There are not enough resources. It all boils down to resources and that is where the Government is falling down.
Is the Senator listening?
She never does.
Hold it for the debate. The Leader might conclude.
Senators Marshall, Nash and Feighan raised the Lost Lives book. If we do nothing else as a result of today's Order of Business, we could reflect on the contributions of Members who spoke about the film based on the book. We can never go back to the dark days of the past. We have a hard-won peace. It is fragile and we can never take it for granted. We must always remember. As Senator Marshall eloquently said, nobody escapes the pain and nobody has a monopoly on pain, but we can never allow this to happen again. I endorse the view that the film should be essential viewing for all members of society. I commend the Senators on that.
In response to Senator Devine, the Committee Stage debate on Senator Freeman's Bill will take place tomorrow. Some of the amendments from the Government seek to ensure that children are safeguarded. I hope we can work together to make the Bill better so we can achieve its overarching aim, which is to protect and safeguard children. Some of the points the Senator made today relate to challenges many parents face every day in how they deal with and have interactions with their children on the use of the Internet, social media and particular websites. The points she made are important. I was unable to attend the briefing earlier, but a member of my staff was there. We can never be complacent about this important issue. The debate will be held in the House tomorrow.
Senator Gallagher raised the spreading of slurry. The Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, said in the Dáil today that the matter would be kept under constant review. The points made by the Senator are valid. On the beef exceptional aid measure, while I welcome the €100 million, I do not have the answer as to why or whether it is necessarily the way he says it is, but let us have that debate with the Minister, Deputy Creed, or the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle.
I welcome Senator Mark Daly's niece and her friend to the House. I believe his niece's name is Clionadh, but I did not get her friend's name. They are both welcome and I wish them every success in their visit. I hope his niece is as successful as her uncle and that she travels as far as he does.
Mar fhocal scoir, I am happy to accept the amendments to the Order of Business proposed by Senators Murnane O'Connor and Nash.
Senator Murnane O'Connor has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business "That No. 12 be taken before No. 1." The Leader indicated that he is prepared to accept the amendment. Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.
Senator Nash has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business "That No. 13 be taken before No. 1." The Leader, again, indicated that he is prepared to accept the amendment. Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.