Senator O'Reilly referred to the school meals programme, which is an important initiative in our education system. All of us recognise the importance of nutrition. In the context of the development and well-being of young children in schools, it is critical that they are properly fed. Some 36 schools were part of a pilot programme run by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection last year. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, has flagged that by 2020 there will be 45 childcare settings in which hot meals will be made available. Senator O'Reilly also referred to the school book scheme. I would be happy for the Minister to come to House to debate that issue.
Senator Gallagher made reference to the funding of public services. I am sure every local authority would love to have more money. I am happy for the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, to come to the House to highlight the amount of money that he has spent in this area, and for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to do likewise. This important issue also relates to the area of transport. I am happy to have that debate.
Senator Boyhan raised the issue of SHD and fast-track planning. He raised these points yesterday in a very good meeting of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. Senator Boyhan is correct when he states that we must achieve a balance between powers, third-party appeals and fast-tracking. The scheme is due to end this year, but it can be extended to 2021 by the Minister. He stated in the Dáil earlier this month that he has the report and that there will be changes. The points made by the Senator are important because there is a feeling of disconnection in local communities and local authorities. A variety of speakers appeared before the joint committee yesterday, including some from the Irish Planning Institute. I am happy to have the Minister come to the House to discuss the matter and there is merit in the Senator's suggestion.
Senators Mulherin and Lombard raised the issue of CAMHS, eating disorders and self-image. That is an important matter about which we as a society must continue to have a conversation. I am happy to have the Minister come to the House.
Senator Devine raised the issue of the Shannon LNG project. That matter was debated during the Order of Business in recent days. I will not repeat what has already been said.
Commencement matters are important and it is essential that all Members have an opportunity to put one forward. It is disappointing if Ministers do not come into the House. Some Ministers want to take debates and are only too happy to do so in person. I will speak to the Government Chief Whip regarding this matter. There may be diary issues involved, but it is not good enough to have no Minister present to address Members' Commencement matters and that Ministers cancel at short notice.
Senator Lombard referred to the important I Wish campaign being undertaken and spearheaded by Ms Gillian Keating and Ms Caroline O'Driscoll from Cork. There was an excellent presentation this morning in the audiovisual room on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, subjects and the need for young girls and women take them up in schools. I am happy to have that debate.
Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of drivers who are more than 70 years of age. Bus Éireann has a policy centred on drivers reaching the age of 65. That is extended for part-time and private workers. There is a facility for those drivers to continue beyond the age of 70, provided they have licences and are certified by their doctors. The Bus Éireann age limit was extended. This might be more appropriately dealt with by means of a Commencement matter to which the Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, could reply.
Senator O'Mahony raised the issue of the Irish Aviation Authority and the importance of a policy on drones. We saw what happened in respect of this issue last February. I am happy for the Minister to come to the House.
Senator Mullen referred to the Irish longitudinal study on ageing and the matter of loneliness raised yesterday by Senator Murnane O'Connor. Loneliness is the unspoken issue for many middle-aged and older people. I would be happy to have that debate.
Regarding the matter raised by Senator Ó Donnghaile, I thank Senator O'Reilly for deputising for me last week in Belfast. I regret that I was unable to be there because of a diary clash with an event where I was speaking in Cork. It is important that links are forged in this regard and I know that Senator McDowell's group was in Belfast before the summer recess. It is important for the Upper House to have links and build relationships, and we are very well represented by Senators Ó Donnghaile and Marshall in the North. I hope we can develop those links further.
Turning to Senator Horkan, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly will be 30 years old next year. Regarding BusConnects, we will have that debate in due course. An interim report was published yesterday, so I am sure there will be much lengthy debate in the next couple of weeks.
I thank Senator Humphreys for withdrawing his amendment. I welcome the Leas-Chathaoirleach's daughter and granddaughters to the House. They should be very proud of their dad and grandfather because he is a magnificent person and we are very proud of him. He has done a great job as a Member of this House. Beir bua.