I thank all Senators for their contributions on very important matters, both national, international and local. They are equally important.
I start with Senator Byrne's comments and I also wish the Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP, a happy 50th birthday. I had the pleasure a number of years ago to attend an event in my constituency of the time with Mr. John Hume, although it was a time when his unfortunate illness was becoming evident. I join the Senator in wishing the SDLP and its members, including Mr. Colum Eastwood, a happy birthday.
Senator Boyhan mentioned healthy discussion and a respectful debate and I concur with his comments. At times there is action at late-night sittings, as we saw last night in the other House, that are definitely regrettable. I agree with his concerns about taking all Stages of Bills in one sitting. We appreciate that this is an unprecedented emergency and the House had not been constituted because there was no Government in place. This should not happen and will not happen again.
I hope that in September we can return to taking Second Stage and Committee Stage of legislation on different days and maybe in different weeks.
Senators Bacik and Mullen referred to nursing homes and several other speakers, including Senators Lombard and O'Reilly, mentioned carers. The two matters are linked. I agree with all about the need for debates on this area. Nursing homes are important because in many cases there are not alternatives. I was lucky enough, when my late father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, my mother said "Billy, we will keep you at home". We were able to do that because there were seven of us in the family and we were able to do a rota. My sister from London was able to come over and work remotely on her laptop and mobile phone in Moycullen. We were able to look after him and keep him at home but other families do not have that option because they do not have the numbers of siblings that we have. I have always had a romantic view, and one of my favourite television programmes when I was younger was "The Waltons", where there were four generations of the same family living in the same house. I know that is not realistic in many cases but it is an absolutely wonderful setting where younger people are able to look after older people. There is a need to look at the whole area of carers and nursing homes. I will take the matter of Telford at Merrion back to the Minister for Health.
Senator Gavan and many others thanked public servants, as I do too. He and Senator O'Loughlin mentioned the Debenhams workers. We all recognise that former Debenhams workers have immediate questions and concerns about their redundancy payments as a result of the liquidation. There are ongoing discussions with the liquidators, the companies and unions. We note that the workers have statutory employment rights, that liquidation is court supervised and remains before the High Court. The legal proceedings have to conclude. I do not want to say anything prejudicial but it is important that their get what is in their rights. However, I disagree with Senator Gavan's view that the Government does not look after ordinary workers. The whole basis of the emergency legislation on the pandemic unemployment payment and the wage subsidy scheme has been to protect workers and, indeed, employers because it is not possible to cannot have one without the other. There is no point in employers thinking that they can run a company without employees or an employee thinking that they can get a days pay or a week's wage without someone to employ them. Of course, there are also self-employed people who are very important in all this.
Senator Crowe mentioned Galway 2020. What has happened there is regrettable. There was a litany of issues previously and the matter has been compounded this year. A wonderful event was planned but the opening-night celebrations were cancelled when a bad storm hit Galway Bay. Covid has impacted on every sector but it has had a real impact on Galway 2020, with many events either cancelled or postponed. On 10 July, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Catherine Martin, published a reimagined cultural programme for Galway 2020, with scaled-down events, although still featuring 350 artists due to work. Progress on this is being closely monitored by the Department. There has been a significant reduction in staff numbers and there is a Government commitment in the context of ensuring funding and governance.
Senator Burke made a very positive suggestion about the room in the National Museum of Ireland. I am not sure if that room is in its ownership. We are tight for space at times and no more so than during the current pandemic. The Cathaoirleach stated that he will look at this matter, which is important.
Senator Keogan said that the Government must do better. The Government, regardless of the parties which comprise it, always endeavour to do better and the role of the Opposition is to keep us on our toes in that regard. I would point out that the things that we are doing now and that we are able to do, including borrowing money for initiatives such as the July stimulus, was possible because we were able to balance our books at the start of the year and had good credit-worthiness as a State and because we had full employment at that point. It is important to remember that.
Senator Casey asked for a debate with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, on housing and Irish Water. We will not get into a discussion on the various funding streams relating to Irish Water but I know that it is an important issue in the investment in rural towns and villages. I concur that it is important in relation to spatial programming and population.
Senator Dolan spoke about people holidaying at home. We all agree. She also mentioned Scoil Croí Naofa and integrating special needs into mainstream. I am sure we can take that up with the Minster for Education and Skills.
Senator Fitzpatrick spoke of the wonderful amenity of the Royal Canal and the need to speak to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on phases 3 and 4. Several Senators have asked for debates on greenways and blueways. It is important and I agree.
Senator Hoey spoke about the Tampax ad and the near hysteria surrounding it, as well as the more important point on period poverty. It is something that does not personally impact on people of my sex but we do appreciate the importance of the issue. In the previous Oireachtas, the Irish Women's Parliamentary Caucus had a special debate in the Houses on period poverty. If all it takes is for 82 people to object to an ad for its removal, God knows what might happen down the line on other ads. I question the decision in this regard.
Senator Carrigy raised the important issue of speech and language therapy services. It is hugely important for those who require those basic services. It is mentioned in the programme for Government and it is important that it is not just a mention but that there is full implementation. All of us here, including the Opposition, have a role in ensuring the Government is focused on that.
Senator Murphy referred to the N5 bypass around Strokestown to Ballaghaderreen, a €200 million project that is under way. He mentioned concerns that family farmers have not been paid. It is a serious issue. There is a process and compulsory purchase orders have been made. There is a statutory process that the Irish Farmers Association on consent and access worked on. I will take the matter up with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Minister.
Senator McGreehan, as Senator O'Reilly acknowledged, told a very personal story about fertility, and the women, and indeed couples, who struggle with it. I will not get too personal about that as it would not be right, but I applaud what she has said and it is important that the issues she raised are taken on board.
Senator Higgins raised a number of issues including the importance of public servants, residential care and climate change. These are all very important points. She and Senator O'Sullivan mentioned what happened in the Dáil last night. Senator Higgins spoke of a winner-takes-all attitude towards politics and how diversity of voices is important. I agree with that but it is also important that there is more proportionate speaking times for Members which is the point of what was voted on yesterday. Indeed, there was no reduction in Opposition speaking time, but there was more proportional times given to those speaking based on the numbers in the Dáil.
Among the matters raised by Senator O'Loughlin that of accommodation payments at third level. I will ask the Minister with responsibility for further and higher education, Deputy Harris, to take up the matter of those payments.
Senator Buttimer referred to parliamentary democracy and to proprietary directors. I raised this with the Minster for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, yesterday. He stated that he is aware of the issue. It is a standard measure to avoid the abuse of these schemes but he will look into the matter in terms of the scheme's development.
Senator Martin spoke of the importance of sport and urged that we exhaust all channels to get sporting events back, specifically the all-Kildare Leinster Senior Cup final. It should happen. Those involved in rugby, especially schools rugby and in Leinster in particular, place huge importance on winning a medal in a final like that. I hope those involved get an opportunity to complete the fixture and that the IRFU takes that on board, taking into account the considerations relating to health.