The Order of Business today is No. 1 on the Supplementary Order Paper, motion re the arrangements for the sitting of the House on Thursday, 1 October 2020, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 2 on the Order Paper, the Investment Limited Partnerships (Amendment) Bill 2020 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. today and to adjourn at 2.50 p.m., if not previously concluded; and No. 3 on the Order Paper, Private Members' business, National Screening Advisory Committee Bill 2020 - Second Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. and the time provided for the debate not to exceed two hours.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I support the Order of Business and all the business to be done this week. As foreign affairs spokesperson for the Fianna Fáil Party, I wish to comment on last night's US presidential debate, the first of three. As with many Members of the Seanad, I am sure, a shiver went down my spine when I heard the current US President use the phrase "Stand back and stand by" when asked whether he would condemn those who support white supremacists. It is very serious that in the United States, which is meant to be a bastion of democracy, the rule of law and the democratic process, a sitting US President is potentially not going to accept the outcome of a democratic process.
Those words can be interpreted in a number of ways. However, in commentary online, some of those who agree with such sentiments suggest he is suggesting that those who are supportive of him and, perhaps, of the white supremacist movement, should stand down for now but stand by and be ready. Be ready for what? It is a dangerous narrative to come from a sitting US President and it poses a significant threat to world order and to a country that is seen as a great power in the global geopolitical landscape. I hope Members of this House will stand with me in saying that the outcome of a democratic process should be respected by all who participate in that process.
To move onto more localised issues, I ask that the Leader bring the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, to the House. There are two issues I wish to debate with the Minister and to hear his updates on. The first is Ireland West Airport Knock, as well as the entire aviation sector and all airports. I acknowledge that Senator Dooley has been a strong advocate for Shannon Airport. Ireland West Airport Knock is of importance not just to County Mayo but to the entire north-west region. The pandemic and the loss of connectivity and flights to and from that airport pose a significant threat to the economy of the north west. I want to hear the Minister's plans to ensure the future survival of Ireland West Airport Knock.
Second, I want to hear the Minister's update on the western rail corridor. Members will be aware that in the last term of the Oireachtas, a review was initiated by EY-DKM. It was to review the prospect of the western rail corridor being reopened between Tuam and Athenry, and then on into Claremorris, a connection that would bring Mayo and Galway closer together. The publication of that review is long overdue. I would like to see it published and to hear the Minister for Transport commit to delivering on that project.
Last Monday, 28 September, was World News Day. A global campaign was organised to highlight the important role of journalism. Journalism Matters is a campaign I fully support and I have no doubt all Senators support it, too. Newspapers, newsrooms, editorials and digital and social media are vital components in an era of so much misinformation and disinformation. More than ever, journalism and journalists are challenged to get the facts and report on the truth.
Local Ireland, the representative association of the Irish local news publishers, is urging the Government to support the vital role of public interest journalism. Journalism reports on the issues and stories that challenge, change and shape the public discourse and narrative. Journalism matters. Local Ireland is calling on the Government to tackle the dominance of the tech platforms and the digital advertising market. It is calling for urgent pro-competition reform to rebalance and restore competition with the digital advertising market. It is calling for the reduction of the VAT rate to 5% and, hopefully, eventually to 0%, as it is in Britain and the EU.
There is a need for the review and overhaul of the Defamation Acts and the reform of Ireland's defamation laws and I ask the Leader to call on the Minister for Justice to come to this House at a convenient time to discuss the review that has been sitting in the Department since 2017 and to give Members some report as to where this is going. If we want a vibrant local, regional and national news publishing industry that will report on county councils, the courts, the Oireachtas, Oireachtas Members, the EU and world affairs and that will raise awareness of the importance of societal issues and changes, we must support journalism. Journalism matters. Let us do something and support it.
On an issue I was asked to raise, why did the slot scheduled in the Order of Business for the Moorehead report on local government fall off the agenda? The Leader might give some explanation of that and when it will be rescheduled.
We are here to talk about the Order Paper and the Leader has a suggestion in the Order Paper today. If we support her proposal, we will adjourn this House tomorrow until next Wednesday. Every time there is a proposal to adjourn the House, I will look at it.
I will ask the Leader to come to the House and explain the rationale because the public wants to know and we need to know the rationale behind adjourning the House tomorrow until next Wednesday.
I am sure, like many of us, the Leader will have been deeply concerned and troubled by the news from Bus Éireann this week that it proposes to suspend a number of crucial and vital Expressway bus services from Dublin to a number of key locations throughout the rest of the country. As announced this week, the organisation is minded to cut services from Dublin to Belfast, Galway, Limerick and Cork and it appears that the decision is inevitable. As I am sure everyone will agree, this will have a potentially devastating negative impact on workers and commuters in the first instance, but also on the economies, communities and service providers of these places. Most ironic of all, it will possibly have an impact on the environment as well.
We are trying to find a balance, but as we emerge from this pandemic we will of course encourage people to travel, spend money and use our public transport infrastructure in order to visit and stimulate economies across the entire island. How do we propose to encourage, facilitate and enable more people to do precisely that? It appears there are to be cuts in vital and key strategic routes to the areas we call home and have a serious investment in.
Given that his Department was facilitated with a substantial amount of money at the beginning of the pandemic, it defies all logic that the Green Party Minister for Transport would oversee these cuts and the suspension of services on his watch. It is potentially devastating for communities and will cause a great deal of concern, regardless of where one sits in the Chamber or where one comes from. People will be deeply concerned, affected and impacted by the suspension of these services.
Aside from the economic and societal impacts, there is also a real concern, from my perspective and many others, that we want to get people out of private cars and facilitate them taking journeys on public transport. We do not want to take away public transport services and leave those who do not have private cars with limited opportunities while those who do have private cars have to get back into them. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister for Transport address the House on these proposed cuts and what he and his Department propose to do about them.
The Senator is in injury time.
I am sure many Senators across the House will join me in expressing anger, deep disappointment and sadness at the demolition of The O'Rahilly House yesterday at 6.30 a.m. It is an assault of grave vandalism on our architectural and revolutionary history and heritage that we should proud of, utilise, share, develop and promote to the maximum extent possible. It is an absolute travesty that it was allowed to happen and I hope we can have a debate and hear from the Government on the issue, as well as on how we plan to protect and develop our revolutionary history in the time ahead. I will leave that for another day. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.
I would like to second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile. I agree with the sentiments he expressed about the unfortunate news of the Bus Éireann decision.
I also wish to express my serious disappointment at the demolition in the very early hours of yesterday morning of 40 Herbert Park, the home of The O'Rahilly, for the reasons others have expressed. If anyone is in any doubt about the historic significance of the house, I suggest he or she listens to the excellent podcast "Three Castles Burning" by Donal Fallon, in which he sets out clearly why the house should have been preserved.
I share the real and utter dismay of so many people at this demolition, particularly people who live in the local area. It is unfortunate and disappointing, particularly given the timing after the decade of centenaries and so on. We need to do much more to ensure the preservation of historical monuments like this one and it was most disappointing to see this development yesterday.
I also wish to express my strong support for the campaign to bring more refugees from the Moria camp on Lesbos island. This a campaign about which others have spoken in this House and in the other House and I have spoken on it myself. I urge the Leader to communicate to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice and Equality the urgent need to increase the numbers we have committed to taking. I am aware it is something about which the Leader feels strongly and on which she has spoken and I appreciate that. It is simply inadequate to say we will take four unaccompanied minors when we know 13,000 women, men and children are left in dire straits on the island of Lesbos in Greece because of the awful fire that broke out there. We knew before that, however, the conditions in the Moria camp were appalling. We need to do more by way of humanitarian assistance to people who are suffering and we need to increase our offer. The ask is that each member state would offer to take 400 people from the camp. It is not a huge number and we need to be leaders on this, given our history of emigration. I ask the Leader to convey that strong message. I believe I speak for all of us in this House on that front.
Finally, I have submitted a Commencement matter that I hope will be heard. It asks the Minister for Health to make a statement as regards the St. Mary's Centre Telford nursing home in Dublin 4, a home owned by the Sisters of Charity. It has been before the courts and there has been a good deal of news reporting about it. I have stood with the staff and residents of the home in seeking to ensure its survival and seeking to ensure adequate provision is made for the vulnerable persons who remain there. I understand 18 people are still resident in the home and yet it is, apparently, facing imminent closure. Issues are before the courts concerning liquidation and, as I said, I have submitted a Commencement matter. I ask, however, that the Minister for Health come into this House and make a statement on the matter as to how he intends to fulfil his responsibility to those who have relied for many years on the existence of this home.
I wish to raise today something I feel passionate about and which has come up in many different Departments and realms. It started with us signing up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development goals in 2015. We must now get our heads around these because they are in the Standing Orders for every departmental committee thanks to my colleague, Deputy Ó Cathasaigh, who got them. Our committee meetings commenced this week and everybody will see they are on the Standing Orders.
I draw the attention of Senators to goal 6 in particular on clean water and sanitation. This is of deep concern to me and I am aware I have raised it before in the Seanad. It is a huge issue that is now prohibiting people from living in rural Ireland. As a spokesperson for rural development, there will be no development in rural Ireland unless we take this huge issue seriously. We have no money for raw sewage treatment in rural Ireland. We have issues in urban Ireland around lead leaking into the water but we are basically failing humans in Ireland by not supplying them with access to clean, safe drinking water. Raw sewage is the issue I wish to focus on today. In particular, shovel-ready projects in many villages in towns are ready to go but they will not be built until we can get funding for proper water sewage treatment in Ireland. As a result, people are getting poisoned from E. coli and cryptosporidium and many huge issues keep arising. They have been happening for years and yet we have done nothing about it.
I want the House to support me today in asking the Minister with responsibility for housing, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to come into the Chamber. I imagine everybody here lives in a place where we have issues around water and water treatment. If we do not ring-fence proper funding for water, we are going nowhere and now more than ever, we need to try to revive our towns and villages. They cannot survive, not to mention thrive, until we sort out water. It is our basic human right that we have signed up to in respect of the UN conference on the sustainable development goals. I ask all my colleagues here today to support me on this and also to bring it up in their committees under the Standing Orders on sustainable development goals. We only have until 2030 and we are failing. We are only one third of the way there since we signed up five years ago. Let us look at the sustainable development goals, get our heads around them and start prioritising them because we will all end up with better lives for ourselves and our children.
I echo the sentiments of Senator Ó Donnghaile on transport and support his proposed amendment to the Order of Business. I also join Senators who spoke in support of the campaign to welcome to Ireland 400 people from the camps on the island of Lesbos. I have been following closely the work of a GP, Dr. Claire Dunne, who has been doing amazing work for the families and individuals on Lesbos. One only has to listen to the accounts emerging from that site to understand why and how promptly we must evacuate people from the island.
I wish to speak about two employees in County Cork who have campaigned and drawn attention to the fact that they had no toilet facilities in their place of employment. They were employed by Spike Island Development Company and Members may have seen their campaign online. They worked at a kiosk at the end of the island's pier. They had been looking for a portaloo to be placed there and came up against a lot of resistance from the all-male board of the company. The two women were looking for toilet facilities and were told to use the local library or hotel. Obviously Covid brings further layers to this story considering the guidelines and the need to have handwashing facilities. They were directed to use a tap at the end of the pier which is used for washing fish boxes. They then took the matter to their trade union and eventually got a portaloo. Their employment contract was until 29 November but they have been let go from their employment as of now. Two new people are being trained in so it is not as if the women's employment has gone. It sends out a really negative message when we have two women campaigning for basic toilet facilities and this is the result. A letter was then sent to their union, which I believe is UNITE, that it must no longer communicate with the CEO of Spike Island Development Company. The company is refusing to acknowledge the participation and advocacy of the union.
Toilet facilities aside, there is also the whole issue of periods and sanitary needs and the fact that, having eventually given the portaloo, the all-male board intervened to punish these women for their advocacy. This may be an issue for the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, who has responsibility for local government. The kiosk is on Cork County Council's land so it may be able to intervene to ensure that in cases where it rents out land to kiosks such as this one, employment rights are upheld. These women should be able to finish out their contract until 29 November at the very least. They are not being allowed to do so.
Yesterday's Cabinet decision to establish a commission on the future of the media in Ireland is to be welcomed. However, the absence of anyone from the National Union of Journalists, NUJ, on this commission is akin to printing a paper without a headline. We would not establish a commission on the future of agriculture, pack it full of stockbrokers and have no one from an agricultural background on it. The people in the NUJ, headed by Mr. Séamus Dooley, know at first hand the real problems and challenges facing the media sector, in particular in the past 15 years, as well as the broken funding model afflicting it. This time last year, the Leader and I met representatives of the regional newspapers to discuss that broken funding model. They included Mr. Gavan Becton, the editor of our local paper, the Meath Chronicle, and its owner, Mr. Frank Mulrennan of the Celtic Media Group. Indeed, it was Mr. Mulrennan who gave me my first job in local journalism some 20 years ago when he was chief executive of the Drogheda Independent. It had three titles at the time but those three newspapers are, in journalist staffing terms, a pale shadow of what they were 20 years ago.
In the last decade, we have seen sales of local papers across Ireland plummet, with advertising moving to social media and owners slashing and burning their newsrooms. The funding model is broken and regional and local newspapers are on their knees. Is it any wonder we see such an exodus from the Press Gallery as our fine journalistic minds leave to become Government special advisers? If I was to do it all again, I wish my career guidance teacher had told me 25 years ago to become a Government special adviser rather than a journalist.
This commission is to be welcomed. I look forward to its work but I stress to the Leader that, first, we need to see the NUJ recognised on it. The NUJ represents the printing industry, which is the sector facing the most pressure within journalism. Second, we need an interim stimulus package in the budget this autumn for those particular titles. If such a package is not forthcoming, they will not be here in mine months' time when the commission reports.
I draw the House's attention to the stay-and-spend scheme, which is due to run from tomorrow, 1 October, until 30 April 2021. The stay-and-spend tax credit is new and is available for the years 2020 and 2021. It may be used against income tax or universal social charge liability in a year of assessment. It is for expenditure incurred up to 30 April 2021 on holiday accommodation or eat-in food and drink. The minimum spend is €25 per transaction and one must submit a copy of a receipt. This is a welcome initiative from the Government in terms of supporting the hospitality and tourism sectors which as we know have gone through a torrid time in the past year as a result of Covid-19. Accommodation must be listed with Fáilte Ireland and includes bed and breakfast premises, caravan and camping parks, guest houses, holiday hostels, hotels, holiday apartments, approved holiday cottages and youth hostels. Food and drink must be served and consumed on an eat-in basis in a hospitality premises, including hotels, restaurants, cafés and licensed premises.
As of this morning, 112 businesses have been registered in Galway city and county, which is good news. However, there are some parts of the country, including areas of Dublin, where only a handful of businesses have registered. I believe that this is an opportunity for businesses but it limits the ability of consumers to avail of the stay-and-spend scheme. In counties under lockdown - we hope this is something that will be limited - such as Dublin and Donegal, people cannot avail of the stay-and-spend scheme in respect of businesses which, unfortunately, are closed. We do not how long these lockdowns will last. I ask the Minister to be open to reviewing the scheme, monitoring the uptake relating to it, ensuring that the spend allocated by Government is taken up and seeing whether things such as tourism opportunities relating to adventure activity and culture and heritage and guided and escorted tours could be included under the scheme.
There has been much talk in the media in recent days about the resignation of the former Senator and Minister of State, Michael D'Arcy. There is probably a problem because he spoke on finance legislation in the House last week. Leaving that aside, there seems to be no talk at all about the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sitting on the board of the FAI, an organisation that received many millions of euro from the taxpayer. Surely there is a conflict of interest in that regard. I would like the Leader to organise for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to come to this House to discuss these issues and how they might be handled in the future.
Yesterday, I heard the Taoiseach, the democratically elected leader of this country, refer to the vacant seat that has been created in this House by the resignation of Michael D'Arcy as a Fine Gael seat. How much of an affront to this House is that? How dare the Taoiseach stand in a democratically elected Chamber and talk about a seat being belonging to any political party? I ask my colleagues in Fianna Fáil to have courage and put somebody forward. I ask Sinn Féin, the Labour Party and the Green Party to do the same.
They should have the courage to put somebody forward. There is no seat here belonging to anybody.
I did get in on a Fine Gael seat. I challenged the Members opposite and beat them at their own game. It is time that they realised that they do not own this Chamber.
If the Senators want to interrupt Senator Craughwell-----
The Cathaoirleach should chair proceedings properly.
It is on the Order of Business so the Senator-----
On a point of order, Senator Craughwell named a former Member and the Secretary General of a Department who are not here to defend themselves. The Cathaoirleach should have called him out on that.
It was an item discussed today in the Chamber so the Senator is entitled to bring it up. However, if people want to interrupt the Senator-----
He is not entitled to name people who are not able to defend themselves.
He is entitled to bring up the issue and I would like the Senator-----
Ask the Clerk of the Seanad.
-----not to name people in the Chamber but if people want to interrupt the Senator, they need to ask permission under Standing Orders. Senator Craughwell is out of time.
Let me finish my point. I was interrupted.
Sorry, Senator Dooley is next.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. This is a political Chamber and we are used to political banter. In the context of the Secretary General of the Department to whom he referred, however, Senator Craughwell should retract his statement. That is a voluntary position and the individual concerned is entitled to sit on a voluntary board.
I do not see any conflict of interest. It is important that the Senator take cognisance of that and correct the record when next he has the opportunity to speak. We depend to a very large extent on removing politics from our Civil Service. We depend on civil servants regardless of who is in power, and to impugn the name or office of any one of them would be a retrograde step.
An independent report compiled by Grant Thornton has been published today. It was commissioned by the Irish Postmasters Union, IPU, and it predicts the collapse of the post office network in a short period if drastic action is not taken. The independent report clearly sets out the need for Government intervention to the tune of about €17 million. It identifies that by way of the public service obligation methodology that is used in an array of countries, including Spain, Belgium, Italy, France and Poland. It has been approved by the EU Commission as a methodology to fund and support a service like the post office. There have been changes to the way the post office operates and the demands and expectations of communities. The State has been lethargic, to put it mildly, in terms of putting services into post offices that would meet the needs of citizens. I do not need to lecture anyone in this House but if we look at what has happened during the pandemic, we see people retreating to their communities, being more dependent on the services that are there and moving away from large centres of population. In light of that, there is a clear demand and need for us to take seriously this independent report. I ask the Leader to try to organise a debate on this matter with the Minister at the earliest opportunity. The specific objective of that debate should be fashioning a response that would protect, to the greatest extent possible, the post office network's ability to deliver for our communities. It is not just about rural areas anymore. This report states that large and small post offices in urban and rural areas are under threat.
I support Senator Dooley. I am a member of the IPU and would have raised that issue in this House. I fully support him in calling for the Minister to come before us. It is important that we support the network.
I also wish to raise the issue of the certainty of funding for development officers in various sports partnerships throughout the country. The challenge for sports partnerships is that they only have certainty of funding for a period of one year. As a result, there is no option but to employ development officers on temporary contracts for one year. The level of uncertainty caused by the present arrangements means the partnerships are restricted in their capacity to forward plan and can only plan ahead for a few months at a time. The arrangement is not conducive to long-term or strategic planning and it means the loss of the investment that any local authority or partnership put into the development of these officers and the expertise they gain. While it is likely that Sport Ireland will continue to fund these jobs, consideration needs to be given to introducing a multi-annual funding stream to ensure that full-time, permanent community sports development officers and inclusion officers can be employed by local authorities through the sports partnership. This will enable the partners to become more embedded in the functions of local authorities and help them achieve their objective of creating and maintaining healthy, active and sustainable communities in our towns.
I also ask that the sports partnerships undertake an audit of sporting facilities throughout the country to ensure that all citizens have access to the large number of sports available and that funding, whether from sports capital grants or Departments, is arrogated to ensure that this happens. I think of my home county of Longford and the lack of indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. The Department and Sport Ireland should be financially supporting the local athletics club in order to ensure that these facilities are provided.
I also think of Connacht Hockey, and a number of Members from Galway will be well aware that upgrade from a 2G to a 4G pitch has meant that the grounds are no longer available for hockey. There is only one pitch available in the whole of Galway for over 1,400 children. Any funding or project should be channelled through the sports partnership to make sure that these situations are not repeated and that we are maximising the number of participants in all our sports.
I call on the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to come to the House to have a wider debate around the issue of protecting our built heritage. Yesterday a developer pulled down The O'Rahilly House in Ballsbridge, despite the city council voting to give it protection by listing it on the record of protected structures. From my understanding, once a local authority moves to put something on the record of protected structures it enjoys the protection of that act until an assessment is made.
I want to draw the attention of the House to other houses and buildings around Dublin which are not getting adequate protection to protect our built heritage. The city council did a deal in respect of the Iveagh Markets 20 years ago, which has been massively frustrated by the developer and publican who has done nothing with the building. An Taisce has it on a list of the top ten endangered listed buildings. The building is overgrown, there is extensive water damage and it has essentially been used as a car park for a publican from Temple Bar, despite it being in the middle of the Liberties. It can be a great addition to the city. It is a former dry market. The developer is deliberately running the building down and causing damage. Aldborough House, the second-largest Georgian building after Leinster House, has been left to rot for 20 years. It is water damaged and its owner allowed it to be run down.
I moved to have the former Player Wills factory on the South Circular Road put on the record of protected structures and it was voted on by the area committee in 2018. The city council has not moved on that, despite putting other buildings onto the record of protected structures. It is of great historical significance and is significant in terms of the industrial heritage of the city. The developer Hines has bought it and said it would keep the first three bays of the building. It now says it will take the whole building in, but it will not enjoy the protection of the record of protected structures. There is a list of protected buildings in the city and country, yet people are deliberately allowing them to fall into dereliction. I ask that the Minister come to the House to talk about that issue.
I had a Commencement matter about the flu vaccine programme and whether we have an adequate supply of the vaccine going into the winter season.
In regard to allegations being made by Members about people who are outside the House, for the benefit of Members I am going to circulate the guidance on that issue. There have been a lot of court cases about the way Members have brought up issues. Members can bring up issues; that is the job of the Seanad and the Dáil. It is your job, but you must do it in a way that protects the House. I ask Members to be mindful of that.
I want to tell the Cathaoirleach, the Leader and Members of the House about my friend Pat Tinsley. In many ways, he is the heart and soul of the community in Newbridge. Over the past number of years every sporting and community gathering was defined by him as a local photographer. Sadly, that has not happened in the past 18 months because Pat has been in declining health. He has been diagnosed with a rare disease, hereditary amyloidosis, which attacks the nervous system and organs . Without treatment it leads to organ failure and death.
There are 30 people suffering from this illness in Ireland. There is treatment. An infusion of patisiran every three weeks would be a life support for all those who suffer from this illness. It is available in Northern Ireland, the UK, across Europe and the United States, but the HSE has said it is a novel drug and is not covered by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
As stated by Pat, penicillin was a novel drug at one point in time. In 2018, Irish patients with a rare disease only had access to 29% of the orphan medicinal products licensed by the European Medical Agency, as compared with 92% in the UK. Irish people have been left behind.
I acknowledge the recently established HSE working group on amyloidosis to develop a model for future diagnosis and care. We are at a crucial point. Reimbursement needs to be examined for the purchase of treatment abroad. We need access to treatment in Ireland. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Health to come to the House to debate treatment and access to these drugs for those who need them, such as Pat and his 29 colleagues.
I want to speak today about keeping swimming pools open across the country during Covid. I found out this week that Galway County Council is to make a decision this week in regard to the proposed closure of swimming pools in Ballinasloe and Tuam. Why should this matter to all of us? Most local authority swimming pools are operated by private operators. In the case of Ballinasloe, the swimming pool is operated by an Irish-owned, family-run company, which is a fantastic company that operates seven other pools across the country.
Local authorities are under severe pressure and as we approach budget time the choices are being made now. Here again we see the regional-urban divide. In terms of regional councils, Galway County Council is the second lowest funded local authority and it proposes to make a decision in regard to the closure of a swimming pool in Ballinasloe. Why should we care? During Covid mental health and well-being is a priority issue for us. There are over 40 schools that use the pool in Ballinasloe. In Loughrea and Portumna there are no swimming pools. When I was growing up in Ballinasloe it was considered unique in that we had access to a swimming pool. We had the opportunity to swim. An awful lot of people in Ireland of a certain age might not know how to swim because they did not have access to a swimming pool and they did not live on the coast.
The decision of Galway County Council will impact on the communities in rural Ireland. I ask that the Leader when speaking to the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, to raise with them the need for extra funding to keep these facilities open. The opportunity to swim should be available to everyone. We hear of swimming pools being referred to as leisure centres. A swimming pool is not a leisure centre, it is an accessible sporting facility for people of all ages and all abilities. Both Brothers of Charity in the area use the pool. Special needs schools use it. When it opened in June, people from the active retirement group were knocking down the door for access to it.
I am asking the Leader to raise with the Minister and the Minister of State the need for extra funding in this area. It will be our job to make sure that swimming pools remain open during Covid for mental health and well-being. We need them. A swimming pool is not a leisure centre, it is a vital resource.
Michael Kelly was 17 years old when he and 12 other people were massacred by British Army paratroopers on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday 1972. In total, 13 people were shot dead. John Johnston died later from his injuries and a similar number received serious wounds. Michael's brother, John, has campaigned for truth and justice for almost 50 years. Responding yesterday to the shameful decision by the North's Public Prosecution Service not to prosecute those soldiers responsible for the killings, John said:
We are not finished, we will continue on to achieve truth and justice. Michael cannot speak for himself, so I will do that for him.
Kate Nash whose brother, William, was killed said that she was deeply disappointed and that she intends to carry on doing what she has been doing for almost 50 years. I know John and I know Kate. I know many of the families that have been affected by Bloody Sunday. I would say that both John and Kate were not speaking on behalf of themselves; they were speaking on behalf of the people of Derry, the people of the North and the people of this island who support the need for justice for those who died and who survived, with the one mission to honour the memory of the ones they lost.
Those who died on Bloody Sunday were publicly executed. They were executed in full view of the thousands of people who were on a peaceful protest and under the spotlight of international media. The footage from the time shows the individual soldiers who carried out the shootings. The Saville Inquiry recorded eye-witness statements which piece together the deadly sequence of events which led to unarmed civilian protesters being shot dead in their own streets. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable. The Public Prosecution Service can and must see what we can all see: the guilt of the people who pulled the trigger. When the Public Prosecution Service decided in March 2019 that only Soldier F would be prosecuted, the families and the people of Derry were devastated. Yesterday, both groups were devastated again.
I thank the Senator.
People are asking why, if there is enough evidence for one prosecution, there is not enough evidence for more. I ask this Government to publicly state that it will continue to support the families of the Bloody Sunday victims and that it does not accept any attempt by the British Government to give immunity to any British soldier who is found guilty of committing crimes in Ireland.
I want to raise an important matter regarding the conveyancing of property in Ireland, and to highlight the length of time it currently takes to complete a property sale. I am aware that Members and the House have discussed different technical issues in this area on a number of occasions. A new initiative has been spearheaded by the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, IPAV. It represents qualified licensed auctioneers, valuers and estate agents, who aim to radically reduce the length of time it takes to sell a property in Ireland. The IPAV has put together a seller's legal pack, SLP, which is a collection of documents that it proposes should be provided to aspiring purchasers when a property is put on the market, therefore front-loading this process.
My understanding is that the motivation to change the current situation is rooted in the findings of the IPAV's recent conveyancing survey which revealed that 79% of auctioneers experience conveyancing delays between the point at which the sale of the property is deemed to have been agreed and when the sale is actually concluded. The average time taken, between the point of agreement of sale and the signing of contracts, is ten weeks. The time taken from the signing of contracts to the conclusion of sale is normally six weeks. I applaud the efforts of the IPAV to highlight this important issue and I am happy to raise it here today.
I understand that the ultimate ambition of the IPAV is to streamline the conveyancing process and to make it more efficient. This is a move that I am sure all Members of the House would support. I am assured that the SLP will substantially reduce the delay incurred in the current sales process, which is unaligned and rife with uncertainty, presenting legal risks to both vendors and purchasers. It will help to limit the terrible practices of gazumping and gazundering, and will create greater certainty around the process for consumers and buyers. I firmly believe that we must reach the point between all relevant stakeholders and those directly involved in the property transaction to develop a substantial property market where people can buy, sell or rent properties in a cost-effective manner. Perhaps we can have a debate on this particular issue. It was raised in the previous term of the Seanad.
I would like to join other Senators in condemning the demolition of the residence of The O'Rahilly. I share their disquiet. It is an assault on both our history and our heritage. I wish to make one additional point to those already made in the House today. No doubt the party in question who is being accused of the demolition will be afforded fair procedure and due process, but I hope that there will be a prompt investigation and that steps will be taken to ask for the house to be rebuilt.
It is only when that power is invoked that such scant respect for our heritage and history will be taken seriously by all.
This morning in the House, the casual vacancy that arises following the resignation of former Senator D'Arcy was mentioned. No-one owns the seat but I believe the Fine Gael Party will have an influence on who will fill that seat as perhaps, will the other Government parties.
I recall that at the first sitting of the new Seanad, many bemoaned the fact there was no voice of northern unionism in the House. I will do all I can with the Green Party, as a potential block vote, to promote that possibility. That Northern voice in the House is lost. It is not up to me and I am not telling any party what to do. That is its own prerogative. However, I do not want us coming into the House after the by-election saying we still do not have a Northern voice in the House. I am aware that when the leader of the Sinn Féin Party in the Upper House, the former mayor of Belfast City Council, was appointed by his president, he pledged to work for all people on the island and no doubt he is doing his very best. I am sure, however, that he will accept it would resonate much greater than anything he can do at his very best if we had a voice of northern unionism in this House where there is a fine tradition of that in the past. I am making that gentle call without telling any party what to do.
It was very gentle.
I am going to read from an email I received from Dr. Claire Dunne in respect of the 400 Welcomes campaign. It states:
The people I care for have already lived through horrendous ill-treatment and war. They already had to deal with the awful conditions in the Moria camp, even before this recent tragedy. Now the Minister for children, Minister O'Gorman, is saying that just four children are allowed to come to Ireland without parents or guardians.
The doctor goes on to state that as an Irish doctor working there and caring for those children, she feels deeply ashamed right now and that Ireland has the power to do so much more. I totally agree with Dr. Dunne. I wish to take this opportunity to call on us all, as political leaders, to listen to the voice of Dr. Dunne and to the thousands of people across Ireland who are emailing their politicians this week. They demand we make it possible to take in at least 400 children and adults, who should be allowed to come to Ireland for safety and refuge. We have a legal and moral responsibility to stand up for those in greater need. I urge all Members, especially, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister with responsibility for children to respond to this humanitarian crisis.
I will move to another topic around maternity care in Ireland and people who are pregnant and giving birth. We can all agree that having a baby is the most life-changing and deeply emotional time that a woman, especially, can experience, as well as a family overall. I call on the Minister for Health to listen and respond to the 50,000 signatures from the petition prepared by Uplift to improve the current situation in hospitals in Ireland for women who are having a child at this time. It is not just about Covid-19. Right now, we must care for everybody across all of the health service as well as managing the Covid-19 crisis. I call on the Minister to come in and respond to us on this.
I join with other speakers in asking the Minister for Transport to come to the House to have a debate on the decision by Bus Éireann regarding its intercity Expressway service, in particular, the route from Cork to Dublin.
If we believe in the principle and the value of public service and public transport, we should debate and discuss this decision, not just in this House but also at the transport committee. We listened to the debate during the general election campaign about commuters, traffic and trying to end gridlock. The issue of public transport is now vital, and interconnectivity between our regional cities and towns is critical. The cutting of five routes makes no sense whatsoever to me. I ask Members to read the remarks of Councillor Declan Burgess from Cashel on the import of the decision for students, tourism, potential jobs and Cashel itself. I ask for a debate on the issue of public transport and connectivity. At a time when we have a new metropolitan strategy being unveiled for Cork, it makes no sense for Bus Éireann to terminate the Expressway service.
I concur with my colleagues' remarks on the post office network and the report commissioned by the IPU and published today by Grant Thornton. We should debate it in the House.
Seven Senators are offering to speak. We need to finish in time to clean the Chamber and start the next business at 1.30 p.m. In addition, the Leader has to respond to the Order of Business, and a vote might be called. We are going over time. I realise we now have only one Order of Business per week. That is just the way circumstances are but in order to fit everybody in I ask Members to be brief.
Today is the last day of September, but since August residential communities right across Dublin city have been tormented and terrorised by the sound and the sight of illegal fireworks. This is not limited to any one part of the city; it is taking place right across the city and, I am sure, in other residential areas around the country. The fireworks are illegal. It is illegal to purchase them, sell them or set them off. The Garda can respond to illegal activity, but that is all it can do - respond. Fireworks are not only illegal but also really dangerous. They are mini-explosives, they are missiles and they can inflict life-changing injuries. I know young people whose lives have been changed by such injuries. They are devastating for the young persons, their families and their friends. My concern is that tomorrow, 1 October, we are facing into the run-up to Hallowe'en. It was devastating for the city of Dublin to hear the Lord Mayor talk in September about cancelling New Year's Eve when we have not even got to Hallowe'en. We are all under stress in the city. Young people in particular are suffering from a reduced number of outlets, so we need to support our young people and we need the city council to support them in the run-up to Hallowe'en by organising activities in a socially distanced and safe way. I would like the Minister for Justice and Equality to respond to the question of whether or not the Garda in the metropolitan area has the resources to investigate, tackle and apprehend the people who are devastating our communities with these fireworks. I would also like the Minister for Justice and Equality to take a preventive and proactive measure in using social media to get messages out to young people in order to help to reduce the potential harm and damage not only to them but also to our communities.
The Cathaoirleach mentioned the departure of Michael D'Arcy from this House. I am sure we all wish him well. For the purposes of the business of the House, however, a lacuna in the ethics in public office legislation has surfaced whereby the cooling-off period provided for in section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is unenforceable by SIPO and there is no penalty for its breach. I reviewed the Seanad debate of 2015 on this legislation. I had tabled some amendments on Committee and Report Stages but I am afraid to say none of us spotted this lacuna, and it was presumably not spotted in the Dáil either, so the fault is not in the stars but in ourselves. As to why the lacuna is there, we might point to poor drafting or perhaps in part a rush through the legislative process, but the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, gave more time than most to the consideration of the legislation. There are other lacunae in the legislation, such as SIPO's inability to investigate former Members, as we saw in the case of the former Minister of State, Dara Murphy.
In its annual report last July, SIPO asked if parties operating north and south of the Border were using different funding rules to their advantage, in a clear reference to Sinn Féin. The High Court case taken by Amnesty International left us with the clear reality that foreign lobby groups can campaign for changes to our law and Constitution. I have criticised Mr. George Soros's Open Society Foundation's attempt to effectively buy influence in Irish political affairs by funnelling money to lobbying organisations. All of these matters need to be addressed. We should contrast that with the stringent limits on politicians and parties as to how they may receive funding. I have not seen the documentary "The Swamp" but it is about the influence of big money on politics in the USA. We are not there yet but we have a problem with the funnelling of money to lobby groups, which is unregulated. The Government has said it supports a review; we need reforming legislation in this area.
I will make two very quick points. I understand there is to be a statement from the Minister for Education and Skills this afternoon on the problems with the grading system for the leaving certificate. It is an evolving story but a very serious one. We may need to have an emergency debate on that issue tomorrow.
Today, 30 September, would have been the 28th birthday of Laura Brennan had she lived, but as Members know she died in March of last year of cervical cancer. She dedicated the last 18 months of her life to campaigning for the HPV vaccine and the critical importance of families ensuring their young 13-year-old boys and girls would avail of the vaccine. The months of September and October are a critical period for first years in school to avail of the vaccine. As a result of Laura Brennan's campaigning, take-up of the vaccine went from 50% to 81% nationally last year and to 90% in her native County Clare. On the day of her birthday, I make a special appeal to all parents to ensure they sign the necessary documentation to ensure their boys and girls avail of the HPV vaccine. They should do it for their children's health and for the memory of Laura Brennan, a great campaigner, Irish woman and County Clare person. Let us get the figure up to 100% this year. Let us do it because it is in the interests of the health of the young people of this country.
Luafaidh mé dhá rud le toil an tSeomra. The programme for Government commits to incentivising the shift to electric vehicles and in particular to the publication of an electrical vehicle strategy to ensure we have the necessary charging infrastructure and that it will stay ahead of demand. In Galway, Councillor Albert Dolan is leading the charge, if Members will pardon the pun, to try to get Galway to lead in this area of rolling out the infrastructure. This is, however, something that is needed at a national level. I ask that the Leader inquire as to when the national strategy for electric vehicles will be published and in particular the planning advice to local authorities to ensure we have enough charging points.
On Monday, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL, sent a letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy McEntee, about the continual breaches of data privacy by Google in its use of the real-time bidding system. It outlined the research in this area of Dr. Johnny Ryan. For the benefit of Members, real-time bidding refers to how every time a person logs on to his or her phone or other devices, as a number of Members are doing at the moment, Google takes all of their data, including age, location, gender and political opinions. It gathers that data and sells them on to private companies. According to this research, Google is now selling all of our real-time bidding data to 964 companies internationally and it is selling more of our data from more websites to more companies than it was when the Data Protection Commissioner was originally alerted to this data breach by Google two years ago.
I raised this as a Commencement matter last week. What I would like is a full debate in this House with the Minister for Justice on the questions of data privacy, digital literacy and the role of the Data Protection Commissioner.
I was very disappointed this week to see the change in the schedule for today. I was looking forward to hearing what the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, was going to tell us about the Moorhead report and how he felt about it. He is just not here. I certainly hope a visit will be scheduled quite soon so we can hear his thoughts on the report. Senator Cassells spoke about the value of journalism. I recognise the value of journalists in this country but they certainly did not do the councillors any favours over the past year when they announced not one, but two, pay rises of €8,000. A councillor's wage, with the increase of 2%, which is effectively €620 before tax, is €17,706 per year. There are men and women elected democratically to local government who are working full-time, some for over 40, 50 or 60 hours per week, but who are getting €17,706 per year. Therefore, I would welcome the Minister of State to this House. I want to hear how he values local government. I find it very concerning that, last week, an email was sent by the Local Government Management Agency, the Association of Irish Local Government and the Local Authority Members Association giving guidelines on how to conduct meetings in each county. The recommendation is that meetings be for one hour and 55 minutes. Councillors throughout the country are up in arms about that. They represent the grassroots, and it is important that they have their voices heard. The timeframe suggested for a local meeting every month is certainly not enough. We need to consider this also.
I call for a debate on aviation, but particularly on our airports. Our airports are in very serious circumstances. As an island nation, we are dependent on them. Dublin Airport is probably one of the busiest airports in Europe. I would like to make the case for my local airport, Ireland West Airport, which is experiencing very serious financial difficulties. It would be a shame to lose our airports at this stage. I ask that the Minister for Transport come to the House at a very early stage to give us the up-to-date position on the aid available to airports and the situation from here on in.
I believe the House is going to move a motion on that issue for tomorrow but I thank the Senator for raising it.
The annual primary school census is due today, 30 September. It will determine the staffing levels in our primary schools for the academic year 2021-22. There is a serious risk that some schools may lose a teacher this year because a number of children have yet to return to school owing to health concerns associated with Covid-19. Some pupils may live in a home in which there is an at-risk family member and, for that reason, their parents will have decided not to send them to school. Since a school may have one or two pupils fewer, there is a risk that this could be the difference between its losing a teacher and holding on to one. This year, I would like common sense and sensitivity on the part of the Department of Education regarding primary schools that find themselves in this unique position. Last year, over 428 schools lost a teacher because of lower numbers. The majority of those schools are in rural parts. It is vital that sensitivity and common sense be adopted by the Department this year.
I ask the Leader to stress that to the Minister for Education and Skills.
Yesterday, the Future of Media Commission was established. It is something that both the National Union of Journalists and I have sought for a very long time. Fully independent and sustainable media that hold those in powerful positions to account are vital to any functioning democracy and recently we have seen that important role played out in golfgate.
I welcome the establishment of the commission as a first step but I have some concerns regarding some of its terms of reference and some glaring omissions. There is no reference to media diversity, plurality or ownership structures. A 2016 report by the KRW Law-LLP firm found that Ireland had one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy. Likewise, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom has repeatedly flagged the lack of media plurality in Ireland. There is no mention of the role and impact of the digital search engines and social media platforms. The terms of reference also fail to mention the employment challenges facing those who work in the sector.
Journalism is increasingly becoming a precarious job and many young journalists have left the field in recent years. This leads me to my concerns regarding the make up of the commission, and I say this without questioning the calibre of those who have been appointed. The commission lacks anyone who has direct experience in the Irish news publishing industry at a local or national level. There is no representative of a digital news platform. There is no trade union representative who can speak to the employment challenges. There is no-one with a background in journalism education on the commission and that is for no shortage of the very fine schools of journalism in this country. Finally, I have grave concern about the absence of anyone from the local and community media sector. I fear that if they have no voice around the table, community and local media will be completely forgotten despite the hugely valuable role that they play. I urge the Minister to come before the House to hear these concerns.
I thank the Cathaoirleach and colleagues. I will answer the questions in reverse order and I note Senators Boylan and Cassells raised this issue earlier. It is a glaring omission that people with experience and knowledge of local news, national news, digital news and all the new forms that we have are missing from the committee. To that end, when the commission was established yesterday, I sought the Minister's time for a debate on the issue. I have secured a debate and I hope to schedule it for next week.
In response to the contributions of Senators Burke and Chambers, tomorrow afternoon we hope to have a two-hour debate on aviation at which I expect everybody to raise the concerns that I believe we all have on both inward and outward bound domestic transport and the major employment implications that Covid-19 has placed on the aviation industry.
Various debates have been sought with the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and with the Minister for Justice and Equality concerning defamation laws. I will make suggestions but the issue most raised here this morning has been the changes with the Bus Éireann Expressway routes. I will ask for a debate but I remind colleagues, and I assume everybody knows this already, that the reduction of the 18 routes to 14 yesterday is based on the point that Expressway is the part of Bus Éireann that is not supported by the public service levy because it is the private and enterprise division of Bus Éireann. There are some heartening key takeaways, including that not one bus driver will lose his or her job because of the amount of work that is available and supported by all the public-supported levied routes, which is a plus. In addition, every single route of the four routes that were restricted yesterday are serviced by other supported Bus Éireann and city journey providers. That is something from which to take solace. I will ask for a debate to be had at the earliest possible intervention.
Lots of colleagues have raised the issue of The O’Rahilly house today and they have raised it before. It is blindingly obvious in this country that sometimes, no matter what we do and the concerns that we raise, when people want to bulldoze through something, just to get the development they want, they simply bulldoze through the development. Sometimes we find ourselves completely disarmed and unable to do something, which is a real shame. I do not just mean in normal circumstances.
However, in circumstances where we have lost a vital piece of heritage relating to one of the founders of what we understand and enjoy today as modern democracy is an awful shame. Senator Martin suggested that we should make them rebuild the house. That misses the value of what we have lost. We should look collectively at ensuring that something like this does not happen again by giving the relevant bodies the powers to stop something like this happening again. Closing the door after this particular horse has bolted seems rather weak.
Other colleagues highlighted specific instances regarding St. Mary's. I will certainly write on our behalf to ensure continuity of the service for the 18 residents.
Many people asked for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to take more refugees from the Moria camp in Lesbos. We had this kind of discussion some weeks ago. To that end, on behalf of Senators, I wrote to the Minister suggesting that the four unaccompanied children we had agreed to take was much lower than our heartfelt intentions. It is nice to hear that he agrees with us and intends to try to take many more. Senator Keogan knows this to be true. We need to accept that we are short of foster homes and cannot take unaccompanied children to this country when we have nowhere for them to go. If anything, today we should put out a call for people to become foster parents because that is the real crux.
The debate on direct provision is ongoing and I hope we will finalise it in the upcoming months and years to provide alternative accommodation. The reality is that if we take 400 people from Lesbos tomorrow, we will all be having the conversation as to the communities in which they get settled. Unfortunately, in the past year, we have experienced the ugly side of what people feel, albeit perhaps clumsily expressing themselves. That conversation needs to be had. I will again write to the Minister. It was comforting to hear his public statement last week saying that he will try to bring many more children to the country than the four we have already agreed to take.
Senator Dolan raised swimming pools. It is outrageous that at this time we would consider closing one of the very few necessary and vital outlets for people to have a bit of sociability. In the past couple of days, we have seen an outcry in the media, perhaps understandably, that some of our younger people are expressing themselves in ways that some of us older people do not appreciate and do not understand. I have four young people at home. They are struggling and finding it hard not to be able to do what they would normally expect to do. Perhaps it is my fault that I have not instilled this in them, but they do not have the same kind of critical understanding of the emergency, for want of a better word, that we are experiencing. We need to help them to appreciate the difficulties they are having and not bash them because they happen to be doing something we do not agree with or approve of.
Young people in this country are wonderful. They go to every country in the world and represent us in work, sports and the arts. However, we are very quick to demonise them for doing something that they take for granted that they should be able to do, albeit that they are doing it in different ways than they would have previously, particularly when they go back to college. Instead of demonising them we need to get the message to them that they are as vulnerable as the rest of us are. It is not just us older people or our parents who are vulnerable.
It is ridiculous to shut down one of the outlets we have because we are short of money when we are spending hundreds of millions of euro, and in some cases billions of euro, to support people through this pandemic. It is a time to be generous and it certainly is not a time to be stingy. If it is only Galway, it should be relatively easy to fix because it cannot cost that much. Senator Dolan said the company runs 700 swimming pools in the country. I suggest that we all go to our own areas to make sure that it is not a much larger issue than just Galway. We should support Senator Dolan to ensure it gets the funding it needs.
I was in the Chamber when Senator Byrne raised this issue last week. I think Google knows more about me than I do myself. It is scary to hear the Senator put it as eloquently as he did last week. It is really scary that 33% of the world's data is held on servers in this country in something that we laud as the wonderful data industry that we have. I am not sure we should laud it. I am not sure we should encourage more data centres to be built.
I will request the Minister for Justice and Equality, my constituency colleague, Deputy Helen McEntee, to come into the House today or at the earliest convenience to talk to the Senator, and all of us-----
The Senator's former constituency colleague.
Yes, my former constituency colleague. I will request that she would talk to us about this sharing of information because I do not believe anybody understands how vital big data is to those 900 people who are paying their hot dollars to get our information.
I apologise, particularly to Senator Keogan, for the inconvenience caused by having to reschedule the debate on the Moorhead report. She has raised it here a number of times because she cares, understands and appreciates the value of councillors, as we all do. Like the Senator, many of us were councillors for years. Many of us started our political careers on councils, including Senator Ó Donnghaile in Belfast. We all know the hard work that is put in by councillors and the value they give to constituents in towns and villages in rural and urban areas across the country. The very least they need is respect and for the language used in the Moorhead report to be retracted. We also need to put our money where our mouth is and recognise the work that is done. We sometimes do councillors a disservice in our local and public media. That is a real shame given the number of hours that they work. I had to reschedule the debate because there were a number of very technical amendments to the legislation this afternoon. I had only scheduled an hour and a half for that debate and I had to extend it. I apologise because I am aware that people had speeches and presentations to bring to the Chamber this afternoon. I will try to get the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, to come to the House as quickly as I can next week and, if his diary cannot accommodate that, the week after that.
Senator Martin Conway raised this issue earlier. The Minister for Education and Skills will make a statement this afternoon on the basis that, apparently, a number of errors have been found in the calculated grades system for leaving certificate students. I do not know the gravity of the situation. I only know that I have a young lady at home who was devastated a number of weeks ago when she missed nursing by a lousy 19 points because she was under-graded by the system. I hope that we manage the system collectively and in an unpolitical way, for want of a better word, because the 60,000 or 70,000 young girls and fellows at home who have been impacted in a major way in recent weeks because of the system that was lauded to have been managed so well are experiencing significant distress today. A telephone helpline will be announced this afternoon to allow each and every one of them connect with the Department to see what impact it has on them. Collectively, we must work together to try to rectify whatever has gone wrong to make sure that our young people are not further impacted by Covid-19, through no fault of their own, than they have been.
Regarding the proposed amendment to the Order of Business, on the basis that I have no way of securing the Minister for Transport to come to the House today, I ask the Senator to withdraw it on the assurance that I will ask today if he will come into the House at the earliest possible time. That is all I can do for the Senator.
Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Transport on the proposed cuts to Bus Éireann intercity routes be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?
I heard the breadth of support for this amendment, and the Cathaoirleach has heard the breadth of concern expressed about this issue, including from Government Senators. It is an issue of major importance. I appreciate what the Leader is saying but what I always try to do in this House is light a candle rather than curse the dark. This issue is of such urgency and priority that, with the greatest respect to her, she is limited in what she can offer us in terms of information. Given our limitations on the Order of Business, which are nobody's fault, it is key that we hear from the Minister. Communities are relying on us to provide that opportunity for them so, unfortunately, with the greatest respect, I am pressing my amendment.
- Bacik, Ivana.
- Black, Frances.
- Boyhan, Victor.
- Boylan, Lynn.
- Craughwell, Gerard P.
- Flynn, Eileen.
- Gavan, Paul.
- Higgins, Alice-Mary.
- Hoey, Annie.
- Keogan, Sharon.
- McCallion, Elisha.
- Moynihan, Rebecca.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
- Ruane, Lynn.
- Sherlock, Marie.
- Wall, Mark.
- Warfield, Fintan.
- Ahearn, Garret.
- Ardagh, Catherine.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Carrigy, Micheál.
- Casey, Pat.
- Cassells, Shane.
- Chambers, Lisa.
- Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
- Conway, Martin.
- Crowe, Ollie.
- Cummins, John.
- Currie, Emer.
- Daly, Paul.
- Doherty, Regina.
- Dolan, Aisling.
- Dooley, Timmy.
- Fitzpatrick, Mary.
- Gallagher, Robbie.
- Garvey, Róisín.
- Kyne, Seán.
- Lombard, Tim.
- McGahon, John.
- Murphy, Eugene.
- O'Loughlin, Fiona.
- O'Reilly, Joe.
- O'Reilly, Pauline.
- O'Sullivan, Ned.
- Seery Kearney, Mary.
- Ward, Barry.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.