A number of different topics were raised. I want to acknowledge Senator Dolan's mention of the official launch by the Minister for Justice of Horses for Hope in Roscommon last week. It is part of a wider initiative and conversation we need to have in how we rehabilitate people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in prison, which Senator Ruane often talks about here.
As part of a wider conversation, we need to discuss how we rehabilitate people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in prison because there is somewhat of a view that they should nearly be put into a black hole and left there as punishment. The whole purpose of the judicial system is to rehabilitate people and make them function in order that they can return to society and behave in a manner that is fruitful for themselves.
A lovely man called Mr. Paddy Richardson runs an organisation called the Irish Association for Social Inclusion Opportunities, IASIO. To my mind, the organisation does not get a fraction of the money that it should get from both the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Protection. IASIO takes people who have come out of prison and make sure that they do not repeat the cycles of the past because, unfortunately, 70% of the people who leave prison find themselves back inside within 12 months. Therefore, we should do anything that we can to prevent that situation. The Horses for Hope programme is a shining example of thinking outside of the box and what we should do to help ex-prisoners.
In response to Senator Ahearn, although I am not in a position to support the appeal application, I will find out from the Minister when it is expected that the appeal will be adjudicated upon in order that the people who are waiting to get their hands on the €6 million, as the other 1,000-plus clubs did, will have a timeline.
Senator Malcolm Byrne talked about the visit yesterday by the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland to Gorey, as did Senator Dolan. We are absolutely steeped in Ireland that we have such a large heart for people who are in crisis and need our help. The Irish Red Cross has managed to raise €30 million due to the generosity of Irish people. That is pure cash and does not include all of the reception centres and the giving that people have done locally, which we are all well aware of and been to see them. Long may that generosity continue because this particular refugee crisis, as Senator Boyhan mentioned, will not be over in a short time and I think that it will be with us for much longer.
There are some idiosyncrasies in the system that people now appreciate. Last week, the Minister was kind enough to sort out the driving licence issue. However, in terms of access to community employment schemes and access to social welfare while working, the reason we have speedily taken in refugees and have treated them as though they equate to European citizens is because we relied on the legislation that was enabled in every single European Union member state. Those conditions are the same for every Irish person as they are for every European person who comes here. To make special conditions would require every European state to do the same thing. It is certainly not something that is beyond us, particularly if our new Irish citizens, albeit that they hope to only be here temporarily, can work if they so wish. I will convey messages to the Minister today and I reassure Senator Boyhan that I will organise a debate in the next couple of weeks.
Senators Hoey and Malcolm Byrne referred to the week of the tragic murders of Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee, as well as the assaults on Evan Somers and another young gentleman, whose name is not in the public domain, from Sligo. I thought that there would have been a much bigger outcry than there was. I came into town on the Friday evening to attend the vigil outside those premises and it was one of the most moving, poignant and sad events that I have ever attended. The choir that evening sang so beautifully and the event was striking. I remembered that people on that day asked why our reaction was not the same as when young Ashling Murphy was horribly murdered in January. I believe it is because every single person in Ireland could either relate to her or knew that she could be your sister, daughter, mother or friend. I do not think that people feel or think the same way about the LGBT community as we did about Ashling, which I think is wrong. Every single one of us could have a brother, sister, friend or relative in exactly the same way but I do not think that we think about it in the same way. I believe that we think about the LGBT community as being something separate and distinctly different as opposed to being part of all of us and it is part of all of us. On the night of the last vigil, I was minded that everybody should be an LGBT ally and be proud to say it and talk about it all of the time, as opposed to just when we see tragedies, disenfranchisement or discrimination. I now realise that something as shocking as happened that week happens week in and week out, but we just do not get told about it and the victims of random discrimination, right up to horrific violence, just suck it up and accept that it is part of what their life is like and that is not acceptable by any one of us or any member of society.
We need to start a national campaign of being LGBT allies to make sure that everybody recognises that they are all of us and we are all of them and that we are one community. I pay tribute to the people who organised the beautiful vigils all over Ireland that evening, which were poignant.
Senator Ward spoke about progress. I am not sure what to say to him other than maybe we will organise a meeting for his committee with the forward planning team to try to find out its status. The frustration that he described exists in every county. They do not have the reputation of being as progressive as we would like them to be. I can certainly organise a meeting and try to get people sitting around the same table so at least they can get an update.
Senator McGreehan spoke with such passion. She must really have had a good day, as did everybody else who joined Glenmore Athletic Club that day. She made a valid point that we need to have more inclusivity in sport and I will try to arrange a debate with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
Senator Boyhan asked for a debate on Ukrainian refugees on an ongoing basis. We have one with the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and I will try to tackle all aspects of what is required for the integration of the people who will be with us for weeks and months, or maybe as the Senator suggested, we might be lucky enough that some of them might stay. A welcome development this week was the establishment of a Cabinet subcommittee to make sure that we have co-ordination across all of our services to look after new people and new residents.
Senator McGahon is looking for a debate on long Covid and our strategy and plans. I can certainly organise that.
Senator Casey talked about the idiosyncrasies with community employment. As he probably knows, people on community employment schemes cannot go from the live register immediately to community employment because we want to try to get them back to work before we put them into retraining. We will raise it with the Minister and I will come back to the Senator about it.
Senator Maria Byrne talked about utilising our regional airports. In recent weeks, we have all witnessed the horrific stories of people having to wait for hours in Dublin Airport. I was in and out of Dublin Airport on Monday and Friday in the week before last. It did a super job, so it is a case of horses for courses. We certainly should use our regional airports, and not only Shannon, but also Cork and the other regional airports.
Senator Ardagh spoke about the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, as did another Senator. Bravo to Deputy Rabbitte. She is getting close to the rub of the issue, which is why she is being pushed back against. Senator Ardagh knows her much better than I do but if I know anything about her, it is that she will not be stopped. A democratically elected Minister of State is being held back by an arrogant cabal of people who do nothing but breach the rights of children and adults who have disabilities and need access to services. What they would be far more mindful in doing would be having a quarterly audit of all the provisions of speech, language, physiotherapy, psychology and occupational therapy services in order that we could see the massive deficits in respect of all the people who do not get what they are supposed to be getting. That is one thing that we do not have at the moment. While we have anecdotal and emotive evidence when we have meetings or large-scale organised events to get parents around the table to support one another, we do not have a list of the people who are waiting or how long they are waiting for. It is not good enough. Bravo to the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte. We should make sure she continues to get our support to push back. Being barred from meeting people who are at the coalface is just beyond belief.
Senator Keogan shared her opinions on the World Health Organization convention on dealing with future pandemics. I contend that there is much more debate to be had before the final details are ratified. The Senator is right that we should have input into it and that it should not be decided for us by other people.
Senator Buttimer sought a debate on LGBTQ rights and I will certainly look at that. He also referred to the debate that we need with the Minister, Deputy Harris, on developing our technological universities. I will organise that as soon as I can.
Senator Dooley raised the single meter point reference number, where there would be multiple family homes or dwellings in a single block. I will raise that with the Minister.
Senators Wall and Craughwell raised the public service pay agreements and the wish of PDFORRA and RACO to affiliate with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions before any negotiations start.
Senator Seery Kearney talked about how we would require a day of remembrance on the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
Senator Chambers opened proceedings by asking for a debate on the cost of childcare, which I will certainly organise. She welcomed the Brexit adjustment funds that were announced this week for our marine, ports and harbour development. She talked about the annual Mayo Day, which is next week and which I am sure Senators will all support, both online and in person.
Most importantly, I pay tribute to the Senator for the amount of work she and her team have put into the women's health conference she has organised for next Thursday. Many of us do a lot of work that does not get noticed. Senator Chambers's work has, thankfully, been noticed in recent weeks, maybe for the wrong reasons but there is no such thing as bad publicity. I wish her every success on Thursday and congratulate her on doing something that all political parties probably should have done long before now, but it takes a woman to highlight these issues. Well done.