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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 7 Jul 2022

Vol. 287 No. 3

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 2, motion regarding arrangements for the sitting of the House on Monday, 11 July, Tuesday, 12 July, and Wednesday, 13 July, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 3, Electoral Reform Bill 2022 – Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 1.15 p.m. and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 4 p.m. by the putting of one question from the Chair, which shall in relation to amendments include only those set down or accepted by the Government; and No. 4, Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022 – Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 4 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 3, whichever is the later.

I support the Order of Business as outlined. I start by sympathising with the families of former councillors Jerry O'Dea and James Tobin, who very sadly passed away over the last two weeks. We, in Fianna Fáil, are bereft at the loss of two very fine public representatives. They were the epitome of good public service in society and in their communities in Limerick and in Waterford. I extend our condolences to their family and friends and to the wider community. Their loss will be greatly felt.

With all that is happening here and abroad over the last week, sometimes we have to refocus on issues that shock us to the core and raise them in the House. For me this week, the issue was the story about organ incineration and the realisation that the organs of 18 babies delivered at Cork University Maternity Hospital had been sent to Belgium in 2020 along with clinical waste, without the knowledge or consent of bereaved parents. We can only begin to imagine what those parents went through on hearing this and trying to comprehend the situation. The HSE's own standards state when organs are retained post mortem hospitals should support the family in one of two ways, either by facilitating the return of the organs to the family or arranging their sensitive disposal, by burial or cremation only, on behalf of the family. This clearly did not happen. The HSE was to provide a report in November 2021. To date, we have not seen it. We have to get that report and have it expedited.

I also raise the issue of inclusive transport. Access to public and personal transport to access work, education and social and recreational activities is important to every one of us but for people who are already isolated by their disability, it is twice as important. It is shocking that the then Government closed the motorised transport grant and mobility allowance schemes in 2013 and never replaced them. We must have a debate on this. I know the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Rabbitte, has put a group together to look at this. We also need flexibility around the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme to support people with disability and to provide access. The current scheme is far too narrow.

I have just come from a presentation in Buswells Hotel by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, which does incredible work on behalf of the 64,000 people with dementia and their families in Ireland. The organisation urgently needs funding to address rising needs. As it states, dementia cannot wait. I sat and listened to advocates like Mr. Kevin Quaid's wife, Helena, talk about the difference home support services would make. It would add so much quality to their lives and the lives of their families. They also spoke about that really important sense of valuing carers, including carers who come into the home. It is very important we look for support for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland's request and send a very strong message to the Minister. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Butler, is very supportive of this organisation but we also need to put pressure on the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe.

I welcome the launch of the report of the Joint Committee on International Surrogacy. Equality for all of our children, regardless of the manner of their birth, is something I have championed and I am very grateful for the extremely hard work of the committee, with cross-party support, that achieved an outcome that relies on two strands. First, for all future surrogacies, parents intending to pursue international surrogacy must receive a certification to proceed from the Assisted Human Reproduction Regulatory Authority in order to apply for a parental order. This requires preconception proofs that ensure the well-being and safeguarding of the surrogate, the children and the parents. The international feedback today is that the framework suggested for Ireland could go on to form the foundation of a future international convention because it relies so much on the Verona Principles.

The second strand contains retrospective provisions for children already born by surrogacy to ensure they have the protections of the full legal relationship with both of their parents in accordance with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report is an extraordinary piece of work that honours the concerns that arise from international surrogacy, and overcomes them, and now needs to be become part of the assisted human reproduction legislation. I thank the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, and the Tánaiste for welcoming it.

Yesterday, something very sinister happened on the floor of this House. Members enjoy privilege and they also have the benefit of confidentiality in private meetings.

Those are essential elements in the furthering of our democracy. Yesterday we saw the playing of the man and not the ball, the man being the Joint Committee on International Surrogacy. To put it kindly, inaccuracies were put on the record of this House by someone who is not even a member of the committee and was not there for the private meetings in an attempt to characterise the committee in a completely untruthful matter in order to undermine the excellent report and cross-party workings of the committee. There was an attempt to characterise one member of the committee as being a victim.

I will refer to something that occurred in public yesterday, which I can refer to and which does not breach any confidentiality in this House. There was a room full of witnesses at the committee, including women who have overcome serious illnesses, who live with cystic fibrosis, who have overcome cancer and who have experienced miscarriage and infant loss, and men who have experienced a lifetime of discrimination because of their sexual orientation. They all love and adore their children and have testified in many forums in this country about how much they honour the precious women who gave birth to their children. Those people who have overcome grief, loss and discrimination were termed as "purchasers" in an attempt to bring shame on them, to stigmatise them and to stigmatise Irish children, citizens and members of this Republic. That is what happened in public. I want Senators to consider for a moment what might have gone on in private and then tell me who the bully and the victim are.

I want to say the following on today's proposed Order of Business. Yesterday, the Seanad Independent Group and others on this side of the House protested against the unnecessary use of the guillotine during a parliamentary debate. Today, we want to register once again our protest regarding what is proposed in next week's draft schedule of business. The first item for discussion today is a motion which effectively imposes the guillotine right across next week and it is to be done without debate. The only opportunity that is being given to anybody in this House to speak on the necessity or the wisdom of doing so is during the Order of Business. I protest that. The widespread misuse of the guillotine to rush legislation through before the summer recess is a result of Government mismanagement of the time available in this House. There has been no attempt whatsoever to discuss or agree these proposals with the leaders and Whips of the one third of this House who are effectively being bulldozed by the other two thirds to agree to the passage of legislation in a hurried way, without adequate time for scrutiny or amendment, which is our constitutional function as Members of Seanad Éireann.

More time is required for certain legislation next week. For instance, the Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Bill 2022 warrants more than one hour of debate on Second Stage, as does the mica remediation legislation. On the other hand, business which will not reach Report and Final Stages next week and could be scheduled for the autumn, such as Senator Ward's National Lottery (Amendment) Bill and a Green Party Bill about animal welfare, which is not urgent, is now being slotted in to take up time which could be allocated to the other legislation proposed to be dealt with next week. Likewise, resumption of Committee Stage of the Air Navigation and Transport Bill could wait until September, as could Second Stage of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2022.

I also object to one of the provisions proposed in this rubber-stamp motion. If an emergency arises next week, nobody will even be able to ask for it to be debated in this House because Standing Order 30 is to be suspended by this motion. We are to gag ourselves. No matter what happens, we are gagged. We cannot raise any issue at all under Standing Order 30. We have never used that provision, but this is part of the procedure to rush everything through that is being dealt with today. I have to oppose the Order of Business. I cannot do otherwise. I ask the Leader why Senator Boyhan and I, and the leaders of other groups not in the Government coalition, have not been consulted about any of this. Why has communication collapsed to the point that we are driven to protesting about the imposition of such a motion? I will leave it at that.

I do not want to go back over affairs from yesterday, but there was less than full frankness in the description of how the Higher Education Authority Bill was dealt with. We are opposed to this motion. It is a gagging motion and a motion for multiple guillotines. I cannot see why it is necessary to curtail debate on many important Bills and yet make provision for the Green Party to talk about animal welfare and for Senator Ward's Bill, which is to stop people gambling on the outcome of the national lottery in bookies' offices, to go to Second Stage to absorb another couple of hours. We are taking that time away from important legislation.

Sinn Féin has submitted a motion, which is on the Order Paper, relating to the Energy Charter Treaty. It calls on the Government to leave that toxic treaty. I commend the five young people, aged 17 to 31, who are now taking a case regarding the Energy Charter Treaty to the European Court of Human Rights because the treaty protects fossil fuel investors. This toxic treaty has cost member states €110 billion in compensation for changes in national energy laws that would seek to reduce their profits. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report specifically called out the Energy Charter Treaty as being a block to climate action. We feel obliged to put a motion on the Order Paper to call for the Government to withdraw from the treaty. It is an obstacle to action on the climate crisis. It means that fossil fuel companies have greater rights under the treaty than communities. The legal action being taken by young people is backed by 76 climate scientists who argue that continuation of the Energy Charter Treaty will either prevent the closure of fossil fuel companies or will mean there is an enormous financial burden on citizens because they will be expected to foot the bill for fossil fuel companies' stranded assets under this treaty.

It is concerning that this does not just relate to fossil fuel companies. Spain has faced litigation under the investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS, mechanism relating to renewable energy companies. It currently has to pay €8 billion in compensation to solar energy companies. We are in the process of auctioning our resources for offshore wind to some of the companies that are currently taking ISDS cases against our European counterparts under the Energy Charter Treaty, including in the Netherlands. If we are serious about climate action and about meeting our targets, we need to leave the Energy Charter Treaty or else be honest with people that we will require citizens to foot the bill to bail out these companies when we try to move to a decarbonised future.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, to take No. 19 before No. 1. No. 19 relates to the introduction of the Broadcasting (Gender, Cultural and Other Diversities) Bill 2022. I extend my support to Senator McDowell on his earlier comments. I am introducing this Bill because I believe we need to see greater representation on our airwaves of women, those of colour and all types of sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. We want our airwaves to be representative of this country, the people who make it up, and the wonderful diversity among our people. I know that many broadcasters have made enormous strides on gender representation in their panel discussions, in appointing women as presenters and in playing music composed, performed and conducted by women. They deserve credit, but we know that significant improvements are needed in many other stations.

They deserve credit but we know that in many other stations very significant improvements need to be made. This Bill is vital in the conversation on the action we need to take to ensure greater diversity, equality and inclusion regarding both the spoken word and music content on our airwaves.

I am delighted we have in the Visitors Gallery today Linda Coogan Byrne of the Why Not Her? collective. It is owing to her work as a media and music professional and campaigner over a number of years that we are having this discussion today about equality on our airwaves. Over the past three years, the Why Not Her? collective has published reports holding up a mirror to broadcasters in Ireland. Ms Coogan Byrne's work has shown, through the analysis of media data, the disproportionate and very low number of women's voices on our airwaves. Therefore, we have to ask, "Why not her?" Between June 2021 and June 2022, just 18% of Irish artists were featured in Ireland's top 100 most played artists and bands on Irish radio. Of the songs of the 18%, only three were by female artists. People of colour based in Ireland did not even feature in the top 100 played artists, yet we know we have some brilliant emerging talent here in Ireland, including Soulé, Tolü Makay, Cherry Dragon, Gemma Bradley and Denise Chaila. Of course, we also have the likes of Imelda May, who is much more established, but we know when we look at the figures that these individuals get far less airplay than they deserve and is needed. Some 3.19 million people tune in to radio every day in this country. We know that, for performers, getting onto playlists can have a life-changing impact on their ability to make a livelihood out of their music. Therefore, it is vital we have this conversation. I acknowledge that a number of radio stations have stepped up to the mark over recent years. The likes of Spin FM, KCLR, MidWest Radio, Northern Sound, 98FM, Clare FM and a number of RTÉ stations have moved to ensure that at least 25% of their airplay is devoted to women artists.

Before introducing this Bill today, we invited artists from throughout this country, but a number of female artists were told not to turn up or support this campaign for better representation for women on the airwaves. This is what we are up against. I am referring to the intimidation and hostility towards making changes. I look forward to when we can debate this Bill more fully, but I welcome its being on the Order Paper as of today.

Will the Senator clarify that her proposal is that No. 19 be taken before No. 2?

I second the proposal.

Before I call Senator Flynn, I welcome her niece, Katie Hanifin, to the Gallery. She is most welcome.

I thank the Cathaoirleach. Next Tuesday, 12 July, will fall during the celebration of Traveller Pride Week. While June is a month for celebration and the raising of issues that impact LGBTQI+ communities, July is a month to value our Traveller community. Next Tuesday in the House, we are going to have a debate on the special committee report on Travellers. It covers five areas: mental health, health, employment, accommodation and education. I hope that as many Senators as possible will join me next week in celebrating the Traveller community and making people feel wanted and part of our society. I encourage Senators to take part in the debate next week. Even if they do not use their eight minutes and just come in to say "Happy Traveller Pride" and acknowledge the bad treatment and discrimination that still exists in society, it will be welcome. I really encourage them to do that. Sometimes it is just about showing up and showing support. That is my contribution on the Order of Business.

Before the Senator finishes, will she second the proposition of Senator Sherlock?

I second it. I support 100% the Senator's remarks on the Why Not Her? campaign, putting women on an equal footing and everything else that goes with that.

I can only echo the Senator's sentiments, although it is not appropriate for me to make a speech from here.

I, too, I agree with Senator Flynn in that anybody who can attend the debate next Tuesday to voice support should do so. It is what we should be doing here in Seanad Éireann. I look forward to the debate very much.

It would be a good idea to have, at some stage in the autumn, an extensive debate on dementia. Like some of my colleagues, I attended the briefing held across the road by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. We are dealing with a population that is increasingly elderly. People are living longer and, as such, more have dementia. The ask of the society is actually quite reasonable. It is asking for less than €20 million. This would make a huge difference in terms of home visits, providing support within the community, doing research and funding centres of excellence. The society does very good work. I speak to families regularly who engage with it and their feedback is extraordinary. What the society is asking for in the long term is extremely good value for money because it would keep people in their homes and communities for as long as possible. That is what we all strive for. This House could, in the autumn, have an extensive debate with the Minister of State in the Department of Health, Deputy Butler, on the issues of Alzheimer's disease and dementia and discuss implementing the commitments in the programme for Government.

I appreciate that. I thank the Senator.

I urge the Leader to re-examine the schedule for next week. There is not enough time for the Bill on children with special educational needs. One hour is not enough to debate such an important issue.

Earlier this week it was revealed via documents released through a freedom of information request that multiple senior HSE managers have serious concerns with the medical advice being given to patients, many of whom are teenagers, by Transgender Equality Network Ireland, TENI, and are of the view its receiving of State funding should be reviewed on account of this. Since 2017, €1.24 million in taxpayers' money has gone to the lobby group.

It is not a lobby group.

The issue is that while other medical bodies, such as the National Gender Service, will medically intervene to treat gender dysphoria only after a patient has undergone a detailed psychiatric assessment, TENI has repeatedly advocated for bypassing this fundamental safeguard in favour of an alternative online service. Regarding a detailed psychiatric assessment and a time-consuming and rigorous mental health practice, in the eyes of a senior TENI staff a Zoom call with a remote doctor and the permission of parents is more than enough to be getting on with for giving puberty blockers and hormone replacement treatment to teenagers. The remote service itself, GenderGP, was founded by a man who has been struck off the UK medical register for failure to provide adequate care for trans patients as young as nine. His wife, the co-founder, was suspended for two months last week for the failure to provide proper care to patients aged 12 and 17 and to discuss fertility issues with an 11-year-old girl. Under this system, young people experiencing gender dysphoria who are being railroaded into medical intervention will not experience such feelings without a proper, necessary, medical, psychiatric assessment and care that should be an absolute prerequisite. This is a child safety issue. We should have an independent report commissioned on this practice and a debate scheduled for this purpose after the summer recess.

Regarding a number of contributors yesterday and today on the surrogacy report, I can only say it is very clear I am the subject of an ongoing hate campaign. I think-----

There are two things. The Senator is over time, for a start.

We cannot have another day of falsities on the record of this House.

That is not appropriate. Senator Keogan is out of time.

The Senator should have been here earlier. The public will ultimately decide who the bullies were in this surrogacy meeting.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach is allowing falsehoods to go on the record of this House.

You only have to look at the debate, the body language and the proposers of this one-sided-----

The Senator is over time. She can raise this another day.

-----emotion-driven report to find the real bullies.

The Senator is abusing confidentiality and privilege.

The Senator, with no interruption.

In all fairness, Senator Seery Kearney had her say.

I ask the Senator to please sit down. She is finished now.

Senator Ruane had her say yesterday.

The Senator will have another opportunity. She has made the point very well.

I should not have to-----

The Senator had a choice in the use of her speaking time in the House and she did not use it.

It is all right for Senator Seery Kearney to say what she wants but it is not okay for Senator Keogan. That is not good enough.

Thank you. I call Senator McGahon.

To take the tone down and move it on-----

Some of us cannot even go home with the protest outside.

Senator McGahon, without interruption.

For the last two years, the British-Irish relationship has been at its lowest ever ebb. I hope that with a new Prime Minister will come a new fostering of that relationship. As soon as a new Prime Minister is appointed, we should have a debate in this House about how to bring that relationship up from rock bottom to a workable one. We can look at Boris Johnson and others as some sort of Shakespearean tragedy. At the minute, he is like King Lear wandering lost in the storm, cursing the loss of his kingdom. It is Nixonesque but even Nixon knew when it was time to go. This is the danger of electing populist demagogues like Johnson and Trump. These are people who think governing is a God-given right rather than it being a privilege to serve the country one is elected by.

Senators: Hear, hear.

This is the danger of populism. It can never be left unchecked. Those of us in centrist parties must never forget that the centre must hold. This is the danger of electing populist demagogues. It results in people with no respect for democracy or the public who attempt to cling to power at all costs. It is utterly disgusting. We have to be very clear that we in this country are not immune to that. We are not immune to someone from the far right or the far left or any sort of thing happening. Those of us in political centrist parties have to be aware of that danger.

Senator McGahon should be used as a template for how to get it all said in two minutes. Well done.

We should reflect on some of the contributions made in the Chamber this morning. There is rhetoric every day from certain people in this Chamber. I understand ideology and different points of view but some of it needs to be challenged. That has to be done respectfully, being conscious that one cannot propagate falsehoods. For those who purport to be Christian in their outlook, their rhetoric and their actions should be the same in this House.

No interruptions of the speaker.

Senator McGahon has not named anyone.

We have just celebrated a wonderful month of Pride. This Saturday, Limerick Pride is taking place. There will also be a rally in Cork on trans matters, which are very important. There is a duty on all of us to support members of the trans community. We must remember that these are people, members of our Republic and citizens of this State, as are their families, and they should be treated accordingly. People should reflect upon that.

I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate in the autumn following the Alzheimer Society of Ireland's very important pre-budget submission today, which referred to the lack of dementia support for members of the LGBT community. The 64,000 men and women of our country who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease today must be supported. Not only that, but their families and those who care for them must also be supported, especially within their own homes so they can stay at home for as long as possible. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland told us that by 2045 it is expected that 150,000 of us will have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. That is a startling figure. Its pre-budget request is a very interesting one in that it is not about money. It is about the supports, the investment and the scaffolding of care we can give people. I would ask people who did not go to the pre-budget hearing today to engage with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. There is nothing for members of the LGBT community around dementia care. I would hope to have that debate in the autumn.

I echo what Senator Buttimer just said about the pre-budget briefing of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland entitled Dementia Can't Wait. I have personal reason to be very grateful for the good work that organisation does. One of the points that came across clearly today was that the work of caring, be that within families or paid care, must be valued. People must be paid a proper wage. There is a problem in some areas, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach has pointed out, in getting people to do this important work even when the resources have been put in place to deal with it. That must be prioritised in the budget.

I also agree with what Senator McGahon said about the dangers of populism. As I said yesterday during a debate on legislation, the work of the Oireachtas and the Parliament is key in rowing against any groupthink or cancellation of people for their ideas. Only today some people addressed me as I was coming into Leinster House who are concerned about the fact that the word "woman" or the idea of being a woman is proposed to be erased from certain legislation. Those issues are controversial but there are people who want to make important points. There are people with major concerns about the human rights of children, mothers and women in the context of surrogacy. It must be possible to make trenchant interventions and state clearly what one believes to be wrong or harmful to society without being accused of being unchristian or being bullied or accused of being a bigot.

We can set an example as parliamentarians by making our points strongly without ever attacking the person. Where I have sinned against that, I apologise. Everybody should see that is the clear line. We must be allowed to express strongly-held views on important issues, provided that we do not attack other people. As far as I am concerned, Senator Keogan is the one who has suffered most in this regard in the way she was treated by this Member. She should not have been told by a Member of the Dáil to leave a committee meeting. That person acted beyond their remit. That issue must be examined to find out why that happened and to make sure it does not happen again.

I will briefly highlight the issue of Navan hospital's accident and emergency department. I am from the area of the country that sits between Meath and Drogheda. Drogheda is my home town so I am familiar with both Our Lady's Hospital in Navan and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

This issue has been discussed a number of times and there have been motions on it and so on. The HSE seems hell-bent on closing Navan hospital accident and emergency department, despite it covering over 200,000 people and a population that is still growing. It is obvious that the hospital in Drogheda is already under immense pressure without adding the Navan accident and emergency department numbers.

While I appreciate the need for streamlining, I fail to see the benefit of moving services around if the result is chaotic overcrowding. We need only look at the accident and emergency department in University Hospital Limerick. Senators regularly raise the number of people on trolleys, the waiting lists and the chaotic and unacceptable scenes in that accident and emergency department. There are scandalous numbers waiting on trolleys. That situation followed the closures of accident and emergency services in Clare and Tipperary. We have seen this happen in other areas.

The Government has played somewhat fast and loose with the people of Meath. We seem to be turning on and off the support for the hospital and the accident and emergency service. There is a monster rally this coming Saturday, organised by the Save Navan Hospital campaign. Our local area representative, Tracy McElhinney, will be addressing the rally on behalf of the Labour Party due to her connections with the hospital.

It is of considerable concern for the people of Meath and those in surrounding areas, including Drogheda, Monaghan and elsewhere. It is worrying to hear about the closure of yet another accident and emergency department, when the belief is that it will simply lead to overcrowding in a different accident and emergency department.

We have spoken about a number of matters today and yesterday. It is very important that we argue on policy points, rather than make personal attacks on whoever is in the Chamber, be it the Ministers who come to the House or our colleagues. It is also important that we base our arguments on facts. That is crucial. We have a crucial role to always look to an evidence base when we are putting our policies forward. If we do not base our opinions and policies on a strong evidence base, where are we going? The evidence base has to be there. It is crucial, going forward, that there is a strong evidence base.

Speaking of an evidence base that we should be using, I will highlight that there is a report on future funding for higher education. Our strength should be in the quality of education that we have, both at secondary and third level. The future funding of higher education report was produced by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science and examined how we should support our technological universities and universities. The report also examined how to support people to achieve their maximum potential, be it in further and higher education, apprenticeships or traditional degrees.

We should never underestimate the power of education in ensuring people are informed, get information based on multiple news source and are informed from a strong evidence base that is based in fact. Otherwise, we are fighting for things that we will not achieve for anyone in the community and society. It is key that what proposals for funding higher education will support the country and our democratic ideals. I am proud to say that is what I stand for. I know my colleagues stand for this as well.

Senator Dolan is a voice of rationality.

I support the comments of my colleague, Senator Dolan. I concur with comments made with regard to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. I was unable to make its briefing today but I met representatives of the association with the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, some weeks ago in Longford. I praise the work the organisation does. Any financial support it gets is most welcome and makes a major difference for many families.

I will speak on another issue that has been brought to my attention. I do so on behalf of a family I know personally. Every year in Ireland, an average of six children are born with spinal muscular atrophy. Children born with this condition may never walk and if left untreated, 95% of children with the severest form will not live past 24 months. The HSE has accepted that spinal muscular atrophy should be treated and every year considerable resources are being put into treating people who have it. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of the condition do not manifest until children are 12 months old.

The simple and low-cost solution to this is the heel-prick test, which we all remember. I can still remember bringing each of my three children in for the test. If spinal muscular atrophy could be added to this blood test, we would know straight away whether a child has this condition. It could be treated straight away and we would not have children who are unable able to walk or do not live beyond 24 months. The total cost of the proposal, based on an average figure of 60,000 children born in the country per year, would be €300,000.

The heel-prick test was not available for the family that I know but if it was in place for all families going forward, it would mean the treatment, which is recognised and funded by the HSE, could be administered earlier and children would not pass away or be in a position that they cannot walk. I ask that this proposal be put to the Minister for Health for consideration as part of the budget. Funding of €300,000 per year is a very small price to ask.

I will not be in a position to support the Order of Business. I will not repeat everything Senator McDowell said but I will say that I am concerned about the guillotine. I know Senator Doherty is the Leader and there are many demands on her in organising the proceedings of the House. However, it is not acceptable that we had no pre-legislative scrutiny of the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged By the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022, about which her party knows a lot, and are now expected to fast-track the legislation in a very short period of time.

I will stick to this issue for a moment. It will be a major issue in Donegal, Clare and a number of other counties. There will be a time when we look back and ask whether we examined this legislation in detail. The reality is that no pre-legislative scrutiny was done by the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The Seanad, the House for screening and improving legislation, will have very limited time with it. I ask the Leader to remember that if we make that decision today, it will come back at us. It is on the record of the House. I will leave it at that.

I saw some of the heated and charged debate today from my office. I welcome all the people in the Gallery observing how we conduct our business in this Chamber. We have a policy called dignity and respect for workers. It applies to us too. I will challenge anyone who says he or she has been bullied or intimidated, or has not been afforded dignity and respect as an individual in this House, to proceed through the proper procedures and channels. I will certainly be able to travel with and support him or her, regardless of whether that person is in my group. However, to suggest there are all sorts of motives is not fair or right. I do not say that as a personal criticism of anyone in the House today or any other day. I will ask the Oireachtas Commission to circulate the dignity and respect document. I will circulate it widely to the media and I will issue a statement about it. We need to talk about it because it is an issue and this document protects all of us.

I ask the Leader for a debate on urban regeneration in the next term. We had a report from the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage and there was a request to discuss it in both Houses. I suggest we have a debate on the recommendations in the autumn.

I will pick up on what Senator Boyhan said and ask that for the rest of the day people respect each other's position. We are all entitled to take different ideological stances. I ask that Senators make their statements and move on. I hope we can do so. I did not hear the earlier debate.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator O'Loughlin with regard to the passing of the late councillor, Mr. Jerry O'Dea, from Limerick. It is a very sad occasion. He was buried on the day on which he was due to become mayor of the city and county. I pass on my respects to his family and the family of Councillor James Tobin.

I too attended the briefing today by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. I support its call with regard to extended funding. As a member of the all-party Oireachtas group on dementia, I am aware of the commitment of the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, to this area. Three of the most important areas in which I wish to see investment in budget 2021 are the provision of €2 million for specific day-care services, €2.3 million for therapeutic support and education for family carers and €10 million for dementia home care.

Recently, Dublin Coach announced its withdrawal of a bus service between the city centre to the Castletroy-Annacotty area of Limerick. More than 1,000 houses and a new hospital are being built in the area. Many businesses, such as Northern Trust, depend on the bus service to transport their employees. Bus Éireann has received many requests to expand its service to the area, but it has refused to do so.

I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport to the House to discuss wider transport issues. I wrote to Bus Éireann today asking that it expand its service. We want people to switch from using their cars to using public transport. Unless we start that debate, that change will not happen.

I agree with the Leas-Chathaoirleach that it is important to respect the fact that we all have our own opinions. However, we cannot have separate facts. People must accept what is fact and what is not. We only have to look at Russia where the majority of people support the war in Ukraine because they are receiving disinformation rather than factual truth. That is, however, a much longer debate that we could have on another day.

The N24 road project from Limerick to Waterford is strategically important. There are two phases, one of which is a route from Cahir to Waterford. This phase has reached public consultation stage and five routes have been chosen. The consultation stage for any roads project is very important. Everyone is in favour of the project and it is welcome. The people of Carrick-on-Suir and its environs are concerned about the five routes, in particular one proposed route through a scenic 5 km walkway. While it is a road, the route is used for recreational purposes by cyclists, members of local GAA and soccer clubs as well as people who like to go for walks as they know it is exactly 5 km. If one of the routes is chosen, it will dissect the walkway route used by people in the town. People are very concerned about that route being picked and have come together to do something. I met Mr. Bobby Fitzgerald, the chairperson of a committee of local residents. Members of GAA clubs, soccer clubs and the Carrick Wheelers cycling club are also concerned. Senators will know that Carrick-on-Suir has produced two of the best cyclists in Ireland. There are very young people coming through who could be better than Sam Bennett and Seán Kelly. Everyone supports the idea of keeping the 5 km walkway as it is used by everyone in the town. I emphasise that people in Carrick-on-Suir want a new road. However, we should not take away an amenity that is hugely beneficial and used by everyone.

Senator Currie has waited patiently all morning. She will contribute now with the co-operation of Senator Ruane.

The relationships across these islands are experiencing turbulent times. Nowhere else is the impact of the policy of brinkmanship pursued by the British Government and Conservative Party more clear than in Northern Ireland where the principles that brought communities and opposing philosophies together 25 years ago have been completely undermined and disregarded. People should never have entertained the idea that Boris Johnson would be given the privilege of staying on as caretaker Prime Minister until October. His premiership is ending in shame. He has no respect for the rule of law and standards in public office. Meanwhile. Northern Ireland has no Assembly and no Secretary of State. Northern Ireland cannot wait, and I hope the next Prime Minister has more respect for the needs and democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.

Today, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment issued its report on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the right to request to remote work legislation. The report makes recommendations, some of which I support. For example, I support the call for support to be provided to SMEs. We helped businesses transition through Brexit with the Brexit-ready campaign and we helped SMEs with digital transformation. Why not have a remote-ready campaign? We should support businesses through something that is only going to benefit rural communities. The service timeline in the proposed Bill should be removed. People should not have to wait 26 weeks to access the right to request remote working. That right should be available immediately.

I welcome my daughter Jaelynne to the Chamber.

I welcome Jaelynne.

Like her mother and my mother, Jaelynne will, thankfully, be a woman on the right side of history.

It is disingenuous to talk about hate campaigns. None of us operates here in isolation. We can all see what other people are doing and hear what they are saying. I know from my communication with the members of the Traveller community who contact me about people using their Facebook posts and platforms to target the Traveller community, a vulnerable group, that there are groups that are not safe in society, including trans groups and LGBTQI+ groups. These are the communities in society that are currently not safe from hate. We should always use our platform in here responsibly. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with those communities, we should never make their situation more unsafe by how we drum up-----

I can only legislate for what happens in here.

Yes, I am making a point about what hate is and who we do and do not protect. Politicians correctly fight for the right to free speech but free speech cannot only apply to politicians and their actions in respect of particular communities or particular women or their statements on surrogacy, rights for trans people, LGBTQI+ people, the Traveller community or providing Irish homes for Irish people. We cannot only use free speech to suit ourselves. When free speech is turned back on those politicians in terms of how other people feel about their actions, ideologies and behaviours, they claim bullying and victimisation. If you want to be a supporter and advocate of free speech, you must expect the same to be applied to yourself. Free speech does not only mean that when I say something in this Chamber I am a bully but when you say it, it is an opinion. I am sorry but the double standards are unbelievable. They are all opinions or ideologies. We all assert them and use our privilege so we all decide which communities we want to protect or not protect. To be honest, to say people are bullies is just the sting of a dying wasp and I am here for it.

Jaelynne is incredibly welcome. She should be really proud of her mammy. We are all very proud of the contribution of Senator Ruane to this Seanad and the previous Seanad.

I am mindful of a number of the exchanges this morning. Probably the most pertinent response has been made by Senator Ruane. We are all entitled to opinions on any and every topic or policy and conversation in this House. What one is not allowed to do, as Senator Ahearn suggested, is have different sets of facts because facts are real and we can all rely upon them. People can have an opinion and disagree with certain other people's views but we have a responsibility to ensure that the people we talk about, whether we agree or disagree with them, are kept safe and we do not do anything to make them less safe or more vulnerable than they already are.

We talk about being allies in this Chamber and I believe most of us are allies. However, we need to take responsibility for the things we say if they cause hurt or harm and make people feel less safe in Irish society because our words have real consequences.

I completely agree with Senator Currie that UK politics is experiencing a very turbulent time. This morning, the current Prime Minister, and soon to be former Prime Minister, used the term "Them's the breaks". Those three little words show his disdain and disrespect not just for his office but for the party he said he was so proud to lead in the last number of years. I believe and hope that when there is a new Prime Minister it will be the time, as Senator McGahon has asked, to have a debate on restoring the relationships we have not just with Northern Ireland but also with Westminster and our colleagues across the water. I know Senator Currie will play an enormous part in that.

Senator Garrett Ahearn spoke about the five routes that have been picked for selection for public consultation on the new, much anticipated and much awaited road from Cahir to Waterford. I hope that we would not do something as Irish as to pick a route that would actually deprive people of an amenity, and particularly in rural Ireland where we do not have parks the way one might have in urban settings. I certainly concur with the sentiments expressed by the Senator Ahearn.

Senator Maria Byrne spoke about dementia support, as others did. Representatives of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland are across the road in Buswells Hotel following their briefing. If anyone has not yet managed to get over there, they might do so later on. The Senator also highlighted a debate request on public transport, as has been made previously, arising from the cancellation of the coach from Dublin to Castletroy, which is a tremendous pity.

Senator Victor Boyhan mentioned the Order of Business, as did other Members, and I will come back to this.

Senator Micheál Carrigy spoke about the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. The Senator also asked that the spinal muscular atrophy, SMA, test be included in the budget considerations this year. Another colleague had also raised this issue in the last week. It is a €5 test. It is nothing in comparison to the impact of catching that horrible disease early. The impact, especially for the families of the children involved, would be enormous. I concur with Senator and support his call.

Senator Dolan spoke about the future funding of higher education report. I look forward to having a debate on this, which I will organise as soon as I can once we come back after the summer recess.

Senator Hoey spoke about Our Lady's Hospital in Navan and the proposed changes by the HSE. I believe we have been listening to this for 12 or 13 years. I wish the people well at the rally on Saturday but a resolution needs to be found. We cannot keep having the same conversation. Ultimately, the clinicians are telling us that the service is not safe. Nobody wants a service that is not safe. We either fix the service and make it safe, or give the transitions to the other hospitals and ensure the transitions are given to the other hospitals. As the Senator said, we have examples that we certainly should be learning from, and they are not good examples. I thank her for raising the issue this morning.

Senator Mullen spoke about dementia care and the fact that we must value care. The Senator also spoke about the dangers of populism. I wrote down some of his words this. We need to set an example that we never play the person and we only ever talk about policy. To be fair, however, one can see, both in this House and the other Chamber, that there are lots of examples where we do not play the policy and we are concentrating on playing the person, which is a real shame. We all have a responsibility to make sure that we heed the Senator's words.

Senator Buttimer spoke about challenging respectfully. It is interesting that we are all on the same page about having respect, and not just for the people we represent or the debate we are having, but also for each other. Senator Boyhan also spoke about the dignity in work policy this morning, yet it does not seem to translate when we have the debates. We need to recheck ourselves and recheck our mindset as to what we think treating somebody with dignity actually means.

Senator Buttimer also spoke about Pride in the month of June. We have Limerick Pride on Saturday. The Cork trans campaign is ongoing and looking for support. The Senator is looking for a wider debate, particularly around LGBT supports for people with Alzheimer's.

Senator McGahon spoke about British-Irish relationships and how much they have deteriorated.

Senator Keogan spoke about re-examining the schedule next week, which I will come back to. The Senator also mentioned the advocacy group Transgender Equality Network Ireland, TENI. I wrote a note here on the standard practice of not impugning people. She made a reference to a particular gentleman who is not in the Chamber. I remind all of us not to be "stealing your clothes and taking your job". The standard practice of this Chamber, and all Chambers, is not to impugn anybody who is not here to defend themselves. I remind all of us about this standard practice this afternoon.

Senator Martin Conway spoke about the Alzheimer Society of Ireland's call for €20 million for dementia services in Ireland.

Senator Eileen Flynn spoke about Traveller Pride and the reports that we are going to discuss in this House - and I hope that all Senators will discuss it here next week - on mental health, health, education, accommodation and violence in the Traveller community. It is something we should all be mindful of, and particularly around some of the challenges that the Traveller community have that the rest of us do not and maybe do not appreciate. Senators could probably listen and learn a lot next week. I am looking forward to that.

Senator Sherlock asked for an amendment to the Order of Business this morning, which I am happy to take. She also spoke about the Why Not Her? campaign and welcomed Linda Coogan Byrne to the Chamber earlier this morning to support that campaign.

Senator Lynn Boylan spoke about Sinn Féin's motion on the Energy Charter Treaty. I assume that we will debate this during the party's next time schedule. I thank the Senator for that.

Senator Michael McDowell raised the Order of Business and I will come back to that.

Senator Seery Kearney welcomed the international surrogacy report yesterday. Finally we are on the roadmap to having equality for all of our children in the State, which is great. I am very mindful, and I did not realise until the Senator said it, that the report is so highly regarded that it may form part of a future international convention. On behalf of, hopefully, all of the Senator's colleagues I would like to put on record a very big thank you for the amount of work Senator Seery Kearney has done, along with other colleagues, in recent weeks to make sure of this body of work, which is so highly respected and regarded. We just need to get it into legislation as quickly as we can. I welcome that and wanted to put it on the record.

Senator Fiona O'Loughlin spoke today about the need for change around the recent awful announcement of what happened in the hospital in Cork with organ incineration. I cannot even begin to imagine what the families must be feeling. We must be mindful of the standards to which we hold ourselves in delivering public services, and by Jove, the HSE certainly failed in those standards to the families of those 18 babies.

Senator O'Loughlin also looked for a debate on inclusive transport, particularly with regard to a long overdue replacement for the motorised transport scheme, which was stood down in 2013.

I wish to pay our condolences, not only to our Fianna Fáil colleagues but also to the families of Councillor Jerry O'Dea and Councillor James Tobin. We acknowledge their passing recently.

I will now address the Order of Business, and specifically some of the comments that Senator McDowell made. We have a leaders' meeting every Thursday at which the Order of Business is presented to the group leaders. We get it and we agree or we do not agree at that weekly meeting what the Order of Business will be for the following week. This happens every Thursday, just in case the Senator is not aware.

I was in this Chamber last Thursday explaining to Members that I would probably be coming to them this week, somewhat reluctantly but there was no doubt I would have to do it, to give them the heads-up that I would probably be using the guillotine, and asking them to do all Stages of certain Bills this week. I said that I would give them plenty of notice and, indeed, I did that. On the third point, there was one request at the Order of Business on Tuesday from Members of the Opposition for us to revisit the schedule this week. We sat down on Tuesday afternoon, we revisited the schedule, and we changed that on the request of Members of the Opposition. This is why we got a new Order of Business yesterday. I am aware that the new Order of Business was not acceptable subsequent to that, but on the request change it, we did change it. The Senator's assertion that no attempt was made to discuss the business taking place is wrong on three counts. I ask him to withdraw that, just to be fair.

I totally accept that there are concerns around the schedule next week, and the Senator is entitled to raise his concerns on the Order of Business. He also incorrectly stated that he would have no opportunity next week. There will be an Order of Business on Tuesday and the Senator can object then. There will be an Order of Business on Wednesday and he can object then. The reason there is no Order of Business on Tuesday is it is an extra day and we do have a lot of work to get through. Please do not be the person who says, "Oh me, I never got notice before and I am really not happy". There have been, at numerous stages, discussions and information flow from myself and from the Seanad Office. I understand and appreciate that the Senator does not like the order next week but we have a body of work to do and I only have a certain amount of time in which to do it. That is the order as it is. It stands, as amended, only to include Senator Marie Sherlock's amendment.

I thank the Leader. We echo Senator Doherty's words of welcome to Senator Ruane's daughter. She can indeed be very proud of her mum's service here.

Senator Marie Sherlock has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 19 be taken before No. 2." This amendment is seconded by Senator Eileen Flynn. The Leader has indicated that she is prepared to accept this amendment.

I accept the amendment.

Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.

Question put: "That the Order of Business, as amended, be agreed to."
Question put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 11.

  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Hackett, Pippa.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McGahon, John.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Seery Kearney, Mary.

Níl

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Hoey, Annie.
  • Keogan, Sharon.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Rebecca.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Seán Kyne and Catherine Ardagh; Níl, Senators Victor Boyhan and Michael McDowell.
Question declared carried.
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