As I am an honorary member of the ONE, it holds a special place in my heart.
Senator Keogan spoke about the need for a Covid inquiry and how a date was yet to be set. I suggest that a Commencement matter raised with the Minister for Health might be the route she should take to get a date for that. There is no fear of accountability in respect of Government action on Covid. We have fared extremely well compared with our close neighbours.
Senator Warfield spoke about the need to address student accommodation. There is a particular crisis in that regard, with many students travelling long distances. The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is aware of the challenges. I expect that he is working with colleges across the country to address them.
Senator Wall spoke about the exceptional needs payment. It is taking up to eight weeks in some community welfare offices to administer those payments. Work is actively being done to reduce that timeline. When someone applies for this payment, he or she needs it sooner rather than later.
The Senator also spoke about the youth travel scheme and raised particular issues about it not applying to those under 17 years of age. I ask that the Senator raise the issue with the Minister for Transport as a Commencement matter.
Senator Flynn spoke about an important issue relating to Cherry Orchard. She was joined by Senators Ardagh, Ruane and Seery Kearney. I concur with the Senators' remarks. My first thought when seeing what had happened was that it was clearly a deprived community with few resources over many years, with the incident in question being the culmination of all of that coming together. I concur with the Senators, particularly Senators Flynn and Ruane, that we should desist from labelling people, that no child is born bad and that, if there are unacceptable actions, as there was in the ramming of a Garda car, we must ask why it ended up happening. Those were important remarks.
I wish James Stokes well. He is working with the Ceann Comhairle and is a member of the Traveller community. Senator Flynn alerted us to the fact that he hopes to one day become Taoiseach and she hopes that he gets involved in politics. It is great to see the link with the Ceann Comhairle's office.
Senator Lombard sought a debate on the 9% VAT rate for the hospitality sector. The rate is under active consideration by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe. We will get more details on that next week. The Senator also alluded to a rural-urban divide in terms of price gouging. There are particular difficulties and challenges for the hotel sector. Expensive hotel prices are not confined to Dublin and we have seen expensive hotel prices in many tourist areas. It is unfortunate that some of them were excessive.
I will pick up on a comment that Senator Ruane made about the Cherry Orchard issue. She stated that many of these children felt that they had nothing to lose. It was a poignant remark. As she stated, we are coming from a safe environment and we have nice lives with plenty to lose, whereas every day in the communities in question is difficult.
Senator Ahearn spoke about the need for a debate with the Minister for Health on private nursing homes. That is the responsibility of the Minister of State, Deputy Butler. The Senator's request for a debate will go to her office at the earliest opportunity.
Senator Gavan spoke about section 39 workers, who are on strike. I spoke today with the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who is working on this issue and agrees that there is undoubtedly a need for a pay increase. It is long overdue. If these workers did not do the work that they did, there would not be disability services in most parts of the country. I hope that our Government colleagues examine this matter seriously and address it without further delay.