Adjournment Matters. - Matters of Concern to Senators.

I want to draw the attention of the House to a serious situation where patients are travelling 70 miles three times a week for the use of a dialysis machine, in other words, there is no dialysis machine in Cavan General Hospital. This hospital cost £30 million to build but one ward has never been opened. The shortage of clerical staff means that it takes five weeks for consultants' assessments to reach GPs. Even a seriously ill person has to wait five weeks for a consultant's report because of clerical difficulties.

The hospital has been a great success and the number of admissions have increased, but there has been no corresponding increase in nursing staff. Medical wards 1 and 2 and the surgical wards should have 24 patients per staff member, but the ratio is 32 patients per staff member. In the accident and emergency unit, where up to 1,300 patients received medical attention during January this year, there are only two nurses on duty over a 24 hour period.

Finally, despite the approval of the health board, the ear, nose and throat unit has not been opened. This is a great national resource, this £30 million project, is not being utilised to its full potential. That should not be the case and minor expenditure would correct it.

I understood the Leader of the House was to note these matters.

I am sure he is taking note.

The Acting Leader is taking note.

Is it acceptable that somebody else should do that?

The Leader was here earlier.

I want to raise the decriminalising of suicide. The Government, through the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Burke, promised Seanad Éireann on 27 November last that a Bill decriminalising suicide would be introduced by last Christmas. The Government failed in their commitment and despite numerous promises, six months later, we are still waiting the promised legislation. Since the promise was made, an estimated 180 suicides have been recorded, with an estimated true figure of nearly 550. It is a disgrace that this serious social problem is not being addressed or acknowledged by the Government. A prerequisite to introducing anti-suicide measures is to recognise that suicide, and attempted suicide, is not a crime; it is a public health issue rather than an issue of criminal investigation.

Last November the Minister for Justice acknowledged that the issue was important and he accepted the principles outlined in the Fine Gael Bill to decriminalise suicide and stated that the Bill was "excellent, I take nothing from it". I now ask the Minister to introduce a similar Bill. A person who commits suicide puts himself beyond the law. The presence of the stigma of criminality adds to the stress of the bereaved. This stigma must be removed to bring Irish law into conformity with the views of the Irish people. It is ridiculous to suggest, as does the present law, that people who attempt to commit suicide are people with criminal tendencies in the ordinary sense. They are actuated by a variety of motives, mental illness, despair, depression, feelings of acute rejection and sometimes intense loneliness. The fact that an attempted suicide still remains a crime is an indication of the Minister's and the Government's, failure to introduce or to recognise that suicide must be regarded as a social disease. The fact that suicide, and attempted suicide, still remain a crime is an indication of the Government's failure to understand or to recognise the outcome of research into the area and reflects a tendency in Irish society to view suicide as a scandal rather than a tragedy.

In the present unemployment situation it is good to see that one area has a different problem. We have virtually full employment in Cornamona, but unfortunately we do not have an electricity supply to match. At present, the industries in Cornamona are serviced by a 10,000 volt supply but because it is insufficient for present demand and because of the £1 million development which is taking place in the timber mill, the problem will be exacerbated. This line needs to be upgraded urgently to a 20,000 volt line to ensure that employment is sustained. With computers and domestic appliances in the area, severe disruption is being caused when the voltage drops and the electricity supply is inadequate to meet demand.

Sílim go bhfuil sé fíor-thabhachtach, ó táimid ag caint ar fhostaíocht, go gcuirfí na saoráidí cearta ar fáil do na daoine atá ag iarraidh an fhostaíocht sin a chrothú. Ach tá an-díomá orm nár chuir Bord Soláthair an Leictreachais soláthar ceart leictreachais ar fáil do phobal Chornamóna le go bhféadfaidís na tionscail atá acu a fhorbairt gan a bheith ag impí go poiblí go gcuirfí an soláthar sin ar fáil.

I ask the Minister for the Environment to make money available to Kerry County Council for improvements to the Tralee-Dingle road. This is a national secondary road. This narrow road is the gateway to the Dingle Peninsula, it is in very bad condition and has numerous dangerous bends. A particularly bad bend at a humpback bridge at Derrymore has been the scene of numerous accidents. The old Dingle-Tralee railway ran along a 15-mile stretch of this road. Since the closure of this line in the late fifties only about 5 per cent of the old railway line has been utilised for road widening. Now that Dingle Harbour has been developed with large fishing boats operating out of Dingle, large articulated trucks which service the fishing industry find it hard to navigate some of the bends on the road. There is also increased tourist traffic in large buses. I appeal to the Minister for the Environment to make funds available to Kerry County Council for major roadworks on this road over a five year period.

I am delighted that the Central Statistics Office is coming to Cork bringing 400 to 500 jobs with it. I wish McNamara Construction of Ennis very well. It is hoped this project will bring a windfall of £8 million to the city of Cork and give a badly needed boost to the Mahon area of Cork city where unemployment is exceptionally high.

I am mindful that this company did an excellent job in the construction of the new Garda station in Anglesey Street. Unfortunately they stand accused on the basis that they did not use as much Cork labour as they might. Cork city is bedevilled by chronic unemployment and there is an onus on this company to employ local people. I challenge the company here tonight to employ in excess of 100 people in the construction phase of this enterprise. They did not employ maximum local labour in the construction of the Anglesey Street Garda station and I remind them of a commitment already given that 100 local people would be employed on this project. I ask the Minister for Finance tonight to ensure that local employment is generated by asking McNamara Construction to honour the commitment already given. What is the point of an outside construction company coming to Cork and not using the skilled construction force available there? Failure to do causes resentment. I advise the company to be wise because there may be other projects and if they use Cork people well, we will look after them.

Mr. Donovan

I ask the Minister for the Environment to approve a water scheme for the Bantry region known as the Drumbro water scheme. To quote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: "Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink." There are millions of barrels of water in the Atlantic Ocean, off Bantry but in 1992 there is an inadequate supply of water in the town and catchment area. Regrettably a scheme approved by Cork County Council and submitted to the Department of the Environment some months ago was turned down by the Department. Despite this, rationing of water has occurred in this seaside town since March of this year. The present supply is inadequate for domestic requirements.

The IDA requirements for the advanced factory means that no industry can locate in Bantry while the water supply is inadequate. The valuable tourist industry there is jeopardised. I have been told by hoteliers and guesthouse owners that water rationing applies between 12 midnight and 8 a.m., precluding the possibility of an early shower or bath.

The water situation is a severe hindrance to the valuable mussel industry and to mariculture in the area. Ninety eight per cent of Bantry people wish this scheme to go ahead and I understand that the scheme was not approved because a small minority who do not represent the area lodged a frivolous and vexatious objection which has placed the water supply for a catchment area of 7,000 or 8,000 people in jeopardy. Water is a basic requirement and I urge the Minister to look seriously at this water scheme proposal which was agreed unanimously by Cork County Council.

Tralee General Hospital has been starved of funding since it opened in 1984. Commitments were given over the years with regard to extra funding but were never honoured. The Minister, Deputy O'Connell, visited the hospital two weeks ago and had a meeting with the matron and members of the medical profession. He was made aware of the very serious situation within the new general hospital and requested to make financial provision for the employment of an extra nurse in the theatre and to prevent ward closures over the next few months which create extra pressure on staff and patients. As I understand it, the saving made by ward closures in one month according to current figures given to me some time ago is aproximately £20,000. I find it outrageous that a ward should be closed with traumatic consequences for the public. It also gives the impression that the hospital is being downgraded.

A strong case has already been made for the installation of a renal dialysis unit at Tralee General Hospital. The Southern Health Board made a further submission within the last few weeks with regard to the dialysis unit in view of serious hardship experienced by Kerry patients making the long trip to the Regional Hospital in Cork.

I appeal to the Minister to examine the position of the Tralee General Hospital which he saw firsthand recently. A special grant of £50,000-£60,000 direct to Tralee General Hospital would resolve many of its present problems. I know that the Minister is a compassionate man and if there is any way around the financial situation I look to him to make the necessary funding available.

I hope that my two minute's grievance has not been given in lieu of the long promised debate on air transport because I refer specifically to the Shannon status issue. I ask the Minister why we have not yet received the decision she promised us immediately after Easter. I am responding to the disturbing article in The Irish Times last Monday which stated that one of her officials visited Atlanta to meet with Delta Airlines when, we are told, the question of direct access to Dublin was discussed. Was that visit linked to the new options being looked at under a corporate plan from Aer Lingus?

The Minister has ruled out any prospect of Exchequer funding for the Aer Lingus fleet replacement which the airline says is critical to its survival on the North Atlantic route. When revealing that a corporate plan was being sought from Aer Lingus, the minister, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, also referred to options or alternatives which the airline could suggest for meeting its financial requirements. If no State money is to be made available, the alternatives would be non-State and the suggestion is that private funding would be sought for Aer Lingus.

Delta Airlines is a healthy American airline involved in a dog fight with American rivals for a share of the European market. It would certainly be interested in getting involved with a European airline, such as Aer Lingus, with an extensive European network and there is no doubt that Delta Airlines would have the ready money for such an investment. I ask the Minister for assurances that deals are not being worked out for Aer Lingus over the heads of the people in the west of Ireland for whom the Shannon gateway represents the most vital lifeline for tourism trade and industrial investment.

There is the cliché that "a week is a long time in politics." The Minister is making a record of her promises of a decision on the Shannon gateway issue. At the Spring Show she predicted a decision within days and I ask her to explain the delay. She stated in February that uncertainty over the Shannon gateway issue was damaging investment confidence in the Shannon region. That undermining of confidence is now being prolonged by the Minister and I ask whether she can give assurances that the decision on Shannon is not being put off until after the Maastricht Referendum so that a massive backlash from the voters in the west of Ireland may be avoided.

I want to draw the interest of the House to a newspaper circulating in Ireland, printed in London called The Independent on Sunday. This paper is an important one for Irish people and recently it claimed that “the IRA bomb that wrecked buildings in the city of London last month may have come from Letterkenny, an isolated frontier town in the Irish Republic's far north which conceals a sinister streak beneath the lively atmosphere of its long main street”. The article features a picture of a heavy machine gun and a picture of a Donegal Deputy which is unfair to the county because Donegal is not a haven for the IRA. I urge this House to call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to raise this matter with the British Ambassador. This allegation is untrue and would cause havoc for a county like Donegal that is dependent on tourism for part of its revenue. There are many people in England that would believe this article to be true.

The journalist from the UK who put the article together did it on the basis of scraps of news, in the laziest and lowest form of journalism. The journalist responsible has written an article totally unfair to my county, to Letterkenny especially and to an elected representative of Donegal. I ask for the support of the Members as I call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to protest strongly to the Ambassador about the article.

I commend the stand taken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Deputy Andrews in calling for the withdrawal of the Parachute Regiment from Northern Ireland.

The events of the past week in Coalisland and throughout the east and southeast Tyrone areas involving the Paratroop Regiment have caused great concern to right-thinking people of all political persuasions. This regiment by its history of involvement in the regrettable events of Northern Ireland is totally unsuitable for duty there and all Members of this House should endorse the call on the British Government by Foreign Affairs Minister, Deputy Andrews, for the withdrawal of the regiment from the North. Their training makes them unsuited for duty in Northern Ireland and for dealing with citizens there. The patrolling of built-up nationalist areas is an insensitive action in the present political climate and the hostility prevailing against this regiment could lead to further loss of life.

I ask the Government to seek a renewed commitment from the British Government that army officers will be accompanied by the RUC wherever they come in contact with the general public and that disciplinary action will be taken against security force members whenever they go outside the rule of law.

I want to draw the attention of the House to an article in The Sunday Times of 29 March, and I quote:

Vast numbers of abortions in Russia are fuelling the cosmetics industry in the west with tonnes of placenta being used to make expensive face creams that claim to erase wrinkles.

In a bizarre and tragic trade lorry loads of refrigerated placenta are being exported to France where some are sold to cosmetic firms to make the fashionable face creams. These beauty aids are sold in London at some of the most expensive shops, including Harrods, where the fact that they contain placenta is buried in the small print.

No mention is made that the placenta comes from women rather than animals or from Russia where the abortion rate is one of the highest in the world. The firms using the material in creams include ROC, a chic sub-subsidiary of the Louis Vuitton-Moet Hennessy group.

The firms defend the use of human placenta on the grounds that it is rich in nutrients that moisturise and "regenerate" skin. "We were searching for an action (rejuvenating the skin) and that action according to our tests is accomplished by the use of placenta," said a pharmocologist at Roc's Paris headquarters.

I come to the Guinness Globe issue of March 1992, the newspaper of Guinness Brewing Worldwide which made the following comment. Guinness Plc has four sources of revenue. They are: (1) Guinness Brewing Worldwide, its brewing company; (2) United Distillers, its spirit company; (3) Guinness Enterprises, which includes Guinness Publishing Limited, the publisher of the Guinness Book of Records and (4) Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton (LVMH) the French luxury goods company which uses these placentas and which contributed £123 million to Guinness Plc profit.

This trade using the pieces of the bodies of small unborn children torn from the wombs of Russian women to make fancy cosmetics for women of the west is horrific. I call on Guinness to use their influence to cease immediately this barter in human flesh.

I wish to assure all those who spoke tonight on various issues that in accordance with the reform proposals, I will ensure that their concerns are passed on to the relevant Departments.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 21 May 1992.