Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 24 May 2000

Vol. 163 No. 9

Order of Business.

The Order of Business is Nos. 2 and 3: No. 2, the Human Rights Commission Bill, 1999 – Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 3, Registration of Lobbyists Bill, 2000 – Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Business shall resume thereafter if not previously concluded.

The Order of Business is not agreed. On numerous occasions in the House Senator Cassidy has given an assurance to Senators Manning, O'Toole and Costello that he would bring a joint motion before the House for debate on party political funding and all other related matters. Given that it is a current topic, it is disgraceful the motion has not been put together since the House last sat. I do not think Senator Cassidy has acted with the due speed to which he committed himself on the last sitting day.

I ask the Leader to provide time for a debate and to bring the Minister for Public Enterprise to the House to discuss Eircom shares. The Minister has to answer the people who bought shares, particularly given that Alfie Kane, the chief executive of Eircom, has stated publicly that at the time of going public he advised against selling the shares at such a high price and that the Minister went against that advice.

I wish to raise the ongoing tragedy of haemophiliacs, particularly the 75 people who have died. While this matter is still being considered by the Lindsay tribunal, sufficient evidence has come to light to call on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána to immediately undertake an investigation into criminal negligence. I ask that time be provided to debate this very important matter.

I cannot agree to the Order of Business. On two days last week the Leader gave a clear commitment that an all-party agreed motion would be tabled allowing us discuss the allegations of corruption and sleaze and how we might deal with them and put our house in order. I asked for that to be done before any names were on the table. It is absolutely unacceptable, having agreed a wording with the Leader which would have allowed him put this motion on the Order of Business, to find it is not on today's Order Paper. It is not the way to do business. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that we take motion 21 as the first item.

Last year I claimed due process was not observed in dealing with Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty. I believe he was badly treated—

Hear, hear.

—by the system then and I believe he is again being badly treated by the system. On the basis of what was an unwise and poor judgment, he was cast to the lions and wolves. It is unfair that a man who was driven by humanitarian concerns is again being publicly destroyed. The Government handled the matter badly last year and is again handling it badly this week. I have trust and confidence in Mr. O'Flaherty that he will do a good job for the people.

I do not accept the crocodile tears being shed by Members on both sides in relation to Mr. O'Flaherty. The man did nothing other than make a poor judgment. In these Houses the most we can do in the face of extreme levels of corruption is put people on a paid holiday for 30 days, while we are worried about the way in which we are dealing with Mr. O'Flaherty. He has been poorly served by politics and the Government and is now being made a scapegoat for the fact that we do not have our house in order in terms of dealing with sleaze and corruption. We should examine what we are doing, give ourselves the necessary powers, be seen by the people to take proper action where required and observe due process. We are all agreed on the need for due process and we should deal with the issue by putting together a protocol for these matters.

I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator O'Toole. I also wish to express the same sentiments regarding the absence of a motion on corruption. The Leader proposed two weeks ago that all the group leaders would meet and that a joint motion would be tabled last week. That did not happen and he then promised that we would meet last week and that the joint motion would be tabled this week. We met last week and agreed the text of a motion, yet a motion has not been tabled. That is an unsatisfactory response to something that was decided in the House. This matter involves corruption, bribery and scandal. It is being discussed throughout Ireland but we have not had the opportunity to discuss it in the House. The Leader made a commitment which he did not fulfil. We have no choice but to oppose the Order of Business. The motion Senator O'Toole and I proposed should be the first item on the Order of Business.

Will the Leader facilitate a debate on the appointment of the former judge, Hugh O'Flaherty, to the European Investment Bank? It has also been discussed elsewhere, including in the other House, but such a debate is not provided for on the Order Paper and I do not know whether the Leader proposes to do so. It would be appropriate to debate the matter today. It is a matter of considerable public importance.

I disagree with Senator O'Toole's remarks. When Mr. O'Flaherty was a judge he refused to appear before an Oireachtas committee to make a statement. He stepped down voluntarily when the Government partners were about to impeach him. There are serious matters involved, including the death of a woman, the imprisoning of a young man and a controversial judicial decision. Why are judges appointed to high office if they do not make proper decisions? If it was appropriate for the coalition partners to suggest impeachment at that time, it is now more appropriate that they should not reward somebody they were about to impeach by appointing him to high office in Europe. An urgent discussion is needed.

I refer to the flotation of Telecom Éireann, now Eircom, which was raised by Senator Taylor-Quinn. It would be useful to debate this issue. Had the shares been offered at a lower level the Opposition would have been the first to criticise the Minister for not ensuring maximum accrual of revenue to the State.

Hear, hear. That is right.

I say this with some degree of feeling as someone who invested in Telecom Éireann and still holds Eircom shares. The Opposition would have been the first to criticise the Minister for dereliction of duty had she not conducted the sale in the manner in which she did and employed two firms to establish the valuation of the company.

The Minister should come in and explain it to the House.

I am sorry if the Opposition Members hurt as a result of the fall in the shares.

We know where the hurt is. The Senator should give us an account of his party's meeting this morning.

The Senator will also be well aware that in all such flotations a statement is provided to the effect that shares can go down as well as up.

With regard to the other issue raised, we have three hours this evening to debate issues regarding lobbyists and I am quite confident that many of the issues that have been raised with regard to the other matter can find their way into that debate. It surprises me that if there was such pressure from the Labour Party to have this issue debated immediately it did not avail of its Private Members' time to do so.

I wish to be associated with Senator O'Toole's remarks about Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty.

I wish to bring to the attention of the House a warning issued today by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that there is a contaminated supply of heroin available in Dublin and elsewhere. The warning was issued following the deaths of eight young people within the past two weeks from heroin overdoses or related illnesses. The Leader of the House should invite the Minister for Health and Children to make a statement to the House on this serious matter.

The Leader of the House should congratulate the Minister for Health and Children on the £10 million initiative to reduce waiting lists. In Ireland, however, it is still traditional to anaesthetise people, either by local or general anaesthetic, when they are undergoing surgery. I would be grateful if the Leader would ask the Minister to attend the House to explain how he proposes to carry out the waiting list initiative in view of the shortage of anaesthetists in many hospitals.

He will hypnotise them.

In Monaghan, for example, consultants have pointed out that no junior anaesthetists will be employed from July onwards, so they will not be able to maintain the service.

I congratulate the Minister for Health and Children also for deciding to divide his largesse 50-50 between hospitals and the general health service. Given that there are such constraints on staffing, both nursing and medical, within the hospitals, it is more sensible to apply them to the non-hospital health services.

I wish to be associated with the comments made by Senator O'Toole. This House and the Lower House have put Mr. Justice O'Flaherty down as a marked man. He is a man who has served this country through the decades but now we want to mark him down.

We were going to impeach him.

I think it is a disgrace. I am delighted he has been appointed and I wish him well from this side of the House.

Is the Senator speaking for everyone on that side of the House?

We should have a little more humility. If we lack humility it will be a sad day for both Houses of the Oireachtas.

I also wish to raise the shortage of qualified teachers in primary and secondary schools, a matter which arose yesterday at the Joint Committee on Education and Science. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Education and Science to attend the House for a debate on how we can overcome this shortage? We should face up to the problem now rather than next October or November. A huge number of untrained teachers are doing substitute work in schools while staff teachers are on maternity leave. I wonder if the Department's forward planning is correct because in recent years something has gone wrong with the assessment of the rate of decline in pupil numbers. It is a serious matter to have untrained teachers instructing young people in school. It would be opportune to have such a debate before the summer recess. In that way we could reassure the public that our children are being trained and taught properly.

I support Senator Taylor-Quinn's request for a debate on the flotation of Eircom. This is not about what the Opposition or the Government said. The public feels conned over what happened.

"Robbed" is the word.

Small investors are genuinely concerned. The Minister for Public Enterprise should attend the House for a debate on that issue.

Will the Leader provide information on forthcoming legislation dealing with the committal of people of unsound mind and the granting of orders under the Mental Health Act? On a recent radio programme I heard of a man who had to commit his own father. He did it in a gentle and caring way – it was for his father's good. The family was distressed, however, to find that in the documentation they signed, the person being committed was described as a "lunatic". Obviously, we will have to examine that matter. During the same programme, the Oireachtas was criticised for not dealing with this legislation, although I understand that something is happening along these lines.

I strongly support Senator O'Toole and Senator Ormonde on this nasty matter of the EIB appointment and, in particular, the way in which it is being stirred up. It is most regrettable. As I understand it, it is principally a question of optics. Even in the Hamilton report, although the judge was described as being inappropriate and unwise in some of his actions – which of us has not? – it was principally that these actions could be misinterpreted by the public. I do not think somebody should be so completely and irrevocably damaged because of a perception by the public. That perception should be cleared up. I listened to the radio last night and it was quite astonishing that people were taking lumps out of each other on all sides, stirred on by Emily O'Reilly who, in the middle of it, out of nowhere, said: ".. and I understand David Norris is friendly with him". What has that to do with the price of eggs?


Are we getting to the point where there is a kind of ludicrous guilt by attainder and everything, including cabbages, carrots and the kitchen sink, is thrown into this unseemly stew? I can see the political parties getting into the rough. They all have their little slogans –"that's typical Fianna Fáil, spread the muck". If we descend into the level of sloganeering and refuse to look at the actual sequence of facts, we will all be in trouble and we will damage not just one individual and his family but also the unfortunate people whose mother was killed. We will damage the whole fabric of political life in this country and I do not think we should go down that line. We should look at the situation calmly, clearly and rationally.

Is the Senator just good friends—

I compliment some speakers on the other side of the House who have taken a very humane view of the Hugh O'Flaherty issue. The only point I would make on it is that people should realise that when most senior counsel are appointed either to the High Court or eventually to the Supreme Court, they can earn tenfold their salary working in a private capacity. Many senior counsel with whom I am familiar would not accept an appointment because it would mean they would have to take a huge drop in salary.

Will the Leader allow a debate on bank charges, possibly before the end of this term? I was appalled to read yesterday a number of reports to the effect that of all the European countries, Irish banks have the highest charges for international exchange transactions. That is appalling. We have called for debates previously on this issue and it is about time the banks were called to heel. Some reports suggested there was a lack of competition in Ireland. I do not believe that is the case but there seems to be a cosy cartel among the main banks and the public are suffering. It is an appalling indictment that it is three times more expensive to exchange money in Ireland than it is in Finland. That problem will have to be tackled and there is an urgent need for a debate on it.

Will the Leader endeavour to get the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to streamline the level of communication between the National Roads Authority and the ESB with regard to flashing warning lights at schools, which currently are being put in place throughout the country? They are valuable but there seems to have been a breakdown in communication because some of the lights have not been turned on. In Annagh national school, near Tuam, County Galway, the lights were put in place last October but they still have not been turned on, despite the fact that the school is close to one of the most dangerous bends in the country. There has been a breakdown in communication between the National Roads Authority, the ESB and the local authorities, and my representations and those of others have failed to solve the issue. Perhaps the Leader, through his intervention with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, might get a satisfactory conclusion and allow these lights to be turned on. I would appreciate the Leader's help in this matter.

I support Senator O'Toole's amendment to motion No. 21. It is essential that we debate it today – I understand that a promise was made to do so last week. I call for an urgent debate on the consultant's report on the Health and Safety Authority published yesterday. The nature of the criticism in the report is a cause for enormous public concern. Such criticism is unprecedented. Lives are at stake and it is urgent that we debate the matter. It is better to act now than have a tribunal pick up the pieces later. We must protect lives and prevent the dangers heralded in this report. It is a disastrous condemnation of the actions taken and is worth reading.

Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty is being tarnished in a manner which groups him with those who are guilty of more serious crimes which have been debated recently. He is clearly responsible for a misjudgment due to his taking a compassionate view. As Senator Norris said, there is absolutely no comparison between that misjudgment and the crimes of which others are accused. He is worthy of support and there should be a debate which reflects this.

I support the call for an urgent debate on the O'Flaherty affair. Rather than getting into the events of the past, it is important that we look carefully at one of the more unfortunate side effects of this affair, which is the clear undermining of public confidence in judicial appointments and the independence of the Judiciary. As legislators, we need to examine carefully judicial appointments and the political appointment of judges. We must decide whether it is time to reform that system and consider a judicial council and the recommendations of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution. We should have an urgent debate on this issue.

I support Senator Ormonde's request for the Minister for Education and Science to come to the House to discuss the scarcity of teachers. I ask the Leader to draw to the attention of the Minister an issue now emerging, that this year the examination branch of the Department is finding it impossible to get qualified teachers to correct State examinations and it is casting about in the universities for undergraduates or post-graduates to fill the role previously filled by practising teachers. Will the Leader indicate to the Minister my alarm and that of many parents at this?

If the integrity of our public examination system is to be maintained, there must be coherence between those who teach the courses and syllabi, those who set the questions and those who correct them. Anything which dilutes this would undermine public confidence in State examinations. In this country, everything hinges on State examinations. We do not have an interview system or in-house assessments – we put all our eggs in one basket. It is critical that the integrity of the system is upheld in every way and that those who correct State examinations are qualified and have demonstrated that they are competent to do so. I ask the Leader to ensure this matter is addressed urgently because the State examinations are about to commence.

I compliment the Independent Senators on their remarks on the O'Flaherty affair. I fail to see the relevance of Senator O'Meara's comments. The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, acted independently by suggesting Hugh O'Flaherty for the position. He could have appointed a senior politician but did not.

I support Senator O'Donovan's request for a debate on banking which, perhaps, the Leader could arrange. We had a debate on banking some time before we entered EMU. We castigated the banks, particularly regarding credit card charges. We also referred to the high level of interest rates after we joined EMU when interest rates had fallen. I was appalled, therefore, to learn yesterday that we are being charged 27% in this State when the country with the lowest rates charges only 9% and the average is 15%. Something will have to be done to tackle the banking system. When the two most profitable banks in the State are heading for profits of £1 billion, it is wrong that the customer is being charged such high rates.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I remind Senators that we should be moving on soon.

I support Senators Ormonde and Quill in their call for the Minister for Education and Science to come into the House and assure the parents of national school pupils that the high number of substitute and part-time teachers will be addressed. There are almost 1,600 such teachers, an extraordinary figure. Some of those people are well qualified but they are not trained teachers. The parents want to be assured that those pupils are receiving an equitable education.

There have been calls for a debate on Eircom shares. Senator Dardis was quickly on his feet to reply to that but not to the other matters that have been raised. I am delighted he held on to his shares and did not make a quick profit at the initial stage. Many people, particularly first time investors, have done the same.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We are not discussing Senator Dardis's shareholdings.

The Chair might advise Members that before they speak on this issue, they should declare an interest. If they have shares they should say so.

Does the register of Members' interests not show that?

It is not only Senator Dardis who is losing money.

I do have shares and I did not make a quick profit either. Eircom is a company which demanded support and I hope it has a future, if it is not destroyed by the ineptitude of this Government first. It would be worthwhile to debate the matter in this House so we could hear an explanation for the initial flotation price.

The Leader promised many Senators time and time again that there would be a debate on waste management, particularly with reference to incineration. With the recent report from the United States by the EPA on the carcinogenic nature of dioxins and their relationship with incineration, and the Minister's recent statement that he still supports incineration, this House should debate the issue. People want to know whether incineration is safe. This House, not the media, is a suitable place for such a debate.

As an Irishman, I am particularly saddened by the manner in which Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty is being treated. It is sad to see such an eminent person, and by extension his family, being ridiculed, denigrated and lampooned. This is turning into a national entertainment – a scapegoat is picked and thrown to the lions, as if we are trying to satisfy some hunger in ourselves for sensationalism or trying to comply with a political correctness which is self destructive. Mr. O'Flaherty has given great service to this State and it is sad to see the manner in which he is being treated. It brings no credit on us.

If we are to have a debate in this House, why not have a debate on due process? Over the weeks various people, who have not been proved guilty of anything, have been brought out and we point the finger at them and ruin their careers. It is time for us to stop bowing down to the media and to take a stand for decency and fair play.


Hear, hear.

The House will be pleased that I am not going to say anything about Justice O'Flaherty.

Or Eircom shares.

I will not say anything about those because I am deeply disappointed.

I am seriously worried about the financial judgment of our Senators.

If Fine Gael gets rid of its shares it will really crash.

To add to what Senator Doyle said, I ask the House if we are living in the real world. He spoke about the deaths of eight young people in a fortnight. In my electoral area I attended the funerals, one day after another, of two young men under 25 years of age. The deaths, unfortunately, were drug related. Putting it mildly, I will be exceedingly perturbed if the Leader tells me he will make time available for this debate at some stage. What is happening to young people is tantamount to a form of genocide. That may sound extreme, but there have been 12 deaths since January in my area. What will we do about the fact that there has been eight deaths in a fortnight? No other discussion could rate as highly as trying to do something about this curse and plague which is upon us.

Are we living on separate planets? Does anyone know how bad the problem is and what it is like? I would be most interested in the Leader asking the Minister to take realistic action by way of extra resources for the Garda and the voluntary groups who are trying to deal with this problem.

I echo the sentiments expressed by Senator Henry on the initiative taken by the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, on hospital waiting lists. As this comes at a time when, nationally, waiting lists have decreased significantly, his initiative is interesting and timely.

I echo what has been said on the matter and I compliment those on the other side of the House who have defended and upheld the decision to appoint former Justice Hugh O'Flaherty to the European Investment Bank. He has been treated disgracefully and I do not believe he did anything wrong. He compares with a similar great man, the good man from Nazareth who was crucified.

Last week I raised a question on inland water sports and I thank the Leader for agreeing to have a debate on this matter. I ask the Leader to agree to incorporate in that debate the practice in which some people indulge, that pertaining to coarse fishing, especially as they apply to canals and rivers.

Mr. Ryan

On a point of order, I thought there was a rule against blasphemy in this House and the comparison the Senator has just made is blasphemous.

Coming from the Senator's side of the House, I am not surprised at his making that comparison.

Mr. Ryan

It is a blasphemous statement.

The Senator is making a speech.

As fishing contributes greatly to our economy, it is important to have it incorporated in the debate. Our waterways and canals should be policed to prevent this uncivil practice.

I am concerned about bank charges, particularly regarding euro transfers. I applaud Commissioner Byrne on what he is doing in that regard. He highlighted and brought this matter to our attention. Will the Leader tell me what is being done in this regard?

I support the views of Senators Taylor-Quinn and Tom Hayes regarding Eircom shares, particularly on the price at which they were set. I have a small interest in common with other Members and, like them, I am in for the long haul. I am not concerned about us but I am concerned about the significant numbers of people who, like us, were good stakers, so to speak, in buying on the first day and who were actively encouraged to do so. We now know the price was set at 30%—

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator, we are not having statements on shares.

I appreciate that but the point is it was not at a premium, it was robbery. In common with so many colleagues, I want to hear from the Minister urgently on the matter.

I join with Senators Henry and Glynn in welcoming the initiative taken by the Minister for Health and Children on hospital waiting lists. I also want to echo Senator Henry's sentiments regarding the shortage of non-EU doctors after 1 July. Health professionals and, more importantly, the general public are greatly concerned about this matter. I would be afraid that services within the health system and waiting lists would be adversely affected by the reduction in the number of non-national doctors.

I support Senator Taylor-Quinn's call for a debate on Eircom shares. I would like the debate broadened to include lessons that we may have learned from the flotation of Telecom Éireann before Aer Rianta, the TSB, the ACC or any of the other State bodies goes down the same road.

They are all postponed.

I would like the Leader to ask the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation to come here and explain the great concern in the tourism industry about the level of English trade coming here. A drop of between 5% and 10% in the number of British tourists is forecast but we do not know what could cause this. Sterling was never as strong.

There is something wrong with the market.

There is something radically wrong. The Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation should come into this House as a matter of urgency.

I have heard of Governments being criticised for an enormous number of things but to be criticised for share prices in an open market seems to go beyond the realities of the situation. I want to declare that I have Eircom shares and I intend to continue to hold them. I am not sure whether a debate in this House would help people who have taken up these shares. Perhaps the Leader would encourage the Minister for Public Enterprise to dispose of the 35% overhang in the market as quickly as possible. If that was done Eircom would know who its shareholders really are.

With all due respect to Members who wish to raise this issue today, it seems to me that they do not read the financial newspapers very often. Telecom shares are suffering a downturn throughout Europe, it is not just confined to Eircom. In the circumstances I do not believe that there is any point in debating this issue. What would we debate? Would we debate the share price? Would such a debate have an effect on the stock market? None whatsoever.

It was with some sadness – and I am sure that many Members feel the same – that I read yesterday that our friend and colleague, Senator Quill, has indicated her intention to retire at the next election. I wish her every success. I wish her well until August 2002 and beyond when she will be sitting in this House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

This is hopefully not the last sitting of the Seanad.

All of us would wish Máirín well. I hope she will spend at least two years and three months more in this House.


Hear, hear.

I will be like Brendan Behan's grandmother and have a great wake.

Two momentous events took place this week. Yesterday many Members of both Houses were present when members of the RUC Police Federation, the Widows' Association and the Disabled Members Association visited Government buildings and met the Taoiseach. This was a ground breaking meeting which has been given extensive coverage in the media. Those of us who were present got a very positive response from the people who came south. This was an unprecedented meeting and I hope it was the first of many.

Perhaps in the context of what is happening on Saturday, the Leader might consider having a debate on the ramifications of the Good Friday Agreement and wider Northern Ireland issues. Such a debate would give Members an opportunity to discuss the Patten report, which was uppermost in the minds of the people who visited us yesterday. I ask the Leader to convey to Mr. Trimble that we hope he will have some success. That may seem ironic coming from the Fianna Fáil side. Yesterday I talked to a number of politicians and it was suggested that if Mr. Trimble sat down with the dissidents over a cup of tea and a sandwich in their homes and did some old fashioned canvassing he might be able to make them waiver.

I agree with all of the comments that have been made about Mr. O'Flaherty's appointment and I applaud the Independents. It is significant that it was they who initiated support for him. The viciousness of the campaign against this man and his family has gone beyond normal political debate and fair comment. I wish Mr. O'Flaherty well. He is a wise choice and will be an excellent ambassador for Ireland.

I concur with the comments on the manner in which former Mr. Justice O'Flaherty has been pilloried in the past week. It is nothing short of disgraceful and I have no doubt that in time his fine legal career will be replicated as vice president of the European Investment Bank. The House should wish him well in that important and onerous position.

I support the call by my colleague, Senator Bonner, for a debate on banking charges. The most recent report told us only what we already knew, that is, there is no real and effective competition within the banking industry. As a consequence, the consumer is getting a raw deal. A debate in this House could crystalise the steps taken to ensure the industry is policed so that real competition is injected into it and the consumer is treated satisfactorily.

Like many of my colleagues, I declare an interest in Eircom shares and call on the Leader not to accede to the requests for a debate on the issue in this House. The value of shareholdings will not be enhanced by making the issue a political football in this Chamber. Responsibility for share values rests with the board and managing director of that company.

Public accountability might be enhanced.

I would like them to get on with that responsibility rather than make excuses to their shareholders.

I thank all 33 Senators for making a contribution on the Order of Business. Senators Taylor-Quinn, O'Toole and many others expressed great concern about the way in which business has been ordered for today. I have been in this House a long time, as have other Senators, and I have never seen a one page amendment on the Order Paper. I gave my word to the House last week and I consulted with my colleague, the Government Chief Whip, on allowing a debate to take place here today. I decided to extend the debate by one hour so that the concerns of Members, including funding of political parties, funding of politicians, all the allegations made about corruption in public life and many other issues relating to public representatives, can be discussed. I have no hesitation in extending the time tonight to facilitate the leaders to whom I gave my word and the Senators to whom I gave undertakings last week. Any Member who wishes to make an observation or speak on this topic may do so this evening, beginning at 6 p.m. I accept that Senator O'Toole tabled an amendment in good faith and we had an agreement last week. However, the wording in my amendment covers every issue, including appointments, elections, public life in general and all the various allegations made.

If we make a deal, we should stick to it.

I have no problem allowing as much time as is necessary for each Senator to make a contribution on this topic. I agree with Senator O'Toole that not only should we deal with this issue, but we should be perceived to be dealing with it. I will extend the time to allow this debate to take place and this can be reviewed as the debate progresses. I ask the Senator to consider his amendment to the Order of Business and I accept fully everything he has said in good faith.

On the various opinions of Senators on shares, everyone knows it is a commercial decision if a member of the public wishes to buy a particular share of their choice. While I do not have shares in this company, I believe the shares will be profitable in the long term. In the short term, however, there will be swings and roundabouts and I see no merit in having a debate in this House on the issue.

Many Senators made their views known to this House, and justifiably so, on the appointment of Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty to the European Investment Bank. I was pleased to hear of his appointment. I have heard Members say, when discussing other matters, that everyone is entitled to a second chance. This man made an intervention on humanitarian grounds. There is no doubt that if he had not done so he would be the Chief Justice today and all parties would have applauded him. He is an eminent man and I have no doubt his credibility and ability will be recognised and acknowledged abroad. I wish him well.

Senators Doyle and Ridge called for a debate on the drugs issue and, in particular, on the death in the last two weeks of eight young people from drug related illnesses. I will allow time for such a debate in this session. Senators Henry, Glynn and Leonard welcomed the allocation by the Minister for Health and Children of £10 million to the health services to help with the waiting lists. I will pass on to the Minister their concerns about the shortage of staff in that sector.

Senators Ormonde, Quill and Coogan called for the Minister for Education and Science to come to the House to debate the shortage of qualified teachers. I will allow time for such a debate. I will pass on Senator Norris's views on to the Minister and can assure him the Mental Health Bill will come before the House soon.

Senators O'Donovan, Bonner, Coghlan and Walsh called for a debate on bank charges. Senator Finneran has called for such a debate on a number of occasions and it will take place in this session. I will pass Senator McDonagh's views regarding the NRA, local authorities and school warnings to the Minister.

Senator Quinn called for a debate on the consultants' report on health and safety. I will allow time for such a debate. Senator Coogan called for a debate on waste management and the United States EPA's report. I will allow time for such a debate also. Senator Glynn asked for a debate on inland water sports and coarse fishing and I will allow time for such a debate in the next few weeks.

Senator Burke asked that his views regarding tourism be passed on to the relevant Minister. I have always found that if one gives value for money one never goes into recession. People who are giving value for money are doing very well and those who are not giving value for money are not getting repeat business. As the Senator said, the strength of sterling and the US dollar should ensure Ireland is an attractive country to visit over the next year or two. I will pass on the Senator's views to the Minister.

Senator Mooney welcomed the visit by the RUC widows to the House yesterday and called for a debate on the Patten report. I will allow time for such a debate. Senator Mooney also expressed his good wishes to Senator Quill who has said she will not stand in the next election. I do not recall hearing or reading anywhere that Senator Quill would not be available to serve in the Seanad after the next election.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator O'Toole has moved an amendment to the Order of Business. Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.

Burke, Paddy.Caffrey, Ernie.Coghlan, Paul.Coogan, Fintan.Costello, Joe.Cregan, Denis (Dino).Doyle, Joe.Hayes, Tom.Henry, Mary.McDonagh, Jarlath.Norris, David.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Meara, Kathleen.O'Toole, Joe.Quinn, Feargal.Ridge, Thérèse.Ross, Shane.Ryan, Brendan.Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.


Bohan, Eddie.Bonner, Enda.Callanan, Peter.Cassidy, Donie.Chambers, Frank.Cregan, JohnDardis, John.Farrell, Willie.Finneran, Michael.Fitzgerald, Liam.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Gibbons, Jim.Glynn, Camillus.

Keogh, Helen.Kett, Tony.Kiely, Daniel.Kiely, Rory.Leonard, Ann.Mooney, Paschal.Moylan, Pat.O'Brien, Francis.O'Donovan, Denis.Ó Murchú, Labhrás.Ormonde, Ann.Quill, Máirín.Walsh, Jim.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Costello and O'Toole; Níl, Senators Farrell and Keogh.
Amendment declared lost.
Order of Business agreed to.