The Order of Business today is No. 1, Industrial Development (Science Foundation Ireland) Bill 2003 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] – Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business, to conclude at 12 noon; No. 2, Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Bill 2003 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] – Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 and to conclude at 12.30 p.m.; No. 3, Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2003 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] – Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 2 and to conclude at 1.30 p.m.; No. 4, motion concerning the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 3 for a period of one hour, the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed seven minutes, those of other Senators three minutes, and on which Members may share time, the Minister to be called on to reply not later than three minutes before the conclusion of the debate; No. 5, Official Languages Bill 2002 – Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 4 and to conclude at 3.30 p.m.
Order of Business.
We agree with the Order of Business as proposed. I join in the Leader's congratulations to Senator Maurice Hayes on receiving his honorary degree from the University of Ulster yesterday.
There are two issues I would like to raise on the Order of Business. The Leader is aware that the Taoiseach is shortly to make an announcement concerning 10,000 affordable new houses, which the city of Dublin welcomes. This is the type of proposal that many on the Opposition side of the House have been pressing on the Government for some time. It does not, however, do the Houses of the Oireachtas any service that the Government has chosen to make this announcement on the day after the Dáil has risen for the summer. No statement was made yesterday in the other House. No statement will be made today on the matter. It makes the Houses of the Oireachtas quite redundant when the announcement of a major infrastructural project of this nature, affecting some 10,000 future home owners in the Dublin area, could not be made in Leinster House. It is a dumbing down of Parliament. Some people might believe it effectively gives the ‘Harvey Smith' to Parliament, itself.
I ask the Leader to express that view forcefully to the Taoiseach. It is not the way to do business. The statement should have been made in the Houses of the Oireachtas, either in the Seanad or the Dáil. I regret very much the way in which the statement has been issued today.
Secondly, this side of the House wishes the Government well over the summer recess, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland. We are going into a difficult period. We know the dangers during the marching season and the tensions and overspills that can occur. I ask the Leader to express our support to the Government for its continuing efforts with the British government to try to force the pace of the negotiations and persuade all concerned to get the Good Friday agreement working again. It is in the interests of us all that the Northern Ireland elections occur and that the Executive is re-established. It is the firm view of the Opposition that any effort or dialogue that may be taken over the summer period should be used as a period of reflection by all sides in this debate. We hope that a debate on Northern Ireland will take place at the earliest possible juncture so that we may review what progress, if any, has been made over time.
I join with other Senators in wishing the Cathaoirleach, the Leader and all colleagues an enjoyable and pleasant summer. I know it will be a bumper summer for the Cathaoirleach because Limerick is still in the football and the hurling championships and he will be very occupied. I wish the Leader an enjoyable summer also. I have been trying over recent months to get her to write her memoirs. May I just tell her I have found a publisher? He is not in the country, but is nonetheless prepared to take the risk.
I congratulate Senator Maurice Hayes too. I share with Senator Brian Hayes concern about the way the Taoiseach in making an important announcement is bypassing the Houses of Parliament. We have a duty, as Members of Parliament, to object when we see this sort of thing happening, as I did strongly during the Report Stage debate on the Immigration Bill yesterday. I am glad the practice of returning Bills to the House on Report Stage with large numbers of amendments will be addressed when the Leader holds her review of the workings of the Seanad.
The Leader gave a positive response to my request yesterday to ensure the urgent issue of nursing is addressed in the autumn. We depend on Filipino nurses for around one third of the nursing complement in most hospitals. They are so enraged about the manner in which their contracts are being implemented that a group of them from Loughlinstown Hospital planned to march on Leinster House last night. One cannot issue contracts for a month at a time and require people to renew their work permits each month at a cost of €60. It means they must struggle to keep themselves in accommodation as no landlord is prepared to accept these conditions. If we want to maintain the health service in the period before the Minister for Health and Children makes the necessary reforms, the health service employers will have to show respect to Filipino nurses who have come here to prop up our health service. I request that the Leader ask the Minister for Health and Children to convey this message to the health service employers. As these nurses are being sought in Australia, America and elsewhere, we will find ourselves with none.
I share Senator Brian Hayes's hopes for progress in Northern Ireland. I request that the Leader ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to take careful note of developments with regard to the military courts being established in the United States to try people who have been incommunicado with no access to lawyers for nearly 18 months. It appears the trials of some of them will take place behind closed doors. If this was happening in any other country there would be uproar. Given our long-standing and strong connections, we have some influence with the United States and should object to this sort of kangaroo court. It is not right that the norms of international law should be so bypassed. Once this kind of approach is taken in one country, particularly such an important country, how do we know it will not start somewhere else?
I also raise with the Leader the latest announcement on housing and the Government's great plans to address the issue. I recall another major announcement about affordable housing made five or six years ago from which, in reality, little emerged. For this reason, my feeling this time is that I will believe it when I see it. I agree with Senator Brian Hayes's point about the timing of the statement and how it impacts on our work in the House. I propose that the House meets in September to discuss the announcement and to try to ensure it becomes a reality.
Despite my wish to shorten the holidays, I wish everybody a good summer break. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his work during the year, which I omitted to do earlier. I also congratulate Senator Maurice Hayes on receiving a well-deserved honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster. I am familiar with his excellent work in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and the Forum on the Future of Europe from my involvement in these bodies.
I welcome the news that 10,000 affordable houses will be provided on land owned by the State. I have no difficulty with the fact that the announcement was made at a meeting of the social partners rather than in the Houses as there was no legislative aspect involved. I would be happy to have good news every day during the recess—
Hear, hear. This is good news.
—and to welcome it when it comes. I am particularly pleased that a redundant site in Kildare, Magee Barracks which was closed down, will be used for one of these initiatives. By definition, if the land on which the houses will be built will cost nothing, the site cost thereby recovered will provide a major boost in terms of making the houses affordable. It is good news and I welcome it.
I support Senator Henry's comments on the detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. They should be brought to trial by due process. If a civilised democracy goes down the road of ignoring the rule of law, we are on dangerous ground. I hope the matter will be rectified at the earliest opportunity.
I join Senators in congratulating Senator Hayes. When I asked him how one would describe a multiple doctor, he said one would call him a quack.
On a previous occasion, I raised the issue of the special savings investment scheme. In accepting it is a highly successful initiative, I noted that many people found it difficult to meet their financial commitment to it. As a savings scheme the SSIA has inevitably removed a significant amount of money from circulation. However, savers' working circumstances often change. Many people who received overtime payments in the past now receive time in lieu and some are finding it difficult to maintain the commitment they made. The penalty clause for withdrawing from the scheme should be analysed and savers, depending on their circumstances, should not be penalised for withdrawing their savings or have to wait for the full five year period to elapse to do so. I ask the Leader to raise the matter with the Minister for Finance.
Senator Henry touched on the issue of nursing. If the House returns in early September we should have a full debate on this issue. Filipino nurses have bailed out the health service, providing the valuable nucleus of nurses it requires. As such, they should be treated with great respect. We need them and were they to decide to go to other countries, the problems in our hospitals, particularly in the Dublin area, would be exacerbated. This matter should be addressed and we should show respect for this group of nurses.
Bearing in mind the terrible tragedy yesterday at the ESB generating station in Tarbert and the company's tremendous work and exemplary record, particularly on safety, it would be appropriate that the Seanad would today send best wishes to the three unfortunate men badly injured in the incident, two of whom are in hospital in Cork, the other in Tralee, their families and the management and staff of the ESB.
When asked about the recent away day of the Pensions Board, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Coughlan, stated she would not interfere in the matter as the event had been paid for by the occupational scheme and PRSA providers. Therefore, she said, the taxpayer had not paid for it. I ask the Leader again to raise the matter with the Minister. I have been contacted by many pension plan holders who have watched as their pensions devalued significantly and they are extremely upset at the manner in which the Pensions Board used funds for its away day in County Wicklow. The Minister's refusal to interfere with the running of the board at a time when so many pensioners are extremely concerned is a serious matter. The case has similarities to social provision provided by the tyre company, Advance Pitstop, to the Garda Síochána, for which it was brought to book. Pension providers should not fund away days for the Pensions Board.
I join my colleague, Senator Dardis, in warmly welcoming the anticipated announcement by the Taoiseach today at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference that State land will be made available for the construction of 10,000 affordable houses. I have no hang-up as to the location at which the announcement will be made. It is tremendous news for first-time buyers and should be warmly welcomed by all sides. There could hardly be a more appropriate forum for the announcement than an ICTU conference. Compliments should also be paid to ICTU and our colleague, Senator O'Toole, for the role they have played, as partners, in the progress of the economy.
This is one of the most significant interventions in the free market since the current crisis in house prices began. Such interventions are occasionally necessary. The Government and the councils must now ensure this huge initiative, which is only the beginning of a process, is not hijacked by vested interests or, worse, by bureaucratic red tape in such a way that the benefits do not accrue to first-time buyers. I hope the momentum generated by this intiative will continue.
The name, Hayes, is an important and distinguished one in this House, given that two of our eminent Members bear it. I join in the congratulations to Senator Maurice Hayes on his award yesterday of an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Hearing the word "letters" in connection with the Senator one readily understands how deserving he is of such an award when one considers the interesting works he has written. If anyone has not read his works, I recommend "Minority Verdict" which is currently out of print but available in the Oireachtas Library. It was important that he was honoured in the North because he has rendered that jurisdiction some service.
The Senator should ask a question on the Order of Business.
That is in addition to the good and valuable work he is doing in the Republic, not least through his chairing of the Forum on the Future of Europe and making the European Union more understandable and, I hope, more meaningful to everybody, on which we wish him well.
Anything that can be done to provide affordable housing must be welcome. There was a debate on housing in the Dáil this week but the Government announcement was not mentioned then. Perhaps it is appropriate that it be mentioned where the issue is being discussed today. While I welcome the announcement, I understand it will apply to only two or three counties. This problem is evenly spread throughout the country and there is a great deal of State land available. I have raised this matter on a number of occasions but expect the Leader will arrange a debate in the autumn on an audit of State properties.
What about Muckross?
No, that is a national park. It is a different type of property.
He has other plans for that.
I remind the Senator that many Members wish to contribute and there is a time limit.
I appreciate that. I have never abused your forbearance.
The Senator must come to the point.
I am doing so. I simply wish to thank you.
Now you know why he is a poll topper.
I wish to raise the matter of a young student who is studying government and public policy in University College Cork. Part of the course involved a work placement which, for this student, was a ten week period of work in the Irish immigration centre in Boston. On arrival in Boston, however, and despite his documentation being correct, he was interrogated, accused of being a member of various organisations, including drug smugglers, and duly deported the following day. Today the Americans proudly celebrate their Independence Day but there is a problem when people who are properly documented are subject to such abuses on entering the United States. The problem for this young gentleman is that he will now have to delay 12 months of his degree course because he cannot fulfil the work placement part of the course in time to complete his final year by late September.
I urge the Leader to raise this issue and seek the support of other Senators on this matter. It is intolerable. We encourage Americans to come to this country and the two countries have friendly relations. I have no difficulty with security or dealing strongly with those from illegal organisations, as is evident from my previous contributions in this House. However, innocent people are being subjected to abuse. I have an account of what happened to this student, which I will give to the Leader later, and it is horrific. I call on the Leader to raise this matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ask him to have immediate discussions with the American ambassador or his representative. I hope this situation can be corrected. There is approximately one week left to do so and ensure this young gentleman can continue his degree.
I agree with my colleague, Senator Brian Hayes, regarding the announcement of land for houses. It is amazing that the Government did not avail of the debate on the Private Members' motion on housing in the Dáil to make the announcement and that it chose instead to give it to the press.
The television coverage and reporting of the proceedings of the Seanad could be improved in many respects. Much good work is done both in this Chamber and in the committees but little of it is reported. That is a pity. Many of the questions put by Members to the various delegations are not reported either. The media seem to be over-reliant on press releases and only one side of a story. The days of investigative journalism appear to be numbered.
Will the Leader consider debating transport in the new term, particularly the new speed cameras? The Minister has said he intends to privatise the service. I am concerned about this and that those involved will see it as just a money making venture rather than a traffic safety matter. I would be nervous about such a proposition given the bad example and money grabbing techniques of the clamping service in Dublin.
Will the Leader consider holding a debate in the autumn on RTÉ and its annual report? Given that it is a semi-State company, the House has a right to discuss its activities. I also take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Cathal Goan on being appointed director general of RTÉ and extend best wishes to Mr. Bob Collins.
We do not congratulate people outside the House. If we continued with this practice—
The Commissioner of the Garda Síochána was congratulated.
I ruled on that previously.
RTÉ has provided a great service for the State. I agree with Senator Browne. I believe there should be a dedicated Oireachtas channel. The BBC has a channel dedicated to the proceedings of the House of Lords. In fairness to you, a Chathaoirligh, there should be continuous coverage of the Oireachtas for the information of members of the public who put us here in the first instance.
How is the naming and shaming going?
The Senator is wasting time and several Senators wish to contribute.
I wish to be associated with the best wishes to Mr. Liam Fitzgibbon and all the editorial staff. It takes approximately 24 hours to produce the first reports of the proceedings of the House of Commons. With the system in this House, the best in the world, the Blacks of the debates are available within two hours. The quality and perfection of the work by the Debates Office are unique. I also thank the recording staff.
Finally, I wish Americans both here and abroad best wishes on Independence Day. I appeal to them—
To whom will I give it?
That is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I ask the Leader to convey it to the embassy. I hope the Americans will also be conscious of the need to restore peace in Iraq and give the Iraqis independence on Independence Day. In addition, I agree with Senators Dardis and Henry that it is outrageous that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are not being given a proper trial in the United States, the home of democracy.
I join speakers from this side of the House in welcoming the Taoiseach's announcement. No matter where that announcement was made, there would be a political whinge. It is good news that the land is being transferred for over 10,000 houses. I am delighted because it is what the people sought.
I am a member of the Joint Committee on European Affairs. We have just come to the end of the Convention on the Future of Europe and formulated a draft treaty. I congratulate the Members on both sides of the two Houses who put so much work into formulating that draft and I ask the Leader to set aside a substantial period in October to discuss the new intergovernmental conference and the many heads that must be analysed regarding the formalisation of the next treaty. We need to bring it out into the open and we should use this Chamber to do it. I ask that time be assigned, perhaps in the autumn, to the intergovernmental conference.
I congratulate the Cathaoirleach for the manner in which he has performed his work over the last 12 months and also Senator Maurice Hayes on the honorary award that was conferred on him in the last few days.
I thank the Leader and the Senators for their congratulations, which I found very moving. Speaking personally, the greatest honour I have had is to be nominated to this House. I regard that as the primary honour. I congratulate the Cathaoirleach on his handling of the business and his respect for the Members and traditions of the House and I thank the Clerks for their help.
I support the Senators who called for consideration to be given to Filipino nurses. Paediatric intensive care nurses in particular are an extremely scarce commodity. Their skills are tradable world wide and they should be cherished and supported.
There are two points to make regarding the case raised by Senator Minihan. The first is how to deal with the treatment of the young man by the American immigration authorities and the second is how to secure his academic career. It should be possible, through a little sensible discussion with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the university, to find him anotherstage or posting. He should not throw in the towel.
I am delighted that two Ulstermen have been prominent this week, as Senator Leyden pointed out. I wonder whether Senator Maurice Hayes's next stop might be Buckingham Palace. Perhaps I should not mention that in this House, but I wish him well.
Some weeks ago I drew attention to the phenomenon at Lansdowne Road of booing Glasgow Rangers players in international shirts. There is another recent phenomenon of subjecting the Taoiseach to booing. I know that he is not a fragile flower and this is not about—
This is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I have a point.
I did not hear what the Senator was saying at the beginning.
When sport and politics come together, the mixture is explosive. It is a sad reflection that a man who is so passionate about sport—
That is not relevant to the Order of Business.
—should be subjected to booing whenever he appears supporting his team.
I call Senator Hanafin.
This is not about politics. I would say the same about any Taoiseach. He deserves respect, as does his office.
I call Senator Hanafin. We have no control over what happens outside at matches. He gets respect.
No, but it is an important point to make. We talked about respect in this House earlier and asked for respect from a variety of sources.
Order, please. I call Senator Hanafin.
The Taoiseach and Ministers, regardless of party, deserve respect for their public positions. We have a long tradition of protest in this country and there are plenty of opportunities to do so, but it should not happen at sporting events.
This is an historic day for this House because, if a division is called, it is the last time we will vote under the current procedure of walking through the lobbies.
I am not aware of that, Senator.
I confirmed it with the Captain of the Guard.
The Senator means if there is a division.
I believe that the builders will be in on Monday and when we return to the House, we will be voting under a new system.
That choice has yet to be made.
We will have the option.
Electronic and lobby votes will be options, just like in the other House. I hope that I am not confusing the Senator.
No, and I thank the Cathaoirleach for extending our time this morning. I still regard it as an historic day because it is a change in the House and I would like to note it.
In 1776 the American declaration of independence was signed. It brought independence, freedom and republicanism, spreading light throughout the world. Two years ago, on 11 September 2001, a weapon of mass destruction was used in New York. That is the only way of referring to a plane loaded with aviation fuel which killed 3,000 people. The justifiable anger in America against terrorism has raged for two years. On this day, I ask that due process be accorded to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. We, the great friends and consistent allies of America, now ask it to show due process to those people, some of whom have committed terrible acts.
I also wish to share in the congratulations for Senator Maurice Hayes. Sixty-five years ago, when Senator Hayes was a young man, he was very brave. In the Irish college in Ring, there was another young man who did not like going past the graveyard. He used to ask Senator Hayes if he minded accompanying him. That was fine when two were passing the graveyard, but one person had to return on his own. On behalf of Des Hanafin, I would like to thank the Senator for being such a good friend.
The issue raised by Senator Henry this morning is one for every person with a social conscience and an interest in human rights. I was listening to the RTÉ report on the prison in question. It was chilling and it was not hearsay because the reporter was allowed in not to meet the prisoners, but to talk to the commander of the prison. That commander was not prepared to deny reports circulating regarding execution chambers now being planned within the prison. The prisoners are held incommunicado. The person who spoke on the programme admitted that normal human rights were not involved. One got only a measure of human rights based on the amount of information which one gave one's interrogators. The current position—
There are about five more speakers and we have gone beyond the time.
—is that those people are presumed guilty. This Chamber must be able to convey to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the concern of all people in this country. In coming years, we will all be at the receiving end of these excesses throughout the world and no matter how friendly we are with America, we must put down a marker on behalf of human rights, due process and basic civilisation.
I call Senator John Paul Phelan. I apologise that I did not see him indicating at first.
I wish to join in the sentiments expressed by Senator Minihan regarding the student from Cork who has found himself in such difficulties. I urge the Leader to do her best to sort out that very serious problem. I also wish to refer to an issue raised by my colleague, Senator Terry, at the start of the week about the J1 students in America who were having such difficulty getting their social security numbers. The delay in the process takes several months and students in America can be deported to Ireland within 20 days if they do not have a number. I urge the Leader to express to the Government the importance of this matter and to try to find a resolution.
I again raise on the Order of Business the issue, which particularly pertains to rural Ireland, of people who reside in what one might call prefabs. I urge the Leader, when we resume sittings in this House at the end of the year, in conjunction with the debate on housing requested by several Members, to include people who primarily reside in prefabs. The issue has not been dealt with and must be addressed as soon as possible.
I, too, wish to be associated with the call for Members to congratulate the Taoiseach on the commitment as regards the announcement on housing made today. A similar announcement was made in the past when discussions took place with the trade unions on a wage agreement. I congratulate the Government on fulfilling that promise and pay tribute to the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Ahern, on the tremendous work he has carried out in recent months in putting this package together, as well as Senator O'Toole who played a leading role.
I join Senators Finucane and Maurice Hayes on the issue of Filipino nurses who certainly provide a tremendous service for this country. The persons about whom I am most concerned are their spouses and families. Their spouses are not allowed work here at present. The difficulty this causes for their families is particularly striking given that many are young women with young families. In most cases the children are not brought to this country. Therefore, there is a real difficulty for the nurse involved. To allow them to operate as a family unit would assist them.
Following the afterglow of the Special Olympics and a greater understanding of the difficulties encountered by those with disabilities in their daily lives, one area in which we all have a responsibility, and must offer support, is securing employment for those with a disability in both the private and public sectors. Speaking recently with the chief executive officer of the Irish Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association, Mr. Nick Killian, regarding employment—
That would be a good matter to raise on the Adjournment.
—-he suggested I invite the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Dea, to give the House a statistical analysis and report on the State sector on the level of employment of people with disabilities in these organisations. Sadly, Donegal County Council has the worst record—
That would be a good matter to raise on the Adjournment, although there—
I wish to highlight it today, having been asked to do so by the chief executive officer of the Irish Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association. He wanted me to make a statement today before the end of the session on the seriousness of the lack of employment in the public sector which is not meeting its 3% quota.
That matter is not entirely in order on the Order of Business. It would, however, be a good matter to raise on the Adjournment.
It is too late today. Donegal County Council has the worst record where a mere 0.5% of its wholetime workforce have a disability. Monaghan County Council shows—
That is a statement, which is not allowed on the Order of Business.
I call on the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Dea, to come into the House in the autumn and tell us how he will enforce the 3% quota for people with disabilities in the public sector. He cannot expect the private sector to do it if the public sector is not giving good example.
The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Brian Hayes, welcomed the housing initiative announcement but deplored the fact that it was not made in either House of the Oireachtas. Everybody welcomes the initiative which is a wonderful advance. The reason the announcement is being made at the ICTU is that the ICTU made it a central plank in its discussions on the new programme. The Taoiseach is doing the ICTU the honour of announcing it there. We all appreciate the support all Senators have given on the issue of Northern Ireland.
Senator Henry raised the issue of the Filipino nurses and the military court announcement about Guantanamo Bay, which is disgraceful. Soon there will be no human rights left in any country in which the United States has an involvement. It is disgraceful that such a situation was allowed to develop. I feel strongly about the matter, as do other Senators. While we all love our links with the United States, one has to speak out when basic human rights are put to one side with such ignominy.
Senator Tuffy raised the matter of housing and expressed the wish that the House would meet in September. Actually it will meet for two weeks in September, thanks to the Cathaoirleach at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges which agreed to this yesterday. Beginning on 15 September we shall have oral hearings, three days each week, with those who wish to give their views on reform of the Seanad. I am sure all Senators smiled last night when they saw on the television that the Dáil was on its holidays. We are not on holidays yet. There will be committee meetings during the whole month of July and the Seanad is open for two weeks in mid-September. I hope somebody in some office somewhere is listening and will record this fact. We are meeting in September for two weeks. Everybody can be here in the Seanad, the hearings will be in public. We hope some of them will be televised. It just shows that sometimes perceptions outside are wrong.
Senator Dardis welcomed the housing initiative and expressed his concerns about the situation in Quantanamo Bay. I imagine we have not heard half the story, we are hearing only parts of it. We have not heard the full story.
Senator Finucane raised the issue of the savings scheme and the penalty clause contained therein in the event that one lost one's job. I raised this matter with the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, in the House. He was aware of the difficulty and that recommendations had been made. Perhaps, he is reflecting on it. Senator Kenneally extended his sympathy and good wishes to ESB personnel. It was well put.
Senator Terry raised the matter of the Pensions Board away day. The point the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Coughlan, made was that she would not interfere in the running of its away or home day. However, the Senator clearly made the point that pension providers should not fund such outings. Senator Fitzgerald warmly anticipated the Taoiseach's announcement on the housing initiative while Senator Coghlan praised the initiative on affordable housing, as did Senator Maurice Hayes.
Senator Minihan made a strong case about the young Cork student who had all his documentation in order but was turned away. Apart from the rough tactics which are developing in certain stratas of officialdom in the United States, I hope we can speak afterwards.
Senator Browne referred to the housing initiative and wished there was more television coverage and reporting of the proceedings of the Seanad, a matter we discussed at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges yesterday and will take further. Senator Dardis said we were to praise Jimmy Walsh who gives such good coverage of the proceedings of the Seanad on a daily basis. Senator Leyden sent his good wishes to the new chief executive to be of RTÉ. He also paid tribute to the Editor of Debates and his staff.
Senator Ormonde welcomed the announcement of the housing initiative. As a member of the Joint Committee on European Affairs, she also welcomed the work done on the European Union and said we should have more debates on the matter here.
Senator Maurice Hayes supported the case made by Senator Minihan. I loved the story from Senator Hanafin. One can just imagine the two young fellows whistling past the graveyard to keep their spirits up. It was a lovely vignette and I see Senator Maurice Hayes is laughing. The Chair ruled what Senator Mooney had to say out of order. However, we would all agree that it is the office, rather than the person, that should be respected.
Senator Hanafin referred to Independence Day, 4 July, in the United States. It is a great day for its people. It was set up to be the land of the free, with the Statute of Liberty to extend the hand of friendship and human rights to people like us who were not getting them in their own countries. It is sad to see the reverse in the land of the free. I agree with Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú's passionate plea regarding human rights in the prison in question, but nobody seems to pay any attention to the issue. Senator Phelan is in agreement with Senator Minihan regarding the young student.
In regard to the housing debate, Senator Brennan praised both the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Ahern, and Senator O'Toole. Senator O'Toole said that he asked that the housing initiative be part of the agenda.
Senator Dooley spoke about the issue of the Filipino nurses whose spouses cannot accompany them to Ireland. This is upsetting for them.
The issue raised by Senator White also struck me during the two weeks of euphoria we had before and during the Special Olympics. There is potential in an economic sense for those with disabilities. The norm of 3% was set for their participation in the public service some years ago and the private sector was to follow. County councils and others appear to feel it is too much trouble to implement this norm but that is not the case as there are jobs suited to many of those with disabilities.
I thank Senator Dardis, the Deputy Leader, whose wise advice and counsel have been of great help to me on many occasions.
I wish to be associated with the congratulations to Senator Maurice Hayes. He and I have a common involvement in that we are both members of a national organisation where we serve at the same level. I congratulate him and wish him well.