Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 5 Dec 2006

Vol. 185 No. 11

Order of Business.

The Order of Business is Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. No. 1, a procedural motion to allow the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs more time to consider the motion on the Official Languages Act 2003 (Section 9) Regulations 2006. This motion will allow the committee to report back by 14 December, rather than 5 December as previously agreed, and is to be taken without debate. No. 2 is a motion to refer motion No. 19 on today's Order Paper to the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food for consideration. This motion, which will be taken without debate, concerns the rates of disease levies applied to milk deliveries for processing and cattle slaughtered or exported and are paid by the farming community towards the cost of the eradication of TB and brucellosis in cattle. Under the terms of the recent partnership agreement, Towards 2016, it was agreed with the farming bodies, subject to receiving the requisite approvals, that a further reduction of 50% in the current levy rates was appropriate from 1 January 2007. No. 3 is a motion, to be taken without debate, which deals with the establishment today of the National Economic and Social Development Office, as provided for in legislation passed by the Oireachtas early this year — the draft Order states the establishment date will be 1 January 2007 and this is the preferred date and will facilitate accounting and administrative procedures. No. 4 is the Prison Bill 2006: Report Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 5 p.m. No. 5 is the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2006: Committee and remaining Stages, to be taken at 5 p.m. , and to conclude no later than 7 p.m.

In recent years the Leader of the House has organised a number of well-focused debates on mental health. The Minister of State with responsibility for that area, Deputy Tim O'Malley, has addressed this House on the subject on a number of occasions. Following last night's shocking and disturbing "Prime Time Investigates" programme, which highlights the level of child and adolescent mental health problems within the country, I ask the Leader to persuade the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, to return to this House before Christmas, if possible, to deal with a number of those issues. It is accepted across the political divide that mental health is the Cinderella of the Irish health service. It is astonishing the type of problems we face now in terms of child and adolescent care. Allegations were made last night by the programme that in excess of 3,000 children under 16 are waiting to be diagnosed, one in five is suffering from a serious psychological disorder and one in eight has a behavioural problem. It was also claimed there have been no new psychologists employed within the country in recent years.

The worst possible fact to emerge from the programme was the outrageous allegation by the Minister of State, who claimed, "Some people like to have long waiting lists as it makes them look powerful." It is time for the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, to either put up or shut up. Can he substantiate the allegation he made on that programme, which he continued to make on "Morning Ireland" today? It is an allegation which slurs a whole group of professionals who are doing their best to stem the tide in this area. I ask the Leader, who has been very proactive as regards organising debates in this area, to once again invite the Minister of State to the House to ask him to substantiate that allegation and to stop blaming others for his deficiencies and those of his Government. He made the claim this morning that he is in the office only four years. If he cannot deal with it, it is time for him to head off.


Hear, Hear.

I fully support the call for a debate on this issue. I was talking to a number of colleagues about it before lunch and I found the programme very troubling. The Minister of State's comments were beyond belief, in that he is trying to shove the blame onto consultants. I am as critical of consultants as any of us, but I do not believe anyone has until now subscribed to the view that they would deliberately keep people waiting in order to make themselves feel important. The idea that consultants would make children of primary school age wait four or five years to make themselves feel important is an outrageous assertion by the Minister of State. He should correct it, since I do not believe for one minute that it could be true. If it is, then our sense of outrage will be even greater. The Minister of State should come to this House and talk to us. We have had this debate before.

For the past five years Members have raised the shortage of therapists of every kind in this House and in committees. I refer to occupational therapists, speech therapists and physiotherapists. These shortages pertain to a lack of college places and the non-recognition of therapists who gained their qualifications in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, neither of which helps us to make progress.

In respect of the issue raised by Senator Brian Hayes regarding psychologists, in the past four or five years the Department has been interviewing people for the post of educational psychologist. I understand it has a ready-made waiting list of up to 50 fully qualified psychologists who are willing to take up duty and whom it could appoint at any time. This is quite appalling. As the Exchequer received €10 billion last month, surely no one who watched the suffering of those children would argue about such spending.

The children in question, along with their parents, are still in the same position. Perhaps they are struggling at school or may be queuing outside some consultant's waiting room. It is appalling that this should be allowed to continue. The Leader's arrangement of such a debate to take place before Christmas would show a great response to a topical matter and all Members would welcome it. Everyone has views on this issue and Members could give some comfort and solace to those parents and others who appeared on last night's programme, to the unseen thousands and to teachers and school boards trying to cope with this issue.

The Leader is aware I have asked several times for a debate on youth mental health issues.

That is correct.

On one level, I was pleased that "Prime Time Investigates" chose to take up the issue of youth mental health and to expose clearly and powerfully the extraordinary deficiencies in the system as well as their impact on many children. It also displayed the Government's ineffectiveness and specifically that of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, who has been charged with responsibility for this area. While fine reports have been produced under his watch, virtually nothing has happened subsequently and last night's programme showed the consequences.

The Minister of State should resign because of his ineffectiveness and because of his ham-fisted attempt to cover it up with the extraordinary charge that professionals who work in the system are deliberately creating waiting lists. This is unbelievable. I have spoken to professionals in this field, both in my own locality and beyond, who having worked so hard are burned out. Such professionals are frustrated by the shortages in the system. They are obliged to see children and families every day to tell them how long they must wait and subsequently witness the consequences for those children and their families.

The Minister of State should resign because his reaction to this matter. His response to this serious issue, about which he is familiar, has been nothing short of scandalous. This House must have a debate on this matter as soon as possible. It cannot wait because it is urgent for too many people and I ask the Leader to arrange such a debate as soon as possible.


Hear, hear.

I wish to raise a second important matter. Many hundreds of people travelled from County Monaghan today to attend a demonstration at the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House. All political representatives from Monaghan, such as county councillors, town councillors and all the Oireachtas Members, including members of the Government parties with the obvious exception of the Ceann Comhairle, were present to support the people of Monaghan in their fight to retain acute hospital services in their county.

I support them as a member of the Nenagh Hospital action group. Others, such as representatives from Ennis, were also present because they know Government policy is to downgrade services in acute hospitals throughout the State. The Minister for Health and Children must come to the House to defend her spurious allegation that hospitals such as Monaghan are unsafe for patients. In fact, the reduction of services in such hospitals has made the health service unsafe for hundreds of people. Seventeen people have died in Monaghan as a direct result of the removal of services there. This is an urgent issue, especially as the Government is attempting to move the issue forward beyond the next general election. The Minister should come to the House and should be straight with Members. There should be a straight debate about this matter and people should be heard.

I ask the Leader to request the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come into the House as soon as possible to give a report on the tragic murder of Garda Dick Fallon in 1970. He was the firstgarda killed in over 30 years. He hailed from Mooneen outside Ballagh in County Roscommon, which is outside Roscommon town. During my years in public life it was not brought to my attention until Finian, his son, wrote to The Irish Times and it was raised on “Morning Ireland” the other day.

I am not at this point calling for a public inquiry until I find out from the Minister exactly what is involved in this case — why seven men were named, three men were acquitted for the murder and nobody was convicted for the brutal murder by Saor Éire of Garda Fallon, who was 40 years old. This is serious enough that the Minister should come into the House to explain exactly what has happened, what is on the files, whether they have been suppressed, are in the Department, why the three men were acquitted at the time and why the other members of Saor Éire were not brought before the courts. He was the first garda in 30 years to be murdered defending the State. As a Roscommon man, this case has been badly handled by the State and it is about time there was an account given to this House on the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

It was great to see the unity of views on Monaghan General Hospital, as witnessed outside the gates this morning. Some powerful contributions were made on an all-party basis. I totally empathise with them and I hope that the much smaller request to the Minister for Health and Children in regard to the situation in Kenmare will be met because that is going on for almost as long.

Regarding what?

The 14-bed extension at Kenmare Hospital.

The Kenmare Hospital matter is on the Adjournment.

I appreciate that.

Senator Coghlan must wait until then.

I coupled it, just for a mention, with Monaghan General Hospital. I will not go into detail until later. I appreciate the Cathaoirleach's concern.

Has Senator Coghlan another point?

I do. It is a considerable while since I mentioned the Great Southern Hotels. Members in this and the other House campaigned long and hard for all those grant-assisted paintings, many of which were beautifully on show in those establishments. I am happy to report that with Senator Brennan, I had something of a sneak preview last week before the Minister opened the wonderful exhibition in the atrium of the Office of Public Works headquarters at 51 St. Stephen's Green. There are many wonderful artists involved and it is a beautiful exhibition. There must be over 100 paintings and at least 50 of them are on show there. I would encourage the Cathaoirleach and, indeed, all of the Members to visit it.

Has Senator Coghlan a question on the Order of Business? Have you a question for the Leader?

Is Senator Coghlan inviting me to it?

I am sure the Minister would invite the Leader.

We unveiled all the CIE pictures in Athlone last night.

The Leader should use her good offices to ensure it is a successful campaign, that people go and appreciate them.

I, too, call for a debate on youth mental health. I did not see the television programme last night but I received many telephone calls today from professionals who deal with many of the issues regarding childhood and adolescence, especially in the area of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. Particularly in their transition from primary school to second level school where they are assessed, there is a lack of educational psychologists to deal with the problem. If there are psychologists being trained, I cannot understand why they are not being placed in the system.

This worries me because these children are a huge problem at the school. It also shows there is a total lack of co-ordination between the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science. The two Departments must be involved in how one deals with those children in the classroom. It is an impossible situation. There is a significant lack of authority and a debate on the issue would bring clarity on where we go from here.

I join with my colleagues in requesting the Minister to come into the House so that there should be a full debate on the issue raised by Senator Ormonde and previous speakers. I commend the Senators on both sides of the House for making this request in a measured and balanced way. We must remember that people can easily put a foot wrong. The Minister of State made what seems to be a most extraordinary series of charges and we are entitled to investigate what lies behind them.

If, as it appears, one fifth of children are suffering from some kind of psychiatric difficulty, it raises an important question about the nature of our society. Was this always the case or has something changed in that such a significant proportion of children are deemed to be mentally unwell? I would like to know if this is a fact. If so, what kind of illness is involved and what is its source? Does it reflect changes in society? Is it related to the fact that in so many cases both parents have to go out to work? I simply do not know. I am not blaming parents because this is part of the economic reality with which we live. I am sure that cannot be the reason for all such cases but we need to examine what is wrong with society. There certainly seems to be some kind of malaise in it.

Members on both sides of the House have already raised these questions. I have posed questions about autistic children, whose brave and gallant parents care for them, as well as the virtual absence of speech therapists. It takes some time to train such therapists. There is also the question of psychologists and, as Senator O'Toole said, there are 50 to 100 of them waiting for appointments. On the radio today, it was said that a 1% drop in the top rate of tax was a possibility in tomorrow's budget and that it would cost €280 million. That sum would be much better spent by immediately employing trained psychologists.

I also wish to raise a matter which I have consistently raised here. It concerns the rendition flights through Shannon Airport. It is disgraceful that Independent Newspapers once again did not find itself able to tell the truth about this. A headline in the Irish Independent, concerning the report of the European Parliament’s committee on this matter, stated “US torture flights never landed at our airports”. That is a deliberate and specific lie, because they did land here. We know they did. We have the flight patterns, log data and names of many of the people involved. It has been expertly stated that a number of CIA personnel went through this country on false Irish passports. That certainly is a crime and demands an investigation. I ask the Leader to take up this matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and obtain further information on it.

I compliment the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, on a wonderful concert by the cross-Border orchestra in Dublin Castle last week. It was such a hopeful sign that people from both sides of the Border became involved in this event. There were even some Lambeg drums and Uillinn pipes. I have always loved those pipes but I did not know their origins. It was informative to discover that they came here as a result of Presbyterian ministers — who could not afford organs for their churches — importing this adaptation of the Scottish bagpipes. Uillinn pipes are a quintessential Irish instrument but, given their origins, they make a wonderful symbol of the potential for cultural unity that is now within our grasp.

Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to attend the House to outline the arrangements to prevent paedophiles and other sex offenders from seeking asylum in this country? I also ask the Leader to refer the Minister to new regulations which are being introduced in Northern Ireland in this regard. It is important that such arrangements here should be compatible with those in the North, so that people cannot dodge from one system to the other. The Minister might wish to examine the Visor programme which the PSNI has introduced for tracking such people.

I also wish to support a debate on hospitals and look forward to participating in it. It is unfair for Members, even in a pre-election period, to keep reassuring people that one can maintain safe and efficient acute hospital services in all centres in this country.

Hear, hear.

Let us have that debate.

It is time we re-examined the Fitzgerald report published all those years ago.

That was wrong too.

It would also be useful to hold a debate on mental health services. I support the proposal by Senator O'Meara and Senator Ormonde that any such debate should focus on the critical and crucial issue of youth services. Otherwise, it would be all be over the place. I have one comment to make to comfort the Minister of State. I believe he was reflecting the fact that waiting lists are about the most fallible issue from which to draw conclusions. Waiting times, which are intolerable, are important. It is important to make interventions to assist young people in crisis. Lord knows how much damage such interventions would avoid. Sadly, the position in the North does not appear to be much better.

Will the Leader hold a debate on the excessive costs of tribunals? We have learned that the tribunals in hand have cost taxpayers between €700 million and €800 million. At a time of great difficulty in securing funding for community care and mental health services, money can be found willy nilly for the tribunals. The House should examine the costs of tribunals and debate how they can be curtailed.

We have also learned that invoices are still being received for the beef tribunal which wound up 12 years ago. Some barristers and solicitors have had an open door in terms of drawing down funding for tribunals. It should be a requirement that invoices be submitted within a specified timeframe from the completion of a tribunal's work. Invoices submitted by Oireachtas and local authority members are not paid if they are not submitted within a certain period and the same should apply to tribunals. Regular reports should be published documenting the activities of tribunals because they can sit for half an hour, wrap up proceedings and not sit again for three weeks, during which time barristers and solicitors continue to be paid. This is a shameful practice at a time when the health service is on its knees.

Will the Government provide relief and funding for counties hit by flooding caused by the weekend storms? Roads have been destroyed in some areas and local authorities will require funding to upgrade them, especially in low-lying areas. Several towns and villages were flooded in the west at great cost. The insurance cover of some residents in the areas affected may not be adequate. The Government must provide support and compensation for those affected by an act of God over the weekend. The House should debate the issue.

Will the Leader arrange a debate with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at the earliest possible date to discuss his Department's role in ensuring water quality in our municipal and county water systems? An appalling situation is evolving in Ennis owing to the failure of a temporary treatment system, which was installed recently with departmental support at a cost of €2 million. Unfortunately, the system has not resolved the problem as boiling notices are being issued again. This creates discomfort for parents of young children who must incur significant costs to buy water. Many people are not confident that boiling water will make it safe.

The Department needs to address the crisis in Ennis in the wider context of its role in ensuring water quality. The problem has occurred at a time when the possibility of charging for water is being considered. Charges should not be imposed until such time as strict policies are in place to ensure that when circumstances such as those I have outlined arise, the authorities have the capacity to intervene and resolve the problem quickly.

I support the calls for a debate on health but this is such a wide area I question whether it is wise to cover it in one effort.

I draw the attention of Members to Dr.Risteárd Mulcahy's article on health published on Sunday and his book which was published yesterday. He talks about the prevention of illness rather than just spending money on its cure. When discussing the regional hospitals and the challenges facing them, it should be noted that significantly more can be achieved by the prevention of illness and by promoting health living, whether that be a fight against obesity or more exercise or a concentration on education in schools. It is a case of keeping ourselves healthy rather than just curing ourselves whenever we fall ill.

I, too, join with those who call for a debate on mental health. Last night's programme highlighted not only the worrying scope and extent of the problem but also the waiting lists which seem to be so difficult to access. Whatever the truth of that, it should be thrashed out in the House. Senator Norris made the point succinctly that at a time of tremendous affluence there appears to be much more mental health problems than in times of abject poverty in the past. The societal reasons should be identified and the problem needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency.

It is not a case of lack of funding because it was announced yesterday that more than €10 billion in revenue was received by the State in November. It is more a case of the output of the public service at all levels. There should be a separate debate on the vested interests within the health services and in other areas and on the ongoing negotiations with the hospital consultants. The time has come for the State and its apparatus to take control of our public services and to ensure those who work in it give value for money. If we do not succeed in doing this, we are doing a disservice to the taxpayer who is paying heavily for services which are not commensurate with the amount of tax being paid.

I join with other Senators who have requested that the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley, comes to the House to discuss the issue of youth psychological services. I agree with Senator Maurice Hayes on the point he made about waiting times and waiting lists. County Kilkenny was highlighted as being the worst in terms of waiting times, with a waiting time of more than four and a half years. The Minister of State made his astonishing comments that consultants were somehow beefing up waiting lists to make themselves more powerful. It is my understanding that the reason for the four and a half years' waiting time in Kilkenny is that the position of consultant psychologist was vacant for more than a year. This was clearly a failure on the part of the HSE and by the Minister of State's Department. I ask that the House has a debate on this subject as soon as possible.

I wish to join other Senators in asking for a debate on the status of the Hanly report and local hospitals, a number of which have been referred to by other speakers. I wish to mention my own local hospital, St. Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny——

There is one for everyone in the audience.

I do not subscribe to the notion that in this day and age we cannot have major clinical services available in regional centres. If it could be done 50 or 60 years ago when, as Senator Jim Walsh pointed out, the country was in a much more stringent economic position, I do not understand why it cannot be done now.

We are doing it.

I ask the Leader to raise with the Minister for Education and Science the concerns expressed to me by a number of parents of Down's syndrome children. Until two or three years ago, Down's syndrome children who attended regular primary schools were automatically entitled to resource hours. Three or four years ago, a change was made by the Government and now resource hours for Down's syndrome children attending national schools come from the total resource hours of the school. Only 220 or 230 Down's syndrome children are affected by this change. As a result, the number of resource hours to which they were entitled have been cut dramatically. Half an hour per day of resource teaching for a Down's syndrome child would have a dramatic effect on ensuring that he or she could remain independent into adulthood. As it is the day before the budget, I ask the Leader to raise that concern so that perhaps something could be done when the budget is announced.

I support the calls for an urgent debate on paediatric and adolescent psychiatric services. The "Prime Time Investigates" programme should be congratulated. Like myself, I am sure those who watched last night's programme have all been greatly affected by it. I was lost in total admiration and emotion for the young people who were brave enough to go on the programme to tell their stories. I was gripped by the young parents of the little nine year old boy who felt he was hanging over a cliff and that they were holding him by his hand but that he was slipping away all the time. Nobody could be anything but moved by hearing the words of the father.

Out of respect to all people suffering with mental illness, we should try to have a debate before Christmas and concentrate on adolescent and paediatric psychiatric services and perhaps even include anorexia. We have three protected beds in this country for young people suffering from anorexia. Over the next five to ten years, bulimia, obesity and anorexia will become bigger than anything any of us could imagine.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Child Protection, I wish we had seen the "Prime Time Investigates" programme before we signed off on our report. I hope that in the upcoming referendum on the protection of the child, we will widen our remit and look after children suffering with mental illness.

At a time when the Government is awash with money, I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the underfunding of local authorities, particularly in the areas of water pricing and waste water management. Water pricing is leading to the privatisation of water throughout the country. Farmers and business people will not be able to pay for water. Something will have to be done because local authorities are using water to raise taxes by stealth. Local authorities are so underfunded that they have no choice but to increase water charges and this will cost businesses and farmers. At a time when the Government has taken in €10 billion, will the Leader arrange a debate as a matter of urgency? We are now trying to extract the last few euro from hard-pressed farmers and business people throughout the country.

I, too, support the call for the debate on the health service. As Senator Quinn mentioned, we should narrow it to perhaps child or adolescent psychiatry. Psychiatry has always been seen as the Cinderella of the health service and adolescent psychiatry as the Cinderella of the psychiatric service. As long as 30 years ago, I called for investment in this area and successive Governments, including those comprising my party, have not invested in it. There has been a dearth of investment in adolescent psychiatry and the problems in it can be solved. One of the reasons it has been avoided is that it is so expensive and intensive. There are psychologists, educational psychologists, psychiatrists and other therapists with the expertise but there are not enough of them and we need more. I am not worried about what happened in the past and I look to what we can do in the future. We can provide long overdue help for these young people. I am sure the Government will examine this area.

I too was horrified by what I saw on the "Prime Time Investigates" exposé last night. Perhaps we should ask the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to explain where the regulators for our health system are. For too long we have relied on "Prime Time" to expose such situations. Some people working in the health boards are paid vast sums to produce reports and to regulate the system, but obviously they will not break up an old boys club. We must ensure systems are put in place to put an end to this.

Six people died horrible deaths from contaminated heroin in our capital city last weekend. The situation is out of control. I have often stated in the House that if we do not cut down on the availability of cannabis, cocaine or crack cocaine, we will have a dangerous crime epidemic. We need real and frank debate on the ever-increasing dangers in society as a result of drugs. Regional drugs task forces have been up and running for the past four years but are they doing the job they were set up to do or are they just talking shops? Will the Leader invite the relevant Minister to the House to explain the situation?

Last night, there were more than 1,000 farmers in the Royal Hotel in Roscommon. They are very angry at what they perceive as another stealth tax. The Government has claimed it is more than €6 billion in the black, but it has clearly overcharged the people. I ask it now to begin giving the money back.

I strongly support the view expressed by my colleague, Senator Feeney, who has articulated what is a widespread view. I would hate people outside the House to think that we have only raised these issues in a knee-jerk reaction to last night's television programme. Sometimes, especially at this time of year — we all know that in terms of national issues, timing is everything, not just in politics — a programme like that shown last night should and does act as a catalyst to getting something done. Senator Feeney's point was well made. I urge the Leader to make time available before Christmas for a debate on mental health.

The issue raised by Senator Phelan must also be addressed. I have personal experience in this area because I have a daughter under the age of 18 with special needs. We have found the support services in the north west to be superb, but I appreciate there may be inconsistencies as a result of the changes referred to by Senator Phelan. I was opposed to those changes because I saw the possibility that there could be a reduction or withdrawal of resources for special needs assistance. That has not been my experience, but that does not mean it does not happen. Therefore, we should have a debate on the issue.

I hope that the framing of a motion in that context will take account of people over 18 with special needs, a threshold we are close to with our daughter. Increasingly parents have said to me that while support services are excellent for children up to 18, once these children become adults, the services are patchy, inconsistent, inadequate and under-resourced. We need a debate that will encompass all those issues.

Senator Brian Hayes, the Leader of the Opposition, raised the issue dealt with on the "Prime Time Investigates" programme last night. I was home alone and saw the full programme. I am not ashamed to say I cried over it because it brought back memories of a nephew of mine with autism who died many years ago. People with autism, Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and similar conditions require intensive care from a range of professionals. It is not only psychologists who are needed but a range of professionals, including psychiatrists, teachers and health professionals. It was a moving programme. I realise that Christmas, a moving time, is approaching but one could not watch the programme without being moved. The programme was arranged by Mr. Paul Murphy with the involvement of Ms Keelin Shanley.

Senator Brian Hayes and all other Senators who spoke on the issue expressed the position well. We saw a mother and father — a plain, ordinary couple — who did not appear to have had any other children. I suppose the experience of having Jordan and what happened had a telling effect on them. I do not know how that mother kept her patience and sanity. The father was very good and supportive. I watched the entire programme because I felt it raised issues we should consider.

Senators referred to the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley. I believe he meant to say he did not understand why waiting list times were one month in one area and five years in another area. The disparity arises because some health areas would have a range of professionals while other areas would not. I expect this is why the Minister of State got himself into the knot he did.

Senators asked for a debate. I agree we should have a debate but it should focus on youth.

Youth and adolescent services.

Youth mental health services.

The programme was about youth mental health. A range of support services are needed in this regard.

Many teachers are struggling to deal with those pupils suffering incipient or embryonic attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome or other disorders. A great number of special needs assistants are now working in our classrooms but, notwithstanding this, there are always children just at the edge, although not quite certifiably suffering from ADHD, Asperger's or autism. I know this from my own teaching days. The strain such children put on the teacher and the whole class is huge.

The child profiled on last night's programme, Jordan, is reported in today's Irish Examiner as having said: “[It’s] like someone is controlling me. . . It’s like a robot, someone else controlling me.” It is clear he is an extremely disturbed child. I will endeavour to arrange the debate, which would be worthwhile.

Senator O'Toole called for the arrangement of a debate before Christmas on the issue of educational psychologists. If that is possible, I will try to arrange it.

Senator O'Meara asked for a debate on youth mental health issues. She has raised these issues in different guises. The Senator said the Minister of State should go. My view is that he should stay, attend to the issue and work it through.

The Senator also referred to today's protest in support of Monaghan Hospital and asked that the Minister for Health and Children would come to the House. The Minister has endeavoured to explain it is not possible to have the very best of acute services everywhere.

It is possible, but she refuses to provide them. That is why she needs to come to the House.

That is what she is saying. As I travelled to Dublin this morning, I listened with interest to the BBC reporting that Tony Blair, who I accept we would not want to copy, delivered a major lecture today stating that cottage hospitals and smaller hospitals cannot provide every acute service.

That is not what is being asked. I asked for the Minister to come to the House.

We will ask the Minister to come to the House.

We cannot have a debate on the matter.

Senator Leyden raised the issue of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of Garda Richard Fallon over 30 years ago. The Senator asked whether the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform could open the files and explain the outcome of any investigation of them, which would be worthwhile.

Senator Coghlan commended the unity of those campaigning on behalf of Monaghan Hospital and then raised the matter of Kenmare Hospital. He also referred to the paintings held by the Great Southern Hotels. Last night, the paintings held by CIE were arranged in the Athlone Institute of Technology in a marvellous exhibition. The two wonderful exhibitions are open to the public at present. Senator Ormonde called for a debate on youth mental health issues.

Senator Norris said that if the top rate of income tax is not reduced, the money that would have been spent would be better spent on psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers and professionals. The Senator also castigated a certain branch of newspapers in this country for the headline it used in a report about flights into Shannon Airport. He complimented the Minister for Foreign Affairs on arranging for the cross-Border orchestra to come here. The Senator mentioned the importance of the music of Lambeg drums and uilleann pipes being played side by side, which was a lovely analogy.

Senator Maurice Hayes called on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to ensure that paedophiles do not gain refuge or asylum here. The Senator mentioned that there are strict laws in this regard in the North. He said he would like to speak on the matter in the House. He also referred to the issue of youth mental services.

Senator Bannon spoke about the excessive cost of tribunals. Perhaps the Senator was not a Member of this House when they were established by orders of the two Houses of the Oireachtas. A further order of both Houses would be needed to change the tribunals' arrangements.

I want the tribunals to be more accountable to this country's taxpayers, who foot the bill for them.

The Senator knows he is not allowed to interrupt the Leader.

I am endeavouring to say it as it is. Senator Bannon also asked for flood relief to be allocated to the counties which suffered from flooding at the weekend. He did not refer to any county in particular.

Senator Dooley raised the issue of water quality in the context of the failure of a €2 million water treatment system in Ennis, County Clare, to rectify the water problems there.

Senator Quinn mentioned Professor Risteárd Mulcahy, who has written a book about the need for people to be proactive about health matters. I read the article in today's The Irish Times, in which Professor Mulcahy said one can be the master of one’s quality of health by doing something about it, such as going for walks and eating the right food, etc. Professor Mulcahy is an example of that.

Senator Jim Walsh joined the debate on youth mental health. He called for a debate on the vested interests in the profession. Such a debate would be helpful.

He spoke about hospital consultants.

That is right.

Senator John Paul Phelan mentioned that a consultant psychologist position in Kilkenny is vacant. He asked about the status of the Hanly report. The Senator also asked me to raise with the Minister for Education and Science some concerns which have been highlighted in respect of Down's syndrome. I have not heard about any curtailment of the hours given to the education of people with Down's syndrome. I do not mean to dismiss the Senator's query when I say this specific topic would be suitable for an Adjournment debate.

Senator Feeney spoke about the emotion she felt when watching last night's "Prime Time Investigates". One could not have watched it without feeling intense emotion. When one considers what some parents are going through, it is clear those of us who have reared children who turned out all right are lucky. Senator Feeney also discussed obesity and anorexia. She is a member of the Joint Committee on Child Protection. It looks increasingly likely that there will be a referendum on the position of children in the Constitution. Programmes like the one we saw last night are useful in adding to the debate on such matters. When I watched the documentary last night, I wanted to start collecting money and doing things. I wondered what we all could do about it. I felt fired up about such awfulness.

Senator Paddy Burke referred to the under-funding of local authorities. Senator Lydon highlighted the need for children with mental health problems to benefit from intensive services if they are to turn the corner. I find it repugnant that young people are being placed in adult mental hospitals beside elderly people who have been in such hospitals for many years.

Senator Feighan asked who is regulating the health system. He mentioned a huge meeting in Roscommon last night about water services. Was he at the meeting in question?

Some 1,500 people attended the meeting to condemn the idea of water metering.

He did not speak at the meeting.

That is fair enough. We cannot force the Senator to speak.

Senator Mooney talked about a knee-jerk reaction to the television programme. I am glad I had a knee-jerk reaction to the programme. One could not but feel intensely emotional about it and if that is a knee-jerk reaction, what harm? It is proper that we felt that emotion.

The Senator said he had good experiences of the support services in the north west, which is welcome. He talked about having a debate on the services for those over 18 but I would prefer to narrow the debate to mental services for youth. We will endeavour to have that.

Order of Business agreed to.