Order of Business.

Before announcing the Order of Business, I would like to say a few words on the sad passing of our dear friend and former colleague, Willie Farrell, who was someone for whom I had great admiration. He was a wonderful person, a highly intelligent Member of Seanad Éireann and a truly excellent public servant. He was an astute and capable individual who was interested in getting things done. His political career which spanned over 35 years began when in 1967 he joined Sligo County Council, on which he served for 30 years. Coincidentally, he became a Member of Seanad Éireann 28 years ago today. He served in the Seanad from 1982 to 1983 and from 1987 to 2002. He left politics with a well-deserved reputation for integrity and total professionalism, and with the respect of all his colleagues. We will have an opportunity to pay our tributes to him at a future date but, on behalf of all Members of the House, I extend our deepest sympathy to his sons, Seamus and Liam, his daughter, Helen, and all his extended family. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.

The Order of Business is No. 1, the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 — Committee Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 but not before 2.30 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 5 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 3, the Female Genital Mutilation Bill 2010, to be taken at 5 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7 p.m. The business of the House will be interrupted between 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.

I join the Leader in paying tribute to the former Senator, Mr. Willie Farrell. Members will pay tribute to him at a future date, to be decided by the Leader, when his family can be present. We join the expression of sympathy by the Leader of the House on his passing.

We spent a great deal of time yesterday discussing the banking situation and I wish to return to that subject. Today, we discovered that the Irish Nationwide Building Society paid its chief executive officer €221,000 for the final four months of his term of office. The pay for that period exceeded the Government's pay cap for top bankers as calculated on an annualised basis. It could be argued that the pay of the chief executive of the Bank of Ireland also breached the Government's guidelines. What is it about bankers and the banking system that makes the Government so inept in implementing its policy? The Government can implement its policy on medical cards every day. I met a man this week who suffers from bowel cancer. He was told that if his cancer was terminal, he would get his medical card. It had been taken from him. I regularly meet parents of children with special needs. There is no difficulty calculating their needs and income, and withdrawing special needs assistance. What is it about bankers that makes the Government so inept at implementing its policy?

Why is this happening? New information is emerging almost daily that shows the Government's policy is not being implemented. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that we ask the Minister for Finance to come to the House and deal with the specific issue of top-up payments, pension payments and excessive awards being made to bankers on a recurring basis. The Minister should also explain the role of the public interest directors when it comes to implementing the Government's policy on these issues.

There is disgust among the public about this. It is not enough to have general statements in the Dáil. I seek a discussion in this House about why this is happening, whether it can be prevented, the role of the public interest directors, and when action will be taken. As I said yesterday, the inequality in this regard is unacceptable in a democracy. We cannot continue to let the bankers call the shots, given the damage they have done to the economy and the billions of taxpayers' money that have been put into, and continue to be put into, the banking system. We all need a workable banking system and nobody is saying they wish to undermine it. However, we want Government policy to be implemented and we seek an explanation as to why it is not being implemented. That must happen in the House today.

The point that there is a real need to discuss this has been well made by Senator Fitzgerald. Apart from the Government's role in this, which I will leave to the Opposition parties to discuss, there is the question of ethics in banking. Today's editorial inThe Irish Times deals with the Goldman Sachs affair. It is important to see where we stand in this situation. Goldman Sachs deliberately routed that appalling monetary instrument through the UK, even though it was a European issue, because of the UK law of caveat emptor or buyer beware. There is far greater consumer protection in Europe than in the UK and Ireland so Goldman Sachs very deliberately did this. It breaches all ethics. Many companies refused to have anything to do with the instrument it sold. There is an issue in this regard and the Irish Government should take a stand on it.

The practice of international financial institutions using the different regulations in different countries to get into the space between them to make unfair profits is called "cabbage". Why is this important? A little noted item in the business section ofThe Irish Times last Friday referred to the fact that the European Union has taken the Irish Government to the European Court because it failed to implement the eighth audit directive on quality assurance in auditing. This directive is aimed at getting the same quality level of audit in all European countries, including the UK and Ireland, and in the US. The directive was passed two years ago and should have been transposed into Irish regulation by either June 2008 or June 2009. That still has not been done. Only one country of the 27 in the EU has not transposed the audit directive. These are the questions I wish to have discussed in the House.

Time and again I have raised the issue of credit union regulation and the fact that the legislation on credit unions has not been amended. I wish to have made public what I have seen, the documentation, requests and correspondence between the regulator of credit unions and the Department of Finance over the past ten years. Why has the legislation not been amended? Senator Ross and I have raised this issue several times, including in a motion before the House some years ago. I guarantee that the same thing is happening with the audit directive. We are a disgrace. People in both the private and public sectors are extremely angry about this. At the same time, the Government is trying to get a deal with the public sector. Public sector workers, like those in the private sector, are disillusioned, desperate and disgusted by everything that is happening. It is pushing them against taking sane decisions.

It is crucial to have the debate called for by Senator Fitzgerald so the Government can reassure us on some of these issues. My approach is not from the point of view that the Government is wrong on all counts. However, I am anxious to hear its response and to hear about clarifications, reasons, policies and how it is dealing with the ethics issue. It could start with the audit directive. We brought it to the attention of the joint committee on regulation six months ago and the committee shared our view on it, but it still has not been implemented. Why?

There was talk yesterday about the need to debate good news so I will begin by welcoming some good news, the fact that the airlines appear to be returning to normal service today with the announcement that the air space over Ireland is open again. That is very welcome. The only unwelcome aspect is that it means emigration will begin again. It has been said that the Icelandic volcano did more to stem the flow of emigrants from Ireland, especially young people who must go abroad to seek jobs, than any Government policy. Indeed, Government policies are to blame for rising unemployment. The Labour Party and other Opposition parties have called previously for an urgent debate on jobs and unemployment. That must take place.

I echo the call of Senators Fitzgerald and O'Toole for a debate on banking. This is a very urgent matter and I support the amendment proposed by Senator Fitzgerald. People are volcanic with anger at the revelations that are made daily about excessive payments to bank officials and the cover-ups that occurred. The front page of today'sIrish Independent shows an e-mail sent in May 2008 to senior bankers within Anglo Irish Bank telling them not to disclose a back-to-back loan that had been obtained from a German bank to make Anglo Irish Bank appear more creditworthy than it was. We are now seeing extensive information about what was really taking place, particularly in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society. It requires that we again ask the Government why it passed such a comprehensive bank guarantee scheme in September 2008. The Labour Party was the only party to oppose it and at that time I was the only Independent Senator to oppose it. We were right at the time and we are still right in terms of asking the questions about why that blanket guarantee was given, considering what we know now. We need an urgent debate today on banking in light of these revelations. As Senator Fitzgerald said, there must be serious concern also about the position of public interest directors. A former Fine Gael leader appointed as a public interest director in Anglo Irish Bank now seems to be acting more in the interests of that zombie bank than in the public interest and there are questions about this.

I also ask for a debate on a separate matter, on the rights of families of homicide victims in light of a statement issued during the Easter recess by the association for the truth about the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. That association welcomed the issuing of an arrest warrant in France against an Irish resident. We could learn usefully from some of the French criminal justice procedures in place to assist the families of victims of homicide and of crime in general.

I welcome some aspects of the Government's amendment to the Private Members' motion, the Female Genital Mutilation Bill 2010, proposed by the Labour Party. However, 12 months is a very long time to be waiting for this urgent legislation, given that the first specific Act to ban female genital mutilation was passed in the United Kingdom in 1985 and the Labour Party first introduced a Private Members' Bill in the Dáil in 2001. This delay of 12 months is simply unacceptable. I welcome the Minister's commitment but we will be pressing ahead with that Bill in the debate.

All Members would agree there needs to be effective mechanisms to control the scale and type of payments being received by bankers and that there exists a culture and a questionable sense of ethics within financial service institutions which needs radical change. This is not unique to this country. The British Government had similar experiences with the chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland which is 70% owned by the British Government. President Obama, having set the limit of $500,000 for salaries, had to row back quickly on that decision. It is not so much the ability of governments or the introduction of legislation but rather a case of having effective mechanisms to achieve control. Everyone in public life wants this to happen because there is an arrogance, a sense of hubris, among financiers that needs to be challenged if we are to move on from any of these practices. Senator O'Toole referred to Goldman Sachs in which the average salary is $500,000. The chief executive of one of the rescued banks in this country is being given a pension top-up when the pension fund for that organisation is €1.6 billion in deficit. Those dubious ethics cannot exist in a society trying to come to grips with a new and a fair economy. While I accept that not enough is being done, I also suggest we debate how collectively to find those effective mechanisms. The entire political system and society need to challenge the sense of superiority — being above, so to speak — these people seem to have whereby they can operate within their own moral vacuum. Unless we have such a debate and make those challenges, information such as this will appear regularly.

I agree with Senator Bacik that not only are we receiving information every day about these questionable practices, we will continue to receive it and worse until everything is out in the open. I look forward to a successful tribunal of inquiry and the active involvement of both Houses of the Oireachtas in ensuring that information is made public as quickly as possible. Both the Houses of the Oireachtas and society need to have such a debate.

I fully agree with the previous speakers, Senator Fitzgerald in particular, on the urgent need for a debate on banking and all that surrounds it. Realistically, we have been posing this question for the past number of months. We all share the same point of view and the country and the body politic is shocked by what has happened and what still seems to continue to happen in our banking system. Both this House and society need to ask slightly more philosophical questions as to why and how the country finds itself in this current political and economic state.

I acknowledge many good things happened and there was good economic growth in the era of the Celtic tiger but the negative impact of the Celtic tiger was the type of thinking which produced such greed, arrogance, bad manners and an entirely different view of society which would have been unacceptable in previous decades. We need a philosophical discussion on morality in public life and politics. Morality is a strong and strange word to use in this context and it can sometimes have old-fashioned connotations but morality in politics is now crucial. Morality in politics, public life and public and banking policy is something which has literally gone down the tubes. This is the reason our society is where it is. Fifteen, 20 or 25 years ago, people would not have believed they were entitled to take some of the policy decisions such as the significant increase in salaries, bonuses and pension top-ups which became commonplace during the Celtic tiger era. This is a debate we need to have.

On a less philosophical subject, I thank the Leader for allowing me the opportunity on the Adjournment yesterday to raise the issue of carbon taxation. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate in the next week or two on the aspect of carbon taxation which is causing a lot of concern, the impact it will have on the agriculture sector after 1 May. This sector is under extraordinary stress and financial pressure. The introduction of the carbon tax levy will cause significant problems for the agricultural community. The French Government took the decision some weeks ago not so much to abandon as to park the issue of carbon taxation until there is a European-wide response. We need to reflect——

The Senator has made his point now and should conclude.

The introduction on 1 May of the carbon tax levy will cost jobs in rural Ireland.

I attended a seminar about music and the brain held in the National Concert Hall last Saturday. The three contributors were all caught by the volcanic ash and yet two of the three were able to contribute by means of the advances in science of the webcam. They were able to take questions from the audience of almost 500 people. I ask for a debate between now and the end of this session about music therapy. Music therapy is a clinical intervention which is recognised throughout the world to be as effective as other therapies such as speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. While a degree course in music therapy is available in the University of Limerick, music therapy is not professionally recognised under the health professionals Bill and therefore people are not given the same remuneration or respect they deserve. Music therapy can bring speech back to certain stroke victims and can have a positive impact on mental health. It can be used to support people with Alzheimer's and can help people with motor issues. Funding for issues concerning social exclusion will be announced today. Music therapy can play a vital role in mother and child bonding which is a key starting point for social inclusion. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, who has done a lot of work in this field, to ponder the question raised on Saturday which is at what level of evidence will it become negligent not to prescribe music therapy. That is the level we are at which is why it is important we discuss this most urgent issue.

The announcement today of 1,000 new jobs in the retail sector this year is very welcome. We talked about good news yesterday. Of particular interest is that the retailers are providing 150 places free of charge for training for these jobs. I mention this because it is an example of a section of the community doing something rather than asking the Government to intervene. I have spoken previously about a young woman who was unable to find employment in the west after qualifying as a solicitor. She offered her services for free and after several weeks or months became so indispensable to her employer that she was taken on as a full-time member of staff. A question that appears to be asked too often — there are times when we have to do so ourselves — is, "Why does the Government not do something?" I would love to encourage industries and individuals to take the initiative themselves on occasion.

I acknowledge I have a vested interest when I say that even in Europe the potential for retailing is not recognised. The retail sector employs 31 million people throughout Europe, but it is always regarded by decision makers as secondary to industry. The same applies in Ireland. We have to encourage retailing by ensuring there are no restrictions.

In regard to Senator Bradford's comments on the carbon tax, the French Government decided to park such a tax because it would make their industries and businesses uncompetitive. It announced that it would not introduce it until it was applied on a Europe-wide basis because it recognised the country had to be competitive if it was to succeed in creating jobs. There is an onus on us to avoid steps which would cause us to be uncompetitive, whether in retailing or industry.

I am struck by the consensus across the House on the profligacy and overpayments in the banking sector. I was particularly impressed by the contribution of Senator Bradford who made clear the need for both ethics and morality in public life and corporate governance. This House could do worse than start a strong campaign in that regard. The abuse of privilege in many sectors of the economy is stark.

It was reported yesterday inThe Irish Times that payments to three members of the Moriarty tribunal, Mr. Healy, Ms O’Brien and Mr. Coughlan, in the year ending February 2010, totalled €966,804, €993,729 and €842,840, respectively. The tribunal appears to be in a serious state. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance who hold the two most responsible and challenging positions in the country receive less than one quarter of what the people mentioned were paid last year. It is an absolute scandal. Unfortunately, I had cause to raise the issue on previous occasions. In 2004 the Government decided that the fees payable to senior counsel would be reduced to €969 by March 2007. This would have meant that the aforementioned individuals would have been paid approximately €350,000 to €400,000. Even these payments would be at least €100,000 greater than the earnings of the most skilful surgeons working in our hospitals who arguably do a much more challenging job. The chairman of the tribunal wrote to the Government to point out that, in the interests of keeping the tribunals functional, the proposed reduction should not be implemented. That was a disgrace. I seek guidance from the Chair on how we can discuss the Moriarty tribunal without getting into difficulties. The time has come for the Houses to debate that body which continues to deal with issues that should have been finalised a decade ago and costs the State and the taxpayer an alarming amount of money.

The Senator has made his point.

We need to put a stop to this. I ask the Leader either to bring forward the motion which has been on the Order Paper since 2009 or to explain who is obstructing a debate on it. If we are serious about tackling the abuse of privilege, we have to start in this area.

I strongly support the amendment proposed to the Order of Business. This is a recurring theme because there were breaches in all five of the financial institutions participating in NAMA, not only Irish Nationwide Building Society. The State is making considerable efforts to get the banking system back working again in order that credit can be made available to those persons and businesses in need of it.

On the need for recapitalisation, I join Senator Fitzgerald in asking the Leader whether it is intended that additional public interest directors will be appointed. It will not suffice to appoint them if those with conflicts of interests or who were responsible for sanctioning the impaired portfolios that have landed us in this mess continue as board members. We need to do more about this issue. The Government cannot allow matters to freewheel, but it does not appear to have a firm hand on the tiller. We urgently need a debate this morning on the matters raised.

Members will be aware that there was a serious fire last week on over 1,860 acres of heather and gorse between Ard na gCoistí and the foot of Mangerton Mountain in the heart of Killarney National Park. The fire crossed two roads and flames came within 50 feet of houses. It was only controlled with great difficulty by ten fire tenders, but who knows what would have happened if they had been called elsewhere. It is a serious matter for the State. I urge the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, to ensure proper firebreaks will be cut in the future. If the fire had crossed the road at the viewing balcony, it would have burned everything between Mangerton Mountain and Dinis, including the oldest yew wood in Europe and several exotic species of plants.

I commend Senator Bradford on the relevance of his contribution on the challenges we face as a society. He mused that his comments might be seen as somewhat philosophical, but I regard them as exceptionally realistic. If there is shock in the body politic and society generally at what is happening, we have to find a reason for it.

We know the reason. The Government allowed it to happen.

No interruptions, please.

I find it particularly difficult to understand why we are not shocked that some individuals are expected to live on €200 a week when others can earn that amount in one minute. I do not wish to detract from specific issues because they are all important and deserve to be debated.

The Government allows those salaries to be paid.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have brought selfishness, greed and insensitivity from the Celtic tiger era.

It is the legacy of Deputy Bertie Ahern.

Senator, no interruptions, please.

We are like ostriches with our heads in the sand. We are not prepared to look at these issues. I cannot even hear the heckles because I am concentrating on a point which is heart-felt.

I will repeat it for the Senator. It is the legacy of Deputy Bertie Ahern.

The Senator should not interrupt or I will ask him to leave the Chamber.

He is right. Deputy Bertie Ahern created the environment.

Why is it that the same few Members keep interrupting?

I do not mind. They can heckle; it is background music.

I heard him speak on "Morning Ireland".

If somebody feels it necessary to shout down others in expressing opinions in this House, he or she must look into his or her own heart and ask why he or she is shouting. I am anxious to make a contribution. I hope I have an ear to the ground. I do not believe anyone has a monopoly of compassion or wisdom, but unless we are prepared to get back to old-fashioned ethics and having compassion, we will not get to the root of the problem.

I inform the House that at the successful Labour Party conference at the weekend we unanimously passed a motion to show solidarity with the workers in the Quinn Group based in counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath. I welcome to the Visitors Gallery Councillor Shane O' Reilly who has done much work in recent weeks with the group.

On the air transport issue which seems to have been resolved, we need to learn lessons from what happened. It strikes me that the safety guidelines issued last week were not fit for purpose. As a result, businesses have lost many millions of euro, while individuals are out of pocket to the tune of thousands of euro in some instances. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, needs to give a lead. As an island nation, we are completely cut off, unlike every other country in Europe — the British have got the Channel tunnel. I want the Minister to call in representatives of the airlines. Reports in the past 24 hours that airlines are querying their roles and responsibilities when it comes to consumer rights are worrying, as the law is clear in this regard. It is up to the Minister to call in representatives of the airlines to state he will not tolerate attempts to deny passengers their rights and entitlements.

In the past I asked the Leader on the Order of Business if there was a mechanism that could be agreed by the party leaders and introduced in the House, whereby we could have a structured debate on matters of importance, whether it be the economy, finance issues or any of the other relevant matters raised. I am frustrated at the level of progress made. Week in, week out we hear Senators calling for debates and I have asked for a structure to be put in place to facilitate them. I want to know whether the Leader and the other party leaders have come to an agreement on how such a structure could be put in place. Perhaps for a certain period of the day or at a certain time of the week we could hear good news or whatever it might be, but I want to see a structure being put in place to facilitate this, as week in, week out we hear Senators calling for debates with Ministers who have appointments already scheduled in their diaries, yet we expect them to drop everything to come to the House to respond to questions. That is crazy and unacceptable. I want to know what progress has been made in dealing with this issue.

There is one issue which I ask the Leader to check and to report back to the House, that is, the millions of euro being wasted in the health care budget. There is a need for prudent management of each euro spent, whether on services for older persons or ambulance services, in which in certain areas we saw delays n the past couple of days. There has been a significant rise in the threat posed to patients of catching lethal infections in public hospitals, even though it has been clearly acknowledged that such infections are preventable with the right focus on hygiene and cleaning standards. I ask the Leader to investigate the matter and report back to the House.

Senator Boyle spoke about challengeable ethics.

A question please to the Leader, not to other Members.

Senator Boyle spoke about challengeable ethics in the banking system. When will he facilitate not only a debate but real action against the banking fraternity?

Senator Ó Murchú, I will say why I heckled you. It was because you and your colleagues——

The Senator is not entitled to speak across the floor to another Member.

——have acquiesced, sat there and voted.

The Senator should address his remarks through the Chair to the Leader, not to any other Member across the floor.

I am asking the Leader why Fianna Fáil Party Members come into the House day after day and agree with what we state but then vote against what we propose, vote with the Government and acquiesce in the policies that have left the legacy about which Senator Ó Murchú spoke. Why does this happen? That question should be answered. Why is it being allowed to happen? The reason is there is a moral vacuum within Fianna Fáil. I challenge every one of them to do the right thing.

As Senator Fitzgerald correctly stated, two bankers, the former CEO of the Irish Nationwide Building Society and Mr. Boucher, are receiving inordinately excessive and immoral amounts of money, yet there are persons who, at the behest of the Department of Social and Family Affairs, can have their medical cards taken away, their home help hours cut and lose a job. Is that right? Is that the legacy the Leader of the House wants to have? The legacy of Deputy Bertie Ahern is one that has divided Ireland and plunged it from the so-called premier division to the conference league. That is the legacy Fianna Fáil has left us having been in government for the past 13 years. It is no wonder people are angry. They ask why the Government has not interceded, but it will tell us it has no role.

I will conclude on this point.

Will the final act of the Government be to allow the public directors appointed by it to do nothing? What is their duty and role? It is no wonder people are angry.

Time, please.

It is no wonder there is near revolution on the streets.

I call Senator Corrigan.

What we get from the Government side of the House is silence.

There have been significant changes in the provision of care and its funding, including the introduction of standards, inspections, the fair deal scheme, etc. However, there is also an increased commitment to support people to help them stay in their own homes for as long as is possible. In this regard, it would be timely for us to have a debate on the critical role carers play under the national strategy. I ask the Leader to make provision for such a debate prior to the summer break.

On the issues raised by colleagues, one that particularly comes to mind is the sum of €1.5 million paid into a pension fund. All weekend I met people who were scrimping and scraping to make their mortgage payments, pay utility bills and clear overdrafts that banks had called in without notice and who could not get their heads around the idea that €1.5 million had been placed in someone's pension fund. It is more money than they will ever see in their entire lifetimes. This is wrong. I ask the Leader to pass on the views of colleagues to the Minister.

Senator Keaveney raised the matter of music therapy and asked about the health professionals Bill. There has been incredible lethargy in the regulation of the professionals concerned and I ask the Leader to make provision for a debate on the issue to enable us to receive an update on the matter. Senator Keaveney has correctly stated it has to do with recognition and access, but the regulation of these professionals also has to do with the protection of consumers, in some instances, very vulnerable consumers. In the interests of safety, we should receive an update.

I understand the reason Senator Buttimer must protect and advance his party's cause. We all hold different views of the cause of the recession. Mine is well known — I believe it was driven fundamentally by low interest rates. Be that as it may, we are stuck where we are.

While I have no objection to the pursuit of the alleged guilty parties, in dealing with the issue and trying to roll back we need to cultivate a consensus across parties. A good contribution was made by Senator Bradford, on which Senator Ó Murchú attempted to amplify. We should build on it. In every survey it is shown that the public hates partisan politics. It looks for consensus across the board, as is being shown in the British general election campaign. A certain amount of anger is necessary, but we must balance it with good news, as Senator Quinn stated. While the guillotine is going, we also must remark that it is a fine morning.

I was struck by Senator Keaveney's remarks about music therapy. Not all music is equal — the Tulla Céilí Band playing "The Salamanca Reel" is superior in terms of therapy if one is driving on a bad morning and listening to bad news than any other form of therapy.

It depends on one's taste.

Be that as it may, there is significant consensus in Irish politics about our ideology. It is not generally remarked upon but in Ireland we agree the best system for economic activity is capitalism, mediated strongly by social democracy. In other words, capitalism is like hard players but there are also corrupt and dirty players. The business of the State is to act like a tough referee on the particularly dirty players.

I strongly agree with Senator Fitzgerald on the bankers' actions in recent months. The old Irish proverb comes to mind: ní hí an bhochtaineacht is measa dúinn ach an tarcaisne a leannan í; it is not the poverty we mind but the insult that follows. What annoys the public is the bankers' insulting behaviour to give themselves bonuses and top up their pensions on top of the structural problems they already caused.

One cannot stop people behaving badly. As the Chinese say, one cannot stop the blackbirds of evil flying over one's head but one can stop them making a nest in one's hair. I support the proposed amendment to the Order of Business. Will the Deputy Leader, Senator Boyle, and the Leader, Senator Cassidy, convey to the Minister for Finance in the strongest possible terms the cross-party consensus that the State needs to act as a tough referee, to stop pussyfooting and get stuck in there with the procedures and mechanisms available? Senators of all parties want the State to act in the toughest and hardest fashion on the banking sector's bad behaviour.

The House is in consensus in its disbelief that the banking sector has not understood the fundamental changes that have taken place not only in this country but across the world. Goldman Sachs is now experiencing strong regulation in the United States. I welcome strong regulation of the Irish banking sector which we have seen recently.

Electricity prices are a fundamental cost in the economy. It is time the gloves were off between the main electricity supply players, for the ESB to reduce its costs and let a price war develop which will be to the consumers' benefit. In the retail sector, especially with the supermarkets, prices have become very competitive as a result of strong competition in the marketplace. I would welcome the energy regulator allowing the ESB to engage in the market and reduce its electricity prices for the benefit of the economy.

I agree with Senator Quinn's call for a debate on the parts of the economy which are doing well. In recent weeks, I visited companies in my locality which work in digital media and arts. Ireland has companies which are world-leading in these areas and which show the agility, spirit and degree of adventure to which we aspire our wider economy to share. These companies are not recognised on the roadmap of official Ireland. Several weeks ago the Government published the report of the innovation task force but it has not yet been debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The report is meant to provide the blueprint on how we can harness the spirit of creativity throughout the country for the well-being and benefit of all. It is important this report is debated soon.

I agree with Senator Bradford's call for a more philosophical analysis of how we got to where we are with the banking sector. I have no issue with someone being paid millions of euro or far more than I ever will because I believe in a free market economy. I believe the wealth such individuals can generate will percolate down for the benefit of all. I have an issue, however, with people earning such money in an unethical manner and to the detriment of all. The House must ensure, when it makes clear its condemnation of the practices of a few and the unethical manner in which they earned their salaries, it is not to the detriment of encouraging people to be entrepreneurial, found successful companies and be correctly and amply rewarded for that.

The mess in which the country finds itself is due to Irish crony capitalism. While the Government has saddled generations with the debts accrued from NAMA——

Does the Senator have a question?

It is questions to the Leader and not debates on the Order of Business.

——the bailout and recapitalisation, it has turned to socialism for bankers. We now have the disgusting situation where the chief executive of the Bank of Ireland gets a top-up of €1.5 million on his pension while a former director of Anglo Irish Bank gets a pension of €10,000 per week and free Aer Lingus flights to Puerto Banus, the most expensive part of the Costa del Sol. The banks have been getting away with blue murder and the Government has let them off the hook.

Will the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste ask Mr. Boucher to return the money forthwith? Will they also put in place measures to ensure this is not repeated? During the debates on bank recapitalisation, the Labour Party warned about this. At every point, however, the Government said it would get value for money, not saddle the taxpayers with debt and cap bankers' salaries. That clearly has not been the case.

One of my colleagues on the Government side spoke of Ireland's banking crisis not being unique as crises have also occurred in the UK and US. That does not mean, however, that it is right. I warmly welcome Senator Bradford's contribution on the banking issue. While there is consensus, I would prefer, however, that it would not just be talk and that there would be action in bringing to task the former banking chief executive officers such as Mr. Fingleton and others who have destroyed our banking system.

A pension top-up of €1.5 million is an extraordinary sum of money. I am losing sleep worrying about people who cannot afford to pay their mortgages because of the sloppy lending of some of these executives. Under the State bank guarantee, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have the authority to bring these people to task and stop the €1.5 million pension top-up to Mr. Boucher. The idea of writing off €2.8 billion in loans that some people took is immoral and disgusting. For the sake of the country, will the Leader ask the Minister for Finance to attend the House to debate these matters so that we can let him know how strongly we feel? This is all about right and wrong and, more importantly, trust.

I pay tribute to the chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, who is not well and recently retired from his post. I wish him and his family well. He was an extraordinary chief of staff and I wish him well.

I am encouraged by the calls today for the need for justice and fairness for every citizen and for ethics in corporate governance. Many Members have voiced the stress of the ordinary people who are concerned about their mortgage repayments and that they will lose their homes, who cannot get credit for their businesses and who are saddled with debt. We need, as Senator Harris said, the Government and the State to act as a tough referee and enforce its legislation against the likes of Anglo Irish Bank, Mr. Fingleton and Mr. Boucher. It is fundamentally wrong they are getting these top-ups after the €500,000 cap was put on the banks' chief executives' salaries. Will the Government enforce its legislation against these people? We must extend that code of morality and ethics to all aspects of Irish life, particularly in retailing.

I was encouraged to hear the news this morning that Penneys-Primark are removing from their stores padded bras for seven to ten year old children. The sexualisation of our young children is an outrage. I have a nine year old daughter. I want her to have her childhood. I do not want her to be encouraged by consumerism that is negative and damning. Our codes of ethics and morality must extend to all aspects of our lives. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment might examine that also.

Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Bacik, Boyle, Bradford, Walsh, Coghlan, Ó Murchú, Buttimer, Corrigan, Harris, Hanafin, Donohoe, McCarthy, McFadden and Healy Eames again expressed strong views on affairs of banking. I wish to inform the House that we will have a debate on banking on Tuesday next to address the urgent call made on the Order of Business today and yesterday. I look forward to allocating whatever time is necessary to colleagues to allow them make their strong views known to the Minister who will be present on the day. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed this morning, particularly the one by Senator O'Toole regarding the need for European Union auditing at the same level in all 27 countries. I believe we would all strongly endorse that and look forward to its implementation at the earliest possible time.

The level of debate and questioning on the Order of Business this morning is a shining example and very uplifting for me, as Leader of the House, of the way colleagues now home in more on policy and the serious issues affecting us rather than engaging in political point scoring. I very much welcome a move to that.

I refer to Senator Bradford, Senator Ó Murchú and Senator Harris. At times we want to make strong political points but there will not be a general election for two years and therefore there is no need to make those strong political points.

An absolute assurance.

(Interruptions).

Is that the Leader's own prediction?

In the interest of balance I want to place on the record of the House that under the stewardship of Fianna Fáil we had 7% growth each year in the past ten or 11 years.

That is exactly our problem.

Some 430,000 unemployed.

Under the stewardship of Fianna Fáil——

We have had the banks' recapitalisation.

Our children are leaving the country.

It is two Senators who create disruption all the time. What a wonderful House we would have if the example given by Senator Bradford, Senator Harris and Senator Ó Murchú this morning was taken on board by the younger Members of the House.

It is difficult not to interrupt in some cases.

It is time for the Leader to listen to the youth.

The Senator's prophesy about housing and so on is well documented.

An extremely popular radio programme, which ran for many years on RTE when it only had one station, was entitled "Listen and Learn".

(Interruptions).

A Senator

The voice of the master.

Fianna Fáil never listened and it never learned.

Please Senators.

Fianna Fáil could do with a bit of listening now.

For 11 years, under the stewardship of Fianna Fáil, we had budget surpluses which were unheard of by all political parties when they were in power until the past ten or 11 years.

Under Fianna Fail 800,000 jobs were created in the past 11 or 12 years. That is an incredible achievement that is standing to the economy at the present time. As Senator Walsh said on the Order of Business yesterday, an extra 800,000 people are paying taxes and making a return to the Exchequer, which colleagues on both sides of the House did not have in the 1970s or 1980s when in government.

How does the Leader account for the last two budgets?

No interruptions. Allow the Leader reply to the Order of Business.

What about the last two budgets and taxing the people?

What would the Senator have done?

I look forward with bated breath to the Senator's contribution next Tuesday.

The Leader is all spin.

I join with Senator Bacik in welcoming the opening of air services. As everyone is aware, I have a vested interest which I want to acknowledge but this was a serious position in which everyone in the country found themselves. Thank God the skies have opened again because serious issues regarding employment were about to emerge in the next 24 to 48 hours. What happened goes to show how much we depend on air travel in terms of our exports and our tourism industry in particular.

Regarding Private Members' business referred to by Senator Bacik, ongoing discussions are taking place. We fully support the Bill but we need the 12 months, as has been correctly pointed out by the Department, in regard to the Private Members' Bill tonight. I hope the Senator will accept our amendment in good faith. We are all moving in the right direction.

Senators Bradford and Quinn outlined the importance of remaining competitive. That is the greatest single challenge, as Members on all sides of the House have said. We must get back to being competitive and if the carbon tax interferes with that, and Senator Quinn pointed out what the French have done to keep their country competitive, it may be time that we examined that to see what we can do. I realise 1 May is very close at hand.

Senators Keaveney, Corrigan and Harris spoke about the importance of music in therapy and uplifting the person in general through music. I have no problem in allocating time for such a debate and will do so at the earliest opportunity to see how we can enhance that proposal.

Senator Quinn welcomed the 1,000 new jobs in the retail sector, particularly the 150 jobs in training. As the Senator said, 31 million people are employed in retail in Europe. The sector is a huge employer and I join with the Senator in welcoming this good news this morning.

Senator Walsh raised non-Government motion No. 37(4) on today's Order Paper which states: "That Seanad Éireann, in light of the exorbitant fees being charged by Senior and Junior Counsel, calls on the Government to introduce a Maximum Fees Order, of not more than €969 per diem for Senior Counsel and €646 per diem for Junior Counsel (as decided by the Government in July 2004 in respect of Counsels' fees for Tribunals of Inquiry).". I assure Senator Walsh there is no agenda whatsoever in not taking this motion up to now. I will endeavour to see how this can be facilitated and will come back to the Senator later this afternoon.

Senator Coghlan has serious concerns regarding the massive fires in the beautiful area of Killarney and the surrounding districts. We fully support our fire services and everything we can do to assist them will be done. I support Senator Coghlan on all of these issues. As I have often said, my heart lies in Killarney when we go there on holidays every year.

Senator Callely referred to raising matters of importance and putting a structured basis in place. We have always tried to deal with matters of importance in the House, although perhaps not on that particular day because the Ministers' diaries are committed. That is the difficulty. There is a structure here at 12.50 p.m. where a Member can bring to the attention of the Cathaoirleach matters of urgent importance for two minutes. That Standing Order remains in place and Members should avail of it. At the time the Committee on Procedure and Privileges brought that in to encourage Members who would have a difficulty in their constituencies in particular and might want to be facilitated in raising it on the floor of the House coming up to the 1 o'clock national or local news. That procedure remains in place.

Senator Callely raised the issue of the millions of euro being wasted in the health services budget and asked that the Minister for Health and Children come to the House to discuss that. Senator Callely has enormous experience in this area, being a former chairman of a health board and a Minister of State. He also raised the issue of infections in our public hospitals. Anything that can be done to support the call in that regard will be done. I am sure the Senator will bring it to the attention of the Minister when she comes to the House in the next few weeks and see what can be done.

Senator Corrigan called for a debate on carers. These are special people and all carers should get gold medals for the commitment they show to the senior citizens of our country and those who need care morning, noon and night. I have great pleasure in allocating time for a debate on carers in the next few weeks.

Senator Hanafin called on the regulator to allow the ESB to participate in the marketplace to assist our competitiveness. This is a sensible proposal and I have no difficulty in allowing time for it to be debated soon. Senator Donohoe referred to the report of the task force on innovation and a debate on it, which is a worthwhile proposal. I look forward to having the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, in the House to see what further proposals can be made in respect of the report.

I join Senator McFadden in congratulating Lieutenant General Dermot Earley on his award. Recognition was made by the Taoiseach of this outstanding person. I know his family and I know Dermot Earley almost all my life. A member of his family lives 300 yards from my home in Castlepollard and I wish to be associated with our congratulations on this deserved recognition by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence at his home last week.

Senator Fitzgerald has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate on top-up payments, pension payments and excessive awards to bankers be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 27.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Jerry Buttimer and Maurice Cummins; Níl, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson.
Amendment declared lost.

Is the Order of Business agreed to?

Question, "That the Order of Business be agreed to", put and declared carried.