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.