Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2010 — Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business, and No. 2, motion for earlier signature, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1.

I ask the Leader to clarify the date of return of the Seanad. What we have seen in the House again this week is legislation being rushed through; there has been no change in the way business is done, which is what the public is demanding — it is demanding reform. Yet again critical banking legislation, aspects of which, as we all know, are needed and about elements of which there are deep concerns, was rushed through the House in one day; adequate time was not provided to debate it. It is not good enough. I advise the Government that it is not a good enough way to do business in this House. I want it to reconsider how it will do business when the Seanad returns. What we saw this week was unacceptable.

The legislation we will deal with later is important, as it will impact on people's lives. The social welfare legislation we put through the House this week will have serious implications for those who are struggling to pay bills and get through the Christmas period and worrying if they will have enough money to repay the mortgage and meet basic bills. In terms of heating bills, fuel poverty is a critical issue this winter, one about which we must be extremely sensitive.

We are meeting on a day when the country's creditworthiness has been downgraded once again, but we see some hope in the exports sector. Clearly, people must have hope. We should focus on job creation in the new year. Creating jobs is critical and can make a huge difference to people's lives. If we can create jobs and provide access to training and education, people will have hope. I ask the Leader to ensure that, from early in the new year when the House meets, this will be a key focus for debate and discussion and in response to Ministers. We must not spare any effort to create jobs to give people hope because hope is very important and we can all play a part.

I refer to yesterday's important judgment from the European Court of Human Rights which will require the most careful consideration. The manner in which the debate on this judgment is conducted is critical because this is about women's lives and we must be sure we debate it in an extremely respectful and dignified way that does not add further stress to people in very difficult situations.

I thank the staff of the House and the Cathaoirleach, the Captain of the Guard and his staff, for their support to us in our work. It has been a very difficult year for the people of Ireland. The work of the House has been very demanding because of the crucial decisions for the country. We arrive at the end of the year where the country is in a very difficult situation and it has been effectively bankrupted by the decisions of the Government. It is time for a new Government and a general election. I conclude by thanking all the staff for their support.

I wish to be associated with Senator Fitzgerald's words of appreciation to the staff of the House and to the Cathaoirleach, to the ushers and all the staff who help Members through the course of the year. However, unlike Senator Fitzgerald I find it quite optimistic that for the past then days there have been announcements on job creation every day and that there has been growth in the third quarter of the year and there may well be growth in the fourth quarter. We need to look positively at the new year and let us hope there is no more bad news.

I agree the House needs to discuss the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. It is good that the constitutional position has been endorsed but it is regrettable that our Government has been too cowardly to deal with the outstanding issue which has been requested of it by the Supreme Court for quite some time now.

We need to deal with that issue. While criticising the Government for being laggardly, I understand it has given a commitment it will be done. However, having failed for years to get any movement from the Church leadership to move to protect abused children and to deal with perverted clerics, where that arose, is it anything short of outrageous to witness the antics from Armagh in the past 12 hours? It has taken my breath away it is so disgraceful and the people should be told. One mention of pregnancy termination and the Church leadership is galvanised into action, immediately ready to take it on. I ask the Leader if in the course of the day he would ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to send a cable to Armagh to outline where we stand and let the cobbler stick to his last. They can do the praying up there and we will do the legislating down here. If we want to legislate for Sharia law or whatever kind of fundamentalism they want to peddle to us, we will give them a call when that arises. It is quite outrageous that we should find ourselves in that position. In the meantime, as Senator John Hanafin said yesterday, we are an independent republic and we will do our own business and we will not be lectured to by any fundamentalist, whether he is wearing a red hat in Armagh or a white hat in the Vatican. We should get our act together on this issue and adopt a clear line.

This is not an issue of abortion, this is an issue of protecting pregnant women whose lives are in danger. Whereas I would not have expected the Church leadership to be championing women's rights, I really did believe that when it came to a straight position where a woman's life was in danger that they would not stand in the way of the appropriate medical treatment in those situations. I find it outrageous. I believe the people will give a clear black and white answer if they ever are asked the question on this issue. I certainly would not shy away from it. I do not think we need a referendum or anything else on it but I think it is time that we gave a clear answer in these situations. I ask the Church to take a more humane attitude and show some Christian humanity in its response to this issue.

I echo the words of Senators Fitzgerald and O'Toole in thanking the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the Seanad for all their work and for their support and help in the past year. I also follow Senator Fitzgerald and Senator O'Toole in welcoming the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights yesterday in the ABC case. The European Court faced up to an issue that we as legislators have failed to confront. It has restated the words of the late Mr. Justice Niall McCarthy in the Supreme Court in the X case in 1992 when he said the failure of the Legislature to legislate for the conditions under which a woman's life may be saved through abortion is inexcusable. He referred to it as an inexcusable failure and, 18 years on, the European Court of Human Rights has said the Government simply must legislate. It must confront and give effect to what is in the Constitution. It must provide for the conditions under which a life-saving abortion may be carried out upon a woman who faces a life-threatening condition as the applicant C did in the appalling circumstance in which she found herself. I agree with Senator O'Toole that the majority of Irish people will see this as an issue of compassion for women who are facing an appalling situation.

The European Court acknowledged that Ireland already in its law and in its medical practices terminates pregnancies in some life-threatening situations such as pre-eclampsia. It is simply a matter of legislating in order that doctors and women have clarity regarding the conditions of access to lawful abortion in this country. If the Government had any sense it would legislate as early as possible to give effect to the Supreme Court judgment in the X case and to take this issue out of the electoral domain, because there is already clarity on this issue and we simply need to give effect in legislation to what is law in the Constitution. If the Government were to introduce legislation early in the new year, this would resolve the issue for women like applicant C. There is no appetite for a referendum and those calling for one have lost two referenda, in 1992 and in 2002, in which they sought to undermine and restrict the grounds for lawful abortion in the X case. The people have spoken on this matter.

I ask the Deputy Leader in particular what has happened to the climate change Bill, speaking of legislation that should be introduced——

——and that has been promised for three years now.

St. Patrick's Day in the White House.

Please, no interruptions.

We all understood that the speech of the Minister, Deputy Gormley, yesterday would contain the silver bullet about climate change legislation but we have not seen it. I ask the Deputy Leader when we will see this legislation. Will it be published before Christmas? Friends of the Earth and other groups have been lobbying hard on this. There is consensus across both Houses and all parties and we need to see that legislation now.

I join the other speakers in thanking the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the House for their help and co-operation during this past session. In reply to Senator Bacik, I am disappointed she did not listen to or read yesterday's speech which was emphatic regarding a climate change Bill. My expectation is that when we return after the recess, the first legislation in the Seanad will be the climate change Bill.

We look forward to that after three years of promises.

Great expectations.

White smoke, carbon neutral.

No interruptions, please. Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

When will it be published?

Is there a date for leaving government?

Please, if Members keep this up, people will be going home early.

The Bill will be published next week——

Give us a date for leaving government as well.

No interruptions, please, Senator Buttimer.

He wants to go home early.

(Interruptions).

Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

It would be nice for once, before we get to the end of the year. I refer to yesterday's judgment of the European Court of Human Rights and I also agree with the previous speakers on the need for legislation. Whether it is possible to legislate in the remaining time left to the Government, at least a Bill should be published as the issue needs to be addressed. There is a logic to the referendum passed in 1983 and the court decision of yesterday. A proper legal definition of protection of the life of the mother has to be put into Irish law. This issue has been avoided by Irish politicians and successive Governments since.

My own wish is that when we return in the new year — there are hopeful economic signs — we will become both a Legislature and a country that is more confident and hopeful in itself. I hope it is recognised that there is more than one Ireland. Some people are finding it very difficult while others are still doing quite well and it is a case of marrying the difference between those Irelands is the challenge that remains for all of us as we face into early 2011.

I convey my best wishes to everyone in the House for a happy Christmas and a bright new year. It is important to be positive in confronting the real challenges that face us. I state this as I learn Ireland has lost 200 top quality research jobs to Romania because of the lack of suitably qualified IT graduates at the top level, an issue we have flagged previously. This is happening because the education system is not delivering top quality graduates. We have asked the Leader for a debate on the Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, which examines proficiency in mathematics, literacy and science which are fundamental to delivering top graduates. Throughout the year I asked the Leader for a debate — to be honest, I am quite ashamed he did not deliver — on early school leavers and the report in which Senator Bacik, others Members of the House and I were involved.

We ignore the failings of the education system at our peril. As Senator Fitzgerald stated, we are not giving hope because we are not following the jobs. The OECD has indicated to me personally that we have a problem at the top and bottom ends. We are failing to educate the top 10% of elite students. We have the students who are the raw material, but we are not delivering top quality graduates. Will the Leader give an assurance to the House that in our first week back we will have debates on the PISA report and early school leavers? We need to do this and I look forward to participating in the debate.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas.

Like other Members, I wish to be associated with the good wishes extended to the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the Houses, particularly the Seanad staff.

Having listened to the weather forecast for the coming week, we are facing serious problems. With all due respect, the NRA has failed us by not providing an adequate amount of salt and grit for local authorities.

When this matter was the responsibility of local authorities, they dealt with it far more effectively. However, the amount of money they can spend is capped, as is the amount of grit and salt with which they are supplied. This is wrong. The NRA has failed totally. It would be well advised to hand back responsibility to local authorities, give them the money and let them administer what needs to be done. I take the opportunity to wish all the best to those will have to go out to grit the roads and provide public and health services during the Christmas period. They are the unsung heroes of the country. They provide services 365 days a year. Will the Leader ask the Department of Transport to ensure the NRA will at least distribute as quickly as possible the salt it states it will have available next week? We do not want what happened last year to happen again this year because of a lack of planning by the NRA.

There is good news which we should celebrate. It is a remarkable tribute to those who have kept their heads down during this difficult period in industry and created these excellent export figures.

I appeal to everybody to consider taking the same view as me on the following matter. I will never quote without criticism the ratings agencies which are morally and intellectually bankrupt and corrupt. They have shown themselves to be wrong time and again. Members of this House should not quote them without stating they are scoundrels——

——which have done damage and are not worth a tuppenny damn.

Will the Leader examine the crisis in the equine industry in the treatment of horses? The number of abandoned and mistreated horses referred to the DSPCA has increased from 26 in 2008 to 112 this year, 50% of which have to be humanely euthanised. This is a very significant problem which has been written about in the international media, in the United States and Britain. These articles do damage to our very important horse breeding industry. There is also a risk of infection being spread throughout the country by untraceable and unclipped animals. Will the Leader refer this matter to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and ask that action be taken? Owners who cannot afford veterinary care or to pay for the humane destruction of their animals should be given an amnesty immediately in order that they can surrender them to the Department or a local authority. All unregulated horses, particularly those in cities, should be impounded by local authorities and taken to the horse pound where they could be offered for rehoming following the payment of the necessary fees, if people need assistance. All horses which cannot be rehomed should be humanely put down. There is an urgent need for a centralised microchip database. Unregulated markets such as the one in Smithfield should be either regulated or shut down. The Government and the Department know about this matter. The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been informed by local authorities of the situation. A very good document, Challenges and Solutions to Support Good Equine Welfare Practice in Ireland, has been produced by UCD. It has been transmitted to the Government but nothing has been done. I ask the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as a matter of urgency.

I have stated before and will say again that I look at the glass as being half full rather than half empty. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I have a positive attitude.

(Interruptions).

I have hope and confidence.

No interruptions, please.

Does the Leader share the optimistic opinions of certain qualified authorities that Ireland is on the right course for economic recovery, with continued generous increases in our exports and gross national product and gross domestic product showing increases in the third quarter of 2010——

No thanks to the Government.

——for the first time since 2007?

We welcomed the increase in exports.

Does the Leader agree that, as a member of the European Union, Ireland needs not only to co-ordinate its recovery within the Single Market on which I have sought a debate but also to acknowledge the importance of the US and Asian markets as the global recession warrants a global response to avoid protectionism? I hope we can discuss these matters when the Leader allows time for a debate on the Single Market, as requested.

I also seek a debate on water services. Water has a more fundamental value than oil in the past. It is the new oil. I call for a debate on the issue to delve deep and examine how best to protect water supplies and water plains and address related issues such as planning and pollution.

The House is politically charged and certain Members hold deep and adverse positions which at times are more prominent. Some try to trample down others. With courage, things do come right. Having said that, in a good spirit——

——I wish everyone a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas.

I wish to be associated with the words of appreciation extended to the Cathaoirleach and all of the staff.

I welcome the transfer of major files, following two years of exhaustive investigation into the circular transfer of funds between some of our financial institutions. It is hoped we will now see the fruits of this work, particularly regarding the transfer in 2008 of approximately €7.2 billion from Irish Life & Permanent to Anglo Irish Bank which at the time the auditors described and signed off as deposits. This was a cover to mask a situation, but we will hear about this when the charge is heard. I fail to understand, while people's positions have been untenable for a number of years, why several but not all of them have fallen.

I say to the Leader in a serious but light way that he is a gas man. For years — for as long as I have been a Member, since 1997 — he has bragged and prided himself on the fact——

Questions to the Leader, please, not a speech.

The Cathaoirleach knows as well as I do that he is the man who tells the Irish nation and would tell the world if he could get away with it that we never employ the guillotine in this House. For a while early in his career it was true——

That is not relevant on the Order of Business.

——but look at what he has done to us this week. He is bringing the House into disrepute.

He was still saying it this week while doing the opposite.

Perhaps the Leader will respond because he must return to the way we should do business.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Like others, I share in the good news and recognise that the economy has finally turned a corner. The Minister for Finance has spoken about this issue on number of occasions and it is now becoming clearer——

It has had so many turns it is like a roundabout.

I want no more interruptions when anyone is speaking, from either side.

Third quarter CSO results indicate growth in the economy from which the Exchequer has taken €15 billion in revenue over the past couple of years. When we speak about the economy in future we will have to recognise its globalised nature. We are like a cork on the ocean in our dependence on world markets for wealth generation in this nation. The world growth rate is expected to be 4.5% next year and in following years. We seem to have turned the corner.

There were calls for the Lower House to sit next week to complete the finance Bill. The Labour Party offered to put through a climate Bill on behalf of the Green Party. I am reminded of the Ian Paisley's line, "come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly". My Green Party colleagues recognise that the Opposition is anxious for an election because we have turned the corner.

Into a cul-de-sac.

They will do anything to ensure a speedy election.

Tell that to the unemployed.

Pleae allow Senator Hanafin to speak without interruption.

When we voted on Article 23.3.3° there was a wish among the people for a pro-life referendum. Everything since then has been clouded and shrouded but the reality is that the Irish still are pro-life and I call for another referendum.

How many times has the Senator called for a referendum?

No interruptions, please.

I would like to be associated with the good wishes expressed to the Cathaoirleach, staff and Members of the House and hope they have a peaceful and happy Christmas.

As we brace ourselves for another bout of bad weather, I share Senator Ellis's concern about the resources available to local authorities. I am informed only 15,000 tones of grit and salt will be available until next Wednesday and if the weather deteriorates over the weekend our roads and infrastructure will be vulnerable. Thousands of local authority workers and volunteers from the Civil Defence, the Irish Red Cross and other organisations are now on stand-by around the country in case the bad weather comes to pass. The NRA and the national co-ordination centre need to get their act together because their response to date has not been good enough.

I understand an additional carbon tax will be levied on solid fuels from January. This could not come at a worse time for many families and elderly people who depend——

It is already in place.

I said "additional".

The Senator is wrong.

Do not mind the facts.

No interruptions, please.

It shows how out of touch——

Senator Boyle might go home to his nice oil-fired heating system this Christmas but thousands of people around the country depend on bags of coal or peat briquettes.

That is all they have to use.

Do not perpetuate untruths. Admit you are wrong.

Thousands of people in rural Ireland depend on the bag of coal or briquettes.

No interruptions, please. The Leader will reply to the Order of Business.

If this is the priority of the Green Party and the Government, they are sadly wrong.

I am an optimist but I am also a pragmatist. Unless we take the measures necessary to help our exporters, we will not recover. Our exporters and manufacturers have thrived for several years despite the Government. We need to support them with pragmatic measures.

I join other speakers in wishing the Cathaoirleach, staff and Senators a very happy Christmas. It is important to acknowledge the work that has been done. I have been in this House for one year and three days and people have been decent in the main. I respect Members on all sides of this House.

Senator Fitzgerald raised an important issue in regard to fuel poverty. We need to have that debate at this time of the year. I acknowledge the success of the warmer homes scheme, which is funded by the carbon tax, and the home energy savings scheme, which doubled this year in my area of Galway.

Poor people cannot afford it. Only the rich can take advantage of it.

No interruptions, please.

To correct Senator Coffey, the warmer homes scheme is free of charge.

Poor people cannot afford the energy scheme.

Those on fuel allowance get the warmer homes scheme in their houses for no money. Anybody can afford no money. It is zero. I ask the Senator to get his facts right because he seems to be all over the place today.

I am not all over the place. Ask the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

As for his colleague who is putting corners on roundabouts——

The Senator should address his comments to the Leader rather than across the floor.

I encourage the Leader to arrange a debate on the important issue of fuel poverty. I would prefer that we did not end on this aggressive note but as we leave for Christmas it is important we acknowledge people who are facing financial difficulties and hardship. Nobody in this House wants to see people suffering hardship over Christmas.

I express my appreciation for the service we received from all the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Senator Fitzgerald spoke about the good news for the economy. However, large multinationals are not our only exporters. Yesterday I heard a lovely story about a small 106 year old Irish polish manufacturing company, Malones of Dublin. The Asthma Society of Ireland, which advises that most cleaning products can trigger asthma, gave itsimprimatur to Malones of Dublin. Asthma affects 500,000 people in Ireland and is very dangerous and easily triggered. It is great to discover the success of a small Irish company.

During the Lisbon treaty referendum we were warned by "No" campaigners that Europe would be allowed to tell us what to do. My understanding of yesterday's judgment from the European Court of Human Rights is that it is in our own hands. Europe is not enforcing the judgment on us. As I am sure we will have to hold a referendum, I advise people to watch their language and avoid intemperate words. I do not wish to criticise Senator O'Toole because I greatly admire him but he used intemperate language in referring to a leader of a church in Ireland. We should be careful with the words we use when we hold the referendum because they can trigger reactions we do not want.

I realise Deputy Boyle hopes the climate change Bill will be the first matter on our agenda in the new year. I hope we deal with the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 beforehand, however.

My colleagues will be aware that I have on many occasions called on the Government to support the 32 survivors of Thalidomide in this country. Yesterday, the Irish Thalidomide Association met the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, for the first time since the derisory offer in April of €62,000 per person. That offer was rejected by all 32 survivors. They are dealing with catastrophic disabilities on a daily basis. This drug was so toxic that one tablet left babies born internally damaged and without arms and legs. The Joint Committee on Health and Children has given all-party support for a proper compensation package and the release of legal documents relating to issues arising in the 1970s.

Not one page was released to the families or the survivors. Excuses were given about there not being enough photocopying machines in the Department of Health and Children. I am not surprised the Irish Thalidomide Association, representing the 32 survivors, is taking instant legal action against the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, because of her refusal to renegotiate her offer of April of this year.

I join Senator O'Toole and other speakers in saying there is good news and there are positive signs and optimism that Ireland will have a new Government this time next year.

We are not making political speeches now.

They are very much looking forward to having a change of Government——

A question to the Leader, please.

——and having a positive outcome——

No Senator is entitled to make political speeches.

The difficulty with Senator Boyle is that the Green Party does not know when it is leaving Government.

Questions to the Leader, please.

It is either in or out of government, but it is not sure. Senator Boyle might tell us if the Green Party is leaving Government. He seems to be kind of ambivalent.

I keep telling Senator Buttimer. His hearing is the problem.

Senator Boyle is like the fellow learning to ride a bicycle——

Senator Buttimer, we are taking questions to the Leader. Senator Cassidy is the Leader.

——and who cannot find the brakes.

I will ask Senator Buttimer to resume his seat if he continues like that.

More important, we need a debate in the new year to give optimism to the unemployed, those forced to emigrate, those on disability and those on the minimum wage. The Government has not done that.

This morning another member of the Cabinet jumped ship. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, decided to bail out.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

I hope the people will see that many members of a Government party are afraid to go before them. They are afraid to face the people.

That is not relevant to the Order of Business. The Senator should ask questions of the Leader on the Order of Business.

It is exemplified by the Green Party Members who cannot make up their mind whether they are in or out of government. They should do the honourable thing, walk out and call an general election.

I ask the Senator to resume his seat.

I will do it for you, Jerry.

The Green Party Members should do the honourable thing.

I call Senator Leyden.

I thank the members of staff——

No. Senator Buttimer had all the time in the world to ask the Leader questions.

——and Members of the House for their great work during the year.

Senator Buttimer is not interested in asking questions. I call Senator Leyden.

I understand the Cathaoirleach's embarrassment at the Government.

I am not one bit embarrassed.

I understand that.

I am not one bit embarrassed. I call Senator Leyden.

Senator Buttimer will be unable to contain himself for the next six months waiting for the election.

We are taking questions to the Leader. We are on the Order of Business. I will call another speaker if needs be.

I wish the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and all the staff of the House a happy Christmas. I also compliment the reporting staff and the sound engineers who do a fantastic job throughout the year. In fact, the record is second to none. Of any parliament in the world, the record of the Irish Parliament, including all the contributions made in this House, is the best. It is a very difficult task and I compliment the Editor of Debates and the staff. I wish all the other staff and all Members of the House well in the year ahead.

It is regrettable that many excellent people are leaving public life. I very much regret the fact so many fantastic women Deputies have decided to leave, such as Deputies McManus, Upton and Enright.

We do not want names but questions to the Leader. That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

I appreciate that. May I also mention Deputy Flynn?

(Interruptions).

As I mentioned the other Deputies, I had to mention Deputy Flynn. I am trying to make a point here. Will the Leader and all the party leaders try to make this Parliament more women-friendly and make it possible for women to be elected to both Houses? It is very difficult for women to be Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas given the sitting hours.

Are you not the nice man? Honestly.

I can guarantee Senator Healy Eames that Senator Leyden has loads of empathy for the lady politicians.

Please, Senator White, no interruptions. I call Senator McFadden. I will call the Leader to reply to the Order of Business if Senators keep this up across the floor.

I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and especially thank the Cathaoirleach for his courtesy and decency to all of us. I hope I will be elected again in order that I can remain friends with many of the Senators. I have valued the decency across the House. Senators are all here for the common good, despite their political banter which is very important and necessary.

I take issue with Senators Boyle and Ó Brolcháin about the carbon tax. In my constituency, people depend on solid fuel and if there is an increase in the price of a bag of coal, it will be a very serious issue for them. Some people are wearing extra coats, jumpers, etc. to try to stay warm.

The fuel allowance was increased.

There was an announcement yesterday but the carbon tax will have a very serious impact on people, especially due to the fact the weather is getting colder.

Like everybody else, I will start by being nice and wish the staff and Members a happy Christmas. I hope everyone has a good rest over the holidays, and I direct that at the Green Party, in particular. It particularly needs a rest. If it gets a rest, the rest of us might get one and we can come back and work hard in the new year.

Questions to the Leader, please.

What does that mean? What exactly is Senator O'Malley saying?

It sounds like constant pressure.

I refer to an article in today's newspaper which states that in light of yesterday's judgment in the European Court of Human Rights, abortion will become an election issue. When we are setting the agenda for the next session next month, will the Leader ask the Minister to bring forward legislation on abortion, as previous Senators have indicated? That very correct judgment yesterday indicated that the people, through a referendum, have spoken on this matter. It has been a consistent failure of Government to legislate for their desired choice.

It is a simple issue that we can resolve straightaway in order that it does not become a divisive issue at election time. We have been given the consent of the people in a referendum and the European Court of Human Rights has stated that it is within our ability to legislate for this issue. There is a moral obligation on the Government to do so. We could resolve this matter, as the people have determined.

I share the opinions expressed by Senators O'Malley and Hanafin in regard to yesterday's European Court of Human Rights judgment. The people have spoken on this issue and it is up to the Government to reflect the majority view of the people, as indicated in a referendum.

As everyone said, it is a time of hope. In that context, will the Leader arrange a debate on the state of the economy early in the new year? The level of US investment in Ireland is greater than the total US investment in China according to Alan Gray in a wonderful analysis of our current economic state in yesterday'sThe Irish Times. He went on to say that Ireland also offers a highly educated labour force and the percentage of the Irish population aged 25 to 34 with third level education is almost 50%, the second highest of any EU country.

I do not wish to detract from what Senator Healy Eames said about the regrettable loss of 200 IT jobs to Romania but this came in a week when almost 1,000 new high end jobs were introduced into this economy.

We could have so many more.

That is the reality.

Please, no interruptions or I will ask the Senator to leave the Chamber. Senator Mooney to continue, without interruption

Those 200 jobs were up for international competition. The almost 1,000 jobs are real jobs in a real economy in this country and they are welcome.

What about the thousands leaving the country?

With all due respect to those opposite - I am not trying to bait them in any way - in the context of my question——

Senator Mooney is talking complete rubbish.

——I am trying to put the facts. It is about time the facts were given in this House.

What about the 450,000 who are on the dole?

The common language with the United States is estimated to have a tax equivalent cost advantage for Ireland of approximately 7%. The availability of high quality professional services constitutes an advantage for certain sectors.

Tell that to the people who are leaving the country.

Our best graduates.

What world does Senator Mooney live in?

Senators, please.

Unfortunately whenever there is good news——

The point is made.

——and whenever facts are put before the House——

The Senator's time is up.

——the Opposition lapses back into rhetoric.

It is just that more can be done.

Patrick Hickey, the managing director of the advertising agency, Rothco said: "Nothing repairs like success."

The Senator has made the point.

He said "The changed media landscape means our audience will consume many different opinions and various ‘facts'——

I call Senator Butler.

——as propagated by some quarters. The truth is that the world still knows our strengths, it's our own citizens who have forgotten."

The Senator must obey the Chair.

It is particularly true of those on the other side of the House.

The Senator should run for election.

He did and he got a great vote in the European Parliament elections.

Senator Butler to continue, without interruption. Senator Leyden got his opportunity to speak.

I wish you, a Chathaoirligh, and your staff, with all Members of the House, a very happy and holy Christmas. We look forward to the new year in the hope that it will be a much better year for us all. I welcome the 300 jobs that were created in the past week, which is an indication of how the economy is beginning to have some sort of upturn. This week we also received the welcome news that the past quarter has been extremely good for our exports. The value of our imports has increased by 1.25% indicating that the domestic market will improve somewhat. Early in the new year we should have a debate on the strong parts of the economy and how we could create more jobs in that regard. It is important that this House recognises and reports good news when we are debating various issues.

Ar nós gach éinne eile, guím rath Dé ort, a Chathaoirligh, ar na Baill go léir agus ar na hoifigigh ar fad a bhíonn ag saothrú ar ár son. Cé go mbíonn easaontas go minic sa Teach seo, bíonn aontas anseo freisin. Caithfidh easaontas a bheith ann — is é sin buntáiste an daonlathais. Bíonn seans againn ár dtuairimí a nochtú agus na torthaí is fearr a bhaint amach. Bíonn aontas eadrainn maidir leis na rudaí bunúsacha; mar shampla, dínit na ndaoine, ina measc iad siúd atá thíos sa saol nó nach bhfuil cearta sibhialta acu.

Na daoine faoi bhrú.

Tá sé tábhachtach go seasann an Teach seo i gcónaí le chéile maidir leis na daoine sin. I rith na bliana, bhí aontas eadrainn maidir le stádas na Gaeilge. Is cúis áthais é dom go mbeidh an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge á láinseáil ag an Taoiseach Dé Máirt seo chugainn. Tá Baill an Teach seo agus an Teach eile aontaithe ar an ábhar seo. Tugann sé sin dóchas dom go bhfuil féiniúlacht náisiúnta na tíre seo fós beo agus bríomhar. Is cuma faoi easaontas maidir le polasaithe na bpáirtithe má táimid aontaithe maidir le gach rud a bhaineann leis an tír seo, ar nós ár stair agus na daoine a sheas an fód nuair a bhí gá leo.

I am delighted that on Tuesday we will show the unity in this House and the Dáil to bring about the 20 year strategy for the Irish language. It was one of the most edifying experiences for me personally. I am delighted that at 2 o'clock on Tuesday the Taoiseach will launch that strategy. The language is not just a matter of words; all our background, ambitions and aspirations are linked to that. Let us take that as a signal of hope and a focus for the future. In wishing everybody well, for me it has been an experience to meet so many fine people in this House who had the good of the people at heart and that applies to every single Member of this House without exception.

I wish you, a Chathaoirligh, the Clerk and staff of the Seanad a very happy Christmas. I thank them for the welcome they gave me earlier this year when I arrived in the House. I extend those wishes to all the Members opposite and on this side. I have a particular affinity for sound engineers. I wish them, all the technical staff and the people who provide us with the Official Report well.

The domestic economy has not been mentioned this morning and I am afraid the news is not as good as it is in the export sector. I do not wish to rain on the parade, but it is important we acknowledge the need to address strengthening the domestic economy and finding ways in which we can transfer the growth in GNP and GDP to the local economies about which we all so passionately care. I support Senator Ellis in saying that we need to find the most effective mechanism for keeping our streets and roads clear in the week ahead so that people can go about their religious, civic and commercial tasks in what will be another cold spell.

I call for greater support for employers who, I know, are taking wage cuts themselves and yet are not eligible for family income supplement, on which we should have a debate early in the new year. They are very often the first to take the hit in order to protect employees. I am not saying all is rosy and there are some unscrupulous employers, but most are not.

I ask for a definitive statement on the positionvis-à-vis the amendment to the Lisbon treaty agreed at the seventh summit this year which, incidentally, Herman Van Rompuy announced by Twitter during the meeting I understand. As I understand it the agreement on the financial stability fund means that last-resort interventions can be made. As it is an intergovernmental facility and does not increase the competencies of the European Union, it therefore does not require us to hold another referendum. There are many on both extremes of the political spectrum who suggest it requires a referendum. If it does, so be it, but if it does not, we need clarity. I call for a statement on that early in the new year.

I join my colleagues in wishing you, a Chathaoirligh, and the staff a happy Christmas and new year. I also support Senator Ellis in what he said about the weather conditions because at present we are suffering quite badly in the west and I hope we will get out of here reasonably early in order to make it home.

I ask the Leader to have a debate on Dáil reform for the other House and more especially Seanad reform in order to make this House more friendly to female Members. This House and the other House would be much poorer for having fewer female Members. Something should be done to make it more friendly to female Members with families.

I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, and members of the staff for your co-operation during the year and I wish you a very happy Christmas and good luck in the new year. I have frequently raised the issue of education, which I believe needs a complete overhaul. We have often asked for a debate on issues such as the Student Support Bill, which I know has completed its passage through the Dáil, and also reform of the second level curriculum leading to the junior and leaving certificate examinations.

Regarding reform of the Seanad, God knows how many of us will be back in the next Seanad. We need to keep discussion of the Seanad on the agenda for early in the new year. It is not about abolition of the Seanad it is about——

——how best we can improve legislation in our debates. The constructive thinking across the board when it came to the Appropriation Bill and the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill that came through the Dáil resulted in a superb debate yesterday across the floor, and it was reasonably done by all sides. That is what this House is about. It was a pleasure to listen to it on the monitor. I would be fighting to the best of my ability to try to reform the House. Go about it and please get a commitment that there will be reform, not abolition.

I take this opportunity to thank the Leader again for his co-operation during the year.

I thank Senator Ormonde for her kind wishes.

I join with all colleagues in wishing the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant, the Captain of the Guard, all the ushers, of course, Mr. Jimmy Walsh who never fails to report us inThe Irish Times, the Whips and the leaders of the groups, the Senators, in particular, and their families, and all who assist us here, the reporting staff, as has been said, the sound and technical engineering staff, a happy and holy Christmas. I look forward to the challenge once again to assisting our nation get out of the downturn and the recession and look forward to working in the interest of our country with all Senators on 12 January, when it is hoped that we will have the climate change Bill on the Order Paper for our deliberations.

Like colleagues, I welcome all the job announcements this week. There were 75 more new jobs announced for Letterkenny yesterday. There were 115 announced for Galway yesterday——

——with the Japanese company coming with its medical services and 107 the previous day for Galway. Galway has done extremely well this week. Senator Ó Brolcháin, our colleague, Senator Healy Eames, and all colleagues from the Galway constituency will be pleased that Galway is doing so well in job creation.

Deputy Fahey and the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, have worked extremely hard to make this possible.

What about Senator Healy Eames?

We are obviously missing our Minister in Waterford.

The Leader to continue, without interruption.

That is the strength of having good Fianna Fáil TDs working in a constituency.

(Interruptions).

I know exactly how Senator Coffey feels because I am in the same boat myself.

There are 400,000 unemployed. Give us a break.

The wheel will turn, please God.

Senators Norris, Callely and Hanafin welcomed——

I will look after Senator Cassidy.

Did Senator Cassidy hear that offer? The Leader must respond to that.

The Leader is replying.

That was a fantastic offer.

The Leader is replying.

I am very good friends with Senator McFadden——

She is going to look after Senator Cassidy.

——and the path of her success could quite well impinge on my success also. She has a formidable task, as I have.

We read in the newspaper this morning about the new CSO figures on the economy picking up and the very good three months' returns for July to September. Certainly, it was a breath of fresh air. It was wonderful on the concluding day of the Upper House that we have really positive 3.5% growth in exports for the past three months.

I must join Senator Norris in his comments on the rating agencies. They have a significant conflict of interest and it is becoming apparent.

Ireland will be a shining example once again to the entire world of how a small energetic economy, properly led and taking the international advice, will get out of this global downturn.

Senators O'Toole, Bacik, Boyle, Hanafin, Quinn, O'Malley, Mooney, Buttimer and Dearey all voiced strong views regarding the judgment given yesterday. I will pass on the views of colleagues to the Minister and we certainly can debate the matter here on the floor of the House in the first two weeks back.

Senator Boyle, in his final remarks, spoke of confidence and being hopeful for a better chance in the year ahead. I certainly join him in those good wishes.

Senators Healy Eames and Ormonde called for a debate on education. I will have no difficulty in having this debate take place. I accept I stated we were to have it this week but, because of so much legislation, I had to make a judgment call and I opted, with colleagues, for an up-date on the Croke Park agreement. I hope the Senators understand. I certainly will have it on the Order Paper within the first two weeks of coming back.

Senators Ellis, Coffey and Dearey raised the weather and the difficulties in which local authorities find themselves with, perhaps, shortages of salt. I too want to make a case for smaller towns and villages, as Senator Dearey stated yesterday morning, that the NRA would give the same priority to them as it gives to the larger towns and cities. Apart from keeping the roads safe for those who want to go to church or who want to go to the shops, retail and family businesses should be given the same chance as those located in the bigger towns.

Senator Norris raised animal welfare once again, and the horse industry. He quite correctly pointed out to the House the difficulties being experienced. I have no difficult in us having a debate on this with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Senator Callely called for a debate on water, its cost and the importance of quality water. I will have no difficulty in discussing this issue also.

Senator Coghlan raised the transfer of the files to the DPP's office. I certainly await the developments that will take place in this area.

Senator Mary White mentioned the 32 Irish Thalidomide persons who were in with the Minister yesterday. We fully support the Senator, who has been a champion of these 32 persons.

I certainly commend Senator Mary White on it. We should help and assist them in every way possible.

Absolutely, tell the Minister, Deputy Harney.

No interruptions, please.

Senator Mooney called for a debate on the state of the economy. I have no difficult in us having this when we come back.

I must say something on the announcement by the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, that he is retiring. As one of the three Fianna Fáil Oireachtas Members in the Meath West constituency, with Deputy Johnny Brady, I have known Deputy Dempsey a long time. There was no more decent or hard-working public representative representing any constituency in the country than Deputy Dempsey for the people of Meath, and now Meath West.

There is a chance for Senator Cassidy now.

I come from Castlepollard and as Minister for Education and Science he gave us a brand new second-level college——

Paid for by the taxpayers, no fiefdoms.

——and a brand new one-stop-shop which, in a stand-alone rural community, has been of considerable assistance. I wish himself and his wife, Bernadette, and family every good wish on his announcement today and wish him well in the future.

It is a real opportunity for Senator Cassidy.

Senator Ó Murchú spoke of next Tuesday's 2 p.m. launch by the Taoiseach of the new 20-year strategy for the Irish language. I congratulate everyone involved in this. No more committed an Irish person has ever walked in here and become a Member of Seanad Éireann or Dáil Éireann than Senator Ó Murchú in what he has been doing for Irish culture and the Irish language. I certainly wish everyone concerned well in their deliberations. We can debate this in the House on our return.

Senator Dearey sought a debate on family income supplement, particularly for the self-employed. I will have no difficulty in us having a debate on this issue, and also on the retail sector. This will be a defining time for it and I certainly will be putting this issue down for debate on our return also.

Senators Carty and Ormonde called for a Dáil and Seanad reform debate as a matter of importance, particularly in making it much more friendly towards women Members. I will certainly have no difficulty in debating this issue on our return also.

I thank the Members for their kind remarks. I wish all Members, the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and the staff of Seanad Éireann and all staff of the House a most enjoyable, safe and holy Christmas.

Order of Business agreed to.