The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the arrangements for the sitting of the Seanad on 29 January 2011, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re arrangements for the Finance Bill 2011 — Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, motion required under the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Acts in respect of legal proceedings, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 2; and No. 4, Finance Bill 2011 — Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3 and to conclude not later than 5 p.m., on which spokespersons may speak for 15 minutes and all other Senators for ten minutes and Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, with the Minister to be called to respond no later than 4.45 p.m., and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken tomorrow.
Order of Business
This is the final Order of Business of this Seanad. During its lifetime——
That is not necessarily the case.
No Order of Business is planned for tomorrow, unless there is a sitting next week.
The Seanad can still sit after the general election is called.
No interruptions, please. Senator Fitzgerald to continue on the Order of Business.
The nerves must be bad on the other side of the House.
The Senator must be joking.
The lifeboats have been launched.
We are on the Order of Business.
Is it a case of every man and woman for himself and herself?
We are on the Order of Business.
We love a bit of competition.
This has been an extraordinary period in political life and the lives of the people. It has been marked by dramatic unemployment, banking, economic and financial crises. We were told that there was a liquidity crisis in the banks, that the actions being taken would not be expensive for the country and that matters would be corrected quickly. As we have seen, that was not the truth. We were told we were turning the corner, but we were not. We were told the Government would last and stay together until the finance Bill was passed. Of course, it did not. The manner in which the Bill is going through the House is symbolic of the Government's incompetence and mismanagement in dealing with many other issues that have arisen during its lifetime. The new leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Martin, is now speaking about the future while trying to air-brush the past. The people, however, and their children will be paying for many years to come the price for the Government's mistakes, waste and incompetence. With the people, we cannot forget the Government's legacy, which is the reason we need change.
The debate on the finance Bill will be concluded tomorrow. As this is the final Order of Business, unless there is a meeting at a later point, as Senator Leyden pointed out——
Yes, the Seanad can meet after the general election is called.
Senator Leyden, no interruptions, please.
While the points about the Government's management abilities are addressed collectively, I pay tribute to Members on all sides for the hard work they have put in and the commitment they have shown in responding to the political challenges with which this Seanad had to deal. I also thank all those who support the work of the House.
I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that the House has been well served by its officials and staff.
The professional way in which they go about their work and their constant availability to deal with tricky issues, solve problems and manage the affairs of the House should certainly be recorded.
It is important, as we head into the general election campaign, to recognise that, even though the economy is the fundamental basis on which people will make their voting decisions, the nation moves beyond it. While we have to get the fundamentals of the economy correct to ensure wealth is created in order that it can be properly divided, the division of wealth is also crucial. It is responsible to apportion blame. Only by assigning blame and having debates on what happened in the past can one learn for the future. We must ensure the forthcoming election debate moves beyond the economic and banking issues which are overshadowing all others. Today a report in the newspapers highlights an increase in the incidence of suicide among the elderly. Our society must ask why this is happening and how can it be solved? Similar questions need to be asked about the health and education systems. Both seem to take centre stage when the economy does not. If we are to have a balanced election campaign, we must deal with all of these issues, as well as quality of life.
Interestingly, the Aer Lingus row has highlighted conflicting issues about the economy, the rights of workers, family-friendly policies in large companies and even the position of social partnership. One can only but feel that if the social partnership structures were in place, this row would have been dealt with earlier. I congratulate IBEC and the ICTU for taking the initiative to find a solution.
Responsible and elected public representatives must look at society as a whole. The economy is the base on which wealth is created, after which there is the division of wealth which involves the running of the State, provision of education and health services. It is important we examine how we invest in such services and its importance to the future of the economy, the nation and the people.
There are other issues mar an cultúr agus an teanga agus conas mar atá siad lonnaithe insan saol atá againn sa lá atá inniu ann. Tá dul chun cinn tábhachtach déanta in a lán áiteanna. These are all issues which must be central to the debates which will take place in the forthcoming general election. I appeal to all Members to ensure all the hard questions are asked on all of the issues and to examine carefully the direction taken on them.
Whatever happens to Seanad Éireann in the next Oireachtas, there will be the election of a new Seanad in the next few months. The Order of Business is the first item whoever will be Leader of the next Seanad should reform. We have never been clear about what we should be doing on the Order of Business. The tradition in any parliament has been literally to order business. In the Seanad, however, it has become something much wider by allowing Members to debate the issues of the day. I am not criticising Members for doing this because elected representatives are entitled to raise such matters, but it should not be done on the Order of Business. There should be a new way to have regular debates on such important matters to which Senators can contribute instead of this nonsensical opportunity, one which we are all guilty of using to jockey to get on radio or television, as Deputy Bertie Ahern said yesterday.
I agree with Senators Fitzgerald and O'Toole on the great support all Members enjoy from members of staff, particularly the Clerk and Clerk Assistant of the Seanad. They have given great assistance to me and the Labour Party with good humour and intelligence and have been available at all times. I also thank the people sitting in front of the Cathaoirleach who do important work for the Houses and all others who participate in helping the Chamber to run smoothly.
This morning Aviva announced its plans to increase its health insurance charges. While we can all rail against this and the fact that people are being obliged to deal with increased charges at every hand's turn, we must highlight the fact that it again points to a serious policy failure on the part of the outgoing Government with regard to the funding of health. The Government has flunked the test in respect of this matter on every occasion. The issue to which I refer was brought before both the High Court and the Supreme Court, where the Government lost. I was sorry it lost in the Supreme Court because the position it took in respect of risk equalisation was correct. However, the matter was then just abandoned and no action was taken. It must be two years ago since the decision of the Supreme Court was handed down. The Government applied a sticking plaster in successive Finance Acts in the context of tax relief.
The issues of health insurance and the funding of health must be tackled. The Labour Party will be publishing policies on these matters in the next couple of weeks. I accept this is a political matter which will be dealt with during the general election campaign. I will, however, be interested to discover the policy of the Fianna Fáil Party on health. That party has had nothing to say on this issue for many years. It left it to the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, who has not been a member of Fianna Fáil for some years, to speak on the matter. What is the Fianna Fáil Party's policy on health? Does it have a policy? We have not seen such a policy but we would be interested in seeing it in the coming weeks.
I hope this will not be the final Order of Business of the 23rd Seanad. Should the incoming Government so decide, we should take the opportunity to pass more outstanding legislation. Not least among that is the Construction Contracts Bill 2010, which was drafted by Senator Quinn. There are two months during which we could properly close up shop prior to the holding of the Seanad election. This should be a working Parliament and I challenge the incoming Government, however it is formed, to use the remaining time available to the Seanad productively by ensuring it passes legislation.
I agree with previous speakers, particularly Senator O'Toole, that the forthcoming general election should focus much more on Ireland as a society rather than Ireland as an economy. Even though much of it was aimed at individuals and particular parties, the criticism levelled at the political system also represents a judgment on politics in general. Politics in general presents a reflection on the society in which we live. Unfortunately, greed, self-centredness and self-aggrandisement all exist in society. We should use the general election campaign to utter a few home truths regarding how we need to improve not only politics but also the way in which we interact with each other in society. The way society operates informs the type of political system that exists. Rather than seeking cheap votes and telling people what they wish to hear, the general election campaign should be used as an opportunity to reflect on the position in which Ireland finds itself in 2011. I hope every candidate will seize this opportunity and that all political parties will produce manifestos that are based on reality.
I agree with the comments made by previous speakers in respect of those who have offered assistance and who have contributed to the work of the 23rd Seanad. There has been an ongoing and fairly false debate regarding the relevance and importance of the House. When we look back at this period in history, particularly in light of decisions that have been made elsewhere by the Executive and in the Lower House, those in this House will be able to state they took the decisions that needed to be taken and that they did so in a way that tried to avoid, as often as possible, the type of narrow mindset that has bedevilled politics in this country in the past.
Everyone welcomes today's visit to Brussels by the leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Kenny, and the party's finance spokesperson, Deputy Noonan, for discussions with the President of the European Commission, Mr. Barroso, regarding so many of the issues which are of great importance to the country and which are going to cost us so much. It is good that Deputies Kenny and Noonan are making this trip rather than focusing on other duties.
Is the Senator seeking a debate on that matter? We are on the Order of Business.
I appreciate that. I am not sure whether the Leader would agree to holding a debate on the matter to which I refer. However, I am sure we will be able to deal with it on Second Stage of the finance Bill.
I welcome the tourism industry report that was launched yesterday by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation. Many of the recommendations contained in the report are in line with policies Fine Gael advocates and which it will hopefully be implementing in the near future. It is heartening that the confederation points out that 20,000 jobs can be created in the tourism industry in the next five years. With the type of proper economic regeneration policies that my party is advocating and that it will — in conjunction with a five-year investment programme — be including in its manifesto, this important indigenous industry, which has taken a battering, can recover quickly.
I am delighted that, as Senator O'Toole observed, sense has dawned on the people in Aer Lingus and the IMPACT trade union. Ireland is an island nation and if people cannot fly here, the consequences will be disastrous during the forthcoming tourism season. As everyone is aware, the tourism sector did not do that well last year. I welcome the developments that have taken place.
Senator Boyle voiced his hope that this will not be the final Order of Business of the Seanad. If the Lower House sits next Tuesday as expected, I do not understand why the Seanad cannot also sit in order that housekeeping and other matters relating to staff etc., might be dealt with. I urge the Leader to arrange a further sitting of the House.
I wish to clarify a point for Senator Fitzgerald. The House will sit until the Seanad election is held, which will most probably be on 4 May next.
The questions posed by Senator Fitzgerald were to the Leader.
This is an important matter and the Senator is clarifying the position.
Yes, I am merely providing clarification.
All Members are aware that the House will remain fully constituted until the election of the new Seanad is held.
However, I wish to correct the inaccuracy uttered by Senator Fitzgerald. Senator Alex White is a poacher turned gamekeeper because he used the Order of Business very well to promote his election to Dáil Éireann. Now he wants a new challenge——
The Senator should put a question to the Leader.
There is nothing in Standing Orders regarding the Senator rattling on and uttering complete nonsense for two minutes without interruption from the Chair.
I have given a fair bit of freedom to many Members on the Order of Business.
The Cathaoirleach has been extremely flexible and I hope he will go forward as a candidate for election to the next Seanad.
That matter is not relevant. I am not going to make any announcement in that regard this morning.
The fact that the House is sitting today — this point relates to Seanad reform — and doing the State some and I hope great service and that the Dáil is prepared to sit tomorrow night in the event of recommendations put forward by Members being accepted is a mark of the tremendous respect people have for this House.
Surely the Senator is aware that there is a constitutional requirement in this regard.
I hope that recommendations put forward in this House will be accepted. The Seanad is embedded in the 1937 Constitution and has a role to play. The committees formed within the Houses are not contemplated within the Constitution. In that context, I am of the view that the Seanad has an extremely positive contribution to make. The responsibilities of many of the quangos that have been established could be transferred to this House. Such a development would save the State some money.
I take the opportunity to thank the staff of the Houses for their work. I wish all the candidates in the election success with their campaigns. Senator Ross has put his money where his mouth is——
The Senator's time is exhausted.
——and is going forward for election to the Dáil.
Senator Ross has been endorsed by Fianna Fáil.
I hope that he and Senators Corrigan and Alex White will be successful in their endeavours. I thank Jimmy Walsh, who covers the proceedings of the House for The Irish Times, and his editor. I welcome the representatives from the media who are in the Press Gallery.
The Senator's time is exhausted.
I thank Senator Leyden for the compliments he extended to me. Unfortunately, I could not hear them over the noise.
Senator Leyden endorsed Senator Ross's candidacy on behalf of Fianna Fáil.
That is some endorsement.
I understand Senator Leyden also endorsed Senator Alex White, therefore, I am in good company.
There will be an opportunity for vote transfers between the Senators.
We are on the Order of Business. Members should put questions to the Leader. If Members persist with this behaviour, I will be obliged to cut short their contributions. Senator Ross to continue, without interruption.
I do not share the kind of self-congratulation expressed by others regarding what is happening in the House. Many previous speakers have got it right: the House can sit until at least 4 May next. We are dancing to the Dáil's tune today. We are being told to pass the finance Bill. Despite what Senator Leyden said, none of the recommendations put forward will be accepted. The Dáil will not be obliged to sit on Saturday night. The Seanad will rubber-stamp the legislation and it will be passed. That is politics.
Why are we not sitting next week or the week after that to debate legislation? I accept Senator Boyle's comment that this is a serious House, but why will we not be scrutinising the Climate Change Response Bill 2010 or the corporate donations Bill next week? They could be debated and passed in this House before being enacted by the next Dáil. This House is not being dissolved tonight, but it is being treated with contempt.
It is a matter for the Leader to order the business of the House.
I am asking him to do so.
I am asking him to order the taking of legislation in this House until 4 May. It is insulting that the House is to be dissolved on the same day as the Dáil. The Green Party should be insisting on its Bills being brought before the House in order that they would be ready for the next Government. Why is it not doing so?
We will not pass them.
Fianna Fáil has run rings around the Green Party from the beginning.
The Senator's time has concluded.
I have one more question.
The Senator does not have time.
I will be brief. Why is time not being allocated to debate the deal being discussed by Deputy Kenny and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso? Why is the Government not grabbing this deal, given suggestions the penal interest rate could be renegotiated which shows the European Union feels guilty about what it imposed on us? The Government could——
I call Senator Callely.
——give the guarantees sought on debt if we were to secure a reduced interest rate. Let us debate that matter.
On previous occasions I have raised in this House the universal periodic review of human rights in Ireland which was the subject matter of a circular I received yesterday. I congratulate the group involved on organising the Your Rights Right Now conference which is due to take place on Monday, 31 January in the Civic Offices on Wood Quay. I have also received a circular from an Irish property company which describes 2010 as an extremely difficult year but believes that, while 2011 will be challenging, there are signs of improvement in some areas. These are welcome signs.
I am at a loss and seek the Cathaoirleach's guidance on a proposal before the Seanad which, if I do not record my views, I might be deemed to have supported. No. 3 on the Order Paper could be deemed to involve a conflict of interest. I am not sure what the final line of the motion means in relation to any consequential order or orders that may be appealed. I am not sure what that decision entails other than that it is part of the order for adoption. I would like it to be recorded that I abstained on any matter related to that issue as I am involved personally. I am particularly pleased and delighted with Mr. Justice O'Neill's determination——
Time, Senator. Each Member has two minutes in which to ask questions relevant to the Order of Business.
I am just making the point——
The Senator has made it.
I am seeking the Cathaoirleach's guidance on how it can be recorded that I abstained on the matter.
Whenever the question is put.
When the question is put, may I request that it be recorded that I abstained?
May I conclude——
No, the Senator's time is up.
I will conclude with a passage from the Bible which is very relevant at this time.
I call Senator Buttimer.
These may be my last words in the Seanad.
We do not want to hear a passage from the Bible.
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free".
It is apt that the Senator is quoting from the Bible because the truth will set the people free.
Questions to the Leader, please.
I ask the Leader whether he agrees that the finance Bill reflects the Fianna Fáil Government's legacy of gargantuan tax increases, huge unemployment, thousands of people emigrating and a failed political regime? The party may change its leader or the face on its posters, but it cannot change the policies that have ruined the country and the people.
The Senator's party would not have done anything differently.
The Government stands indicted.
Questions to the Leader, please. What does the Senator want?
Fine Gael could have blocked the finance Bill.
Please allow Senator Buttimer to continue.
I seek a debate——
The Senator will not have time because he will be off canvassing.
The Senator deserves this treatment.
Please allow him to continue.
We never had a moment's peace from that man.
I would be embarrassed by the Senator's record in government.
I am sick of his hypocrisy.
We could have begun the election campaign last Tuesday.
I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate on political appointments to boards in the interregnum before the general election.
Will the Senator come up for it?
Yes, I will.
The Leader will reply to the Senator's questions.
This is an important question. Given that the new leader of Fianna Fáil speaks about bringing to an end cronyism and the appointing of pals, I ask the Leader to examine Deputy Martin's record of appointing friends, cronies and Fianna Fáil supporters to State boards and organisations under his watch.
We are on the Order of Business. I call Senator Hanafin.
Deputy Martin appointed his friends, cronies and Fianna Fáil people to boards.
The Senator is making a serious accusation.
It is a fact.
It is not a fact, I ask the Senator to withdraw it.
I can prove it to the House.
I ask the Senator to withdraw it.
I ask the Senator to withdraw it.
——appointed friends of Fianna Fáil——
——and his friends to State boards.
I ask the Senator to resume his seat.
That is a fact, not a charge.
Do not use the House to do this on our last day.
Will I name the people in question?
No. I ask the Senator to resume his seat. I call Senator Hanafin.
Deputy Martin appointed friends, cronies and Fianna Fáil members to boards.
He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
Why did he not practice what he preached as a Minister?
That sort of behaviour is not appropriate.
On a point of order——
There is no point of order.
——Deputy Martin appointed——
That is not a point of order.
I will name the people concerned.
I will be naming the Senator and asking him to leave the House.
I will name the people concerned.
Does the Senator want to be put out today?
On a point of order, I am stating Deputy Martin appointed former——
The Senator has made his point.
He appointed friends, cronies and members of Fianna Fáil to boards. Why did he not practise what he had preached?
Why is the Senator being so disorderly this morning?
We must have a proper debate about political appointments.
I will ask the Senator to leave the House if he keeps this up.
The tablets are out of date.
The tablets are good.
I support Senator O'Toole's call for a balanced election campaign on foot of the hysterical reaction we have just witnessed to an evident change of fortune for Fianna Fáil. I acknowledge the tireless work the Taoiseach has done for the country. He has put every other——
The Senator should put a question to the Leader.
My question is about the need to have a balanced election campaign. The future of the country is at stake and we should continue to seek social cohesion through equity. That includes balance in the media, of which there appears to be little. The Government has been charged with blowing the benefits of the boom and doing everything wrong. There have been huge increases in public spending. In every debate there were calls from the Opposition for increased spending in every sector and Department. While this was happening, there was no sign from Opposition Members that they were anxious about the property and banking sectors. Fine Gael in its last manifesto even proposed to abolish stamp duty. It did not see this crisis coming, but it claims it knew that it was about to happen and is blaming us for it. We did what was necessary and there is an electoral price to be paid. We put the country first and, at the end of the day, will get the credit for it.
I hope the Minister for Finance will respond constructively to the recommendations the Opposition is proposing to the finance Bill. After all, the Bill will give effect to the very harsh and severe measures in the budget. Thousands of people are out of work and thousands more — people on middle and lower incomes, students and pensioners — are struggling to get by. The reduction in social welfare rates has adversely affected the quality of people's lives and a decision must be made in many households on whether they should pay a utility bill or buy groceries. On that basis, will the Leader ensure, for the sake of the reputation of this House, that the Minister will engage in real debate and look positively and constructively at our recommendations? I sincerely hope the information on the monitors on the potential Dáil sitting tomorrow at 8 p.m. is not simply theatre. I hope we will amend this legislation, that the Minister will engage in real political debate on the issues and that the Dáil will sit tomorrow night to deal with the recommendations we make in this House.
The front page of the The Examiner today carries a story on the increasing incidence of suicide among the elderly, while page 2 of The Irish Times carries the headline “ ‘Growing trend’ of suicide among older people”. How many times have I mentioned this subject in a passionate way? At the Joint Committee on Health and Children I pleaded with the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, to provide for more investment to deal with the issue of suicide. The growing trend of suicide among older people highlighted in both newspapers is put down to isolation which leads to loneliness, sickness and depression. My All Ireland Inspirational Life Award was devised to put the spotlight on the contribution of older people to society. In December in every county on the island an older person was nominated. The pleasure and self-confidence given when older people receive recognition for their contribution to society have to be seen and felt to be believed. I have now taken an initiative to deal with the issue of suicide on the island of Ireland. I am organising a conference in the Holy Cross Monastery at the end of May with the key professors of psychiatry, North and South. I will drive the discussion on the issue of suicide on the island in the same way as I drove the All Ireland Inspirational Life Award.
I will offer a brutal comparison. There was a coroner's report from County Offaly this week and a report today from a coroner in south Kerry, both of which stated older people were isolated. Each one of us has a personal responsibility to help and listen to others, to listen for their silent cry for help. I can put the issue in dramatic form. A total of 525 people died by suicide in the Twenty-six Counties in 2009. A Boeing 747 jet holds 524 people——
A Boeing 747——
Will the Clerk of the Seanad, please, let me make this point? I have been elected.
Senator, there is no one interfering. It is my job. The two minutes available to the Senator are well up.
If a jumbo jet was to crash in this country——
The Senator has made her point. It is both a good and important one.
I am making the point clearly. If a jumbo jet was to crash in this country and 524 people were to be killed, what would be the result?
I call Senator O'Reilly.
A total of 525 people died by suicide in Ireland in 2009.
The Senator has made her point very well.
For God's sake, why are we not doing something about the matter?
I echo my colleagues' remarks of gratitude to the staff for their courtesy to us. While the term is not over, it is appropriate to say this. I also join in the good wishes to colleagues on all sides of the House who will be participating in the forthcoming Dáil and Seanad elections and to those who are retiring.
Before getting to the substance of the remarks I wish to make to the Leader, I join in the extension of good wishes to Deputies Kenny and Noonan in the meetings they will hold with Mr. Barroso which are of huge importance to the future of the country. They will transcend politics and I join Senator Coghlan in wishing the Deputies well. What they are doing is most important from a national perspective and should be validated and supported.
A question for the Leader, please.
Like all colleagues in the House, in the last few days I have been visiting people's homes while canvassing for the election. The single clear reaction I have discerned in every estate and among every socioeconomic group is that there is a demand for fairness. The demand is that until we remove bonuses, prune top salaries, including those in the Oireachtas, get rid of cronyism and cartels, eliminate waste and, most specifically, do away with obscene salaries above acceptance levels in contemporary Ireland, be they in broadcasting or elsewhere, we cannot and should not subject ordinary people to the hardship associated with the universal service charge and all the cuts made. That is the message from every home I have visited. People want fairness. The Leader should convey this message to the top level of Government and it should be incorporated into the Finance Bill. We need action.
Thank you, Senator. I call Senator Ó Murchú.
May I also say to the Leader——
No, the Senator's time is up. I am trying to stop Senators running over time.
The jobs issue requires radical and immediate action. We need a jobs policy.
Last Wednesday I saw in the Visitors Gallery the descendants of the 1916 leaders. One was reminded of the great sacrifice which had been made by these leaders and many other patriots when they sacrificed their personal ambitions for the common good. They also reminded us of the tenacity of the Irish character in overcoming what might have appeared to be insurmountable problems. On that day we were discussing the designation and preservation of the Moore Street area as a national monument. It was nice that during the break the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Finneran, had contacted the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, and then announced to the House that a meeting would be held with the Moore Street committee next Tuesday to find a solution to the current problem. We should learn from this message that, regardless of what difficulties we face today, we are capable of overcoming them.
Last week I received a letter from Mr. Peter Robinson and Mr. Martin McGuinness in which they pointed to the great changes which had taken place in Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement. They asked if we could bring Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann to Derry in 2013 for the city of culture event. This is an indication of the changes that have taken place in Ireland. While the economy will understandably dominate the general election campaign and has dominated much of the debate to date, there is another Ireland which Daniel Corkery might refer to as "The Hidden Ireland" in which people are trying to create jobs, voluntary organisations are enhancing communities and charitable organisations are looking after people who cannot always look after themselves. Individual cases of distress have been brought to the attention of the House, while human rights issues, both at home and abroad, have also been discussed. As we leave the House, it is important that we recall the people who set the example in the past.
Ag an deireadh, gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach, an Ceannaire, na Cléirigh agus gach éinne a chabhraigh linn sa Seanad seo. Is féidir linn go léir a bheith bródúil as an obair atá déanta.
Earlier Senator Alex White suggested that when the House returned, the first item on the agenda should be reform of the Seanad. How will we earn the reputation the House deserves but which we have not earned recently? We do not have to wait until the Seanad returns. The Constitution provides that this Seanad will continue for another 90 days. One of the reasons for the call to abolish the Seanad is that it is too costly. I suggest Senators who do not come to work for the next 90 days should not take their salary. The alternative is that there is work to be done. Can the Leader tell Members that we will continue to work here? I am told that one of the reasons we did not work in the past was that many Senators are out electioneering and do not want to come in here, nor do Ministers. We really cannot accept a criticism like that in the future.
There is a number of Bills to be dealt with. Senator Boyle referred to one of them, namely, the Construction Contracts Bill 2010. That Bill can be passed in this House. As far as I know, there is almost no opposition to it. It will be ready to go. We can hand it over to the new Dáil when it comes back and we do not even have to wait. I urge the Leader to have that meeting sometime next week. There is no reason we should not have it and I believe it will be accepted. It will do two things. It will show that we in the Seanad are still working and it will show the nation that we have legislation that will improve the well-being of many people if we can manage to make it work. It has the support of all sides of the House. This Bill is only one of several that should be passed, and I urge the Leader to find time to do so in the next week or two.
I support Senator Quinn's point. I called for that Bill to be passed two weeks ago. The Bill is essential. Many small contractors are depending on it and I hope the Leader can facilitate the passage of the Bill.
I support the comments made by Senator Mary White in respect of suicide. I alluded to that issue two weeks ago when I spoke about an e-mail I had received. We should commend Senator White on her absolute dedication to this issue. She has been entirely consistent and it is a terrible affliction on the country.
I also welcome Senator Ó Murchú's comments on Nos. 14-16 Moore Street. It is essential it is retained.
I bring the Leader's attention to a report about a couple in Australia who have three sons and who are looking for a daughter through IVF. When the lady was pregnant with twins, she aborted them in order that she could get further treatment. She is now going through the courts to see if she can select the gender of the child. I put that with the report by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which is part of the abortion industry in the US. Last year, they accounted for the deaths of 324,000 babies in America, from a total of 1.21 million babies who died at the hands of abortionists in that period. It is horrendous that this is happening. Abortion is "one of the gravest and most egregious abuses of human rights that human society has ever tolerated." I take that quotation from Lord Nicholas Windsor, who was the first male member of his family to convert to Catholicism. While I am speaking about that, given that we are in the dying days——
Is the Senator looking for a debate?
——and given what might happen later this year, I believe the House should look for the repeal of the Act of Settlement 1701. The island has suffered much due to sectarianism. I call upon the Leader to convey to those in authority that we should move towards having a referendum on the various European court decisions and the recent Supreme Court decisions. It is untenable that the leader of the Fine Gael Party and the leader of the Labour Party would both want to deny the public a referendum as they proceed to legislation for abortion that will effectively be on demand.
It is unacceptable. I want to raise my voice in opposition to it.
The Senator has made his point.
I know there are many people in this House from all parties who would concur with that view.
When Senator Walsh mentioned the British aristocracy, I thought he was going to talk about the Sinn Féin candidate for Louth. I am very glad he mentioned Lord Nicholas Windsor, who is an eloquent advocate of the need to protect the dignity of human life at all stages from conception to natural death. By raising this very important issue today, Senator Walsh highlights the Seanad working at its best. In thanking the Cathaoirleach, the officials and colleagues for many thoughtful interventions and comments that have contributed to the life of the Seanad in recent years, it is appropriate that we note that there have been high points in the Seanad. Examples include Senator White's speech today about the importance of the issue of suicide and the need for us to keep the focus on it, and Senator Walsh advocating eloquently for the dignity of human life, especially unborn life.
These are issues that are not often or properly ventilated in the media, especially the latter issue. There was an absolutely barbaric case about the activities of one abortionist in America last week who, in addition to killing many late-term unborn children, also killed at least one woman involved. It was interesting to note that it featured on almost every news channel, but I did not see it on RTE. Time and again, there has been a failure in the Irish media to tell the full truth about a range of issues and there has been a suffocating political correctness. On that issue at least, the Seanad has shone on occasions, thanks in no small part to people like Senators Walsh, Hanafin, Ó Murchú, Bradford, Coghlan and others.
There have been disappointments as well. Senators Quinn and Ross are absolutely right to point to the fact that we should continue to function while we are drawing salaries as Seanadóirí over the next couple of months. There have been many missed opportunities, such as our failure to press for Seanad reform, the opportunities missed by not sitting, the guillotining of Bills when it suited the Government's agenda or press conferences being held on the plinth, and the faltering approach to the investigation of complaints against our colleagues. These have been low points.
Questions to the Leader, please, not political speeches.
Above all, I want to ask the Leader the following question.
Is it not the case that the real failure was that time and again, Seanadóirí failed to stand up for the privileges of the Seanad? They failed to stand up to party leaders. The next Seanad must seek to be radical rather than redundant.
Senator Mullen, please.
It must seek to be independent rather than redundant.
I call on the Leader to reply to the Order of Business.
We will not be well served by a future Seanad composed of members of the governing parties who seek only to do the wishes of the rulers of those parties.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, Boyle, Coghlan, Leyden, Ross, Callely, Buttimer, Hanafin, McCarthy, O'Reilly, Ó Murchú and Mullen all expressed their views on topics about which they feel very strongly. Second Stage of the Finance Bill 2011 will take place immediately after the Order of Business. The Minister for Finance is now ready to commence with it.
I congratulate the new leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, on becoming the eighth leader of the party since 1926. I wish him well. I worked very closely with him around the world when he was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and when I was chairman of the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business. He certainly has great experience. He is a person really determined to make a change and to make his mark. We all wish him well in his task. I also congratulate the Taoiseach who had the job during what was the toughest time since 1930. The decisions he has made were the correct ones. They had to be taken in the national interest. In years to come, I hope the incoming Government will bear fruit from all those difficult decisions taken under his stewardship. I wish him, his wife, Mary, and their family health and happiness. I look forward to our friendship for many years to come.
Some colleagues called for a balanced election campaign. The campaign for the leadership of Fianna Fáil was a shining example of balanced election campaigning. It was an uplifting experience. I have been around for quite a while. I have seen a few different leadership contests and I can say that this is a new beginning in politics. I hope that the general election will follow suit in the same way——
Did the Leader have a vote?
——and that all parties will take it into account.
I join colleagues in thanking you, a Chathaoirligh, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Burke, the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant, Deirdre and Jody, and all the team around them who make the Seanad so efficient and work so well. I thank the Captain of the Guard, John, and all his staff, the Superintendent and the press, including Mr. Jimmy Walsh and all the team on "Oireachtas Report", for all they have done for the Seanad. I wish everyone well. Standing for election, be it for the Dáil or the Seanad, is certainly a challenge. It takes someone with great courage to put their name on a ballot paper and go before the people for their approval. I wish everyone well and thank everyone for their co-operation, friendship and, most importantly, their contributions, from the party leaders who met with me every Tuesday to the Whips, and our Government Whip in particular, Senator Wilson, and his assistant, Senator Glynn. I thank all colleagues who helped in any way to make this Seanad the success it was.
The debates on only three Bills were guillotined, one of which is the Bill before us today, but it is an all-party decision that this would be the case. As is clear on the Order Paper, everyone is getting ample time, two full days, to debate it. I thank colleagues for their support in that regard.
Senators O'Toole and Coghlan raised the issue of Aer Lingus. I wish everyone well in their deliberations. It is good to have a job in Ireland at the present time and in terms of the hard-working dedicated staff who have flown the flag for Aer Lingus around the world and have been terrific ambassadors, I hope that all their problems, with the understanding of management, can come to a successful conclusion.
Senator Mary White raised the issue of health services and the increases in health charges. There is a serious job in regard to health charges. Aviva, VHI, Quinn Insurance and all those companies are giving cover but there is a huge saving to be achieved in terms of the costs being charged. The former Minister, Deputy Harney, started to address that and was successful in reducing the cost of drugs and medication. I am on a particular medication. The container costs €43 which lasts for three weeks but one particular hospital unit in Ireland is charging €147 for that same container. That is outrageous when we have poor people out of work and looking to keep their families. This carry-on must not be allowed to continue.
It is a pity the Senator's party was not in government for 13 years.
I only found out about it this morning but I will pass this information——
It is a pity he was not in Government.
Senator, please allow the Leader reply to the questions raised on the Order of Business.
I will pass on this information. I am always open in this regard.
The Senator could have taken on the industry in terms of generic drugs.
I have no hidden agenda. Senator Buttimer and his cronies will have an opportunity to deal with this afterwards.
It is a pity the Senator was not in government.
Senator Buttimer will find a change if he ever gets into the Dáil. He will meet his match in that House. They will not be as tolerant in that House as they arehere.
Why did the Senator's party not bring it in?
Senators Boyle, Quinn and Walsh referred to the Construction Contracts Bill. I will examine that matter and see if we can have that Bill passed in the lifetime of the 27th Seanad. It is only fair and right. We all support Senator Quinn in this House. It is not a contentious issue. Second Stage has been concluded. The Minister for Finance has done everything he possibly can. Senator Quinn met the Attorney General and his team. I will see how I can get the Bill through this House for the new Government's deliberations. I ask colleagues on the other side of the House who may be in government to do the same. I know Senator Quinn has their full support also.
Senator Coghlan raised the issue of the tourism industry report published yesterday and referred to the hope that 20,000 jobs can be created in the coming years. The industry is going through an extremely difficult time. There are sections in the Bill before the House today that could create difficulties but I welcome the report and congratulate Mr. McKeown and everyone who worked so hard to get it published yesterday.
Senator Callely called for a review of human rights in Ireland and the conference that is taking place on the issue. I take note of the Senator's support for human rights.
Senator Buttimer called for a debate on appointments to boards, which is timely. The example of the last Fine Gael Government, which appointed 148 of its cronies to all these boards in the three weeks before the change of Government, did not do much to help it either.
What year was that?
What about the former Minister, Deputy Martin, in his ministerial position, appointing——
Hindsight is wonderful.
The Senator is right. I am saying——
Minister Martin appointees.
Senator Buttimer is right in the main in his comment.
Thank you. I am right. The Senator's new leader——
Please, no interruptions.
I think that issue has been addressed already. It is true that Fine Gael——
The Senator's new leader does not——
At least we know where he is. Where is Enda?
He is in Brussels with President Barroso.
——abolished it in its manifesto for the last general election.
Senator Mary White again outlined to the House her serious concerns regarding the 525 people who unfortunately lost their lives through suicide in 2009. She referred to depression among older people in our society and the various challenges facing society. I acknowledge once again the great work being done by Senator Mary White in this area. My parliamentary assistant in Westmeath, Robert Troy, is the chairperson of the suicide committee in County Westmeath. I wish him well in his plight and all the work he is doing for the people in our county in the Midlands. I fully support Senator White in her fight in that regard.
Senator Ó Murchú spoke about the experience of all Members of the House with the relatives of the men and women of 1916, who were with us in the Visitors Gallery last Wednesday evening, and their fight for the national monument in the Moore Street area. We must recognise also that Pádraig Pearse's sister was a Fianna Fáil Senator in this House. We are grateful to the Taoiseach and the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Finneran, who arranged a deputation whereby the committee will meet with the Taoiseach next Tuesday. I thank Senator Ó Murchú for bringing all of this to fruition because it was he who asked for time on the floor of the House.
It is a terrific suggestion and proposal. I know Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, under the stewardship of Senator Ó Murchú, will seriously consider having the fleadh in Derry in 2013, the year in which it has been awarded the European City of Culture. I wish everyone involved success with that proposal.
Senators Walsh and Mullen referred to the Australian report which has been outlined to the House. Senator Walsh once again expressed his strong stance on abortion issues, for which he must be admired.