It is proposed to take No. 1, motion re the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the Committee on Members' Interests of Seanad Éireann, to be taken without debate; No. 2, motion re the recommendation of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges that Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, be invited to address Seanad Éireann on 12 July 2011, to be taken without debate; No. 3, Foreshore (Amendment) Bill 2011 — all Stages, to commence at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 2.30 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons during the debate on Second Stage not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; No. 4, Defence (Amendment) Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 3 p.m. and conclude at 5 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 4.55 p.m.; No. 5, Private Members' business, Registration of Wills Bill 2011 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m.; and No. 6, motion re the earlier signature of the Foreshore (Amendment) Bill 2011, to be taken without debate on receipt of a message from Dáil Éireann regarding the passage of the Bill. Business will be interrupted between 2.30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Order of Business
Yesterday, we discussed the independent review group's ratification of the previous Government's decision to proceed with the new national children's hospital on the Mater Hospital site. I am pleased that the Cabinet has agreed with the decision of the independent review group and has decided to proceed towards seeking planning permission, with minor alterations to it. Yesterday, I asked the Leader to ask the Government for a commitment to proceed with the project, one way or the other. In a statement yesterday, the Minister for Health said the project would be considered as part of the review of the capital programme.
The previous CEO of the HSE confirmed that €450 million has been ring-fenced for this project under the four year plan, which is agreed. Therefore, €450 million in capital funding is available. Yesterday, Senator Bacik said there will also be some private investment. It is crucially important to give certainty. No private investment or philanthropic donation will be forthcoming without certainty from Government that the project will proceed.
The Government has said the capital programme is being reviewed, which is the Government's right, and that decisions will be made in September. This House will rise at the end of the month and the Dáil will rise a week sooner. We have not had an opportunity to discuss the national development plan or crucial matters such as the national children's hospital. I seek assurance from the Minister for Health that the €450 million is ring-fenced in the four year plan, which is part of the troika deal. This has been confirmed and I ask the Government to confirm that the money is there. The Government should not use the capital programme review to delay this project. Government cannot simply review everything. It must begin to make decisions.
This is not simply a matter of building the national children's hospital. The merger of the three existing hospitals, and their management structures, must begin immediately. If the Government proceeds with the project, which I hope it does, and the hospital is built by 2015, preparatory work on the management of the new hospital must start now. The Government needs to tell the three existing hospitals that the project is proceeding and that they need to move very quickly towards starting to merge their own functions and to prepare themselves to move into the new children's hospital in 2015.
The Government needs to confirm that the €450 million is in place and to stop hiding behind the review. The House needs an opportunity to discuss the Government review of the capital programme in general terms. It will be too late to raise this matter again in September, when decisions have been made. It is important that the House has a say in this.
Yesterday, Senator Norris raised the issue of servicing the children's hospital site by public transport and particularly by metro north, which is another project that has been kicked into review. We are told a choice must be made between metro north, the DART interconnector and the connection of the Luas lines, which is completely different from what was said in the run-up to the general election. The capital programme needs to be discussed in the House before decisions are taken.
I welcome the announcement that Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament, will address the Seanad next Tuesday. That will be an auspicious occasion. Group leaders will have a chance to ask Mr. Buzek questions and there will be an interaction with him on the floor of the House. That is an important announcement.
In the context of what Senator O'Brien said, I call for a debate on the redress scheme and, in particular, on the shortfall identified by the Minister for Education and Skills. He has pointed out that the religious congregations are more than €300 million short of paying their fair share of the enormous cost of the scheme to the victims and survivors of abuse in industrial schools and other institutions. The scheme has cost €1.36 billion to date but the religious congregations have paid only one quarter of what is due. There were serious concerns about the indemnity deal done in the dying days of the outgoing Government in 2002 but it is clear now that what has been offered by the religious orders falls far short of what is needed by the State.
We will debate the funding for the national children's hospital. For example, the religious congregations could clearly offer money or land toward paying their share of the indemnity deal in the context of this hospital. That has been signalled by the Minister. A number of congregations made good money from the sale of property some years ago.
I seek a debate on the revelations that the tabloid newspaper, theNews of the World, was in the business of hacking the telephones not only of celebrities but also of the teenage murder victim, Milly Dowler, and the families of the victims of the London bombings in July 2005. These are appalling and shocking revelations. I commend reports that Aer Lingus and other companies are pulling advertisements from the newspaper as a result. I call on those who read or buy the newspaper in Ireland to boycott it in light of these revelations.
I am boycotting it.
I have never bought it in my life.
It beggars belief that a newspaper could do this. It is the most disgusting thing I have read in some time. TheNews of the World boasts that it is one of Ireland’s biggest selling Sunday tabloids. It has a circulation of more than 130,000 copies and a readership in excess of 500,000 in Ireland. Those readers should vote with their feet and not buy this newspaper in light of these shocking revelations.
I refer to yesterday's debate on the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and the apparent need to conclude Committee Stage yesterday. It is reported in today's edition ofThe Irish Times that the Taoiseach’s nominees, Senator van Turnhout and I, voted with the Opposition in a division on the passing of Committee Stage. That is one way of interpreting what we did. However, I discussed this with my colleague and the meaning of what we did was to vote in favour of the significance and crucial importance of the Seanad and its primary role in scrutinising legislation.
Senators van Turnhout, Barrett and I could not discuss our amendments as well as another Fianna Fáil amendment because Committee Stage was cut short. I believe in the critical role of the Seanad, especially its role in scrutinising legislation and the additional scrutiny we can provide and, because of this, I prepared carefully for this amendment, which was the first I had tabled in the House, with legal research and opinion to support it and with the intention of raising two additional matters on Committee Stage that could have been the subject of amendments on Report Stage. Senator Barrett had also prepared carefully. We have managed to table our amendments on Thursday but without the benefit of an exchange with the Minister. I understand that we can only speak once on Report Stage under Standing Orders and, therefore, I am taken aback.
While I appreciate we must have rules and procedures and that it may be necessary to rush legislation at times, I do not understand the reason for the rush with this legislation. Was it necessary in light of my commitment as a Senator and law maker to carefully scrutinise legislation?
Some of my contribution will echo what Senator Zappone said. Today, the Troika is here. One of the key parts of the agreement of 1 December last is an examination of the costs of doing business in sheltered sectors in Ireland, including legal costs. That is what we were trying to debate yesterday in our amendments before they were guillotined. The cost of doing business in Ireland report of last June stated that legal costs have not responded significantly to the recession. They had increased by 19.9% since 2006 and they are high by international standards. A key element in the restraint of such costs is the Taxing Master. The Minister wishes to provide for a non-renewable five-year term for this post. This will weaken the position of the person who controls costs, which are a serious problem.
The alternative is to use the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994. Flynn and Halpin, the authors of a research paper on costs incurred under the Act, say it, curiously, does not define "excessive" when it comes to deciding what legal fees are excessive. The Minister for Justice and Equality has underestimated the extent of this problem and he should not undermine the role of the Taxing Master.
Will the Leader impress again on Ministers the unintended consequences of guillotining legislation? This is not about the ego of Senators; it is about the damage being done to the country. Yesterday's debate should not have been curtailed because there were serious issues to raise. The Minister proposes to lower the retirement age from 70 to 65 while retaining 70 as the retirement age for judges. All the evidence, including the TILDA report, which the Government commissioned, suggests we are entering an era of later rather than earlier retirement. The Minister did not know that later retirement is part of the IMF-EU-ECB agreement and he did not address the issue of excessive legal costs. He proposes to undermine the officer whose job is to deal with these excessive costs, which are a burden on the economy.
That was a serious mistake to make on the eve of the Troika's visit to check progress on the bailout agreement. Will the Leader impress on Ministers that they must attend the House to debate and there are huge unintended consequences when they scarper off before the business has been completed, as happened yesterday?
I beg the Cathaoirleach's indulgence regarding bondholders. We have a pyromaniac in the Dáil who stands up every second day and calls on the Government to burn the bondholders, namely, Deputy Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin.
That is completely out of order.
Not one bit. If the Cathaoirleach bears with me, I will explain. Every second day, we have to listen Deputy Doherty talking about burning the bondholders.
What happens in the other House is completely irrelevant.
I am glad the Senator is listening; I hope he acts as well.
Is Deputy Doherty aware of who are the bondholders?
Yesterday, the Irish Life & Permanent ten-year bonds issued only to credit unions by Davy Stockbrokers in 2008 were bought back.
The Senator knows they represent a small percentage of the bondholders.
Senator Sheahan, without interruption.
He is out of order anyway. He should not be discussing another Deputy——
Senator Sheahan, without interruption.
In September 2008, they were only sold to credit unionsin lieu of perpetual bonds as part of a compensation deal by Davy stockbrokers and they were bought back yesterday. A process was set in train by the former Minister for Finance to tender for those bonds to be bought back with only 20% of their value to be paid. Of the 109 credit unions that have €54.6 million invested in these bonds, only 59 voted to accept the 20% buy back proposal.
Has the Senator a question for the Leader?
A total of 43 credit unions, which had made a total investment of €23.179 million in the bonds, did not accept it. Under the proposal, they will now receive €1 for every €1,000. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Finance to come to the House in order that he does not proceed with this because every credit union in the country will be brought to its knees? Perhaps Deputy Doherty should speak to the staff of the credit unions in Ballybofey, Bundoran and Donegal towns because he wants to bring those credit unison to their knees. Will the Minister for Finance pay 20% of the value of the bonds to the credit unions that voted against the proposal?
I congratulate the Leader and the CPP on next week's invitation to the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek. It is a positive move on the part of the Leader.
I concur with the remarks of Senators Zappone and Barrett on yesterday's proceedings. We pushed for a walk-through vote because certain amendments were not taken. I understand the use of the guillotine but it is early in the session and we could have sat late last night to deal with the matter.
I draw attention to the Defence (Amendment) Bill which is before the House today. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business on the basis that the Bill is again being rushed through. I object to the taking of Committee and Report Stages of the Bill tomorrow. For those who have not studied the Bill, it is an attempt to amend law in existence since 1952 to ensure that a particular military person is appointed a military judge. That is the prime reason for it. The same Bill was introduced by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern. When an objection was made to the change, the Minister dropped the Bill which has constitutional implications. The Bill is most serious because one must have ten years experience practising as a barrister or solicitor in order to be appointed as a judge in civil or criminal law. The Bill does away with that requirement as far as the military courts are concerned. Military courts cannot be considered independently from other courts because there is also the right under the Constitution to have recourse to the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Does the Senator's question relate to the Defence (Amendment) Bill?
Yes. The reason I ask——
The Bill is only ordered for Second Stage today.
Yes, but I highlight the issue because it might be too late tomorrow as the same thing that happened yesterday could occur today. I ask the Leader——
It is not possible to move an amendment.
I ask the Leader to give a commitment. I understand what you are saying, a Chathaoirligh, but tomorrow morning would be too late because the Minister will be prepared. I seek a commitment from the Leader that Committee and Report Stages will not be taken tomorrow but would be taken next week, which would provide space for the preparation of amendments that I wish in particular to table.
The Bill has ramifications. It is like mutton dressed up as lamb. Its implications go far beyond what is apparent in the Bill and I am deeply concerned about it. The Bill has a fundamental flaw. It is designed primarily to suit one particular individual, which is fundamentally wrong. It also has constitutional ramifications. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Leader would give a commitment today that the——
Senator O'Donovan cannot propose an amendment of that nature to the Order of Business because it is only Second Stage that is ordered for today.
If the Leader can give me a commitment that Committee and Report Stages will not be taken tomorrow, I will withdraw my amendment but if he cannot I will push it to a vote.
That is a matter for the House to decide.
Senator Bacik alluded to the disturbing reports from the UK about the alleged hacking of people's telephones by reporters. I have no doubt we are probably inviting the wrath of theNews of the World on our heads by raising the issue. It is a powerful media outlet. If the reports are true, it is appalling that the privacy of bereaved people has been breached in addition to the integrity of police investigations being compromised. The newspaper has wide circulation in this country. It boasts that it is the most widely circulated newspaper. It is of concern that if such low ethical journalistic standards pertain in the UK, as media commentators have suggested, the practice might occur in this country as well.
Senator Bacik rightly called on people to stop buying the newspaper. In the UK some blue chip companies have withdrawn their advertising from the newspaper. I wish to go one step further in asking the Leader to liaise with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to ascertain whether the practice has occurred or is occurring in this country. I understand that before action can be taken a complaint must be made. However, given the seriousness of the situation, I do not believe we can wait until such a complaint is made. There are voluntary codes of practice among the media in this country and perhaps the Minister might explore them to see whether the practice is occurring.
I agree with what was said by Senators Bacik and O'Donovan. I congratulate the CPP on the recommendation to invite Mr. Jerzy Buzek to the Seanad next week. It is an excellent opportunity for the Seanad to engage with a senior politician from the European Parliament but I also welcome the fact that group leaders have an opportunity to ask questions and to engage with him.
On that note I wish to ask the Leader whether progress has been made in the CPP on the Private Members' motion passed in the House three weeks ago. In light of the commitment in the programme for Government to overhaul the way politics and government works, the House unanimously put in place arrangements to engage directly with well-informed citizens and to invite them to the floor of the Seanad on a case-by-case basis. The Leader said in a statement that the Seanad must "reform or die" so I know he is keen. Could he outline the progress that has been made at the CPP and whether we will have an appropriate leader of civil society in the House? July is a long month. For the first time in 823 years, it has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. I look forward to seeing a member of civil society in the House before we rise for the summer.
Following on from what Senator Tom Sheahan said, there was a postman in Haggardstown one Christmas who got fed up and burned his three sacks of mail. He thought that would solve his problems and he went to the pub, but it created more problems.
Senator Barrett indicated that the troika — the three wise men — are visiting us again. We must again address the bailout because leadership from Europe is required. The Government is providing leadership. We are meeting our targets and we are no longer the whipping boys of Europe. We are showing how it can be done. We are in a better negotiating position and what we need now is leadership from Europe based on the Lisbon treaty, not on what certain politician in Europe think. Those of us in the centre who voted for the Lisbon treaty mark II, including my colleagues across the floor, will feel betrayed if we do not get the leadership required. I cannot see how money costing 2.9% should cost us 5.9%. I ask the Leader to inform the Minister for Finance that we all support him in his negotiating position.
I am also very pleased that the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, will address us next week. However, it seems to me that this is one of those occasions when we have got unnecessarily hamstrung in our own traditions and procedures. It is quite clear to me that someone of that standing should address a joint sitting of both Houses in Dáil Éireann. One only has to look at the Gallery to see how few Members of the Dáil we would be able to accommodate for the presentation. Mr. Buzek will not address the Dáil, but I understand he will meet the Joint Committee on European Affairs. When I raised the issue of whether it would be more appropriate for Mr. Buzek to address the Houses jointly, I was told that it was the tradition that such people would come to the Seanad, that previous Presidents of the European Parliament had done so and that normally the only people who addressed the Dáil were Heads of State. I am not interested in tradition. I am interested in doing what is appropriate. Given the challenges facing this country and the delicacy, sensitivity and importance of our European relationships, Mr. Buzek should address Deputies and Senators sitting jointly. The obvious place for that to happen is in Dáil Éireann.
Senator Bacik referred to the religious orders needing to pay their fair share of the cost of redress.
She also noted how some of the congregations had made a good deal of money from the sale of properties in the past. That latter point may very well be true, but what is regrettable here is the obvious breakdown in communications between the religious orders involved and the State. There is blame on both sides. The State is guilty of megaphone diplomacy. Even references to their "fair share" suggested that some agreement had been made to a 50-50 division. One could make all sorts of arguments about whether that is the right or wrong apportionment. Clearly the religious orders are failing completely in their communications about this issue. There is a major lack of information. However, I would like to hear people such as Senator Bacik and others acknowledge that in the past there were also occasions on which properties were sold or given away at considerably below their market value in order to facilitate good things in the community. That must be part of the accounting also. I have a personal interest in this as I am a trustee of over 112 secondary schools, some of which trusteeships have come from some of the religious orders in question. It is quite inappropriate to link in the issue of schools, which are there for the good of the community and supported by their communities, with the issue of the ongoing debate between the State and the religious orders about what is an appropriate contribution for them to make. The State executed a deal with the religious orders——
——and now it wants to go back on it. It may well have a strong point, but it looks as though megaphone diplomacy is taking us nowhere.
I also welcome the visit by the President of the European Parliament. I had the privilege of sitting beside him for two years in the European Parliament where, as people may not be aware, we sit in alphabetical order. As a former Prime Minister of Poland, he is very well qualified to hold the role of President.
The issue I wish to raise comes under the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality, although it is not covered by the Bill currently going through the House. I refer to newspaper advertisements offering cash for gold. I understand the Garda has serious concerns because people are turning up and cashing in jewellery without being required to produce any identification. No records are being kept. These items are melted down and the gold taken out of the country with no effort to find out where it came from, where it is going to or who is receiving cash for it. There is no legislation requiring registration for people who are taking in these items or jewellery. Many gardaí have stated that items stolen in house break-ins have been sold for cash within 24 hours. I ask that the Minister come to the House and explain to us his proposals to implement a proper registration process, so that the people who are putting up these advertisements are registered, that there is a code of practice to ensure that those bringing in items for sale must produce photo identification and that a clear record is kept of every item bought. I ask that this be given priority.
I join with previous speakers in welcoming the announcement that the President of the European Parliament will address this House next week. Senator Bacik mentioned that group leaders would be able to make statements on the day. I seek clarification on this. While Sinn Féin is not a formal group in this House, on an occasion as auspicious as this, the Sinn Féin Party should have an opportunity to make an address.
I welcome the fact that Senators Sheahan and D'Arcy are listening to Deputy Pearse Doherty and the call from my party to burn the bondholders. The burden on this State of billions of euro which is being borrowed from the IMF and the European Central Bank to pay back bondholders is a noose around the necks of taxpayers. In one of the exchanges yesterday of which Senator Sheahan spoke, the Minister for Finance admitted that the true cost of the bailout — the profit that will be made by our so-called friends in Europe — will be €10 billion over the lifetime of the loans. The Minister also acknowledged that there would be cuts in expenditure of up to €4 billion next year. We also had the announcement of the closure of the accident and emergency services in Roscommon. Money is being taken out of public services and from the pockets of low-paid families and workers, yet we are paying billions of euro in profit to our so-called European partners, who are our friends. I remind the Fine Gael Party that although it gave a clear pre-election pledge that it would work with its partners in the European People's Party in the European Parliament to secure a renegotiation of the bailout deal, that has not happened. So much for having friends in high places in Europe. If that is how our friends treat us, how would our enemies treat us?
Sinn Féin is burning its friends in the credit unions.
We are absolutely not. I am asking for a debate——
Senator Cullinane, without interruption.
Every credit union member in the country is suffering.
I am proud of the fact that Sinn Féin is the only political party that is standing up for the taxpayers of this country, who are being asked unfairly to shoulder the burden——
What about the credit unions?
Senator Cullinane, do you have a question for the Leader?
The Senator obviously does not know who these people are.
My question to the Leader is this. We should have a debate about the terms of the bailout deal, and the Minister for Finance should come to the House to discuss not just the terms of the deal but also the commitments his party gave before the election, which have not been fulfilled.
He obviously does not know who the bondholders are.
I must raise the fact that the Fianna Fáil Party has tabled a motion before the House——
Does the Senator have a question for the Leader? He is out of time. He cannot raise five or six questions on the Order of Business.
A motion has been tabled by the Fianna Fáil Party about the closure of accident and emergency services at Roscommon County Hospital, despite the fact that that party closed accident and emergency services in other parts of this country.
Senator, do you have a question for the Leader?
This is another example of populism by the Fianna Fáil Party.
I commend the Leader for arranging for the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Buzek, to come before the House next week, which is important in light of Europe's ever-increasing role in the workings of Ireland. How will this session be conducted? Will it simply be a presentation by the President or will there be an opportunity for Members of the House to engage in a question and answer session with him? This is important in view of the questions that are emerging here every day and the importance of Europe in the day-to-day running of our lives.
I am uncomfortable with how some of the business of the House has been run of late. I am worried that we will close ourselves down by rushing through legislation.
Hear, hear. Well said.
Physician, heal thyself.
I fully accept that time is precious and that at times legislation must be rushed because of deadlines. However, it is important that people who go to the trouble of tabling amendments, putting thought into it with a view to advancing the legislation and making it more effective for the people of this country are, where possible, given time to discuss them. I know that one Member of the House spent the entire weekend reading a book with a view to contributing to yesterday's discussion but was not given a chance to do so. We all want to see the House working more effectively. Let us work together to ensure——
My question is implicit in what I am saying. I would like a response from the Leader.
I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator O'Donovan. With regard to the point made by Senator Healy Eames, with respect, there is a simple solution. All she needs to do is to vote on what we proposed yesterday.
The Senator cannot second the amendment proposed by Senator O'Donovan because it is not an amendment.
We are only taking Second Stage of the Bill today. Thus, Senator O'Donovan's proposal is not an amendment and it cannot be seconded.
Thank you for your ruling, a Chathaoirligh.
In the context of the contribution by Senator Zappone, we on this side of the House welcomed the decision by the Senator, along with the leader of the Independent Group, Senator van Turnhout, to oppose the guillotining of the Bill. It occurred to me that the combined vote on this side of the House, coupled with the seven members of the Independent Group, would put the Government under severe pressure. In fact, the chances are that we would win the vote. While it is welcome that two Members of the seven voted with the Opposition, I put it up to the other five that when this situation arises again they might consider themselves as truly independent and not support the Government on every issue.
Members on the opposite side claim public expenditure targets have been met. Despite Exchequer returns at the end of June meeting those targets, one will note when one looks at them in more detail that public expenditure is being reduced while current day-to-day spending is increasing. Will the Leader ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to attend the House at the earliest opportunity, and certainly when the spending review has been completed, to indicate which parts of the country will not receive roads funding? It is inevitable that under the capital programme, funds for improvements to the county and secondary road network, which are in bad state as a result of recent winters, will be hit badly in the budget. The Minister for Finance reinforced this view when he said it would be a difficult budget for next year. These cuts will hit rural areas hard, apart from the major projects to which Senator Darragh O'Brien referred. It would be in the interests of the House and local authorities if the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government indicated here what are his plans to ring-fence expenditure for the improvement works for secondary and local roads.
I join with other Senators in condemning what is going on at theNews of the World. Given the issues of ethical journalism that arise, will the Leader ask Ministers to ensure no State agency uses public moneys to advertise with this publication? I also appeal to the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to do the decent thing and end his cosy little arrangement with the News of the World.
He has already brought enough embarrassment to this country by jumping in and out of cupboards to promote his desperate little column in the newspaper.
This is not relevant to the Order of Business.
I appeal to him to do the decent thing in light of the recent revelations about the newspaper across the water and end his cosy little arrangement with it.
I deplore the use of the guillotine when dealing with legislation. This is not the first time it has been used; it is becoming a regular feature in this Chamber. I had great hopes of the new Administration but it is now beginning to exhibit all the very traits it so stringently commented upon when in Opposition.
This morning we learned the Defence (Amendment) Bill proposes to institute a particular person. This is a disgraceful abuse of legislation and should be exposed. My friends and colleagues on the other side of the House supported me when I objected to a similar disgraceful move with the immigration and naturalisation Bill. Can we please have the standards they adhered to then and advertised during the general election? We on this side of the House will certainly hold Members opposite to these standards, just as we held the previous Government.
This is our opportunity to save Seanad Éireann but some Members continue to behave in this shabby way. With its overwhelming majority, there are great temptations for the Government which could lead to arrogance. I would be very sad if my friends on the opposite side of the House started to behave in such a way. It is an early opportunity for us to serve them a little bit of a warning, therefore.
There have been a series of good articles in theIrish Examiner detailing enormous property transactions involving religious orders in the redress scheme. Many of these orders clearly made some use, as they were entitled to, of the property bubble. However, even the meagre amounts of compensation set down in the Woods deal have not been met by these same orders. It is most regrettable. The victims of clerical abuse should be of the primary concern of all involved. I welcome that Senator Martin McAleese has been appointed chair of the investigation into the Magdalen laundries. The survivors of a similar institution, the Protestant-run Bethany Home, like the Magdalen survivors, have been excluded from redress. Will Senator McAleese examine the possibility of including them?
I was astonished to learn Senator Rónán Mullen is the trustee of 120 schools. I would be interested if he could give us further information on this. I have been a trustee for a small number of groups and charities but they never amounted to more than four at a time because of the question of proper guardianship. I am sure there is an explanation but to be trustee of 120 schools seems a little excessive.
Senator Norris should not underestimate my capacity.
I welcome the proposal by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, to strengthen the legislation concerning the taking of blood samples at serious road traffic accidents. While all welcome every effort being made by the Minister and the Road Safety Authority to reduce the number of road traffic casualties, the existing legislation in this area does not go far enough. Will the Leader invite the Minister to the House for a debate on how collectively we could contribute to and strengthen the legislation? I compliment the Road Safety Authority on the great work it has done to reduce road traffic casualties. However, any life lost on our road is one too many. We were all very sorry to read this morning of the loss of two lives of visitors to our country on the roads in County Galway.
Will the Leader follow up on my request to bring the Attorney General to the House under Standing Order 56? When I made it several weeks ago, the Taoiseach later also raised concerns about the way NAMA was selling property. Given the enormous sums of money involved in the NAMA portfolio and the concerns that I have raised about how it is selling properties back to developers, it is important the Attorney General explains to the House if NAMA is in breach of the sale of State assets as set out in the NAMA legislation. If that is the case, the Attorney General should instruct NAMA to follow the law as passed by this House and the Dáil.
I am surprised Senator Mark Daly continues to misrepresent the Taoiseach's position on NAMA.
On a point of order, I am not misrepresenting the Taoiseach. I am simply repeating what he said himself.
I did not interrupt Senator Mark Daly.
Senator Paul Coghlan, without interruption.
The Taoiseach raised concerns about NAMA and Senator Paul Coghlan should bring it up at the next Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.
Senator Mark Daly, you have had your opportunity to speak. Senator Paul Coghlan, without interruption.
We look forward to hearing from Members on the opposite side when they introduce their own legislation on NAMA. The situation on it has been clarified already. For the benefit of some Members, several members from NAMA will attend Leinster House today and several of us will meet them. The categorical assurances given on this matter have been accepted. When those Members opposite present their NAMA Bill——
The Senator can make those points then.
Senator Mark Daly continues, however, to misrepresent the situation.
Senator Daly should resume his seat.
If Senator Paul Coghlan is going to state——
The Senator misrepresented it——
When representatives from NAMA came before a meeting of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party——
It is very simple. Senator Daly should either put up or shut up.
Senator Paul Coghlan then asked——
Senator Daly already had his opportunity to contribute to the Order of Business. He should respect the Chair and resume his seat.
Senator Paul Coghlan did not sit down.
That is because he was in possession. Senator Daly had already spoken.
I was on my feet. I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
When the Senator sits down, I will also sit down.
The principal purpose of this House is to legislate. That is what we did last evening when we debated Committee State of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011. We had a very interesting discussion during the Second Stage debate on the Bill, particularly in the context of bankruptcy. We were in the middle of the discussion on Committee Stage when the Minister was cut off in mid-sentence. This occurred because the Leader proposed, and the House agreed, that a guillotine would apply. In the 18 years that I have been a Member of the House, there have been very few guillotines. In recent weeks, however, they have suddenly reappeared. Those who are imposing them are the very individuals who objected on the few occasions when guillotines were applied in the past.
If our purpose is to legislate, then a guillotine should not have been applied last evening. I am incensed because some of the amendments tabled by Senators Zappone and Barrett — who did a great deal of work in respect of them — were not even reached. As Senator Zappone outlined earlier, Members will only be allowed to speak once on each amendment on Report Stage. If there is a danger to the existence of the House in the future, then it has been brought about by the actions of the House itself. We must be careful to avoid creating further threats in that regard.
I am a mild-mannered man and I do not become cross very often. However, I did so last evening. When we cut short the debate on the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 it was to take statements on food safety, something to which I was looking forward. However, the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, came before the House and read into the record a document some 23 pages long. Only three of those pages related to food safety. The remainder referred to greyhound racing, betting legislation, forestry and everything else. If the House is going to be treated in that way by a Minister or Minister of State who comes here to debate food safety, then I do not know what will happen.
I am aware that Senator Reilly had prepared a great deal of material in respect of food safety and I was extremely impressed with what Senator O'Keeffe had to say. Last night we were supposed to discuss food safety but instead the Minister of State read out a 23-page script, only three pages of which dealt with the topic in question. I raise this matter because I am of the view that there is a danger that the current Administration is going to bring the House into disrepute.
The final matter to which I wish to refer relates to what is occurring in the Horn of Africa. We are experiencing difficulties in Ireland at present and we are always referring to how badly off we are. A massive famine has developed in the Horn of Africa, which comprises Somalia, Kenya and a number of other countries. Some 12 million people are in dire need.
I request that the Leader make time available, as a matter of urgency, for a debate on what is happening in the Horn of Africa. It is over 160 years since Ireland endured the Great Famine. We blamed others for not assisting us at that time and for not taking action. However, we now know far more about what is happening elsewhere than people did about what was taking place in Ireland in the 1840s. I urge the Leader to make time available for a debate on the huge famine which is currently affecting the Horn of Africa and which is worse than anything seen there since the 1980s. The countries in the region are experiencing their worst and driest season since 1951. Today's edition of theIrish Examiner carries an in-depth article on this matter which is well worth reading. People in this country should read it in order to remind themselves how well off they are compared to others.
Seán Lemass once famously stated that all election promises are null and void once an election has been held. It is more than likely that Mr. Lemass's tongue was firmly in his cheek when he said that. However, the current Administration appears to believe he was serious because the parties which comprise it are literally abandoning every promise they made during the general election campaign. In that context, I request that the Leader arrange for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, to come before the House in order that we might engage in a debate on transport. As the Leader of the Opposition in this House, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, stated, there is complete confusion regarding the capital plans relating to Dublin infrastructural projects such as the interconnection of the Luas, the link-up with the DART or metro north. No one seems to know what is happening. In addition, nobody in Government is issuing clear statements on the matter.
There is a need for a debate on this issue. The same Minister came before the House recently and we had a fruitful and positive debate with him in respect of tourism. I do not believe that the tone of the debate I am seeking will be all sweetness and light. Having said that, I compliment the Minister for announcing yesterday that he intends to replace the current driving licence with a new plastic version that will be the size of a credit card. That is a good development. The current driving licence is awkward and individuals cannot be expected to have these documents about their person on all occasions. Given that one is obliged to present one's licence to a garda on request, the new version will be most welcome. In addition, it will be useful as a form of acceptable identification.
When the debate I am seeking takes place, I hope the Minister will make a statement on the regulation of taxi ranks in our major cities. People will have witnessed some very unedifying behaviour among taxi drivers squabbling as to who is first in line, who is next in line, etc., at a number of locations, particularly at the rank on Dawson St. People who commute on the train from Kerry or Cork to Dublin will be aware of the ridiculous situation that obtains at Heuston Station. There is a fine taxi shelter outside the latter but taxi drivers will not pull up to it and instead expect customers to walk perhaps 100 yards, sometimes in pouring rain, in order to get into their vehicles. There is a need to introduce a system of taxi marshals — similar to those which obtain the UK and most other countries — at railway stations, airports and other public buildings.
I ask the Leader to ensure that the House is granted an opportunity to engage in a degree of debate and, it is to be hoped, parliamentary oversight in respect of the development of the planned national children's hospital. Everyone in the House and people throughout the country will be aware of the greater than usual level of national scrutiny that has obtained in respect of this specific and much-needed health infrastructure project. We have been led to believe that there will be a formal announcement to the effect that the hospital development is to proceed on the Mater Hospital site. This will cause pain to people who had other plans and will mean relief and joy for those who support the Mater plan.
If the announcement to which I refer is made, it is essential that people should row in behind it and ensure that the hospital is built. There has been ample opportunity for public debate on this matter. It has been discussed by two Governments and several commissions. I must admit that I might have reached a different conclusion regarding what should be the disposition of tertiary paediatric and specialist paediatric services. However, there is a desperate need for the development to proceed. It is important to realise that the people who have articulated opposing points of view are generally very well motivated. These individuals are motivated by their own interpretation of where the development should take place and also, in many cases, not by self-interest but rather by a degree of loyalty to institutions they have helped develop — in very adverse budgetary and other circumstances — into centres which have achieved a level of expertise.
There are a number of facts of which Members should be made aware. Paediatric services in this country are desperately under-resourced. Constructing a new building will not fix the problem. The new building is needed. There is a joke to the effect that Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, should be called Our Lady's Children's Hospital, "Crumbling". This is because some of the physical plant it contains is so old. There is no doubt that new physical plant is needed.
A few facts must be borne in mind. In this Republic there are five paediatric general surgeons. In Northern Ireland, a jurisdiction the population of which is one third the size of our own, there are six such surgeons and in Scotland, the population of which is similar to that of the Republic, there are 22. Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, has 80 full-time equivalent consultants, whereas Birmingham Children's Hospital has 200 and the children's hospital in Denver, Colorado, has 800. The total number of staff in Crumlin is approximately 1,600 for a 250-bed complement. In Birmingham Children's Hospital, a similarly-sized facility, there are twice as many staff — over 3,000.
This information is important because it was alleged and suggested by members of the previous——
Yes, I am asking the Leader to bring to the attention of the Minister our great concern regarding the development of the new children's hospital and also the need for oversight on the part of this House in respect of the plan. There is a concern that, at a time of great financial stringency, we may well have a commitment to construct a new building at some stage while in the short term there will be ongoing underfunding and under-resourcing in respect of paediatric services. Senator Cullinane referred to the average wait for a deaf child in the south east for an appointment with an ear, nose and throat, ENT, specialist. The wait for such an appointment at Crumlin is nearly as long.
The average child going for corrective spinal surgery in this country has 10° extra curvature of his or her spine compared to international standards as a result of the appalling length of the waiting lists. I spoke with the authorities at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, in the past 24 hours and they indicated their relief regarding the fact that the average waiting time appears to be coming down to 18 months. Such a waiting time is completely unacceptable. I would also like everybody to remember ——
The Senator is out of time. Two more Senators have indicated they wish to contribute and each Senator is constrained to two minutes.
In conclusion, I ask everyone to please remember that the total cost of Crumlin hospital is the equivalent of five days of the repayment of the bank bailout. The total cost of the Crumlin hospital overrun, which led to the hospital having its services curtailed, was four hours of what we are paying for the bank bailout. These facts must be borne in mind. I ask the Leader to convey our interest to the Minister in the ongoing developments in paediatric services.
I concur with the comments made by Senators Zappone, Barrett and O'Donovan, all of whom had done considerable work on the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill debated in the House yesterday. The propensity of the Government to curtail Bills is not limited to this House. I was astonished to find out, when I complained to some of my colleagues that three or four Bills have been guillotined in this House, that the same thing is happening in the Dáil. This is dangerous and unacceptable, particularly when the Government has an unprecedented majority of 60 seats in the Lower House. It is a recipe for disaster. To the best of my knowledge, Bills were only curtailed twice in this House in the last term. The second time it happened was in disgraceful circumstances where we were debating a freedom of conscience amendment to a Bill and the Green Party threw a tantrum and put pressure on Fianna Fáil, who unfortunately acquiesced, to bring in a guillotine to close down the Bill. The purpose behind that was so that the Green Party parliamentary party could have a press conference for the "Six One News" at the gates of Leinster House. Those circumstances were appalling. Unless the Opposition and the Independent nominees of the Taoiseach — I understand some of them are party members and will stand with their party — take a strong stand on this and unless the process is changed, we will end up with a terrible situation here.
As a consequence, I propose an amendment to today's Order of Business. I propose that we take only Second Stage of the Foreshore (Amendment) Bill 2001 rather than all Stages. I am aware there is some urgency with the Bill, but unless a compelling reason is put forward by the Leader in response, I intend to press this amendment on the Order of Business. It is bad practice to allow all Stages of any Bill to be taken on the same day. In the past, the practice was for Committee and Report Stages to be taken on separate dates so that everybody could reflect on the amendments put forward on Committee Stage. We need to get back to best practice with our system.
Is the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the Committee on Members' Interests of Seanad Éireann to be taken with or without debate?
That is a matter for the Leader. He will reply in his response.
Can the Cathaoirleach clarify the Order of Business for me?
The Leader will clarify the issue for the Senator in his reply.
In view of the fact it may be taken here without debate, I ask the committee to pay close attention to the fall-out of what happened on the last occasion. Former Senators, Callely and Butler, were put in invidious positions. Senator Callely ultimately had the decision set aside by the courts, but Senator Butler ——
The Senator knows that the issue with regard to former Senator Butler is before the courts.
He lived within 12 km of where I live. I knew he lived there and so did Councillor Phelan, who is now a Deputy.
We will not discuss that matter. The Senator is out of time.
She was reprimanded by her party because she defended him on radio.
The Senator is out of time. I call on Senator Leyden.
My concern is that unless we set aside partisan political considerations in these committees, we will only get back a similar amount of taxpayers' money as it costs to take a case ultimately.
The Senator should show consideration for other Senators. He is out of time.
I second the proposed amendment to the Order of Business put forward by Senator Walsh. On the issue of the capital budget for the HSE, will the Leader set time aside for debate on that? The Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, said on 3 June, when he announced a €20 million expenditure for a new accident and emergency and maternity unit at Wexford General Hospital that the people of Wexford want, demand and will get the highest standard of health care. We can compare that to the situation where we spent over €10 million on a new accident and emergency unit for Roscommon just over nine years ago, but that unit will be closed from next Monday. There seems to be one law for those who support the Labour Party and another for everybody else. Unfortunately, Senator John Kelly was not elected to the Dáil. If he had been, I am sure the specific commitments given by the Tánaiste on Roscommon hospital would have been honoured. The Fine Gael Party is not honouring those commitments.
I suggest to those coming from Roscommon to Dublin today to protest outside the Dáil that they consider taking a High Court injunction against the Minister and the HSE to ensure that the services will continue after Monday, with a full review of the situation to follow.
Stop codding yourself.
What about the health and safety issues?
This is the only way out of the situation. We must resort to the courts to get ——
Has the Senator a question for the leader?
The reason I raise this question is to have the HSE situation ——
And the situation in Nenagh and Ennis.
We will have no choice but to go to court to have the issue resolved.
Is Senator Leyden offering to fund it?
Senator Leyden, without interruption.
The Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition has decided to close the accident and emergency department of Roscommon hospital from next Monday. What other resort have the people of Roscommon? They will protest today but what other action, other than resort to court, can they take when there is a majority of 60 in the Lower House and a majority in the Seanad? There is little democracy currently.
Senators O'Brien and Crown raised the issue of the new national children's hospital and I take on board the points put forward by Senator Crown in that regard. The Minister has stated that the Government is committed to the project and will now proceed to planning stage. The project will proceed as outlined previously.
Senators Bacik, Mullen and Norris raised the redress scheme and the shortfall of €300 million from the religious orders. The Minister for Education and Skills spoke about that yesterday and I am sure the matter will be debated for some time to come.
Senators Bacik, Gilroy and Conway mentioned the despicable phone hacking carried out by theNews of the World. The data protection officer here has stated that we have adequate laws in this country to deal with any such instances. I am sure the Minister for Communications will keep his eye on the matter and if there is a need for further legislation, it will be introduced. What happened in the United Kingdom is despicable.
Senators Zappone, Barrett and Mullen spoke about yesterday's Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I have endeavoured since becoming Leader to have some certainty with regard to the business of the House and to ensure particular times are laid out in the schedule of business for dealing with specific matters such as Second and Committee Stages of Bills. I will put my hand up with regard to the Bill taken yesterday. I thought two hours would be more than sufficient to deal with Committee Stage and when the first 17 or 18 technical amendments were agreed within 40 minutes, I believed the two hours would be more than sufficient. However, when I returned to the House after attending another meeting, it was just before the guillotine was applied. If I had been aware when we set out the business yesterday morning that the Bill would require more than two hours, I would have allowed more time for it. I take the blame for that. It will not happen again with legislation like that we had yesterday, especially Seanad Bills. The Minister has undertaken that we will extend and have an open-ended discussion on Report Stage of the Bill. The Minister will be here for practically the whole evening tomorrow when we will deal with both the Defence (Amendment) Bill and the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. He is prepared to stay here for a considerable time to deal with those matters and deal with the points that Members raise. I will certainly put my hand up and say that we should have amended the order for the Committee Stage debate. I was a minute late, and was not in a position to amend the time so that we could continue with the Committee Stage debate. I will endeavour not to allow it to happen again, especially when Members are interested in discussing the Bills. I realise that it takes time to prepare amendments that Members table for discussion on legislation. Senator Barrett raised the question of legal costs and this is a matter that can be raised on Report Stage of the Bill.
Senator Sheahan raised the problem with credit unions and bondholders and certainly Senator D'Arcy gave a new meaning to burning the bondholder when he informed us of the situation in regard to the postman. This matter must be addressed and we will endeavour to try to get the Minister for Finance to the House before we finish the session.
Senator O'Donovan raised the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2011. I understand that he has no problem with the allocation of two hours for the debate on Second Stage, but with the allocation of time for the Committee and Final Stages. I will see what we can do on that tomorrow. We will have Committee Stage tomorrow. The Minister has agreed to stay in the Chamber as long as possible. We will see if the Report Stage can be ordered for Friday, after the debate on the Health (Amendment) Bill, but I will have to discuss that with the Minister.
Senator MacConghail raised an issue for discussion at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. We met yesterday and we have agreed to have a special meeting next week to discuss the matters which he raised on the leaders of civil society coming to the Seanad and having a petitions committee. That will be dealt with at next week's meeting of the CPP.
Senator D'Arcy raised the need for leadership and solidarity from our partners in Europe and everybody would agree with those sentiments.
In response to Senator Mullen, I think it would be very appropriate that the President of the European Parliament would address this House. It would certainly enhance the status of the Seanad. What happens in the Lower House is not a matter for me.
Senator Burke raised the question of cash for gold shops, where gold is exchanged for cash and the lack of identification and records from these establishments. There have been robberies throughout the length and breadth of the country where gold seems to be the motive for the robberies. I will certainly endeavour to find out from the Minister for Justice and Equality whether he intends to introduce legislation on these establishments. I will revert to the Senator on the matter.
Senator Healy Eames raised No. 2 on the Order Paper, the time that the President of the European Parliament will be in the Seanad. Senator Mooney raised the question of ring-fencing of roads funding. The word ring-fencing came into being during the term of the previous Government. Many people got through those fences.
A few ponies.
We will see at a later stage how the fencers are holding up in respect of roads funding.
Senator Mullins raised the question of reducing the carnage on our roads. We sympathise with the families of those who have lost their lives in Galway and those who died on our roads over the weekend. We compliment the National Roads Authority and if legislation is necessary to increase penalties, that will certainly be brought in because the Government is totally committed to reducing the carnage on the roads and fully support the measures that the National Roads Authority are seeking to introduce.
The matters raised by Senators Daly and Coghlan were aired previously and I do not wish to comment on them again.
Senator Quinn raised the issue of the debate on food safety. I share his concerns and the debate was scheduled for food safety but the Minister came into the House and outlined all the responsibilities under his jurisdiction. I do not think we gave sufficient time to food safety and food labelling, which was dealt with marginally.
I propose that we have a further debate on the matter. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be in House on 20 July and if we have not covered the food safety and food labelling sufficiently with the Minister I will arrange a further debate to deal specifically with the matter.
Senator O'Sullivan commented on the driving licence and what the Minister is introducing is to be welcomed. There is a review of the taxi industry at present and we will discuss that matter when the report is published.
Senator Walsh tabled an amendment to the Order of Business on the Foreshore Bill. My information is that it is emergency legislation to plug some loopholes, changing the functions from one Department to another. It will go through both Houses today. The early signature motion is to be taken after the Private Members' motion. That is emergency legislation that will be going through. I advised the leaders of this fact last week and I do not propose to accept the amendment to the Order of Business.
Are Nos. 1 and 2 being taken without debate?
On a point of order, may I make the point that Senator Barrett and I appreciate and accept the Leader's very fulsome apology and explanation?
Senator Jim Walsh has moved an amendment to the Order of Business that only the Second Stage of the Foreshore (Amendment) Bill 2011 be taken today. Is the amendment being pressed?
In light of what the Leader said on the record, I withdraw the amendment. I was unaware this was emergency legislation and I think we should be made aware of that in advance if it is the intention of the Attorney General. I listened carefully to what has been said because it is my intention to contest all future Orders of Business where it is proposed to take all Stages of a Bill, regardless of its content, unless there is a compelling reason it should happen.