The Order of Business is No. 1, Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 5.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes, and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than 5.40 p.m.
Order of Business
Ba mhaith liom roínnt poíntí a ardú. I would like to refer to a number of issues of major concern, not only in Ireland but also across Europe. They stem from the comments of the President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama, on the need for European leaders to grapple with the issue of debt in Europe, an issue referred to by the Taoiseach last Friday when he stated at a public event that he would meet the German and French leaders to discuss the very serious situation affecting Ireland and other EU countries. We heard the leader of Greece refer to it in a public address to the nation earlier today. I call on the Leader to ask the Minister for Finance to come to the House to discuss and outline clearly the steps the Government is taking to deal with the issue on a European-wide basis.
Many worrying issues arise in regard to health services. Last week we learned about the €6 million write-off by HSE West of fees for which consultants did not apply to the health insurance companies. Today we learn that the accident and emergency unit at Limerick hospital is not able to meet demand and that nurses are going on strike. We also learn that health consultants are breaching their contracts by not fulfilling their obligations to public patients within the State health care system. In fact, they are not providing the required level of public patient care. They are, however, performing extensive private health care duties in public hospital facilities. The Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, is long overdue a visit to the House. This side has been calling for him to visit since the new Seanad was formed, but he has not yet done so. I, therefore, call on the Leader to urgently request the presence of the Minister in the House to discuss these pertinent issues.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that we take No. 13, motion No. 5, which pertains to the septic tank charge and the consequences therefrom, at 5.45 p.m. today, in the presence of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, after the Second Stage debate on the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011. It is vital to the 440,000 householders who live in rural Ireland and who are scared. As the Government has proposed EU legislation, they wish to ascertain whether it would impose a charge on anyone with a septic tank and whether such people will be asked to register the septic tank and bring it up to standard if it does not meet the standards. According to evidence put forward by the IFA and others, approximately 75,000 septic tanks in rural Ireland do not meet those standards. The cost of meeting the standards could be anything from a few thousand euro to €15,000 or €20,000 per household. What is the rationale for the Government move? The Government would have Members believe that Europe is imposing this——
These are points the Senator can make during the debate.
I appeal to the Leader, given this is an issue of national importance to rural Ireland and as many people in rural Ireland voted for Fine Gael and the Labour Party at the last general election. As it would be unacceptable not to have this debate today, I appeal for common sense to prevail and for the Leader to request the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come to the House to enable Members to discuss the issue of septic tank charges being proposed by the Government, as well as the implications of that registration for the poor people of Ireland who can barely afford to pay their mortgages, let alone bringing septic tanks up to standard.
It is difficult to sit and take lectures from Fianna Fáil on the poor people of Ireland.
It is worth noting that many people in both rural and urban Ireland voted for Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the last general election because they felt betrayed and let down by Fianna Fáil on foot of the bringing in of the IMF, the EU and the ECB.
They feel betrayed and let down by the Government now——
Fianna Fáil did not make promises.
——because Fine Gael and the Labour Party made all the promises.
The promises were disgraceful.
It is a bit rich now for Fianna Fáil——
Every time Senator Bacik stands up in this Chamber as Deputy Leader, she fails to mention all the promises on which the Government has reneged thus far.
Senator Bacik to continue, without interruption, on the Order of Business.
——to be expressing false sympathy and crocodile tears.
What of the Government's false promises?
Senator Bacik, on the Order of Business.
What about its social welfare record?
Senator Bacik to continue, without interruption.
Fianna Fáil is still out of touch.
Fianna Fáil has never been in touch.
Please, can we have——
It remains out of touch.
We never attacked the household benefits package.
Lifestyle choices for poor people.
I remind Members they are eating into their own time. Senator Bacik to continue, without interruption.
"Let them eat cake" is what Fine Gael and the Labour Party state to the poor people of Ireland.
It is difficult to take the crocodile tears and false sympathy from Fianna Fáil, a party that is not even running a presidential candidate in the forthcoming election.
We are not blocking anyone either.
We are not voting for the magician Higgins.
On the Order of Business, please.
I am moving on to the Order of Business.
The first 100 days are over.
I wish to renew a call to the Leader for a further debate on the arts in the presence of the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, who has promised to attend. I do so particularly in light of the great success of Culture Night last Friday. It was a huge success nationwide with a record number of institutions, including Leinster House, opening their doors. It was a real piece of good news.
On a completely different note, I welcome the good news that women in Saudi Arabia now have the vote. This is a very important step forward for democracy internationally and it is worth Members noting it here.
On a less positive note, the Amnesty International report, In Plain Sight, which was published yesterday, also deserves debate in this House, given the insight it provides into the failures by successive Governments and the institutional church in respect of the terrible abuse of children over the years.
The point I wish to raise concerns the aforementioned Amnesty International report by Dr. Carole Holohan, which was informed and reviewed by an independent advisory group and commissioned by Amnesty International, namely, In Plain Sight, Responding to the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne Reports. At 430 pages, the report is of considerable length and obviously will take Members time to consider. It would be worth our time both to read it and to consider how best it could be debated in the House. The report acknowledges and understands what went wrong but also is working to ensure we establish a child protection system that is fit for purpose, lest we ever allow this to happen again. The "we" on which Amnesty International puts value is not simply about the church or the State but pertains to "we" as a society. In Plain Sight calls on us to acknowledge the extent to which the systematic abuse and exploitation of the tens of thousands of vulnerable Irish children in State and church run institutions was known across Irish society. The report does not purport to play the blame game. It moves beyond what has been to date a largely factual discourse about the who, what, where and when of the widespread and systematic abuse in question to a more philosophical and sociological analysis of why. To understand why it happened will help us to transform the present.
At the launch yesterday, Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International, said:
But the focus cannot be purely on the past, as if this history has no relevance for our society now. We must consider the degree to which this history reveals vital truths about the nature of our society today. The past only becomes history once we have addressed it, learnt from it and made the changes necessary to ensure that we do not repeat mistakes and wrongdoings.
Another striking and vital feature of the report is the acknowledgement that the abuse survivors endured is not only morally repugnant, shocking beyond many people's comprehension and patently illegal, but amounts to a grievous violation of their human rights. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, launched the report yesterday and acknowledged the Government's legislative agenda. This House needs to have a debate about that agenda. I also ask the Leader to call on the Minister to redouble her efforts to ensure the constitutional the amendment to strengthen children's rights is held without delay, that we ensure the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Ireland, study the report and use it to inform our policy on child protection.
I express my agreement with what has been said by other speakers, including Senator van Turnhout. In Plain Sight offers us an opportunity to debate the important issue of how people were mistreated and abused in our past. We have had a debate on the Cloyne report and have since had the response of the Holy See. Perhaps we could incorporate it into the discussion. Most fair observers thinking about these issues would agree that we have to move beyond anger and towards analysis to ensure we are making the right decisions for our future, in terms of promoting attitudes that are most protective of the most vulnerable people in our society, especially children.
In that context I would like to raise another human rights abuse issue. Today it is impossible to run a brothel in Sweden and because of the good work of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Ruhama we have experts from Sweden in Ireland. They are making one issue very clear, namely that Sweden is not repenting of the legislation it passed in 1999 which specifically criminalised the purchase of sex from women in particular. It has had a beneficial effect and ten years on a review shows a halving of street prostitution and a reduction in organised crime in general. Detective Superintendent Trolle, one of the speakers from Sweden, spoke about the radical reduction in street and indoor prostitution that has taken place.
When the previous Seanad discussed legislation on human trafficking, which with other issues affecting the victims of trafficking was the subject of a Private Member's motion I tabled, an argument was made repeatedly that if one criminalises the purchaser, one would somehow drive the problem underground rather than solve it. That is an increasingly discredited excuse. There is more support for this view in the House than in the previous Seanad.
We have to thank the good work of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and especially Ruhama. They accompany people who are caught up in prostitution and victimised every day of the week and provide practical support. They are also keeping the pressure on Government and policymakers. The Oireachtas needs to show some initiative on this issue and move to introduce legislation before long to criminalise persons who seek to purchase other persons in this way. As has been said, not only is it a question of gender equality, it is also a question of human dignity.
I join Senator Ivana Bacik in congratulating all involved in the Solheim Cup. It is more evidence that it is becoming less of a man's world, thanks be to God.
That is a very sexist remark.
I do not know what those rumblings are supposed to suggest, but it was not meant as a sexist remark. With the GAA ladies finals over the weekend and the Solheim Cup, an international event, our sports are starting to receive some attention, which I welcome. The broadcasting of the Solheim Cup on Sky Sports and ESPN in the United States puts us on an international setting for tourism, which we should also welcome.
I agree with what Senator Ivana Bacik said about Culture Night which was a great success. I was in and around town on Friday night and people were everywhere, which was fantastic to see. We must remember Temple Bar Cultural Trust had the vision to start culture night which has come in for some criticism recently, which is somewhat excessive. While all organisations run certain things that could be better, the proof of its effectiveness is seen internally in the success of Temple Bar and externally throughout the country when we see such a wonderful event as this.
I must rush off to a meeting of a committee where I should have been at 12.30 p.m. I find it unacceptable that I am required to be at a committee meeting and here for the Order of Business at the same time. I have raised this issue on numerous occasions with the Chairman of the committee. It is more evidence of the Seanad being treated as some kind of nodding dog. I have requested that the committee start at 3 p.m. I do not know when the Dáil starts — perhaps 4 p.m. or 4.30 p.m.
At 2 p.m.
There should be some compromise. Deputies get to go in at 2 p.m. I do not know what the commitments are in the Dáil and, frankly, I do not care. As Senators, we should be shown the same courtesy.
That is a matter the Senator can take up with the Chairman.
I agree with you, a Chathaoirligh, but I wanted to raise it with the Leader. If he could do something about it, it would be fantastic. I will go and, obviously, take it up with the committee Chairman now.
I also welcome the benefit the Solheim Cup brought to Ireland at the weekend and particularly to County Meath. There was a significant tourism spin-off in the county as a number of hoteliers have confirmed to me. It was wonderful to see it being such a success.
I am calling for an investigation into the leaking of a private social welfare file to a Labour Party Senator as reported in today's newspapers. The investigation could be carried out by the Data Protection Commissioner or the Garda. There seems to be an agenda in the Labour Party to denigrate persons on social welfare. It started with the Minister for Social Protection talking about it being a lifestyle choice. We were told that one in four lone parents were making fraudulent claims when it was one in four claims that were investigated. Senator Harte has information on a case that seems to be totally wrong, with figures that are all over the place. It seems there are seven children, 1.5 guardians, two severely disabled people in the house and the family was not granted a council house. It is a very strange case which, if true, merits a full investigation, as it relates to the private file of identifiable individuals. The Senator is talking about an individual family in which two people are disabled, four children——
On a point of order, I am not clear to what the Senator is referring and I am not sure if it is appropriate to take up the issue on the Order of Business.
That is not a point of order.
I have no knowledge of what the Senator is speaking about.
I am talking about an article which appears on the front page of the Irish Examiner. There is also an article in the Irish Independent, as well as coverage on the Newstalk radio station. Senator Harte has claimed a couple from Bosnia is receiving €90,000 in social welfare payments every year. If that claim is true — the Senator has said someone in the Department of Social Protection gave him the information — it needs to be investigated because it is a criminal offence to give the private information of persons on social welfare to anyone, including politicians. If what the Senator is claiming is not correct which I have reason to believe is the case, he should answer because the figures he has given do not add up. There is a concerted approach by the Labour Party to downgrade persons on social welfare.
On a point of order, this is a matter for Senator Byrne to take up directly with Senator Harte. It is not an appropriate matter to be raised on the Order of Business. I am asking you, a Chathaoirligh, for a ruling on the matter.
Does Senator Byrne have a question for the Leader?
I want the Leader to arrange a debate on data protection and social welfare files. Whether this is true or not, it is a serious breach of privacy. We are talking about a family with allegedly two disabled members, with at least one or probably two orphans living in the house as well. If this is true, they are easily identifiable. It is the principle in this case that the Labour Party should not be leaking files to Senators and Deputies to advance their anti-welfare agenda.
We are not anti-welfare. That is nonsense.
That is the truth.
The Senator should take back those accusations.
I will quote from the newspaper: "Mr. Harte, who received the information from the Department of Social Protection——
The Labour Party did not leak that information.
Senator Moloney should allow the Senator to finish.
I am calling for an investigation into this, because it is a very worrying precedent.
The Senator is now out of time.
I second the amendment to the Order of Business on the anti-rural septic tank charge.
The Labour Party is not leaking information. Is Senator Byrne insinuating that it is coming from the Minister?
We are not reopening that issue. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?
I do. I will speak on a subject about which I feel strongly, which is the attitude of people towards those with mental illness. It has taken years to change the mindset of the people and their attitude towards those with a mental health issue. I strongly condemn a recent reality television show which ridiculed a person who clearly had a mental illness in order to boost ratings and to amuse others. It was clearly a case of abuse of people with a mental health illness.
I call on the Leader to ask the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health to come into this House for an in-depth debate on mental health issue. I would also like the Leader to ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to tell us why this was allowed to be broadcast. I have no problem with the show itself, but this aspect of the show should not have been broadcast. If one of those contestants had decided to strip naked on the stage, would that have been broadcast? It would not have and that aspect would have been taken out. I cannot understand why they were allowed to broadcast a person with a mental health issue being ridiculed in public.
Looking outside, it is a beautiful autumn day. This kind of weather brings out the best in everyone. A walk on the beach, a walk in the park, a stroll around town makes everyone feel good and look good. Even a trip around the country on one's motorcycle is most enjoyable.
The Senator should be working with Met Éireann.
Last weekend, however, I was baffled by the number of motorcyclists from all around the country who drove to Dáil Éireann in protest against the introduction of compulsory testing of their motorcycles, similar to the test for cars that was introduced a few years ago. I was baffled by their protest about the compulsory use of visibility jackets while riding their motorcycles. I am an avid motorcycle enthusiast. I love to ride my motorcycle around the country, even on Seanad business.
Did it pass the NCT?
One of the things I learned when I took up motorcycling was that I had to wear personal protection equipment at all times, from helmets to visibility jackets, as well as having a properly functioning motorcycle. One of the organisers of this protest is an RSA certified instructor, and for him to lead the protest was complete hypocrisy.
As I drove into the office here today, I noticed numerous cyclists — not motorcyclists — wearing no headgear, breaking traffic lights and wearing headphones. I witnessed one lady pedestrian almost being knocked down by a cyclist on Nassau Street. I was once a victim of a cyclist crashing into me when he went the wrong way down a one-way street. If I was still an athlete, it would have ended my career. A friend of a friend of mine tragically lost his life when he was knocked down by a cyclist.
Cyclists are a law unto themselves. They get tax breaks when they purchase their bicycles. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is a major area that needs to be addressed.
I call on the Minister for Transport to explore a way in which the law could be used to cover cyclists who might be prosecuted for not wearing protective and visibility equipment.
Hundreds of newly qualified teachers are seeking an opportunity to complete the probation period to allow them to become fully qualified. This can be done in the course of one school year. However, posts are not available and the teachers in question are unable to do so. A way forward was found last December when the Department of Education and Skills issued a circular to all schools indicating that the FÁS work placement programme could be used to enable newly qualified teachers to complete up to nine months' probation. A problem has arisen, however, because the unions are blocking the proposal. While schools may be willing to apply for a placement, the unions have not given their blessing to the proposal. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Education and Skills to come before the House to discuss how this problem will be solved. It is unfair that newly qualified teachers are being prevented from completing the professional qualification required in the classroom.
Senators have been requesting that the Minister for Education and Skills come before the House since before the summer recess. The issue of probation is only one of many issues they wish to discuss with him. I want him to make a ruling on the issue of probation to ensure teachers will be able to become fully qualified to teach in the classroom. It is great that a way forward has been found. Newly qualified teachers cannot risk emigrating because they are not yet fully qualified to teach abroad and, in the event that they take up a post abroad, they must return to Ireland within two years. They are caught in all directions. I look forward to a debate with the Minister on the issue.
I ask that the Minister for Health come to the House to discuss the position in Galway University Hospital which is on a knife edge. As many as 38 patients were lying on trolleys in the hospital over the weekend. I ask that the Minister outline his timeframe for the roll-out of primary health care services in the community to shift the balance from the hospital to the community. While I am aware the Government inherited a financial mess from its predecessor, we must examine how we can make the best of current circumstances. The House requires an update on the position.
With another savage budget due to be introduced in December, the Government continues to perform flip-flops on whether it will increase income tax and, if so, in what guise and whether social welfare rates will be cut, notwithstanding commitments made to the contrary. A colleague told me a joke about this issue this morning: "Why did Enda Kenny cross the road? Because he said he would not cross it." In the midst of all this, the Minister for Finance confirmed at the weekend that Allied Irish Banks had requested the Government's permission to negotiate a salary for its new chief executive officer of in excess of €500,000, the level at which the Government capped bankers' pay. As people continue to struggle to make ends meet and decide which bills they will pay, I ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Finance before the House to discuss bankers' salaries and confirm that the Government will not allow AIB to breach the cap on bankers' pay.
On an issue close to my heart, a newspaper report published in the summer noted that the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics had deemed a cancer test, the oncotype DX test, too expensive for public patients and decided it should only be available privately at a cost of €3,200. According to the report, the test was not recommended on price grounds "to ensure the taxpayer gets value for money". I want the Minister for Health to indicate what action will be taken to ensure comprehensive gene testing will be made available to women with breast cancer and those at risk of the disease and what gene testing facilities for cancer are available to public and private patients. This is an important issue. We all know people with cancer, a disease that is scourging families and tearing communities apart. I call for a debate on this issue on behalf of all those waiting for genetic testing services, those who may be unaware of the existence of such a test and those who may be precluded from availing of such a service owing to its cost and unduly long waiting lists.
I will make two points. On Friday I attended a seminar on suicide awareness organised in Leinster House. I pay tribute to the people who organised this comprehensive and very well run event intended to raise awareness of suicide and heighten our ability to detect it. The course is very well worth taking. I call on the Minister for Health to come to the House for a debate on the continuing stigma attached to mental illness. I refer in particular to the fact that people who suffer from epilepsy or a long-term physical condition are entitled to a disability or long-term illness card whereas people who suffer from depression or any type of mental illness are not so entitled, even though when applying for a job they are obliged to report that they suffer from mental illness.
I refer to a programme aired on RTE last night, "The Secret Millionaire". It was made in my own town and last night I was privileged to be asked to the reception for the cast where I met several of the people who took part in the programme. "The Secret Millionaire" featured the hotelier, John Fitzpatrick, who came to live undercover in the town. The programme also takes place in various other towns. I wish to highlight the absolutely dreadful plight depicted. I am new to the Seanad but one factor that affected me last night was that there are two people, both of whom are disabled and wheelchair users, living in a house that has an upstairs neither person can access although they have been promised a house that is suitably adaptable. I find it abhorrent that in 2011 the lady of this house does not even have a bed she can use. At night her husband takes the bed because he is on oxygen. All through the programme they both smiled and said nothing about this situation but the wife in question must sit in a chair all night and can sleep only by putting her head on a bed. I ask the Minister to come to the House to address such continuing issues of mental health and disability.
I second the proposal by Senator Healy Eames in regard to University College Hospital Galway. The hospital is greatly overcrowded and the closure of the accident and emergency department at Roscommon County Hospital has added to the numbers attending. The situation is very serious, to the extent that the HSE has requested that patients not attend UCHG. There was one case last week where a patient came from Roscommon at 3.45 p.m. and was not seen until 4 a.m. the following day. The situation is critical. I realise the Minister for Health has been in China and New York but I hope he will find time to attend the Chamber. I ask the Leader to arrange a question and answer session in the House which would be very worthwhile.
Will the Leader agree to and accept non-Government motion No. 4 on the Order Paper, in the name of Fianna Fáil, Independent, university and Sinn Féin Senators, regarding the recognition of Palestine at the United Nations? I commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore——
I commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore——
That is done and dusted.
Wait a moment——
Let there be an end to the interruptions. The motion is on the Order Paper. Does Senator Leyden have a question for the Leader?
Yes. I commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, for his statement in New York in regard to this issue. I am now convinced he is more of a lion than a lamb in the Cabinet. Senator Ivana Bacik stated last week that the Government would follow this policy, which has been confirmed. I thank the Senator for that information.
I thank Senator Leyden for that acknowledgment.
It appears the Senator has exceeded expectations.
In light of the statement by the Minister, it would be appropriate for the House to have an all-party, agreed motion, by combining both motions in a very positive way. This is very important to the people of Palestine.
It is very nice to hear Senator Leyden being so constructive for a change.
No interruptions, please.
I believe the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, is more of a lion than a lamb in the Cabinet. That is a fact.
The Senator is out of time. Does he have a question for the Leader?
My question to the Leader is very clear. I request that he and the leaders of the other groups draw up a combined motion. That would be an extremely useful exercise. If one criticises the actions of Israel——
The Senator is out of time.
——one is continually accused of being anti-Semitic. That is grossly unfair. I am not anti-Semitic. The Leader inadvertently implied that last week when he said——
It was not implied.
I know what the Leader said. He stated that my comments were verging on——
It was implied in what Senator Leyden said.
That is correct. I would advise the Senator not to pursue the matter.
The Leader said my comments were verging——
Senator Leyden must conclude. I call Senator Keane.
I only received one e-mail from someone who was not happy with regard to what I said. One Labour Party councillor in south Dublin also made some kind of statement on the matter. I wish to make the point that I am not anti-Israel. I am pro-Palestine and pro-Israel. I support the notion that both countries should have self-determination and that their people should live side by side in peace and harmony.
In light of the very weighty debate that has just taken place, the matter I wish to raise might seem trivial but is very important to householders and consumers. I refer to the fact that manufacturers have taken to reducing the size of products while not reducing the price in respect of them. In actuality, this represents a price increase. I intend to name three products in respect of which this has happened in recent times. Manufacturers are increasing prices in a deceitful and deceptive way and they believe they are pulling the wool over people's eyes. They are doing so at a time when we want Ireland to be competitive in every respect. One of the products in question is Fairy washing-up liquid. Some Members may not have used this product recently, particularly in view of the fact that they spend so much time in the Seanad. The size of the Fairy washing-up liquid bottle has been reduced from 450 ml to 433 ml.
We cannot have commercials on the Order of Business.
It is not a commercial. Senator Leyden may not be familiar with this product but it is fairly popular among households.
Senator Keane has lovely, soft hands.
The size of the bottle in which this product comes has been reduced and, as a result, there has been a price increase of 25%. The position is the same in respect of Pampers baby wipes and Persil washing-up liquid. I request that the Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise ask the Consumers Association of Ireland to carry out research into companies which are acting in the way in which I have outlined in respect of their products. If possible, we should take action to outlaw this type of deceitful and deceptive way of increasing prices. This type of underhanded behaviour should be highlighted for consumers.
This is more an issue for Joe Duffy's "Liveline" radio show than it is for the Seanad.
I apologise, but people are experiencing income difficulties — whether it be as a result of being unemployed or whatever — and have less money to spend.
I request that the Leader ask the Minister to ensure that the Consumers Association of Ireland, which comes under his remit, carries out research in respect of this matter. If possible, we should introduce legislation to ensure that manufacturers cannot get away with increasing prices in such a deceitful way.
I echo the concerns expressed by colleagues in respect of University College Hospital Galway. I am also concerned with regard to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick where another industrial dispute is due to take place either this week or next as a result of the terrible overcrowding and appalling conditions there. Will the Leader communicate to the Minister for Health the concerns of Members regarding the hospitals to which I refer? People in the Clare constituency in which I live attend at both of these hospitals. Since the 24 hour accident and emergency unit at the hospital in Ennis was closed, this matter is critical to them.
I agree with previous speakers who referred to Amnesty International's report, In Plain Sight. As is regularly the case with Amnesty International, the research carried out in respect of this report is extremely welcome and worthwhile. I concur with Senator van Turnhout and others that what happened in the past was appalling. The most constructive memorial we can have to the past is to ensure we put in place a world-class child protection policy. There is no reason this country cannot have the best child protection policy in the world. I suggest to the Leader that it might be worthwhile during a Friday sitting to have a debate on the Amnesty International report. There was a serious amount of resources and time used in commissioning the report which is a very valuable piece of research. There may be merit in dedicating time some Friday morning to a debate on it.
It is very encouraging to hear that Culture Night was such a success at all venues throughout the country. I was very happy to be at Quill's farmhouse at Muckross Traditional Farms witnessing a fantastic night's entertainment of traditional Irish music, song and dance, which the locals enjoyed and from which they benefited. However, with more advertising and marketing, it could provide a significant boost for tourism at many venues throughout the country.
I support Senator Ivana Bacik's call for a further debate on the arts. I am sure the relevant Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, would oblige us in that regard. Last week's debate was truly worthwhile and further questioning of the Minister — if the schedule was slightly different — would be very beneficial to Members.
There is a motion tabled by the Opposition on the south west. There is a serious issue in Caherciveen. I know how dear and near the town is to the Cathaoirleach's heart. He knows how peripheral it is and of the great distances to travel to Tralee and Cork hospitals. The ambulance service is seriously under threat in the town.
This matter is suitable to be raised on the Adjournment.
I ask the Leader to make his best endeavours to bring the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, before the Seanad as early as possible. The Minister is busy and has a high profile and many important issues to deal with. However, we could have a useful and wide-ranging debate with him whenever the Leader can arrange it.
I find myself disagreeing absolutely with a Senator on one item, while agreeing with the same Senator on another. The Taoiseach has unquestionably stepped up to the mark in the past six or seven months in dealing with the massive economic crisis facing the country. I have absolute faith that he will carry us through the next four or five years, with our colleagues in the Labour Party, in particular the Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore. I refute any suggestion that he has shown an incapacity to do the job.
On bankers' pay, I absolutely support the suggestion the Minister for Finance should come to the Seanad. I did not see the job in AIB advertised anywhere and there is no doubt that it will be one of the old pals in the banking sector who will get it. To think of anybody getting more than €500,000 — or that anybody would even request to have the rate of pay increased — is incredible. I, therefore, ask the Leader to request the Minister for Finance to come before us in order that we can put a stop to this once and for all. There should be no increase in pay for these fellows, as they have done enough damage already. Our position is bad enough without them looking for even more money.
I second Senator Paul Coghlan's proposed amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, come before the House to discuss a number of health issues raised in the past number of months.
I am not so sure Senator Paul Coghlan proposed an amendment.
He may have intended to do so.
Could we turn up the volume of the microphones for Senator Wilson?
Senator Paul Coghlan did not formally propose an amendment.
I agree with him that it is appalling that the Minister has not been in the House in recent weeks. A number of health matters have been raised in the House in the past few months.
Down one more vote.
The Minister has failed to come to the House. I would like to see him here sooner rather than later.
I agree with colleagues that Culture Night was a success. In Cavan I attended a very successful event in the Johnston Central Library on Farnham Street. I would like to see more such activities organised on a national basis throughout the year.
I also join my colleague, Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, in requesting that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government come before the House to discuss his plans for local government reform. I raised this issue last week and will continue to raise it until the Leader successfully ascertains if the Minister will come to the House. There are many councillors throughout the length and breadth of the country who are in a limbo as to whether their electoral areas will be in existence at the next local elections, whether the number of councillors will be reduced in their counties, and I understand there are proposals that county councils of 25 members will be reduced to 20 or 21 members. This is a matter of grave concern not only to the incumbent councillors but to the public who demand a first class service, rightly so, from their councillors. The sooner this issue is clarified the better. I request the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come into the House to discuss this very important matter of local government reform as well as the septic tank issue.
I join Senator Mary Moran in calling on the Leader to request the facilitation of a debate on the scourge of suicide in Ireland and especially among young people. It now appears that financial pressures are seriously impacting on the health of many people here. The auctions at the weekend of repossessed properties are having a serious affect. I call on the banks to show more compassion and flexibility in dealing with home owners who are in mortgage arrears in view of the contribution that those same banks made to the awful situation in which people find themselves. It is galling to think that any financial institution would consider paying one of its executives a salary of more than €500,000 per year. We all bemoan the fact that none of those bankers who, clearly, has broken the law has yet been brought to book. I hope the day is not far off when some of those people pay for the crimes they have committed against the people and that some who are overseas are extradited and brought back to face the full rigours of the law.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, the acting Leader of the Opposition, called on the Minister for Finance to come to the House. He will be in the House to take questions and statements next Thursday.
Senator Ó Domhnaill and others called on the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, to come into the House. He will be in the House to take statements and questions before the end of October.
I think it will be in the last week of October.
There was also a call for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come to the House. He is anxious to return soon and will be here to deal with the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill in a fortnight's time. I am sure he will be in the House soon afterwards to address the problems that Senators Ó Domhnaill and Wilson have outlined in respect of septic tanks and local government reform.
I confirm that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, will come to the House next Thursday and that the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, will come to the House in the last week of October.
Senator Ivana Bacik referred to the arts debate which was a very good one. There probably is a need for a more structured debate in the future and I am sure the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will be willing to come to the House for a more structured debate on the arts. Like several Members, the Senator mentioned Culture Night and its success. I am pleased the Government Chief Whip and the Opposition Whip had a very enjoyable evening.
They are two very cultured people.
In regard to the Amnesty International report raised by Senators Jillian van Turnhout, Ivana Bacik and Martin Conway, we have had debates in the House on the Ferns, Cloyne and Murphy reports. I can try to facilitate a debate on the actual report with the Minister, which would probably be a worthwhile debate.
I thank Senator Mullen for referring to the Swedish experience in criminalising the purchase of sex and complimenting Ruhama and other organisations which work with people in this field. I agree there is a need for legislation in this area and I certainly support the Senator's comments.
Senator Noone referred to women's involvement in sport and we join her in complimenting the European team on its success in the Solheim Cup and the Cork ladies team which won the Gaelic football final. I inform Members that the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Michael Ring, will be in the House next week to listen to the spokespersons and answer questions during the debate on sport.
Senator Thomas Byrne raised the leaking of a social welfare file and made grave accusations about a Senator who is not present. Any information he has on the leaking of the document should be reported to the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, who will come to the Seanad on 24 October. I advise the Senator to raise this matter with her at that time.
Senator Marie Moloney referred to the incident on the reality television show in which a person with mental health issues was ridiculed. I am not aware of the programme, but it is appalling that a television show would do that. It is unacceptable.
Senator Mary Moran raised mental health and suicide awareness issues. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, was in the Seanad in July but I am sure she would be willing to return to address the issues raised by Senators.
Senator Healy Eames referred to the situation with newly qualified teachers. The Minister for Education and Skills was in the Seanad last week dealing with educational qualifications. That would have been an ideal opportunity to raise the matter with him. It will be some time before the Minister comes to the House again, but we will endeavour to do so. The opportunity to raise the issue when the Minister was in the Chamber was missed.
Senator Reilly mentioned the flip-flopping on the budget. I do not think there is any basis for that assertion. The budget will be introduced on the date specified and then we will learn what it contains. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, will come to the Seanad next week to address any other matters on finance that Members wish to raise. Senator Reilly also raised a health matter which can be addressed by the Minister for Health.
I have addressed Senator Leyden's point on health issues. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, has outlined the Government's position on Palestine and I will consider putting a combined motion on the Order Paper.
Senator Cáit Keane mentioned the practice of reducing the size of products while retaining the same price. This is not acceptable. This matter of concern to shoppers should be raised with the National Consumer Agency.
Senator Martin Conway raised issues in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital. The Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, will come to the Seanad and that is the time to pose those questions.
Senator Coghlan commented on culture night and the need for a debate on the arts. We will have a more structured debate at a later stage.
Senator Mulcahy raised the issue of the cap of €500,000 on the salary of a new chief executive of AIB. It is a matter which I am sure the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, will address next week when he is present in the House.
Senator Mullins called on the banks to show more compassion to mortgage holders who are in arrears. I am sure we would agree with him in that regard.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 13, motion No. 5, be taken at the conclusion of No. 1." Is the amendment being pressed?
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- Byrne, Thomas.
- Daly, Mark.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Mooney, Paschal.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
- Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
- O’Donovan, Denis.
- O’Sullivan, Ned.
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- Reilly, Kathryn.
- Walsh, Jim.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.
- Bacik, Ivana.
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- Burke, Colm.
- Coghlan, Eamonn.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Comiskey, Michael.
- Conway, Martin.
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- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- Heffernan, James.
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- Keane, Cáit.
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- Moloney, Marie.
- Moran, Mary.
- Mulcahy, Tony.
- Mullins, Michael.
- Noone, Catherine.
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