Order of Business (Resumed)

I join my colleagues in expressing concern about the drop in the world ratings of Irish universities. This calls for careful examination of the criteria by which universities are judged. I am unsure whether the Times Higher Education group actually has the right criteria. I am unsure whether it has the tools to measure the performance of the universities. That said, the consistent drop is something and it is substantial in both cases, although Trinity College Dublin has not dropped quite as disastrously as UCD. Domestic factors are involved in this regard. We are operating at approximately 45% of the state funding of the highest universities. The entire university system has changed since I was an undergraduate in Trinity College Dublin. The university community is now seven times what it then was, which is an astonishing figure. Moreover, in the case of Trinity College Dublin it is on the same small island site, generally speaking. Consequently, the relationship between staff and students has been weakened. In my day, there were three terms, namely, Trinity, Michaelmas and Hilary, there were seven weeks in each term and six students in each tutorial group. The first of the seven weeks was used to discuss the course in general and to pick up subjects on which the student was to write essays, and in the next six weeks, the essays were presented and were critiqued by the academic and student colleagues. I believe this has largely been watered down and it was one of the factors that gave Trinity College Dublin its pre-eminence. I express concern, therefore, although I am unsure how much can be done in respect of funding. Governments tend to operate on fairly short-term strategies, and as for investing in the universities with the intention of making money, it certainly will, but it is a long-term prospect. It is a worrying issue, on which Members should keep their eye. I am glad that my colleagues have raised it.

I would like to think that at this stage, the events of recent days have maxed out, as it were. The fact there has been an explanation, an apology and, much more important, new structures put in place for the further appointments to State boards means that there is a sincere and genuine attempt to ensure good and positive politics will be the norm in the future.

I also support my colleague, Senator Michael Mullins, in seeking a debate on farm safety. I was greatly moved recently by an interview on Clare FM, as well as some national interviews given by Eugene Hogan on the tragic death of his brother, Dermot, as a result of a farm accident in County Offaly. I note there have been a couple of tragic farm accidents in County Clare recently. I believe the Seanad has a role to play in examining farm safety and how the number of these unnecessary deaths can be reduced. In this context, I propose today that the Seanad should engage in a public consultation process on farm safety. This would bring in the Health and Safety Authority, those who have found themselves bereaved as a result of farm accidents, as well as the manufacturers of the high powered machines that are causing many of the farm accidents.

This House has a unique role to play in highlighting this issue which is causing a lot of grief and loss of life for citizens. It would be appropriate for the Seanad public consultation process to be adopted and for the House to hold hearings on this topic. The House has held very successful hearings in the past, particularly on the issue of cancer. If the House was to do that, it would make a positive contribution to reducing the number of deaths in farm accidents.

I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Denis O'Donovan that the Taoiseach come into the House and clears up this unfortunate issue that has arisen in regard to Mr. McNulty who I am sure is an honourable and decent man.

The Senator is flogging a dead horse.

I am disappointed that the Government Chief Whip in this House has referred to the Taoiseach as a dead horse.

No, far from it.

It is in fact the Taoiseach-----

The Senator is misquoting Senator Paul Coghlan.

It is in fact the Taoiseach's behaviour we are flogging and we will continue to do so until such time as he clears up this situation regarding a by-election that concerns this House, the Oireachtas and the people. If we have to refer to him as a dead horse, on the insistence of the Government Chief Whip, then we will do so.

We know that. We have moved on from the McNulty issue.

It is a dead horse.

I would be happy to amend the proposal on the amendment of the Order of Business. I commend Senators Rónán Mullen and Martin Conway. They are on script as a result of the four hour Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting that was held, the emergency meeting that was held last night.

We are learning from the Senator.

It is clear that the message from that is to talk up the economy and throw as much dirt as possible at Fianna Fáil.

That is not a hard job.

The people are not going to buy it. I was not going to mention the Labour Party-----

-----but seeing as Senator Denis Landy has been so anxious to comment this morning-----

The Senator has been goaded.

-----the members of the Labour Party yet again should hang their heads in shame as a result of the way they have dealt with this issue that affects this House-----

The only way we would get to look at the Senator's eyes is if we were to hold our heads in shame.

That really is a dead horse.

I ask the Deputy Leader to invite the Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, to come to the House. It is serious to read the reports in the national media in the past few days on the circumstances in which some members of the Defence Forces have found themselves. It is something that has to be addressed and I understand that the Chief of Staff has said that there is not a difficulty. That may be the information that the Minister is receiving from the upper echelons of the Defence Forces, but I know from members of the Defence Forces in my own community that they are suffering hardship. These reports are correct in that considerable hardship is being suffered by members of the Defence Forces, especially those who have had to move from their barracks as a result of closures. They were not made by this Minister, but he was a member of the Government that did so.

The Cathaoirleach is being very generous. However, the Senator is amusing.

It is very important that we invite the Minister to come to the House in order that we can clear up this unfortunate issue.

I find it hard to see Senator Diarmuid Wilson's eyes across the Chamber.

Today, I wish to speak about the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the national dementia strategy. The Government committed, when it took office in 2011, to publish and carry out a national dementia strategy. A number of steps have taken place since, including support from Atlantic Philanthropies Ireland in the form of funding, research into the strategy, a call for public submissions and the setting up of an expert working group. We are now at the stage where the strategy should be published. During the summer, the Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for this area, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, announced that Atlantic Philanthropies Ireland was providing €15 million and that the HSE would match this funding to prioritise the rolling out of the strategy which would include GP training, public awareness and intensive home care. As recently as 17 September, the Minister of State announced that the strategy publication date was imminent. I met representatives of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland this week and they are very concerned that the clock is still ticking and that the strategy has not been published. In view of this I ask the Deputy Leader to request the Minister of State to come into the House, preferably with the strategy published or to tell us when it is going to be published and also to outline to us how we are going to roll it out. Many strategies have been published and shelved. However, there is a commitment of €30 million for the strategy to be rolled out. We therefore need to have a discussion and a debate with the Minister of State on this matter. I welcome the opportunity to call for this.

I support my colleague's amendment to the Order of Business. The public is becoming increasingly incensed about what is happening. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is a disgrace. She is running away from cameras.

That is ridiculous.

She is going into museums not talking to anybody. We saw her on the television running away from a camera. She will not answer any of the questions that have been asked. We saw her here in the Seanad last week when she refused to answer questions. We have seen her avoid the media. We heard from the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party last night that she read a script. That is a disgraceful position for a Cabinet Minister to be in.

We are not discussing political party meetings on the Order of Business

She needs to come into this House and answer the questions that were asked of her here. She needs to go into the Dáil, to which she is answerable, and answer the questions that are being put. She refuses to do so. Her position is not tenable. It is about time people copped on. There is another stroke about to happen in this game also. That other stroke is that Members are all voting for Mr. McNulty because everyone seems to be quietly telling the media-----

How does the Senator know?

They are all briefing the media that they have already voted, that they are going to vote for Mr. McNulty and asking what can be done? That is the second stroke in this game.

While we have 11% unemployment, political games are being played. It is disgraceful. I support the call to have the Taoiseach come to this House today. He has answered no question. He has accepted responsibility, but for what we do not know.

When you were appointing your boys to the boards-----

Does the Senator want me to go through all of what Fine Gael has done?

You were appointing your own to the boards when there was 15% unemployment, some 60 of them in three days-----

Please, Senator, no crossfire.

I wish to refer to the Irish Hotels Federation quarterly barometer survey which was published on 26 September. It revealed a very strong year for the tourism industry in Galway and beyond. The IHF report highlights the fact that 87% of hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation proprietors have increased their business this year. The overall tourism figures are up 10%. It is also good to hear that 97% of the hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation industry considers the Government's introduction of the 9% VAT rate has had a very positive impact on business. This has resulted in 73% of hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation proprietors have now hired an additional member of staff in the last 12 months. The IHF notes that since the Government came to office, 23,000 new jobs have been created in the industry and that an additional 10,000 indirect jobs are being supported. I congratulate Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, the former Minister in this area, for his very successful tenure in this brief. His efforts are coming to fruition.

I welcome the good news on the unemployment rate which is down to a little over 11% from a high of 15%. However, the members of the public would not forgive us if we decided to take our foot off the accelerator. We must ensure that we refocus and re-energise our efforts to make sure that we get that figure down to single digits and that the country gets closer to full employment. I suggest - we have done this before in this House - that we set aside a period of time for a debate on ideas for the forthcoming budget. The budget will be finalised in two weeks time. We should take the opportunity to bring in the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation or the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform - perhaps all three of them should come in for one hour at a time - to put forward ideas that we might generate between now and then.

I have received e-mails from people which I am putting to the Minister. All Senators in the Chamber should come up with ideas for each Minister - a small idea could grow into something bigger that could have a huge impact on our efforts to get people back to work. This is the only game in town, although political games are being played. The irony of the indignation of my Fianna Fáil colleagues on the other side of the Chamber is not lost on me.

We never used electoral fraud to get a candidate's name on a Seanad by-election ballot paper. That is what Fine Gael did.

No Fianna Fáil Members opened their mouths during the interregnum between Governments when Fianna Fáil stuffed State boards. It was deemed to be acceptable because it was an action by Fianna Fáil. I do not agree with Fine Gael stuffing State boards and I only believe that suitably qualified people should be on State boards, as this is Fine Gael's way. The approach taken by the committee on which Senators Terry Brennan and Paschal Mooney sit is the way forward. I repeat that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, must come before this House and before that debate is held we should gather ideas and put them to the Ministers in order that we can get people back into jobs.

The issue of farm safety has been discussed by a number of my colleagues with whom I agree with wholeheartedly. Some 24 lives have been lost so far this year on farms, which is far too many. I look forward to a discussion in the House on the issue of safety in order that we can do everything possible to ensure there are no more tragedies affecting farming families. I commend the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, as at the national ploughing championships last week he introduced safety features and grants for farmers who wished to install or repair slats or manhole covers. The safety features he introduced will lower the risks facing farming families and are welcome. The grants will encourage people to carry out improvements on their farms.

Senator Thomas Byrne is no longer in the Chamber, but I was amused by his remarks about strokes.

We do not allude to Members who have left the Chamber.

No strokes were pulled. Last night the Taoiseach recommended that Deputies and Senators accede to the wish of Mr. McNulty that we do not vote for him in the forthcoming Seanad by-election. The only stroke pulled today concerns the sticking of a poker in the fire to fuel it. There is so much good news in the media that Senator Thomas Byrne is trying to take attention away from it. He probably got his information on the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, reading a script last night in the media. I was in attendance and the Minister did not read a script. She spoke very well.

We are not discussing party political issues.

I want to discuss the issue of State boards. Last week the development board of the national paediatric hospital appointed a new design team from BDT, a world renowned firm of architects. The Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, has said this is a milestone for the hospital, work on which is proceeding full steam ahead. We expect planning permission will go through during the summer of 2015 and the first patients will be admitted in 2019. There will be arguments in the coming year about the location - whether it should be on the M50, in Blanchardstown, in the Midlands and so on - but the website for the national paediatric hospital refers to it as a tri-location for paediatrics, maternity and adult health care services. It stresses that the hospital is particularly for children, mothers and neonates. This is not the first or second time I have brought this issue to the attention of the Seanad. I must ask the same question for a third time - this time in reference to the remark made by the Minister stating it was "full steam ahead". Will the Minister, the Department and the design team seek planning permission for the maternity hospital at the same time? The hospital is to open in 2019, but I want 20:20 vision on the subject of neonates. It is not acceptable for neonates to be driven by ambulance to the new national paediatric hospital. If planning permission is not sought simultaneously for the maternity hospital it may be too late to seek it when the paediatric hospital is built. Will the Minister seek planning permission for the new maternity hospital and, if not, why not?

Section 836 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for a Minister to be exempt from certain charges relating to the necessity of maintaining a second home in the course of his or her duties. I commend the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, for indicating that he will move quickly to close this obscure loophole. Yesterday in the other House Deputy Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin described this section as "sickening". Perhaps the Leader might ask Sinn Féin whether it was sickening that the body of a disappeared person had turned up in a bog in County Meath after 30 years. Words like "sickening" should be reserved for such circumstances. As Members of Sinn Féin are apologists for the murderers of the young man in question, they might be a little more circumspect in their parliamentary language.

Senator Denis O'Donovan raised the John McNulty saga and confessed to eavesdropping and listening in corridors after the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting. I have no comment on his eavesdropping skills, but my view on the issue has been expressed consistently on a number of occasions. I have serious concerns about the timing of and the manner in which the appointment of Mr. McNulty was made to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, but things have moved on. Mr. McNulty has indicated that he does not want people to vote for him and the Taoiseach has advised Fine Gael Members not to do so and respect Mr. McNulty's wishes. We will have to consider how we vote in a secret ballot and I know that the Clerk of the Seanad has sent instruction on this issue to all Senators. In the circumstances, I will not accede to the amendment sought by Senator Denis O'Donovan.

Yesterday I asked the Leader for a debate on the new mechanisms announced by the Minster for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, which received Cabinet approval this week. It is historic that the Government has now agreed to a revised model for ministerial appointments to State boards that at last will resolve this ongoing issue. As Senator Paschal Mooney fairly acknowledged, it has been an issue that has affected many Governments. This week's decision ensures there will be a structured approach, requiring all appointments to fill vacancies on State boards to be advertised openly on the State boards portal, stateboards.ie, operated by the Public Appointments Service. There will be specified and detailed criteria for the effective performance of a role which may be determined by a Minister, if necessary. Applications will be processed through a transparent assessment system designed and implemented by the independent Public Appointments Service. I welcome these changes. Some colleagues gave examples of existing good practice, whereby different committees had scrutinised appointments which were made in a transparent and objective manner. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality scrutinised the membership of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and we found it to be a very useful exercise. I hope there will be more of this, as it is clear there will be a very different system for all Government appointments.

Senator Paul Coghlan commented on the flogging of a dead horse and referred to the new planning Bill that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, is publishing today. It is an important Bill that will make significant changes and improvements to the planning regime, particularly by allowing for the imposition of vacant site levies by local authorities, which will free land for building. The focus of the Bill is on allowing the construction of housing at a swifter rate than heretofore.

Senator Sean D. Barrett referred to the decline in Irish university rankings in the publication of The Times higher education rankings. As others said, like opinion polls, these rankings always come with a health warning. There are questions about the criteria used in the different ranking systems. The staff-student ratio is only one criterion, as is the academic citation.

Everybody who contributed on this issue did so in a measured fashion, which is appropriate. While UCD has, unfortunately, fallen in the rankings, it is still among the top 200. Also, it is not true to say there have been dramatic or consistent falls in other institutions. For example, Trinity College Dublin which was already out of the top 100 has fallen from 129th to 138th in the rankings, which, while regrettable, is a relatively small fall. If it was an opinion poll, it would be said it was within the margin of error. It is important to say NUI Galway has moved upwards and is now the third ranked university in Ireland. Also, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has for the first time entered the top 400. It should not be forgotten that there are more than 15,000 universities represented in the rankings. It is important to bear all of this in mind when commenting. I am happy to support the call made by Senator Sean D. Barrett that the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, be asked to come to the House for a debate on the third level sector generally and the many factors that dictate the ranking and status of universities. This is not just an issue of resources but also the structure of universities and the systems in place and so on.

Senator Michael Mullins referred to Fianna Fáil's history in the filling of board positions with its supporters. The figure of approximately 272 appointments to State boards made by Fianna Fáil during its final four months in government from December 2010 to March 2011 speaks for itself. It is an important figure.

They had to be made.

It should not be forgotten also-----

On a point of order, the Deputy Leader is being selective. A similar number of appointments to State boards were made by the last rainbow coalition in 1997 during its dying days in government.

That is not a point of order.

As I said earlier, it is important that people be objective and fair-----

The Senator should resume his seat.

-----and not engage in political point scoring, which is what is now being done.

I acknowledged that the Senator had taken a much more measured approach to the issue than many of his colleagues.

With respect, it is a much more measured approach than that being taken by the Deputy Leader.

It is important to highlight the large number of appointments made.

I will highlight it next week.

Balance is important.

Next week I will quote the figures for the appointments made by the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition.

How many of those appointments had to made?

The Deputy Leader is trying to respond to the questions asked.

Perhaps she might say how many of the appointments made at the time had to be made.

Will the Senator, please, allow the Deputy Leader to respond to the questions asked by Members?

It is interesting to note that less than one third of all appointments made by Fianna Fáil during its 14 years in government were of women. I agree that there is a need for the appointment of more women to ensure a better gender balance in State appointments.

The Deputy Leader should have a word with the Taoiseach.

I hope that will be the result of the new measures to be introduced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, which recently received full Cabinet approval.

He has a great record with women, professionally, of course.

Senator Michael Mullins welcomed the decrease in the level of unemployment, as set out in the live register statistics. It is genuinely a good news story that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 11.1%, down from a crisis peak of 15.1% in 2012. It is hugely significant that there has been a 9% year-on-year decrease in the level of unemployment, with the rate of long-term unemployment having decreased by 5.5% year on year. I know that everyone in the House will welcome this reduction. It is hoped this pattern of decreases will continue into the future. As I said, this issue was also noted fairly by Senator Paschal Mooney.

Senator Michael Mullins asked for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, to be invited to the House for a debate on job creation. Previous debates on this issue in the House proved to be very useful. I will ask the Leader to facilitate such a debate.

The Senator also referred to the tragic deaths in recent times on farms. We were all heartbroken to hear about the two little girls involved in the accident on a farm in County Cork. The Senator's suggestion that primary schools educate children about farm and road safety is a good one. It might be worthwhile for him to raise the matter with the Health and Safety Authority.

I have responded to some of the questions raised by Senator Paschal Mooney. I note that he also welcomed the new model launched this week by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, which marks an historic change in the system of appointments to boards. We should all applaud the Minister and the Government in this regard.

The Senator also referred to the appointment of the new US ambassador to Ireland. Unlike here, in the United States ambassadors are political appointees rather than civil servants. We do not have the same system as the United States in the election of judges and prosecutors. There are many ways in which our system bears much better scrutiny.

Senator Aideen Hayden also spoke about and called for a debate on the third level institution rankings. As I said, it would be good to have the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, come to the House for such a debate and, in particular, the report on third level funding, publication of which we would all welcome.

Senator Feargal Quinn also spoke about the university rankings and the importance of high standards in our universities in the context of foreign direct investment. He also referred to Mr. Tom Boland's important statement that rankings were not the only measurement and that other criteria were used, some of which might be flawed.

The Senator also referred to the issues of cigarette smuggling and diesel laundering in north Louth and south Armagh and spoke about the tragic death of Garda Adrian Donohoe as being a catalyst for change. I agree with him in that regard. Next Tuesday the Minister for Justice and Equality will be in the House for the Second Stage debate on the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014, which might present an appropriate opportunity for the Senator to express his concerns about the particular area of the country mentioned. It should be possible to introduce measures that might be of assistance, although I suspect that what is needed is policing strategies and measures rather than legislative ones. It is an important issue which was brought home to us yesterday in the context of the tributes paid in this House to the late former Senator Edward Haughey who as a major employer brought so much prosperity to south Armagh. That is perhaps a better way of dealing with these issues than the vehicle of terrorist legislation.

Senator Terry Brennan spoke about the appointments made to the RTE Authority and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, which, again, were examples of good practice in terms of the nominees having been required to engage in a process of hearings-----

That process was introduced by Fianna Fáil.

-----following which the 129 applicants where whittled down to eight. It is important that the House give credit where there is good practice, regardless of by whom it was instituted or which committee engages in it. The media do not pay enough attention to the many Ministers who have been utilising this open and transparent system in making State board appointments.

Senator Terry Brennan also expressed the hope the planning Bill would be brought before the House soon and called on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come to the House to address the unauthorised developments issue. The Minister will be before the House to take the planning Bill, at which time matters such as the vacant site levy, as well as Part V social housing issues, can be addressed.

Senator David Norris also spoke about the university rankings. I agree with him in his comments on the need for a careful examination of the criteria being used in that regard. It is also important to say that in Ireland there have been positive increases in recent years in the numbers of students attending third level education. Ireland has one of the highest proportions of third level graduates across the European Union, something of which we should be very proud. Our universities are doing a very good job in raising educational standards generally. When looking at criteria across other countries, it should be remembered that other countries may have much lower levels of participation in third level education than in Ireland. We have also seen considerable success here in the roll-out of campus companies in different universities through the good use of philanthropy and philanthropic funding.

Senator Martin Conway welcomed the new structures for appointments to State boards as positive politics, with which I agree. He also put forward important ideas for how we deal with accidents on farms and address the issue of farm safety generally. He called on the Seanad to play a role in this regard and the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, in particular, to take it on as its next topic for consultation, which is a good idea. I advise the Senator to communicate with the Cathaoirleach on the matter and will undertake to raise it at the next meeting of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee and suggest it be the next issue it addresses. I agree that it is an appropriate forum in which to try to come up with ideas for the better dissemination of the message on farm safety. The Health and Safety Authority's advertising in this regard is very powerful, but clearly more needs to be done.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson spoke about the McNulty affair and wilfully misquoted Senator Paul Coghlan on the issue of the dead horse, an issue over which I do not propose to go again.

The record speaks for itself.

I propose to ignore the Senator's gratuitous comments on the Labour Party.

As everyone else is ignoring the Labour Party, it does not matter.

It is nice not to be ignored.

The Senator also referred to the plight of Defence Forces personnel. I am sure all of us, on reading some of the reports from the Defence Forces representative organisations, share his concern. The Minister for Defence, Deputy Simon Coveney, has said he has not received representations on the matter. He will, however, be in the House next Wednesday, at which time these matters can be raised with him.

Senator Denis Landy referred to the national dementia strategy, in respect of which issue on Tuesday last I asked the Leader for a debate and commended the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland for its work. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, will be requested to come to the House to update us on the strategy.

Senator Thomas Byrne also referred to the McNulty affair. I have responded on that issue. As I said at the time the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, was in the House, we should have a general debate with her on the different issues to do with the arts. We have considerable expertise in this area in the Seanad, in particular Senator Fiach Mac Conghail. It would be worthwhile, therefore, having such a debate.

Senator Hildegarde Naughton spoke about the Irish Hotels Federation's quarterly barometer survey, which again was a good news story. The Senator noted that there had been a 10% increase in the tourism figures last year and pointed to the success of the 9% VAT rate in this regard. I commend her for raising this important issue less than two weeks out from the budget. Continuation of the reduced VAT rate is one of the key issues we hope to see addressed in the budget, as I am sure everybody in the House agrees.

Senator Michael D'Arcy also spoke about the good news story of the decrease in the unemployment figures and suggested we have a debate on ideas for inclusion in the budget and job creation, a debate which would be well worth having, even after the budget.

We should have a debate on job creation. I noted the really creative ideas, for instance, around apprenticeships. There was good news yesterday when it was reported that Waterford Crystal had for the first time in years taken on new apprentices in the highly skilled glass-blowing sector. It is really positive news for Waterford and the south east to see it recommencing. We might have a useful debate on the issue with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton. We will also have statements on the budget on 14 October and the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, has promised to come into the House shortly after Halloween for a debate, in which we might focus on job creation with him.

Senator Michael Comiskey raised the issue of farm safety, about which I have spoken.

On the McNulty affair, Senator Eamonn Coghlan pointed out that the Taoiseach had recommended to Fine Gael Members not to vote for Mr. McNulty to respect Mr. McNulty's wishes. The Senator also spoke about the board of the paediatric hospital and the issue of planning of a maternity unit at the same time as an application for planning permission was submitted for the national children's hospital. It is an excellent idea which might be raised as a matter on the Adjournment. I was personally involved in the submission from the Coombe Women's Hospital which looked to have the national children's hospital co-located with the Coombe Women's Hospital. There is a plan to develop the Coombe Women's Hospital which is local to the St. James's Hospital site that was ultimately chosen. It is possible to open a swift corridor between the two sites, which might be something the Senator could pursue directly with the Minister for Health.

Senator John Gilroy pointed out that section 836 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 was an obscure anomaly which appeared to allow Ministers to be exempt from certain charges. I agree with him and commend the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, and the Government for closing this loophole swiftly when it became apparent. Sinn Féin attempted to make political mileage out of the issue, but I agree with the Senator that the term "sickening" is a far more appropriate one to use about that party's actions. That really came home to all of us when we saw Brendan Megraw's body finally discovered 36 years after his disappearance and after his mother had died. Hearing his family speak about the heartbreak they had been through in the past 36 years brought home to all of us what "sickening" really means.

Senator Denis O'Donovan has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: “That a debate with the Taoiseach on the appointment of Mr. John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 19.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.
Question, "That the Order of Business be agreed to," put and declared carried.