Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Vol. 240 No. 4

Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion of referral to Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation of the Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2015, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, Customs Bill 2014 – Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and adjourned not later than 7 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 No. 3, statements on the national drugs strategy, to be taken at 7 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 to the debate not later than 8.25 p.m.

I thank the Deputy Leader for outlining the Order of Business. The Order of Business gives me an opportunity, on behalf of my party, to very much welcome the result of the marriage equality referendum, not the presidential age referendum. The participation in the referendum by way of turnout was very heartening and shows that when civil groups, in particular, are at the centre of campaigns such as this, people become engaged. It was heartening to see the response of the "Yes" vote.

It gives me great pleasure to commend, in particular, Senator David Norris. I am sure people will not mind me singling him out, as someone who has championed the cause of equal rights to same-sex marriage dating back to when homosexuality was a criminal offence. It makes ones think how quickly the country has moved on in relative terms. I also commend Senators Katherine Zappone, Ivana Bacik and many others who played their part in having the same-sex marriage referendum passed by the people. There is a slight degree of irony in that although we passed this referendum, we had a small break-up in the Fianna Fáil Party, but we are over it already and have moved on.

It is a good job divorce is legal.

Senator Averil Power played a very important and very active role in the campaign and I would never take that away from her; she is a very good colleague of ours; therefore, that is for another day. It is important for the occasion to be marked and I also welcome the fact that the Government has decided to bring the legislation forward to July. The Government can be assured of our party's support in ensuring the legislation has a quick passage.

I have just come from the Lower House and congratulate Bobby Aylward, the new Deputy who was elected for the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency to replace the European Commissioner, Phil Hogan. I am delighted he has been elected by the people of that constituency. He is a colleague of mine in Fianna Fáil and I pass on my congratulations to him and all candidates, of all parties and none, who put their names forward in the by-election and campaigned so hard in that constituency.

I believe that, earlier today, the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG was discussed in Cabinet. Our views are very clear on this - we oppose the sale of the State's share. Under the Aer Lingus Act 2004, once the Government makes a recommendation to sell its stake it has to be voted on in the Dáil. I ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, to come to the House at the appropriate time, whatever the Government decision is, to go through the rationale for the decision and take questions. I remind Members that 15,000 pensioners and members of the IASS pension scheme are suffering savage cuts to their pension benefits, which allowed Aer Lingus and the airport to wipe away a €740 million pension deficit in order to fatten the company up for sale. Those people must be remembered in this and perhaps, if the Government is going to sell its stake, part of the residual moneys can actually be used for the benefit of the deferred pensioners who have been cut by 60% and the retired members who are represented by RASA and who have lost six weeks pay.

The Senator is way over time.

I ask the Deputy Leader to give a commitment that, at the appropriate time, the Minister will come to the House to discuss the Government's decision, whatever it may be.

I agree fully with Senator Darragh O'Brien and pass on my congratulations to Senator David Norris. Nobody has campaigned for as long and as hard as he has. I also congratulate Senators Katherine Zappone and Averil Power and the many others who took part actively on the "Yes" side of the campaign in the referendum. We also welcome the new Deputy.

This is a very important day for another reason. Today saw the publication of the report of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on farm safety. It is a tremendous and very useful report and I congratulate the Chairman of the committee, Senator Denis O'Donovan, and its rapporteur, Senator Martin Conway, for all the work they put into it. I also hope the rest of us assisted somewhat. It makes recommendations on the education front, in terms of awareness of new technologies, on targeted agricultural modernisation and a scheme for tractor safety and we know how important that is. It also deals with farm safety visits, a tractor adaptation grant which we have recommended, assistance for bereaved families and a scrappage scheme. Of particular importance in this area are PTO shafts, the dangers they present and the number of bereavements for which they are responsible. I lost a great friend in Ballyhar when a tractor pinned him down for 24 hours and he died a short time after being found in the cold of winter. I do hope the Minister and his departmental officials take serious note of everything that is in this report. It will be sent to them now and I look forward to the Leader giving a commitment to a debate on the report, for which the Chairman of the committee asked. The report is most useful and I heartily recommend it.

It was an honour and a privilege to be present in Dublin Castle for the final declaration on Saturday and to see the landslide in the marriage equality referendum. I was in the count centre in the RDS early on Saturday morning and, while it became apparent from the first batch of boxes that we were heading for a resounding victory, the sense of occasion only grew in momentum as the day wore on.

I have known very few such days in my lifetime. I had the lyrics of Nina Simone's 1965 classic - "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good" - going around my head for that entire weekend. Everybody one met around Dublin Castle and Dublin in general did. The result is more than what it says on the tin. It is a definitive reflection of a societal shift that has been developing for some time. The people have spoken and they are saying, "Welcome to 21st-century Ireland, which is open, inclusive, fair and tolerant." I congratulate Yes Equality and all the civil society groups that advocated, campaigned and canvassed to bring about the referendum and to bring about the courage in the Irish people to say "Yes." As a children's rights advocate, I was involved and was delighted to be part of a rallying call at the official launch of the BeLonGTo campaign, the largest coalition of children's and youth organisations supporting a "Yes" vote in the referendum. Well done to them on all their work. That organisation will need support as more and more young people are now having the courage to come forward. I hope we will arrive at a day when we do not need courage. On the issue of courage, I thank my colleague, Senator Katherine Zappone who had the courage to take the Government to the Supreme Court and Senator David Norris, who had and continues to have courage on the issue of ensuring equality. Particular mention should be made in this House of Senators Averil Power and Ivana Bacik who played a very strong role. Well done to all of us who played our individual parts.

I raise the issue of direct provision and the increase in the momentum for change. On 7 May, the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions produced a report stating the direct provision system must be made subject to the Ombudsman for Children and the Freedom of Information Acts. On 22 May, the Ombudsman for Children's report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which will be looked at the week after next, raised specific concerns about mental health services for children in direct provision. Yesterday, HIQA published the report of its inspection of child protection and welfare services for children living in direct provision centres. We heard very startling reports. Today, at the ISPCC inaugural lecture, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, talked about the cultural norm we must have of protecting all children. We have, in a way, accepted that these children are treated differently. In this era of equality, we need to say it is no longer good enough. Given this focus on direct provision - I know we have a cross-party group and our group of nominees has put forward many motions on the issue - I ask the Leader to seek a commitment from the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, to introduce the working group report on improvements to the protection process, including direct provision and supports to asylum seekers, into the Seanad for debate, given our cross-party work on this issue. We have to have it soon and must take urgent action. There are children at risk in direct provision accommodation in Ireland.

I join in the congratulations to everyone who was in Dublin Castle on Saturday and, in particular, our great colleague, Senator David Norris.

For some of us, this is a sad day. The Government has presided over the sale of the Irish national airline without reference to the Oireachtas transport committee. They did not even have to give the Taoiseach the papers when he went into the Cabinet meeting this morning. My office was told by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport yesterday that it was not on the Cabinet agenda. This is an appalling way to proceed. We need that national airline. The conduct of British Airways shows contempt for this House, for this Parliament, for an independent country. It has gone to a British quango, the Competition and Markets Authority, to force Ryanair to divest its shares in Aer Lingus in order that British Airways can take it over.

This is an outer offshore island that needs to access transport. This is an outer offshore island from which Aer Lingus has developed nine transatlantic routes. There are none from Scotland, which was a major factor in the rise of the Scottish National Party in recent elections. Angus MacNeil, the transport spokesman, said British Airways neglects Scotland. It has no routes to North America. We are trying to develop this country, yet we are handing over the national airline to an airline whose track record is not to provide services from Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham or any other region of the United Kingdom to North America. We need that North American investment. I am calling for the suspension of Standing Orders to make the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, come to the House and say what he is doing.

I remind the Minister that two thirds of the people surveyed in The Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll opposed the privatisation of that share of Aer Lingus, including a majority of the supporters of the Fine Gael Party and a strong majority of the supporters of the Labour Party, Sinn Féin, the Independents and Fianna Fáil. Why is a 21% share in an airline which we, the citizens, owned being given away for a paltry sum by the Cabinet today? Apparently it has adjourned and intends to meet again in the evening to complete this foul deed, which is not to the advantage of the country. It is anti-competition, anti-consumer and anti-development. We should suspend Standing Orders to force the Minister to come to the House because we, as Members of the Parliament, have not been supplied with the documentation. It also has not been given to the transport committee and it appears from the Taoiseach's interview this morning that he was not given the papers either. This is a shoddy way for British Airways to proceed with its business and it should not be tolerated by this independent country.

Before the Senator can make such a proposal, I must have written notice before 4.30 p.m. today that he wishes to suspend Standing Orders. Does he wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business?

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister come to the House.

I also welcome the outcome of the marriage referendum. It was very heartening to see the cross-party support for it and everybody campaigning together. Tomorrow they will be protesting again but for that period of time everybody acted as one. Some campaigned more than others, but that is grand because that is democracy and everybody is entitled to their beliefs. The outcome was good. I especially congratulate those who are not involved in politics but who went out knocking on doors and to campaign for Yes Equality. Perhaps it will give them a taste of politics and they will continue in that line.

I mention the provision of funding for the schemes to support national organisations, SSNOs. This is something on which Senator Jillian van Turnhout and I have been working. It was also the subject of a Commencement debate in the House. The Minister and the departmental officials met Senator Jillian van Turnhout and I to try to move this forward. Last night I was delighted to hear that the Minister had announced funding of €1.3 million to provide security for at least 12 months. However, these organisations should be put on a more sustainable footing. The Department of Health must move into this area and take over the disability and health organisations that should come within its remit. It should put proper funding in place for them to give them security, rather than have them not knowing whether they will be in their jobs in a year's time or whether they will be able to provide a service. Perhaps the Deputy Leader might invite the Minister for Health to the House in order that we could discuss it in detail. Otherwise, this issue will be before the House again this time next year. Some of us might be back here again too, although some of us might not, and we will be seeking funding again for these organisations for the future. Now is the time to act and put it on a more sustainable footing before then.

I congratulate Deputy Bobby Aylward on his re-election to Dáil Éireann. It is a great honour for him and his family. I also second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Sean D. Barrett.

I acknowledge the tsunami victory that the "Yes" campaign achieved over the weekend. I was very interested in the remarks made by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. As a practising Catholic, I believe that unless the Catholic Church takes heed of the seismic shift in Irish society it will decline further into the abyss. His remarks were encouraging and acknowledged the situation in which we find ourselves. It is important that this is done because, historically, the Catholic Church has buried its head in the sand. I would like to see a move in the Catholic Church to a more centrist position and to an acknowledgement of how society is evolving. If it does not do that, unfortunately, the church to which I have been attached since my childhood - as a practising Catholic I will probably die a member of it - is certainly going nowhere and on a hiding to nothing.

I also acknowledge the tremendous work done by my colleague, Senator David Norris. I became a Member of the Seanad on 27 October 1989.

At that stage Senator David Norris was ploughing a lonely furrow, not only in this House but in the country and he was often scoffed at by members of my party and other parties. I admire his tenacity and his courage in holding out. He won a very successful court case in Europe, which led to the then Minister, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, taking on board the decriminalisation of homosexuality. At the request of the then Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, in 2002 and 2003, I chaired a committee on the Constitution which was the first group to examine the whole area of the family and to recommend civil partnership. It was a big step in that direction. At the time I had many discussions with Senator David Norris both on and off the record. It was my view then that a referendum to change the situation at that time would probably have failed. That was my view and it was the majority view of the committee. It was a large committee. I specifically requested the Taoiseach to bring on board the Independents, Sinn Féin and the Green Party. Our work was acknowledged, but it would be remiss of me today, as the deputy leader of this group and on behalf of Fianna Fáil, not to congratulate the "Yes" side. If any person in this country was the catalyst for change who often ploughed a lone furrow, that is Senator David Norris and I bow to him today.

Before I ask for a debate, I congratulate Senator Denis O'Donovan and the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on the farm safety report, which will be very useful. We look forward to debating it in the House.

It is less than 100 years since te country gained independence. The momentous decision at the weekend shows how much we have moved on in that 100 years. It has vindicated the work done by Senators David Norris, Katherine Zappone and many others in this House.

With regard to the result of the by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny, I congratulate my old adversary from Kilkenny County Council, my good friend Bobby Aylward on his election to Dáil Éireann. I look forward to working with him as a constituency colleague. I also congratulate my colleague, Councillor David Fitzgerald, who put up a good show on the Fine Gael ticket.

It is with regard to the by-election and the referendum that I raise this matter. I ask the Deputy Leader to request a debate on the electoral system. It can be seen that the referendum captured the imagination of the people when one notes that more than 65,000 people registered to vote and more than 2,500 of those were in Carlow-Kilkenny, whether for the by-election or the referendum. However, what concerns me is that in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election there were 2,066 spoiled votes, that is, 3% of those who voted, whereas in the referendum vote the proportion of spoiled votes was 1%, over 600 votes, which is the national average. I saw the boxes being opened because I was helping with the tally, and I saw the spoiled votes being counted and sorted. More than 1,000 of those spoiled votes had no preference marked on the paper. Therefore, there were people who wanted to vote in the referendum but did not offer any preference as to whom they wanted as their representative for Carlow-Kilkenny. Besides the 1,000 papers which showed no preference, there were also spoiled votes that had the usual comments written on them. Perhaps people are entitled to do as they wish with their vote, but in my view, young people need to be educated on how our PR system works. As seasoned politicians, we are often baffled as to how voting preferences work. I noted that some voting papers had 12 preferences indicated for 13 candidates. It is important that people vote down the list on the voting paper.

Time, please.

Other speakers were given liberty today because it is a momentous day for the country.

The elimination of the Sinn Féin candidate resulted in 9,990 non-transferable votes. Is that the party's policy, or were people voting-----

Is the Senator looking for a debate on the issue?

I am looking for a debate about educating young people on how the system works. We should also have a debate on the electoral register. The fact that 65,000 people had to register-----

They can vote whatever way they like.

The Senator is way over time.

I will conclude. I called for this debate previously. People should not need to register themselves because a PPS number should be a means of automatic inclusion in the electoral register.

If that were the case, we would not have this situation where 65,000 people were obliged to apply to go on the supplementary register. As I said, the number of spoiled votes, at 2,066, and non-transferable votes in the by-election worries me.

It is such a privilege to stand up in the House and welcome the decision of the people to say "Yes" to marriage equality. I acknowledge our great hero and champion, Senator David Norris, with all of the colleagues who participated in bringing forward that outcome. I acknowledge, too, all the citizens who voted, whether "Yes" or "No", for their engagement and the depth of their reflection on their values and on the arguments from both sides. My Dublin South-West Yes Equality team visited approximately 25,000 households in the course of the campaign and had at least 10,000 conversations with residents on the doorstep. I was deeply moved, time and again, by how Irish people engaged in these conversations and showed their care for the State. I had the wonderful opportunity yesterday to speak with our former President, Mary Robinson, about the referendum. One of the things she said to me was that it feels like we are back to the early years of her Presidency, when there was great engagement, hope and a vision for change for Ireland, and a consideration of how we might offer that example of change to the rest of the world.

I also take the opportunity to acknowledge the spokespeople for the "No" side, particularly those who sit on the opposite side of this Chamber. I witnessed their immense dedication to this debate time and again. Although we disagreed deeply, I always felt personally respected by them, for which I thank them.

When my life partner, Ann Louise Gilligan, soon to be acknowledged as my spouse in the eyes of this republic, and I conducted our case in the courts almost a decade ago, one of the arguments put forward by our legal counsel was that our human right to marry each other should exist, even if the majority did not agree, and it was the role of the courts to protect the rights of those in the minority. I take this chance to express, one final time, our profound gratitude to that legal team. It included Senator Ivana Bacik who sits in this Chamber with me today. When we saw that the decision on this fundamental right was to move from the courts to the people, it was not easy in the beginning. However, we came to the view that if the majority of the people were to say "Yes" to equality, freedom and love, it would far outweigh the import of any judicial decision, even that of the highest court in the land. I thank the people of Ireland for their decision.

I join colleagues in voicing my delight at the result in the marriage referendum and thanking all those who worked hard to get it over the line. I take the opportunity to acknowledge Senator David Norris as the path finder on this human rights issue and for his role in leading us to a more modern Ireland.

President John F. Kennedy famously said, "[Ask] not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Yesterday, the country lost one of its famous sons with the passing of Mr. Bill O'Herlihy. Bill did more for the country than many a man for many a decade. He united us all, coming into our living rooms in the depths of winter and the heat of summer. He thrilled and excited us, whether we won, lost or drew. He was a genius of a journalist, combining that skill with his television broadcasting. He got the best out of the so-called experts with whom he worked. Not just on television but also in his place of work and with his family and friends, Bill was provocative and stimulating. He stimulated debate and touched the nerve of the nation like no other before him and perhaps like no other after him. It is often said achieving fulfilment is less about what one gets out of life and more about what one puts into it. Bill put so much into his life, and we as a nation are richer and better for it. He was a great friend and mentor to me and many others in the world of sports. He will be dearly missed by all of those who were privileged to know him. To his wife, Hilary, his daughters, Jill and Sally, and his grandchildren, family, friends and colleagues in RTE, I offer my deepest condolences.

At exactly this time tomorrow, Bill was scheduled to play in a fourball with his mates. He would not give a gimme and there would be no mulligans. It would be pure golf. I know that he is watching and that his friends with whom he was scheduled to play tomorrow are deep in grief and are asking whether they should play. What Bill is saying right now is: "Lads, go out and play. Life is too short. Enjoy. Your round is not up yet. Make the most of life." May he rest in peace.

I fear that we are in danger of bringing on referendum fatigue.

The Senator will revive us.

I will confine myself to saying, "Well done, Ireland." I would like to mention the wonderful work done by the Leas-Chathaoirleach and his committee which took evidence from both sides quite impartially. I say this because it is the only aspect that has not been mentioned and complimented. Everyone else has been already. I look forward with great interest to the Government's legislation which will give effect to this enabling clause in the Constitution. There are certain anomalies that need to be ironed out, for example, pension irregularities and the question of section 37 of the equality legislation, which allows schools, at least theoretically, to dismiss people for their lifestyles being in conflict. That issue has been parked, but what about the presidential age referendum? It was a complete and utter farce.

A total distraction. The reason for the distraction was that none of the stuff about the Presidency was in the Constitutional Convention's programme. I managed to squeeze on a motion about opening up the Presidency to popular nomination. I was accused of doing it for my own ends, but I have no intention of going for that particular job again. It was an altruistic motion. The people should have a say. The motion went through by 96%, by far the highest percentage of any vote taken by the convention, but what has the Government done about it? Nothing. It produced a farce about the presidential age.

What is the Government doing about it? Interestingly, Mr. Seán Kelly, MEP, also raised this issue.

The issue of direct provision was mentioned. I prepared legislation and tabled it in the House. We were told that, of course, it would all be sorted out in a matter of weeks. Rubbish.

Nothing has happened.

Nothing has been done at all. We would have passed that legislation had Sinn Féin not jumped ship at the last minute with a dog-in-the-manger-type attitude because it wanted to grab all of the kudos for solving the problem.

It made a series of speeches and nonsensical arguments about how this, that and the other were not included in the Bill.

The Senator should do some homework.

Every single thing it listed was included in the Bill. Unless Sinn Féin's Members had secret reasons within their hearts-----

The Senator is way over time.

They are good with secrets.

I do not know about that. It is nice to get back to good, argumentative business in the Chamber and put the referendum behind us.

The people of Ireland made a significant and monumental decision. What stood out in the campaign was the considerable debate on radio and television. Everyone who participated on both sides of the argument is to be complimented on informing the general public about all of the issues pertaining to the referendum. Democracy was well served and people made their decisions based on everything they had heard. The outcome was a good day for citizens who have felt undervalued and under-respected down the decades.

I join Senator Eamonn Coghlan in extending our deepest sympathy to the family of the late Bill O'Herlihy, a much loved and much respected journalist. Some of us remember when he presented "7 Days", including that famous programme about moneylending all of those years ago, where he cut his teeth in the world of politics. We were present with him on every great sporting occasion for the country. He was a wonderful businessman who lived life to the full and brought out the best in everyone with whom he worked. It was great to hear former colleagues speaking with such high regard for him and the advice and mentoring he gave many through the years.

What an exit. He attended the Irish Film and Television Awards on Sunday night in great form and then left the stage. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

I congratulate the Leas-Chathaoirleach and Senator Martin Conway on the publication and launch of the document on farm safety in the audio-visual room earlier. It is appropriate that it should be published this time of year when the farm is the busiest place in the world with so much activity. All the people who participated in the hearings and fed into that wonderful report should be complimented, but it is incumbent on all of us to highlight its contents. I look forward to a lengthy debate in the House and ensuring we focus people's attention on farm safety.

The Senator is over time.

I pay tribute to two people, in particular, who made a significant contribution. One is Patrick Duffy, a young student from County Monaghan, who designed a board game on farm safety, and a lady called Alma Jordan who has published her first in a series of six books for children on farm safety. This is a good day for the House and I look forward to the debate on the report.

Ba mhaith liom tréaslú le chuile duine a raibh baint acu leis an reifreann ag an deireadh seachtaine, an reifreann ar chomhionnanas pósta.

Although it is important to recognise the role played by political and public figures, the referendum on marriage equality last weekend was a win for the citizens of the State and a great day for them. The grassroots movement that came forward to canvass on behalf of a "Yes" vote was phenomenal and it was great to see the outpourings of joy. I am disappointed the second referendum on equality did not pass because I do not see a difference between a citizen who is aged 18 years and one who is aged 88 and it was disappointing that the referendum did not pass.

As "equality" is now the buzzword and most politicians were willing to wear Yes Equality badges, although some were a little shy, we need to examine other equality issues in the State. I refer to the economic and social inequality and the growing disparity between those who have and those who have not. We also need to consider the issue of child poverty, which was debated in the media yesterday. It is an ongoing debate. This issue affects children in all spheres of life. In a number of days, 10,000 lone parents in Galway will have their benefits cut because of changes being introduced to their social welfare payments. It was pointed out at the inaugural ISPCC lecture that 1,000 children live in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation in Dublin, which is unacceptable, while more than 1,400 children are in direct provision centres. They are certainly not equal in the eyes of the State. It would be appropriate for us in light of the concerns raised by HIQA yesterday and by other Members to have a debate on the report of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions on the issue of direct provision, which has cross-party support. It is a comprehensive report with comprehensive proposals, which I am sure Senator David Norris will welcome when we have the debate.

I also welcome the positive outcome of the marriage equality referendum and rather than thanking members of my own party and others who campaigned so positively for it, I wholeheartedly commend the members of civil society groups who convinced the citizens to come out in a such a resounding fashion.

I would like to raise the issue of start-ups. Last Thursday, in Galway, I attended a meeting where representatives of multinational companies, large corporates, local authorities, universities and institutes of technology were present to discuss the Startup Gathering, which will run throughout Ireland between 5 and 10 October. In excess of 50 events will take place that week in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and other urban centres. The aim of the event is to be one of the largest regional start-up events in the world. The Startup Gathering is part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 and supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

I encourage colleagues from all parties and Independent Senators to get involved with the Startup Gathering taking place in their localities. This initiative is the brainchild of Eoin Costello who is a very impressive individual. What he is doing is fundamental in the context of getting people back to work and in terms of supporting SMEs and other businesses in their efforts to get up and running. If we are contemplating a recovery, the people concerned will continue to form the backbone of the economy.

I congratulate all those who were involved in the same-sex marriage referendum campaign. The people are remarkable because they will always follow the truth if the truth is authentic. In this instance, they followed the truth. Our common humanity can never be undermined. The referendum was about our common humanity and that influenced how the people voted. I congratulate them on voting the way they did. I inform Senators David Norris, Katherine Zappone and others that what has been achieved has been coming for a long time and it has now found its rightful place in our society. I am very glad and congratulate all of my colleagues and the great Irish people for their sense of what constitutes truth. The people will never let one down when the truth is invoked. I also thank the Labour Party and Fine Gael which created the platform in both the Lower and Upper Houses to allow the referendum to come about and ensure people could vote in it.

I remind the House that it was the Taoiseach's nominees who imagined and initiated the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, out of which have come the reports on farm safety, positive aging in Ireland, alcoholism and many other matters. The Leader took on board the concept of establishing such a committee, but it was imagined, initiated and developed by the Taoiseach's nominees.

I alert Senators to the fact that UPC is ending its relationship with An Post. The company will no longer allow any citizen in Ireland to pay his or her UPC bill at a local post office. The relationship in this regard is all over and UPC is walking away. One must now have a credit card or a debit card and a bank account to pay one's UPC bill. Many elderly people do not have any of these. UPC is capitulating to the great banking model. Some 3.5 million people use the services of An Post. The Government is trying to keep An Post alive but UPC, representatives of which went to An Post on their knees a few years ago begging it to allow their customers to use its facilities to pay their bills, is now walking away.

I want the relevant Minister to come before the House to explain the position on this matter. New social welfare forms have arrived in post offices, but the Government is recommending that people should use the services of banks. That is disgraceful.

The Government is hardly saving the post office network.

UPC is going to have to answer for this. How is it being allowed to do what I have outlined to the people? Many older people do not have bank accounts, credit cards or debit cards. This is because they do not use the services of the banks. In fact, An Post is their bank, the reason for which is that it never let them down. I would like the Leader to provide an explanation of the position with regard to both UPC and the new social welfare forms.

I join colleagues in welcoming the launch of the farm safety report. I congratulate Senators Denis O'Donovan and Martin Conway and the staff of the House on compiling such a good report. The report contains many good proposals and we look forward to their being implemented. For far too long there have been too many deaths on Irish farms. For example, there were more than 30 fatalities in 2014, and there have already been quite a number of very sad incidents to date this year. What we want to see happen is the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of farm safety. As many Senators outlined on that great day - 25 March last - when the House debated this matter, it all must begin with education. The farming organisations, Teagasc and all of those involved in farming at every level were involved with the committee's consultation process on this matter. I look forward to the implementation of the proposals contained in the report.

Deciding how to vote in a referendum is a very personal matter for individuals. How people vote should be respected by everyone. I live in the constituency of Roscommon-South Leitrim which voted "No" by a small majority. Individuals in the constituency reflected on the matter and voted according to their consciences. They took an informed view as to how they felt about this issue and then cast their ballots. We should respect-----

Would the Senator not extend the same respect to us?

We live in a democracy and should fully respect the wishes of the people to vote in accordance with their consciences and in a confidential manner at polling stations, as is their right.

I regret very much the decision by Senator Averil Power to leave the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, where she played an important role, and she will continue to play an important role in this House. She is an enlightened Senator who brought good legislation through the House and I wish her well in her continued work in this House and whatever she decides to do politically or otherwise because she is a breath of fresh air in politics.

On the referendum that was passed, I compliment and wish well Senator Katherine Zappone, as well as Senator David Norris who was at the forefront of this issue. However, I must point out that Fianna Fáil, through Mrs. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, brought forward the decriminalisation of homosexual acts, not homosexuality, which was not a criminal offence in Ireland. Furthermore, we brought-----

One cannot separate the two.

I would not have any knowledge of that issue. Civil partnership was introduced five years ago by a Fianna Fáil Government and without civil partnership there would not have been this success for individuals last Friday.

Would it have happened without the Green Party?

I am sorry-----

Without the Green Party.

Senator Terry Leyden to continue, without interruption.

God bless them, but the point is that this was an ongoing development. Fianna Fáil Members and I voted in this House and lost members over the issue.

The points made by Senator Sean D. Barrett should be listened to by the Government. The sale of Aer Lingus to IAG is absolutely undermining the airline and it is national sabotage to decide on it. It reminds me of when a former Fine Gael Government, including the late Jim Mitchell, sold Irish Shipping and deprived Ireland of its own shipping line for imports and exports. It was an absolute act of sabotage and the same is happening now.

Imagine, for an island nation on the edge of Europe-----

What about the railways?

-----to deprive the country of Aer Lingus, one of the finest airlines in the world, is absolute savagery.

That Fianna Fáil sold.

Fianna Fáil sold half of it.

It is a decision that will be regretted in the future. The Government should have been buying further shares in Aer Lingus; it should be buying back the shares in Aer Lingus.

That Fianna Fáil sold.


Things have now changed.

The Senator is way over time.

My point is that it is a bad decision now and was a bad decision then. All I am saying is one should think twice.

A Senator

More hypocrisy.

When somebody of the calibre of Senator Sean D. Barrett makes such a speech in this Chamber, he should be listened to.

The Senator is over time.

Let me remind Senator Terry Leyden that it was his party that sold off 75% of Aer Lingus. He should not forget that.

I forget nothing.

The Senator obviously does.

Moreover, it sold off the controlling interest in the airline, which the Senator should not forget.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

I will start by paying tribute to the late Bill O'Herlihy. Senator Eamonn Coghlan summed it up well and the only thing he left out was that he was from Cork. That was an important part of Bill O'Herlihy.

One was reminded of it each time he spoke.

In his major contribution to the media and to sport, he never forgot that he was from Cork and always retained that Cork accent that was very important in any presentations he made, no matter what it was, be it current affairs or sport. I pay tribute to the contribution he has made and sympathise with his family, as he will be greatly missed on his passing.

On the equality referendum, like everyone else, I pay tribute to the Yes Equality campaign. On the night before the vote, it was interesting to see more than 700 people working in Cork city as they distributed leaflets and worked on the campaign. It was a huge contribution that people made to democracy. The debate that took place within families was very interesting and was summed up for me when I knocked on a door and thought I was disturbing a party. The person who answered had a pint glass in his hand and stated he was voting "No" but that they were all at him, because while there was a party under way there also was a major debate. The great thing about this referendum was the debate within families and how people voted for what they believed in firmly, whether on the "Yes" side or the "No" side.

That was the great contribution of this referendum to democracy. Likewise, I hope people will look at the issues in a very fair and balanced way and come to their own decisions, whether it is in a referendum, local election or general election. That was a very important part of the debate in this case.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 15 be taken before No. 1. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, met the banks this week and we have not heard from him exactly what came out of that meeting. We should have the Minister in the House very shortly to tell us the outcome in regard to variable mortgage rates. The Bank of Ireland has stated it has no intention of reducing its rate, yet the Minister has given us the impression that he convinced it or had made a case that had been accepted. We would like to have the position clarified. The only one who can answer that is the Minister. I would like to see him come to the House and I urge the Leader to encourage him to come here very shortly.

I join colleagues in expressing joy at the result of the referendum. It was a proud day to be Irish and an even more proud day to be Senator David Norris or Senator Katherine Zappone or any of those who went public with their personal stories. It was the likes of those interventions that made the difference in this campaign. I personally know someone very significant in my life who was intent on voting "No" and who is quite elderly. I did not ask her on the day but she said she had heard so many personal stories about people's circumstances throughout the campaign that when it came to it she voted "Yes". I was personally delighted about that. Obviously, a lot more than she voted "Yes". We were the talk of the world, which is important, but the effect it will have on citizens is much more important and it is definitely something to celebrate.

I briefly welcome the consumer regulations that have been proposed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, in respect of gift vouchers and other vouchers. A great many of those who issue vouchers have overly onerous terms for them. While I await the detail I welcome the initiative. We will have an opportunity to discuss the matter when it comes before the House. I would welcome clarification from the Minister on one minor concern, perhaps through the Deputy Leader, in terms of how the regulation will impact on businesses and their balance sheets. Does the Minister propose a mechanism to ensure vouchers will not remain a permanent liability on the balance sheets of businesses, given that there is a likelihood that a percentage of gift vouchers will never be redeemed? It would seem wise to try to formalise a structure that would ensure a balance of fairness to both consumers and businesses. I very much welcome the proposals that have been outlined to date by the Minister.

I second Senator Feargal Quinn's request that No. 15 be taken before No. 1 in the Order of Business today.

Is that Senator Feargal Quinn's amendment?

Yes. That is correct. There has been much congratulation over the weekend about the referendum result. The result is due to the people, not necessarily the political system. It was the people who went out and got the votes. I was particularly struck at the count on Saturday in the RDS at the inverse relationship between the "Yes" to the referendum on marriage equality and the referendum on the age of candidates for the Presidency. A seismic shift is taking place in the country, namely, a total and utter rejection of what the Government regards as reform. How dare it bring forward a referendum seeking to reduce the age of candidates for the Presidency to 21 years? What effort was put in to push that referendum over the line?

How many Members spoke about it? It was a disgusting effort at reform.

These are points that should have been discussed during the debate.

Of course, they should have been discussed, but who discussed them? The answer is nobody.

That is the point.

The Bill was before the House.

The bottom line is that the Government promised reform when it took office but has not delivered any reform.

It held the referendum on marriage equality.

My heart sank when I listened to the debate on the recent report on Seanad reform. While it will not do so in the lifetime of the Government, the political class needs to wake up, as the Catholic Church has done. As Archbishop Diarmuid Martin stated, the church will take a step back, reflect on what has occurred and try to bring itself into line with citizens who are two steps ahead of us.

The Deputy Leader provided the schedule for today's debates and statements. Speaking time has been cut to the bone again, with non-group Senators excluded from having a say. I ask her to provide additional time to ensure every Senator-----

For which debates is the Senator seeking extra time?

I seek additional time for the statements this afternoon to ensure all Senators can make a contribution.

On my way to Dublin this morning I stopped for a meeting in the famous Ballymascanlon House Hotel on the Cooley Peninsula. The motto over the front door of the building is "Festina lente", which translates as "Hasten slowly". Count Plunkett, a previous owner of Ballymascanlon House, was a Member of the First Dáil which assembled in the Mansion House.

He represented Roscommon.

I did not know that.

Does the Senator have a question for the Deputy Leader?

Yes and I would also like to ask Senator David Norris a question.

The Senator should put questions to the Deputy Leader.

I will ask my question through the offices of the Deputy Leader.

There is no point in asking Senator David Norris a question; he will not answer.

I ask him to change his mind and run for President.

I congratulate Senators David Norris, Katherine Zappone, Averil Power and Eamonn Coghlan on the major effort and significant contribution they made to the "Yes" vote. Well done to all concerned. I will speak tomorrow about another issue I had intended to raise as the Cathaoirleach has cut me short.

I acknowledge the result of the referendum on marriage and thank Senator Katherine Zappone, in particular, for her very gracious words. I would like to reciprocate - I am sure I speak for other "No" campaigners - by stating I always felt respected by the Senator. I extend good wishes to her and Ann Louise. If the proposal had been rejected, it would have behoved those of us who had advocated a "No" vote to seek some kind of a generous accommodation. For example, we could have considered whether the law on civil partnership, an issue that arose during the debate, needed to be amended or strengthened. By the same token, it is important to recognise that the 730,000 people who voted "No" are not mired in ignorance or atavism but have a different view on marriage. They retain their views which should be respected.

From now on, rather than having culture wars, we should consider how we can accommodate different visions of important issues in society. We could start by taking a generous view in the section 37 debate. It is important that schools of different denominations and ethos are entitled to transmit the values that are dear to them and reflect their foundational ethos and that of the people who send their children to them. We do not have to take a winner takes all approach to these issues. I look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with people who take a different view from me on the meaning of marriage and hope the Government will lead this dialogue instead of seeking to press home its advantage.

Incidentally, it would be good if the 38% of voters who voted "No" were represented by 38%, more or less, of Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. This is an issue for the parties to consider.

The rural practice allowance for general practitioners working in rural areas is paid to GPs to defray the additional costs of running a practice in a rural area. These include the greater number of house calls they must make to older patients than doctors in urban areas. Some of them also act as dispensing agents for medicines in locations where pharmacists are not readily available.

That matter might be suited to being discussed in the Commencement debate.

Under the scheme a doctor is paid the allowance where his or her practice is in an area three miles from a town or village which has more than 1,500 people. A local medical service is absolutely vital to older people living in relatively isolated areas with limited or no rural transport. Furthermore, access to primary care locally helps reduce the number of people who present themselves. I raised this issue previously when I informed the House that the Health Service Executive was revising the terms of the statutory scheme by stealth.

That issue can be raised by way of a Commencement matter.

This affects doctors in east Galway and rural parts of Clare and it is important not to raise it as a Commencement matter but to ask the Minister for Health to come in and state the Government will not abandon its commitment to the provision of GP services to people in rural Ireland. I would like to have a debate on that matter in early course.

Last winter I asked about the role of the energy regulator when the cost of fuel went through the roof. We were promised then that electricity costs would fall by the end of April. I have not been contacted by anybody whose electricity bills have dropped as a consequence. The electricity suppliers promised that the cost of electricity would drop. Will the Deputy Leader arrange a debate with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the job description of the energy regulator? As of this morning, crude oil cost $59 a barrel, yet the price of petrol has risen consistently in the past few weeks to between €1.41.9 and €1.42.9 per litre. Fuel costs have risen weekly. What is the job of the energy regulator? How can the fuel companies substantiate raising the cost of fuel when a barrel of crude oil is $59?

In respect of the referendum last Friday, this House has a very proud history of debating civil and human rights, civil liberty and equality issues. This Seanad has justified the need for this House. I sincerely congratulate Senator David Norris, the father of the House, who has been here for many years, as well as Senator Katherine Zappone. While we have fantastic debaters and a fantastic debate on marriage equality took place in this Chamber, the real debate took place in our homes with our families, where people thrashed out the issues. Irish people came to the conclusion we would stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with our aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, friends and neighbours to show them this is a welcome, open and free society that has a very proud history of standing up for what is right. In some parts of the world people are put to death because of their sexuality. This vote has made us a beacon of hope to other parts of the world. I spoke to gay friends in Australia, Bahrain and Germany who are over the moon with this result and could not thank the Irish people enough. We have broken the chains of repression in that 1937 document, written by de Valera and McQuaid.

Travelling around my constituency, I noticed a huge change. I went to de Valera's home town of Bruree and could see the spring in people's step when they were leaving the polling station. They knew that they were making a serious change. To paraphrase a former Member, repressive Ireland is now dead and gone and is with McQuaid in the grave, while romantic Ireland is definitely making a huge comeback.

A major feature of the campaign was the influence of social media. The hashtag I saw on the morning of the referendum, #hometovote, really blew me away. We saw emigrants, who cannot vote from abroad, putting their holiday funds into coming home to exercise their democratic right. It was inspiring to see such a mobilisation of young people to bring the country into a new age of enlightenment. They took aeroplanes, trains, buses, boats, automobiles, you name it, to get home to cast their vote. I congratulate them sincerely.

The Senator is way over time.

I will finish by expressing support for Senator Sean D. Barrett's proposed amendment to the Order of Business for a debate on Aer Lingus. It is important that it take place today.

I am conscious that it is a momentous day shortly after the result in the marriage equality referendum, to which most colleagues referred and in almost all cases they welcomed the result. It was very moving to listen to their comments and strong expressions of welcome for the resounding majority of 62% in favour of marriage equality. It was a magnificent result and, as many have said, reflects the immense social change that has already occurred. It reflects a common humanity, inclusivity, positivity and joy in Irish society. In particular, I commend Senators David Norris and Katherine Zappone for their immense work and contributions to the change that has come about. The referendum result marks the end of an incredible journey. For many of us who were involved in the campaign for marriage equality going back more than ten years, as Senator Katherine Zappone said, the journey has been remarkable. I also pay tribute to my own party, the Labour Party, on championing the cause when it was not popular.

I commend Deputy Eamon Gilmore, our former party leader, who personally championed the issue of marriage equality and described it as the civil liberties issue of this generation. He has been vindicated. I also commend the Constitutional Convention which, through its 79% majority vote in support of marriage equality, placed the referendum very firmly on the Government's agenda. We then saw the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and all of the political parties, with the Government, championing the cause of marriage equality. I pay tribute to all those who campaigned and canvassed so hard, particularly civil society groups such as the Yes Equality coalition. This coalition galvanised huge numbers of young and older people to canvass. I was canvassing with them and the Labour Party across Dublin Bay south. It was incredible to see the immense numbers who had come out. Tribute should be paid to Ms Gráinne Healy, Mr. Brian Sheehan and all those who led the Yes Equality grouping from the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, GLEN, Marriage Equality to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Others have mentioned Home to Vote, which was a very moving, last-minute campaign. I had a friend who flew home from the Middle East for 24 hours to vote.

Colleagues have talked about the national conversation and the personal stories that contributed to the incredible majority support in favour of marriage equality. I thank the many colleagues who spoke so eloquently about the result. What a great celebration we had all weekend at the RDS and in Dublin Castle, as well as in other venues in Dublin and all around Ireland. The result was echoed across the country in every constituency, except one. Senator Darragh O'Brien welcomed the result of the referendum and pointed out that it was an historic day.

He also referred to the small break-up in Fianna Fáil that perhaps might have tarnished things somewhat for the party. That is obviously a matter for Fianna Fáil. I personally commend Senator Averil Power for all the great work she has done in the Seanad, as Senator Darragh O'Brien did. She has made a very important contribution on many issues in the Seanad for many years and I am sure she will continue to do so as an Independent. For many of us, how she stuck with it for so long is a mystery, but that is the only comment I want to make on what is an internal matter for Fianna Fáil.

I was going to say there were application forms available but perhaps not.

Senator Darragh O'Brien asked a specific question about when we were likely to see the marriage Bill. A draft Bill has been published on the Taoiseach's Department's website and the Minister for Justice and Equality has announced that she will have the Bill enacted by the end of July to enable same-sex couples to get married. She intends to seek Government approval for the final draft of the Bill in June and the aim is to introduce it in the Oireachtas immediately thereafter in order that it can be enacted before the end of this term in July. It will include a provision to enable couples to convert a notification of intention to enter a civil partnership into a notification of intention to enter a marriage. Clearly, that will make things more efficient and speed things up for couples who have already registered their intention to enter a civil partnership, which is very welcome. I know that we will have a full debate on the Bill in the House.

Senator Darragh O'Brien also welcomed the new Deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny, Deputy Bobby Aylward. We all join in wishing him the very best. I also commend Councillor Willie Quinn, the Labour Party candidate in Carlow-Kilkenny.

Senator Darragh O'Brien mentioned the Aer Lingus bid. I understand the Cabinet is to reconvene after 6 p.m. today to consider IAG's offer. There are reports that the offer represents a significant improvement on what was offered before. I understand the Cabinet has adjourned until after 6 p.m., given the volume of detailed information involved. The Government's underlying position remains unchanged. The shareholding will not be sold, unless market conditions are favourable and key concerns are addressed on a number of issues. I have certainly made my own view clear that I do not agree with the sale of 25%-----

It would be a very big Labour Party concession, would it not?

I note SIPTU has stated it wants to see commitments on jobs, in particular, which is very important. Senator Darragh O'Brien also asked that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, come to the House to brief us on the issue. That is very fair and I will ask the Minister to do this, as it would be most useful.

Senator Paul Coghlan welcomed the public consultation committee's report on farm safety which was published today. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been formally invited to come to the House to debate this welcome report on a very important issue. We certainly hope to have that debate shortly.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout referred to the marriage equality referendum result. I agree that it was a momentous day and thank her for her kind comments. She also sought a debate on the system of direct provision and, in particular, that the report commissioned by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, be debated in the Seanad first. I will certainly look for that to happen because it would be appropriate, given the huge amount of work the Seanad has done on the issue, on which I have asked for a briefing. I understand the report is at a very advanced stage and due to be completed in the near future. I hope we can have that debate before the end of this term.

Senator Sean D. Barrett raised the issue of Aer Lingus. I cannot accede to his request to amend the Order of Business. I will, however, ask the Minister for Transpoprt, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paaschal Donohoe, to come to the House once he is in a position to do so to discuss the issue with us. We can, therefore, have a debate on the deal, although it would be premature to do so today.

Senator Marie Moloney asked for a debate on funding to support national organisations and the Minister for Health to come to the House. I will certainly look to that debate arranged.

A large number of Senators spoke and I am conscious that we would be here for some time if I was to respond to all of them. Many of them have not stayed to hear the responses to their requests. I did say the last time I was Deputy Leader that I did not believe we should continue to facilitate those who came into the Chamber, often at the very end of the Order of Business, to speak and then left when other colleagues were trapped here, listening to a lengthy response from the Leader to Members who were not present. With the permission of those who are in the Chamber, I will only respond to those who are present and if anyone listening on the monitor wants to receive a response, he or she can come to the House. On that basis, I will respond to Senator Katherine Zappone, to whom again I pay tribute. She welcomed the result of the marriage equality referendum and spoke about the incredible journey it had been for her personally and Ms Ann Louise Gilligan. I wish her the very best. Her proposal on television was very moving.

With customary eloquence, Senator David Norris spoke about referendum fatigue. He is quite right that the debate has to move on also. I pay tribute to him for his enormous work on the issue. We will have the marriage Bill before the end of July and there is also the Private Members' Bill I introduced two years ago dealing with section 37 which, as the House knows, is before the Seanad.

We are pushing forward on it and I know that it is a priority for the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. I am hopeful it will finally finish its journey in the Seanad before the end of this term. I would welcome help in that regard.

On the forgotten referendum on the age of presidential candidates, I very much regret the result and take issue with what Senator Gerard P. Craughwell said. I thought it was an important issue and, in the spirit of equality, was very much a champion of the referendum campaign. Colleagues in Trinity College Dublin wrote very powerfully on why people should vote "Yes" in the referendum.

There was silence on the issue.

Senator David Norris referred, rightly, to the Constitutional Convention and some of the other very important recommendations that I regret we did not get to put to the people, in particular on the age of voting, the removal of blasphemy and the place of women in the home. They are all issues on which referendums are overdue.

There was also a recommendation on extending the nomination procedure to the public.

Yes, that was the other proposal which was supported by a large majority at the convention.

Senator Michael Mullins paid a lovely tribute to the late Bill O'Herlihy. We all join other Senators in expressing our sympathy to his wife, Hillary, his daughters, family, friends and colleagues. It was a real shock when he passed away in such an untimely fashion.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh referred to the referendum result and also asked for a debate on other equality issues, notably children living in poverty and the system of direct provision. As I said, I will look for a debate on the system of direct provision. The reports from HIQA and the Ombudsman are particularly concerning. It would, therefore, be appropriate to have a debate when we receive the report from the two Ministers.

Senator Colm Burke paid tribute to the late Bill O'Herlihy. He also pointed out that Fianna Fáil had sold the controlling interest in Aer Lingus, which is important to note. It is difficult to take the brazen approach of Fianna Fáil Members.

We kept the State's 25% stake which was tied to legislation.

As I said, we should keep the 25% stake.

The main issue is whether the Labour Party agrees with it.

I accept Senator Feargal Quinn's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. He also asked for the Minister for Finance to come to the House to discuss variable mortgage rates. I will look for that debate. Last week the Minister held a series of meetings with Ireland's six main mortgage lenders, focusing on the high standard variable rates being charged by the banks. The matter is under ongoing review.

Senator Catherine Noone referred to the gift voucher proposal made by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton. Like the Senator, I welcome the proposal. She may know that in the previous Seanad my colleague, former Senator Brendan Ryan, introduced a Private Members' Bill on the issue. The proposal is long overdue in the context of consumer rights. We will see if the Bill can be introduced in the Seanad because we have had a debate on the issue.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell referred to the referendum on the age of presidential candidates. It is regrettable that it was defeated. The Senator also asked for more time for statements on the national drugs strategy. Ample time is being given for the debate on the Customs Bill 2014, the debate on which is to be adjourned not later than 7 p.m. Members will have plenty of time to speak to it. Statements on the national drugs strategy will finish at 8.30 p.m., but I will ask the Minister of State to return to the House on another occasion to continue the debate if more Members still wish to speak.

Senator Terry Brennan asked Senator David Norris to run for the Presidency again.

I said he should reconsider.

Senator Tom Sheahan referred to the energy regulator and fuel prices, which probably would be best dealt with in a Commencement debate. We could ask the Minister to come to the House if he so wished for a full debate on the issue.

Senator Sean D. Barrett has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on the reported Cabinet discussions today on the IAG takeover of Aer Lingus be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

It is being pressed.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 25.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
  • Zappone, Katherine.


  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

Senator Feargal Quinn has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 15 be taken before No. 1." The Deputy Leader has indicated that she will accept the amendment.

I will accept the amendment.

Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.

Question put: "That the Order of Business, as amended, be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 14.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.


  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Crown, John.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Sean D. Barrett and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.