Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Estimate for the provision of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund allocation for 2015, referral to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; and No. 2, the National Cultural Institutions (National Concert Hall) Bill 2015 - Second Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes.

Seven or eight Members were asking me when the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill will be taken in the House. It will be on Tuesday next week, I believe. We will have ample time to debate it then. I have had a number of inquiries from Members about Committee Stage of the Legal Services Regulation Bill. More than likely, it will be taken in the House in the third week of November.

The country is enthralled by the continuing soap opera involving the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, and the Department of Finance on what the Government is to do about homelessness. It would do justice to "Fair City" and all the other TV soap operas. We have been following this with great interest through the Irish Independent, which has been referred to as the downtown office of the Government parties for disseminating the latest blow-by-blow accounts of what is going on between the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan. On a very serious note, homelessness is escalating to the point where it has gone beyond being a national crisis; everybody is now very much aware of it, yet there seems to be no great resolution.

According to the newspaper today, the latest episode in this soap opera is that the capping of rents is now being considered, along with the introduction of legislation that will make it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants. There is sufficient legal protection for tenants. What is really needed is a belated acknowledgement that there is an urgent need to increase the housing allowance, the supplementary allowance. In various exchanges I have had here on this issue over the past year or two with the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, she has said that increasing the rent supplement would act as a pull factor in that it would increase rents and that landlords would automatically push up rents. They are pushing them up anyway. If this latest episode of the soap opera comes to fruition, it will be obvious that, between now and the time any proposed legislation comes before these Houses, landlords will immediately start putting up rents again. It is a catch-22 situation. It seems that in order to help the poor unfortunate people who cannot get rental accommodation because it is beyond their financial means, the most obvious solution, at least in the short to medium term, is to increase the rent supplement.

Will the Leader convey my concerns to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and ask him to come to the House to discuss his brief in this regard?

While I welcome unreservedly the reported investment designed to improve the efficiency of the Garda Síochána in its fight against crime, question marks are already being raised about the more than 270 vehicles that are to be provided not only as to when they will come on stream, but where they will be apportioned and who will drive them. The recruitment of trainee gardaí, welcome as it is, is only addressing an issue that has been with this Government since its inception, when it stopped recruitment. That resulted in a reduction in garda numbers from 14,500 to 12,000. In many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas where Garda stations have closed, there is a real need to provide more resources. The new investment is welcome, particularly in the information technology area and for the allocation of new high-powered vehicles to tackle the activities of thugs who use the motorway system around the country to scare the living daylights out of people living in rural areas. However, we must have answers to the questions that have arisen.

Will the Leader invite the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Michael Ring, to the House before Christmas to outline the Government's strategy on sport? I was present recently at a well-attended and comprehensive briefing by the Federation of Irish Sport, the umbrella body for all sporting organisations. One of the key priorities emphasised at that briefing was the need for a national strategy on sport.

The issue of rural crime has been occupying a great deal of colleagues' time recently and has undoubtedly caused a significant amount of public concern. In that regard, I welcome the Government's investment in the provision of Garda cars and the return to Garda recruitment, which was stopped under the previous Government. It is very important to note the turnaround that is being made. In addition, new legislation is coming forward on this issue. I remind colleagues that the justice committee will have a hearing on rural crime at 9.30 a.m. tomorrow in the course of which we will tease out some of the issues Members have raised.

I welcome the news today that the unemployment rate has fallen to 9.3%, down from 10.6% this time last year. This means the number of people out of work has fallen by nearly 25,000 in the past 12 months. It is very significant progress to have moved from the crisis peak of unemployment at 15.1% to this new low. That progress is very welcome, although the rate remains too high.

I welcome the signing into law last week by the Presidential Commission of the Marriage Bill 2015. This means we will see the first weddings of gay couples in Ireland in the coming months, which is very welcome. I am disappointed, however, as are many others, that the DUP has used its powers to block the development that took place in the Northern Ireland Assembly whereby, for the first time, a majority of MLAs - 53 to 52 - voted in favour of a change in the law. I hope we will see progress on marriage equality in the North.

I expect Senator Susan O'Keeffe and others will join me in raising concerns regarding the year-long investigation by The Guardian into the Irish fishing sector which points to the use of migrant workers as cheap labour. A catalogue of abuses is documented in that newspaper today, including workers being confined to vessels, being paid less than half the Irish minimum wage, being subjected to extreme sleep deprivation and so on. Clearly, although we have strong criminal law prohibiting human trafficking either for sexual or labour exploitation, enforcement is a difficulty. In that context, I welcome the Blue Blindfold initiative, which asks people to watch out for indicators of human trafficking. I welcome, too, the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, that spot checks will be put in place to identify undocumented workers. I call for a debate on this issue.

I join Senator Ivana Bacik in expressing my sadness at the DUP's use of an undemocratic mechanism to sabotage the vote in the Assembly. However, I prefer to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. For the first time, the Northern Assembly has, by democratic vote, stood in favour of equal marriage. That is a great thing. It seems there has been some softening of views on this issue.

I saw an interview with Mr. Ian Paisley Jr. in which he spoke positively about decriminalisation and so on and so forth, but it is a little ironic that this was stopped by a combination of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the DUP - strange bedfellows indeed.

I have been asked by Maynooth Students Union to draw attention of the House to a sad event relating to a young campaigner called Dean McCarron who was a strong fighter during the Yes Equality campaign. He was the head of Pride, the gay organisation, in Maynooth. He was energetic and fun. The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, put out a message on social media expressing his sadness at this young man's passing. He was in San Francisco for a family wedding and he died rather suddenly and unexpectedly. Maynooth Students Union issued a statement saying:

MSU cannot find the words to express our regret at the loss of one of our stellar former students ... Dean was also a key student campaigner in the recent marriage equality referendum, and on so many student and community issues before that. He wanted to make the world around him a better place.

This is the kind of young person, regardless of sexual orientation, that this county needs, and I greatly regret his passing.

I offer congratulations to a few people. I would like to congratulate Clarke railway station in Dundalk on winning the overall award for best train station in Ireland. Voting was conducted through an online poll and in railway stations. Customers were asked to rate their station under the criteria of customer co-operation and information, station appearance, staff helpfulness, hanging baskets, absence of litter, flowers, etc. The Iarnród Éireann awards reward excellence in customer facilities, cleanliness, innovation and customer service in the country's 144 railway stations. It was a major achievement for the manager of Dundalk station, Mr. Anthony Monaghan, and, as he says himself, "his brilliant staff". I would like to acknowledge the contribution his predecessor made over many years. Mr. Brendan McQuaid's contribution was enormous and the staff under him were active in promoting the station for at least 20 years. The award is just rewards.

My colleague, Senator Jim D'Arcy, mentioned Chief Superintendent Pat Magee from the Louth-Meath division, who is retiring this week. I would like to acknowledge his contribution to law and order. He started off as sergeant in my home town of Carlingford and he made a major contribution during the Troubles. I wish him, his wife Concepta, and his family many happy years of retirement.

Way back in 1995, I suggested to the Minister of the day that tagging of criminals should be an automatic occurrence. Nothing happened until this week. I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality on her announcement that she will do something about this. It takes a long time to get things done and, apparently, there were challenges.

Something similar happened last year. I tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill 2014 in respect of personal retirement savings accounts and the question of whether they should be taxed. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Harris, read from his script and said that unfortunately it could not be done. I am delighted that almost a year later this amendment has been made in the new Finance Bill. Things do happen and perhaps we are obliged to have patience.

I have mentioned previously the huge volumes of food generated everywhere, not just in our own homes but in supermarkets and hotels as well.

Part of the problem in this regard is due to the fact that we still allow people to put "best before" rather than "use by" on them. The fact that a product has passed its best before date does not mean there is anything wrong with it. I recall an individual who supplied us with potatoes on which the best before date was three days later. He said, "They are new potatoes and it is best if they are eaten on the day of purchase. However, the fact that the best before date has been passed does not mean they have gone off." A huge amount of food continues to be wasted. Morrisons, a large supermarket chain in Britain, just announced that it will give all its surplus food to charity and will not throw out any more food whatsoever. That is an initiative we should support. In France, legislation which makes it illegal to throw away edible food has been introduced. Let us ensure that we learn from what is happening abroad and proceed to improve our country on that basis.

I agree with Senator Paschal Mooney and again request a debate on the issue of homelessness and the wider issue of housing. However, I disagree with the Senator's assertion that there is adequate protection for tenants. We are heading towards the eventuality of 1,000 families in the Dublin region being homeless by the end of this year. They are being made homeless because they cannot afford to pay rent increases, some of which have been in the region of 35% in recent years. There are no protections against economic evictions. The main reason for this is that there is no protection against unreasonable rent increases. The call for rent certainty is based on the fact the latter would allow people to have a reasonable expectation as to what would be a fair limit in the context of rent increases. I ask Senator Mooney to consider his position on that.

I bow to the Senator's greater expertise in that area.

I have asked for an increase in rent supplement limits but that should be done in conjunction with some reasonable limit being imposed in respect of rent increases. I welcome this afternoon's announcement to the effect that the Minister of State with responsibility for business and employment, Deputy Nash, published the report on the prevalence of zero-hour contracts. The findings of the study, conducted by the University of Limerick, are very interesting. While they establish that there is not an extensive number of zero-hour contracts in Ireland, there is a large number of "if-and-when" contracts in existence here. The idea behind the latter is that, unlike the position with zero-hour contracts, the person is not obliged to make himself or herself available for work. As we all know, however, people on the type of contracts to which I refer do make themselves available for work. The impact on young people, in particular, is well known and has been highlighted by trade unions and NGOs. They have argued that the unpredictability of work, the difficulties in managing work and home life, unstable incomes, difficulties in accessing financial credit, contracts that do not reflect the reality of the number of hours worked, insufficient notice when called to work and so on have a distinct impact on the younger cohort of workers. Given that the report contains a number of interesting and exciting recommendations, I ask that time be made available for a debate on it and - as I have requested previously - on the wider issue of young people. The issue of predictability of work is of major concern to that cohort.

On almost every day on which the Seanad has sat during the past year or so, there have been consistent calls for debates on housing and homelessness. It is more than that - people have been calling for the Government to get its act together, to put in place policies to deal with issues in respect of homelessness and the private rented sector, the supply of housing by the State and the over-reliance on the private rented sector in the context of the vast majority of social housing applicants. As we are all aware, many cannot get landlords to sign up to the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme, the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, or rent supplement and, therefore, they have no options open to them because of the lack of availability of social housing. That is the nature of the crisis. There is also the issue of landlords increasing rents. They are doing so because private sector tenants and social housing tenants are competing with each other to rent their properties. Those social housing tenants are obliged to seek private rented accommodation because that is the only option open to them. That is the problem and we need to deal with it.

Last Thursday, I dealt with a family in Waterford. A woman with three children was turned down even for emergency accommodation - no bed and breakfast or hotel. There was no support whatsoever and she was told to go back and live with her family. That was on the front page of the Waterford News and Star this week, which did a feature on it. Three homeless families were in my office last week. That is the reality in Waterford, but it is also happening in Limerick, Cork, Dublin and elsewhere. It will not get any better until we deal with it.

All we see from the Government parties is dithering, disagreement and rows. However, what is being portrayed in the media may or may not be happening. I do not know the reality of it, but we want Ministers in the House to have a proper discussion with us about solutions on which we can agree. If the Government brings forward solutions to deal with the problem, it will have the support of Sinn Féin. I am sure the Independents and Fianna Fáil will also support the Government in doing the right thing because this is a national emergency. I appeal to the Leader to arrange such a debate. The Government should get its act together and do something immediately because we cannot allow this crisis to continue.

I welcome and back the call by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, yesterday for a new cross-Border task force to tackle organised cross-Border crime comprehensively. As we know, such crime is controlled in many areas by the Provisional IRA, as was recently documented in a report. This is something which we in the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly unanimously recommended last February at a plenary meeting in Dublin. The Taoiseach greatly welcomed it at the time. I am delighted that the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, is pursuing this further in the ongoing talks at Stormont. Cross-Border crime has its roots in paramilitary groups which existed and were active in other areas using other methods, thankfully no longer. It appears to me these people have continued their organisation for their own benefit and their own criminality. They are crime lords in these areas and try to control things as tightly as they can. I accept that a blind eye is not being turned to these people. However, policing is so light and merely a token, if I may say so, particularly on the other side of the Border in south Armagh, that they do not need a blind eye to be turned. They are able to carry on with impunity. For all these reasons I am delighted that the establishment of this task force is being pursued more actively.

I also greatly welcome the announcement by the Minister for Justice and Equality that we will have 27 gardaí, including two sergeants, allocated immediately to the Louth division. This is in addition to the 600 new gardaí who will be recruited next year and the 550 we will have by the end of this year. As we know, part of the criminality in that area involves the pollution of the Fane River system and Lough Ross from which drinking water is extracted for the Crossmaglen, south Armagh and Dundalk areas. While I know that water is treated, it is disgraceful that such activity is able to go on in this modern-day, democratic society.

I draw attention to the Web Summit which has started in the RDS. I have often been criticised for being unduly critical of the Government but I compliment the Minister, Deputy Bruton, who went to the summit today. If Senators have not attended, I recommend that they do so. Without doubt it is one of the greatest technological and innovative centres one will find in Europe. There are companies attending from Argentina, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and from elsewhere around the world. I spoke to one very large company and asked its representatives if they were doing good business. The reply was that they did not come here to do business but because this is the place to be this week if one is involved in information technology.

In complimenting the Minister, Deputy Bruton, on going to the summit today, I am dismayed that the Taoiseach was not there. I appreciate he has many things on his plate, but we pump millions into bringing companies to this country. That RDS hall is full of the most advanced, innovative thinking this world has to offer in information technology at the moment.

It is full of investors. The place is swarming with people who want to spend money on innovations and technological developments. Anybody who watched George Lee on Sunday, 1 November will know that these start-up companies can have hundreds of employees within a very short space of time. We should embrace this. I ask the Leader to do what he can to ensure that we bring the Web Summit back from Lisbon next year and to provide whatever resources are needed, such as shuttle buses. I spoke to people today who took two hours to get through Dublin Airport last night because there were so many people coming into the country. The taxi drivers who drove me to and from the summit told me that they are run off their feet bringing people over and back to the RDS. This is a great summit to have in this country and we have to get it back. It is an Irish summit.

I called a few weeks ago for a debate in this House with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on wind farms and wind energy in general. I had a Commencement debate with him on a community fund that is supposed to be in place. It appears that if locals object to a wind farm development, they will get the benefit of a community fund, yet if they sit back and do not object they get nothing. In my area of Rooskey, Ballaghaderreen, a company that put up two massive wind turbines had a local person apply for the planning permission and because he was a local person, the locals did not object to his application. Once he got the planning permission, the company bought the turbines from him. Now it appears that there is mobile phone interference when the turbines are rotating, and when the wind comes from the west or south locals cannot watch their televisions because they freeze. The notion that these industrial wind turbines do not affect health is false. I call on the Leader to have a debate as soon as possible in the House on wind farms and wind energy.

Before I speak on The Guardian report on the Irish fishing industry, I assure Senator Mooney that I do not believe that there is any kind of soap opera going on between the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, and Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan. The issue of housing and the capacity to sort it out will take a number of weeks. There is no magic wand to wave. Senator Mooney has been long enough in this House to know that these things take time.

Senator Quinn has acknowledged that he has been raising the tagging issue for years now and it will now be introduced. There is still much work to be done. Calling the relationship between the two Ministers a soap opera is ill-advised.

It is clear that a lot of work has gone into The Guardian report this week and those involved should be thanked. It is an important issue. The seafood sector in Ireland is worth approximately €850 million and it is predicated on it being a clean, green and health industry. It is unacceptable that some, though not all, members of the industry are employing illegal workers and treating them in a manner akin to slavery. The sooner we resolve this issue the better.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine of a cross-departmental working group which will include the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Justice and Equality. We should be able to have a debate on that issue so Members of this House will be able to advise and offer suggestions to the Minister for agriculture on the working group.

One of the observations that has been made is that it is very difficult to get Irish people to do the arduous work that is required on fishing vessels. That was never an excuse for any organisation or company to exploit workers from other countries, to treat them like slaves and ignore their rights. Those rights have been hard-won over many decades. They have not been trained to do what can only be described as hazardous work and have not been paid properly. It took courage for them to speak out.

Goodness knows the risk to which they have put themselves in order to do so. They are not people who have anything on their side. We are grateful to The Guardian for raising these matters and I ask the Leader that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine come before the House as a matter of urgency in order that we might have a full debate on the ramifications of these findings.

Will the Leader schedule a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, on Operation Thor and the recent announcement of major investments in IT, Garda vehicles and Garda manpower? I am glad there is a huge national debate taking place in respect of burglaries in rural and urban areas and I welcome the announcement yesterday of Operation Thor, which will tackle organised crime gangs and prolific offenders. We all want to see more checkpoints put in place to disrupt criminals who use motorways to travel between areas and commit crime and we will hopefully see many extra high-visibility patrols in identified burglary hotspots. However, there is another major issue that needs to be considered, namely, the market in stolen goods. Where are these criminals offloading the goods they have stolen? If there were no market for them, there would be far fewer burglaries and less crime. We need a forthright debate on this matter in the House. The Minister would learn a great deal from Senators on issues that are relevant in various parts of the country and on how the goods to which I refer are offloaded.

There is a need for a national crime prevention awareness campaign and I hope such a campaign will be rolled out in the coming weeks. We need to encourage communities to work together and with local gardaí in order to get more community alert schemes into place. As individuals, we all need to look at our own houses and premises to see how we can make them more secure and how we can be more careful when we are going out at night or if we are away during the day.

There is too much talk about the closure of small Garda stations. I do not want to see gardaí sitting around in small rural stations where there is very little happening. I want them out in patrol cars. I also want them out in communities, meeting people and getting to know them and picking up useful information. We need to wage war on crime and criminals, particularly who carry out burglaries. What we have seen this week and in recent weeks is the start of it. We all have a role to play. We all have a contribution to make to the debate on this matter. I would like such a debate to be facilitated in the House in the near future.

I want to return to what Senator Craughwell has said about the Web Summit. It is important that we make every effort to bring back the Web Summit, which will not be hosted in Ireland next year. However, we have to put the matter in context. On the radio this morning, severe and unjustified criticism was levelled at IDA Ireland. All the State agencies have worked very hard to bring new industries to this country and to create new jobs. There is proof of that: the unemployment rate is down again this month, to 9.3%. I wish it were lower but steady progress has been made and it is clear evidence that all the State agencies are working very hard to assist people in finding employment. The criticism this morning was unjustified.

Some 35,000 people will attend the Web Summit. The event relates to a very technical area and many people are travelling from all over the world to attend. We must consider the number of people who attend other events held in this country. We are able to organise such events very efficiently and without difficulty. For example, a person to whom I spoke this morning referred to the National Ploughing Championships. Some 281,000 people attended those championships - which were organised in a very efficient and effective manner - this year. There is no reason we cannot organise the Web Summit in the same way here in Dublin. Whatever difficulties arose need to be examined but people should not be blaming the Ministers, the Government or the State agencies.

They have done everything in their power to assist the organisers. We must go back to the drawing board to see what can be done to bring it back in the years ahead.

I support my colleague, Senator Mullins, in his call to ask the Minister for Justice and Equality here to discuss the recently announced Operation Thor and other recent positive announcements by the Department. Although there is a major problem with burglaries, I have a feeling it is being somewhat overplayed and the very negative incidents that occur throughout the country are less frequent than perceived. When I canvass at the doors, I get the impression that there is a perception that residents are unsafe in their homes because of stories they hear. That is a real feeling for them. Senator Mullins mentioned Garda visibility and that is something I feel strongly about. We need to have a lot more of these new gardaí visible on the streets, both in the cities and in suburban areas. If gardaí are seen around the place, it is a deterrent. Given that there have been closures of Garda stations, whatever one might have to say about that which could involve a big debate, if they are not going to be sitting in Garda stations I believe strongly that there should be a greater police presence. Even if gardaí were to go into estates once a day and that there would be some sort of a rota system whereby they would be seen to be around the place, it would be a positive move.

There is a related matter that has been brought to my attention by a few people recently and I have done a little work on it. I have researched the law in the United Kingdom when it comes to the possession of a knife on one's person. As far as I am concerned, there is practically no justifiable reason for carrying a knife outside of one's home. Perhaps a butter knife for sandwiches or a Stanley knife would be acceptable.

A penknife, if one has some use for a penknife, or a Stanley knife, if one is a handyman. If there is no justifiable reason for a person having a knife, it would be a popular move among the public that there would be a mandatory sentence for carrying a knife. Until we start to take really tough measures such as this-----

Is Senator Noone looking for a debate?

I am looking for a debate. I join my colleague, Senator Mullins, in looking for the Minister to come to the House for a wide-ranging debate in this area. It is welcome that she has been proactive in recent months on this issue. We need to highlight the positive moves that have been made but we also need to work further on the issue of the safety of citizens.

I welcome the call by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, for a task force on cross-Border crime to be established as part of any new agreement in the North. The Minister, who is a key member of the talks team, has stated that the talks must produce an outcome that further deepens North-South co-operation in tackling problems such as large-scale smuggling operations, fuel laundering, drug dealing and extortion. It is time to put a stop to the gallop of these criminals who think they are beyond the law. In this regard, the recent extra resources drafted into Louth as a result of the heinous murder of Garda Tony Golden are bearing dividends. The checkpoints adjacent to motorway exits and in the Cooley area have gathered a great deal of information and tracked the movement of many suspicious people, and that is to be greatly welcomed. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, has also said that there is a need to build on the excellent co-operation that already takes place in this regard between North and South and we want to see an enhanced overarching structure in place to support it.

Hopefully, in conjunction with the successful conclusion of the Northern talks, this task force will be established. I would like the Minister to come here and outline how the talks are going.

As remarked by my colleague, Senator Terry Brennan, I wish Chief Superintendent Pat Magee of the Louth-Meath division, an amazing and outstanding garda sergeant, inspector, superintendent and chief superintendent, a very happy retirement and congratulate him on the outstanding work he did over many years in Louth and Meath. I wish his wife, Concepta, the same.

I already have to amend the Order of Business that we take No. 2 at 5 p.m. rather than after No. 1 because the Minister is not available until 5 p.m. I propose this amendment.

Senators Mooney, Hayden and Cullinane spoke on housing and rent supplement. Although we have had two debates on housing during the past 12 months, I agree there is an urgent need for a further debate soon. The Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, will have further proposals on homelessness and a housing plan in the next two weeks. Hopefully, we will have a debate on it then. The Government has put aside €3.8 billion to build more than 100,000 housing units in the coming years. We are to install modular housing as an emergency measure in Dublin and more of those modular units will be installed in the coming months in order to tackle homelessness. I am sure the Minister will come to the House within the coming weeks, after all the new proposals have been put in place. The Government is treating the matter very seriously and I will ask the Minister to come to the House as soon as the new and further proposals have been announced in the coming weeks.

Senator Mooney raised the question of the Garda. He suffered from a little amnesia. The previous Government closed down the Garda college in Templemore, and as a result we had no recruitment of gardaí. This Government has put 500 new gardaí on the streets and the budget provides for an additional 600 gardaí. Law and order is of paramount importance to the Government, and will continue to be during the coming months.

Senator Bacik welcomed the fact that unemployment has decreased to 9.3% from 15% when the Government took office. As she said, while it is a great improvement, the figure is still too high. The Government recognises this and job creation is the Government's top priority, and will continue to be. The more people we can get back to work, the more taxes will come in and the more services we can provide for the people, which is what we want.

Senator Bacik welcomed the signing into law of the Marriage Bill and expressed regret at the DUP's move. Senator Norris also commented on it and welcomed the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly voted in favour of a change in the marriage law, which is a first in Northern Ireland.

Senators Bacik and O'Keeffe spoke about the use of migrant workers in the fisheries sector and welcomed the Minister's action on this issue. I agree with both Senators that the exploitation of workers is totally unacceptable, regardless of the countries the workers in question come from, and will have to be stamped out in the fisheries industry and in all other industries.

Senator Norris expressed his regret at the passing of a student leader, Dean McCarron. I have read about this excellent young man, who took part in student politics and in the recent marriage referendum. I would like to express our sympathy to his family on his very early passing.

Senators Brennan and Jim D'Arcy wished Chief Superintendent Pat Magee well on his forthcoming retirement. Senator Brennan also made some good comments about the railway station in Dundalk.

Senator Quinn spoke about the tagging of criminals, which is an issue that has been raised recently. I am informed that legislation to allow tagging was introduced in 2007. Based on comments in recent times, there is obviously a need to revamp the mechanism that is in place. As Bills relating to burglaries, bail and victims of crime will be considered in this House before Christmas, Senators will have ample opportunity to discuss the matters raised by Senator Mullins in particular. I am sure Operation Thor can be debated when the Bills in question come before the House in the coming weeks.

Senator Quinn raised the issue of best-before and use-by dates, as he has done on several previous occasions. I would agree with him. I understand there are supermarkets in Ireland that are giving waste food to charities. Perhaps this could be organised on a national basis. I think this is being done in Cork, in particular, at present. I suggest that it could be expanded nationwide.

Senator Hayden suggested that inadequate protection is being afforded to tenants. She also commented on the study on zero-hour contracts. I will certainly invite the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, to come to this House to discuss that study.

Senator Paul Coghlan referred to the possible establishment of a task force with responsibility for tackling organised crime. This matter was raised by Senator Jim D'Arcy during the Commencement Debate before the Order of Business. Senator Coghlan mentioned the involvement of the Provisional IRA in the crime that is ongoing in Border areas and expressed support for the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, who has called for the creation of a task force. This issue was raised at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly over 12 months ago. I am hopeful that this task force will be up and running soon because it is of paramount importance to tackle such crime, as can be seen by anyone living in Border areas. As Senator Jim D'Arcy mentioned earlier this afternoon, the deployment of extra gardaí is already bearing fruit. There is a need to build on the good relations that exist between the Garda and the PSNI to stamp out the criminality that has been clearly evident in Border areas over the last ten years or more.

Senators Craughwell and Colm Burke spoke about the great success of the Web Summit and wished it continued success in the future. I understand that Lisbon has signed up to host the summit for the next three years. I hope there may be a possibility of bringing it back to Ireland after that. I listened with interest this morning to the comments of a number of people from South Africa and many other countries who are attending the Web Summit. They said that Ireland, as an English-speaking country, is the key place to have such a summit.

They spoke little of the problems enunciated by Mr. Cosgrave whom I wish well in his efforts.

That is very magnanimous.

I hope the Web Summit will return to Dublin in the years ahead.

Senator Kelly called for a further debate on wind farms. We will try to have the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy White, come before the House to discuss that matter.

Senator Mullins referred to Operation Thor and the increased resources allocated to the Garda. As I indicated, these matters can be debated in the weeks leading up to Christmas when a number of justice Bills will come before the House.

Senator Noone referred to the importance of having a visible Garda presence on the streets in combatting crime. She also referred specifically to knife crime and called for mandatory sentences for those convicted of such crimes. This matter can also be discussed with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, when she comes before the House in the coming weeks.

Order of Business agreed to.