Consequently, there is a need to retain value for money as otherwise there is no question but that it will be necessary to reconsider the VAT rate of 9%.
Senator Feargal Quinn also spoke about flooding and the need to clean up rivers and how in many cases this could be done on a voluntary basis. It is a point he should certainly raise next week when the Minister is present.
Senator Aideen Hayden referred to the dropout rate of students in third level education. She said it was due to many reasons, including the cost of accommodation, etc., and called for a debate on the issue.
While time is running out for Members in seeking debates on various issues, I will try to facilitate as many of them as possible, with the co-operation of the Ministers involved.
Senator Kathryn Reilly called for a debate on disability services for children and specifically mentioned Cavan in that regard. She could seek to have the issue addressed by way of a Commencement matter.
Senator Martin Conway spoke about the plight of rural general practitioners and their paramount importance to rural communities. As in the case of Senator Kathryn Reilly, this matter could be tabled for discussion as a Commencement matter, at which time the Senator could obtain the up-to-date position from the Minister for Health.
Senators James Heffernan and Averil Power referred to the plight of a Palestinian journalist imprisoned in Israel. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I am sure the Senators, individually, will also bring it to his attention.
Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell also referred to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the position in Portlaoise, an issue I have addressed.
Senator Jim Walsh referred to the call made on 13 January 1800 by Daniel O'Connell for independence for Ireland and its right to have its own parliament. His call was followed on by Parnell and Redmond in seeking Home Rule. The Senator also spoke about the unification of Ireland. It is recognised by all sides that should a majority of the people of Northern Ireland vote in favour of a united Ireland, the British Parliament will agree to it. Relationships between Ireland and Britain have progressed and long may it continue.
Senator Catherine Noone raised the issue of obesity, a matter she has raised in the House on numerous occasions. She has suggested we are not doing sufficient in this regard and called for the introduction of a sugar tax. Her call was supported by Senator Gerard P. Craughwell. As we have previously debated the issue, perhaps she might consider tabling it for discussion as a Commencement matter, at which time she could obtain the up-to-date position from the Minister for Health.
Senators Gerard P. Craughwell, Terry Brennan and Hildegarde Naughton spoke about the untimely death of Christy O'Connor Jnr. who was a wonderful ambassador not only for his sport but also for the whole country. The presence of the Ryder Cup in the church during his funeral mass was seen as a great gesture.
Senator Gerard P. Craughwell also raised the issue of having no-fry zones in schools in tackling the problem of obesity, a matter I have addressed.
Senator Marc MacSharry spoke about agriculture and called for a debate on the need to address anti-competitive practices in the meat industry. I will try to arrange for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to come to the House for such a debate. Deputy Simon Coveney has been one of the best Ministers for Agriculture we have had in many a long year. Naturally, I would say that, but I also believe it to be the case.