Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on delivering sustainable full employment (resumed) - to be taken at 1.30 p.m., with the contributions of all Members not to exceed six minutes each. For the information of Members, the statements are being taken at 1.30 p.m. because of the new voting arrangements in the Dáil in terms of Ministers and their pairs. They are not necessarily available so therefore our business must coincide because of the voting bloc in the Dáil. No. 2 is the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2015 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1.

Following the request from Members yesterday, both inside and outside the Chamber, statements on the Ibrahim Halawa case will be taken at 3.15 p.m., to conclude not later than 4.15 p.m. and with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be given five minutes to reply.

For the information of Members, the Department of Justice and Equality has offered a briefing next week on the proceeds of crime Bill. As a courtesy to Members who wish to avail of that briefing, my office will be happy to facilitate that next week.

I thank the Leader for allowing statements on Ibrahim Halawa later today. The entire House and the Fianna Fáil group are very grateful to him.

I raise comments made yesterday by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, at the Select Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Leas-Chathaoirleach will recall that I raised concerns last week regarding the failure to advance a primary care centre for Crumlin and Drimnagh. Despite it having been announced in 2012, I told the House that the days of Ministers and Departments making announcements for the purpose of spin and as public relations exercises must come to an end. Yesterday, with regard to the DART underground, the Minister told the committee:

There is every intention of its being a project. It is being designed and kept alive and will certainly be eligible for EU funding.

The estimated cost of the project when it was first envisaged was in the region of €3 billion. With regard to metro north, the Minister also stated:

We must not lose sight of that project, along with metro north and others. If funds became available, the timetable for that and the DART underground should be looked at anew because they are so important.

Looking at old Estimates, the cost of completing metro north was estimated to be in the region of €2.5 billion. Like many Dubliners, I am extremely frustrated by the levels of congestion in the city. I welcome the prospect of the DART underground being built. I also welcome the Minister's comments on metro north. However, I have concerns about whether it is realistic that the projects will proceed. What are the real prospects of these projects being delivered, given the enormous amount of funding that is required?

The Minister earmarked two projects which he should examine if funds become available. The total cost of those projects, based on old projections, is well in excess of €2 billion. I absolutely support the prospect of those projects proceeding and believe they would have a massive impact on the capital, transforming the way those living in the capital, and visitors, travel. However, I sincerely hope this is not a case of a Minister making grandiose statements about the prospects of these projects now being back on the cards aimed at garnering positive media coverage, with neither of the projects having a real prospect of proceeding in the near future given their massive cost.

I call on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to urgently produce an action plan for dealing with transport-related issues in the capital that will ease the pressure experienced by those living in the capital on a daily basis. It should contain practical measures that are cost effective. The Minister must also clarify if the metro north or DART underground projects receiving the necessary funding are likely to proceed. The Minister said he will discuss with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the possible allocation of additional capital investments for projects of this nature. I call on the Minister, Deputy Ross, to inform the people of Dublin of the outcome of those discussions and whether he and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, will find the necessary funding to proceed with these projects. If they cannot find the funding, then the Minister must provide an honest and realistic projection of when they may get Government support to proceed.

Will the Leader inquire of the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act will be commenced? During my five years in the previous Seanad it was possibly one of the greatest human rights Bills to come before the House. Unfortunately, when asked by our national broadcaster just before Christmas what was happening in the House, it was referred to as being inconsequential. It is anything but inconsequential because it is about all of us as human beings when we have capacity, when we lack capacity or when we are struck down with certain disabilities.

The Bill was passed in both Houses, following wonderful amendments made to it in this House to strengthen it. When will the Act be commenced? It is very important that when people lack capacity their wishes are carried out because the law allows for it. It is also to do with wardships and the Think Ahead document. It is an important issue for every Member of the House and everyone on the island of Ireland.

Tréaslaím le Raidió na Gaeltachta, atá mar chuid den chraoltóir náisiúnta RTE, as an chaint a bhí ann inné agus an dea-obair atá déanta aige maidir leis na taillí bruscar.

I have a concern about Commencement matters. Three were withdrawn this morning and two were withdrawn yesterday. However, many Members have Commencement matters that they wish to raise. My understanding is that they are being withdrawn on foot of telephone calls from Ministers' offices saying the Ministers are not available and asking for the matters to be deferred. That is utterly unacceptable. If Senators receive such telephone calls, I call on them to refuse, say it is not good enough and that they wish to continue with the Commencement matters. It is certainly-----

May I interrupt the Senator?

We cannot assume anything, but they were withdrawn quite late yesterday by the Members whose matters had been selected and the Chair had no control over it. It was too late to select other matters.

I appreciate the clarification.

Our hands are tied on the matter.

I will keep it factual.

Do not jump to any conclusions.

I will not. I am certain that at least one of the Senators was contacted by a Department and was asked to consider withdrawing the matter because the Minister was not available.

The Chair was not aware of that.

It is totally unacceptable and I call on all Senators not to accept it. That has not been the practice up to now and it should not be the practice from now on.

The Leader suggested to me yesterday that I should raise the subject of motion No. 7 on the Order Paper in a Commencement matter, as I had indicated it was very urgent. There has been a new twist in that story this morning. There has been considerable debate on Raidió na Gaeltachta with the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Kyne, and he has acknowledged that he was at the meeting with the refuse companies a number of weeks ago with the Minister, Deputy Coveney, but that they did not discuss the issues for 37% of the users in west Galway who use bags or tags. It is a very serious issue. The new regime starts tomorrow and people are irate that they are to be charged extra money. In one case, a family of two parents and two small children have estimated that it will cost them €500 extra per year. Barna Waste received 1,300 telephone calls yesterday on this issue. It has not had time to call people back. There is absolute chaos in the companies.

This must be withdrawn. It led to the scenario this morning whereby when Deputy Kyne was asked if the Minister should give a direction to the companies now to stay with the current regime until this is sorted out, he admitted that he should. We must press an amendment to the Order of Business, that motion No. 7 on the Order Paper be taken today as a matter of urgency, so the Minister can come to the House and clarify what in the name of God is happening with the refuse companies. How are people supposed to get rid of their rubbish next week under the new regime when they have not registered, do not have bags and in some cases do not have brown bins? I hope Fianna Fáil will support this amendment so we can seek clarification from the Minister. It is no good talking to the waste companies next week. This comes into force tomorrow. What is happening is an absolute disgrace and I hope the Leader will accept the amendment in the spirit in which it is put forward.

Yesterday the European Commission decided to issue an 18-month extension to the approval for the sale of products which contain the chemical glyphosate. This chemical is used by the Monsanto company in its common weedkiller Roundup. There are serious concerns about the cancer causing properties of glyphosate. The Commission announced some new, non-binding restrictions on the use of products containing glyphosate, including restrictions on their use before harvest time and minimising their use in public parks and playgrounds. It is imperative to invite the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to the House to let us know how and if Ireland will join the many other EU member states that already restrict the use of glyphosate.

The issue I wish to raise is library services across the country and the strategy paper that was produced, entitled Opportunities for All. It is a very worthwhile strategy but, unfortunately, there has been a negative outcome from it with regard to the shared procurement. The changing balance means that the 65% that was always deemed a service has now been changed to 65% relating to lower costs. The outcome is that when the shared tendering process happens, UK companies are winning it hands down. This was highlighted at the time the strategy was first discussed.

Will the Leader raise this issue with the Minister and ask him to look at it again? A librarian from Mayo who contacted me said that the change in the new system means that where previously they could have a book on the library shelves within 30 minutes, it is now six weeks. If a library wishes to buy a local history book, it must go through the shared procurement system. It might not even be in print in the UK, which means further delay. It is having a negative impact on publishers, writers and small bookshops across the country. I ask the Leader to raise the matter with the Minister, Deputy Coveney.

The other issue I wish to raise is the remarks by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, on the DART underground. There is a need for a full discussion, as Senator Ardagh requested. Technology has changed. When the DART underground was proposed for Dublin it involved a dual-bore tunnel. Technology has moved on immensely since then and costs have come down. The latest metro system built in Spain was a single bore tunnel. That option would reduce the cost of a DART underground in Dublin by approximately one third. This must be reviewed urgently. The Minister should come to the House to have a full debate on transport issues for the greater Dublin area.

The spiralling cost of public liability insurance is unsustainable for businesses across the board. The cost of insurance has been raised on previous occasions in the House. It is unsustainable. Premia have quadrupled in the past ten years. In fact, I was talking about this to a person who operates a pub and eatery. Their insurance has increased from €6,000 to €57,000 in that period. There is a claim pending. However, across the board premia are increasing and it really cannot continue on that course. Something must be done. The Minister for Finance must take action on it. Businesses, in many cases sole traders, in addition to paying commercial rates and people's salaries, are taking a hit from this. They are sitting ducks.

Resolving this issue will require an examination of the operation of the Injuries Board. It would appear that it is making it too easy for people to claim. In fact, the only person who ends up paying is the insurance policy holder, who is asked to pay €600. The person making the claim has little to pay and does not have to make an initial payment at all. The raison d'être of the Injuries Board was to reduce legal costs and the cost of claims, but it does not appear to be operating to that effect. Something must be done.

There is also the issue of the Health and Safety Authority, what checks it is making and how people can be assisted in recognising risks whereby somebody coming into the premises might get injured or sustain a loss. I do not believe this can be left to the industry. It requires action on the part of the State as it is affecting everybody, both people who have claims against them and those who do not. Action is required or the monster will continue to grow and we will see businesses shut down.

Members of the Garda Representative Association, GRA, are outside the gates of Leinster House today. They have a legitimate grievance and a realistic expectation that the matter will be resolved. Gardaí are providing security for the State and they have sacrificed many members in the history of the State. They had no alternative but to assemble outside Leinster House today to plead for recognition of their position in negotiations.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has refused to meet the legitimate representatives of the 10,500 members of An Garda Síochána in this country. It is an arrogant approach from a newly appointed Minister. I ask the Leader to ensure the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform meets representatives of the Garda Representative Association, GRA, to discuss the situation regarding the implementation of the Haddington Road agreement, which has been breached by the Government, and the situation regarding negotiations.

It has not been breached.

An arbitrator was appointed, namely, Mr. Ray McGee, formerly of the Workplace Relations Commission, but he resigned without coming to any conclusions. The GRA engaged with Mr. McGee but he left his position and nobody has replaced him or entered into negotiations with the Garda Síochána. The Minister made it clear yesterday that the Lansdowne Road agreement is essential and that we need people to remain within it. He said every effort will be made to deal with the current obstacles which the GRA considers are in place.

I urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, to meet the legitimate, elected representatives of the Garda Síochána in this country, men and women who have sacrificed their lives to protect this State. We face a dangerous situation in that gardaí feel there is no other alternative for them but to stand outside Leinster House to plead to be heard. I ask this House to support me in requesting the Ministers to meet the GRA and to enter into meaningful discussions and negotiations to resolve any outstanding issues.

Could I ask the Leader to invite the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament and leader of the Scottish National Party, SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, to address this Chamber in the near future on Brexit? There is a great affinity between certain parts of Ireland and Scotland and we have a lot in common. We heard a lot recently about countries that want to leave the European Union but Scotland wants to stay in it. I ask that Nicola Sturgeon would be invited to address Seanad Éireann before the summer recess on Brexit.

I rise to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, NMBI. It has been covered in all the media this morning. Ongoing issues have been a factor there since 2014. A whistleblower made very serious allegations under the various provisions of the whistleblowing legislation which I do not intend to repeat in this House. The NMBI is charged with the protection of the public by supporting nurses and midwives and to maintain practice standards in the health service. We know it is involved in the registration of nurses and midwives in Ireland and it also deals with fitness to practice and various issues in that regard, including safety in relation to public health. The NMBI is a critically important body with statutory functions and it works in close co-operation with the Department of Health.

A whistleblower raised concerns about operations within the NMBI with the Department of Health in 2014 and they were documented and confirmed by the then Minister. The whistleblower was protected under the disclosure provisions set down under whistleblower legislation. Others have now come forward and reiterated major concerns in relation to the NMBI. Consultants appointed by the body itself undertook a report into the organisation and identified huge shortcomings. The NMBI’s own report paints a picture of an organisation rife with dispute, internal conflicts and significant challenges.

Will the Minister for Health come to the House because we need to ask serious questions of the organisation? I will not make any additional statements because from documents I have seen today, the Minister is fully aware of the situation, following the consultant’s report and member nurses and midwives of the organisation that have given me a certain amount of information. The Minister must come to the House and reassure not only the Seanad and Dáil but the public that he has every confidence in the organisation. I respectfully ask the Leader to organise a meeting very early next week. It is my intention to further elaborate on these issues next Tuesday if the Minister is not in the House on the day.

I am delighted the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, is in France this morning to mark the ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It was a major offensive by British and French armies on the German lines, beginning on 1 July 1916. The action continued until November 1916. Six Meath men were killed on the opening day of the major offensive. Edward Chambers of Trim was serving as a second lieutenant with the Lancashire Fusiliers when he was killed at 9.40 a.m. on the morning of 1 July. His regiment advanced and met German machine gun fire. Leading the first wave of men, Chambers was hit by a bullet in the forehead and killed instantaneously. Serving alongside Chambers was the Ulster Division, which also made its advance through the woods. The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War, which resulted in more than 1.5 million casualties. In all, nearly 60,000 men died on the first day on the British side.

I wish to remember my great uncle also. He was born in Ballinrobe, County Mayo and emigrated to the USA in 1908. He served as a first class private with the US Army, 165th Infantry Regiment. He entered the service in New York and he was killed on 7 March 1918 in northern France. He was 25 years old when he was killed. I have a little poem I would like to read for Members this morning given that tomorrow is 1 July.

In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet

There is a new-made grave today,

Built by never a spade nor pick

Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.

There lie many fighting men,

Dead in their youthful prime,

Never to laugh nor love again

Nor taste the Summertime.

For Death came flying through the air

And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,

Touched his prey and left them there,

Clay to clay.

He hid their bodies stealthily

In the soil of the land they fought to free

And fled away.

Now over the grave abrupt and clear

Three volleys ring;

And perhaps their brave young spirits hear

The bugle sing:

“Go to sleep!

Go to sleep!

Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.

Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,

You will not need them any more.

Danger’s past;

Now at last,

Go to sleep!”

I agree with the call by my colleague, Senator Paddy Burke, to invite Nicola Sturgeon to the House. People seem to be fighting the cause for Scottish independence and its right to have a say over its own destiny but they need to show the same consideration and fight with the same vehemence for our comrades in the North.

It cannot be done for one without the other. I admire and respect Nicola Sturgeon and I would be very happy to hear from her in this House.

I ask the Leader to amend the Order of Business to allow time to discuss the motion on Seanad reform tabled by the Sinn Féin Seanadóirí. It is essential that if the parties are serious about reform, they would at least agree to provide time to discuss one of the first motions laid before the current Seanad. The crux of the motion is to establish a time-limited committee on Seanad political reform. The motion acknowledges the work and progress made by the Seanad reform working group and the resulting report would provide the framework of the work of the committee we suggest but the committee would not be limited by the constraints which applied to the working group in that it would examine the constitutional change that may be required to implement any recommendations. We accept that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges can and will play a very important part in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Seanad but we fail to accept that setting up a six-week committee to give voice to many new Senators to come back to the House with recommendations cannot be done.

The intent of the motion is to instil a sense of urgency into the Seanad reform process through the establishment of a sub-committee with a similar remit to the one that was constituted to implement Dáil reform. Surely it would be possible to look at the terms of reference of the sub-committee on Dáil reform and use what is applicable for the Seanad sub-committee. The all-party sub-committee on Dáil reform met regularly under the stewardship of the Ceann Comhairle and, in a three-month period, was able to produce a report that formed the basis of significant procedural reform that has since been adopted into Standing Orders. There is no reason a Seanad sub-committee could not achieve similar aims. It could meet during the summer recess and work in close conjunction with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, to ensure the existing Seanad reform proposals are progressed as quickly as possible. If we have to wait until the CPP establishes a sub-committee, it will likely delay the process well into the autumn recess. We acknowledge and concur with the Bill tabled by the Independent Senators, led by Senator Michael McDowell. The Sinn Féin motion in no way impedes the processing of this Bill. In fact, it brings additionality that can only serve to enhance the real, long-lasting and inclusive reform led by this House. Therefore, I ask the Leader to reconsider his reluctance to discuss this motion and ask other Senators to join with us in having a real say in the necessary reform on which we all agree.

I wish to raise an issue regarding tourism, which has been the shining light of the economy in the past five years, even during the worst recession in the history of the State. Because of various initiatives, including the 9% VAT rate and targeted marketing by our State agencies Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland of The Gathering, the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and so on, more tourists than ever are coming to Ireland. That trend has continued, according to the figures for the first quarter, which showed an increase of 17%. It has been the best ever quarter for tourism. There are 220,000 people employed in the sector, with 35,000 to 40,000 new jobs coming on stream in the past few years. Tourism amounts to 4% of GDP. However, two issues are emerging. We have almost reached a tipping point, with accommodation and hotel prices, particularly in urban areas, going through the roof, especially when events are taking place in the cities concerned. Our competitiveness, which was our strength in the past five years, could become our greatest weakness. There is also the Brexit issue and the fall in sterling. There was a 17% increase in the number of UK tourists in the first quarter figures. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to come to the House to explain how the agencies will deal with this issue in the short term, because we do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. It is easier to be proactive before it happens, so to speak. However, I think it is happening already in regard to accommodation. Perhaps the Minister can be invited to the House to address these issues.

I rise to highlight the issue of increased insurance costs. The current situation is totally unacceptable and unsustainable for many people. Premiums on insurance policies have increased by 30% or more in some instances. It is difficult to understand the reason this is happening at this time, given that figures revealed recently that insurance payouts in 2014 were €400 million, 36% less than in 2011. Given those figures, it is difficult to understand the reason for increased insurance premiums. The Government needs to take urgent action and establish a task force similar to that set up in the early 1990s. The the Motor Insurance Advisory Board was set up with a view to exploring and tackling the ever-increasing premiums at that time. That body was hugely successful and premiums were reduced by 30% or 40%. As this issue affects every household and motorist in the country, urgent action needs to be taken to identify the problem. I ask the Leader to convey our concerns to the Minister in order that this issue can be addressed sooner rather than later.

I welcome the commitment of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to both the DART underground and the metro. The increasing traffic in Dublin and other urban areas is a real sign of our economic recovery - a recovery that we want spread to every household. As I mentioned the other day when discussing Brexit on the Order of Business, the issue is a great challenge, but there are opportunities. It makes connectivity from Dublin airport into town all the more important. One study showed an increase of 40,000 per annum in the number of cars coming into the city in the coming years. There is a wonderful opportunity to avoid all that if metro proceeds expeditiously. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, was mentioned. As the previous Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport he gave a commitment that work on metro would commence by 2021. I can understand the Senator's sense of urgency around both of these big projects - they are massive - but they have to be done properly. There are procurement orders, planning issues and many other logistical and legal issues to be resolved. Much of the work has been done but a new order had to be achieved to take the new route and to reduce the cost. I believe this is a critical piece of infrastructure, particularly given Dublin Airport's plans to provide accommodation for businesses that want to locate here. It had one building and refurbished one floor, but ESB International came along and took the entire building. There is huge demand and appetite for developments in this area. Fingal County Council has the largest green area in the city, with plenty of land rezoned to afford opportunity for further development. We have the youngest population in the country, if not in the EU. We also have a very diverse population, as evidenced by Loreto Convent when it won the Young Scientist exhibition and the young ladies who achieved such great acclaim and achievement in doing that.

The metro is hugely important. I do not have a problem with keeping the project alive rather than developing it aggressively when there is very little money available. However, we have more money now, so that situation should not pertain. When I was at Cabinet I fought to keep it alive because it was in danger of being taken off the table entirely. I am pleased that it is still there and I am very pleased the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport saw fit to mention it.

I will finish by speaking on the matter of procurement. We brought in new systems which have been of great advantage to the taxpayer but we have to be careful not use them in such a blunt way that we put out of business many smaller suppliers and retailers of books in the SME area.

I agree with Senator Catherine Ardagh and Senator James Reilly that there is an urgent need to discuss the question of traffic in the city of Dublin. Unfortunately, the city authorities, for many years, have used the infrastructure of the city as a weapon against the motor car. I think that is rather dangerous. In particular, it introduced traffic hazards that make driving dangerous, extended footpaths unnecessarily and put rows of spikes sticking up out of the ground. It is quite dangerous. What used to be three lanes has now become a cycle lane, a bus lane and one lane for traffic, and that one lane is constantly invaded by public transport.

People living in the city are not allowed to have cars under these traffic regulations and we have a situation where the planning department is deliberately limiting the number of car parking spaces in new developments of flats. I strongly support the metro and have done so for many years in this House. Unfortunately, it was dumped through a lack of nerve but it is the only way to resolve the traffic problems.

I raise the issue of the gardaí, which was raised by Senator Terry Leyden. I also met them outside. Of the Garda stations the Government is considering reopening, I sincerely hope it reopens Fitzgibbon Street Garda station which is right bang in the centre of the biggest drug area in the country. It was closed and I was lied to in this House about it. I was told it was closed for refurbishment but it was not closed for refurbishment; it was closed, full stop. The gardaí are not terribly pleased about it either. I ask that Fitzgibbon Street Garda station be put on the list to be reopened as a matter of urgency.

The gardaí are excellent but are badly treated. Their pay was to be reviewed under the Haddington Road agreement but this has been consistently stymied by the Department of Finance. There is no working mechanism for industrial relations within the Garda. Its members' pay has been reduced time and again and has never been restored. New recruits are denied rent allowances, there are fewer gardaí with more tasks required and they are subjected to increasingly violent assaults. I strongly support the gardaí. It is dreadful to have a situation where they are paid so little. If one compares that to what the Luas tram drivers get, one sees there is a lack of real understanding of comparative need and respect in society. We should have respect for our Garda force, which does a really terrific job.

I wish Boris Johnson well after his announcement that he does not intend to seek the leadership of the Conservative Party and the position of Prime Minister. It is good for Britain that he does not.

He will not accept the consequences of his actions.

Unfortunately, he will not. I do not propose that we invite Boris Johnson to address us at any stage in the near future.

We were all invited to a briefing by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland today, which was very well attended and was delivered by our colleague, Senator Colette Kelleher. It is quite frightening that more than 47,000 people in this country are living with dementia. We all agree with the principle that people are far better off being cared for in their own homes for as long as possible. We need to see a fair deal for people living at home and proper home care packages. That is something we could look at in the autumn because we do not have too much time left this term. A debate on the specific issue of dementia is one that would be well worth considering.

I support Senator Humphreys in his deliberations earlier about libraries and the need to invest in and develop libraries in this country.

Reading is the greatest gift that can be given to a child. In that debate, there should be some consideration for the blind and visually impaired community, bearing in mind that only 10% of books are available in Braille or audio formats. If one walked into Easons and 90% of the shelves were empty, one would not be long leaving because one would feel there were no books there. That is the reality blind and visually impaired people face throughout the world and in this country. Any strategy or discussions on libraries and their use should incorporate the National Council for the Blind and its audiovisual library in Dublin. It should be part of any national strategy.

I am very disappointed to realise that the pay-by-weight system the Minister agreed to a week ago has not been clarified. My Fianna Fáil colleagues and I will agree to the Sinn Féin amendment. I proposed yesterday that the Minister address the Seanad. A week ago, we agreed there would be a 12-month freeze for everyone and that there would be information and consultation so that people could get used to this new pay-by-weight system. I express my disappointment that there has been no more information to clarify the issue with Greyhound. People have been trying to telephone and e-mail but have heard nothing back. They have been told that from tomorrow, 1 July 2016, they will be paying by weight. It is not good enough and is unacceptable and we, in the Fianna Fáil group, will support the amendment. We want to see the Minister in the House today to clarify the situation. We want it sorted today.

I want to raise an issue that is on the front of the Irish Examiner today. The Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, has announced a review of the merger plan for Cork city and county councils. This was a very important report issued by the former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, on the local authorities in Cork. The merger report, which proposed one local authority for Cork, was agreed three to two. Now it is proposed to review that report. I ask that the Minister comes to the House to explain what he is proposing to do with the report. It is a very divisive report. Cork is a huge area with a population of more than 500,000 and a geographical area the size of one eighth of this country. The report proposing one authority for Cork is a good idea. There are different views in Cork and in the Chamber on the issue. The review is something we have to discuss. The Minister can bring clarity when he comes to the House, which I would like to get. We need to move forward and arrive at a conclusion. This is hanging over Cork at the moment, that is, whether there will be one authority or not. We need a decision as soon as possible. Politically, the public representatives are not sure where they will be standing in the local elections that will be held in two and a half or three years' time. There are an awful lot of issues at stake here. When the Minister comes to the House, he will bring clarity to it, which I welcome. It is important for Cork and the State to get clarity on that issue.

I have been asked by my colleague, Senator Colette Kelleher, to raise an issue on the Order of Business because she is attending the launch of a pre-budget submission by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and cannot make it today. She wants to raise the important issue of home care services for people with dementia. She was delighted by the attendance of Senators and Deputies at the launch of the pre-budget submission. The majority of people with dementia live at home and want to remain there but they need support to do so. For too long, home care has been simply a solution to the hospital crisis and not an integral, long-term part of dementia care. Appropriate home care can keep people well in the community and out of hospital and long-term residential care. It is also vital in supporting family carers who provide the vast majority of home based care for people with dementia. Every week public representatives talk to families and carers. One family made the heart-breaking decision to put their 87 year old mother into long-term residential care because they had only been offered five to ten hours home care help. They could not do it on their own and their only option was long-term residential care. They are going through the grief of first losing a person's personality and then physically losing them to long-term care. Grief, anger and guilt come with that. I want us to support the Alzheimer Society of Ireland's pre-budget submission which asks for a paltry €67 million for 2017. On behalf of Senator Kelleher, I ask the Minister and Leader of the House to address this issue and, hopefully, we will get some agreement on it.

I also support Senator Boyhan in drawing attention to the report of the NMBI. Nursing unions have been saying for a long time how difficult it is to be a whistleblower.

A report released by its own consultants has claimed that the NMBI is a dysfunctional organisation, which is what we have been saying for a long time. It has serious organisational and financial shortcomings and I hope they will be resolved.

Today, the Psychiatric Nurses Association began national industrial action in protest against severe under-staffing. I say again, if not us, who, and if not now, when? We need to deal with staffing within the mental health services. I hope the Minister for Health will engage meaningfully and not just talk when responding to the staff shortage. Finally, I support the motion tabled by Senator Rose Conway-Walsh.

I support my colleague Senator Tim Lombard in his call for the reorganisation of local authorities in the Cork area. I know he has served on Cork County Council, but I have served on Cork City Council. I believe there is a need for a comprehensive review of the areas covered by local authorities. There has been a debate on whether there should be just one local authority or whether we should leave it as it is but with a larger area for the city. A review was conducted by the five people appointed, but the process did not bring people together. This is an extremely important matter for the region. More than 550,000 people live in Cork county and city. It is a huge area that needs proper planning and, thus, we need a proper local authority structure.

We need to deal with some major issues. For instance, new port facilities have been developed at Ringaskiddy, but we need road infrastructure to be put in place. On the northern side of Cork city, we need a new northern ring road on the outskirts so that more urban development can take place.

In terms of the overall national context, the growth of Dublin city is a problem. We need to identify three or four key hubs for major growth that will be located outside of Dublin. I am talking about the south, the west, the north west and the south east. We also need to make sure we have a long-term comprehensive strategy and that it is not done on a piecemeal basis. In the southern area, in Cork, we must ensure we have a local authority structure that can deal with future planning in a comprehensive and long-term manner. I ask the Leader to invite the relevant Minister to come to the House to outline how he will reform local authorities in Cork city and county. It is important that we do not make the same mistakes that were made 12 and 18 months ago.

I second the motion tabled by Senator Ó Clochartaigh. I also commend and welcome the comments made by Senator Murnane O'Connor.

Last week we had a robust debate. I think all of us across the Chamber understood that charges were going to be frozen and that people would not have increases imposed on them. It would be very good and commendable if all of us could agree on this point now: this is not the case. I know from my contacts with the Greyhound company that people are in uproar about bin charges. We also know there have been 1,300 calls from the west. Let us get agreement on this issue. We must invite the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter and, hopefully, we can do something right and helpful for all the people in the country.

I wish to raise an international issue. Yesterday, several of us stood and called on the Irish Government to demand the release of Ibrahim Halawa, who is imprisoned in Egypt. Today, I call on the Government to demand the release of Bilal Kayed, a 34-year old Palestinian activist who was imprisoned by the Israeli military occupation authority. He was imprisoned for being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organisation banned by Israel. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for simply attending a protest and expressing his right to free speech. Earlier this month, on 13 June, he was set for release. However, the Israeli military occupation authority has now sentenced him to a further six months' imprisonment without trial. In protest against this disgraceful violation of international law, Bilal Kayed has entered a hunger strike. More than 65 fellow Palestinian prisoners have followed his example and declared an open-ended hunger strike in solidarity. Right now more than 715 Palestinians are imprisoned under what the Israeli authority calls administrative detention. This number includes several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who are democratic representatives of the Palestinian people. This corrupt policy is used by the Israeli authorities to charge and detain Palestinians without trial and is a violation of the fourth Geneva Convention and international laws that guarantee fair trial standards.

Israel's overarching policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is to crush and fragment Palestinian society and drive Palestinians out of their homeland. The Israeli authorities are engaging in mass detentions, violating the human rights of Palestinian citizens and constructing new settlements. More than 600,000 Israeli settlers now occupy the West Bank. We want the Irish Government and the international community to stand up and publicly condemn Israel's use of so-called administrative detention, to demand that the Israeli authorities comply with international laws on human rights, and to respect the fundamental rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.

I ask the Leader to invite the relevant Minister here for a debate.

I welcome to the Distinguished Visitors' Gallery Mr. Shaoquett Moselmane from the Legislative Council of New South Wales in Australia, where he is the Opposition Whip. He is very welcome.

I rise to raise the issue of telecommunications, specifically broadband and mobile phone coverage around the country. Yesterday I attended an enlightening briefing, but what was aired to the telecoms providers was mostly frustrations. I was struck by the fact that despite the investment by the industry of €2.5 billion in network infrastructure over the past five years, several rural areas still lack broadband coverage or have none whatsoever. This problem affects not only rural areas but certain urban areas. Many broadband black spots that existed ten years ago are still in existence today. How are small businesses supposed to survive in a competitive environment without basic broadband?

Broadband providers seem to attribute part of the blame to the fact that Ireland has one of the lowest population densities in Europe. Sweden has 100% coverage even though it has a much lower population density than Ireland. Broadband providers must change their mindset. If not, I propose that legislation be introduced to prevent broadband providers from cherry-picking the areas where they provide coverage. Let us not beat about the bush and declare that it is commercial reality that dictates which areas get broadband coverage. Providers do not care, for the most part, what part of the country gets coverage as long as they fulfil their licence requirements. That is completely unacceptable and the situation has gone beyond a joke. We need to arrange a debate with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to discuss the matter and to allow him to outline the strategy to provide full broadband coverage around the country.

I want to speak about Console, which was raised several times yesterday. The CEO, Mr. Paul Kelly, still appears not to have formally resigned in writing from his position. He cannot act like the Scarlet Pimpernel. The Console organisation has done fantastic work and its staff have been left in a terrible state over what has happened. How did this situation arise? I would love to know the legal and financial constructs around Console. Over a long number of years hundreds of thousands of euro were spent, a lot of it taxpayers' money that was given to Console. The staff have provided a fantastic service. I call on Mr. Kelly to formally resign his position. If he is not willing to formally resign today then I call on the investigators in the State to go into the High Court and ensure his resignation takes place.

I am sorry to interrupt but I wish to make a point of order. Are we not meant to be careful about naming people in the Chamber in case it affects legal proceedings in the future?

We are. The Senator is quite right that we should not mention people who are not here to defend themselves.

We are not a legal Chamber. In the interests of the Console organisation and the people who use it, Mr. Kelly needs to formally resign.

I also welcome our distinguished visitor from New South Wales to the Chamber. He is welcome and I wish him well.

I thank the 23 Senators who spoke on the Order of Business.

With regard to the request to amend the Order of Business to discuss the motion on Seanad reform, I cannot accept the motion for a number of reasons which I have explained at length but will repeat for the benefit of the House. First, it would put the Cathaoirleach in a position where he would have to name the people to be appointed, which he cannot do. Second, it refers to 20 other Members of the Seanad, which is one third of the membership and twice the size of the committees currently being formed within the Houses of the Oireachtas. Third, the Senator is asking for a timeframe which is within two weeks of the Seanad being constituted and which has already expired. To be fair to Senator Conway-Walsh, I am sure she will understand my bona fides on this issue. I am not against Seanad reform. Yesterday, at the meeting of Leaders and Whips, a discussion took place with former Senators Maurice Manning and Joe O'Toole on the Manning report and how reform might be implemented. One may not agree with the content of their report but it provides a roadmap for the future. There will be a Second Stage debate in the House on Senator McDowell's Bill on 13 July. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges will be established, I hope, next week. We can use that committee to drive reform, if needs be, on how the House operates and how we do our business. I have tried, in an open and constructive way, to engage with Senators on all sides. I do not have anything to hide with regard to how I do my business and how this House does its business. I try to facilitate all sides. Sometimes one cannot get agreement on the sitting arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, at other times one can do so. The overarching zeal for reform is a matter in respect of which I hope we can work together. I ask the Senator not to put her motion to a vote and divide the House because I do not want her to be seen to obstruct reform or to oppose Government reform at a time when we all want reform. I hope the Senator understands the spirit of my remarks.

In regard to the second amendment to the Order of Business, I ask Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh rather than divide the House to withdraw the amendment. I will endeavour to have the Minister come before the House today. Níor chuala mé an clár ar Raidió na Gaeltachta agus níl a fhios agam cad a bhí á plé. I think the Minister is agreeable to come to the House. Rather than divide the House, I ask the Senator to withdraw his amendment.

If the Senator withdraws his amendment, I will arrange for the Minister to come to the House today. I will have the Minister in the House to discuss the specific issue of waste collection rather than have a motion on it.

As I understand it, an undertaking is being given by the Leader that he will have the Minister in the House today on the basis that the amendment is withdrawn.

I welcome that. What amount of time will be available and will there be speaking time for-----

I hope to have him for about an hour.

Will speaking time be allowed for group leaders?

That is my intention. It will be one per group. To be fair, we had a robust debate on the issue last week. In the spirit of new politics, the Leader is open to working with those on all sides. Nothing has changed regarding the waste industry since we had a debate on this matter in the House last week. The bill issued by Greyhound is very clear. I have one here but I cannot find it now. It is very clear. It asks people either to stay on their current payment plan or move to the pay-per-weight system. There is no movement in terms of fees or in terms of the amount. Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor was not being completely fair in the context of what she said because there is no change to what her party agreed in the Dáil when the matter was discussed or to what the Minister said here last week. There is a freeze. Greyhound has asked some people to choose if they wish to opt for the pay-by-weight system or stay with their existing plans. There is no change in the bill.

May I raise a point of order?

I am not taking a point of order.

Allow the Leader to continue.

I have a bill here. If we want to have new politics, let us have them but let us not go back to Punch and Judy.

I ask the Leader to continue without inviting debate.

The Leader is an open book but I will not take politics from people who will not work with new politics. In the spirit of new politics, the Minister will come to the House and we will have a discussion. As already stated, I have an open-door policy but I will not accept the old type policy of misleading people.

I thank the Leader.

I ask the Senator not to invite debate. A point of order.

I am trying to be correct as regards the order of the House and the standing order. My understanding is that we are debating the Order of Business. The Order of Business as it has been laid before the House is to be changed because a Minister is to come before us.

As I understand it, the Leader has given that undertaking.

My remarks allow for that.

In regard to the remarks by Senators Ardagh, Reilly and Norris, obviously the issue of public transport and the way the capital infrastructure for Dublin is unfolding is one on which we should have a debate. I would be happy to have the Minister, Deputy Ross, come to the House to discuss the matter. Senator Ardagh will agree that under the previous Government there was huge investment in capital infrastructure relating to public transportation in the city.

Senator O'Donnell raised a very important issue in respect of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and the necessity for a ministerial order. I will endeavour to have that matter resolved. To be fair to the Senator, both she and former Senator and Deputy Liam Twomey did enormous work on that legislation in the previous Dáil. It is one that will bring much comfort to people in an important time of need when dealing with their final affairs.

Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue mar gheall ar Raidió na Gaeltachta. Déanaim comhghairdeas le Raidió na Gaeltachta as ucht an méid clár a dhéantar ar son gach duine ar fud na tíre. I have raised the issue of waste collection but I did not hear the programme with the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the issue of the glyphosate. This chemical is used in the weedkiller Roundup. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House for a debate on that issue.

Senators Humphreys and Reilly raised the issue of procurement. The matter of the tendering process is one about which we must be very careful. It is important that no small or medium enterprises, suppliers or retailers are penalised or made to feel they cannot tender or be part of the process because, as we are all aware, they have been a pivotal part of how we run the country. Even though a new procurement service arrangement has been put in place, I hope they will not be disqualified from tendering. The point raised is an important one.

Senator Mulherin referred to public liability insurance. I am happy for the Minister to come before the House to discuss that matter.

Senator Leyden raised the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, Act, in the context of the Garda. That legislation was introduced by the Government of which he was a member as a blunt instrument which penalised public servants. There is no arrogance on behalf of the current Minister. This Government, like that which preceded it, is committed to unfolding the FEMPI legislation. Thankfully, 280,000 public servants have signed up to the Lansdowne Road agreement. A process is under way. At this late stage, I welcome the commitment on the part of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI, to hold a ballot to recommend acceptance of the agreement to its members. I appeal to the GRA and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, ASTI, to engage in talks. I note the invitation by the Minister for Education and Skills. As a former member of the ASTI, I cannot comprehend its logic and thinking on this issue. I appeal to it to engage and to accept the invitation of the Minister for Education and Skills to hold further talks. I appeal to the Garda Representative Association, GRA, to engage in talks because this is an important issue. We do not want members of the Garda to lose money or to be unable to avail of a pay increase.

Senator Paddy Burke and Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of inviting the Scottish First Minister, Ms Nicola Sturgeon, to the House. That would be a timely invitation in light of the result of Brexit last week but also given the significance of the visit of President Higgins to Scotland and his address yesterday to the Scottish Parliament. I hope the Cathaoirleach and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, on behalf of the House, will take up that invitation. I think the Cathaoirleach would be responsible for issuing the invitation on behalf of the House.

He will discuss it.

I hope he will make the invitation because it is important in the context of the Brexit vote. To be fair to Senator Paddy Burke, who was Cathaoirleach in the last Seanad, he was innovative in his invitation to the Orange Order to speak in this Chamber.

I hope that we can do the same in this House this time. This is about building new bridges and a new world. I concur with Senator Burke on his remarks and hope we can do that.

Senator Martin Conway raised the issue of dementia and the Alzheimer's strategy and also spoke about libraries. We should have a debate on these issues. The implementation of the dementia strategy should be put on the agenda for future discussion and the issue of books and reading is one we also need to pursue.

Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue about the pay-by-weight system. Senator Tim Lombard and Senator Colm Burke raised the important issue of the proposed merger of Cork city and county councils. This is about the biggest county and the second city having a proper local government structure. There are differing viewpoints. To be fair to the Minister, he was probably asked a question by a journalist, but it is important that we have clarity and I am happy to ask the Minister to come to the House with regard to the issue.

Senator Victor Boyhan and another Senator - I cannot read my notes - raised the issue about the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, NMBI. There is an ongoing issue here that needs to be addressed. As the Chairman of the last health committee, I can tell the House that we had representatives from the board in before the committee. It is an issue that needs to be addressed and I agree fully with the Senators who raised it. This concerns not just registration but also process and ensuring the system is working to maximum effect. We should have a debate on it and I am happy to arrange it.

Senator John O'Mahony raised the issue of tourism and the need for a debate on it. I hope the Minister will come before the House to discuss it.

Senator Robbie Gallagher raised the issue of motor insurance. As we have discussed on previous occasions during the Order of Business, it is important that the Minister for Finance, who is engaged in a series of talks on it, would bring about a resolution to the issue of the high cost of travel and motor insurance.

Senator Devine also raised the important issue of the dementia strategy and spoke on behalf of Senator Kelleher who has done Trojan work in her role as chief executive of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Senator Devine also spoke about the NMBI. We need to have a debate on both of those matters.

Senator Paul Gavan raised the issue of Ibrahim Halawa. A request was made yesterday and, as I said earlier, in terms of the new politics, if I can do it I will do it. The Minister will be before the House today at 3.15 p.m.

Senator Catherine Noone has rightly raised the ongoing issue of the mobile phone network infrastructure and coverage. As a nation, we need to urgently address the issue, especially in the context of the vote last week. We will now be the only English speaking country in the European Union, so we need to have a mobile and broadband infrastructure that is in pristine condition. Sadly, in places where one would expect it to be in that condition - I am not speaking about the side of a mountain or parts of rural Ireland - there is a huge deficit. The national broadband strategy and the way mobile phone carriers do their business and provide service to customers need to be urgently reviewed and acted upon.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell raised the issue of Console. We had lengthy contributions on the Order of Business yesterday on this matter. There are two parts to the story. Console is providing a service on behalf of the HSE and other State agencies to people in genuine and urgent need of care. A gentleman from Cork spoke this morning on "Morning Ireland" about how counsellors such as he were treated in terms of late payments. That they are still offering their services speaks volumes about the quality of the people working in Console. However, Senator O'Donnell's fundamental point concerns governance. Rather than prejudice any further case, and in the interests of the charity sector and the staff, clients and those who fundraise on behalf of Console, he is right that the CEO should stand aside and resign his position to safeguard and protect the organisation.

To conclude, I am happy the Minister will come to the House-----

Will the Leader come back and brief the House as to when he will come?

I hope it will be at 4.30 p.m. after we do our business. I would rather that we did not divide the House on a vote.

Will the Leader come back and advise the House as to when he will come?

That would satisfy-----.

He has indicated to me that he is happy to come to the House. We just need to work out the rubrics.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 7 be taken as a matter or urgency." I take it the Senator will withdraw and amendment?

Yes, I will. I appreciate the work being done by the Leader in that regard and welcome the debate.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 9, motion 1 be taken today." Is it being pressed?

Out of respect for the work the Leader is trying to do and given that we are trying to work together to resolve this, because we agree on the need for reform, although we are not at a stage yet where his position is robust enough for not agreeing to take the amendment, I will bring it up again next week under the Order of Business if we cannot reach agreement in the meantime.

Is the Senator withdrawing the amendment today?

I withdraw it today.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Order of Business agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.