Tourism Industry: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann:

- recognises the economic importance of tourism to Ireland over many generations and the enormous contribution made by previous Governments in partnership with the tourism industry which has created a very strong experience for many millions of visitors to this country;

- recognises the significant achievement in increasing tourism numbers to Ireland given the very difficult economic circumstances in recent years;

- acknowledges the significant role the tourism industry has played in the past by maintaining and improving standards in very challenging financial environments;

- acknowledges the success of recent Government initiatives such as the introduction of the 9% VAT rate, the abolition of the travel tax, the significant capital investment in high quality tourist attractions and the development and promotion of additional airline routes which have opened up new markets for the Irish tourism industry;

- recognises the various marketing initiatives which have brought tremendous success and increased visitor numbers in particular the Gathering, the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ireland’s Ancient East initiatives;

- calls on the Government to retain the 9% VAT rate on a multi-annual basis which will allow and encourage the tourism industry to plan ambitiously for the future;

- calls on the Government to identify ways of spreading visitor numbers to towns and villages across Ireland that may not have traditionally benefitted from the tourism industry;

- calls on the Government to continue its investment in ‘green tourism’ initiatives which will position Ireland to benefit from this fast growing sector; and

- calls on the Government to establish new funding streams where tourism entrepreneurs can be encouraged to apply for assistance in developing initiatives which will ultimately expand our tourism offering.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross, to the House. As he will know, tourism is an extremely important industry in all parts of Ireland but, in particular, along the west coast and in counties encompassing the Wild Atlantic Way and counties that have many historical, traditional and cultural attractions. This country experienced an incredible economic recession, which started in 2008. In conjunction with that, tourist numbers dropped. Unfortunately, a number of punitive taxes and measures had to be introduced because we were part of the troika programme. The previous Government came into office in 2011 and the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport at the time. He initiated a number of initiatives that were enormously successful. Everyone will remember The Gathering, an initiative back in 2012. It was the Irish tourism fight back at that time. It brought together all our citizens, nationally and internationally. It engaged and involved them in a project where they could have fun while at the same time help this country get back on its feet, specifically in the area of tourism. Hundreds of thousands of people of Irish descent and Irish heritage came from abroad, spent time in Ireland, had a good time and helped us to kick-start our tourism economy. It was modelled on a similar gathering called the Homecoming that operated very successfully in Scotland. I think the Homecoming in Scotland is repeated every five years because it is seen as an enormously successful endeavour around which people can plan their trips back to their native land. I suggest to the Minister that perhaps he and his officials could look at running another The Gathering in a couple of years' time.

That was coupled with some very important budgetary measures, specifically the 9% VAT rate. The 9% VAT rate was a godsend to people in the hospitality, restaurant and hotel industries and in other areas associated with tourism in terms of giving them a bit of financial assistance and the opportunity to make their prices competitive and attractive.

It did work. It worked very successfully, to such a degree that since the 9% VAT rate was introduced it has been retained in every budget subsequently. I will refer later to what I believe should happen to the 9% VAT rate.

Another very important initiative which was introduced approximately three budgets ago was the elimination of the travel tax. Mr. Michael O'Leary, a business pioneer in this country, lobbied for a number of years to have the travel tax abolished. He said that if that happened, he would commit to bringing 1 million extra passengers to this country the following year. At the time, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, entered a gentleman's agreement with him. He said he could see the logic in his argument and that he would eliminate the travel tax, but that Mr. O'Leary must keep his side of the bargain. Not alone did he bring in an extra million people the following year, he brought 1.6 million, an extra 600,000 above and beyond what was promised. The travel tax, the 9% VAT rate and The Gathering were very important incremental steps in the right direction to rebuild the tourism sector and we are beginning to enjoy the fruits of that today.

The marketing of Ireland as a tourism product internationally was never at the level it should have reached. One saw the shamrock advertisements in certain states in America encouraging people to come to Ireland, but there was nothing real or tangible. That changed when the concept of the Wild Atlantic Way was developed by the stakeholders and the Government. The Wild Atlantic Way competes with the Camino and other tourism attractions in the world and it can hold its head high in terms of success. We are only seeing the start of the success of the Wild Atlantic Way. Similarly, as a country we are trying to develop a heritage trail in the east, which has significant potential. The future of tourism is in a far healthier position than it was but we still have a lot of work to do. Many towns and villages, in particular in rural areas, have natural beauty but do not have people visiting them to the extent that should happen. Even in County Clare, where the Cliffs of Moher had 1.4 million visitors in 2016 and which one would expect to be at the pinnacle in terms of tourism, there are still towns that do not get the type of kick-back they should get from tourism. People are running restaurants, small guest houses and hotels in such towns that still need assistance. I call on the Minister to recommend to the Minister for Finance in next year's budget that the 9% VAT rate should be a permanent fixture for tourism.

I note with some disappointment that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has decided to weigh in on this argument. I fully accept that working conditions in the hospitality industry sometimes fall short of the standards we expect and I salute the work of congress in fighting to ensure standards are developed, but I believe it is the role of Government to set taxation and if there is a shortfall of some hundred million euro it is the responsibility of the Government to find ways to make up that shortfall. However, I do not agree with the removal of an incentive that is needed for what I would describe as a developing industry. Perhaps there is a case to be made for the removal of the 9% VAT rate in the city of Dublin. There is no doubt the hotel and hospitality sector in Dublin is booming, but that is not reflected in many parts of the country. There may very well be precedent for a VAT rate of a different level in Dublin city, which would make up the vast majority of the €640 million congress maintains has been lost to the taxpayer.

I also encourage the Minister to recommend to his Cabinet colleagues that there should be a tax incentive scheme to encourage entrepreneurs who have good ideas for the interpretation of the landscape and history of this country, whether it be through audiovisual displays in museums or in various other ways so as to offer a product that would be weather resistant, which this country needs. Incentives should be provided for tourism entrepreneurs who have a good idea, and the capability to make it happen, that would attract people to this country and would give a better offering to those who decide to come. The Government should act in partnership and help such people.

I urge the Minister to provide further incentives for airlines to fly more people to this country as part of the transport side of his portfolio. We have seen what Ryanair has done and I am sure other airlines would like to establish routes into this country from areas that are not currently serviced. The airport authorities do a reasonably good job in terms of providing a suite of packages to airlines to open up new routes, but perhaps there is something more we could do in that regard.

Overall, it is important that tourism is on the agenda of this Parliament, certainly within the Seanad. It is an area in which there is significant potential for further growth. I salute the Minister and his predecessors for their ten-year strategy. It is important that we have a focused strategy and perhaps we might even make the targets a little more ambitious. We do not have oil rigs, mines or gold in this country but we have natural beauty. In my county we have the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren and there is beautiful scenery and fantastic history in many other counties. That is what we need to develop. They are our raw materials and natural resources. I commend the Minister on coming to the House for the debate. It shows the respect he has always had for Seanad Éireann as a former Member. I sincerely hope the discussion we have today will be a focused one and will inform the Minister's thinking as he prepares his plans for tourism in this country.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross, to the House. He is no stranger, but it is good to see him here. One can judge a man by the fact that he never forgets his roots and I commend him in that regard.

Part of the reason for tabling the motion relates to Brexit. Any hotelier or person running a bed and breakfast to whom one speaks can point to a slight dip in tourism numbers from the UK coming to this country. That is caused by a number of factors that include uncertainty and the depreciation in sterling vis-à-vis the euro. The tourism sector is under pressure and could come increasingly under pressure. The 9% VAT rate was originally introduced against the backdrop of the worst combination of economic factors in this country. Currently, due to uncertainty in terms of the future, Brexit and sterling, there is a need to ensure the tourism industry is competitive. The 9% VAT rate should have been passed on to the consumer but that is not happening universally. Even though the State has provided a lift to the tourism sector, it has not been reciprocated in all cases by tourism providers. In most cases it has, but the Minister should examine whether the benefit has been passed on in terms of the VAT rate.

As the Minister is probably aware, when someone goes into a restaurant, hotel or a bed and breakfast accommodation, they are paying a gross figure. VAT has to be paid out of that figure. If that VAT rate had been at 13.5% or 23% and it suddenly came down to 9%, that would make a significant difference to the net take home amount of the tourism service provider. Rates were very depressed when the 9% rate came in. However, as anyone who is staying in Dublin or around the country will know, rates are going up. They are not going up consistently, but in certain hotels and restaurants, particularly the hotel sector, there have been astronomical increases in rates charged. We live in a market economy. However, there would be no harm in setting up a review mechanism to see how the 9% rate has worked and how it is being passed on. We should be doing due diligence to make certain that it has worked well, as I believe it has. We must make certain that retaining the 9% rate ensures that we have a vibrant tourism sector.

Senator Conway-Walsh made reference to the fact that we do not have oil. Our natural resource is slightly intangible. We have a céad míle fáilte. We are very, very good at tourism. When people come to Ireland, they want to come back. This goodwill is an intangible asset, but it is an extremely important one. With that come jobs in hotels and restaurants, and spin-offs to all the amenities in the area. However, while the 9% rate will allow the tourism sector continue to be competitive there cannot be exploitation by the tourism sector in what they charge consumers, both Irish visitors and people from overseas.

Can I ask the Minister to factor in forecasts-----

I wonder can I ask the speaker to yield for one moment for a question. I am a little bit confused. He has been asking for a review. Is he speaking for the motion or against the motion?

No, I am speaking for the motion.

Are you sure, because------

No, I am looking to-----

The speaker yielded. I asked the question and he answered it. There is no need for others to heckle me.

Let me give Senator Humphreys a complete answer. I want to support the 9% rate and I want to ensure that any competitiveness is passed back to the consumer, both the Irish person and the visitor. I want to ensure consumers are not being exploited. I think that is very clear. It is a normal, basic tenet. I want to thank Senator Humphreys for enabling me to articulate my point even further.

The issue of small rural villages is part of this motion. There are many rural villages in Limerick. Anyone who has done the Seanad campaign and has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland cannot but say that we have a beautiful country. People are not aware of many areas. One sees the breadth of beauty in small rural villages as one goes through Ireland. We have to ensure that when people fly into Dublin they come down the country. In Shannon visitors are encouraged to go to Limerick and Clare, where there are very scenic views. We should look at imaginative ways to give support to rural villages to enable them to further enhance the tourism offers they have in place for people.

I am very supportive of the motion. As with anything, we must ensure that a product is giving value for money to the taxpayer whose taxes have been used on this product. At the same time, we must ensure that we have a viable tourism industry which employs a huge number of people. In Limerick we have the amenities of Shannon Airport, St. John's Castle, Foynes and many others. We need a robust tourism sector, and must make certain that it remains competitive by giving it assistance if necessary. However, that is on the condition that we do not see exploitation of that VAT rate in terms of charging exorbitant rates to consumers, be they domestic or foreign.

I welcome the Minister to the House. Fianna Fáil will be supporting the motion.

The Minister must be glad to have an opportunity to discuss a good news item like tourism. It is a rest from his travails with some of the more difficult elements of his brief.

Although we have a lot to be thankful for in tourism, the Minister will know that we cannot for one moment become complacent or relax. This is particularly so in the context of major global changes such as the Trump presidency in America and, more immediately for us, the potential consequences of Brexit on tourism income from the UK and Northern Ireland, which is such an important part of our market, as the Minister will know.

The statistics are good. I am sure the Minister has them to hand. It should be noted that we had over 8 million tourists in 2015. The visitor spend was in excess of €6 billion, which is a growth of 16% on the previous year. All the figures stack up. Of hoteliers, 84% reported an increase in bookings last year, while 82% reported increased profitability and 39% said they had employed more full-time staff than in the previous year. These are all very welcome statistics. I am aware as anybody else of the lies and the damn lies and the statistics but, being from County Kerry, I have seen this myself on the ground . I am in constant contact with people in the hospitality sector, and they are nearly all singing off the same hymn sheet.

People like to hide their light under a bushel sometimes. There is a famous story about a lady who kept a guest house in a prominent tourist town in Kerry. A Bord Fáilte inspector called to her one day to see how her season went. She told him it was a disaster. He found that quite shocking, as Bord Fáilte inspectors had done a few tours during the season and every time they visited the guest house it had a "Full" sign outside the door. The lady agreed that might be true, but said the guest house had turned away far more visitors the previous year. A little anecdote to tell the House that statistics can be hidden at times.

Of guest houses, 68% reported an increase in visitors, as did 57% of the bed and breakfast accommodation operators. The bed and breakfast accommodation sector will have to be looked at, particularly in the context of Airbnb, which I will come to in a moment.

Senator Conway-Walsh addressed developments such as The Gathering and the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ancient East, which have all been very successful. The Gathering was conceived by the outgoing Brian Cowen administration, although it was delivered by the Fine Gael-led Government.

It might be time now for the Minister to publish a new overarching tourism policy document to reassure the industry that we have a strategy in place for dealing with Brexit. UK and Northern Ireland visitors account for 41% of our total overseas visitor numbers, which is colossal. The number of visitors from Britain has increased by 12% since 2012. Everybody in the business knows that the British tourist is one of the most welcome tourists in any corner of this country because they are great spenders and they are very good people to deal with. There is never any problem with British tourists in my neck of the woods. We would hate to see any significant drop in intake there, either in the main season or in the off-season for angling tourism and so on. Hopefully the Minister will be in a position to come in with some specific outline for dealing with Brexit.

The election of President Trump is a worry. He is talking about a wall between America and Mexico. This man is building a wall around America. He will not want anyone coming in, and nor will he want anyone coming out.

It is quite likely that that man could impose a tax on people holidaying outside America. He will want them all to go to Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe or somewhere like that. That is also a worry.

In that context, it must be noted that the Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland budget was cut by €25 million since 2012. That is 17%, which is quite significant. I would also like to alert the Minister to the great potential in the Asia-Pacific region. This is one of the big growth areas that Fáilte Ireland has identified. It is predicted that it could increase in the order of 6% per annum over the next ten years. The beauty of these tourists is that because they come such a long way, they will stay longer, spend more, and they tend to see more of the country as well. They do not all just come to Dublin and stay there. They move around. That type of tourism is very welcome because, as Senator Kieran O'Donnell has said, we would like to see a tourism boost for smaller villages and local regions. So many of our tourists come to Dublin, skip down to Kilkenny and most of them come on to Kerry after that. Why would they not? Many never see any other part of the country, which brings me on to another concern, which is about the poor spread and regional disparity.

These numbers are off the top of my head. Some 40% of tourists will stay in Dublin. The next best is my own region in the south west which gets 17%. After that, I think the west gets perhaps 13%. There are regions like the midlands and, tragically, the north west, which is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, where it is around 6%. I cannot for the life of my understand that. I know there is a long distance, but Kerry is no farther from Dublin than parts of Donegal, so this disparity is a worry. There is a big treasure out there. If there was a better spread in tourist destinations, it would be better for the economy overall.

I would also like to note the increase in the number of German tourists, especially outside Dublin, in recent years. They are going for the adventure-type holiday, with self-catering and such like. That is something we will try to grow as well.

I have addressed the skills shortage here several times. We are very aware of it in Kerry. We are 6,500 chefs short of a quota. We have very few kitchen training facilities. I was delighted to welcome an initiative, as I am sure the Minister was, by the Gleneagle hotels group with the Institute of Technology, Tralee, to provide new university-level catering hospitality education, leading to a degree. It will be a big boost and it will also be good for the economy of the county.

I support the retention of the 9% VAT rate. I am not going to go into details about it. I think it is a good idea. Airbnb is presenting a problem. It is a welcome development overall, but it is going to have to be regulated in some way sooner or later. I will finish up with a shocking point. Somebody asked me to try to get him a room. It was a twin room for 18 March, the day of the rugby international after St. Patrick's Day. All hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation and guest houses anywhere close to Dublin city are booked. The best I could get him was a room in a house in Summerhill in Dublin. It was €230 for two guys for one night in a twin room in Summerhill, which is not exactly Dublin 4, though I am not casting any aspersions on Summerhill. That is the reality. The hotels are really socking it on significantly when they get the opportunity, which is another day's work.

The best thing about tourism in Ireland is not the statistics but the people, our welcome, Fáilte Ireland and the céad míle fáilte. As long as we have that and our culture, heritage, beauty and beautiful scenery, we have what we need. As the Senator said, anyone who went on the Seanad trail - except perhaps the Minister, who does not do that, and used to canvass from a chaise longue in Dublin 4 or something - has to hit the road and go all over the country, so we know the beauty that is in even the most isolated, unexpected places, and that is really what it is all about.

I welcome the Minister and the debate on this motion. If one looks at the motion itself, it is broken down into six paragraphs. We talked about recognising the economic importance of tourism. I have no difficulty with that. We are recognising the significant achievements in increasing the tourism numbers into Ireland given the difficulties. I have no difficulty with that. It goes on.

I have a problem with the sixth point, which "calls on the Government to retain the 9% VAT rate on a multi-annual basis which will allow and encourage the tourism industry to plan ambitiously for the future". Let us look at the history of when this was introduced. Tourism was on the ground and there were problems. I do not know if anyone tuned in, but I want to single out a few issues. I note the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, has sent a letter to all Senators and indeed, I think, Members of Dáil Éireann too. It set out some reasons it would have concerns about the 9% rate.

There was a programme this week on RTE radio which highlighted some serious issues of abuse of people and workers in the hospitality sector, who have no contract hours and are below the minimum wage. This is widespread. I have come across it myself in hotels in south County Dublin. I went to the trouble of checking one yesterday. The workers feel intimidated. If they raise concerns about issues of pay or conditions of employment, they are frozen out with fewer hours that are not sufficient for them to live. People who may not have their papers in order are being used. This is also common in the sector. That is the reality. There is very significant abuse of workers in the hospitality sector, particularly at certain grades. That concerns me. Senator Kieran O'Donnell put his finger on it when he asked how we can be guaranteed that the benefits of this cut in the VAT rate are passed on to the consumer. That question is really important.

What analysis has the Minister or his Department done of the 9% VAT rate? Has definitive research been done to make a strong case to continue this in next year's budget? I would definitely be against it being a permanent arrangement. Senator Conway talked about having a permanent arrangement. There are many sectors in the economy that are suffering, that need subsidies and that could justifiably argue that they could use a reduction in VAT for employment prospects, the economy, regional benefits and a range of other matters. I do not think it is acceptable or right. There are very profitable hotels and restaurants in Munster, Leinster and all over the country. I was in Limerick the weekend before last and I know how difficult it was to book accommodation there and eat there. One hotel I called to was booked for four days. That is great news. I am celebrating that and think that is great. It is the same if one goes to Galway. That is a good story. They were propped up at a time when they needed the benefits, and a case has been made. I would like to see the cost-benefit analysis. Where is it all going now? At best, there could be a case of phasing this out and bringing the rate slowly back up to 23% over a two or three-year period. I do not support retaining the 9% rate. It is not a responsible thing to do. It may be the easy option for people who may be coming under pressure from the hospitality, restaurant and hotels sector, but I do not think it is the right thing to do. It should be reviewed.

I accept all the other aspects of the motion. Senator Conway eloquently outlined how he wanted to develop entrepreneurship and encourage development in the whole sector. I have no difficulty with any aspect of the Government's proposed motion. My only concern relates to the 9% rate. We should at least be phasing it out. Even if not today or tomorrow, there should be a plan to phase it out. I realise that people have made plans. It takes a while to adjust to new changes and regimes. It should be phased out within two to three years at the most. I do not think any strong, cogent case could be made to sustain it.

I wanted to mention the skill sets in education. The previous Senator spoke about it. There is a real need to develop education and training for the hospitality and the whole food sector. The Minister might discuss how we can develop that with his counterparts, the other Ministers with responsibility in that area. We need buy-in from the sector, and the owners in the hotel and restaurant sector. What are they doing, and what case can they make themselves to retain some reduction in VAT? Having considered it all, I believe it should go. It is just a question of when. A reasonable approach for a Minister like Deputy Ross would be to suggest that it be totally phased out over a two to three-year period.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. I commend Senator Conway for the motion before the House. It is important to put matters in context. The week in which we are having this debate, Government Ministers and representatives of State agencies are travelling to the four corners of the world. We have many important and historic monuments and buildings across the world promoting Ireland, for example, the greening of the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. That is to be welcomed. We have a unique brand, as the Senator has said, in terms of hospitality, tourism and creating a unique visitor experience.

Senator Boyhan, whom I respect greatly, has hit on the heart of the matter. We must look beyond the capital city in terms of our outlook. I agree that we should review the 9% rate. Many of us will have observed the price of lunch in a pub or restaurant, or the price of a hotel room going through the roof. We must ensure that we are getting value for money and that incentives are being passed on to the consumer. We must go beyond the deals and packages that are available online. When people ring up directly to make a booking, they must be able to get the same prices and availability. It is important that we encourage those within the sector to work with everybody to ensure we have a unique visitor experience.

I read the Sinn Féin amendment, and all of us want to see those who work in hotels and restaurants being properly treated in terms of pay and conditions. It is also important, however, that we come together collaboratively to promote our tourism industry. Tourism has been a key factor in the recovery as visitor numbers have increased. It is an enormous source of employment across the country, whether casual or permanent.

In the area where I come from, namely, Cork, we suffer from being the second city, but we are also in a relationship with our good friends in County Kerry, in terms of the Lakes of Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, Muckross and so on. It is important that Cork city and county councils and Kerry County Council come together to promote and develop the tourism strategy they have launched. Senator O'Sullivan referenced 17.5% of visitors coming to the south west or to Cork in terms of reasonable disparity. Kerry and Dublin do quite well but Cork needs to be seen on the map in terms of tourism.

I refer to the Cork Convention Bureau, which had a very interesting conference this week. Some €11.5 million worth of conferences came to Cork city and county in 2016. That is 8,500 new delegates. I commend Seamus Heaney, the executive chairman, and his staff for the work they do. They are doing this work despite having no convention centre. I urge the Minister who, to be fair, has been very supportive so far, to support the request for extra money for the Cork convention centre when it comes before the Government. This has the potential to unlock a new Cork city quarter in terms of the docklands and the urban heartland of Cork city, and would provide a badly needed counterbalance to Dublin. At this week's conference, Paul Gallagher of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation revealed that a 10% potential drop in UK visitors would amount to 6,000 job losses in the tourism sector. Anecdotally, it is rumoured that there would be 7% fewer British travellers willing to take a punt - no pun intended - in travelling post Brexit. We will face a challenge in the post-Brexit era, as Senator Boyhan said, and there will also be challenges created by the Trump era in America and the nationalism that is emerging there. It is important that we have a strategy to deal with that.

I welcome the decision of Norwegian Airlines to fly in and out of Cork. I thank the Minister for the very strong role he played in that decision. He was a very good advocate. He did not have to do that but did so in the interests of the whole country, in offering the people of the south west, particularly in Cork, an opportunity to have a transatlantic flight from Cork Airport. It is now the second biggest transatlantic airport in the country. It is also imperative, however, that we have a marketing strategy around the Cork-T.F. Green Airport link. T.F. Green Airport provides Cork with connectivity. It is a very navigable and manageable airport which is close to Boston, New York, Cape Cod and Connecticut. It gives people the opportunity to travel without having to worry about pre-clearance. There are pre-clearance facilities at Cork Airport on a smaller scale than Dublin Airport which is, as we all know, continuing to grow.

One of the impediments to tourism coming to Cork is the lack of a Cork-Limerick motorway. We need to see that promoted and fast-tracked. It will offer a balance to the Dublin-Belfast axis and to Dublin itself. If we can do that we will be providing a good service to the people of the south west.

The motion before us is about acknowledging and recognising the importance of our tourism industry. Those who criticise the Government should look at the coverage we will get next week across the world in the promotion of Ireland. It is not about the Taoiseach or a Minister going; it is about what is associated with this. It is about promoting Ireland for business, tourism and culture. That is the brand we should be selling: the importance of Ireland Inc. The trade missions around employment are obviously pivotal in that regard.

In conclusion, we need to continue to invest in our green tourism initiatives. As Senator Conway would rightly say, the spectacular growth of the Wild Atlantic Way and the eastern gateway are all examples of this. We need to see the consumer receiving the benefit of the 9% rate. We have done The Gathering, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East. They are all brilliant. The last Government used the 9% rate to create employment, to act as a catalyst to boost the economy. Although others opposed it, it was proven to be a success. Now we must ensure that, if the 9% rate is to remain, it benefits the tourists, whether they are indigenous or coming from afar.

I thank the Minister for his work in promoting Cork. Finally, on the skills shortage, the previous Fianna Fáil-led Government did a disservice to the country in the way that it let training centres for chefs and the like close. I hope we will be able to rescue and resuscitate them as we now have skills deficits.

I call on Senator Ó Clochartaigh to move the amendment.

I move amendment No. 1:

1. To delete all words after “That Seanad Éireann:” and substitute:

“ - recognises the importance of our hospitality sector and the significant revenue which it generates in Irish tourism; - recognises that improving industry standards in pay and conditions will lead to lower turnover of staff and be an important factor in enhancing customer experience;

- notes the key role that employees in this sector play in ensuring a good customer experience for our visitors;

- notes also that there are issues of concern across the sector with regard to terms and conditions of staff, as highlighted in the University of Limerick report on zero and low hours contracts;

- calls on the key stakeholders - Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) and Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) - to immediately engage with the State’s wage-setting mechanism for low paid workers in industries with low levels of trade union density; and

- urges both the IHF and RAI to work towards an agreement for a new Joint Labour Committee to be established for the sector.”

Molaim an leasú ar an rún seo go hoifigiúil. Tá míle fáilte roimh an Aire. Inniu Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas agus ardmholadh a thabhairt do bheirt bhan mhisniúla a labhair ag ócáid a d'eagraigh muid i nGaillimh oíche Dé Luain seo caite.

The Minister is very welcome. Today is International Women's Day. I would like to sincerely applaud two very brave women who spoke at a public meeting in Galway on Monday night. They are Eva Mitchell and Kayla McCormack and they do not mind me naming them. They have been working with me on some research we have done into the hospitality sector in Galway. Eva and Kayla spoke at the meeting about their experiences in the hospitality industry in Galway and it is not a pretty picture. There were also a number of other women who came forward on Monday night and spoke publicly about the mistreatment and abuse they have experienced within that industry. It is very rare for public representatives to come across people as brave as Eva and Kayla. They were willing to speak out, not on their own behalf but so that other people who are in vulnerable and unacceptable situations can be supported and protected.

As were many others, I was generally aware of conditions in restaurants and hotels which left a lot to be desired and meeting these women spurred us into action. I never expected the initiative we undertook would snowball into such a campaign or that we would get the level of feedback and support we have received to date.

We looked at the abuses of people working in the hospitality industry in the Galway area and to that extent we did a survey. We expected to get perhaps 100 respondents to the survey but over 415 people responded. I will tell the Minister a little bit about the research we have done. We did it because when we put out an initial statement we received very dismissive statements from the hotels and restaurateurs representative groups. To counter those dismissive statements from the industry we felt we needed to gather more concrete evidence to back up what we were hearing anecdotally. The survey we conducted covers a lot of the basic elements of good work practice that employees should experience and asked questions about the basic legal requirements that every employer should adhere to. It also seeks to quantify the different types of abuse that employees in the hospitality sector in Galway experience, from whom and what, if anything, is done about it.

The responses are quite shocking and I will forward the report to the Minister. They point to widespread abuse of workers across the industry. They point to issues with contracts, working conditions, payments and tips, and document a wide range of verbal and physical abuse including incidents such as sexual harassment and assault, which are totally unacceptable and illegal in any workplace. The sense of helplessness that employees feel in this industry is palpable. The fact that so few of the incidents are reported because people are afraid of the repercussions or feel that nothing will change is extremely worrying.

I have no reason to believe that what we have documented about Galway is any different from what is happening across the country. We have been contacted by people who said they have the same issues. We also collected personal testimonies which paint pictures of the real human suffering experienced by workers in the hospitality sector. One gets a sense that this is the prevalent culture and that people are expected to put up, shut up and get on with it. That simply has to stop. The extremely low level of trade union membership suggests that workers need to be encouraged and supported to join unions. Sector leaders and Government must support this initiative as it is good for workers and business.

We need to heighten the awareness among the workforce of their rights as employees and the supports and remedies available to them to have those rights vindicated. We also need the hospitality sector and its representative organisations to accept there are serious issues that need to be addressed. We want customers of the hospitality sector to be aware of what is happening behind the kitchen doors and to support establishments that treat their workers well. That will be a focus of the campaign going forward.

It is simply not good enough for those in authority to promote Galway and other areas as a great place to come, where customers enjoy the best of hospitality, if it is at the ongoing expense of a low paid, vulnerable, disposable workforce, many of whom are being mistreated and exploited by their employers. We applaud employers who treat their workers well and welcome recommendations on establishments that should be included in that cohort. I propose we all vote with our feet and spend our hard-earned cash in hotels and restaurants that deserve our patronage.

The campaign has been supported by a number of different groups as well. We have unions on board and the Union of Students in Ireland, SIPTU, the Migrants Rights Centre, the Rape Crisis Network, Romanians in Ireland and other groups have come out in support of the work we are doing. I welcome the support we have been given, particularly by Dr. Deirdre Curran and Amanda Budyzk of the department of management in NUIG. We have been talking to the Workplace Relations Commission which is promoting good relations between employers and employees and has been providing information to us.

I will move on to some of the findings in the survey. It was designed to provide concrete evidence of the experience of hospitality workers in Galway. We closed the survey at 415 responses. Most of the respondents described themselves as Irish and were between 18 and 34 years old. About 45% were employed full time in the sector and a further 25% worked part time. About 43% of respondents had been employed for at least a year working in the three most common areas as waiting staff, bar staff or chefs. The survey contained questions about employment rights at work, mistreatment experienced, reporting of mistreatment and union membership. To put it in context, recently in the jobs committee I challenged the Irish Hotels Federation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland on compliance with current legislation. The Irish Hotels Federation was proud that only 34% of hotels were non-compliant with basic legal requirements. The lack of shock at the fact that 35% were non-compliant was outstanding. The Restaurants Association of Ireland told us it felt that 99.9% of its members were compliant with all of the legislation, which I find very hard to believe.

In our findings, 45% of respondents were not given a written statement of terms of their employment within the first two months and 18% did not receive a regular payslip. Regarding rest breaks, almost 60% claimed not to receive the statutory 15-minute break after four and a half hours work; 50% did not get a 30-minute break after six hours worked; and almost 50% did not receive their entitlement to nine public holidays per year. Almost 50% did not receive 11 consecutive hours of rest between shifts; 44% of the people we spoke to reported the employer using the rota as a negative control mechanism; 34% reported the withholding of tips regularly, very often or constantly; and 28% reported being underpaid regularly, often or constantly.

Perhaps the most worrying finding in the data relates to physical and sexual abuse, harassment and negligence, with 78% of respondents reporting experiencing verbal abuse, sometimes regularly, very often or constantly in the workplace; 36% reported experiencing sexual harassment or abuse as well; and 65% of respondents experienced negligence. Only 21 of the 415 respondents were members of a trade union and for the vast majority of transgressions, the perpetrator was someone in a position of authority over the worker, either a supervisor, manager or owner; 60% of respondents chose not to report incidents and the main reasons for non-reporting were a belief it would make no difference, fear of repercussions or lack of evidence. These are very serious issues.

We want to work with the industry and good employers. For parties here to close their eyes to the serious issues of abuse and mistreatment in the hospitality sector is absolutely wrong. We are calling on the Government and all parties in the Houses to work with us to try to remedy that.

I formally second the Sinn Féin amendment to the motion. We have put this amendment forward because in the 300 words of the Fine Gael motion there is no mention of the words "employee" or "worker" yet we know there is a massive issue in this industry.

University of Limerick reports on low-hours and zero-hour contracts highlighted the accommodation and hospitality industry. Organisations like TASC have looked at the statistics of the industry and have found that of the more than 133,000 who work in the industry, 50% earn less than €400 a week. We have seen shocking revelations this week in the survey conducted by my colleague, Senator Ó Clochartaigh.

I live in Limerick and have always pointed out that every hotel in Limerick operates on the basis of the Irish Hotels Federation template of precarious work contracts. If people get a job in a hotel in Limerick, Galway or Dublin, they will get a contract which says the hotel cannot tell them how many hours of work they will get in a particular week. That is the template. It is outrageous and it is very telling that neither Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil have anything to say about workers' rights and that they have put together a motion like this and ignore that there is a problem.

A representative of the Irish Hotels Federation appeared before the jobs committee and we asked him directly why his organisation refuses to engage with setting up a joint labour committee which would establish decent terms and conditions in the sector. His answer was that we have the minimum wage. Is the Minister okay with that? Is he okay with giving a subsidy worth €620 million a year to an organisation that turns its back on the industrial relations machinery of the State and point blank refuses to engage with the International Labour Organization, which has very important things to say on the tourism sector and the need for sectoral bargaining in order to protect workers because, unfortunately, they have low rates of trade union density.

I worked as a trade union official for ten years. The worst experiences I ever had were with cases of workers in this industry, particularly women, because of the abuse, threats and intimidation, including, at times, sexual intimidation. It is an industry that is absolutely risible in terms of standards. I find it absolutely amazing that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are here to represent the owners of hotels. We should know how many Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies, Senators and councillors have a stake in this industry. I cannot think of any reason, other than their having a stake, that they are ignoring the elephant in the room, namely, the appalling working conditions in this sector.

ICTU has written about this issue. Ms Patricia King, who is highly respected, says congress is strongly opposed to this measure and has repeatedly called on the Government to end the de facto subsidy, which costs the taxpayer some €620 million per annum. In fact, despite the huge annual subsidy from the State, employers in the sector have consistently refused to engage with the joint labour committee structures. There is a better way forward here. I ask the Minister to consider the Sinn Féin amendment. To what do my colleagues who are present object? To what clause in the Sinn Féin amendment do they object? All we are asking is that there be proper engagement between the trade unions and employers to set up a joint labour committee. We are saying that, before the huge annual subsidy is agreed, the Government should at the very least insist that employers engage with trade unions to improve standards for workers and the industry. We urge the Irish Hotels Federation and Restaurants Association of Ireland to work towards an agreement for a new joint labour committee. Are Senators objecting to that? Are they opposed to it? If so, they should show me to what part of the amendment they are opposed. If they are not opposed to it, they should vote for it. If they do not vote for it, they are really turning their back on the approximately 130,000 people who work in the industry, namely, the people who actually create the product that has been so successful, the people at the cutting edge or the people who suffer greatly in terms of health and safety.

Does the Minister know the position on the health and safety of hotel employees? Does he know that an average employee has to overturn 17 beds on his or her own? Does he know of the chronic back conditions that result from that? It is all in the documentation if the Minister needs to look at it. Fine Gael did not find the need to mention the words "worker" and "employee", however. It is too busy congratulating the industry on its €620 million gift each year and not even insisting on a standard of decency for the workers. Frankly, it is shameful.

I am genuinely surprised by this because I have great respect for my colleagues, particularly Senator Martin Conway. I generally agree with him on many issues but this motion by Fine Gael is fundamentally wrong. I hope and believe we will have the support of the broad progressive parties and individuals in this Chamber. It is about time that we called out the conservative parties on this. Once again, it comes down to the "c" word: class. We spent far too much time in this Chamber supporting those who had wealth and money, the owners of capital. We spend far too little time thinking about the people who work, create the product, build the product, deal with people every day and who are dealt with appallingly. This industry has shameful conditions and it is high time that this were acknowledged.

I challenge the Minister and any of my colleagues in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to produce an example of one hotel that does not rely on precarious work contracts. How difficult would that be? One would find it extremely difficult. The Irish Hotels Federation has a template; this is how it does business. It does business by saying there is no need to put people on permanent contracts anymore, asking why the employer should make a commitment at that level. Precarious work conditions are offered. The beauty of precarious work conditions from the employer's perspective is that if anybody kicks up a fuss, he or she does not get any hours the following week. The amount of fear and intimidation throughout the industry is absolutely shocking. I speak with first-hand experience. As my colleague said, a considerable number of allies have come to our aid in campaigning for decency, respect and proper working conditions in this industry. I ask the Minister to consider that seriously. I acknowledge it would be quite a move for him given his previous record with trade unions but this is far too important an issue to ignore. On that basis, I ask all my colleagues in the Chamber to support the Sinn Féin amendment.

I thank all the Senators who have contributed so far to this debate and those who are going to do so shortly. Many of the arguments that were made, particularly on the Sinn Féin side, are convincing and have great merit. I have absolutely no doubt about that. I have reservations, however, about spooking the entire industry when targeting it for what are undoubtedly wrongs, difficulties and, if Senator Paul Gavan is correct, abuses of employees. I find what the Senator says quite disturbing but I would like to have more concrete evidence of the widespread nature of the practices described.

I will not accept the amendment but I find there is merit in what the Senator says. If he can produce more evidence and send it on to me, and if it bears up to the independent scrutiny, I will consider the necessary measures that he talks about. When these details are produced on the floor of the House, it is difficult for me to simply accept what is said without having them forensically examined in a real way. The Sinn Féin amendment is a constructive and moderate amendment. When Senator Paul Gavan talks about issues of concern across the board, he is being extremely reasonable. The language of the amendment is constructive and addresses this matter in an undoubtedly bona fide way. I was thinking about the amendment and am not convinced about it, but not for the purpose of not accepting it. Undoubtedly, what the Senator is doing would spook the industry. Over the very short period of this debate, I have not been convinced, only because I do not have the evidence, that what the Senator believes to be widespread across the industry constitutes an overall abuse. If it is widespread and the Senator can convince me of it — I am quite happy to meet him in this regard — and if the practice is a kind of disease within the industry, as he is implying, I am quite prepared to address it in a different forum or subsequently.

I now wish to address the issue of the 9% VAT rate, which was raised by virtually everybody, including Senators Martin Conway, Kieran O'Donnell, Jerry Buttimer and Ned O'Sullivan. The rate should not be accepted immediately without criticism. Undoubtedly, there are one or two problems with it. The issue raised by Senators Kieran O'Donnell, Jerry Buttimer and Martin Conway concerned whether we have commissioned any studies to determine the real impact of the reduced VAT rate and, as raised by Senator O'Donnell, whether the reduction is being passed on to the consumer. To be fair, this issue requires further examination. I do not know whether the reduction is being passed on. It is difficult to know. The rate has obviously been beneficial to the industry, particularly the smaller players in the hospitality sector, in a large number of ways. It has been great in terms of employment. I do not know the answer to the question but I believe we will address that. It certainly should be addressed and the reduction should certainly be passed on to the consumer.

Fáilte Ireland recently commissioned a new study on the impact of the VAT rate on employment and competitiveness, particularly in rural areas. That builds on two previous studies that show the 9% VAT rate has considerable benefits. I do not think anyone is in any doubt about that. The question really is whether some of the hotels are gilding the lily and taking too much profit and whether some people are benefitting and do not need it any longer while others do. It is rather difficult to differentiate and say some hotels deserve it and others do not. A certain amount of fine tuning is required. Perhaps the Senator is correct. Basically, the 9% VAT rate has been a great success in terms of employment and if it needs fine tuning, that will be examined. The Government's position on it at the moment is that it is there to stay. To send out any signals that the VAT rate is under threat would be totally wrong, in particular in terms of Brexit, and that signal should not go out, but there is nothing wrong with examining it and doing a little bit of fine tuning.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan spoke about identifying the great potential of new tourism markets in terms of Brexit, which is coming up day in, day out in terms of tourism. He will be aware of the fact of the slowdown, which is taking place in terms of British visitors. The reduction currently is approximately 1.5% to 2% but we have only got figures for January. The anecdotal evidence in terms of bookings is that numbers will increase. The agencies are moving very fast to find new markets. They are aggressively looking for further funding as well in order to move into those markets with a certain amount of clout and leverage. They are looking for funding on the basis that some of the other State agencies have already received extra funding to cope with Brexit. The Government will examine the requests. In the Estimates which I am shortly due to bring before the select committee we will seek extra funding for that purpose as well. It is something that is worthy of consideration.

I have probably addressed most of the issues that were raised in the House. The tourism industry today is a very positive one. The year 2016 was a record year for overseas tourists to Ireland, surpassing all previous records. There were a total of 9,584,400 visits to Ireland in 2016 representing a 10.9% increase on 2015, or an additional 941,300 visits on top of last year's record. Good growth was recorded from all our market areas and Ireland has seen its market share grow ahead of its competitors. Based on official figures for the first nine months of 2016, we estimate that overseas tourism contributed more than €4.5 billion to the Irish economy, up approximately 10% on 2015. That helped to sustain an estimated 220,000 jobs in communities across the country.

I know that both tourism agencies, Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, are determined to maintain that momentum right through 2017 and into the future. The excellent performance of 2016 comes on the back of a number of years of very steady growth. I take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the tourism industry around the country who have had a hand in delivering this great result for Irish tourism and for the economy.

Tourism continues to be a priority for the Government, which has long recognised the contribution it makes and its potential to drive further economic growth. We are well aware of the challenges that faced the tourism industry in recent times. The combined efforts of all stakeholders - industry, the Government and the tourism agencies - are proving very successful and as a result it is very satisfying to see the growth in tourist numbers, revenue and jobs that have come about in recent years. Of course, it is essential that such efforts continue in order to maintain our competitive position, meet growing consumer demand and stand out in a crowded international marketplace. It is important to acknowledge the efforts of the tourism industry, which worked hard through the recent difficult times to manage costs while maintaining services and offering a high quality value for money product.

In terms of Government supports, the VAT cut was one of the first big jobs-oriented policy initiatives taken back in May 2011 and retained in subsequent budgets to sustain and grow employment in the sector. In accordance with the programme for Government commitment, it is proposed to retain the 9% VAT rate as long as prices remain competitive so as to aid the sector where required, such as in times of uncertainty, namely, a post-Brexit situation. Combined with reducing the air travel tax to zero, the temporary reduction in employers PRSI and changes to the visa regime, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to supporting this key sector.

Clearly, we move into 2017 in a position of some strength. The challenge for all of us now is to maintain this growth. There is no room for complacency, particularly given the highly competitive nature of the global travel industry and the uncertainty that exists in some markets. Our capacity to sustain growth will depend, among other things, on Ireland maintaining its competitiveness, on effective marketing and on the continued development of attractive and compelling holiday experiences.

The Government's ongoing commitment to tourism was again reflected in the budget. Despite growing demands on the public purse, the 9% VAT rate on tourism services was retained and funding of €122 million was secured. That will enable Tourism Ireland to continue its effective marketing overseas and Fáilte Ireland to continue to develop the industry on the ground. Looking to the future, the Government tourism policy statement sets out ambitious targets to grow employment in the sector to 250,000 by 2025 by attracting 10 million overseas visitors annually and generating €5 billion in associated revenue. Specific priority measures to support sustainable growth into the future are set out in the Tourism Action Plan 2016 to 2018.

In common with the rest of the Government there has been deep analysis of the challenges which tourism faces because of the outcome of the UK referendum. Even prior to the referendum result, there was a commitment in the Government's tourism policy statement, People, Place and Policy - Growing Tourism to 2025, to prioritising tourism marketing efforts towards those markets providing higher revenue returns. The programme for Government commits to implementing the policy objectives in the policy statement and achieving the targets for Irish tourism contained therein. The UK vote does not change that.

A key element of Tourism Ireland’s strategy since 2014 has been market diversification which has seen mainland Europe become the largest contributor of overseas tourism revenue and will see the United States overtake Great Britain as the No. 2 contributor of tourism revenue in the coming years. In 2017, Tourism Ireland will continue to implement its market diversification strategy and intends to maximise holiday revenue through investment in mainland Europe and North America. In addition, the depreciation of the pound against the euro since the UK referendum means that value for money will be a key message for Tourism Ireland in Britain this year. Looking to the medium term, Tourism Ireland is currently preparing its corporate plan for the period from 2017 to 2019. This plan will inter alia include the agency's response to marketing Ireland in Great Britain in the new situation that has developed following the referendum. On 23 January 2017 the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, and I hosted an all-island dialogue on the impact of Brexit on the tourism and hospitality sector in Dundalk. The feedback from tourism industry participants at this event reaffirmed the Government's analysis on the implications of Brexit for tourism and I am committed to an ongoing dialogue with the tourism and hospitality industry as the Brexit negotiations proceed.

It is important to remember that Brexit is part of a global tourism and trading landscape and in that context I, along with An Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, launched Ireland Connected: Trading and Investing in a Dynamic World. This is a cohesive, whole-of-Government strategy that builds on existing successes and sets ambitious targets for Ireland, including tourism performance. This new strategy will deepen Ireland's economic resilience and responsiveness in the face of highly changeable global conditions and sets out a vision of Ireland as an outward-facing, globally connected hub for business, research, innovation, investment and tourism.

Given what we know of the challenges 2017 may bring, it will be more important than ever that we create stand-out for Ireland in our markets by rolling out inspirational Ireland destination messaging. This essential destination sell will be supported by promotion of our iconic holiday experiences – the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East and Dublin – A Breath of Fresh Air.

All three experience brands will be major themes for Tourism Ireland next year, as well as the promotion of touring holidays, city breaks, festivals, events and activities. Work will continue with airports and airlines to encourage the creation of new routes and the expansion of existing services to the regions. Ireland's Ancient East offers visitors a journey through 5,000 years of history in 500 miles of beautiful landscapes. Known for its castles, myths and legends, religious sites, great houses and green landscapes, it stretches from Newgrange in the Boyne Valley in the north east, through the midlands and along Kilkenny's mediaeval mile to Waterford's Viking quarter and Cork's many cultural gems.

The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest scenic tourist route in the world. It stretches some 1,600 miles from Donegal to Cork, taking travellers through one of the world's most dramatic coastal landscapes on the edge of Europe, which has shaped the development of its people, communities and settlement over centuries. It offers visitors an opportunity to connect with friendly welcoming people in towns and villages along the way, to experience our heritage and culture and to enjoy our great locally grown fresh food and freshly caught seafood.

Dublin is a key tourist destination and plays a pivotal role in the visitor experience, serving as the ideal showcase for Ireland's overall offering. The Dublin - A Breath of Fresh Air brand highlights the capital's distinctive offering, where city living thrives side-by-side with natural outdoors. Visitors to Dublin can experience the full offering of a vibrant modern city within very easy access of the beautiful surrounding bay and mountains.

My Department and the tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, are committed to strong regional dispersal in tourism. This involves providing visitors with credible, compelling and attractive reasons to travel around the country beyond Dublin. It also involves providing targeted business supports to assist tourism businesses to capitalise on the further development and marketing of the key experience brands.

Fáilte Ireland is placing significant emphasis on assisting the tourism sector to increase the geographical spread of activity, and to lengthen the season and increase activity outside the peak summer months. The agency has been rolling out extending the season workshops developed to assist tourism enterprises in developing and growing business by addressing issues around seasonality and regionality.

Allocations for international tourism marketing are used to ensure that Ireland maintains its share of voice in key overseas markets. With specific regard to facilitating greater regional dispersal, in addition to general overseas marketing, the tourism agencies target overseas journalists and international travel operators to raise awareness of the new experience brands and encourage travel agents to programme Ireland's Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way into their itineraries.

The motion calls on the Government to continue investment in green tourism initiatives. Our tourism policy statement acknowledges that the quality of our environment is one of the most frequently cited reasons to visit Ireland. In this regard, the success of the Great Western Greenway has proven inspiring for communities across the country and I will continue to argue for investment in such initiatives.

The motion also calls on the Government to establish new funding streams to assist tourism entrepreneurs. While there are no additional resources for new funding streams in this regard this year, I am aware that Fáilte Ireland already provides a range of business supports to tourism enterprises and if Senators have particular initiatives in mind - Senator Conway mentioned this in his opening address - I am happy to hear further from them on this issue.

There is a direct correlation between tourism growth and ease of getting here for visitors from key markets. Encouraged by the Government initiatives on travel tax, we have seen very substantial expansion in direct air services to Ireland, including from long haul markets, in recent years. There were 537,000 seats a week onto the island of Ireland in summer 2016 and already Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Lufthansa, Iberia, Norwegian Air International and many other airlines have announced transatlantic and short haul expansion for 2017. I thank Senator Buttimer for his comments on my contribution to Norwegian Air International, but it would not have been done without prompting from him on a weekly basis in representing Cork. I could not have gotten away with not doing so, even if I had wished to which I did not. We anticipate further growth this year.

Ferry services are gearing up, and there is particularly good news from Irish Ferries which has commissioned a new €144 million state-of-the-art cruise ferry to come on stream in time for the 2018 season. All of that augurs well for tourism and investment by the carriers underlines their confidence in the future of our industry.

We also have in place a programme to support co-operative marketing activity at regional airports and ports to encourage new access and maximise the potential of existing air and ferry services to the regions. In this way, the aim is to grow visits to the regions, in particular the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East, via points of entry outside Dublin. A sum of €1 million was made available to Tourism Ireland for this purpose in 2016 and again in 2017, and the tourism action plan 2016-2018 includes a specific commitment to continue the scheme until 2018.

In addition to the €1 million in Exchequer funding, the airports, ports and regional tourism stakeholders, including local authorities, make further contributions to the fund for routes serving their access points. This funding is then matched by carriers for campaigns targeting consumers in the overseas regions with connectivity to Ireland's regional airports and ports. For the 2016 tourism season, the Exchequer investment was €1 million and it realised total overseas marketing activity worth €2.6 million.

I hope this gives the House an overview of the great strides made by our tourism sector which has a proven track record in creating employment throughout the country and driving growth in the economy. Overseas visitor numbers are well up and tourists are spending more. While this performance is very encouraging, we are determined that the growth will continue in line with the ambitious targets set out in the tourism policy People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025. Accordingly, strong Exchequer funding commitment to the sector is essential to achieve sustainable growth into the future, in line with the policy targets.

The 2017 allocations for tourism product development will provide for continued capital investment by Fáilte Ireland in the experience brands through the development of attractions and other tourism infrastructure. The current allocations will further enhance, animate and promote these key experience brands by funding business supports, training, festivals, events and other related programmes. The development and sustainability of Irish tourism will be further supported by funding targeted at growing high-yield event and business tourism, including supporting Ireland's bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. I look forward to lending my support to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland in the future.

It is a particularly useful experience to have this debate. I welcome the success of Irish tourism in what I can only describe as a non-political atmosphere. I address my remarks to Sinn Féin Senators in particular, because the goodwill and the serious manner in which they have addressed this problem is worthy of recognition even if we cannot support the amendment because of a lack of full evidence.

I wish to share time with Senator Frances Black.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Minister. It is unfortunate that we did not get to speak before because I would love to have shared some of the thoughts I had and discuss the points he made in his lengthy response. I thank the Minister for the comprehensive nature of his contribution.

I recognise from the contribution of Senator Conway that there are some very genuine sentiments. Many of those thoughts were also expressed in the Minister's speech. As somebody who has lived on the west coast and in Dublin, I recognise the importance of initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East. I am enthusiastic about the development of a greener approach to tourism. The Minister expressed some very worthy sentiments.

In the limited time we have, we need to point to the actual substance of the motion before us. The substantial recommendation in the motion is that the 9% VAT rate for the tourism industry be renewed on a multiannual basis. That is something I cannot support. Given some of the input we have had from my colleague in Fine Gael, it is unfortunate that no caveats, conditions, review or question marks were added to the motion, which was an opportunity missed.

The idea of renewing the VAT rate, a preferential measure that was introduced for the industry at a particular time and on a strategic basis, without any conditions and on a multiannual basis does not make economic, social or moral sense.

It makes sense on none of the levels that we would normally expect to be required in the consideration of a tax measure.

I know the Minister spoke about not spooking the industry. We should also be very concerned if we send a signal to the industry that it can be complacent. We cannot afford complacency, as Senator Ned O'Sullivan rightly said. We cannot afford to give blanket reassurances and commitments for years to an industry which will not even give a commitment to next week's hours to many of its workers. That is not acceptable. We need to, even from a purely economic and sensible level, be looking at what our leverage is as a State, and how we responsibly use it and balance it when it comes to measures at budget time.

On the cost-benefit matter, we know that the cost so far, from Revenue's own figures, is €2.1 billion. That is substantial. It was €620 million per annum when we looked at last year's figures. This is an extraordinary expense. Maybe it will be worth it but we need to look at it. I would respectfully suggest that gentlemen's agreements, such as we heard mentioned here today, are no substitute for cost-benefit analysis, particularly when those gentlemen's agreements come largely at the back of women workers. We are here on International Women's Day. We know, and I know from my work with the National Women's Council of Ireland, that the hospitality industry has been at the front line of aggressive casualisation of work.

The Minister spoke about wishing to examine the evidence in detail. It is not simply Senator Ó Clochartaigh's evidence and I will not attempt to reiterate that. The evidence is long-established. The University of Limerick has highlighted this issue in research done for the Government under its last remit. The Low Pay Commission has identified this pattern and concern to such a substantial level that it had to produce a special report on it, because 60% of those low-paid and insecure workers are women. Only last week, the Nevin Economic Research Institute, NERI, highlighted the CSO figures. Some 82.5% of women workers in the accommodation and food service industry are earning less than €400 a week. That comes with a cost, not just of revenue loss, but also the cost of family income supplement for those who are not paid adequate income, which I see as a member of the Joint Committee on Social Protection. That is why, as a member of that committee, I could not in good conscience support a measure which did not include a requirement for decent conditions for workers and which said that it will subsidise them in two ways and subsidise industry on two levels. That is not acceptable.

I pointed to the workers' conditions and the costs. I want to come back to the core point, which I believe is a sentiment shared across the House. Everybody here has spoken about spreading the benefit of tourism, whether on a regional level, to the consumer - we have seen the 15% increase in costs - and also, essentially, the employees, which is the missing piece and why I will be supporting it. Let us also remember who the employees are. They are the consumers of other sectors. They are the communities that we talk about when we talk about Ireland's national heritage and communities. We want communities which can afford to live decently, to work, to spend and to put back.

This is clearly a focus on the budget. I remind the Minister that in our budget, he and his Department will be required to produce evidence of gender-proofing and equality-proofing of the measures in his budget.

The Senator is eating into Senator Black's time now.

I ask the Minister to give careful consideration not just to the common sense put forward in the reasonable proposals put forward by Sinn Féin here, but also the gender and equality issues which he must consider. I ask him to ask his colleagues in Government to re-evaluate this and assure us that he is not going to give some kind of a blanket long-term provision of the 9% rate.

The character of Ireland and our people is a brand in itself and we must do all that we can to support those who attend to the needs of tourists on a daily basis. We must note the good work of Tourism Ireland in recognising this hard work. It was established as one of the “six areas of co-operation” under the framework of the Belfast Agreement of Good Friday 1998. Their remit is to increase tourism to the island of Ireland and to support the North of Ireland to realise its tourism potential. I would like to support the Sinn Féin motion that calls on the Irish Hotels Federation and Restaurants Association of Ireland to immediately engage with the State's wage-setting mechanism for low-paid workers in industries with low levels of trade union representation.

While we all support any measures that will support the tourism sector, we should examine the proposal to retain the sector's unique 9% VAT rate on a multi-annual basis. This should be dependent on the employers addressing the fact that the hotel and hospitality sector continues to be characterised by a high incidence of low pay and non-compliance with labour regulations. It is important to take into account the view of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is strongly opposed to this measure and has repeatedly called on the Government to end this de facto subsidy, which costs the taxpayer some €620 million per annum and well in excess of €2.1 billion to date, according to figures from Revenue. The subsidy to the tourism sector has to be based on evidence that the benefits have been passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices or to the thousands who work in the sector in the form of higher wages.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who work in the tourism sector. They are the people who help make Ireland a great brand and a great place to visit. On International Women’s Day, I would like to recognise the contribution of the female workers in this sector and hope that their low pay and precarious work contracts are addressed as a matter of urgency. Long may they keep up the good work and be supported by this and any future Governments.

I welcome the Minister here today. I would like to compliment all working in both the tourism and hospitality sector, certainly for the fact that it brought over €8 billion into the economy in 2016. I take grave exception to what has been said to my left here today about the 9% VAT rate, as somebody who comes from the hospitality industry and who grew up in a business that was involved in the hospitality industry for over 60 years. I grew up, worked in and was an employer in the hospitality industry in the past, and I declare my hand and say that I have no problem in saying that I no longer work within that industry, but I am aware of the employment created by the small hospitality industry. I know Senator Gavan referred mainly to the hotels in his contribution, but we cannot tar everybody with the same brush. It is like when people in other lines of work are talked about. Politicians are often tarred with the one brush. It is very unfair to tar everybody with the one brush.

The 9% VAT rate was responsible for creating over 20,000 jobs. That is nothing to be sneezed at. Many jobs have been created.

What kind of contracts?

I did not interrupt Senator Gavan.

We have to look at the rural towns and villages. Many are dependent on our tourism industry. I know that the Minister has been responsible for promoting the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ancient East, and a previous Minister promoted The Gathering, which was really successful and brought many of our diaspora back to Ireland for many family gatherings. It was a very successful initiative. I know the Minister is sick of hearing me talk about the Wild Atlantic Way. He spoke in his speech about the fact that it goes from Donegal to Cork. It still does not include the city of Limerick, which is the main city in the mid-west region. The Minister's colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, announced the Shannon Estuary drive, but there is a case to be made. Limerick has much that makes it attractive in its heritage and tourist attractions. The Minister's Department has invested a great deal in developing things like King John's Castle and putting in high quality visitor attractions, yet we are not encouraging tourists to come to the city. I welcome that tourism numbers and visitor numbers are up. There was a time when one could land in Shannon Airport and be told to go to Dublin. At least that has stopped. I welcome that all those changes have been made.

Senator Buttimer referred to the M20, which is a huge problem with regard to connectivity.

I have discussed with the Minister in a Commencement debate the issue of spreading tourism. A total of 82% of hotel beds in Dublin were occupied in 2015. I am not sure what the figure is for 2016, but I believe it is a little higher. Many flights arrive at Dublin Airport, which I know is beyond its capacity. The Government needs to consider more initiatives to spread tourism. We must use the hotel beds in the rest of the country. We must bring people to rural towns and villages and other cities. Recently I met somebody in the Westbury Hotel and two American visitors were sitting at a nearby table. They told me the package they had bought meant they were staying in Dublin and travelling to the Cliffs of Moher for a day and going to the Ring of Kerry for another day, but they were travelling up and down from Dublin. This does not make sense. Some of these packages base tourists in one place. They should spend two or three days in Dublin and then move west or north. There must be more incentives to encourage tour groups to spread their business.

I compliment the agencies because Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland are doing a lot to attract tourists. Yesterday, the Wild Atlantic Way won an international award in China, having been voted for by more than 10 million Chinese people. This is down to the work not only of the Department but also Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.

It is expected the Six Nations matches in Dublin against England and France will be worth more than €40 million and this is nothing to be sneezed at. My colleagues on the left speak about the 9% VAT rate not being retained, but with all these tourists coming to the country we need to have the jobs to be able to look after people throughout the hospitality sector, be it in pubs, clubs or many restaurants. The 9% VAT rate helps the retention of jobs. I am glad the Minister has acknowledged he needs to ensure it is being passed onto the consumer. In some cases, people are not passing it on, but many are.

Last week at a public meeting on Brexit I spoke a little about tourism. The number of people coming to Ireland from the UK has dropped. I am very glad the Minister will address this issue. It is something we need to keep an eye on because it is a concern for the country.

I thank the Minister for his contribution. I have family members and many friends who have worked in the hospitality sector. When people started work in the sector they had an expectation they would earn enough money to be able to get a mortgage to buy a home and educate their children. This is no longer the case. People in the hospitality sector do not even know how many hours they will work the following week. How can they plan to have a family, provide education for their children or have a home? If they get married they end up on family income supplement. How can they plan for their family's future? If we are giving a sector a €620 million subvention every year we damn well have a right to demand proper standards.

This is where we must start.

I was in government when the 9% VAT rate was introduced and it was the correct thing to do. We needed to stimulate the market and it worked well. We created employment. We have moved on, and the Minister's figures have shown how well we have done. It is time to review it. This is why the Fine Gael motion makes no sense as it states to give it to the sector forever with no conditions. It is total and utter madness. It reminds me of the days of the tent in Galway, where the developers were asking for more and more incentives to build more and more at higher and higher prices because everything would be rosy. Then we went into the financial crash. We have legislation on lobbying, which might have got it a little wrong because now people will not be able to get access to Ministers for €100 for breakfast. I wonder how many people in the hospitality sector have paid €100 for breakfast to lobby Ministers to keep the 9% VAT rate in place.

I will speak against Dublin, because it does not make sense to use the 9% rate to subsidise hotels in the Dublin area which have 82% and 92% occupancy rates. Senators cannot get hotel rooms. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2015 there was a 15% increase in costs in the hospitality sector in Dublin, and in 2016 it is expected to have increased by another 15%. We are not protecting the consumers.

To reply to Senator Conway, I fully support calls to identify ways to spread visitor numbers to towns and villages throughout Ireland. This may not have the traditional benefits of the tourism industry but it makes sense. Should we spend the €620 million every year in a way that targets areas in the country which do not benefit from the tourism industry because it is so highly concentrated in the Dublin area? Show me evidence. When the Minister was on the Opposition benches he spoke constantly about moving to evidence-based decisions. All the evidence shows workers in the hospitality sector are being exploited. Everybody in the House knows it and everybody has some experience. Every study has shown it. This is evidence-based. The evidence-based approach states we do not give a 9% rate to somebody who is coining money and has jumped hotel rates through the roof. The midlands, the west and parts of Cork are not getting a share. They need investment. We need to consider this on an evidence basis and ask whether we should shift investment. Do we need to ensure that places from Dingle to Athlone to Letterkenny share in the increase in tourist numbers? Would it be better, using an evidence-based study, to spend the money in a different way to ensure we spread the benefits of the increase in numbers in the tourism industry?

Yes, we must be careful with regard to Brexit, and we need to compete in very difficult circumstances for the British market of which we have a large section. I am not overly convinced that giving €620 million in subsidies to the hospitality sector in the Dublin area is money well spent. The money may be well spent by building a convention centre in Cork and creating a counterbalance to Dublin.

The Fine Gael Senators proposing the motion stated on the one hand we should be doing this and on the other hand the measure should be up for review. The motion does not mention a review, it mentions multi-annual which means it would be given on a multi-annual basis. This is a little bit daft, but I am not surprised that Fine Gael has gone a little bit daft. The motion states it must be ensured the consumer benefits, but it includes no criteria by which the consumer would benefit. As a matter of fact, Senator Catherine Noone did a very good price check when the measure was first introduced. She highlighted a number of operators in the hospitality sector which did not pass on the benefits to the consumer but nothing happened to them.

If we are to help the hospitality sector we must ensure workers are treated right. This is not happening at present. They do not know how many hours they will get from week to week. They have no expectations to save for a mortgage, educate their children or have a little ambition for their families.

Would providing the 9% rate on a multiannual basis help? It would probably be mostly those in the greater Dublin area. A better way to spend the money would probably be to invest the €620 million outside the Dublin area to boost the tourism industry in Cork, Laois, Mullingar and all the areas which have not benefitted really well from the growth.

Somebody has got somebody's ear. They've decided to give them the 9% - €620 million - with no conditions. We are back to the good times. No evidence base and no studies. Let us shovel €620 million into a black hole without any measured returns.

Many speakers spoke about the Wild Atlantic Way. This was done for very little money. It was worked out, thought through and marketed well. I would like to see a strong marketing campaign for Ireland's Ancient East so that growth can extend outside greater Dublin. I would like to see investment in a convention centre in Cork to counterbalance Dublin.

The vast majority of that €620 million is going to end up in the pockets of multinational hotel groups in the Dublin area.

I thank the Senator. We are going to be caught on time.

I am not surprised. The Minister was allowed speak for over 13 minutes.

Senator Lombard is next. Is the Senator sharing time?

I can if the Leas-Chathaoirleach wants.

With Senator O'Mahony?

Is that four and four or five and three?

Five and three. I will not speak for long.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

On a point of order, is it not five minutes?

It is not. It is eight. I was wrong when I said five minutes at one stage. My apologies. Every Senator had eight minutes.

I am just conscious of my colleague.

I want to allow Senator Craughwell in too. I have to follow the order of the day.

I will be quick. I support the motion. I commend my colleague, Senator Martin Conway, for scripting and putting together this very important motion. We will hopefully make an important statement tonight, if we get support from the Members of the House, regarding the tourism industry and where we want to drive it. It has been a unique driver in troubled times in the Irish State. It has been one of our shining lights. Since The Gathering it has been one of the key drivers in the economy. This is due to the commitment of this Minister and previous Ministers to the tourism project.

Staffing issues have been raised in this debate. I come from Minane Bridge, which is eight miles from Kinsale. The biggest problem in Kinsale today is a lack of staff. We do not have enough staff in the tourism industry. There are signs looking for staff in every window in one of the most successful tourism towns in Ireland.

It has been said today that 85% of people in the hospitality industry earn less than €400. In my opinion, most of those are part-time workers. That is very evident in Kinsale. That is the benefit of having a very strong tourism industry. Teenagers going to college have the ability to get part-time work in their own locality, which is of assistance to them. We should be proud of our tourism industry. We should be proud of the staff and proud of the people who drove this industry forward.

The Wild Atlantic Way starts in Kinsale. At the other side of Cork Harbour is the start of Ireland's Ancient East. These are two very important projects which have brought a major economic drive into our area that has been very beneficial to both urban Cork city and rural west Cork. I note that the Minister plans to visit west Cork and Kerry in the coming months. He will see what it means to the communities. The Wild Atlantic Way has delivered. It is important for us to recognise that.

There have to be changes made. Things like CERT should be brought back. There is an issue with the lack of trained staff in the hospitality industry. We need to bring people in and start training them again. We need to return to the CERT model and put a programme in place to ensure we have an appropriate number of trained staff coming through. We have neither enough staff nor enough trained staff. We need to put processes in place to get those people into the industry.

I would like to compliment Senator Conway for his motion. It is a very important and timely one. Hopefully today we will put down a marker that demonstrates our views on the tourism industry.

I support the motion and I commend Senator Conway for bringing it forward.

Tourism has been a lifeline at a time when the country was effectively bankrupt. I acknowledge there are issues. Nobody wants to see low-paid employees. However, it is important that tourism continues to be invested in and improved on.

One part of this motion suggests initiatives to spread tourist destinations around the country. To do that, direct access is needed. This could be done through regional airports. I welcome the initiatives involving Norwegian Air International, and all the Minister did to secure its presence. It is important. Tourism is available in every village and town in this country. It is easy and important to support the big ticket cities and towns and so on, but it is very important to go beyond that. The alternative to low-paid jobs in some of the smaller villages and towns is to have no jobs at all. It is about getting the balance right. Workers must be treated to a fair living wage. It is important to spread the numbers of tourists right around the country.

I agree with Senator Byrne when she spoke about the packages that are arranged and that they are sometimes not conducive to that spreading around the country.

I thank Senator O'Mahony. Senator Craughwell has a couple of minutes.

When I read Senator Conway's motion I thought it a really good motion. Then I came to the 9% VAT rate. It means €620 million going into this system and going into the pockets of the employers. Senator Lombard referred to the casualised nature of work. I believe he said that they cannot get workers in Kinsale. If they paid them, they would get them. If they paid them a living wage they would get them.

We are pumping €620 million of our hard-earned cash into the pockets of hoteliers and we are pumping an additional God knows how many millions of euro into their pockets by paying family income supplement. We are subsidising this industry.

I have no doubt whatsoever that tourism is key to the Irish economy. I want to see the further education sector develop tourism courses. I want to see greater training for tourism. However, we are still back in the 1960s when it comes to treating our staff. A lack of staff? They will be there if they are paid. When interviewing managers, the Marriott hotel group used to ask them which they would prioritise: profit for the hotel, greater efficiency in the running of the hotel, or a contented staff. The person who got the job always answered "contented staff", for if one's staff are happy one's hotel will be efficient and will be profitable. Ireland's tourist industry is creeping and crawling with casualisation. It is not good enough that people do not know how many hours' work they will have next week.

I understand the Leas-Chathaoirleach is under pressure for time. I appreciate being given time to speak. I appreciate what the Minister pointed out and the work that has been done in tourism. I compliment him for what he is doing. Drive on, Minister. However, as I think he has said, the 9% rate needs to be kept under review. Perhaps we might get a national survey to complement the survey done by Sinn Féin, which is an excellent piece of work.

I thank the Senator. My apologies to all Senators. We got caught with time. Senator Conway to conclude.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House and addressing this issue again. I thank all parties who spoke on the motion.

I have no interest or no financial benefit of any kind from anyone in the hospitality industry.

I have never taken a political donation of any kind ever in my life. It is important to put on the record of the House that I get no benefit either directly or indirectly.

The 9% VAT rate is clearly included in A Programme for a Partnership Government. Therefore, for the lifetime of this Government, I suspect that the 9% rate will be retained. No tax is continued ad infinitum. I referred to "multi-annual" which, in my book, is usually for three to five years. It is not indefinite. As regards reviewing it, I believe that every tax should be reviewed. I would therefore expect that the 9%, 13.5% and 21% VAT rates will be constantly reviewed. That is a given. I do not accept the need to specify a review because if we do not review all our tax rates annually we will have a problem.

I do not accept that the €620 million is a subsidy. Many people in the hospitality industry, in every town and village, benefit from the 9% VAT rate. In fact, if that rate was not there, they probably would be out of business. There are easy pickings in cities and other successful tourist destinations where establishments are doing well and making money. In most rural towns, however, the owners of a pub that has survived and is providing food as well as drink might not be taking a salary from it. If they are, it is probably based on the minimum wage. If the 9% VAT rate goes up, I can guarantee that many such businesses will close. They are struggling to survive as it is and have not benefited from the tourist industry's bounce.

I would prefer to work on a consensual basis where a motion has merit. Senator Ó Clochartaigh knows my style in that regard, given the years we have both been Members of this House. We have a responsibility to highlight injustices and the narrative that comes from this House should reflect that. We should celebrate what is positive and good, but we must also ensure that the narrative emanating from here highlights where people are being blackguarded through mistreatment and injustice.

I have no doubt whatsoever about the sincerity of the survey in Galway because I know that Senator Ó Clochartaigh undertook such work with integrity, decency and honesty. However, I agree with the Minister that if it is certified and identified as a disease throughout the industry, it will certainly have to be dealt with. Maybe it is a Galway issue, but I suspect not. I suspect that there probably is more abuse. I call on people like Mr. Paul O'Brien of the Irish Examiner and RTE's "Prime Time Investigates" to start working on this and highlight it in the same way they have highlighted abuses that occurred in other sectors of society.

To be honest, I did not think it was as prevalent as the survey suggests. I am disappointed to hear that. The Marriott motto is correct because if staff are content, they will become team players and an important component of the team structure.

I hope many things will come from this motion, particularly promoting tourism and ensuring that it stays at the heart of government. Given what has been highlighted today, I sincerely hope that we will see further evidence-based research. That is what the Government requires. I call on the relevant appropriate bodies to undertake such research. I will co-operate in whatever way I can in that regard.

It is pity that we are not in a position to accept the amendment. I would personally like to accept it, but these things require a certain degree of evidence. Overall, however, I am happy with the debate. It is an important debate and we should have more discussions on issues such as tourism. I thank people for giving their time to contribute to the debate.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 21.

  • Black, Frances.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.


  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paudie Coffey and John O'Mahony.
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: "That the motion be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 12.

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Black, Frances.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paudie Coffey and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh..
Question declared carried.