Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 28 Mar 2018

Vol. 257 No. 2

Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 2, Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 – Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken at 12.45 p.m.; No. 3, motion for the information of voters in relation to the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 to be taken on conclusion of No. 2 without debate; No. 4, Data Protection Bill 2018 – Report and Final Stages (resumed), to be taken on conclusion of No. 3 and to conclude after four hours if not previously concluded by the putting of one question from the Chair which shall in relation to amendments include only those set down or agreed by Government; and No. 5, Private Members' business on conclusion of No. 4 with the time allocated for this debate not to exceed two hours.

On my Order Paper No. 2 is the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018, Committee Stage only, not Committee and Remaining Stages.

It is Committee and Remaining Stages.

That is not on the Order Paper.

That was agreed with the group leaders last week. It is Committee and Remaining Stages. There is a mistake on the Order Paper.

I am sorry but if there is a mistake on the Order Paper it is not accurate. I thought it was Committee Stage today. I am not here for the rest of the business.

The Bill will be on Committee Stage today and after Committee Stage the proposal will be to move it on. Committee Stage will have to take place.

Normally it is listed as Committee and-----

The Senator is not correct.

That is the Leader's proposal. The Order Paper is correct.

Senator Leyden can oppose the Order of Business if he wishes.

I recommend the Leader amend it.

Senator Leyden is wrong.

Today I raise again the escalating problem of recruitment and retention of staff in schools. I have met many principals in Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 recently and the common theme I hear is that unless this issue is tackled head-on many schools will have to close. They have particular difficulty obtaining language and home economics teachers. I have heard anecdotally teachers in training are teaching leaving certificate subjects, which is unfair and not right. Teacher shortages are crippling our education system. The number of people going on to teacher training courses is also falling due to their long duration and the lack of income over the course. I have raised the issue of public sector recruitment and retention before. It is hitting the education system very hard. It is time the Minister took action and made this a priority.

AIB claims that 4,000 of its tracker mortgage customers have not suffered financially. It says that had those customers been on a tracker rate, it would have been 7.9% and would not have been any lower than the variable rate. This is not credible. We know anecdotally that AIB tracker customers were paying less than 2% over that period. The bank has also agreed to pay 1% in compensation and €615 towards legal fees. This is scandalous. Tracker customers have been treated very unfairly and the bank needs to be taken to task over this. I call on the Minister of Finance to come to the House to discuss this matter.

Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health to the House to discuss addiction services in Cork, his city? I have read his comments on the area and the need for treatment centres and the setting aside of beds in the mental health unit for those who are entering detoxification, and his words on the need to amend the Mental Health Act 2001 to include addiction. I have had representations from Cork on this. Ordinarily I do not take representations about community-based issues but this mental health issue is a national one. Anybody who has been close to addiction knows how destructive it is for families and individuals.

Will the Leader invite the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to the House? More and more I hear of young professionals starting their careers in teaching, counselling and the health services being unable to live on their paltry salaries, particularly those unfortunate enough to be posted to Dublin or the greater Dublin area. We will have to do something to redress the deficit in their incomes. It is not sustainable for professionals starting on salaries in the low €20,000s to pay room rent of between €700 and €1,000 per month.

It is simply not sustainable. Families are subventing their children in order to get them into teaching, nursing and counselling jobs. This cannot continue. We really need the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to come here. Perhaps it is time to look at the London solution and have a separate salary structure for those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves working in the capital city where it is becoming almost impossible to live if the person is a young professional starting out in his or her career. The health and education services are not being served well because highly qualified graduates are now seeing better and greener pastures outside the capital city so we really need to do something about it. I ask the Leader to bring in the Minister at his leisure.

I welcome the Domestic Violence Bill, which goes through Committee Stage in the Dáil. I commend all those involved in it and the support given to Members from the front-line services, particularly Safe Ireland. I hope the Bill will journey quickly through to Report and Final Stages.

I want to talk about an interesting development known as Clare's Law, which has come into force in Northern Ireland. It allows women to ask the police if their partner has a history of violence against women. It arose from a case in England where a woman, Clare Wood, was murdered by her former partner. She was unaware of his previous history of violence against women.

Under this system, if a woman fears for her safety due to her partner's behaviour, she can ask the police about his history. The most innovative aspect of this is that the application can be made online. This means that a vulnerable woman does not have to make the physical journey to a police station. The PSNI then has a duty to inform the woman of any knowledge of behaviour which could pose a risk. It aims to have this information within 40 days but this can happen quicker if there is a serious risk present.

Another innovative aspect is that concerned family members and friends can also ask for this information. It is all about giving women the information to make decisions about their own relationships. I welcome this because so many times, we hear where abusive partners of women in particular, although I acknowledge that it often happens to men, have had previous abusive relationships of which the women are unaware.

In Northern Ireland, women and their relatives and friends can inform themselves about this. Sometimes it can be easier to spot the abusive behavioural signs from the outside and people watching a situation from the outside can now get this information. I welcome that. I look forward to the passing of the Domestic Violence Bill here. The introduction of Clare's Law in this State should be looked at and it should be used as part of an all-island approach to addressing the issue of violence against women.

Members will be aware that the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI, is having its annual conference. Serious concerns have been expressed by that body about the Government's foot dragging over responding to a landmark Council of Europe decision a couple of years ago relating to trade union rights for the AGSI, a right that should and could be very easily applied not just to representative bodies of members of An Garda Síochána but also to representative bodies representing the interests of members of the Defence Forces.

This issue has been raised time and again by Senator Craughwell and I. The Minister for Justice and Equality has provided the AGSI and other analogous bodies with a certain degree of limited access to the WRC and the Labour Court but that is to miss the point. In its landmark decision, the Council of Europe made it very clear that there was no reason in international law why full trade union and collective bargaining rights should be denied to organisations like the AGSI.

The idea that providing full trade union and collective bargaining rights to an organisation like the AGSI would jeopardise the security of the State is entirely bogus. The reality across Europe is that there is a trend towards awarding the very fundamental rights to be an active member of a trade union and to be represented by one to members of police and defence forces but those rights are being denied to rank and file and more senior members of An Garda Síochána and members of the Defence Forces.

It is important that this House works to vindicate those rights that are enshrined in international law. It is extremely disappointing that, yet again, a Minister for Justice and Equality attends the AGSI conference and the foot dragging on this important issue continues. I want to put my concerns on the record and I urge everybody in this House to very clearly support those very basic and fundamental rights that should be protected and vindicated for members of our police force and the Defence Forces because those rights are not being vindicated as it currently stands.