The Order of Business is No. 1, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Report Stage, resumed, and Final Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 5 p.m., if not previously concluded, and to resume at 8 p.m. and adjourn not later than 10 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 2, Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 – Second Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 7 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 3, motion for the appointment of a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, to be taken at 7 p.m. and to conclude not later than 8 p.m., if not previously concluded, with contributions of all Senators not to exceed eight minutes, on which time can be shared, and the Minister to be given an extra four minutes to reply to the debate.
Order of Business
I join in the expressions of sympathy to the family of the late Rory Kiely. He was a former Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and a long-standing Fianna Fáil Senator. Rory had a great association with and friends within the Fianna Fáil group. It is a very sad day for the Fianna Fáil Party and we would like to join the Cathaoirleach in passing on our condolences to his family.
I wish to raise the issue of the CervicalCheck scoping inquiry. I raised this issue yesterday and it is with regret that I raise it again today. It was a shock this morning to listen to Dr. Gabriel Scally on the radio. He complained that he had not received documents in the manner and format he would have liked. It means that Dr. Scally cannot search through the documents he has been furnished with. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, was also on the radio and he described as pathetic the format of the documents as presented to Dr. Scally. The Minister indicated that he would write to the HSE about it. Clearly, at this stage the scoping inquiry is being treated very much like a legally charged inquiry. Documents are being printed, scanned, reprinted and only then handed to Dr. Scally in a format one would generally see in very contentious litigation after a discovery order has been made. It is imperative that Dr. Scally has the documents he needs in a format that is searchable, electronic and that we know will work.
The Department of Health is obfuscating the material to make it more difficult for Dr. Scally to decipher and use it. The Minister outlined today that he is going to write to the Department. Surely he is in charge of the Department of Health and was responsible for the serious incident team going into CervicalCheck and the Department. He should be able to get the information to Dr. Scally in a more practical and expedient fashion. At this stage it seems the Minister has a complete lack of control over the Department. There is pure chaos in terms of the documents supplied to Dr. Scally. I believe a commission of inquiry must be set up as soon as possible so that we can get to the truth of the matter and that all the information is laid out properly and not held back.
The third issue I wish to raise today relates to the cancellation of sailings by Irish Ferries. Due to delays in the building of the new WB Yeats vessel Irish Ferries has had to cancel many sailings. That has left consumers, including families with young children, in serious limbo in terms of their holiday arrangements. Yesterday, phone lines were not answered and there is a serious lack of clarity on the compensation that will be offered to the families affected. The situation has caused considerable inconvenience with many families having to make new arrangements at significant expense. I call on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to look into this matter without delay.
I understand that 200 new Garda recruits will be passing out on Friday. That is good news and it is to be welcomed. It is the beginning of an increase in the membership of An Garda Síochána, which must also be welcomed. When the Minister makes his announcement at the passing out ceremony on Friday it is important for him to provide greater clarity in terms of what stations are to reopen. The Leader might check that out. There is a big debate about certain Garda stations around the country that were due to reopen but have not reopened. I know it is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána but given that the issue keeps entering the political arena and that certain politicians in Cabinet and in the Lower House keep advocating for it and promoting it, we need clarity on exactly what stations will be reopened and what stations will not be reopened. The people deserve nothing better. That is an important aspect of the matter and I ask the Leader to consider it.
I wish to turn to the local electoral area boundaries report, which was due to be published today. Clearly the report is a matter for the independent commission but suggestions are rife both yesterday and today that various boundaries have been changed and that various people have been briefed and are aware of the new arrangements. I do not know if that is correct and I await the completion of the report. We understand the report is in the Custom House at the moment. I wish to learn how it is to be put into the public domain so that the public knows what is involved. The Leader might be able to clarify the position. Am I not making myself clear?
I cannot hear.
The Leader cannot hear. I was told I had a big mouth and a loud mouth many times. I was never told I could not be heard. If necessary, I can go up an octave.
Is the Senator asking the Leader to give him an insight into the boundary commission report?
No, I am not. I am asking him to indicate when the report will formally be announced and what the mechanism for that announcement will be.
I did not understand that.
We will all be very excited to find out exactly what is happening with the boundary report. I agree with what Senator Boyhan said, as it seems to me that a number of people appear to have been briefed on the reality of what we will be facing, or at least those individuals who have a franchise in electing us. I received calls from a number of councillors across the country today requesting information from me, which I do not have. It is not information I should have either because this is an independent report and we need to be told when it will be published and available. The convention always is that both Houses of the Oireachtas accept such reports. That is the case with all boundary reports, as it should be. I look forward to reading the report. Those individuals who elect most Members of this House are particularly anxious to see copies of the report very soon.
Could the Leader request an update on the commencement of sections 2, 3 and 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act? I know that is an issue of concern to the Leader as well, as we have discussed it. As he and Members of the House are aware, certain measures contained in the Act which was passed in 2015 have yet to be commenced. Those measures relate in essence to equal parenting rights for married, same-sex couples. The failure to date to commence those provisions is causing great anxiety in the LGBT community. When we talk about equal marriage rights we should talk too about equal parenting rights.
This year the theme of the Pride festival is "We Are Family". I ask the Leader to clarify when those particular provisions, which are so important for same-sex couples and their children, will be commenced to provide for the kind of equal parenting rights for married same-sex couples in this country should be and are entitled to. We are merely waiting for those sections to be commenced.
One of the reasons I heard given by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection recently on the delay in registration of two female parents in a same-sex marriage is the fact that training had not been made available to registrars. That seems to be a particularly bogus reason as to why those sections cannot commence. I read that recently in the Irish Examiner, a newspaper I know the Leader reads from cover to cover every morning for obvious reasons. Could the Leader clarify when those particularly important provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act will be commenced? It would be a very happy coincidence if a particular effort could be made to ensure that they are commenced in time for that great celebration in Dublin and across the country at the end of June, namely, the festival known as Pride.
I also extend my condolences to the family of the former Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Rory Kiely. I know we will have an opportunity in the near future to speak in more detail about his life and his contribution to the country.
I must raise the extraordinary revelations by Dr. Gabriel Scally this morning on the level of co-operation he has been receiving from the Department of Health. It is absolutely shocking. When are those people going to wake up and smell the coffee? The Secretary General of the Department resigned. He was pushed out due to a popular revolt because people are sick and tired of people in leadership in this country who fail in their responsibilities and who are never held to account. One would have thought that the remaining leadership of that Department and the HSE would have said they would not fail to co-operate with Dr. Scally in the important work he is doing in the scoping inquiry. It is stunning to learn that this morning.
I trust that the Minister will get a grip on the situation. He has called on the Department of Health and the HSE to fully co-operate but we need to see a complete change in culture. We talked about the Department of Justice and Equality and all the scandals that engulfed it. A full review was carried out on the organisation. The failures we witnessed in that regard were stunning. We see what is happening now in the Department of Health. There must be a change at the higher level of Departments, which are failing and letting down the vast majority of public and civil servants who are honourable, decent, hardworking people.
The Leader will be aware that the State will be allocated two additional seats in the next European elections. Will the Government seriously consider allocating those two seats to the North of Ireland, the Six Counties? The majority of people in the North of Ireland rejected the proposition of Brexit. Increasing numbers in the North are seeing the absolute folly of that proposition, the impact it will have on the island, and how it undermines the Good Friday Agreement. The people of the North voted against Brexit. They voted to remain in the European Union. They voted to continue to have a voice in the European Parliament and they are being denied that. They are being denied their democratic choice.
I acknowledge the position taken by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, and the Taoiseach in terms of the North and the Brexit negotiations at this point has been the right one by all of the people on this island of Ireland, but it would be wrong to not at least examine every possibility of allocating those two seats to the North of Ireland. It would be the clearest signal yet that we defend the interests of the people of the North of Ireland and that we reject the folly, arguably the lunacy, of Brexit, certainly in terms of the implications for this island and that we defend and stand by the democratic decision of the people of the North.
I ask that the Leader seriously consider and pursue that option. It would be the clearest sign yet of our position in terms of the people of the North.
I would like to be associated with the Cathaoirleach's kind words about our late colleague, Rory Kiely.
On a different subject, one of our colleagues mentioned that Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, will be following in his mother's footsteps in visiting Cork on Thursday. As important if not more so is the fact that he will be following in the footsteps of his great, great, great-grandmother on Friday in visiting beauty's home, Killarney, to spend some time in Muckross House and Killarney House, in both of which Queen Victoria stayed in 1861. They can be sure of a right royal welcome. Indeed, we look forward to welcoming all of the British visitors, more of whom we need and want to see and who no doubt will follow him in the course of time. I should also mention that they are visiting Derrynane, the home of the Liberator, and Siamsa Tíre in Tralee. We wish them well in that.
Senator Coghlan was quite young in 1861.
Senator Coghlan is even younger now than he was in 1861. First, I will briefly mention the sad passing of Rory Kiely whom I knew quite well. A great Limerick man, a great Senator and a great Fianna Fáil person, he was a Member of the House for almost 30 years, bar a few months in 1982. He was also a former Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. I met him in the car park only two or three weeks ago. He was with former Deputy John Cregan and we had a bit of a chat. I assumed I would see him again quite soon. It is a sad occasion. I extend my sympathies to all his family and friends and his supporters in Limerick and throughout the country.
There are a number of matters I would like to mention today but I can only raise one topic. I acknowledge that this week is both bike week and men's health week and we should be cognisant of that. I am lucky to live close enough to cycle in this morning. All of us who cycle or who drive and take account of cyclists should try to embrace it as much as we can.
I raise the issue mentioned in The Irish Times today that Ireland is the world's greatest tax haven. I refute that. The report from a certain group of academics needs to be challenged. I have not yet read the report. I do not know if it has been published but The Irish Times has been reporting on it. The definition of tax haven they were using dates from 1993 and the world has changed a lot since then. The report focuses particularly on 2015, which is the year when much intellectual property, IP, was transferred to Ireland. That was done for many sensible reasons, however, including the fact that most of the intellectual property was transferred here because most intellectual property is being generated here and is being used here. Microsoft has more than 2,000 staff here. Apple has in excess of 7,000 staff in the Leader's area in Cork. Large companies such as eBay, Facebook, PayPal and Uber are all in Ireland.
I will put on the record some of what Ireland has done in recent years. We have done a breathtaking amount of work on corporation tax reform. We have had a general anti-avoidance rule since 1989. This is one of the first countries in the world to have one. It has only been introduced in most EU countries as part of anti-tax avoidance directive. We introduced mandatory disclosure domestically in 2011, and the UK and Portugal were the only countries in the EU which had done so before us. We will be exchanging mandatory reporting disclosures with other countries across the EU from 2020. We participate in EU code of conduct groups and the OECD forum on harmful tax practice. I, as a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, have been at OECD meetings representing Ireland and putting Ireland's case forward at the OECD. It is a bit rich to be calling the OECD a "club for rich countries" when, in fact, more than 100 countries are involved in the base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, process that is being administered by the OECD. We were the first EU country to adopt country-by-country reporting in 2016 - well ahead of everybody else. We were an early adopter of the FatCow, which is an exchange of information with the US tax authorities, and the fourth country to adopt it in 2011. We have adopted all the amendments to the EU directive on administrative co-operation. We have adopted the OECD common reporting standards. We have engaged in automatic exchange of information country-by-country reporting. We were awarded the highest rating for transparency by the OECD peer review last year. We signed the EU anti-tax avoidance directive. As part of that, we will be introducing controlled foreign company, CFC, rules from January 2019.
Is Senator Horkan calling for a debate on it?
I will call for a debate on it. It is important that we do not allow the narrative to get out there and gain traction. It is not true. There are thousands of people working. In recent months, I was at the opening of the new €119 million Microsoft building in Ireland. The company has more than 2,000 staff of many nationalities. It has 71 nationalities working there. Apple has huge numbers of people working here. So have Google, Facebook and many other companies. Nine of the top ten ICT companies in the world are in Ireland. The reason we have corporation tax from those companies is because they are generating value in Ireland. We benefit from that but so does the world. They pay their tax in accordance with the legislation. I would like the Leader to bring in the Minister to talk about it. It is important that we address the issue and not let the world narrative get out there.
I will raise two issues, if I may, and call for two debates. First, I had a meeting on Monday in the Department of Health with grieving parents of a young Irish boy, Gavin Coyne, who passed away in Newcastle last year with a heart complaint. The care that we provide for children with heart issues needs to be examined and the way that we care for parents who have to deal with this situation and who have to seek treatment abroad needs to be further investigated because the treatment that this family and their son got left much to be desired. We made progress at the meeting with high-ranking officials but a political discussion needs to take place in this Chamber as to how we invest in that area, how we can support children with heart complaints and how we can support families because there is still a discussion to be had in that way. A young Irish child died, not in Ireland but abroad, and we need to have a conversation about that. I hope the Leader can facilitate a conversation with the Minister for Health on how we send children abroad for certain operational procedures.
The second issue I want to raise is the issue of mental health. I note the comments of the Ombudsman for Children who is quite critical of the State's response to children's mental health issues. We had some quite disgusting comments over the course of the most recent referendum where Members of this House stated that mental health was not real health. In my constituency, in the past month we have had two instances at two DART stations where young people have lost their lives. I witnessed a vigil in Harmonstown DART station attended by young people who were traumatised by their friend, the person whom they loved and knew, taking his own life at Harmonstown DART station. Flowers and candles were left. This is an epidemic that we in this House all know far too well. As public representatives, we must have a response to this. I ask the Leader to facilitate a conversation with the Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for mental health because where I live, the area that I care passionately about, at local DART stations people are literally ending their lives. This cannot be a situation that is normalised. What is most worrying about it is that it has not seemed to have got any traction or much comment. I call for that debate in this House as a matter of urgency.
I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the Kiely family on the death of Rory. Rory was someone whom I got to know in recent years, through horse racing more than our political involvement. He was a proud member of the Oireachtas syndicate, the horse of which won the midlands grand national at my track of Kilbeggan last year. It was on that evening that we struck up a relationship. I was only speaking to him on Thursday last in Mayo when he said he was coming up here this week, and I was shocked this morning to hear of his death. I offer my deepest sympathy to his extended family.
I want to raise the issue of the changes to the farm-to-farm cattle movement certificates. The Leader can put it on his list for the next time we have statements on agriculture. Currently, when a farmer registers calves he knows will be sold within a fortnight, he can apply for a certificate of compliance to move and can then sell to the open market.
He could maybe have two or three different suppliers and then not know which calf will end up with what customer. Now the Department has changed the regulations so that when he applies for that certificate of compliance he has to put the herd number of the herd of destination on the application for the certificate of compliance. It is impossible for him to know in certain situations in whose herd the animal will end up. We hear all the time about CAP reform and simplification. Every change we make and propose is supposed to be simplifying the burden of paperwork, red tape and bureaucracy for farmers, yet at the same time every change we make seems to make it more complicated, involves more paperwork, makes it more strenuous on farmers and complicates their day to day living and activities. I would like the Leader to put that on the list for discussion the next time the Minister is in for statements, to ask why there is the necessity for that change. I know we need compliance and traceability for animal health and welfare issues but this makes no sense. It seems like a change because somebody somewhere has seen some small issue and changed the whole system, which will affect everybody across the board and will complicate the issue, slow it down and tie farmers' hands that little bit tighter behind their backs.
It might be an appropriate issue for Senator Paul Daly to table a Commencement matter on, rather than wait for a debate on agriculture.
The Cathaoirleach has pre-empted the Leader.
That is a great reply.
Maybe. I am trying to be helpful. I call Senator Devine and Senator Murnane O'Connor in that order.
I concur with the statements made earlier by various Senators about listening yesterday to the incredulous, polite interview with Dr. Scally. His frustration was palpable on the "Six One" news on RTÉ. The HSE does not get that everything is utterly changed. It is still in the mindset of circling the wagons and protecting its own interests. It seems oblivious to the need for change agents.
I also want to bring up the public service pay and stability agreement. Commitments were given that findings would issue in June but seem now to be put off until July if not later. I am talking about health service staff. The HSE is failing to meet the targeted staffing needs for the funding of an agreed workforce plan for the year 2017. It has not got a plan yet for this year. We know about the chaos in our health system because of a lack of caring staff. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, is warning of a winter of discontent because we need clarity from the pay and stability agreement. We need clarity that there will be action on the pay, conditions and recruitment of staff which is vital to our health service and which is getting seriously worse each and every day. The burnout is large scale. The HSE is double counting student nurses and adding them to the numbers to cover up the shortage. There has been industrial action in Waterford. Some 98% of nurses in Tipperary voted for industrial action yesterday. This is not about pay, it is about the risk to patients and staff within the hospital. Nurses are still working one day per month for free. This was brought in under emergency terms in the period of the crash but that is still going on and highly resented by nursing staff. I do not believe winter initiatives have worked in the past. They have been too little too late and it will be a winter of discontent unless we hear back from the Minister on this public service agreement soon.
I too heard the Minister for Health, Deputy Coveney, on RTÉ Radio One about the CervicalCheck scoping inquiry and I have to say I was so disappointed with him when he said that he would write to the Department of Health for information.
He did not say that.
He is the Minister for Health. He should demand that the documents be sent to Dr. Scally as soon as possible. I ask the Leader to make sure that we do that. What the Minister said on RTÉ Radio One this morning was unacceptable.
This week is national carers week and there are events going on around the country to highlight the incredible work that families do and as we know family carers do not get the proper support and acknowledgement they deserve. I know from personal experience that we should be honouring these selfless family members who give of themselves to look after our loved ones in their homes. I also want to mention that on Thursday, 21 June, Family Carers Ireland will be selling heart shaped pins for €2 to raise awareness and much needed funds for family carers in Ireland. It is appropriate that on the longest day of the year we would shine a light on the contribution of our carers. While I encourage everyone to get out and support this worthy cause, we need to look at how the State recognises the hard work they do, the savings they provide to the State and the hours of work they put in without correct reward. Currently, carer's allowance is a payment made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for carers who are looking after someone who is in need of support because of age, physical or learning disability or illness including mental illness. It is a means-tested payment and mainly paid to carers on low incomes who look after a person full-time. The person needing care must require continuous supervision and have a requirement for help throughout the day with their personal needs such as walking, dressing, washing, eating and drinking or continuous supervision to avoid danger to themselves and full-time care attention for at least 12 months must be needed. This amounts to €214 per week but people often face months of scrutiny to qualify for the payment. They cannot take a second job over 15 hours per week yet they are on call 24-7. This is unacceptable. We need to take a look at introducing a proper salary for these carers that comes from the health budget, not the social welfare budget. The timescale could be up to 12 months for payment whether it is through appeals or further information being sought. We need to start recognising what these people are doing - they are working for the State, not themselves. They are looking after our family members
Is the Senator calling for a debate on it?
I have called and am calling for a debate and I will request that the Minister come to the House.
A debate on what?
Today I had the privilege of launching "a connected island, an Ireland free from loneliness". I thank all those Oireachtas Members who contributed to this report. In total we received 310 submissions from North and South of the Border, from the elderly and the young, the rich and the poor and from all ethnicities. It truly shows how important this problem is and how it traverses all demographics. I also want to particularly thank Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, for attending the launch of the report today. I founded the task force on loneliness in March to help combat the silent epidemic of loneliness which is prevalent in our society. Loneliness is corrosive and has major health, social and economic impacts. It is corrosive to personal health and to society as a whole. I believe we need to turbo charge the debate on loneliness and create awareness of the issue. This change needs to occur from Government down. In the report there are many recommendations and it can be found on lonelinesstaskforce.com and will be distributed to all Oireachtas Members. Some of the recommendations highlighted in the report include an awareness campaign, the adequate funding of NGOs and Ireland-based research. Much of the research surrounding loneliness is based in the UK so we are using UK figures. We need our own Ireland-specific research and we need accountability. I am not calling for a dedicated Minister for loneliness as exists in the UK; Members will be familiar with the fact that Ms Tracey Crouch was nominated as Minister for Loneliness in the UK by Theresa May. However, I think the portfolio for loneliness should be assigned to a Minister.
It is falling between the stools of social protection and health and the fight against the epidemic of loneliness has been lost. I would like to see a Minister of State at the Department of Health taking on the loneliness portfolio. Will the Leader arrange a debate on the issue of loneliness which can have major health and economic impacts? I look forward to having such a debate in the coming months.
I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the family of the late Rory Kiely who was a long-time Member of this House. He was really genuine, both as a Senator and a person. He was a great Cathaoirleach of this Chamber. He was also a great GAA man. I am sure he would love to see how the Limerick hurling team is performing. He would have loved to have seen Limerick win another all-Ireland final. I am sure he will be looking down on the members of the team who seem to have a good year ahead of them. I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy on his death and do not doubt that the Leader of the House will provide time for expressions of sympathy at a later date.
I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the Chamber. The issue of bus corridors has been the subject of some controversy recently. I would like the Leader to ask the Minister about driverless cars, an issue I have raised previously. There is no doubt that driverless cars are coming downstream quickly and I would like to know about the provisions for this eventuality that are being made by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the local authorities. Many new measures, including new traffic lights, will be needed. The use of driverless cars will also have consequences for the insurance industry. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House for a debate on the issue?
It is extremely shocking and totally unacceptable that State bodies have been accused of obstructing the CervicalCheck inquiry. The chairman of the scoping inquiry, Dr. Scally, has voiced concern and frustration about the delays in receiving the relevant information and about the manner in which he is receiving it. Legal representatives of the families have voiced their frustration about the difficulty in obtaining information. I am sure the Leader of the House will agree that this is simply not good enough and that the Government needs to get a grip on it. The women who have been affected by the issue and their families are continuing to be treated in a shocking, shameful and totally unacceptable manner. First, the information was withheld from them and their families. Now they cannot even obtain the relevant information. As one of the affected women put it, "This is my body and these are my records." I ask the Leader to impress the urgency of the situation on the Government, in particular, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health. It is too late for some of the women and families who have been affected. For others, time is a luxury they do not have too much of.
I would like to conclude on a more joyful note. Local authorities and municipal district committees all over the country traditionally elect new cathaoirligh at this time of year. I ask the Cathaoirleach to indulge me for one moment as I offer my congratulations to the Independent councillor Ian McGarvey from Ramelton, County Donegal, who was elected as cathaoirleach of Letterkenny municipal district committee yesterday. I am singling him out because he will reach the grand young age of 88 years next month. At a time when we are encouraging young and old people to enter politics, he is a great example of someone who is very active. He is a shining light to us all. He shows us that age should never be a barrier to being active and involved in the community.
I join Senator Robbie Gallagher in congratulating Councillor McGarvey. It is a remarkable achievement to become cathaoirleach of any local authority, especially at the age of almost 88 years. It proves that there is life in all of us yet.
I agree with what my colleague has said about the delays in the production of CervicalCheck files. One of the problems in the health service is that there has been very little computerisation of the system in recent years. Other countries, including Denmark, started to computerise records as long ago as 1996. By contrast, there has been little or no investment in the computerisation system here, even in the period up to 2008 when plenty of money was available.
We are now paying the price in the health service. Every effort must be made to make sure there will be adequate computerisation of all medical records in order that delays like those which have occurred in this case do not recur. Every effort must be made to provide the files in a timely manner and on the earliest possible date.
I have written to the Minister about a commitment given in 2017 in respect of gynaecological services in Cork. We need to fast-track the opening of a second gynaecological theatre in Cork. Given that 40% of all the people on the waiting list for gynaecological services in the entire country are on the waiting list in Cork, it is important that this issue be dealt with immediately. Will the Leader find out whether the Minister can come into the House to deal with this issue? In fairness to the Minister, at the time he wrote to the HSE and the Department about the provision of additional funding. For some reason, it has fallen between a number of stools again. As a result, the second gynaecological theatre has not opened. Some additional staff have been allocated but not in sufficient numbers. This urgent issue needs to be dealt with immediately. It is not something that can wait to be dealt with until the next budget. Will the Leader invite the Leader to come to the House to deal with it?
Before I call the next speaker, I am sure Members of the House will wish to join me in welcoming the members of a visiting group from China. Together with officials from Tourism Ireland, they are celebrating the first direct flight from Beijing to Dublin. This is welcome news and a major achievement. I extend a warm welcome to the members of the delegation and extend to them my good wishes for a very successful visit to Ireland.
I also acknowledge the presence in the Visitors Gallery of a friend of mine, Councillor James Breen, who is a former Deputy for the constituency of Clare. He is accompanied by his lovely wife, Eileen, and, if I am correct, his daughter and grandchildren who are very welcome. As a former Member of the Oireachtas, Councillor Breen is always welcome in this House.
The final two speakers on the Order of Business are Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Michelle Mulherin.
I had not planned to speak until, like other Members of the House, I learned of the sad passing of my great friend, the former Senator, Rory Kiely. He was a great friend of the Cathaoirleach and all of us. He was a legend and a man of many parts. He served in the Seanad for 30 years. He served a full term as Cathaoirleach. He was very well known in GAA circles as a trustee of the GAA and a former president of the Munster Council. He was a great racing man. A horse with which he and I had an involvement is racing in Punchestown this evening. I hope it will run well in memory of Rory who was a great character and who would have been there. As I know that there will be an opportunity to pay tribute to him at a later stage, I will leave it at that.
I am pleased to join the Cathaoirleach in welcoming the Chinese delegation and our great friend Councillor James Breen.
Before the curtain falls, we will hear from Senator Michelle Mulherin.
In his annual report for 2017 the Ombudsman for Children identified as a key issue the lack of access to emergency mental health services for suicidal young people and indicated that the inability of the HSE and Tusla to act to ensure this deficit was addressed was "a stark failure". When young people are self-harming and in danger of suicide, we should be very grateful that they can be identified as such.
At that juncture, they need professional help. It is overwhelming for young people and their families if they cannot access appropriate mental health services. In respect of community health organisation area 4, which covers Mayo, Roscommon and Galway, I have already identified that the child and adolescent mental health services have only 53% of the staff they need. We have inadequate services for young people experiencing eating disorders who are in a critical situation. Cases have been brought to my attention and I have highlighted them. I have asked that the Minister responsible come to the House for a debate. We must find a path to addressing the shortcomings and inadequate staffing levels in the child and adolescent mental health services. This is really important for our young people. It is very unfortunate that we are seeing the incidence of eating disorders rising. Families need somewhere to turn. If our health services cannot provide that, it is devastating. People are living from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour, wondering how they are going to be helped. I think we can do things better notwithstanding difficulties in recruitment. We need a plan of action and the matter needs to be given urgent attention. I ask the Leader that the Minister be brought to the House. The matter has been highlighted by the Ombudsman for Children today.
I thank the 16 Members for their contributions on the Order of Business. I join them in welcoming iar Teachta James Breen and his family to the Gallery. I also welcome our delegation of Chinese visitors. Cork is twinned with Shanghai. I hope the connectivity between Ireland and China will continue to grow and develop.
Today is a very sad day for us as we have lost a friend and former colleague in Rory Kiely. I did not have the pleasure of serving with him in the House but I served with him on the Munster council where he was chairman. He was a trustee of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael and, as many have said, he was a man of many parts. He was a rogue and a character. He was a friend and he was full of life. We had a many a great night with him and many a great day following the GAA. As Senator Ned O'Sullivan rightly said, he was a good man to dispense a bit of information about horse racing and horses as well. One of the greatest days of his life was being elected to this House. He was elected by a very short number of votes. When he became Cathaoirleach it was a day of great joy for him and his family. I had the pleasure of knowing his son, Vincent, who also ran for the Seanad at one time.
On the day he became Cathaoirleach it was a tight race as well.
It was, indeed. I was afraid to say that. He was an extraordinary man and I was very fond of him. We may have been of different political persuasions but it never stopped our friendship developing. I extend our deepest sympathies to his family. Our country is a poorer place today for his passing. He epitomised the importance of community and of public service. We will have an opportunity to pay tribute to him in the House in time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Senators Ardagh, Mac Lochlainn, Devine, Murnane O'Connor, Gallagher and Colm Burke raised the issue of the Scally inquiry. I have made it quite clear since this scandal unfolded that Government, the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach have only one objective - to get all the information out to the public, the women and their families. It is imperative that there is co-operation with the inquiry. The Minister for Health, despite what Senator Murnane O'Connor said, has said he will instruct and write to the HSE. The phrase he used this morning was "unacceptable and pathetic". We all agree with the Minister for Health. The manner in which the transmission of 4,000 pieces of information is being undertaken is unacceptable.
Senator Colm Burke is right though. Those of us who have worked with medical records and know what it is like understand that we need to have IT systems based on one unique patient identifier, transferable from one health entity to another so that notes can be transferred. It is critical that the information is transferred in a manner that is swift, readable and searchable to Dr. Scally. The Minister has also said that anything he requires will be given to him.
The language we use as Members of the Oireachtas is critical as well. The inquiry is under way and an interim report has been delivered on time. As I said yesterday, all six recommendations have been accepted by the Minister. There is no obstruction or obfuscation by the Government - anything but. I agree with Senator Mac Lochlainn completely that it is about time people who are involved in the transmission of this information recognise that it is about the lives of people who deserve and want justice and to have the information given to them.
Senator Ardagh also raised the issue of Irish Ferries. It is distressing and disappointing that Irish Ferries has cancelled the holiday plans of 19,000 people. It is important that they receive information and that the director of consumer protection be involved. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House regarding that issue.
Senator Boyhan raised Garda recruitment. I congratulate the 200 new gardaí who are passing out from Templemore on Friday. It was this Government and the last one that reopened Templemore and commenced recruitment of gardaí when the college had been closed by a Fianna Fáil-led Government. It is an operational matter over which I have no jurisdiction, as Members will know. I would love to be able to tell the House there were 200 extra gardaí going to Cork but I cannot do that. It is a matter for An Garda Síochána to decide where they go.
Senators Nash and Boyhan raised the boundary commission. I do not have the information as to what the boundaries are, when the report will be released or how it will be released. All I know is that there is an independent boundary review commission established. The Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, asked that the report come back to him after no more than six months.
It is tomorrow.
I am told by Senator Mac Lochlainn that it is going to be tomorrow. As Senator Nash said, our electorate is waiting with bated breath, as are we, for the publication. There will be some disappointment and unhappiness, as was the case with the Dáil boundary review. We have an independent panel established. Whatever happens----
I am sure it will be appropriately promulgated.
Whatever happens, I am sure it will be dispatched by the Department in a proper and timely manner whether online or in written format.
Senator Nash raised the Child and Family Relationships Act 2015. Senator Warfield has also raised the matter previously as I have myself. The delay is unacceptable and I thank Senator Nash for raising the matter in the context of the forthcoming Dublin Pride celebration, which is about ensuring that equal parenting rights are given to all families in our country. "We Are Family" is the theme this year and we are all now of different diverse families.
I am told that there are a number of technical drafting issues regarding Parts 2 and 3 of the Act. The implications of these issues are being discussed and explored by officials in the Department and in the Office of the Attorney General. The discussions are ongoing and detailed and the Department is not in a position to pre-empt the outcome by citing specific details. To be fair to Senators Nash and Warfield, I did ask for a meeting on behalf of Senator Warfield but the Department declined on the basis that the negotiations were ongoing. I will make it aware again because it is important that we end the uncertainty. There is a lacuna that needs to be addressed immediately rather than being prolonged. I fully concur with Senator Nash's remarks and will endeavour to work with all Members of the House to ensure that we get that piece of the legislation enacted as soon as possible. However, I do not think it will be in time for Dublin Pride.
Senator Mac Lochlainn also raised the issue of the extra seats for the North. The decision on the extra seats rests with the European Commission or the Council, I am not sure which.
The rule is clear; it is "ordinarily resident" in the State. Unfortunately, the North will be leaving the European Union because of the vote in the UK, which means the Republic will increase its number of seats from 11 to 13. As such, it is not possible to do what the Senator suggests. However, it is an independent commission. It is worth stating that if members want to come down and run in the South, they can come down and do so. For example, Mr. John Cushnahan did it very successfully for Fine Gael in the Munster constituency. Senator Marshall ran for election to the Seanad. As the Senator said, however, we need to hear the voice of the island as a whole articulated and heard in Europe. It is an idea to which I subscribe fully.
Senator Coghlan referred to the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to Killarney and Cork tomorrow. I welcome Prince Charles to Cork. I do not agree with Senator Coghlan that it is about the equal importance of Killarney; it is about the south being feted as the gateway to Ireland. Cork and Kerry are coming together tomorrow to give a royal welcome to the royal visitors and I hope the day goes well. It is important to showcase our country and, for the people of Ireland, that Cork and Kerry are seen in the best possible light. In the debate on tourism in the House last night, the Minister of State, Deputy Brendan Griffin, made the point that the number of visitors from the UK declined in 2016 but we saw an increase last year. In a post-Brexit era, it is important to welcome UK visitors to our country and to promote, sell and market Ireland as a tourist destination.
I welcome warmly the visit tomorrow and am sure Senator Coghlan will be in Killarney to welcome Prince Charles to his beloved Muckross.
Please God. And to Killarney House.
Senators Ó Ríordáin and Mulherin referred to today's report on mental health from the Ombudsman for Children. We have had debates in the House in the context of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee report. The matter raised is about ensuring that there is investment in mental health and that young people receive out-of-hours treatment, as Senator Mulherin said, for eating disorders. The Government is committed to developing mental health services, which is why we have seen an increase in funding in 2018 to €910 million, including €35 million in the budget for 2018, representing an increase since 2012 of €200 million. We have also seen an improvement in counselling services through Jigsaw in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. It is important to recognise that we have seen the recruitment to different psychologist and assistant psychologist posts. The point made by the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health services, Deputy Jim Daly, is one on which we must continue to maintain our focus in CAMHS. It is about intervention. We must fix the system. As the Minister of State has said repeatedly, it is often the case that a lower level of intervention is needed, which can be provided, rather than an intervention from a clinical psychologist. The Minister of State is committed to fixing the system and there has been an increase in investment. It is a matter on which we need to continue to work.
I congratulate Senator Horkan on his intervention on the Order of Business this morning on the publication of certain allegations that Ireland is a tax haven. There are some academics, political commentators and politicians who would love to see us closed down for business completely. They do not want to see any foreign direct investment or any jobs created. The Senator is right and I commend every word he said. It is important to have a realistic debate on this subject which reflects the importance of foreign direct investment here. The IDA published a report yesterday and should be commended for the work it undertakes on our behalf. I welcome also the Senator's comment on national bike week and his comment on men's health week, which is very important. As an eminent GP, Senator Swanick will concur with Senator Horkan's view that men's health week is important. Men need to talk about their health, need to be checked out and need to get themselves looked after. I concur with the Senator on that.
Senator Ó Ríordáin also referred to the late Gavin Coyne and treatment abroad. It is important to continue to review the issue of treatment abroad which is a very important part of our health system. I agree completely with the Senator that mental health is a real health issue.
Senator Paul Daly raised the very important matter of farm-to-farm movement certificates. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to discuss that issue. The advice of the Cathaoirleach that it might be more appropriate to raise the issue as a Commencement matter was very helpful.
Senator Devine referred to the public service pay stability agreement, which is an important matter for the Government. The Minister is committed to ensuring with the unions that there is a growth in wages. We have seen public service recruitment in a variety of areas, including education, health and An Garda Síochána. I will get the information for the Senator, albeit she sometimes does not want to hear good news.
I referred to health.
There has been recruitment in the health sector with 11,000 new posts.
Senator Devine loves good news.
She does not, but I want to give it to her because it is important to hear it.
The Leader should not be condescending. I know my figures, thank you very much.
As do I. I am not being condescending.
The Leader will provide the Senator with the information.
To paraphrase others, facts are facts. I do not deal in fake news, I deal in facts.
The Leader is so smart.
I join Senator Murnane O'Connor in commending all involved in carer's week and thank carers for their important work. I commend Senator Swanick on his loneliness task force. I think responsibility in this area is under the remit of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, at the Department of Health but I am happy to be corrected if I am incorrect. It is important that we work collectively to ensure isolation, vulnerability and loneliness are reduced, no matter who they affect or where they exist. I welcome the report of the Senator's working group. We may have an opportunity to have that debate again during Private Members' time.
Senator Paddy Burke raised the issue of transport and asked for the Minister, Deputy Ross, to come to the House to discuss bus corridors and driverless cars. I would be happy to arrange that. I join Senator Gallagher in commending and congratulating independent councillor Ian McGarvey from Ramelton on his appointment as cathaoirleach at the age of 88. It certainly shows that age should not be a barrier to continuing to serve the people. I wish him well in the year ahead.
Senator Colm Burke referred to the very important issue of gynaecological services at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Commitments around the second theatre must be honoured and the theatre must be opened. The Minister met a delegation and gave a commitment. As Senator Burke said, the number on the waiting list in Cork is extraordinarily high. I would be happy to have the matter discussed in the House. Perhaps, Senator Burke and I could share a Commencement matter in that regard given that it is something in which we have both been involved. It is an important matter which needs to be addressed.
As a mark of respect, I note that Myrtle Allen has passed away. I pay tribute to her and sympathise with her family on their sad loss. She was the founder of the Ballymaloe cookery school in Cork.