Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re EU regulation on the service in member states of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re EU regulation on co-operation between the courts of member states in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; and No. 3, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m.

This is International Day of the Girl. In that context, I wish all of our female colleagues a good day.

In the context of Brexit, we all know how important it is for small businesses to have access to high-speed broadband. Anyone running a small business knows that if the broadband service is down, one may as well go home because no work can be done. However, there are many companies, particularly in rural Ireland, that do not have access to high-speed broadband.

They lack a competitive edge when it comes to doing business in this country. In the light of Brexit especially, it is almost impossible to keep on top of things if a company does not have proper access to broadband. Communities in rural Ireland are suffering massively because of the failed roll-out of the broadband plan.

It is clear that the Government has made an absolute hames of the tendering process and, ultimately, the rolling out of broadband for communities in rural Ireland. Recent revelations about the Minister and certain meetings do not instil much confidence in the tendering process, in particular among communities nationally which require, as a matter of urgency, access to high-speed broadband. The Minister should know, as the old maxim has it, that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. The maxim applies equally to a tendering process and to public procurement law. The Minister's actions have potentially exposed the process to judicial review and those who will suffer are the communities in rural Ireland which do not have access to broadband.

The Government must make it an urgent priority to sort out this mess to ensure the last mile of broadband is rolled out in order that all communities nationally have access to broadband, especially small businesses. I have a small business myself in Crumlin village. If I went to work tomorrow morning to find I had no access to broadband, I might as well shut up shop. My phones rely on broadband, as do my email, Internet service and entire system. Being able to use broadband also makes my business a great deal more efficient. I would be out of business if I did not have it. As such, I do not know how small businesses in rural Ireland survive without access to decent and efficient broadband.

As the Leader said, it is International Day of the Girl. We must think about what we are doing to nurture and protect girls in Ireland. A report published by Plan International Ireland shows that 93% of women feel vulnerable just because they are women. A report on Dublin as a capital showed that one third of girls felt unsafe on public transport. It is incumbent on us as policymakers to ensure women and girls throughout the country feel safe when they are going about their day-to-day business. That includes doing simple things like taking public transport.

I raise with the Leader the matter of the Land Development Agency which was established by the Government in September 2018. It falls within the remit and is the direct responsibility of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. We need to see as soon as possible the general heads of a scheme of legislation to underpin the establishment of the agency which will deal with vast amounts of public land and millions of euro of public money. There are huge issues surrounding how it will be structured. Is it going to be a commercial entity? What about accountability and who will have responsibility for the transparency and oversight of the agency which will engage in vast landbank deals and land exchanges with private developers? We have always spoken of accountability and transparency and this agency has the potential to create a toxic mix for Ireland if we do not get it right. While I welcome the establishment of the agency in principle, we need the legislation to underpin it. Therefore, I ask the Leader to arrange a statement from the Minister in the House on the scheme and an indicative timeframe for legislation in the hope that at some stage we will see a Bill to give legislative effect to the proposal.

I understand the report of the Charleton commission may be published today or tomorrow. The Leader will recall I gave a robust defence of the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, while she was still in office. I stand over it and printed off the contribution for reference today. I look forward to having the commission's report before the House for a debate at the earliest convenience, this week or, certainly, the week after. I hope the report will exonerate Deputy Fitzgerald who was, in effect, hounded out of office by certain politicians who wanted a head on a plate and blood on the walls. I am not a personal ambassador for her, but I saw a wrong at the time and articulated it. I read again today what many Members in this and the Lower House said about her. If the report exonerates her, I hope they will take the opportunity to come back, man up and acknowledge that they did a wrong. No one from any party or none should be hounded from office until due process is complete. Mr. Justice Charleton will, I am glad to say, have done his work and we will have his report. Let us make our call and judgment on that work. As such, I appeal to the Leader to arrange as soon as practically possible to have the commission's report before the House for a frank and open debate.

The Senator's assessment of the situation is fair and objective.

I acknowledge International Day of the Girl. As was said, Plan International Ireland has reported that the vast majority of women in Ireland feel vulnerable because of their gender. A worldwide report was published in which Dublin was considered one of the safest cities. I am pleased with that, albeit we need a cultural change to ensure young women feel safe and are safe in public spaces. Crucially, they must be consulted on policy decisions. They need allies to achieve this. We all need allies to achieve our goals. As such, men have a critical role to play.

The lesser known International Day of the Boy is on 16 May. We need to promote and celebrate it and use it as an opportunity to educate boys in the cultural change needed to respect girls and women. As to those who engage in the intimidation, one's fears as a mother for one's teenage children as they seek to find their independence and dip a toe into young adulthood are very different, depending on whether they are boys or girls. For girls, one fears they will be harassed and intimidated sexually, while one's fear for boys is that they will be harassed and intimidated physically. Those involved are inadequate bullies who have issues of their own. As International Day of the Girl is celebrated, let us promote and use International Day of the Boy to facilitate a cultural shift.

I mark the passing of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in the House last night, which legislation is now being brought to Áras an Uachtaráin. I made a speech last night during which I forgot to thank a number of people. I take the opportunity to mention their names. One is Ms Kathryn Reilly who worked on the Bill. She is a former Senator and did a great deal of work on the legislation. I thank also Aengus Ó Maoláin who works with the Civil Engagement group and did a phenomenal amount of work on the Bill. I thank the Leader, Senator Buttimer, for his work, in particular as previous chairman of the alcohol committee. It is important to thank people and I do not like to forget to do so. This is historic legislation which will change and save many lives. There are many people in the RISE Foundation who are very happy.

I did not get a chance earlier in the week to express my condolences to the family of Emma Mhic Mhathúna. She was a beautiful woman and I met her a few months ago. She was a stunningly beautiful person and almost a warrior in a sense. She was a wonderful mother and represented many of the amazing women who are going through tough times today. I express my condolences to her lovely children and her family in general.

I join colleagues in expressing my condolences to the family of Emma Mhic Mhathúna. It was such a tragic death. For those of us who were outside Leinster House when the funeral cortège passed, it was unspeakably sad.

I also join Senators in marking International Day of the Girl. In the Seanad and Leinster House we are celebrating the centenary of women's suffrage in Ireland with the Vótáil 100 programme and an exhibition in the Seanad antechamber. We have to remember that for many girls and women worldwide their gender is still a source of oppression, discrimination and poverty. Plan International Ireland highlights the low levels of education and high levels of poverty of many girls, particularly in developing countries worldwide. We need to bear that in mind and work as much as we can to ensure the day means something and is not just a symbolic gesture. We need to advance measures to challenge and address gender discrimination.

We have had statements on the budget, but last night in the Dáil my colleague Deputy Jan O'Sullivan spoke about the need to advance the equality proofing of budgets in future years. I ask the Leader for a debate on the equality proofing of budgets and mechanisms for proofing them in respect not only of gender but also of poverty and disability to ensure we move beyond token references and achieve real progress on the issues.

I also call for a stand-alone debate on climate change, given the very disappointing lack of action to address climate change in the budget, in particular the absence of any increase in carbon tax, despite it being flagged. Environmental groups such as Stop Climate Chaos and Friends of the Earth have raised this issue and the budget was very disappointing from that point of view.

I ask the Leader for a debate on press freedom. This week we saw the brutal murder of Viktoria Marinova, a journalist in Bulgaria, which is being investigated by the Bulgarian authorities. It follows two other murders of investigative journalists in EU countries, namely, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017 and Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak in February 2018. Very serious concerns have been expressed by the international Committee to Protect Journalists about these attacks on press freedom and I know the concerns are strongly shared by the National Union of Journalists in Ireland.

With deference to my colleagues and as it is girls' day, I will await my turn after Senator Byrne.

As it is not often that happens, I thank Senator Reilly.

The age of chivalry is not dead.

There are very few gentlemen in Fine Gael.

There are very few gentlemen around here, whatever the party.

I acknowledge International Day of the Girl. I also acknowledge the findings of the report from Plan International Ireland. Dr. Scally and Dr. Denton were before the Joint Committee on Health yesterday to discuss their findings that some of the people whose results were not referred within 18 months were not sent back a second time. That is frightening and I understand Dr. Scally has committed to examine some of the scans and how they were investigated by different groups. It appears some were investigated by one clinic and then sent to another, with both clinics coming up with different results. A lot of what came out of the meeting yesterday is frightening for women in this country. There is a fear that there are more than the 221 women of whom we know. It is welcome that the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has asked Dr. Scally to play a further role in the investigation and come up with terms of reference for how doctors should be trained to handle scans in the future. When people receive a bad diagnosis, they should be told about it. It is important that Dr. Scally come back with suggestions for how to deal with these things in the future.

Yesterday I was alerted to a Government-backed publication, Ireland's Ancient East, which is supported by the Office of Public Works. I was disappointed that the illustration fails to recognise County Monaghan. It is included in the map, but they have decided to rename it as Armagh, which is very disappointing. Some may see the humour in that, but it is very disappointing that counties such as Monaghan, Cavan and others along the Border which do their best to attract tourists find that Departments let the side down.

With the 4.5% VAT increase in the budget, people in the Border counties are very disappointed with the outlook. Tourist figures have increased by 5% countrywide, but if we drill down, we see that in the six southern Border counties the figure has decreased by 12% and 16% in some cases. The Government talks about preparing for Brexit, but Brexit has been with us in the Border counties for quite some time and we deal with it daily. We are trying to cushion business from the effects, but the VAT blow for the hospitality sector is very serious and the reasons for doing it fail me. I appreciate that the Government has to find revenue, but surely the sensible thing to do, with Brexit on the horizon, would be to stall the process until we see what happens. I highlight my disappointment at the Border counties being forgotten yet again and ask the Leader to ask his colleagues in the Cabinet to consider that the Border counties are in a unique position and deserve to be treated differently from the rest of the country.

I mark International Day of the Girl and welcome all the girls in the Gallery. It is appropriate that it is nearly all girls who are here. My issue has been raised by a female constituent, though not alone as many others have raised it too. On 3 September Iarnród Éireann decided to change its timetables and since then has become utterly unreliable. It used to be a service by which one could set a clock and we were very proud of our commuter train service, but in the past month it has been reliable in only one aspect, which is that it is continually late. This is causing commuters from Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush, Lusk and Donabate to miss meetings in town and children to have to wait until late to be picked up from their crèches.

It is a cause of great anger to people living in Fingal that they pay their taxes and fares which are more expensive than DART fares, yet they are late. One ludicrous excuse I was given was that it was because of leaves on the line. We are very proud of our parks, trees and countryside in Fingal, but we are pretty certain there are trees and parks on the south side of the city too and we do not see any problem there or on the west side. I was asked to raise this issue by my constituents and Councillor Tom O'Leary who has also received numerous emails. The problem is caused by congestion on the line with DART trains and the fact that the commuter train is not given precedence, which means that people are regularly ten or 11 minutes late. That means a 30-minute journey becomes a 40-minute or a 41-minute journey, which represents a 33% increase in the time of travel. It makes making connections in town unreliable and means that it is difficult to make commitments.

We have a huge number of people who want to use public transport who do serious business. We have people working in Google, solicitors, barristers and all kinds of businesspeople and others who have commitments in town. They cannot make plans because the trains have become utterly unreliable since 3 September.

I urge the Leader to ask the Minister to contact Iarnród Éireann to find out what the problem is. If the Minister cannot have the matter corrected, he needs to come into this House, take his portfolio and responsibilities seriously and explain to us why commuters in Dublin north, Fingal, are being discommoded in this fashion.

I remind Senators that at this stage slots are two minutes' each and that only the leaders have three minutes.

I want to speak about the autism assistance dogs programme provided by Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland. Yesterday we learned about the programme at a presentation given in the AV Room in Leinster House. The programme has transformed the lives of children with autism and that of their families. The organisation trains and provides highly skilled, task-specific assistance dogs for children with autism who struggle with the sometimes distressing elements of this invisible disability.

We know that one in 65 children in Ireland has autism. Yesterday at the presentation we heard from some of the families whose lives have been transformed as a result of getting one of the dogs. Edel talked about her son, Jack, who is 14 years of age. He has a complex brain disorder, which means that he has no sense of rule awareness or danger. He is also hypersensitive to noise, which means that he cannot decipher sounds. His mother described taking her son shopping as being equivalent to him experiencing a full-on assault and complete meltdown because of the noise and lights. She described the additional stress caused by what she called the "tutting brigade". She meant the people who looked disapprovingly and judged parents for allowing their children to behave in such a way. All of this meant that the family stayed at home and did not participate in normal activities. She said their assistance dog called Thorpe had given them the confidence to walk out of their front door again. She also said people became aware that there was an issue, not a spoiled child throwing a tantrum.

A woman called Sue who is the mother of Gearóid described how getting their dog, Ruby, had transformed their lives from feeling like they lived in a coffin to being able to live full and active lives. A man called T.J. who is the father of a girl named Rebecca described how a great trust had grown between his daughter and her assistance dog called Bella. He said an assistance dog provided a link between a child with autism and other children in the same way that a guide dog did.

The bottom line is that Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland needs funding. The organisation has achieved full international accreditation, but there are 200 children on its waiting list. The organisation wants to train 20 dogs this year, but it costs €22,000 to train just one dog. This week we have all heard about the billions of euro in the budget. Surely, funding for this organisation should be a priority for the Government. I ask for the support of the House in trying to obtain a small bit of funding amounting to €500,000 to fund the very valuable work done by the charity.

On International Day of the Girl, I was lucky enough to be in Benin in west Africa. The trip highlighted for me the role played by women and young girls in developing countries. A credit union had been established and it was the first time dividends were being paid. All of the women who collected their dividends did so in order to educate their young children. The credit union initiative is working in places in west Africa and across the African continent and means that women are more empowered in certain countries than in others. I urge people here to take heed and learn that lesson.

I want to talk about the €17 billion-----

The Senator has only one minute left.

I will be as brief as possible. If the Leas-Chathaoirleach keeps interrupting me, my time will be shorter still.


I urge the Leas-Chathaoirleach not to accept such a reply.

Order, please. I call for respect to be shown to the Chair.

Senator Lawlor has less time now.

I want to talk about the €17 billion plus that has been allocated to the health service. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the matter. I ask him first to arrange a debate on the excess of €700 million that was overspent by the HSE last year and where that money was spent. We should have a debate on why in my community health region there was a 100% increase in the number of people waiting for home care packages and why we did not get any of that €700 million.

I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to discuss the health service plan before it is announced by the HSE, thus enabling us to have an input into the plan. We should also consider why there has been an increase of 12,000 in the number of staff in the HSE since 2014, which is more people than in the entire armed forces.

I would also like to have a discussion on the capital side of the health service plan in order that we know what is happening around the place, whether it is in our constituency or other constituencies.

I ask the Leader to invite the Minister or someone senior to facilitate a debate on health spending.

I remind Senators that is it only lead spokespersons who are allowed to discuss two items on the Order of Business. All other Senators are really only allowed to raise one item. I just want to remind Members of that.

Senator Lawlor has ambitions to be a leader.

When Senators are addressing matters, I urge them to get to their main item straightaway because they are really only allowed to raise one.


I just wanted to remind the House.

I echo the comments made by a previous Senator about public transport and certainly in terms of Irish Rail. We do need reliable rail transport. When a person boards a train, he or she should have a reasonable expectation to arrive on time, no matter whether it is on the northside or the southside of the city. Above all, what we need is investment in public transport. We need reliable public transport. If we are going to reduce carbon emissions, we need a proper public service. Above all, we need a Minister who cares about transport, not just about granny grants. We need a Minister who cares about transport, not just about judicial appointments.

Above all, we need a Minister who will concentrate on his brief and provide a proper public transport service for the country. I call on my colleagues in the Government and Fine Gael to try to ensure we get Ministers who care about their portfolios, not about everything else. What is happening across the country in areas ranging from the carbon tax to public transport and the fodder crisis is that we have Ministers who do not really matter and do not really care about their portfolios.

Senator Humphreys was a Minister of State.

Senator Humphreys has only mentioned one Minister. He said "Ministers," plural.

I want to say a couple of things about the budget. I welcome the introduction by the Government of one stage approval by councils when it comes to building new, affordable and mainly social homes. I think it was led through discussions involving Deputies Cowen and Michael McGrath. Every council in the country now has a fund of €6 million and does not have to ask the Government or go further than the county manager. That is the least amount the councils have to spend. I want to know the timeframe and, most importantly, what procedures will be put in place to ensure county managers, with the help of their councillors, identify sites and build houses on them as soon as possible. The initiative should streamline the process. The councils do not have to go looking for the moneys and the fund is available to spend immediately. The initiative should speed up the process, but I am keen to learn more about the procedures.

Yesterday there was almost a 50% increase in VAT for hotels and restaurants announced in the budget. The rate of 9% VAT has been increased to 13.5%. The increase was very extreme. a slower increase spanning a couple of budgets would have been the way forward, particularly in rural Ireland. As the Leader knows, rural Ireland will suffer the most from the increase. As trade in the bigger establishments in Dublin is booming and thriving, they will not be as badly affected as rural restaurants and hotels, as outlined by the Restaurants Association of Ireland and the Irish Hotels Federation. Hotels and restaurants in provincial towns will be massively affected by the increase in VAT.

It will definitely cost jobs. Since 2011 the hospitality sector has provided an extra 65,000 jobs and this will certainly do some harm in that area.

I acknowledge and salute the fact that this is International Day of the Girl, but I wish to point out that it is also World Sight Day, which helps to raise awareness of issues of blindness and visual impairment. It is a fact that four out of every five people in this country who lose their sight do so unnecessarily. I appeal to people on World Sight Day to have their eyesight checked. Once a person turns 50 years, he or she should have his or her eyes checked, preferably every year but certainly every two years. There are opticians throughout the country who are exceptionally well qualified, very professional and very dedicated to what they do. They can perform an eye check on someone very quickly and will make a referral if there is an issue. The easiest way to ensure people retain their eyesight is by having it checked and dealing quickly with whatever issues might arise. Time is of the essence.

I request of the Leader that we have a debate with the Minister for Health in this Chamber at some stage in the not too distant future on the subject of sight loss. It is worrying that we have too many people on waiting lists for cataract surgery and other eye related care. We should always strive to reduce and ultimately eliminate any significant waiting list in this area because the use of their eyes is something many people take for granted, but those of us who do not have full eyesight would never take it for granted.

I wish to talk about young people in the context of the budget and express my disappointment that those who are under the age of 26 have yet again been left out in the cold. From March, those aged 18 to 24 years will receive €112.70 and those aged 25, €157.80, while everyone else will receive €203 a week. The financial disparity in this measure is frightfully ageist. It treats as children those who are legally adults and have adult financial responsibilities. This discrimination creates a poverty trap which the likes of Focus Ireland have stated is one of the biggest contributors to youth homelessness. We should remember that youth unemployment is double the overall rate. I call on the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to come to this House. She boasted about a €361.6 million expenditure increase in the social welfare budget. This could have been catered for on a phased basis.

We should also remember that every €1 spent on youth services saves the State €2.20 in the long run. Youth work took a 31% cut during the crisis. It still has not benefited from the recovery. Yesterday the National Youth Council of Ireland expressed its disappointment at the Government's announcement of just €1.5 million in additional funding for youth services. In the youth work sector we are talking about 1,400 staff supported by 40,000 volunteers and supporting 380,000 young people. With further resources, youth organisations could make an even greater contribution towards addressing issues of youth unemployment, social exclusion and poverty. There will be a growing demand for these services as the youth population hits 1 million by 2025.

Like my colleague, Senator Conway-Walsh, I attended yesterday evening the presentation in the audiovisual room on autism assistance dogs, which was arranged by our colleague Deputy Cahill. Like other colleagues from this and the Lower House who attended, I was very impressed by the positive impact the dogs have not only on young people in improving the way they live their lives but also on their families. Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland made a very emotional presentation on how the dogs had transformed the lives of their children and made a plea that €500,000 be put aside annually for the training of 20 dogs. Even though the organisation has more than 250 young people on a waiting list, this is all it is requesting the State provide. Until now, the dogs have been provided by charitable organisations. I very much support the call for this money to be provided annually.

I support my colleague Senator Gallagher in his comments on tourism, particularly on the neglect of the part of the country from which we come, namely, the Cavan-Monaghan area, and the midlands. We are part of a tourism promotional area called Ireland's Ancient East, even though we are in the midlands and, in the case of counties Cavan and Leitrim, veering towards the west. While some other regions that have been designated have had huge success, I think we are entitled to a specially designated tourism area covering the north midlands.

I thank the 15 Members of the House for their contributions on the Order of Business. I will begin by again paying tribute to Emma Mhic Mhathúna, to whom Senator Bacik and other Members referred, to the other lady who died, to all victims of cancer and to all the victims of the CervicalCheck screening programme. As Senator Byrne said, Dr. Scally was before the Joint Committee on Health yesterday. It is imperative that answers be given and that accountability be the order of the day. No words can adequately condemn the way in which women have been treated in the cervical cancer screening debacle. The real terms are that Emma Mhic Mhathúna should not be where she is today. She should still be very much with us. We must all put in place a process such that this will never happen again.

On International Day of the Girl, it is important to acknowledge the day, support and empower young women across the world and in our own country and help them to overcome adversity, as many Senators said. UNICEF estimates that 600 million young girls will start work in the next decade. It is important that we provide for these young women to have the tools to develop and reach their full potential not only in their professional lives but also in their personal lives. As Senator Lawlor rightly said, there are young women across the world who are living in absolute poverty and being treated abysmally and appallingly. It is our duty and job, not only as legislators but also as citizens, to ensure as we celebrate so proudly Votáil 100, on which I again commend Senator Bacik and all those involved, gender should not be about repression, denial or discrimination. We must all work to ensure, on International Day of the Girl, women will take their rightful place in all nations of the world.

Senator Ardagh raised the issue of broadband. The Government is committed to the national broadband plan. To support the plan, €87 million has been put in place, in addition to cybersecurity measures and the promotion of digital skills among small businesses and citizens.

It is important to recognise that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, and the Government are determined to have the national broadband plan unfurled. It is also important to recognise, as Senator Ardagh rightly said, that funding is required by many small and medium enterprises nationally. That is why the national broadband plan is so important to the Government and it is being rolled out across the country under the programme for Government. To provide the House with some figures, I note that in April last year Eir signed a commitment agreement with the Department on its plan to provide high speed broadband for 300,000 premises in rural areas on a commercial basis. The commitment signed between the Minister and Eir does not reflect the limit but rather is a beginning. Equally, the intervention strategy of the Government for download speeds is one we are committed to seeing through. We all acknowledge that broadband is now a necessity in rural Ireland. I hope that in the lifetime of the Government we will see the plan brought to fruition.

I note in response to Senator Victor Boyhan that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government will attend the House next week to discuss the issue of housing. The matter of the Land Development Agency will, I am sure, form part of that discussion. I hope the Charleton report will be published today. I have not had sight of it, but I certainly hope, as many of us on this side of the House said at the time, that it will find that a good woman, namely, Deputy Fitzgerald, was hounded from ministerial office by many here who called on her to go. They were looking, as Senator Boyhan said, for a political head. I hope the report will exonerate her.

I thank Senator Black for her commitment to support the passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which is landmark legislation. I commend our colleague and friend Senator Reilly who, as Minister for Health, brought forward the Bill with the former Minister of State, Alex White, following its gestation in committee. Yesterday it was passed under the Minister, Deputy Harris. It is very important to understand the Government is committed to tackling the misuse of alcohol in Ireland.

Senator Ivana Bacik raised a number of matters, including the equality proofing of budgets. The Committee on Budgetary Oversight is producing a report which is imminent. On foot of its publication, I will be happy to have a debate in the House on this important matter.

The Senator also referred to climate change. I do not want to repeat my remarks in the last couple of days, but climate change is the global challenge of this and the next generation. It is important in the post-budget debate to discuss things sensibly and with a view to creating a long-term plan, rather than have a short or medium-term reaction to two very important reports. The national development plan commits to spending €1 of every €5 on climate change measures. On the issue of sustainability, the Department's new climate change action fund of €500 million will support a broad range of innovative projects. It will also help Ireland to address its climate change and energy targets. I accept, however, that we have a road to travel. I refer to the Minister's comments in the Budget Statement on the Paris Agreement commitments.

I always hear Senator Humphreys when he embarks on his daily mantra against the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross. I acknowledge that the Senator has to be that adversarial politician at times, but it is becoming a little like the Abbey, or perhaps it is like the Gaiety or the Opera House in Cork. We will soon be in pantomime season and telling the Senator, "He's behind you," to which he will reply, "Oh no, he's not." Deputy Shane Ross is the line Minister with responsibility for transport-----

And Garda stations.

And judicial appointments.

-----and overseeing new investment in public transport.

All Senators will have an opportunity.

The Minister is implementing an ambitious public transport plan for the types of vehicle we use.

Has the Leader ever heard of Dickie Rock?

I did not hear what Senator Diarmuid Wilson said.

I ask the Leader to respond, without interruption. We are trying to get through the business ordered.

The term "eunuch" comes to mind, but I will not paraphrase what Deputy Barry Cowen said.

We are not giving out any address.

The Government has set an ambitious plan to have all new cars in 2030 zero-emissions capable. It is one of the most ambitious plans in Europe. Budget 2019 introduces a 1% VRT surcharge for new and imported diesel cars, in addition to an investment of €13 million in support of the use of electric vehicles. It also provides for the extension of VRT relief for hybrid cars to the end of 2019 and the 0% benefit-in-kind rate for electric vehicles for a further three years. In addition, there will be increased investment in public transport under Project Ireland 2040. I will be happy to have another debate on Project Ireland 2040 to remind Members opposite of what the Government is committed to doing in capital investment terms.

In addition, an investment of €9 million is being made to improve the public lighting network which will cut lighting costs for local authorities by 50%. All new buses bought for Bus Éireann which covers rural Ireland and Dublin Bus will be low emissions vehicles. I repeat for Senator Kevin Humphreys that the Government is committed to ensuring no further coal will be burned at Moneypoint after 2025. These are just some of the things we are doing in the budget to tackle climate change.

It is the things the Government is not doing that are important.

As I said in the last couple of days and will say again-----

The Leader does not have to. I do not want anybody to repeat anything.

On climate change, the Leader could contribute by speaking less.

I call for order and the Leader to speak, without interruption.

That is the best suggestion Senator Wilson has made all day.

I agree fully with Senator Bacik on the need for freedom of the press and to support members of the media in reporting unhindered and having access to institutions. We can never condemn in anything other than the strongest terms the deaths of journalists or interference with their work. We have had a tragic case this week, as outlined by the Senator. It is reprehensible. We cherish having a free and independent press. We may not like some of the things journalists write, but that is their prerogative. I hope the Saudi Arabian journalist who is missing in Turkey will be found safe and well because we must at all times uphold the freedom of the press.

Senator Robbie Gallagher mentioned Ireland's Ancient East. My understanding is it is Fáilte Ireland, not the Government, that engages in the relevant promotional activities. To be fair to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Heather Humphreys, she is doing a great job in championing County Monaghan, as Senator Reilly is doing with County Cavan being part of his brief. I am sure he is ably assisted by Senator Diarmuid Wilson. I am not familiar with the issue Senator Gallagher raised, but I did a quick check on Google on which I found images of County Monaghan and many other parts of Ireland's Ancient East. If the Senator has an issue, it might be best to communicate with Fáilte Ireland or raise it by way of a Commencement matter.

It is important to recognise, as Senator Davitt noted, the importance of the tourism sector. As the Leas-Chathaoirleach knows well, coming from beauty's home in Killarney, the tourism industry had the benefit of a temporary measure for seven years. The former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, introduced the measure to create jobs in a sector which now has 235,000 people in employment, while visitor numbers are at an all-time high. What we must now do is ensure Ireland is marketed properly, including the areas to which Senator Davitt referred where there are insufficient numbers of visitors.

That is why there is an increase of over €35 million in the budget for the tourism offering. That is for the purpose of allowing us to better manage the industry's success of recent years. There is a sting for members of Retail Excellence Ireland and those involved the restaurant sector. People do not want high prices. The sector can refer to myriad costs that have increased, but we must get the balance right. I will be happy to have a debate on this issue.

I commend the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Griffin, on securing extra moneys for tourism promotion. The moneys realised from the increase in the VAT rate will go towards investment in housing, healthcare and other public services.

I just want to clarify the matter for the Leader. Restaurants, with the Restaurants Association of Ireland, have been responsible regarding the rate, but other tourism sectors may have not been as much.

I think some of it is correct, but in certain places-----

I cannot allow in other speakers. The Leader should reply through the Chair.

Gabh mo leithscéal, a Chathaoirligh. In certain places prices are unacceptably high. We must give value for money.

I will support the restaurant sector across the board.

Senator Reilly referred to changes to the Iarnród Éireann timetable. I do not have the relevant information to hand, but it is important to acknowledge that there is a need to bring balance to timetabling. I support Senator Reilly in that regard.

Senators Conway-Walsh and Wilson referred to autism assistance dogs. Irish Guide Dogs in Cork has a similar scheme. It is a wonderful initiative to provide support for people. I congratulate those involved in Clonakilty on their autism-friendly approach and making it a better place in which to live. I will be happy for the Minister responsible to attend the House for a debate on the matter.

Senator Lawlor referred to the €17 billion health budget. There is a need for accountability and a debate on the service plan. Yesterday I said there was no accountability or questioning of executives. I hope that will happen in the future.

We all welcome the amount of money allocated for housing in the budget. It is important to recognise it. We want to see people living in their own homes.

Senator Conway mentioned that this was World Sight Day and that four out of every five people who lost their sight lost it unnecessarily. More work needs to be done to raise awareness of this issue. It is important that people go to their optician to have their eyesight checked.

Senator Warfield referred to the disparity in the youth part of the budget. To be fair to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, she has seen an increase in the budgets for youth work, childcare and a package to tackle child poverty. The point the Senator made about the social protection budget was about activation measures and people being able to find a job. We will be happy to have a debate on the matter in due course.

The current forecast for Storm Callum warns of 130 km/h winds that will pose a risk to life and property. I hope people will take care and check on their elderly neighbours. A clear code warning has been issued by Met Éireann. I hope the emergency services will be assisted by people in not taking risks but in being cautious.

Order of Business agreed to.