The Order of Business is No. 1, Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 - Report Stage (resumed) and Final Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and adjourned at 3 p.m., if not previously concluded, or to resume at the conclusion of No. 4; No. 2, Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 3 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes each and all other Senators not to exceed six minutes each; and No. 3, Private Members' business, First Aid and Mental Health in Schools (Initial Teacher Training) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, to be taken with No. 4, First Aid and Mental Health in Schools (Existing Teachers) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. or at the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later, and decided separately, with the time allocated for the debate not to exceed two hours.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I will try to adhere to the Cathaoirleach's clarification of the existing rules which I appreciate. As somebody who is quite often in the Chair, I will try to stick to my three minutes and abide by the rules as best I can. I wish everyone a happy new year; although it is 23 January, it is my first time to speak on the Order of Business this year, given that we are only back since yesterday. I also want to congratulate the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach and everybody involved with Monday's events. I will not dwell on it but it was a good day and a nice commemoration of the first sitting of the First Dáil.
I will try to stick to the three minutes allocated to me as acting group leader. It is not possible to stand today without addressing the continuing saga of Brexit as it unfolds. It is a serious matter, as we all know, and coming at us with only 65 days until 29 March. We had the Minister here last night and, to be fair to him, he spoke well on much of what is going on. I am supportive of him but there were various reactions on Twitter this morning to a certain Cabinet Minister on radio which did not augur well. I have a lot of time and respect for the man in question but we have to get real and be honest with the people about all of the possibilities. We want a deal. I would prefer if the United Kingdom was staying in the EU but it does not seem to want to do that or have a second referendum. The UK Government and Prime Minister are certainly not in favour of that but it would be better if they did so. We need to be honest with the people about what plans are in place. I am sure there are plans in place because I do not believe we cannot have plans in place. The EU Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said, of course, there would be a hard border if there was no deal as there had to be a border between a non-EU territory and an EU territory. That was possibly a very honest statement but we need to know. We need the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and other Ministers here probably almost daily; even though they have many other things to be doing, they need to share their plans on transport, agriculture, trade and every aspect of the economy and society with us.
I also want to touch on the impending nurses' strike. Notices have gone out cancelling certain elective procedures and appointments that are dependent on nurses on these particular days. I understand the Workplace Relations Commission talks are taking place today but I urge the Minister, the nursing organisations and the Government generally to examine this issue carefully, take on board the concerns of the nurses and look at exactly what they are looking for. The last thing we need, in January in particular but at any time of the year, is a nurses' strike that affects patients.
I refer to mobile phones. A survey in a recent Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, report has found that 40% of children own a mobile phone by the age of nine years, which astonished me. As a result, 84% of primary schools have had to implement strategies dealing with mobile phones, while 68% of schools state they have encountered problems as a result of smartphone and social media use during the school day. We all know that technology can be beneficial but we need to examine this issue. Maybe the Minister for Education and Skills would come here at some point to tell us what policies he is putting in place in order to ensure people do not experience workplace bullying. I think I stuck within my three minutes.
The Senator had ten seconds to spare.
As most in this House are aware, I have been an advocate for the rights of Irish emigrants, particularly to the US, for several decades and during that time our campaign has seen many highs, with many lows. I would like to update the House on the Irish situation.
In 2007 we were close to nationwide immigration reform that would have protected the undocumented Irish and potentially closed off the divisive debates currently occupying the immigration scene in the United States. In 2013 Democrats and Republicans came together and many put their careers on the line to settle the issue of immigration reform once and for all, again in a manner that would have helped the Irish undocumented and all the undocumented across the United States. This also fell at the final furlong. In 2018, at the end of the congressional term in the US Senate, our fight faced another setback, this time in our campaign to get Ireland 5,000 or so US non-immigrant E3 working visas. Where we succeeded in what was then a Republican controlled House of Representatives, we failed in a Republican controlled Senate. In the end, however, my experience in this long campaign is that our fight for improved rights and conditions for immigrants has been a progressive one, even if that progression has been all too slow. The principle however, that the question of Irish immigrants can be dealt with across both party aisles, in the lifetime of this administration has now been firmly established.
As many in this House will recognise, sometimes one's greatest rivals in politics are those from within one's own party. On this occasion, Ireland got caught in the middle of an internal Republican Party dogfight. Like this House, the US Senate has its own Standing Orders and rules and Senator Cotton of Arkansas was able to place a hold on the E3 visa legislation, thereby avoiding a debate and a subsequent vote, which would have succeeded if it had been placed on the floor. The reason Senator Cotton prevented a vote on the floor was because a piece of legislation which he sponsored on immigration had been blocked by Senator Grassley from his own party and we became the fall guy in this dispute. In short, the timing was not right. Speaker Paul Ryan, a man who was opposed by the right wing element of his own party for his perceived progressive stance on immigration, was willing on his way out of public life to try to achieve the granting of the surplus E3 visas for the Irish. This shows that Congressmen and Senators of every creed and hue, can be persuaded by the Irish cause.
This legislation was not about the undocumented Irish and it was not about amnesty. It was about creating a level playing field for Irish people looking to work in the United States, by increasing from 1,200 to over 5,000 the number of Irish people who could come to work legally in the US. Ireland is, in fact, comparatively low to other nations in the number of visas we receive every year and this would have equalised the situation, through benefiting from the unused E3 visas that the Australians received. We will keep this fight alive as we always have and I am convinced that within the next two years of this congressional term, through bipartisanship, we can achieve solutions for Ireland and use that success to build momentum towards the bigger causes of the undocumented Irish and wider immigration reform in the United States.
Is the Senator calling for a debate in the House on the matter?
Today I want to talk about the new Bill that will be introduced by my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, in the Dáil tomorrow. It is the no consent, no sale Bill and its central message is quite simple but fundamental. A loan secured by a mortgage on a residential property may not be transferred without the written consent of the borrower. That is already in the voluntary code of conduct to which the banks are supposed to adhere. Several years ago Deputy Noonan said it should be best practice among all of the banks, yet the flouting of this principle has left some families in limbo and many more worried about the future. The Bill aims to place control back into the hands of customers.
A mortgage is the most important product most people will purchase in their lives and it is a commitment over many years that requires people to be able to plan and budget for unforeseen circumstances. Many of the mortgages that are being sold off are performing. They might be interest rate only mortgages or mortgages where deals have been struck with the banks; to all intents and purposes, all of these consumers rightfully think they have performing mortgages because they are in constant contact with the banks. They are not the small cohort of people who refuse to pay their mortgages, they are those who are doing their best. There may be those who, because of the recklessness of the same banking institutions, lost their jobs in the recession and now on top of the banks being instrumental in them losing their jobs and the downturn in the economy, the same banks are coming back and selling off what is most treasured to them to vulture funds, namely, their home and mortgage.
That cannot be allowed happen. The Bill will ensure this cannot happen without the consent of the borrower. The banks paid no corporation tax for many years; they charge interest rates which are well in excess of the European Central Bank rates and as the vulture funds they sell to have charitable status, they pay minimal tax. I encourage all parties and all Members of this House to show whose side they are on and show up at the audiovisual room this afternoon at 2 p.m. when my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty and David Hall and Carly Bailey will give full details of the Bill. I ask the Minister for Finance to come to the House to have a full discussion on vulture funds and the behaviour of the banks.
I am pretty sour and annoyed this morning. I took a call at about 9.30 p.m. last night from a young man, a wheelchair user. He had been looking for me since 8.30 p.m. He has a job, one of the minority in a minority in that respect. He uses a powered wheelchair which he requires because he is significantly physically disabled. His wheelchair broke down. The Health Service Executive, HSE, has a contract with a company which I will not name to provide an out-of-hours emergency service. He rang the number he should ring a couple of times but got no answer. He rang another number that he had used before for the out-of-hours service and talked to somebody he knew. He told them the battery in his wheelchair was dead. The response, while understanding, was that nothing could be done about it as it was not an emergency. That is what the man reported to me. Luckily, he was within ten or 15 minutes walk of his home. His 77 year old mother and sister came to his aid. How can something like that happen and how can somebody say so easily this was not an emergency? I do not know what I am calling for this morning in this case but it is a wake-up call for us. Something needs to happen and I will certainly follow up the matter.
The Democratic Programme of the first Dáil states:
The Irish Republic fully realises the necessity of abolishing the present odious, degrading and foreign Poor Law System, substituting therefor a sympathetic native scheme for the care of the Nation's aged and infirm, who shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation's gratitude and consideration.
"Infirm" was as politically correct a term as could be used 100 years ago and I thank the writers of the document for that. More commonly people referred to imbeciles, cripples and the deaf and dumb. Our language has moved on but the young man to whom I referred was left stranded. The final thing he said to me was that what really bothered him was that this would happen to others. He said he at least could use his voice and make telephone calls but what about somebody who cannot or somebody who is caught in the middle of nowhere?
We are all aware that we need water to live, thrive and survive. I commend the progress being made in developing water infrastructure following decades of neglect by previous Governments.
Irish Water has a planning application before Westmeath County Council for a raw water intake works and a water treatment plant at Portaneena outside Athlone. While I understand why we need a new water source and I am not necessarily against the proposal to take the water from Lough Rea, I am concerned that the planned extraction point in Portaneena is the wrong one and will have a serious long-term effect on the environment and the local amenity. Irish Water should change its plan and instead take the water from the main lake.
As a child I spent a lot of time on and around the river in this area and know it well. The unique nature of the area makes it unsuitable for an abstraction point. It is not ideal to put a large industrial-style facility in an idyllic location which is availed of by tourists and locals alike. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to the House to have a debate on the procedures used by Irish Water in circumstances such as this? Will he use his good offices to ask the Minister to direct Irish Water to consult meaningfully local stakeholders before proceeding any further with the work at Portaneena? Irish Water has already lodged one planning application which was turned down as inappropriate without any meaningful consultation. It must now take stock before trying to railroad through another plan which is likely to be contested and flawed, costing us all in money, time and biodiversity.
I was staggered to read over Christmas that 47 days after being issued a hospital bill for cancer patients who do not have a medical card or private health insurance for inpatient charges of up to €800 had not been paid. After a year of treatment such as chemotherapy or radium therapy, the patient is referred to a debt collection agency under HSE policy. Cancer has taken over from heart disease as the most common cause of death in Ireland. We are sending debt collectors to patients' houses. That is unacceptable and heartless.
Children younger than 18 years who have been diagnosed with cancer within the past five years are automatically entitled to a medical card. The HSE has a system in place for the provision of emergency medical cards for patients who are terminally ill, in palliative care or are seriously ill and in urgent need of medical care that they cannot afford. They are issued within 24 hours of receipt of the required patient details and the letter confirming the condition from a doctor or medical consultant. All cancer patients, regardless of prognosis, should be automatically approved for a similar medical card. Cancer patients can be given a discretionary medical card but there are no common rules for applying for discretion and there are serious delays in the application system. My office is dealing with an incredible number of patients who are finding it extremely difficult to get approval. Meanwhile, hospitals do not apply the same delay and send demand letters promptly.
When patients receive a diagnosis of cancer, they should never see a bill for their treatment. We should be able to assist people to access treatment abroad without their having to resort to loan sharks, crowd-funding or begging. This is a very serious issue. There are many people who are sick with cancer who are constantly fighting for medical cards but they are not getting them. We need to address the money issue because it all boils down to money. Access to medical cards depends on what applicants are earning. If they are barely over the limit, they get no help. Every cancer patient should have a medical card. I will raise this matter with the Minister for Health. I have raised it with him before but so many people called my office over Christmas that I became very concerned. We need to address this issue.
That seems to be a matter that would be worth raising in the Commencement debate. It depends on what the Leader says.
I endorse everything Senator Lawless said about the E3 visa legislation and commend and thank him. We in this House owe him and others in both Houses of the Oireachtas a debt of gratitude. It is important work which is continuing. I can see why the Taoiseach of the day appointed Senator Lawless. I wish him well in that work and hope we can use our connections to push the matter along.
I thank the Leader for agreeing to arrange for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, to come here in early February to discuss Bethany Home. When I spoke yesterday, I was not fully aware of the debate that had taken place in the Dáil and the numerous politicians and Senators who had engaged with the media since yesterday afternoon on this issue. It is a shame that this group of people has been excluded from the redress scheme, for whatever reason. Over half of the people I first met from Bethany Home ten or 15 years ago are now dead. Before Christmas I met two of them outside Leinster House. They are looking for an apology. I understand from today's newspapers that some form of an apology is due shortly. There should be an acknowledgement that people who were in care in the State were hurt and betrayed, regardless of who maintained or cared for them and reneged in that regard.
As a state we should step up to the plate. I again acknowledge the words of An Taoiseach in the Mansion House on Monday when he alluded to these issues. I ask everyone in this House to use his or her contacts and efforts to allow the people concerned to have an opportunity to tell their story in the final days of their lives. It is important that people be believed, allowed to tell their story and given redress. Why do we in this country continue to go on and force people to go through terrible pain to be believed? We need to do something about that. I thank the Leader for facilitating and arranging for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to come to the House to discuss the issue in more detail.
I refer to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which we passed in this House on 10 October 2018. It is important legislation that will I hope change our outlook on alcohol. I raise the issue in the light of statements that have been made in the press in recent days on taxi loads of students and others turning up at early houses in Cork city at 7 a.m. It is a an issue. Our affinity with alcohol must be addressed, in particular cheap alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences.
I took issue with the Bill but I always supported the minimum pricing of alcohol as it would put a base price on alcohol, something we have long needed to do. The Bill must be enacted because we must put a base price on alcohol to prevent situations such as those witnessed in recent weeks such as the so-called Christmas Day celebrations in November, freshers' weeks and rag weeks, among others, when large volumes of cheap alcohol make it onto the streets mainly through off-licences and supermarkets. The issue must be addressed. The way we decided to do it was through minimum pricing and that tool was to put a floor price on alcohol. We need the legislation to be enacted because society needs the measures it contains to be put in place.
It is frightening that in some places alcohol is cheaper than water. That is crazy. One can also buy alcohol cheaper than milk. That is not right. It is a real problem for society. We need to change what we are doing and address the issue. The Bill has the ability to do so. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to come to the House to discuss the status of the Bill in having it signed into law. I realise there is a European dimension to the issue. Perhaps we could move away from the concerns in that regard and enact the other elements of the legislation in order to provide for a better society.
I was contacted during the week by members of the deaf community about funding for the Irish Deaf Society. Despite a promised decision on funding by the HSE in November, the society has yet to hear of a decision and there has been no indication of when a decision on funding will be made, good or bad. The Irish Deaf Society is now unable to make key business decisions. The HSE and the Government are fully aware of the situation and, what is more worrying, not acting. They are, therefore, risking the closure of the service. I was informed earlier that the society would cancel classes from the end of February. That will be the first operational decision it will make that acknowledges the lack of funding and, as we go into the next month, it will be more and more difficult to reverse inevitable actions.
The deaf community is planning protests, while the Irish Deaf Society is planning for the closure of the much needed services of the organisation at large. Given that this House initiated and endorsed Senator Mark Daly's Bill to give Irish Sign Language official recognition and that the legislation has been signed into law, in addition to the fact that the State is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we should reflect on the fact that having ratified rights for the deaf and hearing impaired community, we are still failing to provide vital services to facilitate these rights. I call on the Leader to see if the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, could come into the House to discuss the issue as soon as possible because the longer the situation continues the greater the risk that will be posed to core services.
Yesterday I complimented all of the staff and the people involved in the centenary of the first sitting of the First Dáil on Monday. I am a firm believer Ireland should have more association with the Commonwealth of Nations. That would help when 70% of the people born on the island of Ireland reside in commonwealth countries. What difficulty do we have in that regard? I was heartened to find in the booklet I received on the day of the centenary that the Democratic Programme stated:
We declare in the words of the Irish Republican Proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first President. Pádraig Mac Phiarais, we declare that the Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation"
It goes on to state: "We affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the Commonwealth". What happened since that time? In 1949, under the then Government, Ireland was declared to be a republic. That was great and welcome but in doing so Ireland was ineligible for membership of the Commonwealth. The rules were amended two weeks later to allow the Republic of Ireland to remain, in the same way as India and South Africa, but in our stubbornness we decided that it was not for us. The Government declared the Republic of Ireland Act which effectively recognised the state of Northern Ireland. As Éamon de Valera rightly said, by being a member of the Commonwealth, we had a foot in both camps. Now is the time to stand by the words of the First Dáil in 1919 and say we affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the Commonwealth. It is not Senator Frank Feighan who is saying it but the people who set up the State in the first Parliament of this country. We should have an open and frank debate about the merits of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth of Nations, not the British Commonwealth. It has been the Commonwealth of Nations since 1951. There are 31 republics among the 53 countries in it. This is a republic of which we should be proud.
I ask the Leader to allow for a debate in the near future on tourism. It is important to have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, here to discuss provision in the coming months in the event that there is a hard Brexit or in the light of whatever happens in the UK. There are many issues, ranging from sterling to ports and airports that will have a bearing on this country in the area of tourism. We should debate the issue with the Minister in the House. Tourism is important to the economy; it is one of the greatest contributors to it. Tourism bodies are anxious about what might happen. There could well be delays at ports and there are question marks over flights in and out of the UK, one of our largest tourism markets. I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister to come to the House at an early stage.
I call on the Minister, or rather the Leader, to respond. I almost elevated him to being a Minister.
I am not sure what that means.
I thank the 12 Members of the House for their contributions on the Order of Business. On foot of your opening remarks, a Chathaoirligh, on my own behalf as Leader of the House and behalf of all Members, I commend you on your discretion, fairness, flexibility and good humour. Those who criticise you for your manner of chairing do you and your office a disservice because I greatly appreciate your impartiality. You do not agree with everything the Government states or does but you maintain the integrity of the office that you hold with the utmost respect. I cherish and value your impartiality, courtesy and absolute integrity. I ask all Members to respect you as Chair.
You have a tough task at times but carry it out in a manner that is fair to everybody. Some Members who criticise you should reflect on their own behaviour because it does a disservice to the House when one's impartiality is questioned. I know that you did not ask for commentary on it but it is important that Members recognise the value of the Chair. The former Cathaoirleach Senator Paddy Burke was the same when he was in the Chair. Keeping 59 other Members in check is not an easy job, never mind Ministers who come here. Members should reflect on their contributions, especially on the Order of Business. I welcome the Cathaoirleach's remarks at the beginning. I will try to keep my remarks short. I know that Senator Craughwell reckons they go on too long but I will do my best.
Senator Buttimer only has ten minutes.
I appreciate that. It is important we stand in solidarity with the Cathaoirleach who should not have had to come in this morning to read that information for Members. I ask all Members to reflect on their contributions, especially on the Order of Business. I can take the political battle. The Cathaoirleach is impartial and apolitical. I know that he gets it from all sides.
By way of clarification, I was urged to do it at the start of December but when I had a brief word with the esteemed and learned Clerk, he suggested I leave it until the start of the new year.
That was good advice.
A new year's resolution.
That is a good point.
Senator Horkan raised the issue of Brexit. It is important we all stand with the Government in wearing the green jersey. The Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, commented that it was about us as a country holding our nerve. It is a matter of ensuring the current backstop proposal relating to the Border is the only option on the table. Michel Barnier said the question of limiting the time for the backstop had already been discussed twice by European leaders. This is the only possible option because an assurance is of no use if it is time limited. It is important to recognise that we need a Brexit withdrawal agreement. That is a matter for the United Kingdom, especially for Prime Minister May and the UK Parliament. The Government has been clear. The Tánaiste outlined time limits for legislative proposals. We will have that debate again in due course.
Senator Horkan also referred to the nurses' strike. I will not speak for long on it. There is a public sector pay agreement. Notwithstanding the fact that we agree on how much we value nurses and the work they do, there is a public service pay agreement. It is important all sides engage and do not use patients as a pawn in the negotiations. We saw what happened yesterday with a breakaway union. We recognise the HSE deals with unions. It is important we have dialogue and maintain that level of engagement.
Usage of mobile telephones by younger people is becoming increasingly prevalent. Senator Horkan has mentioned that 40% of all children own one by the age of nine years. It is a high figure and we will have that debate in due course.
I commend Senator Lawless on his work. I was in Washington DC before Christmas and know the respect and value he has brought to this House. His work with Irish immigrants in North America is unbelievable. He referred to the E3 visa. It is disappointing to see what happened. As he said, under the rules, a person can hold it up. I commend Ambassador Mulhall and deputy ambassador Lonergan and also Deputy John Deasy on the work he has done on Capitol Hill and in parts of the United States in opening doors and working to ensure we got to where we wanted to be. The US Commerce Secretary and the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, deserve credit for the role they played. It might not be universally popular but they have opened doors for us in a variety of ways. I hope the Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora will come to the House to have that debate. I commend Senators Lawless and Boyhan on the work they have done.
Senator Conway-Walsh referred to Deputy Pearse Doherty's Bill. I am sure we will have it in this House in time. We all stand for homeowners and those who are fighting the banks. There is no denying that. The Minister has been clear about his role in it. We will have that debate in due course.
Senator Dolan referred to the wheelchair user who was treated poorly by the HSE and the company with the service level agreement. It is important we always show respect to people who are in need of a service because of a disability. The out-of-hours service level agreement should reflect the need for this person to be catered for at all times. As Senator Dolan rightly said, that person has a voice he or she can use. A Commencement matter tabled by Senator Dolan might be a more expeditious way to get an answer. I will be happy to take up the matter with the Senator afterwards.
Senator McFadden called on the Minister with responsibility for Irish Water to come to the House to address the issue of engagement with Irish Water on planning in County Westmeath. I would be happy to have the Minister to come to the House to discuss Irish Water. Given the Cabinet decision yesterday, it would perhaps be opportune to have a debate on the role of Irish Water and water usage. We can address this issue as part of that debate.
Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of cancer patients. We had this discussion in the House before Christmas. We all condemn treating cancer patients in this manner. There are, unfortunately, exemptions which need to be followed up by patients. Hospitals need to be sensitive in the way they deal with cancer patients. A code of conduct in that regard is required.
I thank Senator Boyhan for his remarks about the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, coming to the House. I am sure she will address the issue about which he he spoke with reference to Bethany Home. I think she wants to have the final report before adjudicating further. She will be here to address the issue.
Senator Lombard referred to the joint policing committee meeting in Cork last Monday with reference to the misuse of alcohol and early morning houses hiring extra security to monitor their premises. The Government is committed to introducing minimum unit pricing. In October, after 1,000 days, the Dáil passed the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, the first time we had used legislation to regulate alcohol misuse. If I may be partisan and familiar for a minute, the comments of Councillor John Buttimer about Cork yesterday were very relevant. They related to the need for a multi-disciplinary task force for Cork and many urban areas with universities and colleges which could bring different stakeholders together to see how we can combat the misuse of alcohol, present an alternative and promote common sense drinking. I think we all share the desire to reduce the harm caused by alcohol in society.
Senator Warfield raised an important issue, the funding of the Irish Deaf Society. It has a meeting coming up. Many of us are concerned that there will be a potential suspension and withdrawal of many services it provides. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to come to the House to address the matter. Perhaps the Senator might submit a Commencement matter. I will endeavour to have the Minister of State come to the House because the issue is important.
We will not go back over the history of the Commonwealth and where we are today. It is fair to say we are part of the European Union that values us as a country but Senator Feighan has done a lot to build bridges between the North and the South, for which he deserves credit.
Senator Paddy Burke raised the issue of tourism in the context of Brexit and the need to see the tourism sector enhanced and strengthened in the light of the challenging international climate. I would be happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, or the Minister, Deputy Ross, come to the House to address the issue.
There is a break before the next item will be taken, which thankfully is not a frequent occurrence.
It is the result of your intervention.
I am not sure if it is just that. Will the Leader propose that we suspend the sitting until 12.45 p.m?
I propose that we suspend the sitting until 12.45 p.m.