Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Mar 2019

Vol. 264 No. 4

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the diaspora, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude at 2.15 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each, time can be shared, and the Minister to be given not less than six minutes to reply to the debate; No. 2, statements on Traveller accommodation, to be taken at 2.15 p.m. and to conclude at 3.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each, time can be shared, and the Minister to be given not less than eight minutes to reply to the debate; No. 3, European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019 - all Stages, to be taken at 3.45 p.m. and to adjourn at 5.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed seven minutes at Second Stage and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given not less than six minutes to reply, and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately after, this item of business to be resumed at 7.45 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 4, Private Members' business, Registration of Wills Bill 2016 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 5.45 p.m., with the time allocated to this debate not to exceed two hours.

With the Cathaoirleach's indulgence, I welcome to the Gallery the students and teachers of Divine Word national school, Marley Grange. The students are here as part of their student council and are very welcome.

Cuirim fáilte roimh na daltaí.

We agree to Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive. With regard to No. 4, the Registration of Wills Bill 2016, a Private Members' Bill in the names of myself, Senator Ardagh and Senator Clifford-Lee, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to the effect that Committee and Remaining Stages of this Bill be taken. This Bill has gone through the Seanad on a number of occasions, starting 14 years ago. It has gone through Committee Stage and been finalised but unfortunately, on many occasions, the Dáil was dissolved before the Bill came before it. It is important legislation. It is most significant because the Law Society is not overly enthusiastic about. The society is, to its mind, protecting the interests of its members in this regard. I would totally disagree with the society. It is not representing its members because those members of the Law Society whom I know in County Roscommon are very supportive of the Bill. The late Brian Lenihan Jnr was of tremendous assistance to me in initially drafting this Bill. He helped in every possible way in guiding it through the Seanad before. He was an eminent senior counsel and could see the merits of the Bill. There are no amendments on Committee Stage - we will go into this later on - because it was amended so often in 2005 and 2011. In the circumstances, I appeal to all Members of this House to allow this Bill to pass through the House and on to the Dáil. I would be delighted if the Government would adopt the Bill.

One can register one's dog, one's sheep and one's cattle, but there is no registration available for the most important and significant document people make, which is a will. In a sophisticated society, such as ours which registers land, deaths, births and marriages with our tremendous Civil Service, there is resistance to this for some unknown reason. On that point, there are only two countries in the European Union and Council of Europe which have not implemented such registration. They are Malta and Ireland. They are the only two countries out of the 47 members of the Council of Europe and the 28 members of the EU. It is extraordinary that we have been so slow in this particular regard.

The Leader has already requested an amendment in respect of No. 3. The Order Paper said that Second Stage would be taken but the Leader said that it would be all Stages. The Leader is proposing an amendment to the Order of Business himself.

I am not. I am proposing the Order of Business. I am not proposing any amendment to it.

I am outlining what is on the Order Paper.

Senator Leyden said that I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business. I am not.

I am proposing the Order of Business.

The Order Paper said that Second Stage of No. 3, the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2019, would be taken. The Leader said that we will take all Stages. I am proposing the same for No. 4. I also want to take all Stages.

The Senator has made his point.

I beg the Cathaoirleach's indulgence; I have one other point.

The Senator is well over the limit.

I beg the Cathaoirleach's indulgence in this regard.

I have been very indulgent as it is.

This is a significant point on the history of County Roscommon. Mr. Liam Gilmartin died on 2 March. I offer our sympathies to his family. He was from Ballymurray, Knockcrokery, and was the last remaining member of the last Roscommon football team to win an All-Ireland title in 1944. He won All-Ireland medals in 1943 and 1944, 74 years ago. All that team which brought great honour to County Roscommon has died. It is significant that I am one of the longest serving Oireachtas Members from Roscommon. I visited Mr. Gilmartin's home in Dalkey yesterday to pay my respects and express my sympathies to his family. It marks the passing of a great Rossy. The team was captained by Jimmy Murray and included two others who later became Members of the Oireachtas, former Deputy Hugh Gibbons and former Senator Jack McQuillan. May Mr. Gilmartin rest in peace.

I was afraid Senator Leyden was going to do a Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and name the whole team for us.

I second Senator Leyden's proposal to amend the Order of Business. I acknowledge the enormous amount of work he has done and he will have my full support with this work. He has stuck at this for a long time and I am happy to second his proposal to amend today's Order of Business.

I discussed the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme with the Leader yesterday and tried to impress on him the importance of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government coming to this House as soon as practicable because this is an important scheme. We have again heard in the media today of people who are barely over the threshold. These people are up early in the morning to do a day's work and want to take this opportunity to avail of the loan scheme to purchase a house. That is an admirable thing for anyone to do. It should be encouraged and supported. I have just come from a committee meeting and I spoke to the Minister on the fringes of that meeting. We should ask the Minister, if at all possible and if it fits in with his timetable, to come to the House.

The Minister said this morning that he is anxious to get the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I attempted to impress on him that it is open to any Minister to initiate legislation in this House. It has not happened very often this term but it is open to the Minister. I ask the Leader to engage with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to find out and track when we can expect the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 to come through either House of the Oireachtas because it is important.

I would also like the Leader to come back as early possible, perhaps in the next week, to outline the possibility of bringing the Judicial Council Bill to Seanad Éireann. It is important legislation and many Members are keen for it to progress. I see no reason it should not. We have time on our hands and this is a legislative House. It is our function and job to scrutinise legislation so let us take the Judicial Council Bill in both hands, give it a good airing, debate it and see how it can be progressed.

I commend the work of Kathy Wolff from the community relations forum in Newtownabbey. She visited Leinster House yesterday with Mr. Brian Lennon and the women from Ballymun to engage in a dialogue for diversity. The community relations forum promotes good working relationships by encouraging honest and open dialogue to enable people to have a better understanding of respect for each other's views. We all have much to learn from the manner in which these women work together. Their Looking Back: Moving Forward project is particularly interesting. They outline stories from the Easter Rising, the First and Second World Wars and their personal and differing experiences in the most recent conflict. The Ligoniel, Wolfhill women's group piece on the suffragette movement gives prominence to Mayo woman Dr. Kathleen Lynn who went on to establish St. Ultan's Hospital. I wish the community relations forum well in its future endeavours and look forward to working with it in the future. It is important that groups like that come to Leinster House so we hear what they have to say about their experiences. I look forward to more such groups visiting Leinster House in the future.

I raise the issue of pyrite and mica. This week the High Court has ordered Roadstone to permit inspections in some of its quarries. Hundreds of homes in Mayo and thousands of homes in Donegal and other counties have waited far too long for a redress scheme to be put in place. I am asking today that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government puts his proposal for the redress scheme and gets approval from Cabinet so that the work can start on these houses which continue to crumble. The failure of the State to regulate to protect these homeowners by the implementation of regulations is scandalous. Can the Leader request the Minister of State, Deputy English, or the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to come before this House to resolve this issue once and for all? We have had input from the expert working group and all the inspections and all that. We really need the redress scheme to be put in place. To add insult to injury, many of these homeowners are being asked to pay property tax. Others have had their mortgages taken over by vulture funds and are in a precarious and insecure situation. The only thing that will fix it is to have a proper redress scheme in place.

I support Senator Boyhan's comments about the Judicial Council Bill. I agree with him that it would be good to see that Bill come to the Seanad. There is no reason it should not. There is plenty of space on the schedule in the coming weeks. Next week will not be suitable because we will have the Brexit legislation. This week's schedule has been dominated by statements on different issues and it would be timely for us to have the Judicial Council Bill in as soon as possible after the Brexit Bill and the recess.


I will disregard the comments that have been made.

More pertinently for the week that is in it, given that International Women's Day is this Friday and its theme is balance for better, can I ask the Leader to ascertain when the Government is likely to publish its Bill on gender pay gap reporting? My colleagues are aware that the Labour Party Bill on gender pay gap reporting passed this House last November without opposition from anyone and passed Second Stage in the Dáil at the end of November, yet the Government still has not moved beyond simply the heads and scheme of a Bill, published last year, and on which the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality has finished its pre-legislative scrutiny. The report from the committee points out the immense delay in bringing forward legislation on mandatory reporting about gender pay gap figures. Given it is almost International Women's Day, given how important this issue is and that legislation has been brought into force in our neighbouring jurisdiction and many other European and international jurisdictions, it is important that action is taken by the Government. It is a pity the Government did not do it last year when we were celebrating the centenary of women's suffrage but it would be dreadful to see the legislation delayed any further. I ask the Leader to make inquiries and that we have a debate in due course on how best to implement legislation on the gender pay gap. The quickest and most effective way would have been for the Government to have simply amended and adopted the Labour Party Bill as it had indicated it would when the Bill first came into the Seanad.

I also ask the Leader for an indication as to when the Government's amendments on parental leave will be ready. The Labour Party had time on the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 on Committee Stage but is still has to go through Report Stage in this House. This is a matter of significance particularly to many women who are seeking to balance parenting and workplace responsibilities. It is also significant to men. Parental leave is, clearly, gender neutral. It is an important part of a whole package of measures which are necessary to ensure greater equality and diversity in the workplace. I ask the Leader to make urgent inquiries as to when the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill will be back before this House with the Government amendments ready and to take Report Stage in Government time because that would be appropriate.

I thank the representatives from Trócaire, Concern and Goal who gave an update to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence yesterday on the current situation in Syria ahead of an important conference on Syria which will be held in Brussels next week and at which Ireland will be represented. The committee heard urgent appeals for sustained commitment to multi-annual funding for humanitarian workers and the need to protect front-line humanitarian workers who are facing immense danger while working in various regions of Syria which are still conflict regions. The committee also heard about the need to secure the safe return of refugees to Syria and to ensure lasting peace there.

I ask colleagues to join me in thanking the many front-line workers doing important work supporting the many civilians displaced as refugees during the Syrian conflict.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I ask the Leader to accept the Civil Liability (Capping of General Damages) Bill 2019, which I wish to introduce on First Stage this afternoon. I propose we take that before No. 1 on the Order of Business.

The Senator has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 19 be taken before No. 1." I call Senator Wilson.

I join with Senators Boyhan and Bacik in calling on the Leader to bring the Judicial Council Bill into this House at an early date. It is important legislation that could move swiftly through this House because it seems to have all-party support.

I second Senator Lawlor’s amendment to the Order of Business. My main reason, however, for speaking is to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the Youthreach training programme. It is a programme with which the Cathaoirleach is very familiar. It was launched by the then Minister for Labour, Bertie Ahern, and the then Minister for Education and Science, Mary O’Rourke, in 1988. The first pilot centres were established around the country 30 years ago this month.

I am glad that one of those pilot centres was in my county of Cavan and it happened that I was the first co-ordinator. Youthreach training centres have gone from strength to strength in those 30 years. There are now more than 130 centres in the Twenty-six Counties. More than 10,000 young people have benefitted from the education and training provided in those centres in the last three decades. I take this opportunity to congratulate all of the centres, including the initial 20 centres that are now 30 years old, as well as all of the other centres. They are doing marvellous work every day for our young people. I pay particular tribute to Ms Sabrina McEntee. She is the co-ordinator of the Cavan Youthreach centre which will celebrate 30 years of existence next Thursday. I congratulate Ms McEntee, all her staff, past and present, and their colleagues around the country.

Senator Wilson is still going strong 30 years later. I call Senator Humphreys.

I commend Senator Wilson on the work done by Youthreach. I had the pleasure of chairing several Youthreach projects in Dublin and seeing the work carried out across the country. It has made a significant difference to young people in allowing them to access a career. I commend Senator Wilson on his pilot which has worked extremely well all around the country. I thank Senator Wilson for raising that issue today. I move on to the equally important matter of housing, which is increasingly becoming an issue for many different sectors of our society. The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, recently launched his discussion document on downsizing, or rightsizing as I call it. This issue comes back to spin. Many people, especially in Dublin, wish to rightsize. They wish to move from larger properties, such as a three or four-bedroom family home, into more suitable smaller residential units. Older people, such as myself, are seeking to move back into a one or two-bed residence. There are no bridging loans available, however. A person wishing to rightsize has no access to a financial package allowing him or her to do that.

I spoke on this issue here briefly previously. It has been highlighted in the Irish Independent today in respect of the trend to build to rent. There is less and less accommodation available for people who want to rightsize. In quarter 3 of 2018, 80% of all apartments that came to the market were bought by investment funds for build-to-rent. Older and younger people have no access to the property ladder. That is a direct result of the policy of this Government. In 2018, €1 billion went into the build-to-rent sector. Many of the residential investment companies in Dublin are stating that there is €5 billion available in 2019 for the build to rent sector. Practically 100% of all the apartments that are going to be built in the Dublin area are build to rent. There is no access, therefore, for a young couple to get on the property ladder and purchase accommodation. An older person trying to rightsize also has no chance to purchase. These real estate investment trusts, REITs, have preferential tax advantages. They only pay 20% tax on their income. A wider debate is needed on issue. I ask the Leader to facilitate that debate as soon as possible.

I thank the Leader for scheduling an interesting and useful debate last night on the benefits and future of the European Union. It is a pity more speakers did not take part. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, for being here.

I also support the comments of Senators Boyhan, Bacik, Wilson, and others, regarding the Judicial Council Bill 2017. The point I was making to Senator Bacik was that we have much experience here at this stage on that particular topic because of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. Where better, therefore, to start that Bill than here?

I also want to query when the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 will come back to the House. The Minister had said he would bring it back.

I also congratulate the Youthreach programme on its 30 years and Senator Wilson for all of his efforts in that regard.

I was going to talk about no smoking because it is Ash Wednesday but I will do that next week. I turn instead to the fact that we need a debate about the national planning system. I am not sure the way we do planning is working for people applying for or objecting to planning permission, or for interested parties generally. It is an antiquated system that has been built up over many years. Planning seems to be done more efficiently in other countries and for the benefit of everybody, much more so than here. I do not blame planners at all. They are often hamstrung by the rules and regulations in place. Local authorities and councillors also have a reserved function regarding development plans, which is correct. The development plan, however, is devised every six years and the planners are then bound by that, which is also correct. The process of applying and appealing, however, needs to be the subject of a debate. I am not just referring to critical infrastructure, such as the Apple data centre in Athenry, but to how we build, or do not build, generally. We have a crisis in residential supply in our major cities and throughout the country. We need to get building while also taking people's objections into account. I ask the Leader to schedule time for a debate with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to deal with this topic.

I welcome the report recently published by the Western Development Commission, WDC. It analyses employment data in industry in the west region. As always, information from the commission, such as in this document, gives an independent perspective on how we are faring in job creation. We are all anxious to pursue that. The report contains much positive and revealing information. The west region is home to almost 46% of medical technology jobs in Ireland, while 53% of people working in the west region work in medical technology, chemicals and the agrifood industry.

That is quite substantial. When we think of the west region, Galway stands out strongly as a major attraction for FDI but when one drills down on the figures, County Mayo, which is a rural county, leads the way in medical-technology jobs and the percentage of people employed in industry there is higher than the national average. Equally, County Sligo features and, therefore, there are many positives.

It is important that we analyse these data in light of the recent launch of the regional enterprise plan, which will bring us to 2020, and the need to identify how we will create more investment in jobs in the west region. One of the challenges identified by the chair, Mr. Gerard Kilcommins, at the launch was that we need to achieve more of a regional spread. We want FDI and industry. One of the key messages from a meeting I had with IDA Ireland on Monday last is that something we definitely offer in the west region is quality of life and a cheaper cost of living, which has to be attractive for young people who want to work and raise their families in the region. There is a job of work that needs to be done, not only for the west region but for all the regions where we are trying to shunt out growth from cities such as Galway, Limerick and Dublin, which we all know are under severe pressure in terms of infrastructure, schools, homes, etc., because of investment in their areas. We need to have a debate on how we take it to the next level. I welcome the job creation and that our unemployment rate is at an all-time low but we need to devise a tailor-made plan for specific regions as to how we get investment, which is choking the cities, out into rural areas. I ask for such a debate and that the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, would come to the House so that we can all speak from our experiences in the different regions and make a difference in delivering jobs to these areas and keeping our young people in them.

First, I wish well Ms Joanne Hayes of the Kerry Babies case, who is bringing the State to court following its actions in those awful days, particularly with reference to International Women's Day on Friday. I wish Ms Hayes the very best of luck. The women of Ireland, and the men, are behind her.

Two years ago, I brought up at the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs the damning report on fostering services in the Dublin South-Central area. In that committee, we held a good six-month investigation involving foster carers of Ireland, HIQA, Tusla and the Garda. Everybody came in to present to the committee. A decent report was launched following that and the Minister, Deputy Zappone, promised to oversee its recommendations and implementation. Unfortunately, today, HIQA has again expressed grave concerns about Dublin South-Central. The area includes Lucan, Ballyfermot, Ringsend and Clondalkin, some of which are disadvantaged. HIQA's concern is that foster carers there have not been trained or informed adequately of their need to report child protection issues. HIQA again has condemned Tusla's education of foster carers in this area. I do not know how many times we must ask the Minister to come in but I again ask her to do so and to explain to Members what is going on in Dublin South-Central and at what risk we are putting children in need of foster care and in need of the care of the State. Repeatedly, it is just not happening.

I also congratulate the Youthreach programme on its 30th anniversary and Ms Sabrina McEntee, who is the Cavan co-ordinator. I was glad that Ms McEntee was a member of my task force on loneliness. She played an important role in that regard.

Today, I would like to highlight the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017, which I drafted. This Bill passed Second Stage in this House in January 2018. It is vital legislation, which proposes to introduce specific penalties, including hefty fines and custodial sentences, for those who engage in this reckless, careless and thuggish behaviour of destroying lifebuoys and defibrillators around the country. I remind the House that this is not the same as defacing a park bench, pulling a bin off a pole or painting graffiti. Destroying defibrillators and lifebuoys directly leads to unnecessary deaths and the penalties need to reflect this. We also need to bear in mind that many of these defibrillators are put in place through volunteerism in communities and they are not State funded. Volunteers in GAA clubs and community groups put defibrillators in place in their towns and at their GAA and soccer pitches and sports facilities. We heard last year of a young boy in Athlone who drowned sadly in the River Shannon. When his friends attempted to save him and went to the nearest lifebuoy station, there was no lifebuoy there. Recently, the Leader will be interested to hear, the Cork Evening Echo reported that 20 lifebuoys alone go missing every week in Cork city at a cost of €50 per lifebuoy. That is a significant financial burden, but what is the human burden associated with this? I would also like the Leader to know that the Cork city missing persons search and rescue unit supports this legislation.

Finally, in advance of the second anniversary of the tragic loss of R116, which went down at Blackrock on 14 March, I pay tribute to our lost heroes - Paul Ormsby, Ciarán Smith, Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy. I look forward to the publication of the air accident investigation report, which I understand is imminent. This may give a certain amount of closure to the families and to all those affected, including the community, as a whole, in the Erris region, where the sense of volunteerism was unbelievable at that time. I have spoken about it previously.

I would like to raise the issue of the provision of public transport in circumstances where the nearest hospital is 40 minutes away because it is important, but also because last weekend unexpected heavy snowfall delayed traffic on a major route in Leinster and the first responders could not access collisions on the road due to the infrastructure and the snow. As usual, it is about infrastructure. Our infrastructure seems unfit for such occasions. In a recent survey, it was revealed that the residents in County Carlow must travel on average 40 km to their nearest emergency department, a car journey of approximately 37 minutes, because we do not have an adequate public transport system. While there are several rail lines and some bus offerings, by and large, these are at awkward times for anyone using them for outpatient appointments or visiting loved ones. They are in no way suitable for any kind of urgent travel. On the Internet, there are lift-sharing offerings and car-pooling. We need to promote all this, particularly as we are always trying to reduce Ireland's carbon footprint, allowing a situation where it is acceptable that everyone would try to work together. We need to help to ensure that the population is better provided for in terms of services such as housing, healthcare protection, retail services and amenities. We do not look at public transport in the light we need to. The same survey revealed that the best-served county is Dublin, with residents travelling on average ten minutes or 5 km to their nearest emergency department. The residents of rural areas are being penalised for living in the countryside. I am not asking for a hospital on every corner. We have identified that the road to better healthcare in Ireland is the strengthening of primary care facilities locally. I am asking what can be done to help rural areas when there is an emergency or when something happens like this. I am calling on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come in here because infrastructure will be so important in the future to ensure that the people in rural areas are not left behind.

I support Senator Leyden's amendment to the Order of Business. I have known the Senator for a long time and the Registration of Wills Bill 2016 is something he has brought forward steadfastly. It is time we looked at this area and that we made the process of searching for wills easier. Most solicitors support a register. We need to debate whether it should be voluntary or compulsory and we need to hear from the stakeholders in this regard as well. I hope this can be progressed more than it has been to date.

Will the Leader invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the House for a debate as soon as possible to discuss the announcement that the Irish policy on overseas aid is to change to allow funding of abortion services overseas? The Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, has responsibility for overseas development aid and for Irish Aid. However, this is such a significant policy change that we should hear from somebody at Cabinet level about it.

It does not follow from the fact that the eighth amendment was repealed, which allowed legislation for abortion, that public money should be used for funding abortion overseas. Abortion remains a deeply divisive issue in Irish society. Many people, including myself, regard it as a violation of human rights and do not believe it serves the good of mothers and certainly not that of their unborn children. I believe carrying out abortions, if right was right, should be something people go to jail for. Even if my point of view is not accepted by the Government at this time, it remains the fact that many of the people who voted for the repeal of the eighth amendment would not support this. Many of them are uncomfortable with abortion in the circumstances in which is has now been legislated for. Many people who voted "Yes" would have supported something more restrictive, and I think there is evidence of that. In any event, people should be able to agree that it is wrong to use the public purse to push something like this internationally when so many people's consciences in this country - taxpayers' consciences - are deeply troubled by this and would regard it as a perversion of human rights, not as human rights itself.

While it falls within the remit of the Government to advance policy without coming back to the Oireachtas for every detail, obviously the Government spend is subject to legislation in these Houses. This is an issue on which it should be accountable to both the Dáil and the Seanad in a much more considered way than for us to be reading about this major change and the claim that it is somehow consistent with Ireland's new policy in the area. Simply because the law in Ireland now allows, and public money in Ireland provides for, abortion in certain cases, it is by no means conclusive that it follows from this that the Government should spend public money promoting abortion overseas, especially when it is such a divisive and troubling topic.

This deserves a debate in both Houses, although I can only ask for a debate in this House. I would be very grateful if the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade would come in himself. Given he was known to be troubled by aspects of what the Government legislation entailed, it would be all the more appropriate that he would come in and give an account of his stewardship in this area.

I would like to raise again the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme we discussed yesterday and the disappointment when we learned this scheme is now closed to new applicants. It is disappointing for young people who thought they were on the road to getting their first home to discover the scheme is closed. It highlights alarmingly the incompetence of this Government when it comes to dealing with the housing crisis. Surely the Leader will agree that someone should have had some oversight over this scheme.

There is no end to this.

Surely someone should have been monitoring the drawdowns in regard to mortgage approvals but, apparently, no one did. All of a sudden, we discovered there was no money left in the kitty. It is simply not good enough in the midst of a housing crisis. It would not inspire people with confidence in this Government's ability to do something about the housing crisis.

Go on, Robbie boy.

The other issue we learned about in regard to this scheme concerns mortgage protection insurance. I have learned that the applicants who draw down their mortgage have no option but to go with the provider recommended by the Department. Surely people should be free to go where they get best value. People have told me they have shopped around and discovered that other providers are offering much cheaper rates. I ask the Leader to give us a commitment that the Government will reopen the scheme, will stay awake this time when it is open, and will explore the current situation where people have no choice but to go with the one provider of mortgage insurance.

The Leader may laugh and snigger.

I am laughing at the Senator. He has some neck - some cheek.

The housing crisis in this country is very serious. The way this Government is handling it at the moment would not inspire the people of Ireland with much confidence.

While I rarely comment, I came back from London in 1981 and opened my own practice. When I got advice from the Law Society, one of the things that stood out in my mind was, "Whatever you do, young fellow, make sure you keep your wills registered", which I always did. I cannot understand why there is opposition to a central wills register but that might be beyond my means. I rarely comment but certain things stand out in my mind very clearly when I remember my move to give up my construction work in London to come back to Ireland, and that was one. I call the Leader to respond.

I thank Members for their contributions. I regret I cannot accept Senator Leyden's amendment to the Order of Business and, on behalf of the Government, I will oppose the taking of all Stages of the Bill. This is for one reason and one reason only, namely, it is contentious. There is agreement on other Bills to take all Stages by the group leaders. Ordinarily, if there is disagreement, we do not take all Stages, and there is not agreement on this from Government. I, therefore, regrettably, do not accept the Senator's amendment to the Order of Business.

I join the Senator in paying tribute to, and remembering, the late Liam Gilmartin, who has passed away and who was a member of the famous Rossies team that won the All-Ireland. I thank the Senator for bringing his death, his memory and his legacy to our attention. I hope a new generation of Roscommon footballers and supporters will be able to win the All-Ireland and have the Sam Maguire in Roscommon.

Several Members raised the issue of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme, including Senators Boyhan and Gallagher, while Senator Humphreys also raised the issue of housing. Let me make it quite clear. I am amused by Senator Gallagher, who very much suffers from amnesia. When his party left government, there was no construction sector or banking sector - there was nothing left in our country. If he wants to come in here and lecture, that is fine and I have no problem with that; that is his entitlement. However, let us deal with the facts.

First, as I said yesterday and will repeat today, 575 people availed of the scheme. The Government is committed to ensuring that people who cannot avail of a loan or a mortgage from the banking fraternity will have access and a pathway to buying their own home. Some 575 people availed of it and 1,000 further approvals were given but not yet drawn down, and €200 million was set aside and put into the scheme. However, because the scheme was successful, the €200 million has been drawn down. As to what the Government is doing now, again, let us deal in the facts and listen to what the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, said this morning in the House and in committee, and in the Dáil yesterday, and listen to the Taoiseach. Let us base our argument on fact and articulate accordingly. The Government is now consulting the Central Bank as to whether it is comfortable with the Government offering more loans. Second, the Minister is negotiating with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in regard to increasing the cap above €200 million so we can ensure the 1,575 people who have availed of the scheme or applied for it can have access to the scheme. Let me make it clear on my behalf and on behalf of Government: we are committed to ensuring that home ownership rises in our country. It is an affordable scheme for people who need to be able to access the funding from a Rebuilding Ireland home loan. I want to make it clear the scheme has not been abandoned.

Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2018 but I do not have an answer to the question raised.

Senators Boyhan, Bacik, Horkan and Wilson raised the matter of the Judicial Council Bill. As Members will know, legislation is a matter for Departments and they will advise accordingly. We will have the Bill back before the House when the Department responsible is in a position to bring it back.

Regarding the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill raised by Senators Bacik and Horkan, consideration as to how best to implement the phasing-in of the extra leave, as outlined by the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, on Committee Stage, is ongoing. There was consultation with Departments on that matter. I hope the Minister of State will be able to bring the Bill back before the House at an early and opportune stage. As Senator Horkan rightly said, it is important legislation and, as alluded to by Senator Bacik, it will benefit thousands of families across the country.

It is legislation we all support.

I join Senator Conway-Walsh in commending those involved in the community relations forum to which she referred and I thank them for the work they are doing. The Looking Back: Moving Forward project is an important one. We can learn and benefit from the people involved. I commend them on their work and thank Senator Conway-Walsh for raising the matter.

Regarding the pyrite and mica redress scheme, as Senator Conway-Walsh will know, Members of this House have also been very vocal in articulating the issue of affected areas around Mayo and Donegal-----

And obtaining solutions.

-----and then obtaining solutions. As Members will be aware, the Government has signed off on a redress scheme of grant aid. It is committed to and has put in place a resolution to the matter. I have been informed that money for the aid redress scheme has been committed for this year and officials are meeting with a view to having it signed off in the coming weeks. It is important to recognise that this Government has solved the impasse that had existed for a long time.

It is this Government that solved the Fianna Fáil problem.

The Senator is correct. That should be articulated loudly.

Relations are good for a Sinn Féin-Fine Gael coalition.

Senators should not interrupt the Leader.

Senator Bacik raised the issue of the gender pay gap. The Government is meeting on Friday, International Women's Day, and arising from that Cabinet meeting, I am sure there will be a series of communications around the issues the Senator raised. I hope we will have an answer in this respect sooner rather than later.

The issue of Syria is one on which we must continue to be vigilant and which we must highlight. I thank the Senator for doing that.

I would be happy to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Lawlor to the Order of Business.

Notwithstanding that Senator Wilson has been 30 years involved in Youthreach, I genuinely pay tribute to him and all those involved in the programme, as mentioned by Senator Swanick. As somebody who has been involved in adult education and education generally for the majority of my working life, I know that the benefit of Youthreach to communities and the young people who participate in the schemes is tangible. Without Youthreach, we would have a very different criminal justice system and much worse outcomes in term of the mental health needs of young people. On a personal level, I pay tribute to Senator Wilson for the humanity he brings to the programme and brought to it when he was working in it full time. I had the pleasure of knowing the Senator before we both came into this House. I do not want to patronise or heap praise unnecessarily on him, but the work he and his colleagues in Youthreach have done is invaluable. It is right we recognise the scheme today. I thank the Senator for that. It is amazing how a pilot project can grab hold of and reflect a nation. At one time, some people in the education system may have viewed Youthreach in much the same way as they would view the leaving certificate applied but Youthreach is of benefit and has a place in our education system. I commend the Senator and all of those involved in Youthreach on the work they have done and are doing.

Senator Humphreys raised the issue of housing and I would be happy to arrange for a debate on the report that was published last week.

Senator Horkan, in a very thoughtful contribution, raised the issue, as Senator Burke did yesterday, of national planning and the need to have a real conversation on planning for the future, ensuring that we have the necessary services and infrastructure in place and that people are able to have a proper planning system. I would be happy to arrange to have that matter addressed in a debate in the coming weeks.

Senator Mulherin raised the issue of the Western Development Commission report and the importance of ensuring that urban areas and major cities will not be choke points. It is worth noting that 58% of IDA Ireland jobs last year were located outside Dublin. The issue around regional jobs is a priority for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys. I would happy to arrange for the Minister to come to the House to address this matter.

Senator Devine raised the Health Information and Quality Authority report on fostering services in Dublin South-Central. It is mind-boggling-----

-----that we have this ongoing problem which does not seem to be getting any better.

It has been ongoing for at least three years.

It seems to be regressing rather than improving. I would be happy to arrange for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter. The Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs is doing work on the issue but it is mind-boggling that this is the case today.

Senator Swanick reminded us all very sensitively of the Blackrock tragedy and we remember the four people who were tragically lost and think of the families during this month. We thank the volunteers and the community in Mayo who did so much outreach and inspired many of us by their volunteerism and the way in which they opened up their homes and communities. It is important we remember those people today.

I commend the Senator on his Life Saving Equipment Bill. It is important legislation, which I hope we will have back before the House as a matter of priority. I fully understand the points the Senator made. He referred to Cork and there have been instances of defibrillators being removed from walls and public walkways in the city of Cork and other areas. It is a matter of extreme importance.

Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of the weather conditions last Sunday. I cannot for the life of me understand how the National Transport Authority, NTA, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, or the councils were not prepared for it because a weather warning was issued. It is an issue we need to consider for the future.

Senator Mullen raised the issue of Irish overseas aid. Sometimes a good news story gets lost. The Government has committed to a new overseas aid development policy, A Better World, about making the world a better place to live. It has committed to spend €2 billion by 2030 under the themes of gender balance, governance, climate change and doubling of funds from 0.3% of our gross national income to 0.7% in 2030. Some 130 countries will benefit from our aid programme. The Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, will be in the House later to speak on the diaspora but I will be happy to arrange for the Minister to come to the House on this matter in the coming weeks.

I thank the 14 Members of the House for their contributions. I regret I cannot accept the amendment proposed by Senator Leyden but I will accept the amendment proposed by Senator Lawlor.

Before I move on, I would like to say that I am acutely aware of the significant work done by Youthreach in my county. I did not realise Senator Wilson was involved in that programme for so long. I compliment him and all those who were involved in that scheme. It filled a vacuum we had in society.

I should have said that earlier when Senator Wilson spoke. I rarely comment on the Order of Business. It is a bad habit.

Senator Terry Leyden has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That Report and Final Stages of the Registration of Wills Bill 2016 be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

It is indeed because the Bill has already gone through Committee Stage and other Stages previously and there is no reason it cannot be progressed now. I have communicated with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty-----

The Senator cannot go into that now.

-----but I am disappointed she has not communicated with me about this Bill. There is a resistance to it somewhere along the line.

On a point of order, it was listed on the schedule for Committee Stage and that did not give people a chance to deal with Report Stage if they wanted to do that. That is another reason we should oppose the proposed amendment.

There were no amendments tabled to the Bill. I have to put the question.

I am pressing it.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 13.

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Swanick, Keith.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Burke, Colm.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Terry Leyden and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony..
Amendment declared carried.

Senator Lawlor has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 19 be taken before No. 1." The Leader has indicated he is prepared to accept it. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Order of Business, as amended, agreed to.