The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on transport matters, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude no later than 2.15 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given no less than seven minutes to reply to the debate; and No. 2, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 2.15 p.m. and to adjourn at 4.45 p.m., if not previously concluded. I welcome the students from sixth class in Donabate Educate Together who are here today.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Tá fáilte roimh go léir. They are very welcome. I call Senator Ardagh.
I also join in welcoming students from the Educate Together class. I hope that they enjoy their day today.
There is a lack of nutritional care for those suffering with cancer. We all know that cancer does not discriminate and it will probably darken the door of all our families at some stage. Some 36% of cancer patients experience unintentional weight loss during their treatment, yet one third of these were never seen by a dietitian or provider with any nutritional support, as shown by a new survey by the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, in collaboration with University College Cork. These findings state that there is a significant gap in care that needs to be addressed relating to nutritional needs of those in receipt of cancer treatment. It pointed out that poor nutritional intake and weight loss in cancer patients is linked to a higher risk of complications, a poorer response to treatments such as chemotherapy, and more worryingly to a reduced survival rate. I call on the Minister for Health to look at this report and see what can be done to increase funding to address the needs of those with cancer, especially their nutritional needs.
With regard to the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme, after much deliberation, the Central Bank reflected that it has no immediate concerns about the State-backed scheme. It is understood that the numbers participating in the scheme equate to 3% of first-time buyer loans issued by regulated financial institutions. Many young people who take part in this scheme find it difficult to secure financing through more traditional banks. This scheme is a great opportunity to allow them to buy their first home. It particularly affects young people. I call on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in light of the Central Bank's recommendations and comments, to re-fund the scheme and to issue a directive to local authorities to reopen it. There is significant demand for the scheme from young people and it is incumbent on the Minister to do this. Many young people cannot secure finance through the more traditional means because they lack a deposit. They often lack a deposit because they are paying substantial rents. Many people fall in a lacuna which this scheme seems to address. I ask the Minister to reopen the scheme in light of the Central Bank's recommendations.
I wish to raise two issues relating to Rebuilding Ireland. I welcome the changes to the employment permit scheme for construction sector workers from outside the European Union. Credit for that is due to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. It is positive in that it recognises that additional people are needed. The purpose of the scheme is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disturbing the labour market. A new list of people who can come in under this scheme was announced yesterday, including civil engineers, quantity surveyors, construction project managers, steel and metalworkers, welders, pipefitters, glaziers, scaffolders, crane drivers, etc. There is a substantial array and that is only some of them. That is a positive message. It needs to be kept under constant review. Some of those have caps on them, ranging from 200 to 300 employees. There is a particular shortage of plasterers and bricklayers in the country. That is only one aspect. We also need to access training programmes and apprenticeship training to have our own people involved in that. I welcome that.
Late last night, the specific targets in Rebuilding Ireland for the delivery of social housing for 2019 were formally published and should now be on the Department's website. Having a copy in front of me, I can confirm that there are only 6,545 houses to be built directly by the 31 local authorities. That is a little disappointing but it is better than the previous years. We have to crank it up. Those of us on all sides and none in politics have to work together to keep the pressure on the local authorities to deliver. More resources from the Department and Exchequer are needed to build social and affordable housing on State lands. I look forward to a debate on the Land Development Agency, LDA. We still do not have the necessary legislation underpinning the agency. The target for overall delivery in 2019, whether the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, affordable or social housing, or other aspects and partnerships, is for more than 27,000 houses this year. If we deliver on that target, that will be a success. As I have said repeatedly, I have no political ideology or hang-up about who builds or owns these houses.
We need to deliver homes for people who want them. They must be affordable to purchase and rent. There are two positives today and politicians need to be vigilant to keep the pressure on to ensure these targets are met.
I will speak on the marine area in which I know the Cathaoirleach is very interested. This morning I read about the stranding of sperm whales off the west coast. I spoke to Dr. Simon Berrow from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. He and two other scientists will go to Sligo today to take tissue samples from the sperm whale. It is quite unusual to have this number of strandings of the largest toothed whale species in the world off the west coast of Ireland in such a short space of time. Dr. Berrow is working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and the local authority on the issue. They will support him to take the samples.
It raises a number of questions for me. I wonder about the health of our oceans. Why are these huge mammals ending up in such numbers on the Irish coast? In recent weeks 1,100 dead dolphins have washed up on the coast of France which is also of great concern. What impact is sonic testing as part of oil and gas exploration in our marine environment having on these species? I have spoken in the House a number of times about the impact sonic testing has on the food chain and particularly on the zooplankton which is the base species for the different marine creatures up the food chain.
I ask the Leader to seek this information for me. Where is the Government's oceans Bill? It was promised by the Tánaiste when he was Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine in April 2016 and there is no sign of it. We have not heard about it in the House for many months. Will the oceans Bill include a comprehensive plan for an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas, MPAs, as outlined in my motion that was debated in the House almost a year ago? We are obliged by European law to have marine protected areas designated. Descriptor 11 in Annex 1 of the EU marine strategy framework directive covers ocean energy and noise, meaning that in order for our waters to be considered in good environmental status "Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment."
Can we honestly say this is the case in our country? Can we say that the offshore gas and oil exploration is inherently compatible with the commitments we should have to protect our seas and ocean? Are we making a mockery of our commitments under the Paris climate agreement because this all relates to climate change? I would like answers to these questions. I do not ask for a Minister to come to the House because, to be honest, I do not know which Minister to ask to come. These questions fall across so many Ministers in different Departments. I just seek answers to my questions to give me some kind of lead as to where to go next.
I call Senator Conway-Walsh. I could not see her indicating earlier and I skipped her. She was hiding behind Senator Boyhan for a while.
That is no problem. I am attending the meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach this morning. We have discussed insurance in this House many times. Linda Murray is the owner of Huckleberry's Den play centre in Navan. She has told us that she cannot get insurance. She has 25 days left before she will have to close her centre or the play centres have to come up with an insurance plan. I have spoken previously about the insurance crisis in companies such as play centres, pet farms and other such operations. It is obvious that we have an entire market failure in insurance.
Legislation, including the Judicial Council Bill, which is going through the Houses, should make some difference, but we need to treat it like emergency legislation. I do not say that lightly. The number of job losses and businesses closing because they cannot get insurance is excessive. I ask for co-operation from all parties in the House to prioritise this legislation and treat it like emergency legislation. For example, in Britain insurance for the trains that go around shopping centres for kids is approximately €1,500; here it is €33,000. Bowling alley insurance ranges from €10,000 to €25,000 without any claims.
The secrecy in the insurance industry has not changed since the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach was prompted to prepare the insurance report in 2016 that gave rise to the other reports and recommendations. It has not worked. The Central Statistics Office figures for motor insurance, for example, do not capture what is happening. We also tried to tease that out today. There is a lack of data and there is secrecy. This is evident from what happened last week in the High Court. In February IPB made a High Court application to have its hearings otherwise than in public and for Dorothea Dowling, who was cited, to be excluded from the room. Last Friday Mr. Justice Meenan denied IPB's application for a secret hearing and emphasised the requirement for justice to be done in public. I commend the judge on doing that.
We are not tackling what is going on in the insurance industry. I ask that we treat the legislation relating to insurance as emergency legislation. I ask for co-operation from across the House to ensure it is taken as quickly as possible.
Yesterday the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health, Deputy Harty, and I went to the site of the national children's hospital and met the people in charge there. Real progress is being made on that building project. Some 420 people are working on that site, but when the structure is completed and the various services are being put in, 2,500 people will be required to work there. It will be a major demand for people with the expertise, including electricians, plumbers and IT people. I agree with Senator Boyhan on the need to ensure we have enough people available in the building industry. We also need to ensure we have enough people in training in the various services. We need to do much more to continue to deal with the growth in the building industry.
As regards the housing market, we need to look at how to deliver at a faster pace than over the past three or four years. Real progress is being made in local authorities but some are still not responding to demand in a timely manner. The process of getting sites and approval for building is taking too long in some local authorities and, subsequently, in the Department. We need to expedite the whole process to deliver at a faster rate but we also need to look at the cohort of people who do not qualify for local authority houses and cannot borrow to buy. We need to do something serious for that cohort because the current rental structure is inadequate, there is a lack of security and there is no long-term leasing. If I lease something to somebody in the commercial market for five years, they are then entitled to a 20-year lease with five-year rent reviews and, as tenant, they are responsible for internal upkeep. We need to move to something like that for residential accommodation and now is the time to deal with it, so it is important that we have a debate on it here.
I am delighted to hear people mentioning the housing crisis and the delay in the delivery of further social and affordable housing. I campaigned for three years on the issue of short-term lets. I was disappointed that the implementation date for the new regulations was to be 1 June but I am now hearing rumours that it will be further delayed. I ask the Leader to urgently seek confirmation that the new regulations on short-term lets will go ahead on 1 June.
The figures for fire defects in apartments and homes the length and breadth of this country are starting to come in. Approximately 130,000 homes are affected by fire defects from the build period 2000 to 2008 due to self-certification and non-regulation. The Fine Gael-led Government was not in power in that period but nobody in either House should walk away from these 130,000 families. Something needs to be put in place to assist them in dealing with it because if they have to vacate their homes, we will add huge numbers of people to housing lists.
I propose an amendment to Standing Orders because of my concern relating to BusConnects, the metro and the proposed infrastructure spend of Irish Rail. On Friday morning there was a dawn raid in my own local area, in which eight residents received hand-delivered letters telling them their homes may be demolished for a metro station. Infrastructure is important but this was known for a year and a half. However, because there are eight local council tenants, nobody had told them. That is very disappointing and I want to discuss BusConnects, the metro and funding for Irish Rail at length so I propose an amendment to Standing Orders-----
I assume the Senator is proposing an amendment to the Order of Business.
Yes, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business so that statements on transport matters, which were to commence at 12.45 and finish at 2.15 p.m., will continue until 3.15 p.m. to allow the Minister adequate time to respond to Members' contributions. On every occasion the Minister has come into the House on this issue he had insufficient time to respond to Members.
I am glad the Leader sees the funny side.
I was not expecting a proposal to amend the Order of Business but I support it very strongly because the issues are of some significance.
Is the Senator seconding the proposal?
Yes, I am seconding it.
It is not a funny matter that the residents in my local community were told their houses were to be demolished. I wish the Leader would stop treating the issue with contempt. The constituency is that of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. If it was Ranelagh, it would not have happened.
The Senator cannot exactly speak on the matter, after what the Labour Party did.
I suggest the Leader saves his ammunition until he is called on to respond.
I was not expecting this proposal. The Leader may laugh but it is not a laughing matter. Now that it has been made, I accept it and it is the correct thing to do because allotting one and a half hours to discuss transport is a sick joke. This is especially the case, given the fact that the Order of Business provides plenty of time for bad legislation to be further progressed. I accept that it is a happy coincidence in that regard but coincidence it is, and I support it.
People might think the BusConnects programme is all parochial and is all about people's front garden, their trees and things like that but it is a triumph of engineers who do not know what they are doing but who will make the situation in Dublin far, far worse. Most Members of this House would know the Lower Rathmines Road. It is proposed to make it into a one-way road out of the city centre. I have to declare a ludicrous interest in this. All the traffic that goes into the city down the Lower Rathmines Road at the moment is supposed to go past my front gate in future and feed into the traffic at Ranelagh. That is a recipe for absolute chaos and it is not just a matter for leafy Ranelagh. There is a very narrow place beside the old Meath hospital called Long Lane, which comprises mainly artisan's cottages scattered along a winding road down which one would have difficulty getting a truck. Heytesbury Street is to be cut off and Long Lane, which is almost a residential boreen, is to be made the main traffic artery into the city centre.
The Senator makes it sound almost bucolic.
This is a recipe for sheer chaos. I have given two instances but anybody who lives in the areas in question would see how draconian the proposals are. It is very interesting that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, under whose auspices this is being planned, claims the right to put in objections to various aspects of the NTA's policy proposals. Who is in charge in this country? This sort of question is why we need to discuss this matter further.
I agree with what Senator Conway-Walsh said about insurance claims and the paralysing effect they are having. When we were Ministers, Mary Harney and I did something in the form of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, and bringing in laws against making false and exaggerated claims but there has been huge slippage since then. I do not usually like talking about cases but I see in the papers today that some kid got €30,000 for going over a fence into a building site. What sense is there in our law when things like this happen?
The legal profession blames the insurers and the insurers blame the legal profession and the judges but we have a thing in this country called "the Government". Many taxi drivers are charged €4,000 per annum for their insurance, which is €80 per week before they put petrol or diesel in their cars to get out on the road. That is crippling and the figures given by Senator Conway-Walsh for kiddies' trains speak for themselves.
The Government must act on these matters. The time for setting up commissions and that baloney is over. We need action now.
I wish to speak about the matter which was addressed by Senators Conway-Walsh and McDowell, namely, insurance. I was struck yesterday when I heard on the radio in my car people from the pre-school sector on the Sean O'Rourke's show and the evening programme later who said they would have to close pre-school services, with the loss of jobs and causing great inconvenience for parents. Another woman was on the radio to say openly that she would not be able to insure her pre-school and would have a large number of children in attendance without insurance. It is chronic. The business environment is particularly chronic. Small businesses everywhere are threatened by the multiples and Internet sales. Rates are also a huge issue for them. When one adds the current level of insurance premiums required to keep a small business going, it is not viable. It is very serious. In a county like mine car insurance is almost a form of tax on work, given the lack of public transport, including rail services, except along the main thoroughfare. It is a real problem. There is an obvious issue with awards, a matter which was addressed well by our colleague, Senator Lawlor, last week. It needs to be addressed. Insurance companies' internal costs must be looked at also, as must the idea of criminalising the making of false claims. There is a whole agenda that needs to be addressed. While there is a discussion taking place at the finance committee today, we have a separate role as a House of the Oireachtas and must address the issue. I note for the Leader, allowing for the fact that we had a discussion at some level last week, that the issue is too serious to ignore and leave it at that. I ask that we again have a long and thorough discussion on the problem of the cost of insurance.
I thank the Senator.
I am not exaggerating. Last week I came across a small business which had cumulative insurance costs of approximately €8,000. It will not be able to stay open when one puts rates on top of it.
I remind Senators that while group leaders have three minutes, other speakers have two. Some Senators seem to think they are leaders all the time and want three or four minutes, but I have to be fair.
In the first three months of the year 11 Palestinian children were murdered by occupying Israeli forces. The fatalities included two children who were shot dead during the great march of return protests on 30 March. A volunteer medic was killed in Bethlehem last week. I quote the head of Defence for Children International as follows: "Israeli forces are killing Palestinian children with live ammunition at alarming rates yet the international community stands by as Palestinian children are killed with impunity." During protests near the perimeter fence of the occupied Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers shot Bilal al-Najjar. Hit in the abdomen, Bilal died in hospital on the same day 17 year old Adham Nidal Sakr Amara was shot in the head with live ammunition. It is likely that Adham was struck by an exploding bullet, according to medical sources who stated the object that had struck him appeared to have detonated on the lower half of his face. In all sincerity, how many children does Israel have to murder with impunity before the Government takes meaningful action? Is there no limit to the number of children it can gun down before we do something meaningful? We were happy to expel ambassadorial staff from Russia last year on just the word of Britain. There are 11 more children dead, but it makes no difference. Words are not enough at this stage, as everyone here knows. I have not heard a single Member disagree on the horrors being inflicted on the Palestinian people. It does not seem to matter what Israel does or to what lengths it will go. The Government will do nothing in concrete terms. We need the Israeli ambassador to be expelled and to send a message to the world that we are no longer prepared to pretend this is not happening.
I ask the Leader to find out what the situation is with the Informal Adoptions (Regularisation) Bill 2019. It is a Labour Party Private Members' Bill in the Dáil that is with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone. It is about the informal adoptions which took place. St. Patrick's Guild and the Rotunda Girls Aid Society provided for the fostering and boarding out of children prior to the commencement of the Adoption Act 1952. Subsequently, they were registered as adoption societies under the Act. The files of both organisations would clearly show that some children were irregularly and informally adopted and, therefore, wrongly registered. This raises issues for people now in the context of inheritance, medical records and so on. They want to regularise their position. Some can do this because the paperwork is available to facilitate it, but others cannot. The Labour Party's Bill seeks to deal with that issue. I ask the Leader to check at what stage the Bill is at in the Dáil and request the Minister to come to the Seanad for a debate and discussion on it. It is an issue for many throughout the country, including some who do not yet realise it. It is a vital matter. I would appreciate if the Leader made those arrangements.
I second the proposal of Senator Humphreys to amend the Order of Business.
I raise an issue that I have raised on many occasions. It is a topic we try to avoid as much as possible because it is becoming such a nightmare. I refer to Brexit and its effect on the beef sector. Fianna Fáil moved a Private Members' motion in the Dáil last week which was accepted by the Government. Will the Leader bring the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the House immediately to inform us as a matter of urgency what action he intends to take on foot of the motion and off his own bat to help the sector? According to figures released this morning, the beef sector is haemorrhaging €3.7 million a week, given the prices being received today by comparison with those received in 2015, prior to the referendum on Brexit. We hear commentary on a hard or a soft Brexit, the dates for which seem to be ever-moving, but the fact is that for the beef sector, Brexit has happened and it has been a hard one. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. We need immediate Brexit mitigation funding. There is no need for the Minister to come here to tell us again that he has been talking to the European Commission and that there will be funding in place, if and when Brexit is triggered. It has happened for the beef sector and many others, too. I do not want to highlight one sector when others are also suffering. Funding to get the sector off its knees and enable it to survive is needed immediately, not on some fictitious date the House of Commons may or may not decide if it ever gets its act together.
On a related matter, I read this morning that Brazilian farmers are beginning to register cattle at birth, although it is not yet a legal requirement for them to do so. They are getting their ducks in a row and ramping up their sustainability and traceability systems. They see the opening coming which will be the last straw in the accumulating perfect storm for the Irish beef sector. Will the Leader bring the Minister to the House, not for questioning but in order that he can tell us the what, when, where and how of his action to get the beef sector back on the road?
Níl agam ach dhá nóiméad as I am not the leader of our technical group by a long shot. I am very happy with the leader we have.
On Senator Gavan's point, none of us condones violence of any nature. We never have and never will, in any place or at any time. I would expect and assume that all Members support that because we are a peaceful society and we try to create a peaceful world. I have not heard anything else from anybody in this House at any time in my almost three years here. Regardless of where it happens and who causes it, whether it is in the past, present or future, that is our stance.
I strongly support Senator Conway-Walsh's very good contribution on insurance. I am involved in business. It is flipping killing us. I would say everybody here agrees with that. I ask the Leader to impress this on Government and on the individuals and Ministers involved, as was supported by my colleague. It is crippling our country, our business, schools, preschools and so on.
I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. We are going through a particular stage at the moment. I ask the Leader to impress on Government to consider introducing a corporate governance audit every five years on voluntary organisations that get at least €1 million of State funding over a five-year period. The Institute of Directors in Ireland carries out these audits on behalf of businesses. I really believe we should do something like that for any voluntary organisation that gets at least €1 million over a five-year period, and that it be done every five years. That would ensure overall good, proper corporate governance and would give us a sense that the whole organisation was being run as it should be, with flexibility and rotation of directors. It is an initiative that is well worthwhile and would help protect taxpayers' money.
Measaim go bhfuil an Seanadóir ina chigire iontach. I call Senator Devine.
Whenever BusConnects occurs, it will need its own schedule given that the greater Dublin area is involved. Already 30,000 submissions have gone in for phase 1 and they obviously have not gotten through those. Phase 2 is open for submissions on 30 April and I would imagine there will be as many if not more submissions. It would be a seven-year plan if it was implemented tomorrow but it merits a lot more discussion in this Chamber.
I want to talk about the survivors and the families of the victims of the Stardust disaster. Colleagues are all aware of the tragedy of the 40 young people looking for romance that night who died in the fire in Artane. The Attorney General has said, as has the Taoiseach, that they will consider a new inquiry based on new evidence. On Tuesday, the Sinn Féin MEP, Lynn Boylan, and the families of the tragedy marched on Kildare Street and handed in new evidence to the Attorney General. That new evidence was in a 400-page submission including experts from the Grenfell Tower disaster, the 9-11 disaster and the Hillsborough disaster. They have all given new opinions on what happened at Stardust. The working class families of Dublin want a response. They want a new inquest. They believe they have been badly served and that justice has not been done. I ask the Leader to contact the Office of the Taoiseach to see if the Attorney General is prepared to begin a new inquiry given the new evidence that was lodged two days ago.
All sides of this House have pride in the role the Irish Naval Service has played in the past in search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. Since 2015, the Naval Service has been involved in rescuing over 18,000 people from the Mediterranean. Some 16,800 of them were rescued when Ireland had a bilateral arrangement directly focused on search and rescue. In 2017, the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, came to this House and announced his intention to change from that direct focus on search and rescue to co-operation as part of Operation Sofia. I was one of those who expressed concern at the time. The Minister of State directly said that transferring to Operation Sofia would result in the redeployment of the Irish Naval Service from primarily humanitarian search and rescue operations to primarily security and interception operations. We warned that the cost would be felt in people's lives and in an increase in the numbers dying in the Mediterranean. We have seen an increase in the numbers dying in the Mediterranean. More than 721 deaths at sea occurred in June and July 2018. In September 2018, one in five migrants drowned or disappeared when trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. The figures are very stark and the impact is very stark.
We have now been told that Operation Sofia will abandon search and rescue altogether. The very small focus that was there will be gone and the Irish Naval Service will not be participating in any form of search and rescue under Operation Sofia. We have seen the Naval Service members themselves speaking about their concern. I was very moved by Brian Fitzgerald, a branch commander on the LÉ Eithne. He spoke about a woman who had given birth after they rescued her. He held that baby in his arms one hour after it was born and said, "I do not know where your mother has come from and I do not know where you are going at this moment, but at this moment you are safe in my arms." He said making a difference is one of the reasons people join the Defence Forces and that, in terms of making a difference, this had been second to none.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, to this House to tell us what the plans are for new humanitarian missions that the Irish Naval Service may undertake in the Mediterranean. Will we be engaging with the English navy in respect of the coast of Turkey, for example? Are there other options, either on our own or bilaterally? It is not enough for us to know what happens and turn our backs. It is certainly not enough for us to leave this issue to Libya, the Libyan coastguard and the deeply inhumane conditions, condemned by the UN, that prevail in Libyan detention centres. I know that the Leader feels strongly about this himself and I ask him to bring the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, to the House to discuss how we can move forward in a compassionate way.
I do not know if it is possible to judge between different horrors but if there is anything worse than young people being shot and killed in conflict zones, it is perhaps the use of rape and sexual violence against women and children, which is part of the human story and seems never to have gone away as something that happens in a systematic fashion as a weapon of war. It has been a common thread in so many conflicts in recent years. I want today to raise the need for proper international mechanisms to find justice for victims in as far as is possible. Trafficking and sex slavery involving innocent civilians has become endemic, as we know, and was endemic as a means for ISIS to terrorise Christians and other religious groups. Colleagues will recall in particular its treatment of the Yazidi minority in the early days of the conflict. To this day, more than 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are still missing after they were abducted in late 2014. Those still alive are suspected to be in Syria.
Once I met a Yazidi man on a train in France and we struggled to find a language in which to communicate. What he told me about experiences that had befallen people he knew is stuff that I never, ever want to hear again.
Those who wage what they describe as a holy war in the name of their religion have shown no compunction about using depraved tactics, as we know. There has been some international recognition of the scale of the issue in recent years with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 to Dr. Denis Mukwege, a doctor who assists victims of these practices, and Nadia Murad, a woman who was tortured and raped during the genocide committed by ISIS. Unfortunately, there are not adequate international legal mechanisms to achieve justice for these atrocities. The International Criminal Court can, theoretically, deal with cases of planned sexual violence but it is a treaty-bound court and lacks the jurisdiction to investigate crimes and mount prosecutions since it does not have jurisdiction in Syria or Iraq. There is no other international or regional criminal court that can deal with prosecutions but there are alternative options that the Irish Government needs to raise. It would be possible for the UN Security Council to establish an ad hoc tribunal to prosecute ISIS fighters who were responsible. There is a precedent for this from the 1990s and the international criminal tribunals established for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia are two such examples. UN Security Council Resolution 2379 has mandated an investigative team to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecutions. As the next logical step the Security Council could establish an international criminal tribunal for ISIS that is modelled on the precedents from the 1990s with a tailored mandate.
There has been a lot in the news recently about stripping people of citizenship in terms of ISIS fighters and so forth. That is just a populist, quick-fix solution. Genuine justice needs to be brought to bear on those who have committed or aided and abetted such horrific crimes against women and children. I ask the Leader whether he agrees with me that this is an issue on which Ireland could take a lead.
We are currently campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2021-22 term. It seems to me that this is an issue that Ireland should be loudly raising with other UN member states as part of our campaign and it is an issue that we should stress if we are successful in getting membership of the Security Council. Go raibh míle maith agat.
Agus anois an cigire.
Ní cigire mé, a Chathaoirligh - múinteoir scoile, b'fhéidir. I dtús báire, bronnaim mo bhuíochas ar gach Ball a ghlac páirt san Ord Gnó. I thank the 15 Members of the House who contributed to the Order of Business today.
Senator Ardagh raised a very important issue in the context of the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, in terms of its interesting survey that was published. As those of us who have family members who have affected by cancer know quite well, the issue of nutrition and diet is very important in cancer treatment and care. As the report indicates, we have 33 dietitians in the country with three clinical specialists. As the Senator referenced with different figures, there is a huge amount of work to be done in terms of education, informing people and working with people. I commend Dr. Aoife Ryan in UCC on her report. There is a need, as I think we would all agree, for continuing investment in dietetic services. To that end, I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter because it is an important part of cancer care and treatment. It is also important that we recognise that it is about allowing people who are undergoing treatment to be able to access and access proper nutritional care.
Senators Ardagh, Boyhan and Colm Burke raised the issue of the Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme. I fully agree that the news issued today by the Central Bank is to be welcomed. It has no immediate concerns about the contribution of State moneys. It is important that the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Housing, Planning and Local Government end their talks and, as Senator Colm Burke said, that we allow for people who need to have access to finance, where they cannot get it from the banking institutions, to avail of home loans for building. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House on that matter. It is a very important issue. I welcome the response made by the Central Bank. I certainly hope that we can see the home loan scheme being restored because it is an important asset, particularly for young people and first-time buyers who cannot get on the property ladder themselves.
Senator Boyhan made reference to the issue of the Land Development Agency. I am happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter raised by the Senator.
Senators Boyhan and Colm Burke raised the need for the extension to the employment permit scheme, which I welcome. This week, Senator Colm Burke and I met members of Nursing Homes Ireland from Cork. There is a deficit of staffing and a skills shortage in that sector. It is important that as we reach full employment, the Government would consider access to employment from outside of the EU as a way to having people employed in a very important number of sectors. We have done it in other areas so we can do it in this area. Equally, it is incumbent on Government to progress, promulgate and advertise the apprenticeship scheme that has been commenced by the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Halligan.
Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the important issue of sperm whales. The points she made are very relevant, not least in the context of our discussion as an Oireachtas of the report compiled by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action. There also is a need for the oceans Bill to come back but I have not got a date for the Senator. She made the important point that the issue of our oceans is of absolute importance. I know we have had legislation on microbeads but the ingestion of plastics and other materials is a huge concern and has an adverse effect on sperm whales, as mentioned by the Senator today.
The national marine strategy framework is the overarching policy for our use of marine areas for sustainability. The answer to the Senator's specific question is one that falls between a number of Ministers, namely, the Minister of State, Deputy English; the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross; the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton; the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy; and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to check whether this issue comes under his remit. I know that he spoke at a conference on oceans that was held in Galway last year but I will revert back to the Senator on the matter.
Senators Conway-Walsh, McDowell, O'Reilly and Ó Céidigh all touched on the very important issue of insurance. The cost of insurance is a major issue for businesses, consumers and community groups. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, has been proactive about the matter. We have seen a reduction in some of the motor insurance costs. The Minister published the cost of insurance working group report with the employer public liability report last year in 2018. We all accept that there is a real need to reduce the costs for businesses, which was spoken about here this morning. Equally, the Judicial Council Bill must come back and be concluded. It is worth noting that the Government enacted legislation on insurance in terms of the Insurance (Amendment) Act, the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act and the new Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act. In addition, the Government has proposed amendments to a Sinn Féin Bill proposed by Deputy Pearse Doherty. There is work being done. Insurance costs are frustrating and annoying and we need to see the cost of claims reduced.
Senator McDowell referenced an claim reported in a newspaper this morning. The award baffles me and there are many awards that baffles many of us who watch from afar. There is a continuing piece of work to be done on the matter.
I know Senator Conway-Walsh is not here but I want to wish her a very happy birthday today. I am sure she is gone celebrating with Senator Devine and maybe we will all join her later.
Senator Colm Burke raised the issue of the visitation to the national children's hospital yesterday. We do hope that the work continues there. When the hospital is completed it will be a flagship hospital for children not just in Ireland or Europe but across the world. I thank the Senator for his work on the issue at the Joint Committee on Health. I agree with Senators Colm Burke and Boyhan that there needs to be a continuing progression and a faster building of social housing but also of housing in general. We need to incentivise and consider ways we can expedite the building of more housing.
Senator Humphreys raised the important issue of BusConnects and the eight people he referenced in his contribution this morning. It is a very serious matter and one that we take seriously on this side of the House. We certainly do not engage in hilarity in terms of the people that he referenced.
I was not apologising at all.
We were not hilarious. What is hilarious is the tying up of the matter.
I have been in contact with the Minister's office and been informed that he is prepared to extend his contribution on transport by 30 minutes.
His contribution to the debate.
Indeed. I thank the Senator for the clarification. I was looking at my notes, which contain a suggestion the Minister is wont to making lengthy contributions.
The contribution of the Minister cannot be controlled by the Chair. If he speaks for an hour-----
The Minister is prepared to extend the time allocated for statements on transport by 30 minutes.
Will he just make a statement on transport, or will judicial appointments form part of it?
Is the Deputy referring to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill or the Judicial Council Bill?
Will he discuss that issue in the extra half an hour?
I am sure he can work it out with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan. Perhaps they might dovetail-----
He has such knowledge of it, or perhaps I should say an impact or interferes-----
There are many people who never before had such knowledge of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
The point the Cathaoirleach has made about BusConnects is very important, as Senator Devine said. When the chairperson of the NTA, Ms Anne Graham, appeared before an Oireachtas committee this morning, she said more than 30,000 submissions had been made on the plan. Work on revisions to the proposed network is ongoing. The NTA will engage in a further public consultation process in September. There have been three consultative processes to date. It is an important matter. To be fair to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, despite what some Members might suggest, he has been very willing to come to the House to discuss various transport issues. The contributions of Members to the debates on transport requested have been less than adequate.
I will change that today.
I thank the Senator. It is appreciated.
Senator Devine is an inspiration to us all.
If Senator Humphreys accepts the offer of an extra half an hour for the debate, it might go some way towards getting answers.
What exactly is the Leader saying?
I am proposing that we extend the time allocated for statements on transport by 30 minutes.
Senator Humphreys indicated that he would propose an amendment to the Order of Business. For now we will let him reflect on what the Leader has just said.
The other issue Senator Humphreys raised related to fire safety defects and general safety issues in apartments and houses must be taken very seriously. Self-certification and a lack of regulation are matters worthy of debate in this House. I am happy to invite the relevant Minister to come to the House for such a discussion. I have spoken to officials in his office about the matters and hope to be able to schedule a debate on them in due course.
Senators Gavan and Ó Céidigh referred to the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel. As Senator Ó Céidigh rightly said, we all condemn violence whatever form it takes. To be fair to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, he has been proactive in dealing with the issue. I will be happy to have him come to the House to discuss it in due course.
Senator McFadden asked about the status of the Informal Adoptions (Regularisation) Bill 2019, but I do not have an answer for her now. I will be happy to liaise with her on the matter and invite the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, to come to the House to discuss it.
Senator Paul Daly referred to the beef sector and Brexit. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, was in the House recently to discuss the beef sector and agriculture matters more generally, but I will invite him back for a further discussion. As the Senator knows, we have been engaging with the Minister who has been engaging with the Commissioner in Brussels, Mr. Phil Hogan. I do not think Brussels can announce a package of supports for Ireland before Brexit actually happens. That said, the issue is important. The Senator is correct in saying Brexit will hit the farming sector hard. The Minister has been very active in dealing with the matter. I will be happy to invite him back to the House in due course.
Senator Mullen referred to the Yazidi people, some of whom met Pope Francis recently. The Yazidis which are a religious minority are experiencing brutal treatment. I share the Senator's concerns, particularly about the treatment of women and children. We can, through the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Cannon, play a role in dealing wtih the matter, particularly if we succeed in our objective of securing a seat on the UN Security Council. I will be happy to invite the Minister or the Minister of State to come to the House to discuss the matter.
Senator Humphreys has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 1 conclude not later than 3.15 p.m." The Leader of the House, whose correct title is Treoraí an Tí, rather than Ceannaire, has proposed an amendment to the amendment, to the effect that No. 1 conclude at 2.45 p.m. Is the amendment to the amendment agreed to?
I acknowledge the Leader's response to my amendment and the spirit in which he has proposed his amendment. I am happy to withdraw my amendment if the Minister will be in the House for the additional half an hour, as indicated by the Leader. I hope the Minister will make a substantial contribution to the debate. I also acknowledge that the Leader meant no insult to the eight families on Townsend Street when he was giggling and laughing as I made my point about their predicament.
I understand the Senator was somewhat perplexed, but Senator McDowell seconding the proposed amendment was the cause of the entertainment. Is the amendment, as amended, agreed to? Agreed.
In the event that the debate on transport concludes before 3.15 p.m., we should allow the subsequent business to begin immediately, without a break.
Is that agreed? Agreed.