Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Vol. 265 No. 9

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 1, Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and adjourned at 2 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 2, Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 2 p.m. and adjourned not later than 5 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 3, Civil Registration Bill 2019 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 2 or 5 p.m., whichever is the earlier; and No. 4, Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3.

I thank the Deputy Leader for outlining the Order of Business.

I note that the European Commission has announced that it is launching a formal anti-trust investigation into Insurance Ireland after claims that it could be operating a cartel or engaging in cartel-like behaviour by restricting access to its database which contains information on claims and people who make frequent claims related to accidents and so on. It is an unprecedented move by the European Union to investigate a body like Insurance Ireland and I hope it can put to bed, one way or the other, the suggestions of engaging in cartel-like behaviour. I am Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach which has engaged in a considerable discussion on all forms of insurance, particularly motor insurance but also public liability and employer's liability insurance. We have seen festivals and various other community activities curtailed and cancelled because of high insurance costs. I believe the investigation is particularly related to motor insurance. It is welcome that the European Union will investigate the issue. The high cost of insurance is very damaging to businesses, individuals, communities, sports clubs and so on. It might be useful to schedule a debate with the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, who is responsible for financial services and insurance matters to ascertain what he is doing on the cost of insurance. Many of the proposals from his working group and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach have not yet been implemented. It is important for us to receive an update on what is happening and why.

I welcome the appointment of the new HSE director general, Mr. Paul Reid. I knew him when he was chief executive of Fingal County Council. He comes with a reputation for dynamism and activity. He was very involved with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at the time of the crisis. However, in the health sector 20 of the 23 major capital projects undertaken since 2010 ended up costing more than the agreed contract price. That is no way to budget. It is an absolute scandal that the national children's hospital will cost at least three times the original €650 million and probably much more by the time it is fitted out with all of its equipment. It is important that we keep an eye on how the HSE is spending its money. It is important that it be funded adequately to provide the services required.

The availability of Spinraza, a drug to treat the condition of spinal muscular atrophy, has been raised in the House many times. It is welcome that the NHS has approved it for use in England and Wales, leaving Ireland and Estonia as the only EU countries that are not funding it. It is incumbent on the Leader to bring the Minister for Health into the House to explain where we stand on the availability of Spinraza. I have not yet clarified whether Northern Ireland and Scotland are involved; the NHS announcement seems to be in respect of England and Wales. The Taoiseach has often said if medical treatment is available in one part of the island, it should be available in the other. If it is available in the United Kingdom generally and specifically in Northern Ireland, it is important that we have the same terms here. I, therefore, call for a debate with the Minister for Health on the availability of Spinraza in order that he can outline where he stands on drugs that are being approved in many other EU countries but not here. Most people would appreciate it taking place sooner rather than later.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business with respect to the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018.

I do not believe we should proceed beyond Committee Stage today because we need to give the legislation plenty of time. That is what I propose.

Is the Senator proposing that we take Committee Stage only today?

I thank the Senator.

One cannot go down a byroad or city street today without seeing hundreds of posters for hopeful local election candidates. I wish each and every one of them well. As they are my electorate, I do not mind speaking on their behalf. We have repeatedly promised councillors that we will review their pay and terms and conditions of employment, as well as their powers, but, frankly, we have done nothing for them. County councillors were promised a review would happen by Hallowe'en and by the end of the year or at some other time. I wonder if the many hopefuls who have never been elected before realise what they are getting themselves into. As the miserable allowance they receive will be spent in looking after their constituents, they will get nothing. If they live in places like west Cork, it will cost them money to run their cars. They will finish up on boards of management in schools and education and training boards and they will simply not be able to afford to attend because they will not be paid proper expenses. The bottom line is there is an urgent need for reform. I ask the Deputy Leader to arrange a debate in this House before the new incoming councillors take their seats in order that we will openly discuss in front of the public their terms and conditions of employment. As I have no difficulty in discussing the terms and conditions of employment of elected persons in any public forum, I ask that we have that debate.

I totally concur with my colleague Senator Horkan in what he said about the cost of car insurance and the issue of a cartel raised in a report issued today. It is about time there was a detailed investigation of the issue, particularly when one hears about young drivers buying cars for €2,000 and that it costs them €6,000 to insure them. Owning and insuring a car is not a huge issue in suburban Dublin, but it is simply prohibitive if one lives in rural Ireland and is an apprentice who must drive 25 or 30 miles to work each day. The rule changes made are good and I do not disagree with most of them, but even if a driver gets to the stage where he or she has a driving licence, he or she cannot afford to drive because he or she cannot get insurance. We have to change the way things are done in this country. We need to debate the matter prior to any report coming from a European source.

I again want to talk about the drug Spinraza. I very much welcome the decision made by the British Government and the National Health Service, NHS, to provide it for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, SMA. It absolutely and definitively puts the onus on the Government and the HSE to approve the use of the drug here. I am delighted that another jurisdiction has reached a deal with Biogen and it also appears that the price has been lowered when compared with that offered previously, including the offer made to the HSE. It is vital that the price be taken into consideration as the HSE considers its next move in negotiations.

A very important part of today's announcement is the reference to "real-world evidence of its long-term benefits". This, with the possibility of a reduced price, provides the impetus for the HSE to finally provide Spinraza to further improve quality of life for SMA sufferers. However, it is imperative that this momentum not be lost. As I have said from the very first time I raised the issue, time is of the essence for SMA sufferers. Spinraza is a life changing drug for children in County Mayo such as Grace O'Malley and Cillian Mearns and others who are affected. It is not lost on the families that after today's decision, Ireland and Estonia are the only EU countries yet to provide this treatment. The HSE leadership team was due to meet this week to make a decision on use of the drug. There are no excuses left. Will the Deputy Leader answer the following questions? Did the HSE leadership team meet yesterday to discuss the availability of Spinraza? When will a decision be made? Does the HSE have full information from Britain on the price paid to Biogen? As I said, time is of the essence. I personally know some of the parents and their children, as the Deputy Leader probably does, and they are watching their children shut down. As there is a real lack of humanity, I ask the Taoiseach to intervene and ask the Minister for Health to provide Spinraza for these children.

I welcome the announcement made today that €20 million will be made available to remedy the pyrite problem. We have called for action and met the Minister many times to discuss the matter. It has been a long journey. I commend the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy English, because he did give us his word. We want to make sure the houses that are affected the most will benefit immediately from the money. I am a little concerned that it will get caught up in local authorities which may not have the resources to do what needs to be done. I, therefore, ask the Minister of State to come to the Seanad in order that we can thank him for making the money available and work out the implementation plan with us.

I join others who have raised the issue of the availability of Spinraza and welcome the decision made by NHS England, the chief executive of which, Mr. Simon Stevens, said: "This promising treatment has the potential to be life changing for children and their families." Obviously, he is referring to children who suffer from SMA. I have received messages from families who believe they are being managed in the run-up to the local and European elections on 24 May, given the absence of the announcement on this matter that was due to take place this week. As stated, Ireland and Estonia are the only two EU countries that do not fund this treatment. As other Senators stated, we need to have an honest debate about the matter. I know that such situations are not easy to deal with, that the Government has to strike a deal and that the process can be difficult, but the lives the children are leading are extremely difficult, much more difficult than anybody can possibly imagine. Therefore, a debate on the availability of Spinraza would be greatly appreciated. I understand there will be another protest next week on 22 May calling on the Government to fund the provision of Spinraza.

I refer to a shooting in Donaghmede yesterday. Unfortunately, a shooting outside a shopping centre at 5.20 p.m. or early in the evening does not seem to receive much media attention anymore. That is a shocking indictment of our society. Shots were fired outside Donaghmede Shopping Centre at 5.20 p.m. yesterday. The Government is almost disinterested in crime levels in that part of the city. Whenever we raise the issue in this House, as I have done on countless occasions, I am told that the provision of Garda resources and the potential construction of a new Garda station in the hugely expanding area of Donaghmede, Clongriffin and Belmayne are not matters for decision by the Minister but by the Garda Commissioner, yet when the assistant Garda Commissioner said there was absolutely no justification for the reopening of Stepaside Garda station, Cabinet Ministers were able to make it their business to open it. Why is Stepaside more important than an area on the northside when it comes to the provision of Garda resources? Shots being fired at 5.20 p.m. outside of a shopping centre in Donaghmede is not normal. Shootings do not happen in a normal society and they cannot be treated as normal. It is not a case of business as usual because anybody could be caught in the crossfire. With the greatest of respect, I ask the Deputy Leader to facilitate a discussion in this House with the Minister for Justice and Equality on crime in the capital city.

Tá dhá rud le rá agam. Déanfaidh mé iarracht mo chéad phointe a dhéanamh as Gaeilge mar tá sé oiriúnach sa chás seo. Molaim an tAire Stáit ar a bhfuil freagracht as an Ghaeltacht, an Teachta Kyne, as deontais a bheidh sé á tabhairt do mhic léinn meánscoile agus do dhaoine atá ag déanamh Gaeilge ag an tríú leibhéal, go háirithe dóibh siúd atá ag ullmhú le bheith ina múinteoirí, chun dul go dtí na Gaeltachtaí i rith an tsamhraidh. Tréaslaím go mór leis sin, sílim gur rud iontach é. Níl aon slí níos fearr chun ár n-oidhreacht agus ár dteanga a choimeád beo agus a fhorbairt. Tréaslaím go mór leis sin. Molaim an tAire Stáit. Táim cinnte gur cuimhin leis an gCathaoirleach go raibh mise ag caint faoi seo gach uair a raibh díospóireacht faoin nGaeilge againn sa Teach seo. Táim lán ina fhabhar. Táim cinnte gurb é an rud ceart le déanamh. Tréaslaím go mór leis agus molaim an tAire Stáit as an rud seo a dhéanamh.

The second point I wish to raise commends itself more readily to be raised in English. I put it to the Deputy Leader that we should have a discussion on the new broadband plan and its implementation every two or three months in order to discuss whether targets are being met and so on. There should be a rolling debate on this issue set for every three months. The plan is a wonderful idea. Those who read the article by Mr. Weckler, who is the acknowledged national expert, in The Irish Times last week will know that it is not possible to achieve a wireless solution or for 5G to do the business. No critic of the broadband plan has yet come up with a costed alternative that would provide exactly the same opportunity to rural people as urban people. That should be the criteria. Are we going to create a second-tier society, because this is the equivalent of rural electrification?

I agree with those who raised the issue of Spinraza. I have been in touch with the Minister on this myself and I know that he gets it, but we have to get a result. It is important. I agree with the two speakers who have said that Spinraza offers great potential and needs to be explored fully and made available.

Last week I attended at our local special school, St. Laserian's in Carlow, to honour six athletes from its gymnastics team who brought home medals for their performance at the recent Special Olympics event in Leinster. These achievements could not have been made without hard work, dedication, kindness, inspiration and care. I applaud those athletes, their coaches and the support staff in this great school, which we are lucky to have in Carlow. I also applaud the athletes across Ireland who take part in these kinds of events, who win, and who surpass themselves at all times.

However, when I was at the school several parents asked me questions about respite. I have many questions about respite which I need answered. I have tabled Commencement matters on a number of occasions to get answers through the Minister, but the relevant Minister did not attend. I was willing to wait for the Minister to come but I have still got no answer. There is a day service in each county and we are awaiting overnight respite services. This December it will have been four years since the respite service in Carlow was closed down. The parents and caregivers fought for full respite services for years. A parent told me yesterday that they have been told that their child, who is now 11, may not get this service until the age of 18. This is unacceptable. These parents and caregivers deserve a break. Parents and caregivers of children who need this service are swallowed up caring for those children. They deserve help. I spoke to some of the parents again yesterday. Letters had been sent to some of them suggesting that day care could be opened in Tullow in June. No dates were given and there was no word on respite. The lease has still not been signed. There is no information on this issue.

My biggest issue is that there has been no communication with the parents or with me. I have had the Minister in and I have been on to the health board. I want this to go back to the Minister. These parents need to know when the respite service will be opened. They need information. We are getting no information and it is unfair to the children and parents. I will be addressing this with the Minister again. Different Ministers have come to the Seanad three or four times but the Minister I have sought has not come in. This is a very serious issue. At this stage, nearly four years on, it is unacceptable that there is still no overnight respite available.

I am delighted to note that yesterday Cabinet confirmed that €20 million will be spent on a pyrite and mica remediation scheme this year. This is a very significant development since on budget day last October it was confirmed that a scheme would be established. The homeowners affected have been very concerned and anxious to see some progress since that announcement because they urgently need to get repairs and remedial works carried out on their houses. Some of them are in such a bad condition that the structure of the houses is threatened. Time is therefore of the essence.

I also welcome the fact that the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will be dispatching officials within the week to Mayo County Council and Donegal County Council who will be responsible for the administration of the scheme. This is very much to be welcomed because we will have expertise and knowledge on the ground, delivered by people who are very familiar with the locality and with the people. It will make this scheme more accessible to individuals in Mayo and Donegal. That is all very welcome. The final details of the scheme are not yet confirmed. Based on what I have just described, this must be done immediately. I am not talking about doing so in a few months' time, but now. People have to make arrangements so they need to know where they stand with regard to testing, engineers and engaging appropriate contractors to carry out the work. For information, I also note that the scheme will be conducted in such a way that there will be an assessment of the most serious cases first, which will be proceeded with, and that other cases will be looked after subsequently.

This scheme has the potential to run for years. The situation in which these homeowners find themselves is terrible. They have mortgages to pay and houses they cannot sell, remortgage or do anything else with. I will continue to fight until the scheme is up and running. It has to be done immediately.

I take the opportunity to reflect on proceedings at the inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre in the High Court in Belfast over recent months. I have commented on this, as have other Members, over the last number of months and, indeed, years and have indicated support for the families' campaign for the inquiry. What has come to pass as a result - which has been both expected and, in some ways, very unexpected - is that those families have been traumatised all over again. The details emerging from witness testimony at that inquiry, including testimony from former members of the British Parachute Regiment, have been chilling. I have got to know many of the families that are campaigning. I have been privileged to know them over my years as an elected representative. It is important that we take the opportunity in this House to reassert and reaffirm our solidarity with and our support for those families and their campaign for truth and justice.

In addition to the level of detail they have heard, which has been graphic and awful at times, the families are further traumatised, hurt and upset by the failure to report those stories. That is one of the real frustrations that has emerged over recent months. There has been a failure to focus on these stories in the way in which the press has focused on other legacy cases and news stories. I do not advocate remaining in the past; I simply advocate for people to listen, reflect on and absorb the stories of the families who are going through live trauma and live legacy cases. We should use this House as a platform to share their stories in order to assure them of our ongoing support but also to throw down a challenge to those in the media who spend an awful lot of their time reporting nonsense, fluff and rubbish and who do not take the opportunity to properly investigate the broader legal and criminal justice aspects of this inquiry which are coming to light every single day. I encourage Members to use their influence and to be champions for the Ballymurphy families and their stories. If possible, in the coming weeks before the inquiry ends, we should have a repeat visit from a cross-party delegation from this House, such as we had at the start of the inquiry.

Yesterday morning I met the principal, staff and children of St. Teresa's special school in Ballinasloe. They face a major challenge at the moment. They have been given an insurance bill of more than €26,000 for this year. In 2017, the insurance bill was a little more than €3,000. In 2018, it was a little more than €19,000, and the bill for this year is €26,317. Understandably, parents and staff are very worried because it is not possible to pay that bill without some level of assistance.

I wish to emphasise the excellent work that is being done in the school every day by the staff who look after the children so well. Currently, 21 children are enrolled for this year and it is expected that there will be 27 next year. There is great uncertainty at the moment because the insurance bill creates a major challenge in terms of the school being able to function. I have raised the issue with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh. It is important that we would have an urgent meeting with him to address this issue. A short-term solution is required and then we need to look at a longer-term restructuring. It is critical that we intervene because parents are very stressed. Having been in the school yesterday morning, I am aware that staff are equally stressed. They provide an exceptional service every day to the children. We want to ensure that the 21 children currently in the school will be supported and the 27 children due to be enrolled in September will also be supported. I emphasise the importance of immediate action.

I raise the issue of RehabCare and the 3,000 people who avail of the services. The shortfall in funding is causing great anxiety and there is concern that the service will not be provided in 2020. Will the Deputy Leader ask the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, Deputy Finian McGrath, to come into the House and make a statement on the future funding of that very important service?

Like Senator Mulherin, I welcome the pilot scheme for houses with mica damage. We were able to deal previously with pyrite. Apartment owners and dwellers do not have a voice either in this House or in the Dáil. I have raised the matter continually in this House. Approximately 70,000 apartments were poorly built during the boom. As a result, there are concerns about fire safety, damp and water ingress. Of most concern is the risk to life presented by fire. The Government has continuously refused to give assistance to those poor people who have been stuck with apartments. I call on the Deputy Leader to invite the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to come to the House and address this urgent matter. It is not acceptable for the Government not to provide a solution. The Government has addressed other problems concerning poorly built homes. Is it the case that the Government does not care about apartment owners because the turnout of voters who live in apartments in local and general elections is poor? They live in gated communities and politicians do not hear daily the liabilities these people face. They cannot sell their apartments, and they find it difficult to meet their mortgages, yet they face significant bills. In the Taoiseach's constituency, residents have been asked for €56,000 each to resolve fire issues. The situation affects Castleknock, Cork, Galway and Dublin. The situation requires urgent attention. Other problems have been resolved and pilot schemes are in place. I call on the Minister to come into the House and to make a clear commitment to apartment owners that they will be assisted in resolving problems that are not of their making. A previous Government and a low level of regulation caused this problem.

I second Senator Craughwell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. The Bill that was debated on Second Stage last night is full of implications for the future of the private rented sector in terms of people who cannot afford to purchase homes for themselves. We cannot delude ourselves but that many of the measures in the Bill are going to reduce further the amount of rental accommodation because landlords are going to say it is simply not worth it anymore. I will give one example of an email that was sent to this House today from a man and woman who jointly own a house which was let to people from Latvia or Estonia, I cannot remember which, who gave up their tenancy and who had been paying a moderate rent for their family home. The couple are now being told that if they let the house at the market rent today they will be committing a criminal offence because the Bill will criminalise anybody who does not go back to a below market rent.

The Senator can make that point during discussion of the Bill.

Anybody who thinks it would be a feather in the Government’s cap to rush through the Bill should look around a few corners. The situation is serious. We are going to make the homelessness crisis in Dublin worse with this legislation. We are not thinking through the implications of what we are doing.

Following on from what Senator Hopkins said, we must do something about insurance. Based on the figures she gave us, it will cost €1,000 per pupil to insure a special needs school. Either something is completely wrong with our civil liability law, insurance, the legal system or whatever else, but that cannot be defended. It is only one instance of spiralling insurance costs. Something must be done to address it. We have had all the commissions and inquiries. We have had all the fingers pointed by one interest group at another saying it is to blame, but the Government must now grasp this nettle and do something about it. We cannot have a school driven out of existence by putting a €1,000 levy on every single pupil who attends a special needs school.

I also attended the Ballymurphy inquest some months ago. Some of the stories coming from it were horrific. The stories that are coming out now are also of concern. It is one of various incidents and events in Northern Ireland from more than 50 years ago that one would hope it would be possible to shine a light on the truth. I hope the inquest will shine a light on the truth for the relatives of the victims.

I welcome the cross-church delegation that met in recent days and called on political parties to demonstrate political courage and leadership to set up Stormont. That is helpful, especially after the horrific murder of Lyra McKee. I also welcome the fact that they have been meeting the various political parties since last September to try to find a way forward from the impasse. We need such political, church and community leadership to ensure that Stormont is up and running again.

This is necessary to deal with many issues relating to employment, communities and young people in Northern Ireland. I hope the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, along with the Tánaiste, George Mitchell and the various community, political and church leaders, can find a way through the impasse that will get Stormont up and running. I think that would be better for Northern Ireland, the island of Ireland and the two islands.

I thank the House for its support for a Private Members' Bill that has passed through the Seanad and is now going through the Dáil. The Cabinet approved a money message for the Bill in question yesterday. This means the Bill can go through the Dáil and be enacted. We hope this will happen by July of this year. The Bill is important for the families of missing persons. I initially introduced the Bill in 2014. I reintroduced it in 2016. The Leader of the House, Senator Buttimer, worked with me to get the Minister for Justice and Equality on board in order that the Department would accept the Bill. The Department has made some amendments to the Bill, but at least it is progressing. This type of legislation has been up and running in Scotland for over 40 years. The Law Reform Commission published a report on it in 2014. I am delighted that it will be law here by July. It will allow the family of a missing person to apply to a court for a presumption of death order if there is clear evidence that the person has died. At the moment, there is no provision in Irish legislation to deal with that issue. When a person goes missing, very little can be done to try to get finality on the matter. I think this legislation will be helpful in such circumstances.

I would like to respond to what Senator Hopkins has said about insurance. I think there is a major issue here now. The insurance industry seems to have availed of the upturn in the economy to adopt an attitude of charging whatever it likes. This is a serious issue in many areas. The message being sent out by the insurance companies is that increased charges are necessary because of an increase in claims. I would like to see the figures for the total number of claims that have arisen in the past year or two. How many of those claims have been settled and how many have gone through the courts system? How much money has been paid out in respect of such claims? The companies have not been upfront with us on these matters. We are seeing substantial increases in premiums right across the board. Now is the time to deal with this issue. We need to deal with the amounts being paid out in claims. We also need to make sure the insurance companies are not using the upturn in the economy to extract significant premiums from genuine organisations that are working hard to provide a service. This is something we need to deal with.

I thank those who have raised issues on the Order of Business today. We started and ended with the serious issue of insurance, which was raised by Senator Horkan at the outset. I have a lot of experience in this area as a litigation solicitor who works mainly with insurance companies. It is frustrating to hear what Senator Hopkins has said about insurance costs. The way Senator McDowell put it really highlights the absolute insanity of it. We have to get to the bottom of this. It is really serious. I have read articles suggesting that judges are awarding payouts that are far too high in certain cases, but it is not as simple as that. It is right that inappropriate payouts get the headlines, but as a litigation solicitor who does a lot of work with insurance companies, I think the real issue is that 95% of cases are settled. One might think that the insurance companies are quite right to settle because they make commercial decisions about cases. That is what they rightly do as insurance companies. They put an overall reserve on a case. In most cases, they do not really mind how it comes to pass as long as a case settles for under that reserve. Many more prudent solicitors, including those I work with, run cases when they feel they really should be run because it would be crazy to settle them. I could give 20 examples. This serious issue is quite complicated. I think the insurance companies are the key to it. I do not have a full understanding of the level of communication that is going on between policymakers and insurance companies. It is something in which I would love to be more integrally involved. It seems to me like something that could be pretty simple to sort out. There is an urgent need for a debate in this House on this issue. I agree with almost everything that has been said on it this morning.

Senator Horkan also spoke about Spinraza. I know the family in question. I have had a lot of communication with someone on its behalf lately. I saw a video of Grace O'Malley yesterday. I met her some months ago. I can see the deterioration in her. One would need a heart of stone not to give these children the medicines they require, notwithstanding the cost. We have to look at the reason for this. As far as I am concerned, if one really looks into the matter, one will find that the system for deciding whether medications should be allowed is being played by the pharmaceutical companies. There is a wider issue here. They were looking at the UK situation to see how they would get on. They knew that if they got a certain deal in Ireland, it would have implications for how the UK system might react to their request for money. There is a wider problem here. We need to look at how we decide whether medicines should be given to certain vulnerable individuals. I accept that everything I am saying is absolute rubbish as far as the family of a child with this issue is concerned.

We do not have time.

They do not care about any of this. They just want the drug. We have to find a way for the system to allow families to receive drugs. The amount of time this has taken is not forgivable, in my opinion. I spoke to the Minister about this yesterday.

Does the Deputy Leader agree that the British decision is relevant?

It has a lot to do with the global pharmaceutical companies. These big players play the system. The Senator has mentioned that Ireland and Estonia are the only countries not to have made this provision. That is terrible, but it is part of the global game the insurance companies are playing because they want countries-----

What is the EU doing about it?

Yes, the EU should look at it.

The Deputy Leader is being as fair as she can.

I am agreeing with Senators. I have spoken directly to the Minister, who shares my frustration. He was very frustrated when I spoke to him about this yesterday. I am confident that we should have a decision on this. I am wired in a very hopeful type of way. I am very hopeful of a positive outcome when it comes down to it. When one looks at the video of Grace O'Malley, one can see the actual deterioration. I have only met her once. It is unforgivable. We are talking about a small number of people. I will move on to what Senator Craughwell said about the residential-----

I made a point about the HSE generally as well.

Yes, the Senator did. I was responding to all of his points. We should have a debate on spending generally in the context of what the Senator had to say about the HSE.

I was talking about both current and capital spending.

We are not going to have a conversation about it now.

Both current and capital-----

That is my response.

I ask Senator Horkan to allow the Deputy Leader to continue her response.

She has not responded to my point.

Originally, there was plenty of time for the debate in this House on the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018, but then there were delays in the Dáil and elsewhere. Time was lost overall as far as the Government is concerned. Obviously, the Government does not control how business is ordered in the Dáil, which is sitting for just a day and a half next week. The fact is that there is an urgency around this Bill. I do not need to tell Senators that it is important for the Bill to conclude its passage through the Oireachtas at the earliest possible date. The Bill was scheduled to complete Report and Final Stages in the Dáil by 9 May. We do not have enough time. We should have more time for this. The fact is that there is an urgency about this Bill. There was all-party support for it in the Dáil. I suggest we might resume-----

I did not hear what Senator McDowell said.

It might be for the best that the Deputy Leader did not hear it.

I propose that we resume our consideration of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill following our debate on the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, with a view to concluding it this evening.

We can leave the end time open if Senators are amenable. We get a great deal of criticism for not putting adequate measures in place to sort out the housing crisis but are also criticised for trying to deal with it urgently. I appeal to colleagues to recognise the urgency of this legislation. It is for Senator Craughwell to decide how to proceed regarding his amendment to the Order of Business.

The Senator referred to councillors' pay and conditions. Local authority members may be distracted right now with the elections coming up, so a debate might make more sense once the new councillors are in office.

That is the point I made.

I am sure many councillors made decisions not to run again based on the issues the Senator raised and which I have likewise raised over the years. The Senator also referred to the insurance sector, an issue on which I have often spoken in the House.

I have responded to Senator Conway-Walsh's point and, as I said, I share her frustration regarding the failure to approve Spinraza. I received the same text Senator Ó Ríordáin did. I have given my view on this issue several times in the House.

Regarding the shooting in Donaghmede, I share the Senator's concerns that such an event should occur in our constituency. It is an issue that warrants a wider debate and I hope we can facilitate it in the near future.

Senator Murnane O'Connor referred to respite services, an issue on which she has clearly done a great deal of work. Communication is key in such matters and it further frustrates families when they are not told what is going on regarding provision. Lack of information makes a stressful situation even more so. I will relay her comments to the Minister for Health.

Senator Mulherin raised the €20 million repair scheme to assist homeowners in Mayo and Donegal whose properties are affected by pyrite and mica. As she noted, there is now a clear pathway for people to address the problem. She has championed that issue for some time.

Senator Ó Donnghaile referred to the Ballymurphy families, an issue he has been raising for some time. There are questionable legal and criminal justice aspects of the relevant inquiry. I agree that it is an issue in which we all should take an interest.

I have alluded to the issue raised by Senator Hopkins regarding St. Teresa's special needs school. A short-term solution is needed. The Senator might table a Commencement matter to get a direct answer from the Minister.

Senator Humphreys referred to Rehab and called for a debate with the Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for disability services. A debate on this and related issues would be useful. The Senator also referred to apartment owners and a scheme similar to that referred to by Senator Mulherin. Senator Humphreys has raised that issue several times and I agree that a debate would be timely.

I have responded to Senator McDowell's questions on the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill and the insurance issue. I hope for his forbearance in terms of the time constraints we are facing in dealing with that Bill. We are willing to work with the Senator to allow as comprehensive a debate as possible while also ensuring we get the legislation through as soon as we can. We are willing to sit late to accommodate that, if Senators are amenable.

Senator Feighan spoke about several issues relating to Northern Ireland. The crux of many of the problems there is that Stormont is still not in session, which is difficult to comprehend. We will look to the leaders in both parts of the island and in Britain to sort that out as soon as possible.

We all commend Senator Colm Burke on his tenacity and fortitude in getting the Civil Law (Presumption of Death) Bill 2016, which is important legislation, to where it is. I have responded to the points he raised regarding the insurance industry.

Senator Craughwell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That Committee Stage only of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Yes. The Deputy Leader's point about time constraints was well made, but we have given 100 hours or more to a particular Bill that nobody wants. We could suspend debate on the latter next week to allow more time for the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill.

Sin scéal eile.

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

  • Black, Frances.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Freeman, Joan.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.


  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Michael McDowell; Níl, Senators John O'Mahony and Paddy Burke..
Amendment declared carried.
Order of Business, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 12.40 p.m. and resumed at 12.45 p.m.