Before I ask the Leader to outline the Order of Business, I welcome some of his friends, Mary McDevitt Afflerback, her husband, Jerry Afflerback, their son, Reilly, and Cathy Goodwin, to the Gallery. I am sure the Leader will give them a fantastic tour and a great day in Leinster House. I hope they enjoy their stay in Ireland.
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to adjourn at 7 p.m., if not previously concluded.
I thank the Cathaoirleach for welcoming Mary McDevitt Afflerback, her husband, Jerry Afflerback, their son, Reilly, and Cathy Goodwin. They are good friends of mine from the United States and are very welcome to the Gallery.
The EU-Mercosur trade agreement will significantly affect beef farmers and rural Ireland. However, urban Ireland is not disinterested in the issue. The agreement seems to be unfair on Irish beef producers. The main point brought to my attention is the carbon footprint of those producing beef in South America. It is a concern that rainforests are being cut down for beef production and, anecdotally, we hear of hormones being given to the animals. It seems that Irish beef suppliers are being thrown under a bus in order that German car manufacturers can sell their Mercedes and BMWs to the South American market without having to pay any tariffs. The Taoiseach needs to come out and say he will not ratify the agreement. We should have a debate on this agreement in the House next week. Urban Ireland does not want to see a decline in rural Ireland. They are with their countrymen in thinking this is a bad agreement.
Last week, I raised the issue of water quality in Dublin Bay.
The bathing season is upon us. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, announced earlier it would conduct a formal investigation into the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant on foot of amateur drone footage of leakages. We did not previously have access to such footage because drones were not available but, thanks to this footage, it has become clear that there is a problem at the plant. I am sure the plant managers have been aware of it but nothing has been done.
Irish Water stated that the problem will continue until investment is put into the plant but the effect that has on Dubliners, particularly those who live near the sea is that they cannot bathe. Beaches are being closed this summer and it seems as if that will continue. We need to examine the type of investment the Minister is going to put into the wastewater treatment plant. Dublin Bay is a UNESCO biosphere. It needs to be protected and we are not doing that at the moment.
The third issue I raise relates to the waiting list for women seeking gynaecological appointments with their consultants. There are 30,000 women in the country waiting for an appointment, some of whom have been waiting over two years. This is unreal and unimaginable. The Minister for Health needs to address this matter in the House today. It is very unfair. It is not only affecting young women; women of all ages are waiting for appointments with their gynaecologists.
I want to raise two issues with the Leader, the first of which is the Mercosur agreement to which Senator Ardagh referred. It is important that we have a debate. The timing of that is not for me. The Leader has a schedule and I know it is pretty packed up as we are approaching the end of the session and nearing the recess but it is important that we have a debate. I note, from the Business Committee, that statements are being taken on the issue in the Dáil. I do not doubt that the Minister is prepared to respond because any Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine who is not prepared for this would be in serious trouble. I ask that there be some discussion in the House about this matter if possible at a time suitable to the Leader, his office and depending on the availability of the various Ministers.
Clearly, the European negotiation team involved in this agreement, as part of the Mercosur trade deal, have totally betrayed Irish farmers. An interesting statement was issued by my good friend and colleague, Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice. He stated: "This deal will devastate rural communities, particularly in the west of Ireland where the suckler and beef farming are prevalent." He went on: "It seems as if European negotiating team is willing to sacrifice the thousands of small family farms in Ireland in favour of the larger industrial sectors." Serious questions must be asked.
I want to touch on issues of traceability and quality. Later this week, we will discuss the sustainable environment and our national and international achievements and goals. On the one hand, people are slashing down forests in some of these countries and applying different standards on the quality of beef while, on the other, our farmers are complying with high standards, which is right, proper and correct, and they are being encouraged to plant and engage in forestry. There is a contradiction and inconsistency of policy and it is an issue we need to debate in this House, particularly at a time of environmental sustainability and the challenges and messages we were given by the electorate in this country during the local elections on that specific issue.
Can we have a debate on Rebuilding Ireland? The Leader indicated previously that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government would come to the House and hopefully that can happen in the next few days. It has been raised on many occasions over the past few weeks and the consistent response is that arrangements are being made to have the Minister in here. We need to address the issues of buildings, addressing voids, dealing with acquisitions, leasing, rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and housing assistance payment, HAP. These are complex issues and it is about time that we looked at the overall situation and took an assessment of where Rebuilding Ireland is today and how it is delivering. There are many good aspects to the programme and I am a good advocate for most of it, but it is timely, right and proper that the Minister comes to the House and subjects himself to questioning and engagement with Members.
It is astonishing that the Mercosur deal has been signed but no impact assessment has been done. It really shows this Government's contempt and disregard for rural Ireland. It is crazy that we have talked about this deal for months and years. I commend the work of Matt Carthy, MEP. From the beginning, he flagged the dangers of this deal for beef farmers, particular suckler cow farmers in the west of Ireland. The Government did not see fit to carry out an impact assessment. This is the same Government that is rushing to the aid of Apple to make sure one of the richest corporations in the world is protected. What about protecting our beef farmers? It speaks for itself. Farmers are not stupid. They know what is happening here.
I also wish to raise the issue of Belmullet District Hospital. I acknowledge that the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, visited the hospital yesterday and met the staff for which I thank him but I have an issue with the behaviour of his colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring. The first thing the Minister did when he stepped out of his ministerial car was to attack me and Sinn Féin. He did not care why all the people were gathered outside the hospital. He expressed his disgust at the fact that people had gathered outside the hospital, as did his Fine Gael colleague. Does the Minister think that patients and their families who need beds and healthcare really care about party politics? It was the most disgraceful thing I have witnessed during my time in politics. I know the community gathered there shares my thoughts. The Minister needs to remember that we live in a democracy. I make no apologies to him for standing up for my community and the people of Mayo. This is an important issue, not just for Erris but for the wider community in Mayo and the Mayo diaspora. We are entitled to ask legitimate questions and get truthful answers. It is astonishing that given his role as Minister for Rural and Community Development, he would take issue with the principles of community development. I will say no more.
I wish to remark on the great Gay Pride march that took place on Saturday. I was very proud that the rainbow flag flew from this great parliamentary institution, Leinster House, as well as over the GPO. I was also very proud that the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Admiral Mark Mellett, was there along with the Taoiseach and the Garda Commissioner and that An Post and the GAA - these fundamentally Irish institutions - were represented. We had the Army band, which is always a great addition to a march, and the Garda band. It is terribly important to demonstrate to young people in the country who may be isolated in small villages that the nation of Ireland stands behind them. It is also important to signal this to some of the new Irish who come from backgrounds where homosexuality is completely derided and to other nations.
I noticed that we will have statements on the environment on Thursday. I did signal to the Leader six weeks ago that I was taking this as Private Members' time so I think that is a bit of a mess. I asked him if he would change it but he said "No" so I will be taking measures to deal with this in whatever way I can. With regard to that and the Mercosur agreement, it is astonishing that without protest, or significant protest, in order to facilitate this agreement, an area in the rainforest the size of Leitrim will be destroyed. That indicates one thing to me, namely, that the EU does not give a single, solitary shit about the environment. That is the truth of the matter. Despite all the fine words and blather, the EU conspires to destroy the rainforest.
Of course the EU will have the support of Mr. Bolsonaro. It is time that people here registered the strongest possible protest. There is a difficulty with the farmers and there is no question or doubt that Irish beef is produced in the most proper and appropriate way. It is better to produce beef in Ireland, under these circumstances, rather than dragging it over from Brazil where they use hormones, where there is no traceability and that kind of stuff. This is just so Ma Merkel can sell Mercedes motorcars to Brazil. It is a thundering disgrace and I am certainly calling it out. I have sympathy for the farmers but I have a hell of a lot more sympathy for the planet.
Like other Senators, I want to raise the matter of the Mercosur deal between the European Union and South American countries. We all know the possible negative implications if this deal is passed. It has the potential to absolutely decimate the Irish beef market. The current draft of the deal includes a quota of 99,000 tonnes of beef from South America into the EU market. As we know, the EU market is already oversupplied with beef and, with the possible outcomes of Brexit, this position may only get worse. We need to ensure the EU beef markets are protected not just in Ireland but in other EU countries. Our beef exports are worth €2 billion annually and that is top quality beef with full traceability. The issue with this possible increased competition is that we are not comparing like with like. These South American beef products do not conform to the same strict EU standards.
It is also very unfair to be, on the one hand, developing proposals to reduce the carbon footprint of our beef herd while, on the other hand, doing deals to allow extra beef into the EU from countries such as Brazil. Ireland's predominantly grass-fed beef is one of the most carbon efficient in the world while Brazil removes vast amounts of rainforest each year to allow for extra beef production. This must be recognised and our farmers must be supported accordingly.
I agree with others that we need an urgent debate on this matter. It is absolutely crucial that this deal is amended in order to secure outcomes for European farmers and to protect the integrity of the EU food market that has very strict regulation at the moment, along with ensuring we reduce our carbon footprint.
I am going to talk about rent pressure zones. There have been many announcements today on the radio and, as Senators know, a list of 19 new local electoral areas across 11 counties have been entered into the rent pressure zones. Carlow has yet again been left out. Graiguecullen-Portarlington in County Laois has now been designated a rent pressure zone even though the majority of Graiguecullen is in the Carlow electoral area. As much as that electoral area is rural, in one estate straddling the border of Laois and Carlow, the private rents are actually higher on the Carlow side.
Kilkenny has been added which is great because that is good for Kilkenny. I now believe we need to examine that. Carlow should have been included and I am gutted it was not. Rents in Carlow are between €950 or €1,000 and €1,600 per month despite the figures from Department statements which state rents are approximately €800 per month. Those figures are totally wrong and that is why Carlow is not qualifying. There is a population of 16,425 in Carlow town. The local authority rent caps are almost double that of the neighbouring local authorities so tenants from all sectors of society are being hit over and over again.
Carlow is the smallest county in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency with only one Deputy to the four in Kilkenny. We are really being hit hard here. I want the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to come into the Seanad to explain the thinking behind this. It does not seem right at all and it is unfair that we in Carlow are not getting what we should. We should be included in the rent pressure zones. It is unfair and we are always forgotten.
The rent thresholds for local authorities were meant to have been looked at eight years ago and, despite the Minister coming before this House several times, there has still been no review regarding it.
It was meant to come a year ago. It still has not come.
I echo the points made by Senator Ardagh regarding the Mercosur deal. This deal is so unfair on farmers. I also echo Senator Ardagh's call for the Taoiseach to make a statement saying that he will not ratify this deal.
I must also register my disgust with the Mercosur-EU trade deal. Farmers find it unbelievable. We need only look at the reports today of the surge in shares in Brazilian meat packers on the back of the announcement of this trade deal to know that they will ramp up production in South America and as people have pointed out, pull down rainforests and produce their beef in a less carbon-efficient manner. We are told that the focus is on 99,000 tonnes of meat that will be allowed in under this deal but what will happen to the 270,000 tonnes that are already coming in? Surely this meat will also be subject to the reduced tariff. This deal will floor our beef and suckler cow farmers. The farmers have been set up. They are regulated to the hilt and have been following rules on everything from quality to traceability to the environment and now they will be left to suffer and for what? This is coming from an EU that practically preaches to us about the environment and the green agenda. The green agenda has been very short-lived when it comes to the mighty euro and the mighty dollar. How many German cars sold to South America will be battery-powered or electric vehicles or is that defined? Did it even matter? Everything we do now is supposed to be carbon proofed and made carbon efficient yet I do not hear one word about carbon efficiency or carbon emissions in this deal. It is a disgrace on the part of the EU and exposes the whole green charade as a fraud set out to hammer farmers. We are going to hammer them on the green agenda and now they will be hammered on price.
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine launched a report last week about the future of the beef industry in the context of Food Wise 2025. What was done last Friday has put a coach and four right through it. We need to go back to the drawing board and go through the whole thing. I ask that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine be brought in here so that we can get clarification on what they have in mind. If there is an economic evaluation of this proposal, will we vote against it because that is what I will be proposing?
Perhaps Senator Mulherin would like to speak to Commissioner Hogan about the disgraceful acts that seem to have taken place against farmers. Obviously, the climate is very important in all of this. If Europe is seen to lead the way worldwide, we are surely in a very sorry state.
I wish to, again, raise my favourite place in Dublin - Phoenix Park. The public consultation finished a while ago. Over 3,000 submissions were made but there is a lot of disquiet in that it was limited and there seemed to a brief period of time during which individuals and community groups could make submissions. The proposal involves a massive overhaul of the park that will have a significant impact on the largest park in Europe. It involves shuttle buses, trains, developing the visitors' centre and the Magazine Fort. In particular, people are outraged by what might become permanent enlarged car parking spaces at a time when we are looking to be more eco-friendly, to be kind to ourselves and the environment and to hold on to every inch and blade of grass in our city because we do not have much of it
Once concrete is poured, that great space is lost forever; it is the lung for Dublin. The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, OPW, Deputy Moran, should come to the House to give us an update on this consultation and plans for the next stages.
I also raise the trade agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Before the Minister comes to the House, people should sit down and read the trade agreement. It is important to have a balanced discussion rather than sound bites based on IFA press releases. The agreement is far-ranging and analysing the detail is important. If we support climate-change measures, as I do, we need to be honest and say that this will cost. Ireland or Europe cannot deal with climate change alone; it must be dealt with in an international context. We have seen Trump running away from the USA's responsibility on climate change with a breach of the Paris accord.
Tying Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay into the Paris accord is a very important element of the trade agreement. The trade agreement becomes null and void if the countries do not sign up and maintain their commitments under the Paris accord. I heard Senator Boyhan speak about slashing down forests. That is happening at the moment. However, a condition of the agreement is that Brazil signs up to the re-afforestation of the rain forest. It sets clear targets on that and the trade agreement will collapse without that.
It is also about civic society and freedom of association. Many people talk about the right to collective bargaining, something we have fought for in this country. The right to collective bargaining is also specified in the accord.
I also have concerns about animal welfare. However, again the agreement requires those countries to reach clear standards on animal welfare. The agreement makes stipulations about antibiotics. They are required to meet the 100% standard for food to be imported into the EU. That will improve food safety across the globe and will address the misuse of antibiotics, which affects us all.
Before the Minister or the Taoiseach comes to the House to discuss this, Senators should stop reading the IFA press release and go and read the agreement. I am not saying it is perfect but we have two years to get improvements. Let us have an honest discussion. Let us stop playing to the audience. Addressing climate change will cost and we need to sit down and negotiate in a reasonable manner with the rest of the world to try to save the planet.
Today saw the opening of the European Parliament, with many competing Members. There were protests by the British Liberal Democrat MEPs with their "B to Brexit" or "Stop Brexit" T-shirts. There was also a protest by the Catalan separatist movement. The most frustrating was the Brexit Party MEPs turning their backs to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".
An ignorant Paisleyite response.
It shows a lack of respect to a piece of music that represents understanding and peace between member states. I believe they do not represent the British public.
Over the years we have paid huge respect to the British national anthem and all other national anthems, and vice versa. We would be very upset if such disrespect was shown to our national anthem. The "Ode to Joy" is not just for one state but for the Union. It is a huge disrespect for elected representatives to turn their backs when the anthem was played.
Senator Norris rightly referred to the Dublin Pride parade. Mention was also made of 600 civil servants, the Garda and the Prison Service. I wish to note that the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, participated in the parade.
The presence of the PSNI is very significant. I recall that two years ago the Garda and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, attended the Pride parade in Belfast. These events have great significance for the island of Ireland and deserve to be acknowledged. I also wish to acknowledge the fact that the Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast City Council, John Finucane, laid a wreath in memory of the Battle of the Somme. His gesture is very significant.
I acknowledge that people are prepared to put their heads above the parapet to state that there are two strands to our history.
A fortnight ago I was in Crossmaglen with the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly to conduct a survey on illicit smuggling. The GAA, the schools and the PSNI are doing a huge amount of work there as well, which should be welcomed. The GAA operates on a cross-community basis and does great work across the island. The GAA, along with politicians in all parties, have shown themselves to be leaders by ensuring that these little bits of co-operation move in the right direction. To me, they do so in order to have an agreed Ireland and to work between the island of Ireland and the UK and, indeed, Europe.
I wish to raise a matter of local and national importance. Early this morning I attended a detailed briefing at Dublin Airport with the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA. Dublin Airport, as Senators will know, is a key national asset that employs approximately 20,000 people in over 100 companies. For each of the 20,000 jobs another nine jobs have been created indirectly. In total, there are nearly 200,000 people employed around north Dublin and in surrounding counties.
The airport has been a success story under the Fine Gael-led Governments as passenger numbers grew from 18 million in 2010 to approximately 32 million in 2019.
What about compensation?
The airport is key to tourism and foreign direct investment in Ireland. Recently Fingal County Council approved four master plans and is working on a fifth master plan that will bring 23,000 high-quality jobs to Swords and Fingal. Fingal and Ireland need Dublin Airport to work efficiently and deal with the upward trend in traffic there and facilitate these new jobs with many international companies and international trading companies.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation has approved €1.83 billion, or 93%, of the Dublin Airport investment plan. Recently we received the good news that the European Investment Bank will give us €350 million. The commission agrees that this work must be done. Indeed, all of the stakeholders and the people who work inside and outside the airport agree that this work must be done. I refer to groups such as Bord Fáilte, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.
The Commission for Aviation Regulation wants to reduce the existing passenger charge by 22%, or from €9.60 down to €7.50. Dublin Airport has one of the lowest passenger charges for a large airport category in Europe. The charge is the lowest of 11 airports with passenger numbers over 25 million. I note that Heathrow Airport charges €25 and the airport that serves Amsterdam charges €30. Dublin Airport has had a fixed charge for the last five years and there will be a flat fixed charge for the next five years with an investment plan of €1.83 billion. The DAA has not sought a price increase but wants to hold on to what it has. I want to make it clear that the proposed cut in the maximum passenger charge will lead to a downgrade of the DAA's credit rating and, therefore, put its business plan at risk. In addition, many of the projects will be stalled. I am very concerned that the proposed cut in the maximum passenger charge will put the business plans of the DAA out.
I hope the regulator will review the draft decision carefully, reconsider the submissions and the overall national context in which this airport operates. There is no guarantee that the proposed cut in airport charges will actually find its way to the passengers and it may end up on the airlines' balance sheets. Furthermore, if that cut were to result in more passengers passing through Dublin Airport, it would not have the infrastructure to deal with them.
Does the Commission for Aviation Regulation have the expertise to assess this situation in terms of its impact on the DAA's ability to borrow money internationally on the markets? My understanding is that this will damage that capacity considerably. I hope the commission will take a second look at this and take into consideration the concerns of all the stakeholders, including bodies such as Bord Fáilte, IDA, Enterprise Ireland, not to mention the 100 companies at the airport.
I believe that this process needs to be reviewed. The consultation process will close next week. With Brexit looming, it is critical that we do not create further uncertainty in an already uncertain time.
I call on the Leader to respond.
I thank the 11 Members for their contributions to the Order of Business. It is not surprising that the Mercosur trade agreement has been raised by Senators Ardagh, Boyhan, Conway-Walsh, Norris, Hopkins, Murnane O'Connor, Mulherin, Devine and Humphreys. I agree that it is a headline political agreement, but there is nothing agreed as such and nothing has been signed off yet. This has been 20 years in the making and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been trying to mitigate the impact on Irish and European agriculture and farmers. Senator Humphreys is correct. I ask all Members to read the agreement and not come into the House with a one-off headline. Many of us are disappointed at what is proposed. If one wants to make political point, let us look at who has been negotiating and who has been involved and at what the Ministers for Agriculture, Food and Marine and Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and the Taoiseach have been saying to our European counterparts. I will come back to that point.
The most important point that was raised is that the initial proposal related to 300,000 tonnes of beef but this has been reduced to 99,000 with the tariff rate quota, TRQ being split between frozen and fresh meat, and it will take seven years. The other point is that Government through the Taoiseach and the two Ministers have articulated and raised legitimate concerns regarding what is being proposed. Senator Ardagh referred to the economic assessment. The Taoiseach said last Sunday such an assessment would be done. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment made the same point in the Dáil earlier - one could not have an economic assessment done until one knows what is being proposed. That was the initial reaction from the Taoiseach. Today------
The Taoiseach, as usual, was commentating on something rather than making a decision.
Senator Wilson, please do not have a discussion with the Leader.
The Fianna Fáil narrative should be that Deputy Micheál Martin runs from everything.
That is not true.
The Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Creed, have travelled around Europe, speaking to our European counterparts. If one looks at what the French and the Poles have been saying before the deal and what the Minister, Deputy Creed has been saying, one will see that we have been articulating a view long before that.
There is a need now to have a debate, as Senator Humphreys said, in the round on what is being proposed. There are significant issues in it for workers and opportunities for farmers and dairy sector but I share the concerns about the beef sector in particular. As Senator Humphreys articulated, climate change will not happen by the click of a hand, but will need buy-in from everybody, and that means people will adopt a different approach. For the first time, if this deal is approved, there will be a lock-in of countries that will be trading with us on the issue of climate change through the Paris Agreement, which means they will have to live up to their climate change obligations. Senator Boyhan requested a debate.
I am endeavouring to facilitate a debate as a matter of urgency. My difficulty, as Leader, is there is a debate in the Dáil. The Minister is available between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. tomorrow, the time at which we are to have statements on defence. The proposals of the Public Service Pay Commission are being brought to the Cabinet tonight. We must be fair to Members such as Senator McFadden who had requested that we have statements on defence before the Mercosur agreement was announced last weekend. I will liaise with Members, including Senators Wilson, Humphreys and Boyhan, as well as those in the Sinn Féin group, to see what we can do. It is not the case that I do not want to have statements on the issue; rather, it is a question of availability. I will come back to the House on the matter in due course.
Senator Ardagh also raised the issue of water quality. The issue at the Ringsend treatment plant is a source of great concern and was raised in the House last week. Some 40% of the country's wastewater is treat at the plant. We should recognise and comment on the fact that Irish Water is investing significant sums in upgrading the plant. It is spending a sum to the tune of €400 million. It is clear that the plant needs to be overhauled and upgraded. We will have the Minister come to the House to discuss the issue. Again, the Senator can table a Commencement matter, if she so wishes.
The issue of gynecological appointments is a source of great concern. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, has been in contact with the HSE about the matter. I will endeavour to have him come to the House in due course to discuss it.
Senator Boyhan referred to Rebuilding Ireland. To be fair, it is not the case that we are avoiding the matter, but there is a series of legislation that must be prioritised. As Members knows, when we come towards the end of term-----
The end of time.
-----priority is given to legislation.
The rapture is upon us.
If an opportunity arises, we will endeavour to have the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, come to the House to discuss the matter.
Hearing about Senator Conway-Walsh's ongoing battle with the Minister, Deputy Ring, is becoming a daily ritual. The issue at the hospital referred to has been well documented in the House and the Minister has been very much to the fore in protecting it. As I have said to the Senator in the past, she can table a Commencement matter, if she so wishes, to have the issue debated. It is a source of concern. The Senator has accused the Minister of playing party politics. With the exception of one or two Senators, many party political broadcasts have been made on the Order of Business today.
Senator Norris mentioned that it was his intention to discuss the issue of climate change during his Private Members' time. I will reflect on the matter, as I always do.
I thank the Leader.
With the agreement of leaders, last Wednesday I included statements on the climate action plan in the schedule. The making of statements on the plan had been requested by many Members. I will reflect on Senator Norris' comments. It may be a question of dovetailing or repetition.
I thank the Leader. It is appreciated.
I hope there will be a quid pro quo from the Senator, rather than it all being one-way traffic from the Leader's office. I hope the Senator will reflect on his own performance in dealing with certain matters.
Is the Leader referring to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill?
I could not possibly comment.
I am afraid the Leader does not have a hope in that respect.
I could not possibly comment.
Senator Norris is not getting marks for effort.
I join Senator Norris in congratulating all those involved in Dublin Pride last weekend. Unfortunately, I could not attend, but was it not wonderful to see members of An Garda Síochána, the PSNI and Civil Service and public service unions marching? I pay tribute to Inspector Paul Franey of An Garda Síochána.
He has long been an advocate of, and champion for, equality within An Garda Síochána that has sometimes been a very lonely place for him and other members of G Force.
I also thank the Minister, Deputy Zappone, for walking at the WorldPride event in New York last Sunday. Fifty years on from the Stonewall riots, we have made huge progress in our journey towards equality for members of the LGBTQ+ community. I spoke at an event at Apple last Friday as part of Pride month. I will say again that, while the father of the House and I may not agree on some things, his bravery, flag-carrying and ability to bring people with him on a journey continue to make him deserving of the accolades he receives.
I know he does not like to hear that.
No, I do not.
Many people, including Senator Norris, Arthur Leahy in Cork, Kieran Rose and Chris Robinson, deserve our praise and thanks.
I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Ceann Comhairle for their support in affirming our efforts to have the rainbow flag flown over Leinster House on Saturday as part of the Pride festival. I also thank them for supporting members of Oireachtas staff in the formation and creation of an LGBT group.
I am surprised that Senator Murnane O'Connor asked why Carlow was not included as a rent pressure zone. First, it did not meet the criteria as set out in legislation. Second, it was not a political choice and the Minister was not involved in it. The decision was made on the basis of factual data.
It was not.
The necessary conditions did not arise in the case of Carlow. The legal criteria were applied without ministerial interference.
The rent pressure zones-----
The Senator voted for the Bill when it came before the House. If she wants to have a real and honest debate about rent pressure zones, we can have such a debate. I ask her not to come in here throwing political points around when she knows the full facts better than most.
If the Minister can come down to Carlow and find a house to rent for €800 a month, I will thank him.
Senator Devine raised the important issue of the public consultation process in respect of the Phoenix Park, which is a park of international renown. It is not just for the people of Dublin. It is important to get the consultation right. I cannot promise that the Minister will come to the House before the summer recess. If the Senator raises this issue as a Commencement matter, she might get an answer more quickly. She is right to raise the points she has raised. I thank her for that.
Senator Feighan referred to the continuing fun and frolics of the Brexiteers at the European Parliament. Their opposition to the playing of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" epitomises what they stand for. If one watches the video of what happened this morning, one will see that it was very unedifying. As Senator Feighan said, the EU is about bringing people together in peace rather than dividing them. The work of the European Parliament is about advancing mutual interests while having a real debate at the same time. I congratulate the Senator on the work he is doing to build bridges between North and South. He raised some issues in that regard.
Senator Reilly spoke about the Dublin Airport Authority in the context of proposed reductions in landing charges and fees. He referred to the importance of the airport as a gateway. Some people have expressed concern that it could become a choke point for our country as well. There is a need for the public consultation to be extended and kept open to facilitate a wider consultation on the matter and to ensure the knock-on effects on places like Cork Airport are outlined, debated and consulted. As the Senator quite rightly said, the number of people employed in the airport means it is a success story. While our tourism figures are healthy, there are concerns as we head towards Brexit. I think the points made by the Senator are valid.
I thank Members again for their contributions to the Order of Business. I hope we can have a successful debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. Senator Norris might reflect on that.
As someone with a keen interest in sea fishing, I was intrigued by the Leader's efforts to throw out a sprat to catch a mackerel in the guise of Senator Norris's support for the Government on certain issues. I will watch that space.