Wednesday, 6 May 1992
Seanad Éireann Debate
An Cathaoirleach: I now propose to move on to the matters of concern to Members. I propose to call the Senators who have given notice to two minute statements in the order in which they were submitted or received in my office.
Mr. O'Reilly: It is not excessively colourful use of language to assert that roads in County Cavan are in disastrous condition. Roads there are not only potholed but cratered and totally broken down, threatening farming, the delivery of social services and particularly the tourist industry and its potential. Road disrepair has implications for the entire quality of life there. Cavan people feel ignored, left out and alienated from the centre and are justifiably angry about it. For that reason I welcome the opportunity to bring this to the attention of the House.
There has been an increase in funding but unfortunately it in no way meets the requirement. Sixty six per cent of county roads in County Cavan following professional analysis by the executive consulting engineers, etc. are deemed in need of repair. In the coming year 3 per cent of Cavan's roads — 60 kilometres — will be strengthened, less than 5 per cent, that is 90 kilometres, of county roads will be surfaced this year. The entire length  of county roads in Cavan is 1,800 kilometres. Of the 342 kilometres of regional roads less than one-fifth will be surfaced dressed; one seventeenth will be strengthened. Despite the welcome increase in funding the situation will only be tampered with. There is a need for a radical injection of funding into County Cavan roads. It is a chronic situation and has been well documented.
Professor Murphy: I am glad to be historically part of this pioneer experiment. I am not sure how it is going to work and I am surprised that the Leader of the House is not in attendance. My understanding was——
An Cathaoirleach: Neither the Minister nor the Minister of State shall attend; that was agreed. The Leader or Acting Leader may be in attendance. We have an Acting Leader, Senator Conroy, who is taking notes.
Professor Murphy: No reflection on Senator Conroy. There would be no point in this experiment unless our concerns were conveyed. My concern is suitably parochial; it is the continuing dispute about free legal aid in Cork which has brought about a crisis in criminal court cases.
The free legal aid panel has ceased to function since October because of a dispute about solicitors and their fees and arrangements with the Department of Justice. There have been some attempts to resolve it but they have failed. Further talks are due but there is no agreement in sight. The consequences of the dispute are alarming. It takes a lot to make Cork people apprehensive and nervous, but they are, very much so. There are hundreds of criminal cases on hold now in Cork. The courts are impotent. Defendants walk in one door and when it is obvious that there is no free legal aid available, they walk out the other door. It is open season for the criminally inclined. This is a crisis.
 In recent times there has been an increase in crime in Cork but this dispute makes it much worse. The fundamental duty of Government is to protect the security of the citizen. Whatever about the obligation to provide jobs, unless citizens feel physically secure, Government are failing in their fundamental task. This buck stops at the desk of the Minister for Justice. I do not know what the differences are between the parties involved but it is imperative that the Government take urgent action in this crisis and make fresh and immediate attempts to settle the dispute.
Dr. Upton: I want to raise the problem of homelessness, particularly among young people in this country. I understand that a survey was carried out in January which indicated that 150 young people were homeless during that time. That survey refers only to the areas where facilities exist for homeless children. In other words, the survey is based on the numbers of people who approach hostels looking for places. Forty per cent of those who approach the hostels were accommodated in a satisfactory location which means that 60 per cent of those who approached these hostels were accommodated in unsatisfactory places. It is clear that there is now an inadequate number of places available to deal with the problem of homeless young people.
It is alarming that of the total 150 people who approached the agencies, 43 per cent were under 16 years of age. That is a particularly disturbing statistic and it is disturbing also that about 16 per cent of those seeking accommodation had in the past been in residential care. In other words, this is an ongoing cycle and a recurring problem which has not been satisfactorily resolved.
There is, of course, the further problem of a great deficiency of data in relation to homeless people in this country, and particularly in relation to the young. No longitudinal studies have been carried out in relation to this problem  and accordingly, we do not know what becomes of homeless people as they become adults. It is a great pity that an effort is not made to collect that data so that we can carry out the appropriate studies. I understand that some of these children are being housed in bed and breakfast accommodation which is entirely unsatisfactory.
Mrs. Jackman: I take this opportunity to speaking in support of women's groups throughout the country and the Council for the Status of Women and to call on the Taoiseach to publish immediately the date and wording of the proposed referendum on the right to travel and information, which he says he will have in November. I do so because Irish women's fears and concerns have not been allayed in the last number of weeks and we have rights through our membership of the EC which we wish to have upheld.
By and large, the women of Ireland want to vote “yes” but they see their rights being eroded. They see they do not have equal rights to men and we are aware that in the realm of European law we have passed legislation which has been extremely supportive to women in areas of equal pay. We have been tardy to a degree in Ireland in implementing much of the legislation which would afford us equal rights in economic and social policy areas.
There is ambiguity and confusion in Irish women's minds and no great hope or security for Irish women that these matters will be addressed in November. They feel that Government can be unstable and they wish to have all-party consensus that this wording will be published. If there is a problem in relation to Fianna Fáil regarding the information aspect, we would be happier if the Taoiseach would say that the area of information is causing hassle. We know that the travel aspect is not.
We must be positive in our support of women in crisis pregnancies. If they get non-directive counselling at least they  will have an option in a caring community and time to reconsider a decision they now make in another country. It is imperative that that wording be published immediately to ensure that women  will be a decisive factor in a yes vote for Maastricht on 18 June.
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