Wednesday, 7 February 2001
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Cassidy: I congratulate the commissioner and staff of the Office of Public Works on the very fine refurbishment of phase one in the  Seanad Chamber. It is a credit to the craftpersons who carried out the work during the recess. The standard has to be seen to be believed. I would welcome many visits by touring groups, school tours and the public to the Seanad to witness the magnificent craftsmanship.
The Order of Business is No 1, motion re Order of Business to be taken without debate; Nos. 2 and 3, messages and motion re the establishment of the joint committee on the strategic management initiative to be taken without debate; No. 4, motion re the fourth protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam regarding refugee status to be taken for 30 minutes, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed seven minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; No. 5, Broadcasting Bill, 1999 – Second Stage, with contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 30 minutes and all other Senators not to exceed 20 minutes, and Senators may share time; and No. 23, motion 29, to be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Business will be resumed thereafter if not previously concluded and conclude not later than 10 p.m.
Mr. Manning: On the Order of Business, perhaps the Leader will allow more time for No. 4 as 30 minutes is too short. Perhaps he will extend the time to one hour and allow 12 minutes for the principals and seven minutes thereafter.
I join the Leader in complimenting the Office of Public Works on the very fine job it has done on the House which is a credit to it. It is nice to be able to look out the window and see natural light coming in on our work.
Will the Leader arrange a debate as soon as possible on the report of the Ombudsman on nursing home subventions? This is one of the most important reports published in recent years, not only because of the scandalous matter unearthed by the Ombudsman and the very forthright condemnations his report contains but also because it raises some very fundamental questions about the way in which the Oireachtas does its work and the role of the Oireachtas in ensuring the measures it passes into law are enacted in the way it was intended. It raises very serious issues about secondary legislation, the Executive and so forth. It is a fundamental document and I would like a debate on it.
I do not know how to phrase this but I appeal to the Government not to appeal against the ruling in the Jamie Sinnott case. I know there is a danger. Before the Government acts on this, there are fundamental questions to be raised. It would be of benefit if both Houses of the Oireachtas had an opportunity to address not the specific case, but the wider issues involved. I will leave it with the Leader to see if he can organise something in that regard.
I express my sympathy to the family of the late Dr. Yousef Allan, the former ambassador of Palestine to this country. He was a very good friend of a great number of people in this House.  He was hugely respected and did a great job for his people and his country. He frequently attended before committees of the House. His death was sudden and untimely and I wish to convey our sympathies to his wife and to his country.
Mr. O'Toole: I support the comments made about the refurbishment of the House and draw attention to the high level of craftmanship in the work of Office of Public Works displayed time and time again. It is superb and is something we can enjoy and praise. On behalf of this House it would be worthwhile if our comments were conveyed to those who carried out this work.
I do not wish to start the new term on a sour note but I believe everyone in the House would share my view, irrespective of party affiliations, that the most negative image of Irish public representation was to see someone being released from Mountjoy and coming to his office in Leinster House. I do not wish to raise that particular case but I do so because we need to debate such issues in a proper way as was done in another House. People are rushed in all sorts of directions. There needs to be a calm and measured debate as to how we order our business, the standards we demand and what our authority should be in those situations. I would like to have all party agreement on a debate on how the Oireachtas can determine the conduct and the code of conduct of its Members. I ask the Leader to discuss this matter with the different groups with a view to having an agreed debate on it. It is not for the purpose of scoring political points, it is in everybody's interests. It is important that we all hold the position that there are good people in all parties and groups and it has nothing to do with individual backgrounds or whatever.
The other serious issue we need to deal with in a measured way is the proposed EU reprimand to the Government which will be dealt with in a week's time. We need to have a debate on what is meant by this. It is grossly and utterly unfair to demand of Ireland the same low level of growth as others until we have the same levels of support for education, health and services. We have to spend more money in those areas before getting to a position where Europe can tell us we may not spend any more. When we are up to their level we can then look to that kind of advice from them. Similarly, workers have high expectations of taxation improvements and it would be utterly wrong and undermining if the Government were to move back from that. I would like a calm and measured debate on the issue.
I also ask for a debate on the happenings in Northern Ireland. I am particularly concerned about the development of pipe bombs over the last couple of months. It is absolutely appalling and should be a matter of concern for people from all sides of all views. The RUC has taken a progressive line in dealing with it. It is an issue that reflects a deterioration in the North and we  should certainly have a debate on it in order to find our way through it and to see what the next move is likely to be in that area.
Mr. Costello: I add my voice to the compliments to the staff of the Office of Public Works on the work that has been done here. To enter a caveat, while fantastic craftwork has been done, the choice of curtains, a dark voluptuous velvet, gives a certain dimming effect to the Chamber—
Mr. Costello: On No. 1, we have traditionally opposed any time limit on the Order of Business. It is once again proposed that it be maintained at 30 minutes until Easter. We have opposed it on the basis that it is an opportunity for Senators from all sides to raise matters of concern that are relevant to the Order of Business. In the absence of another opportunity to do this, apart from the Adjournment, which is very limited, we should allow the Cathaoirleach a greater degree of flexibility.
A debate of one hour's duration rather than half an hour on the Treaty of Amsterdam protocol should be allowed because if four spokespersons are to be allowed seven minutes other Seanators will be unable to contribute.
Mr. Costello: Since we last met serious matters have arisen. We have lost some very important people, not least the leader of Fine Gael. I pay tribute to Deputy John Bruton for his contribution to politics and democracy. He was a magnificent leader of the main Opposition party for a period of ten years. The former President of the United States was a great friend of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Prime Minister Barak of Israel, a man of peace, has given way to a man of war, Ariel Sharon. We have also lost our good friend, Yousef Allan, the representative of Palestine for Great Britain and Ireland. We also lost a parliamentarian to Mountjoy Prison for a week. As Senator O'Toole said, that requires a debate in this House on the issue of conduct and a code of practice for all parliamentarians, a matter raised in the other House yesterday.
 The Minister for Finance has been slapped on the knuckles by the EU Commission for introducing what it considers to be an inflationary budget. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on this. Most importantly, the Ombudsman's report on nursing home subventions, mentioned by Senator Manning, raises very serious questions in relation to accountability, responsibility and how we deal with care of the elderly. The report must be debated as a matter of urgency and I ask the Leader to include it on the agenda next week.
Mr. Dardis: I join in congratulating the Office of Public Works on its work in refurbishing the Chamber. It has been done to a very high standard. I hope it will not encourage people to sing arias on the Order of Business. The 30 minute time allocation to the Order of Business has worked reasonably well over several sessions. It would be sensible to reinstate it. I note, a Chathaoirleach, you have always treated it with discretion and that you have used your judgment in that regard. It would be the way to continue.
I join with Senator Manning in expressing sympathy to Dr. Allan's wife and the Palestinian President and people on his untimely death. He was a very able and effective advocate on behalf of Palestine. There is no Member in either House who is not aware of the situation there through his work, night and day. He was always a cheerful presence in the Houses. His death was tragic and untimely and it was good to see the many Members from both Houses at the funeral service held in the mosque in Clonskeagh.
It appears strange that a sanction by the EU Commission on the budget and the management of the economy should be issued in the context of a country that contributes no more than 1.5% to European output. It is curious that it followed on the day the new US President, Mr. Bush, said he thought the way out of an American recession was to cut taxes. Perhaps the European Commission will consider sanctioning President Bush on the basis of his statement. It would be useful to debate and tease out these issues in the House in order to demonstrate our growth rate and low level of unemployment, issues on which they might applaud us when considering the other strictures they propose to impose on us. The Minister will have a chance at Council level to rebut what has been said by the Commission.
I agree with Senator Manning that the document from the Ombudsman's office on nursing homes is important. I have read it and he is correct that it raises serious issues about the role of the Oireachtas and so on. It would be useful to debate that issue in some depth.
Dr. Henry: Foolish words were said in the Swords area regarding the establishment of a house for former psychiatric patients, which probably eventually led to the vandalising of the house. Will the Leader of the House make time available to discuss last year's Inspector of Mental Hospitals report? I have been asking for  this since last April when it was published but perhaps the Leader wishes to leave it until the next report is published in April. Psychiatric patients and their relations would think we have some interest in them if we debated this topic.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to this House and tell us what progress has been made on the legislation needed to fulfil our obligations under the EU Human Rights Convention and if he proposes to sign the Rome Statute so that we can make progress towards establishing an international criminal court? The United States of America signed it before Christmas and it was thought they would be one of the last to sign it. I am sorry that we will be behind them.
Ms Cox: —on the issue of waste management. It is essential to address the issue in the House. Fine Gael has a policy which supports incineration and seems to be similar to those of us on the Government side. It is appropriate to discuss the matter in this House and to identify the strategies available in other countries and which are being proposed for this country. This will indicate the commitment of the Minister and the Government on the whole issue of waste recycling, minimisation, etc.
Mrs. Jackman: I support Senators Manning, Costello and Dardis in relation to the nursing homes subvention report, which was shocking. It raises the issue of accountability and the way in which voiceless and vulnerable people were affected. Some of these people are now dead and did not have a chance to have their rights considered.
Before Christmas I asked the Leader to allow time for a debate on education for autistic children. He promised to have this issue debated and it fits in well with Senator Manning's request in relation to the Jamie Sinnott case.
I would like time to be made available for a debate on the role of An Bord Pleanála. Despite the fact that we have new planning legislation, which is now being implemented, there are still  questions to be asked about the composition of An Bord Pleanála, including its workings, accountability and transparency. Questions are being asked as to how decisions are arrived at. I already asked for this debate. This is a necessary debate because the public at large are asking questions in this regard. This is an appropriate forum in which to have such a debate.
Mr. Norris: I note that the first motion on the Order Paper relates to the Leader replying to the Order of Business not later than 30 minutes after its proposal. I wish to point out that the first four speakers on today's Order of Business took 20 minutes between them. In my opinion, Members must be economical with their contributions on the Order of Business.
I support calls for a debate on nursing homes. The most significant issue relevant to this debate has not been mentioned, namely, the fact that a systematic decision was taken to subvert the will of the Oireachtas. This was done in the face of legal advice. That is the single most worrying aspect of this matter.
Mr. Norris: Will the Leader of the House, as a person with interests on the north side, convey to the relevant Minister the strong feelings of this House about the proposed continued asset stripping of cultural sites from the north side of the city? I refer to today's announcement by the board of the Abbey Theatre that it wishes to move to the Grand Canal Docks site. Those responsible for the Grand Canal Docks development have indicated that they regard the Abbey Theatre's proposed move as significant because it will provide their project with a cultural anchor. Should £80 million of taxpayers' money be spent on providing a cultural anchor on the south side which will have a negative impact on the north side and move a significant cultural asset out of the Taoiseach's constituency?
Mr. Lanigan: I join other Members in expressing sympathy the wife of the late Dr. Youssef Allan, Jane, who loved him dearly. Dr. Allan loved Palestine so much that the pressures of the negotiations and the problems associated with the area eventually caught up with him and led to his death at the young age of 47. He was a  friend to many people in this country, including Members and the staff of the House. He had a good relationship with the Israeli Ambassador and they discussed the problems affecting the area in a manner fitting to negotiations aimed at fostering peace and reconciliation.
On a day on which there has been a change of leadership in Israel, instead of criticising what happened in the past, we must hope that Prime Minister Sharon will form a Government which can enter meaningful negotiations with the Palestinian people. What happens in the area to which I refer is not only of importance to Israelis and Palestinians, it is extremely important to people living here because it is situated quite close to Europe. If further destabilisation occurs because of a hardening of attitudes, hostilities could spread to the continent and we could find ourselves embroiled in the conflict. I hope Mr. Sharon will see that peace, not might, is the way forward.
Articles appeared in the newspapers in recent days about a report in which the Glencree group suggested that people in this country are anti-Unionist and that the GAA, the Oireachtas and the Catholic Church are anti-conciliatory organisations. We should get that report and debate its contents in order to, perhaps, suggest to that group that while its observations in respect of certain issues may be right, they may be wrong in respect of others. We must discuss this matter.
Mr. Ross: A Chathaoirligh, it is 3 p.m. which makes an absurdity of No. 1 on the Order Paper on which we will vote. When we vote on that issue we should note that we have only reached this stage and many Members have still to speak.
I support the call made by Senators O'Toole, Costello, Dardis and others for a debate on the conflict between the EU and the Minister for Finance. We should debate this issue today or  tomorrow. We should also send a clear message to the EU before the ECOFIN meeting on Monday that the majority of Members of this House, and the Government is guaranteed a majority as it has the support of some Independents, fully support the principle that taxation is a matter for each independent country.
Mr. Ross: It is up to Ireland and Ireland alone to decide how we tax our people and we do not welcome interference and empire building of this kind on the part of the EU. The EU has certain powers in this country which we may or may not welcome. However, the right to set our own taxes is established and it is a power which the Minister for Finance is rightly holding on to. We should debate this issue before the ECOFIN meeting so there is no doubt that the Minister has the support of democratically elected representatives in safeguarding our taxation interests.
Miss Quill: I support the call made by a number of Senators for an urgent debate on the Ombudsman's shocking report on nursing home subventions. Senator Norris pointed out that not alone was there malpractice involved in blatant breach of health legislation, but that the Minister must reassure us that victims of that malpractice will be fully compensated. He must also reassure us that best practice will be put in place, monitored and maintained.
I support the call for a comprehensive debate on waste management. This debate should not be limited to recycling, which is only one neglected aspect of the issue, but should encompass the entire issue. The waste management crisis is hanging over the country like a black cloud and we need a reasoned debate on the available options with a view to giving some kind of national leadership to public opinion. Such leadership would avert an impending economic, public health and environmental crisis. Will the Leader arrange for debates on these two issues as soon as possible?
Mr. D. Cregan: This is the third session in which I have raised the issue of the report on Aer Rianta. Will the Leader invite the relevant Minister to the House to discuss this issue? On several occasions I have asked the Leader about the sale of Cork Airport. Rumours about this issue have been circulating for so long that one is inclined to believe them. Will the Leader invite the Minister to the House to explain whether there is a commitment to provide moneys to Cork Airport? The situation is quite serious and I have been raising the subject for nine months.
Mr. Finneran: I support the call for a debate on finance. Such a debate would be appropriate in light of recent discussions and comments at EU level. It would be fruitful to have such a debate in the House. I have no doubt this House will compliment the Minister and the Government on their excellent handling of the economy in recent years.
I ask the Leader to bring to the attention of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government a recent announcement by the National Roads Authority of a proposed dual carriageway from Dublin to Galway. It was extremely high handed of the National Roads Authority to ignore the householders and landowners who will be directly affected by it. They had to read in local newspapers and hear reports in the local media that their houses would be knocked or their farm would be divided. It is unacceptable that a body set up by this House and by the other House should ignore the public. I ask the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government and to request him to impress upon the authority that it has a responsibility to the public in this matter. It could follow the example set by Bord Gáis which has gone out of its way to make contact with landowners.
I do not have a problem with the drapes. As regards the comparison made by Senator Costello about the drapes here and those in another house, Members on this side of the House would not be in a position to comment on such a comparison.
Ms O'Meara: Other Members mentioned the crisis in waste management and the position in which local authorities have been placed around the country. We have had some discussion on this issue in the past but it is now time for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to explain to us, particularly those of us who are members of local authorities, what he plans to do to deal with this crisis. Leadership is not being shown on this issue. It is ironic that members of his party are having late conversions on the subject of recycling and minimisation. I would like to hear the Minister's views on incineration and what he intends to do to exercise his full authority under the Waste Management Act, 1996. I would also like him to expand on comments he made in recent weeks that he would take control of the issue. Will he continue to sit on his hands and allow the situation to get worse?
Ms O'Meara: Food safety and BSE, particularly in the aftermath of the measures taken by the EU Commission and the  implications for the Irish beef industry, is an extremely important and urgent issue on which only the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development has spoken but which clearly has implications for the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. I would like the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to address us on that matter.
I support the calls for an early debate, which I hope will take place next week, on the Ombudsman's report on nursing homes which makes for shocking reading. This scandalous situation has pertained in this country for many years, particularly for those families who have been treated badly by the authorities and whose rights under legislation have not been protected. There must be accountability on this issue. While there is an important matter of how the will of the Oireachtas has been ignored, it seems the most important issue has been how families of individuals in nursing homes have been treated.
Mr. Glennon: I join with Senator Henry in requesting an early debate on the report published by the Inspector of Mental Hospitals. I regret the unfortunate incident which occurred in Lispopple near Swords last weekend. I suggest it was as a result of frustration by an individual who was completely fed up with the lack of communication between the residents of the area and the health authority. It is opportune, particularly in the that context, that we debate the report in full.
Will the Leader ask the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas aid to come to the House? It would be timely to have a debate on the structure of our spend on Third World aid. Members will be aware there is intensive ongoing lobbying, particularly by GOAL, in relation to the structuring of our funding. At a time of relative plenty it behoves us to ensure the dramatic, and welcome, increase in overseas aid is spent with the maximum efficiency.
When is it proposed to take Committee Stage of the Broadcasting Bill, Second Stage of which is ordered for today? I join the call by Senator O'Toole and others for a debate on the EU Commission reprimand regarding Irish budgetary policy. Will the Leader outline to the House the intended parliamentary timetable for the local government Bill, particularly when it will reach this Chamber?
Dr. Fitzpatrick: I do not want to become involved in inter-party or intra party politics, but if Senator O'Meara had spoken to Senator  Costello she might have got some very useful insights on the handling of waste management in Dublin Corporation – the Labour Party members on the Corporation are authorities on it.
I support the call by Senator Norris that the Abbey, Amharclann na Mainistreach, be left on the north side. It looks far better on the banks of the Royal Canal than it would on the banks of the Grand Canal.
Dr. Fitzpatrick: I support the call by Senator Manning and others for a debate on the report of the Ombudsman on nursing home subvention as it raises fundamental questions which go to the heart of our democracy.
Finally, I ask the Leader at an early opportunity to have a debate on the banking system, how it works, its relations with the people who use it and its social relations. I know Senator Costello will support me in this call. There are wholesale closures of bank branches. Banks, in their headlong rush for profits, are closing branches with no reference to local communities. This week a new low was reached by them when a constituent of mine was charged £10 by a bank to cash a carer's cheque. The House will realise that a carer's cheque would not be enormous.
Mrs. Ridge: Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House to specifically address what is happening in urban areas? I have previously asked for such a debate. The Garda rapid response unit for Clondalkin is stationed in Blanchardstown. It has to cross the Liffey and presumably stop and pay the toll. The old and vulnerable are being abandoned by the Government and the Minister – I cannot put it stronger.
I invite the Minister to spend an horrific Friday, Saturday or Sunday night in the suburbs of my own electoral ward and explain to me how manpower at Clondalkin Garda station is lower than in 1975 despite an increase of 40,000 in the population, how there was only one squad car based there in 1960 and this is still the case today. Then he may talk about his policies and how he is going to solve the crime problem. I would be very grateful if the Leader would arrange that because it is very important that we do something in the interests of the people. I look forward to his response.
Mr. Glynn: I too would support a debate on the Ombudsman's report on nursing homes  subvention. I was horrified at the attack on the community for psychiatric patients in north County Dublin. The people who carried out that dastardly act are saying that people should be taken into hospital and kept there because we do not want them in society. However it is very important, and I speak as a long serving member of a health board, to have dialogue with local residents. The programme of relocating former psychiatric patients by my board is working well. If the people who carried out the attack want to see how well it works, they are welcome.
Mr. Connor: I would like to contribute to what has been said re the reprimand from the European Commission on our rate of inflation. We ought not be jingoistic. We have to remember that we are in the EMU and signed a stability pact. The essence of the pact was that we would do nothing to upset the stability of the European economy.
Irish inflation is three or four times the European average. Other countries feel that is threatening the European economy. We complain about importing inflation from abroad but other countries might complain that they import inflation from here. Not everything they say is wrong. That should be borne in mind.
I welcome the contribution from Senator Henry on a subject I have often raised – the need to have a statement from the Minister for Justice on the International Criminal Court. When will the statute signed in Rome over three years ago be incorporated into law? The court was set up to try the many people accused of committing outrageous crimes in their own country with immunity and impunity. The International Criminal Court is meant to put an end to that scandalous situation.
We have examples of the court which sat in the Hague on the Lockerbie bombing, the one which dealt with atrocities in Rwanda and the ad hoc one which dealt with the former Yugoslavia. I have asked the Leader to consult with the Minister if we need a referendum, as has been suggested, to bring this forward. The Leader must obtain a response from the Minister for Justice.
A subject which should be debated in this House is funding for the vocational training education opportunities scheme. This has been operated by the vocational education committees for about 12 years and has contributed to the retraining and second chance education of thousands of people. There has been no increase in the non-pay side resources for 12 years. I call on the Minister for Education and Children to ensure that there is a major increase in funding for the purchase of equipment, given the lapse of time since there has been any increase in resources. A major increase is due for the purchase of equipment, the hire of premises et cetera. The matter should be the subject of debate in the House. Can the Leader facilitate this?
Mr. Farrell: I should like to be associated with the tributes to the Office of Public Works for their wonderful work. I also pay tribute to the man who was the motivator and organiser and who took a hands-on approach to ensuring that this House was decorated to such a high standard. That person is our Leader, Senator Cassidy.
Mr. Farrell: I would also like to pay tribute and congratulate the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, who won an international award recently for the way he is running the country. We have heard very little about it. I would advise European economists to come here and get a crash course from the Minister on how to run Europe. The way he is running this country is a credit to him. We were sick listening to what was robbed from PAYE workers but the Minister is returning to their pockets what was taken out by previous Governments. He is to be applauded and I hope the House will back him 100%. My sentiments are from the heart.
Mr. Farrell: Will the Leader indicate if we can have a debate on the invasion of privacy? I read a very disturbing article about a priest who departed this life rather suddenly, written by a journalist who presumed he knew why he did it. That is scandalous. There was a time when we let the dead rest but we need legislation to ensure that they continue to be allowed rest. It is disgraceful that people can say what they like once you are dead and there is no come back. I appeal for debate and legislation to ensure the dead are not defamed.
Mr. Quinn: Senator O'Toole called for a debate on Northern Ireland. We could usefully debate this but I was impressed by Senator Lanigan's call for a debate with a more specific focus on the Irish platform for peace and reconciliation report, which was issued yesterday or the day before, called Peace Building in the Republic of Ireland. This questions seriously our commitment and our ability to engage with the Unionist community in the North. It makes uncomfortable reading. It questions our whole sincerity in regard to parity of esteem. These are issues we must face up to. We have had debates on Northern Ireland. They are useful but they contain a “what they should be doing up there” element. This particular document criticises us for the way we are behaving. A debate with that specific focus would be very useful.
With regard to No.1, the limit of 30 minutes, I assume after 55 minutes it is the will of the Cathaoirleach or perhaps the motion has not yet been passed. The objective is very useful and understandable but maybe it would be more useful if the Cathaoirleach were no longer restricted  by having this motion passed. Some alternative such as limiting the words and length of time each speaker has might be more useful. I have been impressed today by the range of items covered, by the topics and by the interests outside the Seanad. I feel we should not pass No.1 but find a better solution.
Mr. Cassidy: Senator Manning, Senator Costello, Senator O'Toole, Senator Dardis sought that No. 4 to be extended to one hour. I have no difficulty with that and I now propose to amend my proposal for the Order of Business as suggested by Senator Manning to allow 12 minutes for the principal speakers and seven minutes for all other contributors.
I congratulate Dr. Desmond Connell on his elevation to the college of cardinals by his holiness Pope John Paul II. Dr. Connell is a man of great faith who has been unfailing in his defence of the church's teachings. His capacity for hard work, intellect, natural humanity and unquestionable integrity have earned him wide respect. I congratulate him.
Senators Manning, Costello, O'Toole, Dardis, Henry, Jackman, Ormonde, Norris, Quill, O'Meara, Coghlan, Fitzpatrick and Glynn expressed concern regarding the report of the Ombudsman on nursing home subvention. I will try to facilitate an all-day debate on this next week.
Senators O'Toole, Manning, Dardis, Ross, Finneran and Connor called for a debate on the EU's opinion of our budget. Senator Finneran also called for a debate on finance. I hope to have these debates next week. Much legislation is coming before the House. Legislation is also being initiated in the House to continue the policies of the Government. To facilitate these will mean an extra day's sitting, which will require the consent of the House.
Senators O'Toole, Lanigan, Quinn and Manning called for a debate on peace-building in Ireland. I shall allow time for this. Senators Henry and Glennon asked for a debate on the recent report into mental hospitals. Time will be left for this in the coming weeks. Inquiries will also be made to the Minister for Justice on this matter.
Senators Cox, Quill and O'Meara requested a debate on waste management, which I believe is the greatest challenge facing local authorities. Senator O'Meara is a member of Tipperary North Riding County Council, which is in the midland region along with Laoighis, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath. She knows, therefore, that local authorities are beginning to face up to their responsibilities. We all realise the urgency  and importance of this matter, as has been witnessed in Galway in the last few days.
Senators Norris and Lanigan called for a debate on the Nice Summit. I am pleased to inform the House that the Taoiseach will be here tomorrow at 1 p.m. Allocation of time will be arranged by the leaders in the morning.
Mr. Cassidy: Senators Norris, Quill and Fitzpatrick expressed their shock and horror at the proposal to remove the Abbey Theatre from the north side of the Liffey. I will allow as much time as possible to discuss this. It would be a retrograde step and this side of the House supports the Senators' call that it should not happen. I will contact the Taoiseach this afternoon to let him know the House's displeasure at this proposal. The debate will last as long as required
As regards Senator Dino Cregan's point, there will be a debate for as long as is required. The Senator also called for a debate on Aer Rianta and I will pass this request on to the Minister's Department.
I offer the sympathy of the House to our colleague, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, on the sad passing last week of her husband, Enda. All our prayers go with her in this sad time of bereavement.
Senator Finneran expressed serious concern about the lack of communication with landowners in certain areas about the National Roads Authority's proposed routes for motorways and dual carriageways. The essence of success in this area is good communications, as we found with the Athlone, Mullingar and Longford bypasses in the midlands. I will certainly pass on the Senator's views to the chief executive officer of the National Roads Authority. If the Senator highlights the specific areas of concern, I will pass those on also.
Senators Fitzpatrick and Coghlan asked about the Local Government Bill and I will make  inquiries about that legislation. I can assure all local authority members, however, that when the Bill comes before the House we will give it safe passage over a period of two weeks. Many local authority members have been inquiring about the Bill and have a keen interest in it. I thank Senators for informing local authority members about it. They can further inform them that we will not be delaying the Bill any longer than two weeks, with the consent of Members and the Minister.
Senator Fitzpatrick called for an urgent debate on banking. The fact that a carer was charged £10 for changing a cheque is a disgrace. It is not acceptable and, as a matter of urgency, I will pass on the Senator's views to the Minister for Finance. Before the Christmas recess, Senator Finneran and others called for a debate on banking, and we will have such a debate at the earliest possible time.
Senator Connor has requested me to ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is proposed to establish the international criminal court. I will inquire about that and will revert to the Senator with that information. The Senator also sought a debate, with the attendance of the Minister for Education and Science, on the lack of funding for the VTOS. I have no difficulty in arranging time for such a debate.
I thank Senator Farrell for his kind remarks regarding the efforts I made, with other party leaders in the House and yourself, a Chathaoirligh, to have the decor brought up to its current standard. It is absolutely magnificent. As regards the colour scheme, I hope Members of the Opposition will feel comfortable with blue because we on the Government side are doing so positively well in relation to the financial affairs of the nation. It is a matter of satisfaction to have them happy in Opposition.
Senator Farrell called for congratulations to be sent to the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, as well as our EU Commissioner, Mr. Byrne, who is European person of the year. I will certainly ensure that the Senator's wishes are passed on.
On the subject of invasion of privacy, a further debate on the establishment of a press council is long overdue. The protection of people's integrity is very important, including the integrity of deceased persons. We should debate all matters relating to the press and press standards.
Chambers, Frank. Cox, Margaret.
| Kiely, Rory.
Ó Fearghail, Seán.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
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