Wednesday, 23 May 2001
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Cassidy: The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, 2000, (Additional Functions) Order, 2001, to be taken for one hour with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed seven minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; No. 2, Sustainable Energy Bill, 2001 – Committee and Remaining Stages; No. 3, ACC Bank Bill, 2001 – Committee and Remaining Stages, not to be taken before 3.30 p.m.; and No. 19, motion 24, to be taken from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and business, if not previously concluded, to resume thereafter. I was to propose to take statements but that will not be going ahead now.
Mr. Manning: I ask the Leader to facilitate the House by having a wide-ranging debate on sports policy. Major issues are engaging the attentions of a great number of people. There are some big decisions to be taken. In the spirit in which Senator Glennon suggested a week or two ago, a wide-ranging debate would be welcomed by all sides of the House.
Mr. Norris: Is the Leader in a position to give a date for the debate which was promised on the Middle East? We had a very useful meeting yesterday with Mr. Nabil Sha'ath, a Cabinet Minister of the Palestinian Authority. It would be timely for a reasoned exchange of views such as we had yesterday.
Mr. Costello: I support the request from Senator Manning that the House should have a  wide-ranging debate on sport. It is the focus of attention in the other House and in the media. One can hardly open a newspaper or listen to a radio programme without an item on Stadium Ireland. It is becoming “curiouser and curiouser”. It is important to have a wide-ranging debate so that we can see where it fits in the context of the provision of sports facilities for all.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House arising from the alarming statements of the Garda Commissioner yesterday that there is profound concern in the community in relation to crime. Obviously the policy of zero tolerance is now in tatters. He said that the situation is pretty dire in the community at large and he will be obliged to target resources in specific areas in order to deal with the situation. The Minister, who has prided himself on zero tolerance, should inform this House of the situation and why there is a conflict between what he and the Garda Commissioner are saying.
Ms Cox: I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the whole issue of the national children's strategy. I waited for many weeks in the hope that perhaps another Senator would raise the issue and that it would not fall to a female Member to do so. It is one of the single most exciting developments in the whole policy-making process of this Government that it has published a national children's strategy. A reading of the document will show how much it will be to the benefit of children and also parents, older people and the whole community.
It is important that we ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House. Our policy of zero tolerance has been very successful, but we must now look at the different challenges facing us in the whole area of security, especially the challenges facing the Garda Síochána. I witnessed last weekend the brazenness of some young people which gardaí must face on a daily basis while performing their duties. We must look in a constructive way at how society is changing and what we can do about it. I would welcome a debate on the issue of crime with the Minister present.
Mrs. Jackman: I understood last week that we were going to have a debate this week on the health services, or lack of them. The Minister will be present to discuss the draft order on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act, 2000 (Additional Functions) Order, 2001. Is this then meant to be the debate on health? I am surprised that the Leader has not given us the opportunity to debate the health services, seeing that the Minister will be in the House.
Mr. Lanigan: I support Senator Norris's request for a debate on the Middle East. I am delighted that it will take place this week. Senator George Mitchell's report on the current situation  in the Middle East makes this an opportune time to discuss the matter.
There has been a request to have a debate on transport. There is the impression that public transport in Ireland is dire. It is time somebody stood up here and thanked the staff generally of Iarnród Éireann and CIE for the fantastic work they are doing. There is a small number of people within Iarnród Éireann who are creating problems, but as one who uses public transport a great deal the general opinion of those who travel on Iarnród Éireann is that we are dealing with a group of people who are satisfied and pleasant, and—
Mr. D. Cregan: It would be right if this House were to lead on this issue. The public disorder which is taking place around the country is disturbing, and it would be right and proper to have a debate on it. That people are being killed every second week is not an unusual occurrence here. I have been around for a while and I find this frightening. I have been involved with the public for a long time. No example is being shown and there is no recognition of the law. This House could lead on this issue by making the point to the Minister so that the public can be aware that we are not only concerned but are making sure something is done about it.
Last weekend two people were killed in towns, not cities. Towns are tidy places and people can be found quite easily. It is disturbing that these people seem to think they can get away with it – the general impression is that they can get away with it. If one kills a person and thinks that he or she can walk around for the next two years without being questioned and charged, it is wrong and is very serious. We should take the lead on this.
Mr. Coghlan: I wish to add my voice to the call by Senator Manning and others for a wide-ranging debate on sports policy. I do not understand the unseemly rush on Abbotstown for contractors in advance of the overview, the so-called independent review, which we cannot have for three months. Yet I know Senator Dardis—
Mr. Coghlan: I do not intend to debate it now. I admire Senator Dardis's smile because he will not object to the relocation. It may prove to be the right decision in the end. We appear to be putting the cart before the horse.
Labhrás Ó Murchú: I support the call for a debate on law and order. I was particularly pleased to hear the Garda Commissioner admit  at long last that one of the big issues facing us today is the amount of money which young people have and, second, the amount of alcohol which is being consumed. Many of the difficulties can be focused back to that area. In days gone by, one would be regarded as old fashioned to make that point. More and more people are coming to the realisation that that is the reason for it. If we are to have a debate here it is important to broaden it. We are talking about changes in society, changes in family life and the extra freedom which young people have. I do not think any policy or any Garda surveillance will change that unless we focus on the core issues.
Mr. T. Hayes: I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate, at which the Minister for the Environment and Local Government is present, on compulsory purchase orders and that whole system. A huge amount of new road network is about to be built and there is much concern among landowners and house owners throughout the country, particularly where it is proposed to build those roads, about the long-term effect it will have on them. I call on the Leader to arrange such a debate before the end of the session. This matter is urgent given that many of the routes are being finalised. It is very important to have a full debate and to change the rules and procedures in relation to it.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: I support the call for a debate on crime and public order generally. I agree with my colleague, Senator Ó Murchú, that it should be as wide as possible. I specifically call on the Leader to ask the Minister to urge the Garda Síochána to implement the Public Order Act and the by-laws that have been put in place in Dublin. It is blatant that gardaí are not confiscating drink from people who are drinking in public places. This is causing huge problems. It is turning very quiet communities into rowdy ghettos.
Mr. O'Dowd: I agree with the call for a debate on young people and particularly the fact that so many of them are getting involved in alcohol and drug abuse. Central to that debate must be the issue of sporting and recreation facilities in towns and cities, particularly in the working class areas where there is nothing at all. People with money can get into a club, but people in many urban areas without the means to pay the fees have nothing. It is time that changed.
Dr. M. Hayes: I support the request by Senator Cox for a debate on children's policy, which may underlie many of the other concerns we have in the longer term. I strongly support the desire of Senators Ó Murchú and O'Dowd to widen the debate to cover values in society and to seek options other than the pub culture for young people. The short-term problem is law and order but the longer-term problem is health. If we have a debate it should include the issues of sport and  health as well as law and order. This should be carried out, not in a confrontational way, but in a way that seeks to find a way forward for our society which is in a state of transition.
Mr. Farrell: I support the call for a debate on law and order. As I have been saying since I came into this House and for a long time before that, the basic problem is alcohol abuse. Unless we come to grips with that, we will have social problems that will be impossible to handle. For many years we blamed poor people and the unemployed. However, we now see children who went to middle class schools being brought before courts on manslaughter charges. Alcohol abuse is affecting society from the top to the bottom. I would like a debate on it, but it needs to be broadened.
I previously asked for a debate on the convoys of Traveller business people going round the country, parking in places and leaving a mess afterwards. In some cases they demand money to leave. This is a serious problem and something will have to be done with this convoy system of 30 or 40 people. In the old days it was not traditional for more than two families to travel together.
We should also have a debate on whether the Equal Status Act should be amended. Many publicans and hoteliers are finding it nearly impossible to run their businesses. The criminal element is abusing it by going in and causing a problem; they subsequently go in again and are refused. They then blackmail the proprietor and demand money by threatening to object to the licence renewal. The Equal Status Act was good in its intention, but it is being abused by a small element that is making life hell for publicans and hoteliers.
Mr. J. Cregan: I welcome the calls from the other side of the House for a full debate on sport and Campus Ireland. I would like to see the facts outlined in this House. They were outlined yesterday very clearly by the chief executive officer of Campus Ireland. They were also outlined in the other House and I would welcome an opportunity for the Minister to do likewise in this House. However, I expect that the Opposition will still not listen and will continue bandying totally exaggerated figures.
Mr. Burke: I support Senator Manning's call for a debate on sport. It should be a broadly based debate, including how our most promising athletes are currently being funded through the national lottery. I would be ashamed to say how much one of this country's top cyclists is getting from the national lottery. The broad issue of funding for sport should certainly be debated in this House.
I agree with the Senators who raised the issue of law and order. The Leader should consider taking motion 8 under item 19 on the Order  Paper. If it cannot be taken today, time should be allocated for it tomorrow.
Ms Ormonde: I support the call for a debate on law and order. I particularly noted the point raised by Senator Maurice Hayes when he spoke of the value systems of today and made comparison with those of previous generations. Perhaps that is where the core issue lies. The home life aspect has to be emphasised. Parents must take responsibility. Other people are simply in loco parentis. The issue involves parents, teachers and students. The home must be the starting point and unless we get it right at that point, all other extraordinary ways of handling the situation will fail.
Mr. Glennon: One is always wary on hearing one's name invoked on the other side of the House. However, I welcome all the calls for a debate on sport. When I spoke in this context last week, I used the phrase “for the hundreds of thousands of people involved in honest athletic endeavour throughout the country.” I was not referring at that stage to Stadium Ireland and specifically not to what I described as the show business end of sport. I welcome the realisation that healthy sporting activity among our young people is absolutely essential to their future well-being. All the other issues mentioned are affected by it, but the core issue is the funding of sport and of voluntary effort to encourage sporting activity among the youth of our country. I am delighted to join again in all the calls for a debate on this aspect of sport.
Mr. Mooney: Like my colleague, Senator Glennon, and in response to Senator Manning who raised this subject last week in a different context in relation to the Football Association of Ireland, I am pleased there seems to be a general consensus on all sides of the House about having a debate on sport. I wish to qualify Senator Burke's comment about national lottery funding. As the House is aware, most funding for sport is channelled through the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation. This is the first time that a Government in this State has a Minister with responsibility for sport who sits at the Cabinet table with real power and effectiveness. It is a long way from the time when our colleagues on the other side of the House appointed a Minister with responsibility for sport whose first job was to repaint the offices—
Mr. Mooney: I want to make the point in relation to the national lottery that this House and the other House changed the ground rules for apportioning national lottery funds. In the original legislation in 1986, when the national lottery was first introduced—
An Cathaoirleach: Senator Mooney, if you will bear with me for one moment, please, I have made it clear to Senators that I have no objection to political charges being made during the course of debates in the House, but I object to such charges being made on the Order of Business. Political charges provoke disorder on the Order of Business. I would prefer it if Senator Mooney would confine himself to a question or a request to the Leader of the House.
Mr. Mooney: I am happy to accede to the Cathaoirleach's request. Senator Burke raised an important issue about national lottery funding for sport and legislation surrounding it. We should examine that aspect of funding. Much funding that was supposed to be for sport was channelled into health and the percentages changed to the detriment of sport's funding. That is why I am asking—
Mr. Mooney: —for this to happen and that the Leader may not simply have a debate. The call for a debate is a veiled attack on the national stadium. It is not about sport at all, if one wants to be truthful.
Mr. Manning: On a point of order, A Chathaoirligh, the Senator has no right to impugn my motives or read anything into my words other than what I said. Had he been present he would have heard what I said. It is typical of him to indulge in points scoring in a debate which was good tempered.
Mr. Coogan: I asked yesterday for a debate on the lack of facilities for youth sport. It relates to the matter raised by Senator Manning this morning, that is, sport. He raised nothing else, and I support the call for such a debate. We now have a Minister for Sport and this is an opportunity for him to measure himself and state what he has achieved. The two matters are related because if there is proper funding for sports people to achieve success at the highest level, then they act as role models for the young.
Mr. Cassidy: Senators Manning, Costello, Coghlan, Ó Murchú, Coogan, Burke, Norris, Glennon, Mooney and others – approximately 14 Members in all – called for a debate on sport, the Government's policy, the Minister's achievement and everything pertaining to sport. We can allow time for this. Judging by the interest, it will last four or five hours. I note those who called for the debate and await with interest their contributions.
Mr. Cassidy: Senators Lannigan and Norris called for a debate on the Middle East. I will propose tomorrow morning that we debate that before lunch. On the call for the transport debate, the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Bill will be here tomorrow for Committee and Remaining Stages. Points can be raised with the Minister who will be here.
Senators Costello, Cox, Cregan, Burke, Farrell, Ó Murchú, Ormonde and Fitzgerald called for a debate on crime and the Government's progress. There have been 1,000 gardaí appointed and the revolving door system is eliminated. Extra prison places were built under the present Government. A review is called for in the House, and to assist the Minister with future policy, I will allow that as soon as possible.
Senators Cox, Maurice Hayes, and others called for a debate on the recently published national children's strategy. It is an excellent document and I will allow time to discuss it. Senator Jackman asked for a debate on health, which I intend to have as soon as possible. The Senator may think that it will be discussed this week—
Senator Tom Hayes called for a debate with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on land prices in areas where land will need to be acquired for the national roads network, such as Dublin to Cork, Dublin to Galway, Dublin to Limerick and Dublin to Belfast, and all the parcels of land that will have to be acquired by the NRA to make this possible. I will leave time for this debate.
Senator Farrell called, as did Senator Glynn last week, for a debate on transient Travellers. I said I would allow time for this debate in the future. Senator Farrell also called for a debate on the Equal Status Act and a review of its operation, particularly in relation to the hotel trade and publicans in general. There seems to be an abuse in this regard and I will leave time for a debate.
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