Wednesday, 13 April 2005
Seanad Eireann Debate
Ms O’Rourke: The Order of Business is No. 1, a sessional order as agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to be taken without debate; No. 2, statements on the rights of migrant workers, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 1.30 p.m., with the contribution of spokespersons not to exceed 12 minutes, those of other Senators not to exceed eight minutes, all may share time, and the Minister to reply not later than five minutes before the conclusion of statements; No. 3, Statute Law Revision (Pre-1922) Bill 2004 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. until 5 p.m., with the contribution of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes, those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes, the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than five minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; and No. 20, motion 13, to be taken from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. There will be a sos from 1.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m.
Mr. B. Hayes: It is likely that we will see significant industrial action from the security industry tomorrow, following a number of raids on cash-in-transit vans in Dublin and surrounding counties in recent months. It is a very serious situation. The matter was not helped by the comments of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who ratcheted up the problem for those who work in the industry. Can I ask the Government if action will be taken at this late stage and if it will do everything in its power to avert this industrial action which would cause considerable inconvenience for people who use ATM machines throughout the country?
We need a debate about how much the banking industry pays for security. This is a disgrace, given that it was revealed yesterday that banks charge €26 million a year so that people can access their own accounts while they provide only a paltry sum of money to secure their money as it is moved around the country. I support what the Minister for Defence, Deputy O’Dea, said on the matter in recent weeks but now we want to see some action. The banks should have to pay for the security that the State provides for their money to be carried around the country. I ask that time be provided to discuss this matter in the coming weeks, particularly so that the Minister for Defence could outline his views further on this matter.
There was an alarming scene yesterday in the Morris tribunal where the key witness, Mr. McBrearty, walked out of the tribunal and its proceedings. Can I ask the Government if in the next few days it could clarify if a guarantee would be given to the McBrearty family that all of the legal fees surrounding their participation at the tribunal will be guaranteed? As a colleague of mine said earlier, if Mr. McBrearty is not at the tribunal it would be like staging Hamlet without the prince. It is important that this matter is cleared up as soon as possible.
Mr. B. Hayes: I am asking that the Government would do everything in its power to ensure that a guarantee would be given on the issue of costs because that is the problem concerning Mr. McBrearty’s participation.
Finally, I note that as I speak, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, is issuing new guidelines on rural housing. We will have to wait to see the guidelines before knowing whether they have any teeth or are just another smokescreen, like that proposed by his predecessor, Deputy Cullen, in September 2003. I ask for time to be provided next week for a full debate so that the Minister may outline and explain what the effect of these changes will be on the rural community in order that people from a particular area may live there and ensure their families grow up in that area.
Mr. O’Toole: The first report of the Morris tribunal has not yet been debated in either House of the Oireachtas. It is an issue of great concern to many people and is being widely discussed in the media and other places. As far as I recall, it was published in early July last year. I do not believe we have had the opportunity to debate it, but I am open to correction on that. I have not contributed to any debate on the matter, which I do not believe was on our agenda.
I know Members of the Oireachtas are concerned over what is going on there. It has been suggested to me that people who were found guilty of perjury by that tribunal are still giving evidence in the courts on behalf of the Garda Síochána. I do not know whether this is true but I believe these are issues which should be aired and discussed. I would welcome the opportunity to do that.
We have had discussions on a number of occasions in this House with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the issue of immigration. The Minister has today produced a pretty extensive document — a discussion document that is neither a Green Paper or a White Paper — on immigration. On glancing through the document, it touches on many of the issues which we have asked be discussed, although no decisions have been taken. I believe that this is the House where that should be debated and I ask the Leader to raise this matter with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform within the next few weeks so that the Seanad may have the opportunity to discuss the document which deals with such issues as economic migration, family reunification and all the relevant matters we have discussed. Now is the time to influence legislation before it is published.
I congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Killeen, on ignoring the whingeing, selfish and ungenerous shouting and bleating from IBEC, the employers’ body, over recent weeks. He has introduced a much welcomed increase in the minimum wage. It is part of what we wanted and expected and it is significant that he has had the courage to do that. We did not have IBEC representatives on hand yesterday to look at the exploited workers and the disadvantaged firms in Ireland, as regards the Gama issue. Neither are they on hand today to look at people who are at the lowest level of payment in this country. This is something which the House should welcome and we should thank the Minister of State for moving swiftly in this regard. Finally, I welcome the fact that the Buckley review on higher level salaries in the public sector and other places is being re-established by the Minister. I would like to advise the press, media and the House that this initiative is 18 months late. It should have been brought in a year ago. This does not affect Deputies and Senators, as was the case previously, but is to be welcomed, nonetheless.
Ms O’Meara: I also welcome publication by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of an extensive outline policy proposal on immigration and residency. The publication facilitates public debate on this matter and like Senator O’Toole I call for a debate in this House on those proposals. I commend the Minister on publishing the proposals as just that in advance of the publication of a Bill. I suspect he would welcome such a debate in this House and I ask the Leader to schedule one at an early stage because there are many issues on which we need to get a much clearer perspective with regard to immigration and residency. One arises this morning regarding migrant workers and is just one of the issues to be reviewed. One of the purposes of the establishment of the Morris tribunal was to allay public concerns about certain behaviour in one part of the State. It is now clear this is not happening. The issues need to be reviewed, particularly the representation of Mr. McBrearty and the costs for his family at the tribunal. The tribunal cannot go ahead without the participation of the McBreartys.
Ms O’Meara: The House is aware that it is not a simple issue as there is much pressure for development. While development will be good for many areas, we want to see every area getting its share of economic development and prosperity. At the same time, rules and guidelines are needed. It is not an easy issue but if Members give their views on these guidelines, they can make a considerable contribution.
An Cathaoirleach: As I have explained to the Leader of the Opposition, the Chair has been consistent in not allowing matters before tribunals to be discussed in the House. Specific matters may be raised when the report of a tribunal is placed before the House. At this stage, it is not in order to raise the matter.
The recent publication of immigration policy by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform must be discussed in the House as it is an important issue. I ask the Leader to convey our wishes to the Minister on this matter.
Last weekend’s Progressive Democrats national conference debated road safety and the numbers being killed on the roads. The issue of enforcement has also been raised in the House on many occasions. Last weekend, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform made a proposal that as enforcement crosses both the Departments of Transport and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, it should be brought under the aegis of one Minister and Department. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to explain this proposal in more detail.
Mr. Finucane: It is almost eight years since the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Administration came into power. For almost eight years, the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, has held the second most powerful position in the State. Last weekend I listened with great interest to the Tánaiste’s speech, particularly her comments on health, at the Progressive Democrats national conference.
Will the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children explain to the House the ten point plan for accident and emergency services? We all know of the protests yesterday and of the 325 patients left on trolleys in accident and emergency wards. All Members appreciate the discomfort patients experience as a result of this. I want the Tánaiste to explain when this will end. Last September, she promised the problem would be resolved by the end of March but it is still acute. As there will be a series of further protests, it is time for urgent action. The Government has had eight years to resolve it. It is a shocking indictment of the Administration that this problem still exists.
Dr. Mansergh: There are many positive developments on the employment front for us to welcome. Unemployment now stands at 4.3%. The year 2004 saw the lowest number of days lost in strike action, a tribute to social partnership. This morning the House will debate the rights of migrant workers and we welcome the appointment of inspectors. We must debate the proposals for a fundamental revamp of immigration policy.
However, another matter which should be debated relates to people in the community of an older age who have difficulty finding employment. The community employment schemes are useful in that regard. The rules for the schemes should be re-examined. There might be a case, which should be debated, for returning to the status quo ante 2000. I am not referring to the numbers on the schemes but the rules of operation. The schemes are important not just for the people concerned but also for a myriad of community organisations which would collapse without the assistance they get from people on community employment schemes.
Dr. Henry: I support Senator Finucane’s call for a debate on accident and emergency services. The situation is truly as shocking as the nurses describe it. Hundreds of people are on trolleys every day but there are 1,000 fewer beds in the acute hospital service than there were at the end of the 1980s. There are hundreds of thousands more people in the country and they are older.
The Minister’s solution appears to be to set up minor accident centres on a private basis. The people on trolleys do not have minor injuries. They are so seriously ill they must be admitted to hospital. What is being proposed will probably be counterproductive because it will take people away from general practitioners, where they should have gone in the first place. The Minister should come to the House to explain the plan she is bringing forward. I was told three years ago that the situation in St. James’s Hospital would be sorted out in six months but I am now told by my colleagues there that it is worse than ever.
Mr. Brennan: The Leader should invite the Minister to come to the House next week to discuss this matter. I congratulate him on taking 12 months to receive and consider submissions. Each local authority has produced its development plan but problems still arise in rural areas. In cities one can build 15 houses to an acre but a person on a 40-acre farm finds it impossible to build a house for a member of his or her family. The Minister is correct to listen to his colleagues and to the parties in Government, as well as Members from all parties. Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom. The Minister listened to everybody before bringing his proposals forward. I look forward to a debate on them.
Mr. Coghlan: Like other Members, I seek a debate on the Morris report so we can discuss the issues that need to be addressed. I welcome the thrust of the planning guidelines but I am anxious to see the details because the devil is in the detail. Does the Leader know if they are simply guidelines? When the previous Minister, Deputy Cullen, first spoke about the guidelines on one-off housing, I asked that they be put in the form of a directive.
There is a need for uniformity throughout the country because there has been a lack of common sense in some areas. Some planning officers are too rigid in their attitude, as I have heard from public representatives throughout the country. It is important that these guidelines be issued in directive form to ensure there is uniformity. If that is the intention, I will welcome it. Everybody wants an open and courteous service from local authorities. In the case of one-off housing in rural areas, there should be on-site consultation where it is required in the interests of the customer.
I agree with Senator Mansergh’s call for a debate on community employment schemes. There is a need to refine the rules and to return to the previous position given the importance of the schemes for so many organisations and the community.
Labhrás Ó Murchú: The new planning guidelines on rural housing are eagerly awaited by people in rural areas. They follow extensive debate and consultation. Ultimately, this is not just about housing but about the regeneration of rural Ireland. This will enable people in rural Ireland to avail of opportunities when they come their way. Some of the comments we hear about bungalow blight are not sustainable; there is no research to underpin some of these. One is tempted to say that if the same scaremongering headlines had applied to urban development, we would not have some of the planning outrages we now have in urban Ireland.
As a co-founder of the Irish Rural Dwellers Association I have come across many cases of anguish, disappointment and frustration in young married couples who had the confidence to want to live in rural Ireland. This is something we all wanted to achieve. We are talking about civil rights. I see nothing wrong with a landowner selling a site to help his or her children through education or to develop a career. Landowners have been among the best custodians of our environment.
We must establish that the guidelines will be implemented. I understand the new guidelines insist planners be accessible to people. People will be able to discuss the issues with planners and not be stonewalled. I compliment the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. I read a letter Deputy McDowell sent to the Irish Rural Dwellers Association in which he was particularly supportive. I believe this is true of all political parties. Let us avoid party political issues and think only of the people of Ireland. Ultimately, the land of Ireland should be for the people of Ireland. That is what the Minister is endeavouring to do.
Mr. Norris: I also welcome a debate on planning guidelines but I do not agree with my esteemed colleague, Senator Ó Murchú. I think the opposition he drew between the people of Ireland and vested interests was emotive. I am very concerned by these guidelines. A very populist line is being followed. The Government is not taking a clear lead in policy. On the wireless today I heard that only 2% of Ireland is covered by concrete and these new guidelines will merely increase this by 1.5%. That is almost doubling it. That is worrying.
Mr. Norris: Yes, I am looking for a debate because in addition to planning guidelines, there is the question of services. I am worried to hear someone I respect from the Government side saying he sees nothing wrong with landowners selling a few sites for various purposes. That is a dangerous road to go down. I look forward very much to the debate.
Mr. Norris: I support what Senator Mansergh said on community employment schemes. I know of situations where communities have benefited significantly from these schemes. This is something that needs examination. I suggest that we have some discussion on the case of Dean Lyons. There are points of principle to be raised about the behaviour of the Garda. A man was convicted who plainly could not have committed the crime. He produced a confession containing details that only the gardaí could have known. Also there is a serious difficulty with the fairness of justice on behalf of the families of those murdered women. The sister of one of them contacted me. There has been no trial in her sister’s case and the wrong man was convicted in the other case. There is no possibility for emotional resolution for those left behind by this tragic event. A discussion on this matter would be worthwhile.
Mr. Hanafin: Some Senators have asked that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government attend the House. We have had a farce here this morning whereby the Opposition, which is so used to opposing matters, is against the guidelines even before they have been issued.
Mr. Hanafin: If the Minister attended the House we could also take the opportunity to ask him about better local government. Local councillors are, in theory, expected to pay a fee to consult planning details but in most cases the fee is dispensed with. It should be dispensed with in full, however. We could also examine the implementation of the special policy committees and how they should operate.
We could also ask the Minister to provide a facility for councillors whereby they would have access to specialised information. As we know, city and county managers have access to such information when it comes to implementing policy in their respective areas but councillors do not, unless they pay for it. That situation could easily be addressed through the centralised provision of information to councillors around the country so they would be better informed.
Mr. U. Burke: I support the proposal to invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to attend the House as soon as possible to explain these guidelines fully. The last guidelines proposed were, for the most part, never implemented. In fact, where they were implemented they were far more restrictive than had previously been the case. Until then, there had at least been some discretion with planners but the earlier guidelines amounted to a straitjacket which added further to planning bureaucracy.
Unless the Minister attends this House and indicates clearly that he is giving a direction to county managers or directors of planning services, this proposal will be meaningless. I hope that in this instance the guidelines will mean something and that the Minister is serious about what he is proposing.
Prior to the last guidelines, in County Galway — the area I know best — approximately 18% of planning applications were refused. As of last week, six out of every ten applications were being refused, so something has gone seriously wrong in the interim. It is accredited to nothing more than the guidelines which were issued by the previous Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, if the current Minister outlines a series of guidelines to us they will be of no use. He has introduced a humanitarian element but can he implement such a proposal? Unless the Minister directs managers and directors of planning services throughout the local authority system to implement the guidelines, it will not be done and, as a result, we will have even more refusals than heretofore.
Ms White: I wish to support what Senator Mansergh said about revisiting the CE schemes, with regard to child care in particular. As a result of my meetings with public and private crèche representatives, I know they have a problem due to the lack of guarantees regarding CE schemes. They had been using people on such schemes which were very helpful in getting people started on a career in child care. I support Senator Mansergh’s call to re-examine the CE schemes and revert to the previous position before we lost them.
I will not name the hospital or my friend. Her injured arm was put in a sling and she was sent home. She had asked for Anadin for the pain but the doctor said she did not need it. She returned three weeks later as requested, last Friday, and underwent an emergency operation for seven hours the next morning to have a plate put into her arm and what is called a “cup” on her shoulder. We need an explanation for this situation.
Ms White: I support Senator Terry in what she said about the murder which took place in her constituency. This morning I heard of another murder. I am waiting for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, to comment. He is an opinionated Minister with an opinion on everything.
An Cathaoirleach: I said that the Chair is in possession. When that is so, I should be allowed to speak, and the Senator should resume her seat. She is entitled to resume her contribution after I make a statement.
An Cathaoirleach: It is not correct in this House to refer to Ministers in their absence, nor is it fair. We need to ensure that everything we raise on the Order of Business is relevant. The point Senator White makes with regard to the murder is relevant but reference should not be made to persons or Ministers. The Senator may now resume.
Mr. McCarthy: Senator White is a hard act to follow. Regarding the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the changes expected in the guidelines for rural housing, that issue has been well debated in this House and will no doubt be debated again over the next week or so.
I want to know the legal standing of county development plans. We should not lose sight of the fact that the executive powers which managers have allow them to grant permissions. The role of local authority members has been gradually degraded in recent years, not least with regard to setting the level of refuse collection charges. That power was taken from councillors by Deputy Cullen when he was Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The latest move is a cynical attempt at auction politics, buying votes for the next general election. I will wait to hear details of the plans before making a more informed statement.
Mr. Lydon: I support the calls made for the discussion of the report of the Morris tribunal. When the debate takes place, we might widen it to consider the cavalier fashion in which some tribunals treat witnesses and over-ride their constitutional rights, as well as the aggressive manner in which the tribunals appeal to the Supreme Court, High Court decisions which go against them. That does a grave disservice to Irish jurisprudence and we should debate the matter.
Mr. Cummins: A debate on the fluoridation of public water supplies would be timely. It has recently been suggested in newspaper reports that a recommendation to reduce the fluoride content in tap water was given more than three years ago, with the Government failing to act on it.
Will the Government say when it intends to amend or reform the Coroners Act? We saw a ludicrous situation recently involving a coroner being unable to compel a witness to attend an inquest. It is of vital importance that this archaic Act be urgently amended and reformed.
Ms Feeney: I support the call for a debate on the situation in our accident and emergency units and for the Tánaiste to come to the House. However, I know that many untruths are going around in some of the stories we hear. That is not to say there are no problems, there are, but they are not all on the scale of those we know of in Dublin. Perhaps when we have the debate we can look at the area of the health care professional and the onus on him or her to provide and deliver the service. The medics should stick to their jobs and stop trying to play politics. If consultants and doctors want to be politicians, let them put themselves up for election. We might have a better accident and emergency service if we had doctors who worked to capacity instead of blocking politicians who try to make the system work.
Mr. Ross: I ask the Leader to arrange that the Minister responsible, who was appointed by the President and the Taoiseach, come to the House and explain what has been happening at Dublin Airport with regard to the security breaches in the past two days. It is alarming that simulated bombs and other dangerous items got through security and could have been smuggled on to aeroplanes without apparent difficulty. The security at the airport is appalling.
The Minister should come to the House, not just to clarify that situation but also to open a wider debate on the second terminal, which is apparently paralysed for about the 20th time. We need him to come here or to the Dáil to inform us of what is happening. The two issues are connected. The Dublin Airport Authority, which is responsible for security, is apparently in line for responsibility for the second terminal. In light of what has happened over the past two days, we must ask whether this body is fit to operate and own a second terminal.
The “culture”— I use that imprecise word deliberately — in Dublin Airport has not improved under the Dublin Airport Authority. It is the same as it was under Aer Rianta, only now it operates under a new name. We need to examine the matter in a robust way in the House immediately. We can no longer allow this issue or the issue of security to be put off because they are linked. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, if, at long last, he has the power to make a decision on this, which is doubtful, and to come here and tell us what is happening at the airport and with regard to the terminals?
Mr. Glynn: Will the Leader invite the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, to the House to discuss rural development, particularly with regard to how it correlates with planning guidelines? As a rural person like myself, the Leader is aware that many schools, post offices and such services have closed in rural areas because of depopulation and planning difficulties.
Reference was made to the fact that the sale of a couple of sites by farmers would help them educate their children. In some cases that is what serves to keep them in business. I do not agree with what Senator Norris said. I believe there is a serious issue with regard to rural planning.
Senator Hanafin mentioned better local government, but I wonder about that because of the current situation. When I entered the local government system in 1979 one dealt with the county manager, the county secretary or the county engineer and got a response and a service. I do not say one cannot get them now but it takes a hell of a lot longer. Rural development and planning guidelines should be addressed in an exploratory way because the structure that obtains currently is not working. I commend the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the consultation process in which he engaged and on bringing forward the guidelines.
Mr. Feighan: I support Senator Ross’s call for the Minister for Transport to come to the House to explain the disturbing security breaches at Dublin Airport. Knives, an imitation bomb and a replica gun were smuggled through security. The Government is not doing enough to ensure the travelling public’s confidence is secured in air travel. It is not as if costs are decreasing at Dublin Airport. The daily rate to park a car has increased by 50% from €20 to €30. However, we are not getting the security we deserve and the Minster should come to the House immediately to explain this serious problem.
Ms O’Rourke: Senator Brian Hayes raised the proposed industrial action before the weekend by security industry workers. He asked how much banking interests pay towards security. The Minister for Defence has been loud in his call that they should pay the full cost. I fail to see why not, given that they incur the costs by having money transferred by special means. I will ask the Minister to come to the House for a debate in which he can elucidate on his ideas.
The Senator asked about Mr. McBrearty and the Morris tribunal. He also requested a debate on one-off housing next week, as did other Members. However, I sat beside the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at our parliamentary party meeting yesterday. I seized the moment and said that the House would be looking for him next week. He said he would not be around next week but he would come to the House when he returned the following week. It is not that he will not come here next week as he will not be in Ireland. However, he is keen to come to the House.
Senator O’Toole referred to the Morris Tribunal. I understand we cannot debate the issues involved. However, the interim report was not debated in the House and, therefore, we can seek to have a debate on it. The Senator also referred to the document on immigration circulated to Members earlier by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I checked through them quickly and many of the issues that have been raised in the House are mentioned. The document provides the basis for a coherent debate. The Senator is also glad, as we all are, that the minimum wage has been increased. Equally, he stated a review, which will follow up on the Buckley report, will examine emoluments for senior public servants. We come under the benchmarking process.
Senator O’Meara raised the publication of the immigration proposals by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the McBrearty case and rural housing. The guidelines on one-off housing will be published later. We received an overview earlier. They are concise but I take Senator Coghlan’s point that they should be issued in the form of a directive. They will be issued in circular form and they will be quite definite regarding what can and should happen.
Senator Finucane raised the accident and emergency issue and asked for the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to come to the House. She always comes to the House when requested. She does not shirk appearances in the House. I will put this request to her.
Senator Mansergh referred to the small number unemployed, which is, thankfully, the case, and community employment. Difficulties have arisen when rules that pertained to CE some years ago have been disregarded. I will ask the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Fahey, to come to the House to discuss the issue.
Senator Henry asked for a debate on accident and emergency services. Senator Brennan raised one-off housing guidelines. The previous guidelines were a draft, and these are permanent. His voice is added to those requesting a debate. Senator Coghlan raised the Morris tribunal and the guidelines, which he says should be in directive form to tie people into dealing with matters and acting on them. I did not know that Senator Ó Murchú was a co-founder of the Irish Rural Dwellers Association, but he quite rightly made the point that it is not simply about housing; it is about the reinvigoration of the rural community. He welcomed the documents from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell.
Senator Norris is worried about the guidelines, based on what he has read to date. Let us wait until they are issued. He said that he cannot hear anyone because he has a cold but, while sorry about that, I am glad to hear that he is in good voice himself. He spoke of the Dean Lyons case, agreeing with Senator Mansergh. I understand that Deputy McDowell is appointing a solicitor or barrister to review that issue, so let us wait to see what happens.
Senator Hanafin raised the question of better local government. He made the very strong point, with which I agreed, that we should have access to specialised information. As we know, it is all programme managers for this, that and the other now. There are the managers, programme managers and planning officers. The trouble lies with the planning officers’ regime, since neither the programme managers nor the manager have any say over planning officers. That is where the difficulty arises. People seek pre-planning meetings and on-site planning meetings, and it is all a great fudge. It is not very clear and sometimes there is not that much courtesy in the whole affair until it gets further up the chain of command, although people are entitled to courtesy. We never read the specialised information——
Ms O’Rourke: ——but it seems that in this area the planners have great influence and clout, and middle and top management seem unable to put in their oar. I cannot quite understand it, but I have found that constantly to be the case. I deal with many planning applications from sons or daughters of landowners. Why should they not want planning permission to build on the land of their own father or mother? It is the most basic thing that one could do. However, the hopes and aspirations of a couple who simply want a house for themselves and their future offspring on family land are never taken into account. The hurt occasioned to them when they are refused planning permission is extraordinary as it involves land owned by their parents. I always think that the “sterilisation” game must surely be open to constitutional challenge. If one owns one’s land, why should one have to “sterilise” it? I currently have a substantial case for one house. The land has been “sterilised”, and the manager is sticking to it.
Ms O’Rourke: I am quite sure that Senator Ulick Burke is every bit as distinguished. He wants the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, to explain the matter fully. Six out of every ten applications in Galway are refused. I do not like the tendency to dismiss applications as part of “bungalow blight”. It is a matter of people looking for their rights.
Senator White wishes the Tánaiste to come to the Seanad; she also spoke about Deputy McDowell. Hand on heart, I can say that I have many disagreements with the Progressive Democrats, but they certainly turn up when one asks. If they have legislation or one has a debating point or paper, they will attend this House. They show no fear or favour. They will come and explain their position, and I am sure that both will be keen to come to the House. It is proper that we should put that on the record.
Senator McCarthy asked about the future of county developments plans in the light of the new planning guidelines, which we hope to learn about later this morning. Senator Lydon called for a debate on the interim report of the Morris tribunal.
Senator Cummins spoke about the fluoridation of water supplies. He also raised the issue of the Coroners Act 1962 which the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform intends to review in light of a recent occurrence.
Senator Feeney asked for a debate on accident and emergency services. She made a reasoned argument in that regard. She knows there are difficulties, but she would like all the facts rather than just a disjointed bit of a debate. She also called for a debate on the professionals who work in the health service. The Senator’s record on the Joint Committee on Health and Children should be noted.
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