Order of Business.

Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 181 No. 68

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Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the report of the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resource on salmon drift netting and angling, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 5 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 12 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes. Members may share time and the Minister is to be called upon to reply no later than five minutes before the conclusion of the statements; and No. 19, motion No. 25, to be taken from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move the following amendment to the Order of Business:

We would be in dereliction of our duty if we did not find an opportunity on today’s Order of Business to debate the very serious and tragic issues [651]that surround the death last week of Mr. Patrick Walsh in County Monaghan.

At the outset I wish to extend our sympathy to his family concerning the tragedy that took place in Monaghan General Hospital last week. We need a statement on the issue today from the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children.

While we have all been aware for some time of very serious issues in the Cavan-Monaghan region and what would appear to be operational difficulties in terms of the health service, there are specific issues relating to this case that need to be fully aired in the House. The first obvious issue is how it happened that the hospital authorities in Monaghan, who were looking for an acute bed in the nearest hospitals to which to transfer a man who was bleeding to death, were told there were no beds available when we discovered only this week that two such acute beds were available, one in Cavan and the other in Drogheda.

There are other issues around this case. There is the fact, which has not been denied by either the HSE or the Government to date, that earlier this year a surgeon in Monaghan General Hospital who took part in an emergency surgery was subsequently chastised by the HSE for doing so. We need to debate the issue concerning the protocol in place and the way in which the community and region in question are served by the health services.

While it is important to decouple politics from medicine in this instance, we also need political accountability. We need the HSE and the Department of Health and Children to ensure, through its Minister, that all these issues are debated in full. When we supported the establishment of the HSE we did not mean to remove politics from the very important debates that surround this issue. We need to debate this matter today. I ask the Leader of the House to try in the best way possible to accede to our request. I raised this matter with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, some time ago. All groups should be entitled to change their Private Members’ business on a Monday morning to ensure that such matters can be discussed in the House on the day they are raised. We must address this matter again with the CPP so I ask the Leader to accede to our request.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Does Senator Brian Hayes mean that the matter should be discussed during Private Members’ business?

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I suggest that we have a one-hour debate followed by Private Members’ business. Instead of beginning Private Members’ business at 5 p.m., we would start at 6 p.m. and consequently have the vote at 8 p.m.

[652]Mr. O’Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  It would be very useful to get a clear outline of the position regarding the proposal made by Senator Brian Hayes. Every politician has been asked questions about this issue. It is not my intention to try to apportion blame to anybody in a one-hour or two-hour debate but we, as public representatives with a general responsibility to the public, need information about it. This information should be obtained either today or tomorrow. I am quite happy if the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children cannot come to the House to discuss the matter until tomorrow but we need to address this issue. Senator Brian Hayes is correct in stating that it is a topical issue which people are discussing and which involves political responsibility. We need updated information about it and an opportunity to put our views about it on the record. I look forward to the Leader’s response to my request.

Another issue that has been to the fore over the past week is the relationship between lawyers and the Residential Institutions Redress Board of Ireland. We debated the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, last year and members should recall the briefing they received from the Law Society and the Bar Council about how we could not trust the PIAB, of which I am vice-chairman, without lawyers. This House correctly took the position that we should offer people the opportunity to engage with the PIAB without recourse to lawyers. Increasing numbers of people are now doing so. The Leader raised a question regarding the PIAB in the House in May 2005. I said on that occasion that the annual report of the PIAB would be ready by now. The board has now processed approximately 500 cases and will make a presentation to the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business tomorrow morning. Its annual report could be discussed by the House.

The PIAB was delivered by the political system and every party can claim some credit for it. Among those who had a major involvement in the creation of the board were former Deputy Ivan Yates, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, the Tánaiste when she was Minister for Enterprise and Employment and Deputy Martin when he was Minister for Health and Children. The PIAB has proved to be successful but we should remember the importance of the line we took about respecting the position of lawyers without being completely tied in to them. It also raises the issue, which we should discuss in the near future, of whether the regulation of lawyers is carried out appropriately and whether we need another form of regulation or an overarching body.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I second the proposal made by Senator Brian Hayes for an amendment to the Order of Business. I ask the Leader for a debate on inequality in Ireland. The two issues that exercised Irish society for the past week both con[653]cerned the abuse of the poor by the powerful and the neglect of the impoverished by those in a position to do something about their plight. If somebody in a private hospital was in the same situation as, tragically, Patrick Joseph Walsh was, a bed would have been found for him or her in an acute hospital.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hear, hear.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  If the people coming before the Residential Institutions Redress Board were not the least articulate and most wounded members of society, somebody would have taken the time to ensure they were not being misled about their fees. It is a bit rich for the board to now say that the Law Society should have sternly warned its members.

The board should have courageously advised the victims that all costs and expenses were being covered. It is astonishing the board never thought to make this explicitly clear to people and to say to them that if anybody tried to do anything else they should revert to the board and it would address the problem. I would have thought that was part of its work.

Both these cases make manifest the way in which in our affluent society there is still one state of law for the rich and another and much more vulnerable state of law for the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded. At this stage we need to talk about what we are going to do with affluence in Ireland. Are we going to allow 25% fall behind and 75% live in luxury?

I do not wish to outline the figures for acute hospital beds but there are only five countries in the world that have fewer acute hospital beds, two of which are Finland and Sweden and the others are Mexico, Turkey and the United States. We have been told there are enough acute hospital beds in Ireland. The real question is whether we are building a health service to emulate Finland and Sweden or Mexico, Turkey and the United States — one based on equality, the other based on manifest inequality. I urge the Leader at some time in the future, not today, to arrange a debate on the inequalities in Irish society. We have had one human tragedy and one appalling attempt to exploit the most vulnerable in society. In both cases to which I have referred institutional Ireland failed people. A system that was meant to manage the health service turned out to have no management. This raises the question of responsibility.

The chief executive of the Health Service Executive lectured politicians this morning. None of us is perfect. He said it would be better to focus on what is best for people’s health. By talking about this case, that is precisely what the political system is doing. Were it not for the capacity of politicians to raise this issue, we would have to [654]wait eight weeks for any response to this awful tragedy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  A number of Senators have indicated a wish to contribute and I ask them to be brief.

Ms Feeney: Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  I support speakers on the other side of the House who raised the untimely and unfortunate death of Mr. Patrick Walsh. It is time we knew the facts. Many untruths have been circulated and sometimes the untruths are more damaging than the facts. I was glad to hear Senator O’Toole say it is not a case of somebody coming in to the House because we seek to lay blame. It is most unfortunate this has happened but it is timely to debate the matter and hear the facts.

I ask the Leader to organise a debate on self-regulation of the legal profession as outlined by Senator O’Toole. I am on record as saying I am a firm believer in self-regulation for professions. However, it is timely that we looked at the legal profession in light of the appalling double charging by some firms of solicitors. They are not all guilty. They have overcharged vulnerable people whose life experience has been very negative as a result of what they have had to endure. The overcharging has been highlighted by Joe Duffy. I am one of those who knock the media when I consider they do not deserve credit but on this occasion I commend Joe Duffy on his radio programme for highlighting this terrible overcharging. It is time we looked at the issue of self-regulation——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is the Deputy seeking a debate?

Ms Feeney: Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  ——of the legal profession and particularly the charging structures in place therein.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  The death of Mr. Patrick Walsh has resonated throughout the country. Many people are extremely concerned at what has happened. They are concerned on the basis that the Health Service Executive now administers the system. By eliminating the various health boards we gave rise to the possibility of potential conflict between the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. People are concerned that those who take the Hippocratic oath in order to save a person’s life were obliged to stand by in Monaghan General Hospital while Patrick Walsh died. Speaking on television his nephew sounded emotional and sincere. People are asking how this could happen in present times. While the report will not be published for another eight weeks, it is only right that we should raise the matter in the House, as it is a major talking point around the country.

[655]I also call for a debate on education and in particular the problem of students as young as 14 years of age dropping out of the education system.

Mr. Glynn: Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  The untimely death of Mr. Walsh is totally unacceptable. Questions need to be answered. He should not have died. By finding out the truth, hopefully this will not happen again. However, that is cold comfort to his relatives.

It was reported on this morning’s news that the Garda has made another drugs seizure. Along with other Members of the House I am a member of the sub-committee on the high levels of suicide in Irish society of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. I am under no illusions as to the role of drugs in combination with alcohol in the huge incidence of suicide resulting in the deaths of young males.

Speaking of males, I am sure Members place priority on men’s health. For a considerable time I have asked for a debate on men’s health. I seriously impress on the House that such a debate should be held sooner rather than later. The high incidence of type 2 diabetes is ravaging the country. Medical physicians and those working in health clinics can give frightening statistics. We need a debate on those two issues as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I raised the question of the redress board when the issue of fees first became public knowledge a week or two ago. I listened with interest to the spokesperson of the Law Society. He was very disingenuous as he gave the impression that this is a rare occurrence and is limited to a few cases involving the board. That is not the situation. The principle exists throughout the legal profession and I will give one example. Legal firms frequently draw a distinction between what they call solicitor and client costs on the one hand and court-awarded costs. They abstract the difference. This means the legal firms second-guess what the court believes is the appropriate fee to be paid and they charge their individual clients a greater amount. This is endemic throughout the legal profession and needs to be examined.

I ask for a debate as soon as possible, within the next week, on the proposed metro for Dublin. The Leader played a very significant role in this area, both as Minister for Public Enterprise and in facilitating debate. I understand that a major investment programme in transport infrastructure will be announced in the next week or two. It is very important for us to debate it now and give the matter a very vigorous push to ensure that at least the initial phase of investment in the only system that will really address the traffic issue in Dublin is implemented.

[656]I ask the Leader to ascertain from the relevant Minister why we have not ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. I attended a Law Society conference on Saturday at which the United Nations chairperson of the committee dealing with the issue, Prasad Kariyawasam, said it was extraordinary that of all the states that had promoted the convention, none of the labour receiving states, including Ireland, which supported it, has signed or ratified it. We are entitled to an answer as to why the convention has not been ratified. I have tried to raise a matter many times in the House, namely the appalling decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant retention to a sawmill development at Leap Castle. Every time I tried to raise this matter I was stymied because I was informed the case was sub judice and this, that and the other. A landmark decision has been given by An Bord Pleanála which undermines the whole credibility of the planning process. Just like the northside planning permissions, it is a case of doing what one wants, using one’s influence, pleading an employment factor and breaking the guarantees given under the terms of the Environmental Protection Agency. Dangerous substances such as chromium 6 are used, the air is polluted, extensive visual damage is created and the reward is this decision by An Bord Pleanála.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I remind Senator Norris the debate is not being held today.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I ask for a debate on the planning system. I refer to the last sentence from the statement by An Taisce. I am aware that An Taisce is not universally popular in this House——

(Interruptions).

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am very proud to be a member of An Taisce. Every Member of this House should be a member——

Ms White: Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  I too am a member.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  ——and they would be able to influence the direction it takes because that is the way democracy works.

An Taisce stated that the unauthorised Standish development was seen as a national test case of the credibility of the Irish planning system. An Bord Pleanála has sent out the worst possible national signal that unauthorised development will be rewarded in the end.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I wish to join in the expressions of sympathy from Members of the Oireachtas to the Walsh family on the death of Patrick Walsh in Monaghan. It would be right to have a debate in the House on the matter. I am concerned by the statements made by Professor Drumm as referred [657]to by Senator Ryan because it seems he is trying to resurrect the Hanly report. He should not use the Monaghan situation and I do not wish to be associated with the Hanly report. I said from the outset that it would be the death knell of small hospitals. The situation in Monaghan should not be used in an attempt to rationalise hospitals outside Government policy. Professor Drumm should adhere to Government policy and not create policy.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  What is Government policy?

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I wish to raise the case of Olivia Agbonlahor, the Nigerian lady who was residing in The Lodge in Clonakilty and who was collected by gardaí from Bandon Garda station yesterday morning. The Minister has now intervened to halt her deportation. She and her journalist husband fled Nigeria because he wrote about the activities of local drug dealers. She sought refuge in this country. She has four-year old twins, Melissa and Great but Great is autistic. This State must reach out to that young boy who needs its help and support. In 2005 it should not be necessary to send the Garda Síochána into lodgings to grasp four-year old twins from the environment to which they have become accustomed. This is a disgrace. I acknowledge the intervention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I appeal to the Leader to ask the Minister to be guided by his heart and think of the welfare and health of a four-year old autistic boy in his consideration of this case.

  3 o’clock

On another matter, the current Garda recruitment campaign concludes today. It is the first Garda recruitment campaign open to non-nationals. I am perplexed that applicants must first be registered with publicjobs.ie in order to apply for the positions and would need access to a computer which may not always be possible. I verified today at 2 p.m. that an applicant must register with publicjobs.ie and must have access to a computer as hard copy applications will not be accepted. The current campaign has a clear objective of recruiting non-nationals but this procedure will prevent full advantage being taken of the recruitment process which is a concern given that we want to reach out to non-national communities.

Dr. Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  I would like the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, the HSE and the medical unions to make it clear that where a person is in imminent danger of death, a doctor or a health institution has not merely a right but an obligation to intervene.

The good samaritan did not ask what rules he was breaking when he helped someone by the roadside. Nor did he check whether his insurance was in order. It is all very well to talk about catch[658]ment areas but one must also consider the distances between populations and hospitals when one is judging where facilities should be placed.

On the point of distance, perhaps the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform can tell us why the inquiry into the Brian Rossiter case is taking place in Dublin rather than in Clonmel, where the incident happened.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hear, hear.

Dr. Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  I am also shocked, as are many others, by the scale of legal fees involved, which means that we have a justice system that is virtually unaffordable for most people in this country. To hire a junior and senior counsel for one day costs the best part of 12 air fares to London. People refer to the market rate but since when was the market allowed within an ass’s roar of our learned friends in the legal profession? There are people here who are zealous about the free market and competition and it is high time that these forces were applied to the legal profession so that we can all have reasonable access to the law, rather than it being a stomping ground for millionaires and corporate interests.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Hear, hear. Well said, Senator.

Ms Terry: Information on Sheila Terry  Zoom on Sheila Terry  I support Senator Mansergh in asking why the Rossiter case is not being heard in Clonmel, which would facilitate the family. After all, they are at the heart of this hearing and should be accommodated. With reference to the costs, anyone who can earn €1,000 per day should be very happy to be in that position. I hope that the Rossiter family will be able to engage someone who is very good and who is willing to represent them for €1,000 per day, but no more than that.

Yesterday I attended the launch of a report by the End Child Poverty coalition in the Mansion House. Some very startling figures were presented on the numbers of children living in poverty here and some frightening stories were also related. We are all aware of children who are at risk of poverty. I call for a debate on this issue because at a time when our economy is doing so well, we should not have families of four living in one-bedroom bed and breakfast accommodation for up to two years.

The End Child Poverty coalition has asked that the child benefit issue be addressed in the forthcoming budget. Child benefit did not reach its maximum level last year, as the Government had promised it would. The Government promised that child benefit would reach €200 by 2003. That has not happened to date but perhaps it will happen this year. The coalition has asked that, in light of the failure to reach the promised level, the balance be index-linked so whatever people have lost out on over the last number of years [659]will be made up. That would help, in a small way, to address the poverty that exists.

Mr. O’Brien: Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  I join with others in asking the Leader to invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, to come to this House at her earliest convenience to debate the serious incident in Monaghan General Hospital. I would like ——

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Is there a Fianna Fáil assault on the Progressive Democrats going on here?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator O’Brien, without interruption please.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  All we have been hearing about is Progressive Democrat Ministers and their sins. There are 14 other Ministers, some of whom are passionate pro-marketeers——

Mr. Dardis: Information on John Dardis  Zoom on John Dardis  I am glad I am not one of those.

Mr. O’Brien: Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  I express my sincere sympathy to the Walsh family on the death of Mr. Patrick Joseph Walsh. It is very sad, particularly after the numerous sad events at Monaghan General Hospital, that another death has taken place there, a death that could have been prevented. Watched by his nephew, this man bled to death for seven hours. Expertise in the hospital could have saved the man’s life. The hospital is not on-call and the staff are not insured to perform the operation that would have saved this man’s life, which is wrong. This is going on in Monaghan General Hospital for a long time. There have been a number of deaths as a result of the hospital not being on-call and not providing accident and emergency services.

Senator Wilson and I have called for these services on many occasions. We made representations to the present and previous Minister for Health and Children, and the situation is still no better. This is another death which could have been avoided. The Walsh family and their circle of friends are rightly very hurt and sore as a result of the death of their good friend, Patrick Walsh.

I am asking for Monaghan General Hospital to be put back on-call. The emergency services required to save lives should be immediately restored to the hospital. We cannot wait even eight weeks for the result of an inquiry to see exactly what occurred to cause the death of Mr. Walsh. It is very unfortunate.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I wish to ask the Leader and the Minister how many more tragedies we must witness and how many more lives must be lost before someone on that side of the House is prepared to take responsibility and ask who is running the health service. What is happening in this [660]country and how long more will it be allowed to continue? I could recount another tragic incident but I will not do so today; I will do so at a later date.

I ask the Leader to take the matter up with the Minister. Who does one contact in the health service? Eights weeks ago, a networks manager was appointed for the mid-west region to manage hospitals. That man does not have a job today because he was told that the service is now being administered from Galway. No one knows who to contact. Perhaps Government Members know. A distinguished former executive of the former Mid-Western Health Board, who is employed by the Health Service Executive, does not know what is his role. That is scandalous. Members can contact him and ask him about this. It hurts me to hear people like Senator Mansergh lecturing about what should or should not happen. One would think it was his first day in Government. He is here for a number of years.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  The Senator supported the call for a debate.

Dr. Mansergh: Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  The situation must be put forward.

Mr. Coonan: Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  I put it to the Leader that someone should take responsibility for what is happening in the country, which is a scandal.

Mr. Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  I join with my colleague, Senator O’Brien, and other speakers in raising the ongoing difficulties in Monaghan General Hospital, in particular, the recent sad death at the hospital of Mr. Patrick Walsh. As my colleague outlined, on previous occasions both he and I raised issues regarding the surgical services and other services at Monaghan hospital. The people of the catchment area are provided with adequate and efficient medical services by Cavan General Hospital and Monaghan General Hospital.

I call on the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to debate these difficulties, particularly the situation regarding Monaghan General Hospital. I am not a medical professional but my understanding is Mr. Walsh should not have died. I welcome the inquiry launched by the Minister into his death. An eminent senior consultant from Northern Ireland will carry out the investigation. I regret it will take eight weeks but if results are achieved following the investigation and no more innocent people suffer because of bureaucracy, I am willing to wait.

Mr. Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  I support the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Brian Hayes and I sincerely hope Senators O’Brien and Wilson will vote for it. It is important that they should in the interest not only of the people of [661]Monaghan but also the people of the entire State. It is scandalous that the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children has permitted new theatres and top quality services to go under-utilised throughout the State. It was heartbreaking for Mr. Walsh’s family to discover beds were available nearby in Cavan hospital, about which the Minister informed us yesterday. She has allowed health services to collapse since she took over the portfolio more than a year ago.

It is disgraceful and disgusting to hear the insults thrown by Government members. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources stated last week that the €150 million wasted on the PPARS project and the €3 million wasted on a website that never existed were only a drop in the ocean.

Ms Feeney: Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  The Senator should read the entire report on the PPARS project.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is the Senator supporting the call for a debate?

Mr. Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Those sums would provide significant support to the health service if they were properly allocated. Beds, community care facilities and so on could be provided. What the Government is doing is shameful. I support the amendment to the order of Business. It is important that the House should debate this issue this evening. We cannot wait eight weeks for a report on this because the people want answers now.

Ms Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I support the contributions of many speakers on the tragedy involving Mr. Walsh. However, there is a hidden agenda behind many of the comments. The issue should not be debated until we know the facts. I support the call for a debate but it should not be held today or tomorrow because we will only talk around the subject. The case has been highlighted and many Senators have stated it is dreadful but I prefer to wait until the facts are established and then we can have a proper debate.

Mr. Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  We are waiting eight years for proper health services, which the Government has not delivered. The Government has let the people down.

Ms Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I do not want an untruth; I only want the facts. I am the first to say if something is wrong, it is wrong but I do not have the facts.

Mr. Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  We want services, not facts.

Ms Feeney: Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  The Senator was a health board member.

Ms Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I support Senator Finucane’s call for a debate on the drop-out rate of students aged [662]14 years of age in disadvantaged areas. This is a serious issue because it is too late to help these students if they drop out at that age. Their problems should be detected earlier, perhaps before they leave primary education. The Minister for Education and Science is aware of the problem but I call on the Leader to ask the Minister to come to the House to debate the issue.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  I would like the Leader to respond on the status of the proposed transfer from the Dublin Airport Authority to Fáilte Ireland of the Great Southern Hotel group, which is believed to be nominally worth €100 million. Senior DAA executives have been in communication in the recent past with the Departments of Transport, Arts, Sport and Tourism and the Taoiseach.

Last March the chairman of the Dublin Airport Authority stated to the Joint Committee on Transport, of which the Leas-Chathaoirleach is a member, that the hotel group may cease trading in early 2006. The group is obviously anxious to concentrate on its core aviation business.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is Senator Coghlan seeking a debate on the matter?

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  It is very important to have a response before the Leader goes to Killarney this weekend.

A Senator:  Is Senator Coghlan taking the Leader out to dinner?

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  The red carpet will be rolled out for her. All Members would be most welcome; we need all the visitors we can get in Killarney. Despite reports to the contrary, the season has not been as good as we would have wished. The Leader knows how serious this is; she has appointed board members in the past and the matter is close to her heart.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I ask Senator Coghlan to conclude.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  I want to hear from the Government side on the status of the proposed transfer.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator Coghlan will hear from the Leader.

Mr. Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Last week the Taoiseach spoke in this House for the second time in a short period. It is an honour when a Taoiseach or former Taoiseach speaks in this House and I commend the Leader on making the arrangements for the debate.

On this occasion the Taoiseach spoke on Europe and many issues arose from the debate. We should learn lessons from the debate on the proposed EU constitution and any further refer[663]enda should be well debated beforehand. Deleting references to God from that constitution was political correctness gone mad and a fundamental error. This is a matter to note for the future.

The Leader might consider a debate on accession countries in the future. Issues concerning Turkey were raised on a number of occasions during last week’s debate. Looking east, Russia is part of the greater European plain. The Rivers Volga and Don are European rivers, the Urals are European mountains and Minsk, Kiev, St. Petersburg and Moscow are European cities.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is the Senator seeking a debate on the European constitution?

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  Is this a geography lesson?

Mr. Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Russia is a wonderful country and we seem to have the mindset of the Cold War. We should have first looked to the east. I welcome further debates in the House on the matter.

Mr. Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  I ask that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform be invited to the House to state if he is satisfied the Incorporated Law Society is the appropriate body to investigate solicitors in respect of overcharging on cases taken to the redress board. Does he intend to initiate an inquiry into the matter? Many solicitors are appalled that such practices occur and it is essential the Minister acts on this as a matter of urgency.

Seán Garland, an Irish citizen and president of the Worker’s Party, was arrested in Northern Ireland and an attempt was made to extradite him to the United States.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  It is not appropriate to refer to an individual in this manner. The Senator cannot refer to any citizen or individual who is not here to defend himself or herself.

Mr. Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  He is an Irish citizen and although I hold no brief for the Worker’s Party, I am anxious that an Irish citizen of 71 years of age, in ill health, not be extradited until proper legal scrutiny of any legal warrant is effected.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hear, hear.

Mr. McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  It is scandalous.

Ms Feeney: Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  He is a friend of Mr. Adams. Perhaps we can have another tribunal.

Mr. Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  I ask the Minister to ensure this happens; we would ask the same for any Irish citizen in a similar situation.

Mr. McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  Last week the Leader acceded to a debate on road tragedies and road deaths. Has [664]there been any update on when this will happen? There is growing demand for such a debate in the House.

The following matter will be close to the heart of the Leas-Chathaoirleach as he is from the west of Ireland. I am delighted Senator Norris raised the issue of An Taisce’s objections to An Bord Pleanála. We need a serious debate on An Bord Pleanála, an east coast representative group. There is a weight of opinion coming from professional fields such as town and urban planning, architectural planning and others. There is a lack of representation of Ireland west of the Shannon and a lack of representation of rural and community groups and economic forward planning in rural areas. It is vital that debate takes place because normally it is councillors, Senators and Deputies who shout about the inadequate decisions taken by An Bord Pleanála in the west. It is time we had a representative voice that can speak on behalf of the west because the west is different from the east. There are historical lineages in terms of the distribution of family settlement patterns but An Bord Pleanála is not voicing those concerns. I am pleased Senator Norris raised this issue. It is appropriate and timely because we need a debate on An Bord Pleanála.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Senator Brian Hayes, the Leader of the Opposition, raised the matter of the very sad death of the man in Monaghan hospital. I speak for all of us on the Government side of the House when I say that, as others do, we feel deeply for his family. I heard his sister speak on “Five Seven Live”. There is no greater love than that of a sibling, and she spoke so movingly and with feeling about her brother’s death. Senator Brian Hayes moved an amendment, seconded by Senator Ryan, to have statements on Monaghan hospital following the conclusion of No. 1 on today’s Order Paper. Senator O’Toole, inter alia, suggested that statements be taken tomorrow if it is not possible to take them today. I am simply putting the requests in context.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children has agreed to a one-hour statement on the issue tomorrow. She has asked me, through her spokesperson, to make it clear that she may not be able to be here in person. She will endeavour to be here but, if not, an appropriate Minister will take the debate tomorrow. I can understand how business would be arranged already and I ask the House to accept the explanation that has been given on the issue.

I would also like to make it clear that whoever comes to the House for the debate, whether it is the Tánaiste or a representative of the Tánaiste, will not have the facts. Senator Bannon was very vociferous in demanding that the facts be given today or tomorrow but that cannot be done because a report has been ordered and that will take some weeks. What we will have is a general [665]debate on the circumstances that led to this man’s untimely death but so that everybody is clear, the facts will not be given because the report has been ordered. When the report is produced the facts will come out and we will have a debate here on that. I simply make that point to Senators Brian Hayes and Ryan.

It has emerged that a bed was available for this man in hospitals in Cavan and Drogheda. We heard Professor Drumm this morning on the radio. I did not think his tone was lecturing; I thought he was clear and logical.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  He was very good.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I do not agree that politicians should not have their say but this has nothing to do with the Mr. Walsh’s untimely death. That should not have happened. As Senator Mansergh or some other Senator said, if one takes an oath to tend the sick or if one is at any level within the health service, one’s endeavour is to save life and not wait for an order or a protocol about it. We cannot have a hospital, however, with all the necessary amenities in terms of infrastructure, both physical and human, in every small place. That is not possible and the patient is not well served if that is what comes out of this investigation.

We all endeavour to have the Hanly recommendations implemented. It would be to the good of all if these matters were clarified. We all agree that we should have centres of excellence but it is very difficult to have them if every area wants one. It is just not possible. That is not to take in any way from the sad death which has occurred; it is only a general comment. Senator O’Toole asked for information on Monaghan hospital and suggested the temporising measure of having statements tomorrow, which has been answered.

Regarding the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Law Society, I remember a request that we have a debate after a year’s activity. The legal profession has disgraced itself in this. Like everyone here, I count people in that profession among my closest personal friends. We discussed the matter informally over the weekend, and they feel as besmirched by what has happened as if they had been at it themselves, although they have not. The most dreadful aspect is that people at the end of their tether having gathered their courage to go before the board and tell their tales from long ago are being done as soon as they leave. Such disgraceful behaviour brings dishonour on all in the legal profession. I hope that crimes are investigated in this regard, since
“thievery” is the proper term for taking money from someone in such a way, and I cannot understand why people should do it.

I join Senator Feeney in congratulating Joe Duffy on raising the issue. Mr. Duffy provides an [666]extraordinary and very useful valve for people, who feel comforted that they can telephone him and hear their issue debated. The Law Society has moved swiftly. I have spoken to two such individuals who received cheques through the post to return money taken from them. We do not know if that was everything, but it has happened. Senator Feeney also expressed her sympathy for the family of Mr. Patrick Walsh.

Senator Ryan expressed his willingness to second the amendment proposed by Senator Brian Hayes. He wants a general debate on inequality, pointing out very vividly that there have now been two attacks on people in society deemed to have been treated unfairly, those dealing with the Residential Institutions Redress Board and Mr. Walsh. I do not know who would take that debate; perhaps it would be the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  He approves of inequality.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Self-regulation does not work, and certainly not in the hands of people able to worm their way out of everything through legal routes. I regret any impression that I am criticising those of a legal background in the Chamber. I speak in a general sense, and legal people themselves have been discomfited by what has happened.

Senator Finucane called for debates on the death of Mr. Walsh and the drop-out rate in education, which I thought was very high. I cannot believe that so many pupils do not go past primary level or drop out before their junior certificate examinations. Such a debate would be very useful.

Senator Glynn also expressed his sympathy for the family of Mr. Walsh. He would like the issue of drugs and alcohol as factors in male suicide to be debated together with men’s health. I acknowledge that Senator Glynn has been asking for such a debate for some time. I have been seeking one lest he think I am running away with his big idea without doing anything with it. Something else always arises that is more of the moment, but I take his point.

Senator Norris also raised the issue regarding the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the legal profession. He wants a debate on the proposed metro for Dublin, immediately if possible. We will endeavour to have it next week.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That would be splendid, since the figures will be issued. We must push this issue.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I accept the Senator’s point. He also asked why we have not ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Regarding An Bord Pleanála, one [667]cannot query its decision-making, which is semi-judicial. I have often felt frustrated at its decisions. I always tell clients not to go to An Bord Pleanála, since it is simply for those whose applications for houses have been turned down by their county council.

Senator Leyden also expressed his sympathy to the Walsh family. He also raised the Hanly report, on which we know his views. However, for the good of people and patients, excellence in certain quarters must be sought and acknowledged.

Senator McCarthy raised the case of the Nigerian asylum seeker, one of whose twin children is autistic. I join him in welcoming the decision of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to halt her deportation. I also agree with Senator McCarthy that it is unacceptable that those who wish to apply to join the Garda must do so on-line. Potential recruits should be able to apply in the old-fashioned way as well as availing of modern technological means.

Senator Mansergh spoke of the responsibility of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, HSE and medical unions in safeguarding the welfare of patients. He made the point strongly that for those whose job it is to provide care to the ill, what has taken place at Monaghan General Hospital runs counter to their professional remit.

I agree with Senator Mansergh that the inquiry into the Brian Rossiter case should take place in Clonmel. I understand this incident is being investigated under the Dublin Police Act 1924. Perhaps this is the reason the inquiry is being held in Dublin but it would be far more seemly to have it in Clonmel. The rates lawyers get for a day’s work force me to conclude that I chose the wrong profession in teaching.

Senator Terry supported Senator Mansergh in his call for the inquiry into the Rossiter case to take place in Clonmel. I will endeavour to accommodate her request for a debate on ending child poverty. However, I do not comprehend her demand for increases in child benefit, given that massive increases have already been granted. Perhaps we can discuss this matter further in private.

Senator O’Brien, a Monaghan man, spoke feelingly in expressing his sympathy for the family of Mr. Patrick Joseph Walsh. He observed that this was an avoidable death and called for Monaghan General Hospital to be put back on-call. Senator Coonan asked how many more tragedies must occur before the situation is rectified. He also observed that nobody knows who to contact in the HSE. However, I was pleased to receive a nice letter from a man informing me he is my local contact in the executive. I note Senator Wilson’s call for the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to discuss the situation at Monaghan General Hospital.

[668]Senator Bannon spoke of the collapse of health services throughout the country. He will have an opportunity to make his case during tomorrow’s debate, although it may not be possible to accommodate all who wish to speak in the time allotted. Senator Ormonde spoke about the school drop-out rate in disadvantaged areas and asked that the Minister for Education and Science be invited to the House to discuss this. I will try to arrange such a debate.

I do not wish to share Senator Coghlan who has invited everybody to his hostelry in Kerry.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Everybody is most welcome.

Mr. Finucane: Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane  Especially councillors.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  We have votes too.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Senator Finucane likes to discriminate.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  As I understand it, the prospect of a transfer of the Great Southern Hotel group to Fáilte Ireland is a red herring that was floated in recent days.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  It is more serious than that.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Before we all go to Killarney, we will endeavour to let Senator Coghlan know what we believe should happen to the hotel group.

Mr. Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  The hotel workers want to know.

Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I will stay in the hotel, I have already booked it. Perhaps I will not be given any breakfast.

In the wake of the Taoiseach’s visit to this House last week, Senator Hanafin calls for a further debate on the EU constitution, particularly in the context of further accession from the east. I share Senator Cummins’s concerns on the question of whether the Law Society is the appropriate body to investigate solicitors in respect of overcharging on cases taken to the redress board. He also referred to a particular gentleman, a person about whom we are all somewhat doubtful.

I will try to accommodate Senator McHugh’s request for a debate on reducing the number of motor accident fatalities.

Mr. B. Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  As the proposer of the amendment to today’s Order of Business, I wish to respond. My purpose was to ensure the matter in question is debated. I withdraw my proposal in view of the Leader’s generous response in allowing for such a debate tomorrow.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[669]Ms O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Details of the change in tomorrow’s Order of Business will be circulated.

Order of Business agreed to.


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