Thursday, 26 January 2006
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Dardis: The Order of Business is Nos. 1, 2, 11 and 4. No. 1 is a sessional order as agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and it is proposed that it be taken without debate. No. 2 is a referral motion whereby the subject of No. 3 on today’s Order Paper is being referred to the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business for consideration. The draft Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003 (Prescribed Accountancy Bodies) Regulations 2006 prescribes for the purposes of section 48(1)(a) of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003 the following three bodies of accountants, the Association of International Accountants, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, as prescribed bodies for the purposes of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003. It is proposed that the motion be taken without debate. No. 11 concerns the nomination of members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission for appointment by the President and it is proposed to take it without debate. No. 4, statements on the Appropriation Act 2005, will be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and will conclude not later than 2 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes each, the contributions of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes and Senators may share time. The Minister is to be called on to reply not later than five minutes before the conclusion of the statements.
Mr. B. Hayes: I oppose the Order of Business for the reasons put forward by Senator Maurice Hayes yesterday with regard to No. 11. I propose that on the conclusion of No. 2 there shall be a one-hour debate on No. 11. It is most important that this House formally debates No. 11, which deals with the appointment of the three-person Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. There is precedent for this. When Ms Emily O’Reilly was appointed Ombudsman, the House debated the matter. Where the President is asked to appoint citizens to important positions such as this, precedent is that both Houses would formally debate the matter and reflect on the importance of the office. We are doing no service to the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission by not formally debating the matter. I ask the Acting Leader to reconsider the matter and to allow time on today’s Order Paper to debate the matter.
I welcome the fact that the Government has finally moved to appoint the commission, albeit nine months after passage of the Bill through both Houses. We need to debate this important matter. There is public concern with regard to the current complaints procedure. We welcome the fact the new commission will be appointed when the President chooses. However, the issue should be formally debated and that is the reason I have moved amendment No. 1.
I welcome the fact that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is recruiting non-nationals into the Garda force to represent the ethnic diversity in the country. This is welcome and was debated in the context of the Garda Síochána Bill. When such people are fully commissioned as gardaí after two and a half years training, they should at least be offered Irish citizenship. A defect under current rules is that a non-national can become a fully commissioned garda without the opportunity of becoming an Irish citizen. It would be more sensible for the Government to offer the welcome 10% of new recruits into the force the opportunity to become Irish citizens on the day they become gardaí.
Mr. B. Hayes: This would provide the opportunity to reflect the importance of the occasion. A new garda may have to question people and give evidence in court and the importance of this should be reflected. The way to do this is to offer the new garda citizenship. I hope the Acting Leader will take this matter up with the Minister.
Mr. O’Toole: I do not wish to make life difficult for the Acting Leader, but there are substantial issues we need to examine in terms of how we deal with the Order of Business. I will take them in reverse order. No. 2 is an issue that has been discussed at some length in this House and on that basis we knew it would work. Therefore, it is correct that it should be commended without debate and sent to committee. We debated and decided this as a House.
There was much discussion on No. 1 among groups during the previous session — I certainly mentioned it in passing to various people. The Order of Business in this House is far superior to that in the Dáil because it allows people make a contribution. Those who lose out by reducing the Order of Business to 30 minutes are generally Senators on the Government side of the House. I have no axe to grind on this matter. I ask the Acting Leader to defer a debate on No. 1 today. If he cannot do that will he accept an amendment that the time be set at 45 minutes rather than 30 minutes?
Mr. O’Toole: It has been debated by that committee and I have spoken about the issue, but I am not aware it has been discussed by the committee recently. I do not object to it being discussed there. I have discussed the issue with our group members and I know Fine Gael has discussed it. I am not sure the Labour Party has discussed the issue, but I have spoken to people in Fianna Fáil on the matter. The issue is about how we do our business. I put the matter to the Acting Leader. I will not argue the point, but in light of our experience the 30 minutes should be extended to 45 minutes.
Mr. O’Toole: With the agreement of the House, could No. 1 be deferred until the committee considers it and the views of various groups. If the Acting Leader would prefer to do that he can respond in due course.
I had looked forward to welcoming the three people on the Garda Ombudsman Commission. They are people of the highest ability and stature and their appointment was superb and creative. I agree with Senator Brian Hayes that we should be allowed to discuss this on the record, if for no other reason than to instil trust and confidence in the new commission.
The House held lengthy discussions when Emily O’Reilly and her predecessor were appointed as Ombudsman. People were concerned then that a civil servant was getting the job and about how that would work. We discussed these appointments on every occasion and our discussion was good for the office. There is nothing to be lost by allowing this discussion. It would only be an hour of debate and would be helpful. The Minister has done well with the establishment of the commission. He gets enough criticism, but this is an issue on which he could accept the plaudits. I support Senator Brian Hayes on this issue.
The issue raised by Senator Feighan yesterday is a matter of utmost significance to the west of Ireland. In terms of how we see the west of Ireland developing, we need to look at the situation where an eco-friendly environmentally sympathetic proposal has been knocked out of the water. We need to examine the approach to planning. If there is a problem with the proposal, people should be told what they need to do. We have learned that if we have a fragile or difficult environment, it is better to have some development. Through that development people can be made aware of where they should walk, which plants to protect, etc. In that way everybody is a winner.
Mr. Ryan: I second Senator Brian Hayes’s amendment to the Order of Business. It is extraordinary that the Government has got the notion that this is the way to deal with the issue. This is not the way we have dealt with the issue of the appointment of an ombudsman in the past. An hour is a reasonable time for debate on the issue. Why will it take 12 months for these three well-qualified people to get to work? It seems there is a marked lack of urgency with regard to the commission if it will take a year to get organised.
The Labour Party has discussed the issue regarding No. 1 and I agree 45 minutes is a reasonable compromise. The way we conduct the Order of Business is envied by those in the Dáil. It is an opportunity for Senators to raise legitimate, important issues of national concern. It is a pity if a time constraint turns this into a contentious issue. I ask the Acting Leader to defer No. 1 until we have the opportunity to discuss it.
Mr. Ryan: There was a report in this morning’s newspaper about a person who was arrested and brought to Mountjoy Prison for non-payment of a traffic fine. This involved six gardaí arriving at the house at 6 a.m. I wonder how our police force is organised if a 6 a.m. invasion of somebody’s house by six gardaí is the appropriate way to deal with the non-payment of a parking or speeding fine. We need to consider the fundamental management issue involved here in light of the slaughter on our roads and of the fact that the Attorney General has finally concluded that random breath checks are not unconstitutional.
However, we discover it will take 12 months to introduce the legislation to implement this measure. Was there no contingency plan? Was there no thinking going on? We were led to believe the legislation was all set to go, except for the constitutional issue. Now we have discovered that while the constitutional issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the Attorney General, we will have to wait a year for the legislation. If the Government wants to introduce legislation tomorrow to facilitate the Garda to carry out random breath testing, the Labour Party will make time available and accept its rapid progression through this House. I do not understand why it would take a year to do so.
The Garda Commissioner said yesterday that the Garda cannot seize uninsured cars from outside the jurisdiction in the way it can seize uninsured cars registered in this State. We should not take a year or two to amend the law to deal with this glitch either, particularly because Ireland is now, happily, a destination for work for people from many countries. We should ensure that the law is the same for everybody.
Similarly, I hope that, some time in the next 12 months, the question of mutual recognition of penalty points north and south of the Border will attract the attention of Government so progress can be made thereon. I do not understand why simple regulations that make perfect sense to most citizens take so long to progress, not through the Houses of the Oireachtas and definitely not through this House but through the peculiar labyrinths of Government. I appeal to the Acting Leader to ask the Government about this issue.
One of the world’s great search engines, Google, capitulated yesterday to the Chinese Government and agreed to be censored. This is appalling. Dublin City Council and, it seems, Waterford City Council have followed Google’s example by refusing to allow any poster about anything. Dublin City Council said it would not allow any poster for any purpose other than election campaigns. This is a breach of people’s human rights. If the council wants to prohibit fly-posting, it should provide some other location where postering would be acceptable. Many countries do this and provide spaces for postering in respect of many issues. If the councils are to prohibit what they regard as the littering associated with fly-postering, they have an obligation to make another forum available. If not, they are effectively putting themselves into the same camp as Google and beginning to censor the citizen’s right to free expression.
Dr. Mansergh: I warmly commend the brave people who confronted and overcame raiders in a rural post office in Templederry in north Tipperary, which was once the home of patriot priest Fr. John Kenyon. I hope their action may serve as some deterrent to others who might be planning the same enterprise.
On the Order of Business, which is administered by the Cathaoirleach, in practice we seem to continue contributing thereon until approximately 11.15 a.m. This seems to allow adequate time. I would be against overexpanding the Order of Business at the expense of structured debate. We should not undervalue structured debate in this House.
Mr. Finucane: Yesterday the Taoiseach announced in the Dáil the introduction of random breath testing. He said that after discussions with the Attorney General, it is now okay to proceed in that direction. Yesterday the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, was reported in the newspapers as stating there could be constitutional difficulties. It would appear this matter has now been resolved, yet there is ongoing debate on whether there will be a referendum on the issue. When can we have a definitive response to the question of whether we will have random breath testing? There is still much confusion in this area.
I welcome the introduction of penalty points for offences other than those currently subject to them. The awarding of these penalty points will commence on 1 April and the increase in the list of offences will represent a sea change for motorists. Will the Government, in conjunction with local authorities throughout the country, embark on a public relations exercise to make motorists aware of all the offences which will be subject to penalty points from 1 April? They should be proactive in informing the public. Given the carnage on the roads, it is high time we had positive movement in this regard. The motorist deserves to know about the changes to be made.
Ms Cox: I support Senators Ryan and Finucane regarding the need for discussion on random breath testing. It is very important that we test not only for alcohol but also for drugs. The accidents that are happening late at night on the roads, involving young people in particular, have got to be influenced by drug taking.
I request a debate with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, on the forthcoming Ryder Cup which is taking place in Ireland. Many Members will know that I know nothing about golf and have no interest in the wide earthly world in it.
Ms Cox: However, many people do. The Ryder Cup is the greatest single sporting event in the world and will attract the greatest number of viewers. Irish people are entitled to watch coverage of the event free-to-air on RTE and should not be forced by a multinational conglomerate to watch it on Sky Sports or in pubs if it is not available free-to-air at home.
Ms Cox: The Minister has the responsibility and authority to prevent this and I hope he will listen to what we have to say in the House, make the appropriate response and ensure that we, as Irish citizens, can watch the event which is taking place in our own country.
Mr. Norris: I would like to formally move non-Government motion No. 20 in my name, which seeks to extend the time allowed for the Order of Business to 45 minutes. If the Acting Leader is prepared to defer No. 1 until after the Committee on Procedure and Privileges has met, I will be happy to withdraw my motion. Yesterday the Order of Business lasted for over an hour and was very successful. It is the only time the media cover the business of this House — that is the reality. We are always complaining that we get no coverage. Do we want to cut out the bit of coverage that we get? Are we that thick?
Mr. Norris: I beg the Cathaoirleach’s pardon — no insult was meant to him. The time to be measured is actually the time from the end of the announcement of the Business of the Seanad, including the announcement of matters on the Adjournment, until the time the Leader or Acting Leader stands up. It is important that we maintain this timeframe.
Perhaps the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should consider the way in which this House is consistently treated with contempt by committees of both Houses. Yesterday, for the umpteenth time, the Joint Committee on Transport was scheduled to meet at a time that clashed directly with the Order of Business of this House. Members of the Seanad should boycott those committees to put them in their place.
In light of the fact that we are establishing a committee to consider CIA rendition flights, I had a meeting yesterday with senior gardaí, who were asked to meet me by the Garda Commissioner, to whom I had written. They made the point that the United Nations convention against torture legislation, which was introduced through this House some years ago, does not confer rights on the Garda to enter the aircraft in question or to arrest persons even if there is strong information that they may be subjecting people to torture. We need to consider these gaps in legislation.
We should have a debate on the Middle East in light of the Palestinian elections. Some people regret that Hamas will obviously be the largest party. I hope it will be put into a situation in which it will have to form a coalition with the parties led by Mustafa Barghouti and Hanan Ashrawi. We would be very foolish not to encourage this development. In Ireland we encouraged the progression of the IRA through Sinn Féin into some degree of participation in parliamentary democracy. The same should be done in the Middle East.
I agree we should have a debate on road safety. However, as legislators, we must clean up our own act. We should put pressure on county managers and county councils because the real reason there is such a problem with road safety is not just the behaviour of young people and drinking, but because the operation of speed limits and road bumps is chaotic and there is no consistency or coherence.
Two deeply tragic situations have arisen. A talented, lovely young woman, Ms Aisling Gallagher, was killed approximately one year ago as a result of the condition of the road surface, to which attention had been drawn.
Mr. Dooley: In light of the increase in the incidence of post office robberies, which Senator Mansergh identified, I call on An Post to put in place an improved security system for rural post offices. On the same night as the incident in Tipperary, an aggravated burglary took place at Whitegate post office, where a young woman was tied up for more than six hours. It is a worrying trend and a matter with which An Post should deal by way of improved security for those involved.
I call for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to be brought to the House to discuss his Department’s water pricing policy and the associated polluter pays principle. This greatly affects the capacity of local authorities to deliver on the rollout of sewerage schemes throughout the country — I am particularly aware of the case of County Clare. On the one hand, the planning authorities demand that people from urban areas should continue to occupy houses in urban areas and prevent people from getting planning permission in rural areas. On the other hand, no serviced land is available in villages and towns to provide for the young people growing up there. As a result of discussions I have had with many of those involved, I believe the water pricing policy of the Department is to blame for this impasse to a large extent.
It is a matter we should discuss openly in the House, in a non-partisan way, in an effort to come to a conclusion. Despite the number of houses being built, the planning conditions, as they stand, prevent people from living in the villages they want to live in because houses cannot be built as the villages and associated lands are not serviced. It is a matter which is causing serious difficulty in many villages in rural Ireland.
Mr. Coghlan: Last January we changed our planning laws to facilitate the location in Ireland of an IKEA store by lifting the cap on retail warehouses in certain designated areas. The Minister warned us at the time that if we did not do so, there was a danger that IKEA would locate in the North. We learned yesterday that IKEA intends to locate a megastore in Belfast. In addition, we have learned that the company is now prepared to open smaller stores in Britain.
It appears we changed our planning laws on a spurious basis. We should tread carefully before ever again taking on board the claims of any large company. The common good must win out, not the dishonest posturing of any company, however large, which is prepared to ride roughshod over our environment. We have seen the result in this case.
Ms White: I call for an urgent debate on a new approach to aging and ageism. A survey was published yesterday in The Irish Times which stated that 25% of those aged over 65 would like to— Sorry, a Chathaoirligh, you seem to think I am about to do something wrong.
Ms White: There is a serious issue at stake. Some 425,000 of our people are over the age of 65. Approximately 25% of these, over 100,000 people, wish to work after the age of 65. We need an urgent debate on the issues surrounding compulsory retirement at 65, including the issue of gradual retirement.
Ageism is a serious issue in Ireland. Most deaths occur among those aged over 65 but many die needlessly of treatable illnesses. The issue of aging and ageism is as serious for this country as that of childcare. I call for an urgent debate on the issue.
Mr. Bannon: The vast majority of our citizens, including caring staff at our hospitals, are very disappointed that the Government has no intention of taking action against drunkenness and anti-social behaviour at accident and emergency centres throughout the country. This serious problem was highlighted in a recent report which suggested that one third of those entering accident and emergency units at weekends had drink taken. Additional security is needed. I know of staff, including nurses, who fear for their lives when carrying out their duties in accident and emergency units at weekends.
It is important that we debate the issue because what is happening is disgraceful. I made representations to the Minister for Health and Children yet all she did was write to inform me that it is a matter for the Health Service Executive. The Government is passing the buck on this issue when action is needed. This is not happening in any other state in Europe except Ireland.
Dr. M. Hayes: It would be a pity if we did not have at least a short debate on the Garda ombudsman commission. We run the risk of diminishing the dignity of this hugely important institution if we do not treat it as we treated other institutions. There is not the smallest doubt that the House would approve the names that are put before it. These are excellent people — I do not think a single person would question that. A debate would give the office dignity and allow for discussion of the issues that arise with regard to transparency of process. If we had a debate, I might be able to convince Senator Ryan that 12 months is not an unreasonable time in which to set up a hugely complex office and train staff.
Mr. McCarthy: I seek clarification from the Acting Leader with regard to the proposal of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to close what is one of the busiest Garda stations in the country. Dublin metropolitan area has a population of over 1 million. Harcourt Terrace Garda station holds 1,400 prisoners per year and is staffed by up to 70 gardaí, yet the Minister proposes to close it in April next. If this is what the Minister is doing in Dublin city centre, it does not augur well for rural Garda stations, in particular for one Garda station that operates in a private rented house in one of the busiest towns in west Cork.
It is not opportune or appropriate to begin closing Garda stations in large urban centres, neglecting the needs of stations in rural areas. I wonder whether the Minister will climb another lamp-post, this time with an auctioneer’s sign, while the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, holds the ladder, ready to flog off what is a valuable asset to raise badly needed funds for his Department.
Mr. J. Walsh: While there is probably merit in the call for a debate with regard to the appointment of the Garda ombudsman, it should be acknowledged that the generality of the issue has been discussed on many occasions.
Vodafone and O2 recently published their annual reports. They showed quite a profitable operation which underlines the fact that there is a close cartel in place. The consumer is not receiving the benefit of competition. Could we have a debate on that issue?
On a related matter, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has taken the initiative to curb the high cost of people bringing legal actions, and the operation perhaps of cartels in the Law Library. The Minister for Health and Children is trying to tackle a similar situation with regard to hospital consultants.
Those initiatives deserve the support of this House because there are strong vested interests at play depriving the consumer of the best deal possible. Could the Acting Leader structure the debate in such a way that we could tackle each of these and perhaps other similar situations? In that way the democratic voice could speak strongly against vested interests and in favour of ensuring adequate and effective competition within all these sectors.
Mr. McHugh: Under Department of Education and Science guidelines children with learning difficulties, specifically dyslexia, are entitled to learning support. Many schools around the country, however, do not provide this facility because they are restricted by budget constraints within the Department. Consequently, children with dyslexia are not given specific hours of tuition and are not on the priority list for psychological assessment.
If a child is not on that list the parents must provide private assessment which costs upwards of €420. This is unfair and unjust. It is a scandal that parents must pay this money out of their own pockets for a service to which they are entitled under Department guidelines.
We need to examine the ignorance surrounding dyslexia. People within the administration of the educational establishment are ignorant of the needs of children with dyslexia. I call on the Minister for Education and Science to urgently emphasise the need for specific university training for primary and secondary school teachers in this area. This is a priority and there are parents around the country who will not take this any more and will no longer stand for paying these fees out of their own pockets.
Mr. Leyden: I wish to second Senator White’s proposal for a debate on ageing and ageism. This is an important issue which should be debated here. I hope the Acting Leader might regard this as a matter for consideration.
I also support Senator O’Toole and Senator Feighan who has tabled a matter regarding the role of An Bord Pleanála for discussion on the Adjournment. I would like a debate on the situation in Lough Key in respect of the turning down——
Mr. Leyden: I am calling for a debate on the role of An Bord Pleanála. It is also grossly unfair to blame the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for the turning down of a decision on Lough Key made by An Bord Pleanála.
Dr. Henry: I support Senator White’s call for a debate on ageing. As we are all getting older by the minute the sooner we have it the better. I congratulate her on the meetings she has organised in Dublin South-East on the topic, which have been very popular.
Labhrás Ó Murchú: We have debated the plight and aspirations of the Palestinian people on several occasions in the House. This is underlined by the existence of an active Palestinian friendship group operating among Oireachtas Members. Any democrat must be pleased when elections take place and all parties commit themselves to those elections to determine the will of the people.
I was disturbed to hear some world leaders say they would not accept the outcome of the recent Palestinian election. They referred particularly to the involvement of Hamas. It is quite possible that by the time we meet again next week, Hamas will have performed exceptionally well. We should be careful to nurture this new development. It is up to diplomats to use diplomatic skills. Had diplomacy been employed when the opportunity presented in many flashpoints around the world there would not be the present difficulties.
I am pleased to note a softening of tone by some European spokespersons today. I hope the United States will follow suit. The ideal approach is to have all people on board after the Palestinian elections, hopefully all working in a peaceful way because the people need every bit of support and good luck they can get.
We should invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who went to the wrong court during the recess on the Sellafield issue. He also told this House that consumers would not pay extra arising from the WEEE directive on recycling electrical goods. We all know this is not correct.
We should invite him here to explain the nitrates directive which is a major agricultural issue. It has emerged that Teagasc provided the wrong figures. The Minister needs to explain why the directive was signed so quickly, on a Sunday, on bad advice. He should be invited into the House early next week to discuss this issue.
We should also invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children into the House because it has emerged that capital funding of €56 million in the Department of Health and Children has been used for current spending. This is a serious development which raises questions about the accounting practice within the Department and has implications for capital projects that might not go ahead in 2006 because of the shortfall. It would be remiss of the House not to deal with those issues urgently early next week.
Mr. Hanafin: I wish to take up an issue raised yesterday and ask for a debate on road safety. This House and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business have assisted the insurance companies in recent years, putting in place the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, so much so that in the past three years the profitability of insurance companies rose from €400 million to €700 million, and to €1 billion last year.
There is an onus on those companies to provide as a loss leader a facility for drivers aged between 18 years and 27 years who install a speed restrictor in their cars. I do not refer to a speed regulator but to a restrictor which would set a maximum speed. The insurance companies should offer significant reductions in premiums for young drivers who use this device.
The European Commission has said we must phase out the high vehicle registration tax, VRT, over the next ten years. This provides a wonderful opportunity to reduce to the lower VRT rate, cars listed by the new car assessment programme as having five-star safety features, the same as that for hybrid cars.
I would like a debate on the communications industry and particularly on the profits of the two major players, Vodafone and O2. I commend the regulator on the competition introduced into this area. Nevertheless, we continue to pay the highest charges per head for mobile phone use in Europe. That must be examined.
We should have a debate on the Middle East and particularly the situation in Iran. The Iranian Government has refused the offer from Russia of the uranium it needs for peaceful nuclear energy. That is significant in light of what an Israeli army general said recently. When asked how far the Israelis would go to prevent the Iranians gaining a nuclear capacity, he was very precise, stating, “Two thousand kilometres”. I call for a debate on the Middle East.
Ms O’Meara: With regard to the incident in Templederry, raised by Senator Mansergh, I join other Senators in seeking a debate on rural policing and in particular the Government’s policy on the deployment of gardaí in rural areas. In recent weeks, and particularly over the Christmas period, there were a number of criminal incidents in the north Tipperary area. It would appear that gangs are coming there from larger urban areas to prey on smaller village communities in constituencies such as Tipperary North. I am sure this is also happening elsewhere. In that context, the issue of how Garda manpower is deployed needs to be examined carefully. This has been a matter of major public concern for a long time. It is one of the core issues in rural areas and one which must be reflected in this House by way of debate, so I ask for such a debate as soon as possible.
Mr. Bradford: I support the call by Senator White for a debate on ageism. We should broaden to cover services for the elderly. We have had productive and substantive debates here on child care, but we should also examine the other end of the spectrum. There are many issues concerning nursing homes and other services for the elderly, including social welfare entitlements. The people who built up this State surely deserve to have their problems examined in depth by us to see what further improvements we can bring about in the services provided for them.
I also support Senator Browne’s call for a debate on the nitrates directive. More than most Members of the House, the Acting Leader would be keenly aware of the fact that if implemented as proposed, the regulations will shut down certain farms throughout the country. The directive will make agriculture unsustainable for a number of farmers. Therefore, we need to urgently review the guidelines agreed by the Government, which appear to have been based on a foundation of shifting sands.
This matter will be of the gravest concern to all farmers over the next 12 months. A signal is needed from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Agriculture and Food that they are willing to review the limits of the directive. Otherwise, we will have put in place a regime that will cost rural jobs and the livelihoods of farming families. The matter warrants the most urgent and detailed debate in this House.
Mr. Dardis: Senators Brian Hayes, O’Toole, Ryan, Maurice Hayes and Jim Walsh referred to No. 11 on the Order Paper, a motion concerning the appointment of members, including a chairperson, of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I accept that this is an important position and that the manner in which the commission will conduct its business should be debated. However, I do not see the relevance of that to debating the three individuals involved. It is a practice in the House that we do not discuss people who are not here to defend themselves.
Mr. Dardis: These matters were recently fully debated when the Garda Síochána Bill was going through the House, therefore, the views of Members are on the record and are well known. As far as I am aware, the Minister is in Templemore this morning, so it is quite difficult to arrange for him to attend the House. Unfortunately, therefore, the matter will have to be taken without debate. Perhaps, however, we can debate the operation of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission at a later date.
Senator Brian Hayes also spoke about non-nationals becoming members of the Garda Síochána, which is to be welcomed. I share his views and there is a good deal of merit in what he said, namely, that it is preferable that members of An Garda Síochána should be Irish citizens. This proposal should be considered and I will make the Senator’s views on the matter known to the Minister. I am not sure if it is technically possible to do so, but if it requires legislation it should be examined. It is a reasonably good idea.
Mr. Dardis: I understand that, a Chathaoirligh, but on the basis that it will be considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges I think we will leave it as it is, until the CPP has discussed the issue.
Mr. Dardis: I started out with a good deal of sympathy, but by the time we got to the end of this Order of Business I was beginning to wonder. An alternative would be to have the Order of Business on a 45-minute basis, excluding Senator Norris.
Senators O’Toole and Leyden raised the issue of planning in the west, which was also raised yesterday by Senator Feighan. We have debated the issue several times in the past, but it would merit future debate. Some good points have been made in that regard.
Senator Ryan referred to people being arrested for minor offences and large numbers of gardaí being involved. While that is an operational matter for the Garda Síochána, on the face of it, it does not look good. I can understand why they made have done so, but it is a matter for the Garda Síochána.
Senators Finucane, Cox, Norris and others spoke about random breath testing and the penalty points system. Senator Finucane made a good proposal for making people aware of the offences in advance of the new regime coming into operation on 1 April. There were many calls yesterday for a debate on road safety so perhaps we could have an omnibus debate on traffic accidents, road safety and enforcement. I understand there is a difficulty with regard to seizing cars that come here from outside the jurisdiction, but I will speak to the Minister about it on behalf of Senator Ryan.
The matter of search-engine censorship was also raised. Senator Ryan is correct with regard to postering. If one goes to France or Italy, there are places where municipal posters can be put up and that is the way to proceed. In the good old days, people went to churches on a Sunday morning, as we did ourselves, and put leaflets on car windows but that is not satisfactory.
Mr. Dardis: Senators Mansergh, Dooley and O’Meara spoke about the people who tackled raiders in a post office at Templederry. They are to be commended for doing so, although a certain degree of prudence is required. In a local post office close to my home, there is a mark on the wall caused when a shotgun was discharged right behind the head of the person at the desk. He was lucky not to be seriously injured or killed. Circumstances need to be taken into account and people should be sensible in that regard. Security in post offices is a serious issue which should be discussed here.
Senator Cox referred to breath testing and she is correct about drugs. Drugs were included in the most recent Road Traffic Bill passed by this House, but it is difficult to test for them. I understand, however, that a significant proportion of people who are being arrested on suspicion of drink driving and in fact under the influence of drugs. It is a serious matter.
We would all agree that television coverage of the Ryder Cup competition should be free-to-air, but there is more to it than a Government decision because contracts are involved that may impinge on the coverage. I was somewhat surprised to hear at the glorious victory of Munster over Sale last weekend that we might not be able to see or hear the enthusiasm of Thomond Park on free-to-air television, something that would be very much regretted, especially given the audience figures. Almost 500,000 people viewed the match on free-to-air television. The following day very few watched Leinster play Bath, which was just as compelling a game, since it was on satellite television.
Mr. Dardis: Senator Norris makes a reasonable point about committees clashing, an experience that we have all had. We must repeatedly make the case that we must attend this House, but it does not seem to be taken into account. I have a good deal of sympathy with the Senator’s view, and we may raise it elsewhere.
Regarding CIA renditions and the prevention of torture, I understand that the aeroplanes are technically foreign territory, and that gardaí do not have the right to enter them. I may be wrong about that.
As regards the Middle East, I too hope that if Hamas emerges as the victor in the election, as appears possible, it will lead to a transformation of the way in which it has conducted its business and that it will understand the responsibilities of the outcome of a democratic election. While it has been regarded as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, I note that the EU seems prepared to deal with it. Senator Hanafin also made a point concerning Iran, and the way to deal with those matters is to have a debate on the Middle East.
Senator Coghlan raised the issue of IKEA. When it came to Ireland, many people welcomed it, and it went into an area that required something of that nature. That is all that I will say about the matter.
The important issue of ageing was raised by Senators White, Leyden, Henry and Bradford. We know that we have an ageing population, and it merits a serious debate, since it will cause many problems in future regarding pensions and people in the workforce. I am sure we all look forward to Senator White displaying her passion in the House.
Senator Bannon mentioned anti-social behaviour in accident and emergency departments. Something should be done, and either the hospitals themselves must provide security, or it must be given to them. The Senator is correct that it is a serious matter.
Senator McCarthy raised the issue of the sale of property in Harcourt Terrace, which may raise a great deal of capital. It is in an extremely valuable part of the city, and if that capital can be used for other facilities elsewhere and the gardaí in the area continue to provide a service, I have no difficulty.
Senators Walsh and Hanafin spoke of Vodafone, O2 and the matter of competition, which we could also debate. Senator Walsh made a good point on vested interests regarding both the legal profession and consultants. It never ceases to amaze me how people who earn so much money and are so privileged do not feel more responsible towards the rest of society and the State. I simply cannot understand that. I may be naive, but that is my view.
Senator McHugh made a good point regarding children with learning difficulties. The situation has improved immeasurably in recent years, but I accept there are still deficiencies, especially regarding dyslexia. I will bring those matters to the Minister’s attention.
Senators Browne and Bradford made a very important point regarding the nitrates directive. It is a matter of serious concern, not only to this House but to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, and the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan. It has very important implications, even for ordinary farming operations, and the House should give it serious consideration very soon.
The €56 million moved from the HSE’s capital budget was explained by the financial officer of the HSE on the radio, and the Tánaiste is to make a statement on the matter in the Dáil at 2.40 p.m. The matter can be disposed of there, and we should wait to see what is said before we decide whether to discuss it.
Senator Hanafin raised the issues of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and VRT. His proposal regarding young drivers was very good, since getting insurance is a serious difficulty for them. What he has suggested merits earnest consideration.
An Cathaoirleach: There are two proposed amendments to the Order of Business. Senator Brian Hayes has moved an amendment: “That one hour be allowed for a debate on No. 11”. Is the amendment being pressed?
|Bannon, James.||Bradford, Paul.|
|Browne, Fergal.||Burke, Paddy.|
|Coonan, Noel.||Cummins, Maurice.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Finucane, Michael.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Hayes, Maurice.|
|McHugh, Joe.||Norris, David.|
|O’Meara, Kathleen.||O’Toole, Joe.|
|Ross, Shane.||Ryan, Brendan.|
|Brady, Cyprian.||Brennan, Michael.|
|Callanan, Peter.||Cox, Margaret.|
|Daly, Brendan.||Dardis, John.|
|Dooley, Timmy.||Fitzgerald, Liam.|
|Glynn, Camillus.||Hanafin, John.|
|Kenneally, Brendan.||Kett, Tony.|
|Leyden, Terry.||Lydon, Donal J.|
|Mansergh, Martin.||Minihan, John.|
|Morrissey, Tom.||Moylan, Pat.|
|Ó Murchú, Labhrás.||O’Brien, Francis.|
|Ormonde, Ann.||Phelan, Kieran.|
|Scanlon, Eamon.||Walsh, Jim.|
|White, Mary M.||Wilson, Diarmuid.|
|Last Updated: 08/09/2010 04:28:30||Page of 10|