Thursday, 1 February 2007
Seanad Eireann Debate
Ms O’Rourke: The Order of Business is No. 1, Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Second Stage (resumed), to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business until 1.20 p.m. with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; and No. 2, Health (Nursing Homes)(Amendment) Bill 2006 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude not later than 4 p.m. There will be a sos from 1.20 p.m. until 2 p.m.
Mr. B. Hayes: Last weekend the country heard from a Mrs. Lynch, the mother of a murder victim. This followed the controversy concerning the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen. The country owes a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Lynch for speaking so eloquently and articulately on the need to do something for victims who find themselves in this appalling situation.
Does the Leader of the House agree that it may well be a useful exercise for this House to establish a select committee to report to the House on how it may help victims who find themselves in this situation, with specific reference to the point made by Mrs. Lynch, namely, the right in law for victims to have prior notice of the temporary or permanent release of the person who has been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the victim? The House should consider this matter and Mrs. Lynch has requested legislators on all sides to do so. She has also requested legislators to ensure that other victim supports are put in place. It is horrendous that such a situation can be visited on a family with all the appalling consequences yet no one contacts the family, supports the family or offers counselling. It is not just the case of Mrs. Lynch’s family. Countless other cases exist where this set of circumstances has arisen. It would be useful if a select committee of the House could make a report to Government on legislative changes so that a new charter for victims could be put in place. Will the Leader consider this proposal in discussion with other colleagues in the next few days to see if this House can lead the way on this issue?
The news that BUPA Ireland is to be bought is very good news in terms of saving jobs in County Cork and for the continuance of competition in the Irish health care market. The claim by Mr. Quinn that he will be offered or given a three-year exemption on risk equalisation needs to be clarified. This is a matter for the regulator but I ask the Government to make statements on this matter to the House as early as possible to bring clarity to the issues which have been raised in the past 24 hours.
Mr. Norris: I agree with Senator Brian Hayes about the contribution made by Mrs. Lynch when referring to her murdered son and the inappropriate writing of letters. The Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, is a very decent and responsible man. We should not target any individual because the practice is endemic. There is something wrong with the system. Every Government, not only Fianna Fáil Governments, provide staff to Ministers to nurture the constituency. This results in letters being sent out without the knowledge or approval of the Minister. This practice is idiotic and a corruption of the system. In my post this morning I received a document notifying me of the launch of a book entitled “Performance” or something similar. This is about show politics, veneer and appearing to do something. It is populism which must be rooted out of the system.
I was extremely impressed by Mrs. Lynch and the way in which she presented her case. She mentioned that she had prayed at her son’s funeral for the family of the man who murdered him. In her dignified way she showed an extraordinary degree of Christian charity. The reopening of this case in this manner brought back all the trauma and devastation that was visited on the extended members of the family. While I agree with Senator Brian Hayes’s comments, I believe it is in all our interests to examine the system.
I also partly agree with Senator Hayes on developments in the case of BUPA. I am not ideologically committed to the notion of competition. Its elevation to a kind of totem has damaged the interests of ordinary people in many areas. It is perfectly clear that BUPA was not open about what it was doing in the Irish market. It was a hit and run company which entered the market and made a considerable profit which it repatriated to subsidise the British health service. It is not up to us to subsidise the national health service in Britain, much as I admire it.
I am worried by a comment made on a radio programme this morning and hope it is not true. It was stated that Mr. Quinn expected favourable treatment because he was a crony of the Taoiseach. If that is the case, it would be a great shame because the interests of patients should be the main consideration in this matter.
Mr. Quinn is entering the market with what is supposed to be a new company when it is perfectly obvious it is not new. In the old days in Dublin this approach used to be called the Phoenix syndrome and was particularly common in the entertainment business and nightclubs, discos and so on. I was involved in this area and whereas we paid all our tax, others set up companies which they collapsed the minute they received a tax bill. They then created a new paper company and never paid any tax. This approach is wrong and the loophole should be plugged.
On the issue of the CAO, this is another example of the system triumphing over the individual. Young people trying to make their applications were told that with new technology they would be able to log on to the CAO website and make their applications via the Internet. A CAO spokesperson took a very cavalier attitude on the wireless this morning and did not appear to have any compassion for the young people concerned. He said the system was great and running perfectly and the CAO could manage easily. What about those who have not been able to access the applications facility? They are expected to pay an extra €10.
The system is not more important than the individuals it is supposed to serve, namely, young people at the beginning of their careers who are under pressure because they are about to take mock examinations. It should be possible to extend the deadline for receipt of completed applications. When the CAO spokesman was asked whether there was a legal impediment to doing so, he failed to answer the question and repeated a great deal of garbage about computers. Let us hear it for the small people, the students and those who are vulnerable in terms of their health. Let us not elevate competition and technology above the rights of the individual citizen.
Mr. Ryan: I thought Mrs. Lynch was an extraordinarily warm and Christian woman. Her family’s circumstances and the way in which she dealt with a terrible trauma in her life has been an example to everybody. She stated she had no problem regarding the prisoner in question receiving whatever he needed if he was suffering in any way. She said she was not seeking vengeance and spoke solely about the understandable fear victims of such an individual would experience if he was released suddenly without preparation or warning. This valid point, which was raised with great dignity by a courageous woman, needs to be addressed.
All Members should learn a careful lesson from this case, namely, that irrespective of how efficient one’s office staff are, one must still take responsibility for writing letters. I do not want to turn a dignified woman’s case into a political football but it is time the political system addressed the issue of representations. No representation should be entertained until after a case has been dealt with by the Ombudsman. For this reason, we should resource the Ombudsman to deal efficiently with all delays and complaints and only those cases which cannot be resolved should be the subject of political representations. I have held this view for 25 years.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the attitude of the CAO. Having worked in the third level system, I have been aware of the CAO since it was established and I note a change in its attitude. The office was always focused on students and initially provided a service that most public bodies were incapable of delivering. It was a model of how to deliver a service to the public because it was efficient, accessible, user friendly and tried hard to ensure it produced a large volume of information. Its focus, even as a single body, was on providing a service.
The tone of comments made by representatives of the CAO in the past 48 hours is the reverse of that approach. Apart from the banks — we know what we think of them — service providers do not ask their customers to hold on and be patient. Senator Quinn would have been out of business after six months if he had told his customers he would get around to dealing with them in a minute. Essentially, this is what the CSO has told students for the past 48 hours. A public body which offers one a financial incentive to apply online because it saves it money should not tell customers to be patient or else pay a tenner. It is not good enough. The CAO’s attitude appears to have changed. While I accept it is an independent body, the Minister for Education and Science has a responsibility to ensure this problem never occurs again.
Mr. Ryan: I ask the Leader to arrange statements on the most recent report of Amnesty International, an organisation held in high esteem across the political spectrum. Individual governments have individual issues with it but Amnesty International’s independence means its report is effectively an independent review of human rights across the world. I invite the Leader to hold a debate in which those of us who have different views on human rights in different countries can express them. It would be interesting to hear those who were critical of me mount a defence of Saudi Arabia, a country in which half the members of the Government consorted last week and perhaps the most totalitarian state in the world.
On a separate issue, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, was reported yesterday as expressing a concern — one which Senators would share — about the financial costs arising from the Kyoto Agreement and Ireland’s failure to remain within the limits set down. He said the steady increase in car transport was making fulfilment of the NO2 obligations very difficult. This week, however, we read that rail freight declined last year by 24%. Would Senators agree with me that there is some connection between these two facts? The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Minister for Transport and possibly the Minister for Finance should get together to see how we use our grossly under-utilised rail system outside peak times.
Dr. Mansergh: The Ministers might also discuss whether the penalty points system could be used to stop the gross littering of our roadsides, particularly in the countryside. This proposal should be considered seriously. Anybody who throws non-biodegradable litter from their car should get two penalty points, with a five-point penalty for anyone who dumps a sack.
Mr. Coonan: Young and less well off people have often been accused of being cynical about politics and politicians. Is it any wonder, given the way young people have been treated concerning their CAO applications? I support the comments by previous speakers about this matter. The individual who was wheeled out this morning sounded like a former Soviet bureaucrat laying down the law. Who is in charge of this country? The Minister for Education and Science should direct the CAO to deal with students in an appropriate manner. One could say that the students are getting a huge concession in that they will be allowed to post their applications today but they will pay €10 extra. I wonder if the €10 includes the price of the stamp. On top of that, students will also get the privilege of paying another €10 if their applications are a day late.
This is not the first time the CAO’s technology has collapsed. The Government has some record when it comes to technology, when one considers electronic voting, PPARS and the CAO. It is not good enough. Who is in charge? Where does the Minister for Education and Science stand on this matter?
Last Tuesday morning, two gardaí came knocking on a woman’s door. She was a mother of five children — the youngest is three, while the eldest is 12 — and was taken away. Arrangements were made to put her in prison because she had not paid a €500 fine. There is no provision for people to pay fines in instalments. In this day and age, is it good enough for this to happen in this so-called caring society with a caring Government? The Leader should initiate a debate on fines and other penalties.
Mr. Fitzgerald: The situation concerning the CAO is a serious one. The CAO spokesperson’s attitude should be condemned as being anti-student because it was insensitive to students’ needs. Given that the spokesperson was unable to acknowledge that there was a problem, he should seriously consider his position. It must be acknowledged that there is a separation between the functions of the CAO and those of the Minister for Education and Science. Earlier this morning, I contacted the Minister’s office about this matter. I have been assured that the Minister sought an extension of the CAO application deadline. She formally requested the CAO, which is an independent statutory body, to extend the deadline.
We cannot have it both ways. The Minister was formally advised that there are legal difficulties. I have spoken to the Minister’s office three times this morning about this and have been assured that there is a legal difficulty involved. However, the Minister’s officials assured me that once CAO hard-copy applications are posted today, with today’s date on the certificate of posting, everybody will be secure, notwithstanding Opposition concerns about the €10 fee. I accept that there is an issue of apparent insensitivity within certain elements of the CAO towards the legitimate worries of students and their parents. This needs to be addressed and I know the Minister is determined to do so for next year’s round of applications.
Dr. Henry: I welcome the fact that BUPA Ireland has been bought by another insurer. However, there are plenty of grey heads around the House and we should be anxious that community rating may disappear if any new entrant buying another company does not have to pay any financial recompense to established companies. The Minister for Health and Children has made this clear over the last few years and I am sure she is right.
The Statute Law (Revision) Bill was enacted in 2005. Another such Bill has just been published to remove from the Statute Book Acts that are no longer relevant. Recently, the Law Reform Commission produced a report on vulnerable adults and the law. Vulnerable adults are dealt with shabbily and are referred to in much legislation as “imbeciles” or “morons”. These terms are of no relevance in this day and age. In fact, in the last session, I objected to legislation which referred to people as “being of unsound mind”. Such terms have no medical or legal definition. The explanation I received as to why such terms were included in the legislation was because they were contained in a further 157 pieces of legislation. I thought that was a ridiculous explanation.
The Law Reform Commission brought forward a draft Bill on mental capacity and guardianship. Will the Leader ascertain if the Minister can consider adding that short Bill to the legislative schedule? At the stroke of a pen we could thus rectify these peculiar definitions within our legislation.
Dr. Henry: The report by the Law Reform Commission is entitled “Vulnerable Adults and the Law”. The suggested legislation is entitled the scheme of mental capacity and guardianship Bill. It would bring us into a more decent and modern age if we included descriptions which were considered relevant, rather than the offensive terms used in a considerable body of current legislation.
Ms Ormonde: I also support Senator Brian Hayes in seeking a system that could be used when we are trying to make representations on behalf of families of prisoners, taking into account the sensitivities surrounding such issues. I compliment Mrs. Lynch on the way she handled the situation. I studied her comments and she had a holistic approach to the issue. She was hurt, yet she was able to manage that hurt in an intelligent manner. She treated the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, with sensitivity. I know him well and he still hurting very much. The way it happened was unfortunate. There, but for the grace of God, go any of us. All of us could be in that position without realising the implications in those circumstances.
Ms Ormonde: I was appalled when I heard the attitude of the CAO representative in Galway this morning. It is not the first time this has occurred. I have experience of this, having dealt with applications for third level courses. One often finds that students can be treated as issues or numbers by the CAO. The old-fashioned system whereby a guidance counsellor handled the applications in a school and ensured they were all processed well before the deadline, seems to have gone out the window. That is due to new technology which has failed students in this case. Students should come first, particularly at this vulnerable time when they are trying to make up their minds about third-level courses. Students and their families are worried about applications being processed properly. There is this attitude among clinical people who have no interest in students apart from the business of numbers. We will experience this again in September when the results are released and the system will be again clogged in such a way that students will not know whether they have points or places. It is not the first time the Central Applications Office in Galway has let down the system and us all, particularly educationalists. Perhaps we should ask the CAO to employ educationalists not business people.
Mr. Cummins: Last year the Minister for Health and Children banned the sale of so-called magic mushrooms, rightly so. I understand a number of other synthetic and herbal drugs are now on sale that are equally if not more dangerous. I ask that a review be carried out of the list of banned substances as a matter of urgency because the last thing we want is to have people die as a result of taking these drugs. It is imperative the Minister would act on this as speedily as she did on the issue of magic mushrooms.
Mr. Glynn: I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to debate the Landlord and Tenants Act. I have received a number of complaints from neighbours of tenants who, to put it mildly, are neighbours from hell. One such complaint came from a lady who lives alone. Her next-door neighbours made her life a living hell. When she complained to the landlord, he said he would take up the matter with the chairman of the residents’ association. If ever there was an example of a Pontius Pilate on an issue, the landlord was one. Meanwhile, this lady’s home is made a hell, day and night. Issues of parental control arise, although not so much how the parents control the children, as they seem to have no control, but how the children control the parents.
I would welcome an early debate on the matter. It is an issue that is raised with my office on a regular basis and I would like to think something can be done. It is certain the landlord is not discharging his responsibilities to the neighbour of his tenants, and the tenants are not discharging their responsibilities to their fellow man, in this case their fellow woman.
Mr. Quinn: The use of the English language is interesting. The Central Applications Office this morning stated that the Minister yesterday asked whether it “could” extend. The CAO answered that, legally, it cannot. It then claimed it was not asked by the Minister “to” extend. Talk about being customer friendly. Students are being failed at probably the most stressful time they have experienced, namely, when deciding on their careers and futures. It seems sympathy is needed in this area. The words I heard today seemed to be a play on the English language. I believe the Minister will by now have asked the CAO “to” extend rather than asking “could” it extend.
We complain often in this House but not always. Yesterday was the first time I took the road home from Leinster House this year. Travelling at 6 p.m. I found the traffic worked well due to the opening of the new tunnel since the House last sat in December. It also worked well this morning as there were no trucks on the road. I want to offer my congratulations for all of the effort that went into creating the tunnel. It took a long time and much hassle but we set our minds to do something, and we have achieved our aim of taking trucks off the streets of Dublin and having traffic run smoothly.
May we have the same application with regard to making Leinster House paperless. I was stunned yesterday and today to note the huge amount of paper used. There is no longer a need for this. I spoke to a person in Brussels yesterday who said their office has become a paperless office. It is now possible to have an office where people no longer have paper at their desks and come to work solely with their laptops, and sit wherever it suits. That is achievable. It must be possible to take the first small steps towards it. I cannot believe the amount of waste paper we receive in the Houses, knowing the majority of it goes into the bin because the information is already available on the Internet.
Mr. Mooney: I am sure the House will join with me in congratulating the board of Ireland West Airport on securing a scheduled service direct from the west to New York and Boston from this summer. In that context, I ask the Leader, as a former Minister in this area, to give support to the application from Ireland West Airport for a share of the €75 million that has been allocated by the European Union to the Department of Transport for the development of regional airports. The application from Ireland West Airport is currently with the Department and the funding would go a long way towards upgrading facilities at the airport in the context of the expansion of the services. I am sure the House will agree this has been an extraordinary success story. It is a marvellous psychological boost for the west that a concept that was once described — I will be kind and not reveal who said it — as an airport on a soggy, boggy mountain top has proven one of the great economic success stories of the west.
I ask the Leader to pass on the good wishes of the House to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is currently in Palestine and the Middle East, on his overnight announcement of a significant increase in the contribution from Ireland to the United Nations Relief Works Agency. I know Senator Norris also has a particular interest in this area, and we have often discussed it in the House. To see the photograph in this morning’s national newspapers of the Minister with Palestinian officials greeting young children in what is a war-ravaged part of the world, and to see the smile on their faces, was heartwarming. It is a great credit to the Government in general and to the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, that this significant increase of in excess of €16 million will go towards providing much-needed schooling and medical services in an area where, as those of us who have been there can assure the House, they are badly needed.
Mr. Bradford: I welcome the fact Quinn Group has purchased the BUPA Ireland office in Fermoy. This matter has been raised in the House on many previous occasions. I hope the purchase is successful and will result not just in the retention of jobs but also in competition in the health insurance market, which is the most important factor. It is necessary that the Minister for Health and Children would, at the earliest opportunity, come to the House to discuss the issue of health insurance, risk equalisation and competition. We cannot pretend that what she and the Government said in the past three or four weeks was not said. It is only a fortnight since the Minister, when another company expressed an intention to purchase BUPA Ireland, said that if it did so, the risk equalisation trigger would apply. She is now suggesting it is a matter for the Health Insurance Authority. We need clarification in this regard.
I was advised twice if not three times in the House before Christmas that a joint report on competition in the health insurance market by the Competition Authority and the Health Insurance Authority was ready for publication. It has not been published but it must be published and debated in the House. Prior to Christmas the Minister said she was not for turning on risk equalisation, and the Taoiseach in his memorable performance in Brussels said likewise, yet within a week or two of Christmas the Minister set up another committee to consider the subject. There is an acknowledgement, even at Government level, that risk equalisation is the fundamental issue, not just with regard to community rating but also with regard to encouraging or stopping companies entering the market.
We need to discuss these issues in detail. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate at an early date. I hope what was announced yesterday for Fermoy in north Cork and for 500,000 health insurance customers will transpire to be long-term good news. We need to get answers from the Minister, who is responsible, on the broader issue of her policy — whether it is revised or otherwise — on risk equalisation. There have been varied signals in the past six weeks and we need clarification.
Ms O’Rourke: Senator Brian Hayes raised the issue of Mrs. Lynch. I thought her a particularly fine woman when I saw her on television. The Senator said the families of the victims of crimes should be told when the perpetrators stand to be released early, or released on compassionate grounds or for health reasons, in order that they can prepare themselves psychologically for the release, which is a fair point. He suggested we examine this idea in select committee in order that legislation to deal with the issue can be prepared if necessary. We could raise that matter at the next meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The Deputy also suggested a charter for victims. I understand that point and feel the Deputy made it well. Mrs. Lynch impressed everyone so much by her dignity in her loss that people have been asking others whether they saw her on television.
The Deputy also mentioned the Quinn Direct bid for BUPA Ireland, on which the Attorney General and the Irish Insurance Federation will report. I was amused by the fact that the chief executive of the “other” company made what I thought was a smart remark on television last night. I will not say his name for fear he would knock me off his VHI list. We will have to wait and see the result of the investigation on that issue.
Senator Norris also praised Mrs. Lynch. On the issue of the takeover of BUPA Ireland, the Deputy mentioned the newspapers named Mr. Quinn as a “crony” of the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach is an approachable, agreeable and attractive person and, therefore, it is natural he would have many friends in all walks of life. We cannot be responsible for what the papers print about who is or is not his friend.
Ms O’Rourke: The understandable admiration Mrs. Lynch evoked in us takes away somewhat from the debate on clientelism. I will come to this again when dealing with Senator Ryan’s contribution. Whether we like it or not, we live with multi-seat constituencies and on two occasions the people have refused to change this. Therefore, we are all susceptible to people who approach us. Leaving aside the issue of criminals, the situation has been muddied up by suggesting it is a waste of our time to write letters for people. My experience over a significant number of years has been that people need us to stand up for them to break through bureaucracy and have their rights aired. They need us to represent them——
Ms O’Rourke: That is another matter and not what I am talking about. I am saying the debate has got wrapped up in the issue of clientelism and it appears we should spend seven days a week beavering about legislation and not entertain people who approach us. Let Senator Norris try to work through the bureaucracy of a county council without the assistance of someone who knows what approach to take. Councils proudly proclaim their customer care, but I do not know about that. The customer care aspect needs tweaking and I am always proud to represent and assist people.
Ms O’Rourke: Perhaps I have moved ahead, because what I have said reflects on the point made by Senator Ryan. I feel strongly that the whole debate has got mixed up the issue of clientelism. It seems to suggest we should we should not have clientelism or have Deputies, Senators or councillors clogging up the bureaucratic system. One paper suggested our job is to persecute civil servants. I agree. We need to persecute them, to make many approaches and to do much banging on doors. I apologise, I do not mean the lovely staff here.
Senator Ryan also praised Mrs. Lynch. He suggested we concentrate on properly staffing the Office of the Ombudsman and that only when clients’ cases go to that office should other people step in. He also raised the issue of the CAO, as did Senator Norris, and the person who spoke on radio this morning. I do not know if the person who spoke was the CEO of the CAO, but I have been told by everyone he was cold and clinical and his response bore no relation to the heartbreak going on right now in homes throughout the country. Imagine the persecution facing parents who must deal with the situation and with the trauma of their adolescents who do not know whether their application is on time.
I take the points made by Senator Ormonde regarding the CAO applications. When she was a career guidance teacher, it was guidance teachers who had the responsibility of getting applications in on time. Now the application process is technological, cold and clinical. I know many people with sons and daughters due to apply this year and they must be riven by trauma.
Senator Ryan suggested we debate the latest Amnesty International report. I will consider that when we get through our legislative backlog. We had an altercation with regard to a particular gentleman, Fidel Castro, who is someone for whom we all have some affection, no matter what he did.
Senator Mansergh said BUPA Ireland subscribers would be pleased with Quinn Direct’s application. I agree with his suggestion that rail transport should be used for freight. He commented also on the CAO matter.
Senator Coonan spoke about gardaí knocking on the door of a woman with five children who had not paid a fine and suggested there should be a better way of dealing with unpaid fines. Senator Brian Hayes raised the same issue before Christmas. I agree we should find a better way. Perhaps staggered fine payments would be a way of dealing with the issue. The Senator also suggested it is no wonder young people are cynical when they have to face situations like the CAO applications process. He asked who was in charge. The CAO was set up by legislation as an independent body. If the Minister decided to run it in an ultra vires manner, she would be declared ultra vires. One cannot set up an independent body and then decide to run it oneself or that the Government should run it. No matter what merit is in that suggestion, it is not possible.
Ms O’Rourke: Senator Fitzgerald seems to have taken a constructive approach to the problem with CAO applications and telephoned the Minister’s office several times. The play on words was interesting. The Minister did not “order” the CAO to extend the deadline because she knew she could not because that would have been ultra vires. However, she asked it politely whether it “could” be done. The CAO played on that by saying she had not asked it to do it.
Senator Henry raised the issue of BUPA Ireland and community rating. She also asked about the Statute Law Revision Bill. We expect to have that next week. She mentioned that in some legislation vulnerable adults are referred to in very unseemly terms and asked whether the scheme of mental capacity and guardianship could be worked into the new legislation. We will see what the Minister of State in the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Kitt, has to say on that.
I referred already to Senator Ormonde’s contribution which referred to Mrs. Lynch’s holistic approach. Senator Ormonde also mentioned the technological system of applications to the CAO and the vulnerability of students. Her input is valuable because it comes as a result of the Senator’s background and knowledge.
Senator Cummins is glad the sale of magic mushrooms is banned. However, many herbal drugs for sale are harmful and the Senator would like a review of the issue. Some people place great faith in those drugs.
Senator Glynn asked for a debate on the Landlord and Tenant Act. We will have debate on that issue, but will not have general statements in the next few weeks as we have too much legislation to process. We will deal with the issue when we have dealt with the legislative backlog. We are not to blame for the backlog; the problem is rather that we are having more Bills.
Senator Quinn raised the difference between “could” and “would” regarding extension of the CAO deadline, but he praised the port tunnel, for which I thank him. It is making a great difference, and it will do the same where he lives. He also spoke of a paperless Leinster House, something to which Senator MacSharry alluded yesterday when he raised the number of reports that land on our desks only to be thrown out.
Senator Mooney correctly desires a share of EU moneys for the upgrading of regional airports. Ireland already receives them, but he wants some of it given to Knock International Airport, a sentiment with which I concur. Knock has been a great success story after being born in fraught times and dismissed out of hand by the Opposition of the day. However, that is life. Best wishes have been expressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and the increase in funding——
Ms O’Rourke: Senator Bradford, who comes from Fermoy, raised BUPA’s decision to quit Ireland on several occasions last term, and I fully understand his great desire for clarity regarding whether Quinn Direct will be able to proceed and whether there will be community rating. He wants to know the view of the Health Insurance Authority. We should have that clarity now, since I hope the felicitations and joy are not short-lived and that those insured with BUPA Ireland will retain their rights, with Quinn Direct authorised to proceed, no matter who is Mr. Quinn’s friend.
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