Order of Business (Resumed).

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 187 No. 13

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Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Yesterday I raised the fiasco of the new rules for provisional driving licences, the recent inordinate salary increases the Government chose to award itself which bear no comparison with those applicable in other member states of the European Union or even the United States, and the legislation for an individual’s pension entitlements. I indicated that this characterised a Government which was arrogant, applied low standards and within a very short time in power, displayed sheer incompetence. I also indicated there was no check on the excesses of this Government in that the minority parties who are supporting the Government were not in any case providing that check.

I refer to the vote on the Markets and Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill and in particular on section 16. I thank the Green Party Senators for absconding from that vote and not voting with the Government.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  They were missing in action.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  The Senator is referring to yesterday’s business.

[943]Senator Camillus Glynn: Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the House to discuss the issue of the management of local authority estates. Senators will be aware of boarded-up houses in estates and, regrettably, the town of Mullingar is no exception. I know of two families who are plagued by their neighbours and have been advised by the Garda Síochána to move house. I would have thought it should be the offenders rather than the offended who are asked to move. This is a festering sore of long standing and it is high time something was done about it. The legislation exists but I question whether it is strong enough. These houses are provided by the taxes paid by everyone so they should be used and not abused in this manner. It is a sad situation for any of us to have a mother and father coming to one’s home in tears because of the manner in which their child is being abused by some of those people. It is high time to call a halt and for something to be done about the situation.

Senator Phil Prendergast: Information on Phil Prendergast  Zoom on Phil Prendergast  I am concerned about the HSE embargo on recruitment currently in force which is affecting BreastCheck. Women are not being diagnosed and the services are not available to those who are diagnosed because of this embargo. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health and Children to the House to give her views on this serious issue.

I wish to be associated with the remarks of previous speakers, with those of Senator Fitzgerald in particular, regarding the child care subvention issue. Significant numbers of people will be disadvantaged and this issue must be dealt with.

Senator John Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  I support the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, in his decision to rule out gay marriage because it is in conflict with the Constitution and I look forward to the civil partnership Bill. I am reminded of a story told about Sir Thomas More, whose son constantly asked him to do something about a man with whom he had a problem. Sir Thomas More asked his son whether his problem was to do with something against the law of man or the law of God. His son replied it was against the law of God and Sir Thomas More advised him to let God deal with it. However, Sir Thomas More was subsequently asked to recognise the marriage of Henry VIII and therein lies the difference. We are being asked to recognise gay marriage, something I am not prepared to do. What people do in their own homes is one thing; I may not agree with it but that is their own business——

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  How very generous of Senator Hanafin.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Senator Hanafin without interruption.

[944]Senator John Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  However, when I am asked to call it a marriage, that is something I am not prepared to do.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Nobody cares what Senator Hanafin calls it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I ask Senator Norris to respect other speakers. He has already made his contribution.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I am tired of being insulted in this House and having the tissue of religion used hypocritically to put me in a second class place and I am not a second class citizen in this country and I will not be a second class citizen. That is rubbish from Senator Hanafin. On the few occasions he speaks it is to blackguard people like me.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  I ask the Leader to confirm that County Galway will not be late in receiving BreastCheck. New concerns and conflicting reports have arisen in recent days. The first BreastCheck unit was rolled out in the east of the country in 1999. We were promised our roll-out from January 2007. As a result of the HSE embargo on staff recruitment it is not clear if the correct number of staff will be in place. There is a further blurring of the lines. The provision of symptomatic breast services is the responsibility of the HSE and this service is distinct from BreastCheck. We are not clear if the correct complement of staff will be in place. This is a most urgent and serious situation in the area of the detection of breast cancer that has really discriminated against women in the west and south for the past nine years. Let us not lose out again. We have suffered from health apartheid.

I support the remarks of previous speakers regarding the subvention for community child care providers. County Galway alone has 131 such providers using this funding. I am a mother and I benefited from this service when I sent my child to a local community child care provider. I am concerned that the Government is using this data collection process to deny and decrease funding to these essential providers. I ask that the Minister for State with responsibility for children be invited to the House to provide clarification and to prevent any change.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  The Leader has done the House a service by raising once again the issue of alcohol abuse. He did so in a balanced, logical and yet courageous manner. I recall a debate in this House following a “Prime Time” programme which exposed the consequences of alcohol abuse. The programme showed extreme, anti-social behaviour on the streets in the early hours of the morning. It showed violence and the threat of violence against people in the accident and emergency services and it showed broken homes. There were [945]many newspaper editorials at the time on the subject. I stated at the time that this outrage would be no more than a seven-day wonder and this is what has happened on each occasion that alcohol abuse has been discussed, in so far as I can remember.

A recent survey showed that 70% of 13 year olds surveyed in a particular area have imbibed alcohol. This is a frightening statistic. Are we prepared to take a stand? Are we prepared to take on the drinks industry and to ban advertising? If advertising for smoking has been banned, why should there not be a ban on advertising for a drug which is alcohol?

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

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  We are not prepared to do this.

  11 o’clock

I endorse what Senator Alex White said about sponsorship. I have made this point before. It would be well worthwhile for the State to step in and subvent those who would lose that sponsorship as it would only be a small sum. There is nothing worse than to see the name of a drinks company associated with what should be a wholesome pastime, whether that be sport or whatever else. It comes down to whether we are prepared to underpin our outrage by taking a stand against the vested interests we have come up against so often. I am not blaming publicans, most of whom are very decent people, but the culture has to change if we are to ensure that the results of alcohol abuse will be stopped once and for all.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I agree with Senator Norris’s demand for time to be given to introduce the legislation on the Order Paper which he has proposed. I also reiterate my call to have a debate on child care. For the past four weeks I have explained to this House in great detail the changes which the Government plans to introduce in the subvention scheme and the effects of those changes on community child care across the country. I am glad that in reply to Deputy Ó Caoláin, the Minister has stated he will not implement the deadline of 2 November by which time the community child care sector was to submit its responses or else be ruled out for any funding from January onwards. However, we still need to have the debate. There is a groundswell of support across the political divide for one. I ask the Leader to make time available as soon as possible.

I also ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, to come to the House to discuss a serious issue relating to the marine rescue stations at Malin Head and Valentia. The Government is proposing to decommission these stations which will result in the loss of 18 jobs at Malin Head and the loss of 17 jobs in Valentia.

[946]Senator Cecilia Keaveney: Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  That was clarified yesterday.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  This is a complete U-turn on the Government commitment by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, in 2003 when he said these facilities would be upgraded with increased jobs, nine of which would go to Malin Head and seven to Valentia.

Senator Cecilia Keaveney: Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  That is misinformation.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  The excuses being given the management are ridiculous but——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Is the Senator seeking a debate? I want to call——

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  In light of the debate we had yesterday on the neglect of the north west, I ask that the Minister come to the House to explain why not only Seagate, Hospira and Fruit of the Loom are pulling jobs out of Donegal but the Government is pulling jobs out of Malin Head and Valentia?

Senator Cecilia Keaveney: Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  That is misinformation. Facts would be useful.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Please, this is the Order of Business. I ask Senators to respect the Order of Business. If Senators require to make a speech the Leader will give them ample opportunity to make a contribution.

Senator Ann Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Many Members have referred to alcohol abuse, the drinks industry and its affect on society. Just to give a small example, the situation was so bad in my area last night that at 4 this morning I had to call the Garda. The young people involved were aged 14, 15 and 16 years. Parents have a huge role to play. It is a community commitment. The drinks industry also has a role. The problem is bigger than that. Society as a whole is being affected by drink and alcohol abuse.

With regard to the validation of qualifications to set up business, we read in the newspapers recently where psychoanalysts, psychotherapistsand counsellors have set up business. All they have to do is put up a plate outside their door and they can conduct business. I ask that the Minister come to the House and undertake an audit on the third level colleges that are mushrooming all over the country and charging parents colossal fees and yet those courses and qualifications are not validated. This is an area that needs to be looked at. I ask that the appropriate Minister come to the House to explain the matter but it also affects the Minister for Education and Science. Many parents have highlighted the issue and asked that we look into it.

[947]Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  It appears that up to 500 jobs will be lost at Waterford Crystal. A company which employed thousands of workers a number of years ago will be down to about 600 or 700 people. The jobs are to be outsourced to eastern Europe where the cost of labour and services are much lower. The strength of the euro against the dollar is another factor. We in Ireland have lost our competitiveness, a matter we have debated here on a number of occasions. We are sliding down the global competitiveness index which was published recently. The increases that were awarded and accepted by the Taoiseach, Ministers, judges and higher civil servants sends out the wrong message where competitiveness is concerned.

Senators:  Hear, hear.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  I ask that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment come to the House and tell us when these jobs will be replaced in Waterford and what efforts he is making to replace them and provide the adequate retraining for the workers. We have listened to lip-service in regard to competitiveness but we have seen nothing from the Government in recent years except spend, spend, spend and nothing in regard to competitiveness. It spends at the cost of jobs. That is what we have seen and, unless the Government takes action, this will continue.

Senator Eoghan Harris: Information on Eoghan Harris  Zoom on Eoghan Harris  One of the great functions of the Seanad has been to increase the comity and civility of Irish life. It was good to hear so many touch on many aspects of that this morning because it is often wrongly felt that public life is the only life. It is actually the small details of domestic life that engage the public interest and engage the public desire for people to speak out for them. Civility, which is really a kind of manners, a respect for what other people think, is what brought peace to Northern Ireland, not the big political activities so much as the fact that people cross the religious divide to attend each other’s funerals, Seamus Mallon turning up at Protestant funerals and David Trimble turning up at Catholic funerals. These were the small acts of good authority that made the peace and they range widely in society. If the burning down of an Orange hall in south Cavan over the past 24 hours was deliberate then we should say we deplore it strongly.

There are also large acts of civility. I am lucky to live beside a gay couple in a flat comlex. They have been together for the past 20 years. They are a model of how people should conduct their lives. To say that it is not marriage is ridiculous. I understand the Minister may very well be measuring public opinion in not wanting to go as far as marriage but sooner or later that nettle will have to be grasped because it is marriage by any name in most of our relationships. It decreases [948]the civility of public life to treat people in that marginalised way. It is not good for us.

The other details of our daily life that depress people range from spam to the rubbish in the door, that Ann Marie Hourihane talks about today, the abuse of Hallowe’en with crackers and noise, to Sarajevo under artillery fire and bombardment every night. How is this a civil way to live in society? I ask the Leader to consider how we might conduct a debate on increasing general civility in Irish public life.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I join with Senator Harris in calling for a debate on civility because as a society we have become less tolerant. I concur with Senator Norris on the need for a debate and legislation in regard to civil unions. No longer can we condone marginalised people in this country. Whether practising Christians or non-Christians we should not wrap ourselves around religion to suit a particular argument.

I take issue with Senator White in regard to Cumann Lúthchleas Gaeland the need for a debate on sponsorship and the consumption of alcohol. President McAleese made an excellent speech last September in regard to alcohol. Senator Keaveney and I hold similar views on the use of alcohol as a pillar of the national drugs strategy. I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on alcohol policy going forward. It is wrong to blame Cumann Lúthchleas Gael and its sponsorship as a means of promoting alcohol. It is probably the most tasteless sponsorship of any sporting organisation across the world. It would be wrong to condemn an organisation which does so much work voluntarily in communities across the country.

I compliment the Leader on providing for a debate on mental health. However, we need a debate also on the whole issue of eating disorder and the knock-on effects for the people involved and their families. Yesterday’s edition of the Irish Examiner contained a heart-rending story about a young woman. I ask the Leader to arrange for an urgent debate on that matter.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  I ask the Leader for a debate as soon as possible on the report issued in November 2006 by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk. For the benefit of Members who were not here in the last Seanad, this report dealt with not only the bombing of Kay’s Tavern, but also with the bombing at Castleblayney, the Dublin Airport bombing, the gun and bomb attack at Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge, the attack on the Reavey family, the attack on the Step Inn in Keady, the attack on the O’Dowd family, the atrocity at the Rock Bar in County Armagh, and the attack on the Miami Showband. In support of my call I will simply [949]quote from the conclusions in chapter 7 of that report. Paragraph 182 states:

The report also stated that finding the truth is essential to bring closure to the families involved. It continued:

Paragraph 192 states:

Our findings in that report also discovered that the British Government at prime-ministerial level was aware of many of the activities regarding collusion in the North. It behoves us——

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  Speech.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  ——as an independent State in the interests of the people we represent to have a debate in this House in order to give direction to the manner in which the matter can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Senator Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly  Zoom on Alan Kelly  This is the third time I have asked the Leader to invite the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to the House to address a number of issues. The importance of e-business to tourism is underestimated. I read today that 64% of people book all their travel on-line. I am concerned that the funding given to and administered by our multiple agencies is insufficient to maintain competitiveness in the years to come. I also read that 64% of people domestically use the Internet and other forms of electronic media to carry out their tourism bookings. Multiple agencies are involved in tourism and this may be an [950]area for consolidation. It is important that they be adequately funded in this important area for building tourism.

We have previously asked for the Minister for Transport to come to the House to discuss access policy. We also need the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to come here to discuss the issue of access because it is tourism that will affect it, particularly in the mid-west. Given that the visitor numbers from Britain are dropping we need to know what strategies will be implemented to address the problem.

I have previously raised the issue of the GPA grants, an issue I am sure you share with me, a Chathaoirligh. In an attempt to address the matter in a cross-party way on behalf of this House, along with a number of other Senators I met a delegation from the GPA. Those players are struggling to get across the line regarding the €5 million funding. I understand that the only issue is a mechanism for the payment, which either can go through the Irish Sports Council or be provided directly from the Department. I would appeal to anybody who has any influence or who could help facilitate the Minister to get this across the line. I will be there and can act as a conduit if needs be with the GPA. It is a very simple task. These people are contributing so much to Irish society. It is only €2,000 per player.

Senator John Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Last week I spoke about the Boundary Commission report. I asked for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to come to the House to discuss the matter prior to the introduction of legislation. Since then I have been reliably informed that the Boundary Commission has gone outside its terms of reference in some of its decisions. I again ask the Leader to invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to come here to discuss it and examine the possibility of establishing an all-party committee of both Houses to deal with electoral boundaries and other changes needed in the electoral system. The issue should not be shied away from by any parties in the House.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Gerrymandering is back.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  In light of some recent happenings it would appear that financial institutions are no longer banking on solicitors or at least on their undertakings in some incidences.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  It is difficult to blame them.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  That is the point. It has exposed the inadequacy of banks’ lending practices in some cases, as we now know. Everybody accepts that the days of self-regulation are over. In the light of this I ask the Leader to outline the exact status of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous [951]Provisions) Bill, which the last Government dropped. It is now reported that it will be restored to the Order Paper, if it has not already happened. That Bill provided for an independent legal ombudsman, but did not meet all the wishes of the recommendations of the Competition Authority. I ask the Leader to comment on the differences between the provisions of the Bill and the recommendations of the Competition Authority. Is it the intention to go the full hog and now meet those recommendations in the restored Bill if it is the Government’s intention to restore the Bill? I look forward to the Leader’s clarification on the matter.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  As we have less than two minutes left and five Senators are offering, because others drifted on I ask the speakers to be as short as possible.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  I am glad that Senator Keaveney and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey, clarified that there is no doubt about the future of the Malin coastguard service and that the jobs are secure. I heard the interview Senator Keaveney gave on Highland Radio yesterday evening.

I welcome today’s launch of the single electricity market which allows a single market on the island whereby all the electricity produced on the island of Ireland goes into one pool and is then bought by the electricity suppliers, which will improve competition, reduce price and provide for continuity of supply. However, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources should come to the House to discuss the future energy needs of Ireland as a nation and consider the availability of renewable energy sources and the role of those sources in providing for our overall energy demands in the next 20 or 30 years.

I refer to a report launched by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs about the future of the Irish language in Gaeltacht areas. The report is vital for the future of the Gaeltacht. The Minister should come to the House to have a wide-ranging discussion on the report and on the future of the language in the Thirty-two Counties.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Ask him why he postponed the report for years.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik  Zoom on Ivana Bacik  I support Senator Norris’s call for a debate on the Civil Partnership Bill. I welcome the support expressed by Senators from both sides of the House for the principle of legal recognition of gay relationships. It is distressing to hear the Government piously pontificating about the need to protect the family, when the policies it has adopted, such as its new policy on subvention on child care and the damage it is doing to community child care facilities, clearly [952]show its hypocrisy and lack of respect for the family. It is also expressed in a report I will launch today for the Refugee Information Service on family reunification for refugees. Again we see people treated as second class citizens despite being granted refugee status because they face complex, cumbersome and inconsistent procedures in trying to get their children, parents and other family members to join them in Ireland. It is an appalling situation that again points up the hypocrisy of the Government in its so-called protection of the rights of the family.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Previous speakers commented on the HSE and the health services. Most would agree many thousands of frontline and support teams provide tremendous health and social services to hundreds of thousands of recipients on a weekly basis and the issue is the administration of services and the role of the HSE. The jury is out on the functions and efficacy of the HSE.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The Senator cannot say that. He must support Government policy but he does not.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  What mechanism or options are available to Members on foot of a resolution to investigate the activities, efficacy and productivity of the HSE?

We are all concerned about road safety and, due to changing weather patterns, the months ahead may prove to be the difficult and challenging in this area but I would like to highlight the issue of tyre depth level. Can the Leader arrange a brief on the current checks and balances in the road safety strategy in this regard? As a motorist, I am used to roadside checkpoints for tax, insurance, drink driving and so on. I have covered thousands of miles but I have never come across a checkpoint for tyre depth level. The only thing between the car, the motorist and the road itself is the tyres. Emergency vehicles travel at relatively high speeds but the tyre depth level of such vehicles in the London metropolitan area varies significantly from that of similar vehicles in the Dublin metropolitan area. Will the Leader arrange a brief on matters relating to tyre depth?

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  I support Senator Norris regarding No. 6 on the Order Paper. In the previous century, a Fianna Fáil Minister decriminalised homosexuality. We live in a pluralist society in the 21st century and it is about time this issue was taken to its logical conclusion. I urge all Members to give calm and reasonable consideration to this debate because it is absolutely essential.

Representatives of Denmark, Iceland, the UK and Ireland will meet tomorrow to discuss the sea bed at Rockall. The UK and Ireland have reached agreement on the rich oil and gas resources in that area. Denmark, because of its [953]proximity to the Faroe Islands, is claiming ownership, as is Iceland. Will the Leader arrange for the appropriate Minister to come to the House at the earliest opportunity to outline progress in those talks? I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  I concur with Senator Cummins regarding Waterford Crystal, which was a flagship employer, even in difficult times, not only in Waterford but also regionally. I ask the Leader to take on board the Senator’s comments and to invite the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to the House to discuss the issue of competitiveness in general. The issue affects Waterford Crystal today but it will be another company tomorrow. When flagships are going down like this, the warning signs must be heeded.

Many Members have commented on the issue of suicide and mental health services in general. I would like the Leader to invite the Minister of Health and Children to the House to discuss the lack of resources for psychiatric services and why psychiatric patients are being treated like third class citizens. I can highlight many cases in this regard. For example, where psychiatric patients in St. Otteran’s Hospital, Waterford, do not receive occupational therapy, they are categorised as being in community care because they are long-stay patients. This is a disgraceful way to treat our most vulnerable patients.

People with intellectual disabilities are denied carer’s allowance where they remain in the home. They are able bodied but they cannot care for themselves. Where applications have been made, they have been denied that right. I would also like the Minister for Health and Children to discuss this issue when she attends the House.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Senators Fitzgerald, Norris, White, Healy Eames, O’Doherty and many others expressed serious concerns about the changes in child care provisions. The Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brendan Smith, will be in the House to discuss the community child care subvention scheme for 2008 to 2010 at 3.30 p.m. next Wednesday. If necessary, the Minister of State has also kindly agreed to return to the House the following week to resume the debate. That should allay the fears of various Senators. The rules are being changed in order that data are accurately supplied. Someone who earns an income in excess of six figures should not have the same standing as a person on social welfare or a person earning €30,000 a year. In the interests of giving a better service to those most in need, Senators will be afforded all the time they require to make their contributions to a debate on this serious topic in the presence of the very excellent Minister of State and to allay the fears of those in need of the service.

[954]It is proposed to debate next Thursday Government policy on food safety, which was requested a few weeks ago, with the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher.

Many excellent contributions were made on the uses and abuses of alcohol. I appreciate the views expressed, particularly those of Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, who is a shining example of a person who has dedicated his life to promoting an alternative, wholesome way of life through family entertainment provided by Comhaltas CeoltoiríÉireann. He has given young people a shop window to the world by promoting our culture. Very few countries have a trade called after them but we have Irish music. I thank Senators for their support.

I mentioned this issue in my interview in the latest edition of Hot Press, which was published earlier, in the context of road safety to begin a debate. It is not right that on work nights, Monday to Thursday, young people can drink until 2.30 a.m, take a taxi to be home by 3 a.m., which is responsible, before getting up at 6.30 a.m. and driving a car to work. That does not make common sense. As someone who has been in the music industry all his life, I said in the article that I failed to see a reason not to grant extensions until 2.30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights because people do not have to work the following day. It is not right and fair to all concerned in the interest of road safety. As the late Paudge Brennan, a legendary Member of both Houses, always said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.” We would act responsibly by holding an all-day debate on road safety and alcohol abuse to see how best we can serve the Minister, his departmental officials and the Government on an all-party basis.

Senator Alex White mentioned the GAA and I thank him for his strong views in this area. However, many sporting organisations use alcohol sponsorship to promote their games. They need this money to keep the show on the road and to make their organisations attractive and viable. They do not want to take money from Heineken, Guinness, Bulmers and other companies but they lack finance. Senators might consider how the Government might be asked to supply the funding rather than the sponsors. There are many good sponsors such as the ESB, which sponsors the all-Ireland minor GAA championship. The chief executives of State organisations have a responsibility to consider how they may help the Government and citizens, particularly young people, by making their profits available to address the gaps in funding available to the various sporting organisations.

Senator Norris and others, on both sides of the House, have expressed strong and differing views on an issue that is, in many cases, a matter of conscience. Every Member’s view must be respected. I urge Senator Norris to consider, in co-operation with his Independent colleagues, [955]putting forward this issue for discussion in Private Members’ time. I will allocate a slot for such a debate as speedily as the Senator requires.

I have no objection to Senator Keaveney’s call for a debate on animal welfare. I will convey her views to the Minister after the Order of Business.

Senator Regan spoke about the situation of drivers with provisional licences. In the last 72 hours, 38,000 driving test applications were requested. Yesterday alone, 10,000 application forms were issued. This indicates the scale of the problem we must address. We all support the Minister for Transport in his endeavours in this regard, although his timeframe may not be that originally envisaged. The reality is that the enormity of the situation may be of a greater scale than anybody in either House imagined. Given the increase in our population of 1 million in ten years, there is little wonder that the number of drivers with provisional licences has increased to such an extent. We all want to do what is best and the Government is moving in that direction. We should all support the Minister in his efforts to reduce the carnage on our roads. I fully support everything that was said in this regard.

Senator Glynn called on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to take action in regard to estate management. As one who has worked with residents of estates for several years, particularly in Mullingar, I fully agree with his sentiments. The Department must make resources available to local authorities to allocate to areas requiring support. In particular, funding should be made available to them to provide CCTV. The great advantage of CCTV is that it does not pit neighbour against neighbour by requiring a person to give evidence against somebody else. The evidence is there for all to see. The new German system provides 24-hour surveillance that can be transmitted directly to the local Garda station. This will allow gardaí to identify the two or three people in some estates who make life miserable for their unfortunate neighbours, some of whom are obliged to remove themselves and their families from their homes. This is the only solution to the problem. I have spoken to people living on such estates who are crying out for funding for CCTV. I will allow time for a debate on this issue.

Senators Callely, Prendergast, Healy Eames and Doherty expressed concerns about the availability of the BreastCheck service, as administered by the HSE. The service is a godsend in many areas. It has been in Mullingar for the last five weeks. A member of my family had reason to be fearful in this regard but was, thankfully, given the all clear. Peace of mind is sacrosanct. As I always say, the most important word in the dictionary is “happiness”. It is essential that women enjoy the peace of mind of knowing such a service is available to them. There should be no exceptions in terms of this facility not being available in some areas.

[956]Senator Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  That is the reality.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  It should be available everywhere.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Hear, hear.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  That is what we seek.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I will ask the Minister to come to this House for a debate on why it is not available everywhere.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Absolutely. Well done.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  That was well said, but what is required is action.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Senators Doherty and Ó Domhnaill spoke about the marine rescue stations in Malin Head and Valentia. Senator Doherty has been informed of the response Senator Keaveney received on this matter from the Minister yesterday. This clarifies the issue for people in those areas, who will be pleased with the confirmation that their services will continue.

Senator Ormonde called for a debate on the validation of educational qualifications. I have no objection to setting time aside for a debate on this issue. Senator Ormonde has great experience in the field of career guidance and related areas.

Senators Cummins and Coffey expressed grave concerns in regard to Waterford Glass. That company has built a brand name that is recognised throughout the world. I congratulate it on its achievements and assure it of our full support. However, the apparent plan to transfer hundreds of jobs to the Czech Republic is disappointing. At the same time, we must acknowledge that the cost of labour is far lower in other countries than here in Ireland. Ireland is an attractive base in terms of our marketing and accounting skills and the skills associated with research and development. Many of the companies currently engaged in research and development in this State intend to remain here.

There is an ever expanding market. Waterford Glass wishes to extend its market into other jurisdictions and the cost factor must be taken into account. There is no doubt it is a significant element to consider for any business. I am sure the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment will have no to objection to coming into the House to discuss the activities of FÁS, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. I will allow time for a wide-ranging and comprehensive debate.

Senators Harris and Buttimer spoke about acts of good authority and general civility in society. I do not object to a debate on this issue and hope to have it take place in Government time before Christmas.

Senator Walsh called for a debate on the report issued in 2006 on various atrocities associated [957]with the Troubles. I agree there should be a debate on this serious matter. In the interim, perhaps the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs will find time to discuss it.

Senator Kelly asked again for a debate on arts, sport and tourism. As someone who has a professionalism in this field, I respect his position, particularly his comments on the significant amount of activity now conducted through the medium of e-business. I intend to allow a lengthy debate on tourism.

In regard to Senator Kelly’s comments on the Gaelic Players Association, GPA, I would welcome any initiative to bring together on an all-party basis current and former Members of this House who were county players, either hurling or football, perhaps under the stewardship of the Cathaoirleach, who represented his county with great success. In a quiet way, we might do something to assist the players. We are fortunate to have a Tánaiste and Minister for Finance who is a former county player. As a Tipperary man, Senator Kelly is a near neighbour of the Tánaiste in Offaly. Senator Kelly and I have something in common in that we both often wore the blue and gold. I and other members of my local club often joke that we sent our club colours down to Tipperary. Perhaps it was more a case of Senator Kelly’s fellow countymen sending their colours up to us. I have no objection to a debate on this issue.

Senator Ellis asked about the boundary commission report. I intend to have an all-day debate on the proposals placed before us by the boundary commission. I have stated in the House that I intend to have this debated to its fullest because when a county is divided once, twice or on three occasions, or when provincial boundaries are breached for 4,000 votes, something is being done that is not in the interest of the voter.

This is an independent commission and we must not be seen to interfere with it. Whatever we do should be done in public and we should not be afraid to utter the convictions of our people and stand up for the areas we represent. What has a group of people in a rural area of 5,000 or 6,000 people got in common with cities with populations of more than 500,000, with regard to background of the divided areas? Who has the right to leave a county such as Leitrim with the possibility of having no Dáil representation not only for one five-year term but a second five-year term? It is unfair.

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  Hear, hear.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  We should consider the proposal of Senator Ellis on an all-party basis. I will see what the leaders might be interested in saying about it at our group meeting the week after next. We will calmly investigate the surprising nature in which it is proposed some constituencies will be divided. This is only a proposal for our consideration, as the Legislature will decide [958]where this proposal will go. I have no difficulty in leaving one day aside to let all Members express their views in the calmness of a month or six weeks after the commission has made the report to us.

Senator Ó Domhnaill expressed views welcoming the historic occasion today, 1 November, of the cross-Border energy market finally coming together, North and South. As we all know the challenge of energy costs and alternative energy for the next 20 or 30 years, the Senator has made a very good proposal. I have no difficulty in leaving time aside for a discussion.

Senator Coghlan is a very respected Member, especially in the financial services and legal areas.

Senator Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  Hear, hear.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  He made some very challenging requests of me this morning and I will do whatever I can. I cannot make a commitment to the Senator right now but I will see what I can do and come back to him later today.

Senator Callely raised the issue of road safety, particularly tyre thread depth levels. I will pass on his great concern and views to the Minister.

Senator McCarthy raised the matter of Rockall and requested the Minister for Foreign Affairs come to the House to discuss the talks which will take place at a future date. I have no difficulty in allowing that.

Senator Coffey raised the issue of intellectual disability, mental health and matters pertaining to those unfortunate men and women finding themselves in psychiatric nursing facilities and homes as psychiatric patients. I have no difficulty allowing a debate on this.

There is an unwritten precedent in this House which I will highlight for Senators this morning. A great many topics are being raised for the Leader to consider, as we can see daily. If we visit a particular topic, we do not normally go back to it for at least six months unless there are significant changes in that field. If I allow enough time for that topic to get a very good airing on the floor of the House, by the time we get through the various Government portfolios six months will have passed anyway.

If somebody feels very strongly about a particular issue, when it is agreed by the leaders to allocate time, all interested Senators should make themselves available for the discussion in the House. This is what we try to do on an organised basis.

Order of Business agreed to.


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