Order of Business.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 196 No. 14

First Page Previous Page Page of 7 Next Page Last Page

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the OECD and IMF reports, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and on which spokespersons may speak for 15 minutes, all other Senators for ten minutes and Senators may share time by agreement of the House.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  When we come back in the new term, I hope the work of the House will be more structured and ordered and we will not be rushing legislation as we have done in recent days. I hope the Minister for Finance manages to come in today and stays for the full duration of the debate we will be having after the Order of Business.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Hopefully.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Hopefully he will stay for the full debate we will be having this afternoon.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  If I was he, I would not.

[1124]Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  When the Minister for Health and Children comes into the House next week she should give clear answers on what is happening with community pharmacists. Some people have already mentioned in this House that the Minister has said that €1 billion worth of drugs costs €650 million to dispense to patients. Those figures seem ridiculous and the Minister needs to break them down and outline from where she got them. It does not stand up to scrutiny that it would take €650 million to dispense €1 billion worth of drugs. The problem is that the pharmacists are billing the State for the discounts they are receiving from the wholesalers. It is the big chains that get these big discounts, not the small community pharmacists with which most of us are used to dealing. There is a need for a clear answer to that debate.

Senator Joe O’Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  The House will note that a former Leader of the House, the former Senator Maurice Manning, who is now the head of the Irish Human Rights Commission, has expressed extraordinary concern about the fact that the commission is being deprived in terms of its budget to do the work that it has been set up by these Houses to do. It is also critical and concerned about the rushing through of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. This is worrying. In other parliaments human rights commissions are answerable and accountable to parliament as opposed to being accountable to a Department. The work of a human rights commission by its nature will regularly involve criticism of Government proposals or assessment of Government progress on issues. In this context, the commission is vulnerable and exposed. My concern is that there would be a temptation on the part of the Government to starve it of further funds so that it could not do the job we set it up to do.

I ask that we get absolute reassurance that the Irish Human Rights Commission will be given adequate resources to do its job, will be accountable to Parliament as opposed to a Department and will be allowed to act independently. Unless it is doing that, my concern is that it would be made suffer for its criticism of Government. That would be unfair on all sides. The Government should not put itself in that position and the Irish Human Rights Commission should not be so exposed. We have seen other so-called difficult bodies such as the Equality Authority and others which have suddenly lost their place in society and some would relate that to their criticism of Government. We need to have an independent human rights commission accountable to Parliament. I ask the Leader to raise this with the Government.

Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  I support what Senator O’Toole said about the Irish Human Rights Commission. He is right to point to the experience of the equality organisations, especially the Equality Authority and the punishment that was meted out to it for its activity, many of the positions it took up and its support for many cases which were taken against public bodies. The criticism against the Government that the decisions it made were motivated by a desire to clip the wings of those organisations it felt were making life uncomfortable for it has never been adequately answered.

I wish to pick up on the point of the criticism the Irish Human Rights Commission has made in respect of rushed legislation and ask the Leader again to address the question that has been raised in the House ad nauseam in respect of rushed legislation, especially in the criminal justice area. I note the Leader proposes to order all Stages of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill for next Tuesday afternoon. I simply cannot understand why he proposes to do so after the experience of this week when he insisted on ordering all Stages of the enforcement legislation on a particular day. I wonder what support there was on the other side of the House for it based on some of the comments made by Members opposite about his decision. We asked for a break between the taking of all Stages of that legislation, but the Leader stubbornly refused to agree to it. At the end of the day a break occurred because of the way matters went in this House, there was an overnight break and that legislation was changed by means of amendments from this side of the House which could not have happened if the Leader had had his way. [1125] The legislation was improved because there was an overnight gap in the taking of it which allowed the Attorney General and the Minister to consider proposals from this side of the House.

I wish to ask the Leader about a matter which has been raised by Senator Norris. If amendments are brought forward to Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill in this House next week, what will happen in respect of the Bill then? Will it go back to the Dáil? There is no intention of it being brought back to the Dáil after this House deals with it next week. The Leader should be honest with us about that. Why is he again stubbornly insisting on ordering all Stages of this most important legislation on the one day? Could he not at least take the bad look off it, given that the House will sit two days next week, and order that it be taken over two days? The Leader should at least do that for this House. He should at least demonstrate some respect for this House as its Leader in order that we might have some input into such extraordinarily important legislation. Otherwise we are reducing the relevance of this House. We talk about criticism in the newspapers of the passage of Bills stumping through and so on, but the Members of this House, the Leader in particular, are complicit in the reduction publicly of the relevance of this House in the manner in which we are proceeding.

Senator Larry Butler: Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  It is important that when we achieve success on the international markets we mention it in this House. I am delighted that 85% of our bonds were sold internationally. This was revealed in the latest Davy report. Some Members of the House have criticised the Government about how it has been handling the finances of this country. When we do something right it is important that Members say so.

It is also important to bear in mind that the Minister for Finance has been doing a very fine job in this regard. He can be proud today of the fact that only 60% of bonds generally have been sold internationally while 85% of our bonds have been sold. Greece is the only country which has sold more bonds, having sold 87% of its bonds. It also puts it up to Standard & Poor’s which has been downgrading our credit rating. The international market effectively is saying that Ireland is a sound place. That is because of the policies we have implemented in our banking sector and because we have not allowed our banks to fail. That is why we are a good bet creditwise. That is important to bear in mind when we discuss the IMF report later. It is timely that the Davy report was published at this time. It is important that some Members on the other side of the House would read it because it makes very good reading.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Would it be as good as the Lisbon treaty that the Senator’s lot did not bother reading?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Any Member who interrupts will be marched out of this Chamber.

Senator Larry Butler: Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  I brought to the attention of the House the other night the cost of the press and various organisations that are based here, namely, national and multinational newspapers. We are paying €500,000 for the privilege of having these people in the House working with us. The national newspapers, RTE and various other organisations that are based in this House are here at the taxpayers’ expense. It is time they paid for the space they occupy in this House. It is important they do that.

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  I wish to say a few words about the procedure in this House. As Senator Alex White said, the debates this week have shown that were proper time to be allowed for debates on important criminal law legislation, in particular, the legislation could be improved. That is a simple fact. We do not mind working late and extra days to get the legislation right. History has shown that rushed legislation is generally bad legislation.

[1126]We will speak this morning about the IMF report and the OECD report on the economy but there is another report, the bord snip nua report, which is not only an analysis but has specific recommendations as to how to deal with the public finances. I note from the The Irish Times this morning that Deputy Mary O’Rourke is calling for the publication of this report, as are other Fianna Fáil Deputies. It is curious that the Minister for Finance has not indicated whether he will publish it. The Government seems reluctant to do so, yet the Minister’s mother considers that it should be published. There seem to be many disaffected people within the Government ranks about how the Government is handling issues concerning the economy. We can talk about the IMF report and the OECD report this morning, but the bord snip nua report outlines specific recommendations as to how to resolve issues concerning our public finances. It is important that this report be published. Given the state of our public finances, it is extraordinary if we are going to hide this report for a number of months, go on holidays and take no action. The Government should reconsider that. We should be debating that report alongside those other reports.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  The Colm McCarthy report is going to Government next week and it will decide whether to publish it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  We are taking questions to the Leader.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I made the point in the House previously that it would be useful to have it published to let people consider the recommendations during the summer months.

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Senator Leyden is another disaffected member of Fianna Fáil.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  We are taking questions to the Leader. We are not replying to any Member.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Not at all. We are a very open democratic party. We have a right to express our views, then——

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Then they vote the other way.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  ——we make a collective decision and stand by it.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan  Zoom on Paul Coghlan  Name and shame.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  We are taking questions to the Leader now.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  No. 27 on the Order Paper relates to the Council of Europe. Will there be an opportunity in the autumn session to recognise the work of the Council of Europe, which celebrates its 60th anniversary? Ireland was a founder member of it in 1949. We should be very proud of that. We were one of the ten members who had the foresight to join. Parties on both sides of the House were involved. Cumann na nGaedhael was in Government and Seán MacBride was Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr. de Valera was the instigator of membership of the Council of Europe. We have fine leadership there. Deputy Frank Fahey is the leader of the group. Deputies Pat Breen, Peter Kelly, Joe Costello and the late Tony Gregory were in the group.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  There is no need to mention the names.

[1127]Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  I am just making the point that it is worthwhile recognising the anniversary. Senators Cecilia Keaveney, Joe O’Reilly and I are the Members from this House on the Council of Europe. It is a very important organisation. Senator Keaveney has produced an important report, which I hope will be debated in this House, about the teaching of history in countries that have experienced difficulties, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

I wish to recognise that anniversary today. Will the Leader of the House, through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, invite the President of the Council of Europe or the new Secretary General to address the House on the work of that great organisation? Senator Paul Bradford, who is present, is a former member of the Council of Europe. There may be other former members present. I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me an opportunity to raise that matter today.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  There are not many Members left whom Senator Leyden did not name.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I endorse the comments made by other Members that we are being made totally irrelevant by the chaotic management of business and the rushing through of legislation. I have just been listening to one of our distinguished colleagues, the only one of our group who did not speak on the Defamation Bill, doing an extremely good job on Pat Kenny. That shows that the radio is much more relevant than this House. That is thanks to the disgraceful way in which the business is being organised.

Senator O’Toole and I have been discussing the matter and we would like to propose a motion. I understand that my colleague, Senator Quinn, will second it. It is that we should discuss as the first item today the rushing of legislation through this House and the implications of that procedure. We have seen the report from the Irish Human Rights Commission that points out, for example, that the Bill cannot become operational until October, yet the other House has guillotined it and, as Senator Alex White indicated and I pointed out earlier in the week, we cannot realistically expect to get any amendments passed. The Irish Human Rights Commission has offered to human rights-proof the legislation but the Government has completely snubbed that offer.

Senator O’Toole is 100% correct, that this is all of a piece with the mean-minded attempts to dismantle every organisation that articulates the needs of the poor. I have been saying that for a very long time. We have just had the last ever independent report of the Combat Poverty Agency. If one reads between the lines and articles by the agency’s previous chief executives, one will realise how dangerous is the situation. In these circumstances, if one does not allow a safety valve for people who are being pressurised by the economic climate, and if one instead screws the lid down so that they cannot get expression for those views, one is creating a volatile and dangerous situation.

The legislation that was passed yesterday was very important. It is a pity we did not have even more extensive discussion on it in the light of developments that have taken place since that Bill was first discussed in the House. I refer to the quite extraordinary situation in England where the Murdoch press has been exposed for buying the work of telephone tappers, for inciting criminal action against the private rights of citizens. That was done with the collaboration of the police and other elements in society that should know better. I look forward to the privacy Bill because there must be balance. We must have a privacy Bill if the press is to be protected or over-protected. Look at how utterly ineffective the British Press Council was in this matter.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Did Senator Norris say he was opposing the Order of Business?

[1128]Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  No. I am proposing an amendment that instead we take as the first item a discussion on the rushing of legislation through this House.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  That is irrelevant.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  It is not a bit irrelevant. It is a lot more relevant than you are, Senator Leyden.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Thank you. It takes one to know one.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  As we say in Irish, aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile. You are a fine flourishing ciaróg over there.

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  On a point of order, I did refer to Deputy Mary O’Rourke as being the mother of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, but I meant to say she is his aunt.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  That is correct. It is a point of information.

Senator Denis O’Donovan: Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  I congratulate the Garda Síochána on a very important issue. Strict and simple enforcement of our public house licensing laws has thrown up an important and interesting statistic. In the town of Drogheda in recent months, arising out of Garda enforcement of the licensing laws, there was a 42% drop in street violence and anti-social behaviour in the early hours of the morning. If that could be replicated throughout towns and cities many parents would sleep happy in their beds. It is important that the matter is recognised and that we should hold a debate on it in the next session. Simple enforcement of getting people out of public houses and clubs at the time they are supposed to leave has resulted in a significant drop in street violence. While it is not zero tolerance, it is the type of action I would like to see replicated throughout the country.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  As we all know, Waterford Crystal was allowed to close recently with the loss of more than 600 jobs. When the company was sold it was decided that the showrooms and the tourism part of the business would be kept open. More than €100,000 has been spent on refurbishing the showrooms. I understand that on Tuesday last CIE Tours management sent an e-mail to the company informing it that CIE Tours would not bring tour buses to Waterford Crystal this year. That was done without the courtesy of a telephone call or a meeting to discuss the matter.

The decision will impact severely on hotels, restaurants and bed and breakfasts. It is another blow to the people of Waterford and the region. More than 300,000 people visited those showrooms in recent years. The Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism is from Waterford but he appears to be asleep on the job. The Minister for Transport, who has responsibility for CIE Tours, appears to have fallen asleep at the wheel as well. I seek a reversal of the CIE Tours decision as a matter of urgency. If that is the way the Government is protecting jobs and allowing a semi-State body to operate then God help us, we will have a lot more people unemployed.

Senator Maria Corrigan: Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  I rise to request the Leader to include provision for two debates when he is scheduling business for our return in the autumn. Both debates concern child protection. I do that for two reasons. First, Members have an invaluable contribution to make in this area and, second, as part of the Oireachtas, we have an important role to play in sending a strong message about child protection.

[1129]The first debate relates to the second interim report that has been received by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children. It specifically relates to the proposal for strengthened legislation on the issue of statutory, absolute and limited liability. I was struck by a recent case concerning a young girl from Sligo where a man was found guilty. I am concerned about the language we use. Journalists and commentators referred to the man being in a relationship with a 14 year old girl. That is not appropriate, there is no relationship there and it behoves us all to be conscious of the language we use in such situations.

The second debate I am calling for relates to the 397 children who remain missing from the care of the HSE. There is no indication as to their safety or whereabouts. I have raised this issue twice on the Adjournment in recent weeks and the replies I received gave no indication of any measures being taken to locate those children.

I am conscious that we have been distressed by the contents of the Ryan report and we must take action to address the needs of the victims of the report. However, there is also a responsibility on us to ensure the type of hurt visited on those children is not visited in the days that come on any other children. There are 397 children missing from the care of the State. We must be told what measures are being taken to find those children.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I rise to support Senator Norris’s call for a debate not just on rushed legislation but on legislation we are being asked to pass after the Dáil has finished. This does not make sense. We should have that debate. If we are going to debate the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, which will not come into operation until October, it does not make sense to rush something through in that situation.

I support Senator O’Donovan’s remarks about the figures from Drogheda. Gardaí there said they would enforce the law, that there would be zero tolerance. Gardaí visited each of the 61 pubs and night clubs in Drogheda every night at closing time and enforced the law and they have seen a 42% drop in street disorder and a 60% decrease in assaults. That is a reminder that while we need legislation, more than anything else, we must enforce the legislation we already have. It would be a shame if we are going to debate something next week knowing that we cannot make any changes.

There was a similar occurrence before, when there was a Bill before the House after the Dáil had risen where Senator Ross discovered a loophole that the Leader recognised meant the law could not be put into operation. It was the Leader’s action to drop it.

I also support the call for the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House next week. She will be coming in for the debate on the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill. We should also draw her attention to other areas, namely, the fact that in St. James’s Hospital, a quarter of the beds are for patients who do not need hospital treatment. It is outrageous that people are in the hospital because there is nowhere else for them to go. The Minister should address the House on this situation.

The Minister sent us a message with regard to pharmacies. I am concerned at the amount of support the pharmacists are getting because it is the Minister’s job to create competition. She stated in her letter that in the absence of any action now, total income to community pharmacies from these sources in 2009 would amount to €550 million, about €343,000 per pharmacy, on average. She must do something about this at a time when competition among supermarkets has brought down prices by 3% in food prices, and drapery and textile prices have fallen by 12% as a result of competition. The Minister should be supported. When she comes to the House to talk about tobacco she should also talk about the pharmacists.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I support Senator Cummins’s remarks on the announcement by CIE Tours International that it will not include the Waterford Crystal showrooms on its itiner[1130]ary in future. This is a retrograde step. Waterford has suffered enough, particularly with the closure of the Waterford Crystal plant and a number of other closures across the county. It is a backward step for the tourism industry because in the last eight years the movement of tourists within the country has changed. There is a greater concentration on Dublin city. In the past, most areas of Ireland that had attractions were able to avail——

Senator Joe O’Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Might I interrupt? This is the third time in the last fortnight that someone has allowed his phone to ring and gone out to answer it. Anyone can forget to turn it off, I am not being precious. The last person I saw doing it in these Houses was a Member of the Upper House in the other jurisdiction. It is insulting to the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I have issued letters and pleaded with people to leave their phones with their secretaries. If there is an urgent call they want to deal with, their secretaries could send word via the ushers, they should not to have their phones on in the House.

Senator Mary M. White: Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  People should not be using their phones to send text messages either. I find it insulting and I feel like leaving every time I see someone reading or sending a text.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I have pleaded with Senators to leave their phones outside or to turn them off. It happened yesterday and the Minister claimed that he needed to be available 24 hours a day. Irrespective of being a Minister, we all have secretaries who could look after the phones outside while we are in here.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  There has been a shift in recent years where tourism is concerned. There is a greater concentration on Dublin than on the country areas. There is no doubt that tourism faces challenges at present but by withdrawing the tour visits from areas like Waterford, in the long-term——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Someone else’s phone is ringing. Please. Someone has a phone that is ringing.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Interestingly, the Minister’s phone went off yesterday but he indicated he had a special exemption because it was necessary for him to be in touch with gardaí at all times.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  He has permission from the Clerk of the Dáil but no one has an exemption in this Chamber.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  That is even more interesting and I hope the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be reminded of that in future.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  As I said earlier, they have secretaries they can leave their phones with and if there is an urgent message it can be sent to them.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I applaud that ruling.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I sent out a circular and one Senator said to me, “In the name of God, why are you sending this out? Sure we are not stupid.” I wonder.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  I doubt there will be an opportunity before the summer recess but we must discuss tourism in general because we are facing a serious situation. The message that is being sent out by CIE Tours International is the wrong message at this time. We should [1131]be trying to get back to the way we were seven or eight years ago, where every part of the country benefited from tourism. That is not the case now. The image of Ireland will suffer as a result of this because people will now see one aspect of Irish life but will not see the diversity that exists.

Senator Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Will the Leader arrange a debate on competitiveness in the next session? The report by the Central Statistics Office on pricing that was published yesterday made for interesting reading. It showed that prices in Ireland have fallen by nearly 5.5% compared with last year. That is the fastest rate of decline of any country within Europe and shows the changes taking place at the moment.

Two points in particular merit discussion. While prices are falling fast in some areas, in services provided by the Government, they are increasing. An example I bring to the Leader’s attention is that of transport. Over a time when the price of air travel fell by 14%, services either regulated or provided by the State have increased in cost. Bus fares have risen by 11%, taxi charges by 8% and rail tickets by 9%. In addition, certain sections of our commercial society continue to rip off the country at large — for example, insurance services. In recent months the price of home and contents insurance has risen by 25%, with car insurance up by 14%.

I will conclude by referring to the point made by Senator Butler about the Davy report. I read the report and I emphasise two points about it. First, it shows how low the standards of success have fallen in government. Now the sale of 85% of the available bonds constitutes a successful sale, while a number of years ago every bond sale was oversubscribed. People used to queue up to buy them and now we cannot sell them all. In addition, the report points out clearly that Irish levels of Government debt will continue to rise because of the problems with our banks. Thus, the report is anything but a vindication of the Government’s success in managing the economy.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I support my colleague, Senator Donohoe, in calling for a debate on competitiveness. There is much good news to be disclosed with regard to the work of Government in addressing the issues associated with competitiveness, including that it has identified problems that warrant addressing. The Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment are working together and have addressed a number of issues. Over the course of the coming weeks and months we will see, as we have already started to see, the turn of the tide. We will see a greater improvement in the competitiveness of the Irish marketplace. This is important in helping us address some of the current economic and financial difficulties. I look forward to the good news we will be hearing in the area of competitiveness.

I ask the Leader to assist me on two issues with regard to health services. First, is the Leader aware of any change of policy by the VHI or independent hospitals with regard to private patient care, or an indication by the VHI that it will no longer cover private care in some hospitals? Some information has been brought to my attention in this regard. If this is correct, it will cause complications for the Revenue Commissioners, hospitals and private patients with regard to waiting times.

I ask the Leader to try to achieve some progress in the matter of a distraught and bereaved family. A young man by the name of Sean Dunne was allowed to leave Beaumont Hospital in February of last year——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I ask the Senator not to mention the names of individuals.

[1132]Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I have been pursuing this case for a number of months. This is a bereaved family and we cannot get answers after five months.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  The Senator should table a matter on the Adjournment.

Senator Ivor Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I ask the Leader to find out what is happening in the Dunne case in Beaumont Hospital. I would welcome some progress on this issue.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  If the Senator tables a matter on the Adjournment, I will try to facilitate him.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  Two weeks ago Professor Drumm of the HSE visited Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar. I was led to believe at the time that this would be a positive visit, but instead he said that it was unsustainable that the three accident and emergency departments in the region are allowed to remain open. He said the current cost of overtime for staff at the midlands accident and emergency units was €30,000 per night. Athlone is a town of more than 25,000 people, not counting those living in the environs. We have no hospital — good, bad or indifferent — in the Athlone area. Mullingar hospital caters for the whole of Westmeath, Longford, parts of Offaly and Tipperary and areas as far away as Kildare. Professor Drumm went on to speak of the good work being done in Mullingar hospital. Senators Cassidy and Glynn have mentioned in the House that Mullingar hospital is doing well according to all the indicators. I would like confirmation that Mullingar hospital will not be the one to lose its accident and emergency department. I do not mind being parochial about this. If we do not shout for our constituents here, who else will do so?

Tullamore hospital is a fantastic facility, as the Cathaoirleach will testify, and it does an excellent job. However, we need to keep the facilities open in Mullingar, which is a centre of quality. I have raised in the House the insidious closing down of colposcopy and colonoscopy services and the sexual assault unit in Mullingar. We cannot allow this to happen. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister, when she is in the House next week to speak on the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2009, to reassure the people of Mullingar and Westmeath that the accident and emergency unit will not close. It is strange, in a week in which consultants received dramatic back pay, that Professor Drumm is talking about cutting €30,000 per night in overtime for the wonderful service provided in Mullingar hospital. The Leader knows the unit is full every night. Professor Drumm should consider his position.

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  I support the request by Senator Feargal Quinn that during the visit of the Minister for Health and Children to the House next week we set aside some time to discuss the pharmacy dispute. As in all disputes, there are two sides to the story — perhaps, in this case, three sides — but the matter is causing grave concern, particularly for elderly people, who are worried they will not be able to obtain their medicines over the coming weeks. I ask for clarification from the Minister in this regard. Some intervention is necessary to bring this dispute to a resolution. We cannot go into the summer recess, in which both Houses will shut down, without knowing exactly what will happen in this regard.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  Hear, hear.

Senator John Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on the public sector in the next session. While much has been said about the public sector with regard to cuts, perhaps not enough has been said about the wonderful work it does. I am conscious that the Irish renaissance in the 1960s came from Ken Whitaker and Seán Lemass, particularly as a result of the First Programme for Economic Expansion and the recognition of the need for Ireland to [1133]open up its markets. This will give the Opposition a chance to specify where the 20,000 job cuts it proposes in the public service will be made and how public services will be affected.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  A Chathaoirligh, before you call the Leader, I wish to raise what may be a point of order. If not, I am sure you will guide me. I know there is an interest in conservation in the House, but for the past two days there has been no paper for making notes. Is there an explanation for this?

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  It is cutbacks.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I hope this is not something to be reported to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges because it has not met within living memory.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  There are no cutbacks there. We will sort out the problem.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Senators Twomey, Quinn and Bradford called for the Minister for Health and Children to update us on the pharmacy dispute. I am awaiting word from the Minister’s office and I feel confident we will have clarification and an update on the position before the recess. I fully agree with the calls from colleagues this morning for clarification on the issue of the cost of drugs and so on. I hope recent developments do not provide the major chains with an opportunity to expand at the expense of family pharmacists who have provided a service for generations and who we all support.

Senator Butler noted that 85% of the bonds we have issued have been sold, a matter on which Senator Donohoe also expressed a view. This is a welcome development as it is one of the highest rates of take-up in Europe. The issue can be brought to the attention of the Minister during statements.

Senators O’Toole, Alex White and Norris expressed concern about the resources available to the Irish Human Rights Commission. A former Leader of the House, Dr. Maurice Manning, is doing good work in this area. The matter should be raised with the Minister who is waiting in the antechamber.

Senators Alex White, Regan, Norris and Quinn alleged that legislation was being rushed. Time limits will not be imposed on statements today and Senators will have an opportunity to speak at length in the debate, as has been the practice in recent weeks. This term, 26 Bills have been published and all except one or two have been processed. I understand this is a record. In addition, a substantial number of the Bills were initiated in this House.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  This is a great tune. It is a pity the Leader cannot accompany it on the saxophone.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I will do everything in my power to assist the Government in processing legislation. I do not have any difficulty sitting for four days per week or until late in the evening for as long as is required. I will try to facilitate colleagues further.

Later today, I will submit to the Minister the Fianna Fáil Party proposals on Seanad reform. I hope legislation on reform will come before the House for our consideration in early autumn. All sides of the House are willing to sit earlier and more often and take whatever steps are needed to enhance the role of the Seanad. We are open to all suggestions, whether from long-standing Senators or the new, energetic and enthusiastic colleagues who have recently joined the House. We will make the Seanad relevant to the demands of the 21st century.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Will we get a look at Peewee’s big idea?

[1134]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Please allow the Leader to continue without interruption.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I include Senator Norris in my remarks.

Senator Butler referred to the €500,000 cost to the State of providing facilities to the press. The Senator may bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Finance when he comes before the House.

Senators Regan and Leyden called for the report produced by Colm McCarthy and his group to be made public. Yesterday, my party colleague, the former Leader of the House, Deputy Mary O’Rourke, and I sought to have this done. The matter is, however, one for the Government to decide. The previous report, published in the late 1980s, was not published for reasons best known to the Government at the time. It would be preferable if the report was available for the consideration of the House. We look forward to playing a responsible role in assisting the Government in meeting the challenge it faces. We will enjoy another period of ten years of economic growth if the correct decisions are taken. I hope we will have the support of Senators on all sides in this endeavour.

Senator Leyden called for a special debate to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Council of Europe. I have already agreed to hold such a debate. As the Senator noted, the issue of invitees coming before the House is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

I concur with Senator Norris on the Privacy Bill and look forward to having the Bill before the House. The Minister indicated yesterday that this will be the case. I will pursue the matter vigorously to ensure the legislation comes before the House in the not too distant future.

Senators O’Donovan and Quinn congratulated the Garda Síochána, Garda Commissioner and, in particular, the chief superintendent and superintendent in the Drogheda area, on their enforcement activities which have resulted in reductions of 60% in assaults and 42% in street disorder in the town. This demonstrates that areas can be transformed when the fear is put back into the law. As Senators Quinn and O’Donovan correctly noted, the Garda Síochána has achieved an outstanding success in Drogheda.

  11 o’clock

Senators Cummins and Ó Murchú referred to the decision by CIE Tours not to include the Waterford Crystal showroom in its itinerary for tours. CIE Tours has done a terrific job over the years. It is the backbone of the tourism industry. I call on the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to arrange an emergency meeting on Tuesday next with CIE representatives to discuss this issue. I also call on Senators who are members of the joint committee or are directly involved in tourism to attend the proceedings to find out the reason a world brand such as Waterford Crystal which, like Baileys and Guinness, has taken centuries to create — does not feature on the itinerary of those travelling to Ireland on CIE Tours.

Waterford deserves all the support we can give, including for next Sunday’s game. I extend my best wishes to the county team. Occasions such as hurling finals uplift people in difficult times.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  What about Tipperary?

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I have worn the blue and gold more than anyone in the House, with the possible exception of the Clerk.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  Which side is the Leader on?

[1135]Senator Alex White: Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  He is on the dark side.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Please allow the Leader to continue without interruption. We are in Thurles, as it were, not Croke Park.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I look forward to Sunday because Munster finals are always special. I exhort Senators to contact the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs requesting that he arrange a meeting with CIE representatives next Tuesday.

Senator Corrigan called for a debate on child protection, specifically the second report on the rights of children, when the Seanad returns. I have no difficulty in having such a debate. I understand that sentencing has not yet taken place in the case to which the Senator referred. For this reason, the matter is sub judice and I am not in a position to comment further.

Senators Donohoe and Callely called for a debate on competitiveness. I hope this issue will be highlighted in today’s debate at which the Minister will be present throughout. We must get to grips with competitiveness. The recent 5.5% reduction in costs is a move in the right direction which will help return competitiveness and create jobs again.

Senator Callely stated that the VHI no longer covers certain health services. I will make inquiries into the issue and Senators may raise the matter directly with the Minister when she next comes to the House. I hope the other matter the Senator raised can be expedited and discussed, with the Cathaoirleach’s approval, on the Adjournment on Tuesday.

I fully concur with Senator McFadden’s comments on the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, one of the best performing hospitals in the country. I look forward to the Minister supporting the hospital’s achievements by paying it a visit over the recess. I hope to be able to discuss with the Minister and the consultants, senior management and nursing and other staff of the hospital how it will be encouraged to continue to be a role model for the rest of the country. Managers from other hospitals have visited Mullingar hospital to find out how it has achieved such success.

The Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar is the only major hospital between Dublin and Sligo. As Senator McFadden correctly pointed out, it serves counties Longford and Westmeath, Athlone town and the county town of Mullingar. This is a huge area with upwards of 175,000 people and it will probably grow in future. I will ask the Minister for Health and Children to visit Mullingar, with Oireachtas colleagues of all parties, over the summer recess to acknowledge the achievements that have taken place in Mullingar hospital.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  The Leader should ask the Minister for Health and Children to clarify that the hospital’s accident and emergency unit will not close.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Please allow the Leader to reply to the Order of Business.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I remind the Senator that there is no election.

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  That is trivialising the matter.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  I do not care about an election, I care about the closure of the casualty department in Mullingar hospital.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Those old smokescreens of Fine Gael down through the years do not promote any issue.

[1136]Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  That is outrageous.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Nothing is going to change.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  It has nothing to do with an election.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I am very pleased to hear that.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  It concerns the people of Mullingar.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  The Leader is replying to the Order of Business so there should be no interruptions.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  On a point of order, how is closing an accident and emergency department a smokescreen?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  That is not a point of order.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  It is not an issue. I live in the area.

Senator Eugene Regan: Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  The Leader is trivialising the issue.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  The Senator knows what is happening in his area and I know what is happening in my area. I accept that Senator McFadden knows what is happening in her area.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Absolutely.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  Mullingar is my area. I represent the people there.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Perhaps the Senator will clarify what is happening. Is the Senator coming up to live in Mullingar? I do not know about it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  That is not relevant to the Order of Business. The Leader should reply to the Order of Business.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  On a point of order, this is confusing. Yesterday, Senator Cassidy referred to his constituency colleague, but we are all his constituency colleagues. The Leader’s constituency comprises the county councillors and it is the same for Senator McFadden. They have no geographical constituency whatever.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  That is not a point of order.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Senator McFadden knows well what is going on in Mullingar.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Senator Hanafin called for a debate on the public sector and I have no difficulty with such a debate taking place.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Senator Norris has moved an amendment to the Order of Business as follows: “That a debate on the ordering of business in the House be taken before No. 1”. Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Yes.

Amendment put.

[1137]The Seanad divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 24.

Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam. Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.



Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria.
Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark. Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ned O'Sullivan  Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Ned. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators David Norris and Joe O’Toole; Níl, Senators Labhrás Ó Murchú and Diarmuid Wilson.

Amendment declared lost.

Order of Business agreed to.


Last Updated: 15/12/2010 21:10:13 First Page Previous Page Page of 7 Next Page Last Page