Thursday, 22 September 2011
Seanad Éireann Debate
Senator Maurice Cummins: The Order of Business is Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive. No. 1, motion re the address of Seanad Éireann by Dr. Maurice Manning, president of the Irish Human Rights Commission and chair of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions on Wednesday next, 28 September, is to be taken without debate.
No. 2, European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011 — all Stages, is to commence at the conclusion of No. 1 and conclude not later than3.30 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons on Second Stage not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called on to reply on Second Stage not later than 1.55 p.m.; Committee and Remaining Stages are to be taken immediately at the conclusion of Second Stage. No. 3, motion re early signature of the European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011, is to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 2.
No. 4, Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011 — all Stages, is to commence at the conclusion of No. 2 and conclude not later than7 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons on Second Stage not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called on to reply to the Second Stage debate not later than 4.55 p.m.; Committee and Remaining Stages are to be taken immediately at the conclusion of Second Stage. No. 5, motion re the resolution to be prescribed for the information of voters pursuant to section 23 of the Referendum Act 1994 (No. 12 of 1994) in relation to the proposal to amend Article 15.10 of the Constitution which is contained in the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011 and the subject of a constitutional referendum, is to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 4.
Senator Darragh O’Brien: I do not know where to start with all of that. On the use of guillotines, there are two important Bills before the House today with which we do not have any difficulty in broad terms. The European Financial Stability Facility and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011 is something on which there is agreement in the main in both Houses and by most parties. Again, all Stages of the Bill are to be taken.
I am particularly concerned, however, about the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011 on the basis that all Stages of the Bill are to be taken and the guillotine is being applied simply because the Bill must pass this week to fit into the Government timeframe for holding the referendum on the same date as the presidential election. That is understood. The Houses are back a couple of weeks, however, and we could have been brought back early.
Senator Darragh O’Brien: I accept from my experience previously on committees that the powers specified in the Bill are needed by the Oireachtas but they are important ones and they should be looked at in great detail. Effectively, committees from here on in, and particularly the Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions, will be able to make findings of fact and to call and name individuals. All of us agree that the one thing every citizen in the country is entitled to is their good name. The legislation appears to be rushed. It is important, ground-breaking legislation that overturns the Abbeylara judgment. That we are dealing with it in a short time because it is being guillotined, is not the way to do business. I know there are time constraints but the Government should schedule its business more efficiently. Time and time again the guillotine was used in the last session. We have only just resumed in the past few weeks, although we could have come back earlier to deal with this legislation which has been discussed ad nauseam in the media. As legislators, we should have more time to deal with it. We will oppose the Order of Business today on the basis of an excessive use of the guillotine.
I ask the Leader to bring to the attention of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the need to urgently contact ComReg to ascertain the mobile phone giant Vodafone plans to switch customers to online billing without seeking their express permission. This was done last year by An Post when it tried to introduce minimum payments for people who are trying to manage household budgets. Vodafone appears to be telling its customers that they will get online bills whether they like it or not, otherwise they must opt out. Many people across the country do not have Internet access and, in addition, they are struggling to manage their household budgets. This is a retrograde step. We have already seen O2 do this and Vodafone is planning to do it. I have no doubt we will also see State utility companies doing it, if it is allowed to happen. I therefore ask the Leader to contact the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources urgently on this matter. Next week, I intend to table an Adjournment matter in this regard. I ask him to bring my concerns and the concerns of other Opposition Senators about Vodafone’s plans to the Minister’s attention. Vodafone’s initiative is anything but customer-friendly.
Senator Ivana Bacik: It is fair to say we all deplore the use of the guillotine in this House. It is not ideal but colleagues on both sides of the House appreciate that with the referendum set for 27 October we are constrained on the referendum Bills. Like Senator O’Brien, I would have liked more time to debate this referendum Bill in particular. There was less concern in the public arena about the wording of the judicial pay Bill, and so less need for time on it. As the debate on judges’ pay seems to have gone on for a long time, it was time to draw a line under it.
I ask the Leader for a debate on international trade in the presence of either the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan. I seek that debate in the context of this week’s ploughing championships. I welcome back all my colleagues who attended that event, which was hugely successful. It was great to see so many people attend.
Senator Ivana Bacik: It was left to us to be stuck here. As Martyn Turner’s cartoon described in The Irish Times yesterday, it was more like the presidential championships, given the number of candidates and political colleagues there.
An important delegation from China was at the ploughing championships seeking to do business with agricultural interests here. China is a hugely important market for us, as the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and his Cabinet colleagues have recognised. We are all now familiar with the acronym BRIC covering the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. In the university and third level sector generally we are trying to encourage international students from those countries and the same applies to international trade. It would be useful for us to debate how best to foster links with emerging economies and China in particular. It is worth noting that a former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been forging his own links with China. I see that he is a consultant to major Chinese business interests concerned with building a new city there.
Senator Ivana Bacik: Foundations are inclined not to be so stable with the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, as we know from our experience of this country’s economy. We could, however, take a leaf out of Bertie’s book in this case by fostering greater links with China. It would be a worthwhile debate to have in this House. I look forward to having co-operation on it from both sides, even if we have to take a few potshots at Bertie Ahern while doing so.
Senator Feargal Quinn: How can I follow that? I was interested to read in recent days that the new Greek property tax will be collected with electricity bills. It made me think how inefficient and costly is our tax system. I will give some examples. The Revenue Commissioners collect income tax, the universal service charge, capital gains tax and corporation tax. Local authorities, meanwhile, collect commercial rates, business improvement tax, district taxes, levies and the non-principal residence tax. An Post collects television and dog licence fees, which I am surprised still apply. The Private Residential Tenancies Board collects the residential landlord tax. As regards new taxes, I do not know who will collect water charges or the septic tank charge, if they are introduced. I note that Bord na Móna and others are competing for that tax along with the property tax. The various tax collection systems seem to be highly inefficient. In France, for example, rates are collected with electricity bills. In addition, people who do not have television sets must opt out of the licensing system, rather than opting in. As the French system seems to be much more efficient, perhaps we should examine it. I am raising this matter solely as a subject for discussion at some point. It might be more suitable as an Adjournment matter next week.
I have been a Member of the House for some years and I regularly raise issues on the Order of Business. Last week was the first time that, to the best of my knowledge, I got a reply a couple of days later from the Leader’s office concerning something I had raised the previous week. I wish to express my thanks, appreciation and respect for the Leader’s action.
Senator Paul Coghlan: I appreciate you calling me early, a Chathaoirligh. I made some pertinent remarks yesterday but I want to assure my good friend and colleague, Senator Darragh O’Brien, that I am glad to be in the Chamber with him. I must further assure him that I was neither in mourning nor in hiding on Tuesday. Yesterday, we were all like Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy”, but that had nothing to do with an event last Sunday.
Senator Paul Coghlan: I thank the Cathaoirleach for reminding me. In that context, where I come from we were always capable of seeing the bigger picture and having regard for the greater good, as well as encouraging and nurturing those who have been neglected for long periods. Dublin supporters should enjoy the Sam Maguire while they have it on loan. It is another one of those temporary little arrangements.
Mention has been made of the guillotine which nobody welcomes on either side of the House. When in opposition, we always opposed it just as the current Opposition is doing now. They know as well as us, however, that Governments get caught in emergencies and timeframes, which is what has happened in this case. I plead with the Opposition to bear with us because we do not welcome the guillotine either, as has been said.
Senator Thomas Byrne: I welcome all the tourists and golfers who will visit County Meath this weekend for the Solheim Cup, which is a major boost for the country, the county, ladies’ golf and ladies’ sport in general. They are very welcome, as is the financial boost the competition will bring.
I would like the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to investigate the terms “constitutional” and “unconstitutional”. Every time Opposition Senators — be they Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin or Independent — bring forward a Private Members’ Bill, we are told it is with the best of intentions. We are also told it is a fabulous piece of work, one could not have done a better job, it is fantastic, but it is unconstitutional. It seems we no longer need the Supreme Court; we should send Fine Gael Senators down there to adjudicate on whether something is constitutional.
Senator Thomas Byrne: It is not appropriate that every time legislation is introduced by the Opposition, Senators and Ministers say, “Sorry, but it is unconstitutional.” They do not know whether it is unconstitutional. Very often when such statements are made, no arguments, case law or precedents are put forward. They are simply used to rubbish legislation proposed by the Opposition. If the Government wants to show it is serious about legislation, it will have to take on board serious legislation that is introduced from this side of the House. They promised to do that, as well as having gaps between the various stages. That is in the programme for Government and was in the Fine Gael manifesto. However, the majority of legislation coming through this House does not have gaps between various stages, which makes it almost impossible for Opposition Senators to study the legislation seriously and table amendments.
I note the Dáil will have a day every month for Private Members’ legislation which, I suspect, will come from Departments. The Government will welcome its own side with open arms. I ask if it will really work if everything is decided to be unconstitutional. In what circumstances are Senators allowed to use the word, “constitutional”? This term is being bandied about this House without any grounds and in order to diminish the genuine work of legislators who are trying to improve the lives of people.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I appreciate that yesterday the Cathaoirleach could not permit me to speak at the time. It is interesting to hear the point made by Senator Bacik today because I support the call for a debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on Irish-China relations. A number of weeks ago I attended a conference in the Institute of European Affairs. The attendance included people from China looking to do business with Ireland but also Irish entrepreneurs looking to do business with China. I learned that Ireland has no bilateral trade agreement with China. For that reason we are falling way behind. China has $2.85 trillion in foreign reserves ready to invest. We have 450,000 people out of work and 1,000 young people are leaving our shores every week. We must consider how we can capitalise on opportunities. The Chinese are interested in us because we offer them an opportunity of having a gateway to Europe. We are the only English-speaking country in the eurozone. There could be mutual benefit for both countries.
I strongly encourage the Leader to ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to come to the House as soon as possible in order to have a debate on how Ireland could benefit from a formal relationship with China. The trade missions of themselves are not enough. We need formal relations with China. The European Union does not have an overall policy as regards China. It seems the Chinese prefer to deal with us rather than be dependent on the US dollar.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: We say the office is above politics, yet it is completely reliant on political parties or groups thereof nominating a candidate. This is not right and it is time the process was changed. We should also have the option to allow an agreed number of people nominate a candidate. I ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to examine this option. This debate has taken up too much time——
Senator David Cullinane: A couple of days ago, I asked for a debate on the potential selling-off of a minority stake in the ESB. I reiterate that call and also ask for a discussion in the Chamber about the potential sell-off of State assets and properties. The Government is planning to sell of billions of euro of profitable State companies and State assets. It is interesting that something similar is happening in Greece because the IMF and the European Central Bank are forcing Greece — just as they are forcing Ireland — to sell off some of its family jewels. A Greek telecommunications company was bought by a German bank. The financial vultures, including German banks, which helped to create the mess in Greece in the first place, are the very ones coming in to feed off the carcass of valuable state companies. I would hate to see this happening in Ireland.
The Government found itself in the situation where the previous Government had put in place mechanisms which forced us to bail out the banks and very large amounts of taxpayers’ money was used to pay back the bondholders and private banking debts. It is ironic that private banking debt is being nationalised and we are having to pay back people like those German banks and bondholders while, at the same time, privatising valuable state-owned companies.  Those same people who took a punt, a gamble, and are being paid back in full are now being given the opportunity to buy valuable State companies like the ESB. There is something inherently immoral about this situation. It shows the mess we are in and it also shows that when it comes to it——
Senator David Cullinane: ——in their manifestos the short-term selling-off of State companies and assets, yet they are being forced to do U-turns. The Government has choices available to it. It is easy for people who are now in government to say they do not have any choice but——
Senator David Cullinane: ——we have choices. I am not calling for a shouting match with other Senators but I am asking that the Minister with responsibility for this area come to the House to have a discussion about which assets are going to be sold and how and why they are going to be sold. Then we can have a discussion about where money can be found rather than having to asset-strip this State and sell off the family jewels to pay back speculators and gamblers. I stand over my view that such payments are immoral and I hope the Minister will come to the House so that we can discuss it.
Senator Tony Mulcahy: I was contacted recently by a number of couples and also mortgage brokers who are trying to acquire mortgages from different banks. Even cast-iron cases of people in full-time employment are finding it very difficult to obtain a mortgage. The banks are now inquiring if housing estates are bonded even though these estates are unfinished and they also look for a guarantee that the local authority will take such estates in charge. At a time when property was never such good value, it is virtually impossible for a young couple to get a mortgage and this results in more people coming on to the social housing list. I ask the Leader to consult with the Minister for Finance to extend the remit of the commercial loan review group to cover mortgage holders so that they could apply to the group for a review of their mortgage application. As it stands, one can only get a mortgage if one has a full-time job and a suitable income. It may require legislation to include mortgage holders within the remit of the review group but it is essential to facilitate young couples who can afford to buy a house.
I raise this matter because of the unfortunate decision by the US Government to veto the proposal in the United Nations which is supported by quite a number of countries. We are in a very strong position in this House because the late Deputy Brian Lenihan Snr. was the first European Foreign Minister to formally recognise the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and recognition and to live in harmony and peace with its neighbour, Israel. We have a very proud tradition in this regard. It has been the policy of the Labour Party and I remind the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, that he is either a mouse or a lion in the Cabinet. In my view there is an undue influence exercised by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to ensure that the Government vetoes the policy of the State regarding the recognition of Palestine and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. There is undue influence being brought to bear in the Cabinet in this regard.
Senator Terry Leyden: I am putting a question. The Labour Party must assert itself or it will become irrelevant in the Government and that is what is happening. This is a very serious situation for the Labour Party——
Senator Terry Leyden: Therefore, the Labour Party, Senator Bacik, will recognise the Palestinian state in the United Nations. Will Ireland recognise the right of the Palestinian people, on a vote, to be part of the United Nations?
Senator Catherine Noone: Based on the figures released this morning on mortgages and mortgage arrears, it seems that most of the figures relate to those who are three months or more in arrears. However, there appears to be a plethora of people who are in the realm of being one or two months in arrears. These numbers will increase. The number of those in arrears has gone from 55,000 in June to 57,000 in August. This is a huge number of people who are two months in arrears. The Minister for Finance will be in the House today, but we need long-term solutions. Mention is made of debt forgiveness, but this is not debt forgiveness rather a restructuring of the debt with the banks. We need to get serious on this issue.
We hear this morning that Catholic parishes are being encouraged to give any surplus moneys they have to a fund for the general benefit of the Catholic Church. One potential use for moneys from this fund is to benefit victims of clerical child abuse. This is unsatisfactory. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is trying to cater for possible future claims, but we need a more structured approach to this. We cannot have a situation where genuine claimants must rely on a nebulous fund to meet their claims. I call for whatever Minister has responsibility for this area to take this issue seriously. It is a situation that can only get worse. I urge the Leader to address this.
Senator Rónán Mullen: I listened with interest to my colleague and have great respect for her. However, the issue of the fund is an internal matter the faithful must work out. It is probably more a matter for a letter to The Irish Catholic than something on which we can adjudicate, because while it might be of great interest to some of us, it is of no interest to others.
I agree 100% with what was said about the use of guillotines in this House. It adds insult to injury when we have Second Stage speeches of only five minutes being allowed. How can anybody in the Upper House with a titter of wit consider legislation which introduces a constitutional amendment and speak about its essential principles in five minutes? It is bad enough that these Bills are being run through in one day and that there is a guillotine, but it adds insult to injury that only five minutes are being allowed for Second Stage speeches.
I welcome the apparent decision by the Government to oppose the resort-style casino in Tipperary and respectfully disagree with my esteemed colleague, Senator Mullins, on what he had to say about gambling yesterday. I know he is conscious of the need to protect jobs, but am sure he would agree with me that we also need to maintain the realisation that gambling is in many ways the new “alcoholism” in this country. It affects many young professional men in particular. The proposed casino in Tipperary was to be designed along the lines of the White House, but that would have offended both the Americans and good taste at the same time. I am glad the Government opposes the casino.
We should all regret that the State of Georgia has ignored the pleas of people like Pope Benedict, former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others to give a new trial to Troy Davis and has executed him instead. Yesterday, the Leader said he thought there would be support for an all-party motion on this issue. I propose to contact the leaders of the other groups on a wording for this in which we could deplore the judicial killing of Troy Davis and affirm our ongoing opposition to capital punishment, in all circumstances and not just when there is doubt about the innocence or guilt of the party in question.
Senator Martin Conway: I agree with Senator Mullen’s position on the proposed casino in Tipperary. It would have been a disgrace if that development had gone ahead. As a rule, gambling is fine when done properly. I know the Leader has an interest in this issue because I have spoken to him about it previously and have raised the issue on the Order of Business. I welcome wholeheartedly the announcement made yesterday that we will have new legislation on gambling. I note the Minister is considering legalising card houses, which is fine if done properly. Currently, these houses operate without any regulation. The crucial issue to be addressed by the Minister is the issue of online gambling. It is disgraceful that the national lottery operates an online gambling site. If Members here type in the national lottery website on their iPhone in this House, they will not gain access because, as a gambling website, it is banned by the ICT unit. The national lottery is a State run and owned company and it is appalling that it is involved in online gambling. Whatever legislation is introduced, it should ensure that the national lottery is banned from engaging in this type of behaviour. It is bad enough to see ordinary people who apply for mortgages, who get into trouble and cannot get them because paddypower.ie is on their bank statement but the last thing this country needs is people being refused mortgages because lotto.ie is on their bank statement. I call on the Leader to speak to the Minister for Justice and Equality to ensure that as part of the upcoming legislation, the national lottery will be banned from engaging in online gambling.
Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú: Yesterday we had a fine session on the arts in Ireland on which I compliment the Minister. It struck me that he had a hands-on involvement with his ministerial portfolio and I would be very pleased if we could have another session because yesterday’s was fruitful. I thank the Leader for facilitating it.
I would also like to thank the Leader and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for agreeing to bring Dr. Maurice Manning to this House next week. He is a fine advocate of human rights and this House has a proud record in that regard. We should all accept that human rights are not the gift of any person to give or not give to any power to withhold. I was shocked yesterday when, once again, I realised that the rights of the Palestinian people have again fallen victim to power politics and domestic elections. That cannot be right. I believe the Seanad has the opportunity to show its independence. Although we are a small nation, we are seen as an honest broker by many. All I can feel this morning is sadness for the Palestinian people when they realise that the small person and nation have, once again, fallen victim to power politics. Obviously, we have great respect for America. We welcomed President Obama with open arms and the empathy between us could be seen clearly. However, it is sad that the people who have suffered so much for so long are now going to continue to suffer.
There is an extended aspect to this. The credibility of world powers will now be affected also. When people who welcomed what happened in the Arab world talk in the future of freedom, independence and sovereignty for all, that will not stand up, because we cannot have it both ways. Either people are for independence for all people and will recognise all people and give them their God-given right and their statehood, or not. It would be wonderful for Seanad Éireann to take up the point made here this morning. As Senator Leyden said, it would be wonderful if we stood by what we believed we were standing by a year or less ago and put that through today in a spirit of goodwill. I believe what happened yesterday and what will happen in the UN should not be a cry for vengeance but a cry for justice. We have the opportunity to do that in this House and I hope we will have the courage to do so.
Senator Michael Mullins: I congratulate the National Ploughing Association on the huge success of the event in Athy in the past few days and for doing such a wonderful job in showcasing the best of Irish agriculture and business. The next major event on the agricultural calendar happens in the east Galway town of Ballinasloe next weekend when a week-long fair and festival commences. We look forward to welcoming as many Members as possible to the town over the two weekends.
I welcome the farm safety awareness initiative launched yesterday by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at the ploughing championships. We should all strongly support that initiative and highlight it in the communities we represent. A total of 18 lives were lost unnecessarily in farm accidents last year and we should all take this initiative seriously.
Senator Michael Mullins: It was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that this man carried out the atrocity for which he was executed. Seven out of nine witnesses withdrew their evidence, a murder weapon was never found and there was no physical evidence such as blood or DNA. The House should support an all-party motion to bring pressure to bear on countries that still impose the death penalty.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to clarify whether it is likely 8,000 agency worker jobs will be lost if a European directive is introduced at the end of December? There will be a briefing on this issue next week but it has to be of grave concern to Members that this number of jobs could be put at risk because of a directive. We need to ensure this does not happen. I ask the Leader to liaise with the Minister on this and to bring some clarity to it.
Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Will the Leader invite the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to the House to update us on his proposals for local government reform and, in particular, to clarify his position on reported comments and comments he made in the House during a debate last session that he planned to reduce the number of county councillors in the forthcoming local elections? This is an important issue. He owes it not only to the House but also to county councillors and their electorate to spell out clearly his intentions in this regard. Will the Leader also ask the Minister to clarify his position on town councils and whether he intends to abolish or retain them and the reforms he proposes to make in this regard?
Senator Tom Sheahan: Ireland has been lauded for centuries for its production of bloodstock and as a country of equine excellence. I was dismayed and disappointed that our showjumpers failed to qualify for the Olympics, yet we are lauded throughout the world for our breeding and equine excellence. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or, preferably, the chief executive officer of Horse Sport Ireland, HSI, to the House to explain the health of that organisation? I believe there is a cancer in HSI and that is the main reason our showjumpers did not qualify for the Olympics.
Senator David Norris: I am glad to learn that there is a possibility that the Olympic torch may travel from the other part of the island down to Dublin. This is a direct consequence of the visit of the Queen of England. Irish people exploited this wonderfully because following the situation with the Chinese Olympics, it was decided not to allow the torch to travel outside the country holding the games. It is wonderful news that the Olympic torch will be brought to Dublin, particularly because we have had such thrilling athletes. I recall Ronnie Delaney in 1956 and that inspired me. I was so thrilled that somebody like him could take a gold medal in Melbourne. I heard the race on an old crackling wireless set. Dr. Pat O’Callaghan from Kanturk, County Cork, won two Olympic gold medals throwing the hammer. A bit of good news does nobody any harm.
In response to my friend, Senator Mullins, if it were possible, I would have loved to have attended the ploughing championships. I have a farming background and I am delighted young people are coming back to farming. I am concerned that what happened in England will happen here and there will be nothing but big ranchers. I like family and medium-sized farms and the life that goes with them but I agree very much with the Senator that this is an important industry and an important time and I hope we are able to do something about it.
This is his first term in the House but I am glad the Senator retains his party’s spirit of opposition to the death penalty. It was dreadful that this man died yesterday because of the doubt involved. I do not know his background but a high proportion of these people are black, have inferior educational skills and are intellectually disadvantaged. A significant number of those have been proved to be innocent when it is too late. I recall a woman who spoke on radio a number of times in an incredibly moving way about the fact that she was picked up as a hitchhiker by a man who had murdered somebody. He then gave state’s evidence. Her husband who had nothing to do with the murder was executed and, subsequently, found to be innocent. She is living in Ireland and she has found happiness again here with an Irishman. God bless her and how she got through this with her human spirit intact. We must continue to protest to our American friends that this is inhuman and cruel treatment of any citizen.
Senator Paschal Mooney: I applaud Senator Mullins for raising the issue of the unfortunate deceased, Troy Davis. As a member of the Council of Europe, I had occasion to visit the US with the relevant sub-committee. All members of the Council of Europe oppose the death penalty and I was part of an unsuccessful lobbying effort in the state of Illinois whose then governor had decided to introduce a moratorium on death row following a survey carried out by a group of legal students in Chicago which proved there were serious doubts about the convictions of many of those who had been condemned to be executed by the state. As a result, the governor introduced a moratorium and Illinois has now abolished the death penalty.
I understand there is a convention in the United States that if in any changes to the US Constitution a total of 18 states subscribe to the view, there is then a sense of a need for change, with the US Supreme Court usually intervening and overturning the law. I understand 13 or 14 states currently outlaw the death penalty. In light of the comments made here and unanimously agreed, the Government should express serious concerns about the manner of latest execution.
Senator Paschal Mooney: We should keep in mind that at a recent Republican Party rally, one of the leading contenders for the presidency of the United States, Texan Governor Rick Perry, boasted that his state had executed in excess of 200 people. He was asked by the interlocutor if he had sleepless nights over this, and before he could answer, the baying mob — the only way I can describe it — at the Republican rally applauded and cheered him. These are democrats who lecture the rest of the world in democracy. That is the sort of reality we face with our allies and friends, and the point is often made that the US is our strongest ally.
Senator Norris and I have visited various countries, particularly in the Middle East, where this point was repeatedly made. As friends and allies, we have a responsibility and obligation to point out when there is a flaw in a particular policy. That is not interference but a show of concern for what is a basic human right. In the context of what has been raised today, I ask that the Leader seek the Government to express serious concern about what has happened. It should reiterate that we, as a civilised country which is part of the European Union and Council of Europe, are totally and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty.
Senator Maurice Cummins: Senator O’Brien, the Leader of the Opposition, spoke about Vodafone. We will have the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, before the Seanad on 5 October and that matter can be raised. I thoroughly agree with the Senator.
The Senator also spoke about the practice of taking all Stages of Bills on the same day, which is not something I like. However, in some circumstances we must use those mechanisms. There were objections last week about the use of the guillotine but I never mentioned the word. With all Stages of the Bill last week I allocated up to 5.30 p.m. for debate, with two votes on the Order of Business against the use of the guillotine. After allocating time up to 5.30 p.m., the Bill concluded at approximately 2.50 p.m. Today we are allocating more time for the Bills than was prescribed in the other House for debate, and I am suggesting that the debate on the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill may go until 7 p.m. It will be interesting to see if we reach 7 p.m.
Senator Maurice Cummins: Senator Bacik spoke about developing links with China, a matter which was taken up by Senator Healy Eames and others. It is very important to develop further links with China and other countries at this point, especially when so many people are unemployed. It is desirable to develop relations with countries like China. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, is working on that matter now.
Senator Quinn made a very good point on the various collection agencies and the fact that the system seemed very inefficient. I will take up the point with the Government, as it seems to be very inefficient to have so many collection agencies throughout the country.
Senator Cullinane spoke about the sale of State assets. As I mentioned, the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, will be in the House on 5 October, and the Senator may raise the sale of State assets at that time. It is hypocritical of Sinn Féin to lecture the Government on asset sales when the party took a leading role on the issue in the North of Ireland earlier this year. At that time the Northern Ireland Executive established a central asset management unit in the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, with instructions to sign off on the sale of £100 million in assets. People in glasshouses should not throw stones, as I was always told.
Senator Leyden mentioned motion No. 17, which has been discussed in the House. I reminded the House yesterday of Government motion No. 16 on Palestine, which is a very reasonable motion on the agenda. Some of the Senator's remarks were very close to being anti-Semitic.
Senator Mullen complimented the Government on proposed legislation to deal with online gambling. The Government’s decision on the site in Tipperary was welcomed by most people. The all-party motion suggested what could be achieved; rather than confining it to a particular item we should concentrate on capital punishment.
Senator Conway also mentioned gambling and the use by the national lottery of online gambling. I hope we will have the long overdue legislation on gambling in the House before Christmas, and I am sure we will have many contributions on the matter. I thank the Senator for raising the issue.
Senator Ó Murchú mentioned yesterday’s debate on the arts, which was very good. If anything, the Minister was overly generous in his response. Although we allocated two and a half hours there was barely enough time for the debate. We can return to the subject. Some Members wished to make statements rather than ask questions, which is understandable. I hope we can have an ongoing debate on the arts. I thank the Minister for coming to the House yesterday and being so forthcoming.
Senator Mullins referred to the National Ploughing Championships. It is the third day they have been mentioned, rightly, because they are a wonderful national institution. He also got a plug in for his own town of Ballinasloe. We all support the campaign that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has launched in relation to farm safety awareness. It is appalling to learn that 18 people died in farm accidents last year. On agency jobs and the EU directive, there is a need for clarity. Any job losses at this stage are a source of concern for everybody.
I say to Senator Wilson that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, has said that he will come to the House next month and I am sure the important matters the Senator raised — the reduction of county councils and the Minister’s position in relation to town councils — will be discussed during the debate.
Senator Sheahan mentioned equine excellence, the bloodstock trade and the disappointing result of our showjumping team. We can address the matter with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but I have no intention of bringing the chairman of Horse Sport Ireland into the House to address it.
Senator Norris mentioned the possibility of the Olympic torch coming to Dublin. It would be welcome to have it. He also spoke to us about the National Ploughing Championships. I cannot imagine the Senator moving to the country any time soon.
Senator Mooney mentioned the Council of Europe delegation to Illinois, about which it was interesting to hear. The Government’s position on capital punishment has been clearly outlined and we can address the matter in the proposed all-party motion.
|Bacik, Ivana.||Bradford, Paul.|
|Brennan, Terry.||Clune, Deirdre.|
|Coghlan, Paul.||Comiskey, Michael.|
|Conway, Martin.||Cummins, Maurice.|
|D’Arcy, Jim.||D’Arcy, Michael.|
|Gilroy, John.||Harte, Jimmy.|
|Hayden, Aideen.||Healy Eames, Fidelma.|
|Henry, Imelda.||Keane, Cáit.|
|Kelly, John.||Moloney, Marie.|
|Moran, Mary.||Mulcahy, Tony.|
|Mullins, Michael.||Noone, Catherine.|
|O’Keeffe, Susan.||O’Neill, Pat.|
|Sheahan, Tom.||Whelan, John.|
|Barrett, Sean D.||Byrne, Thomas.|
|Cullinane, David.||Daly, Mark.|
|Leyden, Terry.||Mooney, Paschal.|
|Mullen, Rónán.||Norris, David.|
|Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.||Ó Murchú, Labhrás.|
|O'Brien, Darragh.||O'Sullivan, Ned.|
|Power, Averil.||Quinn, Feargal.|
|Reilly, Kathryn.||Walsh, Jim.|
|White, Mary M.||Wilson, Diarmuid.|
|Last Updated: 08/03/2013 18:53:22||Page of 10|