Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Order of Business
The reality is that in November 2017 there were 1,800 fewer people on trolleys by comparison to last November. That is a decrease and can be described as a positive trend downwards. There are 405 patients waiting on trolleys in acute hospitals today. While we all accept that there should be nobody on trolleys, there is a reality that must be faced by all sides of this House. The reality is that for the month of December 2017 there will be 460 fewer patients on trolleys as compared to December 2016. That is progress, black-and-white independent facts that are verifiable. Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the District Court. I did not see the "Prime Time" programme but the issue he raised on the manner and behaviour of judges is one on which you have probably ruled, a Chathaoirligh, we have no direct say. The Government is producing the Judicial Council Bill. The Bill is before the Oireachtas. It will promote and maintain excellence among the Judiciary in terms of their functioning and high standards in conduct and behaviour. A judicial committee will be established to consider complaints against judges. The point the Senator made is that we should expect all involved in any type of interaction to be courteous and polite irrespective of where that interaction occurs.
Senator Boyhan has raised the matter of the National Rehabilitation Hospital on numerous occasions in the House. The Minister has reopened several beds through the HSE. We have had a debate on the matter in the House. Senator Hopkins has raised this matter as well. I am happy to have the Minister come to the House, but perhaps Senator Boyhan could put in a request for a Commencement matter tomorrow to get his issue resolved.
Senator Humphreys raised the matter of affordable housing. I concur with his views completely. There is need to see the scheme progress. I know the Minister is committed to it. To be fair to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Murphy, and the Minister of State, Deputy English, they are working on the scheme. There is a need for affordable housing. Airbnb is producing a knock-on effect. I share the views of Senator Humphreys and I would be happy to have a debate on the matter in the new year on housing and Airbnb.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the #mynameis protest. I agree with the Senator on this much in that we all need to see the attitude change towards homelessness in terms of the language used. These people are citizens of our State. They are men and women who, for whatever reason, are unable to provide for themselves or secure accommodation. There is an obligation and responsibility on each of us to work to ensure that no person is left homeless, put out on the street or left sleeping rough. This requires a co-ordinated effort with different interactions between different agencies. Through the Minister, the Department and Rebuilding Ireland a complete package is available. We want to see progress made in this area.
Senator Burke raised the issue of the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015. In particular, he raised the issue relating to section 5 and local authority members. We will debate the matter when the Bill comes before the House. The classification of county councillors in the same vein as Oireachtas Members, special advisors, chairpersons or chief executives of public bodies and those on remuneration at deputy secretary level in the public sector is somewhat mystifying. The people who serve local authorities work part-time and do not have the same resources or supports that we and others have. While we all want to see transparency, high standards and maintenance of the level of obligations, I believe that placing some local authority members in this category is a wrong move. We will have that debate in the House. I do not have an answer as to when the Bill will be brought back.
Senator Gallagher raised the important issue of school secretaries. He is right to say they are one of the most important points of contact and engagement in the school. I would be happy to have a debate on the matter in the new year.
Senator Lombard raised the issue of seaweed in Bantry Bay and the Minister granting the licence. There is a dispute on the matter of harvesting that relates to the impact on kelp stock. BioAtlantis was awarded the contract. The issue has been coming up in France and Norway since the 1970s. I imagine the Minister of State, Deputy English, would welcome the debate and I would be happy to arrange it for the new year.
I join Senator Craughwell in commending those in the school in Kinsale on their work and the approach they take. Senator Craughwell also raised the issue of housing. There is an obligation and a duty on our banks to work with all of us to provide mortgages and loans to keep people in their homes. That is one piece of the jigsaw that needs to be further strengthened and enhanced, and I agree with Senator Craughwell in that regard.
Senators Feighan, Ó Ríordáin and Reilly, made reference the issue of the state of Alabama and race, as you did, a Chathaoirligh, in your ruling. I congratulate the new Alabama Senator, Doug Jones, on his victory and wish him well in his term in the US Senate. Whatever our viewpoints on the issue that was discussed and adjudicated, to be fair, Senator Ó Ríordáin withdrew his remarks. That was the right thing to do. The issue that dogged that campaign is one that we can never condone or support. Irrespective of our political viewpoints, we can say that the state of Alabama stood up for honesty and decency this morning. That is evident in the result.
Senator Feighan also raised the issue of the "Prime Time" programme. Again, I would be happy to have a debate about the issues of crime and bail in the new year.
Senator Ó Ríordáin made reference to the issues of GP care and primary care. This is a central plank of the Sláintecare report and Government policy. I hope no member of the GP profession would unravel the free GP care that has been put in place. We will have that debate in the new year.
Senator Jennifer Murnane-O'Connor raised the important issue of transport equality for disabled people. I fully concur with the Senator on the matter. It beggars belief that, whether in public or private transport, there are issues around disabled access for people who require specialised entrances or vehicles. It is important to have that debate in the new year and I would be happy to do that.
Senator Reilly also made reference to the issue of housing in Lusk. I welcome the opening of the development today by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Murphy. The Senator also raised an issue around the new hospital in Donabate and traffic. Perhaps he might get a response more quickly through a Commencement matter. In any event, the issue is important to raise.
Senator Norris commented on the property tax. The debate is one that I very much welcome. As I said yesterday, it is important to welcome the Luas and the joined-up approach being taken in Dublin now. The issue of property tax will not go away. I know many Members have different viewpoints on the matter but we will have that debate on it in the new year.
I am not familiar with the remarks of Senator Leyden regarding the issue of the licence for the area he referenced in Roscommon. It is important to have clarity and for the matter to be resolved. I am sure he could arrange that by means of interaction with the Minister rather than a debate in the House.
Senator Mulherin raised the issue of Amnesty International and the rules of the Standards in Public Office Commission. There has been controversy around Part IV of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended. The matter is being investigated. There is an onus on everyone to fulfil their obligations and comply with the rules of the State. In the case of SIPO, there is a duty on all of us to uphold the law and provide for transparency. That matter will not go away given that there is concern about the legislation, as written and enacted.