Tuesday, 11 June 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the 18 Members for their contributions to the Order of Business. I join with all colleagues in congratulating our colleague, Senator Grace O'Sullivan, on her election to the European Parliament. We wish her well and look forward to the second by-election on the agricultural panel in Seanad Éireann. I also congratulate all Members elected to the European Parliament and wish them well in their term of office. I welcome our colleague and friend, Michael Mullins, and the friends of Senator Hopkins to the Public Gallery.
I also join with Members in raising the issue of Spinraza and congratulate everyone involved. I pay tribute to the Minister for, as Senator Noone noted, his perseverance and willingness to continue the campaign. I welcome the decision today.
Senator Horkan raised the remarks today of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. In the context of the conversation, the Minister and the Government note the remarks and articulation by Professor Coffey and other members of the council. I remind Senator Horkan that it was the previous Government that set up the council in order to have an open and frank dialogue and to shine a light on our economic policy. I challenge Senator Horkan to look at the proposals by his own party colleagues and front bench and every single promise made by Fianna Fáil in the run up to the next general election - whenever that is - that, along with those of Sinn Féin, would probably bankrupt the country. Let us be clear. We are a small open economy and we are at risk. To to be fair, the Minister recognises that the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has a role to play. He takes its advice. Our surplus is 0.2%, we have balanced the books and put aside a rainy day fund, unemployment is down to 4.6% or below, and we are investing 25% more in infrastructure. The Government has committed to reducing our debt burden. We are creating more jobs than ever before. However, I accept the point that there needs to be prudence. This requires prudence on the part of everybody in politics so that they do not grandstand with the electorate and promise everything and we have an honest debate about what we can and cannot achieve. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House. The summer economic statement will be put before the House before we conclude for the summer recess. I take Senator Horkan's points regarding that.
Many of us share the Senator's concern that the ban on smoky coal should have been introduced a long time ago but as he knows, the ban is of benefit to the country in terms of health, health outcomes, fresh air and breathing. However, we live in a litigious society and there is the threat of litigation. As the Taoiseach said in the Dáil today, that is part of the reason but I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter.
Senators Gavan and Bacik referred to tomorrow night's Private Members' business. The Minister has articulated a view that we need to be careful in what we do to ensure fairness around tips for workers and that there is transparency in that matter. Tips are for workers. The Minister will bring forward a payment of wages Bill in due course. We will have that debate tomorrow night and I look forward to the Minister coming to the House for it.
Senator Gavan spoke about the HAP scheme. Again, rather than delaying the House in giving a huge amount of time to the matter, I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House for a debate. Alternatively, Senator Gavan might be best served by raising the issue as a Commencement matter.
Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell raised the issue of healthcare assistants. She spoke about the need to fill vacant positions and tackle the critical skills shortage that exists.She also raised the issue of being able to age with dignity and care. We concur and agree with all of these points. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has always said it is not about downsizing; it is about right sizing. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House and have a debate on the matter in due course.
Senator Norris raised the issue of litter on the north side. I do not necessarily agree with the Senator. The issue has also to do with a cultural attitude to littering. It is not about having plastic bags. It is about getting the mind right regarding litter.
We all share the Senator's concern about the stabbing on O'Connell Street this morning. Government has reopened Garda stations. We have increased investment in An Garda Síochána. As Senator Norris may have seen from the latest report by the Garda Commissioner in the allocation of the new recruits predominately to the north side of Dublin and to Drogheda, the Government is committed to ensuring that there is adequate policing in the areas to which the Senator refers.
Senator Noone also raised the important issue of bottle banks being removed. The point the Senator makes is that in the context of those on private property, but also on public property, we need to find alternatives to give people an option to recycle and to be able to become, as I say, culturally in tune with what is the right thing to do. I commend the Senator for that suggestion. I thank her also for raising the issue of the European Union being able to negotiate on the issue of our drugs basket.
Senators Davitt and Leyden raised the issue of the Parole Board. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, is acutely aware of the pain and trauma suffered by victims of crime. The Minister takes great care in reviewing the recommendations of the Parole Board. There is, as the Senators will be aware, a Bill imminent. The Minister is working on that Bill. It will be before the House as soon as it is ready. The Minister is extensively engaging with others on that particular matter.
Senator Boyhan raised the important matter of sewage in Dublin Bay. It is one to which a response needs to be activated quickly. We saw the benefit of Irish Water where Cork Harbour is now clean and where we have seen the elimination of dumping of raw sewage into the harbour. Dublin Bay will benefit from similar activity by Irish Water in tandem with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
Both Senators O'Mahony and Paddy Burke raised the issue of the payment by the redress board to an individual in receipt of a social welfare payment. Both Members make valid points regarding the issue. It is one for which I do not have an answer. It is one with which I do not necessarily agree. Senators O'Mahony and Paddy Burke might be best served by putting a Commencement matter before the House.
Senators Horkan and Bacik raised in a roundabout way similar issues about women's health and men's health. I would be happy to have them debated in due course.
I join with Senator Richmond in congratulating the Emerald Warriors on the successful hosting of the Union Cup. It was a good weekend of inclusivity for men's and women's rugby in Dublin. I congratulate all involved on what was a wonderful show-casing of Ireland, and as Senator Richmond rightly said, of the voluntary effort by the Emerald Warriors' committee. I commend all involved. I thank Senator Richmond, who is wearing the tie this afternoon in the House, for his support of, and representation of the Oireachtas at, the event at the weekend. I would be happy to have the Minister, Deputy Ross, or the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, come to the House to have a debate on inclusivity in sport. It is something that we need to see debated, but also we need to encourage men and women in sport to be more inclusive in attitude.