Thursday, 19 December 2002
Order of Business.
As this is the last meeting before the Christmas recess I extend seasonal greetings to all Members and the staff of the House. I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach, the Leader, the Deputy Leader, Government Whip and the leaders and whips of the other groups and all Senators for their assistance and co-operation. I particularly thank Deirdre, the Clerk of the Seanad, Jody, the Clerk Assistant, and all the staff for their assistance and courtesy. I wish everyone a relaxed and peaceful Christmas.
I admire the tenacity of those raising matters on the Adjournment. They are powerful altogether.
I thank the Cathaoirleach for his good wishes to all of us in the House and I know other Members will say the same. I thank him for the way he has done his business since we came back fully in October. I extend those good wishes to Deirdre Lane and Jody Blake. I thank them and the other Seanad staff members.
I also thank the leaders and representatives of the various groups for the way in which we can discuss matters. I accept that the House is political and people are entitled to vote and put down amendments – that is understandable – but there is another layer of activity which is conducted in a spirit of co-operation. I also thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the other Acting Chairmen who have conducted the business of this House with great aplomb during this term. I thank the Superintendent and the Captain of the Guard for the manner in which they have attended to the business of the House. They keep –"stern" would be the wrong word – a very good watch upon us all to ensure we do not step out of line, in a certain sense, too often.
I understand the head messenger, Mr. John McCabe, is retiring today. He has long been a friend of both Houses and today this House pays tribute to him. He has given very valued public service in the Houses of the Oireachtas and we all regard him with great affection. He is friendly and open in temperament and very considerate to visitors. I am sure there will be a lively party to celebrate his retirement.
I thank all Members of the House for their friendship and courtesy to each other regardless of political affiliation. When I became Leader of the House, I did not know very much about the job—
I thank the Senator. I appreciate the toing and froing we have among ourselves. Above all, I appreciate the courtesy shown by all. Courtesy is a very important characteristic which enables daily life to proceed in a much more interesting and definite way.
I thank the Deputy Leader, Senator Dardis. He and I have lots of mutterings during business in the mornings and I appreciate his sound advice. I thank all the staff who serve the House for their courtesy. I am reminded by the Deputy Leader to mention the members of the Press Gallery for their diligent efforts. If he had written it out, I could have pretended that I had not forgotten. I hope we arrange to meet them in the new year. I wish everyone a happy Christmas with their families and hope everyone will savour his or her family life in whatever form it takes and that the peace of Christmas will descend on us all.
The Order of Business is No.1, Immigration Bill, 2002 – Committee Stage (resumed), with the debate to be interrupted no later than 12.45 p.m. I draw the attention of the House to No. 6, motion No. 22, which it is proposed should be taken without debate. The matter on special procedure is to be dealt with at 12.50 p.m.
On a serious matter, would it be possible, even at this late stage, for the Leader to ask a Minister to come to the House between now and 1.30 p.m. to discuss the very serious situation pertaining to industrial policy following the breakdown of the partnership talks? It is now quite clear that the talks are a dead duck. It is a new situation where claims will be made on a daily basis to employers and Government. We are already seeing that in the newspapers this morning. It would be useful for the House to have a short debate led by a Minister to find out what is the current industrial relations policy of the Government. This process has been under way for the past 15 or 16 years. We have all been beneficiaries of it. If the free-for-all bargaining which now applies will continue, what are the implications for the economy going forward?
On a less serious matter, on behalf of the Fine Gael group I wish you, Sir, and your staff a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. I thank you, the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant, and the staff in your own office for the efficient way in which you all do your business. You make us all feel so welcome in this House.
I was reminded that the Christmas spirit is really breaking out when I read in the newspapers this morning that even Dr. Paisley is defending the integrity of the virgin birth, which I thought I would never see at Christmas time. Obviously Christmas is breaking out in many different ways.
I join with the Leader in wishing a happy Christmas to all Members of the House on all sides. We have had a very eventful few months. It has been more eventful for some than for others, but we are certainly delighted to be here and to be contributing to the legislative process, and also to be working with other colleagues on both sides progressing many issues.
I fully endorse the Leader's views about John McCabe whom I have known since I came to this House seven years ago. I wish him every happiness in his retirement. The first person here in the morning is John McCabe and the advice that one gets from him is probably the most sensible political advice one would get from anyone in this House. We will certainly miss him. I would like to pay tribute to him on behalf of our group this morning.
I am pleased that the Leader took the time to mention the contribution of John McCabe to the House. He is a good example of a person who is a cog in a wheel which keeps that wheel moving all the time. I have always enjoyed his good humour, pleasantness, general attitude and caring way towards people. He had to cope with personal tragedy in his own life not too many years ago and he still handled his job so well at that time. I want to record our appreciation of the work that he and his colleagues do to make our lives easier. Although he may be retiring, I have promised him that he, like every other public servant, will receive – I am sure Senator Ross will be delighted to hear this – a back-money envelope for benchmarking which is due to him and which will be paid to him in due course in his retirement. I told him he should think of us all on that night. Like all the rest of us, Senator Ross will also receive a envelope on the same day.
While I am at it, I congratulate all those decent Members of both Houses who have had the guts to do what trade unions have to do all the time, that is, defend properly awarded pay increases such as benchmarking for politicians. Nobody is overpaid in those circumstances and we all have a duty to do that.
I join my colleagues in wishing a happy Christmas to all the Members of this House and the other House, and in particular to the staff of the House. I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, and the Leas-Chathaoirleach and thank, in a very particular way, the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant and the staff in the overworked and under-resourced Seanad office. They manage to get an extraordinary amount of work done and at very short notice even overcome – people just take it for granted – the difficulty of getting amendments to Bills painstakingly correct. The number of errors that I have ever seen over the course of a year here is so minute that it becomes a matter of note. Nobody gives proper recognition to the difficulties involved in taking a few badly scribbled notes on a page or words over a phone and translating those into properly prepared and presented amendments to legislation. I would like to extend my appreciation to Deirdre and Jody on those issues. It is important that these things are done correctly because it means less trouble for everybody else.
A story in this morning's newspapers reflects the lowest level of mean-spirited, narrow-minded bureaucracy. Deputy Stanton, the Fine Gael spokesperson on education and science, has brought to our attention the fact that junior certificates were not issued to almost 1,000 students because they had not sent in the required €66. The Leader worked in the Department of Education and Science in the past and I would like to hear how much it costs the taxpayer to keep account of the fact that 1,000 students have not paid their €66. What message is sent out if we do not view education as an investment in the future rather than something that has to be bought by young people? It is a small matter, but it is appalling and reflects an extraordinary attitude. I do not know anybody who would support this terrible approach. The decision should be reversed and a very strong message should be sent that this kind of bureaucracy is not the way forward and has no place in modern Ireland.
To reiterate some of the points by Senator Brian Hayes, the breakdown of national pay negotiations will leads to a re-run of a situation where tough people on all sides will be brought to book. We will sit in the House in six or seven months looking at serious industrial problems in various places and we will have about as much influence or power to do anything about it as we would if we were living offshore. Things will get out of control very quickly.
I have never seen anything like the kind of intransigence I have encountered on these issues. People seem to become attached to claims. Everyone knows what happened to a union that made a famous 30% pay claim some time ago. People became wedded to an objective, for whatever reason, and rationality went out the window. We are going to see this sort of situation re-run 1,000 times over the next year or so. It is a shame and it reflects badly upon us. I am also part of the problem.
There are certain signals one gets in life which convince one that one is on the right track. That was one occasion on which I believed I was on that track. I ask that all parties, particularly those on the business and employers' side, to take a national view of issues rather than just looking out for their own interests. All it takes is for everybody to look at the complete picture rather than just at what they want for themselves. That would lead to a resolution.
On a serious note, there is widespread coverage in this morning's newspapers of a leaked document – apparently an internal Government briefing on the Northern Ireland situation. Without going into detail, it apparently says, among other things, that the IRA is still recruiting new members in Northern Ireland. I do not wish to make an unrealistic demand for a debate on this as I know the House is adjourning for Christmas. However, it would be good if the Leader was to convey to the Government my concern – I am sure it is shared by all Members – at the idea that a political party that is represented in these Houses still has links with a paramilitary organisation which, far from becoming dormant, is involved in active recruitment. If that is the Government's understanding of what is happening in Northern Ireland, the situation is a good deal more serious than any of us thought. I ask the Leader to convey our concerns to the Government and ask for clarification.
It is more than 21 years since I was first elected to the Seanad and this is probably one of the few occasions on which I have been present for the last sitting before Christmas. I tended to abscond from the House a good deal earlier than most Members.
I heard that, Senator, but I have heard worse from that side of the House. It is also the first time I have spoken on such an occasion in a leadership position. I join my colleagues in paying tribute to the staff of the House, whom I annoy with late amendments and a capacity to delay proceedings. They have an incredible spirit of public service, a concept one should never dismiss. The staff who work in this House have a sense of public service in terms of their willingness to be flexible and helpful. I have never heard anybody, when I asked for something, say: "No, I cannot do that, it is not my job." I have always found the staff helpful. They will say: "I do not know, but I can tell you who does" and so forth, which is entirely different.
On my own behalf and that of my colleagues in the Labour Party, I wish everybody in the House a happy, peaceful and enjoyable Christmas. As my enjoyment of Christmas started spectacularly last night—
—I am probably not as eloquent as I would otherwise be. In particular, I pay tribute to Mr. John McCabe. I am here so long that I have been in the Oireachtas for much of John's career. He epitomises a spirit of helpfulness and genuine good humour. On numerous occasions when the committee rooms were located in Kildare House, he rescued me from heading in the wrong direction to a committee meeting. He always knew where every committee meeting was being held and what the business was.
Yes. Kildare House was a warren of confusing corridors. One could not hope to meet a more helpful person or a better model of public service. I wish him a long and happy retirement and hope he is as well rewarded as a consequence of Senator O'Toole's efforts as the Senator claims he will be.
I wish you, a Chathaoirligh, a happy Christmas. I hope we have a long and peaceful Christmas holiday and that, when we meet again on 29 January, we will be in refreshed condition.
I join other Members in wishing you, a Chathaoirligh, Members and staff all the compliments of the season. I particularly thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for the way you have conducted the affairs of the House during the session. The House has been run extremely smoothly for which the Cathaoirleach and Leas-Chathaoirleach can take great credit.
I join in paying tribute to the staff in the Seanad Office, the Clerk and Clerk Assistant for their work. On many occasions I have mentioned how under-resourced they are. The amount of work they do is not fully appreciated, particularly when the House sits late into the night on Committee Stage of Bills when they have to deal with hosts of amendments. When I sat on the Opposition benches and sought to table amendments, they were always helpful with their advice and willing to help in drafting amendments.
I also thank the Superintendent, the Captain of the Guard and the staff of the House who look after us so well. I acknowledge in particular the contribution Mr. John McCabe has made and wish him well in his retirement. When our offices were located across the road in Kildare House, he was always there. It is perhaps not widely appreciated that there were occasions when matters were quite difficult over there. Committee meetings and hearings took place which were rather fraught and generated much activity outside. John was always calm in the storm and looked after everybody. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. I hope he will be very happy in his retirement. I also wish to thank the press and others who report the proceedings of the House.
I apologise for sniping at Senator Ryan. This would be a far less interesting place if he was absent.
It would have been preferable if the sensitive document dealing with aspects of the Northern Ireland talks which appeared in this morning's newspapers had not become public. It would be wrong, however, to overestimate its contents, although it contained some hard truths. According to the newspapers, it was inadvertently left behind, which suggests a serious error on somebody's part.
I would not be one of those who are enthusiastic about the history of the republican movement, but the document does state progress has been made. It also states there are people who have not experienced war and that they might take a very different view if matters are not handled with due care and sensitivity. I hope that, in the context of the season, everyone will take a sanguine look at the contents of the document and not overreact to it.
I fully endorse the call by the leader of the Fine Gael group for the presence of a Minister in the House to explain exactly what is the Government's position in response to the breakdown in the partnership talks. It is a tragedy that they have broken down as we are watching the dismantlement of one of the cornerstones of the Celtic tiger. Extrapolating from what was said by Senator O'Toole, president of congress, the talks appear to have irretrievably broken down. This was also evident from the verbal joust on radio yesterday between the Senator and Turlough O'Sullivan of IBEC. It is obvious that we are reaping the harvest of Government profligacy in the run-up to the last general election.
One group is not represented, either in collective bargaining or on an individual basis – immigrant workers. I met three Romanians on their return from working in the construction industry in Amsterdam airport the other day. I learned that they were earning €6 per hour for hard manual labour for one of the largest construction companies in this country. This is ruthless exploitation of people who come here on valid work permits and visas and who are totally unrepresented. We need an urgent debate to see what can be done to give some kind of cothrom na Féinne or equity to the people concerned who are here at the invitation of employers but being shamelessly exploited.
In view of the fact that the partnership talks have taken place on the basis of an invitation from the Taoiseach, I fully endorse the comments and invitation of the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party that the Taoiseach must get involved to bring sanity and rationale and get the participants talking once more.
I endorse all that has been said so far, particularly in regard to Mr. John McCabe. Those of us who used the offices located in Kildare House came to know John particularly well. We missed seeing him as often when we moved over here, although he spends much of his time around this part of Leinster House. The greatest tribute that could be paid to him is that he will be talked about for long after he is gone. The stories about him are legion. As was remarked, he attended various committee meetings and kept us all very much in line. He is well known for his kindness. My children got great pleasure from being shown how to work the elevator by him when on a visit here. He is that sort of man. I heard that during one committee meeting a visitor was rebuked by him for taking off his jacket. The man protested that there were others with their jackets off, to which John retorted that they were Members. He had a great awareness of the respect that should be shown to Members of the Oireachtas. I wish him well, particularly as he has endured his own personal trauma. The way he dealt with that trauma was an example to us all.
Will the Leader convey the thanks of this House and the wider public to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, in turn, to Ambassador Richard Ryan and the diplomatic staff at the United Nations for the outstanding job Ireland has done during its membership of the Security Council, which comes to an end on 31 December? When Ireland joined the Security Council, it received one of the highest ever votes which is an indication of the standing in which this country is held worldwide. Most of those votes came from African and other Third World countries. During its two year membership, Ireland responded to the main priorities those countries felt should be highlighted at the Security Council.
This year, Ambassador Ryan, through his chairmanship of the Angola committee, presided over the end of what was the most savage and long-lasting civil wars in that country's history. Through our overseas aid in Africa we have highlighted human rights issues and, in more recent times, the Minister for Foreign Affairs earned great kudos for the manner in which he led, along with other smaller, non-aligned countries, the move to ensure that the UN has an enhanced role in terms of the Iraqi question.
When those factors are taken into account, Ireland's role has been considerably improved and enhanced internationally. In addition, we have contributed to enhancing the role of the United Nations to the point where the major remaining superpower is still deferring to the United Nations. I pray to God it continues to do so.
Ireland, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Brian Cowen, Ambassador Ryan and all the diplomatic staff involved in our contribution to the Security Council can hold their heads high. We can be extremely proud of our representatives and it is yet another example of the famous line by Robert Emmet: "Let my epitaph be written when we take our place among the nations of the earth". We have now done so. I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me make that point. I hope the Leader will convey to the Minister the grateful thanks of this nation for the outstanding contribution of our diplomatic staff.
John did relate many good stories about Dublin to me and I shall certainly miss those. However, I am sure he will go on telling them.
I endorse the general compliments being given, but I would like to emphasise two of my own. First, you, Sir, have done a very good job in your first term in office in this House and I thank you for your courtesy.
She and I were both members of the teaching profession and she, particularly in terms of her courtesy, has added greatly to the pleasures of participating in the House. I am not surprised she referred to that because if anybody in this House exemplifies courtesy and good humour, it is the Leader. We are very lucky to have her.
I want to briefly mention an issue I raised yesterday and on previous occasions which we may consider in the next term, that is, the question of licences, planning, etc. and the disgraceful behaviour of the District Courts. I had a cup of coffee with my colleague, Senator Ross, yesterday and he reminded me of something I was horrified to learn. Do Members know that judges do not have to make a declaration of interest? It is about time they did because judges should not be above the law. They should be required to make a full declaration of any interests they have before they sit in judgment of other people. I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss that.
Another serious matter raised by Members is the document that was mislaid. The contents of that document confirm things most of us already knew. It is time it was firmly stated that Sinn Féin-IRA clearly has a gun to the Government's head. Members of Sinn Féin-IRA should be told to leave their weapons at the door, as their predecessors left theirs at the doors of this building many years ago.
I was surprised to hear Senator Brian Hayes establishing his credentials as an amateur theologian and even more surprised to learn that he did not realise that the Reverend Ian Paisley endorses the virgin birth. Of course he does, he is a fundamentalist. It would not surprise me if the Rev. Ian Paisley thought he arrived on this planet by the same mechanism.
I endorse what Senator O'Toole said about the salaries of Members; we were seriously underpaid for a long time. I cynically laugh when I hear Members who are green in every sense of the word – republican, environmental and newly elected – bursting to get on the radio to denounce these pay rises. In my experience, those people would be among the first to go on the radio and denounce the pay rise and then rub their hands with glee and, to use Senator Ross's wonderful word, "trouser" it as quickly as they can.
We should have a debate on health in the new year. I strongly support the Minister for Health and Children, he has done a good job. I deprecate the attacks he is currently suffering. I heard the debate on the radio this morning and thought the representatives of Parents for Justice were pretty strident and shrill in what they said. Deputy Martin is a caring Minister and the accusations made against him are wrong.
I am getting tired of all these tribunals of compensation. People are now appealing the awards they have "trousered", or "skirted", and are looking for more from the courts. I have sympathy for the tragic circumstances involved, but the public purse is finite. Money awarded comes from the taxpayer and is taken from other projects and this ought to be remembered. It is not an abstract thing where people can extract as much money as possible. The resources are finite and should be judiciously apportioned in the interests of all our citizens.
I endorse the tributes that have been paid to the staff and the usher, John McCabe. At this time of extending seasonal greetings, we should be conscious of the work that will be done over the Christmas period by our emergency services, including members of the Garda and the Defence Forces. We should acknowledge the people who are serving on UN missions overseas and separated from their families. I ask the Leader to consider writing to the Garda Commissioner and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces acknowledging that and extending our good wishes to them.
An agency was set up in May 2000 to tackle the problem of homelessness. What has happened with the implementation of the homeless strategy? At the time, it was promised that capital spending would be doubled between 2001 and 2005, but because of recent cutbacks this has not materialised. It is important that we have a debate on this as early as possible in the new term. A number of my colleagues from the midlands were in Dublin last night and were appalled at the number of people sleeping rough on the streets near this House.
I join in the tributes to you, a Chathaoirligh, and the staff, and particularly to John McCabe who played a great role in the committee system when it was in Kildare House where circumstances were more difficult than they are now.
I support Senator O'Toole's comments on students who did not receive their junior certificates. If 906 students did not get certificates in 2001, I wonder how many students did not get them in other years. There must be hundreds of certificates gathering dust in the Department of Education and Science. It is an important certificate that should be given to students. I hope we will have an opportunity in the new year to discuss this issue and to find out how many more students have not received their junior certificates.
I endorse what previous speakers said about having a debate on the partnership talks. That would give Senator O'Toole an opportunity to explain to us how he voted one way on the budget in here but said something different on television. That would be interesting.
That would give this House a role in those partnership talks which have broken down.
I would also like to endorse what everybody said about John McCabe. He deserves his benchmarking. Nobody in this House or in my career in the financial world has given me better financial advice over a long period than John McCabe. The day Eircom was floated, he was the first person to say to me that he was going to sell his shares that day. All of us could have taken advice from him on that. He will be sorely missed. I do not know whether everyone knows there will be a party for him in the main restaurant tomorrow at 5 p.m. I am sure he would like to invite everybody to it.
I would like to endorse all the words of thanks to everybody, which I will not repeat. I would like to say a special word of thanks to Senator White who sent me chocolates during and after the election campaign. I also got some Christmas chocolates from her in the past few weeks. I am grateful to her for them and I hope all other Members of the House will enjoy those chocolates as well in the Christmas period. It is unprecedented in this House to receive such great generosity from our colleagues. While I will not be able to reciprocate that great honour to the Senator, I wish to thank her for it. I hope all Members of Fine Gael have been the beneficiaries of that same generosity.
I would also like to thank Senator MacSharry for sending me a calendar. I will have to face seeing his picture in January, February, March, April, May, June, July and throughout the rest of the year.
I also wish to thank all Members of the House, the Clerk, Assistant Clerk, the Leader of the House, you, a Chathaoirligh, and everybody else for their work during the year.
In the context of extending Christmas greetings to you, a Chathaoirligh, the Leader of the House, Members and the staff, I hope we will savour the peace which was graphically illustrated in a CSO release yesterday, which shows that this country has the lowest level of industrial disputes, with the exception of one year in the late 1980s. I find it incomprehensible that one of the reasons the talks have broken down is because of inadequate guarantees of industrial peace. We have it now and I hope we will have it next year.
I understand that the trade unions are concerned about union recognition. I am not sure that militant trade unionism in semi-State bodies and a militant campaign is the best way to achieve that or that there would be many semi-State bodies left at the end of such a process. I hope the season of peace and goodwill will be taken by everybody concerned to think over the position and to reflect on whether we really want to abandon what has been one of the pillars of our prosperity.
I wholeheartedly endorse what one of my colleagues said about the Security Council and the good work done by the Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs in that regard. Leaks are always regrettable and sometimes they have had a serious impact. However, in the scale of North-South bouquets, "dysfunctional" registers at a fairly low level.
I wish to extend seasons greetings to you, a Chathaoirligh, all the staff, the Leader of the House and all Members. As a new Member to the House, I appreciate all the help that has been forthcoming from everybody. It is very much appreciated. I also extend my good wishes to John McCabe.
I want to raise an issue of serious concern which has been raised in the House several times and on which we are not getting very far. It concerns the future of Shanganagh open centre for juveniles, specifically the future of the prison officers who have worked there for many years. The issue needs to be examined again in value for money terms. To consider closing down such a centre and spending money on a centre somewhere else would not represent good value for money for the taxpayer. We should invest the money in Shanganagh to provide the security measures about which the Minister appears so concerned and develop it into suitable accommodation. Will the Leader ask the Minister to reconsider this and take account of the concerns of the prison officers working in the centre?
I have raised twice before the need for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to brief the House on the Good Friday Agreement, the release of prisoners, the funding that some prisoner groups receive and whether it is being used appropriately. In the light of the recently leaked document, it would be appropriate to have a debate early in the new year on these issues. The comments in newspaper articles today about increased collusion between paramilitary splinter groups are of great concern and ones we cannot afford to ignore. A debate on these issues early in the new year would be appropriate.
The Government must be the most anti-youth Administration since the foundation of the State, given the increased university registration fees, the proposed reinroduction of third level fees, the cutting back of children's allowance, the delaying of schools building projects and the abolition of the first-time buyer's grant. Will the Leader ensure that, in the light of the Immigration Bill being discussed in the House, just as the Minister will not insist on Santa Claus having the correct papers to enter the country on Christmas Day, the Government will not do anything to dampen the Christmas spirit for children and young people?
I endorse the requests of Senators O'Toole and Kitt regarding the denial to 906 students of their junior certificates. Will the Leader impress upon the Minister the fact that, for many of the students concerned, this would be the only certification available to them? They are now officially classed as failures among their peer group. Will the Leader ask the Minister to forward the certificates to the management of the schools in which the students sat their examinations in order that the matter can be decided at local level? The certificates mean so much to the students, even if it is only the junior certificate, because they represent their attainments in school. What is probably a great achievement for many has been denied to them. Will the Leader impress upon the Minister the importance of granting them their certificates?
Before I call the Leader, I join in the good wishes to Mr. John McCabe. As Members said, John will be missed, not only for the efficient way he managed his own area but also for his personality and character. His cheerful nature and Dublin wit and comments most certainly will be missed by his many friends in Leinster House. I wish him and his wife, Patty, a long, healthy and happy retirement.
Senator Brian Hayes, the leader of the Fine Gael group in the House, raised the matter of the partnership talks which he called a dead duck and asked if a Minister would come to the House to debate the matter. I do not regard them as a dead duck and hope that, over the dead turkey at Christmas—
—people will reflect on and think about a resumption. I doubt greatly that I would find a Minister today to attend a debate in the House on the partnership talks. If we are realistic, we will know this quite well. They have lives like the rest of us. While I take the Senator's point that he wants a Minister to attend, I do not know where I would find one, especially an appropriate one.
I will not repeat all the Christmas wishes, because it would become boring. I note that every Member who contributed referred to John McCabe.
Senator O'Toole, who deals with such matters in one of his places of employment, defended proper pay arrangements and benchmarking. I do not doubt that the Senator will be having meetings on the side and engaging in clandestine arrangements during the Christmas period. I remember such meetings and arrangements from long ago and they always worked well.
The refusal to issue junior certificates, a matter to which Senators O'Toole, Kitt and Ulick Burke referred, is the most mean-spirited gesture I have heard of in many years. It was wrong to deliberately withhold the script of paper that confirms a child has passed particular subjects. I will speak directly to the Department of Education and Science today to find out its policy on this.
Senators Ryan, Dardis and Norris referred to the leaked document on Northern Ireland and voiced their concerns on the matter. We will convey the concern of this House to the relevant Minister. Senators Ryan and O'Toole rightly stated that the public service is very underrated and is of fine value to the country.
Senator Higgins stated that he wants a Minister to come before the House today to make a statement on the pay negotiations. He also raised the issue of the remuneration, which seems to be quite low, of the Romanians he met. That is a matter for the Tánaiste who is very keen to come to the House.
Senators Mooney and Mansergh mentioned how the Minister and the public servants acquitted themselves in a most handsome manner during the period of our membership of the Security Council. This reflected well on our country and we will convey his remarks to the Minister.
I thank Senator Norris for his good wishes. The Senator spoke about licensing matters and called for a debate on health.
Senator Minihan paid tribute to the people who work in the emergency services, particularly those who serve overseas and are far from home over the Christmas period. He asked if a message could go to the Garda Commissioner and the Army Chief of Staff.
Senator Bannon mentioned the homeless strategy. Homelessness is a very acute matter and I hope we will be able to discuss it in the new year.
Senator Ross displayed nice manners in thanking Senator White for her sweet wishes.
Senator Mansergh clearly outlined his disquiet and anger that there appears to be a stand-off concerning arrangements which have been in place since 1987, which have been so valuable to this country and which contributed strongly to our economic growth. I share his hope that the parties will come together again.
Senator Terry referred to Shanganagh. Although she was here last night during the course of the debate on the Bill, she may have not had the opportunity to talk to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I will see what can be done about of her wishes in that regard.
Senator Browne is keen to hear more about the release of prisoners and the funding of some prisoner groups under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. We will endeavour to have the position clarified for him.
There have been no cutbacks in children's allowance.