Friday, 1 July 2005
Order of Business (Resumed).
Senator Brian Hayes raised the matter of 14 year old Brian Rossiter, who died in Clonmel. He wondered why the Minister, when speaking on an amendment to the 1924 Act in this House, did not say he was setting up a committee or review group on the matter. I expect he considered he was dealing with the Bill and did not want to sidetrack. I do not know because I was not in the House at the time. The Senator made a general point about Ministers making announcements here or in the other House. Perhaps there is too much of a tendency to make announcements outside both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Houses of the Oireachtas is the place to make important announcements.
I will ensure that message is passed on. We have been fortunate that most Ministers who have attended here took amendments in this House. There was evidence of this at the beginning of today's business when it was reported that the Dáil has accepted amendments made to Bills in the Seanad. We have been very lucky. While it is part of their duty, Ministers have been prompt in coming to this House to debate legislation and we have found them to be entirely courteous and helpful.
Senator O'Toole referred to the recognition of foreign trained doctors. This is linked to the motion he has tabled, about which Senator Henry has often spoken, to increase the intake of students into the schools of medicine here. It will take these students six or seven years to qualify. I would consider putting my name to that motion.
Senator McDowell referred to Brian Rossiter. The attention is on Africa this weekend and on the call, "making poverty history". I understand the Taoiseach will make a definitive statement on the matter at the UN meeting in September.
Senator Mansergh said there should always be an expeditious and immediate investigation into any death in Garda custody. He referred to the ESRI and the red hot economy. I smiled this morning because usually George Lee is so lugubrious when talking about financial matters. Even when there was a good news story, he was still lugubrious this morning, but perhaps that is his manner.
Economists are always gloomy; they like to be gloomy. The news from the ESRI this morning was very good. Senator Mansergh referred to President Barroso's statement yesterday that there is nothing more social than employment. If one is earning a living, many things are possible.
Senator Finucane referred to ESB costs and the fact that the PSO should be deleted from bills. He said that the only alternative energy appears to be wind energy, which sometimes generates lots of hot air and not much else, and that there are other alternative energy sources. He asked that the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dempsey, come here in the autumn to debate the matter.
Senator Glynn referred to the Health and Social Care Professionals Bill, people who masquerade as architects and alternative medicine. He said that legislation is required for the recognition of professionalism in various fields. I do not know if this can be composite legislation because the architects are currently the subject of debate. However, it is a fair point.
Senator Norris referred to the House being bypassed, but I do not think so. He also referred to Zimbabwe and the fact that Roy Bennett and his wife have been released, about which we are pleased. He asked if we could debate the green card legislation because he is not satisfied with what he is reading about it.
Senator Mooney referred to the inspirational visit yesterday of President Barroso to the Mansion House. Everyone agreed that he acquitted himself well and that he gave inspiration to those who attended. Under the CPP, perhaps we could invite President Barroso to address the Seanad in the autumn. It would be remarkable if he wants to kick off a Europe-wide debate.
Senator Ulick Burke spoke about the revision of the leaving certificate. What is being proposed is interesting. The Minister, Deputy Hanafin, who referred to the stress caused to students, opted for the 25% mark on the earlier examination. However, she made it clear that she wants rigorous attention paid to the proper rules for education and examinations. The Senator referred to the 180 day school year but I do not understand what that has to do with the issue. We might discuss it afterwards. The proposals are a great innovation because there is significant stress involved. At the same time, a final examination is a cause of stress to any student. How they cope with it is part of the growing up experience. I like the idea of an earlier examination and the fact that the Minister will not tinker with the transition year option. Senator Ormonde praised the idea of the revamp. We need to have a full debate on the matter. Obviously there is correspondence between ourselves and the national curriculum board, but we could benefit from a full debate on the matter.
I agree with Senator Quinn that we should keep an eye on Sellafield. He spoke about the passion exemplified by President Barroso yesterday and the article in The New York Times which I would like to read. The comment on France and Germany was very interesting.
Senator Leyden referred to The Star newspaper. The Cathaoirleach said that we should not compliment anyone. However, that will come in time. He also referred to the professional registration Bill, his experience in Palestine and the fact that the CRH should be discouraged from building a wall.
Senator Bannon said that Sellafield is a catastrophe waiting to happen. When we were in Opposition nine years ago, the Taoiseach called for the closure of Sellafield and he has never flinched from that demand. I know the Senator's party did likewise. There appears to be a common emphasis on this. I do not believe the matter will reach closure until the plant is closed. There will always be leaks and terrible events at the plant. I am pleased the Senator is back in the House.
Senator Hanafin asked for a debate on stem cell research when we return. Senator Henry referred to the problems regarding non-EU doctors. She asked about the medical practitioners Bill, which has been promised for ten years but has not yet been delivered. Her motion refers to the number of students studying medicine, as recommended in the Hanly report. We like some parts of Hanly but not others.
Senator Terry said that in four years there have been 50 deaths from drugs in Dublin 15, which is a stark statistic. The national drugs strategy is another matter which should be debated.
Senator Browne referred to the MRSA superbug and ESB costs. Senator John Paul Phelan asked for a debate with the Minister for Education and Science. It would be interesting to have this debate early in the autumn. He referred also to Palestine. One of the benefits of fact-finding trips abroad is the collegiality that develops between people of different parties and the Senator exhibited that when he agreed with Senator Leyden's comments. I was in Washington with Senator Mooney recently. A leading article in The Washington Post stated that one of the benefits of such trips was that members of opposing parties had the time to talk to one another and to share ideas.
We should not call Athlone "Parlon country".
I extend good wishes to the Cathaoirleach and wish everybody in the House a pleasant break with their families. It is easy for people to suggest that Members have three months off to have fun but in reality we will be working for approximately two and a half of those months.
I wish people respite, however, from the constant daily work. Under the aegis of the Cathaoirleach we have undertaken an immense amount of work in the past term. I am proud of the fact that the guillotine was not applied to any Bill, no matter how long or tortuous it was. There was plenty of time if debate on a Bill needed to be carried over to the following day. Every Bill, therefore, benefitted from long deliberation and detailed reflection in this House.
It was interesting to get feedback from Ministers on that point. They like coming here where debates are civilised and there is an immediacy and an intimacy about the Chamber which lends itself to good debates when the tumult dies down. There have been instances of tumult which are inevitable in any chamber. There is bound to be an adversarial edge to proceedings but it is usually for the good of the business at hand.
I thank the leaders of the various parties who worked co-operatively with all of us. I thank the Ministers and the political parties who all gave generously of their time. I also thank the staff of the Seanad. I have often wandered through here at 10.30 p.m. to see them toiling away at amendments. Enormous respect and appreciation is due to them. I also wish to thank Eamonn McCormack who runs the office.
On behalf of the Fine Gael group I wish the Cathaoirleach and his staff who have toiled in the vineyard over the past number of weeks an enjoyable break. As the Leader said, all of the committees are sitting in July and September and a lot of work will take place in that time. I put on record the appreciation of the Fine Gael group for the work of the Cathaoirleach and the work of the Clerk of the Seanad, the Clerk Assistant of the Seanad and their staff, particularly in the past two weeks when extensive amendments had to be made to Bills. It is to the credit of this House that we were able to discuss amendments that were unable to be discussed in the other House. We have played a significant role in ensuring that those debates took place in a calm and reflective way.
I also put on record our thanks to the Leader and her staff, particularly Eamonn McCormack, for the way the office is run and for the fact that we are always kept informed of developments.
Some new developments took place in this session which were very worthwhile. In particular the debate we had with colleagues from the European Parliament was very important from a parliamentary point of view. There needs to be more such debates.
I wish all sides an enjoyable break. The last time the Government went away for a summer its members reinvented themselves as socialists. I am not sure what is going to happen in Inchydoney this September.
I wish to be associated with the words of thanks to the Cathaoirleach, to the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the Acting Chairmen who have conducted the business of the House. I particularly extend thanks to the Leader and to Eamonn McCormack.
It is important to recognise that we end this session with 11 Seanad Bills still sitting on the Dáil Order Paper. There has been quite a revolution in the Seanad in the past few years whereby it is now common to introduce Bills here, particularly greenfield legislation. Ministers appreciate that and it has become an established practice. This would not have happened without the extraordinary work of the Clerk of the Seanad, the Clerk Assistant of the Seanad and the staff, who are undermanned and need support. Behind the scenes the Bills Office staff work hard to ensure efficiency.
I support Senator Brian Hayes's points about opening up to other influences, particularly of a European nature, which has been a developing feature of our work. We need to examine the possibility of some form of question and answer session with Ministers in this House.
We all appreciate the break from the business of the Chamber but it is important to recognise, as I hope members of the media will, that, in the words of a former Fine Gael Deputy many years ago, while the talkshop might be closed the workshop continues.
It would be helpful for the Government or the parties to consider a better way of structuring the year. It is unnecessary to close the Houses of the Oireachtas for several months at a time. It would be better to meet in semesters, with times set aside for committees, rather than have a long break in the summer which is always used as a stick with which to beat us.
I also wish to be associated with the remarks to the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk of the Seanad and her staff and to the Leader.
The end of a session is always a tumultuous time and we got through it exceptionally efficiently this time. It is remarkable that we have not had a single guillotine on a serious issue during the course of the session, in stark contrast to the other House. As Senator Brian Hayes rightly said, this week we discussed amendments to the Garda Síochána Bill that were not discussed at all in the other House. That is to the credit to the Leader and all the Members of the House who take their job seriously.
One event I anticipate in the next few weeks is a statement by the provisional movement on its future intentions. I do not intend to discuss it now but we all hope the statement will be unambiguous and clear and will signal the end of militant republicanism in Ireland, which is no small thing. I ask the Leader if she will consider recalling the House if events justify in the next few weeks.
I join with others in thanking the Cathaoirleach for the way he has conducted proceedings in the House during the session. He has done nothing more or less than implement the resolutions passed by the House. He has our confidence and is a suitable person for the job.
The House has worked efficiently which is to the credit of the Leader and to Eamonn McCormack for the way they have organised its business. There has been a gratifying level of co-operation which has helped us do our business in an orderly way. It is gratifying that an increasing number of Bills are initiated in this House, relative to several years ago. That is a tribute to the quality of the debate. The debates are helpful to Ministers in the development of legislation. I thank the Clerk of the Seanad, the Clerk Assistant and everybody in their office. It must have been a monumental task to organise all the amendments to the Garda Síochána Bill 2005. I am in awe of how they can do it within the timeframe they are given.
I also thank the Editor of Debates for the way that job is done. As I said on another occasion, we get the reports very quickly whereas it used to take several weeks. I thank Jimmy Walsh and other members of the media for their reporting and I thank the ushers and other staff in the Houses who looked after us during the session. I wish everybody a pleasant holiday and hope they come back reinvigorated for the battle in the autumn.
I thank the group leaders for their kind compliments. I also thank Senators for their co-operation during the years. I thank the staff of the House, especially the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant, for their help in ensuring the work of the Seanad is carried out efficiently. I wish everybody an enjoyable break, which is richly deserved. We sat for 12 hours twice this week but that is not recognised when people discuss our sitting hours. Senators deserve a break and I hope they enjoy it. I look forward to coming back in the autumn.