Thursday, 20 October 2005
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Brazil and the discovery of avian influenza H5N1 in Romania and Turkey, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 1.30 p.m., with contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed seven minutes — Senators may share time and the Minister will be called on to reply no later than five minutes before the conclusion of the statements; and No. 2, statements on acute hospital services provided in Cavan, Monaghan and the north-eastern region, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 2.35 p.m., with contributions of spokespersons or group leaders not to exceed ten minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply no later than five minutes before the conclusion of the statements.
I do not want to pre-empt the report that will be published next week concerning the sexual abuse of children in the Ferns diocese over a period of 20 or 30 years. However, I ask the Deputy Leader why there has been no inquiry into clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese given that a firm commitment was given to the victims in questions more than three years to establish such an inquiry, following revelations concerning a significant number of priests in the Dublin diocese, dating from the late 1950s. At the time, the Government, correctly, said a tribunal was out of the question, and the mechanism proposed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was the Commissions of Investigation Bill which subsequently passed into law.
I say this in the context of next week's report on events in Ferns. There are implications for the Catholic Church on the question of celibacy. There also serious questions for the State and Garda authorities arising from the way in which evidence from children was not adequately processed. We need an explanation from the Government as to why there has been no inquiry in the Dublin diocese, and possibly other dioceses.
We learned yesterday of the abduction of Mr. Rory Carroll in Iraq. I am sure everything is being done by the Government and all authorities to ensure his safety and release. Mr. Carroll is known to us through his father, Mr. Joe Carroll, a distinguished parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times who reported from this House for many years. This abduction highlights the danger for journalists in the Iraqi war zone and the bravery that a small, dedicated group of international journalists has shown in ensuring the truth is reported from that area. We hope for Mr. Carroll's safety and speedy return to his family.
I am sure all Members echo Senator Brian Hayes's words in regard to Mr. Rory Carroll. It is not appropriate to go any further than to express our solidarity and support for his family, particularly Mr. Joe Carroll who reported from this House on many occasions. Perhaps we should convey Members' collective support for the family and urge that all possible is done politically to secure his safe release.
The Ferns report is an issue deserving of discussion in this House. I was sickened by some of the information reported at the weekend. I do not want to trawl through this but aspects of it bothered me. One issue in particular stands out, that of the investigation into one of the most heinous aspects of this case, involving the abuse of eight girls on a church altar. The local gardaí who investigated the priest allegedly responsible believed there was a case to answer and drew up a full report. That report has never been seen since and this raises some questions. Is there a relationship at some level between the Garda and church authorities? The chief officer in question was rewarded by the Pope on his retirement. I do not want to examine the entrails of these matters but I would like a debate to be held with regard to the process that was involved.
Yesterday, I raised the issue of regulation of the Law Society and lawyers. Professional bodies may organise themselves through self or outside regulation or by means of an overarching organisation within which bodies, while maintaining the majority of responsibility for regulation, are answerable for their actions, must meet certain conditions and are subject to constant oversight. I would like to meet with the Law Society to learn of its views on this issue and invite other Members to join me in doing so.
I call for a debate on this matter because over the past four or five days, I have been contacted by a number of solicitors. As vice-chairman of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, I have had many arguments with solicitors over the past two years. Despite that and recent events, I hold their profession in the highest regard. Many people told me they were ashamed that their profession was being dragged down by what they described as a small number of people. Solicitors on the ground want action to be taken. They are locally well regarded and want a proper supervisory authority. We need to get the view of various lawyers to determine how the issued may be addressed.
I join with my colleagues in expressing horror at the kidnap of Rory Carroll. I do not want to say more, other than that I hope the situation is safely resolved. It is a terrifying time for him and is family.
In terms of how we will deal with the reports of child sex abuse, particularly abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, let us not be sidetracked by issues of celibacy. Child abuse is an abuse of power by the perpetrator. The failure to properly investigate an incident is also an abuse of power, whether by church or State. This issue arises from the abuse and misuse of power and is ultimately a secular issue. Regardless of whether the church or State may claim jurisdiction, the abuse of power is a matter of concern to the State wherever it occurs.
Over the past six months, I have been checking the speed of juggernauts I encounter while driving between Cork and Dublin. I then write to the companies concerned, without identifying individual drivers, to ask whether governors are fitted on the trucks I encountered. I have received a succession of categorical assurances that governors were fitted, even though the vehicles in question travelled at speeds of between 60 and 65 mph, which is almost ten miles above the limit supposedly imposed by these devices. It is clear to me that something is wrong. NRA surveys show that up to 80% of heavy goods vehicles breach speed limits. The fact that 80% of vehicles can breach speed limits despite being fitted with governors raises a question in terms of road traffic policy.
Yesterday, this issue was summed up by Eddie Shaw of the National Safety Council, when he told an Oireachtas committee that no-one joins up the thinking or is responsible and accountable, there is no will or management and that no process is in place. It is time that we had a serious review of our road safety policy, which should not merely consist of a statement by the Government that is filled with bells and whistles and sets targets for the future. Progress and enforcement should be reported quarterly to this House because the country is experiencing a road safety crisis but no action is being taken. According to Eddie Shaw, nearly 200 people die needlessly each year because we do not have a policy. May we hold quarterly debates in this House on the situation with regard to our roads? The ongoing level of slaughter should cause a permanent state of agitation within us.
This month, the European Ombudsman recommended that the EU Council of Ministers should meet in public when it acts in a legislative capacity, which is the case for every other legislative body in the European Union. The Union does not have secret parliaments, yet the Council of Ministers, which I suspect is larger than the European Parliament in terms of membership, insists on meeting in private. I want clarification on the Government's current position, not on what will happen if and when the EU constitution enters force. Does the Government believe that the Council of Ministers should meet in public when it acts in a legislative capacity? The answer is a simple "Yes" or "No".
We still do not know whether some of the aircraft which land in this country are exempted from the legal requirement to provide a manifest of goods and passengers. Last week, the Leader of the House failed to get an answer to an Adjournment matter concerning this issue. It is a simple question. Are some aircraft not asked to meet their legal obligations?
I concur with other speakers on the kidnapping of Rory Carroll. We should send our support to him, an appeal to his kidnappers to release him safely forthwith and express our concerns to his family. We should be proactive in this regard. We have a public relations officer for the Houses of the Oireachtas, who should convey to al-Jazeera an appeal from this House to Mr. Carroll's kidnappers and the authorities in Baghdad to release him. That would be worthwhile and helpful in the context of this gloomy period for him and his family.
I recommend that the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources does not increase the television licence fee, which is currently €155 per year. RTE, which this year made a profit of approximately €8.5 million, does not deserve such an increase. No subsidies are paid to TV3, Today FM or the many excellent local radio stations, yet RTE, with its overpaid broadcasters and staff, is seeking a further increase. The ordinary people highlighted issues in terms of rip-off Ireland but it is rip-off television to demand this increase. It should be rejected forthwith.
I am glad Senator Leyden expressed concern for the hard-pressed taxpayer but I would like him to express concern to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs regarding a change in a scheme. An imaginative scheme, the scheme of community support for older people, was introduced in 1997. It assured elderly people, particularly pensioners and many people living alone in rural locations, that they would be entitled to security alarms and pendants. When the scheme was introduced 90% funding of the overall cost was provided. If one applied for the security alarm in May, one could have to wait until October or November before it would be fitted. If, for example, an older person living in rural Ireland who has lost a loved one requests this type of security service, it will now be a year before that person will receive the security alarm and pendant. Furthermore, the 90% funding of the scheme has been reduced to €300. A hard-pressed pensioner who has to pay increased ESB and gas charges as well as increases for coal and other expenses now must find €150 to pay for this service. That is a disgrace.
It was sneaky to reduce to €300 the funding for that scheme. The Minister responsible has an abundance of funding available through the dormant accounts fund etc. I want him to increase the funding for this scheme to 90% and to put in place an emergency-type fund whereby if a person applies for this service, satisfies the criteria and is eligible for it, the security alarm can be fitted straight away. If Senator Leyden wants to do something to help hard-pressed taxpayers and pensioners, he should talk to the Minister responsible for that scheme.
Let peace reign in this valley.
Much has been said today about rural services, but the attitude of the NRA is not contributing to their sustainability. In a small area not far from Mullingar two local, well established businesses have been denied permission by the NRA to erect signs to indicate the location of their businesses. One is a local shop — the only shop in the parish — and the other is a car body shop which has been operating for a number of years. If we are to have rural development and rural services, the attitude of the NRA must change. I ask the Deputy Leader to convey my concerns and, I am sure, those of other Members to the Minister responsible to exhort the NRA to relent on its approach in regard to these businesses. I will give the Deputy Leader the names of the people concerned at the end of the Order of Business.
I deplore the return to the neurotic obsession of certain sections of Fianna Fáil with RTE. In the old days it was said it was full of communists and stickies and now it is said they are all capitalists. We would be foolish to undermine our national broadcaster.
It is perfectly reasonable from time to time for there to be criticism of it, but we should not destroy public service broadcasting here, as has happened in other countries. We need only look next door to Britain and the way the Government there tried to undermine the BBC. We should not let that happen here. We get a very good service from the national broadcaster. When we want to highlight issues, such as the referendum on Europe, we rely on RTE. If we did not have it and only had the commercial stations, we would never get a message across. We also need to generate employment in our own local programming, script writing and acting. We should not weaken what is a great national institution simply because of some momentary irritation. That would be fatal.
No, but the Senator practically has. He is on it every bloody night. I do not know what he is squawking about, he is just looking for another headline.
A meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges is scheduled. Will the Deputy Leader confirm that the question I have repeatedly raised — and in respect of which I would say that there is support across this House, although for obvious reasons everybody cannot be upfront about it — about extending the time allocated for the Order of Business will be raised?
It is the most vital element of our business, the one that is covered by the media and the one in which people are most interested. Why do we not go with the flow, as they say, and accept the reality, instead of impotently trying to curtail it? We say that a half an hour is allocated for it but I suggest the time allocated should be extended to 45 minutes or an hour. Every sitting day the Order of Business continues for 45 minutes and that includes the introduction.
My representative will raise it. It is a matter that would add to the strength and visibility of the business of the House.
With regard to road safety, I agree with Senator Ryan. We should have a review of it but it is unnecessary to have a debate on the issue four times a year because the Joint Committee on Transport can examine the matter.
Yes, I am speaking about the debate that has been called for by Senator Ryan. I support it but it is unnecessary to debate the issue four times a year.I have just come from the Joint Committee on Transport which was dealing with the issue of safety. Mr. Shaw appeared before it. There are serious issues that need to be addressed in this area that are not always addressed on the Order of Business. We have had several recent tragedies. People start talking about heavy goods vehicles in this context but they have nothing to do with these situations. There is a recurring situation that we need to address. It is that of young people in the early hours of a Sunday morning, perhaps intoxicated with drink or drugs, driving high powered cars possibly on roads that are in a bad state of repair——
I am supporting Senator Ryan's request for one.
I had intended to seek a debate on Iraq but at the moment this is not a good idea because we have a muddied situation that needs to be explored. I cannot say that I extend sympathy to Mr. Carroll, for whom I have high respect as I do for his father, because one hopes and believes that because he appears to have been taken by the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr he has a good chance of surviving and coming back home. I very much hope this happens. However, it is tragic and ironic that he should be taken on the anniversary of the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan who was a noble, decent and good woman, as Mr. Carroll is a decent, good and efficient reporter. I wish for his safety.
I accept the Chair's ruling. This four year old boy is autistic and is now in foster care. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is to be commended on ordering a reprieve of one week in regard to the deportation of his family. This boy is receiving one-to-one tuition, he has a classroom assistant and is being cared for. If he goes back to Nigeria he will not get that assistance. The rudimentary health care system there would not offer him the basics let alone what a person with his special needs requires. Ministerial discretion in regard to the implementation of deportation legislation needs be exercised. I ask that the Minister immediately extend to one month the reprieve granted in order that Great can be properly assessed and thereafter allowed to remain in this country. This State must extend its support to this autistic boy of four years of age.
I have requested a debate on decentralisation on a few occasions recently. It might sound like an old chestnut but it is almost two years since the initial announcement of the decentralisation programme and there has been a total lack of progress in that regard. For instance, last week in Mallow the chairperson of Fáilte Ireland indicated that the proposed decentralisation project to Mallow could take at least ten years to transpire. If that is symptomatic of the delivery of the decentralisation project announced two years ago, it proves that it is not just derailed but a joke. We need to introduce some realism into the debate on this issue. We need to have a debate to ascertain what exactly the Government is planning. Notwithstanding that the announcement of the project two years ago was in advance of a local election, I am sure there was probably a genuine intention to introduce decentralisation, but it is simply is not happening. We need to hear directly from the senior Minister concerned or from the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, and learn what their plans are. We need to ascertain if the Government is still committed to decentralisation because the announcement of December 2003 is now seen as little more than electoral window dressing. I ask the Deputy Leader to arrange a debate on decentralisation in advance of the Budget Statement.
I join with Senator McCarthy in seeking a debate on immigration policy. It would serve the House well if the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform came here to discuss this issue and progress in policy on asylum seekers. We all acknowledge the emotional side of the case referred to by Senator McCarthy. However, we should be fair and present the facts of this case as they are. The child in question is Italian and was born in Italy. His mother fled Italy with him and sought asylum in Ireland. Both mother and child are free to leave this country and return to Italy, where the child's father and woman's husband resides, at any stage. There is an onus on everyone to present the facts of such cases. Otherwise, we may have an open door policy which would undermine the integrity of the independent system of assessment currently in place.
After I spoke on the Order of Business on Wednesday last week, I received a text message a few minutes later commenting on the tie I was wearing rather than what I spoke about. What struck me about the message was the fact that it came from Melbourne, Australia. I had not realised that broadband technology was so effective that it allowed someone to watch the Order of Business or other business in the Seanad on the Internet. The reason I mention this anecdote is because I was stunned to discover that Ireland is ranked 19th out of 22 countries with broadband technology according to OECD figures published this week. Discussions took place in this House approximately ten years ago about what happened in Singapore and South Korea when those two countries decided they would become the hub of information technology in Asia. Members stated that Ireland should attempt to do so as well. Today, 5% of Irish homes are now connected to broadband, while the figure is 92% in South Korea. Broadband technology presents opportunities for Irish businesses but somebody in Government needs to ensure that it is made a priority.
I wish to comment on Senator Ryan's comments about road safety and the comments made yesterday by the chairman of the National Safety Council, Eddie Shaw. Approximately five years ago, the President of France put road safety high on his agenda when he took office. French road safety figures have improved dramatically because road safety was made a priority by somebody at the top. We can do the same in Ireland if road safety is placed high on the Taoiseach's agenda.
Senator McCarthy raised an interesting point regarding the facilities and services for children with autism in Nigeria. I suggest to the Deputy Leader that we have a debate on services and facilities for children with autism in Ireland.
The situation in the Loop Head peninsula in west Clare is particularly difficult. Senator Daly and I have been working to ensure that the kind of services and facilities that are needed for children on the autism spectrum are put in place. Occupational therapists and speech and language therapists are not readily available in this area and parents are expected to travel 50 to 60 miles to locations where these services are available. Some movements have been made on the education front but more needs to be done by the Department of Health and Children to put in place these kinds of facilities and services. We cannot simply accept that personnel are not available because they are available in the private sector. There must be greater movement on this issue and this is why I would welcome a debate on policy in this House.
Iarnród Éireann is getting out of the freight business and is reported to be selling off €4.5 million worth of freight carriages that were only purchased in 2002 and have scarcely been used. This is a hugely short-sighted and deranged State policy and the Minister for Transport needs to come to the House to discuss it. Freight services are crying out for competition. If Iarnród Eireann will not operate in the freight business, private sector operators, who are prepared to run freight traffic on railways, should be allowed in. The abandonment of rail freight travel is the last thing we need given the condition of our roads. We do not need more heavy goods vehicles on our roads, with all the attendant pollution and road safety implications. The Deputy Leader should comment on this issue this morning and ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss State policy on freight because it is mad.
I join with my colleagues in sending my best wishes to Joe Carroll and his family. It should be remembered that Mr. Carroll is the author of an important study of Irish neutrality during the Second World War. It is at times like these that we appreciate the value Irish neutrality still possesses.
I am sure Senator Coonan will be glad to confirm that decentralisation in all parts of County Tipperary is moving ahead nicely.
Senator Morrissey has been consistent in his criticism of Government transport policy. The Deputy Leader should invite the Minister for Transport to come to the House to debate this issue. Last week, the Government allowed CIE to increase its fares to something in the region of 10%, which is shameful. If someone wishes to go on a Sunday day trip from Dublin to Belfast, it will cost him or her €48 for a return ticket, which is ridiculous when one can fly to any city in Europe for less.
Senator Coghlan referred to the fact that €4.5 million worth of freight carriages have been sold for scrap, which should be addressed. The fact that Iarnród Éireann is getting out of the freight business will put additional pressure on our road infrastructure.
One of the last items of legislation dealt with in the Seanad and Dáil was the Garda Síochána Bill 2004. The establishment of an ombudsman commission to replace the discredited Garda Complaints Board is an integral part of this Bill. The ombudsman commission has still not been established. I received a letter from a constituent during the week in which he complained that his case has now been referred to the discredited Garda Complaints Board. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should come to the House to explain his tardiness in setting up the ombudsman commission, which is extremely important. We need an assurance from him that all current or pending complaints against the Garda Síochána will be put on hold until such time as the new commission has been established. I am seeking a debate on this matter.
I join with Senator Finucane in calling for the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to examine the way in which additional charges are placed on personal alarms. This scheme now penalises rather than benefits the elderly. I have received numerous complaints in my own constituency in Roscommon about the number of people who cannot afford to pay the additional charge of €165, which is double the amount of a pension.
Despite the investment it has made, Iarnród Éireann is not taking care of its pensioners and the Minister should intercede immediately in this affair. A pensioner with 40 years service with Iarnród Éireann receives a pension of €127 a week. How can anybody survive on this amount? Members of the Defence Forces, local authority members and Bord na Móna workers receive more than €80 per week extra. I ask the Minister to intercede immediately to ensure Irish Rail workers who have worked tremendously hard and have turned around Irish Rail are recognised and get a pension on which they can live.
Partial decentralisation, a limited version, is going ahead. I support the call for a debate on decentralisation because in this House, some months ago, during the passage of the Garda Síochána Bill, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said he was not in favour of decentralising the Garda inspectorate to Roscrea, in north Tipperary, as promised. A high profile announcement was made to that effect. These comments were welcomed by Senator Hayes. It is obvious that decentralisation as announced is not going ahead and I would welcome a debate on the issue.
Senators Brian Hayes, O'Toole, Ryan, Leyden, Mansergh and even Senator Norris spoke about the kidnapping of Rory Carroll. Joe Carroll was a person many of us would have known very well and an excellent journalist. Obviously the kidnapping is a matter of serious concern and I know the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs are doing all they can to try to resolve the situation. I was encouraged, as I am sure others were this morning, by the correspondent from the Christian Science Monitor who was on radio and indicated that because of the place where we was kidnapped and the probable captors there was a good chance Rory would be released. Obviously we hope that will happen. I undertake to convey to the family the good wishes of Members. I agree with Senator Norris that we should wait for some time to discuss the matter of Iraq.
Senators Brian Hayes, O'Toole and Ryan raised the matter of the abuse in the diocese of Ferns. I appreciate Senator Brian Hayes made a slightly different inquiry as to the commitment to the victims of abuse in Dublin. I do not know the position in regard to that issue but I will endeavour to find it out. These matters are worthy of debate here. We should not shy away from them because they are difficult issues or because they involve the church. It is unfortunate that in the past there may have been a sense of immunity in certain sections of society, including the churches, where some of these events took place. Those of us of a certain generation can imagine what the reaction would have been had we told our parents we had been abused by a member of the clergy; there would certainly have been a defence of the clergy. What happened is outrageous. That the ecclesiastical authorities did not seem to deal with it effectively is bad. The House should be able to discuss these issues, not the specifics or the difficult individual details but the broader issue because it has serious implications for society. Any matter such as that should be debated here.
Senator O'Toole raised the issue of the Law Society and the regulation of the legal profession. I heard the Master of the High Court say this morning there was a need for the profession of solicitors to act in a better way. The wider issue is the whole question of regulation. It is unfortunate that increasingly across the professions there is a need to introduce statutory regulation. Obviously it would be better if we had self-regulation. However, history teaches us that we are not good at that and certainly it is the case that some solicitors have their hands in their clients' pockets. I accept there are many good solicitors who do their job well but there are some who do not and they must be rooted out and regulated. If the Law Society is not prepared to do the rooting out the Legislature has to do the job.
Senators Ryan, Norris and Quinn raised transport matters and some of the statements made yesterday by Mr. Shaw. I heard what he had to say last night and he was quite vigorous in his statements. I noticed that Deputy Howlin was one of those who rebutted what he had to say; he suggested that everybody in politics was culpable. Deputy Howlin made the point that there was a broader culpability than that. I share that view. It is matter we should try to debate. There should be a general review of the road safety policy and I am sure the Minister would be happy to do that. With regard to the matter of HGVs, I agree with Senator Ryan. When travelling on the Naas dual carriageway last night in the rain I noticed many of them travelling at excessive speeds. Even though the road is restricted at present, it is very dangerous. In all of this there is a matter of individual responsibility. People have to be responsible for their own conduct. It cannot always be done by regulation. I appreciate that the traffic corps is being strengthened and I welcome the development taking place in Donegal. There is also a commitment from the Garda to have more gardaí on the roads. That is helpful but there must also be a degree of personal responsibility. I do not know the answer to Senator Ryan's question about the aircraft but I will certainly try to find out.
On the matter of the European Council acting in public when it is legislating, I agree this should be done and I have made that known to my own party. Hopefully it will happen. It is provided for in the constitution and, when that is adopted, it will happen, but it should happen in advance.
Senators Leyden and Norris raised the issue of television licences, which are a serious burden for the elderly and those of limited means. In general the national broadcaster provides a good service. It is useful that there is a tension between Government, politics and the broadcaster. I do not see anything wrong with that. It is the regulator who will decide whether the fee is increased. If the other channels are required to fulfil a public service remit, I do not see why all the money should go to RTE. I made this point when the legislation was passing through the House. They have an entitlement if they are required to have a public service remit.
To return to the Rory Carroll matter, there is an important point about the press which relates to RTE. It is essential that we know what is going on in Iraq and these people provide a valuable service. Even some of those who are active in their kidnapping realise that. That is one of the reasons I am hopeful Mr. Carroll will be released.
I agree with Senator Norris. Senators Finucane and Feighan raised the matter of community support for older people. I agree it was a good scheme and I know of many who availed of it. Some of the rural organisations were involved in ensuring people got these devices. I have personal experience in my own family of their success. I do not know the detail but I will endeavour to find out. It is a matter that can be discussed at a later date.
Senator Glynn raised the issue of the National Roads Authority not contributing to the signage for local services. He has a good point. I was in France at the weekend and I noticed that at the top of each road there are signs for virtually every business on the road. The signs are small and uniform and do not intrude. People should know where these services are and it should be possible to erect signs. We will try to progress that issue.
Senator Norris raised the issue of extending the time allocated for the Order of Business. This matter was discussed in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges before the present session; it confirmed that we would have this order. While I am sure it can be reviewed in the future, that is the way it is at the moment. It is not for me to say whether the time allocated should be increased or reduced; the House resolved it is a matter for the committee and the House to decide. I agree with Senator Mansergh that structured debate is the correct approach. Sometimes I wonder about the matters raised on the Order of Business. Of course they are all very appropriate, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, and if they were not you would rule them out of order.
Senators McCarty, Dooley and Minihan spoke about a particular autistic child. While I do not know the full details, I know that more issues are involved than might appear, as mentioned by Senator Minihan. Senator Dooley made a good point about autism. All of us would have experience of difficulties families with an autistic child have had not only with central Government services but also with local planning authorities. In some cases people need to change their houses and have difficulty with the relevant planning authority. We should debate the issue of autism and disability.
Senators Bradford, Mansergh and Coonan spoke about decentralisation. While it is patchy in its rollout, as far as I am aware it is still the Government's commitment to proceed with decentralisation. I look forward to the Department of Defence and the Army headquarters coming to County Kildare. I will ask the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, to come to the House to discuss these issues in detail.
I am glad that Senator Quinn can be seen in Melbourne. We may reach the point in the House where we will be like Micheál O'Hehir at an all-Ireland final welcoming everybody from Melbourne, Chicago, Los Angeles, Canada etc. I know the Internet is being watched and I take the Senator's point about broadband. I know the determination exists to roll it out. I have seen it successfully installed in small places in the west of Ireland. While I do not dispute what he said, I am surprised the figure is as mentioned. It is the determination of those involved to roll it out properly and to have it implemented.
Senators Coghlan, Bannon and Feighan spoke about Iarnród Éireann. It sounds like bad business planning if it bought carriages which it now needs to scrap. It is a market reality that the rail network in Ireland from the point of view of those transporting goods seems inadequate, which is why the freight goes on the roads even though they are congested.
The point is that on the Continent, the railhead would go into the factory, which is the way to do it. However, the factory would pay for that; I do not know how many manufacturers here would be prepared to do so. It is purely an economic issue and it seems like bad business planning.
I believe Senator Feighan raised the wider issue of pensions, of which I was not aware and it is certainly a serious issue. Iarnród Éireann, as a semi-State body, is slightly different from some of the other bodies and probably had its own pension scheme. We all know that some of those schemes in both the private sector and the public sector may not have been as well funded as they should have been. Perhaps some of the investments were not as prudent as they should have been.
Senator Higgins spoke about the Garda Síochána Bill and the establishment of an ombudsman. As far as I am aware there is determination to have the Bill completed quickly. I will certainly speak to the Minister on the Senator's behalf and will ask him to communicate with him if it is in order.