Wednesday, 25 January 2006
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is Nos. 1 and 2, motions which implement the increased entitlements to adoptive and maternity leave arising from the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance on 7 December 2005, to be taken without debate; No. 3, statements on a strategy for men's health, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business until 5 p.m., spokespersons will have 15 minutes and other Senators ten minutes, the Minister shall be called upon to reply not later than five minutes before the conclusion of the statements. If some Senators do not get the opportunity to contribute we will run the debate another day; and No. 21, motion 24, to be taken from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. A supplementary Order Paper has been issued with the amendment.
Since we last met one of the most historic judgments ever has been handed down from the Supreme Court, namely, on the issue of privilege. Will the Leader set aside time for a full debate, possibly next week, on that judgment? While the matter has been debated at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, it involves all Members in a non-party political way.
The issue surrounds the case against Senator Higgins and Deputy Howlin. While it is clear from the Supreme Court judgment made just before Christmas that utterances made in the House are governed by the right of privilege, the case is not so clear with regard to the private papers of Senators and Deputies. We need to debate this issue in the context of the judgment, which stated that if a resolution or a new Standing Order had been established by this House, those papers may well have been governed by privilege. This may well have ensured that the name of the informants who gave the information to the Senator and the Deputy would not have had to come out in court.
I raise this important issue because at the heart of the relationship between a citizen and a Senator or Deputy is the notion of confidentiality. Senator Higgins and Deputy Howlin showed sound judgment in bringing that information to the relevant Minister to ensure the Morris tribunal of inquiry would be established. I raise this issue in a non-party political way. It is an issue that affects the 60 Members of this House because if any court of the land can, effectively, gag Members of these Houses, that is a dangerous route. The matter needs to be debated.
I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on Northern Ireland. I and others sought this debate before Christmas. This debate does not necessarily require the presence of the Taoiseach in the House. Perhaps the Minister for Foreign Affairs or his Minister of State could attend in his place. Since we last met so much has happened regarding OTRs and the possibility of progress as both Governments attempt to restart the talks with all the parties in Northern Ireland. The House should debate the issue at an opportune time.
The Leader has stated on many occasions that this is a legislative Assembly. What new Bills are proposed to be taken in this House this session? The Chief Whip stated yesterday that 17 or 18 new Bills are proposed for this session, yet 16 Bills which have passed through this House are currently stalled in the other House. It is important that the Government uses this House as a mechanism for introducing legislation.
I support the point made by Senator Brian Hayes on privilege. Perhaps many Members of the Houses do not understand the implications it has for them. It may well be, as was evident recently, that the only way to protect information is to put it on the record of the House. This was surely never the intention of the Constitution. I therefore believe we need to examine the issue of privilege and, at the very least, have a debate on it. We also need an interpretation of how it impacts upon us at present and how we need to respond to it.
On a related matter, it will soon be the second anniversary of the matters associated with Judge Brian Curtin, on which we had a long and heated debate over a period of weeks almost two years ago. I do not want to discuss the detail, and have never done so but, as I said before, the matter was being mishandled. I said the proceedings would go on forever and that we would still be considering the matter at the time of the next election. The case is now stuck in the Supreme Court. This reflects in no negative way on the Oireachtas committee. It devoted all of the summer before last to addressing the matter and did everything asked of it. As I said before, it will ultimately be blamed when things do not work out, even though it will have done its very best on our behalf. It is for this that we set it up and I congratulate it on its work.
We should recognise that this issue will cost a fortune. There will be all sorts of delays and, because the case is so complicated, I do not know how many more months we will have to wait for something to come back from the Supreme Court. The Government, in its wisdom, decided not to implement the proposal of the all-party Oireachtas committee, made some years ago, for dealing with this kind of issue.
It is clear that there will be a challenge at every hand's turn in this case. The Government should now be encouraged to disband the committee investigating the Judge Curtin affair and deal directly with the judge and come to some agreement with him. This matter will proceed for longer than any of the inquiries that took place in Dublin Castle if we allow it. Action needs to be taken at this stage.
I support my colleagues on the issue of Oireachtas privilege. Perhaps in a partisan fashion I will put on the record my admiration for my colleague Deputy Howlin on his courage in pursuing, at considerable hazard to himself, the rights of Members of both Houses.
Haste makes for poor drafting and does not facilitate the Opposition. I have no idea why this took so long and simply want to put my view on the record.
When we return after a recess, some things change and others do not. Marie Therese O'Loughlin is still outside the gate. Since this matter was last raised, we have learned that contrary to the assertion of the Minister for Education and Science, who stated there was no evidence of the State having any inspection role in the case of the institution which housed Marie Therese O'Loughlin, there is a letter from the Minister for Health and Children confirming that the Department of Health and Children had an inspection role.
The Department of Education and Science received that letter in April 2005 yet in December 2005 the Minister for Education and Science told us that the Department knew nothing about it. The fundamental issue is that the woman outside the gates of Leinster House was right and the Department of Education and Science was wrong, as it has been wrong consistently on this issue.
It has delayed and obfuscated over and over again. Either we should have a debate on this issue or the Leader should ask the Minister for Education and Science to accede to the reasonable request of Marie Therese O'Loughlin and include her case in the provisions and brief of the Residential Institutions Redress Board. Otherwise, the Department of Education and Science will be guilty of the most appalling misleading of both Houses of the Oireachtas.
In the past I raised in the House the question of the abuse of fish stocks in rivers and canals. A local angler from my native Killucan recently informed me that a stretch of the Royal Canal which he fished regularly over the years is now denuded of fish, which are being caught using nets stretched between both banks of the canal. All the fish are taken out but nothing is put back. This has been happening for some time and must stop. I have discussed the issue with Senator Dardis, who is a keen fisherman, and with my party spokesperson in this area, Senator Kenneally. What is happening is a disgrace and must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
Many of us look back with sadness at the increased number of road deaths since Christmas. To date in 2006 we have experienced the highest number of road deaths since the comparable period in 2001. The Minister for Transport has been loud on commitments with regard to introducing safety changes but anyone reading a newspaper today would know he has been very low on delivery. This is a serious issue.
It is sad that many of the recent road deaths involve new immigrants. Many immigrants bring their cars to this country. While Irish cars are subject to the national car test which ensures they operate efficiently and effectively, are there any controls on cars brought into this country? It is an important factor. In many cases these motorists are unfamiliar with Irish roads. I would like to be assured that their vehicles are operating effectively and in accordance with the high standards of the NCT.
I would like to refer to the Order Paper and the fact that the last item among the papers laid before the House is the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's Tenth Progress Report: The Family. The Order Paper also lists my Bill, namely, the Civil Partnership Bill 2004 which deals with one of the issues in this regard. I propose substituting an amended Bill in light of the debate we had on it.
I would like the House to take up this matter and run with it. I have lost all confidence in the Government's commitment to developments in this area. A farcical situation is developing in that gay people in Paisley's Belfast have more civil and human rights than gay people in Bertie's Dublin. If Sean O'Casey was around, the Taoiseach would be described as a prognosticator. I met the Taoiseach 18 months ago. Following that meeting, I thought we were on the way but he kicked the issue into the Oireachtas committee dealing with the family. Now we have its report, as well as the Law Reform Commission reports on this issue, but what is the response? We have a detailed examination and a clear recommendation to proceed along the lines my Bill has proposed, yet the Government is considering another commission, committee or think-tank to examine the situation. It is putting the matter on the long finger. We are being disgraced in Europe as one of the last states to deal with this issue. Catholic Spain has full gay marriage. I will not list the other states. Let us please get on with the job. I have done the work so let the Government live up to what its committee has recommended.
The Leader has been very positive, courageous and creative on the issue of the war in Iraq and the difficult subject of CIA renditions. Can she give us any further information on developments in this area and when the promised committee will be set up? The Marty committee has issued a worrying report. Senator Marty, the Swiss Senator chairing the committee, has clearly determined that there are more than 100 of these rendition flights over Europe and suggests that many European governments are aware of them but are turning a blind eye. Before Christmas our Human Rights Commission called on the State to inspect these flights. It is important that we examine this problem.
Senator O'Toole mentioned the troubled question of privilege and suggested that the only way to ensure accurate and safe information is to put it on the record of the House. I have the greatest respect for the staff of the Debates Office. They do an exceptionally good job, are very courteous, professional and helpful. They do, however, sometimes massage points a little, particularly when people like me attempt to speak Irish, which they render grammatical. While this is completely acceptable we need to consider the situation and give direction.
This may sound humorous but it is not intended to be. In the last week of the Dáil session the Ceann Comhairle said, "Ah for frig's sake, Enda". That was widely reported and broadcast by the media yet the comment does not appear in the Official Report because it was excised. A similar incident occurred in this House when a colleague of mine expressed concern about the high levels of adult "literacy". This was a mistake but I took it up and agreed with him saying things were frightful, people were not only learning to read but would shortly be able to write and eventually there would be Catholic emancipation. That never appeared in the Official Report because the reporter, the person in charge, decided it was too cruel.
I had a major battle about this incident but was not supported in this House. This is an important point. I do not blame the Debates Office which is very professional. We lack guts if we do not give direction and say it is all right to correct the grammar but we must have an accurate and faithful record, particularly as the proceedings are now broadcast on television and radio.
In 2004 the Comptroller and Auditor General published a report on public-private partnerships. One case concerned a contract for school buildings awarded to a British private development company, Jarvis, which was not the lowest bidder. The company's tender was 13% above the cost at which the Department of Education and Science would design, build and maintain an equivalent number of schools. Although this was a multimillion euro, 25-year contract the company has withdrawn after five years which jeopardises public-private partnership schemes under the Department of Education and Science.
Prior to Christmas the Minister for Education and Science indicated in this House that a new tranche of schools was to be developed under a similar project to other contractors. We are told the schools involved in the Jarvis contract will not be affected because a German company has taken over the contracts. If the original company went out of business through financial difficulties there must have been shortcomings in the maintenance of the schools involved in the intervening period. Now that the resources are readily available internally, we should seek them in order to complete schools. While we know how scarce resources were for the provision, upkeep and reconstruction of schools, 13% of additional funds in a multimillion euro contract were given to this company.
In view of the rate of traffic accidents, will the Leader arrange for a debate on road safety? It might be worthwhile examining the experience in Northern Ireland where for the first time the number of accidents has decreased substantially. They must be doing something right so it would be interesting to see what it is.
I support the request for a debate on Northern Ireland, which would be timely. I also support Senator Norris's request for action on civil partnerships, which is a running sore.
Does the Leader have a date on which the order for the Garda Ombudsman Commission will be brought before the House? According to the draft Order Paper I thought it would be today. It is a matter of some urgency.
When young people try to gain access to discos and nightclubs where alcohol is served they are rightly required to present identification to prove their age. Many of them obtain so-called age cards from the Garda Síochána, but it can take from three to six months to issue such cards. This means that, in the interim, young people must present their passports in order to gain access to clubs. This situation is totally unacceptable because many passports are lost or stolen as a result. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should expedite this matter, which is being dealt with by the Garda Síochána's community services section. The section, which is mostly staffed by civilians, currently has inadequate resources. Why is it taking from three to six months to produce these cards? When students register for college such cards can be issued within a matter of hours. This should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
I ask the Leader to arrange an early debate on the crisis in accident and emergency units, particularly in larger hospitals. Despite all the promises made by the Government and in particular the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, the situation is getting worse. Even more overcrowding is occurring, if that is possible, and there is severe mismanagement of the issue. The matter needs to be debated at an early stage.
I also wish to ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the report on the family by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. Such a debate would allow us to air the important issues that have been covered by the report. It should be made clear that not everybody on the committee was in agreement with the report, despite the attempts of the Chairman to say so. The report contains important matters for this House to discuss and we should do that at an early stage.
I have received representations from many farmers and REPS planners about the impact of the directive on pig and poultry farming, as well as on REPS plans. I ask the Leader of the House to arrange an urgent debate on No. 25 on the Order Paper as soon as possible. That would facilitate an urgent debate on the nitrates directive in light of its hasty signing by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, particularly since he has done so based on incorrect information. The fact has been highlighted that the information given to the Minister was wrong. It is so serious throughout the country that it will be a resignation issue for him.
I am tempted to call a public meeting on the nitrates directive as I am sure that it would be very well attended. Speaking as someone from an agricultural background, I echo the sentiments of my colleague, Senator Bannon, and ask the Leader to arrange a debate. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan, seemed to back down yesterday regarding the nitrates directive. It is clear to me as someone looking in from the outside that there has been a degree of political manoeuvring regarding Teagasc officers. In particular, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, does not emerge from this smelling of roses. We should have a discussion at the earliest opportunity, since the implications, especially of spreading phosphorous, could be extremely detrimental for agriculture in this country.
I also join with colleagues who have expressed interest in debating road safety. Senator Maurice Hayes was quite correct in saying that Northern Ireland would make a good case study. Many of the patterns of problems on the roads there are similar to what we see in this jurisdiction, and we might usefully emulate efforts there to ensure a similar reduction. Over the last few weekends, we have seen a shocking number of accidents and fatalities on the roads.
In my three and a half years in the House, we have had numerous debates and expended a great deal of hot air. Even yesterday, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, held a press conference at which he announced that he would introduce two or three new Bills or amendments to existing legislation. However, a few hours later, the Chief Whip's office published the legislative programme, which contained nothing on road safety or transport. We might usefully have a discussion with the Minister for Transport to see what will happen and whether he has any real proposals to put to the House and the country to reduce the toll of fatalities and accidents on the roads.
One of this House's functions is to clarify Government thinking, our own thinking and, to the furthest possible extent, public thinking on various issues. Now is a good time for a debate on Northern Ireland, and there is also a need to debate agricultural concerns, such as how the nitrates directive is to be implemented and what derogations will be sought to make it compatible with sustainable farming.
We will have two opportunities, today and tomorrow, to discuss the economy and employment policy. As we know, the economy is doing well. There are, nonetheless, certain concerns with regard to future security and conditions of employment. Our duty is to give some leadership on this issue.
I am not making a statement, a Chathaoirligh. I will do that tomorrow. Our duty is to give some leadership on the issue and not stir up fears. I would be very saddened if we had to row back on magnanimous commitments which have, by and large, so far worked in our interest over the past few years and are sustaining our prosperity.
Senator Mansergh talked about leadership in regard to one area but there is little doubt that what we need is leadership in regard to the challenge of road deaths. A number of Senators spoke about the scandal of what has happened. This is one example of where we know we can identify the challenge. We know the answers but we have done very little about the problem. Northern Ireland was mentioned by Senator Maurice Hayes. We have seen what happened in Australia, and in France, where the leadership of that nation decided to do something about the problem and it succeeded. We know leadership and commitment is required and that somebody must make this issue a priority. It is a scandal that has been identified by Members of this House on many occasions yet we have not seen action. It is a problem we can do something about. Those with the required leadership should be brought into this House. We should have an urgent debate because the scandal should not be allowed continue.
I wish to raise another issue which does not sound as exciting as the one to which I have just referred. We are losing ground in the area of information technology. Some figures were published in recent weeks which show that the commitment we need is not being adhered to. The European information technology scale, which identifies the gap between the skills we need and those we have, indicates that Ireland will go from third to 21st place within two years. We must do something about that. Leadership is required and the Minister should be asked to come into the House to tell us what can be done about it.
I support Senator Glynn in his call for action to be taken on the matter of indiscriminate taking of fish from our waterways. He is correct in stating that nets are being used extensively. In my own area on the River Liffey, there have been cases where these nets have been used and, as the Senator stated, within a stretch all the fish are taken. When some of these people were challenged by local members of the angling club, they had not understood that what they were doing was wrong because many of them come from cultures where this is allowed. They arrived in Ireland unaware of the fact that it is illegal to take fish by nets. That is part of the difficulty.
However, this is not to say that some of our own people are not doing the same. There have been spectacular cases in some of our famous lakes where the authorities discovered large quantities of fish had been taken. There is an enforcement issue which needs to be addressed and I ask the Leader to do what she can at Government level to ensure that enforcement takes place.
I support the call for a debate on road safety, around which there is an enforcement issue which is probably important. It appears that the countries that are vigilant in terms of enforcing the law are more successful in keeping down the number of road deaths. I have driven in Australia and it is significant that everybody there keeps within the speed limit all the time; it is difficult to find people who are driving fast. That is part of the difficulty here. The issue should be discussed. It was significant to note over Christmas that the figures for Northern Ireland were at a 20-year low. They are obviously doing something right and we should learn from what is happening in that jurisdiction.
Some important points were made by Senators Brian Hayes and O'Toole with which I fully agree. On the question of privilege, we all believe and would accept it is vitally important that the private papers of Members of both Houses would be protected. As Senator Brian Hayes noted, we all believe the Members involved in this action acted properly in going to the then Minister with the information they possessed rather than putting statements on the record of the House. Members must be protected. I agree with Senator Brian Hayes's argument that we will go down a very dangerous route for democracy if they are not protected.
Whatever judgment is handed down by the Supreme Court with regard to the case of Judge Brian Curtin, the matter will come back to the Oireachtas committee. I agree with Senator O'Toole that the Government must act more directly in dealing with this matter rather than hide behind the committee because it will be challenged at every step. I fully support the points made by Senator O'Toole and Senator Brian Hayes.
I agree with the point raised by Senator Brian Hayes on the recent judgment by the Supreme Court, which has significant ramifications for the traditional relationship between parliamentarians and their constituents. The vital link between parliamentarians and their constituents must be preserved and this Supreme Court judgment must be debated in this House.
The six-week recess has taken away from the very good work carried out by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Members work extremely hard at constituency level and as legislators in this House and it is a pity to see a six-week recess detract from this work. It disguises much of the hard work that has been carried out. The recess was not a holiday; we worked very hard in our constituencies. I am aware that the Leader had a particularly gruelling six weeks and I congratulate her on coming out on the right side of it. It is important to debate this issue. House sittings must be connected to other parliaments in western Europe which have much longer sittings and are perceived to work harder by the public. We work just as hard as other parliamentarians in western Europe but the recess gives politics a bad name and adds to existing cynicism about politics.
I welcome the report by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution and commend it on the very hard work put into the report. While members of the committee held differing views on the issue, which was acknowledged by the chairman at the launch of the report last night, the Government should act on the report's recommendations as soon as possible.
I acknowledge the role played by Senators Dardis and Glynn in raising the issue of game angling. I am delighted that someone eventually highlighted the very serious problem of depleting salmon stocks in Irish rivers. The problem concerns drift and draft net fishermen and game anglers. Vigilante game anglers do not abide by certain rules. Fine Gael launched a document on a salmon charter last week. Part of it involves a voluntary buy-out of drift and draft net fishermen, a measure proposed by Deputy Perry which is taken very seriously by Fine Gael. It is time the Government bit the bullet in respect of this issue instead of establishing commission after commission and procrastinating. A total of 54,000 anglers visited Ireland in 1999, while 27,000 anglers visited the country last year. This represents a 50% reduction in the number of anglers visiting Ireland, which is an alarming trend and indicative of the seriousness of the problem.
I agree with the call by Senator Brian Hayes and Senator Maurice Hayes for a debate on Northern Ireland. This debate should not simply address the political impasse. We need synchronisation of policy because, irrespective of whether we like it, Westminster is co-ordinating policy for Northern Ireland while Dublin co-ordinates policy at a central level here. However, we are not singing from the same hymn sheet. Mark Durkan, MLA, and Gregory Campbell, MLA, put down a motion in the House of Commons three weeks ago in respect of a high-speed train service from Belfast to Derry that included Letterkenny. They decided as representatives of Northern Ireland to include Letterkenny but what have we done in our capital as part of our transport plan? We have no railway infrastructure plans involving links between Letterkenny and Derry. It is time we woke up and began co-ordinating policy, including economic policy. There is a political impasse but we can still co-ordinate and synchronise our plans at both central levels.
I agree with Senator McHugh's call for a debate on Northern Ireland but it might be appropriate if we asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, rather than the Taoiseach or anyone else, to participate in it. The problem of Northern Ireland is developing into a problem of crime. Out of the recent welcome outbreak of peace has sprung an incredible amount of cross-Border racketeering, money laundering and co-operation among the former criminals who have committed violent acts and who have diverted their energy into criminal activities of a different sort. This House should recognise the scale of that and not brush it under the carpet. I refer to pubs, hotels, bookmakers' shops, cash businesses——
——yes, diesel, springing up all over Ireland on both sides of the Border. If we ignore this we do so at our peril. I hope there is no consent or turning of a blind eye to such activities among officials of the Irish establishment.
I wish to ask a question on an issue that will arise in the next few weeks and which I have previously raised in this House. We are in danger of looking irrelevant once again while talks take place in Government Buildings between the trade unions and the employers. I say this because the trades unions, ICTU, represent less than one third of the workforce.
The trades unions represent only one third of the workforce. The employers who will be feted in Government Buildings represent nobody but the banks and semi-State organisations. The farmers' representatives have a claim to represent somebody and Father Seán Healy will represent a self-appointed voluntary pillar. This represents the sidelining of the Senate and the Dáil while a new programme for Government on issues we should control, such as transport and child care, is written and consented to by the Government and stitched up while we look like political eunuchs.
During our so-called recess the Joint Committee on Health and Children had a meeting on obesity and type 2 diabetes. It is amazing that GAA clubs around the country are being levied up to €10,000 per year for installation of flood lighting. It is time we had a debate on that issue. If voluntary clubs are doing their best to install the facilities to encourage maximum participation in sport, to which we all aspire, they should not be hindered. The GAA clubs cannot reclaim VAT on those charges. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the House to discuss whether a special scheme could be put in place for GAA clubs and other sports facilities?
I agree with the call for a debate on the nitrates directive. We need to question the independence of the board of Teagasc, especially given the debacle last year where it closed down advisory centres around the country, reopened them, closed them again and finally reopened them again. That does not inspire confidence.
I want to express my dismay at how the Government is dragging its feet on bringing about legislation for civil partnerships. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform have supported this issue. Surely they are not lacking the courage to introduce legislation at this stage. Setting up another committee is an attempt to drag its feet. The all-party committee has published its report and legislation should follow as quickly as possible. We must legislate for all the people of this country, regardless of their sexual orientation or religion. Many people must remember that Ireland is no longer just a Roman Catholic country. The Government is dragging its feet on this matter and it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. I urge the Leader to do whatever she can to bring legislation before this House, recognising the amount of work that Senator Norris and Fine Gael have done in this area.
Yesterday, An Bord Pleanála refused permission for a €150 million eco-tourism development adjacent to Lough Key Forest Park. We hear much talk about a balanced tourism infrastructure. The developers and architects involved met with the Taoiseach, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the head archaeologist of Dúchas and there were no problems. Dúchas made an observation on that planning file which weighed heavily in An Bord Pleanála's decision to refuse planning permission. Was that observation made by an individual from Dúchas? Does it reflect the views of Dúchas, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister? This is a serious situation that has got out of control and must be resolved.
Senator Hayes, Leader of the Opposition, raised the serious matter of privilege and the private papers of Senators and Deputies. He referred to Senator Higgins and Deputy Howlin. I will seek to have a relevant Minister — possibly the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform — debate this issue in the House. The Senator also asked for a debate on Northern Ireland and I hope to have one very soon. He also claimed that this is a legislative assembly but that we do not pass Bills. We have processed every Bill before us and sent it on to the Dáil. The Dáil has 15 of our Bills which still must be passed in that House. I do not know how more Bills can be brought forward because they will only add to that pile. I do not have any list, although we sought one.
Senator O'Toole called for a debate on privilege and also brought up the matter of Judge Curtin. I read in the newspaper that the Supreme Court was to give a decision by mid-March. I know no more than that.
He also spoke about the amendment to his motion. The Cabinet meeting broke up at 1.45 p.m. and the amendment was printed after that. These motions go the Cabinet table, the relevant Minister puts forward his amendment and it is discussed. The Senator wondered why it took so long as he had his motion in since Thursday, for which I thank him, but we cannot put forward an amendment ourselves. It has to be put forward by the Cabinet.
The Senator also raised the plight of Ms Marie Therese O'Loughlin and the letter from the Minister for Health and Children confirming that the Department had an inspection role as regards the institution in which she was housed. I will seek to speak to the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, on this matter.
Senator Glynn spoke about the lakes and canals being denuded of fish. Senator Finucane raised the matter of the increase in the number of road deaths. He spoke about immigrants and whether they brought vehicles into the country and asked, in the event, whether these were subject to road worthiness tests. I do not know, but it is an important point since a quarter of all the recent road deaths were accounted for by immigrants from Latvia and the Czech Republic. There was a sad case just outside Athlone, where two young women were killed, one from the Czech Republic and the other from Ireland. They were travelling in the car owned by the woman from the Czech Republic.
Senator Norris raised the matter of his Private Members' Bill. He asks whether there is now to be another committee, as mentioned last night by the Taoiseach when he launched the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's Tenth Progress Report: The Family. The Taoiseach indicated that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was to set up such a committee and Senator Norris asked about that. He also referred to matters affecting a proposed committee on rendition. I do not see Senator Bradford in the House, but perhaps Senator Brian Hayes might volunteer in that regard.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the accurate reflection of what Members say in the House. A year ago I had occasion to raise the matter of an erroneous report to the effect that I had appealed to the Debates Office. I asked that whatever I had said be printed and it was. I wish everything I say was not printed, but that is another day's work.
Senator Ulick Burke spoke about public-private partnerships. I well remember him raising the matter of Jarvis, the construction firm that has now sat down, so to speak. A UK firm will be coming in to finish the work. I will endeavour to get the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, to come into the House to speak about the matter. Senator Maurice Hayes called for a debate on road safety and asked about the Garda ombudsman. The motion on the Garda Ombudsman Commission will be taken either tomorrow or next week. It is in the Dáil this afternoon, so we will take it on from there.
I hope so. We will see what transpires today. Senator Cummins raised the issue of proof of age because passports are too precious to be waved about on entering discos or bars. He suggested there should be some other method of identification used that is not so valuable.
Senator O'Meara called for a debate on accident and emergency departments. Senator Bannon called for a debate on the nitrates directive. We do not believe it is a matter for resignation, but we should like a debate on it.
I wish Senator White good luck with the new policy and the convention in particular.
Senator Phelan raised the issue of the nitrates directive and called for a debate on road safety. Senator Mansergh referred to Northern Ireland, the nitrates directive and Ireland's generous commitment on employment issues. We have shown a generous commitment to workers from the EU accession states from which we should not move away.
Senator Quinn said there was lack of leadership in the face of the level of road deaths. He remarked on the scandal and horrific nature of road deaths and asked for a debate on the matter. He also spoke about the lack of leadership in information technology. He noted Ireland's placing on the European information technology scale as it appears we are dropping down the list.
Senator Dardis supported Senator Glynn in his call for action to be taken on the matter of indiscriminate taking of fish from the waterways. He asked for a debate on enforcement regarding this matter and also with regard to road safety.
Senator Coghlan raised the issue of privilege and also the Judge Curtin case. Senator McCarthy suggested a shorter recess should be taken by all of us. He said the House sittings are too short. There is a lot of lip service paid to this subject, yet we all have a heavy workload during the recess period.
Senator Kitt welcomed the report issued yesterday by the All-Party Oireachas Committee on the Constitution. Senator McHugh raised the issue of game angling and supported the two Senators who spoke on the matter. He made a very interesting point about Northern Ireland and the high speed train route from Belfast to Derry which includes Letterkenny. He suggests we should be in line with what is being done in the North ——
——-and this would make North-South co-operation much more relevant.
Senator Ross spoke about the levels of crime and racketeering which are evident in the North. He also referred to the social partnership talks. I believe this is a subject which this House should debate. It was referred to in our reform package. It would be very worthwhile were the protagonists to come to this House and put out their stalls so we could see what they had on offer and what they wanted. Social partnership has been extremely valuable for this country and it is one of the reasons for our continuing good economic growth rate. The Senator's point is valid in that there is no involvement of the Houses of the Oireachtas in the formulation and outcome of social partnership.
Senator Browne raised the issues of VAT charges on sports facilities. He also referred to Teagasc. Senator Terry raised the issue of civil partnerships. She said the Government is dragging its feet and that it should be noted that we are no longer just a country of one faith.
Senator Feighan referred to the important development at Lough Key which is worth €150 million and to the Dúchas observation regarding the planning file for this development. He questioned whether this observation had a bearing on the final planning permission outcome. I do not know the answer but it is no more than judges in court cases. Bodies are established to do their business and there is not much one can say once they do so. This seems to have been a potentially valuable development.