Thursday, 23 March 2006
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is Nos. 1, 2 and 3. No. 1, the Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Bill 2006 — Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 1.30 p.m.; No. 2, motion for earlier signature of the Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Bill 2006, to be taken without debate immediately on the conclusion of No. 1; and No. 3, the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude not later than 4.30 p.m. There will be a sos from 1.30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Anyone who read their ESB bills recently would have noticed a rapid escalation in the cost of electricity. The OECD in a recent economic evaluation stated that in the six years of liberalisation of the market in this country, very little has happened in regard to true competition. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources recently commissioned a report by Deloitte & Touche in regard to energy policy, in particular electricity policy. The report, which cost over €1.2 million, was published last December yet its findings appear to be secret. One talks about accountability and transparency but the contents of the report are known only to the Minister, his Department, senior Department of Finance officials and the Office of the Commission for Energy Regulation. When I recently asked the energy regulator whether the information contained in the report would be made accessible I was told that as far as it was concerned, its lips were sealed.
The Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is examining the energy situation. It has employed a consultant and is meeting the various representatives in order to frame a document regarding its concerns on energy issues. The Department is also preparing an energy policy document. It is farcical that a committee is preparing a document when a comprehensive report has been produced which could impact on and help the committee's work.
Why is the information being withheld? Is it because, as is commonly known, it contains unpalatable truths on generating capacity and the opening of the Irish market? In that context, the Government possibly does not want confrontation or discussions with the ESB unions in the year prior to the general election. If that is the reason, it is a shabby one. The report should be open and accessible so we can all have an input on future energy policy.
The Oireachtas committee recently met representatives of the large energy users. They expressed their extreme concern that Ireland is no longer as attractive a proposition as it had been because our electricity costs have risen out of all proportion to other costs. Given the 15 years of economic growth which is projected, what will stultify that growth, apart from factors such as housing demand, is escalating cost increases, by stealth or otherwise. Electricity is a main component of such costs.
Taxpayers funded the €1.2 million report, not the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey. As a starting point, its contents should be revealed. Let us have proper discussions on the report and frame energy polices which are applicable to Ireland's future.
No. 15 on the Order Paper, the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill 2006, is in my name and that of the Independent Senators. The Leader will recall that the Bill was to deal with the question of seeking warrants for the continued interrogation of suspects who walked free because they were in court while the issues of a case were being discussed. The object of the Bill is to ensure that the time spent arguing the case in court was not counted as part of the 24 or 48 hours. I got a response from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicating that he is sympathetic to the objective of the Bill, believes it needs to be dealt with and would be disposed towards dealing with it in the forthcoming criminal justice Bill. I will talk to him about that and this is a positive response on the issue. The House generally was in favour of what I was trying to achieve in this regard.
The most threatening news of the day is that we are facing up to 15 years of plenty in terms of the NCB report. While that must be seen in a positive light, we need to ensure we direct and harness it. Returning to first principles, the most fundamental basis and foundation of any economy is a well-educated, healthy population. That is where we need to begin in terms of our infrastructure, or at least it needs to be given an equal footing with other areas. We should fast-track the infrastructure not only for broadband and road and rail, which are crucial, but also the health and medical infrastructure.
In that respect, I wish to repeat a point I made last night. We jump up and down here in outrage regularly on the basis of gun crime and people dying by the gun or as a result of road accidents, but there are more unnecessary deaths among women from cancer each year. There are twice, if not three times, as many deaths among women from cancer as the cumulative number of deaths resulting from gun crime and road accidents. The lives of at least 1,000 women a year could be saved and they could be alive if we were to ensure the roll-out of the cancer screening programme to all parts of rural and provincial Ireland. The current position is disgraceful. We are more agitated about avian flu and the possibility of an outbreak of SARS in China than we are about burying many of our own people unnecessarily year after year. We need to address that. The Minister for Health and Children should come to the House and it should be pointed out to her that this is an infrastructural issue which is hugely important. This issue is only one aspect of health care — there are many more. However, this is one aspect which, if addressed, could have an immediate impact and bring about positive results. I ask that we discuss this matter.
I am as aware as anybody else of issues related to our declining competitiveness. It is worth pointing out that the Scandinavian countries are mostly in the top ten while we are in the bottom 20s in terms of international competitiveness. Therefore, when we deal with issues such as electricity and energy we need to make sure that what we will do is what will work. We have attempted to introduce what we call competition into the telecommunications industry — which most people now recognise is an unmitigated disaster, with our broadband infrastructure having fallen behind as various speculators have rewarded themselves once or twice by manipulating the ownership of our major telecommunications company — which is now acknowledged by international advisers as being wonderfully good at out-manoeuvring regulators. The first thing we need to do is to learn how to regulate and when we learn that we can deal with how monopolies should be dealt with. However, if we do it the other way around, we are simply turning a public monopoly into a private monopoly and it will then proceed to run rings around the State and make enormous amounts of money for a small number of people, and that is not good for anybody.
We should attach some reality to the forecast of 15 years of limitless growth that apparently faces us. It would serve the country well if this House were to regularly debate the medium and longer-term issues that will confront us and, perhaps, persuade some Minister to begin to look a little beyond the next six months. A major issue faces us in terms of energy, as Senator Finucane has often pointed out, and will face us in terms of oil supply in approximately 15 years time. Some countries are planning for an oil-free future, but we are sitting here hoping the problem will go away. If this House has a purpose it ought to be to get Ministers to think a little beyond next week, next month or even the next election.
Transport 21 was perhaps the nadir when the Government produced a loose-leaf paper with a proposal to spend €30 billion. That was not a plan but the problem is that the Government thinks it is. The sooner we all figure that out the better.
When a rottweiler runs away from a rabbit there is a strange political climate. In that context, I want to record something I found profoundly offensive, namely, that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said that the sort of people who damaged his party's offices were the sort of people who go on anti-war protests. That is a wonderful claim because it does not single out an individual.
I record that, with the exception of Senator Norris, I have probably been on more anti-war protests than anybody in this House, and I hope to continue to do so for as long as I am able to walk.
I would not wish for anything else to damage the PDs but I am entertained by the fact that on the same street as its offices there is a premises called Gormleys. I wonder did the PDs get a little cross, miss the target and hit their own premises instead of Gormleys because I cannot help being amused by the coincidence of names.
Yesterday morning a number of Members said they would welcome the Medical Council's investigation into the consultants who investigated Dr. Neary. There is a much more profound question here about the Medical Council and how it agreed to a procedure that enabled Dr. Neary to select the cases his investigators would examine. That relates to another question, that of the mystique of self-regulating professions, whether it be the legal profession or the medical profession. I would like us to have a debate on the appropriateness of these self-regulating professions.
It seems that self-regulating professions regulate themselves in the interests of the profession not of the consumer. I am a member of the engineering profession, which is nominally self-regulating. It has unfortunately to live in a much more competitive market-based model of activity than the other professions I mentioned and because of that it has failed miserably in any attempts — of which there have been a few — to create a sort of closed shop. It has always failed to do so. A similar experience would be very good for the medical and legal professions. We could have a useful debate on that.
One of the best measures of competitiveness is high sustained growth and, in that respect, we have been top of the list for approximately the past 15 years.
I would like to express my deep satisfaction at the permanent ETA ceasefire, which is clearly in part at least based on the model of the Irish peace process. The Government should congratulate Mr. Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain who, like the Taoiseach and some of his predecessors, took serious risks for peace. We should also pay tribute to a well-known Redemptorist priest——
——who seemingly has played nearly as important as part in the Basque peace process as he did in the Northern peace process. I believe that those who tried but unfortunately were unable to demonstrate here would appreciate the number of lives that have been saved by his endeavours.
On a lighter European note, we are three months into the year of a very important commemoration. I am talking about the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart. I am a little disappointed that our concert organisers, opera companies and so on seem to show no signs of having any——
The Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism should monitor the situation to ensure that the anniversary is properly commemorated because one of the main witnesses of the life of Mozart was the famous Irish tenor, Michael Kelly. According to experts, playing the music of Mozart is very good for babies. Do Members agree that politicians need eine kleine nachtmusik?
I support the call by Senator Finucane for a debate on energy and ESB charges. I am not sure whether the Government will take seriously a report which cost €1.2 million when one considers that the Minister said that €143 million is not a significant figure. One wonders how he would regard a figure of €1.2 million. He would probably consider it to be small change which is not worth bothering about.
The debate should be broadened to include the quality of service provided by semi-State bodies like the ESB. I experienced a number of difficulties when I contacted the ESB to get a connection. There was no office in the area which I could visit and I was forced to wait 41 minutes to get through to a representative when I phoned the ESB. I was then asked to press a range of buttons to access various services.
We should examine the disgraceful quality of service provided to the public by some of these semi-State bodies. Not only is a person forced to wait 41 minutes to talk to an ESB representative, he or she must also endure the strains of "Have I Told You Lately?" by Van Morrison when he or she is going berserk trying to get through to someone. The Leader should broaden the scope of the debate to include the quality of services provided by semi-State bodies to ensure that bodies like the ESB have local offices or, at least, local contacts which people can access. Can one imagine what it is like for young mothers with children waiting on the phone to speak to someone? People who are not computer-literate experience real problems with the ESB because it is impossible to obtain forms. The bureaucracy attached to a simple task, such as getting a connection, is stifling.
It is particularly noteworthy and gratifying for all of us that Ireland is now acknowledged as a country which exports peace to other trouble spots in the world. The peacemakers are the only antidote to hostility and war. It may appear at times that they will not succeed and yet history shows us that they have been repeatedly successful simply because they are truthful and sincere and have an amazing human tenacity which enables them to stick with their task.
Fr. Alec Reid is an example of such a peacemaker. We are all aware of and it is important that we acknowledge the misrepresentation he has endured over the years. I am pleased that his native county of Tipperary is honouring him this year with the Tipperary Person of the Year Award. It would also be very welcome if Fr. Reid could be invited to address this House because he has so much to offer us. We have discussed the situation in Iraq, Northern Ireland and international difficulties.
People like Fr. Reid are at the heart of such matters. It would be wonderful if we could listen to somebody like him who has shown us what we can achieve in the cause of peace and justice. I hope that in the very near future, the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will consider extending an invitation to Fr. Reid to address the Seanad.
I ask the Leader to draw the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the case of Abdul Rahman, about which I heard last night. Mr. Rahman is being tried this week in Kabul, Afghanistan, for converting from Islam to Christianity. Afghanistan has been rescued from the Taliban by international forces, particularly those of the US. Mr. Rahman could face the death penalty, which is being sought by prosecutors. I saw footage of him on television this morning and he appears willing to be a martyr for Christianity. It is akin to going back almost 2,000 years to hear about someone who is accused of converting from one religion to another and who is willing to give up his life for his new religion.
We must do something about this case. Germany, Italy and the US have drawn the Afghan Government's attention to the country's constitution which allows the death penalty for converting from Islam to another religion but we should draw the Afghan Government's attention to the outrage that we in the rest of the world feel about Abdul Rahman's case.
I support Senator Ryan's call for a debate on self-regulation. The time is right for such a debate, which would be very useful.
In view of the upcoming commemoration of the 1916 Rising, could the Leader ask the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea, to give some special recognition to the brave women who took part in the rising? We all know and acknowledge the great work and contribution of CountessMarkiewicz. However, other equally brave and fearless women like Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Winifred Carey, Margaret Skinnider and Rose McNamara played an equally important part but, sadly, are largely forgotten. The time is ripe for us as a nation to look for some special recognition for these women. I am sure nobody in this House would disagree that we all talk about the men of 1916 but rarely mention the 50 brave women who took up arms and fought for this great country.
This letter is a perfect example of reactionary politics and political spin. The Minister is reacting to a situation in such a way as to justify his own position. In doing so, he referred to one part of the country, namely, Dublin. When the Minister is drawing up these analyses, could he outline how many new gardaí are sitting behind desks and engaged in administrative work, rather than serving on the beat?
There is life outside the Pale. When the Minister gets his civil servants to perform these detailed analyses to protect him and react to a situation, could he look outside the Pale and give those of us who live in the country an analysis of the increase in gardaí in places like Cork or County Donegal? When the Minister carries out an analysis of a city like Dublin, he must also take Derry city into account. Derry city is the fourth largest city on the island, although it is outside our political jurisdiction. Towns like Killea, St. Johnston and Muff border Derry city but the area does not receive one additional resource because the fourth largest city on the island is on its doorstep. The Minister should take this fact into consideration when he is engaged in reactionary politics, justifying himself and fighting to perform for the Progressive Democrats in the next general election. It is a further example of regressive, rather than progressive, party politics.
I join with those speakers who congratulated Fr. Alec Reid this morning and welcome the ceasefire announced by ETA. We also heard arguments concerning the anti-war movement and marches against the war in Iraq. I believe everyone in this House is anti-war. Perhaps it is time to have a debate on the situation in the Middle East, particularly because the US now recognises that there is a reduction in the threat of terrorism and has lowered the national threat level for the US mass transit sector. Perhaps it is time to examine the situation at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay and whether a full judicial procedure should be established. This would mean that those prisoners who should be released are released, while those who must pay for any crimes they have committed are tried within the judicial system.
I look forward to the day when US soldiers return to barracks in Iraq, having brought about the restoration of democracy. Senator Quinn referred to the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban. This is exactly what happened; the country was liberated. I look forward to the day when both countries have thriving democracies. I also look forward to the day when having won the war, they achieve peace and the US will have achieved in the Middle East what it achieved in Europe after the Second World War.
Like everyone else in the House, I welcome the ceasefire announced by ETA. I salute the work done by people like Fr. Alec Reid, of which I learned this morning on the radio. However, before we cover ourselves in congratulations that the Irish model was followed in the ceasefire, we should reflect on the fact that at the beginning of the campaign ETA took its inspiration and its filthy trade of death from the thugs of the IRA, on which it was modelled. There is no unqualified cause of congratulations here today.
While I am pleased they have at last learned, it is a great pity that so many innocent civilians, including women and children, had to be slaughtered by these people. It is time they woke up. They are a disgrace to Europe, as are the provisional thugs.
I would like to have a debate on the privatisation of Aer Lingus, which was discussed yesterday by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport. It is clear that the answers given by the Government in the other House were until recently unsatisfactory and incorrect. There should be no difficulty about the State investing in Aer Lingus; we have invested in a number of other airlines, including British Airways. I do not understand why we should not invest in our own airline. It is a cause of concern to some of us that the person appointed to advise on the disastrous Eircom situation is now being invited by the Government to advise on Aer Lingus. We know what happened to Eircom, which was a flop. Far from investing in it, the so-called "fat cats" came in, asset stripped it and we now have one of the worst services in Europe because of a total lack of investment.
We should also investigate the operation of the redress board in which this House played an important role. I have been approached by a number of people who say they were abused 40 years ago or more. They have waited all this time and because of delays in the system and an insufficient number of judges, they are still being denied justice.
We should continue to monitor operations at Shannon Airport, especially in light of reports in today's newspapers that the Council of Europe has advised that United States flights, especially CIA flights, should, and must be routinely inspected and that this is a legally binding requirement on governments. This is the report of the Venice commission, which also indicated that a degree of collaboration, which has existed by refuelling these rendition torture flights, constitutes complicity and that victims who survive may have a case against the Government because of its complicity in it. Not only that, the Government is required to intervene if, without landing, these aircraft pass through Irish air space. The committee that was almost established by this House should have examined that aspect.
I had the honour of attending the award ceremony for Fr. Alec Reid on being named Tipperary Man of the Year. It would be good if some people in this House heard him speak about the situation in the North. He said that after 700 years the war with England is over.
Fr. Reid praised the president of Sinn Féin for having spent 14 years trying to achieve the peace process. We must listen to people like Fr. Alec Reid, who is a balanced person. I would also like to send best wishes to President McAleese and her husband for stretching out the hand of friendship to members of the UDA. It takes courage to shake hands. Some 99% of people do nothing and make no changes in society. Just 1% of people make any change and President McAleese has done her best. She comes from the North. Her home was attacked, as was her husband's. We should convey to her our best wishes and not have the cheap Sunday newspapers insulting her for what she is doing.
I agree with my colleague, Senator McHugh, who raised the issue of the letter from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is surprising to have received the letter yesterday following his mealy-mouthed apology the previous day for his outrageous remarks on Monday. We received this letter of justification for his stance yesterday evening. I regard the letter in the same way as Senator McHugh and I am sure many others. Serious issues were raised by Deputy Bruton and others and the Minister would be more usefully employed if he tackled these issues rather than trying to justify his stance and his outrageous behaviour on Monday.
Will the Leader arrange for a debate in this House on the report published by the Automobile Association, which is covered in a number of today's newspapers? This highlights accident black spots on the major roads throughout the country. The report indicates that a number of areas have been highlighted over a number of years and local authorities have not been in a position to implement safety measures because they have not got sufficient funding from the Government.
There are two major causes for most fatalities on our roads, one of which is driver behaviour. Driver behaviour is being changed by the penalty points system. As someone who received penalty points, I can vouch for the fact that it has changed my behaviour. I am sure other Members have had penalty points and whose behaviour has changed as a result. There is a significant issue in regard to the condition of many roads in the country, including many of the main roads. It would be useful if we could have a debate on the report as soon as possible.
I support the call for a debate on the Garda Síochána. I welcome the report, which clarified the position of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It indicated that the rainbow coalition Government reduced the number of gardaí from 10,900 to 10,700 during its term of office. Under the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government, the number of gardaí has increased by 1,700 to 12,500.
It is going in the right direction. The other proposals for a reserve force and so on will help to meet the challenges gardaí face each day. We should welcome the proposal rather than try to denigrate it.
I join Senator Quinn in calling for the House to have its voice heard in regard to the individual who may be executed in Afghanistan for changing his religion from Islam to Christianity. I would remind Senators who are vocal in criticising America for the war on terrorism to take into account that this type of regime, and these kinds of institutions, are what is causing strife throughout the world. We cannot be selective.
Mr. Gerry Adams spent 30 years supporting terrorism before he found out anything about peace. The word "peace" and the name "Adams" are contradictory. It is right such a statement should be allowed to be contradicted in this House. Mr. Adams is responsible for, and supported, more deaths than anybody in this country. If Senator White is allowed to get away——
Senator Jim Walsh has already apologised for terrorists in other countries. Let him speak again if he wishes. I will not tolerate those on the Government benches using a peace declared yesterday to start to excuse these people and using them as some sort of promoters and crusaders for peace, which they are not.
I wish to refer to a point raised by Senator Ryan, which is a completely different issue. The issue of self-regulation is a serious and relevant one. I was a stockbroker for some years. Stockbrokers were one of the early victims of self-regulation and no group deserved it more. The self-regulation of the Stock Exchange was a farce and it was run, as Senator Ryan rightly said, for the benefit of stockbrokers and not for the customers. Auctioneers are an example of that and it has been decided that they should lose the right to self-regulation.
Lawyers are another example. Any profession, including accountancy, which is allowed to self-regulate will abuse the customer and protect itself. This is a principle we should discuss. There are vested interests in this House which can be flushed out or which can offer something to the debate. It is an issue which should be discussed seriously. It is an ideal subject for the Seanad with its vocational panels. Members represent vested interests and can talk about self-regulation in their professions and vocations.
I welcome Senator Norris's call for a debate on the privatisation of Aer Lingus for which I have called on several occasions. Something has happened there which has made it far more relevant that we should have such a debate. Something strange happened yesterday, of which I am sure the Leader is aware. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport decided to hold hearings on the privatisation of Aer Lingus. I do not know how or why that will happen because it will be a long process. I thought the decision to privatise Aer Lingus had already been made. I understood the Taoiseach said a decision had been made and that the Cabinet had to make a final decision next week about how this was to be done. What is the point of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport holding hearings, which go on into the summer, if the decision has been made? Are we to believe this is a signal for a delay?
Senator Finucane raised the issue of high ESB bills which people have been receiving. The thrust of his argument was that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, of which he is a member, is doing a report without sight of that which the Minister has had for some time. No matter what the Minister's report contains, it would be good if it was published. We will ask his office if that can be done.
Senator O'Toole referred to No. 15 on the Order Paper, the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill 2006, in his name. He said the Minister told him he intends to include it in the ever growing list of amendments to the criminal justice Bill. He talked about the 15 years of plenty but I never believe what economists say. I hope we have 15 years of plenty but I have never met an economist who has been able to read a crystal ball correctly. Economists usually find a reason to explain why they were wrong. Apologies to Senator Ross, who might be labelled an economist, but I think they want to get a bit of notice for themselves.
Senator O'Toole also talked about health infrastructure and, in particular, the number of women who are dying unnecessarily from cancer. The Senator and Senator Henry did a service to the House by tabling a motion in this House yesterday on which I was unable to speak.
Senator Ryan spoke about competitiveness and about what the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said, namely, that the people who damaged the Progressive Democrats' offices were people who went on anti-war marches.
The Senator said he hoped to continue to go on such marches. He also referred to the mystique of self-regulating professions. Such professions always announce themselves with great pomp and glory. As Senator Ross said, self-regulation serves the professional and not the consumer.
Senator Mansergh referred to sustained growth. He raised the ETA ceasefire in the Basque region of Spain and praised the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr. Zapatero, who put out feelers early on. He also mentioned Fr. Alec Reid.
Senator Mansergh also referred to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart. This Chamber used to be a ballroom. Would it not be lovely to have a concert of Mozart's music? We could put the orchestra where the Cathaoirleach sits.
It is something about which we should think. I do not know what the staff of the House would say.
Senator Coonan called for a debate on energy and on the quality of service provided. I could not agree with him more. When one telephones with a query one is told to press a certain key but if one does not have a touch-tone telephone — none of the telephones in the Houses is a touch-tone telephone — one cannot get through and one ends up listening to "The Rising of the Moon" or "Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone". The Senator's point was solid and was about the quality of service provided by the semi-States.
Senator Ó Murchú was glad we were exporting the peace process and thought we should invite Fr. Alec Reid to the House but as the Cathaoirleach said, that is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Senator Quinn raised the case of Abdul Rahman who was accused of converting from Islam to Christianity. He faces death with serenity of mind. We can pass that information on to the Department of Foreign Affairs. As Senator Jim Walsh said, our voices should be heard in that regard.
Senator Feeney would like the women of 1916 to be commemorated. They would have got 1916 and Cumman na mBan medals but I agree with the Senator. I was interested to read TomClonan's recent article. He has been corrected but on small matters. There was a brave woman from Athlone, Mrs. Eilish O'Brien, who was in the Royal College of Surgeons. She was one of the 50 women mentioned in The Irish Times article. All of these women were courageous. I thought it interesting that Mr. de Valera gave the order that he did not want any women in Boland's Mills. He wanted complete purity of purpose in his endeavours. Be that as it may, the team responsible for the 1916 commemorations should pay attention to this aspect.
Senator McHugh referred to the letter from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. His party colleague, Deputy Bruton, raised the matter so I expect the Minister was responding to it. Now everyone will write to him, looking for the figures for counties Westmeath, Longford, Donegal, etc., and I would encourage Members to do that. Already, people are asking me what is happening in County Westmeath on the basis that they know Dublin is being looked after. Senator McHugh wants to know what is happening about County Donegal.
He is looking after Longford. No doubt we shall hear from him, but he will hear from me, too, so it is all the same.
Senator Hanafin raised the matter of Fr. Alec Reid and the Middle East as well as the thriving democracies he believes the United States will leave behind. I do not know about that, but it will take a long time.
Senator Norris welcomed the ETA ceasefire, but brought up the matter to which I referred earlier. I am informed by Senator Mansergh, however, that ETA was two or three years in existence before Sinn Féin——
Senator Norris also raised the matter of the privatisation of Aer Lingus and the operation of the proposed nursing homes redress board. He said we should monitor events at Shannon Airport in terms of the Council of Europe's Venice commission report.
Senator White praised Senator O'Toole, which was dramatic and——
——about which we were very pleased about that. No, she was quoting Fr. Alec Reid on Gerry Adams. The Senator referred to the President and her husband, who are doing such excellent work.
Senator John Paul Phelan referred to the AA report on road black spots throughout the country which could well merit a debate. Senator Walsh welcomed the letter from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. It showed that the Dublin figures are up and that the proposed Garda reserve force will help. We do not hear much about the reserve force in this Chamber, although that would be interesting.
Senator Jim Walsh praised Senator Quinn for raising the matter of Abdul Rahman. Senator Ross referred to Sinn Féin. Incidentally, when Senator White was speaking, I was affronted and wish to chide Senator Norris for saying "yawn, yawn". She is entitled to speak in this House, as is Senator Norris.
Senator Ross got properly agitated about the whole peace process and said he did not believe Gerry Adams and peace were synonymous. At the end of the day they were.
Senator Ross also called for a debate on the issue of self-regulation. I have asked for such a debate, but I do not know what Minister we can get to promote or speak on the topic. That is the difficulty. There is a full programme again next week because the Finance Bill and various other legislative measures are before the House. We may be able to address some of the matters that have been suggested as worthy of debate the following week.
Senator Ross also referred to the Joint Committee on Transport. I was surprised to see it is having a series of hearings on Aer Lingus and the proposed privatisation. Who is the Chairman of that committee, so that we can endeavour to see what this is about?
I know where he is from.
Senator Coghlan raised the matter of the civil law Bill. That is on the A list and it is expected to be published this session. I do not know what it will be about but as the Senator has inquired about it on a number of occasions so I will endeavour to ascertain what is the purpose of the Bill.