Wednesday, 26 April 2006
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is Nos. 1, 2 and 24, motion 23. No. 1 is a sessional order as agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and will be taken without debate; No. 2, statements on the peace process in the Middle East, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 5 p.m., spokespersons have ten minutes, other Senators have six minutes and Members may share time, the Minister shall be called upon to reply not later than five minutes before the conclusion of the statements; and No. 24, motion 23, shall be taken from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
We agree to the Order of Business. Since the House last met before Easter there have been two significant developments with regard to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Earlier this week we saw the first positive engagement by the Democratic Unionist Party with the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, which I warmly welcome. Many people never thought they would see the day when the DUP would meet with British and Irish parliamentarians in such a friendly and cordial way.
The other development occurred today with the publication of the IMC report. It is the most positive report to date on the issue of removing the paramilitary threat from this island. Clearly, work remains to be done and there are outstanding issues but both developments point to a positive few months ahead. All Members of the House hope that circumstances will be such in October or November next to allow the full restoration of the institutions under the Good Friday Agreement.
As somebody who was mildly sceptical of the 1916 commemoration, I was very proud of the Irish Army on Easter Sunday and of its contribution and role. I was proud to see the Army demonstrate, and to see the Irish people recognise, that it is the legacy of the 1916 Rising. Was it not great to see, for once, the goose stepping black beret brigade put into the second division on that day?
I believe the involvement of the Democratic Unionist Party with the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, even if only as guests and visitors in Killarney during the week, was a very significant step which has been understated to a significant extent by the media. People appear to have forgotten that no Unionist party has previously involved itself with the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. This is a major step forward and should be seen as such. We hope the party will move further.
I also wish to refer to the Easter Sunday commemoration and to build on the point made by Senator Brian Hayes. There was an even more significant point to the occasion. For the first time ever, Sinn Féin was on the reviewing platform outside the GPO on Easter Sunday acknowledging the members of the Irish Army marching down O'Connell Street, wearing their cap and lapel badges, as Óglaigh na hÉireann. It is the first time since 1926 that Sinn Féin acknowledged Óglaigh na hÉireann as being the Irish Army. That is the truly significant issue.
I also agree that the second parade of balaclavas, black berets and so forth looked tired and very yesterday, as it were, and that is how it should be seen. That day has passed and we have moved on. I welcome the fact that Sinn Féin acknowledged Óglaigh na hÉireann on O'Connell Street on Easter Sunday as the true and absolute successors of the patriots of 1916. I speak as somebody who also wanted the parade to involve more than the Army.
It would be churlish not to acknowledge the progress that has been made. However, I hope that those who now recognise that the Army of this State is Óglaigh na hÉireann will sometime soon recognise that they do not own the word "republican" either. A prominent member of Sinn Féin said he could not be at the GPO because he had made an arrangement with republicans in Cork. There are two republicans from Cork sitting on opposite sides of this House and he made no arrangement with us.
It is the only word I would dispute with our friends from the DUP — their willingness to allow one party to take over that word. It is time we took it back from them.
I would be reluctant to cause the slightest bit of rancour about the 1916 commemorations, even though I recorded a slightly dissenting view in one of the newspapers recently. Like others, I have received an invitation to attend a solemn requiem mass for the souls of those who died for Ireland in the 1916 Rising.
Some 90 years on we could offer the mass for everybody who died, not just those who took a particular view. It is long enough behind us now to recognise that civilians were also killed, who did not think they were dying for Ireland at the time, in addition to policemen and British soldiers. A mass for those who died in 1916 would be a small gesture in the direction of that word "inclusiveness", although I suspect we will end up with the exclusion of a worthy priest from this island for a while, but that is a separate issue.
I do not wish to cavil about 1916 but I and other members of the Labour Party are more than a little surprised that the biography of James Connolly on the Taoiseach's website forgets to mention that Connolly founded the Labour Party.
I am seeking a debate on the prohibition of religious advertising on the Irish broadcast media. It seems to me that every crackpot superstition can be advertised, including tarot cards or psychics live. Recently, I heard one of the Sunday newspapers advertising somebody who was going to tell us all about angels in two parts. I do not know whether the angels were in two parts or the article. It is astonishing that any kind of crackpot superstition can be advertised on our broadcast media but rational — although people may disagree with my use of that word — religion is prohibited. That is a daft and ludicrous situation. It is the direct opposite of any kind of genuine pluralism.
I am most disappointed at the closure of St. Michael's school in Inchicore. I chaired the task force which began the process of regeneration of the St. Michael's estate. An independent chairman was needed and since I was from 162 miles away nobody could believe I had any vested interest. It was a difficult but satisfying task.
It was clear that in addition to housing, the local community needed educational and other services. To deprive that community of any such services will undermine the regeneration process. I appeal to the Minister for Education and Science in that regard because the issue is about resourcing. The school was not satisfied that it was getting sufficient resources so I appeal for them to be provided.
Perhaps somebody can tell me whether we have abolished the common travel area. At the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body meeting in Killarney, an irate member of the British House of Commons said he had been asked to provide identification on arrival in Ireland, although he thought he was within a common travel area. He had his passport, as it happened, but he was told he would not be let in unless he produced some form of identification. That is not what we understood a common travel area to be. If it has been abolished, that fact should at least be announced.
I join Senator Brian Hayes and others in welcoming the developments taking place in Northern Ireland. I particularly welcome the findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission that the IRA has turned its back on paramilitary violence, and is not training or preparing for action. That is a significant step forward that underlines the capacity to build an executive and assembly.
I also agree with Senator Brian Hayes's point about the presence of the Democratic Unionist Party at the meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in Killarney. That was a positive development, as was the presence today of Prince Philip at the President's award, Gaisce, and that he stayed for lunch in Iveagh House.
In light of these developments one hopes we will reach the point at which the executive will be established after the assembly meets in mid-May, which would be a good time for us to debate these matters, rather than in the immediate future. I hope relations with Britain are becoming so normal that we can look forward to the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in this country where I am sure she will receive a good céad míle fáilte.
As one of those who thought it appropriate that the army of the sovereign state should march in commemoration of the 1916 Rising, I was glad to see the Irish Army on O'Connell Street. I do not disagree with Senator Ryan's comments about inclusiveness, and remembering all those who died in the service of the State, but we do so on the national day of commemoration in Kilmainham, which has been inclusive for a considerable time.
Some time ago in Limerick there was significant fundraising activity to establish a private facility for cancer sufferers. This is on the campus of the regional hospital and has been quite a success. It is staffed by a private hospital group providing a very effective service in the area.
A few months ago in this House I requested of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, that the Health Service Executive provide appropriate funds to the private facility for public patients attending there. A promise was made at the time that this funding was on its way. I am disappointed it has not materialised. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Health and Children to ensure this happens as soon as possible?
It was hard to resist that.
On the Order of Business, will the Leader consider holding a debate on waste management? There is a seminar on this topic today in north Donegal. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government could update us on Government policy. This is an important issue, in which we can play a role.
As waste and energy are the major issues of the day, could we also have a debate on energy policy to discuss the use and lack of energy, the importation of fuel, our own resources, utilisation of wind and wave power, the growing of rapeseed and so on? We should work on this and have a full debate with the Minister who could outline the policy and plans for use of the ground. Senator Callanan made a good point in that regard in the House recently. It would be worthwhile if both Ministers made themselves available to come to the House for a detailed debate on energy policy.
A report has been produced by the Departments of Social and Family Affairs, the Taoiseach and Finance on proposals for assisting lone parents. When the Minister for Social and Family Affairs was in the House dealing with the Social Welfare Bill I asked if we could debate that report as soon as possible because it contains many useful suggestions. The Minister is meeting lone parents and people from agencies who are trying to help lone parents with families. I ask the Leader to provide time to debate that report as soon as possible.
If there was one over-riding message that came out of recent Northern Ireland related events it was one of unity of purpose, people coming together for a common cause. That common cause had nothing to do with sectional interests; it was about Ireland. If one considers the different elements of what we have been discussing here today, the attendance of the DUP members at the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body meeting in Killarney was an acceptance by them that their democratic mandate was respected and that people expected them to act on that, in the same way the IMC report has underlined clearly that republicans have committed themselves to the Good Friday Agreement and their responsibilities in that regard.
The 1916 commemoration was very important for all people of a republican outlook because in many ways it showed the legitimacy of our aspiration and indeed the legitimacy of the 1916 Rising. From now on we must in some way engage on a daily basis, not just in formal meetings or commemorations, to highlight the issues that have divided us in the past and the wrong perceptions that were put out, often for political expediency. We must examine the ways in which the formal and other elements on this island can interact because I have no doubt that we are very close to the endgame. Thousands of people have made a contribution to that.
Many made that contribution when all seemed helpless and they should be remembered but I have no doubt that at this time the main focus is Ireland's welfare and potential. This is a good day for this House and a good era for the country.
Over the past four or five months, oil distribution companies in the west have been taken through the courts by the Competition Authority with regard to price fixing. Thankfully, they have been dealt with appropriately but it appears now that that idea is being taken up in the waste collection area. Allegations were made against five refuse collection companies in the west and it is regrettable that the Competition Authority had to raid premises to get the facts. Those companies had agreed to divvy up the business among themselves in one county in the west, denying competition within the service. It would be unfortunate if the allegations that the local authority has given its blessing to that activity were correct. In the case of County Galway, one private company, Greenstar, having taken over a whole facility in County Galway is now denying individuals the right to use that facility and will only allow registered waste contractors access thereto. Indeed, most people from County Galway who have to dispose of waste privately must go to Athlone and in terms of the journey from Clifden to Athlone, we might as well go from Athlone to Dublin with it. Senator Leyden is correct in calling for a debate on waste management because it is urgently needed. The Senator spoke about Government policy on waste management but it does not have such a policy.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has stated that an incinerator will not be located in his constituency, while the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will not allow an incinerator in his constituency in County Wicklow, despite the fact that the majority of illegal dumps are found in that county.
I was also lucky enough to attend the meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in Killarney as an observer. Like other Members, I welcome the developments which took place at the meeting. We should not underestimate the political fortitude of the members of the DUP who attended the meeting and the measured way in which they put their case. The fact that they wanted, and were willing, to share power in government gave me some hope. They wanted, and were prepared to be convinced. The IMC report is extremely important but a second clear report would be crucial.
For the next month at least, we should concentrate on getting the parties in the North into double harness. We should be careful not to introduce extraneous demands which might frighten the horses. I ask the Leader to offer our best wishes to the Taoiseach in the negotiations he is about to undertake with the parties in the North. I would also remind him that while everyone recognises that the main protagonists are clearly the DUP and Sinn Féin, it is important to also recognise the part played by other parties.
I also welcome the IMC report. However, I noted with alarm the fact that a young man who had driven through a checkpoint in County Down was shot dead over Easter. Such a response is not appropriate in peacetime when there are alternative responses available, such as slowly bursting the tires of cars so as not to endanger anyone. It is sad to see a young man die in peacetime for the sake of a car and a joyride. The response taken was unnecessary. In light of further confirmation from the IMC, armed forces in the North could be stepped down and take a less belligerent approach to anyone who drives through a checkpoint. I acknowledge that driving through a checkpoint is a serious matter.
Senator Maurice Hayes is correct.
I also believe that advertising for religious purposes in broadcast media should be permitted. Such advertising is necessary in today's climate. This is because a deluge of information about misconduct and mistakes within religious institutions over 60 years has rightly been divulged over the past few years. Young people, who are very impressionable, might receive the wrong slant as a result. Allowing advertising for religious purposes might bring people back to religion. I do not care what religion we are talking about. I share Senator Ryan's views on allowing advertising for religious purposes in broadcast media. Tarot readers, various helplines and expensive lines which charge €1 per minute are permitted to advertise in such media but churches and religious orders are not.
The land area off our coasts is three times that of this island. Given the amount of blocks which have been given to exploration companies, the Government should ensure that these companies either use or lose them. The price of oil is increasing continuously, yet we have a considerable bank of reserves off our coasts which must be explored and brought on shore.
The largest ever nuclear disaster took place 20 years ago today in Chernobyl, Ukraine. I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me the opportunity to recognise what the people of Ukraine and Belarus have suffered since then and will continue to suffer for generations to come. It is a good reminder when we speak about nuclear energy, in particular because the Sellafield site is adjacent to Ireland. We must empathise with and learn from what occurred at Chernobyl. In recent years, I had the honour to visit Belarus and be allowed into the exclusion zone. I saw the stark reality of the disaster's impact. I also recognise the generosity of Irish families and people who, over the past 20 years, have extended the hand of friendship to Belarussians in particular by bringing their children to Ireland for health reasons and rest periods. This is a wonderful service to the people of Belarus and the Ukraine and I hope it will continue.
The Irish people are noted for their generosity to people in need but I will compare this example to the racism we are tolerating in parts of Ireland towards individuals who have come to live here. In my area of Dublin 15, the racism and discrimination that people who have been living there for many years and whose children were born in Ireland and are Irish citizens must tolerate is a shame on all of us.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to outline for the House what he will do to allow people to live safely in their homes? These are people who have settled here but must put up with dreadful intimidation because of the colour of their skin or country of origin. The situation is not good enough. While the majority of Irish people are very good in welcoming people to this country, a small minority causes mayhem. Not enough is being done by the local authorities and the Garda. The Minister has a part to play and it would be a welcome debate.
I wish to formally say how glad I am the Duke of Edinburgh is in Ireland today to present 91 awards alongside President McAleese. In 1998, I was given the mandate to deliver the President's award into Northern Ireland, which I achieved over a period of three years on a voluntary basis. I did not get paid and was honoured to be the chairwoman of the body in question.
On a human level, it would be interesting for my colleagues to know ——
Will the Leader arrange for a debate on natural resources, in particular with reference to the Corrib gas field? Two weeks ago, I visited the Carrick-on-Suir plant and met with 60 members of the group opposing the installation of the pipeline. A line was drawn by Statoil and Shell on a map without consultation and our legislators facilitated compulsory purchase orders——
I was rather surprised that two people, one of whom I had never heard of before, were mentioned by the previous speaker.
I ask the Leader of the House to consider inviting the Taoiseach to come before the House to discuss a topic about which he is extremely enthusiastic, namely, the question of active citizenship. He recently appointed a task force on active citizenship and his enthusiasm for this matter is such that he will come before this House. In a society in which we are trying to involve ethnic groups in the entire democratic process, I was disappointed that the Taoiseach did not include anyone from such groups in the task force on active citizenship. His policy and objective is to achieve far higher standards than heretofore and to recognise what can be done. I believe he will welcome the opportunity to come before this House.
I support Senator Ryan's call for the Minister for Education and Science to give whatever support is required to ensure that St. Michael's CBS, Inchicore, is retained as a school in that severely disadvantaged area. In so doing, I wish to pay tribute to the Christian Brothers and to the staff who taught in that severely disadvantaged area for the past 70 years. It would be a pity to see that area without a school. Members have seen villages and other areas without post offices and banks and it would be a shame if the recently refurbished St. Michael's estate was now to be without a major piece of social infrastructure in the form of a local school. A school in such an area could not and cannot survive without a working principal. If that is the difference between keeping this school going and closing it, every effort must be made to ensure it is retained in that area.
Senator White should respect this House and not make a sham of it, as she is inclined to do. It is a House of Parliament and she should recognise and appreciate that, as well as showing it the dignity which it deserves. I call Senator Browne.
Can a debate with the Minister for Finance be organised in reaction to escalating fuel costs? Unfortunately, this happens every so often and the current crisis looks set to worsen before it improves. It is envisaged that a litre of petrol will shortly cost €1.25. We must cap the amount of VAT taken on fuel.
At present, it is ridiculous that as fuel prices increase, the Government also receives increased VAT. If the Government parties are genuinely interested in having a proper tax policy, they should cap the amount of VAT taken on fuels to allow for such cases when fuel prices increase. While we cannot control the fuel costs coming into the country, we can control the amount of VAT charged on the fuel. I challenge the Government parties to implement this policy with immediate effect in order to help hard-pressed motorists who are being crippled because of increased costs.
It is our job to point out the Government's inadequacies.
Could a debate on Dublin Airport be organised? I am amazed that Senator Morrissey did not mention it in his earlier comments. Some 120 short-term car park spaces will be lost at Dublin Airport in order to erect a marquee to cope with the summer traffic through the airport, which is farcical. Passengers are now paying for the Government's incompetence and inaction in regard to the airport. Anyone who has been to the airport recently will be aware that it is almost impossible to get car parking space. This is now being reduced by 120 and temporary accommodation will be provided in a marquee on the roof of the car park. It is time we had a proper debate on facilities for passengers and workers at Dublin Airport. As a former Minister for Public Enterprise, I urge the Leader to ask the Minister for Transport to come to this House for a debate on the matter so we can determine if the Progressive Democrats back the policy.
On the last point, I was at the airport on Monday and returned yesterday. I was able to book my car into the long-term car park before I departed and everything was very comfortable and pleasant. I do not agree with what Senator Browne said.
I congratulate the Taoiseach and the Government on the wonderful 1916 commemoration ceremony. There are people in this House who sneered at it a few months ago and said it would not work. It proved a wonderful success and those of us who witnessed the parade were very proud of the Defence Forces, the Garda Síochána and our country. The way the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána displayed their professionalism on that day was outstanding. Anyone who witnessed it said so and I congratulate all involved.
I welcome the International Monitoring Commission's report which gave the IRA as clean a bill of health as possible. This will help the political climate. I am pleased the DUP attended the BIIP conference in Killarney and it appears that things are moving in the right direction.
I was also at the GPO on Easter Sunday. It was a wonderful parade.
This House has a proud tradition of acknowledging and recognising commemorative days, one of which we have referred to today. As yesterday was ANZAC Day, I am pleased that a commemorative event took place in Grangegorman war cemetery where 17 Irish soldiers who fought in Gallipoli and elsewhere for ANZAC, the Australian and New Zealand forces, are buried. I am glad to say the Government was represented and that members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers commemorative association were there to represent the soldiers who died.
Members of both Houses have relatives who fought in the ANZAC forces. The uncle of my friend and colleague from Kildare, Deputy Durkan, fought for those forces but sadly did not return. Deputy Durkan and I had the dubious pleasure of seeing his name on the wall at Ypres, a very emotional moment, representing our shared heritage.
I endorse what has been said about the historic events which took place in Killarney. Along with Members of this House, I was privileged to be there on behalf of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body when the DUP made its historic entrance. The Leader might consider some way of allowing Members of the House who are not members of that body to engage in a dialogue on the extra-parliamentary activities taking place within this island and between the two islands at a parliamentary level. I will not say the British-Irish Council operates secretly, but we do not get much information on what goes on there.
The British-Irish Interparliamentary Body has meanwhile grown in stature and its credibility has been considerably enhanced as a result of the events of this week. The Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements entered into by all parties on this island also allow for the establishment of an all-island parliamentary tier, a type of institution on an all-island basis to which, following the events of Monday, I believe the DUP would be very responsive, so long as it was consulted with and agreement was reached on how the institutions would proceed. The Leader might reflect on how, in this House, we might expand these roles so that all Members can feel included in terms of what is going on, rather than have to read it in the newspapers or hear it from us.
In its legislative programme, the Government seems to have abandoned plans to introduce a new gaming and lotteries Bill which would amend the completely outdated 1956 Act. In 2000, an interdepartmental group made a number of excellent recommendations. It is a pity this report is gathering dust as the Government does not seem to be doing anything about it.
Recently, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform again indicated he intends to close the loophole in the law which allows private members' card clubs to operate as casinos. He indicated he might do so in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill but I have read through it and there is no mention of this. I ask the Leader to ascertain the Minister's intentions in this regard.
I join those who have made favourable comments on the solemn occasion of the Easter 1916 commemoration. I was pleased to be there and all fair-minded people would agree it was a great success.
Every time we pick up a newspaper or hear or see the news, we are told of terrible criminal atrocities being committed with knives and guns. Though we have debated the matter before on many occasions in this House, it is again opportune for the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to attend the House for a debate. He has always been responsive to such calls. The situation is very serious. Hardly a day passes when someone is not shot or killed in a knife attack.
Over the past few years, we have seen a great increase in the population of this country. That is the result of a number of factors, not least because emigration has all but ceased, while for the first time we have immigration. That is enriching, but there are difficulties with regard to school places. I congratulate the Minister for Education and Science for the great strides she is taking in addressing the problem.
However, those who are making large profits through development will have to come on board and assist in addressing this matter. There are large tracts of land being developed for housing. Those developers should make the appropriate contribution for services. To a large extent that is not happening. In one context it is happening, in another it is not.
Senator Brian Hayes raised the matter of the engagement by the Democratic Unionist Party with the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body in Killarney. It engaged with us in an open fashion. That was a positive and far-reaching development but we should not hold our breath as it will take time for this to work itself through. The deputation would have gone further if it had the authority to so do. Given that it has to report back there was a wariness on its part. The Senator referred to the IMC report, which was positive.
Senator Hayes also said he was proud of the Army on Easter Sunday, as were we all when we reviewed it on the platform. It was marvellous to be a Member of the Oireachtas and to be invited to such a wonderful occasion.
Senator O'Toole rightly said that two prominent members of Sinn Féin were on the reviewing platform, one of whom is a Member of the other House and the other an elected member from the North. Therefore, there was full participation.
Senator Ryan said he did not like the way in which the word "republican" was used in the Cork context as he and his fellow republican were sitting in another bench. He raised the issue of the Army invitation for next week. Senator Dardis answered that point by saying we go to Kilmainham for a day of overall commemoration. Senator Ryan asked that we inform the Taoiseach about the website to which he referred and said that the Taoiseach has forgotten to note that James Connolly started the Labour Party. The Labour Party is the oldest political party in the State.
Senator Ryan raised the issue of the prohibition on advertising of rational religion, as he called it. He also raised the closure of St. Michael's national school in Inchicore, as did Senator Morrissey, and the common travel area. Recently when I travelled to London I had to produce my passport and got very cross about it and said I would not. The official then said that I would not go anywhere. We are asked for our passports even though we should not be asked.
Senator Dardis welcomed the positivity of the Independent Monitoring Commission and the presence today of a prince from across the water — we are not allowed mention names — at the President's award, Gaisce. He was right to bring to our attention the national day of commemoration.
Senator Finucance raised the issue of fundraising for cancer sufferers. He said the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, had agreed to look into the matter and to provide the necessary funding and wondered why that had not happened.
I will take up that matter with him. Senator Leyden called for a debate on waste management and a debate on all kinds of energy. Senator Henry asked about the report on single parents. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs has agreed to come into the House for statements on the matter. The difficulty is in trying to get a date but he is willing to come. We hope a date can be arranged in May. He sent the message to the House because following the previous debate the Senator asked him to attend another one.
Senator Ó Murchú raised the issue of unity of purpose with regard to the North and said we should all move together, given all the positive developments, including the attendance of the DUP at the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, the Independent Monitoring Commission report and the 1916 commemoration. The Senator made a fine point about the legitimacy of the 1916 Rising. We are having the conversation about the rising which the Taoiseach requested. The answer to questions about its legitimacy, which are often raised, has been set out.
Senator Ulick Burke noted action taken by the Competition Authority in the west against cartels operating in the sale of oil and diesel and indicated a new cartel is now operating in waste collection, with one company, Greenstar, taking over an entire facility in County Galway. We, in County Westmeath, do not want County Galway's waste but it keeps coming.
Senator Maurice Hayes referred to the positive nature of the DUP's visit to Killarney and asked that the House offer warm wishes to the Taoiseach. Senators would clearly wish to do so.
Senator Hanafin raised the case of a young man killed in the North after driving through a checkpoint. The Senator called for advertising for religious purposes to be allowed. He also stated that offshore energy companies should use or lose the exploration blocks they have been awarded.
I thank Senator Terry for raising the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. I have noticed an increasing number of newspaper pieces asking why Ireland should not have nuclear energy. We should stamp on such arguments when we see them because we cannot have nuclear power.
The Senator also commended the generosity shown by Irish families to families from Belarus.
I have heard and read about the firm anti-racism policy operated by the Garda Síochána. I agree, however, that there is a deep well of racism here which is very strong in some areas, although only a small number of people contribute to it.
Senator White referred to several people, all members of the British royal family, about whom Senators may not talk. In a general sense, however, we should welcome them if they visit.
Senator Quinn requested that the Taoiseach come before the House to discuss the task force on active citizenship. I believe the Senator has already made such a request which was communicated to the Taoiseach. While the Taoiseach indicated he would like to come to the House, I presume the problem is one of time pressure.
Senator Morrissey asked that the Minister for Education and Science meet representatives of St. Michael's CBS, Inchicore, and ensure it remains open.
To mark Senator Browne's cards, with the permission of the Cathaoirleach, the House will debate accident and emergency services next week. The Senator wants VAT on fuel to be capped and seeks a debate on Dublin Airport with the Minister for Transport. Senator Feeney stated that her experience of Dublin Airport was most happy. She also took pride in congratulating the Taoiseach and all those involved in the commemorative event to mark the 1916 Rising. The Taoiseach took a risk in that regard. Prior to the commemoration the newspapers featured many letters and articles arguing that it should not take place. While many doubted whether the commemoration should proceed, they quickly limped off after we had our day of celebration. To use an inappropriate phrase, the Taoiseach stuck to his guns and persisted. We all agree the event was a great success.
Senator Feighan referred to the IMC report and the DUP and wondered why the Taoiseach did not refer to John A. Costello and W.T. Cosgrave in a particular speech. I had a brief word with Mr. Liam Cosgrave on the reviewing stand at the recent commemoration and he was very pleased with the way in which the event passed off.
Senator Mooney referred to Gallipoli and noted that the Royal Dublin Fusiliers celebrated ANZAC Day. He also asked about the British-Irish Council which I hesitate to describe as a mysterious body, although it certainly does not advertise itself much. The Senator referred to the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body and an all-Ireland parliamentary tier, which is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement, and asked for a general debate on relations between the House and such bodies. That is a good idea.
Senator Cummins raised the matter of casinos. I understand it was intended the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill would address the issue. I will ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about it.
Senator Glynn wants a debate on knife crime which is a serious issue. He also asked about a debate on development lands and the setting aside by developers of lands for schools, health centres or whatever is required in the area. This is a good idea and should be developed further.