Thursday, 19 October 2006
Order of Business (Resumed)
Senator Brian Hayes raised the issue of care of the elderly and said new legislation is promised. His remarks focused on Professor O'Neill's report and when it would be published. As is often the case in the Seanad, there already has been a good and balanced mini-debate on the matter by Members this morning. Of course, the report will be published. The Minister, Deputy Harney, has said as much, but there must be balance on it. We have heard welcome contributions from Members who have seen the legal advice presented to the joint committee, which explained why the report cannot yet be published. I am satisfied with that. I am not satisfied with what has taken place but I am satisfied with how it is being dealt with.
Senator O'Toole spoke about nursing homes and the mix of people required, not just health and safety personnel but also health professionals, to inspect such nursing homes. He said there might be a lack of expertise if people are drawn from just one agency. He also spoke about the Standards in Public Office Commission, which claims it does not have enough power. I think it wants to shackle us to the ground. The Senator demanded that we discuss this. If one opposes something like this it is similar to opposing virtue. Everybody supports standards; all Members genuinely do so. However, the idea seems to be that what one eats and drinks and who one meets must be constantly reshaped and re-shackled. It would be a good idea to have a full debate on the issue rather than simply say there should be more shackles and there should be more submission to them.
Senator Ryan also spoke about the Leas Cross scandal. His point was interesting. The report was commissioned by the HSE, not by the Minister. If the report came to the Minister directly, she or he would always have the right to submit it to the Legislature. I understand the manner in which this can be done is being examined.
The Senator also spoke about the soap opera of Aer Lingus. How right he is. I welcome the intervention of that gentleman. In my opinion, he has chutzpah and he took on the other guy. We shall wait to see how matters develop. The second gentleman will not be so quick to lampoon people in the future. The Senator is also seeking a debate on the fact that Ireland has slipped down the competitiveness league table.
Senator Kenneally referred to the report of the three wise men and asked if I would ascertain whether it might be possible to debate it in the House. I will endeavour to do so. The Senator also praised the Garda on its efficient and sensitive handling of the extremely sad death that took place in Waterford.
Senator Coghlan referred to the stage payments Bill. We must discover the current position regarding the latter.
Senator Ó Murchú referred to the Leas Cross report. The Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, will be delighted that a number of Sir Galahads in the House came to her defence earlier. The Minister's hands are tied and we are aware that patients feel vulnerable. As soon as she is free to release the report, it will be debated in the House. Senator Henry saw the legal advice relating to this matter and is aware that it cannot be dealt with in the normal manner. People's rights must be vindicated. The reputations of the elderly and those who care for them should not be sullied.
Senator Henry also referred to Ethiopia and a judge's report to the effect that a massacre took place there. She asked me to bring to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that Ethiopia is one of Ireland's priority countries.
Senator Kitt referred to a bank in Wexford that is targeting children with inducements and thereby hoping to encourage them to become customers. Children are somewhat young to be exposed to such behaviour. The bank in question is closing branches throughout the country and I heard earlier that it is closing half its branches in the UK. Those in charge of the bank want to express their macho tendencies and are doing so by closing branches.
Senator McHugh is seeking an ongoing debate on energy. We discussed that matter recently. The Senator also referred to the interconnector between Wales and Wicklow.
Senator Feeney called for people to be reasonable regarding the Leas Cross report, the legal advice in respect of which she has seen, and the good names of members of staff. She stated that we must be patient until matters become clearer. There are some well-established nursing homes and we cannot equate them all with Leas Cross.
Senator Quinn referred to the competitiveness report and stated that we have become too cocky and confident. The Senator also referred to the plague of graffiti on new buildings and walls and stated that this is unsettling.
Senator Morrissey referred to the regulator and his role in the ongoing dispute with taxi drivers. I was under the impression that the dispute was over.
The Senator is seeking a debate on the issue.
Senator Frank Feighan referred to the interconnector with the UK. The Senator also referred to the turf wars which continue to prevail in the former health board areas. He indicated that he raises this matter almost every day. That is not quite true but he does raise it frequently.
The Senator is not here every day and neither am I, so I cannot fault him in that regard.
Senator Daly stated that there are some excellent nursing homes, particularly in his home county of Clare. The Senator also referred to charitable institutions, which rely on community involvement, and stated that these require proper funding. I agree with him in that regard.
Senator Ormonde agreed with Senator Kitt that a debate on standards in public office would be useful. Senator Dooley requested a debate on the issue of orthodontics. It is easy to know that the Senator is pounding the streets because this matter is continually arising on the doorsteps. Children who enter secondary school become very conscious of their appearance at 13 or 14 years of age but, at that stage, they are informed that they cannot be treated because they have entered second level education. No one has come to grips with the major problems relating to orthodontic treatment.
Senator Glynn supported Senator Kitt's comments on the banks and branch closures. The Senator also stated that the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, is a role model. However, he called for the reintroduction of the visiting committees system.
Senator Hanafin raised the competitiveness issue in the context of energy.