Wednesday, 29 November 2006
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, Statements on Domestic Violence, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 1.30 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 12 minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply no later than ten minutes before the conclusion of the statements; No. 2, British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill 2006 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 4 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply no later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage. There will be a brief sos between 4 p.m. and 4.15 p.m., with Committee and Remaining Stages of the Bill to be taken at 4.15 p.m. and to conclude no later than 5 p.m.; and No. 3, Statements on the Leas Cross Report, to be taken on the conclusion of Private Members' Business and to conclude no later than 9.30 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 12 minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes and the Minister to be called upon to reply no later than ten minutes before the conclusion of the statements; and No. 24, motion No. 26, to be taken between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. There will be a sos between 1.30 p.m and 2.30 p.m. An amendment to the motion will issue on a Supplementary Order Paper.
That is interesting.
In a republic, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary are two of the most important principles. As a republican, I have always appreciated those principles in our institutions of State. However, I refer to a worrying development concerning the Criminal Justice Act 1999, which introduced mandatory minimum sentencing for the possession or sale of drugs with a street value in excess of €13,000. Evidence compiled by Deputy Costello demonstrates clearly that in 90% of cases before the courts last year involving drugs with a street value of more than €13,000, a mandatory minimum sentence was not applied. This is a serious matter. Both Houses of the Oireachtas determined that a mandatory sentence should be in place to deal with serious drug pushers and drug barons but the courts are refusing to impose the will of the Oireachtas.
We have a responsibility to ask judges to explain in open court why they are deviating from the clear obligations set out in the 1999 legislation. We may need to revisit the legislation because society needs to know that people who peddle large amounts of drugs will be tackled and prosecuted as set out in the 1999 legislation and that if they are found guilty before the courts, they will receive minimum mandatory sentences of ten years or as much as life imprisonment. This important issue must be teased out and addressed and I raise it in such a fashion.
In recent weeks, Senator Bannon and others have raised an important matter relating to the conclusions of Mr. Justice Barr in the July report of the Barr tribunal, which was established in April 2002. It has been five months since the report's publication, but the House, which established the tribunal, has not had an opportunity to debate its findings. I appreciate that the Leader has done her best in trying to arrange a date for the debate, but it is not good enough that the House must go cap in hand to the Executive to decide when we can discuss an important report of a tribunal established by us. That we cannot set the date dumbs down Parliament and brings no dignity to the House. I suggest to the Leader that we set a date now. If the Government attends to debate the matter, fine, but if not, we should proceed regardless.
The point raised by Senator Brian Hayes on mandatory sentencing is important because it goes to the core of the separation of powers principle. I voted for the legislation and two similar Bills when they were before the House, but each time I raised with the relevant Ministers whether mandatory sentences were unconstitutional owing to the separation of powers. The Judiciary is supposed to act in judgment and we, as legislators, cannot determine mandatory sentences. Otherwise, we would not need a court system to make judgments.
Nonetheless, Senator Brian Hayes has made a very important point and people elsewhere are making the same point. There should be an understanding of why we find ourselves where we are. Every time we pass mandatory sentencing legislation, we are telling the population that we are great in deciding on mandatory sentences and now it is over to the crowd in the courts. However, the Oireachtas will be found wanting the day the constitutionality of a mandatory sentence is tested in the Supreme Court.
The important issue of explanations raised by Senator Brian Hayes and which has been dealt with elsewhere recently should be examined to see whether it would be possible to have judges explain why certain sentences were given. We will find that we have not got the other issue right. Time will tell, but the matter needs airing, to be addressed and to be debated publicly.
A number of times, we have debated the importance of town centres and how small shops are part of the community and provide services. In the past two years, we have had many debates on the groceries order, which has come and gone. Recently, I spoke to a person in the business of selling books, CDs and DVDs in a provincial town. He told me that he had effectively been closed down as a book shop because whenever there is a decent book on the market, Tesco or Dunnes Stores — he mentioned them in particular — will sell it at below cost price. When I met him again, he told me that the situation was worse this year and I asked him to give me an example. He was selling the "The Best of U2" CD, which cost him as a retailer €16.33, including VAT, but the CD was on sale down the road in Tesco for €13.90. Similarly, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" DVD is on sale in Tesco for €24.90, but it cost him €25.35.
I am in favour of competition and we are all in favour of people getting the best services, but we are putting many small businesses out of business. We should examine the matter so that town centres can have life in them and people in urban areas and villages can get a service. I would welcome a discussion with the appropriate Minister.
I agree with Senator O'Toole on the first matter. If mandatory sentencing legislation appears before the Supreme Court, I would not forecast a positive outcome for the deliberations of the Oireachtas.
This morning, I heard a wonderful phrase, namely, the paralysis of handcuffed mediocrity. I thought about the Government's inability to meet its commitment regarding buses in Dublin because of a disagreement in Government, the delay in sorting out the future of Dublin Airport because of a disagreement in Government, the fact that the Cork Airport debt situation has not been sorted out because of a disagreement in Government, the delay in developing broadband because of a disagreement about whether the State should be involved and the delays in expanding the rail service because of a disagreement. The list of ideological differences or the differences between an ideology and no ideology, which has a bit of cop on about what is popular, is endless.
It was a wonderful phrase to discover and I thank the Tánaiste for creating it. He was trying to blame other people, but the best evidence of a paralysis of handcuffed mediocrity is the stasis in the Government concerning many fundamental issues.
Yesterday, the European Parliament published a report on rendition to which the Government gave its usual response, which did not address the report. No one on this side of the House or in the country alleged that there were prisoners in the CIA planes that landed here because there is no evidence to that effect. We do not make allegations for which we have no evidence. The Government, however, continues to deny allegations that have not been made.
We want to know why the Government tolerated empty but profoundly suspect planes refuelling at Shannon Airport? In the eyes of Europe, we are tainted as being connected with the torture of people because we pretended that we did not know and said that we relied on the assurances of the US Government. Let me explain about that Government. It demanded and got access to our international banking transactions through SWIFT in Belgium without asking our permission or telling us in advance. Our Government, which has ignored that illegal activity and has allowed it to continue, wants us to believe that it is sufficient to accept the Americans' statement that they never did anything wrong.
A country that used to boast about its vigorous and brave neutrality and in which people from all parts of the political spectrum stood up for decency and human rights and opposed torture is now tainted by the fact that we have participated de facto in an extraordinary conspiracy of torture and breaches of human rights by allowing planes that carried people to be tortured to be refuelled and, sometimes, cleaned on our territory. The Government's response has been to close its eyes. I appeal for the establishment of an Oireachtas committee to investigate the truth of what happened at Shannon Airport. It will not be allowed, but we will ask again and again to clear the country of involvement in a conspiracy to hurt, damage and, perhaps, kill.
I support Senator Brian Hayes on mandatory sentencing. If what is happening is true — I am sure it is — then both Houses of the Oireachtas are wasting their time. We are all aware that when Members of this and the other House question decisions taken by the Judiciary we are quickly reminded that it is none of their business. It is clear from the cases referred to by Senator Brian Hayes that members of the Judiciary assume the legislation will not stand up if it goes before the Supreme Court. It is a very worrying development and one with which every Member of this House should be concerned.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the House. A worrying situation is developing in respect of local newspapers. Cartels are buying them up and I am reliably informed that there is now only one paper in Leinster which prints its own issue. The word "monopoly" springs to mind, therefore, I call for an urgent debate to tease out the issues.
In the past few years road safety has been foremost in all our minds and has been debated on numerous occasions in the House. The responsibility for road safety falls in large part on the Garda Síochána. One of today's newspapers reports a worrying statistic that 2,013 vehicles driven by gardaí have been involved in accidents in recent years, resulting in large compensation claims against the State. There are very poor training facilities for Garda drivers in our depots and it falls to the discretion of the local superintendent to allow a garda to drive a Garda vehicle. It is necessary for gardaí to drive vehicles but such a high incidence of accidents projects a very bad image of Garda drivers, who are responsible for safety and the maintenance of order on our roads. Of the 2,013 accidents to which I referred four involved ministerial cars, so it is important this trend is rapidly reversed. I call on the Leader to ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to immediately provide the resources and facilities for adequate driver training for gardaí.
I ask the Leader to refute absolutely that we on this side of the House are complicit in any illegal activities, including torture and anything else connected with the Senator's allegations. I am sure he did not mean to allege such things.
I fully agree with Senator O'Toole and support his suggestion. I have more than a passing interest in the music industry and hope the Leader responds to the Senator's point. Something murky is happening in the undergrowth of the international music industry. There is no doubt that the major outlet which Senator O'Toole named is attempting to wipe out small retailers across the country by targeting particular areas of the retail market such CDs, books and various other niche sectors which small, family-run businesses have operated in towns and villages across the country. The company has moved into my own part of the country and can do so because of the power it has. The big five international music record companies are complicit in this by the pricing mechanism they use, primarily arising from the fact that most people can now buy on-line at the prices to which Senator O'Toole referred. This is a move by the music industry to protect its market but it does so at the expense of the small retailer.
I ask the Leader to pass on the good wishes of the Irish immigration lobby in the US to efforts being made to revive immigration reform law there. Moves to do so, provided there is the time in the dying days of the 109th Congress, have been outlined by the judiciary chairman, Arlon Spector, a member of the Republican Party. He is currently meeting with outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and the outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, to examine if they can move meaningful immigration reform before the end of the 109th Congress. I hope the Leader will convey the strong encouragement of all sides in this House of his efforts to ensure it happens.
I support Senator Ryan's comments on the report of the European Parliament into so-called extraordinary rendition flights. There was a disgraceful performance on radio today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern. It was a mixture of bluster, evasion and deceit, as usual. He continually interrupted and harassed other speakers and then accused them of interrupting him.
It was a shaming performance and Senator Ryan is correct to say he answered questions that were never asked. Nobody said we could prove people were transported in the aeroplanes in question. He said he relied on Condoleezza Rice's assurance but has he forgotten that a prisoner in shackles was found on an aeroplane at Shannon Airport? Admittedly it was an American prisoner but it should not have happened and flatly contradicted everything Condoleezza Rice said. Thank God for the former Leader of the Opposition in this House, Maurice Manning, chairman of the Human Rights Commission, who made it clear that there was a case to answer and that the Minister's attitude was unsatisfactory, with which I agree. The Minister was too busy to attend the sessions.
Then the Minister attempted to make a few feeble jokes, which shows how seriously the Government takes it. It has been proved that the aeroplane involved in the rendition of a particular named person was refuelled on the return leg and that amounts to complicity.
The Minister referred to the fact that there were four complaints. I wish the record of the House to show that I was one of the complainants. As a result the Garda Commissioner appointed two senior detective gardaí to meet with me. I brought Deputy Michael D. Higgins with me to the meeting as a witness. They flatly contradicted everything the Minister said about the capacity to search aeroplanes.
I am calling for a debate, which is essential because I am trying to raise the issue on the Order of Business. However, the Cathaoirleach is trying to confine me. The committee which was well on the way to being established was stifled and it is an appalling situation which we must confront. Decent people on all sides of the House want a debate.
Can the Leader find out from the Government what action it proposes to take in light of the Colley report on the recognition of same-sex relationships? I apologise. My telephone is ringing.
I expect it is Deputy Dermot Ahern telephoning with his proposals for legislation on the matter.
It is important that we know the Government's plans. There has been a series of reports from the Law Reform Commission and now this one. Every time a report is produced the Government establishes another commission, think tank or the like. Procrastination must come to an end. Will the Leader find out when the Government will act on this? A series of surveys has shown that Irish people are largely behind this type of move. It is no longer a contentious issue so the Government should move on it.
I oppose mandatory sentences because it removes the judging function from judges. Even more dangerously, it puts the result into the hands of the people who framed the charge, by charging somebody with A rather than B. I saw this operating in the North over the years. It was punitive and disastrous. I had not reflected on Senator O'Toole's point about the constitutionality of it but he is probably right. We are dancing on the head of a constitutional pin but in other jurisdictions judicial conferences are held in an effort to secure consistency and to reflect, to some degree, the concern people have about these matters. We could respectfully suggest to the Chief Justice that this might be worth doing.
I support Senator Norris with regard to his Bill. In all fairness, the Government should allow the Senator's Bill to go forward. If it wishes to amend it, that can be done.
A Bill on the British-Irish Agreement will be before the House today. I doubt that it will delay the House for long. However, I have read the explanatory memorandum and it manages to be even more opaque than the Bill it purports to explain.
Will the Leader invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the House to debate the Government's plan on greenhouse gas emissions? The Government could be heavily fined because it has not provided clarity and detail on how it proposes to make up the 30 million tonnes shortfall in reaching the Kyoto commitments for the years 2008 to 2012. The Commission intends to reject the Government's plan. This issue must be debated in this House. The Minister has told us time and again that it is intended to purchase credits and so forth but nothing is happening. Ireland will be the laughing stock of Europe. It is one of the countries named in an EU report on greenhouse gas emissions and our negligence in this area is highlighted.
I support Senator Brian Hayes's call for a debate on the Barr report. The report was published last July. The tribunal heard from 169 witnesses and sat for 208 days. We must learn from the mistakes of the Abbeylara shooting. The delay in debating this report is having a devastating effect on the local community in County Longford. It is important that an urgent debate is held on the matter. Hardly a week passes without me calling for this debate. This issue is disturbing for the Carthy family, the neighbourhood in Abbeylara and people generally.
We show great disrespect for reports that are prepared at huge cost to the State. It is important that we show respect for the people who contributed to and who compiled the Barr report. Many of the issues raised in the report must be addressed to ensure that events such as occurred in Abbeylara never happen again.
I agree with Senator Norris. The European Union's alleged report was leaked yesterday in advance of the Taoiseach's visit to the European Parliament today and in advance of the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, giving evidence to the relevant committee of the European Parliament. The former leader of Democratic Left and former president of the Labour Party was on the "Morning Ireland" radio programme this morning abusing and wrongly accusing the Government——
In light of the unfair allegations made by Members of this House and a Member of the European Parliament, who had no objections to Aeroflot in Shannon, the shipment of Cuban soldiers to Angola or obtaining funds from the Soviet Union to support their political activities——
In those circumstances, it would clear the air if the Leader of the House arranged a debate on the final report from the European Union, not the one that was leaked in advance of the Taoiseach addressing the European Parliament today and in advance of the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, giving evidence before the committee. That is outrageous. It is a disgraceful activity.
With regard to debating reports, on Committee Stage of the Prisons Bill yesterday we discussed establishing the Inspector of Prisons as a statutory position. I expressed my disappointment to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that we had been unable to debate the report of the Inspector of Prisons even though the Leader had asked several times for such a debate in the Seanad. He said it was the business of both Houses what they did about debating reports and that if we debated all reports, there would be no time to do anything else. I refrained from pointing out that the Dáil had been adjourned several times recently because there was no business to be debated. There would have been plenty of time, therefore, to debate the report of the Inspector of Prisons in that House, if not here.
We should take up the suggestion made by Senator Brian Hayes. If a Minister is not available, we should simply debate these reports ourselves. These are important reports. I believe 98% of the reports we commission are never debated. We seem to think we have done something when we commission them, but we must examine them.
I support Senator Maurice Hayes's comments on mandatory sentencing for drugs offences. When we originally debated this provision I expressed the view that it was ridiculous. One issue was the price that should be calculated. Would it be the wholesale price, retail price, the price north of the city or south of the city? The bottom has fallen out of the drugs market. Prices are down approximately 50% due to the over-supply of heroin. Is the price calculation to be based on the price at the time the crime was committed or when the case comes before the courts? What is to be done? It was a ridiculous way of sentencing people because it would not necessarily affect the people who are profiting most.
We should, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of the small number of women Members of the Oireachtas. There were newspaper reports over the weekend about Deputy Mildred Fox. Due to time constraints, she is unable to spend time at home with her three children. This morning, there are four women and 26 men in this Chamber, a ratio which bears little relationship with the fact that half of the population is female. Men and women think differently on issues, so we need to elect women in much greater numbers to the Seanad and the Dáil. I ask the Leader to arrange an urgent debate on the ridiculous hours — sometimes until 11.00 p.m. — that the Dáil is required to sit. It reminds me of a club in London for gentleman farmers.
I wish to discuss the leaked report on rendition. While it is understandable that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is irate at having to respond to leaks, we should address the findings of the report when it is published. Are we allowing rendition flights to pass through Shannon Airport?
I respect the opinion of Dr. Manning, who has been appointed by the Government as chairman of the Irish Human Rights Commission. Our Government should be able to enter dialogue with the US Government in order to agree inspections of these planes.
I support Senator Brian Hayes's repeated calls for a debate on the report of the Barr tribunal. I also agree with Senators O'Toole and Maurice Hayes on the need for a debate on sentencing. We would all agree that our Judiciary is wonderful for the most part and that judges consider individual cases on their merits and the evidence offered before the court but the reasons given by judges for the sentences they impose often go unreported. A debate on sentencing would be useful.
Senator O'Toole also raised the worrying trends for the future of small towns and villages. In the past few years, 400 post offices have been lost and the Garda stations in these places have long since been closed. Senator Mooney referred to the sale of books and compact disks. Predatory practices exist in that regard, so we should be watchful. A debate on that issue would also be useful.
I wish to speak on the issue of rendition flights. A better way must exist because they are clearly illegal and I have spoken to American citizens who believe such practices to be counterproductive. Passenger lists should be published and a frank and honest debate on this serious issue is needed. This House cannot stay silent while international law is being breached.
Senator O'Toole raised the issue of small businesses. This House may be crying crocodile tears in that regard because the horse has already bolted. I was one of those retailers who bought compact discs for €17.99 and sold them for €19.99 until Tesco began to sell them for €14.99. Similar challenges arise in every town and village in the country. Small businesses are kept going because people earn less than the minimum wage for the hours they work and are digging into the money they made over the past 20 years. This state of affairs cannot continue. We are not doing enough in this House for small businesses in terms of giving them the economic incentives they need to thrive. Unless we take action urgently, we will have ghost towns and villages. Unfortunately, the problem is already upon us, so rather than cry crocodile tears, we should do our best to save small businesses.
I support Senator Ulick Burke on the need to address the lack of training for Garda drivers, an issue which has been raised previously on several occasions. The fact that Garda cars are not subject to the national car test gives rise to dangers to gardaí and the public. What are the intentions of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with regard to subjecting Garda cars to the national car test? They should be tested in the same manner as every other car on the road. Several accidents have taken place as a result of the poor condition of Garda cars and the lack of training of their drivers. The issue should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
I support Senator Brian Hayes on the issue of mandatory sentences. The Senator referred to the Criminal Justice Act 1999 but the provisions for mandatory sentences are even stronger in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which was fully supported in this House. The sovereign wishes of the people are represented by the Houses of the Oireachtas, so if these Houses pass legislation on mandatory sentencing, our decisions should be respected by the Judiciary.
Senator Brian Hayes raised the provisions of the Criminal Justice Acts on mandatory minimum sentencing and the response to a question put by a Member of the other House which indicated that the mandatory minimum sentence was not imposed in 90% of cases. The Senator also called for a debate on the report of the Barr tribunal, which I will address later.
Senator O'Toole said that when previous criminal justice Bills were being debated, he raised the danger that we were skating on thin ice with regard to minimum mandatory sentencing because such sentences could be open to constitutional challenge on the grounds that it is a judge's duty to pass sentence. I share the Senator's opinion, although we will have to await developments in that regard. Judges are appointed to make decisions on the basis of the evidence put before them and according to their individual intellects.
The question of whether the laws we pass on mandatory minimum sentences are not being observed is a serious one. I do not know whether judges themselves consider such laws to be improper.
Senator O'Toole, in commenting on the groceries order, outlined how DVDs and CDs can be cheaper in large multiples such as Tesco. Owners of corner shops and other small traders are going out of business, since they cannot sell them at that price. Senator Ryan quoted a wonderful phrase of the Tánaiste when he spoke of the paralysis of handcuffed mediocrity, which would be the alternative Government, were it foolishly voted in by the electorate.
I spoke of a hypothetical situation where such a Government was elected. The Tánaiste's use of words was brilliant, since that is exactly what would happen; we would be firmly handcuffed to mediocrity. Senator Brian Hayes can laugh away.
I thought that the Tánaiste's remarks displayed a very good use of English, as well as being true. The Senator also raised extraordinary rendition, and I agree with his distaste at the full report being leaked before the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, was able to give evidence before the committee that produced it. That falls far short of fair play.
I agree that when the report is issued by the European Parliament committee, we should debate it in the House. That would be the proper thing to do. The Senator said that he wished the truth to emerge. I listened to the debate on RTE this morning, in the course of which neither participant covered himself in glory.
Senator Glynn raised mandatory sentencing, on which he seeks a debate. He also brought up local newspapers, which is linked to the issue of larger and smaller stores. There is only one independent newspaper left in Leinster, all others being part of groups, and that is also of concern. We expect local newspapers to reflect local viewpoints.
Senator Ulick Burke stated that gardaí were not receiving proper driver instruction during training. That is a commonsense issue that we might raise.
Senator Mooney wishes me to refute what Senator Ryan has said. We must await the report before debating the matter fully in the House. He also said that something murky was afoot in the undergrowth of the music industry. If that is so, it should be exposed, since the big five international music companies, as he terms them, are influencing events.
Senator Norris raised the report of the European Parliament committee on rendition, which we will debate. He also spoke of debating the report on recognising same-sex relationships. He wants movement on his own Bill, regarding which the relevant Minister commissioned the report that has now been issued.
Senator Maurice Hayes spoke of mandatory sentencing and Senator Norris's Bill, as well as the British-Irish Agreement and the explanatory memorandum, which is not worthy of the name, merely serving to confuse.
Senator Bannon requested that the Minister attend the House to discuss greenhouse gas emissions and his plans to make up the shortfall. He also asked regarding the Abbeylara report, in which regard the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Michael McDowell, will attend the House. This is not hero worship but fact. The Minister came with the Prisons Bill 2006 and spent all his time on it here, preferring not to run away and send someone in his stead. On Committee Stage, he did the same. Having listened to the debate on the amendments, I feel that he gives the best value that I have ever experienced. He definitely gives of himself, although he is a very senior Minister. That is not hero worship but fact.
It is very difficult to get senior Ministers to attend. I could list on one hand those who come willingly, but for those who will not or cannot come, or make excuses, I would require two. I know that Senator Bannon often seeks a debate on the report into the Abbeylara incident, and Senator Hayes requested a debate on the Barr report this morning. There is also a third report. The Minister has pledged that when we reconvene he will come and debate those three. I agree with Senator Henry's observation that we issue reports and then consider matters done and dusted, when they have not been considered properly. We will endeavour to do that, since Senator Bannon has frequently sought a debate. The Minister has attended this House much more often than any of his colleagues. There are two Houses, and he must divide his time while also holding the position of Tánaiste.
Senator Leyden gave us a very vivid account of the past of Democratic Left, on which I shall not comment. Senator Henry raised the report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, which we will also try to debate.
Senator White brought up the low level of female participation in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I listened to a Deputy speaking on Sunday radio and thought that she raised a very important issue. I did not hear a single women's group talking about it, and it excited no further debate, although it should have done so. The Deputy in question has three young children under the age of five. She gets home on time to see them, so Dáil hours are not the problem. It is more a matter of residents' meetings and other events to which we are bidden. They start at 9 p.m. and go on until 12 a.m., and the Deputy never saw her children. She raised an important issue about which she was very honest. She had obviously given the matter a great deal of thought. She said that members of her organisation were very upset and emotional about it. They had supported her career for a long time, but she felt unable to do everything, and one cannot.
Smart women are beginning to realise that when they have young children, it is very difficult to do everything. The same is true of men who take a full role in parenting and in the home. It is very difficult, and we all know that public life is not all swanning around and entails a great deal of hard work. The meetings that go on late at night were the difficulty that she pinpointed. Senator White said that we should debate the fact that we are badly represented by women. I know that she meant that numerically, but I reaffirm that they are fine representatives. I did not want to let that go uncorrected. There are not many women in this House, but those whom we have are doing well.
We bow collectively when we meet Senator Henry.
Senator White also raised the human rights issue of rendition, about which she is very annoyed. It is a credit to her that she is so worked up about it.
Senator Coghlan requested a debate on sentencing and also raised the future of small towns and villages. Senator Feighan said that the horse had bolted on that debate, since he used to sell DVDs, but his shop had to abandon that part of its business because it was not working. He demanded that the Government provide incentives to small businesses to help maintain them.
Senator Cummins brought up driver testing for members of the Garda and stated that there was no national car test on Garda cars, which sounds extraordinary given the fact that the rest of us must submit to it. He also spoke of mandatory sentencing.