Friday, 15 December 2006
Order of Business
The Order of Business is Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive. No. 1, Social Welfare Bill 2006 — Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 12.15 p.m. No. 2, motion for earlier signature of the Social Welfare Bill 2006, will be taken immediately without debate on the conclusion of No. 1. No. 3, Appropriation Bill 2006, all Stages, will be taken at 12.15 p.m. and will conclude no later than 12.30 p.m. There will be a full debate on this item early in the new session. No. 4, motion for earlier signature of the Appropriation Bill 2006, will be taken immediately without debate on the conclusion of No. 3 and No. 5, Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2006, Report and Final Stages, will be taken at 12.30 p.m. and conclude no later than 1 p.m.
Yesterday's decision by BUPA effectively to pull out of Ireland represents a black day, not least for the staff in Fermoy, County Cork, but also for the approximately 470,000 people who invested in BUPA and who depended on the company for their health insurance. I do not underestimate the difficulties for the Government, the Minister for Health and Children and for the country at large in terms of resolving the issue of risk equalisation. However, I hope we can resolve it ourselves before it is resolved by the European Commission. If we are serious about competitiveness and introducing the best possible range of products in the health insurance market for all consumers, we must ultimately deal with the issue of risk equalisation. It remains to be seen whether that means a break up of the VHI. On the day BUPA made its decision, we heard that the Competition Authority will soon submit a report on this matter to the Minister for Health and Children, but it is a bit late in the day. We have known for some time that this issue was going to come to a head. It was established in the High Court that this would happen. BUPA is on record as stating this matter would have to be addressed because it could not cover the liability. I ask the Leader to arrange for statements for an hour at the end of our proceedings today, although I know my colleague Senator Bradford has tabled an Adjournment motion on the issue. The House needs to debate this matter, which is of great concern.
For the past ten years, I have known Dr.Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan in my community. They are exceptional people. In the past year they have taken an exceptional case before the High Court and I note the result. The judge said that legislation has never been introduced to bring about equality for cohabiting couples, but that is not the case. Legislation has been introduced but did not go through this House because the Government has not brought forward its own proposals on rights for cohabiting couples. For the past two years, this issue has been raised by Senators Terry, Norris and others. We should agree to resolve this issue once and for all in the next session.
We should ensure that cohabiting couples of whatever sexuality have rights in Irish law. Dr. Zappone and Dr. Gilligan deserve congratulations for having had the courage to take this case. I hope the case will ensure the State introduces some equality in the law for cohabiting couples.
I agree strongly with everything Senator Brian Hayes has said. The situation concerning BUPA is serious, but I am not surprised the Competition Authority came in late in the day. Did it not miss one of its own deadlines? I sincerely hope the Government will scrutinise the recommendations carefully. They were reluctant to come on the radio today to defend the situation that is mooted, whereby the VHI could be split up into four segments. My colleague, Professor Seán Barrett of Trinity College, who is a former candidate for the Dublin University Seanad panel, was extremely good on RTE today, although it galls me to say so. He said the splitting up of the VHI would be like creating four Aer Lingus companies. It is absolutely daft. Professor Barrett suggested that the problem might have been solved if BUPA had a dedicated telephone line which referred 25% of older patients to the VHI. It is a simple and practical measure. This matter should not be ideologically driven, however. At the end of the day, patients' care should be at the heart of the matter.
I know and respect Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan. The community is extremely lucky to have two such dignified, gracious and well advised women to take this case. It comes as something of a relief that I was contacted only once by a radio station yesterday, and its representative did not bother to ring back for my views. I was not quoted in any of the newspapers, which to my mind shows the growing maturity of this society.
I am not the only one who is interested in this matter and neither am I a single issue person. This is a human rights matter which has been taken on by both Government and Opposition Senators. It is important to note that yet again a rebuke was delivered to the Oireachtas by a judge, who in this case indicated that we should have dealt with this a long time ago. We should do so. I have proposed a Bill, which has been revised, and I will propose it in the next session.
When I see that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Michael McDowell, is considering examining the issues, my feelings are like those of the Old Testament prophet who said, "How long, O Lord, how long?" He is a slow learner. For how long must these matters be examined? The Minister should get up and do something.
If others are not interested that is just too bad. Like the Government, they are probably suffering from what I can only describe as political attention deficit disorder. I hope the Government will concentrate on this issue because action on it is overdue. We now have an opportunity to deal with it. Both women in the case were gracious in their comments on the judge, even though they must have been stung. I have been there, too, and know what it is like to face this kind of reversal, but they were gracious in what they said about the judge and the court proceedings. I have proposed such a Bill and we should press ahead with it.
Christmas has been adverted to and while Members of this House are in a lucky and privileged position, there are others in this city who are not. They include the homeless who are lucky to have Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy. One point struck me from listening to the radio news programmes, which concerned a ship that has been impounded in Dublin port. This is the second ship belonging to Norfolk Lines that has been found to pay less than €1 per hour to its employees, while others have not been paid at all. More than $200,000 is owed to the crew. This is a form of indentured slavery and must end. It is not appropriate to treat seamen in this way. We have seen the Irish Ferries situation and there have been difficulties with other shipping lines also. This matter should be resolved quickly because it is wrong to have people stranded aboard a ship in Dublin port with no income.
Like other speakers, I regret BUPA's decision to pull out of the Irish market, which was based on a court judgment. It is difficult to see how one can reconcile unfettered competition with community rating and risk equalisation. I do not know how those two matters fit in with one another. One has enormous sympathy for the 475,000 clients of BUPA and particularly for the staff who will lose their jobs in Fermoy. Hopefully, this matter can be dealt with effectively by the proposals to be brought forward in the new year and that everybody can be looked after, as they should be by a national insurance scheme. The VHI has served us well in the past. It is a curious conjunction that we had the report of the Competition Authority at the same time, or shortly after, this decision. Hopefully, we will be able to make progress on these matters.
I note the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome falls on 25 March 2007. It is an important event and one the House should mark. The Cathaoirleach might bring this matter to the attention of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. As the Cathaoirleach is aware, the House has a good record on debating European matters and in bringing Commissioners here. The EU Ambassador to the United States, Mr. John Bruton, recently appeared here and we all benefitted from that experience. Something special needs to be done.
That is at the heart of such matters, and can be dealt with as effectively by the proposal on civil partnership, along the lines of the one Senator Norris made, as full marriage. I agree that the Houses and the Minister must respond, and those matters will be brought to his attention.
I, too, want to raise yesterday's court verdict. It is more important than ever that we speedily deal with the legislation. We are fortunate that Senator Norris's Bill is before the House as well as Fine Gael's publication on civil partnerships. We have had debates in this House on it. We must proceed speedily. As Senator Brian Hayes said, these two women were brave to take this case. We must respect them and the many couples in this country who wish to have their partnerships recognised, whether gay, lesbian or cohabiting heterosexual couples. I urge the leader to speak to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, who wants to bring this legislation forward. Let us do it before the general election. We cannot afford to delay any further.
BUPA's decision to leave the Irish market is a serious matter. As Senator Dardis pointed out, it concerns 475,000 people who will be without health insurance and 300 workers who face a bleak Christmas. All the indications were there following the judicial decision. I am not an apologist for BUPA, but it has regularly and constantly said in the media and in paid advertisements that if this judgement went against it, it would pull out. Yet I regularly read the opposite opinion by so-called experts that it would not leave because there was still such a potential business, and that it would not walk away from millions of euro. I hope the Government and the Leader will respond to this and convey the concern that has been expressed in this House. I want to add my voice to that.
I was not aware of that. I thank the Cathaoirleach and I am glad because this matter will exercise the minds of many people over the next couple of weeks. I hope the Government will speedily address this issue. I agree with the sentiments expressed about the Competition Authority's inadequacy on this.
I hope the Leader will encourage Irish people to take up the proposal of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, that we buy Irish this Christmas. During the 1990s, when the economy was not as strong as it is now, the main buzz phrase was "import substitution". It has fallen by the wayside. I am glad the Minister has reaffirmed the view that by buying Irish we protect Irish jobs. Due to our Treaty of Rome obligations we cannot show preference at official level. If Mr. Jimmy Walsh or others are listening, I urge them and other Members of this House to take the opportunity in the week leading up to Christmas to pause for a moment if they enter the major supermarkets that are dotting our high streets across the country and decide whether the Irish product is the better product to buy rather than automatically buying something because it happens to be there.
Yesterday there was news of the highest inflation rate we have had for some time. It reached 4.4% in November, up from 3.9% in October. Last month the Independent Senators put down a Private Members' motion expressing concern about inflation but got no real response from the Minister. It was just before the budget, and the budget increased inflation again.
The decision to increase current expenditure by 11.5% without any proportionate demands for efficiencies in public services surprised me. It is a major concern that our inflation is very high. The other figure that emerged this morning is a 21% increase in the cost of three areas, energy, housing and water. It is in the hands of the Government to address these three areas. We have not put inflation high enough on the agenda and the Government should direct its attention to it in the next few weeks.
We have recently heard about the danger of rural post offices being closed. Yesterday it was decided to close 2,500 rural post offices in the UK. The cause is that they are not being used by customers. It is in our hands to do something about it. I remember a complaint about a railway closing down in the south. When a rally went to address the relevant Minister in Cork, the Minister asked how many had come by rail and how many had come by car. Although they were there to protest the closure of a railway, practically nobody had come by rail. We are in the same situation with the post office. How many of us use the post office? It is up to us. If the post offices fail it will be because we, as customers, did not use them.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Treacy, to the House in the new year to discuss a developing situation. In the last year, when Russia increased gas prices and cut off the supply to the Ukraine, the rest of Europe suffered. Poland and Russia are in dispute. Poland is asking the European Union not to sign the energy agreement with Russia because of a meat labelling issue. If that happens we could lose a significant meat market. We consume 10% of the beef we produce and export 90%. Russia is an important market for us and if this local disagreement between two neighbouring nations escalates we will suffer disproportionately. We must avoid this.
I would like to highlight the plight of many people, including farmers, in the midlands due to the serious flooding in the area of the River Shannon. The ESB must be forced to reduce the water levels on Lough Derg and downriver from Athlone, Lanesborough and Longford because serious flooding is taking place in those areas. Farmers in Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon are seriously affected by the situation. Better management of this waterway must be implemented.
The River Shannon must be regularly dredged because of the serious build-up of silt in the river at this time of year. The flooding is causing serious problems for farmers. Many of them have lost their fodder crops and have had to move their cattle from slatted houses, which are two feet under water in some parts of the midlands. Could the Leader indicate whether the Government has plans to introduce a flood relief fund to help those hard-pressed people in the midlands? There is a serious situation for the farmers and for local county roads in the midlands due to the flooding. This is a catastrophe for many people in the midlands. In the days of former Ministers for Agriculture, Austin Deasy and Mark Clinton, when such catastrophes happened relief was given to people.
Hard-pressed people in the midlands need support. The Government must take immediate action and provide flood relief. I raised the issue with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, during the debate on the Local Government (Business Improvement Districts) Bill. Public meetings will be held over the Christmas period. I have alerted the Government to the measures it needs to take and I hope it takes them.
Several years ago, I introduced a Private Members' Bill to establish a Shannon river council, the purpose of which would be to bring together the various organisations with responsibility in this complex area. The Commissioners of Public Works, fisheries, Bord na Móna and a range of environmental bodies have an interest in this issue. An overview needs to be taken quickly to enable action to be taken to alleviate flooding, in so far as that is possible, and ensure flooding does not occur elsewhere. Clonlara in County Clare has been subject to severe flooding and many houses in the villages were flooded. Residents claim the reason was that the ESB allowed additional water through the gates of Ardnacrusha to relieve a problem in Lough Derg. The problem of flooding will not be easily resolved. The legislation I introduced needs to be progressed.
The late Seán Doherty made many efforts to bring together the various interests involved. He held a series of meetings along the River Shannon catchment area which gave him a good insight into the type of measures required. The various bodies came together yesterday — a little late in the day — to try to respond to flooding. A council of representatives of the various interests should be established to take urgent action, carry out research and undertake an assessment of what measures are necessary to alleviate the problem of flooding which will regularly recur unless action is taken.
I concur with Senator Hanafin on the problems encountered in exporting beef, particularly to the Russian market. This trade is worth €100 million per annum to farmers. It is critical that a resolution to the problem is found as quickly as possible.
A letter in today's edition of The Irish Times draws attention to the fact that judgment in a case involving five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of having infected children with HIV in Libya is to be given next Tuesday. I and many other Senators have taken up this case. I would be grateful if the Leader would ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ensure it is closely monitored. It is an international case which has caused terrible concern that nurses working abroad appear to have been very badly treated.
I welcome this morning's announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, that the retirement gratuity and expenses available to elected councillors will be improved. I will continue to pursue proposals to introduce a pension for councillors because they are entitled to one. I am not prepared to walk away from this issue, even if it is unpopular with members of the public and the press which has attacked it. I am not afraid of the press because the proposal is right.
I concur with Senators' comments on the despicable decision by BUPA to pull out of Ireland, leaving 475,000 policyholders in the lurch and resulting in the loss of 300 jobs in Fermoy. The VHI should step in and take over——
I accept that. The VHI should devise a scheme to enable people to contribute funds for their retirement. The proposal by the Minister for Health and Children to recoup a percentage of a nursing home resident's moneys following his or her death may be unconstitutional. Article 43.1.2° of the Constitution states: "The State accordingly guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath and inherit property".
I recommend that the Government hold a referendum on its proposal on the same day as a referendum is held on children's rights. The matter should be put to the people to allow them to decide whether it is appropriate to take a percentage of a person's property to pay the cost of his or her stay in a retirement home.
I agree with Senator Daly's point on addressing the problem of flooding in the River Shannon basin. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the Shannon river council report early in the new year. There are major difficulties and many bodies involved in the water levels on the River Shannon. It is argued that a certain water level is needed for boating purposes. The level must be changed from October until March. Water levels downstream must be lowered to enable water to flow into the lakes. It would not be useful to open Ardnacrusha as it would flood Limerick.
Many of my neighbours have been flooded out of their homes. The main street of Shannon Harbour, a lovely village close to my home town of Banagher, is under at least eight inches of water and many houses are close to being flooded. This is a serious matter and a debate could help ensure that those with responsibility for water levels on the River Shannon who live in areas which are not affected by flooding will take action to address flooding.
I concur with Senators Daly and Hanafin on the serious problem with beef exports to Russia. If beef prices fall in the coming months it will have a detrimental effect on farmers.
I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise on the Adjournment BUPA's decision to pull out of Ireland. Senator Brian Hayes proposed that statements on the issue be allowed on the conclusion of the Order of Business. If the Leader acceded to the request, I would be prepared to withdraw the matter I raised on the Adjournment. BUPA's announcement yesterday that it will withdraw from the Irish market is of profound importance in terms of health insurance, competition and public policy.
Unfortunately, no one should have been surprised by the decision because it has been flagged for almost five years. As recently as a fortnight ago, when the High Court adjudicated on this matter, the judge who ruled that the Government had the legal power to introduce risk equalisation, indicated that the introduction of risk equalisation would render BUPA financially non-viable. This reflects statements made by spokespersons from BUPA during appearances before the Joint Committee on Health and Children and other meetings. I am disappointed with the company's decision and the failure of the Minister to intervene in recent months. It would be helpful to have statements today on this major public policy issue affecting almost 500,000 policy holders. It is of fundamental importance and goes to the core of the issue of competition. The House must demonstrate its relevance by debating it.
Like previous Senators, I deeply regret the decision of BUPA to pull out of the Irish market and the loss of jobs involved. I also regret the removal of this element of competition. At the same time, I must praise the Minister for Health and Children for upholding the principle of community rating in public policy guidelines. I am not a believer in unbridled competition.
It is sometimes presented in this House as if it is an unqualified good. I do not wish to see the break-up of VHI, which has served the Irish well for a long time, any more than I wish to see the break-up of the ESB. Somewhat perversely, competition has led to increased electricity prices rather than reductions.
If one has any doubts on the unlimited virtues of competition, there was news this morning about how goods bought on the streets are manufactured by people working 96-hour weeks at 7 cents an hour. We should have a more reasoned and humane approach to the competition issue, and we should also realise that public service and policy properly carried out are just as important and valuable as competition.
I agree with Senator Quinn's sentiments on inflation. We discussed the matter some weeks ago and were given an indication by the Government that the figures would be reduced in the future. It was the usual Government spin on the issue. Senator Quinn and I were disappointed to see the figure increase again in the results announced yesterday.
I agree with previous speakers who have raised the issue of flooding on the Shannon. I live quite a distance from the Shannon but it is important to point out that a number of occurrences have affected developments in areas that would traditionally have been flood plains for rivers all over the country, not just on the Shannon.
There also have been significant changes in agricultural practices, which have led to more water getting to rivers more quickly. In particular, there has been much deforestation in different parts of the country, where big open drains are putting more water into rivers. These issues are combining to ensure we have much more regular and severe flooding in towns and villages around the country. It would be useful to have a discussion on the matter in January in order to consider ways to alleviate flooding in future.
I was not here for the Order of Business yesterday but we should have a debate at the earliest opportunity in the new year on gun crime. I raised the matter last Tuesday on the Order of Business. We should emphasise the way society has changed, in particular the disregard many people seem to have for human life now, whether it is gangland crime or the other types of murder which have seen a large rate increase in recent years.
I have raised my next issue a number of times already. I received a pamphlet shaped like a lovely Christmas sock in the post yesterday from a leading financial institution. It stated that I could have "a lot more jingle this Christmas" if I signed the document and applied for a €9,000 personal loan in the run-up to Christmas. The listed requirements were that I be over 18, in full-time employment and have a good credit history.
I was delighted to have the privilege this morning of meeting the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche. Since I became a Senator, Fianna Fáil Senators have been united in campaigning for increases to councillors in their expenses and gratuities.
My letters seeking support for the financial improvement for county councillors have been published in the papers and I have written to the Minister. We have been united on this and I compliment all my colleagues on sticking together for this.
In my own area there has been much flooding in the past few weeks and I ask the Leader to investigate the possibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government setting up a relief fund.
I also wish to raise the matter of below-cost selling of spirits and other alcoholic drinks in the run-up to Christmas, which sends out the wrong message. A price war is ongoing over alcoholic drinks but these items should be treated in the same way as cigarettes. There are some restrictions on the below-cost selling of cigarettes and from a moral point of view——
——the selling of alcoholic drinks should be treated similarly. It sends out the wrong message to people, who may go for a deal when they see it. Much drinking is done within homes, and such selling practices send out the wrong message. The matter should be considered by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Two issues were raised which I would like to support. Senator Hanafin and others raised the fears over the export of beef from this country as a result of the dispute between Poland and Russia. I would welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Treacy, to the House to discuss what is becoming a serious issue.
Senator John Phelan raised the crime issue. This could be bigger than crime, as we should look at society as a whole, particularly the structure of society and the family. The discussion would have a great impact on how behaviour is exercised within society, and I would like a Minister to come before the House to have a long and broad consideration of this fundamental issue of how crime is affecting society.
I have other issues to raise but I will not do so in full today. Some Senators have raised the announcement of expenses but I will leave it to the Minister to make his announcement.
Senator Brian Hayes raised the matter of BUPA and risk equalisation. It is interesting to note that other countries have health insurance markets which combine community rating with vigorous competition. For example, the concepts would not be incompatible in Australia, where BUPA itself operates within such a system and receives money as a result of risk equalisation because it has an above average number of older members. It can happen in other areas.
Be that as it may, the issue has hit us strongly here and the Senator asked if we could debate the matter when the Order of Business finishes. The other House is not sitting and I do not know how I can go galloping around the city trying to fetch Ministers.
If the other House were sitting we could go over and indicate that we need an urgent debate. I agree the matter is extremely urgent and I am glad the Cathaoirleach has taken it as an Adjournment issue. Senator Bradford may have to deal with the potential unemployment in Fermoy.
Senator Bradford also referred to the case of Dr. Zappone and Dr. Gilligan. I know Dr. Gilligan well from when I worked in education. They sought authorisation for their Canadian marriage. Senator Norris's Bill deals with civil partnerships, which is a different matter. The underlying matters are whether taxation and welfare rules which appertain to marriage would also apply to civil partnerships. The two women involved in this case carried themselves well yesterday.
Senator Norris raised the matters of BUPA and his civil partnership Bill. I saw a statement on civil partnerships from the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the newspaper today and he intends to move on it in the new year.
He also spoke about the impounded ship and the sailors who have not been paid.
Senator Dardis greatly regretted the BUPA matter and the situation of its employees in Fermoy. He asked for a discussion on who we will invite to the House on 25 March to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
Senator Terry referred to the court decision yesterday and asked to proceed quickly on civil partnership on foot of the Law Reform Commission proposals, Senator Norris's Bill and the general debate on the issue. Senator Mooney raised the issue of BUPA. He also wants us to buy Irish goods.
Senator Quinn is concerned about inflation. It is at 4.4% and is destined to rise in the new year but then to decrease and level off at 3.5%.
The Senator also spoke about post offices. We discussed post offices during the week but the Senator was not here. Half of the post offices in the UK are closing. Senator Quinn is correct to state people do not use them. Yesterday, I stated that an interesting man suggested the Internet is killing post offices. People do their business on the Internet. If people used post offices they would have a better chance of remaining open.
Senator Hanafin wants the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for European affairs to speak about the looming row between Poland and Russia. Russia told Ireland if it broke with the rest of Europe it would continue to buy Irish beef. That will not happen. I heard Mr. Liam Aylward, MEP, dealing with the matter on the radio during the week. It is extremely serious.
I fully concur with Senator Bannon, who raised the matter of flooding. One should be in Athlone tonight. It is extremely serious.
The Senator spoke about the need for flood relief funds. The Government will not be found wanting if it becomes an issue. It is not only down to ESB management. A complex range of issues are involved. The problem may be solved in Athlone and Lanesborough but then Limerick or somewhere else is flooded. It must be solved everywhere. Senator Daly made the point forcefully that it is a major and complex issue. The management of the River Shannon waterway is enormously difficult. For the moment we can only hope the rain stops. The flooding is very extensive. Athlone's large shopping centre, the Golden Island, is now flooded.
The water is coming up to it.
Senator Henry raised the issue of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor. The case will be resolved this week. I am glad Senator Henry has taken an interest in it.
Senator Leyden raised the issue of local councillors. What has been promised for councillors is not a secret as a statement on it takes up half a page in The Irish Times today. There is nothing wrong with discussing it here because it is public knowledge.
Senator Leyden also spoke about BUPA and made a point about property rights and the constitutionality of the proposal by the Minister for Health and Children. To answer the question asked by Senator Coghlan, the property services regulatory authority Bill is on the C list and will be printed in 2007.
Senator Moylan also raised the issue of flooding. We share the River Shannon, as do other Senators. He also raised the issue of beef exports to Russia. If it fails we will lose a major lucrative market.
Senator Bradford has left to take part in a radio programme. I can imagine the low spirits and sadness in Fermoy, the town in which he lives. If something could still be done to accommodate BUPA I hope it is done. Senator Mansergh also spoke about BUPA.
Senator John Paul Phelan raised an interesting matter regarding the offer of a loan made to him on the basis he was over 18 and in steady employment. He does not like the idea of being offered €9,000 on the basis that all he needs do to receive it is hold out his hand. The day of payment will arrive.
Senator White stated Fianna Fáil Senators should campaign for better conditions for councillors. All Senators do so. Like Senator Leyden, she raised the pension arrangements she wants and stated she would not lose sight of that goal. Who would not be a county councillor? Reading today's newspaper would cause one's eyes to go out on sticks.
Senator Paddy Burke called for a relief fund from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for flooding areas. He also raised the issue of below-cost selling of alcohol. I see large one page advertisements from Tesco and Dunnes Stores. It is all right for people to have a drink in their homes, but the problem arises with drinking elsewhere and then going on the roads. I intend to give a bottle of whiskey to people and I hope it will be well-appreciated but drunk within their houses.
I will not give you one.
I do not think Senator Paddy Burke condemns a person having a drink at home. There is nothing nicer at Christmas time than having friends in and conviviality. Obviously, one will buy it where it is cheapest and there is nothing wrong with that.