Tuesday, 27 March 2007
Order of Business
I thought we were going to be in a play or a cabaret. The Order of Business is No. 1, Health Bill 2006 — Committee Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude no later than 5.30 p.m., No. 2, Foyle and Carlingford Fisheries Bill 2006 — Second Stage, to be taken at 5.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 7.30 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 on to reply no later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; and No. 3, Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2007 — Second Stage, to be taken at 7.30 p.m. 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 on to reply no later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage.
When the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated and endorsed in 1998 by the Irish people on both parts of this island, it was hoped reconciliation between green and orange could be achieved through the working together, particularly in Northern Ireland, of people who had been in conflict with each other for many years. I recognise on today's Order of Business the historic — there is no other word one can use to describe it — agreement yesterday between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party.
The advantages of this agreement are that we have absolute certainty that the powersharing executive will be restored on 8 May 2007 and that the work of the assembly can continue. The great advantage is that it was brokered between the two parties. It was brokered between very significant people like Mr. Peter Robinson, MLA, and Mr. Martin McGuinness, MLA, who come from two very different sides of the political equation. This agreement bodes well for the future and our role in this House and that of Irish democracy is to support that process and wish it well.
We all have a duty to recognise there are more than just two parties in Northern Ireland and that the role played by the SDLP, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Alliance Party, the Progressive Unionist Party and Independents is also important in the new assembly. We hope this new agreement will allow the Executive and Assembly to be put back together, reformed and established and that it is the start of a new beginning in Northern Ireland to which those of us in Dublin and London will give full support in the days and weeks ahead.
I will briefly raise the issue of the appalling carnage we saw on the M9 and M7 this morning. We hope there are no fatalities from this terrible scene where I understand 40 collisions occurred. People are still being brought to hospital. It is appalling. It is important that we determine from this whether it is possible to find adjustable speed limits on our motorways. Of course, motorists must show restraint, particularly where fog emerges, but we also need better information for drivers and adjustable speed limits. I ask the Leader to bring this point to the attention of the Minister for Transport because the scene in County Kildare, which we have watched on television or heard about on the radio today, is deplorable and we need to reflect on that.
This issue was brought to the attention of the Minister for Transport during the debate on the last road safety Bill. We outlined to him that it works in France and Germany, where speed limits differ depending on the roads, but it was just ignored, as I am sure it will be again.
I support some of the points made by Senator Brian Hayes regarding Northern Ireland and recall that this 20-year process was very difficult to move along. It is almost 20 years since I recall meeting a very lonely John Hume in this House at a time when no leader of any of the parties would speak with him because he had opened up talks with Sinn Féin. It is worth remembering this today. It is also worth remembering that he took the initiative and risk and that the SDLP continued to take that risk after him. As Senator Brian Hayes said, the SDLP has probably paid the price for that to some extent. I felt yesterday that it was the people in the SDLP whom I most wanted to recognise at this point, without taking anything away from the people who have delivered this agreement, particularly over the weekend.
My final point is hugely important and should be enjoyed by every member of Parliament. At the end of the day, this agreement was delivered by politicians. It proves that the political process can work, however long it takes. People of all parties and none should lose no opportunity to make it clear to a sceptical and cynical population that, given a chance and the support of the people, politics can work.
A very disturbing report concerning cancer sufferers, and how they are affected in the west as opposed to the east, appeared in the media in the past 24 hours. It is easy to understand what the reaction might be but I ask colleagues on all sides to consider this matter. Politicians have a major responsibility in this regard. It teaches us that the multidisciplinary approach with a thorough throughput of patients is the best way of dealing with cancer. Rather than fighting for hospitals in every quarter of the country, we should look at the provinces to select locations for multidisciplinary centres. We should demand and defend such centres as a priority. Lives are being lost because of the political argumentation that is taking place on this issue.
One could not let the occasion pass without paying enormous tribute to all those involved in the Northern peace process. I am glad Senator O'Toole mentioned politicians. We should stop apologising to the media for the fact that they find politics boring. The wonderful thing about politics is that it is boring. We are not threatening, fighting, shooting or kidnapping each other. It is a boring life in which we gradually resolve issues.
There are many questions to be asked. Speed limits are not absolutes. They are the maximum permissible speed, but not the speed at which it is always safe to drive. Drivers must remember that they are not allowed to drive at 120 km/h on a fog-bound motorway. They do not have a legal right to drive at that speed in those conditions, and if they do so, they can and should be prosecuted for driving dangerously. I wish to extend my sympathies to those who were injured in the road accidents earlier today.
It is a disgrace when the Minister for Health and Children brands a group of nurses as being motivated by greed.
I want to say that clearly and unequivocally. The Minister for Health and Children said the reason the new maternity hospital in Cork had not opened was because of money. She also said that it was a disgrace. If that were the case, of course, it would be. I know people who are going to work in that hospital and it was not about money.
It was about the fact that those nurses were genuinely concerned that the hospital could not be run safely with the proposed numbers. Like every other parent in Cork, I have seen the quality of the city's maternity services, including midwifery and nursing care. The suggestion that those people are being greedy is a gross insult to them. It is even more offensive to the people of Cork, including mothers-to-be, to suggest that a €75 million hospital might be handed over to the private sector to be used for some other reason simply because the nurses refuse to work in conditions which they believe to be unsafe. It is time the Minister and the Health Service Executive climbed off this high horse and sorted the matter out. It is management's function to reassure staff in any employment that they are working in a safe environment. It is not the function of management to call people names just because a prestigious hospital opening was postponed. It is time the hospital opened under conditions acceptable to those who worked there.
It is important that we recognise the scale of the achievement this weekend when Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party, DUP, sat down together to agree a way forward for a power-sharing Executive and the continuation of the Assembly. On Friday, when I took the Order of Business, I expressed the hope that we would have the Executive in place by today and, while that has not happened, I think in the context of what has gone on for 30 years, a few weeks' delay can be tolerated.
It is important to recognise the role of Mr. John Hume and others in bringing us to this day. One such person was a Member of this House, Senator Gordon Wilson, who contributed to peace on this island.
I also feel the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister should be saluted for the extraordinary patience and determination they brought to the peace process. We are fortunate to have those leaders in place to bring us to the point we have reached. In the past we frequently characterised events such as the Good Friday Agreement as historic, and they were in their time, but I was always cautious about applying such a term because we often found such events to be false dawns. In this case it is fair to describe the event as historic and I believe it heralds a new future for Northern Ireland which will see ordinary, democratic politics prevailing with people managing their affairs.
It was striking that much of the discussion over the weekend saw people get down to the nitty gritty of democratic politics on topics such as infrastructure, education, health and so on. These are the matters that should concern politicians in Northern Ireland and it is extraordinary to think they would not want to take control of such matters in their country.
I live about 200 yards from where the events on the M7 occurred this morning. Several people I have spoken to have told me about the way people were driving before the accidents took place. It seems many cars were weaving in and out trying to get lorries out of their way. The one lesson from this relates to something that is common in all other countries but not at all common here, that is signs over motorways that light up to tell people of problems ahead or to slow down. I agree that speed limit signs are not always effective but signs that light up, change frequently and provide warning notices should be considered. The National Roads Authority, NRA, has a signage programme that is about to begin and it should consider this type of sign.
I also want to highlight the report published today on the treatment of cancer in this country. It is clear, if we did not already know, that one's chances of surviving cancer in Ireland depend on where one lives in the country. We have known this for some time and it has often been discussed in this Chamber. One of the best ways to treat cancer is to detect it in the early stages. BreastCheck and cervical and prostate screening services are not available throughout the country. If these services were available to everyone, there would be early detection of these forms of cancer. There is great inequality in how screening services are provided in the country, although I realise that the Leader will inform me that these services are to be rolled out later this year. I welcome this but delays in implementing screening services have caused inequalities in our system.
Early detection is not the only factor in treating cancer and much depends on the type of treatment provided by specialists. People in the medical service have informed me that funding is a factor. Some people are offered chemotherapy and radiotherapy, others are not and this is a funding and equality issue that must be addressed. Everyone in the country must be treated in a similar fashion.
I listened to the Taoiseach's speech at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis.
People are willing to pay their PRSI contributions provided they receive proper services. Perhaps that is the problem. Cutting PRSI would mean raiding the social fund. My party has been lectured about raiding the National Pensions Reserve Fund. The Fianna Fáil proposal is another form of raiding the fund.
I recognise the new agreement reached yesterday and echo the sentiments of other speakers regarding the effort politicians have invested in trying to achieve a new beginning in the North. Many politicians were involved in the process prior to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Following the Agreement, the Taoiseach, British Prime Minister and many politicians invested a great deal of time and effort trying to bring the process to a conclusion. Yesterday was a great day for politicians and I hope the media will take stock and recognise that we work hard behind the scenes, spending long hours negotiating and getting involved in a wide range of projects and discussions.
While it may not be possible to arrange a debate on excess packaging before the election, it is an issue about which I am concerned. Recently, I read a newspaper article which referred specifically to the Easter eggs that appear on shop shelves at this time of year. When one removes all the cardboard and plastic one is left with only a few sweets, which is excessive, misleading and costly.
I echo the tributes paid to people here and in Northern Ireland following the extraordinary agreement reached yesterday between the two largest parties. One or two individuals were not singled out for their contribution to this amazing achievement over the years. One of the sad results of yesterday's agreement is that many of the moderates have been sidelined. Whereas the extremists may have been moderated, those who have been responsible for the process — Senator O'Toole and others have mentioned John Hume — have found that their parties have been marginalised. I refer specifically to the Ulster Unionist Party and SDLP, which were, to a large extent, the creators of the agreement but have, to some extent, been made redundant. This is a pity, although the price is well worth paying. Nevertheless, we should not forgot those who built this amazing historic agreement.
In this Parliament, we should also pay tribute to the Taoiseach for his incredible achievement. We should not forget former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, one of the great unsung heroes of this agreement who took the issue by the scruff of the neck and had the nerve to do things other politicians did not. It may be that he was not burdened by ideology, in the sense that many in all parties throughout this island are burdened. He had incredible courage and while his language of taking risks for peace was to some extent rhetorical, it was also true. Today, it is as much his creation as anybody's. We should remember that and we should remember other moderates who are already forgotten in this historic agreement.
I would like to be associated with the remarks on the wonderful achievements in the North yesterday. It is extraordinary to live to a stage where we see this happening. The consequences are far-reaching for the united approach to the ministerial council and for the country at large.
Like others, I feel we should recognise the work of Dr. Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, Tony Blair, Peter Hain, the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, and, indeed, former Taoisigh such as Albert Reynolds and Charles J. Haughey, who was one of the first initiators of dialogue, as well as our colleague, Senator Mansergh, who played a very important role. Many people played many roles behind the scenes, including civil servants who dedicated themselves to this process. We look forward to 8 May. We will combine our efforts with regard to selling Ireland Incorporated, North and South, to the international community with reference to trade, tourism and industrial development. It is a momentous time.
On another issue, will the Leader devote time to the question of competitiveness in the economy, particularly in regard to the proposal by Eircom to raise the price of the rental of fixed lines by 4.5% from €24.18 per month from the end of this year? Eircom has a monopoly position which it is abusing — it is rip-off Ireland. I find the service provided by Eircom does not rate compared to the position when the State was in charge of post and telegraphs during my time in the 1980s. My own telephone is out of order since last week but I hope Eircom will restore it quickly as I have made a case to it. I went through so many different——
Please, Senator. Many Senators are offering and there is a time restraint. I would like co-operation and, while I do not wish to curtail them, I would like Senators to be as brief as possible so we can accommodate everyone who is offering. I call Senator Browne.
I agree with previous speakers with regard to Northern Ireland. Politics has won out and the one thing we can all learn is that violence led to nowhere except to polarisation. It will be remembered that, unfortunately, thousands of people paid with their lives during the Troubles. I was born in the same year as the Sunningdale Agreement. I often wonder why we are only reaching this point now when it could have been reached 30 years ago. It is regrettable that so many people paid with their lives in the meantime. We need to reiterate, in particular to the generation who have grown up in peaceful times and who might mistakenly think violence is the way forward in the future, that there is no role for violence in politics. While it is possible it will return, I hope it does not.
I agree with Senator Terry with regard to PRSI contributions. This is the biggest issue since I became involved in politics. We hear of the pensions timebomb. When I was paying for staff in my office, I never had any objection to paying the PRSI rates because PRSI is so important later. There is nothing worse than having people come to public representatives when they are looking for benefits only to discover they have inadequate stamps and so on. If extra money is left over, why not expand the scheme to improve dental, optical and other benefits? What the Taoiseach said last week was irresponsible.
Most of what I wanted to say has been said so there is no point reiterating it. However, from the standpoint of one who was born, grew up and lives in the North, and knows both communities from the inside, yesterday was a most moving day. What moved me more than anything else were the words of Dr. Paisley and Gerry Adams, the tone in which they were spoken, the things that were not said and the body language. For the first time, there was respect and a willingness to work together. In particular, I thought there was a willingness on the part of Dr. Paisley to put behind a terrible past. That was echoed by Mr. Adams. I hope people will be able to draw a line under the past. I regard this as a sort of relay race. While it is right to salute the people who breasted the tape, it is also right to remember the people who carried the baton through the years, even for a short distance. We should also remember the victims over all the years. I am glad to be here today to salute those who brought about this.
I know it is a fond hope, but I ask the Leader whether it is possible for the House to recognise and debate at some stage the report of the Oireachtas committee on the sponsorship of sports by alcohol related industries. This is the antithesis of sport and is something we should spend some time discussing.
I join my colleagues in paying tribute to the remarkable agreement reached yesterday in Belfast. In particular, I thought Mr. Adams played a fine game. He could have stymied the whole thing if he wanted to be petty and could have refused Dr. Paisley the room for manoeuvre he sought. This was a type of last-gasp saloon for Dr. Paisley, who was christened "Dr. No" by newspapers. If he ever wanted to achieve his ambition of becoming First Minister, this was the moment it had to be done. I am glad agreement was reached. Senator Maurice Hayes is right in saying the body language was important. The visual impact of seeing on television the two of them sitting almost side by side was very interesting. I hope that in the general feeling of well-being we do not forget the cost, the tragic loss of almost 4,000 lives and a large number of people crippled for ever. I hope those still suffering will not be forgotten when the new arrangement comes into being.
The situation is hopeful and perhaps it can be used as a model for other parts of the world, for example, the Middle East. I seek a debate on the Middle East because we do not have the same standards in dealing with Israel and Palestine. It is important we also include in debate areas like Iran and the taking "into detention", to use a neutral phrase, of 15 United Kingdom sailors. I noted the extraordinary arrogance of the spokesman who described the boat as being in "our waters". I wonder how the sea around Iraq has suddenly become British territorial waters. I have considerable hesitation about accepting the United Kingdom's version of events, particularly since the local Iraqi commander said clearly the sailors were in Iranian waters. In 2004, we had a similar provocative incident and it was determined then those involved were in fact in Iranian waters. I hope they are not attempting to provoke another military adventure by Mr. Bush.
I support Senator Terry's comments on the Taoiseach's speech. I was out protesting the war, but I heard his speech in the evening and found it a fantastic performance. It was real barnstorming and he hit all the right notes. I have no doubt there will be a bounce. I have just one hesitation and I am sure the Cathaoirleach supports me on this. When the Taoiseach said he believed in attacking problems, not personalities, I had a sudden flashback and remembered his attack on Deputy Joe Higgins in the Dáil. Then I remembered——
It is right for the House to acknowledge what happened yesterday in the North. It is a humbling experience to feel part of living history and be aware that what happened yesterday will probably form the last chapter of future history books on the peace process. What is significant about yesterday is that it is the ending of a partition of the mind, as inferred by Senator Maurice Hayes, in that two mindsets have mellowed to a point where they can now sit together. As the body language indicated, they are anxious and willing to work together.
I also agree with the points made about those who have contributed throughout the process, back to the late Charles Haughey. It is also right and proper, in referring to the late Senator Wilson, to mention the current representative from the North, Senator Maurice Hayes, who is such a modest man. He was a member of the Patten Commission and in his myriad other activities, including his excellent, regular articles, opened a window on the political thinking in the North.
There is the exciting prospect in store for someone coming from
I too salute the politicians in the North and the two Governments on yesterday's wonderful achievement. Can the Leader spell out the details of the Government's proposals to co-locate eight private hospital on public hospital campuses? What is the deal? How is it proposed to pay for these hospitals? How will they fit in with the present public health system? There is an obligation on the Government and the Minister to explain the details. Democracy needs transparency on this issue. Unless there is all-party agreement the contracts should not be signed in advance of an impending general election.
I join the other Senators in commenting on yesterday's development. It was one of the most historic events in the long and turbulent history of Ireland. We witnessed the laying aside of tags such as "nationalist" and "unionist" and their replacement with the common name of Irishmen and women. Nobody could fail to be struck by the unity of purpose evident in the statements of the two leaders which also manifested unity among communities. After all that we have heard and experienced over the years it was particularly edifying to see what might be regarded as two opposing leaders singing from the same hymn sheet. Party ideologies were left to one side and people became paramount once again.
There was a positive undertone in the edition of "Questions and Answers" broadcast from the North of Ireland. It was no longer a question of the South talking to the North or vice versa but of action on behalf of all communities. There is no doubt that we have a solid foundation on which to build and we should salute everyone, without singling anyone out, who over the decades contributed to that development.
Whatever about the rights and wrongs of the situation affecting the maternity services in Cork, at least women there receive treatment. In Galway University Hospital and in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda there are delays, in some cases of up to 20 weeks, for pregnant women to have their first visit. That is two to three months later than the recommended time for good treatment. How has this been allowed to arise? Will the Leader ask some Minister in the Department of Health and Children to attend the House to address the issue?
While the Minister is here we could also discuss the cancer strategy which has made no progress since it was introduced nearly a year ago? Could this be because some small hospitals will be advised they are doing inadequate work in the provision of good cancer treatment and that it should no longer be provided therein, and because the Government fears local hospital candidates may be put forward for election?
Nobody in that room believed in what he was doing but he brought a businessman's pragmatic approach to politics and banged the heads of both sides together.
I have two other small points, but they are not small in significance. We should always remember the lives of the thousands of innocent victims of the Troubles. Margaret Thatcher was very slow in dealing with the issue.
I support my colleagues who have called on the NRA to take immediate action to provide safety alert mechanisms for our national motorways, bearing in mind the incident that occurred today. It is unacceptable that roadways are being built throughout the country without proper and complete planning. Although the emergency services were on hand very quickly today, which is a credit to all involved, there was nobody in place to prevent the ongoing traffic build-up. It should have been diverted at a much earlier stage. The accident happened immediately after 9 a.m. and even at 11 a.m. traffic was still being trapped on the road.
When one considers all the resources invested in the national routes, one will realise it is very important that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government instruct, as a matter of urgency, the NRA to incorporate into its plans for roads presently under construction provision for safety alert mechanisms to alleviate future traffic problems.
I, too, appreciate the deal that has been brokered. It is an historic deal and I never thought I would see the day on which it was made. Now that I have, I am very pleased to be a Member of this House, and to have shared membership of the Oireachtas with individuals who have pushed out the boat and trod where others feared to tread. It is a great day, and long may the new developments last.
I want to associate myself with the many tributes paid to all those involved in yesterday's progress in Northern Ireland. It is always important to recognise that no agreement is set in stone forever, but a major step forward was made yesterday. A significant number of people deserve credit. It is 22 years since the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 and it is almost 14 years since the IRA ceasefire of the summer of 1994. We must appreciate that in conflicts which have been ongoing for as long as the one in Northern Ireland, progress takes time, effort and patience. I hope something truly effective and long lasting will stem from yesterday's events.
I support Senator Ryan's remarks on the dispute surrounding the opening of the new maternity hospital in Cork. The comments of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and HSE personnel in recent days have not been helpful. The nurses to whom I have spoken made it abundantly clear they wish to be in the new hospital at the earliest possible opportunity but they feel staffing levels as originally announced are not sufficient. As far as I am aware, that is their one and only concern. A little goodwill on the part of the Minister and the HSE could resolve this problem. The matter needs to be resolved in the near future.
I wish to be associated with the remarks made about the historic day yesterday in Northern Ireland. No doubt there will be a clamour to pinpoint the origins of the process but I will leave that to the historians. They will know where to attribute its genesis.
I salute the people who have been involved at community level in Northern Ireland and the Border counties. Senator Mooney will be aware of them. All the capacity building that has gone on, not just in the past ten years, but in the past 30 years when the conflict was ongoing, is due to people who decided to take risks within their communities and to reach out across the Border, and to different religions——
——including the former Senator McGowan. I salute all those who have worked at a community level and the agencies, including the INTERREG I, II and III initiatives, the EU Peace & Reconciliation Fund, the International Fund for Ireland, Co-operation Ireland and ADM's CPA programmes. The people involved in these organisations are the real risk-takers at a cross-Border level.
I also wish to include the members of local authorities, my former colleagues from Donegal County Council of which I was a member in 1999. They were involved in cross-Border groups with councillors from counties Monaghan, Cavan, Louth, Leitrim and Sligo. The process originated with every person who was involved in taking risks at a local level. That is where it started and we, as politicians, should acknowledge that.
The job does not stop here, it starts here, be it in regard to infrastructural projects or cross-Border health projects. We must fund the cross-Border plans that are in place, face up to the realities of the challenges and acknowledge that we have to continue into the future the work that has begun.
I thank the Cathaoirleach, who in view of the day that is in it, allowed great leeway to Members to speak on the Northern peace process. In referring to the historic agreement yesterday, Senator Brian Hayes harked back to the Good Friday Agreement. He spoke about reconciliation between green and orange. He also made the point that there are more than just two parties in Northern Ireland. He referred to John Hume and many others who may have slipped our mind, in particular, the former US Senator George Mitchell, who was pivotal at extraordinary times in that process. We should salute him.
I am sure it affected us all in different ways. Senator Maurice Hayes referred to what a moving day it was. I sat and looked at the television and I am not ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes. I thought back to all that had happened and all of the people who were affected and the significant event that had just taken place. As I was on my own at the time, I was able to indulge myself. It was stirring and wonderful to see the two men side by side.
He also raised the carnage on the M7 and the M9. I was listening to the radio on the way here and I heard a woman speak who was in the car behind the last car that crashed. She described the speed at which the cars were travelling and that they did not have their lights on in the fog. We have great sympathy for those who were injured but we all have to take extra care.
On Senator O'Toole's remarks, I have one concern about the Northern process and that is that nothing untoward should happen in the next five weeks. Senator O'Toole is right. This achievement was delivered by politicians. We all talk about this, that and the other but very few people say politicians brought about this. If politicians had not shown leadership, the work we have seen would not have been done. I acknowledge that the civil servants and the Northern team were wonderful to all of those politicians but leadership had to be given and it was political leadership on the part of all parties from different countries at all times that brought about this achievement.
The Senator raised the matter of cancer care. If one thing is evident from the report he mentioned it is that centres of excellence are necessary because that is where the multi-disciplinary teams and all the experts can be located. It is at those centres that one can get the proper treatment. We all fight for cancer treatment services at particular hospitals and so on but we should provide those only in centres of excellence.
Senator Ryan said that politics works. He also spoke about the speed limit on our roads. People see the 120 km/h sign and seem to think they have to travel at that speed, which is not the case. The Senator was also concerned about the midwives in Cork and described what the Minister is alleged to have called them, which he said was an insult to the nurses. He said he hopes the new hospital opens under proper conditions.
Senator Dardis raised the events in the North and remembered the late Senator Gordon Wilson. He paid proper tribute to the Taoiseach and to the British Prime Minister. The intensity of effort and time put into the Northern peace process by both those men can never be underestimated. They are now discussing everyday matters. Perhaps that is what they will spend the next five weeks doing; I hope so.
The Senator also raised the issue of lit signs on motorways warning of potential dangers, which is a good idea. I am aware the National Roads Authority is working on such signs.
Senator Terry raised the issue of cancer treatment and said the chance of survival depends on where one lives. It depends on having proper centres of excellence where all treatment can be carried out on the one campus. It is vitally important that happens. She said that breast cancer screening is not available countrywide but that will be the case, and not before time.
The Senator mentioned the Taoiseach's speech on Saturday. I am glad she watched it. At least she was honest about it. I promise to watch Deputy Enda Kenny next Saturday——
I delayed going out to dinner. I go out on Saturday nights but I delayed going out that night.
Senator Ormonde recognised the agreement in the North and the role of politicians. She raised also the matter of excess packaging. A woman friend of mine removes all the packaging from products she buys, hands it back to the person behind the counter, says "Thank you" and marches out.
Senator Ross will raise the issue of President Mugabe on the Adjournment tonight. He also referred to the extraordinary agreement in the North and said the Unionist Party and the SDLP might feel sidelined. They all paid the price. There is always fallout from such agreements. The Senator praised both the Taoiseach and a previous Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, who he rightly said was underrated and an unsung hero in the process.
Senator Leyden mentioned the late former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and his part in the process. He also referred to Eircom increasing the cost of line rentals. I imagine the regulator is the person in charge of that. He also mentioned a cost of €3 million on the Exchequer for the people who have free telephone lines.
Senator Browne spoke about the futility of violence and brought up the question of PRSI. We will see what Deputy Kenny comes up with. Senator Maurice Hayes said yesterday was a most moving day, which it was. I did not think that, at this stage of my life and after all I have gone through, I would be so moved, as everybody was. He mentioned the victims over the years and called for a debate on the report on sport.
Senator Norris referred to the tragic cost of 4,000 lives lost and called for a debate on the Middle East. He also asked whose waters the 15 UK sailors were in when they were apprehended by the Iranians. He referred to the Taoiseach's speech, which seems to have had a very avid listenership. Senator Paschal Mooney called yesterday a humbling experience and said the partition of the mind between the green and the orange had disappeared. He complimented Senator Maurice Hayes and called for a debate on Northern Ireland, which would be worthwhile and may be possible.
I cannot give Senator Coghlan any details as to how collocation of private hospitals on public land will take place. We will have to wait for the Minister for Health and Children to come to the House to tell us. The Senator said nothing should be signed. Do I take it from that that Fine Gael is not in favour?
Senator Ó Murchú spoke of the unity of purpose of the two Northern leaders and said ideology had been put to one side. Senator Henry referred to the situation in Galway and Drogheda, where expectant mothers have to wait five months for their first appointment. They are nearly ready to give birth at that stage and it cannot be right from a medical point of view.
Senator White was laudatory of the increase in the old age pension, which she recommended in her report. She referred to 1993 and said the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, had knocked heads together. She also remembered the hunger strikes.
Senator Ulick Burke urged the National Roads Authority to take action on signage. While that was not a factor in today's accident, it is worth noting. I heard very praiseworthy comments about the emergency teams in Naas General Hospital and how they had worked very effectively to take in the wounded and attend to them.
Senator Glynn welcomed the Northern deal, as did Senator Bradford, who also raised the dispute at Cork University Maternity Hospital and spoke of the nurses involved.
Senator McHugh said yesterday was an historic day and saluted people who work in the community in Northern Ireland. He also praised the INTERREG I, II and III programmes, which were brokered by politicians in Europe. They did not appear in Donegal or Monaghan by magic.