Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Order of Business
I remind the Cathaoirleach that this House also has a Senator Jim Walsh.
The Order of Business is No. 1, Medical Practitioners Bill 2007 â Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 2 p.m; No. 2, Defence (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2006 â Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 3 p.m.; No. 3, European Communities Bill 2006 â Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 4.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 5 p.m.; No. 25, motion 40, to be taken from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. There will be a sos from 2 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. and from 3 p.m. until 4.30 p.m. This revised schedule has been circulated to Members this morning.
I have no difficulty in accepting the revised schedule as proposed by the Leader of the House as it makes sense to use that time.
We live in a society where it is increasingly easy to take pot shots at members of the Garda SÃochÃ¡na, where it is increasingly easy to criticise the force, and where it is increasingly right and proper that those members would be held to public account. However I refer to the comments made yesterday by newly appointed head of the Garda Inspectorate, Ms O'Toole, when she spoke to the AGSI conference. These are serious comments in which she referred to the frightening lack of support given to the Garda SÃochÃ¡na in terms of modern firearms, proper weapons training, support for the Garda witness protection scheme and the supply of proper stab-proof vests to all members. If the head of the Garda Inspectorate is saying this so publicly, then this is a worrying issue.
I ask the Leader to raise this matter with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He needs to set out his response to this issue. It is not good enough continually to introduce and ram through new legislation in this House and in the other House as a determined effort to counter the problems of gangland crime without giving adequate protection and support to members of the Garda SÃochÃ¡na. They are in the front line and are the people whom the Republic is asking to defeat gangland crime and yet, according to the head of the Garda Inspectorate, we are not giving them the level of support, training and the firearms they need to do their job. This is a serious issue and it is particularly useful that this matter has been raised by the newly appointed head of the Garda Inspectorate.
When the Garda SÃochÃ¡na Bill was going through this House, there was possibly a view that members of the force would be suspicious of the newly appointed head of the Garda Inspectorate, but it is proving to be the case that she is doing a fantastic job in highlighting the problems faced by the Garda in defeating crime. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform needs to respond to the points she raised yesterday.
I would also welcome a discussion on that same matter. The Leader will recall that over recent years there has been much brouhaha and a great welcome for the education for persons with special educational needs legislation. The commitment was given by Government that this would be fully supported and provided for and that people with special learning needs would be looked after. This Act is now in place and the National Council for Special Educational Needs has been established. Last December this council presented the Minster with an outline of timelines and milestones for the implementation of the Act and it is appalling this has not been achieved. Section 13 of the Act provides the funding but I cannot find out what has been done. I do not know what is the level of training but I know that schools are having more trouble than ever before in accessing educational psychologists. The timelines are not being adhered to.
This initiative was welcomed on all sides of the House because it was believed money would be made available and no child would be left without support. This seems to be an old-fashioned vision without provision effort by the Minister if she cannot deliver. I ask that the House be fully informed whether there is a serious commitment from Government in the area of special education.
D'iarr mÃ© ar an Cheannaire le dÃ©anaÃ dÃospÃ³ireacht ar cheist na Gaeilge. Chuir an tAire GnÃ³thaÃ Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta polasaÃ ar bun agus nÃl se dÃ©anta ach oiread. In the past week the Minister has made a statement which I believe deserves a wider audience. It might help the people of Dingle-Daingean UÃ Chuis to understand why he is difficult. He is the man who said during the week that the water in County Galway was all right in every way except that it was not drinkable. It is like saying we could all live on Mars but we would not be able to breathe the atmosphere. This man would be better off looking after his own constituency without bothering the people of west Kerry and changing the names of towns.
In trying to get large corporations of all nationalities to produce their reports as Gaeilge, bheadh sÃ© i bhfad nÃos fearr fÃ©achaint ar na rudaÃ a ba chÃ³ir a dhÃ©anamh. Mar shampla, foilsÃodh tuarascÃ¡il an ChoimisinÃ©ara Teanga an tseachtain seo. This is the kind of thing that drives me mad. Sa tuarascÃ¡il sin, he makes it very clear that the child protection guidelines on sexual assault are not available in the Irish language. The remedial and education service and child protection guidelines should be made available in the Irish language and not huge corporations producing their stuff trÃ Ghaeilge that nobody will ever read. It is time this Minister was asked what he is about and would he concentrate on doing the job he was elected to do and leave the decent people of west Kerry alone.
The House must note with concern that the nurses' dispute appears to be getting worse by the hour and the entrenched position being taken by the Government is not helping in this regard. It is worth noting in the commentaries and in the radio phone-in programmes that many people are unable to distinguish whether the cancellation of elective surgery is due to the work to rule by the nurses or has become so much part of the day-to-day life of hospital admissions. It is a commentary on how the hospital service is under such pressure and in such dire need that it is at breaking point. I note comments by doctors that if this dispute continues and in particular if it escalates next week, the system will be in danger of breaking down. I call on the Government to work to ensure it does not go to that point.
I support the remarks by Senator Brian Hayes regarding the modernisation of the Garda force. Ms O'Toole is in many ways a champion for modernisation and I believe she has the full support of every member of the Garda SÃochÃ¡na in that regard. While the Criminal Justice Bill contains some good elements, the basic modernisation and equipping of the Garda force and giving it what it needs, especially in the fight against organised crime and drug crime, would be much more useful than draconian legislation.
Will the Leader arrange a debate on the need for much more extensive psychological support and services to be made available, not only to children but also to families? The modern Irish family, especially the young family, is under such pressure that a far greater level of support is needed than was available heretofore, yet this support is not available. Psychologists are dealing with family breakdown and the extraordinary pressures upon the modern Irish family. One must question whether this Government has any notion of what is needed. The House needs to consider the provision, through the schools system, of a far greater level of support for children and families.
I wish to refer to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the Garda inspectorate. In the past five years, the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been responsible for introducing legislation that has transformed matters relating to the Garda, prisons and other matters that come under his remit. The inspectorate, which has a great deal of input into the operations of the Garda SÃochÃ¡na and much potential in the context of encouraging the introduction of the improvements in those operations to which Members referred during the relevant debates on this matter, the joint policing committees and the ombudsman are good innovations.
It is worth recalling that provision is made in the relevant legislation in respect of giving the Garda Commissioner total control over the budget for the force. The Garda SÃochÃ¡na, therefore, has scope to set its own targets and focus expenditure on the areas where it is most required. Across the force, particularly at middle management level, real challenges exist in the context of the introduction of improvements. Some of the spokespersons for the representative bodies, who hold senior or middle-ranking positions within the force, do little to improve either the morale or image of the Garda. A real challenge exists in this regard.
I wish to declare an interest in that I am involved in two commercial applications that are before An Bord PleanÃ¡la at present. Architects and various other people involved in the construction have informed me that action must be taken to encourage An Bord PleanÃ¡la to deal far more expeditiously with appeals than is currently the case. The appeals process lasts eight or nine months, which is completely unacceptable.
Given that the construction industry is a vital part of Ireland's economic growth, it is essential that bureaucracy should not get in the way of progression and development. I accept, however, that there might be dangers in imposing time limits because An Bord PleanÃ¡la might issue large numbers of refusals as a consequence. An Bord PleanÃ¡la must be properly resourced in order that it will, in the interests of the economy as a whole, deal more expeditiously with the cases that come before it.
I fully support Senator Brian Hayes's comments on equipping the Garda properly to allow its members to tackle the major crime problem with which we are faced. We cannot expect gardaÃ to combat that with which they must deal by tying their hands behind their backs.
I compliment Senator O'Toole on his articulate contribution. He deserves our support with regard to what he had to say. I do not wish to trespass on anyone else's territory but I heard a shocking report on radio this morning regarding water quality in Lough Corrib and the unfortunate events which have taken place there over the years and which have given rise to the sad situation that now obtains. God forbid that anything of this sort would happen to the historic Lake of Learning. I address my comments in this regard to the expert fisherman on the far side of the Chamber.
There is a problem with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The blockages, hold ups, time lags and delays with water schemes and the slowness with which approvals are issued must be part of the problem. I ask the Leader to use her influence to ensure that the process relating to the various water schemes in development throughout the country, of which there are several, should be speeded up. It seems that there has been, in part at least, a breakdown of the system relating to the proper monitoring of water quality. The latter is extremely important.
It was remiss of me not to do so before but I wish to welcome what is about to happen in the beautiful Black Valley that nestles in the foothills of the MacGillycuddy Reeks. Some people from the area are due to attend a committee meeting here at 2.30 p.m. today. Eircom has decided to solve their problems.
During a recent debate on education, I called on the Minister for Education and Science to evaluate the ABA approach to autism and contrast it to the eclectic approach, which appears to be the policy choice of her Department. To date, the Department has not brought forward any evidence in respect of the eclectic approach on which it is basing its educational policy. International research on the ABA approach is readily available. If we are putting forward policy relating to children who suffer from autism, it is imperative that we should do so based on the best scientific approach available. I ask the Leader to urge the Minister to make available the research and the report on which her Department's approach to autism is based. This is a serious issue and, in the interests of children's rights, we must get matters relating to it right.
I wish to refer to Senator Brian Hayes's comments. I would welcome a debate on the matter he raised. It must be remembered, however, that the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform set about reforming the Garda SÃochÃ¡na through the mechanism of the 2005 legislation. The appointment of Kathleen O'Toole came about as a result of a commitment of the TÃ¡naiste to modernise An Garda SÃochÃ¡na in order to ensure that best international practice obtains. On the issue of equipment, we should acknowledge the â¬1.4 billion budget that has been made available to An Garda SÃochÃ¡na, the roll-out of the new digital radio system, the introduction of new firearms legislation, relating to the use of non-lethal weapons, that was approved by Cabinet yesterday, the replacement of vehicles in the Garda fleet over a two-year periodââ
Adi Roche addressed a significant meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I spoke to Ms Roche before the meeting and she asked me to raise a specific matter on today's Order of Business, namely, the fact that she welcomes â as does everyone else â that we are moving towards an intergovernmental agreement regarding the children of Chernobyl. The Government has asked Ms Roche to assume the role of intermediary in order to establish this intergovernmental agreement. Ms Roche requested that we should ask the Government to deal with this as a matter of urgency. Ireland has been centrally involved in this matter and it could be the first country to sign the agreement, which would put us in a good position and which would reflect the feeling of the Irish people on the children of Chernobyl.
I urger the Leader to use her good offices in respect of a related and extremely important matter. The children to whom I refer, who have been so badly affected by radiation and who were met with hospitality, welcomed by Irish families and given the opportunity to enjoy the Irish countryside, used to be able to use the visa waiver scheme. Under the latter, the families involved were not obliged to travel to Moscow to obtain visas. However, the scheme has been dropped and the unfortunate families are being obliged to travel to Moscow to try to procure visas, which is expensive, time consuming and militates against what Adi Roche and those involved in the campaign are trying to achieve. I am sure that all Members would, on behalf of the children, their parents and the host families in Ireland, urge the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to reconsider the issue and restore the visa waiver scheme for these vulnerable children.
I am glad Senators O'Toole, Coghlan and others referred to water quality in Galway. This is a serious matter and it was been made into a political football. I listened in horror to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, after he had flown by helicopter to Galway, stating that this matter should not be turned into a political football and then refusing to meet members of any of the other political parties represented on the council and indicating that the only person who had taken action in respect of the matter was a Fianna FÃ¡il candidate who had carried out an analysis of the water. That is utter and disgraceful rubbish.
I would like the Leader to raise this matter directly with the Minister, Deputy Roche. This morning on Radio 1, we heard Dr. Roderick O'Sullivan, a distinguished scientist who nine years ago had the water analysed on behalf of anglers and found choliform bacteria. However, when he went to the local authorities, they rubbished his findings. Two years ago, he went to the Minister, Deputy Roche, who said he was only interested in the democratic voice of the people and would listen to them rather than the scientists. A finding has been made against Ireland regarding the water on the basis of this research, so we knew all about it.
I am most grateful to the Cathaoirleach. I am sorry our friends from America are no longer in the Chamber because I would have liked them to know that, while we support America, we deplore the attempts to employ torture and would like to support the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, on her visit to Syria. A think tank established by their own people made this very recommendation because the locals have to be engaged. I have no brief for President Assad or his regime but thank God somebody at last has the sense to visit Syria. Well done to her.
We recently observed the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Community, during which questions about the European constitution arose once again. As a backbench Senator, it is patently obvious to me that the constitution is lacking because of the refusal to include God in it. That should be a simple matter but for all the intelligence and resources available to the drafters of the constitution, they have gone in circles and have not gotten the people's acceptance. All that is needed is a recognition of the Christian contribution to Europe. The absence of that from the constitution is a fundamental issue.
As representative of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the Seanad, through the labour panel and Fianna FÃ¡il, I restate my support for partnership and national wage agreements. The support shown by all sides for these agreements has allowed the country to develop beyond the expectations we had in the 1980s. However, our unprecedented prosperity must be carefully guarded. I note that all sides in the DÃ¡il stated their support yesterday for national wage agreements.
I agree with Senator Norris that the visa waiver scheme should be reintroduced for children from the Chernobyl region. We cannot think about travelling from Belarus or Ukraine to Moscow in the same way as a journey from Tipperary to Dublin. Journeys of hundreds of kilometres are involved, which makes it almost impossible for these people to travel to Ireland. I ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to treat this as a matter of urgency.
I support Senator O'Meara's arguments on the nurses dispute. It is still time for some form of intervention because if the issue is left to be decided by public perceptions and the media, the HSE will undoubtedly win the war because it has an arsenal of spin at its disposal. We must be careful to ensure that nurses are not caught up in this war and it is important that negotiations continue.
With regard to the canvass trail, I am finding a sophisticated and widely informed electorate which yearns for the creation of a new and inclusive society. This is especially the case among parents of children with special needs. I am glad that Senator O'Toole raised this issue. Parents have brought to my attention conditions such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism and physical and sensory disabilities. This new society wants all-inclusive special needs provisions. I will not speak today about what has not been done but we face the challenge of being inclusive and accountable to our electorate. I ask the Leader to keep the issue of special needs on the agenda between now and the dissolution of the House. The HSE just announced 26 positions for speech and language therapists to cater for dyspraxia. That does not go far enough and I would like a debate on it before the end of this session.
The best barometer of inclusiveness is election day. We are experiencing a serious difficulty among the younger generation with regard to inclusiveness. I am glad Senator Norris is not interested in young people because he is not willing to listen to my comments, even though we are respectful of him when he speaks. Young people who attend universities in Northern Ireland are not entitled to a postal vote, regardless of whether they come from Westmeath, Waterford or from Senator Norris's constituency. If we decide to hold the election on a Thursday, we will disenfranchise a large section of our community. These young people will in effect decide the fate of the next Government if they are allowed to vote.
I am aware a Minister for Education has not yet been appointed in the North but an appointment will be made by 8 May. The new Northern Ireland Assembly is in a position to fast-track this issue. It is a minor bureaucratic matter to facilitate students from the 26 counties with a postal vote.
I am pleased Senators Norris and Hanafin raised the issue of Chernobyl. I was also present at yesterday's meeting, during which I spoke at length with Adi Roche and listened with great interest to her submission. I broadly support everything said and ask the Leader to convey the support of the House for Ms Roche's work as an outstanding citizen and humanitarian. She requested that Irish Aid put in place a multi-annual funding arrangement because her organisation deals with a budget of â¬35 million but does not know its Irish Aid allocation from one year to the next.
I contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs in regard to the points raised by Senator Norris and was told that the visa waiver system was withdrawn two years ago because of legislation addressing the trafficking of young people in Europe. Unfortunately, the Chernobyl children got caught up in that.
I am only trying to inform the House on the context and background to the matter. I fully support all that Senator Norris has said. A procedural and administrative difficulty exists but the Department assured me that it would courier applications from Belarus directly to the Moscow embassy in order to fast-track applications in the cases which Senator Norris rightly brought to the attention of the House. I support the call made by the Senator for increased resources in the Moscow embassy and we would all agree that what he said is correct. I wished to support the unique humanitarian nature of the work done by Adi Roche so I do not know why Senator Norris got his knickers in a twist over it.
Yesterday, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul made a presentation to the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs. It outlined the supports it provides to families on low incomes or those surviving on welfare benefits. It spends tens of millions of euro every year to provide supports in the areas of food, clothing and heating among others.
One particular area mentioned by a number of Senators is the provision of psychological assessments for children and families. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul now spends a fair percentage of its annual income every year on this service. It is appalling that families in difficulty who cannot get the psychological assessments necessary for their children must go to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to fund this service. It is a poor reflection on our society, the Government and the legislation we dealt with in this House.
I wish to add to what a number of Senators stated with regard to Chernobyl. I am also involved with a group in my area which brings in children every summer. The difficulties imposed by the need for groups to provide visas mean organisations such as the one in which I am involved must organise families in January because this much time is required at the other end to obtain visas. Providing the names of families willing to take children to our organisation in Belarus in January causes major stress and strain. If the waiver were in place, we would have more time to get more families involved and bring in more children. The effect it has is to deprive many children from coming here for holidays.
With regard to the water and sewerage investment programme, I compliment the Government on the amount of money allocated under the National Development Plan 2006-2011. Recently in the House, my party held discussions on local government planning and water services. What happened in Galway could happen in any county. Where record amounts of money are at the disposal of local authorities, one must question how those programmes are implemented and the lack of progress at local level. In many instances we see local authorities use private consultants' reports to foster developments by local developers. However, we forget about the mainstream local residents of towns and villages crying out for those services.
We must question why the same private consultants' reports are used to upgrade local authority water and sewerage facilities at present when those schemes are sanctioned to go to contract this year. Will the Leader ask the Minister to audit the implementation of this programme at local authority level?
I support Senator Brian Hayes in his comments on the Garda SÃochÃ¡na and welcome the comments of Kathleen O'Toole. I am the first to acknowledge many good proposals were made when debating the Garda SÃochÃ¡na Act but the Government cannot hide behind the Act where resources or lack thereof are concerned. Last year, the indoor training range, where gardaÃ practised weapons training, was closed. As yet, it has not been replaced. This morning, we heard the anti-stab vests promised in 2002 are ordered. This is the type of response from the Governmentââ
I have spoken on many occasions in the House to defend social partnership and benchmarking against their various critics. I do so again today. While most of the public have great sympathy with the nurses, including psychiatric nurses, they would also like such claims to be dealt with through the ample machinery in place. Many instances occur of people supervising others who are paid less than those they supervise.
Members of this House are paid at the level of assistant principals in the Civil Service and we call to scrutiny people who are paid many times what we are. I do not criticise this or make claims it should be otherwise.
On another point, it amazes me that when, for the first time in years, Exchequer returns come in broadly on target but still a bit over, it is tantamount to a financial crisis.
I have never seen anything more ridiculous in my life than some of the commentary and po-faced editorials which one can read in one newspaper this morning.
Many people and communities throughout the country in Gaeltacht areas and on the islands will be eternally grateful to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ã CuÃv, for the excellent work he does.
I agree with the change in today's Order of Business. Will we debate the Pharmacy Bill tomorrow? I hope we will not as it will go to the DÃ¡il at 9.30 p.m. and if changes are made, it will mean an extremely short turnaround. It seems to be rushed and unfair to everyone involved.
Tomorrow, one of the most dangerous places any of us can be is near an off-licence because we will be met with people wheeling out trolleys full of alcohol as if it were going out of sale forever. This is owing to the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday. Is it time to update this out-of-date law and allow off-licences sell alcohol on Good Friday? We live in a multicultural society. People drink on Good Friday and, if anything, the prohibition encourages people to drink more than they normally do. I speak as somebody who is off alcohol for Lent and I do not intend to drink alcohol on Good Friday regardless of its availability.
People are mature and intelligent and they can decide whether they want to drink regardless of whether an off-licence is open. It is time the origins of the law were examined and it was relaxed. Off-licences should be allowed to sell alcohol on Good Friday. It might reduce the consumption of alcohol on Good Friday. People can adhere to the rule according to their religious beliefs.
I identify with many of the points raised on special educational needs. There are some areas which could be enhanced. I have heard the Minister many times indicating her commitment on the issue, and she has supplied resources to deal with the problem.
I wonder is there a lack of co-ordination between the education stakeholders. I will give a small example of how the City of Dublin VEC works with regard to psychological assessment. It has a huge cohort of children through the city, ranging in age from 11 years onwards, and it has a model which works beautifully in terms of psychological assessment and dealing with remedial, dyslexia and other areas which must be dealt with through the psychological service. If that body can get it right it is possible to do so elsewhere.
Is it a lack of co-ordination between the various stakeholders? Is there a lack of co-operation between the HSE and the Department of Education and Science in how it implements its programme? I would welcome clarification from the Minister on this issue, as the argument has been raised time and again that the programmes are not being implemented on the ground.
As I stated yesterday, we should be very cautious in what we say about the nurses' dispute but I would urge, in so far as is possible, both sides to get around the negotiating table and utilise the industrial relations mechanisms which exist to resolve the difficulty. There is no doubt that issues, to which I will not refer, must be addressed. They are on the public record.
I fully agree with Senator Jim Walsh in his comments regarding An Bord PleanÃ¡la. I realise we are running out of time and we have had a number of debates on planning, but the only thing consistent about An Bord PleanÃ¡la is its inconsistency.
It is completely inconsistent in the decisions it hands down. I have one very brief example. I could take a person to a part of north Westmeath where a young man was refused planning permission on his own farm, yet planning permission has been granted for houses that could be seen from as far away as Toorendohenybeg. So inconsistency is the main word for An Bord PleanÃ¡la. It is a joke.
Senator Brian Hayes raised the matter of the Garda Inspectorate and its head, Ms O'Toole, who has referred to a frightening lack of support for Garda and how protection is needed congruent to the laws. The Senator noted Ms O'Toole is doing a good job, on which we would all agree, and the Senator agreed with her comments in The Irish Times this morning, which I read.
Senator O'Toole spoke of the welcome for the National Council for Special Educational Needs. It presented a report to the Minister on what needed to be done, along with a timeframe for the job, and the Senator noted there has yet to be any outcome. Senator O'Toole also noted the remarks of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ã CuÃv, who stated the water in Galway was fine except one could not drink it.
The Senator spoke about the significant reports being put as Gaeilge, yet the child protection guidelines are not available in Irish. If these guidelines are needed in Dublin, they would be needed in Gaeltacht areas also, and why should this not be done? Senator O'Toole also spoke of other matters.
Senator O'Meara spoke of the nurses' dispute. She would support Senator Brian Hayes on the provision of resources to the Garda. The Senator indicated that the Criminal Justice Bill should run concurrently with the provision of resources. Senator O'Meara also spoke about a topic which was raised yesterday, a debate on the need for families, and especially children, to receive psychological support as we reach the tenth anniversary of the introduction of divorce laws.
Senator Jim Walsh spoke of transforming legislation and indicated that the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform had made a valuable input, particularly with the Garda Bill. The Accounting Officer for the Department is now the Commissioner, who has total control of the budgets. That, in itself, was one of the points brought forward in that legislation. That was fair enough. The Senator also raised the matter of An Bord PleanÃ¡la taking, in many tight cases, eight to nine months to decide on a case put to it.
Senator Coghlan spoke about blockages in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
There must be approvals back and forth along with various reports and reports on those reports. The Senator asked that I take up the matter with the Minister.
Senator Minihan raised a very valuable point about applied behaviour analysis, ABA. We have all been struck by the issue, and particularly by the recent court case. We discussed it briefly, especially the ABA method of dealing with children with autism across the spectrum of the condition. The Senator indicated his wish for an evaluation and report of the method and he indicated the Department is using the eclectic method. The ABA method has given such hope to so many parents, as they can see their children advancing. Various reports indicate that having done a few years with ABA, students are going back into mainstream schooling.
I would welcome such an evaluation. It is a bit declamatory to argue that there should be no ABA, with the eclectic methods being used exclusively. There should be an evaluation. Of all the educational needs for children, those affected by the entire spectrum of this condition are very important. It can wreck or make a family, depending on whether the child with special needs can advance. I hope we will have such an evaluation.
Senator Minihan also praised the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This is the other side of the debate. There will be 16,000 gardaÃ serving before the Minister leaves office. I hope he will not be leaving office.
Senator Norris raised an important point about Ms Adi Roche's appointment as an intermediary, with the work she is doing in Chernobyl, and that the visa waiver scheme would be revisited and brought back. The host parents now have to travel to make the arrangements in Moscow and there is an expense involved. That is a point I would raise myself, as we have a very active Chernobyl parents group within Athlone. That must be important.
The Senator also noted that Dr. Roderick O'Sullivan knew what was going to happen in the Corrib. The Senator praised Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, for going to Syria, although we heard this morning on the radio that she has been castigated for it.
Senator Hanafin took issue with the fact that there has been a refusal to have God referred to in the proposed EU constitution, especially considering the historical implications of Christianity within Europe so many centuries ago. He also reiterated the State support for partnership as a representative of ICTU, which was important.
Senator McHugh spoke about the nursing dispute. He also mentioned the sophisticated electorate, which we know is out there ready to meet us, and how we need an inclusive society which takes into account children's special needs. He argued that we should keep that on the educational agenda.
We should have a debate on autism. Dyspraxia and others are all ailments of a particular spectrum of educational disadvantage, and we should have a debate on the matter.
The Senator also mentioned postal voting and voting on a Thursday. I raised the matter at last night's meeting of the Fianna FÃ¡il parliamentary party because many young people I have met said they will not be able to vote if the election is on a Thursday. I hope there will be a change.
Senator Mooney raised the matter of Adi Roche, Irish Aid and how they need multi-annual funding to know what they will have from one year to the next. The Department of Foreign Affairs told him the visa waiver scheme was abolished because it led to trafficking of young people. The Senator wished to be associated with Senator Norris's statement on increased resources in the Moscow embassy.
Senator Terry referred to how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides financial assistance to parents seeking psychological help for their children. She also raised the issue of Chernobyl, as she has a relevant group in her area. Senator Brennan raised the matter of auditing the money provided under the water and sewerage investment programme in light of delays at local level.
Senator Cummins raised the closure of an indoor Garda training area, but he will recognise that those who speak at functions, such as teaching conferences, must get headlines. Hence they seek a good point.
Senator Mansergh praised the partnership process. He stated that we are paid at assistant principal level, yet we are willing to condemn or condone people who earn much more than us. He spoke about the considerable amount of good work done by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ã CuÃv, in terms of the Gaeltacht and the islands and what it means to those communities.
Senator Browne asked when the Pharmacy Bill will be before the House. We do not know, but if it is passed by the DÃ¡il tonight, it may be returned to this House tomorrow on the basis of two amendments. It will depend on whether the printing office will get the Bill reprinted and ready for us. It is necessary legislation, so we should deal with it. Otherwise, the pro and con lobbies will grow. We dealt with it expeditiously and properly on Second Stage, to which the Senator contributed considerably. I hope we will see him tomorrow.
Senator Browne also referred to drink being sold in off-licences on Good Friday. He is a good man because he will not drink on that day.
Later rather than now. Senator Ormonde referred to how the City of Dublin VEC deals with psychological cases in a workmanlike way, which I have heard previously. She asked whether we could examine its operation to determine how it works.
Senator Glynn suggested that the nurses and all concerned should gather around the negotiating table, but the difficulty lies in that they will not agree to the Labour Court's recommendation. I do not understand why. Neither did they agree with the national implementation body, but there is nowhere higher to go except to God. I do not know where the opening to manoeuvre exists. The Senator spoke about An Bord PleanÃ¡la's inconsistency. The board takes up whatever we say about it, so the Senator will receive a delightful letter.