Thursday, 5 April 2007
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, a motion, which was referred to the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business for consideration, which concerns an order which will come into effect on 1 May 2007 and will refine the class of media mergers which must be notified to the Competition Authority, and it will also revoke the Competition Act 2002 (section 18(5)) Order 2002 (SI No. 622 of 2002) which is in operation since 1 January 2003, to be taken without debate; No. 2, a motion, which was referred to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for consideration, which relates to the Schengen Convention and provides for the elimination of border checks between participating states and for a number of law enforcement compensatory measures, following Government and Oireachtas approval, Ireland successfully applied to participate in certain aspects of the general Schengen Convention, including the Schengen Information System, through which relevant information is exchanged electronically via a central system, the proposed Council decision is part of a set of instruments to provide a legal basis for Schengen Information System II which is required to improve performance and to cater for new functions, to be taken without debate; No. 3, the Pharmacy Bill 2007 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 12.30 p.m.; No. 4, the Consumer Protection Bill 2007 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 12.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 1.00 p.m.
The House owes a debt of gratitude to the work of Mr. Paddy MacEntee, SC, on the publication of his commission of investigation report into the 1974 atrocities in Dublin and Monaghan. The conclusions reached by Mr. MacEntee that there was no evidence of collusion and the Garda deliberately wound down the investigation are important. People who were in the Garda and the then Government are still alive and have to deal with allegations touted against them.
At another level, it is difficult for the families of the victims. They must still live with the memory of the events and do not have closure. A system to help these families and those affected by the Troubles must be established. I ask the Government to work with the Opposition and the new Northern Ireland Executive in developing an initiative which recognises the real and lasting pain and sorrow of the victims' families. If there is one lesson to be learned from this process of investigation, it is the need to support those victims, particularly the families of the Dublin-Monaghan victims who have had to deal with difficult times since 1974.
With the MacEntee report and the chief inspector of the Garda inspectorate, Ms O'Toole's recent speech to the AGSI, there is a strong case for a debate on the Garda force. We need to see a rebuilding of the trust and confidence in the force. A structure needs to be in place where individual issues do not take from the reputation of the entire Garda force, which is inclined to happen willy-nilly. Serious mistakes were made in the past for which the Garda Commissioner has apologised. New legislation has been introduced to plug holes in the structures. The Garda force needs to know it is a crucial part of our democracy and one in which we need to have trust and confidence. While there will be incidents such as cross-Border collusion, the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, Abbeylara or Donegal, it must be known we are cleaning these out of the system. Gardaí must know they can look to us as voices in support of them and examine deficiencies in the force in a balanced way.
Recently on the Order of Business, I asked why the Government will not ban incandescent light bulbs, leading the way for the rest of the world. Afterwards, I discussed the matter with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. He was positively disposed towards my suggestion but he pointed out that the Irish Government, of its own volition, may not ban a product that is on sale in the EU, by virtue of the Treaty of Rome. This needs to be addressed. The Minister must be given an opportunity to explain this position to the House and the Government's recently published climate change policy document. While I have disagreements with it, I also see positive aspects to the document.
Yesterday, Senator Mansergh praised the work done for island communities by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Erosion on islands is a matter that should be examined by the Minister, the sea wall in Valentia being one example. Local people are forced to pay to build walls to keep out the sea. They might as well be in the Netherlands. This should not be left to local communities. Coastal erosion is a result of global warming. If the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, wants to find ways to help the Kerry community, he could do so in a more positive way than what he has chosen to do so far.
I support the comments made by Senator Brian Hayes on the importance of supporting the families of the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. I call on the Leader for a debate on the MacEntee report before the general election.
I support Senator O'Toole's calls for a review of the Garda force. The various tribunals into Garda conduct have shown there is a culture in the Garda of circling the wagons if anything happens. This has been evident in other incidences that have not been the subject of tribunal inquiry. There is a need for a radical reform of the Garda. Senator Maurice Hayes has pointed to how Garda recruits are trained. They should not be sent to Templemore but integrated with other students of other disciplines to get a broader outlook on life. The most important reform the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has not grasped is the need for an independent Garda authority. We need a similar structure to the policing board in the North to ensure the Garda Síochána is radically reformed and the necessary accountability and transparency is provided. While the establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is a welcome initiative and it will commence its work on 8 May, we also need to establish an independent Garda authority. I would like a debate, if possible, on that matter.
One of the findings in the recent report of the Inspector of Mental Health Services is that patients in mental health institutions are often left wandering aimlessly all day — they are not provided with the appropriate therapies and such assistance. The conditions in some institutions are very poor and not at all fitting in terms of the conditions that should be in place in those institutions in this day and age. I would like a debate, if possible, on that report before the forthcoming election.
Mr. MacEntee, SC, is one of the most eminent lawyers in this State. He has been noted down through the years for his tenacity in the pursuit of real justice. I have no doubt he made a valiant effort in this case to break through a wall of silence to find the truth, to bring solace to the families whose lives all these years have been a living hell, and to bring some semblance of closure to this case. What is significant about the report is not the questions that have been answered but those which could not be answered because the information was not available or had gone missing. This has been another blow to these families. At this stage I believe they will continue and persist until the truth is found and, if they do not succeed, their children will persist with this. We should engage at all times with those families to help them in whatever they are trying to achieve not only now but in the future.
I do not believe that closure has been brought to this case. I am not in favour of Garda bashing. I have always defended the Garda force on all occasions in this House. We should continue to do that because the vast majority of gardaí have served this State very well. The answers in this case lie elsewhere, not with the gardaí, but in other circles. It is important that we do see this report as being the end of the road. I for one, like many others, will continue to engage with the families who have suffered and try to help them in the future.
I would also like to compliment Mr. Paddy MacEntee, SC, on the thoroughness of the report and everything he was able to discover despite some difficulties and obstacles. I also compliment his senior assistant, Mr. Felix McEnroy, SC, in this matter. As was said by Senator Brian Hayes, the important point at this stage is that we should act, in so far as it can be done, more positively as regards the victims who have put up with an awful lot and perhaps did not get all the assistance they deserved in the past.
On a separate matter, I welcome that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided, albeit a little late, to step up the monitoring of water quality throughout our lakes and water sources. I also share the concern expressed by Senator O'Toole about the erosion of the sea wall at Valentia. I appeal to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, through the Leader, to address the problem of the much more serious erosion of the sea wall at Inch. It is threatening the main artery or road south through Killarney to Dingle. Kerry County Council has had to proceed with that work. The matter also involves the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche. It is important that the necessary assistance is made available. This is a main tourism artery. People are experiencing enough difficulty with the signage. As Senator O'Toole rightly said, if the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, could be more positive in this regard, perhaps he could provide some assistance to address this matter.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we need to remind ourselves from time to time there is much we can learn from continental Europe. The last couple of days have seen inaugurated, or at least by way of experiment, a new TGV that travels at the equivalent of approximately 320 mph or 515 km/h. A comment has been made that this is a success for the French model, often denigrated, which is founded on a partnership of the State and public enterprise with the private sector to produce the latest in technology and provide infrastructure. In many ways, that aspect of the French model is very suitable for this small country of Ireland.
There has been some discussion in the House about the Garda. Again looking to Europe, the members of the German army, the Bundeswehr, are referred to as citizen soldiers. It would be good if our soldiers, gardaí and judges thought of themselves and were regarded as citizen soldiers, citizen gardaí and citizen judges.
The child poverty figures published recently are startling. The figures startled me because the figures have disimproved. Up to last year one child in ten suffered what is regarded as poverty but this year the figures have reduced to one child in nine. In spite of all the money that has been thrown at addressing this problem, it is a huge scandal that we are allowing this to happen in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The evidence available clearly highlights that something can be done to address this problem at pre-school level. It is possible to identify at a very early age children who will end up at the bottom of the class, children who will be among the 20% who do not finish school and those children who, as teenagers, will end up being in breach of the provisions of anti-social behaviour legislation. Investment to address this problem is needed at pre-school level, but we have not taken even the first steps in that direction.
I mention that issue because I received in my mail today details of the proposed charities Bill from the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, to be introduced shortly after Easter. The document he circulated outlined the main provisions in the Bill. I have sought the introduction of this legislation for a long time but if there was ever a point of saying too little too late it is in this instance, although it is better late than never. The Leader might advise what will happen in regard to the passage of this proposed Bill. If it is published in Easter Week, when it is likely to come to the floor of the House? Will the same Bill be handled by a new Government? Does it make sense to publish Bills at this time of the year just before an election?
I also received in my mail today a free copy of a magazine, which other Members have also probably received. It is not a magazine I read, it is targeted at younger people, certainly people younger than me. However, out of that magazine fell a promotion for smoking, a free product for smoking. I will not give any details that might encourage it, but it must be against all the legislation we introduced to prevent the promotion of smoking. Apparently this product is produced in Spain and it was included in this magazine, which I believe Members of this and the other House received free. Given that has happened, either the magazine is at fault or we are at fault in allowing our postal circulation to be used for the distribution of product.
I am slightly reluctant to talk about the gardaí because I have been doing some informal work for them in regard to management, other such matters and the giving of general advice. It is important to underpin the morale of the Garda. At a time when it is being buffeted from all sides as it reorganises and reforms, it is also important for it to see the body politic is behind it.
If we are to have a debate on the Garda, which would be a good idea, it might be sensible to wait until Inspector O'Toole has produced her next report. I noticed in the newspapers yesterday that she said it would be on policing and the organisation of policing into the future. That would give us a focus for a debate. By that time, my group might have a report as well on management issues, which might be helpful.
I wish to say something which is linked to the MacEntee report. It is unfair to judge a police service of the 1970s by the standards of what is done today. Things which are taken for granted now and which are basic tools of investigation were in their infancy in 1973. For example, DNA, forensic testing of one type or another and data processing were in their infancy. We have seen police force after police force in Britain going through the trauma of handling huge investigations and having to learn from them. It is unfair to castigate today's Garda or even the people at the time because they did not know what we now know.
I agree with Senator Brian Hayes that there is an enormous need, North and South, to deal with the hurt of victims, to sustain them and to help them find settlement to the extent we can. I do not believe one can do that by way of serial inquiries. If there was one person in this country I would have chosen to find out what happened, it would have been Mr. Paddy MacEntee who is a most able lawyer and a resolute and persistent man. If he cannot get at the truth, perhaps it is not possible to do so for many reasons. Rather than delude people that we can get at the truth, perhaps we should look at other ways to help them to bear the cross they must carry.
I support what Senator Quinn said about children and poverty. Later today Barnardos will launch what it calls an election manifesto, which is opportune. It will highlight the fact that one in nine children lives in consistent poverty. The figure is up from last year when one in ten children lived in consistent poverty. Consistent poverty is the best way to measure the poor circumstances in which children live because it takes an overall view of how they live. It takes account of whether there is enough food in the house to feed them and whether they have warm and suitable clothing and footwear. It also takes account of their environment in terms of play facilities. It is a shocking indictment of our society and of Government spending that the number of children living in poverty is increasing each year.
There was a booklet on my desk this morning from the Combat Poverty Agency which I did not have time to read. It also highlights the poor in our society. As I mentioned yesterday, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul highlighted the same issues.
Barnardos also provides figures on early school leavers. One in five children leaves secondary school early. Some 2,000 children are waiting for psychological assessments. They are just some of the figures being highlighted by Barnardos today and we should all read them. The parents of many of these children will not go out to vote because they feel so detached from the political system and so let down. We need to focus on this area. I would say to the Government that after ten years in office, it is a shame the number of children living in poverty is growing.
I call for a debate on the report of the joint Oireachtas committee on the bombing of Kay's Tavern. It covers the issue of collusion in many of the atrocities which involved various agencies in Northern Ireland, not only the police and the military but also the Northern Ireland Office, the Secretary of State and the British Prime Minister's office. It is all well set out in that document. I do so rather than call for a debate on the MacEntee report.
We decided to await the MacEntee report before having a debate on Kay's Tavern. In fact, the report of the joint Oireachtas committee calls for a debate in each House. The MacEntee report adds very little to the information already known. The main questions put to the commission of investigation were as follows: Why was the Garda investigation into the largest mass murder in the history of this State wound down within two or three months and why did crucial evidence and files within the Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform go missing? We are no wiser today, two years after the commission of investigation, about the answers to those questions.
Many Members have expressed a wish to support the victims who want the truth. Following the historic events yesterday at Farmleigh, it behoves everybody to bring closure to our sad history, particularly our recent sad history. That can only be done if the British Government comes absolutely clean about its involvement and active participation, through its agents, in some of these terrible events.
As always I listened with interest and respect to my colleague, citizen Mansergh. He is perfectly right that historical files are never destroyed. It would be pretty difficult to destroy them since they have all been tossed into a bonfire or a skip or have been lost. That subject should be addressed, namely, the extraordinary inefficiency in the management of archiving. Within a couple of months, the Garda managed to get rid of fingerprints, photographs of fingerprints and photographs of suspects supplied by the RUC. It was an astonishing performance. We should criticise the Garda and I make no bones about so doing. That is a very minimal level of management and it has nothing whatever to do with DNA or scientific developments.
The most crucial elements of the investigation were dumped and within such a short time of the then Taoiseach, Mr. Liam Cosgrave, assuring the public that no stone would be left unturned and that the people who perpetrated this monstrous act would be brought to justice. Within a couple of months, everything was thrown on a bonfire somewhere. That is not acceptable now, nor was it at that time. We are not talking about the dark ages. There is a real question of very poor management of archive material and the public, and certainly the relatives, deserve to be reassured about that.
I am sure many people, in addition to myself, heard Vincent Browne's radio programme last night on which a very dignified and composed woman spoke. She gave a clear, factual and unemotional account of what happened to her. At first she thought she had been struck by lightning. I had no idea Vincent Browne, who I sometimes criticise, played such a role. He displayed great courage and initiative in trying to go to the assistance of members of the public given the appalling things he confronted. He said he tried to pick up a woman, but she disintegrated. What a horrible thing to deliberately do to another human being. We are entitled to look into this matter. I do not accept we are at the end of it yet. There has been a lack of co-operation in certain instances from the British Government.
In addition to the missing files, there is a missing chapter in the report because for technical, legal reasons, which have been explained to the Taoiseach, a particular line of inquiry about somebody in regard to whom information was made available to the Garda could not be pursued. When that person was called to the inquest, he got legal advice to stop his appearance. There are many unanswered questions.
Will the Leader ask the Government why we have been strongly criticised by the OECD for not fighting corruption? We have apparently signed up to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption but the proper implementation of this convention relies upon the generation of domestic legislation and we have not done this. There are situations where companies here could bribe figures in other parts of the world. I would like to think that we would try to establish good standards.
At the instigation of Pax Christi which is a very admirable organisation, I submitted an item on the Order Paper on the topic of cluster bombs. I will end on a good note by informing the House that the British Government last week introduced legislation for a complete ban on the use of cluster bombs, these filthy things which kill so many children. The British Government has committed itself to destroy the stockpiles of this material, which is to be welcomed. I think further action is required but this is a good day's work on the part of the British Government.
Will the Leader consider resuming the debate on regional transport policy which would include discussion regarding the magnificent contract signing yesterday with two Spanish companies and an Irish company for €605 million for the N6 from Ballinasloe to Galway city, which is 57.6 km?
——which is not yet going ahead. We should push for that to be completed by 2010. It is a great day for the BMW region and a great day for the west that a motorway will be built from Galway to Dublin. I compliment the Government on this marvellous achievement.
I wish I had his money as well. I ask the Leader to speak to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to consider an information campaign aimed at first-time voters such as 18 year olds in secondary schools or in their first college year and the many new citizens who are entitled to vote. Our system of voting is quite complex. People probably have a vague idea of what it involves. Over the next few weeks, we will all hear phrases such as, "I won't forget you", and, "I'll give you a vote". Of course we all want to hear the famous phrase, "I'll give you my No. 1". However, we need to explain to the public the difference between giving a No. 1 or a No. 2 to a candidate and the system of elimination.
I support Senators O'Toole and Maurice Hayes in their call for a debate on the Garda Síochána. Last Tuesday, Senator Cummins and I had the pleasure of attending the AGSI conference dinner in Wexford at which we had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen O'Toole and listening to her speak. Her appointment comes at a crucial time for the force. I agree with Senator O'Toole that we as leaders should support the force and tell the Garda Síochána what a good job it is doing.
I note the young female faces who are gardaí which shows the force is changing. I was delighted to hear that the maximum entry age for the Garda Síochána is now 35 years. People can have a career and join the force with a wealth of experience. I am delighted to hear the Garda Síochána is pleased with the Garda reserve force. The culture of secrecy is being weeded out and people such as Kathleen O'Toole, together with the young force, will show us that in 30 years' time when the archives are examined, as Senator Norris said, they will not be contaminated nor interfered with but will be preserved.
As everybody in the House knows, the Dáil will be dissolved soon whereas the Seanad will not be and the business of Government will go on. In view of the fact that many Members of the Seanad have raised issues they want debated, could the time be used when this House is still in session and the Dáil is not to debate those matters which several Senators wish to have debated? There is a lacuna in the parliamentary process whereby when the Dáil is dissolved the Seanad de facto dissolves itself even though de jure it is not. This time could certainly be used because the business of Government goes on without challenge in that period.
Important things are happening in the nation and in the economy in particular. The economy is now hitting very choppy waters. One issue which is worth a debate is the danger to the economy posed by the multinational reservations about what is going on. The broadband issue should also be addressed because Ministers have continually paid lip-service to the need to install broadband in every house and business in the country but have failed to do so. I anticipate a period, which may or may not happen but which has happened before, whereby if the Dáil is re-elected and there are difficulties in forming a Government, no meaningful legislation or parliamentary discussion could occur until October. It would be helpful if the Leader of the House considered ways whereby the Seanad could monitor what is happening in the Government during that period.
The issue of children going to school hungry and being neglected was highlighted recently in the House. It was suggested that this topic should be part of a wider debate on the role and fabric of today's society. I have significant experience of dealing with the disadvantaged in Dublin city. I know that some of what has been said in the House are untruths. There is a psychological service working very well within the disadvantaged areas but the problem lies with the parents in these areas. They have money but there is no doubt they neglect their children. They do not turn up for appointments made for their children. This has been well documented. All the stakeholders such as education, health, schools, parents and the community at large must be included in the discussion of the topic.
Senator O'Toole raised the issue of the role of the EU in dealing with domestic matters and how we may not be permitted to ban products. A debate was held yesterday regarding the updating of legislation so that the Oireachtas will play a part. Any EU regulations and directives should be discussed. It is my strong opinion that the role of the European Union must be diluted in terms of how we handle our national affairs.
I was unavoidably delayed and I have tried to check that none of my colleagues referred to the TASC report on which many of the newspapers commented this morning. The report in question was issued by a think-tank that was established some years ago and it criticises the manner in which government in general and the parliamentary system operate. Members on all sides have raised this issue from time to time. Will the Leader, particularly in light of her zeal in this area and the initiatives she has put in place to reform the Seanad, consider making time available to consider this report after the Easter recess?
This is an important issue in the context of the future of democracy in this country. I urge all politicians, particularly those in this House, to obtain the report — Power to the People? Assessing Democracy in Ireland — to which I refer because it not only deals with the way the whip system works but also with the way government has operated since the foundation of the State, namely, that the Government makes proposals that are disposed of by Parliament through the former's majority therein. Dissent is rarely allowed within the party whip system. The latter increasingly applies in respect of Oireachtas committees and a number of examples of this are cited in the report.
I am proud to be a member of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party. However, as everyone is aware, there are upsides and downsides to being a member of a parliamentary party.
This is an important and serious issue — particularly as we are in a pre-election period — as regards the future democratic and efficient workings of our institutions. I urge the Leader to, if at all possible, make arrangements for an all-party motion in respect of this matter to allow Members on all sides to debate what they believe to be the inherent flaws in our current system.
I congratulate Ms Nancy Pelosi on visiting President Assad of Syria. Her actions might open up a new era of rapprochement between Washington and Damascus. I had the privilege of meeting President Assad in January and he assured me that on each occasion he came close to making peace deals with Israel or certain other countries, his efforts were stymied by Washington. With the Democrats holding a majority in the US Congress, perhaps things may change somewhat.
I support Senator Jim Walsh's request for a debate on the Final Report on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk, which was issued by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. It may be, as Senator Maurice Hayes stated, that the truth relating to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings is unobtainable. However, I am of the view that, in view of the number of people involved, there must be some way to uncover the truth. One would want to be an idiot to believe that all the files relating to this mass murder that were held in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and by the Garda Síochána either disappeared or were destroyed. I do not believe that what happened in this instance was an accident. Further investigation is required until the truth is finally revealed.
Senator Brian Hayes, who was obliged to leave to attend to some political business, referred to Mr. Paddy MacEntee's report and praised its author. The Senator spoke about the need to put in place a system to help victims. We cannot continue to call for further reports because those that have been already produced did not arrive at the results we wanted. It is clear files have been destroyed or that they cannot be found. It is a matter, therefore, of dealing with the victims.
I agree with Senator O'Toole's request for a debate on the Garda Síochána. The Senator also referred a conversation he had with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, regarding why we cannot ban products — incandescent bulbs — that are on sale in the State. He also called for a discussion on the strategy for climate change.
The final point raised by Senator O'Toole related to Valentia. Senators O'Toole and Coghlan are the kingpins of Dingle and they should allow me, due to the fact that I visit every year, to be the queen of Valentia.
I thank the Senator for doing so. He stated that the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuiv, could attend to the matter of erosion on the island.
Senator Tuffy requested a debate on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the victims thereof before the general election is called. She also requested a review of the Garda Síochána and the need for an independent Garda authority. She further called for a debate on the recent report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals.
Senator Ó Murchú stated that Mr. Paddy MacEntee made a valiant effort to break through the silence. The Senator praised Senator Brian Hayes and stated that the families must be protected and be presented with some way of achieving retribution. I agree with Senator Ó Murchú that Garda bashing is not acceptable.
Senator Coghlan praised the MacEntee report. He also referred to the sea walls at Valentia and Inch.
Senator Mansergh stated that historical files are never closed. He also referred to the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the fact that a new TGV train travelled at a speed of 320 mph earlier this week. The Senator raised an interesting concept, namely, that members of the police force and the Army should be referred to as "citizen gardaí" and "citizen soldiers".
Senator Quinn referred to child poverty and indicated that the figure in this regard has decreased from one in ten to one in nine. He stated that early indentification is hugely important in the context of helping children that are living in poverty. The Senator also referred to the charities Bill. He further referred to a magazine he received which carried a promotional product relating to smoking. It seems both stupid and odd for such a product to be included with a magazine.
Senator Maurice Hayes called for a debate on the Garda Síochána but stated that it might be useful to wait for this until Inspector Kathleen O'Toole produces her next report. The Senator also stated that we are judging past events on today's standards. In historical terms, it is wrong to do so because we do not take account of the conditions, circumstances, standards, etc., that obtained when certain events occurred. The Senator also stated that we should not continue to hold inquiry after inquiry.
Senator Terry referred to the election manifesto being launched by Barnardos. She also referred to the things for which children are waiting. Chief among her concerns is the fact that 2,000 children are awaiting psychological testing.
Senator Jim Walsh and others requested a debate on the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights' Final Report on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay's Tavern, Dundalk.
Senator Norris was irritated by the fact that files relating to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings may have been thrown on a bonfire or may have merely disappeared. The Senator also asked me to inquire of the Government as to why the OECD has criticised us for not fighting corruption. He also referred to cluster bombs and requested a debate on banking.
Senator Leyden referred to yesterday's signing of a contract worth €605 million in respect of the N6 from Ballinasloe to Galway. I must inform him that they must still reach Athlone so he should not run away with himself. The Senator stated that it was a great day for the BMW region and praised the new chief of the Army.
Senator Browne stated that new voters should be educated as regards our PR election system and provided with information relating thereto.
Senator Feeney referred to the AGSI and the fact that we should support the Garda, that the maximum recruitment age is 35 and that the reserve is working well. Her visit to Waterford in the company of Senator Cummins was well worthwhile.
Senator Ross referred to the parliamentary lacuna that will develop when the Dáil will be dissolved and when the Seanad will remain in place. He stated that many issues could be debated in the House and that it could monitor what is happening as regards the governing of the State. Even though the Seanad will not be dissolved when the general election is called, I will not be here. However, that does not matter.
Senator Ormonde spoke about parents who fail to turn up for the appointments they have arranged. She said there is another side to the debate, which has been proven by the number of children who go to school without breakfast.
Senator Mooney sought a debate on giving power to the people. Senator Lydon praised Nancy Pelosi for visiting President Assad and supported Senator Jim Walsh. I wish a happy Easter to all.