Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on Shannon Airport, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business until 5 p.m., and No. 23, Private Members' motion on education, to be taken from 5 p.m. It is proposed that opening spokespersons will speak for 12 minutes and all other Senators for five minutes each. Senators may share time.
Today is World Mental Health Day. Since 1992, a specific day has been designated to offer the opportunity to communicate about mental health issues. I raise the issue because worrying information has been published on the website of the Mental Health Commission.
Last year, two 13 year olds were admitted to psychiatric wards, as were six 14 year olds, five 15 year olds and 95 children aged 17. What are we doing admitting young children with mental health problems to adult psychiatry wards in 2007? One can imagine the state of mind of these children when they need admission only to find they are being admitted to an adult inpatient ward.
This raises serious questions about the neglect of mental health services. The report, A Vision for Change, was supposed to be implemented and I would like to get an update on that. A number of inpatient units for children and adolescents were promised, units that are long overdue, and we should be told what progress is being made. The unit in Cork is seven years behind schedule.
The Health Service Executive has written to the Dublin mid-Leinster region stating that the waiting list for child and adolescent psychiatric referrals is two years long and that it will accept only urgent referrals for children who need specialist help. The waiting list is two years long, there are huge numbers of extra referrals and the lack of team resources over a prolonged period, whereby the team is staffed at 40% of recommended levels, means the decision has been taken to close the waiting list.
The Minister said here last week that current cutbacks are not affecting patients. The evidence in the two examples I have given highlights how patients are suffering because of the state of the health service. We should debate these issues.
We are at the point in the lifetime of a Government when it starts to fill vacancies on boards of directors. We have previously said that it would be appropriate for this House to have a vetting function in the appointment of directors. If people are to be appointed to the board of Aer Lingus, would it not be useful to do the same as other democracies, where the vacancies are publicly advertised and those who apply and those who are proposed by the Minister come before a committee of this House or a joint committee to show their expertise, experience, skill and independence? If we were to do so, it would be a major step towards engendering new trust and confidence in the political system. We should have a debate soon on the issue of filling directorships in State and semi-State bodies.
I wish to raise another issue briefly. The Government made an extraordinary decision yesterday regarding the European treaty. This House discussed approximately five Bills last year concerning co-operation on policing matters between various European countries, but I do not know where we stand anymore. We passed legislation which made it possible for somebody in Ireland to be required to give evidence and be part of an investigation in another country. At that stage, I specifically asked the Minister if there was not a difficulty in terms of the Napoleonic code being married to our common law process. I was told that this could be done without difficulty, yet suddenly there is a problem. Surely there is a need for us to discuss this matter now. It should have been discussed before the Government took a decision on it. This is how the first Nice referendum was lost because people took decisions and then expected support afterwards. I do not understand why the Government made that decision but it should have initiated a debate so that we would have known where we were going. I will be slow to support something which makes life easier for criminals, particularly when we have taken action previously to accommodate movement between states. If that means our leaving the Schengen agreement, in a final position, then we should be sufficiently big, strong and independent to do that. Just because the British want to have people in uniforms at their borders does not mean we must follow suit.
The Minister for Finance has recently published a report by the decentralisation implementation group. Will the deputy leader request the Minister to attend the House for a debate on that report? Despite all the spin used to soft-soap the issue, the report shows that progress has been lamentably slow concerning the Government's so-called decentralisation programme. The report also shows that no more than 15% of a projected 11,000 civil and public servants have moved under the scheme, notwithstanding the fact that it was introduced four years ago. Does the deputy leader agree that the entire decentralisation programme was ill-conceived and deserves debate after four long years, given that it has not unfolded as planned? The House should consider this topic in the context of the public service generally.
The chairman of the Revenue Commissioners has indicated to the Minister that it would not be prudent or appropriate for Revenue computer staff to move. The Minister said he has been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there were some business continuity issues. In plain English, however, the language used by the Minister means it has been accepted that they will not move. They are in such an important position that they cannot be compelled to move. I wonder how many other business continuity issues there are across the civil and public service that ought to be considered in this context? When can we expect to have Government proposals on real decentralisation and real reform of local government? Instead of pretending that moving civil servants out of Dublin constitutes decentralisation, which is a sham, let us have a real debate on the matter. Although it would be an advance to have elected mayors in major cities, let us hope that it will not simply amount to that because real root and branch reform of local government is required.
We are all shocked and horrified by the brutal murder in Galway yesterday of Manuela Riedo from Switzerland. In the history of the State, we have never had so many murders occurring in one week. This is a horrific ordeal for the student population of Galway, which totals 20,000, as well as their families. Those whose children have studied abroad under the ERASMUS programme will share the grief of the families involved. I hope the person responsible will be brought to justice. I appeal for full co-operation with the Garda Síochána in the regions dealing with murders. Every murder is important and significant to the families of those who have died. I share the grief of all those affected by the tragic deaths in Dublin in the past week. I know the House will support me in that regard.
While I am aware that there will be a debate on Shannon today the motion before the House does not include this point: Dermot Mannion must have a death wish for Aer Lingus because he is proceeding with the hub in Belfast despite not having negotiated with the pilots. He will dismiss all the pilots and withdraw a service from the mid-west.
Will the deputy leader outline the rationale behind the decision to opt out of the new EU reform treaty regarding criminal and policing measures? There has been significant growth in cross-border and international crime, and our coastline is porous, as shown by the shipments of drugs for onward movement, perhaps across the sea again. This is difficult for the citizen to accept. I also call for a debate on the matter.
What is the status of the Fitzgerald report which promised 100 extra gardaí for Limerick to be led by a Garda superintendent and a dedicated branch of the Criminal Assets Bureau to deal with the growth in hardline crime?
Will the deputy leader call an urgent debate on suicide? Last year there were 417 reported suicides and there were possibly many more not reported. I welcome the Health Service Executive's announcement today that it will give €500 to an advertising campaign for the prevention of suicide. The campaign will start today and will be on television.
When I was on my intense Seanad election campaign many councillors around the country pleaded with me to raise the issue of suicide here. There is an epidemic of suicide. I look forward to a debate on this matter. We must get the idea that there is no longer a stigma attached to suicide or attempted suicide onto the radar.
Will the deputy leader consider holding a debate on abortion, a topic of ongoing concern, particularly to women? Politicians have ignored and overlooked the topic. Governments have failed to legislate for abortion, particularly to provide for the circumstances in which an abortion may be carried out in line with the Supreme Court judgment in the X case, whereby continuing a pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to a woman's life.
In a recent poll in The Irish Times 69% of women surveyed said they would favour the Government's legislating to provide for the X case circumstances. A total of 54% said they would like to see abortion legalised.
Last week, a senior Church of Ireland bishop justifiably criticised politicians for their spinelessness and hypocrisy in failing to face up to this issue. In respect of the X case in 1992, a Supreme Court judge was similarly critical of politicians for failing to legislate and leaving the matter to judges. In this context, I ask the deputy leader to try to face up to the collective cowardice of politicians regarding this issue and to consider holding a debate.
It is a great honour and privilege for me to be in this House and I look forward to having the opportunity to contribute to, and participate in, many debates on various issues. I wish the Cathaoirleach and other Members all the best for the coming session.
On World Mental Health Day, I ask the deputy leader to invite the Minister for Health and Children to address the House on the implementation of the framework report, A Vision for Change, which was intended to establish state-of-the-art mental health services in Ireland. The framework has received the support of patients, families, professionals and advocate groups and provides for comprehensive support, responses and services for those who face the challenge of mental health illness. Moreover, it is of particular importance in that it also provides for the promotion and maintenance of good mental health well-being for all.
A new HSE report has indicated that at least 23% of Irish citizens will be affected, either directly or through a family member, by mental health issues. A total of 11,000 people annually will engage in or attempt intentional self-harm and 500, or possibly more, will die by suicide.
I will add to Senator Mary White's contribution on this issue. Last night, the HSE launched an advertisement campaign to coincide with World Mental Health Day and I understand Senator White intended to state it has a budget of €500,000. It is important that such advertisements should contribute to ensuring the creation of an environment and the fostering of a climate of openness to discuss mental health issues and challenges. However, this can only work when the requisite responses are in place to support those who come forward. The deputy leader should invite the Minister before the House as I believe the implementation of A Vision for Change will provide the supports and services for people. Moreover, Members can play their role in the creation of an environment in which it is possible to discuss mental health issues in a positive context and in ensuring that people appreciate there is light at the end of the tunnel by being open.
I was deeply concerned to read reports on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture's review of the Irish Prison Service. It cites gross violations of human rights, violence and the ongoing procedure of slopping-out cells. While many Members will never see the inside of a prison, it is clear there has been a mass proliferation of drugs, gang warfare is taking place and the entire Irish Prison Service is in chaos. In 1995, a former Member, T. K. Whitaker, produced a report on penal reform. A couple of months ago, he produced a review of the report entitled, The Whitaker Committee Report 20 years on: Lessons learned, or lessons forgotten? While the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated his intention to produce a Bill on penal reform by the end of 2006, it appears to have been forgotten. The deputy leader should ask the present Minister to come before the House to outline his plans for penal reform.
I ask the deputy leader to arrange for the Minister for Health and Children to come before the House in the near future in order that Members can debate a matter of importance, namely, the funding of CURA by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency. It is appalling that this body has failed to fund CURA, which does tremendous work for young girls who find themselves needing help and support. I ask that we have a debate on this matter. I am sad to see the failure of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency to live up to its responsibilities, and this should be addressed in the House. If there is any impediment from the Government with regard to the terms of reference of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, that should be exposed and debated here.
In a lighter vein, I welcome the recent initiative in which the DUP, the ruling party in Northern Ireland, and the Catholic Church, the majority church on the island, have come together to oppose the introduction of abortion on either side of the Border. This is to be welcomed. It is time the silent majority articulated their views to prevent a small liberal minority from engineering a situation which would be detrimental to human rights in this country. A primary human right is the right to life, and this must be articulated, safeguarded and defended at all costs.
Last week I called for a debate on the possibility of Ireland's opting out of the EU criminal and policing measures provided for in the new reform treaty. It was agreed to have an urgent debate on this matter. We now know that the decision has been made by the Government. However, it is rather discourteous to this House and to the Lower House that there has been no debate on what is potentially a constitutional issue.
As Senator O'Toole said, after the original Nice referendum debacle there was much soul searching in this House and in the Oireachtas generally about what went wrong. Clearly, people were not informed about EU matters. The Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time, Deputy Brian Cowen, spoke in this House about new measures and procedures that had been put in place by the Government for greater scrutiny of EU legislation and said there would be an ongoing dialogue between the Oireachtas and the Government on this matter. This has not happened. Although we were also promised transparency, no explanation has been offered to the House as to why this opt-out has been exercised. It is of fundamental importance that this explanation is provided, even belatedly.
We have spent 35 years carving out an individual approach for Ireland in EU matters, but this time we have locked ourselves into a British opt-out which will inhibit our negotiating position in an area of fundamental importance. Cross-border crime has a direct and adverse impact on this country. I wish to highlight the discourtesy of the Government in not allowing a debate on this matter in the Oireachtas.
I request that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Séamus Brennan, come to the House in the near future to discuss the potential that the London Olympic Games in 2012 has for the island of Ireland. The games will be held in London, which is just over 30 minutes away by air from these shores——
The London games will see the participation of 203 Olympic councils and 161 Paralympic councils. From about 2009 onwards, each of those teams will require training in a similar environment to London, with similar weather. Many parts of the British Isles, including the North and South of Ireland, could reap dividends from this.
Teams could train in the world-class facilities that are readily available in the State, which were funded by the taxpayer. I request that we bring the Minister to the House as quickly as possible to discuss this issue. We need a national implementation plan, which would be rolled out in conjunction with local and regional authorities. We also should be working closely with the new national director of coaching at the NCTC in Limerick, Michael McGeehin, a Donegal man.
The example being taken by Donegal County Council, whereby it is preparing a bid on its own merit based on the facilities available in Donegal, could be a prototype for other parts of the country. Donegal County Council is now in the process of compiling a DVD——
I support my colleague, Senator Bacik, in her call for a debate on abortion. This is a complex and difficult issue and people on both sides have strongly held views. I raised the matter towards the end of the last Seanad in the light of a very dignified letter written by a woman who was not an extreme person. She was not even particularly liberal, as far as I know, but she wrote as an ordinary citizen in the light of the impact her anencephalic pregnancy would have on her family.
We have betrayed people by long-fingering this debate. It is significant that a senior Anglican cleric has reproached us, as legislators, for our lack of courage. This is the Chamber in which to address these kinds of issues because we have a history of dealing with complicated, divisive and emotive issues in a calm and rational way, although there are divided opinions.
I agree with Senator Alex White in requesting the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance to come into the House, not specifically to deal with the issue he raised but instead to deal with an issue that impacts on many young people in particular, that is, the sub-prime mortgage issue. People are finding themselves in a position of negative equity. During the week there were 39 cases of court action to gain possession of houses, which is very worrying.
We also ought to take a stand about radio advertisements marketing these services, where, for example, there is a positive statement about taking a mortgage, including consolidating one's credit card debts, but then not letting people know that by so doing they are moving from a position of unsecured debt into one of secured debt and they could lose their house over their credit card debt, which is intolerable. In addition, the warning at the end they are statutorily required to provide is gabbled at an ungodly rate nobody could understand and is the voice-over equivalent of the notorious small print in contracts.
I suggest the Leader find time for a debate on Windscale. New information has now come to light that the explosion in 1958 was significantly worse. We know there are clusters of Down's syndrome births, still births, etc., in the area of Dundalk and the east coast. We also know that there was significant low-scale pollution before, during and after that accident through the smokestacks at Windscale. It is a matter we should monitor through this House.
In the interests of balance and fair comment, the record of the House should show the results of a recent survey held of attitudes to abortion in Ireland in which over 75% of those polled were opposed to abortion. Most public representatives are reticent about getting involved in another debate on abortion, precisely because of the acrimonious nature of previous debates. The extreme comments and language used by a particular churchman when being critical of legislators are not helpful and do not create the calm atmosphere which Senator Norris desires. In fact, one need only look at the letters in the newspapers to find that they have created the opposite atmosphere. It behoves us all at this time to approach this issue in an exceptionally calm manner. My views are well known and are on the record of the House. I respect the sacredness of all human life, including the unborn, who have no voice.
I endorse the words of our party leader, Senator Fitzgerald, regarding World Mental Health Day. I am pleased to say I have spent a number of years working voluntarily with the Mental Health Association of Ireland and for that reason I have a particular interest in this area. I was involved in setting up one of its branches. Senator Fitzgerald's overall contention was that we have a lack of investment in facilities and resources in this area. She is absolutely correct and all the evidence supports this view.
I draw attention to one facet of this inadequacy which is a serious matter, namely, that there are no facilities for young people who suffer from anorexia. I came across a tragic case recently in my work. Approximately three beds are available for young people with anorexia. Currently young people are put in wards with adult psychiatric patients who have very different types of illnesses. There are no specific facilities for the treatment of those who suffer from anorexia. This is a great indictment of the health service and of our country. I urge the deputy leader to raise with the Minister the serious matter of facilities for the treatment of young people up to the age of 18 or 19 years with anorexia.
To return to my own brief, I ask the deputy leader to allow for a debate on the current position regarding the roll out of broadband. I would welcome an audit or stock take of where we are in terms of the delivery of broadband and where we are going. This issue is of critical importance to many communities and, while progress has been made, the objective must be to provide broadband for every citizen in the State and every half parish. Broadband provision is critical not only for quality of life and social issues but also for the economic development of the country and to deal with issues such as traffic and so on. It is critical that broadband is made available to every home in the country.
I concur with Senator Ó Domhnaill in regard to the 2012 Olympic Games. I am a former Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs which drew up a report on this matter. Given that the committee structure is not up and running yet I hope we can have a debate on this matter to maximise information exchange. It would be appropriate to have the Minister present.
We are in the run-in to both Halloween and Christmas. Each year at this time the issue of the use of illegal bangers and fireworks comes up. I refer to this matter in the context of animal welfare. In the run-up to Christmas many people will be thinking of giving pets as presents, but we should remember the adage that an animal is for life, not for Christmas. Halloween is a time that can be very scary for pets. In that context, is it possible to invite the Minister to the House to discuss when the animal welfare Bill will materialise? Such a debate would provide an opportunity to give an input into what the legislation should contain before the Bill comes before the House.
In the context of World Mental Health Day, I call for a debate on the role played by alcohol abuse in mental health. At a minimum we should push at both national and EU level for a watershed of 9 p.m. for the advertising of alcohol. There is no point in discussing issues such as suicide or mental health and avoiding the elephant in the room — our cultural attitude to alcohol abuse.
Ba mhaith liom go n-eagróidh an Leas-Cheannaire go dtiocfaidh an Aire Stáit atá cúram aige ar chursaí leanaí isteach go dtí an Teach seo le plé a dhéanamh ar cúram leanaí, go háirithe i gceantair pobail, mar go bhfuil athrú á dhéanamh ar struchtúr na maoin fá choinne cúram leanaí.
Will the Deputy Leader arrange a debate with the Minister of State with special responsibility for children to address a serious issue, of which many Senators will be aware due to the lobbying of the community child care sector? The structure of funding to that sector is being changed and will operate in a tiered system according to the income of parents and the services will receive subventions instead of the current staffing grants. Many families using community child care facilities are on relatively low incomes but do not receive social welfare payments, and, therefore, will not qualify for the new subvention scheme. Without sufficient numbers able to avail of the subvention scheme community child care services will go out of business in many areas or fees will have to be increased for those using the facilities. In one example, the household income is €485 and the cost of child care will increase by 28% from 1 December because of this scheme. This makes a mockery of the Government's claim that the scheme is for the disadvantaged.
We need to debate this matter in the Chamber. The Government needs to step back and listen to the concerns with regard to increasing user fees of those who are providing community child care services. Some community run and owned child care facilities that depend on voluntary assistance will close down.
The Minister for Education and Science could also come to the Chamber to update Members as to why maps provided in primary schools currently include Ireland in the British Isles.
Other speakers referred to World Mental Health Day. The record will probably show our services are in total disarray and there has been a lack of facilities and progress. My knowledge of services is that we have taken down the walls of Grangegorman and brought into the community people who, in years gone by, were dumped into institutions by their families and they were forgotten about. They are now living in independent units in every parochial area, with a good quality of life. I congratulate those involved in the formulation and application of the policy of independent living for people with an intellectual disability and mental health problems. Equally, I congratulate those bodies such as St. Michael's House, which provides a tremendous service for young people in the area I represent, where it runs a great many community houses.
Members referred to suicide. As I am sure the Opposition will agree, it is fair for the House to acknowledge and applaud the work of one of our parliamentary colleagues, Deputy Dan Neville, for the manner in which he has highlighted issues associated with suicide over a prolonged number of years when people were a little afraid of it or did not want to address the issue. I also applaud others in the community such as Pat and Nuala Matthews, who work on issues associated with autism, and the work of the Irish Society for Autism.
If we have a debate on these issues, we will all have an opportunity to put on record a more balanced and fair reflection of what is happening in the services. We know there are bottlenecks in the health service. One has to congratulate the NTPF——
Those involved with the National Treatment Purchase Fund have done tremendous work. However, I am not sure what they have done with regard to addressing orthodontic waiting lists. I would appreciate it if somebody could respond to me in this regard.
The report today that only 50% of those with penalty points have paid their fines is a concern because it is a reminder of the lack of respect for the law. When Mayor Giuliani was elected in New York, he said he would stop crime by refusing to accept unacceptable behaviour. Unacceptable behaviour has been drawn to my attention in recent days. I saw a group of people rush to the head of a queue waiting for a bus on O'Connell Street. Yesterday, I saw car drivers moving from a tailback into the bus lane to beat the queues. This practice delays other drivers. We must stop accepting this type of behaviour if we are to clamp down on crime. I ask the deputy leader to consider holding a debate to allow the House to get to the root of the crime problem. I support Senator Mary White's call for a debate on suicide.
Senators want a large number of issues debated in the House. I will try to address the matters raised in the order in which Members raised them. As this is World Mental Health Day and in light of the recent report published by the Mental Health Commission, there is certainly scope for a debate on mental health issues.
Several speakers referred to teenagers being treated in adult facilities and the lack of treatment for certain conditions, including bodily perception disorders. While improvements are required in these areas, as Senator Callely noted, progress has been made on A Vision for Change, a policy document agreed by all those involved in the mental health sector. A debate would show that while much remains to be done in the area of mental health, considerable progress has been achieved. A common approach is required to address the stigma and difficulties experienced by those with mental health problems.
I wish to be associated with the congratulations extended to Deputy Dan Neville and the Irish Association of Suicidology. Suicide is one of a number of mental health sub-issues which require a debate in their own right. Ireland has one of the highest rates of suicide in Europe and the problem disproportionately affects young men. There is an onus on all of us to identify the reasons for suicide and develop common approaches to tackle them.
Senator Keaveney raised the issues of alcohol advertising and the attitude of Irish people towards alcohol abuse. The voluntary code of practice operated by alcohol vendors is a matter of contention. Government policy is to establish whether this approach works. In the event that it is found that the code does not work, the Government has undertaken to place on the Statute Book legislation it promised to introduce in the past. The House should have an opportunity to debate whether the code is working and if legislation is necessary.
When Senator O'Toole raised the issue of public appointments he was probably aware that I introduced a Private Members' Bill on this issue in the other House.
The scrutiny role was discussed in the Private Members' Bill and in the report on Seanad reform. All those involved in political life are open to having greater Oireachtas scrutiny in this area. However, given that hundreds of such appointments are made every year, I am not certain every appointment should be subject to such scrutiny. Perhaps we could adopt a version of the US model and invite those who are appointed to the chair of State bodies or agencies to appear before a committee of the Oireachtas and account for how the relevant organisation will be run under their stewardship. This approach would enhance the role of politics.
Senators O'Toole, Coghlan and Regan referred to the Government's proposal to opt out of justice and policing matters in the EU reform treaty. The Government does not propose to opt out of all such matters and, as Senator O'Toole noted, the Oireachtas has approved several directives in this area. The difficulty arises as a result of the differences between the common law jurisdictions — Ireland and Britain — and the continental justice system operated in most other European Union member states.
The treatment of the Madeleine McCann case, for example, shows how different justice systems can experience difficulties. We need the power to opt for provisions, when necessary, namely, where there is a better common approach to policing and justice issues and our citizens' civil liberties will be protected in every instance, which may not be the case if we were to buy into something where we were being asked to decide by qualified majority voting alone. The Government is putting down a marker in the sense that the House will debate this issue properly after the European Council reaches agreement and a referendum Bill is put before both Houses. Senators will have many opportunities to outline their reservations or otherwise.
Senator Alex White raised the issue of decentralisation and the implementation report. Progress must be monitored regularly. There will no be difficulty in debating the matter in the House, but the new procedure for presenting the budget and the Estimates on the same day in the first week of December will not make it easy to ensure the Minister for Finance's availability during the coming weeks. However, I will make the request. If the Minister is unavailable, a Minister of State at the Department of Finance may address these issues. The Senator also asked about the difference between relocation and decentralisation. The Green Paper on local government will be ready in early January as part of a process to produce a White Paper and legislation before the 2009 local elections. The programme for Government encompasses real reform in this respect. Senators' contributions to the Green Paper and subsequent legislation will be helpful in completing this process.
Senator Leyden referred to the appalling murder in Galway and several unacceptable deaths in recent weeks. Similar issues were raised on the Order of Business recently. There is an ongoing commitment that the House will discuss the issue of serious crime, on which a debate can be held in the near future.
Senator Coghlan raised the matter of the Fitzgerald report and the need for 100 extra gardaí in the Limerick region. While I must revert to him regarding implementation of that measure, the other elements of the report are being implemented. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has made a decision on the boundaries of Limerick city. Decisions have also been made regarding the redevelopment of particular areas of the city to rid it of the social undermining which is unravelling its fabric and causing many of its difficulties. Recommendations, including the provision of 100 extra gardaí, will be implemented.
Senator Bacik raised the need for legislation on abortion and was supported by Senator Norris. Contributions from other viewpoints were made by Senators Ó Murchú and Walsh. In itself, this shows the nature of the difficulties in the debate. The three abortion referenda did not bring the problem closer to a resolution. I like to think the type of leadership referred to by the Church of Ireland clergyman forms part of a common approach by all political parties and politicians rather than the Government acting in isolation. There are distinct and divergent opinions. While we can discuss the success of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, despite its ongoing dispute with other organisations, in reducing the need for the option to be considered, the problem has not gone away. The matter requires a mature debate on the part of all parties and Members.
Issues regarding the Irish Prison Service, the European monitoring report and reports from the Inspector of Prisons — sadly, the previous inspector passed away this summer — should be debated in the House. The Government has been working on the matter and there are plans for the provision of new prisons and the redevelopment of existing ones. The pace at which the work will be done and the priority attached to it should be the subject of debate in the House.
The question of EU scrutiny was raised in the context of the opt-out on policing. Senator O'Toole also addressed the issue, which was the subject of one of the essential recommendations in the report on Seanad reform produced by the previous Seanad. The recommendation indicates a road which could be followed by this House if we are strident enough in making the argument. The difficulty, however, is that an Oireachtas committee already exists for scrutiny of EU legislation and the volume of instruments coming from Brussels annually is too large even for that body to manage. I understand that 2,000 such legal instruments come from Brussels every year. We need a co-ordinated approach, as well as people who are dedicated to examining the documentation so that all the t's are crossed and the i's dotted.
A number of contributions were made regarding the possibility of having the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism come to the House to speak about linking training camps in this country with the London Olympic Games of 2012. I do not know if an alternative approach is being made by County Donegal to host the games but the requests seemed to come from that region in particular.
An invitation can be extended to the Minister, depending on his availability.
Senator Norris raised the issues of sub-prime mortgages and the approaching 50th anniversary of Windscale, areas in which this House could make a contribution.
Senator O'Reilly sought a debate on the roll-out of broadband services, which has not been great but has improved. I am sure the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources would be open to discussing the issue in the House.
Senator Keaveney spoke about the animal welfare Bill. I understand the Bill will be a responsibility of the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Sargent, and I am sure he would accede to a request to discuss the contents of the legislation.
Senator Callely raised the issues of orthodontic care and the National Treatment Purchase Fund. We have already held several debates on health since we returned. The request can be made and possibly addressed.
With regard to a debate on mental health and suicide, these are the responsibility of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Devins, and we are prepared to request his attendance in the House.
Senator Quinn spoke about the non-payment of fines, especially in terms of the penalty points system. I am not sure whether the issue can be addressed in the general debate on crime which the House will hold in the coming weeks because Members referred to serious crimes, but maybe the debate can be structured to allow its inclusion.
I thank Senators for their constructive suggestions and we will try to progress as many of the issues they raised as possible.