Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Order of Business
The Order of Business is Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 16. It is proposed that No. 1, motion re the establishment of a Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, No. 2, motion re the establishment of a Joint Administration Committee, and No. 3 , referral motion re Regional Fisheries Boards (Postponement of Elections) Order 2007 and Fisheries (Miscellaneous Commercial Licences) (Alteration of Duties) Order 2007, will be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 4, statements on road safety, will be taken at the conclusion of No. 3 and shall, if not previously concluded, be concluded by 2 p.m., spokespersons to speak for 12 minutes and all other Senators for eight minutes each, Senators may share time with the permission of the House and the Minister to be called upon to respond for the final five minutes of the debate; business will be interrupted between 2 p.m. and 3.30 p.m.; No. 5, statements on the community child care subvention scheme 2008-10 (resumed), shall conclude not later than 5 p.m. if not previously concluded, spokespersons to speak for 15 minutes and all other Senators for ten minutes each, and Senators may share time; No. 16, Private Members' motion No. 32 re pensions, will be taken at the conclusion of No. 5.
I agree to the Order of Business.
In the past few weeks, a number of Senators have asked the Minister for Education and Science to address the concerns they have expressed about education. The report published today by the ESRI on young people dropping out of school merits discussion in this House because it is extraordinary that so many young people, and young men in particular, are dropping out of school. Between 1980 and 1988, the number of students completing the leaving certificate increased significantly from 60% to 82%. That was a superb improvement which we all assumed would continue but no progress has been made over the past ten years. Some 23% of young men and 14% of young women do not sit the leaving certificate examination, with implications for those concerned. Many of these young people come from disadvantaged backgrounds and, while a variety of programmes are in place, they are clearly not reaching their families. This House should analyse why this has gone so wrong despite the prosperity of the past ten years. Once again, the issue of public services arises.
I wish to speak about the electoral register. Several Senators have called for a debate on the Boundary Commission. Yesterday, the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government heard from the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Taoiseach announced in the Dáil that local boundaries would be reviewed before the next local elections. It appears the register continues to contain huge inaccuracies and it would be welcomed by Senators across the House if the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government addressed these issues.
The matter of the GPA and GAA has been raised on a number of occasions in the past two weeks. I have hesitated to become involved in the matter and should declare an interest, in that I am part of the negotiating team dealing with the GPA on behalf of the GAA. The GAA and the GPA reached an agreement, of which I was part, and signed off on it more than one year ago. That agreement was brought to the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism prior to the election but it was not acceptable to his Department. We went back to the drawing board with the GPA and Dessie Farrell, myself and a few others hammered out another agreement which was signed off on. There is complete agreement on both sides and once again the agreement was brought to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. To some extent, it was not acceptable to the Department.
There is no disagreement between the GPA and the GAA. They are in full agreement that this should be administered by the Sports Council. The Sports Council is a creature of Government and, therefore, it depends on Government to make it work. Any difficulties are minor. This merely needs political will and a decision at a high level to make it work. I believe the Minister, Deputy Brennan, is supportive of the idea but somebody needs to call the shots which is all that is required at this stage. That is the official position.
Ba mhaith liom filleadh ar ábhar ar a labhair mé go minic anuraidh, sé sin ceist Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis. I understand the Government has agreed with Deputy Healy-Rae that the wishes of the people of the town be granted and the name be changed back to Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis or a choice of either of those. That was determined by a plebiscite with 97% in support. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should take this on board and make the decision required. There must be a period of time between the Minister issuing a regulation to change a name back to what it should be and the time it comes into operation. Will the Leader raise that matter on my behalf?
This trouble with Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis, Gort and other places would not have arisen if the Local Government Act 2001, which was initiated in this House and allowed people to make a decision by plebiscite on the name of their area, was commenced. The Deputy Leader might raise with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the importance of commencing the Local Government Act 2002, which was passed four years ago and gives local authority to local people in the naming of the places in which they live.
Senator Fitzgerald made a very strong point about school drop-out rates. I support her call for a debate with the Minister for Education and Science or perhaps, more appropriately, with the Minister of State with responsibility for children who will be in the House later today on a separate matter. Allied to that, I refer to another startling report in today's newspapers from the Psychological Society of Ireland which is holding a forum this week. It conducted a survey and discovered that significant numbers of secondary school students in certain areas of Dublin were being recruited into gangs and, not only that, had regular access to guns and other firearms. Admittedly, the study is a relatively small sample but it should cause us great concern.
It follows on the heel of similar material we saw last week in regard to Limerick. It points to the need for this House to hold a debate and for Government and relevant Ministers to take action to address early intervention in communities and neighbourhoods, which is vitally important. We all support the gardaí and additional resources for them in tackling crime and violent crime. However, it has become fashionable to forget about the fact that many of these serious problems are due directly to long term chronic poverty and welfare dependency in communities where young children have no other route out of poverty than to very often take part in violent crime and become involved in drug abuse and the sale of drugs. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Education and Science or the Minister of State with responsibility for children to come to the House to debate these vitally important issues which very often escape our attention when talking about particular incidents of crime?
I noted the Taoiseach returned to the subject of salary increases yesterday. I thought he must have been emboldened by the spirited and enthusiastic defence of the salary increases by Senator O'Toole in the House last week because he compared himself to other European leaders and referred to the castles, yachts and everything else he believes they have. Does that mean the Government will finally abandon its refusal to understand that relative poverty is the proper indicator of poverty in this country? Until now it has refused to accept that as a key indicator. It seems the Taoiseach accepts relative poverty is the way to address these issues.
I raise an issue which links into the one raised earlier about early school leavers. In the region from which I come females have left school early to go into the textile industry while young men have left to go into construction. The impact the success of the economy is having on our generation might be a topic worth discussing. Young people leave school early to get money and immediate gratification from what it can buy.
Today's newspaper referred to a report from Barnardos about the concern among parents about the amount of time they spend with their children given the juggling they must do. We all know the more time parents have to bond and interact with their children, the happier the children will be. It seems parents determine their success by the number of televisions, DVDs, etc., their young children have. Will the Leader arrange a debate on the impact the successful economy is having on the next generation? That debate could be broad and include the difficulty of bullying, drug abuse and the abuse of alcohol about which we frequently talk but which we have not yet addressed in the House.
I join with other Senators in expressing concern about the fact the number of leaving certificate completions has not significantly changed in the past couple of years. However, the same report points out that a greater number of students are availing of other courses such as FETAC and post leaving certificate courses. The Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, was in the House a few weeks ago speaking about post leaving certificate courses and he said he would look into the fact some regions seem to have different caps compared to others. Meath has one student place per 1,000 of population compared to a national average of four student places per 1,000 of population. Will the Leader ask the Minister of State if he has had any further thoughts about increasing the number of places on PLC courses for people in counties like Meath?
I also raise the subject of driver test pass rates and the comparison between private and public test centres. A report in this morning's The Irish Times states that of the 40,000 tests carried out this year, the pass rate in private test centres was 62% compared to just 52% in the Road Safety Authority test centres. That difference may not seem large but when one examines the figures and looks at them at local level, one sees that some of the differences give cause for concern. For example, the pass rate at the private test centre in Kells is almost seven out of ten applicants whereas just ten miles away in Navan, the pass rate is five out of ten at the public test centre. In effect, a person has a 40% higher chance of passing if he or she goes ten miles up the road to Kells. I have driven in those parts and there are great drivers on the roads. I have no doubt about their competence. However, will the Leader impress upon the Minister that in his zeal to ensure he reduces the driver test waiting times, he does not let standards slip? We must ensure standards are the same across the board.
I am sure I speak for all in expressing concern about the increase in the price of a barrel of oil up to $94, which is beyond our control. The Exchequer will gain quite considerably through VAT and excise duty on the cost of diesel, which is approximately €1.14 per litre, and petrol, which is approximately €1.18 per litre. The prices are quite consistent throughout the country, except for the famous filling station along the quays. I do not believe we will get an opportunity to meet the Minister for Finance in this forum before the budget. We will meet him at the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. We are making detailed budgetary submissions to the Minister and the rest of the Cabinet. We are availing of the opportunity we have in that respect. I will ask the Minister, Deputy Cowen, to ensure that the tax windfall that is about to accrue to the Revenue Commissioners will be ring-fenced to assist people on carer's allowance.
I suggest that it also be used to pay the free fuel allowance — an increased allowance, if possible — to elderly people 52 weeks of the year. That would give us a satisfactory return on the additional taxes which have been collected from all taxpayers, including hauliers, on behalf of the Exchequer.
I join Senator O'Toole in calling for action to be taken in respect of Dingle — Daingean Uí Chúis. Far too much time has passed since the people of the town voted overwhelmingly in a plebiscite in favour of a name change. The legitimacy of the result of the plebiscite is well accepted. I was pleased to hear Senator O'Toole say that the Government has reached agreement with Deputy Healy-Rae, presumably as part of the coalition package. As we all know, redress has been badly needed in this respect for some time.
No, but I want to add my voice to that of Senator O'Toole, who called on the Leader to ask the Minister to ensure the order is signed and the necessary regulation is made. It has already been pointed out that there has to be a lead-in period.
I support Senator Fitzgerald's call for a discussion on the boundary revisions recently recommended by the Constituency Commission. Can the Leader tell us when the Government intends to give legislative effect to those recommendations? When will a Bill be introduced to facilitate a debate on the matter in the House?
Bhí ionadh orm nuair a chuala mé go raibh baile Gaeltachta ag iarraidh a ainm a aistriú go dtí an leagan Béarla.
I support Senator Fitzgerald's request for a debate on the report on early school leaving, which has been a matter of concern in County Wexford for some time. Some children leave the education system when they finish primary school, without going on to secondary school. It perpetuates the disadvantage which is often a feature of their backgrounds. Education needs to be a central part of any attempt to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. I echo Senator Fitzgerald's comments in that regard.
I would like the Leader to invite the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, rather than the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to come to the House to debate the role sport can play in bringing the people of this island closer together. We have learned in recent weeks that the Brazilian football team is to come to Croke Park next February, which is interesting. If we could field an all-Ireland team to take on the Brazilians, just as we did in the 1970s, it would be a tremendous achievement. I refer to what was called the "Shamrock Rovers XI" team that was formed on foot of an initiative led by Derek Dougan of Northern Ireland and others. The great changes we have seen on this island in recent years have resulted from the pioneering work of the Taoiseach, certain politicians in the North and others. If an all-Ireland football team could be fielded in Croke Park next year, it would be a step in the right direction. Not only would it have great symbolism, it would also be a fitting tribute to a man who espoused the idea of an all-Ireland team — the late George Best, who was probably the greatest sportsman ever produced by this island.
In reiterating the calls made by Senators yesterday for a debate on the health service, I would like to emphasise one aspect of it. Somebody must have been listening to what was said yesterday when a number of Senators, including myself, raised the question of hospital hygiene. It is worrying that, according to the report published yesterday, a large number of people die from hospital-acquired infections. When I was watching television last night, I discovered that despite the proliferation of managers and systems in the health service, we do not have precise figures for the level of mortality that results from hospital-acquired infections. It is astonishing that the health service authorities have admitted that we do not know how many people actually die. We learned in this morning's newspapers that our hospitals are not just dirty — they are actually filthy. Just seven of this country's 51 public hospitals are rated as "good", the vast majority — 35 — are "fair" and nine are "poor", which means they are really dirty and dangerous. Is anybody surprised?
Yes. It is very important that a debate be arranged to allow us to look at this situation. The point I made yesterday — that it is not acceptable that it can take a long time for spillages of human waste to be cleaned when contract cleaners are in hospitals for a limited number of hours — was emphasised again today on the radio. I direct the attention of the Members of the House to a passionate letter written by Dr. Patrick Plunkett, which is published in today's The Irish Times. All Senators should read it.
The Seanad debate on dirt in hospitals could be widened to reflect the fact that we are a filthy people. I really do not know of any other society that is so dirty. When I said in this House a couple of years ago that people routinely urinate and defecate in the streets of Dublin, I was laughed at and wisecracks were made by Senators on all sides of the House. Respectable people can often be seen putting their feet up on the seats of public transport. God knows what they have been walking in. If a nurse sits on such a seat, for example in a train, he or she might bring whatever was left on it into a hospital. Are we surprised? It is time for us to recognise and deal with the idea of Irish filth. Perhaps I will make a suggestion off the top of my head — why not do a Chairman Mao on all these managers? Just as he sent professional people to work in the fields to give them a taste of physical labour, why should we not make hospital managers do a bit of cleaning?
Can I ask about the Defamation Bill 2006? When I raised this matter a week or two ago, the Leader agreed with me that it was not a good idea to reintroduce it on Committee Stage as 35 Senators — a majority of the Members of the House — had not had an opportunity to discuss it on Second Stage. He said my proposal was sensible. I see that sense has not yet broken out on the Order Paper — the Bill is still listed there for Committee Stage. We know that the Minister has decided to drop the Privacy Bill 2006, which was supposed to partner the Defamation Bill 2006. As a consequence of some significant developments in this regard — I refer to a series of libel cases resulting from some damaging reporting in the newspapers — we have some new information that should be taken into account. Will the Leader provide for a sensible discussion on the Defamation Bill 2006, instead of taking a short cut by reintroducing it on Committee Stage?
I join Senator Walsh in calling on the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to come to the House for a debate on the role of sport in bringing the people of this island closer together. The House should note that the 15th round of this year's World Rally Championship will be jointly hosted by Belfast and Sligo this weekend and will have approximately 150,000 spectators.
The event will bring communities on both sides of the Border together in a way that has not happened to date. It is most significant that the launch of this great event in Stormont tomorrow evening will be celebrated by Dr. Ian Paisley, leaders of Sinn Féin and the other parties in the North, a member of the British royal family and Ministers from this jurisdiction.
We should have more confidence in our ability, on an all-island basis, to attract world-class international events to these shores. We need to consider what the rally will do for tourism in the north-west. All the hotels will be packed during the low season and the entire entertainment industry in the region will benefit.
It is timely that Senator Walsh and other Members should debate the merits of sport in bringing this entire island together. I refer to the role it can play in attracting world-class international events to Ireland, such as the World Rally Championship which starts in Belfast tomorrow and continues in the north-west region throughout the weekend.
The Taoiseach has announced that a referendum will be held on the new EU treaty in the first half of next year. The House is due to have a debate on this treaty but I wish to draw the Leader's attention to two issues. In the context of the opt-out on policing and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, indicated, and this is indicated in the declaration as well, that Ireland is fully committed to this area of co-operation. However, research shows a host of decisions at European level have not been transposed into Irish law and there is inordinate delay in other cases in transposing those measures, for instance, orders freezing property and evidence combatting corruption in the private sector. Ireland has implemented the European arrest warrant but the latest European Commission report states that we have not fully implemented that framework decision in accordance with the requirements of EU law.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, James Hamilton, recently said that the European arrest warrant was fundamental to improving justice in Europe. He also disagreed with the Government on its decision to opt out of this area. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should be asked to clarify this matter for the House and explain what is meant by "fully committed". He should clarify the reason Ireland has failed in some instances to implement these measures.
We have learned the lesson from the referendum on the Nice treaty that domestic issues play a significant role in the decisions of voters on EU treaty referenda. I note that the Taoiseach is held up to ridicule in the newspapers today, in particular with regard to the salary increases and his unbelievable evidence to the Mahon tribunal. The electorate will feel they were fooled in the general election campaign on such matters as the economy, health and other matters. This House should reflect on whether this referendum will be passed, given the current Taoiseach. I ask the Leader to reflect on this question as it is an issue which the House could deal with during the debate on the EU treaty. The referendum will fail if the current Taoiseach is still in power next year.
I support Senator Norris in his call for a debate on hygiene standards in hospitals. We did not need to wait until this morning to know that some hospitals are in a deplorable state because this has been known for a long time and they seem to be getting worse rather than better. This is an independent audit and it has given another result alongside the national audit. Another Member regarded Senator Norris's comments as flippant but I do not agree. One in five employees of the Health Service Executive works in administration. I do not think cleaning is rocket science. One of those employees could take on the job of supervising the cleaning. I hope that when the Minister for Health and Children comes to the House next week the debate will be widened to include issues such as this.
Every day in town I encounter nurses who are out in the street in their uniforms. They are in shops, supermarkets and restaurants. They are clearly identifiable as nurses or health care workers because they are wearing either a nursing or other health care professional uniform. Hygiene is a two-way matter. There is an onus on members of the public who visit hospitals to take care but there is also an onus on those who work in hospitals not to wear their uniforms in the street and carry back bugs and germs to the vulnerable ill people in hospital.
I ask for a debate on public transport and alternatives to the use of private cars. This is timely on a day when thousands of commuters are stranded without bus services. I am sure we all hope the matter will be resolved at the Labour Court. However, it begs the question of broader issues about Government support for public transport and for forms of transport other than the private car.
Last week Senator Ross called for the restoration of Leinster House lawn and that Members would lead by example. I fully support his call but I take issue with him when he says that most of us drive. Some of us cycle in every day and we see at first hand the lack of support for cyclists from both the Government and Dublin City Council. There is a very poor network of cycling lanes and cyclists face extreme danger every day——
——especially on the quays where there have been a number of tragic deaths of cyclists.
The fact that the Government has not seen fit to support cycling as an alternative form of transport to private cars is hugely problematic but there is also a lack of support for public transport which is evident in a report last week that integrated ticketing for bus, rail, DART and Luas services across Dublin will now not be introduced until 2010, which is appalling. It was nearly ten years ago when the prospect of integrated ticketing was first raised. The then Minister, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, said it would definitely be introduced by 2002, the Railway Procurement Agency promised it by 2005 and now we are told it will not be introduced until 2010. Is it really that difficult to develop an integrated ticket system for all public transport services across Dublin? We need to debate this issue.
Ar an gcéad dul síos, iarraim ar an Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta plé a dhéanamh ar na moltaí sa tuairisc teangeolaíochta a léiríonn go mbeidh an Ghaeilge marbh mar theanga i measc an phobail taobh istigh de 20 bliain. Will the Leader facilitate the Minister for Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs to come to the House to discuss a report on the Irish language published last week?
I join with Senator Fitzgerald in asking for the Minister for Education and Science to come to the House to debate the education system. As a school teacher I am acutely aware of the significant funding that has been allocated but this funding is not going in the right direction. Class sizes have not been altered and the integration programmes have not worked. As Senator Fitzgerald said, many students are being left behind.
In light of Senator Alex White's remarks, I ask for a debate on poverty, given that in this morning's newspapers the Taoiseach is claiming he is living in poverty. This would be an opportune time to have a debate on poverty.
I ask the Leader to initiate a review of the Juries Act 1976. As my party's national spokesperson on the older person, I note that people over the age of 70 are prohibited from serving on a jury, as are people who are deaf. A review of this Act is long overdue.
I have been kept up to date in recent years by a man who suffered from tuberculosis and whose parents contracted tuberculosis in their 70s. He is very concerned at the rising figures amounting to an increase of 21% in the incidence of tuberculosis. I refer to a report from a physician in the Mater Hospital who also notes a similar increase and the danger of a pandemic. We have taken our eye off the ball with regard to tuberculosis. I ask that the debate with the Minister for Health and Children be broadened to include this subject. The concern is that this disease may be coming from abroad and that we have no controls to identify the cause of this frightening rise in the incidence of tuberculosis.
Last night I was in the new pier D in Dublin Airport and I wish to congratulate those who built this so successfully. I was reminded of the country's immigration services and the fact that the Schengen Agreement affords us the opportunity to join the other 26 member states but which will expect us to be responsible for the control of terrorism and infectious diseases. These matters should be at the top of the agenda because we have a responsibility in this regard.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to attend the House for a debate on the benefits of neutrality? Changes relating to NATO have been mentioned and President Sarkozy wants France to rejoin the organisation's military command. Much of Europe is going in one direction. Ireland plays a valuable role as a neutral and independent state and it would be timely to have a debate on this issue.
Will the Leader speak to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about the implementation of closed circuit television systems in Athlone and Mullingar, County Westmeath? A serious incident recently occurred in Athlone, which has still not been solved. If CCTV had been in place, it would have been solved by now. Planning permission was granted for a CCTV system in the town in 1998. The Leader's party colleague from Westmeath raised this issue in the Dáil two weeks ago after I raised the issue. The Leader has more of the ear of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform than the Deputy and I ask him to have a word in his ear to expedite the permission.
Given the current pressure on manufacturing and the significant job losses throughout the State, indigenous industry needs to be developed. I refer to the community enterprise sector, which concerns community involvement in the facilitation of enterprise, providing industrial units, local employment and flexible working arrangements. Unfortunately, Government policy in this area is not coherent, as it falls between several stools. Enterprise Ireland provides funding and support on a competitive basis for buildings while the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs provides staff support. There is significant potential in this area as a breeding ground or incubation area for indigenous industry and to facilitate the numerous entrepreneurs in the country. I call on the Leader to invite to the House the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to outline a strategy to develop this sector.
I join Senator MacSharry in welcoming Rally Ireland and the WRC to Sligo. This event, which will be held over the next few days, will be fantastic. It will bring a significant number of visitors to one of the weaker tourism areas in the State, according to the regional breakdown of tourism statistics. However, this event provides an opportunity to analyse the value of international sporting events brought into the State. While this rally is welcome, I would question the bang we get for our buck in bringing in other events. The Ryder Cup was a one off and it was a fantastic event but a number of other events were expensive to hold. Within a defined budget, their value must be examined in the context of other activities that could have been undertaken to promote tourism, particularly in the weaker parts of the country. I question the budget set aside for such events, particularly the Seve Trophy recently. This issue needs to be examined, particularly if money can be reinvested in regional marketing and-or business tourism attractions, given business tourism attracts high yield income.
While I agree with Senator O'Toole on the GAA-GPA dispute, there is not much between both organisations. I will not comment on the negotiations behind the scenes but the crux of the dispute is twofold. The first issue is the mechanism for payment but I understand agreement has been reached on the Irish Sports Council in this regard while the second issue concerns the amount involved. The previous Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism suggested a figure but I am not aware that it was honoured following the election.
Senators Fitzgerald, Alex White, Keaveney, Hannigan and Walsh commented on the issue of early school leavers. The Minister for Education and Science will attend the House next Thursday and, therefore, Senators can prepare contributions for that debate.
Senators Coghlan and Fitzgerald inquired about the electoral register for the local government elections and the redrawing of boundaries. This is under way and it will conclude in April or May 2008 in good time for the elections in 2009. I have a great deal of experience in this area and the only way to put together a register properly is to use the postman. Doctors, priests and gardaí used to know everything about everyone in their respective communities but the postman is the only one who knows when new people move into an area and their addresses. During the previous Dáil, I requested that the postman would be given the opportunity on a once-off basis to correct the register. That did not happen but the House should consider that suggestion. I know from experience in my own area where I sit down with most of the local postmen to do the register.
That is why Fianna Fáil got three votes out of four in a house or eight out of 11 on one occasion or Deputy Johnny Brady used to get five out of seven. If one does not know one's own, how will one survive? At the end of the day, the issue is ensuring everyone is on the register and has an opportunity to vote.
I am grateful to Senator O'Toole for his information on the up-to-date position regarding the dispute between the GAA and the GPA and I am heartened by his comments. We all know where the heart of the Taoiseach lies on sport. He has been outstanding in what he has done for sport. The dream of every young person, no matter how underprivileged, is to have success and it is fantastic if a team event is involved. Sport taught me how to be a good loser because, at the end of the day, as Jesse Owens said, it is not the winning that matters, it is the participation, although he said that when he had four gold medals in his pocket. We cannot encourage young people enough to participate in sports and we cannot do enough for sport generally.
Like Senators MacSharry, Walsh, Kelly and Keaveney, I welcome the World Rally Championship to the north west. It is a godsend to the people engaged in the tourism industry in the area to have this revenue coming in November. We cannot invest enough in tourism because we have so much to offer. Perhaps 50% of the budget might be wasted but which 50% was wasted by the industry for so long? At the end of the day, we have a beautiful country and lovely people. Challenges lie ahead but we should accentuate the positives and correct the minuses. I fully support everything said in this regard.
Senators O'Toole and Coghlan referred to the issue of the naming of Dingle or Daingean Uí Chúis. I will pass on their views to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Senator Keaveney called for a debate on the impact of the success of our economy over the past ten years. This is a worthy request. I will invite the Taoiseach to be present in the House for that debate given that he has presided over our success over the past ten years. He is possibly the most successful Taoiseach the country has ever had.
I inform the House that I hope to arrange for this debate to take place before the Christmas recess.
Senator Hannigan raised the matter of driving tests and the success of the instructors in the Kells area. I note he is taking a keen interest in Kells. That must be due to the extra 3,000 votes that Thomas Byrne expects to acquire in that area. The area the Senator mentioned is in Meath West, which is my constituency and with which I am very familiar. I certainly will pass on the Senator's views following the Order of Business.
Senator Leyden made an important request concerning the Minister for Finance at budget time. I am sure we would all join him in making the same request, namely, that the free fuel voucher would be given to senior citizens all year round.
With the advent of climate change it seems that the seasons are changing. Summer now seems to be spring and autumn, given the beautiful weather we have just had. They seem to be like the summers we used to have. There is a strong case for Senator Leyden's request to be made. I am sure all Members would join the Senator in making that request.
Senators Norris and Feeney raised the matter of health services. The health services debate is taking place next Tuesday. The Minister, Deputy Harney, will be in the House that day. Lest that it might be construed otherwise in the public domain, I wish to point out that there are wonderful people working in the health services. Most of them have given their lives to their work and the next generation continue to follow in their footsteps.
The results of yesterday's review were disappointing. We were all surprised by the findings. If this is the darkest day and the lowest level of the quality of the service, then it can only improve. I am sure everyone involved will meet the challenge and in the long term patients will benefit from all the activities carried out in recent weeks, the details of which were published. I compliment and commend all those working in the health services who are doing their best. They face an enormous challenge. The health service being centre stage and receiving major publicity can only be for the better.
Senator Regan called for a debate on a referendum on the new EU treaty. I have no difficulty in having such a debate. In regard to the views he expressed about the Taoiseach, I am waiting for him to make one complimentary comment about this great man. The creation of 600,000 jobs in ten years is not a bad record for a very excellent Taoiseach.
Senator Bacik called for a debate on public transport. I can arrange for such a debate, especially in regard to the Government's proposals under Transport 21.
Senator Buttimer called for a debate on the Irish language and I have no difficult with that request. The are experts in every line of industry and trade. The Senator has a great deal of experience in this area and I have no difficulty in allowing time for such a debate.
Senator Prendergast called for a debate on jury service and for a review to address the problem in that area which has been discussed in the House over many years. I have no problem in having a debate on it at the earliest possible time.
Senator Quinn called for a debate on the incidence of tuberculosis. Members will recall that it was the plague of our country in the 1950s and 1960s. This disease wiped out families and not only one or two members of a household. Five members of the family of one of my nearest neighbours died from the plague of TB. I have no difficulty in time being provided for such a debate. However, given that we are in the run-up to Christmas, perhaps time could be made available for it during the Independents' Private Members' time. Senator Quinn might have a chat with his colleagues to see what progress can be made on that. I would like such a debate to take place before Christmas if at all possible.
I join Senator Quinn in the congratulations he extended to everyone concerned in bringing about the opening of pier D at Dublin Airport. It is a state-of-the-art facility and it will benefit 27,000 to 30,000 passengers per day. It shows what can be done when the demand for a service exists.
Senator Hanafin called for a debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs on neutrality. I will endeavour to arrange for such a debate and can say that it will take place.
Senator McFadden, my constituency colleague, in my other constituency of Longford-Westmeath——
——called for a debate on closed circuit television systems and asked where is the money for implementing them, given that planning permission for them was granted in 1998. We all know there was no point in granting it between 1994 and 1997 because there was no money available to provide them.
Senator McFadden and I have worked well on behalf of the people of County Westmeath. I work well with all Oireachtas colleagues and I look forward to working with them over the next five years. I will endeavour to do anything I possibly can in this regard.
Senator Ryan possibly made the most important request this morning. He called for a debate with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the next five-year plan for IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, FÁS and all the agencies charged with creating employment. We all probably agree that the greatest challenge facing us is competitiveness. We must have a lengthy debate on what is taking place and what will happen in the next five years. I will endeavour to arrange for such a debate at the earliest possible time.