Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the Asset Recovery Offices, referral to committee; and No. 2, the Defamation Bill 2006. It is proposed to take No. 1 without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business. At the conclusion of No.1 it is proposed to take tributes from party leaders and constituency colleagues on the death of a former Member of this House, the late Seán Keegan, to conclude by 4 p.m. No. 2 will be taken at the conclusion of the tributes and will adjourn not later than 6.30 if not previously concluded.
Will the nursing home Bill come before the House before Christmas? There are many concerns on both sides of the House about the cutbacks in home care packages, and about moving ahead without proper debate on the issue of more subsidisation of nursing homes when home care packages and home help are not available to enable the elderly to remain at home. The community care services have been cut back quite severely in the past few months. We are concerned about rushing through this legislation without adequate time for discussion of the wide range of issues connected with it.
Will the Leader speak to the Minister for Defence about the Defence Forces contribution to the mission in Chad? The day after our debate on this issue last week there was a change in plan because our EU colleagues were not able to supply helicopters and other supports necessary for the mission. Was the Minister not aware of this when he addressed the Seanad during the debate on Thursday? If not, why not? If he was aware of this when he addressed the House he did the debate a disservice. I am concerned about this because the change in the decision was announced only hours after the debate in this House. If we are to have meaningful debates we must have current information on the decision making process. The Minister mentioned there was a possibility the mission might not proceed but the announcement in this regard was made only a few hours later and I feel he did a disservice to the House in not providing us with the latest information he and the Department of Foreign Affairs probably had.
The Leader might wish to clarify whether the Taoiseach will make a statement on the Mahon tribunal, given members of his parliamentary party are calling for such a statement to address the inconsistencies that are being exposed, almost on a daily basis.
I wish to bring to the attention of the House a well-produced document on social and economic indicators from the Oireachtas Library and Research Service. This is the kind of document that would cost a lot of money in the private sector. It is superb and the people who prepared it should understand we appreciate it is an outstanding piece of work. I bring it to the attention of the House because it is valuable in itself but also because it was produced by members of the public service.
I am rarely stuck for words in this House but Senator Jim Walsh, on the Government benches, last week demonised public servants, including teachers, nurses, gardaí, civil servants and a range of others, with disparaging comments. It struck me as incredible that a Member of this House could speak of modernisation and progression while representing a party that has, for 30 years, refused to allow this House modernise and change to meet the will of the people. The Senator made comments on prison officers but, while we might have personal opinions of them, there was outrage some years ago when a Minister for the public service suggested politicians should check in every morning. He was blown out of the water because we would not do such a thing. The same goes for matters relating to information technology, IT, and modernisation; every primary school and every office of the public service uses IT. Should we keep it a secret that 50% of Members of the Oireachtas cannot send and receive e-mails? People in this House who make comments such as those made by Senator Walsh last week should check they are not throwing stones inside a glasshouse. I would be happy to have a debate on this. Senator Walsh can bring a supporting Minister with him and I will stand toe to toe with both. For every problem they find in the public service I will find one in this House and I guarantee I will be the last man standing.
I support Senator Fitzgerald's call for an adequate debate in this House on the nursing homes Bill when it is introduced. There have been reports in recent days on this matter and I ask the Leader to confirm whether it is intended to publish this Bill on Thursday this week or whether the matter has been clarified in the past few hours. It would be a matter of concern if such an important piece of legislation was rushed through the Houses of the Oireachtas, to use the phrase mentioned in newspapers in recent days. For the first time in the history of social provision in Ireland, it is proposed a levy be applied to the estates of deceased persons. I am not aware of any provision or precedent in any area of health care, in Ireland or elsewhere, that allows levies to be applied to a person's estate after he or she has died. This is to be imposed on people with illnesses associated with old age, such as dementia, but not on other ill people. I hope it is not proposed that we levy the estates of people who suffer other illnesses during their lives. This major piece of legislation represents a huge change and deserves a full debate in the House.
When I refer to sufficient time I do not mean sufficient time only on the floor of the House. I mean sufficient time after the Bill's publication to allow people study it and prepare their views in order that it can be amended in this House over separate Stages. It would be unconscionable for the Government to seek to push legislation such as this through all Stages. If the legislation is not ready by January, it has been made clear that its provisions can be made to apply retrospectively if and when it is introduced. Will the Leader confirm whether it is intended to publish the Bill this week and when it is intended to debate it in this House?
I am prompted to respond to the two previous speakers on the nursing home issue. I have stated publicly in the past in regard to the HSE that the jury is out and that I hope the verdict will be delivered shortly. The previous situation in regard to nursing homes was that 14 health boards were applying 14 different sets of regulations. This meant that some elderly people had to dispose of their homes and utilise all their funds to avail of nursing home care while others were not obliged to do so. At least the proposed legislation has some element of fairness. I wholeheartedly support the calls for a debate, but we must ensure we have the facts about the proposal.
Yes, there must be adequate time to discuss it. The anomalies in the current system are unfair.
There are constant calls for space to be provided for quality bus corridors to encourage people to use buses. Much of our road space has been given to bus transport. However, for the first time, Operation Freeflow has been put in place without the provision of bus park and ride facilities. The equation does not tot up. Will the Leader ascertain whether there are plans to provide bus park and ride facilities and, if so, when they will be provided?
I propose to circulate copies of a motion on Zimbabwe and I ask the Clerk to take a copy. I propose that this motion be passed without debate and tabled for discussion at a later stage. I understand democratic parliaments throughout the world, including the Dáil, are tabling a similar motion today. My motion simply calls for the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe——
I support the comments made by Senator Fitzgerald and other colleagues on the nursing home support scheme Bill. I look forward to it coming before the House. It is important that sufficient time is afforded to allow us reflect fully upon it. It is also important that we consider the second part of the equation in regard to care of the elderly. We should not get carried away with the concept that the development of some type of super nursing home system throughout the State will be enough to deal with the situation facing thousands of elderly people. We must put community care and the ability to allow people remain in their own homes and communities at the core of any policy in regard to the elderly.
The statistics clearly show that the majority of elderly people wish to remain in their homes with their families and among their communities. We must respond to that. I look forward to the debate on the nursing home support scheme Bill and the implementation of an adequate nursing home system. However, we should not get carried away with the notion that one size fits all and that a nursing home solution should be the extent of our aspirations for the elderly. They deserve far better than that and their welfare should be one of our primary concerns in 2008.
I seek guidance from the Cathaoirleach in regard to a request that I convey our appreciation, admiration and support for our colleague, Senator Harris, on his wonderful and sterling support for the Taoiseach on the "News at One" yesterday. It was a marvellous and magnificent——
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, is travelling to Bali to negotiate the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, so I will raise the issue of climate change. This is very important and not just to Ireland. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact we are an island nation and climate change will affect us in different ways.
My party has called for an integrated approach across Departments on the issue and we have asked that a national forum on climate change be established. I wish the Minister well on his endeavour in Bali but I would appreciate it if we would discuss climate change in this House when he is finished there.
I record my appreciation to the Marine Institute and Met Éireann for their very accurate predictions last week of the 14 m waves which hit the south and west coast.
Absolutely. It was a splendid example of public service. It is tragic for the Kennedy family to have lost a father and son at Inver after they were rescued in a very high-risk operation. It was a tragic conclusion and our sympathies should go to the family and the community. Our sympathy should also go out to those linked to the two non-nationals, also fishermen, who lost their lives in Galway during the week.
Following on from Senator McCarthy's comments, I add my sympathies to those close to the people whose lives have been lost to the sea. Many of the families in Greencastle have come to realise how difficult it can be when this happens, whether fishermen are subsequently found or not. Senator O'Donovan last week requested a discussion on safety at sea and support for the emergency services called out on such occasions.
I ask the Leader to convey my congratulations to the Minister for Education and Science on the new OECD study, which ranks Irish students as among the most environmentally aware. It indicated that Irish 15 year old students were among the top performers when it came to literacy and were significantly above the average in science. They were in line with the average in OECD mathematics. More than 4,500 Irish 15 year olds took part in the study.
We must continue to encourage such results. I draw the attention of the Leader to a recent report published in today's papers. It tracks those who leave school early with the aim of ensuring their potential is maximised should they wish to return to education at a later date. Many supports are in place but the tracking element is very important.
The Defamation Bill is on the Order Paper, having been reintroduced on Committee Stage. I understand the Leader previously indicated it would be introduced on Second Stage given that 35 of the 60 Senators are new to the House. It is regrettable it is being introduced on Committee Stage but perhaps the Leader might comment on it.
The Leader has indicated the Taoiseach will come to the House in December, during which visit I would like him to address a number of issues. One is the date for the referendum on the EU reform treaty and whether it is proposed to hold the referendum on children's rights on the same date. The second issue is the loss of competitiveness in the economy in the light of the annual report of the National Competitiveness Council last week. Third, in the interest of confidence in the office of the Taoiseach, he should make a full and frank explanation of the €300,000 lodged to his personal accounts in 1994 and 1995 in the light of the sworn evidence and documentary proof which flatly contradicts his story as told to RTE and the Dáil last year.
An issue was raised about publications in the media this week. Later we will discuss the Defamation Bill, which contains a provision on fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public importance. I express the view——
I am very pleased to follow Senator Regan because in recent weeks I have repeatedly raised the issue of introducing the Defamation Bill on Committee Stage rather than on Second Stage. Nearly two thirds of the House have not had the opportunity to speak on it, which is an outrage and an abrogation of democracy. The Leader knows this because he said in the House that to introduce it on Second Stage would be the sensible thing to do. Who leaned on him? There is a mad rush to get this Bill through, which is obscene. I would like the Leader to clarify a point. The notice circulated to all of us states that Committee and Remaining Stages of the Bill are to be taken tomorrow. That smells of a guillotine to me. I hope it is wrong.
I will be opposing the Order of Business on this matter and will be calling a vote because it is disgraceful. It is neutering the Senate and removing its power. I believe a deal was done between the Taoiseach and the O'Reilly empire in order to get elected at the last general election, which is why they all uncharacteristically swung in behind him. This would be exactly the same as the deals concluded between Mr. Blair and Mr. Murdoch, and President Bush and Mr. Murdoch. That kind of thing really stinks. With regard to that Bill, there is no independence. I do not believe the Bill has the support of people on the Government side and they are quite right, which is why I believe it was a private deal. I saw, as I am sure others also did, the Minister for Foreign Affairs on "Questions and Answers" last night. Although he was talking about another matter, he said that of course there must be independent regulation of medical interests, legal interests and the media. If one of the most senior Cabinet figures feels that, why do we not get it? We do not have it. Regulation is not independent but paid for by the newspaper industry.
I support Senator Callely in his motion on Zimbabwe. We would send out a message if we followed the example of the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and boycotted the Lisbon meeting. In addition to this motion, which is valued, we should boycott the Lisbon meeting and send that message.
I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss the effervescence of golf clubs all over this unfortunate little island and the fact that Clontarf Golf Club proposes to dispose of its interest for a huge amount of money — €100,000 for each member — and of course they nearly all voted for it. That is public land on lease to the golf club. It is a hell of a cheek to sell public land for private gain and I salute the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Paddy Bourke, for standing up against it. I do not know to which party he belongs and I do not care. I am informed that he is from the Labour Party and I thought that might have been the case, from the enthusiastic welcome given to him by my good friend, Senator Alex White. That man has a good public conscience. Green areas should not be sold off for intensive housing in the centre of the city because there are few left.
The late Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen produced some excellent reports on the prisons and the prison service. His final report should have been published by now. His previous reports were the subject of excellent debates in this House. I ask the Leader to inquire from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the report will be published so that the House can debate it. Almost €40 million has been expended on Thornton Hall and not a brick has been laid yet, to the best of my knowledge, while in the meantime our prisons continue to deteriorate.
I support Senator Fitzgerald and other speakers regarding the nursing homes Bill. This Bill has not been published. I express the wish that it should not be rushed through the Oireachtas when it is published, whether that is before or after Christmas. This subject must be debated.
The HSE has informed nursing homes that some of the provisions of this Bill will be applied from 1 January 2008 and this is completely out of order. I ask for an urgent debate on the Bill and that sufficient time is allowed to discuss its provisions.
I wish to raise two issues. I have raised the issue of the 2012 London Olympic Games on a number of occasions, in particular with reference to the opportunities which these games will provide to Ireland. I refer to the siting of training camps and facilities in this country as London is only about 30 minutes flying time from Ireland. I ask that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism be invited to the House to discuss this matter and to provide Senators with an update on the work of the committee of the Irish Sports Council and its recommendations to the Department in terms of how Ireland could capitalise on this event.
I refer to an issue raised by Senator Leyden, namely, the attacks on the Taoiseach. This is an issue which Senator Regan raises every day he speaks in the House. It seems that Fine Gael has lost confidence in the Mahon tribunal.
I wish to express my deep concern at the rumour circulating currently in Galway that Abbott is talking to its workers. There seems to be a strong chance that 500 jobs in Galway may be lost. Abbott is a significant employer in the manufacture of medical devices. The Galway plant makes stents and Abbott employs 3,000 nationally. There could be serious implications for Galway. My point is——
——that once again, this exposes the myth that Fianna Fáil has managed the economy well.
My main reason for speaking today is not unrelated to my previous point. I ask that the Minister for Education and Science should come before the House to discuss the results of the programme for international student assessment, PISA, to which a previous Government Senator referred today. I heard some of the reports this morning and it is being circulated that 15 year olds in Ireland are doing much better than is the case. The facts are that Ireland is doing very well on reading, just reasonably in science and only just about average in mathematics. Ireland came fifth in reading, which is very good and is to be welcomed. However, this does not mean all our problems in respect of literacy have ended.
I wish to finish this point. As a nation, we are entirely exposed in the area of maths and science. Because Ireland is peripheral and has a small population, Members on all sides of the House agree that we must build a knowledge society and a knowledge economy.
I would welcome such a debate because — this is the crunch — our higher performing students are performing poorly. We do not have enough higher performing students in the higher band at levels five and six in mathematics in particular.
I wish to raise two issues. First, I ask the Leader, before it is too late, to have a debate on the issue of the Cork-Swansea ferry. Perhaps the relevant Minister should be asked to come to the House to ascertain whether the situation in which we find ourselves can be retrieved. This matter is of the utmost importance to the area that I represent.
Second, I wish to consider an issue of constitutional importance regarding tribunals. While I will not go into specifics, some years ago the Houses of the Oireachtas set up a particular tribunal to inquire into certain allegations. Having regard to the separation of powers and the functions of the Dáil and Seanad, it is important that Members should find out where they stand in respect of an ongoing inquiry, perhaps through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I raise this issue as a former member of the Abbeylara inquiry, which cost the State a lot of money and fell on the grounds that Opposition members of that committee decided to project that particular tribunal of inquiry through the media.
Members must be extremely careful in this regard because there is due process. Members must respect tribunals that have been set up by the Oireachtas in order that an independent inquiry would take place. If there is to be an ongoing drip-drip of requests in this House about what was said on this day or the other, my point is the tribunal should be allowed to complete its work. Thereafter, if there are findings that are adverse to some Member of these Houses, of whatever calibre, a week's inquiry or whatever should be held. It is not appropriate that the epitaph of the present Taoiseach should be written in this House on a weekly ongoing basis like a soap opera.
I will second Senator Norris's amendment to the Order of Business because like him, I agree that we should be discussing the Defamation Bill on Second Stage and not on Committee Stage. I greatly regret, despite all the lip service that is paid to the quality of the debate in the Seanad Chamber, that in many ways, Members are being frustrated from considering issues in the way they might.
It is worth noting, as I have just noted to Senator Quinn, that 35 of the Members of this House are new, of whom 25 are complete first-timers. I would have thought that on an important issue such as the role of the media in our society and the precise balance to be struck between the individual right to a good name and the media's right to self-expression or to express its views, that Members should have a thorough debate. That would involve discussing this Bill on Second Stage.
I wish to mention briefly the proposed debate on the European Union reform treaty. I hope we will have a debate on this matter soon. I note there was much concern in the media some weeks back that all manner of interesting flora and fauna from Europe such as Jean-Marie Le Pen would visit this country to oppose the treaty.
It seems plenty of people are lining up in the propaganda war to pre-empt the discussion we need to have. I refer to the European Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, who said the other day Ireland would be the laughing stock of Europe if its citizens rejected next year's European Union treaty. Without prejudice to my views on the treaty, which I have not yet expressed in this House——
——I do not call the Commissioner a moron but the argument is certainly moronic. To suggest to people that they will be the laughing stock of Europe if they reject the treaty is no substitute for good argument.
Rather than hearing from dignitary after dignitary such as Commissioner McCreevy and the Dutch Minister for European Affairs, Frans Timmermans, who was in town to tell us it would be a setback for Europe, which is a nice example of passive-agressive language, would it not be preferable, instead of having the big guns rolling in to prepare us gradually to say a big unthinking "Yes", that we would have a debate and let all sides of the argument be heard? Let us hear something we never hear, like what would happen if we said "No". What exactly would happen in terms of the economy?
I call on the Leader to provide time at the earliest opportunity to discuss the excellent news that Ireland is among the top seven for gross national product in the OECD report. This highlights the excellent way the economy has been managed. We are anticipating growth of more than 3% in the economy at a time when most other economies in Europe are anticipating significantly less. It is a tribute that almost annually The Economist chooses Ireland as the best place in the world to live out of approximately 160 countries. That publication has 2 million readers weekly. It would be an opportunity for us to say "Well done" to those who are the architects. I refer to the Taoiseach who was Minister for Finance for so long and who has been Taoiseach during the time of prosperity we now enjoy.
I welcome the publication today of the report by National Suicide Research Foundation Ireland. I accept we had a debate on mental health in recent weeks but I urge the Leader to arrange to have another debate on this issue. People are under pressure coming up to Christmas and the report has many interesting findings. I commend all concerned with the report.
As Senator Frances Fitzgerald stated, it is important that we have a debate on elderly people and community care packages for them. I join Senator O'Donovan in calling for the Minister to come to the House to debate the issue of the Cork-Swansea ferry. It is intolerable that Cork, the gateway to Munster, would not have a maritime link to its neighbours in Wales or England. I urge that the Leader would invite the Minister to the House. Go raibh maith agat.
I will obey the Cathaoirleach's injunction and not make a speech about the Mahon tribunal. However, the Cathaoirleach should be consistent in regard to procedures. In every single session, Senator Regan, in pursuit of a bubble reputation, has brought the Mahon tribunal into this forum. Every time anyone replies to him the Cathaoirleach says, quite rightly, that we should not be debating the Mahon tribunal. We cannot have it both ways. The Cathaoirleach should either stop him at the beginning or allow us to reply to him because in common justice it is not correct that the Mahon tribunal can be kept away from the daily discourse of this nation for the simple reason that there is no such thing as the Mahon tribunal. There is the Mahon media tribunal or the "Daily Mahon".
It is a drip-feed from the Mahon tribunal, which does not sit in some isolated place. It is drip-fed to the newspapers every day. It is a composite thing, a symbiosis of media and tribunals. It is like a marriage between the Spanish Inquisition and the News of the World. It is the "Daily Mahon". We are either going to discuss it in the Chamber or not. Senator Regan has been abusing the privilege of this House for some time.
Whenever a Member has raised the issue of the Mahon tribunal, I have intervened and ask him or her not to. As I have said on a number of occasions, there are eminent and well-paid people in the tribunal who will produce a report and we can discuss it when that happens.
I hope I am being fair to every Member; I have no wish to be unfair. I have given a little latitude to Members on all sides of the House, which perhaps I should not have done. It could be to my cost for doing so. I could be strict with everyone as soon as they step slightly over the line but I do not wish to do that. If Members would observe the rules of the House on the Order of Business, everything would work out for us. I can tighten the rope on Members but I ask them to observe the rules. As has been pointed out by a number of people, the House will have plenty of time to discuss the tribunals when the reports are produced.
On a point of order, what Senator Eoghan Harris has called an abuse by my colleague, Senator Eugene Regan, is considered a public service by many people. There is a difference of opinion on that, among the public as well as in this House.
A Chathaoirligh, could you elaborate on the pay of the learned judges? You have mentioned on several occasions their eminence and the fact they are well paid. I would be interested to hear the reason for that. Perhaps you would expand on your interest in their remuneration.
——nor will I impugn your integrity. However, I share the concerns of Senators Frances Fitzgerald, Alex White, Paul Bradford and others who referred to the proposed nursing homes Bill. That Bill will deserve a most comprehensive debate and should not be rushed prior to Christmas. The last such Bill was struck down by the courts because of the illegal charges imposed on older people. The rights of older citizens who are medical card holders were thoroughly vindicated. Is the Minister proposing to row back on that judgment and, as has been suggested in the media today, introduce the measure under the cover of the blaze of budget details which presumably will be in the media on Thursday? Will the Leader respond to this? The Bill is a serious matter and will require detailed consideration by everyone. I hope it is not the intention of the Government to publish it on Thursday and rush it through both Houses of the Oireachtas prior to Christmas.
For the 15 years I have been a Member of the House there has always been a Member from Northern Ireland or the Six Counties. There are now a number of Members from the north of Ireland but none from the Six Counties. We should have a debate on Northern Ireland. Such debates were held regularly in the past. Some wonderful things are taking place in Northern Ireland.
One of them involves the Lisanelly Barracks in Omagh, where Sinn Féin and the DUP have got together to convince the authorities that the site should be used as a joint facility for six schools from different sides of the divide. Just last week Senator George Mitchell joined the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a cancer research effort that is taking place. Yesterday, in Wall Street, Mr. Martin McGuinness and Rev. Ian Paisley told corporate America that Northern Ireland is open for business. This is great news. However, there is a sense that in this part of the country we are not giving our full support. Some time ago I went to buy a wedding present with someone from Limerick, in the south of Ireland. I suggested buying some linen, but the other person refused, suggesting that we buy "something of our own". Clearly, the further one goes from the Border, the less people regard the North as part of Ireland. We now have an opportunity to recognise that we are a united Ireland and that we are moving closer and closer to unity. We should have a debate in the House to say that we support the people of Northern Ireland in all their efforts and to celebrate the wonderful achievements taking place there. Let us ensure that we have a well constructed debate on this issue.
The up-to-date position on the health (long term residential care scheme) Bill 2007, known as the nursing home Bill, is that it will not be published this week as stated by some Members. However, it is hoped that the Bill may be published as soon as possible following Government approval. For the benefit of those Members who were not in the House in former times, when I was Leader of the House from 1997 to 2002, no Bill was guillotined or rushed through the House. On one occasion I remember Senator Norris addressing the House at 4.45 a.m., and some Senators were pleading with me to call time. As long as I am Leader of the House in this session——
Care for the elderly is a priority for Members on all sides of the House in these times of plenty. Ministers on the Government side have been exemplary in this regard over the past ten years, as can be seen when one compares what was done in the previous ten or 20 years for our senior citizens. There is nothing good enough for those who have made a contribution to our country and put us in the privileged position we are in today. As far as I am concerned, that is a commitment. I will consider the strong views put forward by concerned Senators on all sides of the House and I will keep in touch with the leaders of the groups to ensure that we allow as much time as is required by Members for this important but urgent Bill.
Senators Fitzgerald, Alex White, Callely, Bradford, Cummins and Coghlan all expressed strong views on various matters. I will not delay the House except to say that I will be in touch with the relevant Departments and come back to the Senators about these matters. Senator Callely made some observations about Operation Freeflow and bus corridors. I will make contact with the Garda Commissioner this afternoon about this issue and I will contact the Senator's office this evening. The motion drafted by Senator Callely, as the Cathaoirleach pointed out, can be put on the Order Paper for tomorrow morning with the permission of the Cathaoirleach and the Clerk of the Seanad. Senator Leyden expressed his congratulations to Senator Harris on his stance on RTE yesterday about the various inaccuracies we all know have appeared in some of the Sunday dispatches and newspapers. The person in the House with the most experience of the legal profession is Senator O'Donovan, who excellently chaired the All-Party Committee on the Constitution when he was a Dáil Deputy. I would listen to the words of wisdom that he has given to the House from both a parliamentary and a legal point of view. He and the Cathaoirleach are correct to call for one or two days of debate on all of the evidence before the tribunals, if such is necessary, before expressing opinions on the evidence of the Taoiseach and former taoisigh. All fair-minded people must say that, until all of the facts can be considered, we should not allow ourselves to be carried down that path, particularly new Members.
They may not have the experience of most of us, but they are passionate in their contributions. While I respect that, we must await the findings of the tribunal established by both Houses. I look forward to such.
Senator McCarthy spoke about climate change and wished the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government well in Bali. I will pass on the Senator's congratulations. His proposed national forum on climate change is worthy of debate.
We should offer our congratulations to Met Éireann, which warned those of us on the west coast of last weekend's inclement weather. We want to send our condolences on the unfortunate and untimely deaths of the four fishermen. I want to also send the House's condolences on the deaths of the mother and daughter killed in Saturday morning's horrific crash. They had close family ties to my family.
Senator Keaveney offered her congratulations to the Minister for Education and Science on the OECD report, particularly in respect of the school leavers element. Senator Healy Eames called for a debate on BIPA.
I have no difficulty with setting aside time for such a debate.
Senators Regan, Norris, O'Donovan and Harris expressed their opinions on the Defamation Bill. Committee Stage will be taken in the House today and from 11.30 a.m. until one hour before the budget tomorrow. If time is required to continue Committee Stage, I have no difficulty with setting aside as many days as Senators wish for their discussions with the Minister. I will put the Seanad on notice that, if required, we will sit on Friday.
I will deal with the Senators' opinions in the various forums they requested.
Senators Mullen and, in particular, Norris expressed their opinions on Clontarf Golf Club. The latter congratulated the chairman of Dublin City Council, Councillor Paddy Bourke, on behalf of Dublin's citizens. The details given by the chairman on radio this morning put everything in context.
My apologies. He acts on behalf of the citizens of the city of Dublin and I want to note Senator Norris's opinions.
As requested by Senator Cummins, I will inquire as to when the Prison Service report will be published.
Senator Ó Domhnaill asked that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism attend the House regarding the proposals for the 2012 Olympic Games. It is a worthwhile request because Ireland can benefit greatly from the games, particularly in light of our tourism facilities, such as hotels, swimming pools and infrastructural investment. I have no difficulty with setting aside time for that debate.
Senator O'Donovan called for a debate on the Cork-Swansea ferry service. As he comes from south-west Cork's coastal area, I will accede to his request.
Regarding the OECD report, Senator Hanafin congratulated the Taoiseach and the Government on Ireland's position among the top ten countries in terms of GDP and on the work done to make Ireland the number one destination in terms of quality of life. He recommended that people should choose Ireland as a destination.
Senator Buttimer called for a debate on mental health, for which I can have time set aside. I congratulate him on his recent book launch in Cork, which I believe was successful.
Senator Quinn called for a debate on Northern Ireland. The House always has a debate on Northern Ireland at least once a year and it would be timely to have one soon. Those of us who were in Oxford last week and are members of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body will know the importance of how we have progressed and come to where we are today over the past number of years. I am also a member of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I assure Senator Quinn that anything that needs to be done and addressed will be.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, has agreed to come to the House to a debate on foreign affairs matters. I made a request this morning to see if the Taoiseach's diary has time for him to address the House. If it does not, such a debate can be taken in the new year.
I share Senator Quinn's sentiments on how we both in the North and South can purchase each other's products to assist each other. I understand this has been done in the construction industry over the past seven years. It is an example to many other jurisdictions which had major difficulties with their past histories.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 29 (Dan Boyle, Martin Brady, Peter Callanan, Ivor Callely, Ciarán Cannon, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Maria Corrigan, Mark Daly, Déirdre de Búrca, John Ellis, Geraldine Feeney, Camillus Glynn, John Gerard Hanafin, Eoghan Harris, Cecilia Keaveney, Tony Kett, Terry Leyden, Lisa McDonald, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Labhrás Ó Murchú, Francis O'Brien, Denis O'Donovan, Fiona O'Malley, Ned O'Sullivan, Ann Ormonde, Kieran Phelan, Jim Walsh, Diarmuid Wilson)
Against the motion: 15 (Paul Bradford, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Maurice Cummins, Frances Fitzgerald, Fidelma Healy Eames, Nicky McFadden, Rónán Mullen, David Norris, Joe O'Toole, Feargal Quinn, Eugene Regan, Alex White)
Tellers: Tá, Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Rónán Mullen and David Norris.