Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the appointment of the Ombudsman and No. 2, motion recommending Ms Emily O'Reilly for appointment by the President to be the Information Commissioner, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude within 25 minutes, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed three minutes and the Minister to be called three minutes before the end of the debate for concluding comments; and No. 3, statements on the National Asset Management Bureau, to adjourn not later than 7.30 p.m. if not previously concluded, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of other Senators not to exceed ten minutes, and Senators may share time, and the Minister to be called ten minutes before the conclusion of the debate for concluding comments and to take questions from spokespersons or leaders.
I thank the Leader for arranging the debate tomorrow on the Ryan commission report. It is appropriate that the House should debate the report, although obviously there is a great deal of reading in the five volumes. This should be the first of a number of debates on this document and it should be just the initial stage of a comprehensive response from the House to the content of the Ryan report. It is an appalling litany of cruelty, violence and abuse of children in institutions where such behaviour was endemic. This is not about party politics but about a comprehensive response to what is contained in the five volumes.
The 18 congregations must respond in a moral and ethical way to their obligations. They have so far failed to do that, as is clear from the interviews on the radio this morning and interviews earlier this week with other people. This is not about legalities at this stage but about moving beyond what we have seen to date and ensuring there is a comprehensive response. I do not doubt that we will begin to see the emergence of that comprehensive response from the contributions of Senators in the debate tomorrow. That is what is necessary.
We must discuss the recommendations of the report in detail and consider how we can move forward on them. The State is still not listening to and is still failing children. A number of weeks ago the Minister stated that there could be no independent inspection of homes where people with disabilities reside because the resources are not available to do it. We must examine a range of issues relating to children on which we can move forward more comprehensively. I hope we can do that.
I wish to make two further points about the religious orders and the Department of Education and Science. There was huge legal resistance to publication of this report. Huge legal costs were incurred. It is quite clear that the religious orders, at least, should pick up the bill for these legal expenses. Second, this is a huge archive of incredible importance to this country. I understand the commission gave a commitment to people that some of this material would be destroyed. The Government should suggest to the commission that wherever possible the material and the details it contains should be preserved in the longer term. None of us who watched "Questions and Answers" last night will forget the gentleman who spoke from the audience with such emotion about his experience. It is the experience of these people as young children that we must remember and ensure it never happens again.
I would like to take up the Senator's point. We will have a good opportunity to discuss the Ryan report tomorrow and I look forward to doing so and putting on the record some things about which I was challenged last week. In the meantime it is very important for us to articulate a clear view that in terms of responsibility, the congregations - the 18 orders - and the State should share the cost equally. It should be a 50-50 response. To those people who ask if we want to start selling the schools and hospitals, the answer is "No". However, I want the deeds of those schools and hospitals transferred to our ownership-----
-----until such time as we make up the amount that will be needed. I know they are not marketable at the moment. I do not want them sold, disposed of or liquidated, I want them transferred into our ownership to allow a 50-50 share of responsibility and cost all the way through. No fair-minded person could object to that.
I do not know how many people are aware that we have two ambassadors in the city of Rome, one for Italy and the other for the Vatican state. I do not know what our trade with the Vatican state is, but I suspect it is considerably less than it is with other countries. This week we decided to close down our consulate office in our nearest trading neighbour in Wales. It would make far more sense to open an office in Wales and close the second unnecessary Rome embassy in the Vatican state. I raise this matter assuredly and informatively because the Ryan report makes it clear that the Vatican was used as a place for orders to lodge files that they do not want to make available to the Government. It is a place in which elderly paedophiles and child abusers have been finding sanctuary away from this country. Do we have an extradition treaty with the Vatican state? Should we maintain an embassy in the Vatican state? The Vatican state is fast becoming, as we see from our perspective, a flag of convenience for child abusers and paedophiles.
We need to ask hard questions of the head of state in the Vatican, who is also the head of the Catholic church wearing a different hat. There is a state within a state there and questions need to be put and answered. I would like the Minister to come to the House and explain to us how we find ourselves in this position. In the meantime I would prefer us to close down our embassy in the Vatican, which is completely unnecessary in this day and age. We have millions of ambassadors going from the church to the Vatican all the time. We also need to reconsider the decision to close the consular office in Wales.
I support the points made by the previous speakers on the Ryan report. My party and I are of the view that the religious institutions are not paying their fair share and, despite any legal reasons for not doing so, certainly morally they should pay their fair share. I am conscious that we will have a debate in the House on the matter tomorrow so we will hold on that for the moment.
I wish to share the contents of an e-mail I received from a constituent in recent days. It will be self-evident where the e-mail leads. It states:
I would like to know if there's anything you can do for me.
I have been recently let go out of my job,
I have gone to social welfare to sign on for job seekers allowance,
I have worked full time for the last 26 years and to my amazement I was told it could take up to 6 8 12 16 weeks for my claim to be assessed as there is a back log since January
I am appalled that it could take so long I was told I could go to the community welfare office in swords and that they might be able to help me till my claim was processed
I sat in the office for two hours waiting and when I went in I was told with amazement that I was entitled to absolutely nothing because my husband is in full time employment
I am so annoyed. My husband wages is a very low income and it just barely covers our mortgage and bills,
I am so annoyed when I think of all the years that I worked full time and paid tax and prsi,
I have recently became a mam for the first time and I don't know where my next packet of nappies and baby food is going to come from and that is no joke, but the lady in welfare office didn't seem to care. I was embarrassed that I went down and I was so upset when I came home. I am very annoyed with the whole system.
I have the flu and a chest infection at the moment and I don't have the money to go to the doctor and I was told I won't qualify for a medical card because of my husband working. If my baby got sick tomorrow what am I supposed to do? I don't have the money to bring him.
I need help. I don't know what to do. I can't sleep worrying. I hope you can do something for me because I don't know what to and I really don't.
This is the reality for people who are losing their jobs and it is nothing short of scandalous. The lady in question is entitled to her benefit and cannot afford to wait. We were told last year that the Minister for Social and Family Affairs was dealing with the problem of delays. To date, however, no evidence has emerged to indicate she has done so, certainly not in north County Dublin where the problem, if anything, is worsening. The delays in processing social welfare applications are unacceptable.
Will the Leader ask the Minister to come before the House to advise on what she is doing to address the problem, the reason it has not been resolved and what the lady in question is supposed to do? She is not asking for a hand-out but seeking her entitlements based on the contributions she has made.
I support Senator Fitzgerald's request that the debate on the Ryan commission report into child abuse be held in sessions. Given that the report is published in five volumes, it will be difficult to cover everything in a single session. We owe it to the victims to take our time and not rush the issue. The agenda of the House is not such that we would be unable to have five debates on the report.
On my way to the House this afternoon, I was listening to the "Liveline" show with Joe Duffy which featured a woman who entered Goldenbridge industrial school at the age of 13 years. The lady in question was not sent to school and did not receive an education. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Duffy asked her whether she had read the Ryan commission report, to which she replied that she could not do so because she could not read or write. Did the commission take into consideration that many of the victims of abuse cannot read or write? Is it possible to release the contents of the report in audio form, thus giving those who cannot read or write an opportunity to listen to a spoken version?
I was shocked to hear Sister Marianne O'Connor, who I understand is a Sligo woman, speaking on "Morning Ireland" today.
While I have the height of respect for Sister O'Connor, who is a very good woman, I am sure she was sent out to do a job. My experience of CORI in my work as a politician is that it acts as a defender of the weakest in society. I ask its members to defend the weakest in society in this case and to avoid having an appropriate response dragged out of them.
I concur with Senator O'Toole's comments on the Vatican, the wealthiest institution on earth. Most of the victims of abuse have stated that the issue was never about money but about securing an apology. Let us listen to them and, if necessary, we should over-compensate.
I strongly agree with previous speakers, particularly Senator Fitzgerald's call to have the debate on the Ryan report truncated, so to speak, to deal with the five volumes of what is a substantial document. I strongly support the calls made by Cardinal Brady and his bishops, which the orders appear to be resisting.
I hope the House will address this issue in a balanced manner through the debate to be held tomorrow. I have no doubt Senators will take a balanced position because, while appalling things happened, particularly in the industrial school divisions of the religious orders, we need to reflect on the fact that many of us received a good education from some of the religious orders, for which we are grateful. While there were undoubtedly rotten apples in the barrel here and there, there were a great many good people and, sadly, the good that any of them did will be interred with their bones, so to speak. No doubt Senators will be balanced. I, too, am grateful to the Leader that he is allowing this debate and, perhaps, further ones.
On the debate the Leader announced for this evening, I note on the Order Paper it is referred to as the National Asset Management Agency, which we have known as NAMA, but he distinctly mentioned the word "bureau". Perhaps he would clarify that.
Like all the other speakers, I welcome the debate tomorrow on the Ryan report. I am conscious that it will give an opportunity to condemn the wrongdoing of some in the church. Notwithstanding that, I note that there could be a corruption of anger. On that corruption of anger, it is important to look at whether those who did wrong were doing so by instruction from the top, as happens, say, when people overreact and use the words "concentration camp". In a concentration camp, the instruction from the authorities is to treat people in a certain manner. The children were not treated according to the diktat, rules, regulations and statements of the church and those who did those things were further away from the church than the poor innocent victims.
I do not agree with the previous speaker. I would say that we must do something practical. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that we take today No. 34, motion 8, in my name and some of my Independent colleagues, on the exemption of the churches from the operations of the equality legislation. It is astonishing that the very agency that presided over the rape of children, forcing children to lick excrement off shoes and all the other matters, the full list of which I will not go into, has been placed above the law so that it can do further damage, and it is doing so as we speak.
At the weekend I attended a launch in Dublin, which was also attended by the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with responsibility for children and youth affairs, Deputy Barry Andrews, who is a very decent man, at which a youth aged 16 told how he was not allowed by the Christian Brothers to put up anti-homophobic bullying posters in the school in which he was a student. Nothing can be done about that because in the face of this cataclysm, we are still allowing the churches exemption from the equality legislation. We are still placing them above the law and if we do nothing about that, everything else we do is utter hypocrisy.
I listened to Sr. Marianne from some order. Even the names of the orders are astonishing - the Sisters of Mercy. How much mercy was there? The names intended to show power and to confuse the ordinary people. I do not know what Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate means but I know it is supposed to mean they are terribly important etc.
I listened in horror to the oleaginous Deputy Woods excusing the disgraceful agreement that was made and stating the taxpayers will be glad to pay. They will not. Why should they? It should be 50:50 as anything else is appalling. For him then to state it was the British who urged this regime of cruelty, I do not believe there is room in this Oireachtas for a person like that.
The deaf, the handicapped, the most vulnerable were especially targeted. I say to that nun who stated that the deal is closed, "No it ain't, Sister." I can tell the House this. On any deal where they state they will deal with the victims, have they not learned anything? Do they not listen?
I remember a comment made to me two years ago by a priest when there was an emergency meeting of his order about a child abuse case that had come to light. He was relaying a comment made by another priest of the order to the effect the order would be all right; not that it would look after the children or ensure they would get help, but that the institution and the religious order would be all right and would get through it.
While Senators have stated it was not an order from the top or the Vatican and that bishops did not say children should be treated in that way, the crime is appalling and the cover-up, while not as bad, is equally appalling. Those who did it were protected by those who knew. This went on and on. People turned blind eye after blind eye. The Vatican has played a role in hiding the files and resisting the truth coming out in every way possible.
CORI has no moral authority left now that it has stated it will not renegotiate the deal. We must remember the â¬1 billion the taxpayer must pay is being diverted from essential funds-----
-----that could help vulnerable children. We cannot provide those services because we must pay for past abuses. CORI and the religious orders continue to perpetuate the abuse of children because we cannot afford to help the vulnerable.
I look forward to tomorrow's debate, of which there should be at least five such debates. CORI is so out of touch with the people that it does not realise it will need to turn around and, as Senator O'Toole stated, pay half of the cost. The State is culpable for 50% and the religious orders should come to their senses and realise they must pay 50% before we lose faith in them and they lose all moral authority.
I second Senator Norris's amendment to the effect that the debate, which is important, should be held today.
Will the Leader arrange for the Minister for Education and Science to answer a few questions on these institutions at the start of tomorrow's debate? Is it the case they do not have enough funding to give to the State? Are they concerned the services provided by them will be curtailed or suspended if they must pay an additional amount? Are they simply sticking to an agreement made with the State so they can keep their millions of euro for themselves? These questions should be answered by the Minister at the outset tomorrow so we can know the ground rules.
The Minister must discuss the 1999 agreement. Through the report, it has come to light that information available to the institutions was not provided to the then Minister. Failure to disclose all information or the deliberate hiding of information breaks the terms of any contract. The current Minister claims he cannot renegotiate it, but he can do so by proving the contract was invalid from day one because information was not disclosed. If he has written any other type of contract with the institutions, he is a greater eejit than anyone could possibly have believed.
The State can issue threats to institutions that refuse to co-operate. Removing their charitable status would be easy. They would need to pay corporate and other taxes like everyone else. In this way, the State could get the money quickly. Other avenues are open to the Minister besides holding his head and claiming he can do nothing about it. He can do a lot. Before he does so, perhaps the institutions should be given a chance to explain why they believe they cannot or should not pay the additional amount.
I look forward to tomorrow's debate, in which I hope everyone will have an opportunity to participate.
Regarding a lack of transport developments, we often allow ourselves to be knocked about, but we should acknowledge that a section of the M8 was opened yesterday ahead of schedule and below budget. There are many other good developments in the area of transport which have been carried out, such as the Mitchelstown M8 section, barrier-free tolling, the development of the Luas, the rail network, the interconnector and many other good projects.
It is important to acknowledge all those who have been involved at the political, local authority and contractual level, and when we put our minds to it, we can bring these projects in ahead of schedule and below budget.
Shame on us if we put the goods of the church ahead of the good of victims. The religious orders have a moral duty to look at what has happened under their care, at the resources they have now and what it is in their power to do to help heal the hurt - I stress "help" - including the application of such resources as they have at their disposal.
It will be a complicated matter. Some religious orders, no doubt, will be better equipped than others, but I hope they will be generous in looking at the issue again. I heard politicians say with great outrage in recent days, and I understand the wave of anger and outrage, that religious orders have a moral duty to contribute more. They certainly have a moral duty to ask themselves whether they have contributed enough.
It will be difficult to assess, if we are honest about the work being done, the disparity of resources between the State and the orders and the disparity of resources between the orders themselves. It is not something that can be assessed quickly, but generosity is what is required and a gesture of generosity badly needs to be heard from that quarter.
It is incumbent upon us as Senators and Members of Parliament to be true to the facts and give leadership at this time, because of the waves of anger washing over the country about all this, and it is anger we feel ourselves as citizens and people with humanitarian intent. People have been talking at this time about closing down embassies or mixing Rome with the Vatican. Many of these organisations have headquarters in Rome and may well have people or documents there. It does not mean such documents are under the control of the Vatican or anything like it.
We had a history of anti-Catholic bigotry in this country in the North and it should not return under any guise or any provoking circumstances such as those we are all enduring. I say that as somebody who feels sick to the stomach. I hate reading this report, but I forced myself to do so. Every citizen should. It is not a matter of whether they are a Catholic but of trying to ensure justice is done. Let us not descend into further injustice.
I had a meeting just now with a member of the Good Shepherd order, one of the 18 orders, in the ordinary-----
-----course of business, which was organised some time ago to discuss the work that needs to be done to assist victims of human trafficking. The person concerned is giving of their own resources to help people because of the flimsy contribution they are getting from the State. Let us keep our sanity in all of this, even while we ask the hard questions of the religious orders and others.
I welcome the fact we will have a detailed report on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and, as suggested by Senator Feeney, that we have it on a rolling basis to go through all the reports.
I regret very much that I disobeyed the Chair last Thursday evening. I apologise to the Cathaoirleach. It was not intentional. It was a very emotional debate. I sought an extension of time, which was not granted.
I was trying to read into the record the apology from the former Taoiseach, but that is yesterday's business and we will move on.
Regarding the point made on our embassy in the Holy See, I know the ambassador, Mr. Noel Fahey. He is a school friend of mine from the CBS in Roscommon. It would be a retrograde step to close an embassy which is of great historical importance to the country and was vital in gaining our recognition throughout the world. It is a very small embassy in Rome, assigned to the Holy See, and we have the Papal Nuncio in Dublin, who is head of the diplomatic corps. It is a bit over the top to ask for a closure at this time when we want to be in a position to talk to the Vatican, through our embassy, which is the appropriate way to do it.
We will go to the polls on 5 June and many of us are not happy with the compilation of the register of electors. I am aware of a couple who were on the register for 45 years but they have been taken off it. One could say they should have checked it. However, there should be a late appeals system. I urge the Leader to speak to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about this issue. Surely it is a deprivation of their democratic right for a couple who have been on the register for upwards of 40 years to be unable to vote on 5 June? With all the arrangements we have in place there should be some late appeals system where errors have occurred.
The abuse we read about in recent days has horrified us. Those of us who knew something about it and had covered some of it earlier had no idea of the extent of it. It is interesting to be reminded that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin had warned us of how serious this report would be. We welcome the opportunity to debate it tomorrow. The onus is on us to do that.
I was impressed by what Senator Mullen said. There is also a balance to be achieved. Many generations have received an education from a very large number of perfectly judged nuns, priests and members of religious orders. We must not disturb the balance by forgetting that they gave us our education. The religious orders were responsible for a high proportion of our education. I accept we have been let down by some of them but let us get the balance in proportion and not make the mistake of suggesting that everybody was at fault.
I read an interesting letter in The Irish Times yesterday, which was only one such letter among approximately ten. It was from a man who wrote about the wonderful education he had received and how much he and his large family had achieved. He finished by asking that we should please not tar all these fine men with the same brush. That is the balance that I would like to ensure we achieve and I hope we achieve it tomorrow. It is important we debate the report tomorrow and that we do not hide it, but let us get the balance right also.
Reference was made to a publication last month that showed that e.coli levels in Irish water was 30 times the UK level. That is very serious because the figures that were given indicated that approximately 5% of samples taken from public water supplies were contaminated with e.coli and approximately 90% of the population gets its water from public supplies. It is important that we find time to debate the issue. We have had problems in the past in various parts of the country, particularly Galway.
I join in the call by Senator Fitzgerald for an all-party debate. We should highlight the need for collective responsibility of the Judiciary, medical professionals and families who turned a blind eye to what was going on. I agree with other speakers that there were some very good people in religious orders. I got a very good education from the Mercy order. While canvassing in recent days I heard stories to the effect that a "cruelty man" came around and took children away from their homes. I was told that the payment for a child was Â£9. That money went to fund the institutions, but most of the children in those institutions did not get an education. It is a terrible indictment of all of us that that went on.
It is. We stood idly by and we let it happen. We knew about Letterfrack, Daingean and these other places. Even I heard the threat as a child that I would be sent to the reformatory if I did not behave myself. The idea that this has all come out now is shameful.
This is still going on. We are still turning a blind eye on children being abused. Only in the last few months, we have heard about that dreadful situation in Roscommon. We have no social workers at weekends. We have closed two wards in the children's hospital in Crumlin. We need to focus on collective responsibility in tomorrow's debate.
It is important we have a debate on the Ryan report at an early stage. Members in the Seanad, just like those in the DÃ¡il and indeed all public representatives, have an opportunity to show leadership in this area. I have been very impressed by the balance shown by some of the spokespersons for the victims' groups in their response. If we had found ourselves in the same position, would we have been as balanced? They are almost charitable in the manner in which they present their case. They possibly expect exactly the same reaction from us. The person who spoke last night on "Questions and Answers" asked that this would not be made a political issue. Senator Frances Fitzgerald has made the same point. The danger was that this could have happened as we are so close to an election. I am glad it has not happened.
We need to be genuine in helping the victims and the children of victims. We also need to ensure that what happened could never happen again. The only way we can do that is to get down to real practical steps when the emotion has died down. At the end of the day, when the emotion has gone, there is a danger this story could disappear to the back pages. That would be wrong as well.
The best leadership we can provide is to show balance. I can think back to my own education. I said on the last morning here that I never witnessed anything inappropriate. I saw nothing but appreciation for the Christian Brothers and the great work they had done. I was travelling on the train later that day and a young man was sitting opposite me. He said he had been in Cashel, my home town, for a reunion of the Croke Cup team and that 20 of them had turned up. They got around to discussing this dreadful report and he told me that each and every one of the 20 people in Cashel that night said they never experienced anything but the best education from the Christian Brothers. I can say the same for the nuns and many others.
If we give real leadership by creating balance and thinking of everyone's concerns in this, we will best serve the needs not just of the victims and the children of this nation, but the whole of society.
I want to raise two issues that are loosely connected to sport in a negative sense. Can we have a debate on the return of sectarianism in the North that led to the death of a person recently in Coleraine? It is important we highlight our disdain and distaste for these people who are opposed to the spirit of what 99.9% of the people in the whole of Ulster and the whole of the island of Ireland feel at this stage. To have it loosely associated with the results of a particular soccer championship brings sport into disrepute as well. The whole thing is appalling, and it is about time we raised our voices in the Upper House on this matter. We should show our solidarity with the rest of our colleagues and friends right across the island and say we do not stand up for this and we do not support it.
I seek a debate on the Irish language and Irish culture which come within the remit of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ã CuÃv. At a meeting of the Council of Europe in Paris last week I was informed that owing to the successful measures taken by the Irish Government in the form of the Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Act 2008, An CoimisinÃ©ir Teanga and other initiatives, Irish has moved from being an endangered language to a vulnerable language, which is a progressive step. It is important we debate this issue given the stated policy of the main Opposition party to abolish this ministry should it be returned to Government. I hope that in its endeavour not to support the Irish language, the main Opposition party does not, given Irish is loosely associated with sport, also encourage disrespect or disassociation with the GAA or culture in general. A debate on this issue would be timely given the forthcoming elections and ensuing decisions in regard to policies and so on.
I do not support my colleagues who called for balance in the context of the Ryan report. This is not the time for talking about balance but for talking about the Catholic church, an organisation that has totally and utterly failed its citizens. How dare anybody talk about balance. Anyone who reads the five volumes of the report will be traumatised. I do not believe anybody should speak of balance until they have done so. There are 3,600 pages in the document, which everybody should read. What our fellow citizens and members of the Catholic church did to innocent little children is unbelievable. As I said last week, these were poor children, the poorest in our society.
Attention must be drawn to the fact that people who are sexually abused in institutions suffer consequences for the rest of their lives, including post traumatic distress, suicide and alcohol and drug abuse. Also, there is evidence to prove that the children of adults who were abused in institutions equally, when they become adults, suffer from suicidal behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse and post traumatic distress. The Catholic church at this time is a failed organisation. This issue is not about Christianity and Christ but about the organisation and institute of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Brady are doing their best to save the day. We must, for the rest of our lives, be vigilant to ensure this does not happen again.
Chapter 13 of the report states that right up through the 1980s children in St. Joseph's school for the deaf in Cabra, which was not an industrial school, were being sexually abused and that in the 1990s deaf children were being physically abused. This was happening in the 1990s. I can assure members that if they read this document before making their contribution tomorrow they will forget about talking about balance. That is for another day.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Ryan, Feeney, Coghlan, Hanafin, Norris, Daly, Twomey, Callely, Mullen, Quinn, Ã MurchÃº and Mary White expressed their strong views, shock and horror, at the report which has focused the attention of everyone in the country on events we wish had never happened. Violence and crimes were perpetrated against children. Senators will have an opportunity tomorrow to express their opinions and make suggestions to the Minister for Education and Science. The report comprises 3,600 pages and Members will require a considerable amount of time to read it. As Senator O'Donovan noted last week, there is an urgent need for a referendum on children.
For generations, priests and nuns have made their mark throughout the world. They have given their lives to assisting the education of poor people and bringing the faith all over the world. This report has highlighted the complete negation of the men and women who gave up their lives to bring religion to the people of the world and to help all of us from day to day. This is not the future of the religious and, now it is out in the open, let us hope we can learn from the experience and introduce whatever legislation and other measures are necessary.
The Government of the day had to give serious consideration to the advice of its Attorney General but this Government commissioned this report and the Taoiseach apologised to the people of Ireland and all those who suffered. As Members of the Oireachtas, we do not condone what happened in any shape or form. I look forward to allocating further time for dealing with these issues as a matter of urgency.
Senator Ryan made a passionate plea to the House on behalf of a constituent. If he provides me with a copy of his correspondence after the Order of Business, I will use my office to assist the person.
Senator Callely called for a debate on transport and welcomed the investment in the N8, which is ahead of time and below budget. The late great SÃ©amus Brennan made this possible when, as Minister for Transport, he introduced corrective measures for achieving value for money and completing contracts on time based, of course, on hard experience.
Senator Leyden expressed his disappointment that some people have been left off the electoral register even though they had been on it for the preceding 40 years. It should be possible to replace names on the register, particularly if they have been on it for lengthy periods. Often, the last two names on a page are inadvertently left out due to typing errors or unknown reasons with the result that people cannot vote. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should on a pilot basis consult with postmen and postwomen, who are the first to know when constituents move into an area. What is to stop us from trying this out for one election? The Minister will be pleasantly surprised, even 14 days before an election, because post office staff are intimately aware of everything that happens in an area.
Senator Quinn pointed out that the incidence of e.coli in Irish water is 30 times higher than in the UK. This is an alarming statistic and I will pass his views on to the Minister for a response.
Senator Keaveney expressed her horror about the unfortunate tragedy in Northern Ireland over the weekend. If this is sectarianism, we will do what we can do to highlight that to everyone concerned and the great working relationship we have with our colleagues in Stormont and London. We thought sectarianism was all over and done with it and this incident was a major shock to everyone on the island and those who respect life. We thought we would only see 40 people punishing a person to death in old films going back many years. I send my condolences to the wife and family of the poor man who lost his life because of this over the weekend.
We have a debate on the Irish language in the House every year and Senator Keaveney is correct to call for that. This will happen.
On a point of order, in fairness to the Leader, the point of my contribution was not to assist an individual but an attempt to call on the Minister to get her act together in order that people do not have to wait up to 20 weeks for their entitlements.
The Leader did not reply to my contribution and I invite him through the Chair to do so. Last week, he gave me an absolute undertaking that he would raise this matter with the Government and, on that basis, I did not press the amendment the last time. I would like the Cathaoirleach, very respectfully, to allow the Leader to indicate whether he has spoken to the Government and whether the motion will be taken. He said it would be taken before the debate tomorrow but it is not on the Order Paper.