Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Order of Business.
The Order of Business is as follows: No. 1, report of the committee of selection, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of passenger name record data, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 and to conclude no later than 4.15 p.m, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed five minutes; and No. 3, statements on the economy, to be taken at 4.15 p.m and to conclude no later than 6.15 p.m, with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes and with the Minister to be called upon no later than 6.05 p.m. to conclude the debate. Senators may share time.
The Order of Business is agreed.
I call on the Leader to give an undertaking to the House that within the first two weeks of the return of the Seanad the report of the review group on State assets and liabilities will become a priority of the House to be discussed in the 24th Seanad. It is of the utmost importance that the report is discussed and debated in depth in the House to allow new Members make their views known to the Minister to assist the Department and the Government in their deliberations.
Recognising that 18.5% of our population experiences some level of disability, Fianna Fáil has always demonstrated a strong commitment to providing support and services to enable people with a disability to take all opportunities. I call on the Leader to impress on the Minister for Social Protection the need to remain committed on all of these very important matters to those who are in need of them.
I wish to avail of this opportunity to congratulate the Cathaoirleach and wish him well. As this is the last sitting day of the House, I congratulate him on all he has done for Seanad Éireann to uphold its values and enhance the House as the Upper House, and for his years of service during which he has been totally committed to being the Senator that everyone has respected as an outstanding Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke, for all the kindness he has shown to us and all Members of the House. I congratulate the Clerk of the House, Deirdre Lane, and her assistant, Jody Blake, for all of their help and assistance. It has been outstanding to say the least and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I say to all retiring today from the House after very many years of service as Members of Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann that we wish them well and wish them happiness and also that we want to hold their friendship near and dear to us for very many years to come. I offer my best wishes to all Senators standing in the forthcoming Seanad elections and wish them well and every success. On my behalf, as former Leader of the House and as leader of the Fianna Fáil group, I thank the Superintendent, the Captain of the Guard, Jimmy Walsh of the press and everyone associated with the running of the 23rd Seanad for everything they have done. We are extremely grateful.
I thought that, so I will say "Ditto to that".
I thank the Leader of the House as I spoke to him on a number of occasions over the weekend with regard to including the extra debate today on the economic situation. I appreciate its inclusion and on this basis I will support the Order of Business today.
The Nyberg report was presented to us yesterday, but we will not have the opportunity to discuss it in the House. Will the Leader give some consideration to the outcomes and how we respond to it? Nyberg has more or less stated that we were all part of it. Let somebody stand up and deny it and we can listen to it. I am absolutely taken aback by the response of the Government, which is to establish a committee or committees of the House to further investigate what happened over the past four, five or six years. This is not what democracy is about. This is an example of the spoils going to the victors; it is now in charge after winning the election and will wheel these people in to get to the bottom of it. There is no getting to the bottom of it. We have the facts in front of us and, unlike the Bourbons, perhaps we will learn something from them. Perhaps we will forget some of it also, it if that is what is required of us. Let us not move into a situation in which we wonder if this is the inquisitions of the middle ages or the show trials of Stalin, where people were wheeled in from the gate and put up for questioning with no appreciable objective being found at the end of the day. It is not part of our function to do this. We need to refocus our democracy and recast our community. We need to refocus on what our objective might be, on a fairer society, and we need to redesign our society in favour of the common good. Let us not get distracted into five years of idle chatter in committee rooms where we have blame-shifting and a tortuous talking shop on what happened, who caused what and when, and when Ireland was invaded. There is no answer to the questions we want answered. It is like a truth commission. Let us take Nyberg as a truth commission. He has told us the truth about ourselves. We might not like it but it is there. It is the function of democracy to move on from there, to improve society on the basis of what he has told us, not to direct us for five more years to try to find out more. What more is there to know? We have seen it all. It is all there for us. We have a democratic responsibility to represent our people and help them to progress. Spending five more years looking at that is not the way forward.
I welcome the Nyberg report, even if I do not feel good about it. None of us can feel good about it. We all took some part in what happened over the past five or six years. When I say "all of us" I mean all of us in any position of authority, not every citizen. As public representatives, no matter what role we had, we played our part in it. It is a bit much to hear some of the people who were championing and giving full pages of newspapers to outline what great heros these leaders of the boom were, now in the same newspapers and perhaps on television telling us how bad these people really were. The reality is that there are lessons to be learned. Let us acknowledge that and move on democratically.
I agree with much of what Senator O'Toole said in regard to where we should go in further debates on that issue. However, we need some time limited parliamentary oversight. Some of it should have occurred already. I ask the Leader of the House, with the convening of the 24th Seanad, to ensure that there is a Seanad input to that, that it is the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service rather than the select committee. Members of this House, however it will be constituted, will have an important role to play in that.
Senator O'Toole is correct that the rezoning councillors and the pornography of property supplements in our national newspapers added to the mix that was the madness of the property boom and the Celtic tiger. While it is easy to hold debates on events such as the bank guarantee and the establishment of NAMA, we have yet to hold a national conversation about the endemic greed that brought about the crisis and how we will have to deal with it, regardless of who was in Government. As long as my party is represented in this House, we will co-operate with the Government in seeking the best way to do that. I concur with Senator O'Toole that we cannot conduct our investigation by way of star chamber but a number of questions remain to be addressed in this area. If we answer these questions honestly we will realise how diffuse is the blame for what happened.
I ask the Leader to arrange debates on key legislation which will impact on how we develop from here. For example, it would be a retrograde step in Irish politics to roll back the recent major revision of planning legislation. To do that would see the return of the bagman in Irish politics. That is the type of thinking which brought us to our current position and that is what we need to avoid in the future.
We need to commit ourselves in the future in terms of a representative assembly. I am conscious that those of us who are still candidates in the election that will be counted next week must be conscious of not biting the hand that feeds us. Regardless of whether the debate centres on whether there should be a Seanad in the future, I would like to see all Members of this House and everyone involved in Irish public life saying that if the House is to continue it can never be elected in this form again. There must be a different form of election which has greater public involvement and accountability. I hope that is where the debate goes when the referendum is eventually held.
It is my last day and contribution here. I have been delighted to have been part of the 23rd Seanad and would like to wish everybody that is going forward for election the best.
On the Nyberg report, which cost €1.2 million to tell us what we knew, and the herding and group-think but were the key drivers of financial instability, there was no collective consciousness in that regard. People like Colm Doherty, Michael Fingleton, Seán FitzPatrick, Brian Goggin, Patrick Neary and others have retired with huge pensions.
While I recognise that contracts are confidential, the parts which are deemed to be unbreakable, whether they are anonymous, should be put into the public arena and debated. It is very hard for people, when they are suffering in terms of trying to pay their bills and mortgages, to see people that have contributed in a huge way to the misfortune in which the country now finds itself receiving large amounts of money when they cannot make ends meet.
We paid all the tributes the last time we sat so I will not go over them again. I ask the Leader, in light of the announcement yesterday that Mayo County Council is letting 150 members of staff go, to meet the Minister, along with his colleague, Senator Burke. It is a great loss to Mayo and 150 jobs lost there is like 1,000 jobs being lost in Dublin. I ask that a request be made to the Minister that extra employment is found through various agencies. I am sure he will have the assistance of four Government Deputies and I can assure him that he will also have the assistance of Deputy Calleary.
Senator O'Toole was a little harsh today. The Nyberg report was referred to. He is, no doubt, a cautious man and perhaps he felt that because so many files are with the DPP it would not be prudent to name names. There is no question of the Government taking five more years of navel gazing or whatever to discover this, that or the other. We have had the Regling and Watson, and Honohan reports which stand on their own and speak for themselves.
In fairness, the Government is making daily decisions and in many respects it has been a breath of fresh air compared with what we had.
It was right that public interest directors be appointed. However, I wonder if those that were appointed over a year ago were subject to regulatory capture, that is, whether they were captured by management. I wonder if they went to sleep at the wheel. They are the people who should have been working on behalf of all of us. The Leader can confirm that there is no question of committees of investigation taking five years to produce a report. It would be a speedy way to proceed. Do we want more tribunals? I do not think so. I am in favour of such an approach and I look forward to the response of the Leader.
I ask the Leader if he will agree to amend the Order of Business to allow me make a personal statement. I formally propose that I be afforded 15 minutes to make such a statement. Numerous allegations have been made against me. All I seek is the opportunity to clear up the misinformation out there and put on record the truthful facts.
I join other Senators in wishing all candidates well in the forthcoming Seanad elections. I wish to raise two items with the Leader, the first of which is the status of the Climate Change Bill. I note the plan is to decline it a Second Reading on the basis that all-party consensus has not been agreed. It is item No. 5 on the Order Paper. That is a great disappointment given the urgency of the issue and is antipathetic to the commitment given by the Labour Party when voicing on this side of the House the need for a strong and early climate change Bill. My colleagues and myself were berated time beyond measure on the need for the introduction of early legislation. I understand the Bill is consigned to the C list and that it will be 2012 or later before it is dealt with. That seems to me to be a volte-face, particularly on the part of the Labour Party. I would be interested in hearing the comments of Labour Party Members on it also but the debate is needed. The next round of global negotiations are coming up and we will be attending those without a compass, without targets, without a Bill and effectively neutered as we enter into that debate later in the year in South Africa. That is to be bemoaned in the extreme.
We have seen the price of private sector failure and regulatory failure in this country in regard to the banking crisis. The Stern report identifies the externalising of the price of carbon onto the environment as the greatest market failure in history, greater even than the one we are currently going through. Unless we prepare both in regulatory and in legal terms and are vigorously to the forefront of the global debate on the need to limit carbon emissions to at least 80% of their current levels by 2050, we will pay the price ultimately in terms of the environmental refugees who will be looking for a new home in this relatively temperate country and in terms of the cost of adaptation of our cities and towns, river banks, farming systems, transport systems and energy systems. The price of climate change will be massive. It is better to respond and adapt early than to pay the price after we have been visited by the disasters that it will cause. I ask the Leader to bring that issue forward, raise it with the Government and ensure there is urgent movement on the Bill and that the all-party agreement he seeks is secured at an early stage.
The report published today by the review group on the sale of State assets and liabilities has been mentioned already. Regardless of whether I am a Member of the next Seanad this report needs to be discussed in great detail. I was glad to hear the Taoiseach say today that some of the proposals contained in it would be carefully considered but it must be carefully considered in a much wider debate because the implications of selling some of these State assets, which are strategic, such as Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports, the ESB and Bord Gáis is akin to selling the television set to pay the ESB bills. I warn the Government against doing that and urge it to follow through on the commitments it made in the run up to the general election and proceed very carefully in this regard.
Second, I ask the Leader to arrange early in the new Seanad for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to attend the House as a matter of urgency to discuss the national development plan and strategic infrastructure projects that have been put on hold by the new Government. During the election campaign, commitments were given on metro north and a DART underground service, as well as connecting both Luas lines. All these have been put on hold. The public was promised that by the end of March the order to enable work on metro north would be signed by the new Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, but today is 20 April and it has still not been done. This has cost 260 jobs, while €80 million has been spent so far on the project. If it goes ahead, the project will initially create 6,000 jobs in construction and it has the potential to create 36,000 permanent jobs in the Dublin and north-east region. The public expects critical strategic projects, as outlined in the national development plan, to improve the quality of life for commuters and others. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport should attend the next Seanad to explain why he has not followed through on the commitments that he and his party gave prior to the general election.
I wish success to all outgoing Senators who are contesting the Seanad election next week. Having read the Nyberg report, although not in detail, it would be a great opportunity for the new Seanad to have a full discussion on it. There are major lessons to be learned from the impact these matters have had on society. It is a crying shame to see former senior bank executives walking away with golden handshakes while ordinary Joe Soap citizens cannot fulfil their mortgage obligations. I hope I will be here to participate in a full discussion on this report.
One of my pet subjects is Seanad reform, about which I have spoken many times. Let us not abolish the Seanad, but rather examine its reform. One should always reform first and then, if it does not work, one can abolish it. Reform has never been tried, but it should take place concerning the selection and election procedures. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country, I find it is archaic that we should still have to undertake such a campaign in a modern society. This matter should be fully discussed. I plead with Fine Gael not to allow the Seanad to be abolished, but rather to take the route of reforming it. I would love to participate in that debate to see how best we can make the Seanad worthwhile and complement the Lower House in order that we can all work together. Let us get away from this business of not being relevant in society, because the Seanad is very relevant. That opinion should be aired repeatedly. I ask the Leader to take up these points and not let the House be abolished.
I compliment the new Government on two areas. First, the Minister for Education and Skills has taken to his new job with great enthusiasm. I particularly like the way he is in consultation with Catholic agencies, concerning their participation in, and examination of, church patronage. I very much welcome that process and wish him great success with it.
Second, I think the Government is doing a good job regarding Oireachtas committees, by minimising the number of them and deciding to hold a referendum to obtain strengthened powers for those committees, which are necessary.
I agree with what Senator O'Toole said earlier about the need to pick continually at the scab which is the banking crisis and why it happened. I do not think we necessarily need to do that, so I endorse what Senator O'Toole said about moving the country forward and focusing on that rather than expending energy on blaming people.
I also agree with what Senator Darragh O'Brien said about the need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to attend the House, but not for the same reasons. We need to revisit the viability of some of the projects referred to. While I accept what Senator O'Brien said about jobs being lost and money wasted, we need to look at the long term and whether these are good, viable projects.
Are the right economic criteria there for it? I would welcome that approach and the Minister should welcome a debate on the best way forward.
In this era of reports, I would like the next Seanad or health committee to discuss the report on miscarriage misdiagnosis in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, which has been overlooked. Nothing could be more traumatic. The report highlights that the hospital is a dangerous place for sick women and that needs to be said. If I was in that area and in need of services, I am not sure I would want to go there. We need to examine this issue. There is a history of misogyny around that hospital and it needs to be investigated and eliminated.
I support the comments of Senator Prendergast about the one-sided contracts in AIB and other financial institutions. It is simply not good enough that people who failed to do their job in the interests of the businesses that employed them and, as a consequence, have given rise to so much angst economically for many people, are beneficiaries of golden parachutes that they had stitched into their contracts. It is unacceptable.
In the same way, I am appalled that the Government decided not to have senior positions in the Civil Service subject to open competition and it will use closed lists of people promoted from within. This reflects the incestuousness within the public service that has given rise to some of the problems we are experiencing. Huge failures on the part of public bodies and private institutions have resulted in the greatest recession in the history of the State. It is simply not good enough that people charged with responsibilities and who failed to deliver on them in a responsible manner are now beneficiaries of the significant lump sums and pensions that are being reported. Will the Government show some bottle by taking on this issue? If the Government cannot address the contracts in place, which may be underpinned by the constitutional rights of individuals, it should seriously consider a constitutional referendum in this regard. The public will not stand for huge tax increases to pay for the banking fiasco and the failures within the public service. The sooner governments show they have the necessary mettle to tackle this the better in the interests of everyone.
We have proposals for additions to the Committee of Selection. It is essential that the committee would take a close look at the workings of this House and that we do not experience the reputational damage people suffered as a consequence of some of its considerations. I ask that this should be a priority for the incoming Seanad committee to address serious issues in that regard.
I would like to take the opportunity, which I missed during the previous sitting, to pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach and to the staff of the Seanad and the Oireachtas in general. On occasion, particularly in the morning, one hears the greeting, "Good morning, Senator", and this is uplifting when one is about to partake in public service during which one is expected to give of one's best and it also reminds one that one is an elected Member. It means a great deal to Members that the people who work here are of such a high calibre.
Looking forward, it is important for the Government to seriously examine our bankruptcy legislation. A young generation got involved in property believing that was the way forward for the entrepreneurial spirit and that is what society told them. These people could be locked in for many years unable to give society the benefit of their entrepreneurial flair. We have to fast-track those innocent young people who are willing and able to assist this nation to export and change direction out of the current financial troubles. We need to bring in new bankruptcy legislation to fast-track people out of bankruptcy so that they can use their entrepreneurial flair to benefit the nation again.
Having travelled around the country over the past four or five weeks and having met councillors, I notice the extra responsibility suggested by the programme for Government will mean they will work even harder. Therefore, is it not right that councillors are properly remunerated and paid at a rate that will allow them to claim their pensions when the time arises? Currently, their pay is not pensionable, but it should be.
Like other Senators, I wish everybody well. I support what Senator Dearey said on climate change. I will not repeat what he said, but it is an issue of great importance. Many Senators raised the issue of the sale of State assets. Many lessons could be learned from the way Ms Margaret Thatcher went about matters and how her country sacrificed long term sustainability for short term gain. We should learn the lesson from that before we start to sell our State assets. It is crucial for the next Seanad to debate that issue.
Senator Ormonde raised the issue of reform of the Seanad and political reform in general. There has been much discussion, particularly with regard to the debate on the NUI element of the Seanad election, on the sort of political reform that should take place. Some principles have been put forward and many people have suggested that Seanad elections should take place on the same day as the general election to prevent people who decide to stand in the general election and who fail to get elected from then deciding to go forward for the Seanad. I am one of those who has done this, but I agree it would be good to be forced to choose which House to stand for. It is also a good idea that everybody on the electoral register would have some form of vote for the Seanad. Senator Boyle said we should never again have a Seanad election that takes place in the same manner as this current one. I agree fully on that and there seems to be consensus on the issue.
I would also like to see the Seanad as a House without Whips. Many other Senators would also like that. We have very good debates in the House. However, the way the panels are put together is outdated. Many people would like to see the Taoiseach's nominees being done away with, not because of the current situation-----
Not the 11 Members themselves. They should stand for election. There is a great opportunity now for political reform of the Seanad and that opportunity should be taken. The oversight the Seanad provides would be extremely costly if it had to be provided in another way. The Seanad is good value for money and I would like to see it reformed rather than abolished.
I would like to make the point that great efforts were made to allow me, or force me to make a personal statement with regard to Mr. Fintan O'Toole, which I refused to do. Even though that went to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges I resisted the overtures and risked possible censure because I was not prepared to make a personal statement.
I was not here on the previous occasion to pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach and his very impartial manner in his capacity as Cathaoirleach over the past four years. I wish the new Leader the very best in his new role.
We all talk about reform of the Seanad. I was trying to figure out my mileage last night after completing a tough general election campaign; I have probably done enough miles to circumnavigate the globe twice and I hope I will be in with a chance of election. On the reform of the Seanad, I would like the Leader to consider two issues for the next Seanad - I have no doubt he will be back here. There should be a greater emphasis on the Seanad's role in European matters, particularly given that in our present financial dilemma we are dependent on Europe to help us out. I believe that on at least two occasions each year a senior European Commissioner should be invited to address the Seanad and we should have greater interaction. A reformed Seanad can play a greater role in European affairs, which is something that we, as a Seanad group, have neglected historically, leaving politics out of it.
We could also have greater cross-Border interaction with our neighbours in Northern Ireland. When Eamon de Valera originally envisaged the role of the Seanad, he had a place for Northern Ireland, which we may have forgotten. The Taoiseach might reconsider that matter when he is nominating his 11 Senators. In areas such as farming, fishing, tourism and health there is considerable cross-Border benefit from interaction and developing a united-island approach. The First Minister and Deputy First Minister along with other senior Ministers from the North should be invited here to interact on areas of common policy. This is a small island and we should have greater interaction. I appeal to the Leader to consider a greater role for the new Seanad in European affairs and interaction with Northern Ireland.
I echo the comments of Senator O'Donovan. I did not have the opportunity to pay tribute to the Cathaoirleach for the period I was in the Seanad in the last year. I enjoyed just one year of your tenure, a Chathaoirligh. If that was any indication of what I missed in the previous two years I regret it. I also pay tribute to the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and all the wonderful staff. I was reinstated as a member of the Acting Cathaoirleach panel, which I deem a great privilege and honour, as do my colleagues. I thank Aisling Hart in particular who always looked after the rota in that regard. As a housekeeping issue I wanted to put that on the record and thank them sincerely. I hope I will have the opportunity to work with them in the future, but that will be up to the voters and the good Lord above.
I wish to raise something I have said in the past which is particularly relevant. I compliment the Government on the manner in which it has hit the ground running. All of us have put a fair wind behind it and hope in the country's interest it will succeed in its agenda. However, the media, to which I have referred as background noise, that was pummelling Fianna Fáil and the outgoing Government has stopped ever since the general election took place as we all expected. I ask that the Leader might initiate a debate on the media in the new Seanad. It is rather interesting that our friends in the media are giving the Government an extraordinary honeymoon - I do not mean that in any derogatory sense.
When we were on the Government side of the House and were criticising the media for taking particular positions, they always put themselves forward as being the watchdog for the public. I would hope they would now implement that philosophy a little more effectively because certainly reading it from this side of the House they are giving many of their stories a very soft focus. One in particular annoys me intensely and I have raised it on the Order of Business in the past, namely, the suggestion that Fianna Fáil exclusively as the outgoing Administration stuffed State boards with political appointees. I do not suggest that the manner in which this is done is right and I compliment the Government on the way in which it has set about trying to expand the membership of these boards by changing certain processes. However, hidden among all the stories in the media the one that is not highlighted is that ultimately the Minister will remain responsible, irrespective of all the window dressing surrounding people appearing before Oireachtas committees.
I refer to a matter about which I am annoyed. It is a matter of fact, recorded by those same media, that in 1997 the Rainbow Government also made appointments to State boards in its dying days. All I hope and have ever asked for is that a little bit of balance be injected into the debate on the ills and allegedly nefarious activities of the previous Government, particularly in respect of the making of State appointments in its outgoing days. My political philosophy has always been grounded on the notions of fairness, balance and objectivity, and my comments are addressed as much to the media as to the Leader and the rest on the Government side of the House. In 1997-----
Not having been present on the last occasion we sat, I am delighted to have an opportunity to echo the sentiments of gratitude to the Cathaoirleach, the Clerk of the Seanad, Ms Deirdre Lane, the deputy clerk, Ms Jody Blake, and the entire staff of the Seanad office for their excellent care and attention – I begin to feel like a patient – over the past four years. There was never a minute of any day on which they were not attentive and did not do their best for every Member, irrespective of party membership. I wish to be associated with other Senators in articulating this here.
I support Senator O'Malley, who asked that the Leader of the 24th Seanad, whom I hope will be the current acting leader, put on the agenda the issue of care in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. I refer in particular to the care of women in that hospital. In this Seanad and its predecessor, we discussed the report into the activities of Dr. Neary and what happened to women at his hands. Now we witness another appalling vista in that women had miscarriages induced through no fault of their own only to discover there was nothing wrong with their foetuses, and that those foetuses were alive and healthy. I do not believe any other issue could have such a negative impact on a woman, or cause such remorse.
I support the Senators who called for us to revisit the concept of Seanad reform, and I hope the Leader will take this call on board. Every voice that has echoed the call for Seanad reform has been very sincere, particularly since the recent election campaign.
I support Senator O'Toole in that it would be an awful waste of time and resources if committee work were carried out for five years to consider the Nyberg report. We should take it as given; it is a very good report. We all indulged ourselves in the five or seven years of the Celtic tiger and we should now move on and learn from that.
Last Thursday, as 90,000 signatures were being handed to representatives of the Minister for Finance at the gates of Leinster House on Kildare Street, Anglo Irish Bank moved in the High Court to remove Seán Quinn and his family from having any involvement in the business he created over 38 years ago. Since that time, he moved from creating a job for himself by delivering sand and gravel throughout Fermanagh and west Cavan in his lorry to creating more than 7,000 jobs internationally, some 5,500 of which were created in the Thirty-two Counties. Many thousands of the jobs were created in my county, Cavan, and the surrounding counties. The 90,000 signatures were in support of the proposal made by the Quinn family to the Department of Finance and the Government that the €2.8 billion owed by the family to Anglo Irish Bank and the taxpayer be paid back to the State over seven years.
I appreciate the Cathaoirleach selected this matter for the Adjournment debate this evening. However, it is a serious matter, not just for the people of County Cavan, but for the Thirty-two Counties. Up to 5,500 people are directly employed by the Quinn Group, with many more thousands of jobs linked to these, spread across the length and breadth of the country.
Will the Leader organise a one-hour debate in the Seanad on this matter either for this evening or tomorrow so that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, can be asked why the Quinn Group proposal, which would have saved the taxpayer €2.8 billion, was not given due consideration? I hope my request will be considered.
I support Senator Wilson's call for a debate on the Quinn saga which has gone on for the past 12 months. Over the past 38 years, Seán Quinn did not set out to do anyone wrong or cost the taxpayer any money. He started off delivering sand and gravel and grew his business from there. In a recent television interview, he told the country he had made mistakes and his judgment was wrong.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Finance what can be done for Seán Quinn and his family? They do not deserve what has happened to them. If Seán Quinn got another chance, he would certainly prove to this country and to Europe that he is a man of steel and vision who wants to repay the debt he owes. I am sure if he could at all he would go a long way to ensure he would not cost the taxpayer any money.
Since the Quinn problem broke, every Oireachtas Member from counties Cavan and Monaghan has done everything in their power to support Seán Quinn and his family. I have no doubt the Government will carry on this work and I hope it will be successful in it.
I wish the Cathaoirleach well on his impending retirement from the Seanad. As I recall from my county council days, when first elected, one will always have a great fondness for one's first Cathaoirleach. I also thank the Clerk and Clerk Assistant of the Seanad for the courtesy and respect they showed to me and other Members. I wish retiring Members well in their future and the best of luck to those contesting the forthcoming Seanad election.
Like Senator O'Malley, I too call for a debate on the national miscarriage misdiagnosis report. It is an extremely sensitive issue in County Louth, one which has affected many across the north east. I concur with Senator O'Malley's demand for the report's recommendations to be fully implemented. I am referring to the critical question of new life which affects so many people. The events that have occurred in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital have caused so many problems.
My mother was a nurse in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and it is a place that had a phenomenal reputation across the world, both as an educational institution and a caring centre. It is terrible to see its reputation now in tatters as a result of a number of scandals that have taken place there. I, too, hope to see that situation turned around very soon. I would like for the Leader to arrange, if not tomorrow then as early as possible in the next Seanad, for the Minister for Health and Children to address this House and lay out a forthright plan on how he will implement the recommendations in the report. They need to be implemented because this matter is of concern right across the north east.
People are now making conscious decisions not to go to Our Lady of Lourdes in respect of a wide variety of services. That is a very sad day, because I know many people who work in Our Lady of Lourdes and am aware of the facilities that are available there. However, they need to be availed of to demonstrate the great reputation the hospital has and that of its staff. I urge the Leader to take that on board without delay. If at all possible I would like the Minister for Health and Children to come to the Seanad tomorrow for half an hour or an hour to debate this very urgent matter.
I, too, join in the tributes to the Cathaoirleach on this, the last day of the present Seanad, and wish him well for the future. I also extend my good wishes to all my colleagues, regardless of whether they are retiring or contesting the election next week. Life will continue for all of us in whatever shape or form.
I want to raise a matter that the Leader has raised on many occasions over recent months, that is, the threat to the peace process on this island by so-called dissident republicans. Some Members may have seen "Prime Time" last night where a representative of this group was interviewed. It was quite scary to witness a person so out of touch not just with normal reality but with the thinking of almost all people on this island.
We need to keep repeating the fact that Irish people North and South have accepted by referendum the Good Friday Agreement and the fact that the constitutional position of the island has been resolved for perhaps many years to come. We must all work together within the terms of that agreement. An interesting observation was made last night on the programme by a former senior garda in which he highlighted what we all know, namely, that while intelligence work and the prosecution of dissidents must continue, an ongoing effort must be made to try to understand their mentality and lure them away from violence towards constitutional politics. That has been a challenge for all of us over the past 20 to 25 years, and to a great extent it has been successful.
However, a tiny minority is entirely out of step with public opinion, unfortunately with the capacity, to bomb, kill, maim and murder. To bring peace with a "capital P" to this island we must try to bring those people into the margins of politics. Perhaps the Leader might respond. This is a subject he has raised in the House, and we have to be vigilant to ensure the peace process remains bedded down and that we do not return to the old days. During my first days in the Seanad there were statements almost weekly on outrages, bombs and killings. Thankfully those days are gone and we do not want them to return.
Senator Cassidy raised the matter of the McCarthy report on State assets and asked that I raise it in the next Seanad. I can assure him that should I be a Member of the next Seanad, I shall raise it with the then Leader. I will certainly pass on his request to the Government, in any event.
Quite a number of speakers referred to the Nyberg report, including Senators O'Toole, Coghlan, Ormonde and Boyle, among others. Certainly the Nyberg report has given the facts of the situation. Obviously it lacks specifics in many areas and possibly the report was constrained by the terms of reference, especially in terms of naming names. I assure the House that the Government will move on and learn the lessons from the mistakes of the past. Honesty will always be the first priority of this Government in laying the facts before the people on all issues.
Many people spoke about Seanad reform. That is a debate for another day and for the next Seanad, but I note the comments from Senator O'Donovan about a possible role relating to Europe and cross-Border co-operation. There is certainly merit in those suggestions.
Senator Carty spoke about job cuts at Mayo County Council and we will raise that issue with the relevant Minister. Senator Callely asked about an amendment to the Order of Business. It has been pointed out already that personal explanations can only be made with the permission of the Cathaoirleach under Standing Order 32A. It cannot be dealt with by an amendment to the Order of Business as the decision is solely one for the Cathaoirleach. I hope that addresses the point.
Senators Deary and Ó Brolcháin spoke about the Climate Change Bill. It is a very important issue and the Government will be publishing its own Bill in due course.
Senators O'Brien and O'Malley requested that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport attend the House to debate the national development plan. This is a matter that should be addressed by the new Seanad.
I note Senator Walsh's comments on the Committee of Selection. Senator Hanafin spoke about the need for a change to bankruptcy legislation. I will raise that matter with the relevant Minister. I will also leave the issue of the remuneration of councillors to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Senator Mooney stated that the Government has hit the ground running, which is certainly the case. In respect of his criticism of the media, I would say that we should not shoot the messenger.
Senator Wilson spoke about Quinn Insurance. I know the Senator has raised this matter on several occasions. The Senator has tabled an Adjournment matter on the subject and I hope that he receives the answers to the questions he has posed. I am sure adequate time will be given to the Senator to raise those matters on the Adjournment. Unfortunately, I cannot agree to a full debate on the subject, but I hope the matter will be addressed adequately in the Adjournment Debate.
Senator Bradford spoke about dissident republicans. I have raised this issue in the House many times. I have always insisted that they are a threat to the institutions of this State. What has happened over recent weeks has been appalling. Let us hope that we never go back to the days where we read daily about people killed and maimed on this island. There is no place for this type of republicanism on this island. I compliment the Garda Síochána and the PSNI on their efforts in bringing these people to justice. I hope they will continue to get the resources that are necessary to protect all people on this island.
I am not gagging anyone. I never did. I explained it to you in great detail and I have written to you on at least six occasions over the last six or eight months. I have ruled on it and I am moving on to No. 1, the 15th report of the Committee on Selection. I call Senator Burke.
On a point of order, I subscribe to the philosophy of Voltaire. I might violently disagree with the point you made, but I defend the right of the person to say it. I have no axe to grind on this, but I feel that natural justice would suggest that the Member should be allowed at least to make some-----