Seanad debates

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

2:30 pm

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on homophobic bullying, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 5.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed six minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 5.35 p.m.; and No. 2, statements on the humanitarian crisis arising from the conflict in Syria, to be taken at 6 p.m. and conclude not later than 7.30 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 7.20 p.m. This item is timely, as it coincides with today's meeting of the UN General Assembly which is discussing the crisis in Syria. I hope, given the amount of concern expressed in the House in recent months about the situation, that Members will take the opportunity to contribute to this very important debate.

I hope as we get into the term that the habit of Members requesting debates and not taking part in them will not be repeated to the same degree as in the last session. I hope the Members who ask for debates will be present to contribute to them.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I request numerous debates, many of which are refused. In general I take the Leader's point. As the situation in Syria is very serious it is important that the House discusses it properly and puts forward its view.

Yesterday, thousands of mortgage holders received a letter from the ICS Building Society and Bank of Ireland, dated 31 August. That letter informed them that Bank of Ireland and ICS Building Society, part of the Bank of Ireland group, are increasing their variable mortgage interest rate by 0.5%, that ICS Building Society has a new lending rate of 4.49%, a net increase of approximately ¤100 per month on a ¤300,000 mortgage. The situation is getting out of control. CSO figures issued last week indicate that 83,251 mortgages, nearly 11% of private residential mortgages, are in arrears of 90 days or more, a further 40,000 have been restructured and 65,700 are in arrears of 180 days or more. The Central Bank report states that increasing the higher variable rates to compensate for the losses incurred by ICS and Bank of Ireland on tracker loans is a risk which may be counterproductive and continue to exert upward pressure on arrears. Everyone in the House will be concerned about this issue. The pressure that the rate increase exerts on mortgage holders and families is becoming extremely hard to bear and they are at breaking point. Numerous people have been in contact with me about it. I telephoned ICS yesterday.

After waiting almost 25 minutes to get through, the first choice one is given is to press No. 1 on the telephone if one has a difficulty with one's mortgage or envisages having a difficulty with it. There will be many more people pressing the No. 1 button after this increase. When I eventually got through I asked the bank's representative why the bank, in the letter it sent to mortgage holders, did not give a justification for the increase. The person said it was due to the cost of covering the bank's increased deposit rates, which is nonsense and, frankly, a lie.

I ask the Leader to arrange for a proper, non-partisan debate on the ongoing mortgage crisis. There has been an increase of 50% in arrears since last June. If ICS, Bank of Ireland and the public interest directors in Bank of Ireland think that asking an average mortgage holder to pay ¤100 net more per month will get them out of a hole, be any good for their customers or will improve the arrears situation, they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. This cannot be allowed to continue. The taxpayer owns 15% of the Bank of Ireland and ICS group and that institution is still covered by the bank guarantee. Now, however, tens of thousands of mortgage holders have received this arbitrary statement, which the bank did not even have the guts to give to the media. The fact that the bank sent a letter dated 31 August which arrived in people's houses on 24 September is a joke.

I believe we must give time to this issue. We should schedule a debate this week with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, or the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes. Perhaps they could tell us whether the Central Bank has received from the lending institutions their long-term mortgage arrears strategy and the list of new products they will be offering, something for which the Government set a time deadline of 30 September. This crisis cannot continue. People cannot afford these mortgage interest rate increases. With the ECB base rate at 0.75% why do Bank of Ireland and ICS believe they can charge 3.5% more to their clients, who are already put to the pin of their collars? It is an absolute disgrace and it requires more than me, the Leader or Government Ministers saying it is terrible. It requires action, once and for all, because there is no doubt that people are at breaking point.

I ask the Leader to arrange an urgent debate this week and show that the Seanad will deal with this matter. I hope the Leader can refer back to me tomorrow with a scheduled time for a debate on it in order that we can ask the Minister what the public interest directors are doing in Bank of Ireland if they are not protecting the public interest.

2:35 pm

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I seek a debate on the plans for a youth guarantee, which the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, spoke about yesterday when she announced that the Government will advance plans during Ireland's EU Presidency next year for a European youth guarantee to help reduce youth unemployment. This is a very exciting prospect which offers practical possibilities and potential for addressing the seriously high rate of youth unemployment in Ireland and across the EU. We can learn from countries such as Austria and Germany, which have far lower youth unemployment rates and where the idea of a youth guarantee originated. The idea is a guarantee to young people that within four months of becoming unemployed they will receive an apprenticeship, training or combined work and training, if not a job offer. If that guarantee is made, it will give people some hope that there is a viable prospect for them in Ireland. It would be a very important initiative to launch during our EU Presidency starting in January next year.

We have had debates in the House, including with the Tánaiste present, about the plans for Ireland's EU Presidency but the really concrete thing we could do is tie down a guarantee of EU-wide funding for the concept of a youth guarantee. The Minister, Deputy Burton, spoke about the need for the European Commission to provide money from EU Structural Funds or from the European Social Fund. The issue must be tackled on a European-wide basis and the funding must be sourced there. It would be an ideal proposal for our Presidency.

I also wish to express concern, as other Members will, about the two shocking killings yesterday associated with so-called gangland or organised crime. A good deal of media attention has been generated by them. While one does not wish to jump to any conclusions on foot of the events of one day, especially as it appears to be a coincidence of two shootings, one of them took place in the south inner city of Dublin, an area I know well. It is an area where there are a number of schools.

This happened at 8 p.m. on the South Circular Road and there were a lot of children in the vicinity, including a child with the victim. We must examine how we tackle this sort of visible incidence of organised crime in the community. There have been calls for more legislation, and we have seen waves of successive Bills to tackle organised crime, but we should be looking at targeted policing. In Limerick, effective policing methods have resulted in a reduction in gangland crime, particularly in this visible type of crime. A sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is looking at the issue and I hope, when it has reported, that we will have a debate in this House on policing methods, including the policing of organised crime.

2:45 pm

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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On the front of today's edition of The Irish Times, it is reported that a top level report has urged a merger of Trinity College and UCD. It states the report was prepared without consultation with the colleges themselves and the panel worked solely on the basis of a portfolio of information and statistics about Irish higher education. The chairman of the group states modestly on his website that he was once the rector magnificus of a Dutch university, a university ranked 159 places behind Trinity College on the QS index, 83 places behind on the Times Higher Education index, and ranked only 11th among Dutch universities. The University of Aarhus is mentioned, and we are also ahead of it.

This follows the Hunt report, which brought in an American, whose college is ranked 61 places behind TCD, and involved a Finnish university ranked 245 places behind Trinity. I welcome the interest of the Leader in these matters and the fact the Minister for Education and Skills is due to come to the House, but could I ask for that visit to be facilitated? The mischief-making by the Higher Education Authority, HEA, against those who do the work in Irish universities has got to stop. I will give the HEA some information. Senators Bacik and Norris and I represent some 90,000 graduates in 130 countries, our external examiners report all the time on the high standards of our degrees and school leavers have made us the number one choice. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton and Yale take our best people into their graduate schools and there is a low rate of unemployment among the other graduates.

It is about time the Minister got a grip on the Higher Education Authority for publishing such shoddy work with such damaging consequences for Irish education. We are here to serve this country and we will continue to do so splendidly. We have had enough slipshod analysis by people who never talked to anyone who works in the lecture halls. I estimate 140 alleged experts have been flown into this country to report on Irish education and they have neither attended nor given a lecture. The rector may have been magnificus but how come his college was not? We rank higher and we will defend that. If the Higher Education Authority continues to attack us, we have one old slogan - no surrender - and we will say it to those people. They do not know what they are talking about, they do not consult and they are damaging Irish education.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I join Senator Bacik in condemning in the strongest way possible the appalling murders we saw in recent days. It was especially horrific that they were carried out in the presence of young children. We can just imagine the long-lasting damage that will cause vulnerable young people. We need a debate on organised crime. It is obvious that, in the main, organised crime in this country is linked to the drugs trade. We all know of the many lives being destroyed and the significant health issues and costs to our health service. There are murders almost every week and we are all aware of suicides because of pressures put on people to pay drug related debts. There is a major crisis related to organised crime. We must consider whether our sentencing regime is adequate. We must see whether the Criminal Assets Bureau is as effective as we would like in confiscating the proceeds of organised crime.

I would like to know if the Revenue Commissioners are doing their job in ensuring those people are tax compliant and not benefiting from the proceeds of organised crime. This is a major issue and the number of murders that have taken place gives grave cause for concern. We, therefore, need a discussion on organised crime and how the justice system is structured and whether it is fit for purpose in today's violent criminal world.

2:50 pm

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that the Minister for Justice and Equality should come to the House to debate these issues, in particular, crime and the State's reaction to the crimes of recent days. We have witnessed many murders, none more brutal that the one in Sligo where somebody sitting in his home was tied up, beaten and left to die for a number of days. It shows a lack of fear among criminals that this crime took place yards from both the regional Garda headquarters and the seat of law and order, the courthouse, and near my own office. The victim was respected and he was no different from people in all our communities who could be killed in this manner. This crime shows a lack of respect for the law and that there is no respect for human life. Clearly, successive Governments, including the current one, have failed in their reaction to crimes of this nature. I am sure every Member received an e-mail from Australia where somebody has made a suggestion about offering a reward for information about the crime. When it suits us, we can incarcerate people such as Malcolm MacArthur for 30 years for a heinous crime, but, as we have witnessed in recent days, people known to be involved in murder, drugs and other criminal activity seem to only have been in jail for a few years before being released for crimes that could be said to have been more serious.

Clearly, our justice system is floundering. I do not believe the courts and the Garda are being provided with the resources they require to prevent people from carrying out such heinous and brutal crimes and, for that reason, and without taking from the important points that have been made, this issue should be at the top of our agenda today. When one considers the lack of respect for human life with five people cut down over the past number of days without us taking the appropriate action, it is important that we debate the issues as a matter of the utmost urgency with a view to introducing emergency measures and resources for the Garda and the other authorities to ensure some level of fear can be injected into these criminals who are clearly holding the State to ransom.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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I would like to raise the issue of safety on farms in light of the recent tragic accident involving the Spence family in County Down. While I acknowledge some of the circumstances in this case were unique, we cannot get away from the fact that we need to examine the issue of slurry and farm safety. I understand the difficulties that arise in regard to slurry are a consequence of the crust of the slurry being broken and the agitation process commencing. It can be highly dangerous for those in close proximity if the noxious fumes are allowed to linger and they are not diluted by a strong wind. The reliance on wind and other factors for safety is an archaic discipline and it is not particularly suited to modern farming practices. We need to examine ideas for dealing with this silent killer. It is imperative that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine be asked to summon the necessary chemical experts to report on the potential for the development of a chemical that might go some way towards breaking up the slurry and relieving the farmer and his family of having to engage in the highly dangerous agitation process or to explore the possibility of developing an alarm mechanism that would alert people in the vicinity when the slurry's fumes are at their most potent. In the circumstances, I also request that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine come to the House to debate this issue and to allow Members to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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A consultation paper on the future of the Seanad is due to be published later. I urge every Member to read, study and consider it. Even those in favour of the abolition of the House should read the document. At some point in the future, I will ask the Leader if time can be found to debate it.

I wish to raise another point on which quite an amount of concern has been expressed, namely, the mandatory fluoridation of water. While Members have debated this issue previously, they should consider it again because it has been some time since they did so. However, there are concerns in this regard. When the addition of fluoride to drinking water was made mandatory, it was done so based on scientific evidence. However, that was quite some years ago and a number of reports from both the United States and Europe now suggest it may not be as favourable as was thought and the benefits derived from it may be outweighed by the disadvantages. There is expertise in this House on this issue and I am sure Senator Crown, who is sitting beside me, has views on it because one suggestion is that fluoride is carcinogenic, while others still maintain the benefits far outweigh those concerns. I make this point because this is precisely the sort of topic Members should debate in this Chamber, not necessarily immediately but some time within the next few weeks.

3:00 pm

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I join previous speakers in raising the heinous crimes that have occurred in recent days. The mind boggles that children witnessed these crimes. If one thinks of children one knows being in such a situation, it simply beggars belief and I join Senators MacSharry and Mullins in calling for a debate in this House on the issue. The most worrying aspect is people in Ireland are becoming somewhat desensitised to crimes of this nature. I am happy to state I remember a time when murders and crimes of this type were really unusual and rare and it is of huge concern that something of a lack of respect for human life is entering our society. Huge concern does not even cover it. However, in the recent past the Garda has made many strides to combat organised and gangland crime in particular. I note the Garda representatives speaking on radio today genuinely are upset and disappointed by these recent crimes. It is to be hoped they are coincidental and are not linked in any way. While one must ensure the Garda has the resources, it can happen that these were coincidental heinous crimes. In any case, I would welcome a debate on the issue. While I do not believe it would be reasonable to expect the Minister for Justice and Equality to come into this House today, the Leader could arrange a debate on the matter in the near future.

Photo of Kathryn ReillyKathryn Reilly (Sinn Fein)
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Once again, employment has fallen this month. The current rate of unemployment, which stands at 14.8% and at 30% for young people under 25, shows no sign of moving downwards. More than 100 people per week are leaving Ireland, many of whom are young, which indicates that more than 30% of young people are unable to find a job in the State. I have been requesting a debate on youth unemployment since last December with the relevant Minister. I have asked for such a debate at least five times without proposing or pressing an amendment to the Order of Business. Each time, I have been told I would be facilitated but nearly a year later, with youth unemployment rates as high as ever, this House still has not had the chance to quiz the relevant Minister on her policy.

Senator Bacik mentioned an announcement made yesterday. Although Members read an extremely vague announcement in the newspapers concerning an action to tackle youth joblessness during Ireland's European Union Presidency next year, to state the details were lacking would be kind. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, was unable to indicate when the scheme could be delivered or how much it would cost. The closest Members got to an indication regarding this plan moving forward was detail on a meeting she intended to hold in February next year to push the plan. I consider this to be grossly unacceptable given that thousands more people will have emigrated. This government by announcement or by reading things in the newspaper is not good enough, especially as I have asked numerous times for the Minister to come into this House to discuss the issue. Consequently, today I will propose an amendment to the Order of Business calling on the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, to come into the House to explain the Government's policy in dealing with youth unemployment and the associated issue of emigration.

The last occasion on which we heard of an EU action on youth unemployment was when President Barroso announced he was sending an action to team Ireland. We all know that the result of this was of little consequence given Ireland had already spent its Structural Funds. However, we are all hopeful the current announcement will achieve results. The people of this state do not need another press release, they need action. The inability of the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, to state thus far how much this will cost and how it will be delivered does not give hope to the people of Ireland. I am, therefore, proposing my amendment in the hope that the Leader will bring the Minister to the House.

3:05 pm

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour)
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I wish to raise an educational matter. While it may not be of the lofty heights of, as referred to by Senator Barrett, the proposed amalgamation of the esteemed institutions of Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, it is, nonetheless, every bit as important to the people of Laois and has broad-ranging implications for people across the country.

Many Members of this House are involved in education and hold the issue near to their hearts. Last night, teachers in Laois voted overwhelmingly to strike as a result of the decision by Laois VEC to force the transfer of two long-serving teachers, which is in total breach of all existing industrial relations mechanisms, IVEA-TUI agreements and the natural justice and well established principle of last in, first out. I call on the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, so that he can intervene in a timely fashion before this matter escalates out of control. I also call on the IVEA to exercise its influence over the CEO of Laois VEC, who has a moral responsibility to abide by existing and binding recommendations of the Labour Relations Commission and to not flout or totally ignore in a cavalier fashion agreements which have been in place for 20 years, thus ensuring industrial peace. There is an element of injustice and vindictiveness in what has been done. If not addressed this issue will result in an all-out strike in Laois, which will soon spread to the rest of the country, with detrimental effects for students and schools.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I second the proposed amendment to the Order of Business by Senator MacSharry. Like other Senators and Deputies, I have received a communication from Mr. Declan Foley in Australia. I know the area concerned. Like other speakers, I condemn all of the recent and horrific murders. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, must bear some responsibility in terms of the escalation of violence and violent murders that have occurred.

I support Senator MacSharry in his condemnation of the brutal and horrific murder of Mr. Eugene Gillespie of Old Market Street in Sligo, whose murder was inhuman and barbaric. Mr. Gillespie, who was in his late 60s, was tied up and left for three days to die. As Senator MacSharry stated, the attack on Mr. Gillespie, who was badly beaten, took place right in the centre of Sligo. I call on the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to ensure all the resources necessary are made available to the Garda Síochána in Sligo to enable them to quickly solve this crime which has put the fear of God into so many people who are living alone in rural areas. While such attacks normally occur in rural areas, the attack on Mr. Gillespie took place in the centre of a town which is practically visible from the Garda station. I know that gardaí, who are horrified by what happened, will do their utmost to solve this crime.

It is essential that leadership, in terms of our intolerance of crime, is provided by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I believe more than one person was involved in this crime. People find it hard to believe that nobody witnessed anything suspicious in the area. I appeal to anyone who has even the tiniest piece of information to come forward and assist gardaí in solving this crime. It is imperative this is done. I express my deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Gillespie on his tragic death.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I raise the issue of the legislative backlog in respect of each Department and the Government list in regard to the areas in respect of which there is a need for legislation.

More than 100 Bills are on the list and, at a time when there is a shortage of work in the legal profession and especially at the Bar, it may be time to examine the process of how legislation is drafted and whether some of the work could be farmed out to expedite the process. It is important to move on with the many changes required in this country and in the systems running the country. These changes require legislative change but it is not happening quickly enough because the Office of the Attorney General does not have enough people available to draft legislation even though the staff of the office are dedicated, hard working and committed. I ask that this matter be reviewed to see whether we can develop new ways to bring legislation to both Houses of the Oireachtas more quickly.

The issue of the management of the health care sector, which will be raised in tomorrow's debate on the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill, is important. I ask for the debate not to be guillotined and for adequate time to be given to allow everyone to contribute.

3:10 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is tomorrow's business.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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I seek, through the Leader, clarification from the Minister for Health on a number of events in the health sector in the past week or two. I am not referring to the widely publicised spat between the Minister for Health and one of his ministerial colleagues. To anyone looking at it objectively, it is wholly predictable when we cobble together coalitions between parties of widely diverse ideologies. I do not refer to the allegations of cost overruns in the health service, which my good friend and colleague, Professor Ray Kinsella of UCD, has pointed out were not cost overruns. When one reduces the budget to a subsistence level so that people act in a subsistence fashion, and then one reduces it further, one cannot call the spending that occurs an overspend. I am not referring to the confidence motion which, with great respect, was misplaced, redundant, irrelevant and politically inspired.

I refer to the hard figures that emerged last week and which need clarification. One set of figures referred to waiting list times for appointments with specialists in hospital clinics and the other set referred to waiting times for specialist treatment in hospitals. The hospital figures looked encouraging at first because treatment times and the percentage of patients waiting for treatment had reduced. The flipside was that the waiting time to see a specialist had increased dramatically. Incredibly, in a modern western country, we have people waiting three and four years for a hospital appointment despite multiple iterations of consultant contracts and multiple iterations of administrative shuffling of the deckchairs on the Titanic.

I would like the Leader to put the following question to the Minister. Has the total waiting time metric, from GP referral to treatment, changed? I believe it has not and that the choke point has moved by lengthening the waiting time to see the consultant and, apparently and artificially, reducing the waiting time for treatment.

For clarification, a remark I made on waiting lists and abortion last week evidently caused confusion in the media. When I refer to administrative shuffling of deckchairs on the Titanic, I am not referring to a need for overtime in the maritime safety sector.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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I add my voice to those of others condemning the horrific and callous murder of pensioner Eugene Gillespie. I extend my sincere sympathy to his family. I call on the banks to embark on a publicity campaign to instil confidence in the elderly to keep their savings in the banks. Many of the elderly have been through hard times and, with uncertainty in respect of banks, they are reverting to old habits of keeping money and savings under the mattress or in a sock in the hotpress. It is time for the banks to reassure elderly people that their savings are safe. This would cut down the number of attacks on the elderly, especially in rural Ireland. It is time to have a debate on the attacks on the elderly and how we will combat them.

3:15 pm

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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It is absolutely correct that this House should unreservedly condemn the depraved murders that have taken place in the past few days. "Depraved" was the word used by the deputy commissioner. I echo the points made by several Senators, not least by Senator Leyden, in calling for full support for An Garda Síochána in its efforts to unearth the perpetrators of these outrageous crimes. They are depraved. How far has our society sunk?

It is somewhat ironic that the Minister for Justice and Equality is from the party that has perpetuated the view that it is the law and order party in the State. This is at a time when we in this House and local councils have debated the various closures of Garda stations across the country. There are more closures proposed. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors issued a statement this morning in which, I glean from the subtext, it more or less pleaded with the Minister for Justice and Equality to ensure there would be no further reductions in Garda resources. I know that each time the Garda calls for more resources, the then Minister states unlimited resources will be provided and that there are sufficient and adequate resources in place. It is obvious that there are not. If the trend is to have a number crunching exercise encompassing the reduction in the number of Garda personnel and the closure of Garda stations, with the Department believing this does not have an adverse social impact, the officials are living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

As Senator MacSharry stated in his proposed amendment to the Order of Business, it is incumbent on the Minister for Justice and Equality to appear before this House. I have no doubt that he will be appearing before the other House but he should come before this one to outline exactly his response to the most recent carnage and murders. The murders are not only gangland murders because the Sligo murder is not such a crime. I commiserate with all those who have suffered as a result of this.

To reiterate the words of Senator Leyden, there are people who know who carried out these crimes. There are always people who know. There are people who know who killed a man in Sligo and who shot the other individuals. It is incumbent on anyone with information to bring it forward.

Photo of Jimmy HarteJimmy Harte (Labour)
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Before I call for a debate, I must commiserate with the Cathaoirleach's countymen, the Mayomen, who fought gallantly on Sunday but who, unfortunately-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We are waiting for next year.

Photo of Jimmy HarteJimmy Harte (Labour)
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The better team won. I congratulate Mr. Jim McGuinness, the Donegal football team and county board on such a magnificent occasion, which will be remembered by Donegal people and others throughout the country for generations.

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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His time is up.

Photo of Jimmy HarteJimmy Harte (Labour)
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I am sure Senator Ó Domhnaill and I agree on one matter today, namely, the performance of the Donegal team. I commiserate with the Mayo team.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Photo of Jimmy HarteJimmy Harte (Labour)
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What happened in Mayo on Sunday? I wish everybody in Donegal a good celebration. This evening, I am heading to Donegal to welcome the cup to Letterkenny.

On the call for the Minister for Finance to address the House on the banking industry, I know that many have questioned what will occur when banks pass over banking responsibilities to post offices. People will not be able to take money out of post offices if there is no ATM in their town or village. This will be a problem when more banks close down, especially in small villages. The Minister should address this problem through the banks. We should have a representative from the banks present at some stage or obtain clarification. It will be a problem if people are not able to withdraw money. They will only be able to lodge money at their post office. Their only choice will be to go to a shop and get cash back, which does not always work. This problem faces many elderly people and those who do not have access to an ATM.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Reilly. I echo her points on the need for a full debate in the House on youth unemployment. We await the Leader's response to determine whether we will press the amendment.

I raise the issue mentioned by Senator Barrett, namely, an unpublished report on third and fourth level education that is still sitting on the Minister's desk. The report was commissioned by the Higher Education Authority, HEA, and conducted by a panel of experts, whatever Senator Barrett's comments. It is important that the report be published before it is decommissioned by so-called experts within the university sector. University politics will come into play in respect of many of the recommendations that the report might contain. I do not know the full detail of those recommendations, as the report has not been published, but the assertion in the media is that the report will be left sitting on a shelf.

As the Leader knows, the report recommends a national university with campuses in Waterford and Dublin. The south east has long campaigned for a university. We have jumped through every hoop and over every hurdle in making our unassailable case. Many of those in the south east and those with an interest in the other recommendations want to know the detail of the report. It needs to be published and the Houses need an opportunity to debate its recommendations properly. The issue of a university for the south east should not be lost in the larger battle on the future of the higher education sector. It is too important an issue for the people of the region. I hope that the Leader will encourage the Minister to publish the report and facilitate a debate in the Seanad in order that we might discuss the full detail of its recommendations.

3:20 pm

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I hold the name of my county, Tipperary, in great esteem and I take great exception to it being besmirched. I wish to highlight the plight of former Tipperary Water workers who were forcibly made redundant after joining SIPTU to improve their working conditions and reverse a unilateral 8% reduction in their wages in the past three years despite high turnovers. The workers, whose employment was terminated by management on 27 August, began a peaceful protest yesterday outside Gleeson Group's warehouse in Cherry Orchard Industrial Estate, Ballyfermot, in protest at the group's unfair treatment of them. They claim that they were targeted because of their membership of a trade union and were replaced by agency staff. They were dismissed on the grounds that they were not sufficiently skilled and that the company was losing money. SIPTU organiser Mr. Graham Macken told me today that the majority of workers at the warehouse were SIPTU members and that the Gleeson Group has so far-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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This matter would be more suitable for an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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Will the Cathaoirleach let me finish the point? It was unfair of him to allow me to go through three quarters of it before telling me that it was an item for an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I understand where the Senator is coming from, but the matter would be more suitable for the Adjournment. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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Yes. Will he contact the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation concerning this matter? Will the Minister adjudicate on whether the company has been in breach of the Payment of Wages Act 1991 by reducing the workers' pay unilaterally? The same company has a turnover of ¤261 million and made a profit last year of ¤4.5 million. In the Minister's opinion, through the Leader, are these redundancies legitimate and will the State make provision towards the payment of their redundancies? In the months leading up to the 100th anniversary of the 1913 lock-out-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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-----it is a disgrace that such a company would let staff go because they sought to join a union. I will table an Adjournment debate on the matter and thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I join Senator Harte in congratulating Donegal on its fantastic victory on Sunday. I commiserate with the Cathaoirleach and the wonderful people of County Mayo. I do not doubt that they will be back next year.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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They have been saying that for the past 60 years.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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In the past year and a half, I have raised the issue of the future of Dún Uí Neill Army barracks in Cavan.

After its closure in March I called on many occasions for it to be opened again because of security threats along the Border, just seven miles from its location in Cavan town. Yesterday was a sad day in that it marked the official end of the proud tradition of the Irish Army in Cavan town. It was also a happy day because of an education story that I have for colleagues.

Senator O'Reilly, some Members of the Lower House and I attended the handing over of the barracks from the Department of Defence to County Cavan VEC. I compliment everybody involved in that transfer, particularly the following: the chief executive officer of the VEC, Mr. Colm McEvoy; the adult education officer, Ms Fiona Maloney; the principal of the Cavan Institute of further education, Ms Ann Marie Lacey; the chairperson of County Cavan VEC, Councillor Madeleine Argue; and the members of County Cavan VEC for the excellent proposal they put forward for the barracks to the Department of Education and Skills.

3:25 pm

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Do not forget the Minister for Defence.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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We will come to him in a moment.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is there a question for the Leader?

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence. The Department of Education and Skills has paid ¤1.25 million to the Department of Defence so the books can be kept correct. In complimenting everybody involved in the proposed project with County Cavan VEC, I call on the Leader to ensure that the necessary funding is provided from the Department of Finance to the Department of Education and Skills to ensure the facility can be used to its full potential in housing over 1,000 students from the Cavan Institute of Further Education. It could also be used by the adult education section of County Cavan VEC for the education of many hundreds of people, not only from Cavan but from surrounding counties.

When will the Minister for Education come before the House with the proposed legislation to enact the education and training boards? I condemn the decision of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Shatter, to close the barracks in Cavan in the first place.

Photo of Susan O'KeeffeSusan O'Keeffe (Labour)
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I join others in calling for a debate about policing. The brutal death of a kind and gentle man, Mr. Eugene Gillespie, in Sligo is a reminder to all of us that life is fragile. Although we can never hold a Minister directly responsible, the way in which police forces or gardaí have assistance and the technology and funding they need is something we must debate. As Senator Noone mentioned, we are becoming increasingly desensitised to the idea of murder but every day the officers on the front line must deal with very serious problems in trying to solve these crimes. In a responsible fashion, this House can have a role in a debate on how to better arm our gardaí in that battle.

I extend my sympathy, as others have, to the family of the young girl who took her life in Dromahair last week. She is one of a number of people who have taken their lives in that area in the past year. There are always circumstances surrounding such a death but it is clear that bullying, and cyber bullying in particular, played a role in this girl's death. The photographs of her would make anybody deeply upset. I ask the Leader to write to the Minister for Education and Skills and ask for two things, one in the short term and one in the long term. In the short term we should ask that he would, through statutory agencies and the 21 education centres which are responsible for schools, find a role to better liaise with parents on an ongoing basis. Many parents find themselves lost in knowing what to do with their children. The process should not be a one-off, knee-jerk response and there should be a consistent effort.

In the longer term, and in the reform of the junior certificate, the subjects of CSPE and SPHE should be taken very seriously as a place in which subjects like this might be brought more easily into the school, in front of teachers and to parents.

3:30 pm

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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What Senator O'Keeffe said is sensible and well worth hearing. I hope much more could be done in schools to address these issues around bullying and how people treat each other. It is a broad and difficult issue but I compliment the work of those who go into schools to promote positive mental health. I am aware of Positive Mental Health in Galway, for example, where students and young people go into schools and lead discussions on positive mental health. That is a very important part of helping young people to grapple with the various challenges they face, including the challenges they face from each other on occasions.

Perhaps a related issue is our ongoing problem of drinking. Will the Leader ascertain what precisely is the Government's attitude to the sponsorship of sports events by drinks companies? We heard from the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Shortall, that the 2016 deadline for phasing out alcohol sponsorship of sports events has been relaxed somewhat. I would like to know what precisely that means. Relaxed by how much and for how long? Do we mean kicked into the long grass? Do we mean permanently sidelined?

For how long are we going to be blasé about the problem of alcohol in our society? We have yet another report talking about shocking levels of alcohol consumption by one third of 18 to 24 year olds who drink the equivalent of four and a half pints of beer-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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A question for the Leader, please.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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When are we going to get serious about this issue? We cannot, on the one hand, talk about the health service, how much it is costing us and cost overruns, and, on the other, ignore the fact that the abuse of alcohol is a significant cause of the problem now and will be into the future. It is not just the harm to family, friendship and career that is involved but it is its impact on criminality, teenage pregnancy and family breakdown. We have to ask whether it is appropriate for Ministers to endorse an event like Arthur's Day.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator is way over time.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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We should keep these events at arm's length, otherwise we are sending mixed signals about the consumption of alcohol in our society. I would be grateful for an early debate on this issue and for some feedback on what the Government's intentions actually are.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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I commiserate with the Cathaoirleach on Mayo's loss on Sunday. We were all rooting for Mayo but it was unfortunate that it came up against a very strong Donegal team. I congratulate Donegal on winning the all-Ireland. The only regret I have, which I am sure the Cathaoirleach has, is that we did not have the best player in the country on display in Croke Park. Andy Moran was out through injury. I am sure if he had been playing the result could have been different.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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A question for the Leader, please.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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I call on the Leader to allocate some time for a broad debate on the proposed property tax in advance of any announcements being made on it because we have form here with successive Governments in that issues can be overlooked. When the second home charge was introduced, the first thing property owners were told was that if they paid rates, they would not be liable for the second home charge but it later transpired that if they had a small shop or pub and a couple of rooms above it, they were liable for it. Now we will have a situation where small businesses, small pubs and small shops, with people living above them will have to pay rates on downstairs and property tax on upstairs. Small businesses cannot afford that.

We also need to look at situations where people living in what are perceived to be lavish residences could be in negative equity and on social welfare having lost their jobs. All of these issues should be put into the mix. I call on the Leader to allow a debate in order that we can perhaps make recommendations to the Minister before any announcements.

3:35 pm

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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I agree with Senator Kelly in regard to the property tax. Much huffing and puffing was done by Ministers from both parties over the summer months on the tax. This is causing huge stress and anxiety for many people who simply cannot afford to meet essential costs such as mortgage repayments or even insure their homes. Due to the increased costs of insuring a home, many people are not renewing their home insurance. The Government is now planning to bring in a property tax at the worst possible time when people are struggling the most. This is causing huge stress and anxiety for many people who simply cannot afford to meet essential costs such as mortgage repayments or even insure their homes. Due to the increased costs of insuring a home, many people are not renewing their home insurance. The Government is now planning to bring in a property tax at the worst possible time when people are struggling the most. We will drive people to a situation where they will not be able to afford to live in their own homes. It is the wrong time and I agree with Senator Kelly that we need an urgent debate. I ask the Leader to facilitate that debate at the earliest opportunity so that we can represent the views we hear about property tax.

On a lighter note, I congratulate the Cathaoirleach on the wonderful display by the Mayo team on Sunday. It was a tremendous occasion. Mayo played exceptionally well.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We are not having a debate on this issue today.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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They were defeated by a much stronger Donegal side. I give my best wishes to and thank the Gaelic Athletic Association for the display on Sunday in Croke Park and the work ethic of volunteer officials throughout the country, especially in my own county of Donegal. I wish our team every success as it prepares for next year's championship.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I look forward to the replay between Galway and Kilkenny on Sunday that I hope will be a thriller as well. Like others today, I pass on my sympathy to the people who have lost their lives in heinous circumstances. I look forward to a Garda response and have no doubt that, as in previous times, this response will be appropriate. We saw a situation in my neighbouring city of Limerick where crime had got completely out of hand. The Special Branch and other Garda units moved in and dealt with it. There are now in excess of 60 thugs in jail, which has removed much of the criminality from the streets of Limerick and has meant the citizens can live in some sort of peace.

I would like to see the same happen in Dublin and other areas. It is unacceptable that this thuggery continues, where people are just gunned down in broad daylight in front of children on the main streets of our cities and towns. I am sure the Cathaoirleach remembers a time when there was a thing called internment in this country. If the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence was to recommend the introduction of internment to deal with the current problem, I would be the first to support him. I would like the Leader to convey to the Minister that if he and the Garda believe primary legislation is required to deal with this thuggery on our streets, I am sure Seanad Éireann would be quite happy to facilitate the initiation of such legislation in this House.

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour)
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I also thank the Donegal team, which has made my colleague, Senator Harte, very happy and will probably keep him happy until Christmas. I also support Senator Kelly's call for a debate on the property tax but my comments relate to the other end of the property spectrum - that of homelessness. I bring to the attention of colleagues the 2011 census results on homelessness which show that 3,808 people are homeless, 64 of whom are living on the streets. While that is an improvement on the previous census, there are question marks around the methodology. It should be brought to everyone's attention that 498 of these people are children.

I ask the Leader to bring to the Chamber the Minister of State with responsibility for housing. It has been shown that homelessness can be prevented in respect of the majority who are homeless. As the Government supports the Housing First approach, I ask the Leader to suggest to the Minister of State that she tell this House the measures being taken under the Housing First approach and the resources being applied to that programme.

Half of those enumerated as homeless were in the labour force.

That raises the significant issue of rent supplement cuts. It has been brought to my attention that these cuts are putting people at risk of homelessness. It is important that the Minister of State with responsibility for housing explains to the House how the process of rent supplement payments are being transferred to her Department and what progress has been made.

3:45 pm

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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To be helpful, I shall respond to Senator Reilly on the issue of youth unemployment. I welcome the youth guarantee scheme proposed by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, which is aimed at directing those under 25 years of age into education, training or employment. I would like the scheme extended to those under 30 years of age. The Minister is appearing at the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection at 10 a.m., which is a good place to ask questions of the Minister. I intend to focus on the issue there.

My question to the Leader is on the hullabaloo around allowances. Everybody was aghast at the weekend as to the reason the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, could cut only one of 1,100 allowances. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House because we need to ask him what went wrong. Mr. David Begg has said that some allowances should go. We must be independent as a Government and cannot expect to be directed by certain groups. We all know that in politics we are at risk of that but there is a robust case for some allowances to be directed into core pay, for example, the allowance for a principal teacher is an addition to the core pay of a teacher. However, there are some ridiculous allowances. We are facing huge cuts to services in the budget and we do not want a two-tier society.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator seeking a debate on the issue?

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I am seeking a debate that will support a productive culture. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform may be able to tell the House what went wrong.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I wish to raise an issue I raised on Thursday last in an Adjournment debate concerning a ghost estate where two families live in houses that are not properly connected to the main sewer. The estate was built as an eco-friendly, state-of-the art facility with high class woodchip burning equipment, but the heating system has not worked. In his reply, the Minister said all remediation work had been carried out in the estate in February 2012, yet for another weekend those families were without heat. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister with responsibility for housing to the House for a debate on ghost housing estates. The people in these houses are living in dreadful conditions. One of the families has two small children and they are living in a house that has three and a half walls in open ground that is highly dangerous.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I regret I do not have the time to call Senator Keane but she will get priority tomorrow.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Darragh O'Brien raised the increases in the variable mortgage rate by Bank of Ireland and ICS Building Society. It is a matter of concern. However, as pointed out by the Senator, Bank of Ireland is a majority private-owned bank and must be run on a commercial basis; the State owns 15%. The Government has targeted assistance measures at protecting the homes of those who are facing real difficulties in paying their mortgages, as I have outlined previously. Rising mortgage rates remain one of the biggest challenges facing the country. The Government has outlined its five part response to assist those in mortgage arrears.

It involves providing comprehensive advice and assistance for those in mortgage difficulty, introducing innovative new measures to deal with debt outside formal judicial bankruptcy, rebalancing personal insolvency legislation to strike a fairer balance between debtor and creditor, introducing measures to assist families to stay in their homes, if possible, and challenging the banks to live up to their responsibilities in the crisis through the speedy roll-out of their own range of forbearance measures. When the Personal Insolvency Bill is brought to this House - it is currently before the Dáil - we will have the opportunity to discuss the very important matters raised by Senator Darragh O'Brien.

Senators Bacik, Reilly and Healy Eames raised the European youth guarantee. Senator Reilly also sought a debate on youth unemployment. We have had a number of debates on job creation but the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, will be in the House on 18 October, as I mentioned last week. Matters relating to youth unemployment relevant to her Department can be addressed to the Minister during the debate on that date.

Senators Bacik, MacSharry, Leyden, Moloney, Mooney, Conway, O'Keeffe and others raised the gangland killings and the murder of the elderly gentleman in Sligo. These brutal events have shown the savage disregard some people have for human life. The Garda is determined to do everything possible to bring the evil perpetrators to justice. Like other Senators, I call on anybody who might be able to help in any way to contact the Garda. The Minister for Justice and Equality is in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner about all aspects of serious crime and the Garda will continue to bear down heavily on the activities of those involved in gangland crime. That is clear from the series of recent operations launched by the Garda against criminal gangs and the many drug seizures that have taken place in recent weeks. The Minister and the Government will continue to support the Garda in every way possible in counteracting this evil menace in our society.

While recently enacted legislation underpinning the State's response to organised crime has been fully utilised by the Garda, the Minister has given a commitment to keep under review the question of whether improvements can be made which would render it more effective. In particular, he has requested his Department to review the operation of the organised crime provisions in the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 to see if they can be strengthened. He has made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that he is open to considering any change in the law which the Garda believes would be helpful in tackling these activities.

Despite these shocking events, we should remember that every week the Garda is successfully bringing people involved in gangland activities before the courts and securing convictions, and that a substantial number are serving sentences in prison. That should not be forgotten. The Garda is devoting all the necessary resources to these investigations and disrupting gangland crime. Despite the constraints on the public finances, substantial Garda resources remain in place and must be seen in the context of the programme of real reform which is being delivered in An Garda Síochána under the Croke Park agreement. The Minister has full confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the members of the force in continuing the delivery of this reform, to provide for more effective front-line policing to investigate and detect heinous crimes such as these.

People have also spoken about the punishment fitting the crime. I could not agree more with them. Recently we saw the case involving drugs activity off the coast of Ireland in which one of the perpetrators was sentenced to 28 years in prison. That is the type of sentence which I believe should be handed down to such perpetrators.

In response to Senators Barrett and Cullinane on the Higher Education Authority report, I look forward to reading it when it is published, which I hope will be soon. I agree with Senator Cullinane about the reports on Waterford and the south east. Expert reports have been commissioned on several occasions and Waterford Institute of Technology has jumped through all the hoops, but every time the bar is raised. That must be borne in mind when these reports are published. There are universities that in the past vigorously opposed the raising of Waterford Institute of Technology to university status. There must be balance in this debate.

Senator Mullins and many other Senators raised the issue of organised crime. I will try to get the Minister to come to the House to debate the matter.

Senator Quinn raised the consultation document to be published today on the future of the Seanad. I am sure it will make for good night-time reading for all Members.

On the fluoridation of water, things have changed over the years. I will try to get the relevant Minister to come to the House to discuss the issue soon.

Senator Reilly mentioned youth unemployment, an issue I have addressed. We will have the Minister in the House to discuss the topic.

Senator Whelan asked about teachers being transferred in County Laois. This is happening in many counties. We will have the Minister for Education and Skills in the House soon and those matters can be addressed then.

Senator Colm Burke asked about the backlog of legislation in the Attorney General's office. The office is under tremendous pressure because the Government wishes to bring in a lot of legislation but I will bring the matter to the attention of the Government Whip. On the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill that is being brought to the Seanad tomorrow, I assure the Senator that the debate on it will not be guillotined. I propose spokespersons be given 12 minutes and all other Senators eight minutes on that subject. If there are Members still offering at the end of the allocated time, I will adjourn the debate and we can continue the Second Stage debate next week. This is important and we have had requests from many Members to deal with health issues in the House. This is the opportunity to address those concerns.

3:55 pm

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Is the senior Minister at the Department of Health coming in to take that Bill?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I am not aware which Minister is coming in, but I assure the Senator there will be a Minister in the House to deal with that important legislation.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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They are displaying confidence in their colleagues.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Crown asked about waiting list times for those awaiting specialist treatment. We will have a Minister in the House tomorrow to discuss the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill and those matters can be raised with whichever Minister is present. Senator Crown will back me when I say there are many consultants who schedule appointments for patients, be they public or private, of whom a sizeable percentage do not turn up. The matter has been raised with me by many consultants. That prevents people from getting their slot. It is vital that members of the public who do not attend to fill their slot notify their consultant they cannot attend.

Senator Moloney asked about the attacks on the elderly, which are appalling.

We all extend our sympathy to the families of everyone who has been murdered, especially the elderly gentleman in Sligo.

Senator Mooney raised the issue of public co-operation with the Garda, to which I have alluded.

I am delighted all the Donegal Senators are present, as I have heard some of them had to rush back. I congratulate each of them on the wonderful success last Sunday.

Senator Landy said he would raise his matter on the Adjournment. I cannot answer him in the detailed fashion he requested. Therefore, having a debate on the Adjournment would be the proper way to raise that matter.

In response to Senator Wilson, I am delighted that some good has come from the closure of the barracks and that it has been handed over to County Cavan Vocational Education Committee. The finance for the development of the barracks as an educational facility will be a matter for the Minister for Education and Skills but I am sure everyone will wish the VEC success with this development. There will be an education debate during October with the Minister. Therefore, the Senator will have an opportunity to raise this matter with him.

Senator O'Keeffe raised the issue of cyber bullying and unfortunate cases of several young people dying by suicide. We will debate the issue of homophobic bullying following the Order of Business, but I am sure all forms of bullying can be addressed during the debate. The Senator can make her points then, which I am sure the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, will be delighted to hear.

Senator Mullen referred to the sponsorship of sports events by alcohol companies. The Minster of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Shortall, has outlined that while this will continue until 2016, the Cabinet will make a decision on the matter in early course. The Minister of State is at one with the Minister for Health on this matter.

4:00 pm

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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And only on that matter.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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She might mention his name the next time.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State will be in the House on 17 October. The Senator will have ample opportunity to make the points he raised about the sponsorship of events.

Senator Kelly called for a debate on property tax. I will endeavour to have a debate on the matter. It is a budgetary matter and no Minister can be expected to divulge what will happen in the budget. I find it a little rich for Senator Ó Domhnaill to say this is the wrong time for a property tax. It was not the wrong time for Fianna Fáil to sign up to it when it was dealing with the troika.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Ask the Minister whether he tried to renegotiate it.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil signed up to it well in advance of the last election.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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Accept the diktat or go and negotiate.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Government has again to clean up the mess Fianna Fáil made.

Senator Hayden raised the issue of homelessness and the fact that 64 people were living on the streets. We all agree that is 64 too many. Like Senator Moran, she asked for the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy O'Sullivan, to come to the House to discuss the matter. Senator Moran also asked for debates on ghost estates and rent supplement cuts. I will ask the Minister of State to come to the House as soon as possible.

Senator Healy Eames raised the issue of public sector allowances. The Taoiseach has asked all Ministers to report on further savings that can be made under the Croke Park agreement and I am sure the question of allowances will be included.

I do not propose to accept either of the amendments to the Order of Business.

4:05 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator MacSharry has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality on the recent murders be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 30.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O'Keeffe.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I do not propose to accept either of the proposed amendments to the Order of Business.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator MacSharry has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality on the recent murders be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment declared lost..

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Reilly has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate on youth unemployment and emigration be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 30.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O'Keeffe.

Amendment declared lost.

Order of Business agreed to.