Seanad debates

Thursday, 31 January 2013

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on The Gathering 2013, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 1.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 1.35 p.m.; and No. 2, Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2013, all Stages, to be taken at 2 p.m. and conclude not later than 4.30 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons on Second Stage not to exceed six minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed three minutes, and the Minister to be given five minutes to reply not later than 4 p.m. and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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On a point of order.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Pat O'Neill on a point of order.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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It is in relation to a matter raised yesterday. During the Order of Business yesterday, Senator Mark MacSharry, who is not present-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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As the Senator is aware we do not refer to people who are absent from the House.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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In relation to a matter raised during the Order of Business-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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What is the point of order, Senator?

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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I ask that comments made in the House yesterday be withdrawn from the record. During a contribution on the accident and emergency units in St. Luke's Hospital Kilkenny and Wexford General Hospital, Senator Mark MacSharry stated that the flippancy of the Taoiseach is not welcome in dealing in what, on the surface, amounts to blatant corruption in most people's eyes. I asked the Senator at that time if this was what he said and asked him to withdraw the remark. Then he said, "on the surface, it would appear to be corrupt."

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We dealt with that matter yesterday.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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I am asking you, a Chathaoirligh, to rule because he said there is absolutely no way in the wide earthly world that he has any intention of withdrawing that remark.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I ruled on the matter yesterday, that there is no inference that the Taoiseach is involved in corruption in what Senator MacSharry said. He said the flippancy of the Taoiseach is not welcome in dealing with an issue. In my view, there is no-----

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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I do not see it that way because I believe he is questioning the integrity of the Taoiseach.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The record of the House speaks for itself.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Leader to make inquiries with the Minister for Social Protection. It has come to my attention that the clothing grant for children, which is available through community welfare officers and is specifically for clothing children at the time of their first holy communion and confirmation should families not be able to afford that, has been withdrawn and cut completely. I have this on very good authority. The main centre in north Dublin at Swords is not providing any grants and has gone further in informing primary schools to advise parents not to make any applications. The Minister for Social Protection has made no announcement on this and there is an attempt to make the school principals in my area do the Minister's bidding, but they will not do it. I wrote to the Minister last night, but I ask the Leader to seek clarification from the Minister as to whether this grant has been withdrawn effectively. If that is the case it is nothing short of disgraceful. First holy communion and confirmation are very important milestones in children's lives and many parents cannot afford to clothe children appropriately for those days. That grant has been available for years and is now withdrawn. The Minister has made no public announcement on it and she will certainly not get away with school principals doing her dirty work. I ask the Leader to seek clarification from the Minister for Social Protection as to whether that is the case.

I bring to the attention of the House problems with the schools patronage survey, in which areas in north Dublin are partaking. We want parents to give their views - the Minister, Deputy Quinn, has been very vocal on this - on the future make-up of schools in their area. The survey on the website seeks the PPS number, the person's name and the names of his or her children. There is no security on that whatsoever. I could input Maurice Cummins with my PPS number and claim that Terry Leyden is my son.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Your granddad.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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What a revelation. To whom would the Senator be married to give that relationship?

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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There are better examples.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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As ridiculous as that might seem, that is how ridiculous the website is because it will accept that information. It leaves the survey open to absolute abuse whereby people who have a specific view can make multiple entries on the website. The issue needs to be investigated by the Minister for Education and Skills. I would have thought the Department would have got that right. However, anybody can complete the survey under any name, claim to have six, seven or ten children and there is no verification. We all want to ensure that the information from the survey is correct and reflects people's views, but it does not.

Yesterday was obviously a particular day with the burial of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. Many people in the House asked in a very structured and non-partisan way that we would have a debate on policing. I put the House on notice that the Fianna Fáil group will use our Private Members' time next week to table a motion on policing and I hope we have an open, frank and respectful debate next week. That will give everyone an opportunity to have a discussion on the future of policing in the State.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I have spoken in the House previously to welcome the initiative of the Minister, Deputy Quinn, in reviewing patronage in primary schools. There is a lack of choice available in schooling where we have more than 95% of primary schools under religious denominational control and only 65 multidenominational national schools out of almost 3,200 nationally. There is a clear disconnection and I welcome the Minister's initiative in trying to track parental demand and choice, and recognise that in the system. As I am in one of the areas covered in Dublin 6, I completed the survey. I did not see it as problematic. I understand the Department will be checking and it is seeking PPS numbers to ensure that the parents who complete the survey are parents of the children they claim to be.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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The problem is there is no correlation between the PPS number and the name.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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If there is a difficulty, it should be addressed. I understood that was precisely why the PPS number is sought. It is very important that parents in the areas being surveyed would return the surveys by 8 February so that we can get a good representative sample of parental views and preferences in the matter of their children's education. I hope we can then have a debate in this House on patronage. I know we had one before but it would be useful to have one again. We should also address the issue of secondary schools. Along with many others I attended a meeting last week on the need for a multidenominational secondary school to serve the needs of the greater Dublin area. There is considerable cross-party support for that initiative.

I renew a call for a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine. Senator O'Keeffe called for a debate yesterday when I was leading on the Order of Business. It is particularly urgent given the reports that Silvercrest has lost contracts with Tesco and others.

I congratulate the National Women's Council of Ireland which today announced the Y-Factor project, an initiative to support young women campaigning for gender equality and to make young women aware of the need to campaign for gender equality and to look for greater proportions of women representing us in politics and public life generally. I very much welcome that and hope we will see more from the young women involved.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator O'Donnell.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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I am surprised to be next to be called. I wish to alert the Seanad to something we may be unaware of going on under the radar, which is the selling of the national lottery licence and the selling of Coillte's harvesting rights. It is an outrage.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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When I became a Member, I thought that this was going to be an independent open-thinking objective Seanad and we were going to act as a great check on the great Executive. I do not see or hear any checks and I believe the Seanad must stand up because we are selling our State assets under the radar. We are being advised by people from New South Wales. I suggest that this island should float out to New South Wales, because everything that happens there seems to be very good for Ireland.

We do not need to sell the national lottery licence but we need to renew it. Selling it is a lie but we should renew it. Senators need to stand up for that. This is being done because it is suggested we need the money for a children's hospital. We can get the money for a children's hospital if we look at the money for good causes - last year ¤200 million went to good causes. If we were to forego those for one year we would have the money for the children's hospital.

Coillte is now separating trees from the land. I have never heard of anything so ridiculous. Even if we have to separate trees from the land, why can we not harvest them?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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What is wrong with us that we have to sell everything to New South Wales? I did not become a Senator in order to sit under the radar while our State assets are being whipped from under us and nothing seems to be happening about it. I do not want to receive any more e-mails about golf classics in The Gathering when we are selling our State assets under the radar. I wanted to alert Senators to stand up. If they want to be a check on the Executive they need to stand up or else close the door. What are we supposed to be but objective, equality-minded people who understand what is going on in the country and stand up for what is right? I am sorry about that outburst, but I have had enough. Every Senator should look to what is right for the country and stop being tribal.

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 Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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My questions are to the leaders of the House, the Seanad, who are all around me.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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The Governor of the Central Bank recently appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and although it was not widely reported he told us that the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority has begun work to become the regulator of the health insurance sector, which is to comply - rather belatedly - with a decision of the European Court. It is an important development that the Minister for Health should not be head of a Department that owns a health insurance company and the regulator at the same time, and I welcome it. It is necessary because there are still reports of people being charged ¤3,000 a night for bed and breakfast in some hospitals.

We need a properly regulated, competitive health insurance sector.

Otherwise, as Ms Kathleen O'Meara states in today's newspapers, the health insurance sector will collapse under excess costs and premiums which seem would seem to rise on an hourly basis.

The ESRI report today states that growth will be reduced and this will cause budgetary problems for the Government and, of course, for both Houses of the Oireachtas because harder choices will have to be made. It is regrettable that a number of years ago the ESRI abolished the policy-independent sections of the same quarterly economic commentary because there was fear that those who did not like them might sue the institute. That is a great pity. We need that kind of research. In fact, this House yesterday, thanks to the initiatives of Senators Norris and Quinn, had a wonderful debate on fluoridation of water with Senators on both sides. Nobody will be sued, nobody was called upon to resign and we learned a great deal from the debate. I hope that the ESRI will not only say to the Government policy decisions will be a little more difficult but will revive a forum in which persons wrote learned refereed articles on precisely the same policy decisions.

10:40 am

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I pay tribute to and commend the courage and dignity of the family of the late Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe yesterday, and pay tribute to the members of the Garda Síochána and the people of Dundalk for their strength and support for the family yesterday at the funeral. I also commend the community of Lordship who demonstrated over the past couple of days, in the face of where only a couple of miles away a callous murder was committed, what good is in the country. I was fortunate to go out to Lordship in the past couple of days and the welcome, the food and community spirit of the people who gathered together are a true testament of what good is in this country. It showed, if anything was to come out of yesterday, the extent of revulsion, not only of the people of Dundalk who turned out in their thousands to support the family where words can mean nothing to those who have been left decimated by the cruel murder, but also the support of the people of Dundalk and of the country for action against these callous murderers who committed such a heinous crime.

I want to air my concern, as I have done over the past couple of days, that when these persons are caught - caught they will be - the 40 years' sentence for capital murders will be strictly enforced, the 40 years' minimum sentence is exactly that and there will be no time off, as there has been in other cases, for good behaviour or extenuating circumstances. There can be no remission for a crime of this kind. I also want to bring up a topic that was raised last week in terms of free legal aid for persons who are convicted of such crimes and question whether persons like this who commit capital murder should be entitled to free legal aid in cases such as this.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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This morning I want to raise a serious issue in the country, which the nation is talking about non-stop and which the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe has brought to the fore. I call for an urgent independent review of the Garda Síochána. Judge Conroy conducted an independent review of the Garda Síochána in 1970. The cuts in the number of Garda stations, the cut in the number of gardaí available in the countryside and the cuts in resources cannot be decided by civil servants who tell the Minister what he wants to hear. We need an independent review to look at whether the Garda Síochána is being adequately resourced.

I wish to make three points. First, there are these gangsters crossing over the Border between North and South with impunity. I call for an immediate intensifying of the relationships between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána. They should have simultaneous road blocks on either side of the Border. We all know that the PSNI and the Garda cannot cross the Border but there should be simultaneous road blocks on either side and radio control, and we should intensify the meetings that take place between them to know what is going on in the country.

In this second, important point I concur with Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell. Although I hate having to say so in public, Irish institutions have been very badly managed. We should have top-class Garda sergeants in all these areas around the country.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is Senator White looking for a debate on this?

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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This is an important point. Top-class Garda sergeants are the front-line officers who know what is going on in the community and they need to manage the resources under them so that the Garda on the beat or on patrol knows what is his job to do. I believe this is not happening. The resources are being badly managed.

Finally, I want to put on the record what was stated by Fr. Michael Cusack of the Redemptorist church in Dundalk, which I used visit so much with my grandmother, that evil exists-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We do not put on the record of the House the names of persons who are not here to defend themselves.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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He spoke of the people, not only the poor garda who was murdered but the elderly in the cross-Border counties. There have been 50 burglaries already in January of this year.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is Senator White looking for a debate? Senator O'Brien is proposing a debate next week in that regard. I call Senator Whelan.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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For God's sake, as Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell stated, let us wake up and get our act together.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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On a point of order, what I had to say to the House this morning was about the selling of State assets, not about gardaí.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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I am talking about the management of our institutions.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator White made her point. I call Senator Whelan.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell spoke of the management of State assets, that we ourselves should manage them and not have to hand them out.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator White should resume her seat.

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour)
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I welcome the news from Senator Darragh O'Brien that Fianna Fáil is tabling a Private Member's motion next week to discuss the issue of policing. I look forward to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, being here to take that motion so that can hear directly from him the situation.

I share Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell's serious concern and vexation over what is happening in this country. There is a plan to get rid of us but we will not be silenced yet. It seems that if you go down to the woods today, the woods might not be there. They might be sold off, they might be gone. One might not have any access to them. There is a plan to sell off Coillte, as far as I can see, behind our backs. No one seems to know who is responsible for it. Is it the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine? Is it the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources? Is it the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform? Will we wake up some morning and hear on "Morning Ireland" that Coillte is sold and gone? I have never heard anything as daft, as Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell stated, as that we will sell off the trees but nothing else.

I am not aware that Coillte grows anything else. Is there something I do not know about that is going on down in the woods? What would Coillte be without the forestry? There are 150 recreational sites across this country owned and managed by Coillte. Thousands of Irish and visitors and tourists enjoy the forests and recreational parks. It is a short-sighted proposal. It is unsound and unsafe. Whoever came up with it cannot see the wood for the trees. We must stop it. We must find out which Minister is responsible. We are selling the family silver from underneath the people. We have had contact from a range of organisations including Mountaineering Ireland, Birdwatch Ireland, An Óige, An Taisce and the Irish Wildlilfe Trust. I urge those organisations to unite and combine with public representatives on all sides of the House to stop the sell-off of Coillte.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour)
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For what? Thirty pieces of silver. Then it is all gone and we will be left with a wasteland.

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour)
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We will be left with a wasteland, no jobs, no forests, no recreational parks.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is Senator Whelan looking for a debate on this issue?

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour)
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I am looking for a debate. I ask the Leader of the House could he establish which Minister is responsible, will the House be informed of the plan and strategy, and can we at this stage reverse it. A report, published yesterday by the IMPACT trade union, commissioned by the economist, Mr. Peter Bacon, establishes categorically that there is no economic case for the sell-off of Coillte and forestry.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Those are points Senator Whelan can make during the debate.

Photo of John WhelanJohn Whelan (Labour)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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First, I want to ask two technical questions.

Will the Leader give some guidance on whether he intends to take Private Members' motion No. 3, which seeks to protect the Seanad by ensuring the holding of committee meetings does not conflict with the Order of Business? We should be treated with respect. The resolution on the armed conflict in the Congo will be taken without debate and it will be without dispute.

With regard to Coillte I share the passion of my two colleagues, Senators O'Donnell and Whelan. This country was raped of its forests to provide timber for the British navy during the late medieval period. Now we are doing the same. It is more like the teddy bears picnic than joined-up Government; if one goes down to the woods today one is in for a big surprise because, as Senator Whelan stated, they may very well be gone. The issue with regard to the Bacon report is extremely serious. This is a man previously commissioned by the Government to provide excellent reports which were never acted upon. He has demonstrated with absolute clarity the economic justification for his proposal is no longer sustainable and that if we sell off this we will expose ourselves to ¤1.3 billion of further consequences, so in fact it is a financial farce and is tying us into something. I know something about this because my family sold off considerable acreage in the 1930s, but the trees were left there and the land was unusable. It bankrupted people. It is important that we discuss this. Mr. Bacon states this action would effectively liquidate Coillte as a viable entity. Is this what the Government is doing? This is all supposed to be an attempt to create economies in the country. We are discussing this on the Order of Business and I salute Senator O'Donnell for bringing it so passionately and effectively before us.

Later we will pass a Bill which will give effect to the very favourable loan arrangements to the Greeks whereby they will be allowed to move it out for 30 years. I am very glad we are. The loan arrangements are being deliberately softened. We are being stymied. We are the good student of Europe.

10:50 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator can make these points on the Bill.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is a reason for having a debate on it. I support my colleagues who stated we must examine the beef industry. I have been in the House when on repeated occasions the enterprises associated with Mr. Larry Goodman have caused serious reputational damage to the meat industry of the country. I do not think it is sustainable that for vulgar financial gain the reputation of the country should be damaged.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Like Senator Bacik, I also support the Y factor, an initiative of the National Women's Council. We are all familiar with the X factor but I did not know of the Y factor until this week. It aims to support young women and advance women in employment, politics and every aspect of public life, which is something we have all been speaking about for some time.

Senator Marie Louise O'Donnell spoke very passionately about the Seanad in a way in which all Senators should speak. She spoke about the way the Seanad had been before it was abolished. Unfortunately the way we are set up now is not the way Senator O'Donnell envisaged. It was the way the Seanad was envisaged when it was previously set up.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Do not interrupt me. I understand what she stated and I also understand her point on the national lottery, which is to be sold. We must cut our cloth according to our measure. The Government would not dream of selling the national lottery if the finances of the State were not what they are. My question on the sale of the national lottery is whether we will get value for money. It has been stated that in any sale 30% will be kept for good causes and charity. We should have a debate on this and I thank Senator O'Donnell for raising the issue. It has ¤772 million in sales and ¤419 million has been given out. There was a surplus of ¤243 million and it costs ¤108 million. If it is sold for between ¤400 million and ¤600 million it will not take into account new technology. Online sales for gambling have increased by between 30% and 50% in six months. Like Senator O'Donnell, I also call for a debate on this and on a revaluation of the money.

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

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Just let me-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Quite a number of other Senators have indicated they wish to speak and they may not get in.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Can I have one minute on the Coillte issue? Coillte has not been in a position to buy land for forestation since being deemed ineligible for forestry loss of income premiums in 1996. We want to ensure our State assets perform as a private company would-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator can make this point during the debate.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Its hands are tied behind its back.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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Our hands are not tied behind our backs. We are independent thinkers.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I call for a debate on rural Ireland and the many issues facing communities there and facing people living in towns, villages and hinterlands throughout the State because of the loss of services. As the Leader lives in a constituency with a big rural base, he is aware of many of the issues which pertain. We can all give examples of services being lost in rural communities. An example of this today is that more than 100 Garda stations will be closed, the majority of which are in rural communities. There will be some impact on urban areas but rural communities will disproportionately suffer as a consequence of the stations being lost. The selling of Coillte and State assets has been raised and this will also have an impact on rural communities. We know of the lack of funding for local government and issues with regard to funding roads and other issues important for people living in rural communities. Given the real sense of isolation people living in these communities increasingly feel, these issues deserve and merit a genuine discussion in the House to reflect them and come up with solutions to some of the problems.

A Fianna Fáil Senator stated it would be intolerable for the decision to close Garda stations to be made by civil servants, as he put it. The reality is that the decision was made by the previous Government when it negotiated the four-year national recovery plan. This plan, which Fianna Fáil negotiated with the troika, allowed for the reduction in Garda numbers from 14,500 in 2010 to 13,500 and to 13,000 in 2014, so it was part of negotiating the reduction in Garda numbers. It is being implemented by the current Government. I look forward to the Private Members' motion to be tabled by Fianna Fáil next week, but let us hope it is an honest debate about where parties stand on these issues. Let us also have an honest discussion about how we can support these communities in the difficult times they face and ensure they have the resources to be able to live the lives they want to live.

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour)
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I welcome the fact that today the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, and the Minister for Education, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, will launch guidelines for mental health and suicide prevention in post-primary schools. One in ten children and young people in the country experience mental health problems. We are all only too well aware of the spate of suicides we have had in recent times generated by bullying in schools. Post-primary education is when children should have the best and happiest moments they will ever have in their lives, but unfortunately because of the system we have created and generated, it is not the experience our children have. The experience is worsening instead of improving. I do not believe there is a parent of a teenage child in this country who does not live in fear. The incidence of depression among children is significantly increasing as are suicide and bullying. Recently a second level school parent, with whom I had reason to speak, whose child had been accused of bullying told me it is better to be the bully than have one's child bullied. This country has a job to do with regard to education and these guidelines could not come soon enough. I am conscious the Institute of Guidance Counsellors has issued its reservations, and rightly brought to our attention that these guidelines, which will provide for best practice in our schools, need to be resourced.

Schools need to be resourced in order to deal with issues like bullying, depression, mental health and children at risk, particularly children who are sufficiently at risk that their lives are threatened. I ask the Leader to convey to the Ministers that the House is concerned that these measures, while welcome, need to be adequately resourced.

11:00 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to express my deep revulsion at the untimely execution of Garda Adrian Donohoe while he carried out his duties in County Louth. I was going to seek the adjournment of the Order of Business but I understand that a debate on policing may be arranged for next week.

On many occasions we have discussed the lack of resources for gardaí, the closure of rural and urban stations, the declining numbers of gardaí and the mothballing of the Templemore Garda Training College. Yesterday the most powerful point was made by a cleric during his homily at a most poignant and solemn occasion, the funeral of Garda Donohoe. The priest stood on his altar and referred to these issues in the presence of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and Equality and many Cabinet Members. I have no doubt that the cleric expressed a matter of major concern, and would have prior consent from the deceased's family and the gardaí, from Commissioner level right down to the root and branch gardaí working on the streets. The most powerful case was made yesterday. The Seanad debate next week and the Dáil debate yesterday will not have the same impact as the priest's words. We should all reflect on his words. I hope that when Deputy Shatter comes here next week he will have the courage to accept many of the points made by the priest yesterday.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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I support the comments made by Senators Whelan and O'Donnell on Coillte and the sale of State assets. I have noticed of late that there seems to be a cosy relationship between Coillte and wind farm developers.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am sure that Bertie Ahern is involved.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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In the words of Senator Norris, "If you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise". If you go down to the woods tomorrow you will be in for a bigger surprise because the trees will be gone and replaced by an 185 m wind turbines. That will destroy the landscape.

Senator Darragh O'Brien alleged that a social welfare grant for communion and confirmation had been withdrawn. It was never a grant. It is a discretionary payment which still exists and is distributed at the discretion of a community welfare officer. We have always had the problem of giving entitlements to people in receipt of social welfare by virtue of them being on social welfare. A person who had a great job but is laid off and goes on employment benefit could have ¤100,000 in the bank. He or she might presume an entitlement to a communion or confirmation grant. We need to remove the plethora of entitlements that people receive just by virtue of being social welfare recipients. Taxpayers think it is scandalous that they must work hard for everything yet a social welfare recipient gets everything. Exempting people in receipt of social welfare from paying the property tax was considered.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator's comments are more suitable for a debate on social welfare.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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We are making it harder for people to stop receiving social welfare because they have always been given so many entitlements. The grant for communion and confirmation still exists if people cannot afford the expense.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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We might have a discussion on another day about the appropriateness of discretionary payments for events like first holy communion and so on.

Tacaím leis an méid a dúirt an Seanadóir Darragh O'Brien maidir le seirbhísí póilíneachta agus an suirbhé faoi phátrúnacht sna scoileanna. Fuair mé litir le déanaí ó duine a chuir in iúl dom go raibh lochtanna sa suirbhé sin a chur an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna ar fáil. Mar shampla, dóibh siúd atá ag iarraidh an Foras Pátrúnachta a ainmniú mar phátrún ar mhaith leo bheith ar fáil dóibh, ní luaitear ach an Foras Pátrúnachta idirchreidmheach. Tá daoine ann, mar shampla, ar mhaith leo go mbeadh scoil faoi phátrúnacht Chaitliceach ar fáil dóibh, ach gur scoil lán-Ghaelach a bheadh ann. Ní thugtar an rogha sin dóibh. Caithfidh siad é a luadh agus a mhíniú ina gcuid bhfocal féin.

The pilot survey of parents' wishes on five areas is flawed. However, it has been a ringing endorsement of denominational education and much more than the Government has been willing to acknowledge. The number of people who either do not want a wider choice of patronage or who would not avail of it themselves is in all cases far in excess of those who would seek alternative patronage models in their areas. It generally runs at a ratio of 60:40 or 2:1 and I say that as somebody who supports a greater diversity. When one factors in all of the people who did not take part in the survey and add all of the people who are quite happy with the current arrangement or would not support further provision, one has a strong statement of denominational education. I do not think that their views were reflected in the debate that I heard recently involving Senator Bacik on "Today with Pat Kenny". The Government still seems to have the mentality that control is what this is all about which it must wrest away.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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On a point of order. Far from it, the Government's policy is to ensure greater parental choice.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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I do not think that is a point of order.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Bacik, that is not a point of order and Senator Mullen is over time.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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I would welcome an opportunity to debate these issues with Senator Bacik. We could introduce a greater balance to the debate and hear the voices of those who see denominational education as a great source of education for their families and children.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the suggestion by Senator Darragh O'Brien to hold a debate on policing next week. It would be useful in the context of the terrible crime that has happened this week. We have debated the issue in general recently.

One idea is to restructure the Garda to some extent. There is an embargo on Garda recruitment at present. In many instances when people attend Garda stations they see a garda stamping a form or carrying out administrative work for which he or she is over-qualified.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is a legal requirement that a garda must sign those forms.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I am not talking about that. It is terrible to be interrupted because it puts one off one's train of thought.

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 Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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No, I take Senator Norris's point. I do not mean all of those functions that are assigned to gardaí but the general administrative functions that qualified gardaí must undertake.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We are not having that debate today.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I was interrupted and I never intended to debate the matter.

I welcome the fact that Wi-Fi was made freely available in many locations around Dublin today. The measure will greatly enhance the lives of the residents of the city and boost tourism. Grafton Street, Dame Street and the Phoenix Park are three of the areas which will benefit from free Wi-Fi. Tourists often post photos of these locations on Facebook or e-mail them around the world using photo sharing methods.

It is important to point out that we signed up to the sale of State assets by virtue of an agreement that was signed by Fianna Fáil with the troika. It is a question of simply-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We are not having this debate today and I call Senator Ó Murchú.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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That is not true. We did not sign up to the sale of State assets with the troika.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I am not debating it.

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent)
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Then do not say things that are not true.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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It is not a point of order. Nothing is ever a point of order if one asks me.

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

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I know I am way over time. I am usually never over time but I have been interrupted ten times.

11:10 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator has discussed a number of issues there. I call Senator Ó Murchú.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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It is always edifying to see young people involved in charitable causes. It is happening every day in every village, town and city where young people are performing acts to help those who are less fortunate than themselves. That is what the pupils of Coláiste na Sceilge in Caherciveen were doing at Christmas time. They took to the streets in winter weather to raise funds for the beleaguered people of Palestine, to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis. One can imagine their horror to see themselves being pilloried and demonised in the Jerusalem Post by a named columnist and to have their photograph published without their consent.

It is ironic because they were raising funds to purchase olive trees for displaced families in Palestine. We always understood that the olive branch was a symbol of peace and reconciliation. I am delighted that the principal of that college, Mr. John O'Connor, and his staff and pupils stood up to this intimidation. They came out and stood up for their principles over the past 48 hours because it was intimidation.

If the Jerusalem Post has a political agenda, it should not try to impose it on the decent people of Kerry, or Ireland generally, who live up to a proud tradition of helping other nations when they are in trouble. I hope the message goes out loud and clear to Coláiste na Sceilge in Caherciveen that the people of Kerry, and of Ireland generally, should not be intimidated politically when we know we are doing the right thing. Shame on the columnist and the Jerusalem Post, and shame on Israel for allowing the situation that is happening in Palestine to continue.

Photo of Susan O'KeeffeSusan O'Keeffe (Labour)
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I ask the Leader to give an assurance that the debate with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, which was unfortunately delayed yesterday, might be reinstated at a later stage.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, and in support of Senator Bacik's earlier comments, I am again requesting that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine attend the House. Clearly, there are several issues at hand which are within his remit. One is the fall in the number of testing investigations going on in meat plants in the past year. In addition, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has yet to have its full board appointed. I appreciate that this is not within the Minister's direct remit, but it is a problem concerning this business.

The beef industry now finds itself in difficulty, specifically the workers at Silvercrest who find themselves in an unexpected position. Despite the great efforts of many, including farmers, to build up a strong industry, large UK multiples are removing their business from Silvercrest and taking it elsewhere. The urgency of this matter is increasing daily, so I would very much like the Minister, Deputy Coveney, to attend the House so that we can discuss the matter with him.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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Some years ago I was involved in creating sign language classes in the company with which I was involved. I have never seen such a small investment in time and money that was so rewarding. I have just discovered that a school in Douglas in Cork will have to discontinue its sign language classes. As a result, 33 deaf students will lose out. It is such a tiny investment and the benefits are so large that - whatever about criticisms of the Department of Education and Skills and other Departments having to cut back - I urge the Leader to see if the Department can rethink that particular cut. The special education support service is being reduced by a tiny amount, but it will mean a significant difference to those children.

Last week, ISME, the body representing small and medium enterprises, criticised the EU directive on late payments. That directive comes into operation next month and states that public authorities should pay within 30 days, but certainly not later than 60 days. We all know that means 60 days rather than 30 days. There is a negative effect on small businesses if people do not pay on time. Whatever about public authorities, if suppliers are not paid on time it permeates the whole village or town involved. Senator Ó Murchú spoke about differences in villages and towns across Ireland. If we could only encourage and develop a system of early and correct payments, instead of delaying payments in order to create extra finance and capital for business, it would make a significant difference to small businesses around the country.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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It is critically important to reassure people about the new policing arrangements that will kick in for many communities this weekend. In recent weeks, gardaí have done a wonderful job in areas where Garda stations are going to close. They have gone out into those communities and reassured people that they will have a modern well-equipped and well-resourced police service. We have 13,500 gardaí and 1,000 members in the reserve force, as well as over 1,030 community policing personnel throughout the country. The Garda Commissioner has indicated that he is committed to providing a smarter policing service using modern technology, including IT, communication and surveillance systems.

While Garda station closures constitute an emotive issue, the reality is that 98% of those stations were only open part-time, while 94% of them were open for less than three hours per day. I am fully convinced that gardaí out patrolling in the community and talking to local people will be much more effective than having gardaí stationed for three hours in a building, not meeting very many people.

I welcome the Minister's recent commitment to invest ¤5 million for the provision of Garda vehicles. One cannot provide a service without the necessary patrol cars. I am unhappy about one aspect, however. For example, my own parish of New Inn will now be provided with a service from Kilrickle but there is no Garda car there. I hope those areas will be the first to be given a vehicle within the coming weeks from the investment of ¤5 million. I will be holding the Minister to account on that issue. As public representatives we must all ensure that those whom we represent have a policing service that is well resourced, along the lines we have been promised both by the Garda Commissioner and the Minister.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Tá sé luaite agam cheana gurb é 2013 bliain na Gaeilge, agus is breá an rud é roinnt Gaeilge a chloisteáil ar an Riar Gnó ar maidin ó na Seanadóirí éagsúla. Caithfidh mé moladh a thabhairt go chuile dhuine de na Seanadóirí a úsáideann na Gaeilge. Tá cuid mhaith acu ann agus déanann siad an-iarracht. Ba mhaith liom dá gcuirfeadh muid le sin. Tá achainí déanta ag Conradh na Gaeilge, nuair a bheidh Seachtain na Gaeilge ann i mbliana, go dtógfadh muid lá faoi leith sa Seanad agus sa Dáil le haghaidh díospóireachtaí Gaeilge a bheith againn. Rinne mé an iarratas seo anuraidh agus dúradh liom nach raibh dóthain ama le sin a eagrú an bhliain seo chaite, cé go raibh roinnt díospóireacht againn. D'iarr mé ag an am go gcoinneofaí é in intinn le haghaidh an bliain seo chugainn. Tá an bliain seo chugainn linn agus ba mhaith liom an t-iarratas céanna a dhéanamh. Ós rud é nach bhfuil ballraíocht againn ar an Committee on Procedure and Privileges, ba bhreá liom go dtabharfadh Ceannaire an Tí an t-iarratas seo ar aghaidh le go mbeadh díospóireachtaí faoi leith i nGaeilge againn. Tá moladh déanta ag Conradh na Gaeilge go ndéanfaí sin ar 6 Márta.

Conradh na Gaeilge has suggested that in celebrating Bliain na Gaeilge we should have a day of debates as Gaeilge in the Seanad and the Dáil. Conradh na Gaeilge is suggesting it should happen on 6 March, if possible. I made that application last year and was told it was too late to do it, but that it would be kept in mind for this year. There is a strong possibility that we will do that. I would normally have a go at the Government on many issues, but I must commend the number of Ministers who have attended this House and have used their Irish.

I include the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Ministers for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Social Protection, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, all of whom have used their Irish over the past year. Consequently, I see no reason Members would not be able to make an additional effort for Seachtain na Gaeilge. Perhaps special debates could be held in this House as Gaeilge, possibly on 6 March. Tá súil agam go mbeidh na Baill in ann é a thógáil ar bord.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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And the Cathaoirleach.

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I am glad that there has been some straight talking in this House this morning. I wish to add my voice to the call for a debate on the future of Coillte.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I have read Peter Bacon's report and it certainly makes a convincing argument for the retention in State ownership of Coillte.

I wish to add my voice to the sympathy expressed in recent days on the death of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. Mindful of the period encompassing his death and funeral, I have not spoken on the issue of Garda resources but will do so now in a very straight manner. I acknowledge the concern and fear being expressed and experienced by the communities in rural Ireland in which I live and represent, namely, those of County Tipperary. A number of Garda stations within my community have been closed, including Grangemockler, where my father was born and reared, and up the road at New Inn.

I believe the present Administration has pursued a policy of modernisation of the Garda Síochána the wrong way around. It should first have made operational the 400 vehicles for which ¤8 million has been put in place. Those vehicles should have been put in place in rural communities and the new Garda rostering system should have been put in place. The entire thing should have been allowed to bed in and the Government should have revamped the community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes. Only then should the Government have re-evaluated the need for the existing Garda stations nationwide. I do not accept the argument, put to me in a previous debate on the community of rural Ireland, that it is not possible to equip 400 vehicles simultaneously in this country. There are hundreds of companies in Ireland that are involved in re-spraying and kitting out of vehicles and what was lacking was the political will to do this.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator-----

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I will conclude on this point. In effect, what the Government has done in this instance equates to removing the scaffolding before the refitting and rebuilding of the building has been carried out. My request to the Leader is to call on the Minister, even at this late stage, to show urgency, understanding and empathy for the plight of concerned residents in rural Ireland, Moreover, the 400 vehicles that have been budgeted for should be sent out into every corner of rural Ireland------

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Leyden.

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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-----in order that people are made feel safe in their communities. Thereafter, consideration should be given to the closure of Garda barracks.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to speak in support of colleagues who have spoken on the assassination of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. It was a heinous crime and everyone should concentrate on bringing to justice the perpetrators. I commend the credit union on putting up the reward of ¤50,000 for information leading to the conviction of the criminals who shot dead this wonderful garda. I extend my sympathy to his family and to the Garda Síochána in general. Since first entering public life, my experience of the Garda Síochána has been that it is a courageous, honest and disciplined force. It is not and has never been corrupt. This has been my personal experience while working with members of the Garda Síochána in the community, within the community forum and the joint policing committee. I was nominated to contest the Seanad election by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Superintendents.

Apart from that, based on all the dealings I have had with the force over that period, I wish to refute any allegation that might have been made against the Garda Síochána. As someone from County Roscommon, I disassociate myself from any comments made about this wonderful unarmed and courageous police force. From County Roscommon alone, Garda Dick Fallon was assassinated, Garda Hand was murdered and Garda Morley and Garda Byrne were murdered by activists in the IRA while robbing banks in pursuit of their political objective. This is a fact and as for anyone who would imply they are corrupt in any shape or form, I hope some member of the force will take legal action on this matter and assert that the Garda is not corrupt. Moreover, the Garda organisations should take whatever action is required to ensure that the reputation of the force is of the highest standing. These comments should be withdrawn publicly.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear. Well said.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I make no apologies to anyone in this regard because it is so wrong and unfair-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I hope the Senator's County Roscommon colleague is listening.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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----- in the very week this courageous young man was gunned down, that anyone should impugn or imply anything about this wonderful force.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Colm Burke.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am sure the record will show that no one in this House made any such allegation. I am sure that was not what the Senator implied.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of clarification-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The record of the House will-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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To clarify, it was a Member of the Dáil who made the allegation.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I will not give him any coverage.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator, we have no responsibility for the other House.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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That was just to clarify the point.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The record of this House will speak for itself. I call Senator Burke

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I believe the identity of the person who made the allegation is well known.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I fully agree with Senator Leyden's remarks. The allegation of corruption within the Garda is outrageous, unfounded and should be withdrawn.

This morning, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children signed off on the report in respect of the hearings on the proposed new legislation dealing with the X and the A, B and C v. Ireland cases. It just goes to show how work can be done. A total of 31 different groups or individuals made oral submissions at the three day hearing while a further 40 groups or individuals made written submissions. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service has now condensed these written and oral submissions into a report the joint committee was able to present to the Minister today.

One point the three day hearing showed pertained to disseminating information. I note Senator O'Donnell raised the issue of a change in policy in respect of Coillte. Perhaps it will be necessary to do what the joint committee did with those public hearings when a fundamental change in policy takes place. In cases in which a Department makes a change in respect of public policy, it might be an idea to hold such open hearings in order that various groups which have an interest could make a submission. This is one measure that should be done, rather than simply having a debate that is confined to Members in this House. People who have genuine concerns about a change in public policy should be allowed to come in and have their say regarding these concerns, after which Members can move forward on what is the best way for the country to adopt and change policy. This would be one way to do it.

Members should note that within a 20 day period, the joint committee had three days of public hearing and now has a report ready. I congratulate everyone involved, particularly the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which has done so much work in recent weeks in compiling it and putting it together for joint committee members to present to the Minister today.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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As there have been 26 conclusions this morning, I ask Senators Conway and Paul Coghlan to be brief.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I will be brief. I wish to express caution in respect of the proposed sale of the national lottery. Over the 25 years of its existence, the affinity every parish and community has had with the national lottery is remarkable. In one way or another, every town and village has received funding from the national lottery for sports facilities, health facilities and so on. It would be worthwhile were Members to have a debate in this House on the national lottery with the Minister present. Members could express their ideas as to how best this national treasure can be resourced for the betterment of the community, as it has done in the past. That said, I also request that the Leader arrange, at some future date, to have a debate on gambling and on online gambling in particular. A serious issue is developing whereby paddypower.ie and similar websites are being used by banks as a refusal kit for young people trying to get mortgages. A debate on this issue at some stage would be worthwhile.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the possibility of having a debate on policing, as has been proposed from the other side of the Chamber. I am sure the Leader will do whatever is necessary in that regard. A few days ago, I mentioned the possibility of a corridor along the Border in what was formerly known as bandit country and where, unfortunately, there has been this awful, sad and atrocious crime.

There is no way that criminal gangs should be able to feel safe in operating from a safe retreat, probably in south Armagh, committing crimes here and then retreating back to wherever they feel safe, or vice versafor that matter. There is wonderful co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI. It is better than ever before but I believe they should be able to operate jointly in a corridor along the Border. I look forward to pursuing that issue with the Minister for Justice and Equality. I am sure it is something that the forces themselves are discussing. We must make sure that the forces can accompany one another across the Border, whether they are in hot pursuit or otherwise. We must deter these criminals and we must wipe out these kinds of serious crimes. There is a problem in that area. Some may call it the elephant in the room but we are aware of it. There is a view that the PSNI see south Armagh as a no-go area, so to speak. That must be changed immediately.

11:20 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator O'Brien mentioned the question of the communion allowance and, as has been pointed out by Senator Kelly, who was a community welfare officer himself, the payment was never a grant per se. People who found themselves in dire need could apply to the local community welfare officer for assistance with clothing costs and so forth and can still do so. Government funding has been streamlined and the amounts allocated will, no doubt, be reduced. While I have no information on the matter of school principals instructing parents on this issue, I think it is very unlikely that any Department would ask school principals to become involved in the way suggested by Senator O'Brien. However, if the Senator has further information, I would certainly be prepared to pursue it.

On the question of the survey on school patronage, I find it difficult to accept that there is no correlation between the PPS numbers and the people who responded to the survey. I find it difficult to accept that this is not checked and that if somebody gives my PPS number but not my name, this would not be discovered. I presume such checks are done and that the PPS number would be checked against the person's name. Otherwise, the survey is flawed and I would accept that.

Senator O'Brien also mentioned that we will have a Private Member's motion from Fianna Fáil on policing next week and I welcome that debate. A number of Senators have commented today on the whole question of policing, the closure of Garda stations and so on. We will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a two hour debate next week.

Senator Bacik also referred to school patronage, which we debated in this House last May. A total of 12 Members took part in that debate and, if necessary, we can have another debate on the issue some time in the near future. Senator O'Donnell spoke passionately about the sale of the national lottery and Coillte, matters which were also raised by other Senators. May I remind Senator O'Donnell that on 23 May 2012, she tabled a Private Member's motion on the sale of the national lottery. We had a two hour debate and the issue got a good airing at that time. Regarding Coillte, we also had a debate in the House in April last year on the sale of State assets and only 12 Members participated. However, if Members feel we should have a further debate, we can arrange it with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, who was here for the debate last year. Senators sometimes forget that matters have been discussed previously. We cannot keep coming back to the same subjects every few months.

I totally accept Senator Barrett's comments on the need for a properly regulated health insurance sector and that is definitely an issue to which we should return. Senator White raised the issue of policing and made specific reference to the relationship between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána. The two forces now have an excellent relationship, better than at any time in the past. I attended Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe's funeral yesterday and was delighted to see the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable of the PSNI, the British ambassador and the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland in attendance. It showed the solidarity that exists and that is necessary between both police forces on this island.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I hope the solidarity that was shown yesterday will continue and that the perpetrators of this dire act will be brought to justice as soon as possible and will, on conviction, serve the appropriate sentence of 40 years.

Senator Moran also mentioned the funeral of Detective Garda Donohoe yesterday and we would all salute the courage and dignity of the Donohoe family and, indeed, the strength of support from the community of Dundalk and of Lordship in particular. That sense of solidarity was mirrored throughout the country. There is a firm belief that we can bring these people to justice. Garda Donohoe's murder has also solidified the strength and sense of purpose of the Garda Síochána. I concur with Senator Leyden's point and also abhor any Member of the other House calling the Garda Síochána, our proud force, corrupt. It is absolutely disgraceful and outrageous, particularly at this point in time. It should not be tolerated. People can get away with these comments sometimes, but not at this particular point in time. We cannot have these types of statements being uttered on television and radio. It is completely irresponsible.

Senator Whelan also spoke about the sale of Coillte and, as I have already said, we will invite the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to the House to deal with that matter. Senator Norris spoke about the motion regarding the Order of Business and Oireachtas committees. I fully agree with Senator Norris and the sentiments of this motion. If Senators look around now they will see that we have more Members than usual here at this point in time. I do not believe Senators should be attending committee meetings during the Order of Business. I propose that we have a discussion on that motion, in Government time, next Tuesday.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I thank the Leader for that.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I firmly agree that this House should take precedence and that the Order of Business, in particular, should take precedence. If committee schedules have to be changed, then so be it.

Senator Keane also spoke about the sale of the national lottery and Coillte, on which I have already commented. Senator Cullinane called for a debate on rural Ireland and I am sure that will form part of the debate on policing scheduled for next week. Senator Hayden raised the matter of the guidelines for mental health and suicide prevention in our schools which were published by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Lynch, today. Senator Donovan referred to a debate on policing which has already been scheduled. Senator Kelly spoke about social welfare entitlements and getting people back to work. Senator Mullen also spoke about the school patronage survey and as I have already said, if there is a flaw in that survey, it should be rectified. Senator Noone referred to increased Wi-Fi availability in Dublin, which is certainly a welcome development that also has the potential to advance our tourism product.

Senator Ó Murchú referred to a school in Caherciveen in County Kerry and the young pupils who were involved in charitable work, which is something we should all encourage.

I include the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Ministers for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Social Protection, the Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, all of whom have used their Irish over the past year. Consequently, I see no reason Members would not be able to make an additional effort for Seachtain na Gaeilge. Perhaps special debates could be held in this House as Gaeilge, possibly on 6 March. Tá súil agam go mbeidh na Baill in ann é a thógáil ar bord.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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And the Cathaoirleach.

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I am glad that there has been some straight talking in this House this morning. I wish to add my voice to the call for a debate on the future of Coillte.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I have read Peter Bacon's report and it certainly makes a convincing argument for the retention in State ownership of Coillte.

I wish to add my voice to the sympathy expressed in recent days on the death of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. Mindful of the period encompassing his death and funeral, I have not spoken on the issue of Garda resources but will do so now in a very straight manner. I acknowledge the concern and fear being expressed and experienced by the communities in rural Ireland in which I live and represent, namely, those of County Tipperary. A number of Garda stations within my community have been closed, including Grangemockler, where my father was born and reared, and up the road at New Inn.

I believe the present Administration has pursued a policy of modernisation of the Garda Síochána the wrong way around. It should first have made operational the 400 vehicles for which ¤8 million has been put in place. Those vehicles should have been put in place in rural communities and the new Garda rostering system should have been put in place. The entire thing should have been allowed to bed in and the Government should have revamped the community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes. Only then should the Government have re-evaluated the need for the existing Garda stations nationwide. I do not accept the argument, put to me in a previous debate on the community of rural Ireland, that it is not possible to equip 400 vehicles simultaneously in this country. There are hundreds of companies in Ireland that are involved in re-spraying and kitting out of vehicles and what was lacking was the political will to do this.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator-----

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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I will conclude on this point. In effect, what the Government has done in this instance equates to removing the scaffolding before the refitting and rebuilding of the building has been carried out. My request to the Leader is to call on the Minister, even at this late stage, to show urgency, understanding and empathy for the plight of concerned residents in rural Ireland, Moreover, the 400 vehicles that have been budgeted for should be sent out into every corner of rural Ireland------

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Leyden.

Photo of Denis LandyDenis Landy (Labour)
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-----in order that people are made feel safe in their communities. Thereafter, consideration should be given to the closure of Garda barracks.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to speak in support of colleagues who have spoken on the assassination of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. It was a heinous crime and everyone should concentrate on bringing to justice the perpetrators. I commend the credit union on putting up the reward of ¤50,000 for information leading to the conviction of the criminals who shot dead this wonderful garda. I extend my sympathy to his family and to the Garda Síochána in general. Since first entering public life, my experience of the Garda Síochána has been that it is a courageous, honest and disciplined force. It is not and has never been corrupt. This has been my personal experience while working with members of the Garda Síochána in the community, within the community forum and the joint policing committee. I was nominated to contest the Seanad election by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Superintendents.

Apart from that, based on all the dealings I have had with the force over that period, I wish to refute any allegation that might have been made against the Garda Síochána. As someone from County Roscommon, I disassociate myself from any comments made about this wonderful unarmed and courageous police force. From County Roscommon alone, Garda Dick Fallon was assassinated, Garda Hand was murdered and Garda Morley and Garda Byrne were murdered by activists in the IRA while robbing banks in pursuit of their political objective. This is a fact and as for anyone who would imply they are corrupt in any shape or form, I hope some member of the force will take legal action on this matter and assert that the Garda is not corrupt. Moreover, the Garda organisations should take whatever action is required to ensure that the reputation of the force is of the highest standing. These comments should be withdrawn publicly.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear. Well said.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I make no apologies to anyone in this regard because it is so wrong and unfair-----

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I hope the Senator's County Roscommon colleague is listening.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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----- in the very week this courageous young man was gunned down, that anyone should impugn or imply anything about this wonderful force.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Colm Burke.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am sure the record will show that no one in this House made any such allegation. I am sure that was not what the Senator implied.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of clarification-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The record of the House will-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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To clarify, it was a Member of the Dáil who made the allegation.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I will not give him any coverage.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator, we have no responsibility for the other House.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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That was just to clarify the point.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The record of this House will speak for itself. I call Senator Burke

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I believe the identity of the person who made the allegation is well known.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I fully agree with Senator Leyden's remarks. The allegation of corruption within the Garda is outrageous, unfounded and should be withdrawn.

This morning, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children signed off on the report in respect of the hearings on the proposed new legislation dealing with the X and the A, B and C v. Ireland cases. It just goes to show how work can be done. A total of 31 different groups or individuals made oral submissions at the three day hearing while a further 40 groups or individuals made written submissions. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service has now condensed these written and oral submissions into a report the joint committee was able to present to the Minister today.

One point the three day hearing showed pertained to disseminating information. I note Senator O'Donnell raised the issue of a change in policy in respect of Coillte. Perhaps it will be necessary to do what the joint committee did with those public hearings when a fundamental change in policy takes place. In cases in which a Department makes a change in respect of public policy, it might be an idea to hold such open hearings in order that various groups which have an interest could make a submission. This is one measure that should be done, rather than simply having a debate that is confined to Members in this House. People who have genuine concerns about a change in public policy should be allowed to come in and have their say regarding these concerns, after which Members can move forward on what is the best way for the country to adopt and change policy. This would be one way to do it.

Members should note that within a 20 day period, the joint committee had three days of public hearing and now has a report ready. I congratulate everyone involved, particularly the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which has done so much work in recent weeks in compiling it and putting it together for joint committee members to present to the Minister today.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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As there have been 26 conclusions this morning, I ask Senators Conway and Paul Coghlan to be brief.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I will be brief. I wish to express caution in respect of the proposed sale of the national lottery. Over the 25 years of its existence, the affinity every parish and community has had with the national lottery is remarkable. In one way or another, every town and village has received funding from the national lottery for sports facilities, health facilities and so on. It would be worthwhile were Members to have a debate in this House on the national lottery with the Minister present. Members could express their ideas as to how best this national treasure can be resourced for the betterment of the community, as it has done in the past. That said, I also request that the Leader arrange, at some future date, to have a debate on gambling and on online gambling in particular. A serious issue is developing whereby paddypower.ie and similar websites are being used by banks as a refusal kit for young people trying to get mortgages. A debate on this issue at some stage would be worthwhile.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the possibility of having a debate on policing, as has been proposed from the other side of the Chamber. I am sure the Leader will do whatever is necessary in that regard. A few days ago, I mentioned the possibility of a corridor along the Border in what was formerly known as bandit country and where, unfortunately, there has been this awful, sad and atrocious crime.

There is no way that criminal gangs should be able to feel safe in operating from a safe retreat, probably in south Armagh, committing crimes here and then retreating back to wherever they feel safe, or vice versafor that matter. There is wonderful co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI. It is better than ever before but I believe they should be able to operate jointly in a corridor along the Border. I look forward to pursuing that issue with the Minister for Justice and Equality. I am sure it is something that the forces themselves are discussing. We must make sure that the forces can accompany one another across the Border, whether they are in hot pursuit or otherwise. We must deter these criminals and we must wipe out these kinds of serious crimes. There is a problem in that area. Some may call it the elephant in the room but we are aware of it. There is a view that the PSNI see south Armagh as a no-go area, so to speak. That must be changed immediately.

11:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator O'Brien mentioned the question of the communion allowance and, as has been pointed out by Senator Kelly, who was a community welfare officer himself, the payment was never a grant per se. People who found themselves in dire need could apply to the local community welfare officer for assistance with clothing costs and so forth and can still do so. Government funding has been streamlined and the amounts allocated will, no doubt, be reduced. While I have no information on the matter of school principals instructing parents on this issue, I think it is very unlikely that any Department would ask school principals to become involved in the way suggested by Senator O'Brien. However, if the Senator has further information, I would certainly be prepared to pursue it.

On the question of the survey on school patronage, I find it difficult to accept that there is no correlation between the PPS numbers and the people who responded to the survey. I find it difficult to accept that this is not checked and that if somebody gives my PPS number but not my name, this would not be discovered. I presume such checks are done and that the PPS number would be checked against the person's name. Otherwise, the survey is flawed and I would accept that.

Senator O'Brien also mentioned that we will have a Private Member's motion from Fianna Fáil on policing next week and I welcome that debate. A number of Senators have commented today on the whole question of policing, the closure of Garda stations and so on. We will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a two hour debate next week.

Senator Bacik also referred to school patronage, which we debated in this House last May. A total of 12 Members took part in that debate and, if necessary, we can have another debate on the issue some time in the near future. Senator O'Donnell spoke passionately about the sale of the national lottery and Coillte, matters which were also raised by other Senators. May I remind Senator O'Donnell that on 23 May 2012, she tabled a Private Member's motion on the sale of the national lottery. We had a two hour debate and the issue got a good airing at that time. Regarding Coillte, we also had a debate in the House in April last year on the sale of State assets and only 12 Members participated. However, if Members feel we should have a further debate, we can arrange it with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, who was here for the debate last year. Senators sometimes forget that matters have been discussed previously. We cannot keep coming back to the same subjects every few months.

I totally accept Senator Barrett's comments on the need for a properly regulated health insurance sector and that is definitely an issue to which we should return. Senator White raised the issue of policing and made specific reference to the relationship between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána. The two forces now have an excellent relationship, better than at any time in the past. I attended Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe's funeral yesterday and was delighted to see the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable of the PSNI, the British ambassador and the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland in attendance. It showed the solidarity that exists and that is necessary between both police forces on this island.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I hope the solidarity that was shown yesterday will continue and that the perpetrators of this dire act will be brought to justice as soon as possible and will, on conviction, serve the appropriate sentence of 40 years.

Senator Moran also mentioned the funeral of Detective Garda Donohoe yesterday and we would all salute the courage and dignity of the Donohoe family and, indeed, the strength of support from the community of Dundalk and of Lordship in particular. That sense of solidarity was mirrored throughout the country. There is a firm belief that we can bring these people to justice. Garda Donohoe's murder has also solidified the strength and sense of purpose of the Garda Síochána. I concur with Senator Leyden's point and also abhor any Member of the other House calling the Garda Síochána, our proud force, corrupt. It is absolutely disgraceful and outrageous, particularly at this point in time. It should not be tolerated. People can get away with these comments sometimes, but not at this particular point in time. We cannot have these types of statements being uttered on television and radio. It is completely irresponsible.

Senator Whelan also spoke about the sale of Coillte and, as I have already said, we will invite the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to the House to deal with that matter. Senator Norris spoke about the motion regarding the Order of Business and Oireachtas committees. I fully agree with Senator Norris and the sentiments of this motion. If Senators look around now they will see that we have more Members than usual here at this point in time. I do not believe Senators should be attending committee meetings during the Order of Business. I propose that we have a discussion on that motion, in Government time, next Tuesday.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I thank the Leader for that.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I firmly agree that this House should take precedence and that the Order of Business, in particular, should take precedence. If committee schedules have to be changed, then so be it.

Senator Keane also spoke about the sale of the national lottery and Coillte, on which I have already commented. Senator Cullinane called for a debate on rural Ireland and I am sure that will form part of the debate on policing scheduled for next week. Senator Hayden raised the matter of the guidelines for mental health and suicide prevention in our schools which were published by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Lynch, today. Senator Donovan referred to a debate on policing which has already been scheduled. Senator Kelly spoke about social welfare entitlements and getting people back to work. Senator Mullen also spoke about the school patronage survey and as I have already said, if there is a flaw in that survey, it should be rectified. Senator Noone referred to increased Wi-Fi availability in Dublin, which is certainly a welcome development that also has the potential to advance our tourism product.

Senator Ó Murchú referred to a school in Caherciveen in County Kerry and the young pupils who were involved in charitable work, which is something we should all encourage.

We should all encourage young people to become involved in charitable causes. I fully agree with the Senator's assertion in this regard - the intimidation being carried out by The Jerusalem Postis totally unacceptable. The children and school in question should be praised for their efforts and involvement in charitable causes.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe called for a debate on the beef industry. I will try to arrange such a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in early course. The debate to be held yesterday with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has been rescheduled and will take place in a couple of weeks.

Senator Feargal Quinn referred to a school where sign language classes may be withdrawn. If the Senator provides me with precise details of the case, I will raise the matter with the Minister. I agree with the sentiments he expressed. He also referred to payments made by Departments to suppliers. It is essential that Departments pay their suppliers on time. I am informed that in the fourth quarter of last year, 98% of payments made by Departments to suppliers, with a total value of ¤1.25 billion, were made within 15 days. This is a wonderful improvement on the position over the past 12 months and one that should permeate through to local government and Government agencies. I agree with the Deputy that prompt payments are the lifeblood of small and medium-sized enterprises. The Government is living up to its promises in this regard. The news that Departments are now making payments to suppliers within a 15-day period is to be welcomed by all small businesses.

Senator Michael Mullins referred to the need to reassure communities where Garda stations are closing. This and other matters, for example, Garda vehicles, can be raised next week when a Private Members' motion is taken on the issue.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh referred to the use of the Irish language in the House during Seachtain na Gaeilge. I am making arrangements to have the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, come before the House for a debate as Gaeilge during Seachtain na Gaeilge. A number of Senators can speak fluent Irish. I understand the Seanad was the only House to debate a Bill exclusively as Gaeilge last year. Everyone involved in that debate, including the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, should be complimented.

I concur with the comments made by Senator Leyden.

Senator Colm Burke referred to the recent public hearings of the Joint Committee on Health and Children and proposed similar public hearings to discuss changes in public policy. This issue could probably be addressed. We have received requests from ASHOKA and other organisations to discuss changes in public policy with Members. Perhaps the matter could be addressed soon through the Seanad Public Consultation Committee.

Senator Martin Conway called for a debate on gambling, specifically online gambling. I agree with him on this matter and I am disappointed that legislation to introduce a tax on online gambling has not yet come before the House. The sector continues to get away scot free. I hope the Bill, which is on the list of legislation, will be expedited.

Senator Paul Coghlan called for a corridor along the Border to allow members of the PSNI and Garda Síochána cross the Border and indicated he intended to raise this proposal with the Minister for Justice and Equality. I am sure he will be able to do so during next week's Private Members' motion.

Order of Business agreed to.