Seanad debates

Thursday, 30 May 2013

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re draft Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2013, pursuant to section 262 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, referral to Joint Committee of the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, statements on matters arising from the RTE programme on early child care standards, to be taken at 12.15 p.m. and to conclude at 1.15 p.m., with the contribution of all Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be called on to reply to the debate no later than 1.10 p.m.; No. 3, Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013, all Stages, with Second Stage to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude no later than 4.30 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, that of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes and with the Minister to be called on to reply to the debate no later than 4.20 p.m. Committee Stage will be taken at 5.30 p.m. and the business will be interrupted for a period, if necessary, to take Report and Final Stages of the Bill.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the fact that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, will be coming to the House today and I thank the Leader for arranging this important debate. However, there is a real sense of groundhog day about the Order of Business and our response on this side of the House in that, once again, a guillotine will be imposed in the sense that all Stages ---

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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There is no guillotine.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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All Stages will be taken which amounts to the same thing.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Senator Mooney can stay here all night if he wishes.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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There was a major row in the other House yesterday, resulting in the suspension of a Member after a similar argument was put forward about the lack of time for debate. If ever there was an argument for retaining this House, it is contained in this Government decision in both Houses. This Government is riding roughshod over the democratic institutions of this State. There is no question about that. The unprecedented majority enjoyed by this Government means that it thinks it can do anything it likes, when it likes and how it likes. Here is a perfect example of that. As a result, I will be tabling an amendment to the Order of Business, opposing the proposal that all Stages of this Bill be taken today. That does not normally happen and the Leader has, on occasions, lauded himself and his party for ensuring that it does not engage in this type of practice but here is a perfect example of it.

In the context of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, coming to the House today, this issue is yet another example of what seems to be an increasingly dysfunctional Government. It is not just a question of this Minister but also of other Departments that are engaged in this area. For example, the HSE seems to be operating as some sort of a maverick organisation without any political oversight whatsoever. If one reads any of today's newspaper reports or listens to any of the media commentary on what has happened as a result of the fallout from the "Prime Time Investigates" programme, one can see that lots of promises have been made over the last two and a half years with regard to child care but very little has happened. I must say that Deputy Fitzgerald is a wonderful person with whom I had the pleasure and honour of serving in this House previously. I am not casting any aspersions on her personally. However, there are serious policy questions surrounding what is happening and I hope we will have an opportunity to tease those out later today.

I ask the Leader to convey our sense of frustration about the recent comments made by the US Senator Carl Levin, where he accused this country of being a tax haven.

This came about as a result of committee hearings which were attended by the chief executive officer of Apple, Tim Cook. Mr. Cook went on record yesterday in California as saying no special deal on tax was done between Apple and the Government when the company set up here in the early 1980s, yet, astonishingly, despite the talk by the Government parties and the Taoiseach about trying to make this the best little country in the world to do business, not one e-mail was sent or telephone call was made by the Irish ambassador to the US to Senator Levin. This has been going on for almost two weeks. Are the telephones not working in Government Buildings? Can people not contact Mr. Levin's office and disabuse of him of the notion that this country is a tax haven?

I encourage everyone to engage in the initiative taken by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the past week, in association with the National Library, to encourage the public to submit memorabilia and describe their memories of the visit of former US President John F. Kennedy to Ireland as we commemorate its 50th anniversary. The Leader hails from the neighbouring county to that of the president's ancestors. This is a wonderful initiative and a website has been set up. People can submit their memorabilia or forward their memories of the event to the National Library.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I would like to clarify the position on the amendment. There is no need to propose an amendment because Members can decide to call a division on each Stage of the Bill. Committee Stage is ordered to be taken at 5.30 p.m. Is the Deputy proposing an amendment?

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I am glad the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will be in the House later. Colleagues, particularly Senator van Turnhout, sought this debate yesterday and I am glad we have been able to arrange a debate at such short notice on the pressing issue of child care standards following the broadcast of the "Prime Time" programme last Tuesday night. Colleagues will appreciate the opportunity to debate the best ways to ensure adequate supervision, inspection and monitoring of standards in child care facilities with the Minister. As I said yesterday on the Order of Business and as the Minister said in the Dáil, a Garda investigation as well as a HSE investigation are under way into the allegations that were made and the serious matters that arose in the documentary about the crèches inspected. Clearly, there are broader issues, which we will debate earlier.

I welcome the announcement earlier this week of the new site for the National Maternity Hospital by Dr. Rhona Mahony, the master of the hospital. The hospital, which is currently based at Holles Street, will move to a purpose-built facility on the St. Vincent's Hospital campus. It is welcome that we will have such greatly improved facilities to look after the health of women in pregnancy, mothers and their babies. Coupled with the new children's hospital to be built on the St. James's Hospital campus, we will experience a great improvement in the coming years in health services for women and children. The State will retain the site on Holles Street, which is also welcome.

I congratulate Trinity College Dublin on its hosting of the European Space Expo, which commences next week. Anyone who visits Front Square on the campus today or over the coming days will be greeted by an enormous exhibition centre. Exciting talks and exhibitions will take place within the Space Expo dome, including events for children. I encourage colleagues with spare time to visit it.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am not as susceptible to the Cathaoirleach's blandishments as Senator Mooney is. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business because I do not want to take all Stages of this Bill and I do not give a damn what agreements were reached before now. I feel strongly about this because I was listening to the radio in my car on my way in and I heard how this Bill had been stuffed through the Dáil and would sail through the Seanad. It is a responsibility of ours to give it as rough a passage as possible. Let us make the weather a little less clement for the Government parties regarding this utterly disgraceful legislation, under which they presume to take onto themselves the right to tear up agreements and the right to punish individual members of unions who dared to exercise their democratic vote. What is happening to democracy in this country?

There is an increasing concentration of power in the Government and it is treating not only this House but also the Dáil as a rubber stamp. We learned the other day that the Taoiseach has commissioned a little mini-rubber-stamp for his little mini-committee, which will be a mini-Seanad or yellow-pack version of the House. This was the brainchild of some anonymous public servant. Will the Leader give the House the name of this person who is apparently in the ruling golden circle? There will not be much opposition from that shower if they ever take over the functions of this country. Thirty amendments were ruled out of order yesterday in the Dáil. Every type of ridiculous excuse is being found to throw out amendments and stamp out discussion. It is up to this House to stand firm and at least make sure there is a degree of protest against these violations of democracy.

I refer to the issue of water metering. A motion on planning and regulation will be put to the House without debate. This is one of the serious issues that the passage of the legislation creating Irish Water has brought to the fore. When water services were co-ordinated through local authorities such as Dublin City Council, there were clear responsibilities in planning to take into account the question of providing water resources and so on. I reiterate what I said when the Bill was going through the House. Could we at least have a semblance of joined-up thinking from the Government parties? They have given this function to Bord Gáis, which is a bad idea, but at least it is a utility. Will Bord Gáis, for God's sake, not have a little sense and install its own remote readable meters as well? Why can electricity, water and gas not all be done at the same time? Let us do something adult and mature for once.

I wish to raise the issue of the Royal College of Surgeons and Bahrain. It is quite extraordinary that there has not been a visit by the medical-----

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

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am sorry. People are being given Irish degrees which have never been validated by the Medical Council, and they may be required to supervise torture. We should be careful before we validate degrees for doctors who may be coerced into torturing civilian protestors.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I wish to clarify the Senator's amendment to the Order of Business. The Chair puts a question after each Stage of a Bill asking when it is proposed to take the next Stage. It is up to the House then when the next Stage is taken. I would like the Senator to clarify his proposal relating to the Order of Business.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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My proposal is that we do not accept the Leader's suggestion to take all Stages today no matter what happens. I suggest we take only Committee Stage today.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator can decide that following Second Stage.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I would like to decide it now, if the Cathaoirleach does not mind.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That question is not before the House now.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is now, because I have put it before the House.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Only the Leader can put such a question.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am the new leader-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I understand that, but the Senator is not the Government Leader. Committee Stage has been ordered for 5.30 p.m.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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And we have been told the remaining Stages will be taken as well. I am saying only Committee Stage should be taken today.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Senator is objecting to the Order of Business.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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No; I am saying we should only take Committee Stage of this Bill today.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator can call a division on that at the conclusion of Committee Stage.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I prefer to decide it now. We have been told by the Leader that the order of the House is that we take all Stages today. I do not agree with the Order of Business; I want to take Committee Stage only. I am sure my amendment is in order.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Compliments are due again to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine this morning regarding the negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy following the recent negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy and his handling of the fodder crisis. I wish him continued success.

I also commend the Minister for Finance on what has been achieved regarding the amendments to the maturity dates for our borrowings. What he is achieving at ECOFIN is huge and I wish him continued success.

I am concerned about issue of VRT rebates on used cars which are exported on a weekly basis.

I gather this is a very lucrative business. Senators will all have seen the advertisement stating, "We buy used cars for cash". I have tried to establish, unsuccessfully thus far, how much the State is losing because of the scheme. I am awaiting a reply from the Revenue Commissioners. I spoke to the chairman yesterday at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and, please God, I will receive a reply. Hundreds of cars are leaving the country weekly, destined for Africa or another destination. We are not concerned about this because the cars may constitute an export product, but I am concerned about the size of the rebates the State is paying under the scheme. I suspect that the scheme has been designed to get money out of the State. I suspect it may be something of a scam, but I do not know and I would like to know more about it. Perhaps a debate on this issue could be dovetailed with another on a financial matter.

10:40 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I call for an urgent debate on the fishing industry. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to invite to the House the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, if he is back in the State, in order that he might explain to us what he has done in Europe and how he achieved it. He should outline the fundamental changes proposed. I heard him speak on "Morning Ireland” this morning. If one had no knowledge of the fishing industry, one would be impressed by the beautiful language used and the fact that the agreement is historic, etc. However, because I am involved with Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill in producing a new fisheries Bill and have been consulting people widely in west Cork and the rest of the south, and also County Donegal, I realise that the fishing organisations, which number five rather than six, have not been consulted by the Minister since Christmas. The initiative was driven by departmental officials. This morning I asked a man who has been involved in fishing for nearly 40 years – I believe he is distantly related to the Minister – about the proposals on discards. He says they are unworkable and will not achieve the desired effect. Another fisherman, to whom I spoke this morning after having rung him to see whether he had been listening to the radio programme, says that, irrespective of the situation in Europe and circumstances in ten years, many people will have left the fishing industry in Ireland in the next five or six years because the laws are unworkable and the industry is overregulated, such that fishermen are finding it impossible to make a living.

It is extraordinary that the fishing organisations from County Donegal to County Cork - I have great respect for many of them - were not consulted. If this happened in the agriculture industry, the IFA, the ICSA and other organisations would be up in arms. I am not raising this matter lightly; I am deeply concerned about the fishing industry which constitutes a minority grouping. There are not too many fishermen and the number is dwindling, but the industry is important. I call for an urgent debate, today if at all possible. If the Minister is back in Ireland, I ask that the Order of Business be amended. The Minister is extremely busy; I am not saying otherwise. We had an excellent Minister of State, Mr. Shane McEntee, who, unfortunately, passed away last year. It is regrettable that he has not been replaced because there has been an appalling lack of effort on the part of the Government. It is not that there are not enough candidates in the Labour Party or Fine Gael to fill the role. There are many Members waiting for the call. If a Minister of State could be appointed with specific authority to deal with the fishing industry, I would welcome it.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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I wish to raise the issue of postcodes. Formal consideration of the introduction of postcodes began in 2005. In September 2009 the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Eamon Ryan, said postcodes would be introduced in 2011. It is now 2013 but nothing has happened. It is important that we improve the quality of delivery. More important, we need to facilitate the emergency services. By introducing postcodes, an out-of-hours GP service would be able to find a location very easily and simply that it simply could not find at present. Likewise, the ambulance service could find such a location. In Dublin it is regarded as a crime if an ambulance does not arrive at the scene of an accident within eight minutes, but we do not have that luxury in rural areas, where one might be lucky to get an ambulance in 45 minutes. Last week I followed an ambulance on my road out of the town. It stopped on two occasions to ask ladies who happened to be foreign for directions to its destination. It was looking for the soccer pitch, where an incident had happened. The drivers did not have a clue where they were going and this is why postcodes are vital. Will the Leader request the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to make a statement on the matter?

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I share Senator David Norris’s concerns about how the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill was rushed and railroaded through the Dáil. It might be helpful if the Leader clarified how exactly the Bill will proceed through this House. I understand that while all Stages will be taken today, there will be a break between Stages and that we will be able to deal with all of the amendments and sit for as long as we need to finish the Bill. If that is the case, I support the Order of Business. I seek clarification from the Leader on that issue.

I warmly welcome the decision made by the Cabinet to establish technological universities, including one in the south east. It will be welcomed broadly across the five counties of the south east and also by Carlow and Waterford institutes of technology. For many years there has been a campaign for a university in the south east. The focus has often been on geography and critical mass which are obviously important, but a technological university based on innovation and research and development is exactly what the south east needs. I pay tribute to all those who work in Waterford Institute of Technology, especially those who work in the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group and ArcLabs. Fantastic, extraordinary research and development are being carried out in Waterford Institute of Technology. There have been many spin-off opportunities for job creation in the private sector. There was a job announcement in respect of the FeedHenry platform recently. The Leader and I were at a Telecommunications Software & Systems Group event recently where we saw at first hand the extraordinary research and development work carried out. In the context of the Cabinet having made its decision, it is important that we have a debate on the issue and that the Minister explain to us what exactly will be the role of the technological universities. What process will be involved in making them a reality for the three regions identified? I ask the Leader to arrange the debate as soon as possible.

Photo of Susan O'KeeffeSusan O'Keeffe (Labour)
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I, too, welcome the new arrangements for the new clusters and the new technological universities, as announced this morning by the Minister for Education and Skills. I ask the Leader for an early debate because I am sure there will be much interest in this issue. Between the 21 institutions, universities and institutes of technology, there will be four clusters across the country, including two in Dublin-Leinster, one in the mid-west and west and one in the south. Let me clarify an article in The Irish Times today that suggests the IT Sligo bid for technological university status, with Letterkenny and Galway-Mayo institutes of technology, failed. In fact, no bid was actually made. Therefore, there has been no failure. If the three institutes of technology that are working together decide in the future to make a bid to become a technological university, the option will still be available to them. In the meantime, they will form part of the new cluster for the west and north-west. This, I hope, will allow expertise to be developed in the individual colleges and for the colleges to work together to avoid duplication in their various areas of expertise. The Minister's announcement is welcome and we should have an early debate on it.

It is welcome that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will be present in the House today. Many issues are still being raised. I would like to highlight the continuing delay in police checks, not only for those who work in crèches but also for those working in many other areas. We should have a conversation about police checks and the lengthy and continuing delays. The delays cause problems for businesses, particularly crèches.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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Last night in Dublin Castle the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, launched a new book entitled, Freedom Within the Heart, by Mark Mahon. It is on the life and times of the High King of Ireland Brian Ború.

We will commemorate him next year. There are also plans to have a feature film made, starting next year. It would be good news for the film industry, Ireland and the morale of the Irish people. As we know, he was a very significant figure in Irish history and was also a cultured person who was a patron of the arts. He can be put in a context of unifying all the traditions on the island.

I welcome the decision by the marching bands of the loyalist tradition at a meeting in Derry yesterday to participate in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Derry in August. They will march through the streets of Derry, shoulder to shoulder with bands of other traditions. It is not about politics or partisanship, rather, it is about having a common cause, namely, the musical heritage of Ireland. The decision did not make headlines, and perhaps that is good. Many such things are happening in the North. People are finding a place where they can work and co-operate together and respect each other's traditions. I salute the loyalist bands for that because it was a major, as well as a very generous, decision.

10:50 am

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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I agree with Senator O'Donovan's call for a debate on the fishing industry and second his amendment to the Order of Business on the overnight developments at EU level on the Common Fisheries Policy. We require an update on it. While I generally welcome what was achieved at European level and the work of the Minister, much has been disguised under the banner of discards.

Much more significant issues face the industry apart from discards. The pelagic sector which fishes out of Castletownbere, Killybegs and Rossaveale, to a lesser extent, is very concerned that the discard issue is being flagged while other issues facing the industry are being ignored. The proposals contained in the CFP reform proposal in regard to discards are somewhat unworkable, given that the pelagic fleet is expected to introduce discards by January 2015. We need a rational debate.

I agree with Senator O'Donovan that there has been no consultation whatsoever with the fishing industry on discards. The pelagic sector is worth millions of euro to the Irish economy and supports the fish processing sector, but it has not been consulted on this issue. That is not right. Why has Minister, ahead of such important negotiations at European level, not negotiated with the fishing sector?

As Senator O'Donovan said, it would not happen in any other sector and should not happen in the fishing sector. We need a debate at an early opportunity with the Minister to discuss all of the technical details associated with the CFP review.

I refer to the two women in County Louth who are in hospital as a result of the cannabis they consumed. There is a drug epidemic in the country. Criminals are dealing in drugs up and down the country, and are pushing drugs very aggressively. The Garda does not have the resources to deal with this epidemic. We need to have a debate on drug abuse and the impact it is having on young people. It is a scourge on society. I ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to discuss what he is doing about the issue.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Aontaím go bhfuil géarghá i ndáiríre le plé iomlán ar thionscal na hiascaireachta agus tá sé tábhachtach go ndéanfar sin i gcomhthéacs na gcomhráití faoin gComhbheartas Iascaireachta.

I agree that we need a debate on the fishing industry but it needs to be broader than the CFP. I agree with my colleagues who raised the issue. It would be good to get an update on it, but I do not know how practical that will be given that the negotiations concluded last night. We need to examine how quotas are being divided in the State. We have said a number of times that if quotas were rebalanced in a more equitable fashion we could create more employment along the coasts. I welcome the commitment from the Leader that he will try to bring the Minister to the House to have a full debate on the fisheries industry, and how we can keep it vibrant and bring more young people into it.

An issue arose yesterday at the Joint Committee on Education and Skills. A senior official said the value for money audit of small schools is complete and on the desk of the Minister for Education and Skills. It is the first time that has been stated officially. If that is the case, it is to be welcomed because we have waited for two years. It will have a huge impact on rural schools. I call on the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House for a debate on the future of rural schools.

The report should be published immediately in order that its recommendations and implications are taken on board in the run-up to the discussions on the budget. We do not want to have another budgetary decision made without having read the report in full and taken its serious budgetary implications on board in terms of the impact of changes to pupil-teacher ratios on rural schools, the loss of posts and the effect on the surrounding community. Such a debate would be very useful.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Leader and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for agreeing to a debate at such short notice following the "Prime Time" programme on child care facilities. What we saw was disturbing, shocking and totally unacceptable. We saw poor practice and a dereliction of care, bordering on abuse. I am pleased that a comprehensive investigation is now under way by the HSE and the Garda.

We also need to acknowledge the many fine crèches that operate in communities around the country.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We will have statements on that issue later today.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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They are doing excellent work. We need to be vigilant. It is shocking and appalling that the inspectorate has been found to be so inadequate. We need legislation to be passed quickly to improve child care standards in the country. People are paying significant amounts of money to have their children taken care of on a daily basis. They need to know they are safe and are getting the best possible care, and that the regulations are in place to ensure that happens.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Today is a significant day for our colleagues in county councils throughout the country. At 5 p.m. an announcement will be made on the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government website regarding new constituencies. Many of our colleagues will be in great difficulty, given the reduction in the number of seats in Roscommon from 26 to 18. Leitrim and other counties will also be affected. The number of seats has increased in the eastern area. The demolition of cities like Waterford, Kilkenny and Limerick is a retrograde step. I wish them well in the redrawing of constituency boundaries.

I commend the Leader and Senator van Turnhout on calling for an immediate debate on the RTE "Prime Time Investigates" programme on 28 May on the specific crèches which were investigated, namely, Giraffe in Belarmine, Links in Abington and Little Harvard in Rathnew. RTE has done the State great service. It has been more effective in the investigation of these crèches than the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We will have a debate on the issue.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate that, but I want the opportunity to speak. I would be embarrassed if I were the Minister, in the HSE or investigating those organisations. It is so obvious-----

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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We are not, but I wanted-----

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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The Senator is a member of a party which neglected the matter over many years.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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It seems RTE is doing the work of the Department, and did an excellent job.

I agree with colleagues, however, that there are many excellent crèches throughout the country. The only way the problems identified in the RTE programme will be solved is via providing for the continuous closed circuit television monitoring of staff.

11:00 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator will have an opportunity to make these points during the debate this afternoon.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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CCTV monitoring is the way to go, not to be broadcast into homes on a daily basis but rather to be kept as a record. It is the only way of ensuring this type of mistreatment does not recur.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I join colleagues who have called in recent weeks for a debate on the system of processing passports which comes within the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In common with other public representatives, I have been inundated in recent months with queries from people who have discovered their passport is out of date or about to expire and are in a panic because they have flights booked to travel on holiday or business. Will the Leader ask the Department to put in place a system whereby people would be notified, either by e-mail or text message, within six months of the expiration of their passport? This would afford them ample opportunity to renew their passport. I pay tribute to the departmental officials who frequently assist us in facilitating the public in obtaining passports at short notice in cases of emergency. It would be helpful, however, if the Department would launch a media campaign to remind people to check the status of their passport. In addition, we should have a system, as I have suggested, whereby passport holders would be notified by electronic means that the renewal date is imminent.

I did not have an opportunity yesterday to welcome the announcement made by my namesake, the Northern Ireland Minister for Finance and Personnel, Mr. Sammy Wilson, of an allocation of €21 million for the construction of a bridge linking counties Louth and Down at Narrow Water. I pay tribute to everybody who campaigned for this initiative in the past 35 years, including the late Councillor Micheál Ó Domhnaill and sitting Councillor Peter Savage of Louth County Council, as well as Deputy Seamus Kirk and the former Deputy, Mr. Dermot Ahern. Several Members of this House were lauded yesterday for their efforts in this regard, including Senator Mary White. I take the opportunity to pay particular tribute to Senator Terry Brennan. He is the one man in the past 35 years-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Terry Brennan was congratulated on the Order of Business yesterday.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I did not have an opportunity to congratulate him.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator can do so in the ante-room.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Terry Brennan has persisted for 35 years in pushing for this project. I am delighted to see his aspiration become a reality. Well done to him.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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The construction of a bridge at Narrow Water would not have happened 20 or even ten years ago. The allocation of such a significant sum for this purpose by the Northern Ireland Government is very welcome. I congratulate everybody who helped to bring the project to fruition, especially Senator Terry Brennan.

In response to the point raised by Senator Diarmuid Wilson, I have always found the Passport Office to be very receptive, particularly where an individual has had a death in the family. The staff are very accommodating in such circumstances, not just in response to requests made by Oireachtas Members.

Will the Leader arrange a debate on third level education, including the proposals announced today for the linking of a number of colleges? We should take the opportunity to have our say in this regard before a final decision is made. The other day I expressed my concern at the increasing tendency on the part of institutes of technology to neglect manufacturing and technology in favour of more academic disciplines. We must have a combination of both. The proposal to link a number of colleges is worthy of debate in this House and I hope it will be accommodated in the coming weeks.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I support Senator Feargal Quinn's call for a debate on third level education before the summer. I flagged this issue with the Leader two days ago. The proposed reorganisation of third level education is big news, involving the creation of three new technological universities. I bow to all those who have worked very hard in making the case for Waterford Institute of Technology. They are not quite over the line, but there is a plan in place to achieve their objective. The formation of regional clusters between universities and stronger institutes of technology will facilitate the development of centres of excellence which can offer enhanced student outcomes. That will allow us to punch harder as a country. At the same time, however, we must accept that it will not be possible to offer every possible course in every institution. We will have to give up something. I am the mother of a student who is sitting the leaving certificate examination next week. I would like my child's desired course to be available in Galway but that might not be possible in the future. We cannot have it every way. I congratulate the Cabinet on finally coming to a decision, after the many years during which the issue was kicked down the road. Likewise, I congratulate the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, for bringing it to the fore. We have a great deal of important legislation to deal with before the summer recess, but I ask the Leader to prioritise a debate on this subject.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
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I was invited to attend a meeting with the membership of Kerry County Council earlier this week. The Kerry councillors, in common with their counterparts in local authorities throughout the country, have serious concerns about the savage cutbacks in housing grants. In County Kerry the allocation has been reduced by 53%. Councillors on all sides of the political divide in the county are working together in a positive way to encourage the Government to find alternative sources of funding to replace the lost allocation. One suggestion was that the cost of the coroner's service should revert to the Department of Justice and Equality. Members might be surprised to learn that the cost of this service is currently met by local authorities. In County Kerry, for instance, it is approximately €300,000 per year. That cost should more properly be met by the Department. Local authorities have nothing to do with coroners' inquests, yet they are footing the bill for the service. I ask the Leader to raise this matter with the Government with a view to effecting a better administration of the coroner's service. Any saving accruing to local authorities could provide badly needed funds to accommodate elderly people who are heavily dependent on housing grants in order to live in some degree of comfort.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I urge the Minister to join the 29 member states of the European Union that have signed the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. In this context, I welcome the announcement that Facebook has finally bowed to pressure concerning the potential for content on its site to promote violence against women. The company confirmed last Tuesday that it would remove supposedly humorous content endorsing rape and domestic violence. An example of this was a picture of Rihanna's face covered in bruises - I hope it is acceptable to mention the likes of Rihanna on the Order of Business - with the caption "Chris Brown's Greatest Hits". That is supposed to be funny but is actually horrendous. Facebook has also agreed to update its policies on hate speech and increase the accountability of content creators. This development marks an important victory for various women's rights activists. It is difficult to comprehend how such offensive material was allowed to remain on the site. I applaud this development in the light of the disturbing statistic that one in five women in this country has been subjected to domestic violence. On more than 2,500 occasions women and their children could not be accommodated-----

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

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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We had a debate on some of these issues recently, but I was anxious to raise this particular matter. I urge the Minister for Justice and Equality to join the 29 EU member states which have signed the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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The report on the public hearings by the Joint Committee on Health and Children on the heads of the protection of life during pregnancy Bill 2013 was signed off on this morning and will be available to Members at 1 p.m. It is a valuable document setting out a summary of the evidence given to the committee by the various experts and will provide important context for the debate following publication of the Bill. That process has shown the importance of public consultation and inviting contributions from all sides of an argument. I also take the opportunity to acknowledge the Senators and Deputies who made very constructive contributions during the course of the debate.

On the human tissue Bill, it is vital that we move this issue forward as soon as possible in the context of the broader question of organ donation. We are far behind other countries in Europe in this regard. I gave the example recently that one kidney transplant led to a saving of €750,000 during the lifetime of the recipient.

It is most important that the Bill which, I understand, is at draft stage, is brought forward at an early date. I call on the Leader to seek clarification from the Minister for Health on the matter. If necessary the Bill should be commenced in this House because it is important that we move forward. We need to deal with this issue. There are more than 1,800 people on dialysis at the moment, compared with Norway where there are only 370 patients, because it has a far more proactive policy in place in respect of organ donation.

I wish to raise one other issue in dealing with this Bill. One of the things we do not incorporate in this country relates to where there is no provision for living donors to recoup even their out-of-pocket expenses. They must take time off from work and so on and that should be part of the Bill as well. That is a major debate and we need to have it. If necessary, in the area of presumed consent to a donation we should have a similar consultation process to the process we had in the protection of life during pregnancy Bill. It would be useful to have a public consultation on that issue as well and I call on the Leader to seek clarification.

11:10 am

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I note today that the EU Commission has urged the Government to confront a re-emergence of the lax lending standards in the banking system. The Commission has warned that it has found fresh signs of these lax standards in the recent past. I have asked the Leader to bring to the attention of the Government and the EU Commission that the Seanad has taken a strong stand on this. This is why No. 25 is on the Order Paper. Under the Bill we propose to separate casino banking from utility banking and to require banks to raise more money themselves and to have a higher capitalisation ratio such that this time around they will not be gambling with our money but with their own. The last time it cost us €64 billion upfront and there will probably be a final bill of approximately €90 billion. We should issue a warning from this House to the banks that they must reform and that we will not pay out a second time.

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Hayes, has arranged for the promoters of the Bill, No. 25 on the Order Paper, to meet him and his officials in a few weeks' time and we will be pushing the matter at that stage. However, this is an area where the Seanad is alive to what is happening in Irish banking. We should commend to the Government what the EU Commission has said. We must reform Irish banking. The five years of disastrous performance that we have seen has damaged the lives of everyone in the country and the House should be willing to take a strong stand in this regard.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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I wish to follow what Senator Colm Burke has said in respect of the publication of the report of the Joint Committee on Health and Children. I am not a member of the committee, but having been involved in the hearings on abortion I reckon the external consultant auditor, Michael O'Sullivan, seems to have done a very fair job in summarising the diverse points of view that were heard. I remain of the view that it was a decidedly flawed process. I do not believe it is possible for people each with bursts of three minutes at a time to engage in anything like the necessary scrutiny, but certainly credit is due to all those who came in and gave of their time. As one of the non-members of the committee who took part throughout the three days I was grateful that other non-members of the committee were present and able to do so as well.

I rise to support an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh maidir le lorg na díospóireachta faoi na scoileanna faoin tuath. It is important that we have the debate now because it appears the value-for-money audit of rural schools is on the Minister's desk. There is an area of concern to me which I have discussed with several primary school teachers and principals and which is relevant in the context of the current debate about child care. What is the position of schools in which there is only one teacher from the point of view of child protection and child safety? Teachers in one-teacher schools believe themselves to be in a vulnerable position in that scenario given that we are all rightly conscious now of having appropriate procedures to prevent harm in light of all that has gone on in this country and all that has been revealed in recent decades. I sense, and I am told, that teachers in one-teacher schools do not get constructive answers when they talk to Government about their concerns. It is something I would welcome an opportunity to discuss if the Leader is in a position to arrange a debate about the future of rural schools, which I strongly support. They contribute in a major way to the fabric of life in the country. We should always go the extra distance to preserve the quality of life in rural areas and I believe our rural schools are a major part of that. I raise the particular issue of child protection because it is a concern to many people who find themselves as teachers on their own in these schools.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senators Mooney, Norris and Cullinane asked about the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013 and the amount of time we would give to it. I had announced on Tuesday that we would possibly be meeting on Friday to deal with the Bill because I understood there were 85 amendments in the other House. I thought we would have a similar number of amendments here and I made arrangements that we would meet on Friday. However, I understand that there are now approximately 30 amendments to the Bill from this House. I discussed the matter yesterday with the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin and with Senator Barrett and those who had tabled amendments. In light of the number of amendments tabled I asked if they would not mind if we dealt with the matter on Thursday and proposed the following: we would allow as much time as possible; we would have a break between Second Stage and Committee Stage; we would have a break, as I mentioned in the announcement of the Order of Business, between Committee Stage and Report Stage, if necessary; and we would allow ample time to discuss the Bill in full. That was the reason the business has been ordered as it is ordered. It has been ordered in consultation with all Members on the other side of the House who had tabled amendments.

Senator Mooney welcomed the fact that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, will be coming to the House at 12.15 p.m.

Everyone is glad that the chief executive of Apple has mentioned that there is no special deal and I understand that the US Senator in question and the Senate sub-committee have been written to by the Government on this issue to clarify the Government's position.

Senator Bacik welcomed the fact that the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street will move and that the new hospital will be on the site of St. Vincent's University Hospital. There will be a state-of-the-art building on the site and Senator Bacik has welcomed this. She also notified us of the European space expo in Trinity College next week.

Senator Norris will note that I have explained the position in respect of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill. I note his points on Bahrain as well and motions have been passed in the House on the matter previously.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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What about metering? Will the Leader transmit to the relevant Ministers the idea of putting-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Leader, without interruption, please.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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We will do that. I have it metered here.

Senator Coghlan welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, on the agreement on the Common Fisheries Policy. This is a matter which Senator O'Donovan has raised, as have Senators Ó Clochartaigh and Ó Domhnaill. The Minister has agreed to come to the House in early July to discuss the Common Fisheries Policy. As I said on Tuesday, despite what some Senators have stated in the House, the Minister had regular contact with representatives of the fishing industry before the negotiations and he will continue to have negotiations with the stakeholders in that regard.

We should all welcome what happened during the negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy which only concluded last evening. European fisheries Ministers have agreed to end the decades of overfishing and rebuild dwindling stocks by 2020. The agreement will achieve what Members have called for on several occasions. It will stop the annual negotiations over catch quotas by EU Ministers with officials now following scientific advice more closely when setting quotas in the future. I am sure the Minister will expand on this when he attends the House for the debate on fisheries in early July.

I will ask for an update on postal codes for Senator Kelly from the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Senators Cullinane, O’Keeffe, Quinn and Healy Eames raised this morning’s announcement by the Minister for Education and Skills on the setting up clusters in third level education and three technological universities which will be based on innovation, research and development. As Senator Cullinane mentioned, I was recently invited with other Members to attend the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group and ArcLabs, TSSG, an offshoot of Waterford Institute of Technology. It is involved in innovation, research and development with linkages to industry and manufacturing. The proposed technological universities should be focused on links with industry. I will arrange for a debate with the Minister as soon as possible to clarify the process in this regard. Quite a number of Members have sought such a debate and I will ask the Minister to facilitate us in early course on this matter.

Senator Ó Murchú raised the links between culture and marching bands in Northern Ireland. As I have stated on many occasions, music transcends all barriers.

Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the matter of drug abuse. I am assured that the Garda and the Customs and Excise have all the resources necessary to tackle this issue. They have a difficult task. The help of local communities and the public is a vital ingredient in solving this problem.

Senators Ó Clochartaigh and Mullen raised the matter of the value for money audits for small schools and called for a debate on the future of rural schools. The report is with the Minister and it is another debate that we can have when he attends the House. At this stage, there are four subjects on which we will be having debates with him.

11:20 am

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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We could have an omnibus debate.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I have been criticised for having omnibus debates before and that the subjects should be more specific. The Senators cannot have them every way.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I support the Leader on that.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Why drag CIE into everything?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senators Mullins and Leyden will be able to make the points they raised with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs later when she attends the House.

Senator Leyden raised the matter of the new electoral boundaries for local authorities. I understand it will go online at 5 p.m. this evening.

Senator Wilson raised the point, one which was raised on Tuesday too, about having some form of notification to go out to people whose passports are about to expire, like what happens with motor tax. The onus is on individuals to check their passports but I will make the point to the Tánaiste and Minster for Foreign Affairs and Trade to see if anything can be done in that regard.

Senator O’Sullivan asked about the costs of coroners’ offices which are borne by local authorities. He made a good point that these would be more appropriate to the Department of Justice and Equality. I will certainly discuss it with the Minister so that those funds could be used to make up the decreases in the funding made available for housing aid for the elderly and so on.

Senator Noone raised the question of violence against women and welcomed the necessary changes Facebook has made in this regard. It was appalling what was going on there. As she stated, we did have a debate on this matter recently but I commend her on raising this point again this morning.

Senator Colm Burke asked about legislation on organ donation. I understand it is being drafted and I will ask the Minister that it be introduced in the Seanad. Several other Senators have raised this issue before on a number of occasions.

Senator Barrett raised the lax lending standards by banks. I welcome the fact officials will be discussing with the Senator and others, no. 25 on the Order Paper, the Financial Stability and Reform Bill 2013. The Seanad has certainly taken a lead on this issue and we should not be shy in making that point.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Norris has tabled an amendment to the Order of Business: “That all Stages of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013 not be taken today.” As the amendment has no seconder, it lapses.

Senator O’Donovan has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: “That a debate on the fundamental changes in the EU Common Fisheries Policy be taken today.” Is the amendment being pressed?

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Níl

Senator Diarmuid Wilson:   

11:30 am

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 27.

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

Amendment declared lost.