Seanad debates

Thursday, 27 June 2013

10:30 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Before I call the Leader, I am sure that the House will join with me in welcoming guests of Senator Walsh, General Tommy R. Franks (Ret.) and his wife, Mrs. Cathy Franks, Senator Briggs Hopson and his wife, Mrs. Alison Hopson, and Mr. Doug and Ms Amy Polasky, to Leinster House. We hope that they enjoy their stay in Ireland.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I welcome back our friend and colleague, Senator Norris. It is great to see him back in the House.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I welcome back our friend and colleague, Senator Norris. It is great to see him back in the House.

The Order of Business is No. 1, Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 - Report Stage, amendments from Dáil Éireann, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude no later than 12.45 p.m.; No. 2, Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013 - Second Stage (Resumed), to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to adjourn no later than 3.30 p.m., with the contribution of each Senator not to exceed ten minutes; and No. 4, Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2013 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 3.30 p.m.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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I join with colleagues in welcoming back Senator David Norris. It is good to see him.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to ask that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, or whatever Minister is available, comes to the House today to discuss the new voluntary code of conduct on mortgage arrears announced by the Central Bank of Ireland and the personal debt crisis which is now the burden of so many households throughout the country. Mr. David Hall of New Beginning has said it is reprehensible that the Central Bank of Ireland has simply rolled over for the banks in this regard. FLAC has also expressed its concern about the new voluntary code of conduct. Some of the toothless measures in the old code of conduct, which at least prevented the banks harassing people by contacting them more than three times a month, will be removed. Now within 30 days the banks can set about repossessing a family home. Some 53,000 people are out of the moratorium period announced this morning. A further 100,000 people are in mortgage arrears and now the banks are in absolute control.

Yesterday I called for a criminal investigation into how the authorities in Anglo Irish Bank managed to force the hand of the Central Bank and demand what they wanted be done, but we now see it happening again. The Central Bank is rolling over in favour of the banks. This week we saw the Minister for Finance celebrate the new bank deal and how the EU will deal with bank failures in the future. More power to him for his efforts on our behalf in Europe but the public can legitimately ask, what is in it for the people? We put forward the Family Home Bill, the Debt Settlement and Mortgage Resolution Office Bill and countless other measures and proposals to give tangible support to people and to the silent crisis with which families throughout the country are struggling.

Today the Government's only act is to allow the Central Bank of Ireland to roll over and capitulate in favour of the banks. What is in it for the people? For that reason, we propose an amendment to the Order of Business because it is time the people got some level of representation and some bone thrown to them by Government and the EU for taking all of the pain in this crisis.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Could I clarify what Senator MacSharry is calling for? Is it a new code of conduct? What are the exact words?

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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My amendment states: "That the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, or whatever Minister is available, comes to the House today to discuss the new voluntary code of conduct on mortgage arrears announced by the Central Bank of Ireland and the personal debt crisis which is now the burden of so many households throughout the country."

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I join with the Leader in welcoming Senator David Norris back to the House. The Senator was missed yesterday in the debate on the referendum Bill but we look forward to his-----

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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No doubt he will make up for that.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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No doubt he will make up for his absence. We are delighted to see him back.

I refer to the new Central Bank of Ireland code for those in mortgage arrears. The number of mortgages in arrears by more than 90 days - almost 100,000, or 12.3% of mortgages - is extremely worrying. It is particularly worrying when we see homeowners' mortgages in arrears. It is undoubtedly the case that action needs to be taken and it is welcome to see a code of conduct. We can make very valid criticisms where the code of conduct appears to be too easy on the banks but there are some very welcome measures in it and we need to have a reasoned debate on it in due course. I am not sure rushing into it with slogans and sound-bites today is the answer but we should take-----

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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I have been talking about this since 2009.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Bacik, without interruption.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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This code has just been published and as I said, there are issues of concern in it, although there are some welcome aspects. I am very glad to see there will be no fast-tracking of home repossessions and no forcing people off tracker mortgages, both of which the banks wanted but did not get. We need a reasoned debate and to look at what measures in the code will help people in distress with mortgage arrears and at where it needs to be strengthened. We should have that debate in due course but I do not think it would be appropriate to have it today.

I welcome the publication yesterday of the scheme for the survivors of Magdalen laundries institutions. We might have a debate on that when we have looked in detail at the terms of that scheme.

Will the Leader arrange a debate in early course on the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence on a review of legislation on prostitution which it published today? Senators Zappone, Mac Conghail, Conway and I were among those present for the launch of that report. It is a hugely important report which makes radical recommendations for reform of the law on prostitution. The report was conducted at the instigation of the Minister who is actively looking at reform of the law in this area. The Independent nominees to the Seanad initiated this review through their motions in this House, so it has an important ownership of the report. It would be great if we could have a debate on this report in early course. I will ask the Chairman of the committee, Deputy David Stanton, to write formally to the Leader to ask for that debate, as I have asked him to do in respect of the committee's report on penal reform.

Members will be interested to hear that the report on prostitution recommends that we adopt the Swedish approach to legislation where we criminalise only the purchase of sex and not the sale, so effectively we decriminalise those engaged in prostitution but we criminalise the purchasers. It would only be a summary offence, so it would be a minor offence only.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Disgusting and sanctimonious.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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Those of us who visited Sweden as part of the committee delegation were hugely impressed by the very compelling evidence in favour of the new model of legislation we saw in operation there. I would really welcome a debate on the report, as I know other colleagues would. I ask the Leader to organise it in early course.

Photo of Katherine ZapponeKatherine Zappone (Independent)
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I have a question for the Leader which I want to put in context by acknowledging that this is Pride Week, so I wish all of my colleagues a very happy pride. The annual LGBT Pride parade will take place this Saturday in Dublin city centre. With more than 30,000 people participating in the parade, it makes it the second largest parade after the St. Patrick's Day parade. This year Pride is celebrating 30 years in existence and 20 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, so it is a particularly great day to welcome Senator David Norris back to the Chamber. It is because of his contribution that I, as a lesbian, and many other gay and lesbian people were able to grow up in this country feeling proud. When I ask myself what am I proud of this week, one of the things is that I am extraordinarily proud to serve in the Seanad with Senator David Norris. I am also proud to serve with Senator Ivana Bacik, who was our junior counsel in our case in regard to these issues, and with every Member because I have felt exceptionally welcomed and embraced for who I am and I thank them for that today. Pride being one's self is one of the greatest gifts one can have and it leads to an extraordinary sense of well-being and that is the greatest thing for which anybody can wish.

The celebrations we are having in Ireland this week are all the greater because of news which came from the US Supreme Court yesterday that the Defence of Marriage Act, which bars married same sex couples from equal federal benefits, has been declared unconstitutional. It is a landmark court victory for lesbian and gay Americans. The US Supreme Court has ordered the federal government to recognise legally married lesbian and gay couples.

My question for the Leader is in the context of this Irish Pride Week. As a way of making a contribution to Pride, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 13, Legal Recognition of Gender Bill 2013, be taken before No. 1 today. I will seek leave of the House to introduce the Legal Recognition of Gender Bill 2013, which is kindly co-sponsored by my colleagues, Senators van Turnhout and Mac Conghail. The Bill seeks to fulfil Ireland's obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights in providing a legal mechanism for transgender people to have their preferred gender recognised. It is the result of community effort and with the input of the transgender equality network Ireland, FLAC and others, it is in line with human rights standards. It provides for a gender recognition application process which respects the person's right to self-determine and for his or her dignity to be upheld.

I hope it will contribute in particular to young transgender people having a genuine sense of pride for who they are.

10:40 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Norris, whom I welcome back to the Chamber.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach and everyone else for their kind comments. I hope you will all forgive me for getting well. I feel so much better and I am enjoying life so much. It is a pleasure to be here. I hope no one will think it is a fraud perpetrated for the sake of gaining popularity. It is not. I feel great and thank everyone for their good wishes, which are slightly embarrassing.

I have always been a little controversial and want to break the unanimity on the proposals about prostitution, which I find horribly sanctimonious. I do not like them and propose to speak and vote against them. I do not believe a fair hearing was given to all the variety of sex workers. The deliberate blurring of the boundaries between trafficking and sex workers is wrong. Of course, I would not like any of my family to be involved in this area. I have never used the service of prostitutes but I have been in a number of brothels for different reasons and have put that on the record. I have seen how they operate and the conditions therein. I once went to the aid of a woman in a brothel close to where I live. She was working on her own and was happy doing it.

When I was in hospital I heard on a programme about a brave young man who is severely disabled who travelled with some disabled companions to Spain where he visited a brothel. It was perfectly run and was almost like a nursing facility. Had he not done so he would have died without ever experiencing the beauty of sexual release and pleasure. I would not want to deny him that. I do not think it is right to say to a person that just because he or she is ugly or disabled he or she cannot ever have sex.

I give three cheers to Holland which makes this service available on the national health and does not criminalise people who purchase sex. I hope we will listen not only to the Swedish example, which is flawed, but to the example of the various areas in Australia which found this to be a total failure and the voices of some of the most senior venereologists in this country who have warned of the dangers of it.

Pass the proposal if it must be; this is a democracy. However, listen to all of the arguments and have the courage to take on board the views of the other side. I know what I am saying is unpopular but that does not bother me at all. Also, I fully intend to stand for the next election to Seanad Éireann. I will be around. As unpopular and all as are my views, people like that there is someone around to voice them.

While I welcome what has been done in respect of the Magdalen laundries, what about the Bethany Homes? Can we please have some information about them? I would like also to register my disappointment at the proposal to close An Siopa, through which we have had an interesting relationship with people with disabilities and Rehab. One of the workers in An Siopa, Barry, was always tremendously cheerful. If we cannot give an example of inclusion in the Oireachtas, that would be a terrible shame.

I share the views expressed by others in regard to the bankers and look forward to the debate in that regard. Unusually, I compliment the Irish media, in particular the Irish Independent. The research carried out by Paul Williams and Dearbhail McDonald was outstanding. It was, in my opinion, exemplary investigative journalism which was a little tainted by the petulance of one of their colleagues on television the other evening. I commend them on it. It stands as a classic example of wonderful investigative journalism.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator continues to take latitude on the Order of Business.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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For which I am very grateful.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I regret to say that I still do not believe the Government realises the anger among the public at the revelations during the past week in regard to the banks, what went on within them and the cavalier and inappropriate attitude of senior bankers in 2008 and, I suspect, today towards the people and what they have done to rescue the banks. The people will be shocked to learn that the penalty for the most serious form of white collar crime in this country is a fine of €12,000 or six months imprisonment. Irrespective of the banking inquiry, we urgently need to increase these penalties to ensure they act as a deterrent. We need also to introduce as a matter of urgency the offence of reckless trading and banking fraud offences. We need to introduce as a matter of urgency more stringent criteria in respect of accountants who sign off on the books of banks. I call on the Minister for Finance to provide for an urgent review of the accountants who acted as auditors to the reckless banks and who are now acting as auditors to State companies. Immediate action is needed in this area. It is what the people expect.

On a more positive note, I welcome the treaty for visually impaired persons signed and agreed yesterday by 800 to 900 participants with the World Intellectual Property Organisation. This will facilitate the availability of printed material in formatted form, which means people with print disabilities will be able to access a great deal more printed material. Unfortunately, until now, because of the various copyright laws in different jurisdictions, only 5% of the world's printed material was available to blind, visually impaired or people with other print disabilities. Following the successful negotiation of the worldwide treaty yesterday, this will be reversed. I call on the Leader to organise a debate in this House on the ratification of this treaty by the Irish State in due course.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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I, too, welcome Senator Norris back to the Seanad. He was missed. I am glad he is continuing his curmudgeonly view, in particular in regard to prostitution. I commend the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on its work on the issue and, in particular, I acknowledge the work of Seanad Éireann in pursuing it. The issue has been under consideration for almost two years. It was first highlighted by the Independent Taoiseach nominees group. We achieved something in Seanad Éireann in that we were able to address this horrific scar on our society. With respect, I disagree with Senator Norris. The committee did hear from all sides.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Eventually. They wrote to me when they were barred.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Mac Conghail, without interruption.

Photo of Fiach MacConghailFiach MacConghail (Independent)
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There was a substantial amount of debate and discussion across all sides. I urge all members of Seanad Éireann to read the report, which is the result of an issue first highlighted here by me and Senators Zappone, van Turnhout and Mary Ann O'Brien. I support Senator Bacik's request that the Leader consider this report as a matter of urgency. We need to remain focused on this issue because, as we speak, there are women and children being trafficked to this country for prostitution. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to the House as soon as possible to ensure we keep up the pressure on this issue and ensure Seanad Éireann can contribute to a fairer, more equitable and balanced society. I also acknowledge Senator Conway's contribution.

I second Senator Zappone's amendment to the Order of Business.

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour)
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I also seek a debate on the code of conduct on mortgage arrears. I accept it is asking the impossible of the Leader that he have the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, in the House today. I am not even convinced that is a good idea because I believe we need time to digest what is contained in the code of conduct on mortgage arrears and the responses of other groups to it. The Leader will be aware that I have called for a debate on this issue on a number of occasions. I am disappointed we did not have an opportunity to have an input into the code of conduct on mortgage arrears before its publication. In my opinion, it is a akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

It was stated on publication of the report that the code of conduct was arrived at following engagement with a number of consumer interests. I would like to know the consumer interests with whom there was engagement.

There is evidence that organisations such as FLAC were not engaged with in the context of their concerns. I would like to establish how many distressed mortgage holders were engaged with when conclusions were being reached in respect of the code of conduct relating to mortgage arrears. While I accept that there has been a degree of rowing back on some of the initial proposals, I do not believe this should blind us to the fact that the code of conduct on mortgage arrears is more generous to lending institutions than it is to distressed borrowers. That is the reality of the matter.

10:50 am

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour)
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In the context of tracker mortgages, for example, Mr. Bernard Sheridan, the director of consumer protection with the Central Bank, has stated, "No doubt the lenders would prefer more options to move people off trackers but to do so they have to offer ... an alternative which is affordable and sustainable". One of the difficulties which arises relates to who determines what is affordable and sustainable. Under the code of conduct on mortgage arrears, it will be the banks that will make determinations in this regard.

There is a need to examine the code of conduct from the perspective of those who are the least advantaged, namely, distressed borrowers. In any legal scenario, it should be the contra proferentem rule which applies. In other words, the interpretation should be against the stronger party and in favour of the weaker one. I would, therefore, welcome a debate on this matter. There is a real suspicion among distressed borrowers that because the housing market has turned the corner, banks which were previously unwilling to engage with them in order to reach settlement of one form or another are now not only willing but are prepared to do so with an alacrity that would leave a modest virgin blushing.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I also wish to welcome Senator Norris back to the House. While he does not agree with everyone all of the time, he does tend to agree with some of us some of the time.

I second Senator MacSharry's amendment to the Order of Business. The new code of conduct to which he referred has been discussed in the House previously. It is a banker's charter to terrorise those whose mortgages are in arrears. The Minister for Justice and Equality attended the House when it debated the legislation on personal insolvency and he would not reveal to us the conversations he had with the banks. The latter's representatives engaged in meetings with officials from the Department of Finance and we asked him to provide the minutes taken at those meetings in order that we might discover what was asked of the banks. However, as Senator MacSharry pointed out, the Central Bank has rolled over and given way to the bankers. This will no doubt give rise to people losing their homes. Citizens already feel that they are being forced out by the banks.

I wish to request a debate on the ambulance service throughout the country and in my county, Kerry. The director of the national ambulance service, Mr. Robert Morton, has referred to strategic deployment of ambulances throughout the State. When he visited west Cork, Mr. Morton addressed a meeting and stated that ambulance services would be redeployed and would be repositioned in some areas and withdrawn from others. When it was pointed out to him that the withdrawal of ambulances from towns in west Cork would lead to people dying, he stated that this is the price those who live in the area must pay.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
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Did Mr. Morton say that? Will the Senator provide a reference for that statement?

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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An interesting headline relating to this matter appeared in The Kerryman, which declared "Cuts are just death by geography" and this is exactly what happens when one lives in a rural area. If Mr. Morton, who lives in a nice suburban home-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator should refrain from using people's names on the record of the House.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach. If Mr. Morton, who lives in a nice suburban home in Dublin, was obliged to wait an hour and a half for an ambulance to arrive at his front door, I have no doubt that there would be an inquiry. If people in Dublin were obliged to wait two hours for the arrival of ambulances, it would be declared a national scandal and RTE would highlight the matter on its news programmes.

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

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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When something of this nature happens in rural areas, nothing is said. According to the director of the national ambulance service, that is the price those who live in such areas must pay.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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It is good to see Senator Norris back in the House and in his usual good form.

I congratulate Major General Michael Finn on his appointment as head of mission and chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation. This is not just a great honour for Major General Finn, it is also a great honour for the Defence Forces and the country. I wish him well.

I salute the superb acting talent and ability of Senator MacSharry. I am of the view, however, that he may have over-egged the pudding to some extent regarding the matter he raised. However, and in light of his ability, I accept that this comes naturally to him. I support what Senator Hayden stated. As the Leader will recall, yesterday he acceded to a request to hold a debate on mortgage arrears and the new code of conduct in due course. It is disturbing that almost 90,000 people's mortgage repayments are over 90 days in arrears and that 46,000 or 47,000 others are in trouble. As Senator Hayden stated, we need to digest the details relating to this matter in a proper fashion. I echo the calls for a debate but I do not believe it would be possible to engage in such a debate today. It would not be wise to hold a debate of this nature matter today. There is a need to allow people to absorb all the relevant information before they comment on the matter.

I would advise Senator Daly not to go down the road of referring to the Taoiseach or Ministers engaging in conversations with bankers. I would advise him to desist from making such comments. Those matters are in the past and he should leave them-----

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

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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No, I have said what I have said. I am sure the Leader-----

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

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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For the information of the Senator, it is on the record of the House and is well known.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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-----will respond in his own good time.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Paul Coghlan should resume his seat. I call Senator Barrett.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Representatives from the Department of Finance met the bankers-----

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

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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-----because the latter were seeking changes to the personal insolvency legislation. We are not clear as to whether-----

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

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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It is normal for communications to take place between-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Paul Coghlan is way over time. I call Senator Barrett.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I thank the Leader for his splendid contribution on the role of the Seanad during yesterday's debate on the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill.

On the points made by Senators Conway and Hayden, the House will be taking Committee Stage of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill 2013 this afternoon. In that context, I note that some of the fines will be levied at values which will be merely double the amounts that obtained under the 1942 legislation. In real terms, this represents a reduction. In light of the major level of public concern regarding this matter, serious consideration should be given to waiving the unwritten rule to the effect that Members on the Government side cannot table amendments.

Work on the Luas extension will begin on Monday next. That work will take place very close to the Houses. Concern must arise in respect of this matter, particularly when one considers that the project relating to the Tallaght and Sandyford Luas lines - originally estimated to cost €290 million - eventually came in at €750 million. The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform estimates that at the time there was a €6 subsidy per passenger because the capital had not been costed in properly. In the context of the current project, reassurances must be provided to the effect that proper procedures have been put in place. The Comptroller and Auditor General has warned that on the previous occasion most of the risk involved was borne by the taxpayer rather than the engineers. I would go so far as to say that we must be prepared to bankrupt construction companies which played a role in trying to bankrupt the State. It is important that this project should be brought in on time. It is a useful project and it offers a much more attractive alternative to digging up St. Stephen's Green and connecting the two sides of the city via an underground section. It is a good project but we have had bad experiences in the past with regard to similar projects.

My final point relates to the report on prescription drugs by Paul Gorecki, Aoife Brick and Anne Nolan of the ESRI. The report notes that spending on such drugs in Ireland is now the third highest in the world and that the level of such spending has risen dramatically from 46% of the level in the United States - which, unfortunately, leads the way - in 2000 to 58% in 2005 to 70% in 2010. It also states that notwithstanding the success the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, has had, we must continue to pursue this matter. In particular, it draws attention to the fact that the substitution of generic drugs for patented ones in this country gives rise to reductions of 20% when the level of such reductions should be approximately 90%. The Minister is due to come before the House later today. As guardian of the public purse in respect of engineering projects and the price of pharmaceuticals, the Seanad should always seek to assist Ministers in controlling prices in sectors which have a strong tradition of overcharging.

11:00 am

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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I refer to the revelations relating to Anglo Irish Bank. Apart from the damage that was done to the country financially, we need to take into consideration the number of people who lost their homes, the number of people who committed suicide as a result of financial distress, the number of marriage break-ups and all the social issues caused by the actions of a number of these people. On that basis I believe it is important to call for a proper banking inquiry.

Senator Mark Daly referred to the ambulance service and I fully agree with him. I have said in the House before that it is a crime in Dublin if there is no ambulance on site within eight minutes, but in rural Ireland one is lucky to get an ambulance within 45 minutes to an hour, on average. To me, this is a HIQA double standard, because the standard is eight minutes in Dublin but it does not really matter outside of Dublin. If there was another service in rural Ireland that was not up to the standard required by HIQA, then, as we have seen in the past, the authority would quickly shut it down. Questions must be answered in respect of the ambulance service. It seems to be Government policy to share services and yet there is a difficulty between the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department of Health with regard to co-locating ambulances at fire stations. Apparently, the Department of Health owes the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government money for the work of the fire services in the past. These are simple things which should be easily resolved within Government in order that we roll out and provide a proper ambulance service nationwide, especially in rural Ireland

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an moladh atá déanta ag mo chomhghleacaí, an Seanadóir Zappone agus dea-ghuí a ghabháil maidir le Seachtain an Bhróid. Táim cinnte go mbeidh an-deireadh seachtaine ag gach duine. I concur with the remarks of Senator Zappone, who offered her best wishes to everyone for pride week. Would that we could be so proud of our bankers it might be a better day. There has been much discussion overnight in Europe regarding an agreement which would see investors and wealthy depositors help to save any failing banks in future. It is important that we are seeing such movement. I make the point in the context of when Sinn Féin put forward the notion of burning bondholders because we were told that it could never happen and that it was totally impossible. There is movement in that area but I also note that we are being told that it will be 2018 before any of that could actually start.

I concur with much of the sentiment on the banking sector. However, among the general public there is little confidence, even at the moment, in the banking sector. There is still a sense that the tail is wagging the dog. The press statements and the revelations about the telephone calls may show that some of the more cavalier people in the banking system were totally over the top, but there is also a sense that the culture was prevalent among the top echelons in most of the banks. Many of these bankers continued in positions of authority and some of them still do.

We need a broader debate on the implications of this potential deal in Europe for Irish citizens. How is it going to take the burden off us? I appreciate that it will not happen today because the Minister is still in Brussels, but it is something we should have soon. Will we see relief for Irish citizens? There was great talk when we assumed the EU Presidency that we would be seeking a deal on the debt burden on Irish citizens, but there is not much talk about it at the moment. I am hopeful that something will come of these negotiations, but 2018 is a long way down the road and Irish citizens are still suffering. It is important to have a debate not only on the mortgage distress situation, but on the culture of banking in Ireland and whether the tail is still wagging the dog.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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It is timely that I am making my submission after my Sinn Féin colleague. I welcome the fact that the leader of Sinn Féin, Deputy Gerry Adams, took up my point in the Dáil yesterday when addressing the Taoiseach. I raised this issue in the House last Tuesday, when I called on the Minister for Finance to seek the taped telephone conversations from all the State bailed-out banks up to and including the point when the banks received a bailout from the State and I reiterate my call in that regard. In light of the Anglo Irish Bank revelations and the possibility of further tapes getting out into the ether, it is important to get the Minister for Justice and Equality into the House. It is important to discuss and debate the possibility of making it a criminal offence to mislead the Government or any State authority on matters of national interest. I would welcome a debate on this at an early point, possibly before the end of term.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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Táim an-bhuíoch don Chathaoirleach seans a thabhairt dom labhairt this morning. Yesterday evening at the gate of Leinster House I joined 600 people who were protesting at the cruel cuts in education for children with disabilities and special needs. The group of 600 included children with a wide range of disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and grandparents and grandmothers of children with special disabilities.

While I welcome the reversal of the cruel cuts to resource teaching hours, the Minister is not acknowledging that there will be 2,000 extra children with special needs entering the education system in September and he has not allowed for the allocation of money for special needs assistants.

This is the second time the Minister for Education and Skills has reversed cuts to people who are weaker in society and it shows how out of touch the Minister is with the weaker people in our society. At the protest yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Rihanna Dempsey. I have a picture of her before me. She is a child with special needs. Her mother, Lorraine, told me that she would dearly like to speak to the Taoiseach herself about these cruel cuts in the budget for the education of children with special needs.

In the 1916 Proclamation, which everyone in the Chamber buys in to and feels passionately about, the Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens. The Proclamation declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its equal parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally. This Government and the Labour Party Minister have clearly shown that they do not respect the weaker people in our society by not putting the educational moneys and supports into their developing their full potential, as all of us in the Chamber have been allowed to do.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
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In light of the ongoing revelations in the media about Anglo Irish Bank I call on the Leader to contact the Minister for Finance with a view to setting up an inquiry into one particular element of the story which is in danger of being overlooked. We know that the revelations are the most blatant and obvious demonstration of the arrogance, hubris and, I contest, criminality that took place in Anglo Irish Bank. However, there is a particular case relating to an Anglo Irish Bank subsidiary in Austria, which, bizarrely and strangely, was sold by Anglo Irish Bank with a loan provided by that same bank to the buyer, Valartis, a Swiss brokerage. The bizarre and strange thing about the sale of this Anglo Irish Bank subsidiary in Austria is that at the time of the sale it had deposits of between €600 million and €1 billion on its books. This was after 6 September 2008, the very time to which these tapes relate and the very time that Anglo Irish Bank was contesting that its problem was a liquidity problem. Yet between €600 million and €1 billion worth of liquidity was available on its books, albeit in an Austrian account. Despite this, the bank saw fit, strangely, to sell the entire subsidiary to a shady Swiss brokerage. I wish to establish the beneficial owners of the deposits in that bank to determine whether there is an Irish connection to the beneficial ownership of the deposits.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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This morning, Senator Barrett referred to the price of generic drugs as against branded drugs. I have before me an ESRI report which is rather startling. I realise we have taken action on this and moved to have legislation in place. Therefore, I am somewhat unsure where we should go from here, but it seems that if there is a 90% gap between generic and branded goods in other countries but we have only approximately a 10% or 20% gap, then we must do more.

Ireland has led the way in so many areas in science. One of which that deserves attention is traceability of meat products that enabled us to identify that there was horsemeat where it should not have been. In a recent development in Australia they have been able to use similar technology to allow customers in McDonalds to trace the origin of their meat right back to the herd of cattle. They can do this on a smartphone app. It is a reminder of how we have been able to lead the way but have not made the best use of our technology. We need to continue to invest in science and such developments, and not leave things on the long finger.

Britain will today announce a big involvement in shale fracking. I believe that investment will go a long way towards solving its energy problems in the future. I know it is a big discussion point as to whether we should do it. However, we seem to put things on the long finger so often and not make decisions. I believe we should have a debate at some stage in the future on science and the need not just to invest in science but to ensure we carry the results of such investment through to a final conclusion.

11:10 am

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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As we discuss all our own problems it is very easy to lose sight of problems and difficulties in the world as a whole. I renew my call for a debate before we rise for the summer on the ongoing crisis in Syria and the lack of progress being made in any peace process to help resolve the difficulties there. To date more than 100,000 people have lost their lives, 5 million people are internally displaced and more than 2 million people are in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Ultimately this will have implications for all EU countries. There is a massive crisis involving rape, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has the potential to be the major humanitarian crisis of our time. We need to have a discussion with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore.

I support the call by Human Rights Watch for the Tánaiste to make contact with the Syrian authorities to call for the release of and dropping of charges against Mazan Darwish and four of his colleagues who are before the courts. Their only crime was exercising their basic right to freedom of expression and assembly. As a country we need to show solidarity. We need clarification on the Government's position on the situation in Syria.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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I support Senator MacSharry's amendment to the Order of Business to have the Minister for Finance come to the House to discuss the mortgage issue and the new code of conduct published by the Central Bank. While many people are struggling with mortgage repayments, banks are putting serious pressure on individuals. This week we have heard the Anglo Irish Bank taped telephone conversations and the disgraceful nature in which bankers, particularly those in Anglo Irish Bank, have treated the people. It is disgraceful and disgusting. We need to hear from the Minister as to what the Government will do about it. There has been lip service. It has reacted to those tapes. There have been other tapes - the Lowry tapes - and there has been complete silence from the Government. What will it do? We need to bring the Minister for Finance before the House. I appeal to the Leader to accept Senator MacSharry's amendment in the interests of national importance so that we can hear what will be done with these rogue bankers who destroyed the country and brought about economic collapse. It is absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. We could do the Seanad and the people some service by having a comprehensive debate on the matter today.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I concur with Senator Ó Domhnaill and other speakers throughout the week. Every day the tapes have revealed more and it is vital that this be addressed urgently. The perpetrators need to be brought to justice immediately. Those people addressed a serious situation jokingly but there are crises in many areas. All week I have spoken about the issue of special needs. Last night I spoke people who are not involved in special needs but are under threat of losing their homes and in serious financial difficulties, and yet have to sit and listen to the recordings being drip fed from the media every day.

Yesterday the Irish Hospice Foundation reported on the dreadful lack of hospice beds. Owing to regional inequality in the resource allocation an estimated 2,500 patients are denied access to hospice services every year, which is appalling. It reported that we need 450 hospice beds while only 155 are available. Many areas have no access to hospice beds including my county, Louth, as well as counties in the midlands and the south east. I call for a debate on the area in order to address the situation immediately.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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At the risk of making the Chamber sound like a broken record, I mention issues relating to the banks and attempted to get the Order of Business amended. I am somewhat troubled by the fact that there are two wholly separate things that need to be investigated in the banks. There may or may not have been malfeasance and illegality on the part of bankers and the justice system should investigate that. That is important. Justice needs to be done and needs to be seen to be done. It will not fix the consequences of any actions that may or may not have occurred. The way in which those actions will be addressed will be by trying to restructure and renegotiate the debts we have.

At this point it is not clear to me that we have sufficiently investigated the actions of others and not just those who were working in the banks but those who were working in Government, the Central Bank and in the international agencies. Who knew what and when did they know it? Did any of the well-trained and incredibly experienced professionals in the European Central Bank have any idea of the scope of the debt of the Irish banks? Did they bring any pressure to bear on our Government to give the guarantee? Did they know more than our Government knew on the time? Were they holding back on information?

I do not know that this is the case, but it is a question which needs to be asked. It would certainly give us greatly enhanced moral authority in dealing with ongoing negotiations over things such as the retrospective capitalisation. It would also help to counter some of the incredibly adverse publicity we have had. If, hypothetically, it transpired that major shareholders of the European Central Bank were themselves going to be beneficiaries of the bank guarantee, a net transfer of assets and resources away from Irish people to German and other investors, that is something that needs to be known and widely promulgated. For that reason we should not shy away from having an Oireachtas inquiry. We can be very careful in an Oireachtas inquiry to ensure we do not act in any sense that would be prejudicial to any other criminal investigations which should occur wholly independently and in parallel. We are not really asking the same things. I am reiterating my call that we need an Oireachtas inquiry into the matter.

Regarding the Magdalen laundries redress scheme, while I may be misinformed, I am hearing that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, is hoping that the religious orders will make a contribution.

This is as yet undecided. As I recall from the McAleese report, with no disrespect to our esteemed former colleague, the forensic accounting component was wholly deficient. Bland statements were made that the laundries operated at a subsistence, loss or small profit level. It appears the accounts which were examined were those supplied by the accountants acting for the laundries. It must be remembered these laundries provided a service to customers. These customers were often the same orders as those which ran the laundries, which ran other institutions which had contracts with the laundry. Were they charged the commercial rate? Were they, in fact, subsidising the activities of other profit centres in the congregations? These questions need to be teased out but have not been.

I echo the call made by my friend, Senator Higgins, for legislation which would make it a crime to mislead the Government. I will propose an amendment when it comes through that it would also be a crime for the Government to mislead the people.

11:20 am

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

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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I would also like to recommend that any of those folks who state they cannot get access to the Taoiseach to make very important points to him might consider getting jobs in the tobacco industry.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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Like everyone else I abhor the revelations on the Anglo Irish Bank tapes. Senator Ó Domhnaill has accused the current Ministers of lip service. It will be very interesting to hear what type of lip service was coming from Ministers involved at the time. I welcome the call by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, for voluntary statements from these politicians who were involved at the time because the least the people of the country deserve, is a clear statement as to what went on in terms of communications with the bank. The Minister for Justice and Equality indicated this morning that an Oireachtas inquiry is possible, and while it may not have the teeth it would have had if the referendum had passed, Senator Crown is correct to state we need an inquiry and to ask these questions. It should happen in the very near future.

I also want to mention briefly the ESRI report which indicates attitudes in the country to immigrants are becoming more negative. The study reveals Irish attitudes towards immigrants were very positive between 2002 and 2006 but have become much more negative since then. The 2012 annual monitoring report on integration, which was launched yesterday, has some startling findings. As it may not be possible to have a debate on this before the end of the term, I call for a debate on it in the next term.

Photo of Tom ShehanTom Shehan (Fine Gael)
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Will the Leader invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House as soon as possible to review our bail laws? Last week I wrote to the Department to seek up-to-date figures for crimes committed by people while on bail. We seem to have a massive problem with burglary, and in 2012 the suspected offenders in 1,585 burglaries were on bail at the time of the crime. The figure in this regard has been relatively static since 2008. This means approximately 1,500 burglaries have been committed each year by people on bail. In 2012 the offenders in 3,795 cases of disorderly conduct were on bail at the time of the crime, 803 cases of criminal damage were committed by offenders out on bail and, of more concern, 11 murders were committed by offenders who were out on bail at the time of the crime. I call for an urgent review of our bail laws to see what we can do to minimise the number of people intent on breaking the law. It is ironic the house of the Minister for Justice and Equality was burgled by a person out on bail who was facing charges of having a firearm and ammunition. This is a very urgent matter and we need to discuss it as soon as possible.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I welcome Councillor Frank McDermott to the Gallery.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I certainly disagree with the interpretation of Senator MacSharry, the Acting Leader of the Opposition, of the proposed code of conduct on mortgage arrears. Today we will debate Committee Stage of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Bill, and what better time to raise points on the Central Bank and its code of conduct than when discussing the Bill? There will be ample opportunity for people who will be present and wish to take part in the debate this afternoon. I do not propose to accept the amendment to the Order of Business as proposed by Senator MacSharry.

Senator Bacik raised the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on the review of the laws on prostitution. This was also mentioned by Senators Mac Conghail and Norris, who disagreed with the findings. When I receive the request which has been sought by Senator Bacik from the Chairman of the committee perhaps we can have a debate with the Minister in the House.

I note the comments of Senator Zappone on pride week and the celebrations which will take place. I accept her amendment to the Order of Business on No. 13, Legal Recognition of Gender Bill 2013.

We welcome Senator Norris back to the House. He is still quite robust and got much latitude from the Cathaoirleach today. As I stated, he expressed his opposition to the findings of the committee and I am sure we will have a debate. He also raised the issue of the Bethany Homes and we will try to get an update for him on the exact position in this regard. Senator Norris is the leader of the independent group, as he has taken over from Senator Mullen.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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First among equals, not leader.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I know they have no leaders.

Senator Conway wondered whether the Government is aware of the anger of the public, and I assure him it is fully aware of it. This was outlined particularly at the parliamentary party meeting at which many members expressed the same sentiments as have been expressed in the House in recent days. I also note Senator Conway's welcome for the treaty on intellectual property which will help those who are visually impaired.

Senator Hayden raised the code of conduct and mortgage arrears and this can be discussed this afternoon.

Senators Daly and Kelly spoke about ambulance services in rural Ireland. I will certainly bring the matter to the attention of the Minister and see what proposals are in place to improve ambulance services.

Senator Coghlan rightly congratulated Major General Finn of the Army, who has been appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as head of mission and chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation. This is a wonderful honour for Major General Finn, our Defence Forces, his family and the country. We all wish him well and I am sure he will do an excellent job.

I note the comments of Senator Barrett on the Luas work and his calls for reassurance on the costs of the project and that it will come in on time and on budget. He also spoke about the price of drugs, as did Senator Quinn, in particular the difference between the price of generic drugs in Ireland and several other countries. Progress has been made on this matter and we have had a Bill on the price of drugs. I agree there is much more to be done in this regard.

Senator Kelly was one of a number of Senators who raised the issue of the banking inquiry. A Bill on the inquiries is proceeding at present in the Lower House. I have informed the Taoiseach that we will facilitate the passage of this Bill prior to the summer recess. It is very important that we deal with this significant legislation before the end of July.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh commented on the culture in the banks and I certainly agree with him in that regard. Senator Higgins and others referred to the taped conversations among bank officials in Anglo Irish Bank. I understand the tapes are with the appropriate body, the Garda Síochána and we hope that people will be brought to justice as quickly as possible. The public anger is palpable. There is a legal maxim "Justice delayed is justice denied." The sooner all those involved in these activities are brought to justice the better for everybody. If further legislation is required, I am sure the Government will take action on the matters that Senator Higgins raised.

Senator White welcomed the announced by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn on provisions for special needs pupils. The Minister for Education and Skills met with quite a number of representatives from families with special needs children.

11:30 am

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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He should not have made that decision in the first place.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Gilroy made relevant points relating to the sale of an Anglo Irish Bank subsidiary in Austria which should form part of the banking inquiry - I am sure it will. Senator Quinn raised the issue of generic drugs in addition to the traceability of food and the question of labelling. I understand Senator Quinn proposes to introduce a Bill dealing with that matter soon, possibly next week. Senator Mullins called for a debate on Syria. I have asked the Tánaiste to come to the House for a debate on the conflict in Syria, with shocking loss of life. I hope the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs will facilitate the request to come to the House to discuss this topic and outline the Irish position. Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill requested the Minister for Finance to come to the House to discuss the recent revelations in the banking tapes. We will have an inquiry and I hope that the Ministers who were in place at that point in time will give their storey to that inquiry. He mentioned the recordings and so on. I hope there are plenty of recordings in the Department of the Taoiseach and plenty of notes in both the Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance of the meetings that were conducted between Ministers and bankers at that time.

I agree totally with Senator Moran who raised the need for more hospice respite beds. She mentioned that in her country there are practically no hospice respite beds and it is the same in the south east. I think that is a scandal, a disgrace at this point in time. There were plans for extra beds but the hospice movement is now being asked to come up with large sums of money in order to make a contribution to the provision of these beds. I do not think that is proper. Respite beds were provided in other areas of the country but the areas without them are being asked by the Department to come up with practically matching funding. These beds should be supplied.

Senator Crown also raised issues relating to the bankers and asked who knew what and when, be they bankers, ministers, officials and the ECB and so on. I think that will form part of the inquiry.

The religious orders should make a contribution to the women who worked in the Magdalen laundries. I think everybody wishes the religious orders would make a significant contribution to this fund.

Senator Noone referred to the disturbing negative attitude to immigrants at present. The Minister for Justice and Equality has commented strongly on the matter. I hope that he will come into the House to have a debate on the question of integration. Senator Sheahon requested a review of the bail laws and supported his call with statistics on the number of crimes committed by people on bail. I think it is necessary to have a debate on the bail laws and I will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to debate the matter and if necessary to introduce legislation to deal with these matters.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of order. The Leader misled the House somewhat when he stated the Minister for Education and Skills met the people who were protesting yesterday.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I did not say that.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader said the Minister met the people who were protesting yesterday.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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The people listening will think the problem is solved.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Will Senator White please resume her seat. She is out of order completely.

Senator MacSharry has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, or whatever Minister is available, comes to the House today to discuss the new voluntary code of conduct on mortgage arrears announced by the Central Bank of Ireland and the personal debt crisis which is now the burden of so many households throughout the country." Is the amendment being pressed?

(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Maurice Cummins:  ] 

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Kelly was one of a number of Senators who raised the issue of the banking inquiry. A Bill on the inquiries is proceeding at present in the Lower House. I have informed the Taoiseach that we will facilitate the passage of this Bill prior to the summer recess. It is very important that we deal with this significant legislation before the end of July.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh commented on the culture in the banks and I certainly agree with him in that regard. Senator Higgins and others referred to the taped conversations among bank officials in Anglo Irish Bank. I understand the tapes are with the appropriate body, the Garda Síochána and we hope that people will be brought to justice as quickly as possible. The public anger is palpable. There is a legal maxim, "Justice delayed is justice denied". The sooner all those involved in these activities are brought to justice the better for everybody. If further legislation is required, I am sure the Government will take action on the matters that Senator Higgins raised.

Senator White welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn on provisions for special needs pupils. The Minister for Education and Skills met with quite a number of representatives from families with special needs children.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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He should not have made that decision in the first place.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Gilroy made relevant points relating to the sale of an Anglo Irish Bank subsidiary in Austria which should form part of the banking inquiry - I am sure it will. Senator Quinn raised the issue of generic drugs in addition to the traceability of food and the question of labelling. I understand Senator Quinn proposes to introduce a Bill dealing with that matter soon, possibly next week.

Senator Mullins called for a debate on Syria. I have asked the Tánaiste to come to the House for a debate on the conflict in Syria, with shocking loss of life. I hope the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs will facilitate the request to come to the House to discuss this topic and outline the Irish position. Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill requested the Minister for Finance to come to the House to discuss the recent revelations in the banking tapes. We will have an inquiry and I hope that the Ministers who were in place at that point in time will give their storey to that inquiry. He mentioned the recordings and so on. I hope there are plenty of recordings in the Department of the Taoiseach and plenty of notes in both the Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance of the meetings that were conducted between Ministers and bankers at that time.

I agree totally with Senator Moran who raised the need for more hospice respite beds. She mentioned that in her country there are practically no hospice respite beds and it is the same in the south east. That is a scandal and a disgrace. There were plans for extra beds but the hospice movement is now being asked to come up with large sums of money in order to make a contribution to the provision of these beds. I do not think that is proper. Respite beds were provided in other areas of the country but the areas without them are being asked by the Department to come up with practically matching funding. These beds should be supplied.

Senator Crown also raised issues relating to the bankers and asked who knew what and when, be they bankers, Ministers, officials, the ECB and so on. I understand that will form part of the inquiry.

The religious orders should make a contribution to the women who worked in the Magdalen laundries. I believe everybody wishes the religious orders would make a significant contribution to this fund.

Senator Noone referred to the disturbing negative attitude to immigrants at present. The Minister for Justice and Equality has commented strongly on the matter. I hope he will attend the House to have a debate on the question of integration. Senator Sheahon requested a review of the bail laws and supported his call with statistics on the number of crimes committed by people on bail. It is necessary to have a debate on the bail laws and I will ask the Minister for Justice and Equality to debate the matter and if necessary to introduce legislation to deal with these matters.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of order, the Leader misled the House somewhat when he stated the Minister for Education and Skills met the people who were protesting yesterday.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I did not say that.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader said the Minister met the people who were protesting yesterday.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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The people listening will think the problem is solved.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Will Senator White please resume her seat. She is completely out of order.

Senator MacSharry has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, or whatever Minister is available, comes to the House today to discuss the new voluntary code of conduct on mortgage arrears announced by the Central Bank of Ireland and the personal debt crisis which is now the burden of so many households throughout the country." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 34.

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

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Zappone has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 13, Legal Recognition of Gender Bill 2013, be taken before No. 1 today." The Leader has indicated that he is prepared to accept this amendment. Is the amendment agreed? Agreed.

Question, "That the Order of Business, as amended, be agreed to," put and declared carried.