Seanad debates

Friday, 19 July 2013

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business shall be No. 43, motion re the non-use of motor vehicles, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 1, motion re committee membership, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 43 without debate; No. 2, Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 11.45 a.m. and to conclude no later than 1.45 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 3, Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013 - All Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 2, with the contributions of group spokespersons on Second Stage not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators five minutes, and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately on the conclusion of Second Stage; and No. 4, motion re the earlier signature of the Electoral, Local Government and Planning and Development Bill 2013, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3 without debate.

I advise Members that we intend to sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week to complete all business awaiting disposal.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I do not support the proposal that No. 1 be taken without debate. We should be afforded the opportunity to discuss this matter. Deputy Denis Naughten was removed from committee membership yesterday without any consultation with him. That is not the way to conduct business in the Oireachtas.

Yesterday we learned, without any debate in either House, that 3,000 families currently in receipt of one-parent family payment will see cuts of €50 per week arising from the decision by the Minister for Social Protection to remove them from the scheme. It is most concerning that this is being done without any reference to this or the other House. A cut of €50 is a substantial reduction in weekly income for the households concerned. It is clear that the Government sought to get this through the gap, so to speak, just as the Dáil was rising for the recess yesterday. It is a convenient coincidence of timing that the Minister will not have to answer questions in regard to it. In that context, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister come to the House today to explain why she considers it equitable and fair that €50 per week is being taken from 3,000 lone parents.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I remind Senator Darragh O'Brien that we had a very full discussion on the changes to the one-parent family payment during the recent debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, in the course of which the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, outlined the proposal for an amended form of jobseeker's allowance to allow flexibility for single parents.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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She did not tell us she was going to do this.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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We had a full debate on the issue.

I commend the Minister, Deputy Burton, on the launch yesterday of the Pathways to Work programme. She is making strenuous efforts to ensure we have as many measures as possible in place to enable people to return to employment or engage in upskilling and training. This, coupled with the announcement earlier this week of a refocused prioritisation of job creation, is very welcome. On the other hand, reports that the IMF is urging that there be no easing off on austerity in the coming budget, despite the fact that the Government is set to exceed its deficit reduction targets this year, are regrettable.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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The Government's own Fiscal Advisory Council has advised the same.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I ask the Leader to accommodate a debate in the autumn on the big picture in advance of the budget.

Yesterday we learned that fixed-penalty fines will be introduced for cyclists who breach road traffic law. As a person who cycles to work here every day, I have strong views on the matter. I have no difficulty with the imposition of fines on cyclists who break traffic law. However, there seems to be something of an open season on cyclists from a range of commentators, including in the other House and in the media. It is most unfortunate that the focus should be on cyclists in terms of the flouting of traffic law. Every morning and evening I see motorists breaking laws and thereby endangering other road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists. However, because motorists tend to dominate the airwaves and their numbers are far greater than those of cyclists, we see a disproportionate focus on rule-breaking by cyclists. Such behaviour does happen and it is not excusable. Nonetheless, it is nothing like as dangerous as rule-breaking by motorists. We should push harder for a greater priority to be given to cyclists as road users and to taking account of their needs during the planning and development process. Dublin City Council has been very good in this regard, and much better in recent years than previously, but we still see appalling examples, for example, of cycle lanes which go straight into oncoming traffic. There is often no real provision for cyclists.

I add my voice to colleagues who yesterday wished Nelson Mandela a happy 95th birthday. Senator Sean Barrett reminded us that the student union in Trinity College renamed its office as Mandela House. Many student unions across this country and in Britain did the same and subsequently claimed some credit when Mr. Mandela was eventually released, which might have been a bit of a stretch. It was a real privilege to have served as student union president in Mandela House and to have witnessed his release from prison. It is great to see the celebrations surrounding his 95th birthday yesterday.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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Further to what Senator Ivana Bacik said, the trouble with student unions doing anything like that is that the following year, a new regime comes in and might choose to do something entirely different.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I understand the student union office in Trinity College is still called Mandela House.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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I am glad to hear it. I find myself in happy agreement with Senator Bacik - shock, horror - on the subject of the need to defend the rights and dignity of cyclists. I am not as frequent a cyclist as the Senator, but I am trying. She makes an excellent spokesperson for the cause.

I share Senator Darragh O'Brien's concerns regarding the proposal that No. 1, which overrules Standing Orders, be taken without debate. I propose a second amendment to the Order of Business that the motion not be taken today. I do so for the very good reason that the Government clearly has not considered the implications of what it is doing. It is normally a matter for the Committee of Selection of Seanad Éireann to decide the make-up of the membership of Senators on the various Oireachtas committees. As well as nominating Senators, it also has power to discharge their membership from time to time for non-attendance or at Senators' requests and to appoint others in substitution for those discharged. In this instance, I understand the Committee of Selection, which is chaired by Senator Denis O'Donovan, has not met.

There is a serious issue here in terms of the misuse of power by political parties. The latter are not mentioned in the Constitution. In fact, Article 15.10 is quite clear that the Houses, in making their own rules, do so in order to ensure freedom of debate. Parties moving in ruthlessly and immediately to dismiss people from committees of the Oireachtas because they sought their own freedom of debate and freedom of voting is an abuse of the committee system in party political interest.

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

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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Even though I understand this has not been tested in the courts, I would suggest it is an area in which they might well intervene if such misfeasance by parties were challenged.

Perhaps of most relevance to us today is the question of the proportionalities that must be maintained in the membership of Oireachtas committees. This proposal would remove three former Government Senators from various committees and replace them with three different Government Senators. Where we are dealing with committees that have five Senators as members, it seems to me that if the numbers were worked out, the representation of the Fine Gael Party should be reduced from two to one.

In proposing this, the Government-----

10:40 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator proposing an amendment to the Order of Business?

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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Yes, and I am setting out my reasons for doing so. This is a serious matter and I would like to know whether the Government has done the math in respect of it. Has it even considered whether it is disturbing the proportionality relating to membership of the committees or does it give a damn at all about that? What is being done sends out a very bad message and illustrates the dangers of what might occur if a unicameral parliamentary system comes into being here. If this is how people are intent on using the force of numbers available to them, it does not augur well for the future.

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

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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In such circumstances, I wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business to the effect that No. 1 be deleted from today's Order of Business.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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I pay tribute to Senator Darragh O'Brien in the context of the call he made yesterday in respect of the use of temperate language-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We are not reopening yesterday's debate.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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The Senator is a very honourable man and he possesses great qualities. I note the fact that the Senator's party leader has given him his support in respect of what he said. We all have consciences. With the exception of matters relating to horse and greyhound racing, I also have a conscience.

In the context of the introduction of on-the-spot fines for cyclists by 2014, I recognise the difficulties experienced by cyclists. People who cycle down Dawson Street takes their lives in their hands. In 2011, nine pedal cyclists were killed on the roads and 395 were injured. I am sure everyone will agree that if cyclists are a danger to themselves and others, then protections must be put in place. The fine for breaking a red light will be €50, while those for cycling on the footpath or failure to yield right of way at a yield sign will be slightly lower. If the Minister for Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is intent on introducing fines, he should bring forward one in respect of people who use mobile phones while cycling. That is a very dangerous practice.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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He should ensure that the relevant provision in that regard is enforced in respect of drivers.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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I support the basic premise put forward by Senator Bacik. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Alan Kelly, should be invited to come before the House in order that he might outline his strategy in respect of cycle lanes. I am aware that pilot schemes in this regard are in place in some towns in order to make roads cycle-friendly. The Minister of State should come before the House in the autumn to address this issue.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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I second the amendment tabled by Deputy Darragh O'Brien and I take this opportunity to endorse the comments he made yesterday.

I am seeking a debate on the subject matter of an article in this morning's edition of the Irish Examiner, which appears under the headline "Debtors protect assets in private trust". The article in question refers to a scheme being operated out of County Kilkenny which is being accessed by people throughout the country. Said scheme purports to place mortgages into a private trust, thereby removing from the banks their ability to repossess the properties to which they relate. I met one of the promoters of this scheme in Leinster House on Tuesday and, as a result, I am deeply suspicious of the scheme. The promoters charge people €250 to enter the scheme and claim that by using trust law, assets can be put beyond the reach of the banks. The individual I met informed me that the promoters had discovered a flaw in mortgage deeds which allows this to happen. As someone who is very familiar with such deeds and details relating to them, I requested information about this flaw. The promoters refused to divulge the details of the flaw to me. I was also informed that the scheme operates on a referral-only or invite-only basis. This fact is attested to in the article in today's edition of the Irish Examiner, which also indicates that 600 people have joined the scheme and paid €250 each for the privilege. The promoters actually informed me that the number of individuals who have signed up to the scheme is in the low thousands.

One interesting feature of my meeting with one of the promoters was that I was asked if I am familiar with the New Beginning organisation. I stated that I am familiar with it and that I know many of those who have been involved with that organisation in its various incarnations. I further stated that I am very proud of the work done by New Beginning and that I was glad to have worked with it in respect of a number of issues. The meeting ended when I outlined my relationship with members of New Beginning. As Members are aware, I continually raise the issue of mortgages in the House in the interests of trying to obtain answers for people. If, therefore, someone informs me that they have an answer, I want to discover what it involves. That is why I agreed to the meeting to which I refer. However, the secrecy, the fee involved, the unknown legal basis for what is being done here and the fact that the person I met clammed up when New Beginning was mentioned, have led me to reach the conclusion that this scheme bears all the hallmarks of a scam.

I urge the public to be wary of the scheme and those promoting it. I also urge the Irish Examiner and other media outlets to highlight this matter, about which I have genuine concerns. I have spoken to some experts in this field and they agree with my assessment. I compliment New Beginning which discovered a real loophole two years ago and which was involved in obtaining the relevant judgment in the Dunne case. I understand that none of the mainstream organisations assisting people who are experiencing difficulties with their mortgages endorse the scheme to which I refer.

Photo of Susan O'KeeffeSusan O'Keeffe (Labour)
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I agree with Senator Bacik in respect of her comments on cycling. The Senator is a keen cyclist and perhaps she would come to County Sligo and avail of the facilities it has to offer to cyclists. In the past two to three years Sligo County Council has invested a great deal in order to encourage people to cycle there and this has made a remarkable difference. The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Alan Kelly, visited Sligo in order to discuss issues relating to cycling, particularly moves to encourage primary school pupils to cycle. If we are to discuss this matter, then encouraging children to cycle should form part of the debate. We must ensure, as happens in the UK, children are taught how to cycle safely. I expect the reason they are not taught this aspect of road safety here is due to the availability of resources. In the context of the effect it can have on obesity, people's health, etc., cycling should be promoted.

I wish to thank an organisation, Talkaboutit.ie, which is based in Mayo and the work of which relates to ensuring that suicide is discussed in the public domain. I encountered a number of people who work for this organisation in a field in Ballintogher, County Sligo, last weekend and they were surrounded by sheep, cattle and hens. In a very ordinary way, they were engaging in a remarkable exercise, namely, being normal about suicide. They were there to raise awareness of suicide among people who were out and about buying things and enjoying the countryside in a very ordinary way. I pay tribute to them for their efforts. While there has been a great deal of discussion of suicide in the House during the past year, I am of the view that we have taken our foot off the pedal in respect of it. Perhaps in September we could discuss this matter - even in the absence of a Minister - in order to assess what resources we might have to offer in respect of it. We have taken our eye off the ball. There are 60 Members of this House and we must assist in raising awareness with regard to suicide. We cannot do enough in respect of this matter. The people I met last Saturday are operating on a voluntary basis. They were working out of a tent, in stifling heat, at the annual Ballintogher village fair and were due to head off to another festival on the following day. Surely there is something the 60 Members of this House can do to assist the efforts of this organisation and the many others like it. I pay tribute to those to whom I refer.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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At 3.26 p.m. yesterday the Department of Finance informed my office that it had decided not to respond to the European Commission's consultation paper on structural reform of the banking sector. I raise this matter in the context of No. 30 on the Order Paper and of discussions in which I, as a Member of this honourable House, engaged with the Department. I took it upon myself to make a submission in respect of the consultation paper because structural reform of the banking sector is absolutely vital in light of the problems that sector has created for this country. I am pleased to inform Members that the Seanad went to bat for Ireland in respect of this major issue-----

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

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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-----when the Department of Finance would not do so. It is particularly ironic that the Minister of State at that Department, Deputy Brian Hayes, who agreed to the arrangement whereby there would be no response to the consultation paper, will yet again be seeking the abolition of the Seanad or perhaps the cycling Taoiseach will take a day off from his bike in order to come before us on that matter. At present, this House is the only arm of the Oireachtas or Government which is making submissions in respect of this vital matter. We sent copies of our submission to Senators who we thought might be interested in it and we would be delighted to forward copies to others. This is another example - there have been dozens of such examples in recent days - of the vital role the Seanad plays.

The G20 is meeting in Moscow today in order to discuss matters relating to corporate taxation. This is a follow-on from the discussions held by the G8 in Enniskillen.

The report from the OECD identified a raft of loopholes used by companies in the technology, pharmaceutical and consumer goods sectors to reduce their liability. I am proud of our 12.5% rate and I have sought to have it extended to Northern Ireland, but tax lawyers and accountants, the so-called fiscal termites, have been working to reduce it. Parliaments have to be on guard against that.

A report on the NTMA's activities was released yesterday. Page 20 of it notes that the State Claims Agency now has 2,652 clinical claims under management, with an estimated liability of €969.8 million. We have discussed this issue with the Minister, Deputy Reilly. The HSE urgently needs to address the number of claims against the health service. We have undertaken many initiatives to improve safety on our roads and in other areas but there is the best part of €1 billion in claims against our hospital system, and it is increasing rapidly. The hospitals, consultants and everybody involved should address this problem, the scale of which is increasing and the addressing of which will be extremely expensive.

10:50 am

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I would like to join other speakers who spoke on the proposals to introduce on-the-spot fines for cyclists who flout traffic laws. As Senator Jim D'Arcy said, an on-the-spot fine of €50 will be issued in three circumstances: where cyclists cycle on the footpath, break a red light or partake in dangerous overtaking. The introduction of such a fine is long overdue. We have given cyclists improved facilities around cities, with bike lanes, shelters and tax incentives to purchase bikes, and the Dublin Bikes scheme has been a huge success, but these improvements also come with responsibilities, now that there are more people on our roads. It is beyond the time when the voluntary approach to regulating cycling is effective. Cycle tourism is a major development nationwide and regulation needs to be enforced on cycling, as in the case of initiatives such as the Greenway, which have been hugely successful. The Taoiseach's interest in cycling is a positive thing-----

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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-----because we lead by example when it comes to cycling and such matters. Cycling is regularly done at weekends, when most people are free of ordinary work. With more and more cyclists choosing to commute, which is a great development and something I would like to see more of, these laws are necessary and will ensure that cyclists are safer. I would like the funds that will be collected to be put to use to build more cycle lanes, such as the one along the Grand Canal, where cyclists are safely and properly separated from the road by a small ridge and where they have their own traffic signalling facilities. Such funds raised could be invested to improve the cycling network.

From a legal point of view, I have regularly been involved in cases in which a cyclist was the real reason an incident occurred but because of our legal system and the way insurance works in this country, drivers are generally held responsible because they are the ones with pockets, so to speak, in term of litigation. Such cases result in the hiking up of premiums. Cycling is an important area to regulate.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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I ask the Leader to call on the Minister for Health to ask HIQA to initiate an immediate review of hospital procedures regarding CJD in light of the discovery that potentially CJD-infected instruments were used on patients at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. It is important that this be done.

In light of the BAI report on public service broadcasting, I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to come to the House to discuss that report, particularly the sector that relates to the Irish language media. The Crowe Horwath report is based on flawed methodology, using only JNLR statistics, which do not take into consideration that most of the people who speak Irish live in a Gaeltacht area. Therefore, I believe it is flawed. Also, some of the suggestions in it might be in contravention of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language. I would welcome a debate on the Irish language media, particularly TG4 or Raidió na Gaeltachta.

I note we have another press conference this morning on job creation. We had one yesterday. The Government is very good at doing press conferences about creating employment, but the long-term unemployed need work, not promises. There has been a good deal of talk but not as much delivery. We have had the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs, which promised that 100,000 new jobs would be created by 2016. We were promised 10,000 extra jobs in financial services and an extra 20,000 in the manufacturing sector, but the Government during its term of office has overseen a loss of 24,000 jobs for young people. Some 187,000 people have left these shores and 10,700 full-time jobs have been replaced by 40,400 part-time jobs. Many of the job plans are based on a growth figure of 2%, but we do not have that level of growth. It is important that when we return after the recess we have some focused debates on job creation, as this is the main challenge facing the country.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I want to raise the issue of a Supreme Court decision yesterday and to pose a question to the Minister for Justice and Equality. A death sentence was imposed on Noel Callan in 1985 following a robbery in Ardee in County Louth. The death penalty was commuted to 40 years and yesterday's judgment means that this man may be considered for release. The head of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has said it is going to petition-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is a specific case. We do not deal with cases on the Order of Business.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Can we not?

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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No. The Deputy cannot.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Can I rephrase it another way? There was policy in Ireland that we had a death sentence for capital murder, and when this person's sentence was commuted that policy changed, as the sentence was lessened. I do not know if the Minister for Justice and Equality makes policy that covers the murder of a garda. If a person murders a garda, the punishment should fit the crime. Our gardaí are on the streets every day and they take chances for us. We should make sure there is a policy in place to ensure the punishment fits the crime. I am not talking about any particular crime or incident, but in general we have to know the policy. I am asking for a statement in that regard. If a garda is murdered, what will be done about it? Will a 40-year sentence mean 40 years?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I rise to support a comment made by the Leader and Senator Mullen regarding item No. 1 on the Order Paper. As Chairman of the Committee of Selection, I want to put on the record that we had no meeting; neither was I requested formally to have a meeting. Not alone should the Committee of Selection have met, but the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should have met. This particular attempt is like a diktat from the Politburo, a kitchen cabinet in a kangaroo court or a firing squad to get rid of certain people, and in my view it contravenes the constitutional rights of all Members. I am disappointed that this is the route we are going down.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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It is like a kangaroo court. There have been no meetings. There has been no attempt to do this in a fashion, as is normal, that complies with the Standing Orders that have applied in this and the other House for many years. I am disappointed at the way in which the power and duties of the select committee have been usurped. We have been sidelined. Maybe we should be disbanded. I am not sure. Perhaps that is a matter for another day.

On another matter, I ask the Leader to request the Minister for Finance or the Taoiseach to come to the House to set my mind at rest on a matter that has been bothering me for a number of months. Is there a serious attempt, in a most abnormal fashion, to delay the payment of various grants in an effort to appease the troika or to cook the books in order that the balance of payments position looks better at the end of the year? It is appalling that there has been a delay of 12 months in the case of some students in the issuing of SUSI grants. The processing of some medical card appeals - I have been involved with several - has taken nine to 12 months. I know of a case in which a woman has been waiting 18 months for processing of her carer's allowance application. The home help service has suffered significant cuts. I have been told by a social welfare officer that the delays involved in the processing of payments for people in my area who have applied for farm assist are between nine and 12 months. I appeal to the Leader, which is something I rarely do, to ensure such shenanigans are not allowed to continue. After all my time in politics, I now find it is taking an abnormal length of time to process payments for which the applicants are eligible, be it social welfare payments, farm assist payments, medical cards or benefit appeals.

Moreover, the position is getting worse, and this practice should come to an end. Next week, I intend to propose an amendment to the Order of Business to have either the Minister for Finance or the Minister of State at the Department of Finance come to the House to offer an explanation in this regard.

11:00 am

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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Senator Barrett raised the important issue of medical negligence, and it is timely that this entire area should be reviewed because of the cost to the State and to consider what can be improved within the health service to reduce the level of mistakes made. The figures the Senator quoted are absolutely frightening, but the matter touched on during yesterday's debate, namely, the possibility of staged payment of claims, also is important. This is how such payments are managed in Canada, and we should move to a similar system here. In cases for which I have acted over the past ten years, people received substantial compensation payments and put them into investments and property. However, they now find the compensation they received has disappeared, whereas with a staged payment process, people at least are guaranteed to cover their losses into the future on foot of suffering serious injury or whatever. I support Senator Barrett and it is time for this matter to be reviewed. Perhaps Members should have a debate on the issue during the next term.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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First, I second Senator Rónán Mullen's amendment. In addition, I seek permission to print a Bill in my name and that of Senator Barrett entitled the medical practitioners Bill 2013, which is with the Bills Office at present. I also wish to comment on the position regarding the Committee of Selection. It appears quite extraordinary that Members are bypassing-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator, is the aforementioned Bill on the Order Paper?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is with the Bills Office.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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It is not on the Order Paper.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Very well. I will move it on Monday.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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It must be on the Order Paper to do that.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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In that case, I will concentrate on the question of the Committee of Selection. It seems extraordinary that every regulation of this House is being violated by the present Government in its own party interests. I have never seen anything like it - that is, the concentration of power. Fine Gael in particular is treating Seanad Éireann as though it were the party's own private club, and-----

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

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Yes, I do. Does the Leader consider this to be proper practice, and will he convey to the Government Members' strong concern regarding party control of committees? All Members have tried to fight against this on the committees on which they serve. I have been a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs since its establishment. I consider it to be one of the most significant committees because it deals with such profound issues. It is non-partisan and it is not helpful when people are removed from it, not because of a disqualification of their ideas or their capacity to serve, but simply because they apparently engaged in some misbehaviour in respect of their parties. It simply is perceived as a reshuffle in which people are being punished. As for the people concerned, Senator Healy Eames has spoken passionately in the Seanad. She has brought views from the committee on-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator, we are not debating the motion at present.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I am outlining the reason I believe it should be debated.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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That is it.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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The motion should be debated because it is completely wrong that people who have capacity should be removed from committees such as the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, on which Senator Healy Eames has also spoken. Senator Bradford is one of the best speakers in this House. He always maintains a cool, detached, logical, non-offensive and non-aggressive mien and adds enormously to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. It is outrageous.

I will move on to the other House and the extraordinary, cataclysmic stupidity of the present Administration in removing the only person who got the financial situation right in the entire Dáil, namely, Deputy Mathews. He got it right, but the Government-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Norris, we are not speaking about the other House. You are out of order completely. We are not speaking about the other House here. Do you have a question for the Leader on the Order of Business today?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Yes. Will the Leader protest in the strongest possible terms on behalf of Seanad Éireann at the stripping away of necessary talent such as Deputy Mathews, the only person who got it right? He is being fired out because he voted.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Michael D'Arcy.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Moreover, the Taoiseach talks all the time about Denmark.

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

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Let us have Denmark, then, because he would not get away with it there.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator, you are way over time.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It would be compensated for by allowing a free vote - that is, a vote of conscience. He picks and chooses, and so this is a bad day for democracy.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator, you are way over time.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is a complete disgrace that people such as Deputy Creighton and Deputy Timmins, who is a splendid Member, have been kicked out.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Michael D'Arcy.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is not because they are not qualified, as they are all qualified. They should be retained. It is illegal to remove them this way.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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Reports on the troika's latest review state that it is very concerned about legacy tracker mortgages. I also note the percentages of tracker mortgages on the mortgage books of Permanent TSB, AIB and Bank of Ireland are 50%, 40% and 30%, respectively. These mortgages all are losing money for the aforementioned three institutions. I call on the Leader to ensure that nothing happens with tracker mortgages for those lending institutions until such time as some reciprocation from them towards their clients and customers is evident. The expectation of both the previous Government and the present Administration always has been that if the financial institutions could be placed back onto a sound footing, they would reciprocate through funding for businesses and those who are in mortgage distress and would help out those people in difficulties. Unfortunately, every time the present Government and its predecessor have helped out the financial institutions, there has been no reciprocation. Nothing is coming back from these lending institutions. The best example I can give relates to Bank of Ireland, about which it was suggested that the old parliament building facing Trinity College on College Green could come under State ownership. The suggestion was that it could be made into a museum that would act as an important focal tourism attraction for the city of Dublin. However, nothing was forthcoming from Bank of Ireland. It is clear that for these lending institutions, it is all take. I say "Stop". They should be given nothing until they are seen to be coming around to helping out the citizens who are their clients and customers.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I also wish to support the amendment proposed by Senator Darragh O'Brien calling on the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, to come before the House. This issue has been raised from the time it was first introduced as a budget measure, and I raised it again earlier this week. Despite comments from the Government side, the simple fact is that this week alone, 25,000 lone parents will be deprived of €60. As for the suggestion that this measure will encourage more people to go back into the workforce, I agree with that philosophy and agree entirely that this should be its purpose. However, what happens when there is no work or employment available? The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high in spite of all the Government's initiatives. It needs no reminders from me about the challenge it faces, and the rate still remains high. While I welcome all job announcements - and even this morning 75 new jobs were announced nationwide - the simple facts are that the unemployment rate, particularly in respect of long-term unemployment, has not been reduced to any great extent.

In addition, there has been a great deal of comment and speculation in the media about comments that have been made on this side of the House in respect of debates that have taken place during the week. While I am deeply uncomfortable with contributions that have been made by colleagues on this side of the House, at the same time it must be remembered - and those in the media should remember - that the Fianna Fáil party took a decision that there would be a free vote on that issue. Therefore, it is entirely a matter for the individual Members as to what conclusion they arrive at. This is not a collective party decision and I believe the party leader, Deputy Martin, took a courageous decision in allowing the parliamentary party a free vote in this regard. I believe he will be strengthened as a result of it, rather than diminished in any way.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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While an attempt may be made to remove me from the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, it does not prevent me from speaking on education issues. I raised this issue last week with the Leader and in other ways. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, must state his position on how he intends to help children with Down's syndrome.

A huge movement is gathering on this issue in every county. These little children are not having their needs recognised. They are specific needs in addition to them getting learning support. They have a very distinctive syndrome that stands alone. So many other disabilities are recognised and theirs is not. They deserve resource teaching and resource hours but are not getting them. They are being lumped into the general allocation model with all other children with learning difficulties but they have extra learning needs specifically because of Down's syndrome. They have needs for speech therapy, language issues, physical issues and gross motor issues.

The Minister told us he would give us a statement before the summer. I understand the House will go into recess next Tuesday or Wednesday. I ask the Leader to ensure that statement is read to this House before we go into recess. These parents are looking to us to ensure their children get a level playing field by 1 September. We both know that unless that is done before we go into recess, parents will be left high and dry for the rest of the summer and those children will be lumped in with everyone else again some next September. That is fundamentally unfair and unjust. We are either going to help the children of the country - the born children - or we are not.

11:10 am

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I support the Leader of the Opposition's proposal to amend the Order of Business to allow a debate on a very important issue that has arisen here today. When I received the document this morning I was quite surprised at the undue haste in removing excellent people from joint committees of the Houses. Senator O'Donovan, chairman of the said committee, has made a very important statement and the Leader should note it. I recommend that Senators Healy Eames and Bradford go to the High Court to seek a review in accordance with natural justice as Senator Norris has done previously.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Will Senator Leyden pay for it?

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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This is a very important and significant move.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator proposing an amendment?

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I am supporting the amendment and I am explaining why.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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No one thinks of the cost of going to court.

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Seemingly there is no other recourse. If there is no provision for debate in this House on a very important issue, then there is no other recourse under natural justice other than going to the courts. That is the choice open to any member of the House if he or she is dissatisfied with the situation. The motion seeks to remove excellent people. The people replacing them also have potential and ability but they were not appointed-----

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
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The Senator was criticising precisely the same people this time last week.

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator seems to be a great convert from the great Fianna Fáil Party.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
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I saw the light. After what I witnessed here-----

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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These are the questions I put to the Leader. I am asking about the procedure adopted which breaks the rules of the House. Senator Heffernan was asked by the Labour Party to resign from a joint committee and refused. He is now being booted out. The Leader of this House has obviously signed this document and it has been authorised by the Government, which has no legal authority in this House in this particular regard. That is a fact. What the Leader is doing is questionably illegal.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
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Call the Garda.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator can call the Garda, himself.

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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It deeply encourages me that when a Government is so anxious to get rid of this House it appoints an inept director of elections, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, and a most inept sub-director of elections, Deputy Regina Doherty,-----

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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-----who never heard of the Seanad's existence.

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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She is the most Rip Van Winkle of all time.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator is completely out of order. I ask him to resume his seat.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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It is insulting to this House to appoint a sub-director who never heard of the Seanad's existence.

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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She must be the most inept Deputy in Dáil Éireann.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I ask the Senator to withdraw that.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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She is the Rip Van Winkle of Irish politics.

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

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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That statement about a female Member of the other House should be withdrawn. They are disgraceful statements again, another attack on a Member of the House,-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader must be joking.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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-----who is not here to defend herself.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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What has the Leader been doing for the last seven years?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is disgraceful.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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She never heard the Senator Cummins was here or was Leader of this House.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is disgraceful for Senator Leyden to make these remarks.

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

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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If the Leader was doing his job, Deputy Regina Doherty would know all about this House.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Leyden, please.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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She is a dunce.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I ask the Senator to withdraw that.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I will withdraw nothing.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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For once in his life, Senator Leyden should do the decent thing.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I am under parliamentary privilege and when a Deputy gets up and says she has never heard of Seanad Éireann-----

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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-----that person must be totally incompetent.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I do not know if it is a point of order, but this kind of outburst-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Noone, please.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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----- will put the nail in the coffin of this House. We need to calm down.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I ask Senator Noone to resume her seat. I ask Senator Leyden to withdraw the last comment he made.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Withdraw what?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The last comment he made - dunce.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Certainly she is not a dunce, but she must be very inept.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I ask the Senator to withdraw.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Dunce, yes. It is only a word.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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Why it is always when it is my turn to speak that this carry-on breaks out?

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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The Senator brings out the best in us.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator should not get emotional.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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I promise not to today. I am composed.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator is entitled to be emotional.

Photo of Marie MoloneyMarie Moloney (Labour)
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That is the woman in me - that is the female side of me.

I thank the Senators from all parties who came to me yesterday and showed such compassion and support following my revelation in the Seanad yesterday. I met Senator Walsh in private and we had a discussion. Senator Walsh and others are entitled to their point of view. I will listen to their point of view and respect it. However, I had an issue with the way they were putting their point of view across. I thank all Senators because the debate took a turn after that and it was carried out in a dignified and sensitive manner. That is all I will say on that matter.

Senator Mooney is right in talking about a crisis of unemployment in the country that we are working hard to try to resolve. Governments do not make jobs but put in place incentives to create jobs. That is what we are continuing to do. Yesterday the Minister for Social Protection, the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach launched Pathways to Work. We are doing our best to put in place incentives for the employers to help people get back to work. I welcome the initiative.

I welcome the increase in the uptake of science and maths courses in college - something we have all been looking for in recent years.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
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I second the Senator Mullen's amendment to the Order of Business.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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It has been seconded already by Senator Norris.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
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I join others who have expressed deep concern about bypassing the selection committee. It is another example of the creeping arrogance we are witnessing all the time. The Leader needs to take on board the statement made by the Leas-Chathaoirleach and Chairman of that committee, Senator O'Donovan, who is a moderate man.

On the theme of arrogance and coercion, a report in today's Irish Independent is absolutely hilarious. It is reported that the Taoiseach, or the führer as he might be better called now, has instructed all the Fine Gael Senators not only to vote for the abolition of the Seanad in the referendum, but he has instructed them to get out and canvass. He will be watching them and expects them to turn up at the rallies. He expects them to make speeches in favour of the abolition.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I have no doubt they will all turn up.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
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He obviously succeeded in getting turkeys to vote for Christmas, but now he wants them to chop their own heads off.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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More likely he stuffed them.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Senator is good at that.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
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I have referred a number of times to the poor platform crossings in rural railway stations.

As I was waiting for my train in Charleville last Tuesday morning, I witnessed two elderly people with luggage trying to mount the metal bridge to cross from one platform to the other. I went to their assistance. It is ridiculous in this day and age that lifts cannot be provided in rural railway stations as they are in all the suburban ones.

11:20 am

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I welcomed the news yesterday that we are to have a recruitment campaign in the autumn to encourage people to join An Garda Síochána. Some 27,000 people have already expressed an interest in becoming a member of the force. I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, that he has got the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, to proceed with a recruitment campaign. It is a good day for justice and the force. I encourage citizens who are interested in becoming members of the very proud police force to consider seriously making an application when the recruitment process gets under way. I pay tribute to the Minister for Justice and Equality for persuading the Government to start recruiting again. It represents a very good day.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Fine Gael)
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My head is a little swollen with all the words of praise I am receiving from my friends on the opposite side of the House. I am sure they are very well meant. Senator Leyden is suggesting a trip to the High Court. We will get free legal advice from Senator Coghlan. That would be much more appropriate.

On a serious matter, I missed the commencement of the debate but I am familiar with the motion proposed. The personal side of this does not concern me in the slightest but I believe the issue of proportionality as it applies to Oireachtas committees is one that we cannot remove ourselves from. I understand the make-up of the committee system reflects the balance in the Oireachtas. Unfortunately, due to events beyond our control, the balance in the Seanad has now changed. It is not as simple as saying one can replace A with B. Therefore, I would like the Leader to inform us about the actual legal position on the requirement for proportionality.

Apart from the political musical chairs, on which we can debate and reflect, I want to bring to the Leader's attention a matter that I would like us to discuss, perhaps next week. Today would not be appropriate. I refer to the financial musical chairs arising from recent political events. Through no fault of individuals in most cases, ten Members of the Dáil and three Members of the Seanad have now left their political parties. As we know, the political parties receive a substantial sum from the taxpayer in respect of their Deputies and Senators. With ten Members of the Dáil and three Members of the Seanad having left their parties, voluntarily or otherwise, some €500,000 will be handed over to political parties for individuals who are no longer members. I would like us to reflect seriously on the appropriateness, or otherwise, of that next week. We all know about the need to save money. It was pointed out as part of the Seanad abolition campaign-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I would say this is a matter for the Minister, Deputy Howlin.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Fine Gael)
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It is a matter I would like to have discussed in the House next week. I am not sure of the legality of party allowances being retained for Members who are no longer in their parties. It is a serious matter. Half a million euro per annum is at stake based on current figures. We will need an adjudication on that. I would like to see the money returned to the taxpayer, if possible. If it is not being spent by a political party on a member for whom it is given, it should be returned to the taxpayer. I would like us to set aside time next week to discuss that. Half a million euro is not a small sum and it appears the parties are keeping the allowance. The money should not go to the individuals concerned but back to the Exchequer. I would like us to debate that next week and ascertain the legal position.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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On Senator O'Sullivan's contribution, there is an old saying, "You can bring the horse to the water but you cannot make him drink".

I very much support Senator Moloney in welcoming the strong emphasis of the Government on job creation. It is appropriate that we welcome the announcement of jobs this morning under the Succeed in Ireland project. I was somewhat surprised that my good friend Senator Ó Clochartaigh did not welcome the additional jobs for Galway. I refer to the 15 jobs for Kinvara. Flagship Management has confirmed-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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What about all the people emigrating?

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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-----it is locating its maritime consultancy headquarters and recruitment business in Kinvara, which will create 15 jobs over the coming years. It is very much to be welcomed but we need to redouble our efforts to have many more such job announcements during the coming months.

As with other speakers, I very much welcome the upsurge in cycling throughout the country. It is a great healthy way of keeping fit and, as was mentioned, to see the countryside. However, there ought to be great emphasis on safety. Fines proposed for cycling on footpaths and breaking red lights are appropriate.

It is important, during this very hot weather, that we redouble our efforts to ensure farm safety. There have been some tragedies in recent days, and also some unfortunate drownings. The roads are particularly dangerous during this hot weather. Temperatures are very high and people are quite likely to nod off and cause accidents. This House needs to send out the message during the summer that people should be safety conscious, be it on the farm, roads or water. We must ensure that people are safe and that we reduce the number of lives lost unnecessarily this summer.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senators O’Brien and Mooney asked about lone parents. That matter was discussed at length in the House when the Minister was present dealing with the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013. There was a long debate on it in the House.

Senator Bacik and several other Senators referred to on-the-spot fines and planning for cyclists. There is no doubt that local authorities have made great strides in providing facilities for cyclists but there is obviously a lot more to be done in that regard in local authority areas throughout the country. I note the points made by several Senators and I will ask the relevant Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, to discuss the matter with us in September.

I do not propose to accept Senator Mullen's amendment to the Order of Business. The changes have been made in line with a reshuffle of spokespersons. It is not upsetting the balance in any way. Those occupying positions on the Government side are not being replaced by anyone other than Members on the Government side.

Senator D'Arcy referred to cycle lanes and on-the-spot fines. As I stated, I will ask Minister of State Deputy Kelly to address the House on that matter.

Senator Byrne referred to the practice of putting mortgages into trusts, as mentioned in a newspaper today. He referred to secrecy and fees and implied the public should be made aware of what is occurring. I agree there is a need for public awareness and for legislative change in regard to trust law, as has been spoken about for quite some time. It is long overdue.

Senator O'Keeffe requested a further debate on suicide awareness. I will consider this when we return in the autumn.

Senator Barrett mentioned the submissions that have been made on structural reform of the banking system. I note his support for the 12.5% corporation tax rate.

Another important matter was addressed by Senator Colm Burke, which is the amount of claims against the Irish hospital system. That issue was raised previously with the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, when he was in the House, and with the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White. It is something that will have to be kept on the agenda in the coming months.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh called for a debate on the Irish language media. As regards the action plan for jobs, as Senator Mullins said, 75 jobs were announced yesterday, 15 of which are in Kinvara. I am sure that Senator Ó Clochartaigh welcomes those job announcements. It is positive news and I am sure he is a very positive person in addressing matters in this House.

As regards Senator Keane's point, the Criminal Justice Act 1990 provides for a 40-year minimum sentence, which replaced capital punishment.

Senator O'Donovan referred to social welfare appeals, which are dealt with by an independent appeals body. I appreciate what the Senator said and I agree with him that we have unacceptable delays in the system. If he tables an Adjournment matter, he could get an update on the question of social welfare appeals.

As regards the point raised by Senator Norris, when that Bill is put on the Order Paper on Monday, I will have no problem in accepting that it be published.

11:30 am

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

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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If the Senator does not mind, I will not comment on matters in the other House. I will leave it to Deputies to look after that.

Senator D'Arcy mentioned the troika report and matters relating to tracker mortgages. I will bring those points to the attention of the Minister for Finance.

As regards Senator Mooney's point, I am certainly not going to delve into Fianna Fáil matters. I will leave it to that party's members to deal with.

Senator Healy Eames referred to the needs of children with Down's syndrome. I will check to see when the Minister intends to make that statement which, as the Senator said, is overdue at this stage.

I wish to thank Senator Moloney for her dignified comments this morning. A lot is going on concerning the JobsPlus and Pathways to Work initiatives. There are improvements and, while there is a lot more to be done, the tide is turning for job creation. Well over 2,000 jobs per month are being created, which is a significant change. In the three years prior to the Government taking office, over 250,000 jobs were lost. Things are changing but it will not happen overnight. The Government is listening and tailoring matters to the requirements of employers and the unemployed.

Senator O'Sullivan raised a question about the metal bridge in Charleville railway station, seeking that it be brought to the attention of the Minister for Transport, but it is an issue for Irish Rail. I will have no problem in bringing it to the company's attention and the Minister's attention also.

Senator Conway welcomed the increase in Garda recruitment. As of last month, the force numbered 13,200 so it is to be welcomed that Garda recruitment will recommence soon.

Senator Bradford mentioned the Leaders' allowance for political parties, but I am not qualified to address that. It is a matter for the Oireachtas Commission which, I am sure, will consider it in its deliberations if it is brought to the commission's attention.

Senator Mullins referred to job creation and, in addition, we would all echo his sentiments on farm safety, water safety and road safety. The message is to be safe and bí cúramach in the coming weeks and months.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Darragh O'Brien has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate on the reduction of €50 per week in the lone parent allowance be taken today". Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 32.

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

Amendment declared lost.

11:40 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Rónán Mullen has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No.1 be deleted from today's Order of Business." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

11:45 am

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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Faoi Ordú 62(3)(b), ba mhaith liom go dtógfaí an vóta ar bhealach eile seachas ar bhealach leictreonach.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 27.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Rónán Mullen and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.

Amendment declared lost.

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

11:50 am

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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As a teller, under Standing Order 62(3), I propose that the vote be taken by other than electronic means.

Question put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 22.

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

Question declared carried.