Seanad debates

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

11:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No.1, Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 11.45 a.m. and to adjourn at 1 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 2, Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2013 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 1 p.m. and to adjourn at 3 p.m., if not previously concluded; No.3, Johnstown Castle Agricultural College (Amendment) Bill 2014 – All Stages, to be taken at 3 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed six minutes, all other Senators, four minutes, the Minister to be given five minutes to reply to the debate on Second Stage and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; No. 4, Public Service Management (Transparency of Boards) Bill 2014 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 6.30 p.m.; and No. 5, statements on mother and baby homes, to be taken at 6.30 p.m. and conclude no later than 7.15 p.m., the contribution of all Senators not to exceed five minutes each.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Taoiseach comes to the House this morning to explain his extraordinary claims in the Dáil yesterday that he intends to delay the banking inquiry until such time as the Government parties have a majority on it. It seems alarming that the Taoiseach has chosen to tamper with the democratic process in such a way. The Curtin inquiry, of which older and younger Members will recall, did its work in an exemplary non-partisan fashion. The DIRT inquiry into the non-payment of the tax by the banks over the years is another example of where the late Deputy, Jim Mitchell, and his colleagues did an exemplary job in a non-partisan fashion. One must wonder then about the necessity for the Taoiseach to tamper with the political process in such a dictatorial and authoritarian manner. Whether it is a case that the Taoiseach dropped the ball with loose language yesterday or if it is in fact an underhanded sinister attempt to manipulate the democratic process, the public is entitled to an explanation. This House is an appropriate forum for such an explanation.

It is also important we get the Labour Party’s perspective on this. While there is a leadership struggle going on within the party, the public is entitled to know if it stands over such tampering with the democratic process, particularly considering it was party to the legislation establishing the banking inquiry and the procedures and rules that govern it. Yesterday, the Taoiseach stated he intends to change that process because, as he said, “I do not know what your Members would do”. That is the profound insinuation that he must have a majority on the inquiry to ensure his terms of reference are those that are followed, not those as intended under the Act by the democratically elected Oireachtas.

We feel this is the most serious of matters. It requires the Taoiseach’s clear explanation. At the same time, the people are also entitled to know whether Labour is party to this dismantling of the democratic process and if it stands over the Taoiseach’s dictatorial tampering with the democratic system.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I thank the Leader for arranging a debate for later this evening on the mother and baby homes, given the general welcome all Members gave to yesterday’s announcement by the Government on the establishment of a commission of investigation into the matter, following the interdepartmental scoping exercise carried out. No doubt, this will be just the first of several debates on this, given there will be a commission of investigation into the matter.

I congratulate Senator Zappone on the Second Stage passage of her Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014 yesterday with the Government’s support. I was delighted and privileged to second the Bill which seeks to end discrimination against persons with intellectual disabilities in respect of sexual offence provisions. In particular, it seeks to amend the crude provisions of section 5 of the 1993 sexual offences Act which all Members agree is outdated in its paternalistic approach to the matter. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, indicated she would be incorporating the principles of Senator Zappone’s Bill into the Government’s sexual offence Bill which is currently being drafted. Yesterday was a good day for the Seanad.

Will the Leader organise a debate in due course into the Mr. Justice Cooke’s report into the GSOC, Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, bugging allegations? It is important we all have a chance to read and digest the report. It certainly contradicts what was presumed in many quarters to have taken place. The ICCL, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, has already criticised the report but I would welcome a considered debate on it and its findings. I note Mr. Justice Cooke has made different findings in respect of some of the conclusions which were jumped to about technical issues around the presence of what appeared at first to be bugging devices or attempts.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I welcome the improvements in the State examinations in mathematics this year and the relief that must have caused for over 100,000 people sitting the examinations. Last year, on an Adjournment matter, those of us on these benches, with the assistance of the Irish Mathematics Teachers Association, along with the former Senator, Deirdre Clune, an engineer, pointed out the mistakes in last year’s examinations to the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, himself an architect. At the time, the Minister undertook to look into it. I understand the papers were sat by experts who weeded out mistakes.

That is an illustration for young people as to how valuable the Seanad is on such occasions. It has made life much happier for those sitting public examinations this year. Credit is due to the Minister and the State Examinations Commission, as well as the role the Seanad played, in making sure those problems which caused much distress last year did not occur again in 2014.

Photo of Tom ShehanTom Shehan (Fine Gael)
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As soon as the Cabinet reshuffle is over and the replacement for the former Minister of State, former Deputy Brian Hayes, is made, will the Leader organise a debate with his replacement on public procurement procedures? We are told of the savings made through this new drive in procurement but I am afraid I am seeing the other side of it where jobs are being lost. Are real savings made? We need a full debate on this issue.

Prior to the establishment of Irish Water, I was led to believe that contracts for the installation of water meters would be set out in bundles of 2,000 connections whereby a small contractor would be able to tender for and win them. Unfortunately, when Irish Water was set up, the man with the green van, the Murphy Group, took up the whole lot. It is now subcontracting down the line to those who should have had these contracts in the first place. Accordingly, they are going out of business every day, meaning the installation of water meters is way behind. This is an unintended consequence of the new public procurement process.

The same is happening with Irish Rail whereby a contractor without a turnover in excess of €400,000 per annum cannot apply for Irish Rail tenders.

It is putting the small operator out of business and we need a full, wholesome debate on the procurement procedure as soon as possible.

11:40 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I second Senator MacSharry's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. I ask the Leader to hold an urgent debate on the system of law and order and justice and to ask the new Minister to come before this House as soon as possible, certainly before the summer recess. I say this in light of the Cooke report and the fact that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, with or without that report, has been structurally damaged. Garda morale is at a very low ebb. The relationship that existed, and still exists, between the Department of Justice and Equality and GSOC leaves much to be desired. The whistleblowers had no faith in GSOC and the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, treated them with disdain. When I was canvassing during the recent local and European elections, one of the most searching questions put to me was whether the justice system was, to quote the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, "fit for purpose". It is a very serious issue.

While I do not want to be harsh on the new Minister for Justice and Equality, who has a tough task ahead, she owes a duty to this House. It was her political crèche during the previous Government and she should come here and indicate her plan to restore Garda morale and totally to reform and restructure the Department of Justice and Equality, which is like a dinosaur, old-fashioned, creaking and in need of reform. GSOC must also be totally reformed and restructured so the public can have confidence in it. This is the appropriate Chamber in which to have the debate and if there is no progress in it within the next week or two I will raise it by way of amendment to the Order of Business. While I will not table such an amendment today because I want to give the Minister a chance, she should come here before the House goes into recess in a few weeks' time and have a full debate on law and order and her plans to restore confidence in the Garda, GSOC and her Department. Such confidence is sadly lacking and the public has lost belief in these important organisations, and they must be restored as a matter of great urgency.

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour)
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I welcome the launch today of the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, national rent index, a valuable source of information on what is happening in the rental market. It shows Dublin rents increased by 8.4% in the first three months of this year and that the average rent in Dublin is twice as much as in the rest of the country, €637 outside Dublin and €1,227 in Dublin. Unfortunately, Threshold declares rent increases are higher than those figures suggest and its clients report rent increases of 20% to 40%. As the declared rents that are included in the PRTB ESRI index do not reflect the practice of topping up whereby tenants make payments under the counter, the declared rents are not the same as the real rents being charged. This has a number of repercussions, not least on the Revenue's tax take. Could the Leader arrange a debate on rent control, particularly on what needs to be done legislatively to bring about better security of tenure for people in the rented sector? The number of people living in private rented housing has more than doubled to one in five nationally and one in three in Dublin, and it is even higher in Galway. Given the severity of the issue of rent increases, it is a matter of urgency.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I support the proposed amendment to the Order of Business. It is farcical that the Seanad is still holding up the banking inquiry because of a mistake made by the Government. The Government should put its hands up and accept it made a mistake when its people did not attend a meeting they should have attended. The Government seeks to overturn a democratic decision by a committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas. In so doing, the Government is delaying an important inquiry into the banking crisis.

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

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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The delay has nothing to do with Fianna Fáil, the Independents or Sinn Féin but is the clear responsibility of the two Government parties which made a mess of the process. Yesterday, the Taoiseach let the cat out of the bag when he said it was about ensuring the Government had a majority. This was never meant to be the intention of the banking inquiry. The Taoiseach has created an even bigger hole for the Government and I support the amendment to the Order of Business asking him to come here and account for himself and what he said. A partisan banking inquiry would not have the confidence and support of the people outside this Chamber. The vast majority of citizens are not interested in which groupings have a majority on the inquiry but want the politicians to get down to the business of doing the work of the inquiry as quickly as possible.

Maybe the Leader can outline what is happening, why it is still being held up and whether he will proceed. It is ironic that the two committees which have messed up are among the few committees without a Sinn Féin representative. We were excluded from the Committee of Selection and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, because of rules on group sizes made up by Government parties. This is entirely the making of the Leader and the Government Members. He must sort it out as quickly as possible and let us get the banking inquiry up and running, which is in the interests of everybody.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I, again, raise the matter of rent control but in the context of a good news story in that a surge of new companies setting up, particularly in Dublin, has led to a shortage of office space. This is a good news story because new companies mean more jobs, including more construction jobs. Some 4,438 new companies set up in the first quarter of this year, a 21% increase on the past five years, and one fifth of them chose to locate in Dublin 1, 2 or 4, including the "Silicon Docks" area of Dublin 1. We must be careful a rent bubble is not created, which is beginning to happen due to a shortage of space in Dublin 1, 2 and 4. There is office space other places in Dublin such as Tallaght, Citywest and the Grange Castle area, and I ask for a debate to ensure we get a balance between supply and demand and ensure sustainable development.

Senator Hayden referred to housing in general and I ask for a debate on the business sector because a rent bubble in the city centre, which has happened before, can lead to companies having to move out or disband, which we do not want to happen. A recent report from Savills found that 57,000 sq. m of office lettings were signed in the first three months, a 32% increase on last year. While it is good news, we must ensure it is done properly and that IDA, Enterprise Ireland, the local authorities and the new local enterprise offices, LEOs, entice and show businesses a fair supply right around the city.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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Since I entered the Seanad I have raised one topic consistently, even on a weekly basis, namely, symphysiotomy.

Every couple of weeks for the last three years I have been asking for a report and looking for closure on behalf of the many women who have been affected. I rise to express my disappointment and even despair that we are still waiting closure by the women who have been affected by this barbaric act. I have repeatedly been told that Judge Murphy's recommendations have been with the Government since March. We are still awaiting publication of the Walsh report, which we are told is imminent. I ask the Leader to investigate the position of these reports and seek the immediate publication of Judge Murphy's recommendations and the Walsh report.

Yesterday I met RTE's head of sport coverage in the RTE studios in Donnybrook to hand over a petition I started just over a week ago to urge RTE to provide live coverage of the Special Olympics national finals, which will be held in Limerick this weekend. These games will showcase what is best about our country. They are a good news story and, although I am delighted with the outcome of the petition in that we have secured additional coverage on both television and radio, I lament that the finals will not receive live coverage. As this raises questions of equality, I call on the Leader to arrange an urgent debate on equality in broadcasting. I have raised this issue previously following the Paralympic Games last year and the Winter Special Olympics, which deserved more coverage than it received from our national broadcaster. I would appreciate a debate on the matter.

11:50 am

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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As ever, I recognise that Senator MacSharry is a consummate actor. This morning he appeared to speak in measured tones which were much at variance with some of his more recent utterances in the House. That is an attribute he has acquired from years of experience on stage, which I acknowledge. Nobody wants to have a row over this matter but it was clearly understood that of the two Senators to be appointed to this committee, one would come from this side of the House and the other would come from the Opposition. I am not complaining about anything but there was rather short notice of the meeting to which the Senator referred. I think I received notice at 12 noon and the meeting was held at 7 p.m. on the same day. I do not want to revisit the issue because I am sure matters will proceed satisfactorily. I do not even know that the Senator was quoting properly or accurately that reasonable man, the Taoiseach. I suggest that speed is no longer of the essence. This is something we have needed for years but, given our constitutional position and the rights enshrined therein, this matter could not be dealt with while cases were proceeding in the courts. As we say in my part of the country, "Will you take it easy?" Rest easy and things will satisfactorily resolve themselves in due course.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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It is timely and appropriate that Senators extend our good wishes for a successful outcome to the discussions on the future of Bausch and Lomb in Waterford which are taking place this week under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Our esteemed Leader of the Seanad is more conscious than any of us of the implications of these discussions for the 1,100 employees of the plant and the economy of his home city of Waterford. The indications are encouraging. Unions and management have entered the discussions in a spirit of good faith. The mother company of Bausch and Lomb, which is a Canadian company called Valeant, is seeking to lay off 200 people and to reduce salaries of the remaining employees by 20%. I want the Seanad to send a message of good wishes to the people who are taking part in these discussions and that we would particularly welcome a written assurance from the CEO, Mr. Michael Pearson, that the company is committed to maintaining its presence in the city provided it gets the savings needed.
Some 30 years ago, Travenol in Castlebar was threatened with closure, which would mean 700 job losses. I was involved in this issue and I recall the magnificent teamwork between local people, the staff of the company and its chief executive. They worked relentlessly for six months to save the company and were ultimately successful. I hope this will happen in Waterford. However, there is a caveatto this matter because the parent company of Bausch and Lomb also wants to take over Allergan in County Mayo, which is the largest manufacturer of Botox in the world. The County Mayo operation employs 900 people. We will all be watching closely the good faith exhibited by the owners of Allergan. Valeant has already made three bids to take over Allergan.
We should also condemn the New York Senator, Charles Schumer, who has put pressure on Valiant to move the Waterford operation and all of the jobs to Rochester in New York. Waterford will be devastated if there is not a successful outcome to the negotiations. We as a nation have to resist any takeover of Allergan by Valeant.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I join others Senators in welcoming the publication of the Cooke report. We are all greatly relieved there was no concrete evidence of surveillance of the GSOC offices or that the Garda was in any way involved in illegal activity. It is important that GSOC finalises its own investigation into how information was leaked to the Sunday Times, thereby starting this controversy in the first place. I call on GSOC to finalise the report as a matter of urgency.
It was reported in today's Irish Independentthat the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission had to pay Revenue €330,000 because of under payment of taxes. It is important that the commission be asked to explain how this matter has arisen given the level of public disquiet and interest in the story. It is only appropriate that the Members of this House would hear an explanation from the commission of the circumstances that necessitated this significant payment.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Cuireann an faoiseamh atá ar an Seanadóir Mullins maidir le tuarascáil Cooke iontas orm i bhfianaise na ráitis atá déanta ag an ICCL agus daoine eile ar maidin. The relief shown by Senator Mullins regarding the Cooke report was not shared by others who spoke on the subject this morning. One of the main points of the report is that it is impossible to categorically rule out all possibility of covert surveillance in the three threats identified by Verrimus. It also queried whether GSOC's remit should be confined to the investigation of matters attributable only to the commission of offences by members of the Garda or if it could be considered desirable as a matter of legislative policy that its powers be exercisable in circumstances where an offence is attributable to third parties outside the force. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties issued a strong statement on the issue this morning. The council regards this as an exercise in smoke and mirrors, stating:


Constrained by the terms of reference accorded to him by Government, Judge Cooke has found precisely what it seems to have been preordained that he would find: that it is impossible to rule out categorically all possibility of covert surveillance.
What is striking, however, is that the Judge appears to have made absolutely no independent investigative attempt to establish objectively whether or not surveillance of GSOC by An Garda Síochána had been sought or authorised. It seems that not a single member of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces was interviewed; no examination of the records kept of the use of surveillance equipment by police or military intelligence services took place, nor were the “oversight” activities of the “designated judges” under the relevant legislation subject to any form of review.

The judge appears to have made absolutely no independent investigative attempt to establish objectively whether surveillance of GSOC by An Garda Síochána had been sought or authorised. It seems that not a single member of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces was interviewed. No examination of the records kept of the use of surveillance equipment by police or military intelligence services took place, nor were the oversight activities of the designated judges, under the relevant legislation, subject to any form of review.

There are still very serious questions we need to address. I call on the Leader to facilitate a debate on the Cooke report as soon as possible because we want to get to the bottom of this matter. Instead of a sense of relief we should be looking to see if there is any chance whatsoever that covert surveillance is happening to any arm of our justice system. If so, we need to ensure it is stopped.

12:00 pm

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I support the call by Senator Mullins for a statement or explanation by the Oireachtas Commission. Three hundred and thirty thousand euro is a significant sum for the Houses of the Oireachtas to have had to pay. This House would be a suitable Chamber to investigate this serious question.

Last week, I raised the matter of sugar consumption and childhood obesity. On the face of it, it seems like a frivolous issue but I propose some sort of regulation of ice cream vans. It is difficult to raise this matter without bringing a smile to one's face, but I have been contacted by numerous parents after media reports when I raised the issue last week. One parent in Wexford told me that an ice cream van visits her estate up to four or five times a day. It is leading to rows between that mother and her children who want to have ice creams, slushy drinks or chewing gum. While it may seem frivolous, it concerns pester power. Certain shops have tried to help parents deal with pestering by not having confectionery near checkouts.

In many instances children are addicted to sugar. I am not against ice cream but the persistent use of chimes in public streets and estates is an aggressive form of selling. It would not be countenanced in any other industry. While there is no regulation in this area in Ireland, it is a different story in the United Kingdom where measures have been taken to regulate such activity. We need to help parents to cope with pester power. We should consider regulating such sales techniques to some degree. It would be a welcome effort to reduce childhood obesity.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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To add to Senator Noone's comments, in any diet the first "no no" is ice cream.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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Four times a day, yes.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I support Senator MacSharry's amendment. I am not at all reassured by Senator Coghlan's comments. It seems like a wolf in sheep's clothing to talk about taking it easy. There is nothing easy about what has happened recently. The simple fact is that the Committee of Selection of this House nominated two people. By his intervention yesterday, the Taoiseach has now undermined the entire credibility of the banking inquiry. He said that to attain terms of reference he needs a Government majority. Subsequent to that, Senator Barrett put it on the record that he is not anti-Government.

I would have thought that a banking inquiry in which all the participating parties have embraced the concept of such an inquiry will be about seeking the truth rather than scoring political points. That is what I would have hoped, at least. I am afraid, however, that yesterday's comments by the Taoiseach in the other House have completely undermined that. They have undermined it in the public mind as well. Whereas there is a genuine desire to get to the bottom of the banking inquiry, it has now been totally undermined and for that reason I will support Senator MacSharry's call. The Taoiseach should attend this House because the Seanad is, in a sense, holding things up. That is because the Government will not accept the democratic will of the Committee of Selection.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I, too, join in welcoming the publication of the Cooke report which was completed expeditiously. The terms of reference given to Mr. Justice John Cooke clearly set out his role. I do not recollect any criticism of the terms of reference being put forward at the time. The report is about establishing and clearing the air on issues that were brought into the public domain. He has brought the clarification that was required.

About 18 months ago, I raised the taxation of costs in the High Court. We have two Taxing Masters in place. There is a problem in that there is undue delay in getting decisions concerning the taxation of costs. As a result, a large number of people who were involved in High Court cases are not being paid. Some have not been paid for three years after a case has finished. Some 18 months ago, I tabled an Adjournment debate matter seeking a third Taxing Master. It would be the solution to the problem as it is cost neutral. Anyone who wants to tax costs in the High Court must pay a fee to the office of the High Court to have the costs taxed. I request the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Justice and Equality. If necessary, we should have a debate on it. Many people have not recovered the costs and fees they incurred in doing work, including presenting evidence in the High Court. It is time to resolve the issue.

I am raising this point as a number of people have decided to take judicial review proceedings because of the delays involved. They have decided to take the matter back into the High Court for an adjudication. It is time for the Minister for Justice and Equality to act, so I am asking the Leader to bring this matter to her attention. If necessary, we should debate it in this House.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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The problem of pyrite has cropped up again and a number of houses in Drogheda and elsewhere have had to be demolished as a result. Are the necessary building regulations being properly enforced, since pyrite continues to be a problem? I would like to think that something is being done in this respect. Can the Leader confirm that there are building regulations to stop this problem? Pyrite is not the fault of builders but rather the fault of suppliers. There is no cost to the State because, to the best of my knowledge, the supplier is probably insured. On that basis, therefore, the insurance company will pay for it. Building regulations are needed to ensure we can avoid pyrite related difficulties in future.

In recent days, newspapers have reported on the cost of medicines. I remind the House that in China a doctor gets paid for keeping people well, but does not get paid to attend a patient. That is a smashing way of running a medical service, although it may not receive serious attention here. It would seem to be ideal, however, to pay a doctor if a person is well but not for attending a patient.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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I support Senator Sheahan's call for an urgent debate on procurement procedures by all Departments, as well as the Office of Public Works and the HSE. I know of small companies that cannot get on the procurement lists for whatever reason.

I do not know who is responsible for grass cutting and other garden maintenance in the grounds of Leinster House. Although we do not have that much greenery, the standard is absolutely appalling for our Parliament. Unless the grass can be cut and the flower beds maintained from a sit-on lawnmower, it does not happen.

This is simply not done and there is no edging of grassed areas. This issue must be addressed as this is the national Parliament. The Prime Minister of Mozambique entered the building by the same entrance as me this morning. This is absolutely appalling and should be addressed, whether in-house or through a procurement process to award the contract to an outside entity.

12:10 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator should raise the matter with the Superintendent or Office of Public Works.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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May I not raise it with my colleagues who pass it every day?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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It is not appropriate to raise the issue on the Order of Business.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I do not propose to accept the amendment to the Order of Business tabled by Senator Marc MacSharry. Senator Bacik and several other speakers called for a debate on Judge Cooke's report on the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I will try to arrange a debate. The Government fully accepts the findings and conclusions of the report and the Minister has indicated it will inform legislative changes relating to GSOC.

Senator Sean Barrett referred to improvements in the State examination in mathematics. The Seanad played a role in this in the sense that we debated the issue following last year's examinations. We are all pleased the mistakes of the past have not been repeated.

Senators Tom Sheahan and Terry Brennan referred to the procurement process and the need to cater for small operators. As soon as a Minister of State has been appointed to the Department of Finance, we will invite him or her to the House to discuss the issue of procurement.

Senator Denis O'Donovan called for the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to discuss law and order. I am sure the Minister will be willing to accede to his request. Her decision to conduct a full review of her Department should be welcomed by all Senators, as we welcomed the decision to recommence recruitment to the Garda Síochána. While I will ask the Minister to come to the House for a debate, I expect she will wait until the review of her Department has been completed.

Senator Aideen Hayden raised the national rent index produced by the Private Residential Tenancies Board and Economic and Social Research Institute and called for a debate on rent control. The House debated rent supplement last week. I have asked the Minister of State with responsibility for housing, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to come to the House on numerous occasions and I realise she is very busy. I will continue to request that she come before us for a debate on rent control and housing matters.

I thank Senator David Cullinane for his advice.

Senator Cáit Keane referred to the shortage of office space in certain parts of Dublin and called for a fair supply of office space around the city. While I agree with her on the need for a fair supply, substantial office space is available in the regions for those who wish to establish businesses. People should be encouraged to establish businesses in the regions to provide much-needed employment.

Senator Mary Moran raised the issue of symphysiotomy and called for the publication of the Walsh report. Closure is needed in this matter and I do not know the reason the report has not yet been published. As the Senator noted, we received word many months ago that publication was imminent. I also commend Senator Moran on her successful efforts to secure additional television coverage of the Special Olympics, although I note this wonderful event will not be covered live.

Senator Mary White raised the case of Bausch & Lomb. I join her, as I am sure all Senators will, in wishing trade unions and management at the company well in their negotiations.

Senators Michael Mullins, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Colm Burke also raised the Cooke report, while Senator Noone referred to obesity, an issue she has raised on a number of occasions, and the need for regulation in a certain area. Senator Colm Burke also raised the issue of the taxation of costs in the High Court and urged the Minister to appoint a third Taxing Master to end the long delays in this area. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister, although I am sure the Senator has already done also.

I will find out what is the position regarding pyrite for Senator Feargal Quinn. As Senators will be aware, the problem has raised its head again in Drogheda. I will check whether the building regulations apply in the case the Senator raises. I hope they do. The concept of paying doctors for patients whom they keep healthy is a good, albeit one which may not work.

Senator Terry Brennan raised the issue of procurement, which I addressed.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Marc MacSharry has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Taoiseach to explain his stated intention to delay the holding of the banking inquiry until the Government members constitute a majority on the committee of inquiry be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

12:20 pm

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.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 23.

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

Amendment declared lost.

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