Seanad debates

Thursday, 27 November 2014

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on flooding, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 1.15 p.m., with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed six minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 1.10 p.m.; and No. 2, statements on foreign affairs - an update on developments in the Middle East and Ukraine, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 3 p.m., with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 2.55 p.m.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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There must be an election in the air because three Departments have each made a major announcement in the past three days.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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It is all par for the course.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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We sorted out the country.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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It is being sorted out all right.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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We had to exit the troika programme first.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Please allow Senator Mark Daly to continue, without interruption.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, stated last week that he intended to leave a legacy. While there is no doubt that he will be remembered, unfortunately, it will be for all the wrong reasons.

A new Garda Commissioner was appointed two days ago. Despite being an insider, we have been promised that she will sweep the Garda clean. Somehow or other, the Commissioner saw nothing when so many penalty points were being quashed.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator's comment is not fair to the Garda Commissioner's reputation. She is not here to defend herself.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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These issues were raised at the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality with the Commissioner present.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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She is not here to defend herself.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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She would be most welcome if she were to come to the House to defend herself.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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The Senator must withdraw his remark.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I have ruled on the matter. Does Senator Mark Daly have a question for the Leader?

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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As I stated, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, wishes to leave a legacy, but he will make his mark for all the wrong reasons. The housing plan announced yesterday was a reannouncement of previous plans. It is, to a large degree, a work of fiction. The Health Service Executive's service plan which will be published today will also largely be a work of fiction.

Hans Christian Anderson would have been proud of it because the plan is way different from the reality. The reality we see on the ground is exemplified by the report of the Coroner's Court in Limerick, as detailed in today's newspapers. A critically ill man was brought to the accident and emergency department of Limerick University Hospital but never saw a doctor before he died. That is the reality on the ground. What we also see in emergency departments is paramedics arriving with patients on stretchers and having to stay there for hours before over-worked doctors can take the patients off their hands. The ambulances involved are not available during that time because the system is not working. That is the reality. Today there are 800 people in hospitals, taking up beds, who should not be there. They are there because the fair deal scheme has been cut. That is the reality on the ground. Whatever about the plan - which is a work of fiction to a large degree - the reality is entirely different.

In Kerry, the scandal ---

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator should not display newspapers in the Chamber.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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There are no service plans.

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

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Leader to organise a debate on the HSE service plan. I will not push it to a vote on the Order of Business today because the plan has only been published but we should have a debate on the service plan next week to see how real it is.

I know a debate is scheduled for today on the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, to the House, as the first ever spokesperson on the Irish overseas and the diaspora, to discuss President Obama's executive order. Some of the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States will be assisted by it but I ask the Leader to encourage the Government to ensure that funding is made available to the Irish centres throughout the US. The Aisling Irish Community Centre in New York does great work, as do the Irish pastoral centres in Boston and San Francisco. However, they need assistance and funding. I would ask the Leader to urge the Government to look for a humanitarian visa for those who are not covered by the executive order so that they would be able to come home at times of bereavement. I would also like to see waivers being granted to those who have violated the terms of their visas in the past.

I wish to thank the Leader and Deputy Leader for facilitating the passing of a motion relating to Cumann na mBan. That motion is No. 8 on the Order Paper and I wish to move it today.

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

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Yes. I move that No. 8 on the Order Paper be taken today.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I welcome the appointment of Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan as Garda Commissioner, following her recommendation by the Public Appointments Service as the only suitable candidate. It is important to note that there was an open and transparent recruitment and appointment process. As well as welcoming her appointment it is also important that we would all support her in the ongoing important work of reforming the Garda Síochána. We are all very conscious, after this year in particular, of the need for reform. I know that the new Commissioner has given a commitment to ongoing reform. In that context, I would like to ask the Leader for a debate on policing reform, specifically in light of the recent Garda Inspectorate report which threw up particular questions around the recording of crime statistics, which I have raised in the House previously. Perhaps we might have that debate in the new year.
I very much welcome yesterday's announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, of the social housing strategy. Whatever grudging comments may be made about it by the Opposition, it is hugely important. Indeed, it is a legacy issue which this Government is dealing with. The reality is that during the boom years, there was almost no investment in social housing. The real scandal is that when the money was there to build social housing units and when waiting lists were actually climbing before 2011, there was almost no social housing being built. That is the real scandal which is often neglected in the discussions about the need for housing and the homelessness figures. The strategy announced by the Minister yesterday is a very real and ambitious programme to ensure that we deliver on social housing for those who need it. What he has proposed is 35,000 new social housing units to be delivered over six years, by 2020. He is putting forward €3.8 billion, most of which is direct Government funding, to meet the costs of building, acquiring and leasing those 35,000 units. While it is very ambitious, it is achievable.
I would urge all Members to read the strategy which sets out very clear pathways or methods of working to ensure delivery of the plan. It is ambitious, admittedly, but it is dealing with a legacy of neglect of this area and the failure, over successive years, of previous Governments to deliver social housing for those who needed it. That, as I have said, is the real scandal of our housing and homelessness situation. I ask the Leader to organise a debate on this issue in due course. It would be advisable to allow some time to see the strategy begin to be operational. Perhaps in a couple of months we could review the strategy and discuss its implementation. It is entirely good news which must be welcomed, in fairness, by Members on all sides of the House.
I wish to welcome another good news item in the context of legal change, namely, the proposed changes to our adoption law. Proposals have been brought forward for changes to our adoption laws to enable, in particular, children who are in long-term foster care to be adopted. Up until now, as colleagues will be aware, only a tiny number of such children have been eligible for adoption because of the highly restrictive nature of our adoption laws. Once we see the children's rights referendum decision being delivered, which I understand is imminent, the way will be cleared for legislation to enable the adoption of an estimated 2,000 of the 6,000 children currently in care. That will give those children legal security. It will also give legal security to their foster parents, who may have been caring for them, in loco parentis, for many years.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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This morning the Christmas road safety drive will be launched by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, the Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, and the chairperson of the Road Safety Authority, Ms Liz O'Donnell. All three have been appointed to their posts relatively recently and I wish Ms O'Sullivan and Ms O'Donnell every success in their respective roles.
The emphasis on this occasion will be on drug driving. However, the deliberations of this House show that the whistleblower issue merits further investigation, which I hope the Commissioner will initiate. Furthermore, there are court cases taking place where it is not a requirement to produce a driving licence and therefore the licence cannot be endorsed. The absence of a requirement in Ireland that those who drive should have their driving licences with them has led to the situation, as reported to the House, whereby 40% of penalty points were incurred by people who were recorded as having no driving licence. However, that was not true. Those people were not boy racers. The requirement to produce a driving licence in court and to have one when driving should be examined as part of improving road safety. Our road safety statistics have started to deteriorate again. We had an excellent period for road safety but that is changing.
I also wish to raise the issue of the requirement for mortgage applicants to have a 20% deposit which was endorsed by the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Honohan, at yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, as well as by Ross Maguire, SC, of New Beginning this morning. The endorsement by Mr. Maguire is very important, given the work being carried out by New Beginning. The proceedings of the committee are described by Mr. Thomas Molloy - a very witty and erudite journalist - in today's Irish Independentwho notes that Mr. Honohan is in favour of the 20% deposit requirement. Mr. Molloy goes on to say:

His paymaster, Michael Noonan, clearly wants the property party to continue indefinitely. The European Central Bank, to which Mr. Honohan has sworn an oath to consider the big picture, wants the opposite.
Those of us who know Deputy Noonan know that this is not an accurate description. Indeed, nobody wants property bubbles. More and more people in economic circles are saying that the 20% deposit requirement is a good idea. It may seem like harsh medicine at the beginning but we must save the country from what the banks would do through irresponsible lending. It will also save people from getting into unnecessary debt. Those endorsements of the 20% deposit requirement are very important in terms of assisting us in developing a policy to prevent house price bubbles from happening here ever again.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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The comments by Senator Daly on the new Garda Commissioner are outrageous and I would ask that he withdraw them.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I have already ruled on that issue.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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The Senator did not withdraw his comments.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Senator Daly also made reference to works of fiction. The greatest work of fiction, or comedy, was when former Deputies Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey stood on the plinth and said that the IMF and the ECB were not coming into the country and that a bailout was not necessary.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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That is a total misrepresentation of what actually happened.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Allow Senator O'Neill to speak without interruption.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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That was the greatest work of fiction we have ever seen.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Senator O'Neill should withdraw that remark.

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

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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I know we have had a lot of debate already on the water issue but we should reopen the debate.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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I ask the Leader to arrange another debate on water because of the hypocrisy of the Sinn Féin party. More than 35,000 water meters have been installed in Northern Ireland.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator O'Neill should not display newspapers in the Chamber.

10:40 am

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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It is time that party stated in this House-----

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

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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I am asking the Leader to arrange a debate on water provision in order that we can find out what is the true Sinn Féin policy on water charges.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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Stand for election.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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If it is in government after the next general election, it will decide to leave water charges in place because it will need the revenue to improve the infrastructure. It should not try to cod the people all of the time; it is doing one thing in the North and another in the South. I seek a debate on its policy on Irish Water.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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On Senator Pat O'Neill's point about the Garda Commissioner, while on a personal level I wish her well and hope she will do a good job, Senator Mark Daly was perfectly within his rights to make a legitimate point. It is a fact that the person in question was deputy commissioner when many of these issues came to light. That is worth noting and remembering.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator expressing confidence in her?

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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I expressed hope, not confidence.

Will the Leader arrange a debate on the contribution of the Governor of the Central Bank in recent days? I believe he is wrong and would like to see what science informs his push for 20% deposits. I worked in the building society sector more than 20 years ago, long before there was a boom, and the policy was to seek a 10% deposit. In fact, one could obtain an additional 2% if one had a bond. Of course, one also had to have a clear income and savings record and there were clear metrics in terms of the multiples of one's salary or the main salary plus the second salary with which one had to comply.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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That was before the cowboys were on the pitch, some of the people whom the Senator encouraged.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Marc MacSharry to continue, without interruption.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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The Punchestown gang.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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Long after the horse has bolted, the Central Bank is attempting to close a door it need not even leave ajar. The reality is that people are struggling and will struggle to get on the housing ladder. Appropriate regulations on lending are required. There is no need to discriminate against young families starting off, which is precisely what a measure such as this will do. It will not affect Governor Honohan in the ivory tower on Dame Street or anybody in these Houses, given the salaries and supports we have available, but it will affect many others throughout the country. It is discrimination. I do not like to disagree with my learned colleague, Senator Sean D. Barrett, but he, too, is wrong on this issue of the 20% deposit. There is no science whatsoever that can take from what is a discriminatory move by the Governor of the Central Bank.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the very positive job figures published yesterday by the Central Statistics Office which show that 80,000 more people are at work compared to the first quarter of 2012, when An Action Plan for Jobs was first initiated. Employment in the last quarter increased in all eight regions of the country, with the strongest increases in the west, the Border region and the south east. However, we must continue to fine-tune the plan to ensure every sector is given the opportunity to benefit from the general upturn in the economy. I look forward to having the Minister back in the House shortly to discuss An Action Plan for Jobs 2015.

Will the Leader arrange a debate with the Minister for Education and Skills on career guidance and counselling in second level schools? I make this request in the light of a survey conducted by the Education and Training Boards of Ireland, ETBI, which runs one third of all second level schools in Ireland. The survey shows that nine out of ten school principals believe they are not delivering an adequate guidance service to pupils and that the service requires a 50% increase. We are all aware of the pressures young people are under, not only in making career choices for the future but also with mental health issues, bullying and other general pressures. In 2012 schools lost an entitlement to hours for career guidance and counselling which are now provided out of the standard teaching hours quota. The cuts have had a big impact on the time available to students and also put huge pressure on principals and deputy principals. The survey also highlights the concerns of principals and deputy principals about the inadequacy of middle management structures in schools generally and the impact this is having on their ability to implement the many educational reforms. The general secretary of the ETBI has called, sensibly, for a forum to develop practical proposals to address these issues. This House would be an ideal place in which to discuss the viability of such a forum. Perhaps the Leader might arrange a debate with the Minister on this significant issue which is hugely important to school principals.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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Today is Thanksgiving Day and there is much for which we can be thankful. I have in mind two newly appointed Ministers, both of whom are former Members of this House, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is announcing today some developments in the pursuit of road safety, particularly in regard to drugs and alcohol. Senator Sean D. Barrett also referred to this issue. These two men have come into their new jobs with enthusiasm, commitment and energy, as we have seen with the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, in the case of road safety and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, in the case of social housing, an issue to which Senator Ivana Bacik referred. It is a reminder of what can happen if the right Minister is appointed to do something. A lot can be done on that basis.

The reason I mention this issue is that a few weeks ago I raised the matter of pensions and the big challenge it posed for us. The United Kingdom and Australia have a Minister for pensions. Between now and the next general election we must discuss the question of pensions and the solution is to have a Minister for pensions. It is a huge crisis and challenge for the future. Four Departments have responsibility for pensions - the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation which looks after the insurance aspect, the Department of Finance which looks after the major income in the sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Each Department is holding onto its own piece of the sector, whereas in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia and perhaps others there is a Minister for pensions. Between now and the next general election we should make enough noise to ensure the incoming new Government - it will not happen before then - will have a Minister for pensions. It is easier to do it when a new Government is being formed because it will not have to take the task away from four existing Departments. I urge that we have a debate in the coming year - the election could be held in less than one year or perhaps later - on the huge crisis in pensions. The figures are huge. If we do not discuss the issue in the near future, the new Government will end up with the same difficulties as the current Government.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I wish to distance myself from the remarks made about the Garda Commissioner. I wish Noirín O'Sullivan the best of luck. It is a great week for her and her family. To be the first female Garda Commissioner is a significant achievement. It is worth noting that practically all of the senior positions in the justice sector are now held by females. We are witnessing positive changing times.

Will the Leader organise a debate on casual trading? We have seen an evolution in casual trading in recent years. There are very successful farmers' markets in practically every county; there are numerous such markets in some counties which are all very positive and create a European style trading environment. The most healthy produce is produced in this country, as well as great artisan food, crafts and so forth. Therefore, a debate on the issue would be welcome. There are areas that require examination, particularly what is defined as casual trading in the case of events such as festivals. If one purchases and pays for a product to take away, that is deemed to be casual trading.

However, if one goes to a fortune-teller or psychic and hands in €20, or €50 in some cases, and does not bring away anything, that is not classified as casual trading. As such these people do not come under the remit of casual trading by-laws. Their vehicles must be considered in the same remit as casual trading, because money does change hands.

We must update our casual trading legislation. In advance of that, a debate in this House on the issue of casual trading, both the positives and the negatives, would be welcome.

10:50 am

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Roinnt mhaith uaireanta sa chúpla bliain ó toghadh mé tá mé tar éis cás na líomhaintí gneís i gcoinne Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí nach maireann, bunaitheoir Choláiste na bhFiann, a ardú sna Tithe seo agus muid ag lorg fiosrúchán maidir lenar tharla, maidir le fiosrúcháin na ngardaí agus ar uile. I have raised the case of Domhnall Ó Lubhlaí, deceased, the founder of Coláiste na bhFiann and the allegations of sexual abuse against him by potentially up to 100 people. A number of court cases ensued on allegations going back to 1955 and the cases collapsed because of a lack of evidence brought forward in the courts. I have raised the issue a number of times on the Adjournment, etc., with different Ministers, because this crosses over the Departments of Education and Skills; Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Health; and Justice and Equality, and An Garda Síochána.

There has been an internal investigation by An Garda Síochána. I am concerned to hear this week on the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O'Sullivan, that two of the victims in this case received a letter from An Garda Síochána saying that the internal review has concluded and the report will not be made available to them in any form, redacted or otherwise. This is a bad move in light of the statements made about how there will be openness, transparency and a whole new ethos in An Garda Síochána, because it is felt that the cases in court fell apart due to a lack of competence on the part of An Garda Síochána and that evidence was not made available when it was needed. I called at the time for an internal inquiry into that.

It is also interesting that the report has been made available to the Minister since 21 July, I am told. She has not contacted the victims in the case and has not made the report available. I am also told that the internal HSE investigation is being held up because it has not received documents from the Department of Justice and Equality, and An Garda Síochána. I am very concerned about this. I do not think it augurs well for the new regime in An Garda Síochána. I am also aware that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, would have been aware of this case when she was Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. We still have serious questions to answer. I call on the Leader to arrange a debate on openness and transparency in the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána on these issues. I also call on him to use his good office to contact the Minister and ask her whether the report will be made available to the victims-----

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

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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-----and how soon this will happen, whether the other reports could be expedited and whether we could have a full and open discussion on this whole case. If there are other victims out there-----

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

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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It is important to say that victims could be listening to this and if they have information they should come forward and seek support in any way needed.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the good news that has been referred to already - the approximately 80,000 additional people working compared to the first quarter of 2012, the 35,000 new units of social housing and the €3.8 billion that will be invested in that over the next six years. It is very challenging and ambitious but worthy of doing. It is a legacy issue, as has been said - something we inherited which must be tackled. We have had practically a 9% increase in visitor numbers and in the number of people employed in tourism, as those opposite will know, and the public service obligation on the Kerry and Donegal flight routes has been retained. All of this is tremendous news. It will build our confidence and get us beyond the fragile state we are in. We know the graphs are going in the right direction. This will do wonders in particular for the construction sector, which will have an effect through the rest of the economy and is to be greatly welcomed. I do not want to be harsh on my colleague opposite, Senator Daly. His remarks regarding-----

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator is trying to provoke me. I can see it.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I will not be harsh on the Senator this morning. I hope his remarks regarding the Garda Commissioner, whom I heartily congratulate in line with everybody else, were rather unfortunate, but perhaps he will think better of it and correct the record.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I commented on her inability to see anything that was going on.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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With respect, I do not believe it was necessary for him to move any amendment to the Order of Business because as we knew - we had a chat about it - the Leader was going to move that motion on Cumann na mBan this morning.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I am not surprised that the Government side is applauding the fact that the unemployment rate is down and I would certainly be very happy for anybody who has been out of work and has found work. I hope that continues, but it is cold comfort to 160 people in Carrick-on-Shannon and the surrounding areas of my hometown in County Leitrim, who are losing their jobs this morning in the MBNA office in Carrick-on-Shannon. A workforce of 200 will be left in a state-of-the-art building which housed some 1,100 employees from all over the hinterland of Carrick-on-Shannon when it opened. There are people in my hometown of Drumshanbo who will be out of work today.

What have the Government and the IDA been doing about it? They have been doing damn all, with due respect. There has been one visit by the IDA to my county in the last couple of years and we do not even know where it was. Here we have a highly-skilled workforce in the financial sector, a state-of-the-art building and a willingness and enthusiasm by the local authority and local elected representatives to welcome any company that would come into that building. In fact, yesterday a high-powered delegation from Leitrim County Council, led by my colleague, the chairman, Councillor Paddy O'Rourke, with the CEO of Leitrim County Council and the county enterprise officer, Joe Lowe, met the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Simon Harris, who has responsibility for the financial sector as well as Government procurement.

I am pleading with the Government to do something for my part of the country. There is an unevenness about employment prospects in this country. If one happens to live on the east coast, one has a far better chance of getting a job with some of the foreign multinationals that come in here, but what is the Government going to do about County Leitrim? What is it going to do about Carrick-on-Shannon and the workers who are now without work four or five weeks before Christmas? What will they tell their children? Will they tell them there will be no Santa this year? The Government should get real about what is happening in rural Ireland. The national figures may look great, but on the ground there are people who are suffering because they are out of work. They should not be out of work. If we are to believe that the economy is moving fast and that it is improving, where are the jobs? I am pleading with the Government and I am asking the Leader that Deputy Richard Bruton, the Minister responsible, would come into this House and outline the Government's policy on regional development and the provision of jobs in counties like my own and in towns like Carrick-on-Shannon.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I am quite disturbed by what we learned yesterday from the Governor of the Central Bank and I second Senator MacSharry's request for a debate on this issue. The European Central Bank, ECB, has decided it will not participate in the Irish banking inquiry. This shows a total disregard for the European concept of democracy. It looks like Mr. Draghi will not be dragged before the Oireachtas to explain the ECB's role in our bust. The Irish banks did not get the money to fuel the boom that led to this unholy bust from the sky. Somebody somewhere gave them the money and it now looks like those who gave it to them want to wash their hands of it. They have forced us to repay their bondholders and to put our economy on the rocks to save the ECB.

The European Central Bank was the ultimate authority when the Irish Central Bank failed to bring in controls to manage our economy. People sat on their hands and allowed it to happen. Now Draghi and his cohort have turned around and said we can hold an inquiry, but they are not going to come here and answer for their part. I yesterday called for a vote. I said the banking inquiry was a farce. If we cannot have them attend, that is all it is. I therefore second Senator MacSharry's request that we hold a debate on this.

I disagree with the Senator on the 20% deposit issue. I am sticking to my guns on this. A 20% deposit is essential to cool the market. We can pretend there is no bubble but we all know there is. There was a time when a person could borrow only two and a half times his or her salary. Now a person can borrow three and a half times his or her salary. I am currently running a survey of councillors across the country. Most councillors want a loan-to-income rather than a loan-to-value regime introduced. I ask the Leader to arrange the debate.

Senator Mullins called for a debate with the Minister for Education and Skills on guidance counselling. I second that also. I ask, however, that we do not have that debate before 10 December. I have arranged a briefing session with the National Parents' Council, the guidance counsellors' association and Headstrong. That will take place on Wednesday, 10 December. I ask that as many Senators as possible attend it. Then we will be able to have an informed debate.

11:00 am

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I second Senator Daly's amendment to the Order of Business and join with other colleagues in welcoming the launch today by the Road Safety Authority, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner of the Christmas safe driving campaign. I also welcome the fact that the loophole that existed in the Road Traffic Acts preventing gardaí from getting samples of blood from people involved in serious accidents who were unconscious or seriously injured has now been closed. The gardaí can now do so. This will lead to safer roads.

I suggest to the Leader that we have a specific debate on road safety. Those of us who have been commuting to and from Dublin are aware that we have recently had very dense fog, particularly over the last two nights. I was amazed at the number of people driving without their fog lights. Believe it or not, some were driving without any lights on. I do not know how it is that there were not more serious accidents. It is time to have a general debate on road safety. It is time the Government made a substantial allocation to the Road Safety Authority so that it can conduct major publicity campaigns on safer driving. It is very necessary.

I join with Senators Daly and MacSharry and others in calling for the debate suggested by Senator O'Neill on the water charges debacle. We cannot have a proper debate without the man who created this mess present in the Chamber. He did not listen to the people in this Chamber, nor for the three hours in the lower Chamber. That man is now a European Commissioner. He is over in Brussels, happy to be away from us all. He created this mess-----

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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-----by rushing into establishing Irish Water without giving sufficient time to allow this to work properly. We should have that debate. The European Commissioner should be invited to the House to answer our questions.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to mention the housing issue briefly. The announcement this week by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on a new housing strategy was touched on already today. The same strategy was announced, with less money, on 14 October. I have read the Minister's announcement, and whatever way it is viewed, there appears to be very little new in the report. The Minister speaks about the provision of 75,000 places through a new scheme which will be administered by local authorities. This is to replace the rent supplement scheme and the rental accommodation scheme, RAS. At the end of 2013, there were 79,000 places under the RAS and the rent supplement scheme combined. I am not sure what the benefit is. On the other side, he speaks of the capital provision of housing. I very much welcome that. However, when one looks closely at what the Minister is talking about, one can see he is proposing the building of 22,500 houses or leasing of a further 11,000 houses. Also, councillors will be provided with money to allocate the 2,300 currently vacant properties owned by local authorities. We have to welcome the strategy. However, we must examine the detail. I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on the provision of social housing.

Coupled with this is the issue raised by Senator MacSharry pertaining to the Central Bank's new mortgage proposals. I give a guarded welcome to the Central Bank's proposals. The bank situation is leaving many young couples in Dublin unable to rent or buy a house. Years ago - before my generation were buying houses - people had to save up before they got a loan. The banks are pushing the agenda at the moment through rent-seeking behaviour and their attempts to get policy makers such as ourselves to lobby for a reduction in the 20% threshold as sponsored by the Central Bank. That is a dangerous road to go down. Interest rates at a European level could rise. The Central Bank did nothing prior to the bust in 2008. We were very critical of it for not having relevant information. It is now trying to do something. It should be acknowledged for what it is trying to do.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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I too wish to speak on the social housing strategy for 2020, and I ask that the Minister be invited to the House. The strategy outlines a €1.5 billion guaranteed, up-front Exchequer investment in social housing from 2015 to 2017. There will be a further €300 million for housing projects by public private partnerships. The sum of €400 million will be made available through a new housing finance entity. I welcome the strategy, but there are pinch points. Take, for instance, a voluntary housing agency looking for a developer to build ten houses. The cost of a three-bedroom semi-detached house would be on average €160,000. The housing agency pays four fifths of the market price. This would be €138,000. It will cost the builder €145,000 to build the house. The opportunity for buying and selling is limited. An average leasing price is €800 per month. This would be a high price in some areas but is low in Dublin. In some areas, people are paying €500 per month for a three-bedroom house. Working with the figure of €800, a housing agency will pay four fifths of that, €640. The developer will have a yield of 2% from this. Bank costs are 4.7%.

Realistically, it will be difficult under the current model. There are other pinch points such as the fact that local authorities have land that was bought for millions of euro.

11:10 am

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

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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I am setting out two of the pinch points. Local authorities must charge €40,000 per site as a result.

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

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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We need to have the Minister of State with responsibility for housing attend to ensure that this excellent strategy and the funding provided can be spent in the next three years.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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I call for a sense of reality in respect of the exuberance on the Government side on the increase in employment. Below the radar, one does not have to read into the detail too far to find that 23% of young people in the State are unemployed. Of those, 57% are long-term unemployed, meaning they have been out of work for over a year. We have a crisis, notwithstanding that the unemployment rate has improved. Thousands of our young people continue to emigrate. While many of them have jobs, they still want to leave. We must address the reasons we cannot hold on to many of our young people who have jobs.
Multinationals thrive in Ireland where conditions are perfect for them, but the conditions are not quite perfect for small and medium-sized Irish companies as ISME has so frequently reminded us. Last Friday night, Mr. Hugh Kelly, the president of the Irish Exporters Association, said:

We need to increase considerably the number of Irish companies exporting. We need to encourage Irish companies to believe they can succeed at exporting and we need to help Irish companies to risk to derisk rather than never to take a risk. We need to box clever to stretch our nation's limited resources.
I call for an urgent debate on the unbalanced regional development we have nationally. It was referred to already this morning regarding Leitrim. I want to discuss the lack of women entrepreneurs taking the risk of setting up businesses. I remind Members that 23% of young people in this country are unemployed of whom 57% have been out of work for over a year.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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Many of them are in County Leitrim.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Independent)
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I welcome the intervention of Senator Jim D'Arcy on the housing programme announced yesterday. He introduced a note of caution and realism. While will certainly need to have the Minister of State attend to tease it out with him, I hope we have a housing strategy rather than a strategy for developers and the construction industry. We must reflect on the fact that they are not the one thing.

We all receive magazines every month from various interest groups and we may not always reflect on them fully. We had an interesting magazine from the Construction Industry Federation within the last month, however. I read with interest the comments the director of that organisation made when he introduced the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Paudie Coffey, at the construction industry's AGM. He welcomed and boasted about the fact that the construction industry had its own Minister once again. I want the Minister of State to be the Minister for housing and for housing families, not the Minister for developers and the construction industry. We know what happened with that type of policy during the so-called "Celtic tiger era".

The Minister of State and the senior Minister at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government are fully aware of the housing crisis in the State but the approach to resolving it must be cautious. It must also be immediate. I find it difficult to comprehend economically and socially how there remain tens of thousands of almost completely finished or fully finished vacant houses, some owned by NAMA and some by others, across the length and breadth of the country. Why can we not marry that solution to the housing crisis solution? In a sense, it leads back to Senator Mooney's point about balanced or unbalanced development in the State. Given the housing wastelands in some of our regions, leading in turn to economic wastelands, we should try to front-load some of the new housing budget into finishing estates and putting families into those houses.

We could debate this topic all day. It is something I feel very strongly about and we need to meet with Deputy Coffey on it. While everyone must welcome a plan which sets aside billions of euro, billions of euro were used in the construction industry before and it was not to house people and for families. The money was used to turn millionaires into billionaires and to zone land which should never have been zoned. It caused the economic crisis from which we are still trying to recover. We do not want to repeat that problem. We need a realistic proposal whereby the housing of ordinary people - to use that phrase - is at the core of a policy led by the Government and its housing Minister, not the construction industry or developers.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is regrettable that Senator Mark Daly questioned the suitability of the Garda Commissioner. It is reprehensible on a morning where she has only just been appointed. I am sorry again that Senator Daly has nothing positive to say about the housing strategy and nothing positive to say about the health service plan which has not even been announced yet. There is no positivity on that side of the House for something that is not even announced.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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He is not a very positive person.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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He is actually.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I support the all-party motion on Cumann na mBan. I have no problem with that.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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That is a positivity.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I am being positive again.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Leader.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Bacik and many other Members referred to the housing strategy which was announced yesterday. I note the points made by many speakers on the matter. I assure Senator Bradford that the housing strategy is one for ordinary people and certainly not for developers and the construction industry. It is a roadmap to accommodate by 2020 all 90,000 households on the waiting lists with homes in which to raise their families. That is the aim of the plan. I will certainly try to arrange to have the Minister of State, Deputy Paudie Coffey, attend in the House before the break to have a debate on this very important issue.

Senator Bacik also welcomed the proposed changes to adoption law. We all agree with that. Senator Barrett referred to road safety issues, in particular the requirement to provide driving licences in court and the problems arising from that. Senators Barrett, MacSharry, Craughwell and Ó Domhnaill referred to the 20% deposit policy of the Central Bank. Senator MacSharry differed from the other three speakers on the matter. I agree that we should have a debate on the matter in the House. There is obviously a difference of opinion on the issue among Members.

Senator Pat O'Neill and others asked for a debate on water. I assure them that we will have a further debate as the Water Services Bill will be dealt with before the end of the current session. There will be ample opportunity to discuss the matter again.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Will the Commissioner be here?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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We will have a very flowing debate on the Water Services Bill.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Uisce faoi thalamh.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Some will sink and others will swim as a result. Senator Mullins welcomed, as do I, the good news that 80,000 more people are at work. People have been calling for a debate on jobs and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, will be with us next week to discuss the Action Plan for Jobs. Senator Mullins and Craughwell referred to guidance teachers and counsellors. I note Senator Craughwell's announcement that he will hold a seminar here on 10 December.

As I doubt whether I will be able to have the Minister come to the House before then, he will be all right in that regard.

Senator Feargal Quinn welcomed the enthusiasm of the new Ministers, Deputies Paschal Donohoe and Alan Kelly, who are former Members of the House. We could add the Minister of State, Deputy Paudie Coffey, to that list. The Senator also mentioned the need to have a Minister for pensions in the next Government and asked for a debate on pensions in the meantime. It is a very important and pressing issue, on which I agree with him. We will try to arrange that debate in the next term. We had such a debate some time ago.

Senator Martin Conway asked for a debate on the issue of casual trading. He said there was a need to update the legislation in that regard.

Senator Trevor Ó Clothartaigh referred to a specific case of victims of sexual abuse and the need for more openness and greater transparency in that regard. I agree with the sentiments he expressed. He has tabled Adjournment matters on the subject; perhaps he might table another.

Senator Paul Coghlan welcomed the good news on jobs, the housing strategy and the tourism figures. Senator Paschal Mooney and other Members on both sides of the House welcomed the 80,000 jobs created. I note the Senator's point on job losses in Carrick-on-Shannon, which are very regrettable. We will have an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Minister next week.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson welcomed the plugging of the loophole in road traffic offences linked with the taking of drugs and asked for a debate on road safety. I will ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, to come to the House to discuss the matter.

Senators Brian Ó Domhnaill, Jim D'Arcy and Paul Bradford referred to the housing strategy.

Senator Mary White referred to the 23% rate of youth unemployment, which is still a major problem, irrespective of how many jobs have been created. It is something we will address next week with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton. The Senator is perfectly correct about exports, which are the key to the success of the economy. It is important for Irish companies to be involved in that sector. There is a need to open markets abroad. I support the Senator's comments in that regard.

11:20 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Mark Daly has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 55, motion No. 8, be taken before No. 1. The Leader has indicated that he is prepared to accept the amendment. Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed.

Order of Business, as amended, agreed to.