Seanad debates

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

2:30 pm

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re referral to committee of Education Research Centre (Establishment) Order 2015, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015 – Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 7 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 3, Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Bill 2015 – Committee Stage, to be taken at 7 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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On behalf of my party, Fianna Fáil, I extend my deepest sympathy to the families of those who were brutally murdered in the savage terrorist attack in Tunisia, in particular, those of the three Irish victims and our fellow countrymen, Laurence Hayes, Martina Hayes and Lorna Carty. It is disgraceful that people enjoying their holidays with their families were gunned down in such a callous fashion. My thoughts and those of my party colleagues are with them and all the victims of this terrible tragedy, and, indeed, the Tunisian people in dealing with this terrible threat of Muslim extremism. On another day, it would be important that, outside of a terrorist atrocity, we have a debate here on Muslim extremism and extremism in this country. As we speak, there are Irish citizens in Syria and in Iraq fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, and that is something that needs to be addressed. It is not only a problem in France; there are issues here in Ireland as well.Today is not the appropriate day but we should certainly have a debate on that with the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Members may not be aware that today another €140 million has been taken out of people's private pension pots by the Government. This is the fourth year that has been done, raising the total to about €2.4 billion. People were doing what they had been asked to do by successive Governments, namely, making provision for their retirement. The irony is that anyone who has a pension is paying the levy, including the Aer Lingus pensioners who are losing 60% of their pensions, those in Tara Mines, the Waterford Crystal workers and all of these badly funded pension funds that are in grave difficulty. The Government needs to accept responsibility for the pensions crisis. This Government has done more than any other to undermine the basic premise and the safety of pensions and is the first one to actually take people's savings by way of a pension levy and has, in fact, taken more than it said it would. The pension levy was supposed to be abolished last year. It is another broken promise. The Government has let it go on for another year because it is easy money.

There are people in AXA and in Tara Mines who have had their pensions and payments reduced by 10% and 15% simply to pay the levy, which the Government said was used to bring new jobs into the retail and hospitality sectors. I accept it has done that but at what price? That the Government has decided to continue the levy for another year is a disgrace.

I heard the Tánaiste speak about compulsory pensions and how she would like to reform the pensions sector. When I heard that I laughed. The Tánaiste, as Minister for Social Protection with responsibility for pensions, has done more than anyone to undermine pensions. We need a debate on pension provision and how we can bring back confidence into the pensions sector. Should this Government or Fine Gael be re-elected, will it hit the pensioners again? Is it not ironic that the 15,000 Aer Lingus pensioners, about whom we have had debates, who have lost 50% and 60% of their pensions are paying this levy today out of their fund? It is disgraceful.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I express my deep sympathy to the families of the Irish citizens and all those who were murdered or injured in the appalling attack in Tunisia on Friday. It was a most disturbing and brutal day. Not only were 38 people killed in Tunisia in that barbaric attack on the beach but also on the same day, a large number of people were killed in Kuwait, also apparently by ISIS extremists, and there was the particularly brutal killing of a man in France. It is fitting that we would express sympathy to all those affected by those dreadful atrocities.

I express the hope, even at this eleventh hour, of some success in the attempts to forestall Greek default and a resumption of negotiations. The Taoiseach has written to the Greek Prime Minister in those terms. The President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has been attempting to resume negotiations.

I call for a debate on crime given the publication today by the CSO of crime statistics. It is a welcome publication as these are the statistics which had been delayed while the CSO addressed issues that had been raised about the reporting and recording of crime statistics by the Garda Inspectorate in last year's report. The CSO has remedied a number of the defects in the reporting and recording of crime that appeared in the Garda Inspectorate report. It is welcome that decreases are recorded in most categories of crime, such as a 40% drop in homicide and an 8% decrease in burglaries in the 12 months ending on 31 March 2015. There is a great deal of material in the Garda Inspectorate report around the reporting and recording of crime and it would be good to have a debate on that in due course.

I note the CSO has recorded today that unemployment figures are down to the lowest level, 9.7%, since 2009.It is still too high, but it is a major improvement on last year's figures. It shows a steady decrease in unemployment and is very welcome.

I ask the Leader to find time over the next two weeks to commemorate the genocide in Srebrenica. The 20th anniversary of that appalling genocide is 11 July. It was the single largest atrocity on European soil since the Second World War, when 8,372 men and boys were systematically murdered. I have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to ask for an official Irish commemoration of the twentieth anniversary. There will be a commemoration in Belfast on 5 July and on 11 July Srebrenica memorial day will be commemorated across Europe. Quite a number of commemorative events are planned across Britain and Northern Ireland, and we might look for some event here.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I want to raise a particularly urgent matter, namely, the imminent fate of a Palestinian village which I know well and to which members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade have travelled to visit, that is, Sousia in the south Hebron hills. I ask the Leader to write to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and ask him to intervene in the situation and make a statement on the matter. I will provide the Leader with the information and would be most grateful if he would make that contact.

The village has been in existence for 200 years. In 1983 an Israeli Jewish village called Sousia was established and three years later the Israelis declared the Palestinian Sousia an archaeological site and moved in to demolish it. The people reconstructed their houses but on 10 May the civil administration of Israel moved in and started taking photographs, recording GPS positions and engaging in legalistic military stuff. It is quite shocking to see the cold, unrelenting military precision of the way in which it acts. It is like the early days of the Nazis. A synagogue has been built in Sousia and the idea is to demolish the Palestinian village, wipe it off the face of the map where it has been for 200 years and join up Sousia synagogue and Sousia village.

One of the villagers said: "I am afraid of a silent demolition, that they will come and take our village apart one at a time." The whole idea is to make this area Palestinian free, another echo of the 1930s, when Judenfrei was a policy. This will involve the destruction of a series of structures that were put up with European money, including money from Ireland. There has been very considerable European Commission human aid and civil protection department funding. The Polish, German, Australian and Irish Governments have all contributed money. What is going on is utterly illegal.

Article 53 of the 1949 Geneva Convention states: "Any destruction by the occupying power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the state, or to other public authorities, or to social or co-operative organisations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations." There is no such pretence by the Israelis.

According to Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfer of the protected population is prohibited and is considered a grave breech of international humanitarian law. Israel is moving and behaving in a brutalised fashion. It is breaking two of the most significant elements of the 1949 Geneva Convention. I have to go to a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, but I will give the relevant documents to the Leader.

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Fine Gael)
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I refer to hospice care, in particular an announcement made in Galway this week, where a Galway hospice is planning to submit an application for planning permission for a 26 bed future-proofed unit in Merlin Park which it plans to have open within five years. It is currently planning a fundraising drive to support the capital costs. Even when the country was awash with money under previous Governments, end-of-life care was under-resourced.Hospice units like this are badly needed in Galway and right across the country. Those involved are raising capital funds without Government assistance. This situation is playing out in other areas of the country as well. While I appreciate that finances have been constrained since this Government got into office, I suggest that a relatively small investment in this area would yield substantial benefits. The failure to invest in hospice care throughout the country is a case of penny wise and pound foolish. I do not doubt that if a cost-benefit analysis of investment in hospice care were done, it would come down heavily in favour of such investment because it makes financial sense to take pressure off our acute hospitals. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health to come to the House so that we can impress on him the practical benefits of making this area a priority in his Department.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I would like to raise the appalling rustling of cattle that happened near Tyrrellspass and Kilbeggan in recent days. It is important for this House to be aware of the significance of this issue. Approximately 100 cattle worth in the region of €100,000 were taken from a young farming couple. The obligation for every animal to be tagged at birth is significant because it allows for traceability from the birth of a calf or a lamb all the way through to the table. With this traceability in mind, and having regard to the devastation this theft has caused this young couple, it is important that we raise the matter in this House. I ask the Leader to convey my abhorrence of what has happened to the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister for Justice. How could such a number of cattle disappear overnight? The strong level of cross-Border co-operation on agricultural issues was very noticeable at an event in Abbeyleix last Sunday. I was fortunate to attend the event, which was organised by a group that is trying to reduce the number of farm deaths. This House was complimented at that function for the work that was done at the Seanad Public Consultation Committee and on the report it produced. Ministers from Northern Ireland and from this country attended the event to show solidarity with the farming community. While I am not looking for an urgent debate on this matter, I urge the Leader to take it seriously. It boggles the mind that 100 animals could be taken from a farm and disappear without trace overnight. It is a serious issue. If these people can get away with such theft - it may have been night-time robbery rather than daylight robbery - it is appalling. The devastation caused to a young farming couple who are probably not in a position to rebuild their stock is an extreme worry to me and to the farming community.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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The people of Haggardstown are getting a bit worried about the Greek crisis. They asked me to put a couple of questions in this Chamber. First, are members of Sinn Féin still backing the Syriza-led Greek Government and are they still pally with the guy who visited their Ard-Fheis? Second, what does-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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They have turned the lights out.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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That shows the power of Sinn Féin.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I think they would be appalled in Haggardstown.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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They are stealing the electricity in Greece.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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The people of Haggardstown want to know what "debt write-down" means.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The lights are back in action.

Photo of Jim D'ArcyJim D'Arcy (Fine Gael)
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They want to know whether it means we will pay the money the Greeks have not paid. As the Taoiseach has said, at the end of the day all things should be sorted out at the table.It is a couple of years since I introduced a Bill in the House regarding the provision of defibrillators. The Minister accepted the point, said he would check with the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, but found it would be too expensive. The reason I raise it is that Dublin Airport has been very successful in the use of defibrillators, with 25 lives having been saved. However, HIQA said it would be too expensive to implement the Bill. Consider what happened last week when somebody needed a defibrillator on a Ryanair flight. There was none on the airplane, as is the case with most Irish aeroplanes, and the person died. It is outrageous. Given the minor cost of defibrillators, they should be available. British Airways, EasyJet, Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook Airlines have defibrillators on each of their aeroplanes, but Irish aeroplanes do not have them. I believe this is an essential item. The debate on the Bill I introduced was adjourned. I would love if it was debated again in the House and if its provisions are too expensive, let us make amendments to it. However, let us ensure that Irish aeroplanes carry defibrillators in future.

Some of the stories that have been told are outrageous. A coroner is asking for aircraft to carry life saving equipment after Davina Tavener died of an undiagnosed heart condition on a flight to Lanzarote. The consultant surgeon said, "I did ask for a defibrillator, because if it's a cardiac issue that's the best chance of survival, but it was quite a surprise this wasn't there." The coroner, Alan Walsh, said he would write to the European Aviation Safety Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Irish Aviation Authority about the possibility of installing defibrillators on board. I believe this is urgent and that it must happen. We have put if off long enough. It is a few years since I introduced the defibrillator Bill and I am stunned that we have not taken any step forward. I understand the Minister saying he will get around to it, or words to that effect. On that basis I believe it will happen.

Another Bill that was introduced is the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill. It was adjourned as well. The reason for that Bill being introduced was that a relatively young man, Muhammad Younis, was earning 55 cent per hour for a 70 hour week for seven years in Ireland. When he made a claim it was found that he had a good claim but that, unfortunately, he only had his work permit for one year, so he lost the case. He brought his case to the High Court and lost it, but then brought it to the Supreme Court and won it. However, let us ensure we are not obliged to rely on such processes for such people. Last Thursday, he won his claim.

Let us ensure we consider these legislative measures and complete them. They are very simple. The Bill was discussed in the House and nobody disagreed with it. However, it was adjourned with one minute to go. Let us bring it back to the House and ensure it is passed, along with the legislation on defibrillators. We need both measures very badly.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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To follow Senator Quinn's comments on the need for defibrillators on aeroplanes, which is an important issue, I wish to raise an issue regarding people on holidays. Sadly, there has been a great deal of focus on people on holidays in the last few days due to tragic events, but the issue I wish to raise is the consumption of alcohol by people on holidays. I recently spoke to a colleague who told me that on their way back from a holiday a person went through withdrawal symptoms on the airplane. Obviously, the person was drinking excessively while on holidays. When it was suggested that the only solution available on the airplane was to give the person a drink, the response was that he could not be given a drink because he had to drive others home from the airport. It is important when people go on holidays to keep the issue of alcohol consumption in mind because excessive drinking can cause problems. It certainly caused problems in that case, and caused problems for the airline as well.

The other issue I wish to raise, and I raised it as a Commencement matter earlier, is the current difficulties with the registration of nurses and the shortage of nurses.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That was discussed as a Commencement matter and should not be raised on the Order of Business.

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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At present there is a shortage of nurses, while nursing homes involved in providing care are having to recruit abroad. The cost of doing so is in the order of €10,000 per person for retraining and so on. It is time we looked at creating a tax incentive for Irish nurses working abroad to come home if they want to come back. It is not attractive enough at the moment and we need to examine what can be done to make it attractive. If it is costing an Irish company €10,000 to bring in someone who is not an Irish citizen or an EU citizen, we should be providing an incentive for Irish people to come home. That should be in the upcoming budget.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I supported a motion last week about the funding of Rape Crisis Network Ireland. I wish to put on record the view of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre that its funding has not been cut, although it is under-funded. The centre asked me last night to put that on the record. I apologise for any injury caused to the Minister. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is, however, looking for additional funding and asks that Tusla be better funded to that purpose.

I also wish to raise the lone parents issue. I have heard this kicked around town and around the Houses for the last couple of weeks. I received e-mails today suggesting that, for example, a woman working as a cleaner in a school for 2.5 hours a day or 12.5 hours a week does not qualify for family income supplement. The loss of income to her family is €142 a week.

Somewhere along the line, somebody has got this wrong. It would take great courage for somebody to come in to the House and admit he or she got it wrong and needs to go back and address the legislation. The Government side has got it wrong and 10,000 families are going to lose money. I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business, that we take No. 17 before No. 1. The very least we owe lone parents is our interest in their welfare and that of their children. For God's sake, we hear what is going on in Greece, with families eating out of dustbins and things like that. A woman who is doing decent work, spending 2.5 hours a day cleaning a school, is losing €142 a week. It is nonsense. Let us be honest with ourselves and with those who are suffering.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I have good news on an issue which I have raised numerous times before. I am delighted an agreement has been reached on the abolition of roaming charges between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. It is due to come into effect in June 2017. From April 2016 we will have surcharges for roaming capped at €0.05 per minute for calls. There will also be reductions for SMS and for megabytes. It is a far cry from where we were just a few years ago. In 2010, the charge was €7 per megabyte of data when roaming, 140 times what it will cost in April 2016. It seems extraordinary, looking back. In 2010, a call cost €0.52 per minute, ten times what it will cost in 2016.

This is a positive change from the EU. It still has to be voted on by the European Parliament but I gather that agreement has been reached. A few months ago, it looked as though the issue would be stalled entirely but it is now likely to come to pass.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator Craughwell. As the Leader will be aware, we have repeatedly raised this issue since the time of the original debate with the Minister, Deputy Burton, in 2012. Her comments at that time will haunt her and her party into the general election. She said she would be opposed to introducing this measure until there was a Scandinavian model of child care in this country. She has not resiled from that statement nor has she made any comments about it since then. Obviously, she felt strongly enough about it at the time to put it on record that she was opposed to the introduction of this measure and yet she has been spinning justification for it ever since. Like Senator Craughwell, I and other Members have been receiving plaintive e-mails from lone parents who will be significantly affected by this measure.

I am somewhat concerned that Ireland would not be seen to be beating the Greeks over the head over what is happening. I appreciate that the idea of their debt and a write-down of it would be anathema to this Government and many people in this country would feel the same, considering that the European Commission and the European Union left us swinging in the wind with our own debt. However, it is not in anybody's interests, and certainly not in the interests of the European Union, that Greece should exit the euro. I hope wise heads will prevail and that Greece will come back to the negotiating table. I also hope the sympathy and empathy many Irish people have for the Greek people will be highlighted.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Like Senator Bacik, I also call for a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Minister stated today that she welcomed the resumption of publication of the recorded crime statistics. We should have a full debate on that issue. As the Minister stated, it is vital that we have access to accurate information and reliable data on crime. I welcome her statement that the work of both the CSO and the Garda Inspectorate has identified common issues of concern in relation to the crime. She went on to state that technology has failed to keep up with the demands of policing in a modern society and that she will be announcing new improvements in technology. It is very difficult for gardaí to do their work if the technology and recording systems with which they are provided are not up to scratch. Sometimes one cannot even send an e-mail to a garda. All gardaí should have hand-held devices where everything is recorded there and then. There should also be a back-up system in place. Restaurants have such a system so why can the Garda not have it? Technology has failed the Garda. That is the message I want to get across. That issue should be included in the debate as well as the crime statistics. The recording of statistics is now done on computer but if one has to write the information on paper and then record it on computer, it defeats the purpose.

I wish to raise another issue, which was raised by a councillor in Galway recently, namely, that a garda who goes on maternity leave is not replaced. Teachers on maternity leave are replaced and there is a rota system in place for teachers. However, when a garda goes on maternity leave, the other gardaí in the unit have to pick up the slack. I have some statistics on this. By the end of the year, one garda in three will be female. As we all know, men do not have babies-----

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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That is all changing.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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-----but women do. Only a handful of the retirees will be female for the simple reason that in 1983 of the 400 recruits, only 20 were female.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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That would be a good subject for a Commencement debate.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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The retirees will be men. I would like that issue included in the debate. I ask for an all-encompassing debate covering the availability and updating of IT facilities for all gardaí on the beat and maternity leave. I know the Government is bringing in-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Is there anything else?

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Child care, maternity leave and shared paternity leave should also be included.

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

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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We have to consider all aspects concerning the force as well the issue of crime statistics and how they are matched.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on the need for a debt conference, which we have repeatedly requested in this House.The issue has come into sharp focus again as a result of developments in Greece and the demands being made by the Greek Government. While we all want a solution for Greece, it must be a fair and sustainable one, which will require some level of restructuring of the country's debt. Any economist worth his or her salt will agree with the statement in recent weeks by a Nobel Prize winning economist that without a debt write-down or restructuring of debt for Greece, there cannot and will not be a solution. Even if the Greek Government were to sign up to such a proposal, we would be back at the table in a short period.

A twin track approach has been required throughout this process. On one side, it is necessary to deal with fiscal problems. The Greek Government has made proposals in this area and broad agreement has been found on some of these. However, no agreement has been found on the need for a restructuring of debt. I understand last minute efforts are under way to reach agreement and debt restructuring may or may not be on the table, although we do not have any details. If that is the case, it will be a welcome development. Debt restructuring could have been done a long time ago as the bones of a deal have always been in place. The problem has been that, for political reasons, governments in Europe were not prepared to give Greece what its economy and citizens need because they were fearful of the political consequences such an agreement would have for emerging left parties across Europe. This was a wrong move by the Irish Government and some of the leaders of the European institutions.

I ask again that the Leader arrange a debate on a debt conference. Let us discuss what needs to be done to restructure debt and ensure the burden of debt placed on taxpayers and citizens in many countries across the European Union is lifted in a manner that allows the economies in question, including the Greek economy, to benefit and grow.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Senator from Haggardstown asked some pertinent questions today and it is interesting to hear Senator Cullinane following on from them. While we all empathise with the Greeks, as Senator Jim D'Arcy stated, nothing will be resolved without dialogue and the parties involved sitting around a table. The problem will have to be solved eventually through dialogue.

I wish to briefly discuss another issue, namely, the growing concern about the number of unlicensed auctioneers who are practising. Auctioneers and others must register with the Property Services Regulatory Authority. It appears, however, that these unlicensed individuals have not been in contact with the PSRA and the authority, which was established for a specific purpose, does not appear to have been in contact with them. I presume these unlicensed auctioneers are not bonded or insured, thus placing members of the public at risk. The Leader will probably inform me that this matter would be suitable for discussion in a Commencement debate. Perhaps I will raise it as a Commencement Matter.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Independent)
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I join previous speakers in proposing that the Leader arrange a debate on the broader aspects of the Greek crisis. Senator Jim D'Arcy, in his usual entertaining manner, recounted the questions being posed to him by people in his locality. I am pleased he brought this matter to our attention. The appropriate response would be to hold a broad debate on the Greek crisis at the earliest opportunity.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this matter by way of the Commencement debate tomorrow morning. Perhaps we have not fully recognised the prospective scale of the economic, political and regional damage a Greek exit from the eurozone could cause. Everyone must act responsibly as there are no easy answers. As Senator Paul Coghlan stated, it is a matter of trying to negotiate a solution. As with all difficulties of this nature, neither side has all the answers and we must listen to the arguments made by both sides. A debate would be a useful exercise for Senators who will, I presume, have something to say on the matter and have an interest in and concern about it.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I join colleagues in extending my deepest sympathy to all of those who lost their lives in the Tunisian terror attack at the weekend. We think, in particular, today of the family of Lorna Carty from County Meath and Larry and Martina Hayes from Athlone. The Hayes family has many connections in my home town.What we saw was an act of terrorism and racism of the worst kind, which obviously was designed to inflict as much damage as possible on the economy of Tunisia. Members must stand in solidarity with that country, which is struggling to maintain its democracy and to move its economy on. In particular, this proves how vulnerable we all are. The people who were on that beach had no agenda, except to get a bit of a rest and a break. They were no threat to anyone but were killed in cold blood. A debate is needed in this House on the threat being posed by Islamic State and what can be done collectively with our European Union partners to deal with this major threat to civilisation and to democracy. I also share the concern expressed by a previous speaker who referred to the possibility that there may be Irish citizens fighting in Syria with Islamic State, a matter about which Members should be deeply concerned.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I also support strongly Senator O'Donovan's remarks on what the Dillon family in Kilbeggan is going through. They lost 100 head of livestock over the weekend, and apparently a cross-Border rustling gang, which pays protection money to paramilitaries, is behind this particular activity. This is all part of the cross-Border activities such as fuel smuggling, diesel laundering, cigarette smuggling and the drugs industry, all of which are doing immense damage to the economy. I will go so far as to ask the Leader to organise a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality about how the PSNI and the Garda can co-operate better in trying to tackle this major threat to the economy, both North and South of the Border. Moreover, if it is necessary to strengthen legislation to tackle this issue, Members should do so, because this cannot be allowed to continue. The livelihood of that young family, the Dillon family from Kilbeggan, has been destroyed absolutely overnight. This also is happening on a smaller scale in other parts of the country, including the west of Ireland. These people, because of the new and enhanced road network, can now get across the Border frequently. This is a major issue that requires debate in this House and I look forward to the organisation of such a debate by the Leader, if not before the recess then immediately afterwards.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Connecting for Life initiative, Ireland's new national strategy for suicide prevention for the next five years, launched recently by An Taoiseach. Connecting for Life sets out a vision of an Ireland in which fewer lives are lost through suicide and in which communities and individuals are empowered to improve their mental health and well-being. This initiative is an ambitious strategy that sets a target to reduce suicide and self-harm by 10% over the next five years. There is no one-size-fits-all in mental health, and the range of services reflects this. As part of the suicide strategy, we need to connect with ourselves, our families, our communities and the services that are on offer. I seek a debate with the Minister for Health on these proposals and on how we can play our part individually in ensuring the success of the national strategy in reducing the number of people, young and old, taking their own lives.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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Two weeks ago, I called on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to engage in genuine consultation with farmers and landowners in east County Galway about the proposed greenway cycle route project. It now transpires that the Minister has written to around a thousand landowners in a bid to work out a feasible route. However, I am concerned that this may not be a genuine consultation, because I have had sight of the letter sent to landowners and it is clear that their legitimate concerns still are being ignored.First, the threat of compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, is still on the table. Where the Department is proposing to run a new public right of way through family farms, using the threat of a CPO or such proceedings against farmers is absolutely outrageous. CPOs are designed to be used in the context of vital national infrastructure. Such infrastructure does not include cycle paths. Second, the Department seems determined to proceed with the route it has selected. No consideration is being given to an alternative route along the train line, where the land is actually owned by the public. Further, the Minister proposes that two of his officials will meet and visit farmers individually to discuss, among other things, the possibility of CPOs being made in respect of their lands. This is a regrettable development. I agree with the IFA to the effect that farmers should be able to meet the officials in groups rather than on an individual basis. There is an inherent inequality in outnumbering any given farmer with two officials who have been told to push the implicit threat of the use of a CPO with a view to obtaining agreement. This type of behaviour on the part of the Department is unfair and unreasonable.

There are other matters which must be addressed, including farm safety issues. A farm is a working environment. Imagine if a factory owner was informed that a cycle path was to be run through his yard or across his factory floor. Such a development simply would not be tolerated. However, farmers are expected to assume the risk of members of the public having access to their lands, where potentially dangerous livestock may be located. One farmer to whom I spoke pointed out that the planned route dissects his land and that his dairy herd will have to cross the greenway four times each day. There are obvious safety concerns arising. There are also privacy concerns, particularly with people being obliged to come to terms with a public right of way running close to their private dwellings. It is extremely regrettable that measures to protect privacy are entirely absent from the Minister's proposed consultation process. People in rural areas, as is well known in this House, are concerned about crime. They are particularly worried about the increase in the number of crimes at isolated properties. Garda stations have been closed and it is now rare for people in rural areas to receive a visit from local gardaí. In the current climate, people are rightly concerned about the creation of a public right of way close to their homes. In order to prevent this greenway project from turning from a mess into a fiasco, the Minister needs to offer meaningful measures relating to safety and privacy to landowners. This has not yet been done. No farmer should be threatened with a CPO in order to facilitate a cycle path.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I join those Members who expressed their sympathies and condolences to the families of Lorna Carty and Martina and Larry Hayes. The attacks in Tunisia were savage in nature and the atrocities carried out elsewhere were dreadful. I assure Senator Darragh O'Brien that I will certainly ask the relevant Minister to come before the House to discuss terrorist and extremist threats in this country. I note the Senator's points - he has made them on several occasions - in respect of the pension levy, which will be brought to an end this year. I am sure he will be glad to hear that.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I am sure you will be glad as well.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senators Bacik and Keane referred to crime statistics. Senator Keane inquired about the possibility of having a debate on the greater use of technology, in which could be included the issue of maternity leave for gardaí. I will try to arrange for the Minister for Justice and Equality to come before the House to debate these matters in early course.

Senator Bacik welcomed the fact that the the unemployment rate has fallen to 9.7%. I am sure that fact will be welcomed by all Senators.

I have been passed the information that Senator Norris provided in respect of the Palestinian village of Sousia. I will certainly raise the matter in question with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator Naughton referred to the 26-bed hospice care unit that is planned for Galway and the fact that public investment will be needed in order to supplement the capital funds being raised by those involved with the project. The position is the same in Waterford, where construction on a major palliative care centre is due to begin later in the year. Some €6 million is going to be provided for the latter project by means of fund-raising by the public. The amounts involved are very large in the context of public fund-raising.It has been done there but I am sure it will be done in Galway. I stress the need for further Government funding for the hospice and palliative care services.

Senators O'Donovan and Mullins raised the issue of cattle rustling and the devastating blow to the Dillon family. This is a serious matter and, as has been stated, there is further need for North-South police co-operation to address the question of paramilitary involvement and money being siphoned off for paramilitaries and others as a result of these acts over the past number of months. The issue will have to be debated. The only time we heard about cattle rustling in the past related to the Wild West but it seems to be like the Wild West here at the moment because there is little control as regards policing on both sides of the Border. While there is co-operation, there is a need for further action and legislation, if necessary, to curb these acts.

Senator Jim D'Arcy put the number of questions that he received from the people of Haggardstown. They were salient questions, which Senator Cullinane did not proceed to answer.

Senators Mooney, Cullinane, Coghlan, Bradford and others raised the issue of Greece. There is no question that we must have empathy with the Greek people when we see elderly pensioners queuing outside boarded up banks and clutching their deposit books wondering whether they will have access to their money or will be able to put food on the table. This is a serious situation for the Greek people, which can be averted if the Greek Government decides to return to talks on how to keep Greece in the eurozone by agreeing a new support programme. There were signs of economic recovery in Greece in 2014 with a small increase in GDP, falling unemployment and the regaining of access to financial markets but they have gone. There cannot be jobs and investment without economic stability and, similarly, there cannot be economic stability without political stability, which is obviously not there either. Yesterday, the Taoiseach wrote to the Greek Minister and outlined Ireland's support for the objective of a sustainable and mutually beneficial agreement acceptable to all concerned, which will return Greece to growth within the eurozone. The Taoiseach stated that it had been very much his hope that, in line with the approach agreed, an agreement would have been achieved at the Eurogroup meeting on 27 June on the basis of negotiations between the Greek Government and the institutions but, unfortunately, the decision of the Greek Prime Minister to unilaterally break off these negotiations meant agreement could not be reached at that time. The Government continues to urge a return to negotiations as quickly as possible and the Taoiseach reiterated to the Greek Prime Minister that Ireland, along with the rest of the eurozone, remains open to dialogue in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility. There is a need, even at this stage, for the Greek Government to return to the table and to negotiations in respect of the dire situation the country faces.

Senator Quinn raised the need for defibrillators on Irish aeroplanes. This is a serious matter and perhaps we can resume debate on the Bill he introduced two years ago. With regard to the point he raised on employment permits, Second Stage of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015 will be taken later and I hope the Senator will take part in the debate. The employment permits issue he mentioned could be incorporated into that Bill and I ask him to consider that.Senator Burke spoke about excessive drinking and the shortage of nurses, which he raised on the Commencement debate. I take his point on incentives to bring back Irish nurses because there is a dire shortage.

Senator Craughwell clarified that funding for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was not cut, as I mentioned last week. I do not propose to accept his amendment to the Order of Business that No. 74, non-Government motion No. 17, be taken before No. 1.

Senator Noone spoke about roaming charges, and it is very welcome that these charges will have ended by 2017. It is a matter that has been raised in this House over many years and it is great news that eventually we will see the end of these very exorbitant charges.

Senator Mullins spoke about the terrorist attack in Tunisia and the Dillon family farm.

I note Senator Brennan's point on the national strategy for suicide prevention, and I will try to arrange a debate on this with the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch.

Senator Mullen spoke about a greenway project in east Galway. The greenways throughout the country have been very successful. They have been achieved through negotiation between local authorities, farming institutions and others. I suggest that the Senator table a Commencement Matter on the specific greenway project he mentioned.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Gerard Craughwell has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 74, non-Government motion No. 17, be taken before No. 1." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 20.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I am sure the Members of the House would like to join with me in welcoming to the Visitors Gallery Councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice, Councillor Nigel Dineen, Dr. Greg Kelly, Mr. Liam Walsh, and a former councillor and former GAA representative from Roscommon - I know they had a bad day - Mr. Danny Burke.

Order of Business agreed to.