Tuesday, 20 October 2015
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the proceeds of the sale of Aer Lingus, back from committee, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; and No. 2, the Marriage Bill 2015 - Second Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m., with the time to be allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and that for all other Senators not to exceed five minutes.
I see the Leader intends to take No. 1, which deals with the disbursement of the proceeds of the sale of the State's share in Aer Lingus. Those proceeds amount to €335,272,562.50.I raised this matter before it was referred to the committee and asked that a commitment be given that when it was referred back from it, a debate would be held on it because the very reason the State had this money was that it had robbed Aer Lingus, Dublin Airport and former SR Technics pensioners and pension fund members, 15,000 of whom effectively and arbitrarily had had their pension entitlements cut. Many Members will know, particularly colleagues in the Labour Party who had given them promises that they would deal with this issue and reneged on these promises-----
Let me put it this way. If I was to get €100 at the end of next week, as promised by my employer and underwritten by the State in legislation, and the State then passed a law to take back €40 of that €100 from me, without my consent, I would call it robbery.
More than 5,000 retired members, people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, who worked for Aer Lingus, the Dublin Airport Authority and SR Technics, or Team Aer Lingus, as it was, have had six weeks pay taken from them. There are also deferred members of long-standing. A man I met last night who is due to retire and draw his pension later this year after 42 years service has had a 48% cut to his pension entitlement. The Tánaiste gave indications last year that she would, in some way, shape or form, move towards reducing these cuts and a number of Labour Party members at the Labour Party conference actually signed a motion to look for fairness in this regard, but they have reneged on this completely and utterly. I do not think anyone in the House can say, in any way, shape or form, that what has happened to airport pension scheme members, IASS members, is fair or equitable. The reason the Government did it was simply to write off the debt in the pension scheme before it sold Aer Lingus. Therefore, the reason the State has €335 million-plus is it robbed the airport pension scheme members; it is as simple as that.
I asked last week, when the Government referred the matter to the committee, that when it was referred back, that we debate it in order that I would be able to debate it with the Minister, Deputyj Paschal Donohoe, to see if there was any way the Government would look at reducing the level of cuts, which have been absolutely scandalous, for this group of workers and retired members. It had never happened before in the history of the State that a profitable company was allowed to run down its pension scheme. Complicit in this was the legislation brought forward by the Government to enable it to happen. I am, therefore, proposing an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 1 be taken with debate. What does the Minister have to hide? Let him come here and tell us what he is going to do. He has an extra €335 million that he wants to put into a connectivity fund, whatever the hell that is, but it is not acceptable to take the matter without debate. I will be pushing the amendment to a vote.
On another very serious matter, the report issued today on the assessment of paramilitary activity, with a particular focus on the role of the Provisional IRA, as currently constituted in the Sinn Féin movement, I ask the Leader to ensure we are given time to read the report and debate in the Seanad, given the implications for democracy, both in the Republic and the North of Ireland.
I know colleagues across the floor would again wish to join me in offering our sincere condolences to the families of those who died so tragically in the fire in Carrickmines. The first of the funerals are being held today and it is appropriate that we remember them today, particularly so soon after the funeral of Garda Tony Golden which took place last Thursday.
On a happier note, I welcome the appointment of Professor Philip Lane to replace Professor Patrick Honohan as Governor of the Central Bank. Of course, Professor Lane is known to us as the holder of the chair of political economy at Trinity College Dublin.I congratulate Professor Lane on his new appointment.
Senator O'Brien referred to the independent report on paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland that was issued today by the British Secretary of State, Ms Theresa Villiers. It would be useful to have a debate on that report in due course, once we also see the report by the Garda Commissioner on paramilitary activity which, as I understand, is due to be published later today. I had a brief look at the report published by the British Government which has found that the structures of the Provisional IRA remain in existence, albeit in reduced form. One line in the report is quite chilling when one considers the context and reality on the ground in Northern Ireland. That line is: "Our firm assessment is that, to different degrees, the leaderships of the main paramilitary groups are committed to peaceful means to achieve their political objectives." It is very welcome to see an assessment made that there is a commitment to peaceful means, but the phrase "to different degrees" must worry any reader. It would be helpful to explore and debate in this House the nuances in that report and in the Garda Commissioner's report that we will see later today.
I commend Graham and Helen Linehan on their work with Amnesty Ireland in producing a video that was launched in Belfast last night and the screening of which I was privileged to attend this morning. The video, which is called "Chains", is narrated by Liam Neeson and concerns the experience of a pregnancy involving fatal foetal abnormality. It calls for repeal of the eighth amendment, the campaign for which is being spearheaded by Amnesty under the heading of "She is Not a Criminal". The campaign seeks to change the criminalisation of women-----
I echo what Senator Bacik said about Professor Philip Lane and the tributes paid to him by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, as he assumes the office of Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland. It is a quarter of a century ago that he came to my scholarship class before going on to Harvard and Columbia. I am sure he will bring many talents to his new post.
In the presence of Senator Eamon Coghlan, who knows much more about international athletics than I do, I express my regret that we are losing our national boxing manager, Mr. Billy Walsh.
I compliment Mr. Justin Trudeau, who was elected as Prime Minister of Canada this morning. The Canadian crest includes the fleur-de-lis, rose, thistle and shamrock, the latter in recognition of Ireland's role as one of the founding nations of Canada. We should be very proud of all that Irish people in Canada have accomplished, including such persons as Thomas D'Arcy McGee who drew up the constitution of the Canadian Confederation in 1867. Mr. Trudeau is returning to the house where he lived as a boy when his father was Prime Minister. I take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Canadian Government, which was always a great friend to Ireland.
I share Senator O'Brien's misgivings regarding No. 1 on the Order of Business today. The Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport refused to appear at a meeting of the transport committee to discuss this matter on the basis that to do so would infringe Stock Exchange takeover rules. I have always regarded a democratic parliament as being far superior to such rules-----
-----particularly when one considers the €64 billion that was secured for the banks on 29 September 2008. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Simon Harris, heard that debate and could confirm that nobody supported what was done. Whether or not one likes privatisation is not really the issue. I did not like this particular one and have opposed it in this House. I thank colleagues for their indulgence in the matter. In the budget this year, Ervia is putting €250 million into the Exchequer, which is to be allocated to housing. The priority should not be to give the Aer Lingus money back to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.Consideration should be given to spending it on social priorities such as housing, education and the health service.
Yes. As my colleagues, Senators Norris and Darragh O'Brien, both indicated, it should be spent on the pensions. The Government has rewarded the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for the way it treated the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications by giving it another €350 million of pocket money to spend on electric trains and whatever else it wants. Connectivity is facilitated by aircraft. However, the Department sold the aircraft - wrongly, in my view - so why give it this money?
I wish to refer to the reports relating to the commission of burglaries in the Knocknacarra area of Galway by drug-fuelled individuals, a matter which has received attention in the press today. It has been alleged that the perpetrators of the many burglaries being committed in the area to which I refer are out on bail. While I stress that these are only allegations, I wish to highlight the fact that this morning the Garda seized €250,000 worth of drugs in Galway. This shows that the force is constantly monitoring the situation relating to drugs in the region. I remind Senators that the Minister for Justice and Equality has commenced the passage of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015. The Bill is targeted at those repeat offenders who have previous convictions and who are charged with multiple offences relating to residential burglaries. It strengthens the provisions for the refusal of bail and provides for tougher sentencing for repeat home burglaries. It was also announced this morning that the Garda will receive a large fleet of high-powered vehicles that will allow officers to conduct high-speed pursuits, particularly on major roads.
In the light of the allegations relating to the commission of burglaries in the Galway area and elsewhere, I have asked the Minister for Justice and Equality to meet me to discuss the matter. I ask the Leader to invite her to come before the House to debate the issue of crime. If resources are needed to tackle this issue, then they must be provided. We cannot have a situation where people do not feel safe in their homes.
I ask the Leader to convey the sentiment of the House, which I like to think I reflect, on the resignation of Billy Walsh who, up until yesterday, was employed as head coach of the Irish boxing team by the now discredited Irish Amateur Boxing Association, IABA. Perhaps the Leader will convey our compliments to the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Michael Ring, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Taoiseach who have come out strongly in support of Mr. Walsh. His resignation is both a national scandal and a disgrace, particularly when one considers the proud record of Irish boxers under the leadership of Billy Walsh and his team. We have now lost his expertise. As a small country, we can ill afford to lose his expertise to the United States, one of the largest countries in the world. It will be dreadful to see Billy Walsh wearing the stars and stripes of America - and facing up to the green, white and gold of Ireland - at the boxing championships at next year's Olympics in Rio. I ask the Leader, when conveying the shock and dissatisfaction that all of us feel about the manner in which the IABA has handled this matter, to raise questions regarding the funding given to that organisation. I am not suggesting that this funding should be withdrawn because such a move would affect boxers throughout the country, both those at elite level and individuals who box in local gyms. I refer, in particular, to youngsters who are starting out in their chosen sporting career. This matter should afford the Government an opportunity to raise questions about the way in which the IABA has gone about its business in respect of this matter. Even the Irish Sport Council, through its CEO, John Treacy, has expressed its exasperation with the failure of negotiations.
I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, which deals with sport and which is due to meet tomorrow morning. This issue will almost certainly be raised at that meeting and I shall use the opportunity to call for the IABA or whomever has responsibility in this regard to be brought to account. We cannot afford to lose such expertise in any area of Irish life, particularly in view of the small size of our country. It is just not acceptable that we should lose this level of expertise in a sport which was under-represented for many years but which has proven to be one of our most successful areas of endeavour in recent times. The latter is the result of the structures that were put in place. Mr. Walsh has admitted that the structures predate him but he continued with them. Now we are faced with a massive gulf in expertise due to the loss of somebody who provided expertise, guidance and support to Irish boxers. The IABA should feel ashamed about the situation. It should clarify matters and explain how this situation arose because we are in dark regarding what has occurred. With the exception of issuing a statement expressing hypocritical regret last evening, the IABA has remained silent. I commend to the House an article by Vincent Hogan, published in today's issue of the Irish Independent, which provides the background to how all of this happened.
Finally, I commiserate with my colleague, Senator Comiskey, who did not make it on to the nomination list last week. I am genuinely sorry that he was unsuccessful but wish him well.
I appreciate that it does afford an opportunity to put on the record that, irrespective of the media comments at the weekend about the political directions, Fianna Fáil will be seeking a mandate from the Irish people for Deputy Micheál Martin, as Taoiseach, after the next election.
I wish to make a brief reference to a recent European Central Bank report which stated that between 2009 and 2013 Irish people lost more of their personal wealth than any other eurozone country. Many of those who lost their personal wealth, lost the bulk of their savings and the values of their pensions.
It has come to my attention recently that an approach was made, as I understand it, to the Minister for Finance by a particular company which acquired assets at the bottom of the market in this country. These are assets that Irish people have bought and paid for and which they and their children will be paying for over the next number of decades. It is unacceptable that companies that have acquired assets at below market rates are influencing Government policy when it comes to housing. At the end of the day, what is important are the people of Ireland, the roofs over their heads and the homes in which they live.
I ask the Leader to arrange for a broader debate on the whole issue of Irish housing, who has acquired it, what has happened with NAMA, what has happened with all the vulture funds that have acquired Irish assets cheaply and, in my opinion, below market values, because, as I said, it is the Irish people who will pay for this for the next number of decades. This Parliament and other former Governments looking across the way here will have to answer to the Irish people on how we managed the value of Irish assets during the decades of the financial crisis.
One other debate I seek relates to the under 26s who, as I said on the night of the budget, did not receive, as other groups did, some of the restoration of their rights, particularly when it comes to payments. I call for a broader discussion on the issue of youth policy in relation to payments to young people, the system of support for third level education grants and the wider issues that affect young people in society.
With regard to No. 1, I completely disagree with the Leader that it should be taken without debate. This is a debating Chamber. The people in Aer Lingus have been swindled out of their pensions. It is devastating that people have their pensions cut in half at a time of economic difficulty. If one compares this with what happened in Waterford Glass where the Government found the money to pay off the pensions, it is outrageous that this House should pass a measure allowing the Government to transfer almost €350 million without paying the pensioners from the company that is being dissolved.
I wish to raise the issue of the eighth amendment. My church was completely against the eighth amendment. I was against the eighth amendment. It is a disgrace that third parties outside a relationship should dictate to people such as Graham Linehan and his wife who have a non-functioning pregnancy where there is literally no real child, that they should continue for nine months being asked, "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl", and "Have you got an extra room". It is a disgusting human situation. I thought we had matured beyond this stage. The Irish people have gone beyond this but Irish politicians lack the guts to tackle this issue. I welcome what Mr. Linehan has said.
Like Senator Hayden, I also heard the announcement on the wireless today that Ireland lost the most during the economic crisis. Who won? The winners of the Second World War, of course, Germany. We lost €18,000 per individual in this country, the Germans made €33,000 per individual in the country because we stupidly picked up the gambling debts of the German banks.
Last Thursday in my local village of Blackrock, County Louth, I attended the funeral of my near neighbour, Garda Tony Golden. The Taoiseach was present, as was the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald; Deputy Micheál Martin; the Garda Commissioner, my colleague, Senator Terry Brennan; and many other politicians and public figures. The funeral also was attended by many thousands of gardaí and a sombre local community who feel so much for Garda Golden's widow, Nicola; his three beautiful children; his mother-in-law and father-in-law who live in the village; and his own mother, father and family from Ballina, together with the extended family. It was a dastardly deed and words cannot express its horror or the legacy it has left for the family.
I welcome the forthcoming provision of additional resources for the Garda to deal with criminal activity engaged in by so-called republicans in the Border area. Today Mr. Mark Durkan has called for a special task force to be set up. I echo that call which echoes the report produced by Members' esteemed colleague, Senator Paul Coghlan, and his team on this criminality. I also note that the IRA's ruling body, the Army Council, has today been declared to still exist in a report by Secretary of State Villiers. She states it has a wholly political focus, but anyone who knows anything about republicanism and its ideology knows that the IRA Army Council was always a political body and, in fact, considers itself to be the legitimate government of this country. I ask that both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fances Fitzgerald, come to this House to outline the implications of that statement, particularly as it goes on to indicate that Provisional IRA members believe-----
I apologise. They believe the Army Council oversees both the IRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy. I wish to hear what the implications of this are and ask the aforementioned two Ministers to come to the House because this is an all-Ireland issue.
Táimid ag smaoineamh ach go háirithe inniu ar an dream den Lucht Siúil atá á gcur inniu tar éis gur cailleadh iad sa tine uafásach sin i gCarraig Mhaigin an tseachtain seo caite. Ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh lena muintir agus lena dteaghlach ar fad. Tá sé thar a bheith brónach mar lá dóibh siúd.
I was happy to attend a presentation this morning by Women's Aid in which it called for a number of issues to be addressed. Members of the Seanad, in particular, have had a good record in this regard and it would be timely for them to have another debate on some of the issues raised by Women's Aid. The presentation highlighted the issue of resources, in that all systems supporting and assisting women and children experiencing domestic violence or leaving abusive relationships should be fully resourced. Women's Aid has also highlighted a number of pieces of legislation that should be brought up to date and into line with the Istanbul Convention and the EU victims directive.It has also highlighted the issue around relevant staff of all statutory systems that provide assistance to victims being trained, resourced and informed about domestic violence and the need to ensure accurate data and statistics on domestic violence for the planning, delivering and evaluating responses to women and children experiencing abuse. It is, unfortunately, an issue that is on the increase. Based on my experience on the joint policing committee in Galway, the figures are increasing. I have listened to groups, such as Domestic Violence Response in Oughterard, Riverside House and others, and they tell me that their resources are being cut back and that they are finding it very hard to deal with the increase in the numbers of people calling on their services. Even though we raised issues here a number of years ago in regard to Dolphin House and its facilities, the situation is getting worse, so it is important for us to have a debate about the issues highlighted by this group and other groups to see what policy changes can be made and what proposals are in place concerning resourcing. Now that we are being told that we have turned the corner, certainly in the context of the budget, we need to see where the extra resources will be made available and how the extra moneys to organisations like Tusla will be employed, particularly in the area of domestic violence. Ba mhaith liom iarraidh ar an gCeannaire smaoineamh ar díospóireacht dá leithéid sin a reachtáil.
I would like to add to Senator Mooney's comments because my phone has been ringing off the hook over the past number of days with regard to the resignation, if I may call it that, of the great Billy Walsh. My response to people has been that there is nothing I can do. They have said, "Well you're a Senator, you should be able to raise the issue and do something about it." Last week, we referred to the amateur boxers who were competing in the world championships and wished them well. I congratulate the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, not because we won gold, silver and bronze but on the "shamamateurism" of the organisation. There is public outcry as a result of Billy Walsh's resignation. I can understand the support he is getting from the public because he has proven to be one of the most successful coaches in the history of Irish sport.
His biggest problem was that he became too successful. I certainly know that one is never regarded as a prophet in one's own land. I got to know Billy Walsh at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988. Over the years since, I have found him to be a very humble, proud and brilliant leader in our sports community. He is the ultimate professional. He leaves no stone unturned in his preparation. His high-performance structures in Ireland are the envy of the rest of the world. He has gained trust among the boxers and that is very hard to do. He has gained the trust of the Irish Sports Council over the years and, in particular, the trust of the fans. He does not have an ego. He allows his results to dictate. The biggest problem is that he hurt the ego of the green blazers. He became too big in their eyes and they had to take him down and wear him out.
We, as taxpayers, have funded the IABA to the tune of many millions of euro over the past eight, nine or ten years. Why did we do this? While the money was well spent, it was because we produced world, Olympic and European champions. It was also because we had a high-performance coach in Billy Walsh who was not even given the opportunity to be called the high-performance director - something he wanted. He wanted to bring his team around but those in the IABA would do it. Like Senator Mooney, I question the systems that exist in the IABA. It does not want to give Billy Walsh the power. It does not want to give the Irish Sports Council the opportunity to dictate terms to it, so it is time to review and to question funding and the IABA's ability. There is an old motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The IABA's motto is, "If it ain't broken, let's break it." Yesterday was a sad day. It was the biggest fight Billy Walsh had to go into and, sadly, it was against his own organisation. I wish him well because the IABA drained him and forced him to throw in the towel. I know that when he goes to the US, he will be welcomed with open arms, revered and respected but I know that at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year, if there is an American fighting against an Irish person, his heart and soul will be with that Irishman and Irishwoman.
I second Senator Darragh O'Brien's amendment to the Order of Business. I also take this opportunity to welcome to the Public Gallery Dr. Keith Swanick who will contest the forthcoming Seanad by-election on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party. Dr. Swanick is from Castlerea. I wish him well.
Dr. Swanick comes from County Roscommon and practises in Belmullet. He is a very successful young man who will make be a major addition to this House.
I also ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, to come to this House to review the Personal Injuries Assessment Board which was established more than ten years ago by the then Minister, Mary Harney. The board processed more than 31,576 claims last year and made 12,420 awards totalling €281 million.
The cost of car insurance is spiralling out of control. In many cases, premiums have increased by 25%. The reason for this is the quick settlement of claims, some of which are allegedly fraudulent, to avoid having to go before the courts to fight them. I recently came across a case involving an accident that occurred last Christmas and involved only a scratch to a car but in respect of which six months later a claim was made in respect of whiplash. How a person could experience whiplash six months after an accident is beyond me. Companies such as Liberty Insurance and others are settling such claims rather than fighting them in court but the people who are paying for these claims are the people paying for insurance. We must fight fraud. If I do not get results in this particular regard then, using parliamentary privilege, I will act on behalf of the public to name and shame companies in this House, as I did in relation to price increases. In one particular case, because of an uncontested claim, a young man now has to pay €5,000 per annum to insure his car which he needs to get him to a job he has been offered in County Kildare.
My request is a reasonable one. The Leader is very responsive to requests and I ask that he ensure the Minister, Deputy Bruton, comes to this House to discuss the issue of insurance and how we can rid ourselves of fraud and fraudulent claims.
An article in today's edition of The Irish Timesregarding drink driving convictions states that in some parts of the country the conviction rate is below 20% and in others the average conviction rate is higher than 68%. This raises very serious questions about how summonses are prosecuted, including whether there is a defect in the manner in which they are presented by the Garda, whether there is a defect in how they are being dealt with by the courts or whether we have an extremely efficient and hardworking legal profession in some parts of the country and not in others. There are serious questions that need to be asked about this matter. It is appropriate that the matter be debated in this House. I acknowledge that there are some changes proposed in this area but there are questions around this issue that need to be answered quickly.
I have defended cases successfully in the District Court because that is my job. However, it must be borne in mind that in many road traffic accidents a person may have lost a mother, father, son or daughter because the driver of one car was over the legal alcohol limit. We must address this matter in the fastest possible way to ensure appropriate penalties are imposed on persons caught driving while over the legal alcohol limit. As we approach Christmas, the current message is that the risk is worth taking.That is the one concern I currently have. We are now approaching that time of the year when people need to be more careful and should not be taking risks. While I have no objection to people having a drink, I have a problem with people drinking and driving. It is something we need to be conscious of. We should have a debate and the Minister for Justice and Equality should give some explanation for the wide variation in convictions across the country.
I was very impressed to read yesterday of the Taoiseach's enthusiasm for cycling and for cycle runs, particularly the one in the midlands. Our attention has been drawn to the opportunities for Ireland in the area. Apparently some 20 million people in Europe cycle and Germany alone has 70,000 km of cycle runs, but we have practically none. We have the opportunity to do something about that and increase our tourism facilities to give those tourists opportunities to do that cycle run. I think particularly of the western rail link that goes from Collooney in County Sligo to Athenry in County Galway. It is available and would take very little to put it into operation. All it needs is determination and enthusiasm. If we can do that we will be able to benefit tourism to a very large extent.
On this week every year for about 22 years I have stood up here and pointed to something else we could do. Next Sunday let us take the first steps towards joining Central European Time so that we get that extra hour of daylight every evening. It is quite bright now at 4.20 p.m., but it will not be next week. Next week it will be like that at 3.20 p.m. Let us ensure we can do something about that. We do not want to do it on our own; I know an effort has been made to do so. A large number of British Members of Parliament are also enthusiastic about taking that extra hour every evening and doing it for the entire year. The way for us to do that is to join Central European Time. I believe we can do it. We should not do it on our own because I do not want to see a barrier between Dundalk and Newry or between Belfast and Dublin. There are a sufficient number of people in Britain and Northern Ireland who would say, "That's a step we can take." It will help our tourism and it will help reduce energy and other costs. More than anything else it will make us all feel better every evening of the year.
I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, that €5.3 million is to be spent on 260 new Garda vehicles between now and the end of this year. These vehicles will be used to assist the Garda in pursuit of mobile gangs using high-powered vehicles. These 260 vehicles will be added to the 370 vehicles that have already come into operation so far this year. They will be used to tackle the scourge of highly mobile criminal gangs committing crimes throughout County Louth and across the country. The Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, has allocated €5.3 million to provide the Garda with additional high-powered vehicles, marked and unmarked patrol cars, cars for surveillance, motorcycles for high-visibility policing and vehicles for public-order policing.
This investment will support the Garda in carrying out more visible and responsive patrols on our motorways and in rural communities. The extra vehicles will give it the resources to increase surveillance of criminal gangs and to enhance night-time public-order policing. The Government will have invested more than €34 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012.
In July the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, published the general scheme of a new bail Bill to strengthen the law and get tougher on serious and repeat offenders who are out on bail. This new law will result in a clampdown on repeat burglars and will support gardaí who work extremely hard to catch these repeat offenders.If you could bear with me, a Chathaoirligh, I wish to welcome-----
-----and acknowledge the announcement of the deployment of 27 additional gardaí to Dundalk Garda station. I hope the decision will make a difference to policing along the Border in north Louth and south Armagh. I commend Commissioner O'Sullivan on taking this initiative soon after the murder of Garda Tony Golden in Omeath just ten days ago and the death of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in January 2013. I am deeply concerned at the dastardly crimes that have been committed, as is my colleague, Senator Jim D'Arcy.
I find it very sad that Amnesty International, which has done so much good work over the years, has tainted its human rights credentials, not only by promoting legalised prostitution and the cause of pimps and users of persons in prostitution, but also in its virulent campaign for legalised abortion. It is disturbing to see promoters of legalised abortion using the tragic cases of those whose child has been diagnosed with a severe foetal abnormality as the wedge issue on which to destroy the eight amendment in this country when the reality is that those campaigners want to see abortion legalised in far wider circumstances, starting with but not confined to people with disability generally.
In their world, if one is not what they call "wanted", one is not worthy of life. It is wrong and dishonest to invoke the fact that there are criminal sanctions for women in terms of abortion. There are criminal sanctions for women in every abortion regime as well. I challenge Senator Bacik and others in the sense that I would support removing all criminal sanctions for women in the case of abortion if they would support the retention of criminal sanctions for abortionist doctors and others involved in this process, which is tragically destructive. Those who propose abortion have a tragically destructive world view that is exclusive of other human beings.
Ba bhreá liom dá bhféadfaidh an tAire Talmhaíochta, Bia agus Mara teacht isteach anseo chun labhairt faoin gclár géanómaíochta agus sonraí mairteola. Tá féidearthachtaí móra ag baint leis an scéim seo, mar a bhaineann sé le réimse na mairteola ach go háirid, ach mura gcuirtear ina luí ar fheirmeoirí na tíre seo go bhfuil tairbhe nach beag sa scéim seo dóibh, ní bheidh aon rath uirthi. Ba chóir don Aire teacht os comhair an Tí chun cuntas a thabhairt dúinn ar fhorbairt na scéime seo. Caithfear rannpháirtíocht na bhfeirmeoirí sa scéim seo a chinntiú agus go práinneach. Má theipeann ar an Roinn é seo a dhéanamh, tá inmharthanacht chuid mhór de theaghlaigh na tíre seo i mbaol dáiríre.
I would like if the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine could come to this House-----
-----to explain the beef data and genomics scheme from which many farmers have withdrawn in recent times. This is very important for the quality of beef output in the country. Many fine farmers feel the scheme is not worth the trouble or they do not buy into it because they have not found themselves in agreement that this is important in terms of improving the quality of beef outputs. Many farmers look at finishing traits but they do not necessarily take into account the traits of the mother and other factors in cattle breeding. That is most important if we are to have a long-term development in the quality of beef output. It took many years to achieve that in the dairy sector and perhaps the Department is trying to achieve it in a very short period in the beef industry. It would be good if the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine were to come to the House to discuss this important programme and we wish to hear how it is progressing, why the Government believes farmers have been pulling out of it, and what the Government intends to do about that.
I join with the calls of colleagues for a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, on crime and the resources being made available. I very much welcome the Government's increased commitment to properly resourcing the Garda and adding 600 new recruits this year as a major attempt to come to terms with the very mobile and dangerous criminals roaming the countryside and terrorising people in their homes.I want to see further investment in technology to help apprehend the people concerned and keep a trace on them after they have committed a certain number of offences. We need to look at the issue of the tagging of dangerous criminals. Civil liberties groups will be unhappy with a statement such, but the civil liberties of people living in rural areas and cities who are being terrorised in their homes and having their lives changed forever are being seriously infringed. We should do everything possible to ensure repeat offenders are put out of business once and for all.
I welcome the support of Deirdre Clune, MEP, a former Member of this House, for a motion in the European Parliament calling for the global abolition of the death penalty. I saw some staggering figures in this regard. It is hard to believe 2,466 people in 55 countries were put to death in 2014, a 23% increase since 2013. They included several women who were stoned to death for committing adultery in Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Eight states - Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar - still have the death penalty for homosexuality, while 33 other states apply it for drug-related offences. This is a serious human rights issue. Will the Leader organise a debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on how Ireland could spearhead a campaign in the European Union to get agreement and put pressure on other countries to get rid of this barbaric sentence? It is not acceptable in 2015 that 2,500 people will be executed. I am always concerned about a miscarriage of justice in such cases.
At this time of year there is the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a time when we think of loved ones who have passed. Those of the Catholic tradition will visit the graves of dead family members and friends in the next couple of weeks. I spoke to one such mother this morning. It is with her permission that I refer to the murder of her son, Paul Quinn, on this day in 2007. He was lured to a farmhouse in Tullycoora, County Monaghan, on the pretence that he would move cattle with three friends. When he got there, he saw that his friends were being held hostage. In the following our up to ten armed and masked men proceeded to pulverise him with cudgels with nails. They finished him off with iron bars. When his mother, Breege, saw him lying in a hospital bed in Drogheda, she was told by the doctors that there was nothing left to fix. With her husband, Stephen, and all those who live in the communities of south Armagh and north Monaghan, she has known for a long time that the IRA still exists. I have been saying it, too, in this Chamber for some time.
It exists in those communities which it rules through the utmost fear and intimidation. Not one of those called in over the death of Paul Quinn spoke one word to the authorities. They sat in stony silence. To the IRA killers of Paul Quinn I hope the doors of the other world will be opened and that they will be haunted by his murder.If they are men they will come forward and hand themselves over to the authorities. I appeal to people in that area who have information and who may be sheltering those murderers to come forward also with that information. We have heard today that, contrary to what Sinn Féin has been telling us, the IRA has not left the stage and that it is still directing the production. We need to know who is the tail and who is the dog and who is in control of what. We need an urgent debate following on from the statement today by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, about the state of play of paramilitarism across Northern Ireland and across our State as well. We need that to happen as a matter of urgency.
I rise to request that sufficient speaking time be granted to allow all Members to make their contributions to the debate on the Marriage Bill later today. I have raised the matter of speaking time for Independent Members on a number of occasions since I was democratically elected to this House last year. I am long enough around to know that every organisation must have its standing orders under which to operate but it is high time that the Standing Orders of this House were examined and reformed as the institution itself needs reform.
Having won, by way of election, the privilege to serve my country as a Member of this House, I am committed to fully debating legislation and other issues as they come before the House. I know also that Members present here today and every day are equally committed. However, there are those, a small few, who are Members of this House who appear so infrequently in the Chamber that it beggars belief that they would accept a salary of €65,000 a year for the job. Clearly, their external occupations are more important than the important work of the national Parliament. What is worse is that some of these people have speaking time available to them with a higher priority than me despite attending the Seanad and the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection-----
With respect, the Senator is jumping the gun slightly. As I understand it, and the Leader will clarify this, the debate that will take place later on the Bill to which the Senator referred, is open-ended. In other words, it does not have to be concluded this evening.
I accept that but there are issues with respect to this matter and if I would be allowed to conclude what I stood up to say, it might clarify them. This House and its Members have long been accused of being a useless drain on public moneys. It is hard to defend this view when some who have been given the privilege to serve do not bother to turn up to debate some of the most important, humane and, perhaps, bravest legislation introduced by any Oireachtas in the history of this State. Worse still, if one of those habitual absentees turned up when there was just enough time remaining in a debate for one speaker, they would have priority over me-----
I fully understand that Members of this House are away on business frequently and I respect that. I further respect the elected Members of this House in the way they participate and their dedication to this House.
I have sometimes sat here for a number of hours waiting to make my contribution, only to depend on the generosity of the Chair or another Member to share speaking time. Sometimes I have been told there is no time left as happened, for example, during the debate on the budget last week. I will be writing to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges today to request an urgent review of how speaking time is allocated in this Chamber. I will be asking how a group, the Independent group in this case, can refuse membership to one who attends the Chamber while granting membership to absentees, some of whom are rarely seen in this Chamber. I will be writing to An Taoiseach, as the leader of the Government, to ask him what briefing-----
Like the Leader and many other Senators who are here because they want to be here, I respect the privilege of serving in this House. I want nothing more than to be allowed to do the job I was elected to do. I want in future to ensure there is time for every Member to add to whatever legislation comes before the House. I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for his indulgence.
The Senator's point prohibits me from letting Senator Healy Eames speak as we are over the time. He referred to Members coming in late looking for speaking rights. He exceeded his time and we are over the time allocated. I am not trying to personalise this but we are five minutes over the allocated time. I call the Leader to respond.
Senator O'Brien made the case in respect of Aer Lingus but this has been debated at length in the committee and, therefore, I do not propose to amend the Order of Business.
The report on paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland was raised by a number of Senators, including Senator Bacik. I hope when we have the full details of that and the report of the Garda Commissioner that we can have a debate on this important issue.
Senator Bacik and others reminded us of the families of the bereaved in Carrickmines. I am sure all our hearts go out to the families involved.
Senators Bacik and Barrett welcome the appointment of Professor Philip Lane as Governor of the Central Bank. Senator Barrett also congratulated the new Prime Minister of Canada. I noted his points in respect of transport issues and Aer Lingus, in particular.
Senator Naughton raised the issue of burglaries in Knocknacarra, County Galway. The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 is before the Lower House and it will be in this House soon. I understand the bail Bill is also in the other House and we will also have it within a few weeks. We will, therefore, deal with those matters and there will be ample time and opportunity for Members to make a contribution on those Bills. The Senator and Senator Brennan welcomed the announcement of the provision of 260 additional high powered vehicles for the Garda by the end of the year and the allocation of €5.3 million by the Minister for Justice and Equality for their purchase.
Senators Mooney, Coghlan and others raised the issue of Billy Walsh's resignation. There is no doubt he has been an excellent ambassador not alone for his sport but for the country since he took over. If my memory serves me correctly, his predecessor, Gary Keegan, was also forced out of that high performance post. Questions need to be asked of, and answered by, the IABA. I am sure the question of the funding of same will be considered as regards the governance of that body. It is a sad day that a person who has given so much of himself to the sport has been forced out in such a way. I wish him well in his new position if he takes it up, but I am sure he has no option to do so at this time.
Senator Hayden referred to the report on Irish people's loss of personal wealth over the past number of years in comparison to other countries. She called for a debate on housing and the acquisition of assets.We will try to arrange that with the Minister for Finance. The Senator also called for a debate on youth policy and education grants. We have not had a debate on that issue since the youth guarantee so I will endeavour to hold one.
I note Senator Norris's points in regard to the eighth amendment. I suggest to him that Irish people hate to be dictated to by any source on any issue, certainly on this issue.
Senator Jim D'Arcy spoke about the death of Garda Tony Golden, who was a close neighbour of his. I attended in Dundalk last week and I offered my sympathy in the Garda station in particular. I am delighted the extra 27 gardaí have been put in place by the Garda Commissioner. As Senator D'Arcy said, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly only last year called for a task force to be put in place in the Border area. I would hope that will now take place, both from the Irish and the British side. There is a need to deal with the criminality - the diesel laundering, the smuggling, the beatings and so on. I know Senator Heffernan has referred to Paul Quinn's murder, which was a barbaric act. People would ask who sanctioned that murder and those beatings. A mafia-style omertaexists in that area of our country and there is undoubtedly a fear within the community. We will certainly debate the report of the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers MP. One point that stands out is that the Provisional army council oversees both the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin with an over-reaching strategy. That is one of the things many people have been stating all along and there is a need for clarification and debate on that issue.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh called for a debate on domestic violence. We will certainly try to arrange that. A number of Members welcomed the Government's and the Taoiseach's stance that the ratification of the Istanbul convention will be done by the Government in early course.
Senator Leyden called for a review of the personal injuries board and also for a debate on fraud in the insurance sector. I share his concerns on that matter and will try to arrange same with the Minister, Deputy Bruton.
Senator Colm Burke raised the issue of drink driving offences and the low number of convictions being recorded in many areas of the country. If so many people avoid conviction, there is a clear need for more watertight legislation to be put in place. I believe the Minister is considering this in early course and, hopefully, we will have legislation before Christmas, if possible, to deal with these loopholes. People are appalled at the low percentage of convictions in these cases.
Senator Quinn spoke on the question of green-ways and cycle-ways, and the need to increase our tourism opportunities. We are succeeding in that area but there is a need for further improvement.The Senator also raised an issue he has raised every year, the whole question of Central European Time. As he states, it must be done in conjunction with our UK neighbours because otherwise, it cannot come in. The justice committee and Members of the British Parliament are very favourably disposed. We must jump together on this issue if it is to be introduced. I would certainly agree with Senator Quinn's sentiments in this regard, as I have over many years. Senator Brennan welcomed the provision of 260 new high-powered Garda vehicles, in addition to the 370 vehicles which already have been put in place this year. He also welcomed the 600 extra gardaí who will be trained in Templemore.
Senator Mullen questioned Amnesty International's stance on abortion. He also called for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to come to the House for a debate on the beef genomics scheme. The Minister has attended the Chamber on that matter. As I recall, it was raised on the Commencement debate and may also have been debated on other occasions. It certainly has been debated comprehensively at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. There is no point in having repetition in various areas.
Senator Mullins welcomed the 600 Garda recruits and emphasised the need for new technology in order to combat burglaries and all types of criminality. He mentioned, too, the need for electronic tagging. It is easy to say we should have such a facility, but its success is dependent on a number of factors. Those factors will be examined by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in early course. Senator Mullins also highlighted the need for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to lead a campaign for the global abolition of the death penalty and highlighting human rights issues.
Senator Heffernan spoke about the death of Paul Quinn, to which I have already referred.
To clarify for Senator Craughwell, as I mentioned on the Order of Business, the Marriage Bill 2015 will be taken at 5 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and that for all other Senators not to exceed five minutes in each case. The debate will conclude when everybody is finished. The Senator may certainly take up the other matters he raised with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. When I hear him talking about the disagreements between the Independent groups and who should or should not be affiliated, I question how stable a government would be if it were made up of Independent Members.
It certainly is. I am gravely disappointed that the Leader has not consented to a debate on this matter, particularly in view of his indication last week that we would have such a debate. Therefore, I am pressing the proposal.
- Sean Barrett
- Paul Bradford
- Thomas Byrne
- Gerard Craughwell
- John Crown
- Fidelma Healy Eames
- James Heffernan
- Terry Leyden
- Marc MacSharry
- Paschal Mooney
- Rónán Mullen
- David Norris
- Labhrás Ó Murchú
- Darragh O'Brien
- Averil Power
- Feargal Quinn
- Diarmuid Wilson
- Ivana Bacik
- Terry Brennan
- Colm Burke
- Eamonn Coghlan
- Michael Comiskey
- Martin Conway
- Maurice Cummins
- Jim D'Arcy
- John Gilroy
- Aideen Hayden
- Imelda Henry
- John Kelly
- Mary Moran
- Michael Mullins
- Hildegarde Naughton
- Catherine Noone
- Mary Ann O'Brien
- Marie Louise O'Donnell
- Susan O'Keeffe
- Pat O'Neill
- Tom Shehan
- Jillian van Turnhout
- John Whelan
- Katherine Zappone