Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, Children First Bill 2014 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 1 p.m. and to conclude no later than 3 p.m.; and No. 2, Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 3 p.m. and to adjourn no later than 5 p.m., if not previously concluded. Private Members' business is No. 71, motion 19, to be taken at 5 p.m., with the time allocated for this debate not to exceed two hours.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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We will not oppose the Order of Business. Can a debate be organised on the situation developing in Northern Ireland? I acknowledge there was a debate in recent times but the revelations yesterday north of the Border in a number of reports and further revelations on this side of the Border are concerning. Everybody is committed to the peace process with 98% of the people voting for it. However, there have been allegations over the past number of years about internal police forces and procedures whereby child abusers were diverted to other locations. This issue was raised by Maíria Cahill, a candidate in the forthcoming Seanad by-election, which is concerning. When we hear a claim that an army council directs the operations of a democratic political party, without prejudice to anybody in that party, it is one that requires an explanation and a debate which I am sure, as a political party, it would welcome in its own interest. This morning's contribution by Deputy Mac Lochlainn on Newstalk in which he described these reports as "nonsense" is not helpful. A prerequisite to the talks in the North, which we all wish well, should be that Sinn Féin, the UUP and the DUP accept and welcome the report and commit to addressing issues raised in it.Again without prejudice to anybody, that is the kind of positive and direct approach that needs to be seen rather than a pattern of denial which frankly, without prejudice, adds nothing but suspicion to anybody who is involved in democracy, from whatever party and no party.

I would again like to raise the issue of rural crime. I am sure that all Members at different times, certainly those based in rural and regional communities, have raised it. I believe that one reaps what one sows. The facts are the Government has closed 139 Garda stations and the latest recruitment drive which produced 200 gardaí nationally has resulted in none of them being deployed to Sligo and Leitrim and only five to Donegal. I refer to the north west region, which is where I live. This morning a supermarket and pub were the subject of a robbery. The town has no Garda station and the nearest Garda station is located 30 miles away. In such situations it is difficult for gardaí to reach a crime scene on time and that is why I say that the Government has reaped what it sowed.

Apart from the Government decimating rural Ireland through its closure of community services such as Garda stations, locations like Dromore West in County Sligo, which is where this latest robbery took place, have now become targets for sophisticated criminal gangs. This morning's robbery was carried out by a gang of five people who used heavy machinery. The robbers knew what they were doing, seamlessly carried out the crime and did not care about alarms going off. Sadly, because of under resourced Garda stations and a lack of people on the ground these criminals have not yet been apprehended. We hope that they will and wish the Garda well in that regard. I would like the House to debate rural crime and work out what can tangibly be done to restore normality to rural communities throughout the country so that all of the people, including businesspeople and the elderly, can feel safe in their homes or business by having a visible presence of gardaí in the shape of Garda stations and personnel.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I welcome the passage of the Second Stage of the Marriage Bill through the Seanad last night. The legislation was greeted with a celebratory atmosphere in the House. The Visitors' Gallery was full and the overflow was accommodated in the nearby AV Room where people could watch the debate. It was a heartening and welcoming experience to be part of the debate. I hope the Bill will achieve a speedy final passage through the House tomorrow so that we can see the first marriages take place between same-sex couples without further delay.

I welcome the fact that we will debate Report Stage of the Children First Bill today after the Order of Business. I also welcome the fact that the Government has accepted two amendments that were tabled by my colleague, Senator Jillian van Turnhout, which relate to the abolition of the defence of reasonable chastisement. This development is hugely important and is something that is long overdue. It is great to see the Seanad as a Chamber in which the Government accepts amendments of this kind and I know that we will have a good debate.

I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on victims of crime. Is there a projected date for the introduction in the House of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill? This morning the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality dealt with the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. During the course of the debate powerful submissions were made by eight NGOs who work with victims of crime. They included the Victims' Rights Alliance, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, IPRT, and other groups. In the course of their submissions the NGOs reminded us that this Bill is important because for the first time it provides a statutory framework for the protection of victims' rights in the criminal justice system. It is also a Bill that will implement an EU directive that must be transposed in Ireland by 16 November. The legislation has reached the heads of a Bill stage. The committee is hastening through its pre-legislative scrutiny of the legislation. I wonder can we get it into the Seanad without any undue delay. During the submissions we also heard from Safe Ireland, which released its data on domestic violence this morning which contained some frightening figures. As Safe Ireland pointed out to us, the appalling tragedy where Garda Tony Golden was murdered highlights the serious issue of domestic violence and domestic abuse.

I ask the Leader for a debate on Northern Ireland in light of yesterday's reports of paramilitary activity in the North. As it happens, I will be in Stormont tomorrow and will speak at a conference in Belfast. It is good that we have close links with our parliamentary colleagues in the North. To that end, I ask the Leader to consider at our next meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, what role the Seanad can play in supporting the peace process and bringing about the restoration of the institutions in Northern Ireland. When former Senator Martin McAleese was here one of our speakers in the House was the head of the Orange Order. There may be some other way in which the Seanad could support those who are trying to ensure there is a return to proper structures in the peace process and proper parliamentary structures in Northern Ireland.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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I, too, would welcome a debate on the North. We debated the matter in this Chamber a number of weeks ago. On that occasion the contributions made by most of the Senators were comprised of a long list of political charges against Sinn Féin. Nothing constructive was offered on how to solve the problems with the peace process or successfully conclude the talks.

I wish to respond directly to Senator MacSharry who asked about the claims made by MI5 in a report that has been published. I recommend that people read the report in full and to not take their cue from headlines broadcast by the media or from anywhere else. I urge people to read what the report actually says. In the report MI5 shared its view that some members of the IRA believe or believed that the army council had a direction in regard to Sinn Féin. I wish to state that is untrue. I have been an elected member of the Ard Chomhairle of Sinn Féin for the past three years and I was elected on the floor of the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis. The media comes to my party's Ard-Fheis every year. I am elected democratically by the membership of my party because that is how my party works.

Senator MacSharry wants to talk about criminality. I can tell him that the only political party that I am aware of that had, in its ranks, people who were convicted of criminality and for taking brown envelopes of cash and stuffing them into their pockets, is his own party. These acts went to the very highest level of his party. If he wants to have that debate then my party will have it with him. As I said in this Chamber a number of weeks ago when we debated crime, it does not matter to me who is involved in criminality. If some former members of the IRA are involved in crime then I believe they should be ruthlessly pursued by the authorities in the North and South. Yesterday in the Dáil, my party's justice spokesperson, of whom the Senator spoke about earlier, supported stronger cross-Border initiatives to bring these people to justice. Sinn Féin wants such people brought before the courts and convicted.

Sinn Féin and its members have put their lives on the line by standing up to such individuals who are involved in criminality in the Border areas and in the North. I contrast the leadership given by Martin McGuinness on all of these issues with the leadership of the Fianna Fáil Party that has, for political and electoral reasons, taken a harder line than that of the DUP. Let us contrast all of that with what Peter Robinson, MLA, said and did yesterday. He is now back in the talks and he wants the DUP back in the Executive. That is what we should focus on.

I would welcome a constructive debate. I hope that we look at the real issues and not at contrived crises which happens all of the time for political and electoral purposes. We must identify the real issues of the peace process in the North that need to be addressed in the same spirit that was applied to the process which was supported by people like Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair, Martin McGuinness, MLA, Deputy Gerry Adams and Albert Reynolds. All of those people were part of a constructive peace process. Let us get back to that type of politics. We must ensure that we make the agreements work, that institutions stay in place and that we have institutions in the North that work in the best interests of all communities. I would welcome the debate and hope that the Leader can arrange it as soon as possible.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I agree with Senator MacSharry and with some aspects of what was said by Senator Cullinane. We all wish the talks well in the North. The two separate reports are in agreement, as regards headlines, that a former paramilitary organisation is still in existence, albeit not for military or terrorist activities. Unfortunately, in the supposedly democratic society that exists on both sides of the Border, and particularly on the other side of the Border in the south Armagh district, there are some crime families who may have been members of an illegal organisation that run the areas as though they are still their personal fiefdoms. In the area that I mentioned there is a proliferation of blue metal community alert type notices imbedded in walls here and there which some Members have probably seen.The citizenry are being advised that if they have anything to report in terms of disturbance in the community or otherwise they should ring this number, but it is not the number of the police force. There should be only one police force.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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Does the Senator know the number?

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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It is on the notice.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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These community alert notices are everywhere. That is what community alerts are about.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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We are not getting into that now.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Cullinane, please allow Senator Coghlan to continue. He did not interrupt you.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The point I am making is that these notices-----

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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We have community alert notices in Waterford.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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-----purport to give the impression that those involved are the law. Unfortunately, in this area there is a fear factor and people, for historical reasons or whatever, do not report to the police.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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The MP is a Sinn Féin MP.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Unfortunately, policing there is not normal policing as we know it in the South or in other areas in the North. This issue needs to be addressed. There is so much more that all of us can say arising out of the two reports and as such I would welcome a debate on the matter.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I, too, welcome the appointment of Professor Philip Lane, economics professor at Trinity College, as the new Governor of the Central Bank. It appears an unseemly row has broken out between the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, in regard to that appointment. They should not be washing their dirty linen in public. It undermines the credibility of the new Governor that the Minister, Deputy Howlin, is not in agreement with his appointment. It is disturbing, to say the least, particularly in the European context, that there would be any doubt, cloud or shadow cast over this highly reputable appointment, which I think everybody here welcomes.

I ask that the new Governor investigate the activities of Mars Capital, which acquired the 2,200 loans from Irish Nationwide Building Society. Mars Capital is a vulture fund which although registered in Ireland, does not appear to be under the control of the Central Bank. I cannot find any evidence on its website that it is under the control of the Central Bank. It was brought to my attention this morning that it is regularly in touch with compliant customers and mortgage holders in regard to their accounts. I would regard this as a form of harassment. I would like to see Mars Capital brought under the control of the Irish Central Bank, in particular with regard to mortgage loans and interest rates. I ask the Leader to request the Minister for Finance to come to the House for a debate on that matter, which I may also raise as a Commencement matter.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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I would like to reiterate my sympathy to the family, friends and Garda colleagues of Garda Tony Golden. The scene last Thursday in my local parish church was one of devastation and immense grief that another member of the Garda Síochána had been gunned down in cold-blooded murder. When I visited the family last week Tony Golden's wife and mother-in-law pleaded with me to ensure something is done to ensure that our laws around bail for people who have been convicted of serious crime, as in the case of the person who carried out this murder, are changed.

We must ensure the Border is adequately manned and patrolled. I welcome the announcement that 27 additional gardaí are to be deployed to the Dundalk district but I hope this will be a permanent resource and not only a token six-week presence, as happened following the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. We need to wake up. It was devastating, and not only for people in the locality or the Garda Síochána, to whom my heart goes out, but people generally that we were faced with the murder of another garda less than two years after the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe. I, too, would welcome a debate on activity around the North of Ireland. While we have previously had such debates there are now more serious allegations to be discussed, as highlighted in the reports published yesterday. I agree with Senators that we all have a lot more to say on this issue.

I also pay tribute to the people of Blackrock and Haggardstown who came together from last Sunday and showed what true community spirit is.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Mary MoranMary Moran (Labour)
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It was unbelievable to see people, some of whom knew the Golden family and others who did not, coming together and doing whatever they could to help, including making tea, providing refreshments, directing traffic and so on. It was a proud moment, if one could take anything at all from it. I hope that in the long term it will be a source of comfort to the family. Blackrock is renowned for the fact that its tide comes in very seldom. Last week, even the sea was silent and the atmosphere in Blackrock was reflected in the heavens.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Tacaím leis na moltaí atá á dhéanamh go mbeadh díospóireacht againn maidir le cúrsaí an Tuaiscirt, an proiséas síochána agus an ról atá againn anseo chun é sin a chur chun cinn. I support the calls for a debate on issues in the North. It is important that at this stage we focus on the real issues at hand, including the budgetary issues and their implications, the proper functioning of the institutions in the North and how we can foster North-South relations. In the aftermath of the visit to this House by Drew Nelson of the Orange Order, an invitation to the House was issued to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. It would be timely if the Seanad were to reissue that invitation to the new First Minister, when known, and Deputy First Minister.

Tréaslaím le Dónall Ó Cualáin atá ceapaithe mar leas-choimisinéir an Gharda Síochána. Is garda as Chonamara é. Fear breá é a bhí ag feidhmiú i gceantar an iarthair. Guím gach rath air san ról sin. I would like to again call for a debate on direct provision, particularly the implementation of the recommendations of the working group on direct provision. We have rightly had a lot of discussion about the Syrian refugee crisis and how it is to be handled but I am concerned that the new accommodation to be provided in this regard, as per the advertisements for same, will be direct provision plus. There are currently 4,000 people here languishing in direct provision, in respect of which there are many recommendations made in the working group report, including an increase in the €19.10 per week benefit provided to people there. I expected announcement of such an increase in last week's budget but I have not yet been able to get clarification on that matter. There are huge concerns within the direct provision centres around the manner in which the working group report recommendations are being implemented, how that is being managed, who is in charge and so on. I understand there have been a number of changes in personnel in the agencies leading the work. It is important that the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Ríordáin, comes to the House to update us on this matter.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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Yesterday I raised the issue of the departure of the boxing head coach, Mr. Billy Walsh. This morning I attended a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications with the chairman designate of Sport Ireland, Mr. Kieran Mulvey, who reiterated at that meeting much of what he said during his interview on television last night. What has emerged out of all of this is that the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, IABA, has serious questions to answer. For the benefit of the House, it is funded almost totally by the Irish taxpayer and it is, therefore, accountable to the Irish taxpayer. Last weekend the President of that organisation assured the Minister of State with responsibility for sport that the matter of Billy Walsh's tenure would be resolved. Yet, two days later he tendered his letter of resignation. There was much anger conveyed at the meeting this morning, not only by Mr. Mulvey but by members of the committee, in regard to the details which have emerged in the past week.It was not about money. Billy Walsh is a true patriot and did not wish to leave Ireland, but he is leaving tomorrow. He is the best boxing coach in the world, as Mr. Mulvey put it, and from this small nation. We are ranked fourth among boxing nations because of Mr. Walsh's tenure. The point made by Mr. Mulvey which I would like to convey to the Minister is that the IABA showed disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring; the Irish Sports Council and the taxpayer. This has to stop. The organisation is dysfunctional and must be held to account. Will the Leader convey this message to the Minister of State? Perhaps there might be an opportunity for him to come before the House to outline the relationship between sports bodies and the Department in the context of the new sports body being set up. It is important that we clarify what the relationship is. Is it fair, right and equitable that all of the taxpayers' money is being given to an organisation that is getting rid of Billy Walsh because that is what it is doing? The IABA has more or less stated it does not want him and that he can go. As Mr. Mulvey said, it issued a crocodile tears statement yesterday that it regretted the matter and wished Billy Walsh the best of luck. That is unacceptable. To thumb the nose at the democratically elected Government of the country and the Minister of State who is responsible for providing sports governing bodies with taxpayers' money is not acceptable either. In normal circumstances, I would table an amendment to the Order of Business to have the Minister of State brought before us because the departure of Billy Walsh is imminent, but I will not do so. However, I strongly urge the Leader to convey these comments which I am sure are supported by all sides of the House to the Minister of State and to have the Minister of State to issue a public statement, possibly later today, outlining his plans for the future governance of the IABA and perhaps to take money off it and give it to the high performance unit as a separate autonomous body, as has been done in the United Kingdom, in order that the boxers will not suffer as a result of this and that the dysfunctional group of dinosaurs in the IABA is brought to account.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the rounding to be introduced for one and two cent coins from 28 October. There is an awareness campaign running. There was a successful trial held in Wexford in 2013 and 85% of participants were satisfied. As I said previously when I called for this to happen, people tend to hoard one cent coins because they do not want to carry them. Therefore, I welcome the development. It is not the biggest issue in the world, but it is certainly a cost to the State and I am glad to see the move happening.

I commend Laya Healthcare for an activity programme it has introduced across the country. It was piloted last year when it received a very positive response. It is called Super Troopers. Research involving 379 national school teachers and almost 1,000 parents nationwide indicates that the programme which incorporates activity homework has been a success, with 71% of teachers and 70% of parents confirming that taking part in it resulted in an increase in children's daily activity. Meanwhile, one in four teachers remarked that children's concentration levels had improved as a result. Children are also feeling the benefits, with 57% of those aged between four and 12 years admitting to eating more fruit and vegetables and 64% saying they drank more water. It is vital that children get used to being active at a young age; it is all about preventive health care and the good of the nation.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Renua Ireland)
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I heard many of my colleagues call for a debate on Northern Ireland in the light of the publication of two important reports yesterday. I certainly support their request. When we reflect on the difficulties on that part of the island which are profound and serious, we must remember that the starting point is that for the past 21 years or thereabouts we have had relative peace in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We are, therefore, starting from a positive perspective. Not too many Members of this or the other House served when we had a daily diet of bombs, bullets, murders, condemnation, hopelessness and despair. Therefore, let us not forget that we have moved a long way and that people on all sides and none have been responsible for this. That must be the starting point. There are very profound troubles to be addressed, but I have often made the point that if we can ensure the current generation, particularly in Northern Ireland, at least stops killing each other, perhaps the next might grow closer and that there will be a stronger community ethos and stronger and more normal politics. That is what we must aim for. The reports are significant and perhaps serious, but they are not really surprising because they simply tell us what we know. We have been walking and dancing on egg shells for the past ten, 12 or 15 years so as not to cause difficulties, but we are reaching a stage where we must be a little more blunt in our analysis and discussions. We will want to hear much more from Sinn Féin about its relationship or otherwise with the army council-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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It does not exist.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Renua Ireland)
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-----which I think is a throwback to former times. It probably consists of some sad old men who are still meeting and talking about the war which they actually lost; their plans to drive 1 million Unionists out of Northern Ireland which they have failed to do; and their plans to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Ireland which they have failed to do. We are sometimes afraid to remind them that if they had been fighting a war, they would actually have lost. Let us move forward and have a constructive debate and appreciate the peace we have enjoyed on the island for the past 20 years, but let us also deal in a mature fashion with the problems that remain. Let those who want to live in the past be consigned to history because most people on the island, North and South, have moved on.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I echo the sentiments expressed by Senator Paul Bradford. We can engage in negative or positive politics. While there are problems that must be addressed, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we have come a long way. The best way to deal with the situation in the North is to have cool heads and try to be as professional as possible in our dealings on it. We owe this to future generations.

This is Mediation Awareness Week, as perhaps some Members of the House might be aware, but I suspect many are not. Many practitioners involved in mediation, be it through professional bodies, the Family Court, company mediation services and NGOs, are giving of their time this week to promote mediation services. When one thinks of the problems in the North, society is always conflicted. Individuals, community groups businesses and families become involved in conflict. Is it not far better to deal with issues through mediation to come up with solutions rather than having to go into four goldmines to make millionaires of barristers and senior counsel? Mediation services are in their infancy in this country and have to gain huge traction. I commend all of the professionals who are working voluntarily this week to promote such services. I also commend Councillor Josepha Madigan, a Fine Gael councillor in Dublin South, who has written extensively and published books on the issue. Mediation is the way forward. Perhaps we might organise a debate on the issue at some stage.I have tabled a Private Members' motion on it in the past. It may now be time to celebrate mediation awareness week by committing to having at least statements with the Minister for Justice and Equality on how she sees the future for mediation in the country.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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With Senator Mooney I attended this morning's meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications which was addressed by Mr. Kieran Mulvey, the chairman designate of Sport Ireland. Having listened to him I believe the IABA has serious questions to answer. We had the best boxing coach in the world at our disposal. He has had great success not alone at home but across the world. In the year before the Olympic Games it is a sad loss for the sport and for the country. It was not an issue with remuneration. Apparently all the man wanted was respect. He was not being respected by the IABA. It is a sad state of affairs. To lose a man of his calibre is the United States' gain and Ireland's loss to sport.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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On the Northern Ireland issue, cool heads are needed now and people will decide the fate of Sinn Féin. However, regardless of the outcome for Sinn Féin, the nation needs peace above everything else. The whole situation needs to be stabilised. I would support having a debate on Northern Ireland.

Two other debates mentioned last week are very important. I have been out campaigning and the issue of crime is coming up frequently on the doorsteps. There is a need for urgent revision of the bail laws. Three houses in an estate in Newcastle were burgled last week.

I am outlining priorities here because this is the Order of Business. The other issue is the need for an urgent debate on housing, including housing certainty and rental certainty. People are being made homeless by being given their notice. They have no place to go and the councils have no homes.

My story for today is that the hospital in Galway is still in trouble. I have been asking myself what difference the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, has made to the health system since his appointment. I do not know if he has made any difference.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I know of a young woman in intense pain who has lost a stone in weight rapidly in the past month. She is vomiting and spent ten hours in the emergency department the night before last and was sent home at 8 a.m. She knows what her problem is. She went to a private hospital and got a diagnosis for the problem; she could afford €220. She cannot afford the €8,000 to €10,000 for the operation.

This young woman presented herself to the emergency department and was simply told to come back again in three weeks. There is no guarantee she will even be admitted in three weeks. It is wrong. At a fundamental level beds are needed. The HSE and our system are putting this young mother - and probably many more - through hoops. She is otherwise a healthy woman and needs a procedure that she has had verified in a private hospital but she cannot afford to have it. That shows the private-public sector divide that still exists. There is not universal health care when people need it. Money is not following the need. In addition, she could end up being treated by the same consultant in the public hospital as treated her in the private hospital.

What has our great Minister for Health achieved? He takes one hospital and makes an example of it and says he will tackle this by coming up with a model that works and will then replicate it. Until he decides to come out of his Department, drills down, asks why it is happening and looks at how to bring it to a solution, I do not believe anybody will solve this problem. I find this young woman's story very moving.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator MacSharry called for a debate on Northern Ireland in the aftermath of yesterday's reports. As has been stated we had a debate on Northern Ireland only a few weeks ago, but I will try to facilitate a further debate given that so many Members have requested it in the aftermath of these reports.

The Senator also spoke about rural crime, which is a major issue. That is why the Government decided that the Garda training college in Templemore would be reopened after it was closed by the previous Fianna Fáil-led Government. We have 500 extra gardaí on the streets and 600 more provided for in the budget. Yesterday we had the announcement of 260 new high-speed vehicles to be purchased and in action by the end of the year in addition to the 370 already in place this year. The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill, the bail Bill and the victims of crime Bill will all come to the House before Christmas.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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There will be a considerable amount of legislation dealing with the matter in the House before Christmas. Senator Bacik mentioned that the heads of the victims of crime Bill are being discussed by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. I will try to ensure the Bill will be published as a Seanad Bill. We are willing to take it in the House as soon as it can be processed.

Senator Cullinane spoke about the problems with the peace process. After so many years one would have thought we would have normality restored in Northern Ireland, but unfortunately that is not the case. We need greater dialogue and to address the problems that are holding up the situation at the moment. In doing that we cannot just forget the problems on the policing side and, as Senator Paul Coghlan, mentioned the omertathat seems to be in place - the fear in the community in south Armagh and other areas of people who seem to be policing it but who are not part of the actual police force of the area.

The matter will need to be addressed by both Governments - on this side of the Border and in particular on the other side of the Border. There seems to be an absence of a police presence in those areas which is allowing these criminals to act with impunity. The matter was addressed by the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in a report last year which called for a task force to eliminate these criminals. Some of them may have links with the Provisional IRA but there is no doubt that the army council is still in existence, as we all know. Whether it is organising criminality is another question.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Does the Leader have evidence for that?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I do not believe it is orchestrating terrorism.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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If he has evidence of that, he should bring it forward.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is obviously still there and, as has been mentioned,-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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That is not what was stated in the reports.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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-----it is controlling Sinn Féin as well. That is something that will have to be addressed.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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That is not what was stated in the reports.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Leader without interruption, please.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Nobody from Sinn Féin commented on the reports yesterday, including Senator Ó Clochartaigh who was present.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Until I read them. The Leader should also read them.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It was surprising. I am glad that the Sinn Féin Members have their briefing documents with them today.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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I waited until I read them. Perhaps more of the Members should do that.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Moran reiterated the sentiments expressed by Senator Jim D'Arcy on the murder of Garda Tony Golden. She commended the people of Blackrock and Haggardstown, who acted as a community last week.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh called for a debate on the Northern Ireland reports, including the Garda report. He also called for a further debate on the working group report on direct provision. We will try to facilitate that. As he knows, we had a number of debates in the House on direct provision. Senators Mooney and Brennan referred to the debates at the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications and Mr. Kieran Mulvey's presence there today. They are right in saying that the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, IABA, has serious questions to answer. The IABA showed complete disrespect to the Minister and the taxpayer. Whatever about funding the IABA, it is important that the high-performance unit should be funded properly and that our boxers should receive the financial support they need to continue their good work in bringing such success to the country. Perhaps the high-performance unit should be divorced from the IABA.

Senator Noone spoke on the proposed abolition of 1 cent and 2 cent coins, a development which has been welcomed by many people. The Senator also commended Laya Healthcare on its Super Troopers programme, which, as she outlined, is bringing about many benefits.

Senator Bradford referred to Northern Ireland. He is 100% correct in stating that we have moved a long way in respect of Northern Ireland. We have come a long way from the time when we would come into the House and hear about bombings and killings which had taken place. As he indicated, the reports relating to the army council and other matters are significant. However, to many people, they are not surprising. Even while discussing these problems, there is a need to move on and try to facilitate talks that will ensure the Executive is up and running properly in Northern Ireland. To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war and we must ensure that will continue to happen.

Senator Conway spoke on mediation awareness week and highlighted the positive benefits of mediation.

Senator Healy Eames referred to a number of matters about which she is concerned. I have addressed the issue of crime and the legislation which will be coming before the House. We will try to facilitate a debate on housing with the Minister . I understand there will be further announcements within the next couple of weeks and perhaps we can invite the Minister to come before the House at that stage. Senator Healy Eames might table a Commencement matter on the specific item she mentioned in the context of health. Regarding what the Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, has done, there will be an extra 400 beds in the system before the end of this year, which is a very positive step in the health service.

Order of Business agreed to.

Sitting suspended at 12.25 p.m. and resumed at 1 p.m.