Seanad debates

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, Finance Bill 2015 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and adjourned not later than 2.55 p.m. if not previously concluded; No. 2, Gradam an Uachtaráin Bill 2015 - Second Stage, to be taken at 3 p.m., with the time allocated for the debate not to exceed two hours; and No. 3, Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. and adjourned not later than 10 p.m. if not previously concluded.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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We cannot agree to the Order of Business. I, therefore, propose an amendment that the relevant Minister come to the House for an emergency debate on the flooding issue. As we know, the forecast this evening for counties Clare and Kerry, all counties in Connacht, County Donegal and other parts of the country is again very bad. In 2012 the Taoiseach spoke about the need to have much more sophisticated early warning systems and a system that would operate to best advantage for everybody. After 2013, during which we saw the worst storms for 143 years, we heard the first calls from Met Éireann for additional staff. I see that, as part of the Government's announcements in recent days, the extra staff needed can be recruited by Met Éireann, but it is too little too late. An allocation of €14.5 million for flood relief schemes for this year alone remains unspent. While we welcome the provision of €15 million to aid communities under siege because of recent floods, it is truly disturbing to listen to communities throughout the country, including in Athlone and Bandon and farmers along the western seaboard. Last evening I spoke to somebody in Sligo whose house was completely flooded and who was in urgent need of somewhere to rent in order that they and their family could begin preparations for Christmas. We are not ready for this and never have been. Despite a series of measures announced by the Government in 2012 and specifically in 2013 when we witnessed the worst storms for 143 years, it seems we are as unprepared as ever.

The Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, said there had been unanticipated delays in providing the funding required to deal with this issue. What is the reason for the delays? The Army needed to be called out much quicker to prepare by providing sand bags and making other preparations to mitigate the effects of the disaster that has taken place. It is our contention that an urgent debate is needed. The House is entitled to know that all hands are on deck and what measures will be taken in the coming days as conditions continue to worsen. As we know, many families do not even have insurance because of what happened in 2012 and 2013. Following very bad floods in the United Kingdom in 2013, the Government there undertook to sign a memorandum of understanding with the insurance industry in order that people who had experienced flooding in the past would still be in a position to take out insurance on their homes at affordable rates. That is not the case here and one of the questions we want to put to the relevant Minister is whether there has been such contact with the insurance industry and whether a scheme is being prepared to ensure families will have this protection into the future.

We will push the amendment proposed to the Order of Business to a vote and I hope the Leader will be in a position to bring the Minister to the House to reassure us on what is taking place to mitigate the effects of a disaster that may get worse if the forecast as outlined is true.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I am sure the Leader will respond on the flooding issue.However, I welcome the allocation of €5 million announced by the Government this week to assist small businesses that have suffered damage as a result of the flooding. I also welcome the clarification from the Department of Social Protection of the scope of the humanitarian assistance scheme. I note that the Government has not set a limit on the amount that can be paid to individual households under the scheme, again in respect of flood damage. All Members will be watching with great concern to see what happens regarding the predictions of rainfall and flooding across the midlands and along the River Shannon today. While it is clear a great deal of work has been done to try to minimise any damage, it is certainly a matter of grave concern. However, I welcome the measures which are already in place and which have been announced this week.

I also welcome the announcement made yesterday evening by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, that she intended to delete Rule 68 for primary schools. This is the rule that enables religion to permeate the school day, which has been a huge issue for many parents across Ireland in the schooling of their children and which may not be in accordance with their conscience and lawful preference. This change is long overdue and the deletion of the rule was recommended by the national forum on patronage and pluralism in the primary sector established by the former Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn. I welcome the announcement made by the Minister that she will do this in the new year. I also note the passage through the Dáil last week of the Private Members' Bill that had started as a Labour Party Private Members' Bill in this House to amend section 37 of the Employment Equality Act to ensure schools would no longer be able to discriminate against teachers on the basis of lifestyle or because they offended or were seen to offend their ethos. This is hugely welcome, particularly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, LGBT, teachers and I am glad that it has been done. The deletion of Rule 68 is a further step in making the school system more reflective of the reality of pluralism in society. I ask the Leader for a debate on this matter in the new year because the Minister also has stated she recognises that an amendment will be necessary to equal status legislation to ensure schools will no longer be able to discriminate against pupils or prospective pupils on the grounds of religion. I will be speaking this Saturday at the launch of a new campaign, Education Equality, which has been established by a group of parents who have been relatively prominent in the media in recent weeks, that is seeking to ensure this change will be made and that schools will no longer be able to discriminate on the basis of religion in their admission policies. I also note that the Minister has stated, regretfully, the likelihood is she will not be able to get the admission to school legislation through in the lifetime of the Government. This is a reform that must happen. I commend the organisers of Education Equality for putting together a campaign in which it will seek to bring it about early in the lifetime of the next Government, if not before.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I second the amendment proposed to the Order of Business by my colleague, Senator Marc MacSharry. It is absolutely appropriate that the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, come into the House as a matter of urgency to explain what measures have been taken. Government Members may not be aware that the amount of capital funding for flood defences this year is being cut from the amount allocated last year. There was a reduction in the funding allocated prior to the storms and Members need to know what is happening. I assure the Leader that there has been a cut in the budget and the figures are available.

I wish to deal with a couple of items. First, on 29 November I referred to three cystic fibrosis drugs that had been approved by the European Medicines Agency, EMA, on 20 November. As I wrote to the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, on 1 November, in advance of approval by the EMA, I was on top of this issue before the recent issues arose in the funding of these drugs. The Minister issued a statement yesterday that he was considering funding these drugs, which I welcome, but all Members should remember the nature of cystic fibrosis. It can be a highly debilitating and life shortening illness. These three drugs offer enhanced quality of life and extended life expectancy and if the figure is €92 million, it would be €92 million well spent. There should be no further delay on the part of the Department of Health in approving them to make sure they will be available to the thousands of cystic fibrosis patients and sufferers in Ireland, many of whom are children. I, again, ask the Leader to use his good offices. I have written to the Minister, but I have not had a response since 6 November. However, I intend to follow up on the matter.

In the light of Senator Ivana Bacik's remarks, while some people in Ireland believe religion might be an offence, may I remind Members that it is an entitlement of educators to protect their religious ethos? On foot of the proposed deletion of Rule 68, I ask Senator Ivana Bacik and others how Church of Ireland schools will protect their religious ethos in what is a minority religion? How will the single Jewish school in the State be able to protect its religious ethos? I remind colleagues opposite that in the most recent census 82% of Irish people declared themselves as Catholic, while a further 8% declared themselves as Protestant. There are people with religious beliefs which also must be respected. While I am all for equality in this regard, I do not desire to have a situation such as obtains in the United States of America or Britain where those who want their children to be educated within a certain religious ethos must choose private schools. I do not want that to happen. Has the Government agreed to the deletion of Rule 68? Senator Ivana Bacik, as leader of the Labour Party in this House, has welcomed the proposed deletion of the rule, but that is a serious step forward. I agree with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in that under no circumstances do I believe children should be baptised or included in any faith community simply to obtain a school place. That absolutely should not be done. However, what about the millions of people who hold fast and firm and respect their religious ethos? The Labour Party, in particular, appears to think anyone who holds a religious belief is inferior to its members and their views.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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We never said that.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I refer to respecting people in a republic. The Senator used the word "offend", that is, that religion would offend - she should check the record- that it would be offensive.

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

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I will conclude on this point. I am not offended by anyone's religion and I am not offended if someone decides not to hold any religious belief. However, I must tell the Leader that any proposed deletion of Rule 68 must be debated fully and must not be a knee-jerk reaction to a few hundred parents who have found themselves in a difficult position. What about the millions of people, the hundreds of thousands of parents who want their children to be brought up and educated in a religious ethos school, as I do with my daughter, to give them a good grounding in life?

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

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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As for this idea of welcoming the proposed deletion of Rule 68, I have a final question.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator is not availing of leaders' time today.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Has the Government agreed to the deletion of Rule 68?

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I also ask the Leader to facilitate a debate, either today or tomorrow, with the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, on the flooding issue. It has finally come to people's realisation that we have a serious problem with flooding, be it coastal flooding or rivers bursting their banks. I wrote about this extensively after the flooding that took place in 2014 along the coast of County Clare and all along the west coast. Up until a few years ago, approximately €30 million to €40 million per year was being spent on flood defences. While, thankfully, this figure has increased, it is now necessary to engage with the European Union to have an aggressive flood defences mechanism and programme under which the investment of hundreds of millions of euro is envisaged. The same approach must be taken to flood defences in Ireland as was taken to building motorways during the era of the Celtic tiger. Ireland has a fantastic road network because billions of euro was invested, rightly, to ensure its provision. It is now necessary to spend billions of euro on flood defences. We are an island nation surrounded by water and people live in coastal communities nationwide. The homes of people in Clonlara, County Clare and other counties are being flooded and the people affected will be in a worse position in a few hours time. Members must up the ante and there must be a realisation of the necessity to spend billions of euro on flood defences. Moreover, such a programme must be put in place urgently. While the State does not have the money to do this, we are a member of the European Union. As an island nation at the extremity of Europe, we have as many rights as citizens of Germany, France, Italy and every other member state. We must exercise these rights and apply for billions of euro in EU capital funding to ensure our citizens will not, from one month to the next, be fearful of inclement weather.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Aontaím le cuid mhaith den mhéid atá ráite maidir leis na tuilte ar fud na tíre atá ag déanamh an t-uafás damáiste. I support the call for a debate on flooding, which is serious in the west, in particular, and the south. It has come to light that many of the issues arising in local areas are due to a lack of maintenance work being done during times when the weather is not bad.

During recent briefings given by the local authorities in Galway city and county, we heard about the frustration of the management of both authorities in respect of their lack of resources and funding as a result of all the changes introduced by this Government under the Putting People First policy of former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan. I have never seen local managers as agitated as they have been in the past two to three weeks. For example, there are huge issues around housing and a lack of forward planning in terms of the hand-over of the administration of the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme. We are told that owing to inadequate numbers of staff to handle the transfer of thousands of applicants from the Department of Social Protection to the local authorities, serious issues will arise after Christmas.

Many of the flooding issues arising in local areas are due to blocked drains and work in that regard not being done during the summer. Owing to the reduction in the number of staff on the ground and a lack of funding for maintenance work - such as drain unblocking and road-sweeping and fixing - this work is not being done. When we approach local authorities about these issues, we are told there is no money available to do the work. We are also told that Irish Water is putting pressure on the local authorities to cut job numbers and that this is likely to occur in the next couple of months. Instead of increasing staff numbers, there is a huge push to get rid of people who are working on contract for Irish Water in the local authorities.

There has been much debate in recent times with regard to housing and so on. We need to continue that debate because of the lack of social housing, the homelessness crisis and so on. Following the terrible tragedy in Carrickmines, we heard that many local authorities had returned unspent allocations for Traveller accommodation. This was refuted last week by Galway County Council. According to that council, its applications for funding under the Traveller accommodation programme were turned down. We need clarity on this issue. Somebody is not telling the full truth on these matters and we need to address that.

A debate on the issues relating to storm damage and to the need for ongoing maintenance work to be carried out between storms and for the requisite resources to be provided is vital.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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Like previous speakers, I would welcome a broad debate on the issue of flooding throughout this country. Global Flood Solutions, a company based, in part, in Athlone, County Roscommon - ironically, one of the worst hit areas in terms of the flooding - sells flood relief products all over the world yet the Irish Government will not do business with that company in the interests of solving the problems that are being experienced in places such as Athlone and Athleague. It beggars belief that nobody from Government is willing to engage with this company, which could assist us in solving the problems - albeit temporarily - of the many families and businesses throughout the country that are suffering today because of flooding. I would welcome a debate on this issue as soon as possible.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I support the call for a debate on the current flooding crisis. I also support the call by Senator Kelly for the Government to engage with Global Flood Solutions, Athlone, of which Mr. Shane Curran is the director, in this regard. I understand that this company has been seeking engagement with the Office of Public Works for many years about its products and that its requests have been refused thus far. In 2009 I spoke in this House about the village of Athleague, which was under water at the time. Three public houses in that village remained closed until after Christmas that year because they were under water. Two of those pubs have since ceased trading, which is illustrative of the affect of flooding on an area. Athleague village is now under water again. While local people are assisting each other in terms of the clean-up of houses, etc., the local pub remains closed. The local butcher shop, a chemist's premises and other shops are also closed. The situation is distressing. The proposed budget to address this crisis is inadequate. One fifth of the money being allocated could be spent in County Roscommon alone, where Golf Links Road and Lanesboro Road are, for a second time in six years, flooded. This Government has stood idly by since 2011 and has not put any investment into addressing this issue.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Senator is wrong.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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In 2014-----

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil did a lot.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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-----it abolished the drainage board, which could have assisted in alleviating the flooding in Athleague-----

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil was going to drain the Shannon 100 years ago.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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-----by widening the outlet there. No action has been taken in this regard. This Government of Teflon kids seems to get away with everything.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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That was Bertie Ahern.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Nobody appears to be able to pin them down. During the flooding experienced in 2009, the then Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Brendan Smith, visited many of the areas that were flooded, including Athlone, Cortober and so on, to inspect the damage caused.

(Interruptions).

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
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That solved the problem.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Nobody from this Government is out assessing the damage arising on foot of the current flooding. I do not think the Irish Red Cross is the right organisation to distribute the money that is being provided. It should be distributed through the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in the context of the impact on jobs or through the Office of Public Works. This is not charity work, it is business. I call on the county councils in the areas affected, particularly Roscommon County Council, to refund part of the rates paid for this year to assist affected businesses.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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It is distressing to see individuals such as Gerry McNulty, Alan Neilan and other young businesspeople in Roscommon-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Leyden should refrain from naming people on the record of the House.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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-----being wiped out for the second time since 2009. Some of these businesses will not be able to reopen in their current locations owing to the lack of proper drainage there. Nothing is being done in Roscommon town. Also, the beautiful building which it is proposed to construct in Roscommon town on behalf of the Office of Public Works - I welcomed the announcement in this regard when it was made - will lead to a further raising of water levels in the town. I have inspected many outlets in Roscommon town. I am convinced that major remedial works are required to assist in reducing the potential levels with future flooding might reach. We need to have a debate on this issue as soon as possible.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I presume a debate in the Upper House will suffice.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Colm BurkeColm Burke (Fine Gael)
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I agree with the remarks made by Senator Darragh O'Brien in regard to the drug for cystic fibrosis patients. It is important that this issue be resolved. It is also important, in the context of the negotiations relating to the drug, that we get value for money. There has been much coverage in the past couple of years with regard to the availability of particular drugs and the fact that the latter comes down to the bargaining positions adopted by those involved, which is unfortunate. I accept that a great deal of time and money has been spent on researching and producing the drug in question but it is important that we get value for money from the process. I agree with Senator Darragh O'Brien that this drug should be made available at the earliest possible opportunity.

Two recent requests by me for a Commencement matter debate on the issue of two facilities in Cork that can cater for 35 homeless people but have been lying vacant for four or five years were ruled out of order. These properties were purchased by Cuan Mhuire and were to be used to provide accommodation for people who have completed treatment for alcohol addiction and who are now on the road of recovery. It is sad that these facilities remain vacant. I sought to have the relevant Minister address this issue by way of Commencement debate, such that these facilities could be brought into use at the earliest possible opportunity at a time when we need them. It is unfortunate that my requests were ruled out of order. While I fully respect the Cathaoirleach's ruling on this matter, I believe that, given the urgent need for these facilities, the relevant Minister should come to this House to explain why they remain idle. I ask that the Leader inquire from the Minister why there has been no co-ordination between the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the relevant local authorities in this matter. One of the units is located in Cork county and the other is in Cork city. As I said, these facilities, which can cater for 35 people, remain vacant. We need those facilities up and running as soon as possible. Given my requests for a Commencement debate on this issue have been ruled out of order, I ask that the Leader raise the matter with the Minister on my behalf.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I have just come from the launch of the document on low pay, decent work and the living wage produced by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise. We should find time to debate this document as it is quite a balanced report. Our colleague, Senator Cullinane, was the rapporteur for it and balanced it very well. One of the concerns is that in attempting to bring the living wage up to a level that would be acceptable, we could damage jobs. Employers might find that if they had to pay an awful lot more, they would not be able to do what they would like to do. I believe this discussion did take place in organising the report and it would be very valuable to have a debate on the topic in this House in the new year.

I am stunned that, although some time that has passed since the last floods took place in 2009, very little has been done to attempt to solve the problems. Is it possible to get help from abroad? I think particularly of the Netherlands, which lie very low, below sea level. The people there do not have this problem as they solved it many years ago. There must be expertise around the world, not just in Athlone as Senator Kelly has said. We should have a debate on this quite soon.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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I would like to comment on rule 68. The forum on patronage and pluralism reported two years ago and recommended dissolving rule 68. That report went to the Minister back in 2012. It is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The rules for national schools, of which rule 68 is one, were devised 50 years ago. The language used in all of the rules should and will be revised, presumably, along with rule 68. We would not have any problem at all with reviewing the language used in another piece of legislation from 50 years ago. One of the rules states that junior infants should be taught by the mistress - a woman. Maybe that was a good idea or maybe it was a bad idea.

I would go along with looking at all the rules. When we are doing so we must pay attention to what we put in their place. There is a new articulation of language recognising that there are many types of children, as Archbishop Martin has said himself. Baptising a child just to get him or her into a school is not the way to do it. I would go along with retaining a lot of rule 68 but under a new guise. It has good things like charity, justice, inculcating truth, patience, obedience - there are lots of good things there and it is not all bad. We want to ensure that we include all children of no religion and some.

I call for a debate on the Growing Up in Ireland survey, particularly on one aspect of it. Some 28% of all deaths among children between 0 and 3 years of age in the EU are due to injuries. A particular report in Ireland targeted accidents involving children between the ages of 1 to 3 and asks for a review of education of parents, how to avoid accidents or whatever. The percentage of children in Ireland who are hospitalised is very high. The Growing Up in Ireland study called for a review. I would like a debate on how we are going to address this issue. Accidents are also higher in boys than girls. Recklessness would come to mind. Maybe we should be thinking about politics as well in that regard.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I ask the Leader to amend today's Order of Business, in order to bring the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House to discuss the practices of companies registered as private investigation companies. Last night I was contacted by a citizen and am absolutely appalled by what I learned. It is backed up by evidence. It is absolutely outrageous that there are companies employed by the pillar banks that are breaking into people's private property, accessing social welfare records and putting that information into the public domain. I heard this on the radio once or twice but now I know these banks are hiring thugs - not reputable private investigation companies - who are climbing over people's back walls, filming and photographing them in their houses and bedrooms. These thugs will threaten people and access private social protection records, which is a criminal offence.

These companies are supposed to be registered. If that is the sort of behaviour that is going on, the Private Security Authority is falling down in its duties. This is a matter that needs urgent attention. We have innocent citizens trying to negotiate with their banks who are being threatened and intimidated by these thugs. I ask that we get the Minister in here today at some stage to discuss this matter. I will not ask for it to be the first item on the agenda but I ask that we get the Minister in at some stage.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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I had not intended to speak today but I ask Senator O'Brien to withdraw his remark. I think you said the Labour Party felt that people with religious instruction were inferior. I take offence at that statement.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I certainly will not withdraw it.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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I think you should withdraw it.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I just go by the proof of what I see.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Cahill without interruption.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I will not withdraw it. She made a charge against me. I am not withdrawing any remark.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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You should withdraw it because quite clearly I do not feel that people who have religious belief are inferior.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Talk to your hierarchy.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Cahill without interruption.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Talk to your Leader.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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My daughter attends----

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I cannot respond because I cannot hear what is going on.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Cahill without interruption.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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She is addressing me directly.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Cahill without interruption.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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She should address the Chair.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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She is speaking through the Chair. Please.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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She is not. She is speaking to me.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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In fairness to Senator Cahill she is not long in the Labour Party.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Cahill without interruption. We cannot hear what she is saying.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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Gabh mo leithscéal, Senator O'Brien. I think you should withdraw the remark. Rather than coming from a place of religious conviction, his remark is coming from a place of political prejudice. I have a daughter who attends a Catholic school----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I ask that Senator Cahill withdraw that.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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I am not withdrawing that remark.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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She has made a political charge against me of political prejudice.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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You are here to defend yourself and have done so. In respect of rule 68----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of order, a Chathaoirligh, the remarks should be addressed through the Chair. If I cannot respond, she should be addressing the Chair. She should withdraw the remark of a political charge against me of political prejudice----

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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On a point of order, Senator O'Brien made much more serious allegations against me. They were so ludicrous I did not even bother responding.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Bacik has jumped up now as well. It is like whack-a-mole.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Cahill without interruption. She is quite entitled to call for what she is calling for.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I am not withdrawing anything.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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I am not withdrawing the remark. Rule 68 is an archaic rule. Children have a human right under the European convention to a neutral studying environment, and that is clearly not the case in this country. There is a lack of choice for parents who do not wish for their children to receive religious instruction. We have seen the difficulty this country has had over the years with how religion can take precedence over instruction and education. We have seen the abuses which followed as a result. No parent or child should be forced into a situation in which religious instruction underpins their day. Having said that, I and the Labour Party respect entirely the choice of parents and families to have religious beliefs. Should the Senator wish to have a debate on this issue, I think it probably could be useful as I am not quite sure that he understands exactly what rule 68 means. Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Leader to indicate when he intends taking the bankruptcy Bill which has been promoted by Deputy Willie Penrose. My understanding is that the Bill is to be published next week. Will it be a Seanad Bill or a Dáil Bill? I would like to think that we in the Seanad could facilitate a speedy passage for this very important piece of legislation.

I ask that the Minister for Health would come before the House and I propose a further amendment to the Order of Business that he do so.I had an experience in the past number of days in regard to an applicant for a medical card, a lone parent who has a very sick child and who applied for a medical card. That person has been told the time limit has expired, although I was not even aware there was a time limit, and will now have to make a fresh application, which requires a voluminous amount of documentation. This is a lone parent on social welfare with a sick child but the number of documents required in order to be considered is shocking. Not only has the person now been advised to apply again, three or four months after they applied, but they have to supply more up-to-date documentation and a repeat of everything they supplied before because the centralised medical card agency in Dublin lost the documents. Not only that, but when I asked, on this person's behalf, if they could have the documents returned, given these included a P45, of which there was only one copy, I was told the only way they could get the documents returned was by putting in a freedom of information request.

What sort of an inhumane system have we, as legislators, created? When the medical card system operated at local level, it was a very simple matter, as anybody in this House who has experience of it will know, in that one could get through to the person involved in the local office and he or she was able to sort it out. There were never difficulties surrounding medical card applications. I am appalled at the manner in which this applicant has been treated. A very inhumane system has been put in place. As a result, I have initiated through the Oireachtas Library and Research Service a full review of how these regulations came into place, who put them in place, what statutory regulations have been put in place and what are the legal requirements that mean a person has to go through the freedom of information process to get documents back.

I want the Minister for Health to come to the House. The buck has to stop with him because he is the person in charge, although he likes to think and to tell the general public that he is not in charge at all, that he is only passing through and that he is a commentator. Here is a situation-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Will you clarify the amendment?

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I am asking that the Minister for Health come into this House to explain the regulations surrounding medical card applications and whether he is going to improve them to make them more humane and more efficient than what is out there.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I share the concern of other Members in regard to the flood damage in many parts of the country, including my own county. However, we should not get over-dramatic about it. We are aware of the failings of past Administrations but we do not want to go down that road. I very much welcome the fund that has been set aside and that will be administered on behalf of the Government by the Irish Red Cross for businesses that have suffered in towns recognised to be at flood risk and which are unable to get flood risk insurance, which is very important.

It was said that the OPW is not involved. Of course, the OPW is involved; it is monitoring the situation and will continue to do so. The matter is being attended to and dealt with. I recognise that Senator MacSharry likes to be dramatic, coming as he does from the Sligo school of amateur dramatics. Let us be calm and reflect on this matter. It is being dealt with and, please God, it will be dealt with satisfactorily, or as satisfactorily as it can be dealt with. We cannot totally drain the Shannon and we cannot redirect it. I suppose there will be a further debate about siphoning off some of the water for the east, which will resurrect its head again. These matters are being dealt with, so let the show go on without getting overly or falsely concerned.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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It is time we had a debate on flooding and on the measures to compensate those affected by the winter storms. We have all seen the footage of the floods, ruined homes and businesses and the Christmas plans that have been destroyed. There have been four Atlantic storms this year. However, there are two things that are predictable, severe weather and the pathetic response from Government. Each time it happens, we get too little, by way of a response, and too late. It seems to have come as a revelation to the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, that legislation prevents flood relief compensation to businesses and that only households may benefit. This is a Government that prides itself on getting the economy going again and getting people back working. How can it be jobs-friendly if businesses are allowed to suffer in this way?

When this crisis happened last year, along with others, I called on the Government and the then Minister, Mr. Phil Hogan, to take concrete steps to mitigate the harmful effects of future storms. The Government should have applied to the EU solidarity fund but it did not. It should have aided small businesses with a Government subsidised insurance scheme where people are not able to get private sector cover but it did not bother to do that either. The Government has chosen to do nothing for small businesses impacted by flooding. It is too little, too late to be talking about frustration with the situation on the eve of a general election. People are rightly frustrated with the lack of emergency funding for individual home owners and a lack of financial cover for businesses. Any further delay is inexcusable. Like others, I have been driving in east Galway where the flooding has been extremely difficult and frustrating for people. It is time the Government realised it is in government and did something about this.

Many of us grew up enjoying the romanticised versions of private investigators' lives - I think of "Magnum PI" and others. When we look at the reality of what private investigators get up to, however, it can be more sordid and grubby. Senator Craughwell's amendment, which I want to second, calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to tell us what she knows and what she is going to do in regard to the necessary investigation of not just the activity of private investigators but also of officials in the Department of Social Protection. This is an important issue. It is yet another example, perhaps, of the creep that goes on where banks and officials of State collude to subtract from people's rights, in particular, the right to privacy and the privacy of their data. I want to second Senator Craughwell's amendment.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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Given that business is scheduled until 10 p.m., the Leader is unlikely to be able to accede to a request that the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, would come to the House to discuss the flooding issue. I made a request yesterday that we would try to organise it late this week or early next week. Obviously, communities are going through great hardship, with people throughout the country trying to get to work when roads are closed. We need to give this very serious attention.

I would reject some of the criticism that is being made of Government. Investment has taken place in flood alleviation measures in recent years. I would cite Ballinasloe as a case in point, given significant investment was made there since 2009 and it has worked to a significant extent.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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Exactly. The work is done.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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Phase one of that project has been very successful but we want to get to the next phase of the investment. We need an update on the CFRAM study which will be the blueprint for flood alleviation measures and investment into the future. I would like a detailed debate on the progress of that study and what funding is likely to be put behind it.

We cannot praise enough the local authority staff who are working flat out and the wonderful work being done by the Army in helping to protect homes. The next 36 hours are going to be critical but I know everything that can be done is being done to make sure as many homes as possible are protected from flooding.

It is a time for everybody to pull together and to leave aside party political squabbling on this issue. I am very encouraged by the wonderful work being done in communities by people coming together with public representatives and local authority staff, with everybody trying to ensure that business gets back to as normal a position as possible in the lead-up to Christmas.

I hope we will have a debate with the Minister of State, who can update us. I very much welcome the fact €5 million has been made immediately available to help small business and that €10 million has been set aside for humanitarian aid. I hope the drawing down of that will be as simple as possible-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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We are not having the debate today.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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It would be useful if the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, were to come into the House to answer those questions.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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-----and that the bureaucracy will be kept to a minimum.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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We would have a very harmonious House if some people had their way; if we could not discuss religion or politics. I second the amendment to the Order of Business which was moved by my colleague, Senator Mooney. I support everything that my leader, Senator Darragh O'Brien, said on rule 68. Educators should be entitled to protect their religious ethos. I agree it is unacceptable that people cannot get places in schools but perhaps that is because the Government has not provided enough school places and it has very little to do with religion.

I wholeheartedly support the comments of Senators Craughwell and Mullen on private investigators. The issue has been raised for a number of years. It was raised previously by Senator Michael D'Arcy, by the Leader and by me. On one occasion I brought to the attention of the House a situation involving a young man who had paid 75% of a loan he had on a truck to provide employment for himself and a number of other colleagues. He fell on hard times as a result of the recession and missed two payments. While he was attending an interview to seek employment, thugs arrived at his house, intimidated his mother - an ill elderly lady - robbed his truck and sold it for a pittance. That is the type of activity that was going on a number of years ago but, unfortunately, it continues to go on. So-called reputable financial institutions - I hesitate to use the word "reputable" due to their history - continue to use such practices and they are getting away with it. That is totally unacceptable. We must have a debate on the issue. I call on the Leader to facilitate a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality. She is due in the House on Friday and perhaps she could stay on for an extra few minutes and we could discuss this very serious situation. It is well known that private investigators are going around snooping, as Senator Craughwell said, on private individuals and leaking information to media outlets in order to embarrass them. It would be worth examining the situation to find out what the State-sponsored banks are paying such individuals.

I welcome the fact that the Government has handed the €5 million in emergency aid to the Irish Red Cross to distribute. It is a most appropriate organisation for that purpose. I hope the red tape will be cut out because the last time such a crisis occurred and financial aid was provided, 95% of people received nothing because of the hoops they had to jump through and the red tape they had to comply with.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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Once again, I call for a debate on the need to introduce time limits for An Bord Pleanála decisions. This is a very pressing at the moment for none more so than people living in east Galway who have been subjected to such an unmitigated disaster in recent days with the flooding. It is clear that families' lives are being destroyed along the Dunkellin river and the Aggard stream all because we are awaiting a decision on planning for flood relief works to be carried out on the rivers. I visited Craughwell and Athenry in recent days and met with families affected by flooding. I am dismayed at what they have gone through. Pensioners had to be saved and transported from their homes by fire and rescue services, four wheel drives and buses. It is the second time in six years that those people have been rendered homeless because of flooding.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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The Government has had five years to do it-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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-----and it has done nothing.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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-----and unacceptable. I was told the last time the River Dunkellin-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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The Government had five years to do it.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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I ask Senator Ó Clochartaigh to allow me to finish my contribution.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Higgins should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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This is a very serious issue and I would like to finish my contribution.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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The River Dunkellin was dredged in 1907 by the British Government and that is the last time it was dredged. That is frankly ridiculous. If we do not dredge it quickly-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Who is representing the area?

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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-----we will contribute to bigger flooding issues in the future. The situation is much the same with the River Clarin in Athenry which burst its banks for the same reason and destroyed several homes in the Caheroyan area.

While I have no intention of interfering with the planning process, I call for a little bit of reality to attach to proposals to deal with flooding in south Galway. We must focus on families who are going through extraordinary hardship at the moment and who will not be in their homes for Christmas because of environmental concerns. They are all very well and good but when one sees big companies throughout this country, elsewhere in Europe and around the world, which use a carrot and stick approach to off-set their pollution distribution, why can we not have the same for people living along rivers and let environmental considerations take second place? Not only would that help solve issues relating to flooding, it would also safeguard people's basic human right-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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The Government had five years to address the issue.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
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-----to safety in their homes. We need flesh on the bones of commitment when it comes to providing flood relief. The time for talking is over. We need decisions. We need a legislative timeframe within which decisions from An Bord Pleanála will be delivered. That is the only way we can bind them so the people of east Galway do not have to wait an eternity for decisions which are affecting their lives in such a catastrophic way. On that basis, I call for a debate on the matter.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I support Senators Darragh O'Brien and Colm Burke on the urgency of the life-saving drug for cystic fibrosis. We are talking about lives and lives must come first. The Government must please wake up on the issue. I would appreciate if the Leader could communicate the issue to the Minister for Health.

I agree with Senator Lorraine Higgins on the issue she raised. The flooding is most serious in Craughwell, a little bit south of where I live. It is in east Galway but the very same issues arose in Carnmore, Claregalway and Oranmore. Why are we not flooded out now? It is because we got the work done. An Bord Pleanála time limits must be looked at in cases of flooding emergency. People's homes are ruined. They are out on the street. The very special project of Thoor Ballylee in which I was involved, which reopened this year for the 150th anniversary of the birth of W. B. Yeats, has been flooded again. We opened it on the basis that it could be flooded again but it is wrong that the Government does not look at cases of repeated flooding. I am not being overly dramatic.

My final point today is about the "RTE Investigates" programme. I completely agree that using public office for private gain is wrong; it is unlawful and it is a disgrace but some of the techniques used by RTE were also less than honourable. I question practices such as offering confidentiality. One does not guarantee confidentiality if one does not give it. It showed the reporter, Nina, promising confidentiality. That is wrong. Neither did the programme offer balance. The reason I know that is because I understand from TheJournal.ie that Councillor Tom McHugh from Tuam was on record as saying to the journalist that he would not take anything for private gain but that was not shown. Why was that balance not given? This was a disgraceful practice but it brings every politician's reputation into disrepute. RTE has questions to answer about its practices. Equally, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If that was an acceptable technique, when pro-life groups brought undercover proof to the floor of this House that the Irish Family Planning Association and other abortion agencies were recommending-----

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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On a point of order, I ask the Senator to withdraw that comment about the Irish Family Planning Association.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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Gabh mo leithscéal, pro-choice agencies were recommending-----

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

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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-----how to get the abortion pill, that was not taken as bona fide proof.

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

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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There are many questions to be answered. If those are lawful and good practices to be approved by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources for use by the public service broadcaster, then they can be used by every other agency in this country. I do not believe they are honourable practices.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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It is appropriate that we have some young students in the Gallery this morning. They are very welcome. I understand we have had numerous references to religion, politics and education this morning. I welcome the announcement today from the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, that she will repeal rule 68 of the Department's rules for national schools.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Coghlan can welcome it all he likes but I do not have to agree with it. What is his point?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Coghlan should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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The document dates back some 50 years.It is quite a long time. This rule states that religious education is by far the most important part of the school curriculum. Currently, children spend 30 minutes per day, or two and a half hours per week, on religious education, which is incredible when one compares it with some other core subjects. Even physical education gets less than an hour per week.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently reviewing the national school curriculum with recommendations to be published some time next year. I call on the Minister to ensure that the time allocated to physical education is increased and that the manner in which it is delivered changed in line with the Points for Life initiative that was introduced in the Seanad and delivered in a pilot programme in 2013 and 2014 under the guidance of the Professional Development Service for Teachers. It is not just me requesting this. There are teachers, parents, coaches and many people in our community who unanimously agree that it should be done. We all know about the value and importance of physical education in a child's development and overall well-being. It is now time to do something about it and I believe this is the way we can go forward. I call for a debate on this issue at some time in the near future.

Photo of James HeffernanJames Heffernan (Social Democrats)
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A Private Members' motion from the Social Democrats was moved in the Dáil last night calling for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency. This is most timely. It is something we announced a number of weeks ago. The "RTE Investigates" programme was only the tip of the iceberg. Corruption is endemic in public life and includes more than just three county councillors. It stretches to the heart of what we do. We have seen it in the past in respect of various tribunals such as the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals and issues relating to land rezoning. There could have been a tribunal for each local authority in the country. If one scratches the surface in respect of many of the land banks that could no longer be financed by local government, were bought at a premium level during the boom years and are now under the Local Government Management Agency, which is essentially a NAMA for local government, and if one saw the deals that were done in acquiring those sites one would draw some very interesting conclusions. From issues relating to Anglo Irish Bank, which has become IBRC, to the sale of Siteserv and NAMA properties, one can see that it is rotten. Some parties are decrying it when they have been complicit in it for many years. Some of the more newer Members of Leinster House have been giving out about corruption. Parties that cover up other areas like child abuse and sex offences cannot have any credibility when it comes to issues relating to corruption.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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Can the Senator clarify what that means? What parties is he referring to?

Photo of James HeffernanJames Heffernan (Social Democrats)
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I will clarify what I mean. I consider Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA to be groups that have covered up rape and child abuse.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Through the Chair. Has the Senator a question for the Leader?

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Where is your evidence?

Photo of James HeffernanJames Heffernan (Social Democrats)
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My evidence is not sitting too far away from me.

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

Photo of James HeffernanJames Heffernan (Social Democrats)
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I do have a question for the Leader. I call on Government Deputies and I call on my Senatorial colleagues to call on Government Deputies to support this motion to establish an anti-corruption agency. It is essential if we are to restore confidence in Irish public life. It is very timely measure and one that the public demands from politicians.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator MacSharry proposed that the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, come to the House to debate the issue of flooding. Most of the contributions on the Order of Business this morning concerned flooding. I have a comprehensive document on flooding that I can read out to the House but I have no intention of doing so this morning. In the other House, the Minister of State gave a comprehensive reply to a Topical Issue debate on the issue yesterday and I suggest that Members read it. However, as so many people have asked for a debate, the Minister of State will be attending the House for two and a quarter hours to deal with the Finance Bill 2015 so I suggest that with the consent of the House, we give 15 minutes at the end of that debate to the Minister of State to make a statement on the question of flooding, what is going on, what has happened and what is about to happen. This way, I am trying to facilitate the House.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate that. Could he give 15 minutes for questioning as well?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I cannot give 15 minutes. I have given 15 minutes-----

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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We will take-----

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I propose that we amend the Order of Business to take Committee Stage of the Finance Bill at 12.45 p.m. to adjourn no later than 2.45 p.m if not previously concluded and for the Minister of State to make a statement on flooding at 2.45 p.m. or immediately after Committee Stage has concluded. I am doing my best to facilitate the House. I do not propose to address the question of flooding, which so many Members have raised. We will leave it for the Minister of State.

Senators Ivana Bacik, Darragh O'Brien, Cáit Keane, Eamonn Coghlan and Máiría Cahill spoke about Rule 68. I hope we would have a debate on that matter early in the new year. Certainly, respect must at all times be given to people's religious beliefs. Everybody would go along with that. The ability of people to have a religious belief and send their children to the schools they wish to send them to is sacrosanct. In respect of repealing Rule 68 and all the other matters, the Minister for Education and Skills stated last night that she intends to do it some time in January so we might have an opportunity to discuss that matter and other educational matters in January when we come back.

Senators Darragh O'Brien, Fidelma Healy Eames and Colm Burke spoke about the new drug for cystic fibrosis sufferers. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Health. I do not know whether the Senator raised the issue as a Commencement Matter. If he did not do so, I suggest that he raises it as a Commencement Matter and gets a full reply on the matter from the Minister. One of the good things about this House is that we can call in a Minister to deal with a Commencement Matter, so if a Senator is not getting a reply from the Minister, I suggest he raises it as a Commencement Matter.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh spoke about staffing in local authorities to deal with the HAP scheme, housing and Traveller accommodation. I agree with him that if Galway County Council said it applied for funding for Traveller accommodation and could not get it, it should be investigated as a matter of urgency because we have been told that money is available for Traveller accommodation. There is no question that there is more than sufficient money available for local authorities who wish to draw down funding for housing.

Senator Kelly spoke about companies dealing with flood relief in his constituency. Again, this may be a matter for the Minister of State to deal with. Senator Colm Burke spoke about accommodation for homeless people in Cork city and county and asked that some properties that are not in State ownership be funded.It is a matter for the local authorities and the agency which owns these properties but I am sure that if they applied to Government for funding, it would be seriously considered by Government.

Senator Quinn called for a debate on a report compiled by the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, entitled Low Pay, Decent Work and a Living Wage. I agree with him that we should debate the document in this House. The Minister is due come to the House when we resume in the new year to discuss innovation and research, another area on which we had statements recently, and Government policy. I hope he will discuss both issues. Senator Keane called for a debate on the Growing Up in Ireland survey. We will try to facilitate her request but it will not be before the end of next week.

Senators Craughwell, Mullen and Wilson mentioned the appalling way private investigation companies treat people. The Minister for Justice and Equality was here practically all of last week and she will be here this week and next week. If Senators want her to come to the House to debate private investigation companies, I suggest a Commencement Matter would enable them to get answers from the Minister.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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With due respect, the issue needs to be debated.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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If anybody has information on criminal activity perpetrated by any of these people, they should notify the Garda as a matter of urgency. I am sure the Garda will deal with the matter.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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It is the overall regulation that is unacceptable.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Mooney inquired about the bankruptcy Bill. I have no information as yet on the timing of the Bill and I am not sure whether it has been passed by Cabinet. The legislation will probably be brought into the Dáil first, if it is introduced before Christmas.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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Will the Leader make time available to debate the legislation before Christmas, if possible?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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We will certainly make time available, if necessary, as I always do for any legislation coming into the House.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I believe the legislation has clearance.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I am sure we will have the full co-operation of the Opposition-----

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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Absolutely.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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-----on any legislation brought before the House.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader always gets it. I understand it has been passed by the Cabinet.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Mooney referred specifically to a medical card application and the loss of documents, etc. It is an unacceptable situation. I suggest the Senator tables a Commencement Matter. The Cathaoirleach will have a long list of Commencement Matters and he will have a difficult job making his selection over the next number of days.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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The Cathaoirleach is more than capable of making a selection.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Wilson mentioned private investigators but I have dealt with the matter already. He welcomed the fact the Irish Red Cross will administer the fund in terms of flooding. I agree with Senator Higgins and other Senators that the time limits for decisions by An Bord Pleanála should be reviewed. We debated the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill last week and again yesterday. Unfortunately, on both occasions, I did not hear any Senator raise those points. Those debates provided them with an opportunity to do so. I am sure the matter will be addressed by the Government in terms of an overview of An Bord Pleanála.

Senator Healy Eames mentioned the programme, "RTE Investigates." The matter was dealt with comprehensively on yesterday's Order of Business.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources come to the House to address practices?

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

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Eamonn Coghlan called for the time allocated to physical education to be increased.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I wish to make a point of order.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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What is the Senator's point of order?

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources come to the House to address the practices involved?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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That is my question.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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That is not a point of order and I ask the Senator to resume her seat.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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That is my question.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator has interrupted the Leader's contribution.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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I asked my question.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I was not asked that question. I replied that the matter had been dealt with yesterday.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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Is the matter all over?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Will the Senator please allow the Leader to respond to the questions that were raised today?

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader has made his points very comprehensively.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Will the Senator please allow the Leader to respond to the questions that were raised?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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This is repetition. If Senator Healy Eames was here yesterday when I replied, she would know that I dealt comprehensively with the issue.

Photo of Fidelma Healy EamesFidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
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The Leader did not hear my question until today, with respect.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Obviously, the Senator was not here yesterday.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan called for an increase in the time allocated to physical education and I agree totally with him. We should have a debate on the importance and value of physical education. I assure the Senator that I will try to arrange the debate for early in the new year.

Senator Heffernan said a motion calling for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency was tabled in the Lower House. I am sure that if a motion is tabled in this House, we will have an opportunity to discuss this matter comprehensively as corruption is something we should discuss here. This Government has a very good record in terms of the amount of legislation it has brought in-----

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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-----including the registration of lobbyists legislation and several other pieces of legislation, to deal with corruption.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Leader indicated that he is proposing an amendment to the Order of Business tat No. 1 be adjourned at 2.40 p.m. and that the Minister of State, Deputy Harris, makes a 15 minute statement on flooding. I ask Senators to bear that in mind.

Senator Marc MacSharry moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate be taken today on plans to address the causes and consequences of flooding."

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
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We withdraw the amendment on the basis of the Leader's comments.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Well done, Senator O'Brien.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Gerard Craughwell moved an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality on the practices of companies that are registered as private investigation companies be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is there a seconder?

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 25.



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

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Mooney has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Minister for Health to explain the regulations governing the issuing of medical cards and the need for improvements in the system be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 26.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden..

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Leader has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 1 adjourn at 2.40 p.m. and the Minister make a 15-minute statement on flooding." Is that agreed? Agreed.

Order of Business, as amended, agreed to.