Thursday, 10 December 2015
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion on the arrangements for the sitting of the House on Friday, 11 December and Tuesday, 15 December 2015, to be taken without debate; No. 2, motion on exempted development regulations, referral to committee, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Finance Bill 2015, Committee Stage, resumed, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude no later than 2.10 p.m.; No. 4, Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2015, Second and Subsequent Stages to be taken at 2.15 p.m. and to be brought to a conclusion no later than 4 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government - the time allocated on Second Stage to group spokespersons shall not exceed six minutes, with all other Senators not to exceed four minutes and the Minister shall be called on to reply for five minutes no later than 3.55 p.m.; No. 5, Dublin Docklands Development Authority (Dissolution) Bill 2015, Second and Subsequent Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 4 - Second Stage shall be brought to a conclusion no later than 5.30 p.m., the time allocated to group spokespersons shall not exceed six minutes, with all other Senators not to exceed four minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply for five minutes no later than 5.25 p.m., Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; and, No. 6, Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013, Committee Stage (resumed) to be taken on conclusion of No. 5.
The two-tier recovery is continuing, according to a report by a think tank which shows that 10% of people in this country have nearly 50% of the wealth; 20% have 75% yet the bottom 50% have only 5%. The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, has shown that this Government’s budgets have hit those at the bottom the hardest and protected those at the top, whereas our budgets got most out of those who had the most and protected those at the bottom who had the least to give. We see the result of that two-tier recovery in a report that one in five children goes to bed or school hungry every week. The Government’s commentator in chief, who holds the title Minister for Health, commented yesterday on Deputy Wallace’s brief incarceration. The leader of the Labour Party was quoted last week in The Irish Examinersaying he should focus his comments on the Department of Health. There is plenty to comment on there. When asked to comment on the fact that one in five children goes to bed or school hungry each week, he was able to find a silver lining in that dark cloud by saying at least the consumption of fruit and vegetables is up and the consumption of sweets is down. That of course is only for the four out of five who can afford them not the one in five who goes to bed and school hungry each week. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health to come to the House to discuss this report? I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to have a debate on the issue that one in five children goes to bed or school hungry every week. The Minister has been able to comment on many things but as his real title is Minister for Health he should focus on that.
In Famine times, when the Irish went to the United States, there were many who did not want them to go there and tried to block their entry because they were Catholics. The Irish were refugees from a Famine of biblical proportions and even those who have Christian values did not espouse the view that they should love their neighbour. They did not even live up to the ideals of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddling masses yearning to breathe free”. They come out with comments about members of different faiths, not Catholics but the Muslim faith with bigoted and racist comments. We would expect more from people running for high office.
Donald Trump has been a bigot and a racist for most of his life. We would expect more from someone seeking the high office of President of the United States and leader of the free world than to judge someone by his or her religion and try to block members of the Muslim community entering the United States in the same way as people tried to stop Irish Catholics entering the United States over a century and a half ago.
Given that this week the climate change talks at the Conference of Parties, COP 21, in Paris, colleagues will join me in hoping for a successful outcome from those talks. We are getting optimistic reports that new targets for global emissions reduction will be set there. It has been really good to see so much input from civil society. Many Irish activists went to Paris. There has been a great deal of dynamic activity by civil society groups around the talks. That is really welcome given all the security concerns. If time permits in the new year will the Leader arrange a debate on the outcome of the talks and the new targets?
I welcome the announcement by the Minister of Health, Deputy Varadkar, about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. Many colleagues in this House have called for this Bill. When will it be brought before us? It will impose important restrictions on advertising of alcohol, minimum pricing and so on. It will probably receive cross-party support.
Can we have a debate on crime in the new year? Several significant reports have been published recently, in particular the Garda Síochána inspectorate report which was highly critical of so many aspects of Garda and policing practice. Today, one of the three members of the inspectorate spoke about the difficulty in bringing prosecutions in a timely fashion, given computer system delays and talking about better deployment of gardaí. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence has held several debates on different aspects of Garda Inspectorate reports but I would like this House to debate this report.
I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, this week that the practice of imprisoning people for non-payment of fines would end in January with the commencement at last of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 and the putting in place by the Courts Service of the necessary systems to ensure that alternative mechanisms can be used. The Law Reform Commission report on search warrants has some very practical suggestions for greater efficiency in the criminal justice system.
This is international human rights day and Deputies Wallace and Clare Daly were arrested last night and carted to Limerick at considerable expense to the taxpayer. Deputy Wallace was released within 90 minutes and the whole thing was an absolute farce. I listened to "The Late Debate" where a collection of self-righteous political hypocrites condemned them in the most inflammatory language. I praise them. I support them. I regret that I was not there to protest against the involvement of this country in the aggressive war being waged by the United States against various countries in the Middle East. They were admirable to do it. Ed Horgan, a former senior army officer who was at the jail last night, and his group, supplied me with information as a result of which I was able to demonstrate an unbroken cycle of rendition involving this country. We were clearly implicated in it. Government after Government has lied about this. War crimes are being committed by the United States of America in the Middle East by the massive saturation bombing of people in Iraq and the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah. These unspeakable things were going on. These Deputies were 100% right to protest. All decent people should sympathise with them.I am astonished at the decision of the judge in that case. There was no damage done. A ladder was used which I understand is now reposing in a local school.
They were rotten in my opinion. I also wish to point to the decision in Britain which was followed by an Irish court on the Greenham Common women. Those women disabled a plane because they felt they were saving lives. They were acting in a humanitarian way and supporting the civil and human rights of people in the Middle East.
We cannot be surprised at the kind of attacks that are being perpetrated, regrettably, against people in the west when we put them into the context of the dreadful interventions of the United States and Britain, particularly in this area. I salute Deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly and think they were right in their actions. I heard people saying last night on the radio that they did the crime and should pay the fine. Why should they? This is an honourable and reasonable method of protest. It is a non-violent civil protest and I applaud them for it.
I welcome the news that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has announced aid for dairy and pig farmers who have had a very difficult year. There was a collapse in milk prices and pig farmers had a similar problem. There will be a fund of over €27 million paid out to them before Christmas, of which €13 million comes from the EU and €13 million from national funds. That is good news for about 18,000 farmers who will get €1,300 or €1,400 before Christmas. There is a smaller number of farmers involved in the dairy sector.
The payments are vitally important. A number of farmers still have not got their basic payments, although most have. It is important that we call on the Minister to make sure that those farmers who are short-listed do receive their basic payment before Christmas.
The flooding situation is ongoing at the moment. It is very serious in Limerick and Athlone, where there are houses in danger. It has alleviated to some degree in Athleague. I compliment the Army, Civil Defence and volunteers who were very active in the village of Athleague. The people there helped and supported each other and assisted in preventing the flooding of businesses. Hopefully Athleague will reopen for business as quickly as possible.
On the celebration and commemoration of the 1916 Rising, I would like to ask the Leader and the Cathaoirleach what proposals the Oireachtas Commission has made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Rising. It took place on 24 April 1916 and the State celebrations will be on 28 March 2016. There are events taking place in Dublin Castle. I believe the Oireachtas should play a very active role in this regard but, as someone who has served here for a very long time, I have received no briefing whatsoever from anyone. Commission members have not told me what is proposed.
I suggest, if I may, that the siopa would be immediately converted into a 1916 area for students attending the Oireachtas during the year. There could be an exhibition of photographs, memorabilia and other material there. Other structures within the buildings of the Oireachtas should commemorate this day. The very attractive commemorative badge that was given to Members of the Oireachtas should also be given to every citizen of the State. I have met people in the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána who have not been sent this badge. In 2000, former Minister Séamus Brennan had memorial trees sent to every citizen in Ireland to mark the Millenium. It would be a small gesture for the Government to provide this badge to every citizen. It would be very nice for people to proudly wear it during 2016.
It is the most memorable and largest event we will celebrate in the next 100 years. We should be briefed and I hope the Leader will be able to get a briefing before the year is out. I would like to see a day when the Oireachtas would erect statues to the 1916 signatories on the Merrion Street side of Leinster House to display the bravery of those men and women.
We have Countess Markievicz here, as well as the monuments to Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and others. There are others who are not commemorated within the grounds of the Oireachtas. It would be a very good suggestion. I would like to think the Seanad would have an input into what is happening in 2016.
I take a different view from my colleague, Senator Norris regarding the antics of our esteemed Deputies in Limerick yesterday and last night. We are in no position as legislators to pick and choose which laws we uphold and which ones we prefer to ignore. Encroaching----
Encroaching within the restricted area of the airport certainly may put aircraft at risk. The security fence is there for a purpose. I do not think my colleagues in the other House do their cause very much good by grandstanding in this manner. We can argue the rights and wrongs of the use of Shannon and the problems in the Middle East. Perhaps we should have a debate here in the new year about that. They have made their point, and by failing to pay the fine they have wasted Garda and Prison Service resources. They, not the gardaí, are responsible for that. They should pay their fine and consider their point well made.
I ask the Leader if we can have a debate on the trouble in the Middle East in the new year. It seems that the analysis put forward by some people about its causes are simplistic. I heard Deputy Daly on the radio this morning. What she was saying was that we have brought on ourselves any terrorism events we may expect here in the west, because the evil Americans are the cause of every woe in this country. That is, of course, a simplistic, naive and wrong analysis.
I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by my colleague, Senator Daly. I was somewhat surprised that there has not been any comment so far on the publication of a 400-page report on changing policing in Ireland. The media have highlighted aspects of this report. One of the most respected security journalists, Jim Cusack, has referred to it as "the latest and possibly most important independent report on the history of An Garda Síochána" and says that it is a shocking indictment of Garda management. I understand that the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald has welcomed the report and that its author, Mr. Olsen, and the Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, will attend a special Cabinet meeting next week on justice reform.
Will any opportunity arise for this House to debate the report? It affects both city and country. For example, it has branded the Garda force as creating a two-tier community policing system which benefits Dublin at the expense of rural communities. The figures bear this out. There are currently 540 gardaí assigned to community policing, some 328 of whom work in Dublin with 117 assigned to one division in Dublin alone. The technology employed by the gardaí is, according to the report, 30 years behind the times. It beggars belief that this is happening. A significant number of Garda stations do not even have e-mail availability. Others are still using paper-based systems as distinct from computers.More worryingly, there is no cybercrime unit within the Garda. As a result, investigations into paedophilia and abuse of children through the Internet is four years behind the times. These are shocking statistics. Tribute is paid to rank and file gardaí who it seems are working under the most difficult of circumstances across the country. It is important for this report to be teased out. It is incumbent on the Minister and Government to respond to this in a positive manner and tell us what they will do to improve the technology and efficient running of the Garda Síochána. I am not surprised that morale among rank and file gardaí is at such a low ebb if they have to deal with this sort of thing on a daily basis. It is unacceptable in a modern society.
I welcome the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which the Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar, has published because it treats alcohol misuse as a public health issue for the first time. It is laudable that its goal is to reduce the damage alcohol causes to individuals and society and to reduce average annual alcohol consumption. I welcome the measures contained in it to deal with minimum unit pricing, strict separation of alcohol products in outlets, compulsory health labelling, the requirement to display health warnings, the regulation of advertising and marketing, the ban on advertising near schools, playgrounds and public transport, the prohibition of price based promotions and an enforcement regime including inspections. It is horrifying to realise that four out of ten people typically engage in binge drinking. All sides of the House find these measures laudable. I welcome them and look forward to their introduction.
Yesterday, the Leader said that instead of putting people in jail for not paying their fines, we should deduct the fine from their salary or social welfare payment. I remember this being proposed many years ago but I am not sure what happened to the proposal. Is it possible that we have not moved on it or is there a constitutional reason for not doing so? It appears there are people in jail because they have not paid their television licence, which does not make sense.
Senator Mooney talked about the Garda Síochána. Yesterday, there was a case in which two gardaí went to Limerick with a Member of the other House who was released an hour and a half later. I do not know whether the two gardaí came back again but it must have taken them some time. This is a situation in which we could deduct fines from salaries, social welfare payments or other income. It is worthy of discussion and decision. We had a debate on a Bill on fines in this House recently. Perhaps the Leader can tell us if anything is happening in this area. It was his suggestion yesterday that reminded me of it.
Today is Human Rights Day. Women's Aid is using it to highlight all the women who have been murdered by their partners and children who have been killed as a result of domestic violence. One of the first motions I moved in this House was on domestic violence and we had a very good debate and cross-party support. The time has come again to have another debate on it. Senator Cahill has called for a debate on domestic violence and I second her call for that debate.
Yesterday, on the Order of Business, Senator Mooney raised an issue on the medical card office and its workings. He subsequently moved an amendment to the Order of Business and while I could not support his proposed amendment - we all know Ministers cannot come to the House at the drop of a hat - I support what he said and I call for a reasonable debate on the medical card office. It is outrageous that anyone who has given documents to the PCRS office and wants them back has to make a freedom of information request. It is ridiculous. I am aware of a man who collated all his documents for the PCRS office. It took him four weeks to gather all the information. He needed bank statements. He had to write to England about a British pension he was receiving because proof of it going into his bank account was not sufficient and he had to get written confirmation from Newcastle upon Tyne. He then sent the documents to the PCRS office in an envelope, which it supplied. When he phoned the office, there was no record of his documents and nobody could tell him where they were gone. He was asked to send them again. It is absolutely ridiculous. Either we have the worst postal system in this country, which is responsible for delivering to the PCRS office, or the PCRS office is not keeping an eye on all this information and is not collating it properly. I request a debate on the workings of the PCRS office as soon as the Leader can get a Minister here to do so.
Today is 10 December which is the 57th anniversary of the signing of an important document at the United Nations in 1948 - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There probably has not been a time when we have seen such breaches of human rights across the globe. Every day we hear stories from the Middle East and the atrocities of Daesh against minorities, in particularly Christians who are killed. There are YouTube videos of the beheading of innocent people. We are aware of the situation of women, particularly young women, being taken and forced into sexual slavery by some of these terrorists. It is an appalling vista. Among those breaches is the abortion holocaust. It is very sad that the UN and organisations such as Amnesty and ICCL, which receive millions in foreign moneys, spend their energy promoting the breach of the most fundamental human right of all which is the right to life. I am specifically referring to the right to life of the unborn. I have asked before and I ask the Leader again to have a debate on this issue in this House. Yesterday, the BAI condemned the Ray D'Arcy show on RTE Radio 1, our national broadcaster. I heard the interview with Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty. The cynicism and cold blooded intent of killing unborn babies was chilling. It is not good enough for a national broadcaster. I ask people who are involved in pro-life organisations-----
I say to those who are of a pro-life disposition that perhaps it is time for us to get together and refuse to pay our RTE licence fee. It would not be my intention that the pro-abortion and pro-killing of unborn babies policy-----
-----in particular as we are funding the overpaid salaries in RTE. There are people who earn up to €500,000 a year for jobs that do not require a great deal of qualifications. I ask for a debate in this House on the lack of impartiality and balance in our national broadcaster. Perhaps it is time to dismantle the national broadcaster. We do not need the range of-----
I thank the Leader for organising the statement yesterday by Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, on the flooding situation around the country. Our thoughts remain with the home owners and businesses that have been flooded in recent days and those who are on high alert as a result of rising rivers throughout the country. I hope there will be a break in the weather in the coming days. It is, as a previous speaker has said, only right that we would acknowledge the wonderful work being done by the local crisis management teams through the local authorities with the back up of the Army, Civil Defence and the first services. They have been supported by emergency responders and volunteers in the local communities. Thanks to their efforts, many homes and businesses have been saved from the worst effects of flooding. For those who have been affected, I welcome the Minister's confirmation yesterday that the €5 million to be made available to small businesses and administered by the Red Cross would have the minimum of red tape. Householders are reminded that they can access the humanitarian aid through the Department of Social Protection. I thank the Department for agreeing to open a temporary office in Ballinasloe from this Friday onwards to facilitate the people in the area who have been impacted. When the floods recede there is much work to be done. I hope a renewed urgency will be given to the CFRAMS programme. I was disappointed to learn this morning that a decision on Dunkellin drainage scheme, being progressed by Galway County Council and which was expected from An Bord Pleanála before Christmas will not be available until February. An Bord Pleanála needs to get into the real world and realise the urgency of this decision.
An issue that needs to be discussed is that of insurance for homes and businesses that have been flooded. Even in situations where flood defences have been put in place and they are working satisfactorily, insurance companies still refuse to insure those home owners. We need a full debate on the attitude of the insurance industry in the new year.
I support Senator Jim Walsh's call for a debate on abortion and the Eighth Amendment and the lack of balance by the national broadcaster. We should have a balanced debate on what is a very emotive issue. There are contrary views to that of mine and Senator Walsh and many others on all sides of this House but we should have that debate. There is, in my opinion, a certain amount of conditioning going on and it is conditioning in one way, so far as I can see. It is trying to cleanse the whole process of what abortion is about, that is, the ending of an unborn child's life. I call on the Leader to arrange for that debate.
I received a text from somebody who visited Collins Barracks, the National Museum, yesterday. In the text the individual said he enjoyed the visit. At the end of the visit he bought portraits of six of the signatories of the Proclamation but it had run out of portraits of James Connolly. To illustrate the balanced approach of this individual, he also bought a portrait of Michael Collins and of James Larkin. However, when he attempted to purchase a portrait of Éamon de Valera he was told, "Oh, we don't do that". Why is the National Museum not printing a portrait of one of the main figures of the Rising?
Like other Senators I wish to comment on the arrest last night of Deputy Mick Wallace and Deputy Clare Daly and particularly their use of the defence of the Nuremberg Principles behind which they are hiding in terms of human rights. If they have proof that Shannon is being used-----
I will quote from an article which states that a report of alleged unlawful activity concerning the use of Irish airports has been made to the Garda. The gardaí investigated having ensured, where appropriate, files have been sent to the DPP-----
The Senator does not want to hear this. The spokesperson said that in no case has a direction to prosecute been given. Are Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace accusing the DPP of not doing the job he is charged to do? Specific assurances were sought and received from US authorities by many taoisigh that Shannon was not being used in this way. An agreement for overflight and landing of US military has been in place for over 50 years. We are talking now about better co-operation between all of the European countries. Are we saying we should have no co-operation that there should not even be fuelling and landing? What I am saying is that there should be proper inspection and if anybody has any proof that they should go to the Garda and have it investigated. I do think that playing to the gallery and not paying one's fines-----
They should be deducted from their salaries. I propose that any Deputy, Senator or councillor who owes fined should not stand for election without having paid that fine. We saw where Mick Murphy had to pay his property tax last month because he was selling his house. Everybody who owes any money to the Government should pay. It is a bad example to hide behind the Nuremberg Principles. I want a debate on the Nuremberg Principles and the way in which they are being abused. Deputy Mick Wallace has a history of not paying his taxes to the State.
It is a very serious issue that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has found that "The Ray D'Arcy Show" on RTE is biased in favour of abortion. This is a disgrace. RTE is our public broadcaster. We all pay a licence fee. This is not a private broadcaster. What is the sanction against this show?
My question is this, and I repeat it, what sanction will be put upon this show to ensure fairness and balance?
The second point I wish to raise is whether it would be reasonable for the Government to consider when a person passes 85 years of age that he or she would automatically qualify for a medical card without making application. Yesterday I was contacted about a 94 year old lady who has had her medical card taken from her because her income exceeded the limit by €11.70. The issue is about the drugs she needs but more so about the physiotherapy she was able to get and all the ancillary services.
This is a serious issue. It is appalling.The woman had to go down the stairs on her bottom and crawl up the stairs and the physiotherapist was helping her to keep moving. The pharmacist is appalled that he had to charge her for her drugs. It is not about having a GP card, it is about having a medical card that will give her access to free drugs plus the support of services that will allow her to remain independent. She wants to stay in her own home. I would appreciate an answer to the issue.
I commend all Members for co-operating with the Leader in a fairly significant legislative period in recent weeks and also for the next week or so. This House has conducted itself very professionally and well in looking after legislation and doing the right thing by the citizens of this country.
I also commend An Garda Síochána, the Garda Commissioner and superintendents around the country for their initiatives to help alleviate much of the unfounded concerns of members of the public regarding the closure of rural Garda stations. In order to reassure people, superintendents and chief superintendents have set up clinics in local libraries and town halls for the same number of hours as rural Garda stations were open to demonstrate to those who are concerned that a service can be provided and that it will be monitored.
I further commend the chief superintendents around the country who have initiated and organised public meetings and public awareness sessions to again give people reassurance. An Garda Síochána has gone through a difficult period but the Commissioner and her senior management team are doing extraordinary work to rebuild the confidence and loyalty most citizens in this country have in the force. A survey carried out in recent months showed that 86% of people now have confidence in the force. That has risen from 67% in 2013. Much credit must be given to the first female Garda Commissioner, together with the support she is getting from our great female Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. Sometimes we can be very critical but when a job is being done properly, professionally and correctly and is getting results, we must acknowledge it.
I would be grateful for the assistance of the Leader in helping me to get clarification on a matter. This relates to the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005. The Minister for Health has undergone a consultation process with a view to making a final decision about the proposal to prescribe the title of physical therapist as a variant of the specified title of physiotherapist after an appropriate lead-in time. This proposal has been recommended by the State regulator, the Physiotherapists Registration Board and it is also supported by the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists, a professional body for physiotherapists and physical therapists in this country, which has more than 3,000 members. There is support for the protection of both the titles of "physiotherapist" and "physical therapist" within the same body. Organisations such as the Irish Medical Organisation, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and various universities all support the proposed change.
This is about maximising public protection and eliminating a widespread public confusion that exists around the term "physical therapist". The legislation in 2005 set out to protect the titles of 14 health professionals. The title "physiotherapist" will be protected but it is imperative that the second title of "physical therapist" would also gain protection because in the UK and internationally, the title of physical therapist is synonymous with physiotherapist and they are interchangeable but there are people in this country who have adopted the title of physical therapist having done short and part-time courses - good luck to them but it is causing considerable confusion because the public, sporting organisations or many other individuals and groups related to the health professions in the country are aware of the fact that the level of service provided by physiotherapists and physical therapists can be completely different. It would be great if we could get a decision from the Minister or clarification on what decision he has made.
Senator Healy Eames should not have to run the gauntlet for making the very simple point that there should be accountability when a public service-funded broadcaster is showing bias on a life and death issue. I remind colleagues in the Labour Party and elsewhere who get very exercised, for example, about the fact that religious ideas and values are communicated in State-funded schools, even though that happens with the will of those parents and even though other schools are also funded.
I support Senator Fidelma Healy Eames on one point, namely, what she said about medical cards. Something could be done for the elderly now that the country is in a better state economically, especially those aged over 90 years if not over 85 years. I had a similar experience with a constituent who had all sorts of difficult medical conditions to deal with and the medical card was refused over a very small sum. I understand there must be a cut-off point but once a person reaches that age, he or she has contributed to the State greatly and we should make life as easy as possible for him or her.
I welcome the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill that has been-----
Could we have a bit of quiet in the House? I welcome moves undertaken by the Minister for Health, my constituency colleague, Deputy Leo Varadkar, to attempt to tackle the troubled Irish relationship with alcohol. He announced yesterday the long-awaited drinks legislation under which we will see a ban on alcohol advertising near schools, playgrounds and public transport. That can only be welcomed. Under the new law, we will see a minimum price of €7.60 on a bottle of wine. Alcohol in supermarkets has become like any other product such as milk or butter and one now throws in a few bottles of wine into the trolley. We have become too relaxed in our consumption of alcohol and it is clearly not doing us any favours as a society. The Bill will also introduce a minimum price for a can of beer.
We must be concerned about alcohol. It was one thing when people were drinking in pubs, and perhaps drinking to excess, but at least people were there, such as the publican and members of society, to keep an eye on them but if people are drinking a huge volume at home, in many cases they are putting themselves in huge danger. From that point of view, the Bill is greatly to be welcomed.
A criticism of the Bill is that it will affect the more vulnerable people in society but it is a small price to pay for the overall reduction in the amount of binge drinking, in particular, among teenagers and young people.When will it be presented to the House? I hope it will be dealt before the Government finishes its term.
A few weeks ago, I called for a debate on repeal of the eighth amendment. I am disturbed by some comments today. I respect the right of anybody to have an opinion on any issue and I have listened, but I find some of the distortions that have been raised about a particular programme on RTE absolutely horrific. The national broadcaster was not found to be biased in favour of abortion. It was found to be biased in a segment of one radio programme after a particularly distressing case where doctors were seeking advice on keeping a woman alive artificially because she was pregnant. Nobody could have failed to have been shocked by that case. I find phrases like "abortion holocaust" absolutely horrific and if Members would like the respect of the House-----
I agree with Senator Cahill. Reason needs to be brought to this debate. Unfortunately, the debate is only emanating out of a sexy campaign called Repeal the 8th. None of the underlying issues is being discussed, although disturbing cases are being raised, with which we all sympathise. They are alarming in the extreme but reason needs to be brought to the debate. I would welcome a reasoned and sympathetic debate in the House, which would consider all the issues. My colleague, Deputy O'Dea, spoke on this issue last night in a level-headed manner. If the eighth amendment is repealed, the protections of the unborn will be removed from the Constitution. What constitutional protection, therefore, will we provide for the unborn? Does the State want to take all the protections for the unborn out of the Constitution?
Human rights extend further than people who are walking around on the planet. Human rights extend to the unborn because we were all unborn at one time or another. Other issues and wider factors need to be brought to bear in this debate and I ask the Leader to facilitate such a reasoned debate over a reasonable timeframe with everyone being allowed to express an opinion and bring balance to the debate. To date, the debate has not been balanced and there has been too much emotion. That serves no one's interest. I hope the Leader takes all views on board and facilitates such a debate.
I better start with the final contribution in respect of abortion, repeal of the eighth amendment and lack of balance in the abortion debate on the part of the national broadcaster. I am ashamed at the exchanges I have listened to from all sides. The exchanges have not been respectful or fitting for this House. If legislators such as ourselves behave in such a manner, I am reluctant to have a debate on the issue. If legislators behave in such a manner, what can we expect of others on both sides of the divide in this debate? I will think seriously about having a debate but I hope that when that debate is decided upon, we will have much more respectful exchanges that we had here this morning. It is not conducive for the House to put up with such exchanges in the run up to Christmas or, indeed, at any time. I ask Members to be mindful of their remarks when they stand up in the House. I am talking about both sides, and not one side of the divide on this issue.
On the Order of Business, Senator Daly made a number of wandering commentaries on various matters. With regard to the American people, we had better leave them to judge on who they vote for themselves as President. It has nothing to do with us.
Senator Bacik referred to the resolution of the climate change talks and she is hopeful that they will be successful and that we will have a debate in the future on that matter. We will, hopefully, be able to do that in January.
Senators Bacik, Coghlan and Noone raised the alcohol Bill and that will come before the House next Thursday.
On other legislation, Senator Mooney asked yesterday about the bankruptcy Bill. That will also be before the House next Thursday. I am sure he will be happy about that.
Senators Bacik and Mooney raised the Garda inspectorate report, which should be debated by the House. The Minister for Justice and Equality intends to send the report to Mr. Ray Magee and other parties, including the Garda representative organisations, first in order that they can review the issues raised. She also intends referring the report to the Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform. Technology is an absolute necessity for the Garda. The Government's capital plan includes substantial additional investment of more than €205 million in new technology and systems for the force. This new allocation will deliver new systems which will ensure a more responsive deployment of gardaí in the community and improve Garda response times. These and other new technology solutions for use by the Garda will cut back on the time involved in paperwork in order that gardaí can spend more time on front-line policing. Hopefully, we will have a debate on that in the new year.
A number of Members sought a debate on crime. The burglaries Bill will be before the House next week and, therefore, there will be ample opportunity for them to debate the issue.
Senators Norris, Gilroy and Keane expressed various views on Deputies in the other House in the context of Shannon Airport. We cannot condone the breaking of the law in any instance.
Senator Comiskey welcomed the aid for beef and pig farmers. The outstanding payments are few and far between and I am sure the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is working on that issue.
Senator Leyden raised the 1916 commemoration and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. I am not aware of the commission's programme in this regard but I am sure the Fianna Fáil representative on the commission will highlight the issues raised by him.
Senator Quinn referred to the Fines Act, which was passed in 2014. I understand the Minister for Justice and Equality has announced that she will commence it in January. In future, fines could be deducted from social welfare payments and salaries, which is the proper way to go. Community services orders will also be an option in dealing with people who do not pay their fines.
Senator Moloney pointed out that today is Human Rights Day and she called for a debate on domestic violence, which we will have in the new year. In relation to medical cards, obviously we will have isolated situations where people have difficulties. We have witnessed the loss of documents on several occasions and such loss is acceptable. I cannot believe that documents are being lost at the rate that has been said and I agree with the Senator in that regard. I understand that the Primary Care Reimbursement Service, PCRS, was before the Joint Committee on Health and Children yesterday. I hope that members brought up these issues with the service at that meeting.
Senator Mullins mentioned flooding and applauded the efforts of volunteers and emergency services. He also mentioned, in terms of flooding, the delays by An Bord Pleanála. There is very little that we can do about the matter at present. I have addressed the matter raised by Senator Wilson.
In regard to the National Museum, I must admit that I find it very strange that there no portraits of Éamon de Valera available in the museum. Perhaps they were sold out.
By way of clarification, I could understand if they were sold out because Éamon de Valera is one of the founding fathers of this State. However, the individual that sent me the text said the museum does not sell them.
I agree with Senator Wilson. Senator Conway complimented the Garda Síochána on their efforts to inform the people of their activities and giving reassurance by their presence.
Senator Noone mentioned a medical card issue, a matter which Senator Healy Eames has raised, that people over the age of 85 should automatically have a full medical card. I would agree to the suggestion to a certain degree but there may be multi-millionaires aged over 85 years. Does one give a medical card to such multi-millionaires?
Senator Mark Daly has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate with the Minister for Health to address the unacceptable situation whereby one in five children go to bed and to school hungry be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?
- Gerard Craughwell
- David Cullinane
- Mark Daly
- Fidelma Healy Eames
- Terry Leyden
- Paschal Mooney
- Rónán Mullen
- Brian Ó Domhnaill
- Labhrás Ó Murchú
- Feargal Quinn
- Jim Walsh
- Diarmuid Wilson
- Ivana Bacik
- Colm Burke
- Máiría Cahill
- Eamonn Coghlan
- Paul Coghlan
- Michael Comiskey
- Martin Conway
- Maurice Cummins
- John Gilroy
- Aideen Hayden
- Imelda Henry
- Caít Keane
- John Kelly
- Marie Moloney
- Mary Moran
- Tony Mulcahy
- Michael Mullins
- Hildegarde Naughton
- Catherine Noone
- David Norris
- Pat O'Neill
- Tom Shehan
- Jillian van Turnhout
- John Whelan