Seanad debates

Thursday, 21 January 2016

10:30 am

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the Twelfth Report of the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, motion re Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (Section 95(3)) (Variation of title: Optician) Regulations 2016, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1, without debate; No. 3, motion re Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2016, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 2, without debate; No. 4, motion re Companies Act 2014 (Section 1313) Regulations 2016, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 3, without debate; and No. 5, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 4 and to conclude no later than 5.30 p.m. by the putting of one question from the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down by the Government.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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A guillotine.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Political reform? Absolutely.

Rural Ireland has been abandoned by the Government. Some 20 general practitioner, GP, posts have remained vacant for more than three years. According to the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, 20% of GP posts will be vacant within five years. The Government has no plan to fill those posts. The epitome of the Government's abandonment of rural Ireland can be found in its initial response to Mr. Pat Spillane's report on the matter. I refer to the fact that it allocated the same amount of money to fulfilling the report's objectives as it gave to the care of horses in urban Ireland. Imagine that. I reiterate, for the benefit of Members opposite, that the initial response of the Government to saving rural Ireland was to allocate the same amount of money to fulfilling the objectives in Mr. Spillane's report as it gave to the care of horses in urban areas. If anyone wants more proof than this, please give me a call.According to the UN Human Development Index, Ireland is currently ranked the seventh best place in the world in which to live, which ranking is equal to that of Germany and above that of Canada and the United States. This is a matter of which everybody should be proud. It is the achievement of generations since the establishment of the first Dáil 98 years ago. Today, we celebrate the first meeting of Dáil Éireann on 21 January 1919. Dáil Éireann was established on the principles of the 1916 Proclamation. In essence, we are all guardians of the values of the 1916 Proclamation. Its aims and objectives are timeless and universal. It should be remembered that what we will be celebrating this year is that which others sought to achieve in 1916. It is not about those against whom we struggled to achieve our full potential as a nation. Pádraig Pearse and his fellow signatories to the Proclamation sought to set out ideals and principles to guide us when faced with problems that they could not even imagine. As we celebrate all those involved, we should remember the words of John F. Kennedy when he said: "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but the men it honors, the men it remembers." I hope that our celebrations this year of 1916 will honour the men and women of our greatest generation. We must never stop trying to achieve the standards they set us regardless of how difficult the challenges.

My colleagues on this side of the House and I propose to bring the National Anthem Protection Bill 2016 before the House next week. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, has said that he proposes to bring forth legislation to protect the national anthem, in respect of which copyright ran out in 2012. I note opposite an Olympian who stood for the national anthem following his great achievement on the international stage, which brought great pride to this country. The national anthem for which he stood needs to be protected.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I hope that he will discuss the Bill, which is only one page long, with the Government Whips over the next few days. A great deal of legislation is being passed by this House without debate. We now have an opportunity in the dying days of this Government to protect the national anthem, which I believe would be befitting of the memory of the men and women of 1916.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Conway and congratulate him on his new role.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Five years into my time as a Member of this House, I am being asked to fill in. I am always happy to do so.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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He will be back.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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The Bill referred to by Senator Daly is an interesting one. I did not realise that the copyright had run out on our national anthem. I was not even aware copyright was applicable to national anthems. The Bill is worthy of discussion by the Whips and I propose to suggest same to Senator Paul Coghlan.

I would also welcome a debate in this House on tourism, preferably before the end of term of this Seanad. We are all aware of the significant achievements over the past five years of this Administration and the people of Ireland in terms of tourism, including the development of the Irish inter-county marketing strategy and allied to that, The Gathering, which was remarkably successful and probably set the tone in terms of how we should market Ireland into the future. I ask the Deputy Leader to request the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, to come to this House for a debate on tourism and in that context the development of a further Gathering, perhaps, in 2018. The Gathering was followed up with the Wild Atlantic Way, which has also been hugely successful. When one hears the people of Donegal speak of the benefit of the Wild Atlantic Way in a similar vein to that of people of west Cork and all counties in between Donegal and Cork there is no doubt but that it has driven tourism, enterprise and job creation in this country. This issue is worthy of debate.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator's time has expired.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I thought when I took up this position that my allocated speaking time would be longer.

There has been much discussion on the UK's plan for its future in Europe, a referendum on which will be held next year or the year after. We have an important role to play in that discussion with our nearest and dearest neighbour. A debate in this House with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Flanagan, or Minister of State, Deputy Murphy - I would prefer if the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, or even the Taoiseach, came to the House for the debate - on the pivotal role we can play in terms of encouraging our fellow neighbours in the UK to remain within the European project would be worthy and useful before the end of term of this Seanad. I understand that the Taoiseach is meeting the Prime Minister, David Cameron in 10 Downing Street in the not too distant future to discuss this matter. We need to assist at European level the UK in terms of its requirements-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator seeking a debate on the matter?

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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-----for a new direction for Europe. We need to engage at senior level in that debate. This House equally has a role to play in that discourse and deliberation and in that regard I suggest that a debate in this House would be timely and prudent.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Before I call on Senator Norris, I am sure Members of the House will join with me in welcoming Councillor Marcia D'Alton from Cork County Council to the Public Gallery.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I join in the Cathaoirleach's welcome to the distinguished councillor. Earlier this morning some of my colleagues and I had a meeting with representatives of the Cork Institute of Technology, which is concerned about the Government's proposals for legislation in this area.

I am concerned that today there are three items to be taken without debate, two of which are regulations. I suppose the case can be argued that two of those items should be taken without debate. On, No. 1, which is a report from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of Standing Orders for this House, surely amendment of Standing Orders of this House is a matter that should be discussed by all Members of this House and not only by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, of which I have the honour to be a member. I believe this is a matter in which every Member of this House should have a say. I am seeking an amendment of the Order of Business to the effect that No. 1 be taken with discussion, which discussion should commence with a statement from the Government side on what is involved in terms of the proposed changes to procedures and privileges. Also, while we will probably get through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 by 5.30 p.m. I find the proposed guillotine on that Bill, outlined on the Order of Business, distasteful and I object to it.

Whatever the views of the Deputy Leader in terms of the first two issues I have raised, I am sure she will agree with my position in regard to the axing of the "Gloria" programme, which airs on Sundays. I take the liberty of saying that I believe she will agree with me on this because I have been contacted by a Professor David McConnell, fellow emeritus Trinity College, who is greatly concerned about the axing of this programme and mentioned to me that Senator Bacik might also have an interest in it. I regularly listen to "Gloria".It is a wonderful programme presented by Tim Thurston, a gentleman with a lovely broadcasting voice and an extensive knowledge of remote areas of religious music. Professor McConnell, who I think is publicly acknowledged as quite the campaigning atheist, pointed out in his letter to me that "Gloria" is a celebration of the sacred music of Europe, the origin of all classical music in our tradition, which is interesting. He also states in his letter that it is one of the finest programmes he has ever had to pleasure to listen to. I agree with him. The presenter, Tim Thurston, plays music by people such as Hildegard von Bingen, which many listeners might previously have not heard. He has introduced me to a range of music from the medieval to baroque and classical music. Some 4,000 people have signed a petition to have Lyric reverse its decision to axe the programme. Attached to Professor McConnell's letter to me was a letter was from a Mr. Keogan to The Irish Times, from which I would like to quote one paragraph: It states:

Gloriais, however, about much more than just choral music; it is about excellence in broadcasting; about challenging the listener to expand his or her interest to far beyond the popular classics; in short, it is what public service broadcasting should be. Is this the issue?

If it is a question of popularity, I think there is a wide audience for "Gloria".

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator seeking a debate on it?

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Yes I am, if that is the only way I can get it onto the record of the House. However, I am not expecting a debate on it. In terms of popularity, a large number of people listen to this programme on Sunday mornings, unlike the programme about modern music, which is an hour or two of unmerciful, thumps, bangs, whistles, squelches, belches and God Almighty knows what. I switch it off every time it comes to this thing about modern music. Let us have some respect for the graceful traditions of Christian Europe.

Photo of Aideen HaydenAideen Hayden (Labour)
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I welcome the announcement by the Insolvency Service of Ireland of the increase of 70% in 2015 in the number of people achieving permanent solutions to their insolvency problems. This has been welcomed by New Beginnings and Fianna Fáil. A number of people have credited the improvement in those achieving permanent solutions as per the Insolvency Service of Ireland to the removal of the bank veto and the change in the term of bankruptcy to a one-year term. It seems to be quite obvious that it softened the cough, to some extent, of financial institutions. They seem to be prepared to accept solutions now that they rejected in the past.

I take on board the criticisms of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation. The organisation has said that the numbers actually achieving settlement through the Insolvency Service of Ireland is far too low. In the region of 1,700 people have had their issues resolved. When we compare that figure with the numbers of people in severe debt, it represents something in the region of 1.2%, which is far too low. Part of the reason is that it has been said that people do not understand the Insolvency Service of Ireland and what it has to offer nor do they understand personal insolvency arrangements or the issues around bankruptcy. Therefore, they are not coming forward to use the service.

I am calling on the Insolvency Service of Ireland to take this on board. I call on representatives of the service to explain to people in their communities, where they will have an opportunity to engage with them, what the issues are and how the service can be of assistance. I acknowledge that they have begun to do that. I know that towards the end of last year they announced publicly that they would go to the courts and approach borrowers personally who had cases coming before the Circuit Court. That is a positive development but one that represents the tip of the iceberg. No community or community organisation of any description in the country should be overlooked. Where people are in trouble, they should be reached out to by the Insolvency Service of Ireland and resources should be made available to ensure that happens.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I echo the comments that have been made by my friend and colleague, Senator Daly, about the Government's neglect of rural Ireland. The people who live in rural Ireland - I happen to live in County Leitrim but this is mirrored throughout the country - can see at first hand the impact Government policies have had, including the closure of Garda stations and the threat to post offices. I hope the Bobby Kerr report will awaken someone in government to take positive initiatives to ensure the rural post office network is maintained.

Another aspect of my contribution in respect of the neglect of rural Ireland comes with the damning report from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the lack of funding for the maintenance of our road network. On many occasions in this House in recent years I have railed against what I saw as underinvestment. It has been brought home to me repeatedly as a member of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. Committee members have heard first-hand from the various stakeholders involved in maintaining our road network that there has been underfunding for years. Let us put that against the Government spin to the effect that the economy is rapidly recovering and there is now money available. We need only look at the auction politics being engaged in by the Labour Party and Fine Gael. The latest from those in the Labour Party is that they are going to reduce college fees by €500. Who is going to believe them?

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Are they going to sign a pledge on that one?

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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Exactly. Who is going to believe those in the Labour Party who say they are going to reduce university fees by €500?

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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It is "Alice in Wonderland".

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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It is "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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The idea of trying to buy the public when, at the same time, our road network is crumbling at our feet is baffling. Representatives from the National Transport Authority told members at a meeting of the Committee on Transport and Communications in the past 12 months that the authority needs €300 million per year simply to maintain the network. Despite this, the figures that have come out in the report from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport suggest there has been a rapid decline in investment in our road network at national primary level and at national secondary load level, which is perhaps more insidious. This means there are roads in my county and other counties in rural Ireland that are beginning to crumble, especially given the rainfall of the past two months.

Many of us are old enough to remember the men who used to be out on the roads with a shovel. People used to wonder what they were doing. What they were doing, until the service was withdrawn as a result of lack of Government investment, was clearing drains and gullies on roadways to ensure the surfaces were maintained.

I wish we had enough time to bring in the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to answer these questions. These are important questions that are impacting, as we speak, on people living in small communities. I do not believe the Government has either the heart or soul to commit to making their lives better.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I support Senator Conway's call for a debate before we end this term with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on all the positive things that have happened in tourism in recent years. When the Government took over in 2011, it rightly identified the significant contribution tourism could make to the economic recovery. The Government set about investing and marketing Ireland as a tourist destination. We have seen record numbers of tourists in recent years. The outlook for 2016 looks particularly promising.

One significant measure taken was the introduction of the 9% VAT rate for tourism related activity and the hospitality sector. That made a major contribution to making Ireland attractive. However, we need to reiterate the warning to those in the hotel sector in particular that they need to continue to keep their end of the bargain. The Minister for Finance made some noises recently putting them on notice that the 9% VAT rate may not remain indefinitely. There is evidence, especially in the capital and in some of the larger centres of population, that the hotel sector is hiking prices, in particular when significant events are taking place in cities and major towns. If those in the hospitality sector wish to retain the 9% rate, they need to look at themselves and keep their prices in check.

Senator Mooney referred to the publication yesterday of the final report on the post office network. We all want to see a strengthened post office network in our communities, a network that can provide the type of service that people require. I very much welcome that a post office renewal process, as recommended in the report, will be established immediately and will conclude its work within six months. In particular, I welcome the Minister announcing that the Government has agreed to support the introduction of an electronic payment account in 2016. If the post office network is to survive, it must be able to provide a range of electronic transactions. I certainly hope the work being done in the coming six months will ensure and secure what remains of the post office network throughout rural Ireland.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I second Senator Norris's motion. Truthfully, every time I read "without debate", I shiver. What are we doing here if we are going to have things without debate? I can understand the need for it sometimes when certain regulations are coming through. However, in this case it is a motion on the report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on the amendment of Standing Orders 90 and 105 and the adoption of new Standing Orders 108A to 108E, inclusive, and a Schedule to Standing Orders.That seems to relate to this House and is the sort of issue that we should be debating. I urge the Deputy Leader to accept Senator Norris's proposal that we debate it today.

One of our concerns down the years has been the length of time that it takes for regulations to be implemented on legislation that we pass. The Seanad passed the Construction Contracts Act 2013 just ten hours before the new Government took office five years ago. Although I will not say that nothing has happened, the Act has not been commenced since then. Yesterday, I learned that it would be commenced within the coming months. At least we are getting somewhere with it, but I cannot get over how long it takes to get things done.

I wish to address Senator Daly's concerns about rural Ireland and Senator Mullins's reference to post offices. There are measures that we can take to ensure that rural Ireland survives. Not all of them will cost money, but some will. If rural Ireland is to survive and thrive in the years ahead, we must do something. We have the answer.

I wish to raise an issue that I mentioned previously. It concerns legislation that is being introduced across Europe to tackle ISIS killers who are returning to Europe after slaughtering people in Syria. They were welcomed into a number of countries, but most European nations have now introduced legislation to ensure that judges can debar such persons and remove their citizenships. We do not have that ability, but we should. Austria and Italy have strong legislation. If we are not careful, we will almost end up welcoming people who are returning to, or coming to, Europe having killed for ISIS. We can do something about this. We should at least give judges the right to remove people's passports, which we have been generous with in the past.

Photo of Máiría CahillMáiría Cahill (Labour)
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I welcome yesterday's publication of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-21. I commend the Minster for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, on her efforts in this regard and, in particular, on giving political priority to an issue that will always to be the fore of society. Abuse permeates every section of society. Importantly, the strategy is victim centred and highlights the devastating impact that such violence can have on victims. A wide range of supports, such as counselling, information services and emotional supports, will be available to victims. The strategy also recognises that victims can sometimes be placed through secondary victimisation by the criminal justice system.

With this in mind, some Senators may know that Sir Keir Starmer, a world-renowned human rights lawyer, identified a number of failings in my cases and made a number of recommendations that could help future sexual abuse victims coming through the criminal justice system in the North. In this regard, I am pleased to say that I will meet the North's Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Barra McGrory, on Monday when he will update me on those recommendations that he has implemented and those that he will implement in future.

To put it on Senators' radar, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, One in Four, Women's Aid and I will host an event next Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Buswell's Hotel to update those politicians who are going forward for election to this and the Lower House. They are strongly calling for funds to be made available for a SAVI II report, as SAVI I has been such a long time in the offing that we do not have an up-to-date picture of sexual violence. I ask all Senators who can make themselves available to listen to that presentation.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Fad is atáimid inár suí anseo ar maidin, tá naonúr teaghlaigh de chuid an Lucht Siúil ag dul isteach chuig Comhairle Cathrach na Gaillimhe ag rá go bhfuil siad gan dídean.

As we sit here, nine Traveller families from Galway who have been living at a dump for the past six months and face eviction tomorrow must declare themselves homeless to Galway City Council because of a failure by local authorities in the west to deal with the crisis in Traveller accommodation. They were in an inappropriate place, which we highlighted previously, with the site's owner left no option but to have them evicted. Responsibility for Traveller accommodation lies with local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Will the Deputy Leader implore her colleague, the Department's Minister, to enter into negotiations immediately with the Galway city manager to find a temporary resolution for these families? They will be declared homeless and end up on the State's books anyway unless something is done. They have found themselves in a diabolical situation.

I wish to highlight an issue that has arisen in my travels around rural Galway. The home care system has been privatised and the number of home helpers employed by the HSE has dwindled. The race to the bottom in the sector is a major issue. The rates paid to people to work in the companies running the services are too low and finding workers is proving difficult. That people must travel between houses for appointments without being paid travel expenses or for the time they spend travelling means that the work is not worth their while. The fallout has seen older people left in hospitals when they would be able to return home were home care available. People who work in the west's health services tell me that this situation is chronic. It shows the failure of the system's privatisation. There is a myriad of crises in the health sector, but this one needs to be addressed. I call for a debate with the Minister for Health on it. If that is not possible, the concerns that we are raising could at least be raised with him in order to see what might be done in the short term. Some patients in Galway's hospital system cannot return home because home care is not available following the failed privatisation initiative.

Photo of Mary Ann O'BrienMary Ann O'Brien (Independent)
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I wish to raise the issue of drugs and criminality. Senators heard about the terrible incident in Cork this week involving six people who were left in hospital by the drug 2C-B. They were so psychotic that they were naked, the walls were covered in blood and they did not even realise that one of them was having a heart attack on the floor.

This morning's "Today with Sean O'Rourke" on RTE ran a sad segment about children in Limerick city who were on Valium, Xanax, benzo, spice and TC, which are synthetic drugs. Cannabis and cocaine cost €50 per bag, but a child with lunch money can afford these tablets. A drug dealer in Limerick might be a boy in a nice track suit with a packet of new fags in his pocket because he can afford to buy these drugs and sell them for €10 at €2 per tablet. One will be out of it for the day and end up being sick psychotically.

An articulate 20 year old who is now out of that scene was interviewed. He stated that there was no hope for young people, including his friends. They take these drugs to stay out of it and remain numb because they do not believe that there is any hope. This is our country.

In the UK, the Psychoactive Substances Bill will go through Parliament. It seeks to alter the situation by applying a blanket ban on anything that might be conceived as a mood-altering substance. Possession for personal use will not be an offence, but those found guilty of making or supplying the substances could face up to seven years in prison. The net of the new law is cast deliberately wide and applies to any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. This excludes nicotine, food, caffeine, alcohol and medical products.

Two new substances appear on the European market every week. Beautiful, clean laboratories in China are making these drugs everyday. Much of this drug making is funding terrorism. The Minister for Justice and Equality must attend the House to debate this issue and the next Government's term. Something must be done for our youth because "Love/Hate" is here in reality.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I support Senators Norris and Quinn. It is appalling that we would allow changes to the privileges and practices of this House without a debate.I have spoken many times on the issue of speaking time for people, such as myself, who are not members of groups or the way the House divides on party political grounds rather than on vocational panels which is what we are elected to. It would be healthy to discuss these issues in the open.

I rise this morning to speak on teachers, lecturers, institutes of technology and technological universities. We are about to have a teachers' strike and nobody is saying a word about it because we are heading towards an election and nobody wants to speak about things that are nasty. We need to have engagement with teachers. The system is crumbling. We need engagement and discussions with them. In the rush for technological universities I ask the Leader to confirm that the Technological Universities Bill 2015 will not come before the House before the general election. We cannot rush a Bill of that magnitude through this House in a matter of a couple of days purely to satisfy the electoral ambitions of somebody or other on the other side of the House. It is simply outrageous. At the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection yesterday some very distinguished academics appeared before it who all agreed that the move towards technological universities was ill-advised in the way in which it is going forward. One point made by Dr. Greg Foley from DCU was that we will finish up with 16 universities in this country and no alternative pathway. The focus is on level 8 qualifications and we are pushing people through universities, towards a level 8 qualification, who are not sufficiently able to reach that level. The focus on level 6 and level 7 qualifications has gone. We no longer have that focus. I accept the Government has done much to assist apprenticeships but we need to broaden the vocational base of education in Ireland and I think the Technological Universities Bill 2015 needs to be set aside until the next Government is in place. We have in the Visitors Gallery a number of people from Cork Institute of Technology who would like to meet Members of both Houses to outline some of their concerns. I ask Members that if they meet them during the course of the day to give them a few moments of their time.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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I thought I had better stand up and rebut some of the comments made here. First, Senator Paschal Mooney referred to rural Ireland being forgotten about by the Government. The fact is Fianna Fáil closed more Garda stations and more post offices than the current Government.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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Would the Senator agree that the Government accelerated it?

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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In the past four-and-a-half to five years employment has gone way up and unemployment has come down to below 9%.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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What about emigration?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption, please.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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Recent statistics show that rural Ireland stands up as much as urban Ireland with job creation.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Not in its job creation.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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The 2012 Action Plan for Jobs created 60% more jobs in rural Ireland.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator seeking a debate?

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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I just want to point out the facts.

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

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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It is all about keeping the recovery going.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I hope the Senator sends out that story to rural Ireland.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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Senator Daly's comments-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption, please.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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That is going down well in rural Ireland. The Senator is losing votes by the second.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption, please.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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Coming from a Dublin-based Senator, that is going down a storm in rural Ireland. The Senator should keep saying it and he will-----

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

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator should keep it going.

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

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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I would like to refer to the Soldier's Song like Senator Daly-----

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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On a point of information, is there an election in the offing by any chance?

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

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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I did not get to speak yet. I only wanted to pass a comment on Senator Paschal Mooney's comments.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The Senator is almost out of time. Does he have a question for the Leader?

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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Yes, I have. In reference to Senator Mark Daly's comments on Amhrán na bhFiann, the Soldier's Song - this will be a little longwinded because the Cathaoirleach would not let me in due to all the interruptions - I was surprised to hear that the copyright was not protected. He referred to me standing and listening to Amhrán na bhFiann at a time in one's life when hearing it is the most exhilarating, thrilling, pride-filled feeling. It is a signification of some kind of coronation or achievement when one hears the national anthem so I am surprised copyright has not been protected. When I thought about it, I was saying to myself that people will not know who wrote this song.

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

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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Peadar Kearney wrote it in 1907 and in 1923 Liam Ó Riain gave the Irish rendition but it is correct that we need to copyright the national anthem. I support this in every way.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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The Government bought it in 1933 for £1,000 and, unfortunately, that copyright has gone, 40 years after Peadar had passed away. I call for a debate on how we can protect Amhrán na bhFiann, the national anthem.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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I refer briefly to my colleague, Senator Eamonn Coghlan, who is living in the suburban reality of Dublin. It is not the same in Donegal or in the west.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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The Senator came to Dublin and look at all the jobs that are-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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The jobs are not being created.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption, please.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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The reality is that 30% of the 18 to 30 year age group in my county have emigrated since 2011. The opportunities they are obtaining are not in this jurisdiction, they are overseas. We cannot say that is a good statistic.

Photo of Eamonn CoghlanEamonn Coghlan (Independent)
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That was then; this is now.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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That is only one county. Those figures come from the CSO. It is not a good statistic. I am not making a political point but I am expressing the reality. Rural Ireland is struggling. The economic recovery that we see is predominantly in the capital and in the interurban areas. The focus of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland has been job creation in urban areas, not in rural areas. Yes, there have been opportunities and jobs have been created in rural areas but they have been created because people have been willing to take a risk themselves, not through the intervention of any Government policy.

The issue of the insolvency legislation was raised by Senator Aideen Hayden who said it is not working. The reason it is not working is that the banks have a veto over the insolvency legislation because the banks through rent seeking behaviour were allowed to write the insolvency legislation which was supported by Government in these Houses. It is not protecting the ordinary consumer who is in debt, negative equity or personal debt.

The other issue that is emerging and was debated in the other House last night is that of State board appointments. It is not unique to Labour Party leaders that they are being appointed or reappointed to State boards. State boards are being stuffed in the last days of this Government with people who are aligned to Government parties. That is wrong. Yes, it happened under Fianna Fáil. It was wrong then and it is wrong now because State boards should be filled with people who have some level of expertise in corporate governance. I refer in particular to one State board, the Irish Greyhound Board, which is in receipt of almost €15 million from the State, or €285,000 per year. Its corporate governance failings have been highlighted in an Indecon report published by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. One of the recommendations in that report was that those who serve on the board should not do so for any more than two terms. The Minister of State at the Department, Deputy Tom Hayes, has reappointed a crony for a third term on that board who does not have the expertise set out in the Indecon report.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is the Senator seeking a debate?

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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That is wrong.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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I support the call by my colleagues for a debate on tourism. I acknowledge the achievements of tourism and the number of jobs created. In doing so I acknowledge the voluntary contribution of a total of 850 local communities, north, south, east and west, and the part they have played which at times is not recognised. In making their own towns and villages better places in which to live and better places for visitors to visit and stay, they have created hundreds of jobs throughout the country.I can instance my home town of Carlingford-----

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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That is a village.

Photo of Terry BrennanTerry Brennan (Fine Gael)
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-----where in excess of 400 jobs have been created by voluntary organisations that have worked for the betterment of their community. There would be great celebrations in any town or village on hearing an announcement of 400 jobs. One of the Senators instanced his county of Clare and the Loop Head peninsula. What that community has done has been recognised worldwide and the area has been listed as one of the top 100 green areas in this country. The scheme was initiated by Gabriel Keating who is one of our county council colleagues in Clare. He used his own initiative but he was helped by local communities in the region. I cannot emphasise enough the valuable work done by voluntary organisations. Some of them have worked for the entire winter to make their towns and villages beautiful, primarily for their own benefit but also to attract visitors. I seek a debate on the voluntary sector where I again will acknowledge the contribution made by volunteers.

Photo of Paul BradfordPaul Bradford (Renua Ireland)
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I agree with Senator Craughwell on the question of debating the Technological Universities Bill. It would be remiss in the long-term interests of the country's educational prospects if we were to rush to put in place structures about which there is great uncertainty. I understand how the concept of technological universities can seem attractive, particularly from a political perspective. In the interests of the long-term educational needs of our society, serious reflection must be given to the legislation. There is a lot of academic research to indicate that it may well be an incorrect destination that we are attempting to take and, therefore, we should proceed slowly and carefully. Over the past 40 or 50 years, great advances have been made in the Irish education system. Now, with a worldwide comparison, worrying trends have emerged. We must ensure every institute, college or university is worthy of its name and the highest academic standards must apply. Undoubtedly, there is a place in society and the education system for every student but we must match each student's needs with the best courses on offer. Just claiming that one can, willy-nilly, have colleges here, there and everywhere does not do anybody any favours, so we must proceed in a cautious fashion.

I concur with the welcome extended to the Kerr report on the future of the rural post office network. I hope its recommendations will be acted upon. There is the broader issue of rural development. The regeneration of the rural economy and rural Ireland is necessary. There is an almost daily tour of Ministers at present and this has been the case in recent months. I would call it an Action Plan for Jobs tour. There is no doubt that worthy announcements have been made but they could have emanated from the Department. I would like an action tour that focused on rural development where three or four Ministers visited the provinces, counties and regions and we could talk about putting in place a plan for regenerating rural Ireland. We must accept that we cannot simply go back to some of the structures that existed previously. If we want a balanced country then we must ensure towns and villages are supported. A big national plan in this regard is necessary and I hope the next Government will take the issue on board. There can be a future for rural Ireland and rural communities but only if it is planned, supported and funded using a proper structure. I hope the matter will be taken very seriously by the next Government.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I join my party's acting leader, Senator Mark Daly, in acknowledging that today is the 97th anniversary of the first Dáil, a body which embraced the Proclamation and the vision of our patriots of 1916. I refer to one of his comments. He said that Ireland is ranked the seventh best place to live according to the UN Human Development Index. As he said, such ranking is welcome. Ireland is one of the best places to live provided people are not unfortunate newly married couples who want to access shelter or they do not want to provide shelter either for themselves, their partners or their families. Ireland is okay as long as a person is not looking for a house. As I have said in the House before, if a person is on a low income, local authorities will not accept him or her as a qualifying applicant on the housing list even though that person has no hope of providing or securing a house for him or herself other than renting. If a person is a mortgage holder who has had difficulty meeting repayments, the Government will throw him or her to the wolves of the financial sector and the Four Courts. If a person is endeavouring to get together enough money to buy a house, he or she will be unable to secure a mortgage from most of the financial institutions. Obviously if a person is sick or elderly, he or she will be unable to access the health services. Ireland is grand if a person does not belong to any of the categories I have outlined. Surely the vision of the Proclamation, the people of 1916 and the members of the first Dáil, of whom we are their successors, is one we should be embracing, especially as we approach the centenary of the first Dáil and commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

I ask the Deputy Leader, and I have asked for it before, for a good, open-ended debate on housing. I know the time is short and we may only have a week or two left but there is nothing stopping us from fitting in statements on housing. A far greater commitment needs to be given than we have seen given by the Government over the past five years. I do not view housing as a political issue but it is important to the people that together we articulate the needs they have in this regard. Unfortunately, the housing problem has led to other issues regarding relationship difficulties simply because people cannot get proper accommodation. I am not just talking about the RTE television programme that was broadcast the other night. We did not need such a programme because anybody who works in their constituencies to deal with the average person who comes to them for representation knows exactly how bad the situation is and the extent to which it has been allowed to deteriorate. I appeal to the Deputy Leader for a debate on housing. I also appeal for good representation in the House to ensure some spark is set under the Government in its dying days and in order that the incoming Government will at least start with greater energy and determination to solve the problem.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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I was somewhat inspired when I heard the interplay between the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Senators on various issues, including the national anthem. I kept thinking that perhaps we should entitle today's proceedings "Civil War: The Musical".

On a very serious note, it is probably a well-known fact at this stage that I am unlikely to run for this House again. In reflecting on the five years I have been a Member, the single, greatest and most colossal disappointment I have had, which in a five-year timeframe is a microcosm of the disappointment I have felt over the 22 years since I came back to Ireland, has been our complete failure to address the structural problems in the health service. When one hears something like we have heard over the past 24 hours, that in the second largest city in the country, in what is either the largest or second largest acute hospital in the country, all elective surgery has been cancelled - I know I am speaking to an audience who, from the medical and health profession point of view, are largely a lay audience - this is an abnormal as abnormal gets. This is unprecedented. This is mad. This is nuts. This is crazy. This is the greatest illustration one could possibly have of a system that has failed. It is not a third world health system. I will not use emotional language. I have seen third world hospitals. We do not have a third world health system. We have a first world health system but one that is strictly third class and mediocre. There has been a complete, absolute and utter failure of all attempts to reform it.

I endorsed the Government, although I am sure my ringing endorsement had nothing to do with it being elected, and I endorsed the potential coalition partners over three consecutive elections because in each of them they stated they would reform the health service when my colleagues in Fianna Fáil had a different plan and wanted to redevelop the existing structure, with which I respectfully disagreed because I thought plan B was much better - to break up the health service and start from scratch.There was colossal disappointment on hearing, about two thirds of the way through the current Oireachtas, that basically they had given up on that plan.

I apologise if I sound like a broken record, but people need to think about the sheer abnormality of having all the elective surgery in a major hospital cancelled. It is crazy. One can talk about the slippery roads in Cork last Friday and people falling on the Mardyke and all of that, but the system should be able to absorb that activity. Other systems absorb occurrences of multi-vehicle car crashes and terrible epidemics. The situation is simply wrong and it is not just in Cork. It is very close to happening in other hospitals in the State. I have walked through the accident and emergency department of St. Vincent's Hospital on a number of occasions over recent months and I sometimes wonder how it would pass a fire inspection never mind a health inspection. One sees people having to move one trolley to go between them to get to the next patient. I would ask that when all the Members are back in the House in the next term they would think about this situation.

Over the past five years a number of Bills have been advanced in this House and they have been allowed to remain on the Order Paper. These are not Government sponsored Bills so they will die. I feel strongly about this. When people propose these Bills without pushing them, it becomes an optical exercise. I ask the Deputy Leader to designate several hours some day next week - which may be our last sitting week - in order that we may at least go through the formality and, if the Government does not accept these Bills, reject them. I ask the Deputy Leader to allow No. 55, the Longer Healthy Living Bill, which everyone I have spoken to thinks is a really progressive idea which could go some way towards fixing many problems in the health service and the wider public service, to proceed some time next week in order that it would get the opportunity to be accepted or rejected.

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

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister for Health would come to the House to discuss the emergency in Cork.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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I second that amendment. Ireland is facing a major choice in the next few weeks and is currently facing a severe crisis. We have a Government in place which seems more than happy to blame the previous Government for any problems that arise and which is more than happy to take credit for any good that comes. However, what shocked people most this week was the callous response of Minister for Public Expenditure, Deputy Brendan Howlin when asked about Monday's television programme "My Homeless Family". The Minister suggested this was a priority for the next Government. The current Government does not care. It is doing its very best to ride a wave of glory to seek a coronation and get into power the next time, but in reality it has achieved very little. The Government has implemented a plan which was devised by the late Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan. At the time, the plan was bitterly opposed by the parties which form the current Government and they voted against it time and again, but they have performed a U-turn.

It is heartbreaking for the majority of the nation to see the way the homeless crisis has developed and to see the lack of shame from the Government benches in the Seanad and the Dáil on this matter. Of course, people want low taxes and of course they want the recovery to continue but they want basic decency in our country. They do not want people and families in hotels nor they do not want them in tents. That is what has arisen in society. People do not want crime running rampant. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald said this morning that crime is a feature of modern life. Crime and homelessness are not, however, an acceptable feature of modern life.

Shame on the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and the Government for putting the problems of today into tomorrow while blaming the past for any of the issues that arise. They are not fit for Government and they deserve to lose office. I am confident that in the next few weeks the public will put the Government out of office and a new broom will be brought in. There will be great responsibilities on the new Government to solve this homeless crisis. If the current Government is not prepared to do it and is prepared to sit back and ignore what is going on, it should be aware that the people are not prepared to sit back and the next Government certainly will not sit back. I wish it to be on the record of the House that Fianna Fáil is leading the charge to be the alternative Government. We are in business, we are back in the game, we want to be in Government and we have a programme to deliver, at the heart of which is decency.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I will respond first to Senator Daly and the other Senators who raised the issue of rural Ireland, the rural GP practice scheme in particular. The Government is committed to ensuring patients throughout the State continue to have access to GP services, especially in remote rural areas and also in certain urban areas. The rural GP practice is top of the agenda as part of the discussions on the new GP contract under way with the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO. In fact, Ireland has a very low rate of GP vacancies nationwide. As of 1 January 2016, there were 15 GMS lists without a permanent GP in place out of a national total of more than 2,400, which is only 0.06%. Of the 15 GP vacancies, only five are in rural areas. Half the 15 vacancies are recent and have occurred in the past 12 months. However, each of these lists has either a locum GP or a neighbouring GP who has taken over the list and who is providing the full range of GP services to patients. Patients continue to have access to GP and primary care services. I hope this allays concerns on that very specific issue the Senators raised.

On the broader issue of jobs and unemployment in rural areas, the Government has consistently said that job creation has been a top priority since the Government took office in 2011 when the rate of unemployment was over 15%. We have seen a dramatic drop in unemployment, which must be welcomed whichever side of the House we are on. The launch this week of Action Plan for Jobs 2016 noted that the first plan was launched with a target of 100,000 extra jobs by 2016. Many people, including some Members across the floor of the House, criticised the plan at the time as being unrealistic. However, according to the independent Central Statistics Office figures, the target was hit 21 months early in 2015. There are now more than 135,000 additional people at work today compared with when the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched. That is a significant and remarkable achievement. The 2016 plan has set a target of 50,000 extra jobs this year and outlines 304 actions. These are particularly focused on regional jobs outside the Dublin area. Following on from the successful roll-out of the regional jobs plans, further actions to support regional jobs growth will be supported by €530 million in funding. There is also a national cluster initiative focused on strengthening rural initiatives to ensure job creation. We can see an impressive roll-out of rural jobs within the agrifood industry and the food and drink industry.

Senator Daly acknowledged the UN Human Development Index which has produced a very welcome statistic that Ireland is the 7th best place in the world in which to live, which is great news for us all. Senator Daly also spoke, with his customary eloquence, about 1916 and the commemorations this year, to which we all look forward, in particular the 97th - rather than the 98th - anniversary of the first Dáil sitting in January 1919. Colleagues will recall that in 2009 a significant commemoration was held in the Mansion House and I hope we will have a similarly significant commemoration in 2019 for the centenary of the first Dáil sitting.

The proposed national anthem protection Bill 2016 was referred to. I have not seen the Bill but, as Senator Conway has said, it appears to be eminently worthy of discussion among the Whips and deserves support. I disagree with Senator Crown when he said there was a civil war on this issue. Any colleague who spoke on either side of the House was very much supportive of the principle of the Bill. Senator Conway, speaking on that Bill, also called for a debate on tourism and pointed to the success of The Gathering, the need perhaps for another gathering, and the great success of the Wild Atlantic Way which has driven tourism, job creation and local enterprise across the west. I agree with the Senator's calls for a debate on Brexit which is of huge significance for Ireland. While we look to have debates on issues raised by colleagues, there is a full legislative schedule over the next two weeks. It will be difficult to include any time for statements given the legislation before the House.

A number of issues were raised by Senator Norris. He referred to a meeting he had today with members of the TUI from Cork Institute of Technology and with whom I and other colleagues have also met. I would like it put on the record that I have a very strong personal connection with Cork Institute of Technology. It is a superb third level institution which offers a high quality of education. It is eminently deserving of technological university status. The Technological Universities Bill was raised by some colleagues. The Government has been pushed over recent years to bring this Bill forward.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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By people from all corners but especially in the south east. There has been massive momentum behind it but it is important that the terms of the Bill are right.I understand that Senator Craughwell, among others, sought information on the timing. I have looked for that and I am informed the Bill is due to complete its passage through the Dáil next week but I am not certain we will have it here before the end of this Seanad term. I am making inquiries but that is all I can say at present. The TUI is engaged with the Minister and officials from the Department of Education and Skills met with delegates yesterday. There are ongoing engagements on amendments that the TUI has sought in respect of the Bill, particularly on concerns it has raised with all of us about the terms and conditions of its members in the event of any merger. I have engaged with the TUI on this matter, as have other colleagues.

The Senator also referred to No. 1 on the Order Paper, the motion regarding the Twelfth Report of the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The Senator is entitled to table an amendment in respect of that but the CPP meeting concerned House business and was not a matter for the Leader's office. It deals with the conduct of the Seanad. We had a full meeting yesterday, from which a number of people were unfortunately absent. We received legal advice, examined the amendments which are proposed to Standing Orders 90 and 105 and considered the adoption of new Standing Orders 108A to 108E. This is the subject matter of No. 1 on the Order Paper and I am very happy to inform the House that we were told the amendments propose changes which are technical in nature but which are important because they will provide protection for privilege for official Seanad documents and the personal papers of Senators. They give Standing Order status to a rule that is already present in Article 15.10 of the Constitution which states, "Each House shall make its own rules and standing orders ... to protect its official documents and the private papers of its members". Despite that provision of the Constitution, neither Dáil nor Seanad had Standing Orders dealing with privilege for private papers or official documents. In the case of Howlin v. Morris, the High Court criticised both Houses their failure in this regard. On foot of the requirement of the High Court as well as the relevant provision in the Constitution, these Standing Orders are being brought introduced in both the Dáil and the Seanad in order to bolster, or confirm, the practice that already exists in the context of privilege for these documents. There is nothing new in the new Standing Orders, which are available for all Members to see.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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That may be the case but the matter is eminently worthy of debate.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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We obtained legal advice on them. In any event, I am not sure anyone could disagree with their contents.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I do not say that but there is a historical context in which it could be placed and the Senator referred to a High Court case.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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Howlin v. Morris. They are straightforward in simply giving effect to the constitutional imperative under Article 15.10, so I cannot accept the amendment.

The Senator also referred to the axing of "Gloria", the RTE programme on Lyric FM. This matter was raised by our eminent colleague Professor David McConnell. I agree with him that it is a matter of concern. Perhaps we might look at raising the issue as a Commencement matter.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Perhaps we could share a Commencement matter on it.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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We could. Senator Hayden welcomed the increase in the take-up in respect of the Insolvency Service of Ireland and I agree with her on that.

Senator Mooney raised the matter of rural Ireland and I think I have dealt with that in full. He spoke about auction politics but that was political rhetoric, rather than something that requires a Leader's response.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I was curious about the offer of €500.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Is Ruairí Quinn going to sign that?

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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In the interests of unity, I am going to agree with the Senators. I do not agree with auction politics and we are seeing it from all sorts of people at present.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I just feel there is no credibility surrounding that offer.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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Senator Mullins supported Senator Conway in calling for a debate on tourism and spoke of the need for value for money, with which I entirely agree.

Senator Quinn seconded Senator Norris's amendment, which I have dealt with. I hope I have given people a clear idea of what is in the CPP amendments. Senator Quinn also spoke on the issue of rural Ireland. Furthermore, he asked about people returning from engaging with ISIS, the so-called "Islamic State", and referred to the question of sanctions. He raised the possibility of the removal of passports and he may know that at EU level new transnational offences are currently being drafted which would apply to the scenario the Senator describes where people have moved from EU member states out of the EU to fight for ISIS in Syria and commit atrocities there. While it is being dealt with at EU level, I agree that it is also a matter for national states. We heard about the issue at the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality yesterday.

Senator Cahill welcomed the new national strategy from the Minister for Justice and Equality on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. I absolutely agree with her on that matter. Today, when we debate the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015, we will discuss some very important supports that will be put in place for victims and complainants in sex offences cases. I welcome the fact that Senator Cahill is meeting with the DPP for Northern Ireland and that she has called a meeting for next Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Buswells Hotel on the issue of supports for victims of sexual offences. There has been a great deal of work done recently in Britain on the use of intermediaries for child witnesses in sex offence cases and that is something we need to consider in the context of future legislation in this jurisdiction.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh spoke on a specific and serious issue in Galway involving the eviction of a number of Traveller families and asked for the Minister, Deputy Kelly, to enter into negotiations with the Galway manager. This is a matter the local authorities are dealing with and I ask the Senator to table it for debate on the Commencement. Clearly, there is real concern among local authorities about conditions following the appalling tragedy of the fire in which so many children and others were killed last year. The Senator also raised the issue of home helps and that is also a specific matter where individuals are in hospitals and unable to be sent home because of the lack of availability of home care help. I ask him to consider putting that down as a Commencement matter for debate with the Minister for Health.

Senator Mary Ann O'Brien raised the serious issue of drugs and criminality, noting the very tragic incident in Cork where a number of people are in hospital as a result of ingestion of a particular drug. She referred to the UK law in this area and that jurisdiction's Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality held hearings on drug policy and produced a report. It took a similar approach in calling for an end to criminalisation for small amounts of possession, believing as we did that the criminal justice system may not be the most appropriate approach in that particular case. It is currently under review by the Government and we can look at that further.

Senator Craughwell asked about the Technological Universities Bill, which I have dealt with.

Senator Eamonn Coghlan spoke about rural Ireland and helpfully rebutted some of the points made by other Senators.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I hope he prints and circulates that to rural Ireland.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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It will be a good news letter.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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All is alive and well in rural Ireland.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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I will deliver it to Finn Valley.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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He also noted that Fianna Fáil closed more Garda stations and rural post offices than this Government.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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It is nothing to do with Senator Bacik - she would not say something like that.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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Senator Eamonn Coghlan also expressed support for the protection of the national anthem.

Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the issue of rural Ireland and I think I have dealt with that. He referred to a specific matter relating to State board appointments which I think, again, is more appropriate to a Commencement matter debate.

Senator Brennan spoke about tourism and called for a recognition of the role of voluntary activists and community workers in tourism, which is an important point.

Senator Bradford asked about the Technological Universities Bill, with which I have dealt.

Senator Walsh raised the anniversary of the first election and called for a debate on housing. The Leader, Senator Cummins, gave a full response to a question earlier this week on housing, a number of us having looked for a debate on the subject. There is a great deal of work going on at present to ensure we deal with the very serious crisis of homelessness. In particular, the current funding allocation for emergency accommodation for homeless people was increased in budget 2016 by an additional €17 million, bringing Exchequer support up to €70 million, an increase of 56% since 2014. Many initiatives have been taken. In 2015, over 13,000 units were delivered across all social housing programmes, representing an 86% increase from 2014, and the target for 2016 is to deliver over 17,000 units. A very ambitious social housing programme is in place but, as anyone who saw the television programme on Monday night will know, there is still a very serious problem and we need to move very swiftly on it. I will look for that debate and Senator Cummins has already done so.

Senator Crown referred to the failure to reform the health service as a disappointment. He would acknowledge that there have been massive reforms, notwithstanding the failure to bring in the universal health insurance system that was hoped for. There have been massive reforms in the provision of free GP care for children and the elderly, very significant changes in hospital governance and in primary care investment. He also raised the issue of Private Members' Bills and we can look for time next week to bring forward any Private Members' Bills that are still on the Order Paper.I urge the Senator not to lose heart. In 2011, at the last election, I had a Private Member's Bill on the Order Paper, the Bill to prohibit female genital mutilation. I am happy to say that it was restored to the Order Paper by the Government in 2011 and is now in force.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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Senator Bacik was a Government Senator.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I was not at the time the election was called. There is hope for these Bills. Senator Byrne spoke about homelessness, which I think I have dealt with.

I cannot accept the amendment Senator Crown put forward.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator David Norris has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 1 be taken with debate". Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 24.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and David Norris; Níl, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Crown has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Health on the cancellation of elective surgery in Cork University Hospital be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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Tá sé.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 25.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Thomas Byrne and John Crown; Níl, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins..

Amendment declared lost.

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 11.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Aideen Hayden and Michael Mullins; Níl, Senators Sean D. Barrett and David Norris..

Question declared carried.