Seanad debates

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

10:30 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, Public Transport Bill 2015 - all Stages, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 4 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair; No. 81, Private Members' business, motion 18, to be taken at 4 p.m., with the time allocated to this debate not to exceed two hours; No. 2, Horse Racing Ireland Bill 2015 - all Stages, with Second Stage to be taken at 6 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, that of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, the Minister to be given five minutes to reply and Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter.

Immediately following the Order of Business there will be tributes to former Senator Brian Friel, and I propose that these tributes last a maximum of one hour and that each Senator does not exceed fives minutes in his or her contribution.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I welcome Mr. Esmond Birnie. He is a former MLA for Belfast South. He is very welcome to the Visitors Gallery.

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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We also welcome Mr. Esmond Birnie to the House.

Today the anticipated banking inquiry report will be launched, and I wish to be afforded a brief moment to say a few words about it. We will have the opportunity tomorrow evening to debate the outcome of the report in the House but I wish to say at the outset that I was glad to have the opportunity to be involved in it and to work with Senator O'Keeffe, Senator Michael D'Arcy and Senator Barrett. I thank specifically my own colleagues, Senator Bradford and Senator Norris, for their support for my nomination to participate in the inquiry. At the time - not to open old wounds - we had an unseemly issue in the House where there was an attempt to have a different membership of the committee from that determined by the committee of selection. Over the last two years or so the people on the inquiry have worked very hard in trying to produce today's report, which, it must be said, was done against a backdrop of an Act that was totally inadequate. I hope that the Houses and the next administration in particular will take on board the many recommendations of the report in the context of what needs to be done to ensure that no inquiry is hampered in the way that this one has been over the course of the last number of years in terms of its ability to make findings, its investigative abilities and so on.

It is worth noting that no Member of either House wore his or her political jersey in the inquiry. However, from a Fianna Fáil perspective, in advance of the inquiry, we called for it to be established in the manner of the Leveson inquiry in the UK, free from the electoral cycle, which, as we all know, ultimately played a part in the somewhat rushed finish to the banking inquiry's work. Notwithstanding all of the difficulties relating to the process, the trials going on elsewhere which limited the capacity of the inquiry to carry out its investigative work and the restrictions of the Act itself-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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It is proposed to have a debate on this issue tomorrow-----

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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Yes, nevertheless-----

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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-----and the inquiry has not been published yet-----

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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-----it is a point that I wish to make, and it is worth doing so today.

Some €6 million of the people's money has been spent on this, and I wish to put on the record of the House that, regardless of whether the Seanad continues until the next Seanad election, it should debate the issue of the inadequacies of the Act and in particular the process which the inquiry followed during its earlier stages. I have had concerns about the influence of external bodies on the inquiry process, the way in which a whistleblower's protected disclosure was dealt with and how the Houses of the Oireachtas Service then sought to throw that whistleblower under a bus. That in itself requires an inquiry and an investigation.

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

Photo of Marc MacSharryMarc MacSharry (Fianna Fail)
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Notwithstanding all that, I welcome the publication of the report this afternoon. It forms a reasonable body of work that reflects the public hearings, notwithstanding the imperfections I have outlined. People will have the opportunity to outline their views in tomorrow evening's debate.

Between now and the Seanad election I believe the House could usefully investigate the second issue I mentioned in connection with the process, the whistleblower, the protected disclosure and the influence of external bodies in earlier stages.

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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Like all of us, I am sure, I also look forward to the publication today of the report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. I know we will have an opportunity to debate it tomorrow. Many colleagues will be looking at the process of conducting the inquiry and recommendations that apparently will be in the report as to how the legislation could be improved to ensure the processes are more efficient and streamlined. I commend the four Senators on the committee of inquiry along with their colleagues in the Dáil on all their hard work. Preliminary reports indicate that it is very critical of the ECB, the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank. We will have time to debate that tomorrow.

I hope we will debate not only what led to this banking crash, but also mechanisms to ensure that a crash of this sort does not happen again, looking in particular at the linkage between regulatory law and criminal law. Perhaps not enough attention is paid to that. I am conscious that the Law Reform Commission is currently seeking submissions on the issue with a view to the possibility of introducing new criminal offences, such as that introduced in the UK in 2013, the offence of recklessness leading to a decision causing a bank to fail, and such as the practice of deferred prosecution agreements in the US whereby co-operation of individuals working in banking is sought and obtained in return for an agreement to defer any prosecution.

We also need to consider the possible prosecution of a crime of financial treason, which was suggested by some Labour Party colleagues at the time of the crash. This issue should be explored along with the text and recommendations of the banking inquiry report.

I remind colleagues that Senator Cahill is hosting an event in Buswell's Hotel at 1 o'clock today to which all are invited. It is a briefing from three organisations working on the front line of supporting victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. They are the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four and Women's Aid.

I commend Senator Noone who yesterday on the Commencement raised the issue of a no-fry zone. This is an issue that is getting a great deal of support, particularly from parents. It seeks new planning regulations to ensure that chip shops cannot be located within 500 m of a school. This is part of a drive for healthier living and healthier eating among children in order to tackle the very worrying levels of obesity. I commend the Senator on raising it and lend my support to the many parents' groups supporting the no-fry zone campaign.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Due to the publication of the report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis, I am yielding to my colleague, Senator Barrett.

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent)
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I join the Cathaoirleach in welcoming Esmond Birnie, a former MLA for South Belfast. On the day when we are looking forward to the publication of the report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis, it is interesting that the advice of Mr. Birnie was that the design faults of the euro made it a currency that he advised the authorities in Northern Ireland not to join. It is purely coincidental that he is here today, but his words will have a certain resonance.

As Senator MacSharry said, all the members of the committee of inquiry co-operated. I thank Members for the nominations the House gave to the four of us. The Senate was well represented. We dealt with widespread institutional failure in Dublin, Brussels and Frankfurt. The final witness we had was the Minister, Deputy Noonan, who said he was warned that burden sharing would result in a bomb going off in Dublin.

Would the banks do the same all over again? I believe that concern is inherent in what Senator Bacik said. The kind of regulation of banks that the new Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Philip Lane, explained to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday will be very important in the years ahead. I fear that without a strong line being held by Professor Lane, the banks would do exactly the same all over again and I worry about the newspaper property supplements getting increasingly bigger. There must be other ways for the economy to prosper than by buying and selling each other's houses.

I express condolence to the family of Alex Ryan from Millstreet. He was the young man who died in Cork last week owing to drugs being present at a party. Yesterday the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, was in the House to deal with anti-drugs legislation pertaining to transport. We must always be vigilant in that regard and support measures to protect our young people. In expressing our condolences to his family, I praise their generosity. Four other people will be alive because of their generosity in donating their son's organs for transplant.

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
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I join colleagues in complimenting Members of this House who participated so actively and played such a major role in the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. The publication of its report today is to be welcomed. As Senator Barrett has said, the report has highlighted widespread institutional failures, both internally and externally. Hopefully, the many recommendations of the report will be implemented, resulting in a much more robust banking sector that will serve the State well. I compliment everyone involved in bringing the report to fruition, albeit with its shortcomings as a result of time constraints.

I welcome yesterday's announcement of the Government's commitment to investment in public nursing homes. A total of 90 facilities will be upgraded and refurbished in the next five years. It is probably the most comprehensive programme of investment in public nursing homes in the history of the State. The plan provides for the replacement of 33 existing facilities and the refurbishment or extension of 57 others. The programme of investment will deliver 215 additional beds in centres being built or refurbished. The 90 facilities between them will have 4,723 beds.

Of some that were in the news in recent times, I particularly welcome that the future of the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon has been secured as a result of the investment commitment. I very much welcome the investment in the community nursing unit in Tuam, following lobbying by the people in east County Galway. It is evidence that the Government intends to bring all the facilities up to HIQA standards by 2021 during the lifetime of the current capital investment programme. We should support the programme and welcome it as a very positive development.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I know the Leader will be supportive of the publication of the national anthem copyright and related matters (amendment) Bill. I would like that item to be taken before No. 1 to give leave for it to be published. I spoke about the matter previously. It is important that anything to do with the State and nation be protected and the national anthem is one of those. I ask for an amendment to the Order of Business in that regard.

I support my colleague, Senator MacSharry, on the banking inquiry report. Many of its findings will make for uncomfortable reading in European Union institutions - its findings in that regard are strong and forthright - but also among the commentariat which had a singular view as to who was responsible for the banking crisis. The narrative needs to change in that regard. In reality we now find that the regulator, the Central Bank and most importantly the banks lied to the people. The banks misled the Government and did not tell the truth.If the truth had been told at the time and if the proper information had been given to the late Minister, Brian Lenihan, and the previous Government, then different decisions would have been made and there would have been a different outcome. The blackmail to which the previous Government and the Irish people were subjected as a result of the treatment visited upon them by the EU will be remembered in Ireland. Members should bear in mind that a day will come when there might be another referendum on the EU and the Irish people will have long memories in that regard. They will not forget our treatment by the EU and there will be long-term consequences because people in this country have lost faith in the European Union as a result of its treatment of us. We were treated as a very small player in a very big financial crisis-----

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Does Senator Daly want an exit strategy?

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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-----but we did not receive equal treatment.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I, too, join with colleagues in complimenting the Members of this House who served on the banking inquiry. I congratulate them on finally managing to publish a report today. Unfortunately, there are so many dissenting voices that the majority report may only reflect minority opinion. It will not tell us anything new or anything we did not know already. We are all well aware of the failings of both the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator. We are also well aware that the inquiry was hamstrung by the legislation under which it was established in not being able to make any findings of fact or recommendations against any individual. That said, I welcome the debate the Leader has arranged on the report. Please God, there will be aspects of the recommendations made that will be useful in the future.

I very much welcome the announcement of the details of the €298 million investment programme for this year for regional and local roads. The funding package will allow approximately 2,000 km of regional and local roads to be maintained and improved during the year. I welcome, in particular, the inclusion in the programme of the long-awaited Dingle inner relief road.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I welcome the publication of the banking inquiry report despite all the hiccups, the threats of legal action, the problems about the date and all the rest of it. I compliment my colleague, Senator Barrett, on his participation in this important report and also the other Members of the Seanad, particularly Senator MacSharry. I was just out of hospital at the time the inquiry was established and it was my vote that put Senator MacSharry onto the inquiry. I did it very deliberately in order to ensure that there was not a Government majority, that the inquiry could not be used for political purposes and that it would be fully independent. I was astonished that the media universally picked up that it was a Fianna Fáil plot. Fianna Fáil was open-mouthed in astonishment when I voted the way I did at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges or whatever committee it was. I would like to put that on the record.

I am really saddened and shocked by the fact that certain documents are being retained out of the public view and that others will be destroyed. That is completely and utterly wrong.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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It is a matter of historical record, and very important for the future, that we should have such documents.

A spin-off from the period investigated by the banking inquiry was the devastating impact on the ordinary people of this country. At the very beginning of the financial crisis, I suggested the establishment of a Minister for home security to look after the interests of Irish citizens in maintaining possession of their homes. However, this was never done. It is a pity it was never done, particularly in the light of a case in Cork about which I heard about a couple of days ago. It is typical of a number of similar cases that have occurred. A woman was a tenant in a house in which she and her husband lived. Her husband had worked all his life but was injured a year ago and is out sick. They have two children and assorted pets, animals and this, that and the other. They had always paid the rent. They were in receipt of rent supplement and the rent was slightly higher so they paid the difference themselves. They were tenants in good standing. There was no blemish on their record but there was a dispute between the landlord and the banks and now the banks are having the family evicted onto the side of the road. That is utterly shocking. There is all this blather about 1916 and all the rest of it. Evictions had ceased in Ireland by 1916 but they have been reintroduced with the support of this Government.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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That is absolutely shameful. Something should be done. Legislation should be introduced so that if there is a dispute between the bank and a landlord, a tenant in good standing should have his or her rights supported by the State.

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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Like other Members who have spoken on the banking inquiry, I congratulate all of the Senators who put in more than 400 hours' work, including during holiday periods and the summer recess. They have put in the effort. The result might not be exactly what everybody wants because we would all like to see inquiries being able to make findings of fact more than recommendations. Senator Barrett has issued a separate paper which would make good reading. I will bring it to the attention of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party because I respect his views. His approach is preferable to those who jump up and down about the inquiry and say that it should have done something that it could not possibly do because, at every turn, the hands of members were tied behind their backs as a result of threats of legal or other action. I accept that we must have a separation of powers between the State and the Judiciary but I believe it would be good if we could make available more powers for internal inquiries such as the banking inquiry. That is something the next Government should consider.

I rise today to bring to the attention of the House a problem that has arisen with the mosquito. Members might not think that we have mosquitoes in Ireland but we do and it has been found that the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause birth defects. The virus was previously confined to South American countries but a new case has been found in Denmark and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued an alert because three cases have also been identified in the UK. With the summer Olympics coming up in Brazil, everybody should be warned, especially women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant, who travel on holidays or for work reasons to countries in South America. The virus can survive in water under plants and can cause birth defects. Recently, more than 1,000 babies have been born with microcephaly in the countries affected. A person in Denmark is currently being treated. There is no cure but the condition can be prevented. Caution is advised. I raise this issue because there are mosquitoes in Ireland. I do not intend to scare people, because the Zika virus in not present in this country, but there are three cases of the virus in the UK and citizens should be on the alert and make sure when they travel that they have protection against mosquitoes.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Go raibh míle maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Tá sé spéisiúil go bhfuilimid ag fáil an tuarascáil ón gcoiste baincéireachta inniu agus failtím roimhe sin, cé go gceapaim go bhfuil go leor laigeachtaí ann.

One thing that will be clear from the report of the banking inquiry is that the citizens of this State were surely fleeced by the banks and the unsecured bondholders. The least we should do is look towards the European Union Solidarity Fund to help to put in place proper storm defences. We have had much debate about flooding in recent weeks but there was very heavy rainfall, in particular in the west, in recent days and the flooding and associated problems have not gone away. I heard about many cases of people who have tried to apply for the humanitarian funds available through the Department of Social Protection who are having great difficulty with that. They are being asked to jump through an awful lot of hoops and to provide a significant amount of paperwork. I am informed that the process can be very cumbersome and even discriminatory in certain instances. We also hear that after having a nice conversation with the Taoiseach about insurance for people in areas that are subject to flooding, the insurance industry has said it will not bother doing anything about the matter.I appreciate that we are in the dying days of this Seanad and Parliament. However, we should ask for an update from the Government on what it is going to do about an application to the EU Solidarity Fund to relieve flooding in the places where it has occurred and also to put in place proper storm defences to ensure coastal erosion will not happen in the future. We must ensure we do the work required during the year rather than wait for another winter storm. We also need to know what can be done under the humanitarian fund to make sure it will be much easier for people who have endured great distress to access it to obtain the funding they need to restore their homes. There is also the question of what the Government is going to do about the insurance industry. It needs to take it to task to make sure it will also do its bit to ensure houses can be insured into the future.

Photo of Mary Ann O'BrienMary Ann O'Brien (Independent)
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I want to talk again today about the EPA. Section 15 of the Environmental Protection Act 1992 provides for the immunity of the EPA, while section 16 provides for the indemnification of the director general, directors and other persons in it. In its in-depth review in 2010 the EPA stated doubts had been expressed about the constitutionality of this immunity and whether it was compatible with obligations arising under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Commissioner, Mr. Phil Hogan, also said this immunity should be lifted. The Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan, very kindly came to the House at the end of the debate on the miscellaneous Bill last July and assured me and other Members that the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government had confirmed to her that the Department would expedite the completion of the current review and that a comprehensive report on this vital subject would be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas within 90 days of its commencement - 4 November. There has been no such report presented. The term of this Seanad is coming to an end and I am very disappointed something so serious was said by the Minister of State, yet I cannot get the Minister to react.

There are people in Aughinish who are miserable. Only recently I heard from a man in Spanish Point, where the EPA has granted Clare County Council a licence to open a wastewater treatment plant. Can the Cathaoirleach imagine what it would be like if it was his house? In October, for the eighth time, raw sewage was running down the road, but because there has been an ongoing dispute, the EPA will not fix the problem. Let the Cathaoirleach picture himself by the Shannon Estuary. The ESB's coal-fired station at Moneypoint, County Clare, is one of the 662 most damaging industrial plants across Europea, according to the report of the European Environment Agency; Aughinish Alumina is in second place; while at the top of the triangle there is an incinerator in disguise, a gasification plant planned for the old dump at Gortadroma. If Senator John Whelan was here, he could tell us about the "Prime Time" exposé on the plant in Portlaoise. Every Senator will have witnessed such environmental incidents in his or her county or constituency. Air quality is becoming a big subject for us and will continue to be in the future.

It was stated in the House that the Minister would come to both Houses to present the report mentioned, which was due to be presented on 4 November. Monday is 1 February. May I, please, have an answer?

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I second the amendment proposed to the Order of Business that the National Anthem Bill 2016 be taken today. I support Senator Mark Daly's initiative. I also suggest the decision of the Government on the expiration of copyright in 2014 led to an inquiry by a Department to the Irish Music Rights Organisation, which controls copyright in this country, and a request for further clarification. I understand the response from IMRO was that it recommended that copyright on the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, be reintroduced in perpetuity. Therefore, the Government should move to protect the integrity of the anthem. I hope this legislation which is simple but would be effective in its execution and content will be accepted by the Government without delay to ensure we protect the integrity of the anthem. It is no mean proposal. It is to ensure the anthem will not in any way be besmirched. I have pleasure, therefore, in seconding the amendment.

I also propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that Second Stage of the Corporate Manslaughter Bill 2011 be taken today. This legislation was recommended by the Law Reform Commission. I have no doubt, therefore, that it is a Bill the Government will accept.

Photo of John KellyJohn Kelly (Labour)
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I support Senator Mary Ann O'Brien's contribution. The comprehensive report on the EPA was to be published on 4 November. We request that it be published before the end of next week. We know that once the general election is called, that will be the end of the report and that it will not see the light of day. I agree with much of what Senator Mary Ann O'Brien said. In 2008, when I was a county councillor, I said it was either the air or the water that was causing causing and I still believe it today. That is why it is very important that this comprehensive report be published.

I raise an issue I have been raising for five years, namely, medical cards. It is still very difficult today for somebody to receive a medical card. There are all kinds of problem when a person rings the Primary Care Reimbursement Service, PCRS. Everything is grand if the person submits the required documentation and does not leave anything out and he or she will receive a decision in about two weeks. However, if he or she leaves out even one document, the PCRS will send notification that it is required. However, when it is sent, it goes to a different person. Then, when we make representations on the issue, somebody from the PCRS will ring us, but it is not the same staff member with whom the applicant has been dealing. I am dealing with one case in which I had been trying to explain to one PCRS staff member that the family in question were dealing with gambling issues, something about which the PCRS would not know. However, the next time I looked for further information on the case, I had to deal with somebody else. I have now dealt with five staff members. All of the documentation has been sent, yet last week I was told that the PCRS still required more. I sent the whole lot again and I am now told that the PCRS has enough information and that it can look at the case. However, I can guarantee the House that when I ring again next week, somebody else will say all of the documentation required has not been received. When applications for medical cards were dealt with locally, the applicant was dealt with by one person who gathered all of the information required. Now, it seems, information is required all over the place in the PCRS. Everybody has a bit of the application and there is no one to join everything up. It is a serious matter and the Minister needs to sort it out.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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As we come close to the end of term, I have a particular bee in my bonnet which, as the House knows, in the past five years has been veritably buzzing with bees most of the time. I refer to Members who introduce legislation, Private Members' Bills or otherwise, which appears on the Order Paper and then appears to die. The purpose in introducing Bills is that they will become law at some stage. The legislative process is not to be used for any other purpose, although it is sometimes misused. To that end, I have already attempted unsuccessfully to have No. 58 on the Order Paper taken. Today I would like to have No. 57 on the Order Paper, the Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015, debated before this term comes to an end. I know that this is a well meaning and well intended Bill, but it is one which people of a civil libertarian point of view and free speech advocates have been consistently very troubled by because of the potential for abuse, perhaps by a more authoritarian Government than the relatively benign one we have in place.For that reason, as the Bill has come this far in this Parliament, there is an obligation on all of us to see it through if it is really seen as important legislation. If this is the case, let us go ahead and vote it through. If not, let us vote it down. Notwithstanding good intentions and everybody's desire to protect the vulnerable, many representations have been made to me from people who have told me that if correctly applied, existing legislation could provide the protection that is necessary and that there is the potential for abuse and the squelching of dissent within this Bill. I took some fairly substantial criticism, some of it online, when I advocated this position when this Bill was first introduced some months ago. I could have used this Bill to protect myself from some of this but I would not do so. Freedom of speech is part of the deal with a democracy. Part of the deal with free speech is that we hear things we do not want to hear. People have the freedom to say things that I might not necessarily agree with. For all of those reasons, I have been asked by people who are free speech advocates to make sure there is one ringing attempt before this Oireachtas is over to have a proper debate on this Bill and to either see it through or see it off. That is why I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 57 be taken before No. 1.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to address No. 79, motion 19, a non-Government motion on the Order Paper. For some reason, some of the names of Senators on the Government side, who agree with it, are not on it. That is due to an administrative error on our part and I apologise to colleagues who support it but are not listed. I hope all sides can support No. 79, motion 19. The Irish Wind Energy Association is using the words of former US President, John F. Kennedy, when he addressed the Houses of the Oireachtas in a television advertisement. It is extraordinary that any commercial entity can do that. The wind industry is particularly contentious at the moment and for it to use the words of anybody in these Houses or any special guest or foreign dignitary in these Houses in television advertising is completely undignified, wrong and an abuse.

The motion calls on the Irish Wind Energy Association to cease using those words and on the Seanad to take action to amend its Standing Orders to prevent this happening in the future. I do not know whether this issue has been addressed previously. Clearly, what is said in the Houses is on the record but it certainly never occurred to me that this record could then be used for any commercial purpose, so I hope the Government will find a way to support this or to indicate that action could be taken.

I second Senator Mooney's amendment to the Order of Business concerning the Corporate Manslaughter Bill 2011 but I propose another amendment to the Order of Business that we deal with this issue. Will the Irish Wind Energy Association stop winding people up by using the words of John F. Kennedy, which were made in a much more inspirational, important and sacred context than that of the Irish Wind Energy Association? I seek support for this motion to be taken but also ask the Irish Wind Energy Association to take heed of what has been said by Members of this House about the issue.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Is Senator Byrne moving an amendment to the Order of Business?

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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Yes, I am. I propose that No. 79, motion 19, be taken today. I also second Senator Mooney's amendment.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I offer the Cathaoirleach my deepest apologies for forcing him to adjourn this House last night. During my time here, he has more than facilitated me in providing me with speaking time and treating me with the level of fairness that, unfortunately, has not come from everybody in this House. I thank him for that. I realise that unlike the rest of us here, the Cathaoirleach is constrained in what he can say and do but will face the same electorate as the rest of us. I am deeply grateful to him for the respect he has shown me in this House.

I second Senator Crown's amendment to the Order of Business. Could the Leader ask the Taoiseach to ensure that when he calls the election, polling day is a day that suits the young people of Ireland, students who are hundreds of miles away from home? Either colleges should close or voting should be on a Saturday.

I have been asked by Councillor Joe Bonner to thank Senator Byrne for raising a particular matter this morning. It concerned environmental issues, particularly in County Meath. The Senator made it perfectly clear that he was very unhappy with the answers he received this morning. Councillor Bonner asked me to tell the Senator that there is another public meeting tonight to which he is invited.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I do not think Senator Craughwell needs the Seanad to communicate those messages.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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On a point of information, my office was in direct contact with Councillor Bonner but I thank Senator Craughwell.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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There is no point of information.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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Last night, we did not crown ourselves in glory in this House. What went on here was an outrage. Every speaker who spoke on the motion, or should I say, the statements, spoke about the amendment I put down to the motion, which related to the representational payment and allowances of councillors, their treatment under PRSI, sick pay, pension entitlements, etc. Perhaps we should take a vote on the entire motion, including the amendment, and do the people we serve some justice by giving them something from what happened last night because what happened left none of us in glory. It was outrageous.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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In your opinion.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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It is not just my opinion.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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For the record, Senator Craughwell referred to the Fianna Fáil group in this House to which he attached his name.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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The motion was not discussed. Statements were taken in the House last night. We are not discussing yesterday's motion today.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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I am not talking about the motion referred to by Senator Mooney. I am talking about my amendment to the motion.

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

Photo of Caít KeaneCaít Keane (Fine Gael)
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They were on the table long before the Senator came here.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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If Senator Keane did not-----

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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Two reports were published by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine this morning. One was a comprehensive report on the greyhound industry while the other was a report on the horse racing industry. I welcome a number of stakeholders from horse racing here this morning. They include Mervyn Clarke from the Cavan Equestrian Centre and his friend and colleague, Martin Gaffney. They are friends of Senator Wilson who has an interest in the report. The industries obtain approximately €55 million under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund so it is important that the Oireachtas scrutinises that. No doubt, we will have a debate on those reports in due course.

I second Senator Byrne's amendment to the Order of Business regarding the use of the words of former US President, John F. Kennedy, in an advertisement for economic gain by the Irish Wind Energy Association. I think it is shameful and wrong and should be pulled from the airwaves immediately. If the Irish Wind Energy Association has any conscience, it will do that forthwith by instructing the platforms to withdraw that advertisement.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business concerning the EU Scrutiny and Transparency in Government Bill 2013. This is a very important area. An OECD report commissioned on behalf of the Houses of the Oireachtas published before Christmas identified Oireachtas oversight responsibilities and shortcomings in that area in terms of budgetary oversight. It also looked at European scrutiny of legislation which is impacting this member state. Generally speaking, 97% of all the laws made in Brussels that impact on this State go unscrutinised through the parliamentary committee system because of time constraints on committee work and the workload of committee members. A review of the way we carry out our political business would be a major step in the right direction. This Bill should be accepted, so I propose that we take it today.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I join with other Senators in complimenting our colleagues in the Seanad who served on the banking inquiry.They did Trojan work, as did Members from the Lower House. It shows how important the Members of this House are to the democratic process. They were not in any way outshone by Members of the Lower House. My office is just a few doors away from Senator MacSharry's and I witnessed the amount of work he put in to the inquiry along with his staff, particularly Mr. Aidan O'Connor.

I look forward to reading the inquiry's report in due course, perhaps in my retirement, but I wish to comment upon it now. The Financial Regulator and the Central Bank obviously come in for quite a bit of criticism, which, I believe, is justifiable. One of the big scandals which I criticised at the time was that the head of the financial regulatory authority walked away with €600,000. We need to bring culpability into our public service, particularly for people who are on exceptionally high six-figure salaries. If a dereliction of duty occurs in the private sector - no matter at what level but especially at that of CEO - the individual involved would be dismissed and replaced. We need to get that culture into the public sector in order to improve performance levels in key areas. We have paid a huge price for this omission.

I am sure the report will cover the appalling decision made by the European Central Bank to take the side of bondholders over the interests of Irish taxpayers. I pay tribute to Senator Barrett. I read his very good and clearly set out minority comments regarding the report. The report, and the Senator's comments, are worthy of debate in this House. Even if the election is called next Tuesday, I hope the House will sit for three days next week to hold a debate on the banking inquiry and a badly-needed debate on housing. That would form part of an input into policy formulation for the incoming Government.

I agree with Senator Daly. If there was an EU treaty referendum in the morning, regardless of its subject matter, there would be major difficulties in getting the public to support it. The banking crisis has left a legacy of hostility toward the EU and it has not come out of the situation in any sort of good light. Even at this late stage, I ask that an attempt at burden-sharing be made. There is no reason the Irish taxpayer should be singled out from all the taxpayers in Europe to take on the burden of what ultimately became the saviour of the euro currency.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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I second Senator Ó Domhnaill's amendment to the Order of Business. I pay tribute to members of the banking inquiry which is publishing its report today and especially the Members of this House, Senators Barrett, D'Arcy, O'Keeffe and MacSharry. They did tremendous work to ensure the publication of the report today. I want that put on the record of the House.

Could the Leader clarify, through his good offices, how money is allocated towards those who were victims of recent floods over the Christmas period and since? I understand that the Irish Red Cross has been designated to deal with the allocation of grants to those poor, unfortunate people. However, I also understand that unless a person is a ratepayer, he or she is not entitled to any compensation through the fund administered by the Irish Red Cross. I am aware there is another hardship fund which is operated through the Department of Agriculture but, for the Government's information, there are people who live in rural Ireland who are not farmers. Could the Leader clarify where these people stand? They live in rural areas but do not pay rates because they are not businesspeople. They are not farmers and do not qualify for the hardship fund from the Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, for personal reasons I was not able to attend the House for the statements on the motion on local government. I applaud the all-party approach. If some people try to break from the all-party-and-none approach then it is unfortunate. It is the county councillors of this State who are in need of all our assistance and solo runs from anybody in this House or outside it is of no benefit. There may be short-term gain for some Members of this House or the Lower House but the focus should be on ensuring that councillors who represent their local communities, and who are our electorate, are the beneficiaries of a much-needed and long-overdue package that can be achieved for them.

I join Senator Ó Domhnaill in welcoming to the Public Gallery Mr. Mervyn Clarke and Mr. Martin Gaffney, friends of mine and businessmen in my local town.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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I welcome Mr. Barry McIntyre to the Public Gallery, a senior lecturer in the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I compliment Senators MacSharry, O'Keeffe, Barrett and D'Arcy on their Trojan work with the banking inquiry. They did the House proud and we look forward to the report. This House and the Lower House will today table simultaneous motions to allow publication of the report. I have heard the remarks made by Senators on the report. I cannot comment because the report has not yet been published. Senators will forgive me if I do not comment on the remarks they made on the report, particularly in view of the fact that it has not been published and the motions to publish it have not yet been passed by both Houses. I am endeavouring to arrange a debate on the banking inquiry tomorrow. I believe the Lower House will also be discussing it tomorrow and it is fitting that this House should debate the inquiry on the same day. I will revert to Members on the matter tomorrow.

Senator Bacik made reference to the Commencement debate by Senator Noone yesterday during which he called for new planning regulations relating to a no-fry zone around schools. She said she had received a number of representations from people on the matter of chip-shops' proximity to schools and so on. I am sure this is a matter that will be considered in the future in the context of any new planning regulations to be published.

Senator Barrett expressed his condolences to the family of the young man who died in Cork as a result of a drug overdose. The Senator suggested we may need further drug legislation to deal with this problem. It is dreadful. Young people who are going to college for the first time certainly have to be vigilant in terms of the company they keep and in taking any substance that might damage them. It is very regrettable that we have witnessed the death of a very young man in these circumstances.

Senator Mullins welcomed the investment of some €147 million in public nursing homes. It is welcome that 4,723 extra beds are to be brought up to HIQA standards. People will be able to go in to state-of-the-art facilities and acute hospital beds will be freed up. My own city of Waterford has been waiting for this for some time and I see there is a €20 million investment planned for St. Patrick's Hospital.

Senator Daly asked about proposing an amendment to the Order of Business in respect of the publication of a Bill relating to the copyright to the national anthem.I have no problem in accepting the amendment proposed to the Order of Business seeking publication of the Bill. I note that four or five amendments have been proposed to the Order of Business to have Bills taken, each of which I will deal with as I move through my response to Senators' contributions.

Senator Paul Coghlan welcomed the increase in funding for local and regional road infrastructure projects throughout the country, particularly the Dingle inner relief road which is long overdue. I understand the Minister will at a later date make an additional allocation to repair roads damaged by flooding.

Senator David Norris called for the appointment of a Minister with specific responsibility for home security. He highlighted a particular case in that regard. I am sure it is a matter the next Taoiseach will consider.

Senator Cáit Keane called for vigilance in treating bites by mosquitoes, which can cause birth defects in babies. This is an issue on which persons travelling abroad, in particular, should read up.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh spoke about problems posed by flooding that is clearly still evident in parts of the west. He also called for investment in the provision of flood defences. The Government has set aside a considerable amount of money for this purpose in coming years.

Senator Mary Ann O'Brien spoke about the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. She is correct that a report due for publication by the EPA on 4 November last has still not been published. If she gives me the details, I will raise the matter with the Minister. If a report was to be published, I see no reason it should not have been published at this stage.

Senator Paschal Mooney supported Senator Mark Daly's amendment on the taking of the Bill dealing with copyright on the national anthem. The Senator also proposed an amendment to the Order of Business to have the Corporate Manslaughter Bill 2011 taken today. I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Senator John Kelly spoke about the continued difficulties in the Primary Care Reimbursement Service, PCRS, in dealing with medical card applications. I suggest to the Senator that if he has knowledge of a particular case, he should table it for discussion as a Commencement matter.

Senator John Crown also proposed an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 57, Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill, be debated. I understand the Bill was drafted by Senator Lorraine Higgins and, as such, it is up to her to indicate whether it it should be proceeded with. In her absence, I do not propose to accept Senator John Crown's amendment to the Order of Business.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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On a point of clarification, is Senator Lorraine Higgins in the building?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I do not know.

Senator Thomas Byrne called for a debate today on non-Government motion No. 19. While I am sympathetic to his request, I understand there is no legal impediment to the Irish Wind Energy Association using the wording concerned. I will check the matter, following which, perhaps, we might take the motion next week.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell spoke about the date of the general election and the need to take students into consideration in that regard. That is a matter above my pay scale. It is a matter for the Taoiseach to set the date of the general election.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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The Leader could raise the issue with him.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is solely a matter for the Taoiseach.

In regard to the business conducted yesterday, I was very upset by Senator Gerard P. Craughwell's allegation that the debate on the motion was held earlier in order to cod or fool him. He was not present in the House yesterday for the Order of Business.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Senator was only present for part of it. If he had been here for it in its entirety, he would have known that it was amended to allow the motion to be taken immediately following conclusion of the debate on Second Stage of the Credit Guarantee (Amendment) Bill 2015.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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That is what the House agreed to.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business was further amended at a later stage, at which time Senator Gerard P. Craughwell was also not present.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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As the Leader well knows, we cannot be here all of the time. What time did the-----

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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If the Senator had not been present for the Order of Business in its entirety, he should not have commented on matters that had been agreed to at the time. He should not act as an arbiter at all times or as though he is the correct person. He also engaged in time wasting yesterday evening.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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At what time was the Supplementary Order Paper issued?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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The Senator should tell the truth about the Order of Business rather than suggesting the order in which business was taken was wrong. That would be a better way to deal with the matter.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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Was a Supplementary Order Paper issued?

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I am glad that the Senator brought up the matter as it enabled me to clarify the position. We all welcome the all-party approach adopted to the motion.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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Leave me alone with the all-party rubbish.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill called for a debate on the EU Scrutiny Bill. He will be aware that the report on Seanad reform by Maurice Manning envisages an input from this House in the scrutiny of EU proposals. I do not propose to accept the Senator's amendment to the Order of Business. I note his point about the reports on the horse racing and greyhound industries which were published this morning. We will have a debate today on the Horse Racing Ireland Bill which I am sure will be welcomed by all Members of the House, as it was in the other House.

Senator Jim Walsh spoke about the banking inquiry report. As I said, I do not propose to comment on a report which has not yet been published.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson spoke about flooding and inquired about the package of benefits available for non-ratepayers. He might consider tabling the issue for debate as a Commencement matter, at which time he would receive a full answer from the Minister concerned.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Mark Daly has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 15 be taken before No. 1." The Leader has indicated that he is prepared to accept the amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Paschal Mooney has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 18, Corporate Manslaughter Bill 2011, be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 13; Níl, 27.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator John Crown has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 57, the Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015 - Committee Stage, be taken before No. 1." Is the amendment being pressed?

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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Yes. One cannot have it both ways. It is the Government's Bill and if the Senators think it is important to pass it into law then I say votáil.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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Amendment put.

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)
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Enjoying as I am the spectacle of watching Government Members oppose their own Bill, like Frank Underwood, I am going to ask for a walk through vote. Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 27.



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

Amendment declared.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Thomas Byrne has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, “That No. 79, motion 19, be taken today.” Is the amendment being pressed?

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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Yes. I thought the Government was going to support this.

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 25.



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

Amendment declared lost.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
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Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, “That No. 41, EU Scrutiny and Transparency in Government Bill 2013 - Second Stage (resumed), be taken today.” Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 23.



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

Amendment declared lost.

Question, "That the Order of Business, as amended, be agreed to", put and declared carried.