Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on mental health, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 2.30 p.m., with contributions from all Senators not to exceed six minutes; No. 2, statements on EU-UK relations, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 4 p.m., with contributions from all Senators not to exceed six minutes and the Minister to have five minutes to reply to the debate; and No. 10, motion 3, to be taken at 4 p.m. with the debate not to exceed two hours.
I wish the boys in green the very best of luck against Italy this evening. The entire nation will be cheering them on and we are all hoping for success.
We are all familiar with the phrase "your health is your wealth" and the importance that those in need of medical assistance receive it in an appropriate and convenient environment. I raise in that context the issue of primary care centres. In 2012, the then Minister for Health, then Deputy and now Senator Reilly, announced 35 primary care centres in locations throughout the country. In a written reply in December 2015, the progress made in getting the primary care centres which the Government had promised just three years earlier can be described as poor at the very best. One of the primary care centres the Minister had committed to building in 2012 was in Crumlin-Drimnagh, in my constituency. The reply received regarding the primary care centre for Crumlin-Drimnagh was, "Planning not completed in timeframe for PPP". This explanation is shocking, that the Government would commit to building a primary care centre and would allow a situation to arise in which the planning was not completed in the timeframe for a public private partnership. It is unacceptable. The residents of Crumlin and Kimmage are not alone. A primary care centre was promised for Knocklyon and Rathfarnham, and the explanation for the fact that it had not progressed was also "Planning not completed in timeframe for PPP". When communities are promised something as important as a primary care centre, it should be honoured, or the basis for not proceeding should be much better than the fact that planning was not completed in a certain timeframe. It should not be the case that these announcements are done as a public relations stunt for the relevant Minister or Department and are then forgotten about. I call on the Minister for Health to review the 2012 commitments made and provide an honest appraisal of what progress has been made, what progress he expects to be made over the coming years and what primary care centres announced in 2012 will be progressed.
I am disappointed that we continue to engage in debates that are classed as statements. Surely we must have some work that we could be doing other than standing here. The House has long been accused of hot air, and statements do not do much to move anything forward. Legislation has been lying over since the previous Seanad, and we could probably examine it.
Yesterday morning I listened to the radio and, once again, heard the prison class - the perpetual prisoners who go through the revolving doors - talking about how they would not pay fines given that they knew they would be sent to Portlaoise or Mountjoy and could get a taxi home after having lunch, having been sentenced to three months in prison.We might, therefore, dedicate a little time with the relevant Minister to debate how we might find a solution to this outrageous problem. It is sickening for those who have had their houses broken into or been assaulted by the people concerned who are refusing to pay fines because they know that they will get three months in jail and be out in one hour. Surely we must be able to do something productive about this problem.
Ba mhaith liom chomh maith gach ádh a ghuí ar fhoireann na hÉireann agus iad ag imirt in aghaidh na hIodáile anocht. Tá údar misnigh agus dóchais againn agus tá súil againn go ndéanfaidh na leaids an-jab agus go n-éireoidh go geal leo san imirt anocht.
I also draw the attention of the Leader to the motion we put on the Order Paper recently about the committee on Seanad political reform. We had hoped it would be moved on very quickly. We saw a Dáil committee being set up almost immediately to consider reform of the way in which the Dáil functioned. We have been calling for this to happen in the Seanad and for the 42 newly elected Seanadóirí to be part of that process. We understand, obviously, that other groupings have asked for different debates on Seanad reform, but the fact that we want a committee to be set up which would include not more than 20 other Members of the Seanad and the Cathaoirleach to consider this issue is extremely important. It is important that we be seen to take leadership on the issue of Seanad reform. It was never intended to be a committee that would go on ad nauseam. We envisage a finite timescale of a few weeks in order that reviews of Standing Orders could be undertaken. It is quite clear to me from speaking to everybody, all Senators, old and new, that there is a sense that we really need to review Standing Orders as quickly as possible to do whatever we can within our remit through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, etc. I will not, therefore, call for an amendment to the Order of Business at this point, but I may do so tomorrow if we do not have some clarification as to when the motion might be debated and moved forward.
I also call for a debate on the fishing industry in Ireland. I note that my colleague, Liadh Ní Riada, MEP, has met the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Michael Creed, on the issue of super trawlers. She has raised the possibility of banning them from our waters because of the impact they are having on the domestic industry and the fact that there is a sense that there is very little regulation and that they do not seem to be inspected as much as those in the indigenous industry. There was also an Oireachtas joint committee report on sustaining rural and coastal communities which made some fantastic recommendations on fisheries and the maintenance of rural communities. It had cross-party agreement and is something we could bring forward and discuss again. The issue of fisheries agus cúrsaí iascaireachta ar fud an chósta would, therefore, be the subject of a very important debate for us to have as soon as possible.
Yesterday the Select Committee on Arrangements for Budgetary Scrutiny met the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. It was interesting that there was a discussion on the commitment in the programme for Government to equality-proofing and gender-proofing of the budgetary process. In the commitment to new politics about which we have been hearing one of the key matters is reform of the way in which budgets are compiled, as well as the budgetary process, of which the commitment to equality-proofing and gender-proofing is part. I again ask the Leader to make sure this House will have a role to play in contributing to that new process and the shaping of a stronger commitment to equality and gender-proofing within the budgetary process. I am keen to know how he might see this House contributing to that process. I also ask him to recommend that the National Women's Council of Ireland which, of course, has key expertise in gender-proofing be involved in this regard. We have seen in the health sector which has been discussed in this House this week that pilot health schemes have shown positive outcomes for men and women when a gender analysis is brought to bear. Again, these measures would be very useful in the budgetary process.
I also urge the House to consider the role it might play in strengthening the application of the public duty on equality and human rights, something all Departments are required to implement, again as part of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission's founding legislation. I would like to see if it could be attached to the legislation. We have new legislation going through the House and it would be useful to see how it has been considered in terms of the public duty on equality and human rights. I echo what my colleague Senator Gerard P. Craughwell said about the idea that while statements were positive, we needed to move to deal with legislation.
We will be debating UK-EU relations later this week. I commend "our fans" who have done a lot to promote Irish-EU relations in the past few weeks and wish our team well in the match this evening.
The two issues I wish to address are of environmental concern and require legislation. I would welcome legislation to deal with both.
The first issue I wish to address is that of Japanese knotweed. It is a dire problem which has been encountered in Europe since the 1800s. It is an issue the Cathaoirleach raised in the House last year. The plant grows at a rate of 8 in. per day. Across Britain it has destroyed houses, causing 200,000 people to move out of their homes and making their houses worthless. In this country, in Kenmare Community Hospital, it cost €100,000 to have it eradicated. The cost of clearing it from the grounds of the London Olympics ran to an astonishing £70 million. It poses a serious threat to the construction industry in this country which is only getting back on its feet. It cannot be burned or eliminated by being cut. It needs a particular intervention, which we are not seeing. For the first time I have seen on the back of the product Roundup, a weedkiller, an application to tackle it. However, we need a national policy to deal with it. We need the Minister to come into the House to discuss the matter and legislate because, as matters stands, it is only due to the goodwill of people working in local authorities, hedge-cutters, etc., that the position is not worse. We also need an awareness and education campaign in order that people can recognise it and will know how to deal with it.
The second issue I want to raise is that of ash dieback, a disease which has only been present in this country since 2006. It is an aggressive disease which is easily spread by airborne spores. A survey in 2013 found that there were 46 cases in Ireland. By the end of 2015 there had been 200 discoveries. The disease is prevalent in two counties, probably the best hurling counties in the country, namely, Tipperary and Kilkenny. Funnily enough, it is also prevalent in County Leitrim, even though hurling is not played there. On a more serious note, the disease could spread across the country and without any intervention will destroy the hurley-making business. I was surprised to discover that 350,000 hurleys were made per year in Ireland, at an average cost of €30 per hurley. That makes it a €10 million industry. We, therefore, need to tackle the spread of the plant. Teagasc has done some work on the issue and held a number of awareness campaigns and public meetings, but the problem is that the Department's reconstitution scheme, as it is called, only protects forestry and foresters. There is no facility to assist the smaller guy who might have planted a small number of ash trees. Therefore, the problem is prone to spread across the country. Yesterday the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Joe Biden, began his visit to this country and, as is the norm, was presented with an ash hurley by the Taoiseach. This week in Limerick, in an intermediate hurling game, six of the players on the field used plastic hurleys. Therefore, if we do not do something about the problem, the next time a Head of State or a vice president comes to the country, it is a plastic hurley he or she will be given instead of one made of ash.
I wish to raise the issue of obesity, on which matter there has been much discussion. Someone approached me recently with a concern about vending machines in hospitals. In one case, the machine was within a short distance of a children's unit. Available in it were all sorts of chocolates, sweets, etc. The message on obesity that we hope to send, in health care facilities in particular, is a positive one. The hospital's excuse for needing a vending machine is that it generates money for the hospital.
Will the Leader ask the Minister for Health to ensure that the HSE conducts an audit of the number of vending machines in hospitals, the incomes they generate and how that income can be replaced? I am not saying that we should rule vending machines out completely, but that they should at least provide food that is healthy and good for patients and visitors. It is of serious concern that we are spending money trying to educate people on obesity on the one hand while on the other providing vending machines that do not supply healthy food for those who need proper care and attention. I ask that this matter be given priority now that there is a little more money available for the health sector. Hospitals should not have to depend on income from this source. If they insist on having machines, a directive should be issued to the effect that any money earned from them revert to the HSE directly rather than to the hospitals themselves.
I join colleagues in wishing our soccer team all the best for tonight. It would be remiss of us not to congratulate our friends north of the Border on their magnificent achievement in qualifying for the last 16. We wish them well. It would be fantastic to have two teams in the quarter-finals. Hopefully, we will have two this time tomorrow. We look forward to the day when only one team represents the island. The quicker that comes, the better.
What has happened shows what we could achieve if we only had one team in the competition.
I wish to say a few words about the overusage of antibiotics. Will the Leader use his good office and invite the Minister to address the House on this issue? Antibiotics were the medical miracle of the 20th century and were used as an essential part of everyday health care treatment. Unfortunately, they have been overused in recent times, being overprescribed at GP and hospital levels, often under pressure from patients. It has happened to such an extent that many bugs have become resistant to them. This issue must be addressed. It has been flagged by the World Health Organization, WHO, which has set alarm bells ringing. We need an awareness or information campaign for the public.
As I left the House last night, I witnessed something opposite the corner of Molesworth Street and South Frederick Street and again on the left at the corner of the green and Dawson Street. The gulls seem to have a voracious appetite and can wreak havoc with their beaks.
Not yet, but I want advice for business owners who are putting out bundles of plastic bags. The birds are destroying the bags with their beaks. I witnessed it at both locations yesterday evening. They would hardly move out of one's way. They are perched on ledges ready to swoop. Litter is being strewn all over the place. We are discussing bin charges and waste management, but this is a terrible situation in our capital city. Senator Norris must be witnessing it as well. Perhaps a repulsive spray can be found if business owners are to continue putting out plastic bags or perhaps they should be encouraged to use wheelie bins, as plastic bags are leaving litter all over the place. I witnessed it last night. It was disgraceful, given that tourists were walking around the place after 11 p.m.
I have no doubt that this item will be covered on "Oireachtas Report". I do not usually watch it, but last night I could not sleep, so I did. There was no sign whatever of Seanad Éireann. It was not mentioned. It might as well not have existed. Will the Leader write to the television people and tell them that, however vapid they may consider our proceedings or regardless of whether they felt in their own judgment that there was nothing of interest, there remains an obligation on them to reflect the full Oireachtas? Seanad Éireann should always be reflected. It is a serious matter when the Seanad is not recorded at all.
It is a pity when there is nothing but statements, as it indicates a lack of intellectual activity, but the House should not blame itself. This is because there was an election and then an hiatus. For nearly six months, there was no effective Government. The Departments took the opportunity to do nothing. No legislation has been generated by them. It is not the fault of the Parliament. This situation is regrettable and should be examined. Departments should be encouraged to continue preparing legislation.
I will introduce a Bill on direct provision next week. Senator McDowell has a Bill on reform of the Seanad. There may be other Bills in the Independent pipeline. At least this side of the House is doing its duty. I hope that these Bills will be treated with respect when they are before the House.
I support the comments of my colleague, Senator Colm Burke, regarding obesity. Similar to this is the eradication of vending machines in schools, in particular those machines that contain junk food. The idea that they are in our hospitals goes against the grain. This is a wider issue. The health service is struggling to supply good health care with relatively small budgets in many instances, but our approach to health is ridiculous in many ways. We must consider the foundation years and take care of people when they are vulnerable. Children in schools could be looked after via vending machines that dispense apples or the like. This would help them realise at a young age that food is fuel and will make them healthy. Vending machines that dispense chocolate bars, crisps and Coke should not be introduced. Everyone loves to have those foods occasionally, but if they are being eaten regularly, they create a significant problem. Senator Colm Burke was right. There is a problem with our general approach to hospitals. This is a major issue and I support the Senator in his call.
I wish to raise the issue of alcohol consumption, harm and costs. Today, a new report by the Health Research Board, HRB, highlighted a large number of statistics that I have before me but that I will not go through on the Order of Business. The impact of alcohol-related issues on our health is serious, although I sound like a killjoy discussing all of these issues on the Order of Business. The report highlighted that the rate of alcoholic liver disease trebled between 1995 and 2013. The report makes various points regarding the impact on our health, of which I will mention a couple.The number of people discharged from hospital whose condition was fully attributable to alcohol increased by 82% between 1995 and 2013, from 9,420 to 17,120. Between 2001 and 2010, one in ten breast cancer cases was attributable to alcohol.
Perhaps the impact of alcohol on the economy will get people to concentrate on the issue a little more. In 2013, alcohol related discharges accounted for 160,210 bed days in public hospitals. Alcohol related issues cost the taxpayer €1.5 billion per annum. I could speak about this issue for an entire day. I ask the Leader to request that the Minister come to the House as soon as possible and progress the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. Minimum pricing will help because there is a clear correlation between the price of alcohol and the amount people drink. Addressing price would be a step in the right direction.
Irrespective of the outcome of this afternoon's debate on the Sinn Féin Private Members' motion, a significant issue arises with regard to brown bins. Under the law, households located in urban conglomerations with a population of more than 1,500 have been required to separate waste since July 2015. As such, all households in such locations have been required for the past year to have brown bins for food and organic waste such as garden cuttings. However, tens of thousands of homes have not been provided with brown bins and cannot, therefore, comply with the law. When asked about this, the waste collection companies frequently state they do not have the capacity to provide brown bins. When they are informed that they are required to provide them, they ask householders to contact their local authority. Householders then discover that their local authority is not enforcing the regulations, which means they cannot comply with the law. In one week from now, many more households in many more towns with a population of more than 500 will find they are not in compliance with the law on brown waste.
Notwithstanding the deal the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties have done to kick this issue down the road for another year, will the Leader ensure the Minister comes to the House to explain how he proposes to address the non-compliance of a large number of householders with the waste regulations and the inability, from next week onwards, of tens of thousands more to comply with the law and make a contribution to our European and internationally agreed environmental targets? If, as appears likely, the Government side proposes to vote against the Sinn Féin Private Members' motion, will the Leader set out what the Government proposes to do to address this serious issue? Will it ensure the necessary infrastructure, including bins, is rolled out as soon as possible or will it amend the statutory instruments from last year and this year to address this issue?
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur fá choinne díospóireacht a bheith againn. I request a debate on the location of the national children's hospital, an issue that has been raised previously in the House. While An Bord Pleanála has made its determination and granted planning permission for the hospital, neither House has debated the location for the new hospital which will require public investment of €1 billion. The D'Alton report of 2012 suggested the cost of building the facility at the St. James's Hospital site would be 25% higher than building it on a greenfield site. These issues of public expenditure issues need to be debated at the Joint Committee on Health and I suggest the Seanad also debate the location selected for the hospital.
Many commentators and experts, including children's organisations and medical experts, have outlined their concerns about this issue and their voices should be heard because not only have they not been heard, but they have been diminished. The reason given by the Health Service Executive and Department for locating the national children's hospital at St. James's Hospital is that it will deliver better clinical outcomes. There is no scientific evidence to back up this claim. Major questions have been asked about this substantial investment of taxpayers' money. The alternative sites available would provide comparable or better clinical outcomes and they should be explored. I call on the Leader, who is familiar with this issue from his previous role as Chairman of the Committee on Health and Children, to facilitate a lengthy debate on the issue in the Seanad and to invite the Minister for Health before the House to answer some questions.
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh, agus tráthnóna maith duit. Ní raibh mé ag dúil le bheith in airde chomh luath seo. Tá cúrsaí sláinte luaite ag a lán daoine le linn na díospóireachta seo ar maidin. Is léir gur ábhar thar a bheith tábhachtach agus thar a bheith leathan atá i gceist i gcomhthéacs na cúrsaí gur féidir linn ardú anseo. I raised this issue yesterday when I had a brief window to do so during statements on health. Given the severity of the issue, however, it is worthy of a much more substantial discussion. Many Senators have raised issues connected with health this morning. To be fair to the Minister and Ministers of State at the Department of Health, they do not appear to be reluctant to come to the House. We should utilise this willingness to the fullest.
Senator Ardagh referred to the phrase, "your health is your wealth". My teacher at Meánscoil Feirste, Brendan Ó Fiach, had the saying written as Gaeilge - is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte - on the blackboard of our classroom. It is very true, as was evident in some of the contributions we heard. The Leader will be aware that the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the North, Michelle O'Neill MLA, recently lifted the MSM blood ban prohibiting gay men from donating blood. Many Senators will have heard the Irish Blood Transfusion Service appeal for blood donations over the summer when donations tend to decline. Given the many issues that have been raised relating to what is, as everyone appreciates, a very broad field, one of the core issues at the heart of the health service is its ability to help people and save lives. This means enfranchising people by enabling them to give the gift of life through blood donations. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Health to come before the House to discuss this issue? The North-South Ministerial Council is due to meet soon. Given the evidence based decision taken by the Minister for health in the North, I hope the Minister for Health here will be able to make a similar decision as we move towards equality and better health care provision in this State.
The Cathaoirleach caught me on the hop. I thank Senators for raising the issue and apologise to Senator Ó Domhnaill for missing his remarks on mortgages and insolvency. I would be pleased to have a debate on those issues.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of health. It was announced recently that 14 new primary care centres were to be built using investment secured through a loan from the European Investment Bank. Under the previous Government, 90 primary care centres came into operation and a further 82 are to be opened. We all agree on the need to expand primary care because it is the most important element of the health system. The Senator will not find anyone willing to argue with her on that issue. She may wish to table a commencement matter on the sites to which she referred. I will also raise the issue with the Minister on her behalf. She is correct that primary care is very important. We must shift the emphasis towards primary care in regard to funding and resourcing and how the population view the issue.
A number of other Senators also raised health issues and I will refer individually to the matters raised by Senators Burke, Noone and Gallagher.
Senators Craughwell, Ó Clochartaigh and Norris raised the issue of reform. This side of the House will not place any obstacles to the progress of legislation on reform of the electoral system or how the House does its business. I have had discussions with Senators on this issue and while we may disagree on the path to achieving reform, we should not erect roadblocks to reform. In terms of the Sinn Féin motion, I hope that we can discuss it at the meeting later. I have no difficulty in discussing and having Seanad reform. I have made the point in this House that we should establish a business committee, similar to the Dáil, whereby we can run business efficiently and effectively. Thus, Members would have their say and we could conduct our business in a better fashion. That is not an issue on our side.
The Sinn Féin motion puts an added and unfair onus on the role of the Cathaoirleach. He is independent of all of us, as the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, but the motion, as presently constituted, does not allow for same. A committee comprised of 20 Members would be too cumbersome and one third of the Seanad is new. The CPP is the vehicle and forum where we can drive change, make amendments to Standing Orders and provides cross representation of all of the House, which is the way we should do things. We should not stipulate timelines that will not and cannot be met.
The Manning report is one that we have all subscribed to. Senator McDowell has moved his Bill. I am happy to allow for his legislation to be taken at a time when we can have the discussion that would bring about change. That is part of the reason I think the Sinn Féin motion is not the way to go forward. In saying that, our side of the House is willing to engage and be active in terms of Seanad reform and how we do business-----
-----and that is something that we will all work to do.
In response to Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, I am happy to raise the issue of poverty proofing and gender proofing of legislation with the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton. I hope that he will attend here for a debate.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of fisheries. I have already spoken to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and he is happy to come to the House, sometime in July, to have a broad discussion on agriculture. On that occasion we can include fisheries in the discussion.
In terms of legislation, if people listened to this morning's debate they would know that the very first act that we took here, apart from the election of the Cathaoirleach, was to restore Bills to the Order Paper. There is a deficit of legislation in the other House. When we talk about new politics one of its by-products is that there is, as mentioned by Senator Craughwell, a lot of hot air and discussion, for the want of an expression. Whether that is positive or negative is a different matter. How we do business and arrive at legislation is one that needs to be looked at by everybody, including the commentariat. One of the positives of pre-legislative scrutiny is that we engage in an in-depth analysis of legislation, which slows the process down. To be fair to Senator Mac Lochlainn, he was a very fine contributor to the justice committee of the last Dáil in terms of pre-legislative scrutiny. There are no kudos for being involved in pre-legislative scrutiny but it is the way to go, as I know from my own position on the Joint Committee on Health and Children. As a House of the Oireachtas, we must acknowledge that legislation will slow down and that the volume of legislation may be less than what existed before.
Senator Landy raised the issues of Japanese knotweed and ash dieback disease. I am happy to invite the relevant Minister to debate both matters in this House but I am not sure whether it comes within the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government or the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
Senators Colm Burke and Catherine Noone raised the important issue of obesity and the availability of vending machines. The HSE's health and well-being division had an expert group on vending and calorie posting carry out work on the matter. The results are important because they show that 37% of us are overweight and 23% of us are obese. We are, as a nation, in danger of seeing premature deaths from obesity and of work hours being lost. Linked to all of that, the findings show that there is a risk that young people, in particular children, will be obese from a younger age and may never leave the category. The former Minister for Health, Senator James Reilly, introduced a vending policy and calorie posting. It is important in the context of a discussion that both Senators Burke and Noone requested, and we should have that discussion. The Department and the HSE has now, as part of their policy, promoted the message that this is about choice so make yours a healthy one, which forms part of the vending machines that are located in hospitals. The Senators were right to raise the matter.
Senator Gallagher also raised the issue of health in terms of over prescription. I agree with him that we need such a debate.
Senator Paul Coghlan raised the issue of seagulls. I do not know who would be the appropriate Minister for such a discussion. The issue relates to matters of health, the environment, tourism and the economic but I am happy to categorise all of those elements into just one.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the "Oireachtas Report". At the risk of causing a row, if we do not give the "Oireachtas Report" items to report then it may not necessarily report them. I agree with him that the "Oireachtas Report" should include all of the Oireachtas, be it the committee, the Dáil Chamber or the Seanad. Yesterday, we had a fine debate on health and we also had statements. This morning some of the newspapers reported that there was a minute's silence in the Dáil for the late Jo Cox but failed to mention that we had the same in the Seanad. That shows there is a need to have a discussion with the press office in the Oireachtas. The Senator made a fair point.
Senator Mac Lochlainn made an interesting and valid point about brown bins. I suggest he raise the matter with the Minister tonight during our debate or table a Commencement matter. The Senator is right that it is an important matter.
Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the issue of the national children's hospital. We have had this discussion since before Bertie Ahern's time to now. An independent review group was established and clearly outlined its choice of location. I was Chair of the Joint Committee on Health and Children and other Members of this House were on the committee. We, as a committee, visited the hospital group and met the board of the national children's hospital. The visit was very positive. The issues have been debated and more issues have been raised about the children's hospital. Independent planning was done by An Bord Pleanála, which refused one site but granted the current site. Similarly, a review group has been established and a site has been located. It behoves us now, in Ireland's first digital hospital and first national children's hospital, is to make sure that the venture is a success. I am sure the Minister is happy to come here to debate the matter. The Senator may not be happy with his response. This has been a well-worn long debated argument. The policy decision was arrived at independently and a final location has been selected.
Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the health issue of blood donation. There has been a change in the blood donation policy in the North, which is welcome. I hope that the Minister for Health in the South will follow suit and make a positive change. We have been involved with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and the matter has been discussed by the health committee. It is important that we have a change and there is equality.
I join with all of the other Senators who have raised the issue in wishing the Irish soccer team good luck tonight. It is important that we get a result, not just for the team but for the well-being of the nation. I also pay tribute to the Irish fans who have been a source of pride to us all.