Thursday, 6 October 2016
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the arrangements for the sitting of the House on Tuesday, 11 October 2016, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re proposal for a Council regulation on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility and on international child abduction, recast, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, motion re appointment of member of the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority, back from committee, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 2; and No. 4, statements on the action plan for education, to be taken at 2 p.m. and conclude not later than 4 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each, and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than 3.55 p.m.
We will not oppose the Order of Business, but we note - it happens in every term - that legislation proposed by Members on both sides of the House is not being progressed in the way it should. I know that the Leader will address the issues we have raised, including corporate manslaughter, the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016 which he has placed on the Order Paper for debate on 19 October and the Bill tabled by my colleague, Senator Terry Leyden, dealing with the registration of wills. We have tabled quite a number of Bills, as have other parties, which could be taken in the House. I know that statements are valuable but legislation is also important.
Next week we will discuss the budget. The very disturbing case of Kifca McNamee from County Meath who has a neurodegenerative disorder was mentioned on the news last night and is in the public domain. She had received assistance for 30 hours, but this figure was cut to 19 hours. She works for the local authorithy in County Meath local and while at work she had received assistance for three hours, but this was cut to 30 minutes, a drop of 83%. She can no longer go out socially and no longer receives physiotherapy. She lives at home with her father, sister and niece. She is not the only one who has been affected, but she is a clear example of how the system works. If Kifca does not receive the assistance she used to receive-----
The alternative to providing the 30 hours of assistance she used to receive, including three hours a day while at work, is that she must be place in residential care which would cost the State ten times as much. I ask that Kifca and all those who are seeing the number of hours being cut receive assistance instead of facing the grim alternative of being placed in care for the rest of their lives. That is not how we should treat citizens in this day and age.
The issue of insurance has arisen again. The State Claims Agency has exposed the insurance companies and the lies they have been telling us about the cost of claims and the level of compensation increasing, as a result of which they are charging more. Since the beginning of year, the cost of insurance has increased by 28%. In the past 12 months it has increased by 34% and since 2014 by 60%. In 2014, according to the records we have available, the amount paid out in compensation to claimants decreased by 36%. We have price gouging by the insurance companies which are profiteering in hiking up insurance premiums. People are going out of business as a result. It is highly unacceptable that the insurance companies seem to be acting as a collective in pushing up premiums. There have also been cases of insurance companies suspending and eliminating life cover or cover for critical illnesses. Critical illness cover refers to five illnesses, including cancer. In one case highlighted yesterday people who had been paying premiums for critical illness cover for ten years were told by a company that cover was being discontinued from November and that they should contact other companies. This is another form of price gouging and profiteering by the insurance industry. People who need cover for peace of mind are having it withdrawn by insurance companies.
We also have the sudden disappearance from the market of insurance companies established in other jurisdictions, for example, Setanta Insurance, which disappeared overnight, leaving 14,000 people without insurance and policyholders left to pick up the tab.
Banking is another financial sector which is subject to regulation and appears to be doing its own thing and profiteering. Ultimately, citizens are losing out and businesses are being affected. People are driving without insurance. By law, the 2.2 million drivers in the State must have insurance. We force them to have it and they should have it, but we are not giving them the protection they require. The Leader has organised debates on this issue before. The State Claims Agency has exposed the fact that insurance companies are not paying out nearly as much as they claim to be. The Government must take action on this issue.
I appeal for an increase in funding for youth work. There are more than 40,000 volunteers in youth work agencies and organisations which do tremendous work with young people. Given the improvements in the economy, this area should receive particular attention, although I accept that money is not available for everything. I would appreciate it, however, if the Minister were to make provision to increase funding for youth work because the value for money received transcends the ratio of return on each euro invested. Youth work has an immeasurable value in communities.
Elderly people more than shared the burden during the economic downturn and must pay many charges. The elimination of the telephone allowance has caused considerable difficulty for them, especially those who live alone. The Government should listen to the request to have the allowance restored, even if it is done in two budgets. One is reminded of the great posters put up by Age Action Ireland with the message that old age is not a problem but loneliness is. It is critically important for people's mental and social well-being that they have the ability to make a telephone call without worrying about the cost and stay in touch with their family who are often far-flung and, in the case of those do not have many surviving family members, their neighbours.
I plead to the Minister for Health to reduce the prescription charge and ensure sufficient funding is made available for mental health services, an issue which affects people across the country.
I ask the Leader to make arrangements for a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I was elected to the Seanad on the Agriculture Panel. The horticultural and food sector is in crisis. Two major mushroom growers have closed in recent weeks. The programme for Government features only four sentences on horticulture. It includes a commitment to the Origin Green initiative and refers, on page 113, to the Food Wise 2025 policy and, more importantly, Bord Bia's excellent strategy for the period 2016 to 2018. The strategy covers only a short period, however, given that we are approaching the end of 2016.
I recently took time to visit north County Dublin, an area with great potential where a large amount of organic produce is grown. Bord Bia has been very successful in the area of organic produce and the Origin Green initiative. This is, however, becoming more and more difficult, with the mushroom trade crumbling in recent weeks and months. I will not take up Senators' time by speaking about all of the factors involved. However, there is a crisis in organics and horticulture. Surely this area has potential for employment creation and we should provide more training in horticulture. I use the word "horticulture" because it tends to be lumped into the broader remit of agriculture with meat, poultry production and other sectors. The horticulture sector offers enormous potential, particularly given the demand for organic produce. We must tie it in with the strategy and principles of Origin Green. We must look at this and support sustainable development on the land. We must support farmers who may be interested in moving from livestock to organics.
I agree with the former Minister and chairman of the Fine Gael Party, Senator James Reilly, on the restoration of the telephone allowance. The Senator carries much weight in his party and I would be terribly disappointed if the change proposed is not made in the budget. It must be made because people in urban and rural areas are living in isolation. The simple measure of giving them back a telephone is a very practical, reasonable, fair and appropriate response. I ask that this issue be raised and look forward to-----
I will go downstairs to my office in a few minutes and welcome it because it is extremely important. Senators, Deputies and local councillors should call on the Government to make this a major priority in the budget.
Bhí sé tráthúil inné go raibh muid anseo ag plé na Breatimeachta agus ag an am céanna go raibh Príomh-Aire na Breataine, Theresa May, ag déanamh ráitis a chuirfeadh beagánín imní ar dhuine. I draw attention to comments made by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, at the Tory Party conference yesterday. It is ironic that at the time the Seanad was discussing the implications of Brexit for Ireland, the leader of the UK party that had created the crisis was dictating how the process would be managed. I emphasise the lack of action taken by the Government on some of the issues that are coming to light. The Prime Minister's speech took a sinister turn when she claimed that she would no longer allow members of the British army to be hounded by left-wing lawyers. This is a chilling and veiled threat, given that the British state murdered Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer in Belfast. All Senators will agree that the work of lawyers, especially those dedicated to the protection of human rights, must remain independent and free from harassment and threats from those who are ideologically opposed to fundamental human rights. I hope the Government will make it clear to the Prime Minister that whatever plan she has for England's exit from the European Union, there can be no rowing back on human rights legislation that was hard fought for over many years and in negotiations.
I note an article onthejournal.ie this morning which draws attention to comments made by the Home Secretary, Ms Amber Rudd, in which she proposed that UK companies hand the government a list of all foreign workers employed by them in a plan designed to ensure British workers would be given preference in creating new jobs. While the full details of the plan have yet to be published, the measures are believed to be designed to include all non-British workers, including citizens of European Union member states such as the Republic of Ireland. This flies in the face of what the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, described last night as our special relationship with Britain. It will certainly be of concern to Irish people working in Britain.
On the issue of whistleblowers, the Protected Disclosures Act was hard fought for. As well as protecting those who make protected disclosures, there was a general expectation that there would be a change in culture towards those who made such disclosures. Thankfully, most people believe those who make disclosures are performing a civic and patriotic duty. I hope others in authority will allow due process and not hinder or harass those who have made disclosures in a perfectly legal manner. Those who would discredit or harass people who make disclosures are the law-breakers and it is their actions that are repugnant to the laws of the State. It is noticeable that the Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, appears to have run for cover on the issues that have come to light in recent days. The Minister for Justice and Equality should come to the House to debate the implementation of whistleblower legislation and the manner in which whistleblowers are being treated. The purpose of the Act is to protect them rather than those who may seek to quieten their voices. I hope we will have such a debate in short order.
Last night, at about 10.30 p.m., I understand that all Members of the Oireachtas received an e-mail or a letter from an author of a book many years ago called The God Squad, Paddy Doyle. I will quote from the e-mail:
There's no glamour in being disabled. What really is infuriating is that politicians talk about "THE DISABLED" as if we are [a] homogenous group to be pitied, patronised and prayed for. [...] We are at the bottom rung of the ladder and it appears we will remain there.
That rhymes very well with what we saw and has been referred to already by Senator Mark Daly regarding the young woman in County Meath, Kifca McNamee. She has Friedreich's ataxia, which is a condition that weasels its way into every-----
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for his help. Friedreich's ataxia is called a progressive condition, but really what it does is weasel its way into every fibre of a person's body and takes him or her down. As a young person in her teens, she had expectations, like anyone would, even if they were only the ones her parents would want for her, but they were expectations of a half-decent life. She has had to deal with all those compromises and she and her family have had to take it on the chin. What is absolutely unacceptable is, as has already been said, a cut of almost half in what was already an inadequate amount of personal support hours. The three hours she had to help her stay at work were cut to 30 minutes. She talked about the consequential pain and anxiety she has regarding personal hygiene and toileting issues when she is at work, when she does not have that support. None of us need to come into this House or go on television to talk about our toileting needs, our ebbs and flows or our movements, but that is what someone felt she had to do in public last night.
There is no recovery for people with disabilities or their families. There is a continuation of the many cuts, and that, I am sad to say, is the fact and the reality. Last week I made comments to the Taoiseach here. I asked for confirmation that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, would be ratified by the end of this year. I asked - not as a special plea - that the budget prioritise something to make sure that Ireland has a decent infrastructure for all of us and all our loved ones. I said that, of the modest amount of money available to him, €300 million would be a decent start to that. The Taoiseach said he will meet me, and that meeting will take place. He did not confirm that that legislation would be passed by the end of this year. That needs to be dealt with, as does the fact that he suggested to me afterwards that the €300 million will not be there. If it is, it is; if it is not, it is not. We will know on Tuesday. However, the bottom line is that people with disabilities - 600,000 people and their families - will continue to be on the wrong side of the recovery.
I hope the Leas-Chathaoirleach will join me in welcoming a special occasion for Tipperary. The GAA All-Star nominations were announced last night, and for the first time in the history of football in Tipperary we got five nominations. The Leas-Chathaoirleach's county got four. It is a great day for Tipperary.
As we speak, my party leader, Brendan Howlin, is launching the Labour Party alternative budget, Building a Shared Prosperity. In that budget the Labour Party sets out its desire to invest in public services, support families and clearly stamp out our ground regarding child care: the provision of child care at a maximum cost of €4.25 per hour for children up to 12 years of age. Our budget also seeks to index link all social welfare payments and to raise wages for working people to a living wage.
That brings me on to my second point. I call on the Leader to request that the Minister for agriculture come to the House for a debate on the horse racing industry. The future of the industry is in crisis. In saying that, I congratulate another Tipperary man - at least, we adopted him - Aidan O'Brien, for training the first three runners home in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last Sunday in Paris. However, the reality is that trainers such as David Wachman, Colm Murphy and other small trainers cannot compete and are leaving the industry.
On the other side of the coin is the reappointment of the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, which is totally in breach of public policy. In addition, the Irish Stable Staff Association, headed up by general secretary, Bernard Caldwell, is trying to fight a cause for staff who are expected to work for €9.75 per hour. If they go away to a race meeting, for example, from Tipperary to Ballinrobe, from which they may get home at 1 a.m., they will get €40 extra. This is unsustainable. People are leaving the industry and we need a debate on the issue urgently. I ask the Leader to organise such a debate.
I also raise a flag on behalf of one of the submission groups for the budget, namely, the Irish Wheelchair Association, representatives of which we met last week in this House. I will raise just one issue that struck me very deeply. One of the people who was with us was wheelchair-bound, and in order for her to get a train from Mayo to Dublin, she must inform Iarnród Éireann a week in advance, otherwise she cannot get on or off the train. I ask that in this budget that single issue be addressed on behalf of the Irish Wheelchair Association.
Finally, I support wholeheartedly Senator O'Reilly regarding the restoration of the telephone allowance.
I reiterate the now urgent call for the extension of the slurry spreading season. The date on which farmers will no longer be allowed to spread slurry, 15 October, is fast approaching, but I am receiving increasing communications from farmers and agricultural contractors who have not had an opportunity to spread slurry at all this year on account of waterlogged lands. It is no secret that we in the west have been particularly afflicted. Faced with the prospect of trying to do so between now and 15 October, it is neither feasible nor tenable, and unless an extension is provided, we face the possibility of overflowing slurry tanks, which would pose their own environmental hazard. I call on the Minister for the environment to take the necessary steps in this regard.
I ask that the sports capital grant be introduced and that it be weighted in favour of rural areas. In these rural areas people find it very hard to raise matching funds - or indeed to raise funds at all. There have been great benefits under the previous rounds of sports capital funds that really allow rural communities to thrive and, in particular, to have young people participate in sports and youth development. I was particularly struck by an item published on balls.iein which the serious disparity in expenditure of the GAA's development money was highlighted, with most of it going towards the development of sports in Dublin. While this is an internal matter for the GAA, it shows that in the more rural areas and other counties, this investment is not taking place, notwithstanding the fact that the Sports Council puts €1 million of taxpayers' money into the GAA every year.
I have worked with a number of the GAA groups in my county and have helped them secure sports capital funding. They are very committed and they do a fantastic job as volunteers in every parish in this country, but along with other sporting organisations, especially in rural Ireland, they need that extra help to make sports facilities a reality. I ask that the sports capital grant be reopened and weighted in favour of rural areas.
-----one of the greatest Irishmen of all time. He served as leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He was the "Uncrowned King of Ireland". He played a significant role in land reform and Home Rule. His death occurred 25 years before the Rising.If he had lived and succeeded, without the scandal involving Kitty O'Shea - am I allowed to mention Kitty O'Shea?
I compliment T. Ryle Dwyer on his excellent article in the Irish Examinerwhich states that Parnell felt the brunt of the church over his personal life. He was badly treated by the church and it should offer an apology to him for its treatment of him. He was undoubtedly one of the most gifted parliamentarians this country has produced. He had 80 members in his Irish Parliamentary Party and he brought about developments in the House of Commons which changed the course of history.
I wish to raise the matter of coverage of the Oireachtas by the media. RTE, as a public service broadcaster, has a responsibility to cover and report on issues of national significance. Last night in this Chamber we had an excellent debate on CETA and TTIP, two international trade agreements whose terms were negotiated secretly. The public of Europe were kept away from the negotiations and their view was not entertained. Under these proposed agreements the direction of policy will largely be handed over to multinational corporations and this is a matter of concern. I put two items on the record yesterday. One was about Argentina, where they secured a subsidiary of Enron to provide water services. The company, however, provided filthy, undrinkable water at outrageous prices. When the Argentinian Government took action to reduce the price and produce drinkable water for its citizens, the court held against it and fined it millions of pounds. In the case of Slovakia, public interest and public good were held to be less significant than the profits of a company. What kind of standards or morality is this? The motion was tabled by Senator Alice-Mary Higgins and it was a very passionate debate.
It is very relevant and the Leas-Chathaoirleach should take an interest in the broadcasting of this House. There was not one single mention of Seanad Éireann in the whole of "Oireachtas Report". It might as well not have existed. This was an evening on which there was a fantastic debate and the Government was defeated. The motion passed despite the resistance of the Government. If that is not worth covering, I do not know what is.
This is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Irish media. There was a Senator on "The Late Debate" and he did not even mention it, despite the fact that he had taken part in the debate and knew all about it. What is happening to coverage of Seanad Éireann by the broadcast and print media in this country?
I wish to talk about a report prepared by IEDR, the dot ie digital health index. It is an interesting report that raises a large number of relevant points. Poor communication is central and fundamental to SMEs. When SMEs were asked what the main barriers were to their getting online, 21% said poor connection was one. In recent months business owners have brought to my attention the fact that the greatest obstacle to doing business is not having a proper mobile phone signal. During the Seanad election we would all have seen that, in certain areas of the country, there were no mobile signals whatsoever. In my own constituency, which is really a suburb of Dublin with towns such as Kildalkey, Kilmessan, Longwood, Clonard, Ballivor, Enfield and Oldcastle, there are no mobile phone signals whatsoever. The bigger cities may not be affected but business is not confined to the bigger cities. I call on the Minister to call to task the mobile phone operators who, month after month, take the hard-earned money of the people and businesses of Ireland for what can only be described as a disgraceful service.
I ask for clarity on what mobile phone operators mean by "unlimited"? We all sign up to contracts and pay €50 or €75 per month and, with a population of 4.5 million, that is a lot of payments of €50 or €75 per month but the bill can go up after six, nine or 12 months. We want legislation on what "unlimited" means in terms of mobile and broadband services because it is a rip-off as compared to other countries. We should bring in legislation to provide that if mobile phone service providers do not provide country-wide services their licences should not be granted or renewed.
Last night Sinn Féin tabled a motion in the Dáil seeking all-party support for the provision of 24/7 mental crisis intervention services without delay. This issue is not about party political lines and is certainly not an issue for scoring political points. Our families and communities cannot wait for this service any longer. We have spoken and spoken and spoken ad nauseamon this issue and for far too long. The stark reality of the non-provision of this service is that our citizens, in every town, village and city across the State, are taking their lives and there simply is not an adequate 24/7 support service to help these people, who present at all times of the day or night, to deal with their suicidal thoughts and with the unbearable mental anguish they suffer. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil put forward amendments to Sinn Féin's motion. The Fine Gael amendment notes the need for a 24-hour service but provides no meaningful commitment. It also commits to increasing investment.
I am speaking on it today in the Seanad to ask colleagues to talk to their friends and other politicians and to urge them to vote this afternoon. This is about mental health services and is really relevant. We have been banging on about it for a long time, some ten years. Over 70% of A Vision for Change has not been implemented.
The Fianna Fáil amendment mentions a seven-day week in two years but does not commit to a 24/7 service. The timeline for seven-day services is far too long and the non-committal of Government is deeply worrying. Members of this House and the Dáil should not stand back and allow this to continue. Our citizens are dying and are crying and begging for help.
I welcome the Green Party initiative on mental well-being in our schools. Young people and the new generation will see the stigma removed with mental well-being a top priority. I am appealing to all Senators to talk to colleagues and urge them to vote "Yes" to the motion, without amendments, in the Dáil debate at lunch time. Be accountable, be responsible, be compassionate and make this a top priority.
In 2003 the 24-hour, consultant-led accident and emergency unit at Ennis General Hospital was reconfigured to a doctor-led day facility for people with minor injuries.Part of that reconfiguration was the upgrade of the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle in County Limerick to which people from Clare, Limerick and Tipperary could go for accident and emergency services. Unfortunately, the facility in the hospital is not yet built. While it is due in 2017, it still at construction phase. What happened in respect of reconfiguration in the middle of the last decade involved putting the cart before the horse. It was announced in Clare this morning that Shannondoc, which is the out-of-hours GP service, is being dramatically scaled back. The out-of-hours service in Ennistymon and Kilrush will be amalgamated into one facility in Milltown Malbay. While services will continue in Ennistymon and Kilrush at weekends, this is certainly a significant blow in terms of providing doctor cover at weekends.
I call on the Minister for Health to make a statement setting out his views regarding the reduction in Shannondoc services. What does he propose to do about it? I also call on him to carry out a review of the service provided by Shannondoc in Clare over the past number of years. It is my contention that it provides a very important service and its presence in County Clare is extremely important. If people from Loop Head find themselves in difficulty, are they now expected to go to Milltown Malbay to see a doctor when until now, they could have gone to Kilrush? It is not appropriate or acceptable and the Minister needs to intervene. My understanding is that there is an issue with retaining doctors, particularly to do the red-eye shifts. I want the Minister to give his views on this and to review it urgently.
I wish to raise a few points before the budget announcement next week. There are many competing priorities and everyone, including economists and lobbyists, will have different opinions. One area that was referred to today should be the first port of call for attention in next week's budget, namely, people with disabilities. Senators John Dolan and Mark Daly raised the issue. We heard about the situation in County Meath yesterday but that is only one case. People living with disabilities who are challenged on an hourly basis, some of whom are in chronic pain, should be the first point of any additional support from the recovery in our economy. There is a commitment on the programme for a partnership Government. The Minister of State for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, has given a commitment that legislation to give to effect to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be passed before the end of the year and I hope that this happens. In addition to that, funding is required to give effect to the legislation and to support the convention.
Bhí mé féin agus an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh ag Buan-choiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán. Tá moltaí déanta ag na heagrais Gaeilge a tháinig le chéile go mbeadh airgead breise curtha ar fáil do chúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta sa cháinaisnéis. Bhí ciorruithe géar ar an earnáil sin le roinnt blianta anuas. Tá moladh déanta go mbeadh ar a laghad €18 mhilliún ar fáil thar trí cháinaisnéis nó thart ar €4.5 mhilliún i mbliana. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil moladh déanta ag mo chomhghleacaí, an t-iar-Aire Gaeltachta, an Teachta Éamon Ó Cuív, go mbeadh €6 mhilliún ar fáil an bhliain seo chugainn agus go mbeadh €1.5 mhilliún den €6 mhilliún ar fáil do chúrsaí infreastruchtúir sa Ghaeltacht. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé sin ar fáil fosta.
Last week, Senator Ó Donnghaile rightly welcomed the agreement between the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association and the Orange Order regarding marching in Ardoyne. I wanted to welcome that but, unfortunately, I became involved in a local issue in the Seanad. This agreement is of huge significance and is something for which we must congratulate all the parties involved. I know the work that is being done on the ground, which is incredible. When issues arise, we have cameras and television crews highlighting all that is negative but this is very positive. One man I want to thank is Fr. Gary Donegan from Holy Cross Church. He has worked every evening for many years to ensure that outbreaks of hostility do not occur. It was very depressing to see how he was verbally attacked by people who were very upset, which I can understand. I see now that a man has been arrested for making threats to a journalist and that the matter has gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions. We must ensure that nobody can threaten journalists in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. I will not comment further but I think this is a hugely significant moment and I thank all the people, organisations and political parties involved in reaching this agreement.
We are very concerned about flooding on the River Shannon. The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Deputy Canney, will today announce confirmations of water levels with the various bodies. A lot of work has been done behind the scenes by various groups, including the local authorities, Bord na Móna and many local groups with small remedial schemes. I believe they will be very helpful. I am not sure about one area. I need to be convinced that the ESB is fully living up to its responsibilities. The ESB needs to come on board with regard to Lough Allen and outline exactly what it intends to do because there has been far too much subterfuge and it has not worked effectively with the local community. I have already spoken to the Minister of State. He must meet with it and local communities to address this issue.
Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall a bheith chomh ghasta agus gur féidir. When the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade was here yesterday, I referenced Modeling Irish Reunification, a major piece of research commissioned by the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, into the economics of Irish unity. That report has had some limited coverage in this State over recent months since its publication. The author, Dr. Karl Hubner, is in the city today and will be briefing members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement at 2.30 p.m., so I would encourage Members who are available to come and avail of the opportunity to engage with Dr. Hubner and his research, particularly in light of the issues that have been consistently raised here since the Brexit vote. We must actively pursue and explore every option open to us. I think everybody in this House agrees that, ultimately, the best option for our people both North and South is the reunification of our country and this paper has identified the very tangible economic and income benefits that would come from that.
Ba mhaith liom fosta trácht iontach gasta a dhéanamh ar an méid a dúirt an Seanadóir Ó Domhnaill. Bhí muid uilig - bhuel, roinnt mhaith againn - thall in Óstán Buswell's inné ag bualadh le hionadaithe ó Chonradh na Gaeilge. Shíl muid go rinne siad sár-jab ag déanamh stocaireacht orainn ó thaobh chúrsaí Gaeilge de agus na héilimh atá i measc phobal na Gaeilge,Thuaidh agus Theas. Dar ndóigh, i budget Shinn Féin, a d'fhógair muid ag tús na seachtaine seo, bhí muid ag iarraidh níos mó ná mar a bhí á lorg ag Conradh na Gaeilge a chur isteach i dtionscadail teanga agus Gaeltachta ar fud fad na tíre. Admhaíonn muid an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an teanga agus an méid buntáistí, tairbhe agus cúrsaí dearfacha a thagann ó a bheith ag infheistiú i bpobal labhartha na Gaeilge. Mar a dúirt an Seanadóir Ó Domhnaill agus an Seanadóir Ó Clochartaigh roimhe seo, sílim gurb fhiú seal comhrá ar chúrsaí Gaeilge agus cúrsaí infheistíochta sa teanga agus sna phobail Ghaeltachta a bheith againn.
I offer my sympathies to the staff of Cameron in Longford and their families. They were told unceremoniously yesterday afternoon that their jobs were gone. I am concerned about the IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland funding invested in the company. What are the implications? Is that funding lost? I am also concerned about the number of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland visits to County Longford, which is suffering quite badly at the moment. I ask that the Minister, Deputy Mitchell O’Connor, would come to the House to address the issue of what happens to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland funding if a company pulls out. This company has pulled out its manufacturing and taken it elsewhere because it can get it cheaper. It is devastating for County Longford.
I support what Senator Ó Domhnaill said about Conradh na Gaeilge and the cúrsaí Gaeilge, which are very important. Now that some money is available, Conradh na Gaeilge and the cúrsaí Gaeilge should be considered for further funding.
I have been invited to speak at the Stop the War Coalition conference in London on Saturday about the US military use of Shannon Airport. I will be proud to share a platform with Jeremy Corbyn who has always been a friend to Ireland and a friend to the peace process in particular.
This week something very strange happened. Shannonwatch, which has done amazing work in detailing what is happening in Shannon Airport, had been planning a conference to mark 15 years of the US military occupation of the airport. Three hotels accepted the booking and then subsequently cancelled the booking, leaving it without a venue on Saturday. This speaks to the issue of silence regarding Shannon Airport. There is awkward silence. It is as if the Government knows it is complicit and completely wrong to support the US military adventures in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, which have caused so many deaths, but it just does not want to talk about it. We need to talk about it. It is an absolute disgrace that our neutrality has been shamed in this way for 15 years.
As someone who lives in Limerick, I am disgusted that our local politicians refuse to talk about the issue. If they want to support the US adventures, they should make their case. If we think it is wrong, we will make our case, but the issue cannot be ignored. It is time to break the silence on Shannon Airport. That is why I will be speaking on Saturday and I ask the Leader for a debate on the issue with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I was intrigued by Senator Devine’s submission on the health care issue. She raised a very important issue and I fully agree with her in many respects. However, there is a ten-year strategy committee and I am seeking to have Senators appointed to that committee. I now understand that Sinn Féin is opposing that. I am intrigued that Senator Devine is telling us what we should tell Members of Dáil Éireann when we would have that opportunity if we had members of the ten-year strategy committee. I am intrigued as to why Sinn Féin is opposed to Senators going on to a very important------
----- a political party, a group in this Chamber, opposes Senators being added to a very important committee. It is important that the House is aware of the position. I am just raising that issue here because I think it is important.
We will need to roll out an increasing number of home-care packages in the coming years. I am concerned over whether adequate training is available for people who want to provide such services. The Minister should come to the House to outline what is proposed in the area. It is an area that will grow very fast and it is important that we are able to respond to it accordingly. I ask the Leader to raise that issue with the Minister.
Members will join me in expressing sympathy and extending condolences to the victims of Hurricane Matthew which is moving over the Bahamas causing flooding, rain and destructive winds as we speak. According to reports late last evening, the death toll in the Caribbean rose to 26 - four people reportedly died in the Dominican Republic and 22 were killed in Haiti. I understand that the overwhelming majority of homes in the south west of Haiti have been affected with tens of thousands of people in shelters. Hospitals are overflowing. People are taking refuge in schools and churches. Requests continue for government help in transporting those whose homes have been devastated, many of whom live in poverty-stricken conditions.
In February, my colleague asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to make a statement on the growing unrest following demonstrations and protests in Haiti after the postponement of the presidential election. Eight months on, that election planned for Sunday has been postponed in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
Today the hurricane will move through the Bahamas where evacuations are under way. It is 7.20 a.m. there as we speak and the hurricane continues to gain strength after being somewhat weakened by mountainous terrain in Cuba.
I am sure I speak for all sides of the House when I send condolences to and express solidarity with those injured, and the loved ones and the communities of those killed. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, should urgently assess the situation and determine if Ireland can play a part in assisting in the humanitarian crisis. We urgently need to provide for that.
I join the Members who yesterday proposed a vote of sympathy for the family of the late Mr. Bobby Molloy. He was a Member of the other House and, as a senior Minister, held many portfolios. I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to his wife, Phyllis, and their family.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State with responsibility for tourism to come to the House. Our tourism industry is very important to the country. Much has been said about agriculture and tourism. The weaker sterling is having a severe effect on tourism, regardless of the Brexit outcome. The Minister of State with responsibility for tourism should come to the House to explain the plans Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland have. The tourism market in Northern Ireland and the UK is very important to this country. They represent the biggest group of visitors to Ireland and we appreciate that business. It would be important to hear their plans for the tourism industry.
The 108 family resource centres throughout the country do valuable work. They presented their pre-budget submission yesterday. They are governed by the Family Resource Centre National Forum, their representative body. As somebody who managed a community development project, I know at first hand the valuable work done by these centres to combat disadvantage, and strengthen and empower children, families and communities. It is vital that this work is underpinned and given the appropriate resources.
They are operating on a budget of €12.2 million, but to do the work they need to do, they need €16 million, which is not much more. The funding body is Tusla. The budget for the family resource centres represents only 2% of the entire Tusla budget. Some 20% of these projects are at risk of closing and many staff across the family resource centres have been put on notice. That is not good either for the staff involved or for the people they serve. The issue needs to be addressed immediately. I call on the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Health to come to the House to have a discussion around the excellent value for money these family resource centres deliver on the ground in their communities in the areas of domestic violence and mental health, and on many other issues which help families and communities which have suffered as a result of the under-resourcing of the mental health budget and the non-implementation of A Vision for Change. These centres are at the coal-face and need to be funded and resourced. We cannot have staff in family resource centres who are operating on their own. There are real health and safety issues involved and I would appreciate it if the Minister would come in to discuss this.
The news that emanated from the midlands yesterday was very serious. It has been flagged for the past month and my colleague, Deputy Robert Troy, had raised the issue of these jobs, which was also covered in the local newspapers in recent weeks. We have talked about Brexit ad nauseam but this shows one of the repercussions. While the 170 jobs lost might not be directly linked to Brexit, it played a very influential part in their loss.
I call on the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to come to the House to address the issue. It is another blow for the midlands. We discussed the Imperial Tobacco factory in Mullingar only recently. There seem to be continual blows to general manufacturing in the midlands. I appreciate having the time to raise this issue in the House. We all have to pull together to try to sustain what jobs we can, and this is particularly important in areas outside the M50 belt.
I thank Senators for raising many important issues. Obviously, the area of health and disability has dominated this morning, with Senators Mark Daly, James Reilly, Victor Boyhan, John Dolan, Máire Devine, Rose Conway-Walsh, Martin Conway, Brian Ó Domhnaill and Colm Burke raising the matter.
With regard to the news item last night, those of us who were involved in the disability sector will recognise that what is happening in this case is incorrect, wrong, morally reprehensible and should not be happening. I have asked the Minister to come back to Senator John Dolan and Mark Daly on the matter.
The issue of home care packages is important, as are the points made by Senator Colm Burke on the fact we have an aging population. In the area of disability, particularly in terms of congregated settings, there are profound emerging needs and, as people get older, those needs become more complex. That needs to be reflected in the overall health budget. Equally, as we would all agree and as Senator Máire Devine said, it is not a political issue; it is about ensuring there is a sequence and a continuation of policy through a cross-departmental approach, whether in terms of social protection, housing, health or education. This means we can ensure, as we move towards congregated settings, that there is support in the community and that people are looked after and receive home care, respite care and personal support hours. It is important, as we move into the community, that we recognise the health budget is about ensuring there is a continuum.
This is something we might look at again. As I said to Senator Dolan in regard to the Seanad consultative forum, this is perhaps an issue we can deal with in that we can bring in people and put the pressure on the Government, no matter who is in government, to ensure policy has an overarching emphasis. The HSE service plan sets aside €330 million for issues like home care packages, including intensive home care packages. Whether it is in regard to the elderly or the disabled, it is important provision is made for home care packages. Equally, the issue of respite care also needs to be addressed in the budget.
With regard to legislation, the Bill is on the Government's A-list for publication and has gone to Committee on Justice and Equality for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is critical that it is signed by the end of the year. We have asked the Department to initiate the Bill in this House and I have already met Senator Dolan in this regard. With regard to the other comment on legislation, it is my hope we will have time slots for two Private Members' Bills this session; it is a matter for the CPP and I hope it will be done.
The issue of the insurance sector is very important. The Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is chairing the task force and Deputy John McGuinness is chair of the finance committee. I hope they will take on board the views Senator Mark Daly has raised regarding the State Claims Agency because that is an interesting revelation, if I can put it like that.
Senator James Reilly raised the issue of youth work. It is important we have the Minister, Deputy Zappone, to the House along with the Minister, Deputy Bruton. I agree with the Senator that the value we get from youth work can be seen not only in monetary terms but also in terms of the tangible benefits for young people. I commend all those involved in the youth work sector, who do huge work.
Senators Victor Boyhan and Michelle Mulherin raised the issue of agriculture. The Minister, Deputy Creed, will come to the House on 25 October, when we can discuss the matters raised. The matter raised by Senator Mulherin regarding the deadline for slurry spreading has been raised by other Senators, and I hope the Minister will take those points on board.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of human rights and linked it to the Pat Finucane case. The Senator is right that this was hard fought for and should not be diluted in any shape or form, and I do not think any of us would stand for that.
With regard to the issue of the remarks at the Tory conference this week, some of them are extraordinary. If we are talking about Brexit, that is fine, but as the country that will suffer the most profound impact from that decision, it is important that we have that special relationship and that the British Government recognises we are the people who will be most affected. However, when we hear Ministers say the NHS will be run by English people only, we must wonder what planet we are living on. It cannot happen and it should not happen.
That is the point I was coming to. We have seen the NHS people coming over here to run advertising campaigns. Our nurses and doctors go over to England and are then able to come back here, having benefited from the experience. To be fair to the Taoiseach and Ministers, there is a very strong Brexit team and operation across the whole of the Government. As part of a rolling debate in this House, I hope we will continue to keep that emphasis going.
With regard to the Senator's comment on the Garda whistleblower and the Department of Justice and Equality, the Garda Commissioner in her statement yesterday said she was not privy to any attempt or was not aware of anyone targeting the whistleblower. The Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Taoiseach have been very strong on this. There is no derogation or dilution of Government in terms of its approach being that the allegations are serious and should be listened to. The Minister is proactive in the matter and has said she will apply the rule of law and that it should be applied, and that a just and real procedure should be put in place. It is important that we listen to the remarks she made yesterday in the justice committee and the Taoiseach's remarks in the Dáil, and that whatever allegations are made are followed up.
It is good for the diversity of sport to see the weaker counties being recognised - in football anyway - although I say that with tongue in cheek.
Senator Landy raised the important issue of the horse racing industry. The Minister, Deputy Creed, is coming to the House. The Senator also mentioned the issue of child care and the Minister, Deputy Zappone, will also be coming to the House.
Senator Michelle Mulherin raised the issue of the sports capital programme, which we discussed yesterday. It is important the programme is re-established for the calendar year of 2016-17.Equally, it is important that we recognise the importance of it in terms of the benefit it brings to local communities. I do not think I would agree with the Senator in terms of the urban-rural divide. It is important that all sporting organisations benefit from the sports capital programme.
Senator Leyden referred to Charles Stewart Parnell. All I can say is that Gladstone commented that "I do not say the ablest man; I say the most remarkable and the most interesting." It is fitting that we remember him today on his anniversary.
Senator Norris raised the ongoing issue of coverage of the Seanad. I did not see "Oireachtas Report", but it is disappointing that it did not cover-----
I am only partly suffering from insomnia. I do not listen to the programme or watch it every night. I will get somebody to watch the programme. It is important. The point the Senator made is relevant. We are the Upper House and the second Chamber of the Oireachtas. If the programme covers committees and the Dáil, it should also cover proceedings here. I have said before that we need to give programmes a reason to cover us. The problem is that the programme is broadcast late at night but the recording is done early in the day. Perhaps RTE could examine how it covers the Oireachtas and we will take the matter up with it.
Senator Butler raised the issue of small and medium enterprises, connectivity and broadband. He is correct. It is equally important that mobile phone providers are taken to task because phone coverage is appalling. At a time when we have invested significant amounts of money in connectivity and broadband, I am baffled as to how there has been a deterioration in mobile phone coverage in the past number of years. Mobile phone providers have an obligation to explain the situation.
Senator Devine referenced the mental health issue, which was debated in the Dáil. She made a good comment. She is correct. It is an important issue and mental health is a priority for the Government. Weekend cover is something that needs to be examined and discussed. The vote in the other House is beyond our gift and remit.
If it is the case that Sinn Féin is not supporting the appointment of Senators to the all-party committee, I hope Senators will ask their party colleagues for us to be included. Many Senators have expertise in health and should be part of the strategy. They bring a body of experience and work to this issue. I am not sure of the Sinn Féin position.
Senator Martin Conway raised the issue of ShannonDoc. It is disappointing to hear what he said. It is linked to the issue of GP retention. His call is valid and I will ask the Minister to liaise with the centre regarding the matter.
Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the issue of disability and na cúrsaí Gaeilge. Senators Ó Clochartaigh and McFadden also referred to the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. I was not able to get to Conradh na Gaeilge yesterday. The Minister has committed to coming to the House. I mentioned it to him today. We need to get a date so we can synchronise his diary with the House.
Senator Feighan again raised the issue of the agreement in Ardoyne. We discussed it and condemned the attack on Fr. Gary Donegan. He mentioned flooding and the work being done in Lough Allen. I hope the ESB will address the issue. I am sure it is watching proceedings and has its public affairs people dealing with the situation. They might revert to the Senator.
Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the issue of research in Vancouver on the economic benefit of reunification. I did not read the report, but we should have a debate in the House about post-Brexit and so on. It is critical that we consider the benefits and positive aspects of Brexit.
Senators McFadden and Davitt raised the issue of the job losses in Longford. Senator McFadden asked a very good question about the money being allocated by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, where that money will now go and the need for an explanation from them about Longford. On a number of occasions Senators McFadden and Davitt have raised the need for job creation in Longford. I will ask the Minister, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, to come to the House to address the issue.
I wish Senator Gavan well in his conference at the weekend. I did not realise Shannon was an occupied place. I travel there regularly. It is a very important airport and the gateway to the Atlantic. I did not think our neutrality had changed. Our policy is that we are a neutral country.
The issue raised by the Senator regarding American troops has been well documented. It is an issue about which we have spoken. The important point is that the airport is at the gateway to Europe.
Senator Burke raised the issue of home care packages, the importance of training people and the ten-year health strategy. I have emphasised that it is key that Members of the House are part of that strategy. I hope we can all support it.
Senator Warfield raised the issue of Hurricane Matthew which has killed 26 people and is trundling its way up the east coast of America. I have spoken to friends of mine in Florida who were getting ready for it yesterday. Haiti is of humanitarian concern and I will take up the point with the Minister, Deputy Flanagan.
Senator Paddy Burke referred to the importance of tourism, Brexit and the linkage with sterling. I would be happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy Donovan, or the Minister, Deputy Ross, come before the House. Senator Conway-Walsh raised the matter of family resource centres and their important work, and the need for the Minister, Deputy Zappone, to come to the House. I would be happy to facilitate that.