Thursday, 23 February 2017
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the establishment of a special select committee on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate, and No. 2, statements on the diaspora, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude not later than 3.30 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be given five minutes in which to reply to the debate.
A national bus strike now seems inevitable. The financial challenges of Bus Éireann are not new, nor are the State's obligations under the public service obligation agreement. It is estimated that 110,000 people per day use Bus Éireann services. The bus is a vital mode of transport in rural areas and it allows people to travel to do business, students to travel to college, and families to visit one another in various parts of the country. Some rural communities would find it very difficult to exist without the Bus Éireann service.
The Government was told over a year ago that the company faced economic challenges but it did not act on them. We now face a serious transport crisis. Bus Éireann has a debt of €9.4 million this year. The most recent reports indicate it may even face insolvency in the next few months. The Minister, Deputy Ross, can no longer afford to ignore this extremely serious matter. We accept that Ministers cannot resolve disputes but Ministers can give direction. They can give a direction on a political and policy commitment to meeting the obligations under the public service obligation agreement. I call on the Minister to initiate all-party talks on this matter to identify a solution. He can simply no longer afford to ignore it. He seems to be announcing anything at all to distract from having to deal with the real issue, the Bus Éireann dispute.
In order to save €1.1 million, Bus Éireann is proposing to shut down three routes, in each case affecting rural areas. This might be only the tip of the iceberg. While the unions are open to reforming their practices to make some savings - we have to accept that - their biggest fear is that the people they represent will be expected to do the same work for a lower salary. I refer to getting a worker who will not agree to massive salary cuts in order that a company can save money. I ask the Government to take the issue of Bus Éireann as seriously as it took the Luas strike. Great efforts were made, and rightly so, to resolve that dispute. It could have had a huge impact on this city. Rural areas deserve the same attention. Nothing has been done to resolve the bus dispute. The people of rural areas deserve no less than their cousins in this city.
I ask the Deputy Leader to outline to the people what the Government will actually do to prevent Bus Éireann from becoming insolvent this year. I ask her to confirm whether the Government will have any input into trying to find a resolution to this dispute.
I congratulate the Taoiseach. He went into a parliamentary party meeting of what appeared to be a divided party and he came out with a united party behind him. That was some achievement and he deserves to be congratulated on it. I am glad he will be given time to leave office at his own bidding.
I also congratulate my colleague Senator Neale Richmond on his selection as chairman of the Seanad's Brexit committee. He has shown himself to be a deeply committed European. During our tour involving 14 meetings in two days, he showed himself to be thoroughly knowledgeable on Brexit. I am delighted to work with him. I ask the Deputy Leader to consider in the near future a rapporteur for the committee.
In light of the remarks of Senator Robbie Gallagher, I believe the Tesco dispute and Bus Éireann debacle combined indicate a clear effort to break the strength of the trade unions. As a member of the Labour Panel, I could not sit quietly and allow this to go on. It is time the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, moved on the Bus Éireann problem. We solved the Luas and Irish Rail problems and it is now time to solve the bus problem.
What is happening with Tesco is even more worrying because it involves a ginormous multinational attempting to break a trade union. That simply cannot be allowed to happen in a civilised society.Workers are entitled to have representation. I was never one for confrontation. Representation is what it should be. People are entitled to be represented and to have their union. No company, regardless of how many advertisements it can take out in national newspapers, should be allowed to try to break a trade union or to break a strike. From that point of view perhaps we would get the Minister to come to the House and have a debate on this issue in the not too distant future. When I say "on the issue" I am talking about the right of people to organise in the workforce.
I rise to support the areas of natural constraint, ANC, campaign by the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association to address the inequality in farm payments. The ANC scheme, which was opened on 6 May 2015, replaced the disadvantaged areas scheme under the rural development programme. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, ERDF, which means it is co-funded 54% from Brussels and 46% from the national Exchequer. A total of 95,000 farmers across the State participate in the scheme. A review, including a scientific mapping exercise, is currently taking place and should be completed by the end of June this year. The level of constraint will be determined by the mapping exercise and socioeconomic factors will no longer be taken into account.
I believe the three-point plan advocated by the association is the best way to address the inequality in farm payments dating from the debacle of the single farm payment reference years in 2001 and 2002. The plan advocates the front-loading of payments on the first 20 ha at €250 per hectare and increasing the rate per hectare for the next 14 ha to €179 per hectare and, third, by increasing the overall number of eligible hectares from 34 ha to 40 ha, with €70 per hectare on the remaining 6 ha. The overall budget needs to be increased from the €220 million committed under the programme for Government to €300 million. That can be done from the unspent rural development fund which is estimated over the lifetime of the programme to be approximately €400 million.
The EU auditors have acknowledged that the current method of measuring disadvantage on land has resulted in unequal treatment of farmers. Some farmers were overpaid and others were underpaid relative to the constraint on the farm. The ANC review seeks to remedy that through a scientific method based on eight biophysical contraints. I ask that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, would come to the House to discuss the review. The ANC payment must do what it says on the tin, namely, reflect the level of natural land constraint. Above all, the review must be used to right some of the wrongs done to farm families in the most severely disadvantaged areas.
Before I conclude I wish to signal my solidarity with those on the picket line at Hastings garage in Westport. They are no different from the Bus Éireann strikers or the Tesco strikers. They are now in the fourth week of the strike. I again appeal to Tim Hastings and to Volkswagen Ireland to implement the full terms of the Labour Court recommendations before the SIPTU rally organised for Saturday, 4 March. This is an important struggle for all workers as it concerns fundamental issues such as the right to redundancy entitlements and an employer respecting the State's industrial relations institutions. This is not what Westport, Mayo, the striking workers and their families or any workers need. I urge the Taoiseach to use all the influence he has to bring about a resolution to the dispute as quickly as possible.
I rise to raise two issues, one that has been raised on a number of occasions in this House, which has a campaigning zeal in it. It is an issue I raised directly with the Taoiseach when he was last in this House and I am aware the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is working steadily on it, namely, direct provision. This is not a divisive issue in this House. In fact, it is not a divisive issue in this Parliament. It is to our great credit as an Oireachtas that we do not have any political party or individual who plays the race card or who is advocating an approach other than a humanitarian one to the issue. It would be beneficial for this House to have the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, come to the House to give us his perspective on the progress of the implementation of the McMahon report. Members of all parties in this House would appreciate that opportunity and I call on the Acting Leader to facilitate such a debate.
The second point I wish to make, with the greatest respect, is in complete contradiction to what Senator Craughwell said. I find the current situation unbelievable given that we face into the teeth of Brexit negotiations which are very worrying and will have huge implications for this country. I held a public meeting in my constituency last night and some of the statistics that have been given by the European movement suggest that a worst-case scenario could result in the loss of 400,000 jobs in this country. The agrifood sector is under great pressure. A total of 20% of jobs in Cavan, Monaghan, Wexford and Waterford are dependent on the agrifood sector. In 2008 the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, went on a prolonged lap of honour while the country was on fire and I do not think it is appropriate for the current Taoiseach to do the same. He should be reminded that he is not just the leader of Fine Gael, he is the leader of this country.
While the rest of us are fascinated with the personality competition that is going on at the moment between various individuals in the Fine Gael Party, what is happening in this country is much more important than the future leadership of that great Christian democratic movement in Ireland. What we need is a leader who can lead us into the Brexit negotiations and we do not need another lap of honour. My colleagues in Fine Gael can pant, tut and make all the noises they want but the reality is that this Chamber represents the entire country and when the Taoiseach was here last year he made a commitment to come back by the end of 2016. It is fair enough if his diary was full but every Member of this House would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with the Taoiseach the ongoing Brexit negotiations and to implore him not to go on a prolonged lap of honour and to take his responsibility as Taoiseach seriously in order that we face into the situation collectively as a country rather than from a partisan, party-political point of view. I am terribly sorry if my Fine Gael colleagues are offended by my remarks.
I was the one who was sighing to whom the previous speaker referred. Before I say what I rose to speak about I must say that as far as I and most members of the Fine Gael Party are concerned, there is no lap of honour. The Taoiseach has never sought that kind of admiration. He has always put the country first. In the next few months the Taoiseach has an agenda for Brexit and he will work to that, as he has always done. He has always put the country first.
I wish to raise the review of the regional veterinary offices currently being undertaken by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In particular, I wish to speak about the regional veterinary office in Coosan, Athlone. This office, like others around the country, provides a very valuable service to the farming community in the midlands, such as determining the cause of death of livestock, in addition to monitoring the potential spread of infectious diseases. That is not only of value to farmers but to the population at large. Protecting the safety of food and the interests of consumers is at the core of the agrifood industry in this country. I spoke recently in this House about rural development and central to that concept is the sustainable development of a competitive farming and consumer-focused agrifood business which contributes to the vibrant rural economy and society. That is the reason I would like the Minister to come to the House to outline his plans for the service. In particular, I wish to ask him to consider the strategically important location of the Athlone office and urge him to assure us that it will remain in operation.
I understand that it is important that we regularly analyse what we are doing in order to improve services and to ensure we get the best value for taxpayers' money. However, we must ensure that any decision on the future of the regional laboratory service is made on the basis of objective criteria such as cost benefit or strategic location and not on the basis of pressure from sectoral groups or regional interests. The laboratory in Coosan, Athlone, and its staff are of the highest standard and are well placed to provide a professional service to the midlands and further afield. Therefore, I ask the Acting Leader to invite the Minister to come to the House to clarify his position and ask him to assure us that the laboratory in Athlone will remain in place.
I wish Calvin Nash from Young Munster in Limerick who is to captain the Ireland under-20s team on Friday night against France and the rest of the team the very best of luck.
I also welcome the good news that four new transatlantic flights to the United States have been announced from Shannon Airport. As many companies in the United States have hubs and connected companies in Ireland, including in and around the mid-west region, this is very welcome news. The cost of flights will start from a low base of €69.
Ba maith liom tacú leis an moladh atá deanta go mbeabh díospóireacht againn maidir le tefigh in Éirina go háirithe sa chóras so láthar díreach. I support the calls for a debate on the direct provision system. I do not believe the system has improved at all since the Mahon report; in fact, things may have gone backwards. Some the changes have been detrimental. That is what I am hearing from direct provision centres and the people with whom I am discussing the issue. Last week I also raised with the Leader the new application process under the International Protection Bill 2015, which has proved to be very onerous. It is a huge document which has to be filled in within three weeks. I asked the Leader to clarify if the Minister would extend the deadline. As I have not heard back, I would like to find out if it has been extended to give applicants more time.
I have raised the issue of staffless libraries across the country a number of times. We were promised a debate on it, but it has not happened to date. I am very disappointed that both Galway City Council and Galway County Council voted in favour of trialling staffless libraries. I note that even though Fianna Fáil representatives in the Seanad told us that they were very concerned about their being rolled out, they voted in favour in Galway City Council during the week and on a previous occasion in Galway County Council. I am concerned that this will lead us down a similar road to that followed in Britain where 900 libraries have been closed and 5,000 staff members lost in libraries in England, Scotland and Wales. I do not want us to go down that route in Ireland. We have not had a proper debate on the issue. We were told that it was a pilot project, but it seems to have been rolled out as policy at this stage. Will it end in the closure of libraries across the country? There will be no point in crying about it at that stage, as we have done in the case of rural schools and Garda stations, etc. We urgently need a debate on what exactly is being proposed and where it will lead in terms of the future of library services.
It is welcome that Norwegian Air International will operate two new flights out of Shannon Airport from 1 July to Boston and New York. Shannon Airport provides a fantastic service. I encourage people in Dublin and elsewhere who face chaotic volumes of traffic in getting to Dublin Airport to come down the duel carriageway to Shannon Airport as it is a far better experience.
I want to bring up the issue of Bus Éireann. When representatives of the National Transport Authority were before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport yesterday, I put a number of questions to them. I am looking at the issue in the context of the Expressway route from Limerick to Dublin. Many people in Limerick city are working for Bus Éireann and fearful for their jobs. There is a lack of proper data to engage in proper due diligence on Expressway routes. The service mentioned does not qualify as a public service obligation, PSO, service, even though many towns are served along the route. Private operators and Bus Éireann operate from the same points. One serves Nenagh, Roscrea and Portlaoise, while the others will stop at one destination along the route. The price is roughly the same for both. However, a person who has a free travel pass cannot travel on the private bus service. There is anecdotal evidence that the great majority of those who travel on the Bus Éireann Expressway service have a free travel pass. The worry, therefore, is that there is not a level playing field. I have asked the Department of Social Protection, officials of which were before the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport yesterday, for empirical data for the numbers of travel passes used by OAPs, people who have carers and companion passes and others. The National Transport Authority does not request data from Bus Éireann for the numbers who use free travel passes on non-PSO routes. My worry is that if the Bus Éireann Expressway route goes, there will be a number of consequences, including a lack of competition and a loss of jobs. Ordinary people working for Bus Éireann and based in Limerick are extremely worried. We need to have proper empirical data in order that we can engage in proper due diligence to see what exactly the position is and provide for a level playing field.
I formally second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by my colleague, Senator Billy Lawless.
The annual report of Amnesty International which was published yesterday and widely covered in the media last night and this morning raises questions for and criticisms of Ireland, notably on housing rights, discrimination against Travellers and the Roma community, national security and deportation and refugees and asylum seekers. The resettlement and relocation of refugees were also mentioned. These have been singled out as the key issues in the report. Former Senator Colm O'Gorman is now head of Amnesty International Ireland. The report is meaty and covers important issues. I would appreciate it if the Leader asked the relevant Minister to come to the House for a debate and a discussion on the specific issues raised.
I welcome the proposed establishment of a committee on Brexit. My colleague was a little premature in congratulating the Chairman of the committee because it is ultimately a matter for the Seanad to approve its establishment. There is a proposal before us and it is open to anyone to put his or her name forward, but that is not to say I do not wish Senator Neale Richmond well. He is a former colleague of mine in Dún Laoghaire and I will be supporting him, but it is premature to congratulate anyone on the post as the decision has not yet been made by the Seanad. It is part of the proposal we will have to consider.
We owe congratulations to our Green Party colleague, Senator Grace O'Sullivan, who this very week received the most prestigious award of Green Leader of Ireland at a ceremony in Ballsbridge the other night. It is a great honour for her. It is great that a Member of Seanad Éireann should win this huge competition and was presented in a packed hotel with the award of Green Leader of Ireland in 2017. She is worthy of our congratulations and support.
One of the successes of the last four years has been the level of job creation. The unemployment rate has been brought down from 15.1% to 6.8% and looks like being under 6% in the not too distant future. While that is very good news, unfortunately for some it is not good news, particularly those who have been employed to try to help others to find jobs. As I understand it, there are over 300 people around the country working in community partnerships. I am not clear on what the structure is, but I know that they are concerned that the new structures put in place in the past 12 months have meant that their workload has decreased dramatically. This has happened for a number of reasons but particularly because more and more people are back at work. The individuals to whom I refer do not know what their future role will be be. The Minister for Social Protection should, therefore, clarify how the 300 people concerned will be accommodated.We will still have people who will lose jobs. Even in times of substantial economic growth, people will have to retrain. We need to know how to change the focus for those 300 people, who have provided a great service. In the last 12 months, 26,000 long-term unemployed went back to work, exceeding the target of 20,000. This was a huge achievement by all agencies. I ask that the Acting Leader request the Minister for Social Protection attend the House to explain what new structures are to be put in place to deal with people who lose their jobs but have to go through the retraining process.
A disturbing matter was brought to my attention over the weekend. A student in DCU told me that Bank of Ireland has been "pushing", if I may use that term, cheap loans on students. He called them "FOMO" loans. I had to ask him to explain it to me.
I couldn't disagree. "Fear of missing out" loans are being peddled by Bank of Ireland in DCU at present. If they are trying to encourage people to join the bank, why don't they give them €50 or €100 to open an account, as they did in the past? That would be a more honest way of doing business. That cycle of short term loans is very prevalent in the UK, though not as big a culture in Ireland, thankfully, probably due to more regulation. I would ask the Acting Leader to raise this issue as soon as possible.
A report commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has shown declining levels of public trust in RTE. It has fallen from 68%, to 61% in 2015. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, has expressed concerns about this, and I share those concerns. This warrants further investigation and monitoring. It is essential that the State broadcaster has the respect of its audience. Respect has to be earned. Recent RTE output has led to viewers complaining en masseabout a particular television programme. The broadcasting authority issued RTE with a warning notice before Christmas, after "The Ray D'Arcy Show" was found to be biased in its coverage of abortion law. That was the third time such a finding had been made against that programme.
Last year in this House I called for real sanctions to be imposed where journalists, presenters or broadcasting organisations continually breach broadcasting codes. There is no sign of this happening. In the last ten days, hundreds of people contacted RTE to register negative views about the content of the St. Valentine's Day edition of "The Late Late Show". That concerns a matter of public taste.
Issues of fairness and balance in publicly-funded programming go to the essential functioning of our democracy. It has been reported that John Gilligan has been invited to be a guest on "The Late Late Show". There are many concerns about the judgment of our publicly-funded broadcaster.The House should undertake a fresh debate about media standards. More than 1 million people pay the annual €160 licence fee, and they should be getting a return for their investment, particularly given the salaries paid to RTE's leading presenters.
RTE has made very effective current affairs programming in recent years. I referenced an upcoming programme yesterday. It did overhaul its journalistic guidelines following the "Mission to Prey" controversy in 2011. However, there is still a problem. What will be the effect of this warning notice? Will we find out how RTE is to put its house in order following the notice from the BAI, or will there be silence and secrecy? I urge the Minister to continue to ensure that RTE makes high quality content. RTE must earn the respect of the public. I call for a debate on media standards at the earliest opportunity.
I thank the Senators who have raised matters on the Order of Business.
I do not disagree with most of what Senator Gallagher says on rural Ireland. Many of the private operators will not want to provide the services that Bus Éireann has traditionally provided, particularly to off-the-beaten-track areas. With regard to his comments about the Minister and the Government's response, the direction has been for all sides to reflect, and to have a constructive and realistic discussion. We are all very hopeful that some clarity can be brought to the situation, both for Bus Éireann workers and the entire population, especially those who use travel passes and so forth. I share the Senator's concerns. I was frustrated that we did not get many of the answers we wanted while the Minister was in the Seanad last week, perhaps due to time constraints. I have been pushing for the Minister to be brought back to the Seanad to answer any queries.
Along with Senator Craughwell, I too welcome the selection of Senator Richmond to the post in question. I note Senator Boyhan's comments. Senator Richmond is a very experienced and committed European. He has an extensive background in EU affairs. I will warmly welcome his eventual appointment when it is approved by the Seanad.
Senator Craughwell called for a debate on the Tesco situation. I would be happy to facilitate such a debate.
The issue of inequality for hill farmers in farm schemes is not one of which I am fully appraised. I will speak to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in regard to ANC payments. I am sure he will be happy to attend the House. As Senator Conway-Walsh said, this affects the most vulnerable type of farmers in the country. It is very important they receive support. They should know what they are entitled to, and that they will receive that.
I will pass on to the Taoiseach Senator Conway-Walsh's concerns about the dispute in Hastings garage in Westport. I agree that it is as important to those workers as the Tesco dispute is to employees there. Their livelihoods depend on it. If the Taoiseach's office can be of assistance, I am sure it will be.
I agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh on direct provision and the implementation of the Mahon tribunal report. I am happy to facilitate such a debate in the near future. I note the Senator's comments about Brexit. To be fair to the Taoiseach, he is one of the only people who has not been speaking in the media about leadership over the last number of weeks. The Taoiseach works very hard. The Senator's concerns about Brexit are appreciated. The Taoiseach has been very committed to the issue.I believe each Department is engaging on the issue. I note the Senator's comments, none of which I dispute, on a potential threat to 400,000 jobs in the agrifood sector, but his remarks about the Taoiseach are unfair. I believe everybody in the House would refute his comment that the Taoiseach intends to do a lap of honour. That is not his style. That said, I will ask the Leader to arrange for the Taoiseach to come to the House in the near future for a debate which we would all welcome on Brexit. In the context of the committee on Brexit that is being set up, it might be useful to have him come to the House soon to debate the issue.
Senator Gabrielle McFadden referred to the regional veterinary office in Coosan in Athlone which is an important facility for farmers in the area. I heard a discussion on the issue the other morning on "Today with Sean O'Rourke", during which it was suggested farmers would have to bring their livestock to Kildare to have autopsies carried out. That would be very unsatisfactory, but I do not think it is yet clear what the plans are for the practice in question. The Senator's suggestion we have a debate on the matter in the near future with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to clarify the position and allow Senators to raise their concerns about regional veterinary offices is a good one.
Senator Billy Lawless proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 12 be taken before No. 1. I am happy to accede to his request.
Senator Maria Byrne wished the under-20s team and their captain, Calvin Nash, from Young Munster good luck in the game against France. We all join her in wishing the team and the senior Irish team the best of luck at the weekend.
The Senator also welcomed the announcement of four new transatlantic flights from Shannon Airport which will be vital to connectivity for the mid-west. I understand a similar announcement was made in the case of Cork Airport. It is good news for both the south west and the mid-west.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh asked for a debate on the direct provision system. I would have no objection to arranging such a debate. During my time in the Seanad the Senator has been a strong voice on the issue. I can assure him that the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, takes it seriously. He is very committed and I am sure he will be more than happy to come to the House for such a debate.
On staffless libraries, while I accept that there is a need to respond to new technologies in the servicing of libraries, I am concerned about the trend in that regard. I recently heard on radio - I think I also heard it on "Today with Sean O'Rourke" - a discussion on how the civil service in the United Kingdom was moving towards automated services and how this was leading to the loss of multiple thousands of jobs. It may be a fact of life that we will have to face up to this change into the future, but a debate on the issue would be useful and worthwhile. Personally, I would much rather have a book in my hand rather than read one on a hand-held device. However, that is progress.
Senator Kieran O'Donnell also welcomed the announcement of the new flights from Shannon Airport. He also spoke about the Bus Éireann Expressway service. While his point about the free travel pass is important, as I said in response to the point raised by Senator Robbie Gallagher, the small vulnerable communities that are disconnected from the routes serviced by Expressway are of more concern.
Senator Victor Boyhan referred to the report of Amnesty International and its strong criticism of Ireland on the issues of housing, Travellers, the Roma community and refugees. I believe the Leader will facilitate a debate on the report in the near future. It is certainly meaty and deserves scrutiny.
The Senator also welcomed the proposed establishment of the Brexit committee, the Chairman of which cannot be appointed until the Seanad has approved its establishment.
I join the Senator in congratulating Senator Grace O'Sullivan who received the prestigious Green Leader 2017 award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the tackling of climate change and environmental issues in Ireland. We are all very proud of her achievements.
The positive outcome on job creation is that the unemployment rate has fallen from 15.1% to 6.8%, but, as pointed out by Senator Colm Burke, the reduction in unemployment is impacting on those employed in community partnerships. The people concerned should be deployed for upskilling and training in their areas because obviously they have great experience when it comes to job finding and so on. I am sure the Minister for Social Protection will be happy to come to the House to discuss the new structures that might be put in place to ensure we gain from the experience of individuals employed in community partnerships.
Senator Aidan Davitt raised the issue of Bank of Ireland pushing "fear of missing out, FOMO" loans on students in DCU. This is a worrying trend. In my day all one got from a bank was a Henry Hippo piggy bank.
I am when it comes to this matter. As I said, it is a very damaging trend which I will bring to the attention of the Minister for Finance. In the lead-up to the mortgage crisis the banks engaged in this activity on a much larger scale. I have a friend who wanted to set up a business and applied for a €1 million loan. The response from the bank was that it was prepared to loan her €2 million. We do not want to move towards engaging in that activity again.
As I said, I will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Finance.
Senator Rónán Mullen spoke about the trustworthiness of RTE. In that context, he called for a debate with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment on the declining rate of trust in RTE, the level of which has fallen from 68% to 61%. I saw part of "The Late Late Show" programme mentioned by him and thought it was pathetic and cringe-making. Television programmes are, however, geared towards what the audience wants. Unfortunately, there is an increasing demand for such programmes in this society.
Yes. The Senator has raised the issue in the House on numerous occasions. I will take his comments on board and pass on his request that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment come to the House to discuss the issue which is worthy of debate.