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Seanad debates

Thursday, 9 March 2017

10:30 am

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 2, statements on the announcement by the commission of investigation confirming human remains on the site of the former Tuam mother and baby home, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude not later than 2.30 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each and the Minister to be called on to reply to the debate not later than 2.20 p.m.; and No. 2a, motion regarding the commission of investigation in the Grace case, to be taken at 2.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 3.30 p.m, with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed six minutes each and the Minister to be given four minutes to reply to the debate.

Photo of Catherine ArdaghCatherine Ardagh (Fianna Fail)
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I am heartbroken by the tragic news of a fire in a housing complex in Clondalkin which supports women who have experienced violence. It is sad to see any loss of life but when children are lost in such shocking and unavoidable circumstances, it is unforgivable. We have lost two year old Paris, three year old Holly, four year old Jordan and a young pregnant mother, Annmarie. This is a terrible tragedy and I extend sympathy on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party to all the family and friends of the victims. I also send my best wishes to Biddy who was caught up in the fire and is in a critical condition in St. James's Hospital. If reports that the fire was caused by an electrical fault are found to be true, people need to be held accountable. It must be ensured that an incident such as this never happens again.

I refer also to the march and strike for repeal held yesterday. I congratulate the organisers of the event and the men and women who attended the march. Ireland has an awful track record of maternity care. If men were having children, we would have a hospital akin to the Aviva Stadium, with the aesthetic appearance and resources to match. It is time women were given the care they need in this State and afforded a full right to bodily integrity.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I raised on the Commencement this morning an issue related to the residential redress scheme. While I do not wish to discuss the matter in detail, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, provided a comprehensive response in which he made clear that he understands the concerns related to the issue. It was interesting that the Minister's lengthy and informative contribution noted that a report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General today makes a number of findings with which the Minister is in agreement. He also indicated he would be pleased to respond to a number of the issues raised in the report. I immediately obtained a copy of the report.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Senator may not repeat a previous contribution made on the Commencement.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I ask the Leas-Chathaoirleach to allow me to conclude.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I know the Senator will be concise.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I wish to be consistent because this is an important issue. The Minister helpfully explained to the House that a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General clearly identified a range of issues. The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General issued a press statement in the past ten minutes which refers to outcomes and lessons that have to be learned. We also heard from the Minister about the shortfall in the money owed to the State by religious congregations as part of their commitment to a redress scheme. In effect, the congregations have only delivered 13% of the total cost of the scheme. This issue is so serious that it warrants a debate in the House. I request that the Leader ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, although not necessarily its financial implications. The redress scheme is about to be wound down and the Minister indicated a willingness to come to the House.

Later today, we will discuss two issues related to redress, recompense and apology, all of which are connected. I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister to come to the House as soon as possible to elaborate on the detail of the redress scheme, as it is being wound down, and, more important, to set out the lessons that can be learned and recommendations made in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh leis na daoine a fuair bás sa tine i Cluain Dolcáin. For a beautiful mother, Annmarie, her unborn child, her daughter, Paris, and their relatives, Holly and Jordan, a place of refuge turned out to be their place of death. We extend our sincere sympathy to their families and wish the other people involved in the fire a speedy recovery. Today, I wish to refer to the Leader's response to my remarks yesterday. He will know that I wholeheartedly welcomed the Domestic Violence Bill publicly in this House. Yesterday I pointed out what still needed to be done to provide services that reflect the spirit of the legislation. According to a recommendation made by the Council of Europe Ireland only has 31% of the recommended number of places for women in refuges. Reality must reflect what is in the legislation. It is no use declaring a woman's right to live free from all types of harassment, abuse and violence if the reality is that there are no services in place for her to do so. In 2014, 4,831 requests for safe accommodation were not met due to a lack of capacity. I will outline the uncomfortable facts for the Leader. As I speak, there are 5,400 unallocated cases for social workers with 801 of them considered to be high priority. They are not considered to be high priority without reason. They are children who are at risk and need urgent care. Since the recession began the funding for Women's Aid has been slashed by 31% at a time when demand has increased greatly. The funding must be fully restored in order to give full effect to the legislation that we all welcome.

Leader, I wish these details were alternative facts as he has perpetrated time and again. These really are the uncomfortable truths of our time.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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It would be remiss of us not to do our job in this House and bring these facts to the forefront day in and day out until the problems are solved because they affect people's lives. As we have seen in Clondalkin and throughout this country, this issue is what matters to people. People are at risk because of Government policy and we, as legislators, must ensure that such a policy is stopped. We must ensure that the Government makes the right choices so that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I join with others in expressing my sadness and condolences to the families of Annmarie O'Brien and that of the young children who lost their lives in Clondalkin. I also wish to acknowledge the death yesterday of a young activist who was heavily involved with the unions. No matter what picket line one visited he was sure to be there supporting fellow workers. His name was Joe McGouran. I send my condolences to his family and friends. He was a well known street seller in Dublin 1 and I am sure that community will miss him greatly.

I applaud the organisers of yesterday's marches called Strike 4 Repeal and March for Repeal. It has been estimated that 15,000 people took to the streets yesterday to campaign for the repeal of the eight amendment. The sight of so many people, especially young women, marching for a woman's right to bodily autonomy should show the members of these Houses that the issue has not gone away, that the people of Ireland want a referendum and repeal of the eight amendment but definitely not for the amendment to be replaced in the Constitution.

I wish to acknowledge the announcement yesterday whereby 44 women were nominated for the Irish Film & Television Academy, IFTA, awards. I wish to acknowledge the short film written by Emmet Kirwan that is very much about women's rights. The short film stars my daughter and was nominated by IFTA for the category of best short film. The message in the film was that we all should stand in awe of all mná. The sight yesterday on the streets of Dublin shows that people are ready and willing to stand up for the rights of women.

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Labour)
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On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to pay my respects to the families of the late Annmarie O'Brien and that of the children who lost their lives in the horrific circumstances of a fire in Clondalkin yesterday. Our collective hearts go out to all of the people who loved and knew them. We wish those people who were caught up in the fire a speedy recovery.

I join with my colleague, Senator Ruane, in paying tribute to Joe McGouran who I learned this morning had passed away. He was a well known supporter of the rights of working people in this city. He was a truly great character who had a particular affinity for the Mandate trade union. Recently he was on the picket line to support the Tesco workers. Therefore, it is appropriate that we honour him here today in the national Parliament. I thank the Senator for her kind remarks.

I support Senator Boyhan's view on the redress scheme and his call to discuss the contents of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. A shoddy deal was done by the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the former education Minister, Dr. Michael Woods, with the religious institutions in this country. The institutions have an absolute sin to answer for in terms of how they behaved and the abuse that many orders visited upon young people in this country over centuries. The institutions have been given a free pass. They have played a game of cat and mouse with this State in terms of their obligations in the redress scheme. The shoddy deal was done a couple of decades ago and it deal gave the church a free pass.

For days on end in January and February we discussed the crisis in the health service and the waiting lists in response to the "Prime Time" programme entitled "Living on the List". Over the past few weeks, and while we debated the waiting lists, the outpatient hospital waiting list grew by 11,000. This morning I was struck by an article that I read in the Irish Independent. The article featured an interview with a constituent of mine called Ms Caroline Sherwin who is a mother of two children. Even though she had a lymph node lump it appears that she was passed down the waiting list. She took the opportunity to stage a sit-in protest at my local hospital which is Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. She waited to be seen and treated. She felt that she had to take the situation into her own hands and did not accept being pushed further down the waiting list for emergency treatment. A surgery was performed and it probably saved her life. What does that tell us about the state of the health service?

We all agree in this House that we need a better way to tackle public waiting lists. We have repeatedly discussed the matter in this House and the Lower House. One solution was the fast-tracking of treatment through the National Treatment Purchase Fund, surgery, etc. I understand that such work has yet to happen. I ask the Leader to inform us about the current status of the additional cash injection into the National Treatment Purchase Fund for surgery that can, in many ways, be a lifesaver.

Photo of Catherine NooneCatherine Noone (Fine Gael)
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I rise to raise an issue that I raised a few weeks ago - hospital car parking for long-term illness patients who attend hospitals around the country. The Irish Cancer Society has released a report. I am disappointed to learn that its ongoing campaign to change hospital car parking pricing policies had little success this year. In my view, guidelines should cover all long-term illness patients, including cancer patients. Long-term illness patients and their families are under immense pressure during times of illness. They suffer physically, financially and emotionally day and night. We should listen to their needs and assist them where possible.

The NHS in the UK has issued guidelines to hospitals ordering that certain patients receive either concession or free car parking in order to reduce the pressure on patients during these times. A number of Irish hospitals already implement such a system and, therefore, it is doable. I again call on the Minister for Health to consider issuing a nationwide car parking price policy for hospitals, especially for long-term illness patients such as cancer patients.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Leader of the House to consider an issue that was raised here by Senator Billy Lawless. I refer to the long wave radio service that is provided by RTE on LW 252 in the United Kingdom and Britain. An update was given in the Irish Independenton 6 March by Gavin White. Many in the Irish community in Britain will lose their last link with Ireland if the long wave 252 radio service is shut down by RTE. I hereby request the Leader of the Seanad and all of its 60 Members to lobby RTE not to terminate this vital link for our many emigrants.Senator Billy Lawless raised this issue here last month and he made the point well. Protests will be held on St. Patrick's Day and on 14 March in Manchester and Leeds. The protests will be arranged by the Irish in Britain. Approximately 600,000, or more, people in Britain are of direct Irish descent. I have relatives in Manchester and London. They rely on this service because the BBC cannot be relied upon to project anything about Ireland. The Irish in Britain will be further isolated post-Brexit. Many people have direct links to the Tuam issue, including mothers and children who were there, and other issues occurring at home, and they will not ever hear anything about it on the BBC or any other radio station without this vital link to home.

Why would we turn our back on the Irish in Britain? RTE could provide it for a very small amount of money, which could easily be deducted from some very expensive presenters and other issues which arise which are wastes of time and space. RTE provides a good service here at home, but it is its responsibility to provide a good service abroad. I call on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, to intervene in this situation and to give a ministerial directive to maintain this radio link. Ministers seem to be afraid of getting involved in being Ministers. I never came across a Government that had less ministerial responsibility than this Government.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Senator is running into overtime.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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The Leas-Chathaoirleach might not like to hear this.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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We like to hear everything.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I am only giving my observation. I was in Departments when decisions were made and upheld. It is all referred to committees of the House nowadays. I ask the Minister to intervene here, and I wish him well when he is abroad. I wish everybody a very happy St. Patrick's Day. I support Ministers going abroad, as I went myself. They do a very good job, but when they are abroad, I ask them to bear in mind the needs-----

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Senator is well over time.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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It is very important. We only have St. Patrick's Day once a year. It is not every week.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I wish the Senator a very happy St. Patrick's Day too.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I wish them well on their tours abroad, successful work on St. Patrick's Day and indeed after it.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the families in Clondalkin, to wish the victim who is in hospital well and to wish her a speedy recovery.

I ask the Leader to consider inviting the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the House in the not too distant future to discuss the many problems that returning emigrants encounter when they come back to Ireland, particularly from the USA. I will outline a few problems they face. It is difficult for a person who has been in America for a number of years to open a bank account here in Ireland. It is also very difficult for a person to get car insurance. The cost of car insurance here is very high, particularly for somebody returning from the United States who does not have an Irish driving licence, but who has a driving licence from one of the 50 states in America. I ask that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade come to the House to discuss what can be done. I know that we do not have any deal on driving licences with the United States, because there are 50 states in America with different licences, but we have deals with many other countries around the globe where their licences are recognised in this State and ours are recognised in theirs.

Perhaps something can be done about that, because it is important that a person's driving licence is recognised when he or she comes here, particularly when buying and insuring a car. I have come across some people who have come here and it is cheaper for them to rent a car on a long-term basis rather than buy a car and insure it given the exorbitant cost of insurance here. The fact that they have to resit a driving test should be considered. It should also be made easier for people returning here to open a bank account, particularly those who left our shores for quite a number of years and are returning, because we welcome back all emigrants. Some are coming back into the workforce, where they are badly needed at present. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the House to address those issues.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Ba mhaith liom mo ghlór a chur leis na daoine atá ag tabhairt ómóis don dream bocht a fuair bás sa tine tragóideach i gCluain Dolcáin inné. I add my name to the tributes that have been paid to those that perished in the tragic fire in Clondalkin. Our hearts go out to them and to all their families and friends. It was a tragic event.

I wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I understand that there is a motion to be taken without debate on the extension of the deadline of the work of the Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. I would like to debate that for a number of reasons and I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business to the effect that we debate that issue. It is important that we take stock at this stage of where we are with water charges, but the extension of the committee's deadline is unnecessary. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voting together in the committee is a clear attempt to buy more time to reach a backroom deal on this issue. They are unable to make a decision between them even though they have a confidence and supply arrangement and even though a majority of people elected to the Dáil were elected on a right to water front and were opposed to water charges. The can is being kicked down the road once more. We in Sinn Féin have no objection to the taking of legal advice, but the fact of the matter is that the legal opinions heard to date all seem to be different.

The committee could and should have met its original deadline. We will not have a report until April now, with the Oireachtas due to vote on the issue in May. We are still debating the issue of domestic water charges in these Chambers one year after the formation of the Government and almost 15 months after the Thirty-second Dáil was elected. This issue should have been put to bed at the beginning of this Dáil term. We are again seeing Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael obfuscating the issue. The committee does not need another month. We need to make a decision on this matter and to put it to a vote once and for all. It is important that we get a chance to debate the issue in this Chamber as well, to see where the majority of Senators stand on the issue. I propose the amendment to the Order of Business that the motion on the work of the Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services be taken with debate.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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We are not going to bring the Senator to court anyway.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Order, please. No other interruptions please. Senator Ó Clochartaigh's time is up.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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I concur with Senator Burke on the issue of the driver's licence, but the issue was raised two weeks ago with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for the diaspora, Deputy Joe McHugh. Instead of us having another debate about it, he might speak to his fellow county man, who is the Taoiseach, and we can have some action on the issues that the diaspora is facing.

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael)
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I would like to be associated with the condolences to the young children who died in the fire this morning, and to the person who is in hospital. She will hopefully have a speedy recovery.

I am alarmed at the figures released this morning about the interim applications to the Central Applications Office, CAO. The applications for nursing are down by over 9% and the number for teaching is lower as well. I know the closure of beds in St. John's Hospital in Limerick was raised here in the last two days, and 15 of those closures were because of the lack of nurses. It is alarming that the application numbers for nurses are down by over 9%. I would like the Leader to have a debate about ways that we could incentivise people and encourage them to apply for the nursing course. Health and nursing care are brought to the fore every week here on the Order of Business. We need a debate to look at ways to incentivise and encourage people to apply for nursing courses, so that we can help to reduce the waiting lists and reopen beds.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
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As we approach St. Patrick's Day and the Taoiseach prepares for his visit to Washington, D.C., domestic matters here require some attention from the Government, particularly matters north of the Border. I take the opportunity to congratulate the Sinn Féin party on the vote it obtained there last week, coming within a whisper of being the largest block - I think the dividing zone was 1,168 votes. There are issues which require immediate and urgent attention by both the Irish and British Governments. It is incumbent on the Irish Government to pressurise the British Government to deal with some of the legacy issues from the past which affect communities in the North of Ireland.Last week in the House I raised those issues surrounding independent, objective scrutiny and analysis of the killings during the Troubles due to collusion by British forces. The British Government seems to be wholly focused on and consumed by the issue of Brexit and all the while people in the North of Ireland probably turned out and voted in greater numbers as a result of not just the political options but the fear of a dividing wall separating our country again. For the first time since 1922, the Good Friday Agreement all but removed that dividing barrier. Now we are faced with the prospect of it being erected again. The symbolic movement of people and goods across the Border has been very beneficial to the island of Ireland and it is important that it would remain. There is a need for a new infusion of impetus by the Irish Government with regard to the issue. While the Taoiseach parades all over the world and travels to Washington, which is also important, there are domestic issues affecting Irish people, whether North or South of the Border, that require urgent attention. Take the politics out of it. Let us sit down and ensure that the British Government plays the part it should in dealing with this particular issue.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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I also send my condolences to the families of the woman and young children who perished in Clondalkin. It is very sad. Sometimes we need to reflect on the fact that these awful things happen. We must do everything we can to try to ensure that they do not happen again.

As we approach St. Patrick's Day and the St. Patrick's Day events, I note that the week is an important one for the island of Ireland and our diaspora. I pay tribute to the organisations and Ministers that are selling Ireland abroad. I do not normally agree with Senator Leyden, but I do agree that the LW radio is very important. From my trips to Kilburn and the United Kingdom, I know that they are much more in contact and in touch with what is happening in this country. Senator Gavan would agree. They haveThe Irish Postand get the local newspapers sent weekly. I pay tribute to those involved in new media. In my town of Boyle, we haverealboyle.comand boyletoday.com. The information on those websites is invaluable to the diaspora living in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. The men and women providing the websites are providing another way of communication and such websites are to be found in every town and village throughout the country. It is a new medium. Given that we are coming up to St. Patrick's Day, I note that they are providing an absolutely wonderful service.

The election in Northern Ireland was a good one for nationalism, Sinn Féin, especially, and the SDLP. However, I think the people in Northern Ireland also came out to vote because they were unhappy about the result in the Brexit vote. Much of it was a Brexit issue. All I can say is that there will be interesting times ahead on the two islands.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment proposed by Senator Ó Clochartaigh to the Order of Business.

I refer to the Hastings dispute where a group of workers has been out on the picket line in all weathers for six weeks. I am glad to report that there was a tremendously successful march in Westport last Saturday. My colleague, Senator Conway-Walsh, was there, as was I. There was tremendous support from the SIPTU trade union on the day. However, what struck me most was the support of the Westport locals. These workers were cheered through the streets of Westport and Jack O'Connor gave a rousing speech on the day. I am glad to report that there are now signs of progress; the company has apparently agreed to go back into talks. Tribute should be paid to the union and, in particular, the members in Westport for the courage and determination they have shown.

The dispute highlights the vulnerability of workers, particularly when we consider towns in rural Ireland where they can feel quite isolated at times. It is incumbent perhaps on the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to attend the House. There are a number of outstanding issues on the agenda for trade unions in terms of supporting workers' rights. Many of them came up during the debate on tourism and the hospitality sector yesterday. For example, we still have no sign of any progress in terms of implementing the report of the University of Limerick on low and zero-hour contracts. I genuinely do not understand the delay. In fairness to the last Government, it seemed to recognise that there was an issue and the need to move on. The report is nearly 18 months old at this stage. We really need to move on this because workers are vulnerable. Unfortunately, unscrupulous employers continue to push for a race to the bottom in terms of conditions. We have the means to build in protections for workers. I am genuinely puzzled as to why the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has been silent for as long as it has. I request that the Minister would attend the House. However, I am delighted to report good progress in the Hastings dispute.

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Fine Gael)
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Today the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment launched and attended the national forum on food waste. This allows us the opportunity to bring into sharp focus the amount of food that is wasted in the country. It is estimated that 1.1 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. Of that, 450,000 tonnes is attributed to food production. This means that 450,000 tonnes of food are wasted before ever getting to the consumer. This is not stuff that is taken from one's fridge. There is waste by both the consumer and in the commercial sector. Given the issues surrounding food poverty for children and adults, what is happening is highly unethical.

We are also challenged in terms of reducing our carbon emissions. Without a doubt, to grow, transport and take food from the supermarket home - to dispose of it - takes energy and adds to our carbon footprint. If we are to become the modern and progressive society we all strive to be in so many different fields, we cannot ignore this level of waste.

Denmark has taken many initiatives that have resulted in reducing the amount of food waste. Our Environmental Protection Agency runs a national food waste prevention campaign. We need to begin with increasing awareness of where this is happening and how we personally can begin to address it and of the systems that are in place. This Chamber is a fitting location to host a debate on the issue. Going back as far as last summer, I have asked on a number of occasions for such a debate. Perhaps events and circumstances are now dovetailing and will allow this to be on the agenda so that people can participate so that we learn and move on to make a difference in our country.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I thank the 14 Members who contributed on the Order of Business. Ar mo shon féin, ar son Fhine Gael agus ar son gach Seanadóir sa Teach, déanaim comhbhrón le muintir Annmarie O'Brien agus na leanaí a fuair bháis. Today we remember Annmarie O'Brien, Paris, Holly and Jordan. As I stated yesterday, it is important to recognise that the loss of life is tragic. How it happened is even more numbing. We send our deepest sympathies to the families. No words of ours today will offer any solace but it is important to stand in solidarity with the families. We extend our sympathy to the family of Joe McGouran as well.

Senators Ardagh and Ruane raised the issue of yesterday's march. As I stated yesterday, it is important that we allow the Citizens' Assembly to do its work. In congratulating the people who marched yesterday, it is important to distinguish between maternal services and the repeal the eighth amendment. In my opinion, they are not linked.We have a very positive national maternity strategy. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, is pursuing that but it is important that we acknowledge that the Constitutional Convention, which was set up in the previous Oireachtas, did a tremendous job and now we have the Citizens' Assembly. I made the point yesterday that those who criticised the establishment of the Citizens' Assembly should look at the proceedings from last Saturday and Sunday and watch the way the members of the assembly read the policy and position papers put forward by the various advocacy groups, both for and against. It is evident that this will be a divisive issue but, that said, it is important that the Citizens' Assembly is allowed to compete its work and that the report it presents to the Government will then be debated in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

It is my expressed hope that we will have a referendum to put to the people that will decide the issue. We can debate the issue when the report has been made by the Citizens' Assembly, when we know what it recommends and what the Government intends to do following the publication and consideration of the report. Those who marched yesterday deserve to be congratulated for taking a stand. People will also have another view and they will march as well. That is the democracy we live in. We should welcome and congratulate all those who march and organise.

Senator Boyhan raised the redress scheme and the report published today on the matter. I share his disappointment at the failure of the religious congregations to live up to their side of the deal. Government policy was, and still is, to pursue the religious congregations for their share of the costs of redress on a 50:50 basis. What that means is that the religious congregations would contribute €760 million. To date, what has transpired is that approximately 23% of the overall cost has been contributed. Contributions received from the congregations up to the end of 2015 represent approximately 13% of the cost. Senator Nash outlined that the 2002 deal was signed up to by the then Minister, Michael Woods. It is a bit hard to listen to Deputy Micheál Martin's comments about handing over buildings and grounds when the deal to which he was a party, as a member of the then Government, let the congregations off the hook. Rather than playing to the gallery in terms of being populist, we should see how we can collectively get the money or its equivalent. I do not wish to be political.

The State must look after those who were treated badly and pursue those responsible. I speak as Leader. We have had the Cloyne report, the Ryan report, the Murphy report and we now have the awful tragedy of the Tuam mother and baby home on which we will have a debate today in the House. We will also debate the Grace case today. As the Taoiseach said, how long more do we have to keep coming back to the legacies of the past? There is an obligation and duty on the current group of people in charge of religious orders and congregations to live up to the expectations of the people of the country who look to them to provide a new type of leadership. We can have all the commissions of investigation we want - we accept that we need them - but we also agree that responsibility must be taken and people must be accountable. It is about time those who are now in charge in religious orders live up to their expectation. I was condemned for the reply I made to Senator Gavan about the Bon Secours group. One cannot equate today's modern hospital groups that provide services with the old system. There is an obligation on those who were not part of that system. I wish to make a distinction.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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Who owns the group?

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I wish to make a distinction.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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We cannot have a debate on the matter now.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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They have an obligation and duty to live up to their side of the bargain. I would be very happy for the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, to come to the House. You said we should not revisit the debate, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, but in his reply to Senator Boyhan today the Minister said that under the 2002 indemnity agreement, 18 of the religious congregations that managed residential institutions agreed to provide a collective contribution of €128 million, comprising cash, counselling services and property. It is important that the transfer process needs to continue.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader can arrange for another debate.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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It is important that we have such a debate but it is also important that we do not airbrush history and allow people to not live up to their obligations. The Minister in his reply to Senator Boyhan today said: "we have to ask questions as to why organisations with stated missions to serve the public and uphold moral codes apparently place so little importance on these values."

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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That is all on the Commencement debate.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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That must be said. We cannot stymie that, irrespective of what people's views are.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader should not rehash the Commencement debate on the Order of Business.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I understand that.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader should be concise in response to questions on the Order of Business.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I am. Given the magnitude of the issue that is before us as a society and as a House, as Leader of the House-----

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader can organise a separate debate on the issue.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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-----it is incumbent on me to focus on this issue in replying to the Order of Business, which every single household is talking about.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Well done. The Leader is using his position.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Order, please.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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You must be in a hurry, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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No. We will deal with the business as it arises.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Senator Conway-Walsh is trying to goad me into having a cat and mouse game. I fully accept that the facts she presented are her version of reality.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Yes, indeed.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I accept that there is a lot of work that we need to continue to do. I have no issue with that, Senator Conway-Walsh.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader should speak through the Chair.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The point I wish to make in this context is that the domestic violence legislation has been enacted, the Tánaiste has launched the national strategy and, in addition, Tusla, which is the organisation charged with the responsibility, is providing funding for 60 services throughout the country: €12 million for emergency refugee support services; €4.6 million for community-based domestic violence support services; and €4 million for rape crisis centres.

In addition, in the Tusla budget for 2017 national investment in domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services will increase by €1.5 million. Tusla is providing funding for 147 family units of emergency non-refuge space and it includes eight additional family units; six additional family units of emergency accommodation in Dublin and Kildare and two in Sligo. In Cork, Edel House has been upgraded and renovated. The emergency national violence accommodation spaces in Rebuilding Ireland will be additional. While I accept Senator Conway-Walsh has a legitimate concern and a right to articulate them, it is important to recognise that work is being done and the Government is providing funding. I hope we can put that on the record as well.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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Senator Conway-Walsh called for a debate.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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We had a debate as part of the domestic violence Bill. We had extensive debate on the issue. Thanks to the co-operation of the entire House------

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader is now responding to the issues raised.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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-----we were able to get the Bill passed despite the objections of some, as the Senator is well aware. That shows the House worked well together.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader should speak through the Chair.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Yes. I join with Senator Ruane in congratulating those who have been nominated for the IFTAs. Senator Nash also paid tribute to Joe McGouran. I have not got a response for him yet to his question about the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, but I will get it for him.

Senator Noone raised the car parking strategy in some hospitals. I agree with her that there is a need for a sustained universal health policy on pricing for car parking for families of long-term patients who are terminally ill, have cancer, are on dialysis or those with children in hospital. Some hospitals have a compassionate scheme but a universal approach needs to be taken on car parking policy. I know the HSE will tell us that it is a source of revenue that is put back into the hospital groups but there needs to be a universal policy on hospital car parking.

I have good news for Senator Leyden about long wave 252. As he is aware, the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, was in the House to respond to Senator Lawless's Commencement matter and the transmission has been reprieved until 2019 at least. It is one that we need-----

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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It has not been confirmed.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I am sorry.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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That has not been confirmed.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Senator cannot intervene at this stage.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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On behalf of the 407,000 Irish people in the UK, it is critically important that this access and connectivity should continue. I hope Members will combine to raise this issue with RTE. We might communicate with the communications committee also. When the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, attended the House, he gave a positive reply about the radio service. I will get the reply for the Senator, who is correct to raise it.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I have read the reply. It has not been confirmed.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I cannot allow the Senator in on this.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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My information is that it has.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Leader. I am delighted to hear that. It is great news for St. Patrick's Day.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I am glad the Senator raised the matter. He is correct and I agree with him completely.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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The Leader should not encourage Members opposite into further debate.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I would like to wish everybody a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I join the Senator in wishing all our Ministers who are going abroad safe travel. I am sure they will do a good job in selling, promoting and marketing Ireland. It is important that people travel and tell the world that we are open for business and we are the best small country in the world in which to do business. Our new employment figures will tell the world that we are open, ready, and available and that we have an educated workforce who are looking for new jobs to be created.

Senator Paddy Burke asked for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to come to the House. He made an important point about returning emigrants. It is highly unacceptable that citizens returning to their own country face issues opening bank accounts and with car insurance costs. The Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will be in the House on Wednesday week to discuss the issue of motor insurance. Senator Burke is correct that this is an absolute disgrace and these returning citizens are being poorly treated by these institutions.

I will not accept Senator Ó Clochartaigh's amendment to the Order of Business. The Business Committee of the Dáil agreed to take the motion on the report on water services without debate. We will follow suit. We had a debate-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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We can be independent and do our own thing.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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-----on the creation of the committee and we will have-----

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Order, please.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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We will have the debate on the completion of the committee report and the Senator will have an opportunity to contribute. I am sure there will be lots of water poured over and under the bridge by then.

Senator Byrne raised the issue of CAO nursing applications and she is correct that the number of people applying to study nursing is an issue. I hope the Minister for Health in his talks with the INMO will incentivise this and I also hope we can have a debate at the earliest convenience.

I join Senator Ó Domhnaill in congratulating Sinn Féin on its magnificent vote last week in the North. I also congratulate the SDLP. I congratulate the nationalist parties, in particular, because it was a great day for nationalism. Those of us who are Irish republicans were very much delighted with last week's result. I commend the Alliance Party as well on its success. It proves that when people are given a reason to vote, they will go out and do so. The mandate given brings with it responsibility. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is in the North and, as Senator Ó Domhnaill said, the Government is very much focused on the domestic situation as well. The Minister is meeting Secretary of State Brokenshire today while the Taoiseach has spoken to Prime Minister May. All sides in the North have a duty to come together to reach a power-sharing agreement to avoid direct rule. None of us want direct rule or another election in the short term. I congratulate all who took part in the election. I canvassed for a friend in Ballycastle during the election campaign. I was pleased by the turnout because people were energised on the doors.

I congratulate Senator Feighan on the role he has played in regard to the Good Friday Agreement and the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

I join Senator Gavan in welcoming the progress in the Hastings dispute. It is important that people talk and it is equally important that workers get their due. A recommendation has been made in this dispute and it is important for that to happen. I am pleased the Senator is supporting Jack O'Connor. He is a fine advocate for the workers of Ireland and I am glad the Senator is supporting him.

Senator Mulherin raised the issue of food waste. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is before the EPA forum today. He is seeking to set up an action group to launch a national charter on food waste. Ireland signed up in 2015 to the UN sustainable development charter. Senator Mulherin is correct that it is important to have a debate on this and I would be happy to facilitate that. As she said, it dovetails with food poverty. A total of 450,000 tonnes of food is wasted before it goes anywhere.

I will not accept the amendment to the Order of Business.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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Senator Ó Clochartaigh has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 1 be taken with debate". Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 27.



Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Gavan and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared lost.

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