Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on public service broadcasting, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to conclude not later than 6.30 p.m. with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than 6.25 p.m.; No. 2, statements on the national rehabilitation hospital, to be taken 6.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7.10 p.m. with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be called upon to reply not later than 7.05 p.m.
I propose we observe a minute’s silence in memory of those tragically killed and injured in last night’s atrocity in Manchester.
I send my deepest sympathies, and those of the Fianna Fáil Party, to the families of those victims murdered and injured in yesterday's brutal attacks in Manchester. It is hard to fathom the extent of this depravity. Why anyone would attack innocent children at a concert is beyond the realms of belief. The people of Manchester, as we know, are resilient and will not stand for this type of evil attack on their city or children. I would like to send the message that we stand 100% behind them in their fight against terrorism in their city. I also hope this vicious attack by extreme Islamic fundamentalists does not isolate Muslim communities in Manchester, or in our own city, who vehemently condemn these barbaric attacks along with us. The second issue I wish to raise is the imminent closure, from 1 June, of 11 of the 22 beds at the Linn Dara child and adolescent inpatent mental health service in Cherry Orchard in Ballyfermot. This decision will have a major impact on the already hard-hit mental health services in the greater Dublin area. I, therefore, implore the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Helen McEntee, to reconsider and stop the closure. The closure of the 11 beds is due to a shortage of nursing staff. Over 50% of the nursing posts at the centre are currently vacant. As we know, Ireland is one of the leading importers and exporters of medical professionals, something of which we should be ashamed. This is an extreme but real example of the shambolic recruitment policy followed by the Government in the past six years. Children who have been diagnosed as critically unwell and admitted to hospital and who are at serious risk of harm are being discharged back to their homes where they could be at risk of further harm due to the staff shortages. The solution is placing them in adult facilities which, ultimately, are not appropriate. The closure is completely unacceptable and shows the disrespect and almost contempt the Government has for children with mental health issues. If need be, they can be forced to attend adult psychiatry units which are most inappropriate. I call on the Minister of State to stop the closure.
First and foremost, I am sure everybody in the House wants to offer his or her deepest sympathy following the events in Manchester. The truth is that there is terrorism all around us. In the modern world terrorists can move from country to country. They can operate in cells, lie in hiding and await being called and we saw what happened last night when, apparently, one slight gap in the security system at the Manchester Arena allowed a terrorist to blow himself and 22 other human beings to kingdom come. I have spoken previously in this Chamber about the National Security Committee which consists of six persons, four of whom are secretaries general of Departments, one of whom is the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, while the other is the Garda Commissioner. There is nobody overseeing the committee which does not report to the Oireachtas which needs to have oversight. We do not need to know the minutiaeof what it does, but we do need to know that there is oversight and that there are plans in place. The co-operation about which the Taoiseach spoke this morning between the United Kingdom and Ireland is all very well, but the House of Commons and the House of Lords have oversight of the security organisations in the United Kingdom and receive have regular reports which are made available on a website. We do not have that luxury in this country. These are the Houses of the Oireachtas in which the people are represented. When will the Government put a director of national security in place who would report to the Oireachtas and confirm to and reassure it and the people that all of the various State agencies are working in unison? This is a vitally important issue and on a day like today it pains me to bring it up again. One of these days RTE will be reporting on a tragedy. We have had terrorism on this island and those who terrorised it also terrorised the rest of the United Kingdom. Let us not forget the Manchester bombings in the 1980s and the Birmingham bombings. The only way we can be assured that the various State agencies are working to maximum capacity is by having a director of national security to report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. Will the Leader ask the incoming Taoiseach, whoever he may be, to consider the establishment of that post?
I express my sincere condolences and those of the Sinn Féin team in the Seanad to the families of those who lost their lives in the Manchester bombing. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and those who have been injured and traumatised by the atrocity. Manchester is a city that has been home to generations of Irish citizens. It embraces diversity and multiculturalism which are reflected in the many county associations that keep Irish culture alive in the city, which diversity can be seen in the St. Patrick's Day parade.We stand in solidarity with the people of Manchester, against hatred, division and fear. We unite with Manchester in creating an inclusive and safe society where people live in peace and harmony, embracing each other's differences and celebrating each other's cultures. I commend the people of Manchester who opened their doors last night to people in need and in distress. I commend the emergency services and all those who came to the aid of the people who were caught up in this bombing. May the deceased rest in peace.
We often use the term "Manchester United". Today it is united in grief, despair and loss. We hope it is not loss of hope. The Civil Engagement group very simply also wishes to give its condolences, understanding, thoughts and prayers to those affected and those around them.
To move to another issue, I will address the current public pay negotiations and people with disabilities with regard to their services and supports. Some provider organisations - section 38 organisations - are effectively in the negotiations through their unions. Any pay and conditions implications and costs will be provided for by the State via the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This is not so for other organisations in the same communities providing the same services - those are section 39 organisations. They took the same cuts and had to deal with them. They are now being told to use the State's industrial relations machinery. There is no automatic bailout for them. Both sets of organisations are in the same labour market, but one will automatically move with the rising tide of pay conditions and increases that are agreed in this. In effect, they will have a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform bailout.
The section 39 organisations are in the same labour market, with the same pressures and similar staff, and still tied at the low water level of the cuts that they got. That is not sustainable or fair. It is not that it is not fair to the organisation, but it is not fair to the people the organisations are trying to serve. It is not sustainable and it will not result in quality services. This situation is now about to get worse through these negotiations. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is the State decision maker on this, and I ask the Leader to urgently request that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform come to the Seanad to set out how he intends to quickly rebalance this so that the section 39 organisations have equal capacity to deliver quality and sustainable services, and to continue to work to be in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is in the driving seat. It negotiates and determines the budget for the Department of Health or for the HSE, not the Minister for Health. I am very sincerely and strongly calling on the Leader to have the Minister responsible come to this House and show how he will address this matter.
I certainly know that last night should have been a night of joy and happiness for many parents, when their children were in many cases going to a concert for the first time unaccompanied, or when younger children were accompanied by their parents. For such indiscriminate bombing of those children and that concert to happen is totally unforgivable. My group here within the Seanad sends its sympathy to the people of Manchester, and especially to the people who have lost young people. They will never get over that sense of fear of bad news. I remember very distinctly when Dublin was bombed. I was sent out by my mother to search for my uncle, because he normally came through the city centre at the same time as the bomb exploded.What must the parents have gone through last night when they were worried about their children? It must have been horrendous. The bombing of cities, of concerts, of people at any time is unforgivable and should never happen. We send our deepest sympathies.
I want to give the Leader notice that the Labour Party group intends to put a motion on the Order Paper regarding the sale of State assets and in particular the sale of AIB shares. That motion will be put down on the Order Paper tomorrow and we will seek cross-party support for the motion which we will circulate to all parties for their contributions when we have it.
Last night's bomb attack in Manchester was a cowardly and evil act that has taken the lives of many innocent and defenceless people who were simply going about their daily lives, enjoying a concert, and it must be condemned. Our thoughts and sympathies are first and foremost with the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in this atrocity. To see the pictures of children covered in blood, looking for their parents, and parents looking for their children was horrendous. I was watching Sky News and to see the photographs of first two children who had been killed was heartbreaking.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this attack. As it is losing its grip in other countries, is this now their cowardly way? I read recently in the press that we have between 75 and 80 of these Islamic State fighters or supporters in this country. I want to know what level of threat these people are to the State. We have concerts happening here soon and I want the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality to come in and inform us of the level of threat to the Irish public and what safety measures will be put in place now that this has happened across the water.
I join with Senator Catherine Ardagh, leader of the Fianna Fáil group in offering our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and relations of the 22 people who were murdered in Manchester last night and the 59 people who were badly injured by this suicide bomber. It was at an Ariana Grande concert. She is an American pop idol who appeals primarily to young people. My granddaughter was supposed to go to the concert on Saturday evening in Dublin. She specifically appeals to a young group, it was not an old concert by one of the famous singers, it was geared mainly for young people and when one considers that Saffie Roussos, aged eight years, was murdered last night in Manchester it brings home what happened. Many young people have not yet been found and their parents have been making appeals on television to locate their loved ones. The people of Manchester should be commended for how they have risen to the occasion, there were many wonderful deeds and acts of kindness displayed by the wonderful people of Manchester. Many people in Manchester have Irish connections and I myself have family members there.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for this atrocity. On the question of responsibility it should be pointed out that this was the weak part of any concert, when people are leaving. Those responsible were not going to get in with a bomb on their back but the perpetrator came in when those attending the concert were all leaving and panic ensured. There is nothing more we can say except that we, as a Seanad, through the Leader and through the Cathaoirleach should send a united condolences to the Mayor and people of Manchester, the families, friends and relations.
We must move on. We cannot allow these atrocities and the ISIS organisation to stop freedom. We all have to be on alert. It is high alert across the world and no country is exempt from the activities of ISIS. This is a most tragic situation and it is only right that we as a Seanad give our deepest, genuine sympathies.
I unreservedly condemn the appalling massacre in Manchester but one must also ask where does this viciousness come from.It is not a natural part of human nature. One must, regrettably, remember the unspeakable massacre of civilians by the American bombing of men, women and children in Falluja.
I rise today to express my regret at the closing of GLEN. It originally emerged from the Hirschfeld Centre. It did a remarkable and very professional job of lobbying and campaigning. It published a series of very important reports on the situation, establishing for the first time a factual basis on which Government policy could be launched. It was originally funded by Chuck Feeney, and we need to pay tribute to his enormous impact and generosity. In the early days of the gay movement, we got no grants whatever. We had to earn all the money ourselves. I remember some weeks I did five discos a night - a week, not a night. Five discos a night would be a bit much even for me.
It is remarkable that I was the person who stopped both Elton John and Freddie Mercury - I did not know who they were - and asked them for their membership certificates. I pay tribute to Brian Sheehan in particular. He did a remarkable job. Kieran Rose also worked extremely hard, even though latterly he was a little foolish. He took me on in something he published in which he said I was unfit to be in politics and should not be allowed into the Seanad because I described the Government's initial civil partnership Bill as a dog licence, but I am absolutely unrepentant. It is the responsibility of independent campaigners to hold the Government to the gold standard and not to lean on it for any little crumb that falls from its table. I pay tribute to GLEN and I am very sorry it has closed down. I thank the organisation as an ordinary gay person for the remarkable work it did and I hope there will be a successor organisation to carry on what it has done. Finally, I would like to say how very sorry I am that the three remaining employees will now find themselves on the dole queue.
I join with all the other speakers in their comments on what happened in Manchester last night. I do not think anyone here could support what happened. There are 22 people dead and I think something like 16 people under the age of 16 in hospital. They are the youth and they are our future. I pass on my sympathies to all involved.
I wish to pay tribute to one other person, namely, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, who has served with great distinction over the past six years. He comes from my native Limerick. He announced his retirement as Minister recently, and I wish Michael and his family all the very best for the future. Given where the economy was, he did a fantastic job bringing the country back to where it is. He has not only been very good for Limerick but for the entire country. He is well respected in Europe. He is in Brussels at the moment. I saw on social media earlier that finance Ministers were paying their own tributes to him. He has served this country in a manner in which we can be very proud of him.
I agree with Senator Norris: I am sorry to see the demise of GLEN. I am someone who took the first steps to manoeuvre Irish public opinion and my partners in government at the time towards, first of all, the idea of civil partnership.
They were a very responsible group of people and were very constructive at all times.
I wish to echo a second remark made by Senator Norris, namely, the idea that people could be filled with such hatred towards other people that they would take out their children and take out themselves in the same moment. In this context, everyone is revolted by what happened in Manchester yesterday, and everyone should be, but Ireland should also take a look at what is happening in the world this week. In particular, I am deeply disturbed by the conference in Saudi Arabia at which the proposition was put forward that the Sunnis are all right and that evil lies in Iran to be confronted.I do not remember Shia people bombing Coptic Christians in Egypt. I do not remember them blowing up wedding parties in Pakistan.
I do not remember them carrying out 9/11. I do not remember them blowing up innocent people right across the world. I do not see Shia people destroying young girls' lives in Nigeria. In that context, I resent bitterly the suggestion by President Trump that somehow all the evil is to be located north of the Arabian Gulf and that all goodness is now to be found south of it. Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Salafism. Saudi Arabia is the place from which this poison has spread.
I believe we need a debate in the Chamber about where Ireland as a member state of the European Union stands in this new world, where grotesque distortions of truth and what we might call alternative facts are being elevated to international truth in rather alarming ceremonies held in conjunction with massive arms sales.
It is, as Robert Fisk has pointed out on a number of occasions and as I have hinted myself in some articles I have written, that we are getting ready for a war on Iran. The weapons are being put in place and the rhetoric is being deployed. It is a huge injustice, especially to a people whose regime is by no means perfect at all but whose people voted for moderation in recent days. It is one of the few countries, God bless us, in that neck of the woods where there are elections which mean anything.
I echo the words of condolence for Saffie Rose and Georgina, the eight and 18 year old young girl and woman, who were the first victims from Manchester to be named today. We are heartbroken and we send our love and support to the people of Manchester.
Today I welcome the review published by the HSE into maternity care in this country. The clinical complaints covered four decades, with particular emphasis on the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise. It was initiated following an RTE programme "Fatal Failures" in 2004, another whistleblowing programme on which I commend RTE. It also did a programme on Grace. It has done much over the past two decades to point out the absurdities and failures in this country.
The findings of the report and review cover 203 complaints received relating to perinatal death, maternal death, communication and the management of labour among others. It has taken too long, from 2014 to 2017, to get this report published today. This has exacerbated the stress and grief of those who lost babies in difficult and unusual circumstances. It is necessary that we learn lessons and implement recommendations which will help underpin quality compassionate care that is science-led in our hospitals for our women and babies. I hope the proposed national maternity hospital will get rid of any church and religious influences and will go along with science and compassion.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Targeting a concert attended by young people, many of them teenagers, is plumbing new depths of depravity and is truly a massacre of the innocents. Every Irish person stands in solidarity today with the city of Manchester, which has been devastated by a vile act of terrorism. We must remember that Manchester has a very proud Irish community, many of whom are from my region of the west of Ireland. It is estimated that approximately 35,000 Irish people live in the greater Manchester area. This senseless atrocity has left Manchester reeling. While this is a time of deep sadness it is also clear that its people will not cave in to terrorism. The Seanad stands united in absolutely deploring this outrageous crime against humanity.
I join my colleagues in expressing my sincere sympathy to the people of Manchester on the terrible happening last evening.Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
I wish to raise the issue of children's hospice care. This week is Children's Hospice Week so it is fitting that we should address the issues of funding and planning for children's hospice care in this country. I pay tribute to the hospice services throughout the country which do great work providing much-needed care for people who are very ill and much-needed support for their families. It is particularly sad to see children in need of hospice care. This week the LauraLynn children's hospice said there are an estimated 506 sick children in this country in need of hospice care who do not have access to it. That is a very sad statistic. It is estimated that at any given time in this country, 3,800 children with life-threatening conditions are in need of hospice care. Of that figure, an estimated 700 are in need of immediate hospice care.
There are two issues that must be addressed. The first is funding. Funding currently provided by the HSE only allows the LauraLynn facility to cater for 150 sick children. The facility can cater for approximately 200 children. There is also the issue of sick children in rural Ireland and how they are to get care. I ask the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister as a matter of urgency. The one luxury these sick children do not have is time.
I had intended to raise a separate issue but most Members of the House would agree that everything is overshadowed by the events in Manchester. Like other Members I ask you, a Chathaoirligh, to express the Seanad's condolences with the people of Britain, the Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May, and the newly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. It is difficult to come to terms with what happened last night and to find an adequate response. Unfortunately, when something so hateful and evil occurs the response can often be one of hate. While there has been a massive outpouring of love and compassion among the ordinary, decent people of Manchester there were, unfortunately, sentiments of hate swirling around and trying to capitalise on this event to once again dehumanise and denigrate an entire faith and decent people living in Britain.
It was the Irish who once bombed Manchester and people in this country stood with the people of Manchester at that time, so it is important to do so now in the face of this appalling tragedy. Anybody in this House or in Ireland who knows a young person who has ever attended a concert can only weep at the thought of the scenes that were witnessed by the young people. Those who have survived will have flashes of imagery going through their minds for the rest of their lives. It will not leave them, so how do we fight back as has been suggested? What we must have in our armoury, as Senator McDowell so eloquently put it, is information and knowledge, as well as compassion, love and a belief that in unity and understanding we can create a society that can overcome these things.
Again, we stand in solidarity with the people of Manchester. We must not allow those of a certain political persuasion to use this event for their own narrow ends to denigrate an entire people or faith in the UK. There are also people in this jurisdiction who will use this for their own ends as well. We are better than that. We are a proud and decent people. It is only through compassion, love and understanding that this terrorism will be defeated.
I join in the expressions of sympathy to the people of Manchester and, of course, to people throughout the UK, as many youngsters had travelled to Manchester for this concert. It is a real tragedy. It hits home for us in Mayo as so many Mayo people have gone to Manchester over the years.There is a Mayo Association in Manchester and we have the Mayo Manchester Tradfest every August in my home town of Ballina. Many young Irish dancers and musicians come over from Manchester on exchanges. What happened yesterday is horrific and I join my colleagues in sending my thoughts, prayers and solidarity in the face of this evil.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, to the House to discuss the mid-term capital review. We need to have a real debate about infrastructural deficits in this country. There are deficits all over the country but particularly in the west and the north west, which has no major inter-urban routes, no high-speed train service and only a limited deep water port in Killybegs, not to mention the broadband deficit. We must consider where we can invest in order to grow these areas. These are areas which are experiencing population decline, where teacher numbers are falling because school enrolments are dropping because families cannot live there because they cannot find work. In the big urban centres children cannot find school places and families cannot find places to live, while there are empty houses in the west and north west. Investment in infrastructure by the State will make these areas less peripheral, improve connectivity and make them more attractive to investors. This is particularly pertinent as we face into Brexit. Investment in infrastructure can sometimes be curtailed by EU state aid rules. We found this to be the case with regard to Knock Airport, which is limited in what it can get from the State because of these rules. There is a case to be made for a temporary framework, similar to what was done in the face of the banking crisis in 2009. We need to see investment in the western rail corridor, in roads, broadband and in Knock Airport.
I join with Senators Norris and McDowell in commending the work carried out by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, GLEN, since 1988. Its closure last week means that a colossus of the LGBTQI movement in Ireland has now been lost. Since its inception following the homophobic and brutal murder of Declan Flynn in Fairview Park, GLEN initiated Ireland's first Pride parade, was pivotal in decriminalisation and in the campaigns for civil partnership and civil marriage equality. Recently GLEN advocated support of Sinn Féin's Gender Recognition (Amendment) Bill, for which I thank the organisation. I commend all of GLEN's achievements in making Ireland a safer place in which to grow up LGBT. It is regrettable that the activism of GLEN would come to an end in controversy. It is hugely unfortunate that not only its advocacy work but also the various services it provided have come to an end. The HSE will not provide funding to any organisation under investigation but the services previously provided by GLEN will now be provided by other LGBT organisations, of which there are now many.
On Sunday many of us woke to a realisation that the LGBTQI struggle has a good distance still to go. The George bar in Dublin's city centre was vandalised with discriminatory and fascist emblems and slurs. In this context, we must urgently address the need for hate crime legislation. Last weekend marked the second anniversary of the passing of the civil marriage equality referendum and I want to commend friends and comrades, Mark McLoughlin and Neal Rush, for their mock wedding at Stormont. Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland continue to wait for legislation around civil marriage equality. It is time for all-Ireland civil marriage equality and for hate crime legislation.
I also want to pass on my sympathies to the people of Manchester in the wake of this devastating event. Our thoughts are with them.
HSE figures for 2017 show that 2,520 children and young people are waiting for an initial assessment by our mental health services.There has been an increase of 44 on last year. That is unacceptable. Children are waiting more than a year or two years for these services. I see it in my own area, where the after-hours services have been cut. I have brought this up in the Seanad and with the Minister. It is a disgrace to see that nearly 2,520 children are waiting on these services. It is unacceptable.
The other issue I want to address today is the community-based CCTV system which the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality announced a few months back. I welcome that. It is a three-year programme. It will cost €1 million. I have great concerns about the scheme because in my own home town we applied, with the local authority, through the Garda Síochána programme for CCTV in our town park three years ago. We have been waiting for three years. Last week we were told again that we will not be receiving funding through this programme. This is a programme which An Garda Síochána has implemented. It is unacceptable. While I welcome this programme, why is the Minister introducing new programmes when for years we have not been getting the money we have been waiting for? I will be asking the Minister to come in to the House. It is unacceptable.
I want to raise one issue. It relates to a report on direct provision supports for asylum seekers published by Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon in 2015. In that report he made 173 recommendations. I made contact with Nasc last week. For those who do not know what Nasc is, it is the Irish immigration support group based in Cork. Of course there are different stories depending on who one talks to but, according to Nasc, only 16 specific items of those 173 recommendations have been fully implemented. That is very disappointing. I learned today that Mr. Justice McMahon will be speaking at a special conference here in Dublin in the first week in June, at which he intends to deal with this subject matter specifically. It would be very appropriate for the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, who I think is the direct line Minister for this area, to come to the House to explain what is happening in respect of these 173 recommendations. That would be fair because everyone one talks to has a different story to tell. The key term in this is verifiable evidence - verifiable evidence as to the delivery of the key recommendations of the now retired Mr. Justice Bryan McMahon.
I leave that request with the Leader. Will he consider arranging a debate or statements on this matter, perhaps in the next two weeks? It would be very helpful. I see on this afternoon's Order of Business that we will have the Minister for Health in the Chamber in respect of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. We have specific time set aside on the agenda and I thank the Leader for agreeing to that last week.
I echo the remarks of sympathy and solidarity with the people of Manchester following the horrific tragedy inflicted upon the city and its people last night. If I can, I wish to reaffirm the remarks from Senators Norris, McDowell and Ó Ríordáin. In the words of the great Martin Luther King, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that".
I consider myself very proudly anti-fascist. I consider myself very active, where I can be, in that anti-fascism, whether fascism is manifested in the kind of awfulness we saw in the Manchester Arena last night or in some of the mistruths, horrible lies and distortions that are being spread, oftentimes deliberately. Even though we are somewhat distant from Manchester, we are connected by those bonds mentioned by Senator Conway-Walsh. As political leaders, we have a responsibility here in Ireland to be ever alert to that kind of hatred-spreading and to do our best, where we can, to face it down.
Last week I mentioned in the Seanad the Lá Dearg that was coming up in Belfast at the weekend. Much like Senator Warfield, I find it difficult to imagine we still await marriage equality legislation in the North despite a majority of MLAs being in its favour. We also wait for legislation that protects the rights of Irish language speakers and of those who want to live their lives through the medium of Irish.Similarly, the North is waiting for legislation to protect the rights of Irish-language speakers and those who want to live their lives through the medium of Irish. At the weekend, over 12,000 people, mostly families, students and young people from Gaelscoileanna, took over the streets of Belfast in a colourful, diverse and inclusive way. As I said last week, all the parties in these Houses and the Government have made it clear, as the UN and the EU council of experts have done, that rights-based legislation to protect the Irish language - an Irish-language Act - should be introduced in the North. I think all of us should redouble our efforts upon the conclusion of the upcoming Westminster election and the resumption of the talks to make sure outstanding issues like marriage equality and Acht na Gaeilge are resolved.
Before I ask the Leader to respond, as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad I would like to convey my sincere sympathy and condolences to all of those who died in the appalling tragedy in Manchester last night. As someone who lived in London during the era of the Birmingham bombings and many other situations, I know the impact such events can have on a community and a country. There have been terrorist attacks in Sweden, France, Germany and Belgium in recent times. If one follows the line, one wonders whether we are absolutely protected in these situations. Le cúnamh Dé, we are. I am not too sure. I hope it will never happen here to any of our children or any person. I hope this situation could not arise. It hits home acutely to me that this has happened in Manchester, which is nearly another Irish city when one looks at the history and the connections, etc., over many years. It is very sad and tragic. I think it is an awful day. I would like to add my voice to the voices of others. Most people here today have mentioned this appalling tragedy. In my view, it was an appalling act of lunacy.
I thank the 19 Senators who contributed to the Order of Business. I thank all the Senators who spoke eloquently, passionately and sincerely about the awful tragedy and atrocity that happened in Manchester last evening. We must all stand united in the fight against terrorism. I agree with the overarching remarks of Members of the House regarding the way in which the world has moved. I would be happy to arrange a debate on foreign affairs issues, specifically the way the world order is moving and changing. It is not about dividing and conquering or about pillorying. It is about standing united against terrorism, no matter who the perpetrators are.
Young people were killed last night after attending a concert. These men and women, boys and girls, and teenagers and young adults should be basking in the glory of that concert today. They should be talking about what they did, the songs they sung and the enjoyment they had. Today the world is united in grief and in the condemnation of terrorism. I agree with the Senators who spoke about the need to stand up to terrorism without sowing hatred or division or standing for intolerance. We must all work together in support of our right to stand up for who we are and what we represent. We must all stand for peace, love and unity. That requires political leadership. We all need to be tolerant and inclusive. We live in a world that is changing.
It is important that we stand in solidarity with the people of Manchester, as a second Irish city, and with its new mayor, Andy Burnham. We acknowledge the significant role played last night by the first responders, including emergency men and women. We thank them for their work and professionalism. We also thank the members of the community of Manchester who stood up, opened their doors and welcomed people in. Today we send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who died, to those who are now in hospital and to those who are at home suffering the shock and the aftershock. The world must stand united today. This cowardly act of violence and terrorism has no place in our world. We must all ensure the lives of people are protected. We must stand up to terrorism, no matter who the perpetrators are.
Senator Craughwell asked about the national security committee. Today is not a day for division. The cross-departmental national security committee, the operations of which are confidential as one might expect, comprises officials from the Departments of the Taoiseach and Justice and Equality and members of An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.It is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of An Taoiseach. Its job is to ensure the Government is informed and the Taoiseach is advised on high level security issues and the appropriate responses to the same threats. It also deals with national security and operational matters, which it monitors and on which informs the Government. I know where the Senator is coming from, but I certainly hope we could have that sense of confidentiality. There is accountability, to be fair.
Senator Ardagh raised the matter of beds being closed in Linn Dara in Cherry Orchard. I do not have information because I was not aware, but I am happy to have the Department liaise with the Senator on the matter. Any issue with regard to the closing of beds is a matter for the HSE at an operational level, as the Senator knows quite well. In saying this, the issue needs to be addressed because it is important we provide respite beds.
Yes, as the Senator knows, the Government is committed to the issue of mental health, and I will come back with a response on this. It is important the information is provided. I do not have it because I was not aware of it, but I am happy to have the Department liaise with the Senator directly.
Senator Dolan raised the issue of the public sector pay talks, which commenced yesterday. I commend all participating in the talks and wish them well. Yesterday was the beginning and it is important the work is allowed to continue. The plenary session began with opening remarks by those parties involved. Presentations were made by Mr. John McCarthy, chief economist at the Department of Finance on the economic outlook, and by Ms Annette Connelly of the central expenditure management section in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the fiscal context. I heard the remarks of Senator Dolan on this. I will dove-tail the remarks of Senator Humphreys regarding the sale of State assets and the remarks of Senator Mulherin on the mid-term capital review plan. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, will be in the House next week and we will have a debate on all of these issues. I ask the Senator to hold off on his motion-----
Let me finish before you say "No". The Senator might get what he wants if he listens. If the Senator waits until the Minister comes in next week and hears what he has to say he can then table his motion rather than doing so tomorrow. I am asking the Senator to defer until he hears what the Minister says first. The Minister will be here next week and as part of that debate Senator Dolan will have an opportunity to make a contribution.
Senators Norris, Warfield, McDowell and Ó Donnghaile referenced the closure of GLEN. It is a tragedy that GLEN is closing. I commend former Senator Gillian van Turnhout for her excellent work on the report she was commissioned to carry out and I thank her for what she has done. Today is the second anniversary of the result of the marriage equality referendum being announced. It is with sadness we speak about the closure of GLEN. Those of us in the LGBT community and beyond, our supporters, friends and allies, recognise the huge work done by the late Chris Robson and people such as Arthur Leahy from Cork, Kieran Rose and others.
I share the views of the Senators that there is a need for an organisation similar to GLEN. If we look at the pathway to marriage equality and gender recognition, we will see it was the approach adopted by GLEN, that incremental approach as enunciated by people such as Brian Sheehan, Tiernan Brady and others, that got us to the day of a referendum, along with the political involvement of political parties and Independents. It is the legacy they have left which can never be airbrushed or changed. If we look at the approach GLEN has taken on the issues of mental health, diversity in the workplace, HIV and education we will see its footprint, and we commend its involvement with various Departments, organisations and agencies.I pay tribute to all those involved in GLEN, including volunteers on the board and those who worked with Departments and Ministers on the journey. It required people to advocate, lobby and work to bring about change. As Senator Michael McDowell said, there were willing partners such as the former Ministers of State, Senators Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Kevin Humphreys. GLEN was required to bring about change, for which I commend. I hope a new type of GLEN can be established. I hope all of us will commit to undertaking that task. As Senator Fintan Warfield said, at the weekend graffiti of a derogatory nature was painted on the front of a gay bar. We must recognise that there is still work to be done and that the roof of the house has not yet been completed. It is a job which we all need to continue to complete. I share the views of the Senator in that regard.
Senator Maria Byrne praised the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan. I wish him well on his impending retirement. I commend him for the work he has done during a very difficult economic time and thank him for his leadership.
Senator Máire Devine referred to the HSE's report on the review of the maternity clinical complaints system which was published today. I very much welcome its publication, as a former Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health which examined issues which arose in Portlaoise. It is an important report which highlights inadequacies and the ways in which the health system needs to change. I regret that it has taken so long to do so. Some of the stark findings made in the report are a reminder that we must be increasingly vigilant, rather than complacent, in the way women, newborn babies and families are treated. In some cases, the recommendations are being implemented in Portlaoise. There is a need for openness and a people-centred approach and to listen to and respond with empathy to women and others who speak about their treatment and the ways in which they need to be cared for and supported. The Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, is very committed to implementing the recommendations made.
Senator Robbie Gallagher has mentioned that this is Children's Hospice Week. I commend the work being done by LauraLynn which I visited as a former Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health. I commend the work of its staff and those who fundraise and volunteer. I commend the care and support they give to children with life-limiting conditions. There is a need for a joined-up approach by the Government and the HSE in the provision of hospice and specialist palliative care, therapies and other supports for young children. My heart goes out to the families affected. I endorse the remarks made by the Senator in that regard.
Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor referred to HSE mental health services. Senator Ray Butler also made a very good comment. When Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor's party was in government, it was the land of milk and honey. It forgot about lots of services and people. The Government is now playing catch-up. I agree that the mental health service was the Cinderella of the health service for a long time. That is why there has been an increase in the HSE mental health budget from €86 million last year to €853 million this year and additional staff have been recruited. There is a plan to a develop 24/7 mental health care service.
I am very much aware of the remarks made by the Senator. We have heard them. I want to put the matter in context. As I said, the Government is committed to increasing the mental health budget. The Vote for the Department of Health is passed to give money directly to the HSE for the provision of services.I recognise there is a need to improve our mental health services and provide more funding for them. I am not arguing that point. There has been a timelag in the taking up of different posts but the Senator and others need to recognise that the budget for our mental health services has been increased. The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, is committed to implementing that and to seeing those services develop and evolve in the coming years.
Regarding the provision of a closed circuit television, CCTV, system for Carlow, I would be happy to arrange for the Minister concerned to liaise with Senator Murnane O'Connor. Perhaps the Senator and Deputy Deering might come together in a joint collaborative approach with the county councillors.
-----whoever they may be, or the existing Minister for Justice, to ensure that the necessary funding is available. In my city of Cork the provision of CCTV facilities has increased. I might give Senator Murnane O'Connor some tips afterwards.
The point Senator Murnane O'Connor made is an important one.
Senator Boyhan raised an important point concerning the direct provision system. We had the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, in the House last week dealing with the issue of the implementation of the migrant strategy and some Members raised with him the direct provision system. All of us recognise the need for the implementation in full of the report that the former High Court judge, Mr. Justice McMahon, was commissioned to deliver. The Senator referred to NASC which does a great deal of important work, and I am familiar with its work in Cork. I would be happy to arrange for the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, to come back to the House to deal with that issue.
Senator Ó Donnghaile raised the issue of the Irish language Act. Tá suim mhór agam i gcúrsaí Gaeilge, go mórmhór sa Tuaisceart. Bronnaim mo thacaíocht personally ar an Teachta Ó Donnghaile as ucht na hoibre sin. It is important that we promote the right of all of us on this island to speak the Irish language, to be educated in it, and to have the right to have that conversation and to do business in Irish in our country. I have no issue with that. I hope the Senator will talk to his leader in the North and to his colleagues, the Members of the Legislative Assembly, MLAs, and that he will be very proactive regarding the provision of marriage equality in the north of our country. On this anniversary of the same-sex marriage referendum, it stands as a disappointment that all people do not have the right to marriage in all of our country. The Senator has a key role to play in that respect, given his strategic importance in the party to which he belongs, not only to come in here to advocate, but to give a not so gentle prod to his MLA colleagues and his leader in the North.
I have a question to put but on a day that this House and many parliaments and democracies are tinged with sadness, it might be a small chink of light that one of our Seanad colleagues, Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee, gave birth to a little baby boy. That is a small bit of good news.