Thursday, 22 June 2017
Order of Business
I wish to address the issue of health insurance and the revelation that many people over the age of 60 are paying more than €1,000 more than they ought to be for health cover. The report compiled by TotalHealthCover.ieconcluded that at least two out of every five people are on outdated and overpriced plans. A lady who came to my office was paying nearly €4,000. When she rang the insurance provider to inquire what other health options might be available to her, she was given no guidance and was asked to pick and choose what she would like covered. These policies seem to be deliberately put together in a way to confuse people who cannot understand them. How is anyone meant to pick and choose what ailments they might have in the coming years? Nobody can look into the future. This scaremongering by insurance providers is outrageous. Elderly people are already vulnerable and alone in their homes in many cases.
I am asking - I do not think there are any costs associated with this - that the Minister for Health direct the Insurance Ombudsman to set up a side office to help people navigate and review insurance policies so that the elderly and most vulnerable do not have to shoulder the burden of funding our health service. In the long term, we need to look at a publicly-funded health care model. We already have one of the highest spends per capitaon health care when compared with many of the richest countries. We need to identify efficiencies and implement them. The prospect of health insurance increasing by 50% over the next decade is scandalous. The system needs to change rapidly.
The second issue I wish to raise is an attack on a lawyer in an unmanned stairwell in Dolphin House family courthouse in Temple Bar. This stairwell had no security and no closed-circuit television, CCTV, system. About two weeks ago, a female barrister was threatened with a sharp object held to her neck in a heinous and very disturbing attack. In the same incident, three prison officers were also attacked and injured. This is a place of work and State building managed by the Department of Justice and Equality. Attacks like this should not take place and I call on the Minister to look into this matter and into the security arrangements in all courts throughout the country so that such attacks do not occur in the future.
I wish to raise three issues: the judicial council; Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's policy to tackle the housing crisis and homelessness; and agriculture and food.
I will not rehearse what today's edition of The Irish Timesreports the Chief Justice, Mrs. Justice Susan Denham, as having said. We need to heed what she said in touching on the separation of powers. That is important to both the Houses of the Oireachtas and the courts. Mrs. Justice Denham has again reiterated the need and desire for a judicial council. Members will recall that many months ago I introduce a motion, passed unanimously, for the establishment of a judicial council. The previous Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, eloquently talked about moving on the matter within weeks. I reviewed the record of the House this morning. The former Minister indicated that legislation was ready and that the matter was also contemplated in the programme for Government. I looked at the programme for Government this morning. One of the main priorities listed is to progress a judicial appointments commission, which is a separate thing. We have had no progress on that. The same Minister also advised the House that it would only be a matter of weeks before the judicial appointments commission would deliver. It has not done so. We have also heard about the demands made by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, and the change in those demands in recent days. I will not rehearse all that. However, we need to learn from such experiences. Two things need to happen and the Government claimed to be committed to doing both. One is the establishment of a judicial council and the second relates to progressing with a judicial appointments commission.
Later this morning, I will meet the relevant Minister at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for the third quarterly review of Rebuilding Ireland and the objectives relating thereto. We need to remember that those objectives were set by the former Minister, Deputy Coveney. He set out timelines, people with responsibility and clear objectives as to how he would deliver on this programme, the Government's strategy, Rebuilding Ireland - Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. It has been stated that the new Minister will come before the committee to announce that the Government cannot deliver on its self-imposed timeline and a promise that no homeless people would be accommodated in hotel bedrooms with their kids doing their homework on side lockers while sitting on beds. That is not good enough. It is a disgrace. What is really disturbing about this is that this was a self-imposed deadline by the Government.
The former Minister has now left the Department. I am not critical of him because he was an exceptionally good Minister. It is very disappointing. I am beginning to wonder if there is now a major shift in the context of Rebuilding Ireland and the policy to be followed by the new Minister. I think we need to have the Minister back to the House. Finally, on a good news story, this very day the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, is in Mexico. One might ask why that is the case. He is there because he is leading a major agrifood trade delegation. He has set up 30 engagements. He will meet the Mexican Minister for agriculture. He is there to make further connections as part of a necessary response in agricultural policy in preparation for Brexit and to develop new beef, pork and agrifood markets for this country. That is a really positive step which is in line with the Government's agreed policy incorporating Bord Bia's Making a World of Difference and Origin Green. That is important because this week is the fifth anniversary of Origin Green, which is an amazing initiative driven and overseen by Bord Bia. We should acknowledge that.
I will not deal with judicial appointments apart from saying that all of us need to do a little better. The public is looking on this issue with wonder. The air of desperation around Deputy Micheál Martin in recent days does not reflect well on Fianna Fáil. We can all do better on that issue.
A number of my Sinn Féin colleagues met representatives from the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, yesterday. I am sure other colleagues in the House met them as well. The USI has an excellent pre-budget submission, which I commend to the House. I recommend that everyone have a good look at it. It contains some very concrete suggestions. It is also very measured. It is not looking for the earth. It has very simple, costed proposals. One example is a reduction in the administration fee by €250 per year, which would give rise to a significant saving for hard-pressed parents and students. We know third-level students have been let down by politics in recent years. Lots of promises were made and subsequently broken.
The point I wish to raise today concerns the crisis in counselling services at third level. I was very impressed with the people I met from the USI yesterday and the stories they told. One person told me about a college in Dublin that has just one counsellor who looks after between 10,000 and 12,000 students. We know from A Vision for Change that students experience mental health difficulties. Those difficulties can include depression, anxiety, loneliness, substance misuse and suicidal behaviour. The document also informs us that almost 75% of all mental disorders first emerge between the ages of 15 and 25. The provision of counselling services at third level has not kept pace with the expansion in the number of students. Typically, students wait up to six weeks to see a counsellor. It can be fatal if one has a mental health crisis at a very vulnerable stage in life.
The USI has a very clear and simple request, namely, that the Government prioritise additional funding for student counselling. From figures contained in the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland report, we also know that more than 50% of their clients in college stated they have difficulties which - either negatively or very negatively - impact on their studies. We know there is a crisis. We also know that the number of counsellors is not sufficient. I urge that the new Minister of State with responsibility for third-level education would come to the House in order that might engage in a debate this issue and on third-level education in general, particularly as critical decisions are due to be made, for example, on whether we go for a student-funded model or some other model in terms of funding the education system in the future. Very good research was carried out in that regard by Dr. Larkin of Trinity College Dublin and Dr. Corbett of DCU which shows that where student loan systems have been introduced they were a complete and utter failure in every respect. It is timely for the Leader to bring the Minister before the House in order that we might debate those issues. I emphasise the need for the Government to prioritise additional funding for counselling services.
I wish, if I may, to strike a celebratory note, particularly as this is Pride week. While we can often be very critical of the country in which we live, this week we can, in the context of various issues, take stock of the huge advances that have taken place in the past 25 years, not least thanks to the gentleman sitting right in front of me, Senator Norris.
I watched a programme on RTE last night, "A Different Country" which went through the personal stories of people who lived in Ireland before homosexuality was decriminalised. Many of them had quite moving tales to tell. We have made great advances in recent years - from marriage equality to the Children and Family Relationships Act, the amendment of section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, the Gender Recognition Act and other measures that have taken place in this House. However, in this week it would be foolish of us to assume that everything is okay. We still have a lot of work to do. In many parts of the country, LGBT young people still feel very afraid of coming out and of being who they are.
I suggest to the Leader that perhaps we should take the opportunity to reassess where we stand in terms of LGBT rights because it is one thing to get equality in law but it is another thing to get equality in society. We need to focus on three areas as we celebrate the great advances we have made in recent years. One is the area of education. Religious institutions that are hostile to the LGBT agenda and LGBT rights still have huge influence over the education system. The second area is that of sport. It is not so much the case in women's sport but I find it remarkable how few LGBT men feel comfortable about coming forward to say who they are. This matter needs to be addressed. As we celebrate Pride in Ireland this week, the most pressing issue this relates to the fact that our brothers and sisters in Northern Ireland still do not have the same rights as LGBT citizens here. They do not have the right to equal marriage. That has to be our focus as Northern Ireland is in sharp focus in the UK and in Ireland in the context of efforts to re-establish the Executive. It would be a strong message if all of us in this House across the various parties were to stand united and say that we believe it is time for Northern Ireland to introduce marriage equality. We have become a beacon of light across the world in the context of LGBT rights.
Saturday will be a glorious day in Dublin, as it always is every year, for Pride week. A few years ago it would have been unbelievable to think that we would have an LGBT Leader of this House, an LGBT leader of the country and LGBT members of Cabinet without much comment or fuss. That does not seem to make any difference whatsoever to the vast majority of Irish people. We have a long way to go in terms of those three points, namely, the education system, where we stand in the context of sport and where our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland stand. Let us take a moment to celebrate how far we have come and to celebrate Pride this week.
I seek leave to introduce No. 9, the National Housing Co-operative Bill 2017, with the intention of taking it during Private Members' time next Wednesday. I express my gratitude to the Leader, Senator Buttimer, for giving me the opportunity to have that time.
I again wish to raise the issue of homelessness, particularly in light of the stark and depressing report published this morning by Focus Ireland. In the 2015 annual report, Sr. Stan wrote that she thought it was the worst year for family homelessness but she was dismayed that 2016 was even worse. A total of 28 units were opened this morning in Harold’s Cross. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government was there. I congratulate Focus Ireland on providing 28 homes for the elderly, the disabled and those threatened with homelessness. They are permanent homes, which is what is required. We need a strategy for permanent homes not hotels or hubs – homes for people to grow, nurture and live in. Focus Ireland, which provided 28 houses in Harold’s Cross and other houses that were delivered earlier this year, has built more social housing than the Government. That is truly shocking. Yesterday, in my constituency, Dublin South-Central, the Iveagh Trust opened 70 units for those aged over 55.
What is causing the delay with regard to the provision of social housing? There is a restriction on capital funding. The Government must release funds and cut back the red tape that is stifling the provision of such housing. What is happening is unacceptable.Thanks to red tape, the procurement process is killing off initiatives like the units that were to be built at St. Michael's estate but, like O'Devaney Gardens, will now not be realised until 2021. This is no longer an emergency but is an ongoing crisis. We have had five housing Ministers in recent times, each with little over one year in position. What sort of confidence can that give people? We need to grasp this issue, appoint an almost permanent housing Minister and stop playing around and hoping the problem goes away. Will the Leader invite the Minister to the Chamber and ask him to tackle the procurement process in particular by paring it back to six months? Let us rebuild Ireland.
I wish to raise the issue of orphan drugs and rare diseases. Approximately 370,000 people in Ireland are affected one way or another by rare diseases but only 5% have a licensed treatment option. Our main problem relates to orphan drugs, namely, drugs that are made available, are still being worked on and are expensive to develop. Of the 148 orphan drugs available to people with rare diseases, only 53 have been licensed in Ireland. The number of these drugs available to people with rare diseases across Europe varies from 68 out of 148 in the UK to 133 out of 148 in Germany. I met people from the industry recently. The process in Ireland seems to be moving at a snail's pace.
People have complicated medical issues. Only ten people might be affected by a particular rare disease and they are trying to get access to a drug that would help them. From the time an application for approval is made, it takes on average two years for that drug to be approved. That is at least 50%, if not 60%, longer than any other successful drug licence application. The Minister must come to the House to determine what can be done to expedite this process. Why have we only 53 of the 148 available drugs when Germany has 133 available? Why is the process taking so long? We must examine this issue.
We made an agreement with the drug companies whereby the cost of pharmaceuticals was to be reduced by more than €600 million in a four-year timeframe. The idea was to use those savings to make orphan drugs available or to help pay for same. That does not seem to be occurring. We must expedite the issue and the delaying process should stop. We should approve the drugs and make them available for those who require them. Will the Leader ask the Minister to attend the House to address this issue and explain why approval for these products is taking so long?
The House will join me in congratulating Mr. Peter O'Mahony, the Irish rugby player who yesterday was appointed as captain of the British and Irish Lions team to face the All Blacks on Saturday. I wish him and the other Irish players on the team every success in their exploits ahead.
I want to discuss the issue of corporation tax and our dependence on tax receipts from a few multinationals. It raises questions about the sustainability of our public finances in the future. A parliamentary question was submitted in the Dáil by my party colleague and spokesperson on finance, Deputy Michael McGrath. Some of the information that he received was startling. He noted that 40% of all corporation tax receipts came from just ten multinationals. That highlights how, on the one hand, we can be very proud of this country's achievement in attracting multinationals to set up in Ireland and create much-needed jobs but on the other, how dangerous it can be to be overdependent on multinationals. Will the Leader ask the Minister to attend the House in order that we might have a proper debate on industrial development and what our policies will be?
I note 80% of all corporation tax receipts come from foreign-owned companies, which goes to show we have a great deal of room for expansion in our indigenous industries. We should home in on this factor in the future. While we must look after foreign-owned companies and seek out new ones to come to Ireland, it is important to not lose touch with indigenous companies. Every effort should be made to encourage them to set up and expand in Ireland. It would be a good time for the Minister to attend the House to enable Members to have a discussion on industrial policy in the future.
I second Senator Norris's amendment.
A serious issue has been ongoing in North Korea for many months. It has carried out five nuclear tests, creating considerable instability in the region and around the world. It looks as though North Korea will carry out a further six nuclear tests. Mr. Otto Warmbier, a young US student, was held for seven months before being brought home in recent days. He has since died. It is believed that experimentation was carried out on his brain, with the flow of blood to it being stopped. It is very sad and brings home the fact that something needs to be done, but I am unsure what that is. I understand that China is North Korea's only ally and provides it with the most economic assistance. I also understand that China is the only country that has influence with North Korea and that it is doing its best. I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to articulate the view held by me and possibly the Seanad that more could be done by China or other interested parties nearby to try to get North Korea to stop carrying out nuclear tests.
Tá mé ag tagairt do scéal in Galway Advertiserna seachtaine seo a bhféadfadh muide tionchar an-dearfach a bheith againn air. There is a story on the front page of this week's edition of the Galway Advertiseron which I hope we could have a positive impact. A mother has raised an issue, with the headline reading: "19th century Lunacy Act prevents my daughter from buying a house". She is the mother of a 24 year old women with Down's syndrome and claims that young people with disabilities are left out in the cold and on their own when they turn 18. She is calling for education programmes tailored to suit individual levels of ability to be put in place so as to allow young people with disabilities to develop to their full potential.
The mother discussed how she found out that her child had Down's syndrome and that, when she was born, she was given:
... a dictionary of buzzwords, such as stimulation, integration, mainstream schools and swimming! But what I didn’t realise was that when she was 18 you are on the road to nowhere. There is no plan for them, nothing to take into account their individual abilities. There is nobody waiting to receive these children afterwards.
She went on to say that her daughter, who is now 24 years of age, wanted to buy a house but was precluded from doing so because the antiquated Lunacy Act (Ireland) 1871 was still applicable and meant that "imbeciles" and "idiots" could not own property.
The Seanad had a lengthy debate on the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which has since passed all Stages in the Dáil. Can we debate that Act and ascertain from the Minister when it will be commenced or whether there are further Stages that need to be passed by the Houses so that we can right this wrong, give these people their rights as citizens and allow them to live as full a life as possible? Perhaps the Leader could revert to us with an update on the Act's status and allow for a broader debate on these issues.
There are two issues I wish to raise, the first of which has already been mentioned by Senator Gallagher, that being to wish Peter O'Mahony of the Munster rugby team the best of luck. He has been instrumental in his play for Munster and Ireland. It is great to see a man from Munster captaining the Lions in the first test match.
An issue which has been raised many times in the House is the shortage of chefs. The Restaurants Association of Ireland recently issued a plea for funding to be put in place for the training and recruitment of chefs. In the area of Limerick in which I live, there are over 50 vacancies for chefs in restaurants. Restaurateurs have recently told me that they will not be able to open on certain nights as they cannot currently recruit chefs fast enough. It is an issue in regard to which there is widespread fear and the Restaurants Association of Ireland has today said that it wishes for the issue to be dealt with.
I wish all Members a happy pride week. The Dublin Pride Parade will take place on Saturday and other pride parades will take place across Ireland. This summer, many of those participating in the Dublin pride festival will remember the homophobic murder of Declan Flynn in 1982. The LGBT community continue to march against discrimination persecution with visibility and pride. Last year's pride festival followed upon the senseless attack and murder of 49 LGBT people in Orlando and this year's festival takes place in the shadow of human rights abuses in Chechnya. I recently met the Russian ambassador to Ireland along with the Leader, Senator Buttimer, and Senator Norris and I again condemn the actions of those in Chechnya. Those who deny the existence of gay men should know that Ireland condemns their actions. The LGBT community should know that we stand with them always. Many people from our local communities will be taking part in the festival, some of whom will be marching for the first time and public representatives should facilitate their being there. It is a big step to take and one's visibility is important. On 22 May 2015, the Irish people said in no uncertain that every citizen and resident of Ireland should have the same opportunities no matter who they are, what they look like, where they are from or who they love. We can and must continue to build a new Ireland in that spirit, an Ireland that recognises a person's right to a home, marriage equality, gender recognition, Traveller ethnicity, freedom from direct provision, decency and democracy at work. The LGBT community has a role to play in all of that. I wish all Members a happy pride week and encourage them to join their local pride parades this summer.
I thank the 12 Senators who made contributions to the Order of Business. In acknowledging Senator Ardagh's remarks, the attack on any member of the legal profession, in particular a woman, is to be deplored and condemned. It is a matter of extreme importance that, no matter who we are, we all uphold our legal system. It is disappointing and upsetting to hear of the attack. It is a matter not just for the Minister for Justice and Equality, but also the OPW which is in charge of public buildings such as courthouses or the area concerned in this case. I would be happy to have the Minister for Justice and Equality come to the House to address this issue.
Senator Ardagh raised the important issue of health insurance which our country and society needs to have addressed. The payment model which involves older people paying the same amount for health insurance as younger people has long been part of our health strategy. The Government is committed to reducing the cost of health care through the provision of universal health care for those over 70 as well as the younger cohort. People are now living longer and Ireland has an ageing population. It is important to acknowledge that there is an onus on health care providers in terms of private health insurance companies because all Members will have heard anecdotal evidence of claims going up and of the rising cost of premiums, as the Senator said. It is a matter of record that in 2016 the HSE earned over €850 million from private patients being treated in public hospital beds. Members who want to see a more equal health care landscape will recognise that more change is needed. Another issue in that regard is that the Minister for Health has made a commitment to provide legislation for the State's health watchdog to allow for investigations about incidents in private health care. That Bill will come to Cabinet in the autumn. It is also important that we work to improve patient safety in our hospitals and to recognise that health insurance companies have an obligation and duty to inform their customers of changes or whether people are on the most suitable insurance plan. Senator Ardagh is aware that there is a website on which one can compare health insurance plans and premiums. However, health insurance companies must work with all of us in that regard to ensure that customers are getting a fair deal.
In his first contribution, Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the judicial council. The heads of the Judicial Council Bill were published on 1 June by the former Minister for Justice and Equality, the Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. That Bill, along with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, will hopefully be taken in the House in the coming weeks. Both are major reforms of our judicial system and Judiciary which all Members agree are needed. Our Judiciary is independent, which must be maintained. We have been well served by the Judiciary since the foundation of the State and that must always be acknowledged. The Bill is on the Order Paper and will come to the House in the coming weeks.
Senator Boyhan also raised the issue of Irish beef and agriculture. I congratulate the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, and the delegation from Bord Bia who are currently in the United States of America. The Minister was in Washington DC and is currently in Chicago. It has been a very successful trade mission. Senator Boyhan rightly raises the issue of Origin Green which has now been in existence for five years. The United States market is now an important one for Ireland. Thankfully, that market has been reopened. I commend the Minister in that regard.
Senator Gavan raised the issue of the Union of Students of Ireland, USI, briefing. Like the Senator, I attended the very worthwhile USI briefing yesterday. He is right to say that it was not the usual pre-budget ask of some NGOs or advocacy groups. The Senator is correct that the issue of counselling and the availability thereof for students needs to have cross-party support to be prioritised. I was going to raise that issue myself. The end of May and the beginning of term are two peak times for students to require counselling. It is disappointing to hear of a waiting time of up to six weeks in one case which involved a student waiting for an appointment with a counsellor. Senator Gavan also referenced a six-week waiting time. Six hours, let alone six weeks, is an eternity in a student's lifetime when they are under pressure. I would be happy to have the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, come to the House on that issue. Like many other Senators, I was impressed by the fact that the briefing outlined different options and that the USI was not shy in putting forward various policy positions which are worth considering. The Cassells report is with the Joint Committee on Education and Skills. It is important that we see movement in regard to our third level institutions because they are very important in attracting potential foreign direct investment to Ireland.
I join with Senators Ó Riordáin and Warfield in wishing all of our citizens happy pride. It is pride week. Senator Ó Riordáin has been very supportive of pride both in his time as Minister of State and in his own right. He is correct to pay tribute to the father of the House, Senator Norris, who was a fearless campaigner when it was not popular.
The flame is still burning. Senator Norris was not afraid to give a dig or two during the meeting that he, Senator Warfield and I had with the Russian ambassador.I certainly hope the ambassador took notice of him. Senator Warfield and I were probably a bit more reticent and diplomatic. Sometimes one needs to bring in a double-barrelled gun.
It is important we recognise the importance of pride week. Senator Warfield, who has been a wonderful ally, supporter and advocate in this House, highlighted Chechnya. This time last year we were deeply upset about what happened in Orlando. Some citizens of the world are unable to be free to be who they are. They are being victimised and denied their human rights. A friend of mine referred to Chechnya. She was very eloquent when she said, "What about the women?" There is no mention of women. As we said in our meeting with the ambassador, these are people who deserve to be able to live their lives to the full.
As Senator Ó Ríordáin said, things in this country are not perfect and we have to have equality in education. There have been changes. To be fair to the former Minister, Mr. Quinn, there has been a significant change in the curriculum. There is now a policy on bullying in schools. We need to see greater change in sport. Donal Óg Cusack is a wonderful ambassador. Other sportspeople can be equally important allies. They may not be gay, but they are friends of ours and can play a role. People like Ben Cohen are doing huge work. In our country, we need a further sea change in education.
There is a march in Belfast on 1 July for equality for all citizens in the country. I hope that in the talks between the Conservative Party and the DUP on forming a government in the UK, they do not bend in terms of the road to marriage equality in the North. The leader of the Tory Party in Scotland has a very strong view on that.
I invite all Members and friends to come to Dublin Pride on Saturday. We are all marching, in some shape or form. It will be a good day. It is important we recognise that in our country we are free to march, and it is good to do that.
Senators Devine and Boyhan raised the very important issue of homelessness. I acknowledge that we have a long road to travel in terms of ensuring no one is homeless or deprived of the chance to be in a house of his or her own, be it private or social housing. Last year, €935 million was spent on the provision of 19,000 social housing units. This year, 21,000 will be provided at a cost of €1.3 billion. As we speak, 5,200 homes are under construction in our capital city. I agree that there needs to a be a complete change in procurement and planning. The Minister, Deputy Murphy, and the Minister of State, Deputy English, are committed to the pillars of Rebuilding Ireland, as was the Minister, Deputy Coveney.
It is also worth pointing out that between 2006 and 2017 there was a 90% decline in output. In 2006, 93,000 homes were built. Just 8,301 were built in 2013. The Government has committed €5.35 billion under Rebuilding Ireland, and I am confident that by 2021, 47,000 homes will be supplied. It is important we challenge each other on this. This is not a political issue. Rather, it is a human rights issue for people who deserve to be housed. The Minister, Deputy Murphy, and the Minister of State, Deputy English, are committed to that.
Senator Colm Burke raised the issue of rare diseases, orphan drugs and the Government and HSE renegotiations with the pharmaceutical industry last year. It is important the Minister comes to the House. Rare diseases day is on 28 February every year and shines a spotlight on the significant minority who suffer and deserve treatment.
Senators Gallagher and Byrne congratulated Peter O'Mahony on being appointed captain of the British and Irish Lions. I wish the team well in New Zealand on Saturday. It is a great honour for Ireland, Munster and Cork that he is the captain and I wish him well. It is a great day for his family and club and we hope the red flag will be flying high on Saturday morning.
Senator Gallagher correctly raised the issue of foreign direct investment. I would be happy to have the new Minister come to the House. It is important we keep our corporation tax rate as it is. Some parties want to raise it and, therefore, drive out foreign direct investment. Sinn Féin is the party of voodoo economics. It is a high tax party.
We must remind the people of the high tax party's policy. The most important point is, as Senator Gallagher said, that we do not become over-reliant on foreign direct investment. As members know, we are an island nation on the edge of Europe. In a post-Brexit era, we are the gateway to Europe and must remain so.
Senator Feighan raised the issue of North Korea and the emerging threat in terms of the nuclear testing that is ongoing. I noted with humour President Trump's tweet in which he stated that he had tried to get China to intervene but had failed. Maybe if President Trump engaged in diplomacy other than tweeting, he might have more success. It is disappointing to see activity happening that is a threat to peace in the region. We should also acknowledge and pay tribute to Otto Warmbier, who died recently, and the tragedy of his incarceration for 17 months. He was returned to his family in a coma. We offer our sympathies to his family.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and the inability of certain people with disabilities to purchase a house. I will be happy for the Minister to come to the House to review the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act.
Senator Byrne again raised the shortage of chefs, which is an ongoing issue that is being addressed by the Minister and SOLAS. Fáilte Ireland has a new apprenticeship scheme for chefs, which is linked to our tourism strategy. It is a source of worry. Many of us raised the matter in the House in 2007 and 2008. As Senator Gavan knows quite well, the closure of the training centres in Cork and Limerick in 2007 and 2008 was a huge mistake and we are now paying the price. We have a fantastic tourism product which we need to improve continually. It is disappointing that some restaurants close because of the absence of chefs. We need to be proactive.
I welcome Mr. Alan Suggs and Mr. Chris Klein, who are from North Carolina, to the Gallery. They are here for the weekend for Dublin Pride and I am sure they will paint the town red. I will be happy to accept Senator Norris's amendment to the Order of Business.