Thursday, 13 July 2017
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the sitting of the House on Tuesday, 18 July 2017, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, the discharge of the order for Report Stage of the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1, without debate; No. 2a, Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2017 - All Stages, with Second Stage to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude not later than 2 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed six minutes each, those of all other Senators not to exceed four minutes each and the Minister to be given four minutes to reply, with Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; No. 3, Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016 – Second Stage, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to be adjourned not later than 4 p.m., if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 4, statements on Naval Service deployment in the Mediterranean, to be taken at 4 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes.
We want to support the motion in regard to the Recognition of Irish Sign Language for the Deaf Community Bill 2016. We had a very positive engagement with the Minister and the Department yesterday over five hours. I thank Senators for their support on this issue.
In regard to the summer economic statement, while I know we are having discussions on it, I want to touch on the issue of capital expenditure and infrastructure. We are all aware that the budget will be predicated on Fianna Fáil's confidence and supply agreement. While there has been a lot of kite flying about tax cuts, we have been quite clear on the issue of tax cuts that, for whatever tax cuts there are, there must be twice as much investment in the economy and in services. Wherever the Government seeks to find those tax cuts in terms of the USC, if there is to be a tax cut, it should be only for low and middle income earners, not for those at the top.
With regard to investment in broadband, housing, roads and critical infrastructure in our hospitals, the Government is lacking ambition, especially when it comes to the issue of public private partnerships and the 10% rule, which it has not sought to change. If we changed that rule and sought to pursue the issue of public private partnerships, we could draw down funding from the European Investment Bank. We could also look at re-investing in the domestic economy the €6.3 billion the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund currently has invested around the world. However, we need to change our focus and emphasis in regard to public private partnerships. We cannot let the issue languish and be predicated on the current 10% rule. We need to pursue this because our infrastructure, such as roads and in particular broadband, is absolutely dependent on further investment.
We see that the fiscal space is not going to be large and, depending on who is doing the numbers and what the Government intends to do in regard to tax cuts, it will be about €300 million. We have to ensure we have investment in our economy. I ask the Leader to outline whether the Government is looking to change the 10% rule and to make sure there are more public private partnerships, which have worked well in regard to many other infrastructure projects in the country in recent years.
There was a debate on public broadcasting in this House some weeks ago and, because of my involvement in other business, I was unable to take part in it. A subject that has not been well covered in these Houses and which needs some attention is the question of diversity within our public broadcaster. One of the most striking aspects of Irish television news programming currently is the absence, or near absence, of presenters, correspondents or reporters from ethnic or minority backgrounds. I am open to correction but from my observation of prime time news bulletins on RTE, TG4 and TV3, there are pretty much no non-national Irish journalists on screen. There may well be journalists of particular ethnic origin working in the respective newsrooms but none appears to have on-camera roles. By comparison, and allowing for the difference in scale or news operation, Channel 4 and Sky News have a large number of visible ethnic-origin journalists. I would like the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, to outline what measures his Department is taking to ensure there is on-screen diversity for all licence payers who consume television news.I paid my television licence recently and, as I was doing so, wondered if I ought. I do not know if there is much support for the recent suggestion of the new director general of RTE, Ms Dee Forbes, that a doubling of the licence fee would be appropriate. She thinks what we are getting is incredible value for money. Most people would think that a rather incredible suggestion. RTE needs to earn the trust of the public. One area in which it could do so is diversity. Earlier this year, RTE advertised for a company to design and deliver diversity and inclusion awareness training to its staff and management. In February, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, launched the Broadcasting Association of Ireland, BAI, strategy statement which said that the BAI wants to facilitate a mix of voices, opinions and sources of news and current affairs in audiovisual media. However, strategies are redundant unless demonstrable action is taken to ensure that presentation on news programmes on Irish television is truly representative.
Deputy Eamon Ryan of the Green Party caused a considerable stir recently when he brought a bag of recyclables into the Dáil. He was making the laudable point that despite all the discussion of recycling, there is still a huge amount of wastage. The Green Party is to be commended on its efforts in terms of proposing deposits on plastic bottles and the outlawing of certain types of coffee cups and so on but there needs to be a discussion about what happens to the items we recycle. How much of the plastics and Tetra Paks and so on is going into landfills and how much is being recycled? There is a public policy problem if the public senses that it is being told to wash out the milk carton but the carton will end up in the same place as ordinary rubbish. That produces disrespect and cynicism about the whole area of environmental awareness and recycling. We need to know what is happening. A related issue is the labelling of goods. It is not always clear how to dispose of the wrapper of a person's convenience food or spaghetti Bolognese for his or her much-delayed dinner. There needs to be a far greater level of public awareness and also far more levelling with the public about what is happening. I would welcome a debate on that issue as soon as possible, though not necessarily before the summer recess.
Tá mé ag ardú ceist ar maidin a ardaíodh sna meáin ag an deireadh seachtaine maidir leis na cuotaí iascaireachta atá á roinnt amach, go háirid an cuóta ronnach. There were reports at the weekend regarding the allocation of the mackerel quota. Several spokespersons from various organisations involved in the fishing and processing industry have aired concerns that a legal challenge may be brought against the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, if he intends reviewing the mackerel quota for it to be allocated in a different manner to the current situation, which is that 87% of the quota is hived off to 23 fishing ships in the north west of the country. The bigger issue is that the Minister must stay independent in his decision making and that the processing industry and the jobs it provides and the fishing fleet, particularly in the west and south west, are very dependent on this quota. For a very long time we have been calling for a more equitable redistribution of the quota. It is unacceptable that threats of this type are being made before the Minister makes a decision. I call on him to stand firm and to make the right and equitable decision in regard to the quota.
The bigger picture is that a review of the Common Fisheries Policy is needed. Is Ireland getting its fair share of the overall fishing grounds and the available stock of fish in European waters? By reference to many of the available figures, it is not. There are huge implications to the British Government pulling out of the London Fisheries Convention and Brexit will have further massive implications for the fisheries quota. The Minister should come to the House to give Members a clear picture of what the Government's stance will be in those negotiations, particularly in terms of Brexit, and why the Government is not willing to engage in a re-negotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy. The scale of Ireland's fishing grounds compared to the minuscule quotas for different species that have the result of pitching different fishing organisations in the country against each other is totally and utterly unacceptable. There needs to be a review of the Common Fisheries Policy.
I note that the OECD review of the Government's second public service reform programme says that outsourced initiatives, including JobPath, are questionable and have not emerged as systemically-viable options for public service provision. Many Members have heard in their constituencies of huge issues in regard to the JobPath programme and that it is not progressing people to employment. Several weeks ago, I raised the issue of a 62-year-old woman who was asked to make a 90 km round trip to attend an appointment with JobPath and there was no public transport available for that journey. Thankfully, she got a letter to say that she would no longer need to apply but her sister got a letter saying that she would have to go to a JobPath interview. That shows how ridiculous the situation is, that JobPath must be addressed because it is not working and that the outsourcing to private for-profit companies of such job activation schemes is not the best way to go. I call for a debate on both JobPath and the OECD review and also the renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy.
I wish to raise an issue of concern to many people across Dublin in relation to schools selling off their lands and the resultant impact on local communities. I understand from this morning's newspaper and a conversation I had with Councillor Deirdre Kingston of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council that Clonkeen College, a Christian Brothers school, has sold its land. This is of huge disappointment to the local community because there has been significant State investment in the school, including an upgrade of the playing pitches that are now to be lost to the local community as a result of the school's decision to sell. Two schools in my constituency have made similar decisions. St. Paul's College, Raheny, was given land by Dublin City Council in the 1950s on the understanding that it be kept for recreational use but that land was sold to a developer several years ago, and St. Mary's Holy Faith, Killester, is currently selling its lands. It is disappointing that the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, is taking a hands-off approach to this issue. Even though the State has invested money in these schools and had a relationship with them, he does not seem to have any interest in getting involved or commenting on the fact that local communities are losing facilities in the schools. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House when he is available and it is appropriate in order for the issue to be discussed because if there are two schools in my constituency and one school in Councillor Deirdre Kingston's constituency in which this has happened in a very short period of time, I am quite sure that every area of the country will have a similar problem in the months and years to come. I would appreciate if the Leader could facilitate that debate.
On a lighter note, I wish two journalists from TV3 the very best in their retirement. To hear that Vincent Browne is to retire from his role as the presenter of Vincent Browne Tonight is a little like hearing of the retirement of a teacher who used to give one detention all the time. There is the same emotion that he is moving on and a guarded regard for the fact that even though there were battles, one will be sad to see him go. I also want to acknowledge Ursula Halligan, who has announced that she is to leave TV3. My greatest memory of Ursula was not necessarily a journalistic one, although I do remember she forced Deputy Enda Kenny to trip over a flower pot while asking him how strongly he felt about the marriage equality issue. I also remember an incredible article she wrote that was published in The Irish Times.I vividly remember sitting outside a gym at around 7 a.m., reading online her article about her life, sexuality and journey to the realisation of who she was and openly weeping, touching my face and feeling tears coming down my cheeks as I read her words. It was a very powerful statement and she stepped outside the journalistic sphere for that referendum. What she did that week touched the hearts of a huge number of people in Ireland. I wish to acknowledge that she has moved on from her position in TV3 and wish her all the best for the future.
I want to raise an issue which has been brought to my attention by a number of councillors, including Councillor Tom O'Leary in Fingal. The issue is that of the deprivation index, the manner in which it is put together and the assessments which flow from it in terms of the needs of communities. This is very important because it impacts on funding for a range of areas, including Foróige, drugs task forces and the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, which is another social inclusion initiative.
The problem is that one of the main criteria used to assess this index is housing, social housing and the number of people who are in social housing rented to them by the local authority. As we know, as a result of the recent homelessness problems, the economic crash and the lack of new houses being built, local authorities in many areas are being forced to rent houses and become involved in other schemes such as the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme. There are also long-term and short-term lettings. None of these are included in calculating the index which, of course, skews the figures considerably. If one takes a town like Balbriggan, which has approximately 25,000 people including 7,000 children, the services available to that community may be negatively impacted by the manner in which the deprivation index is currently put together.
I will be calling on the relevant Minister, although I have not yet been able to figure out which Minister that might be. I will inform the Leader which Department is responsible for this matter afterwards. I know that Pobal is involved but Pobal works with several different Departments. I will be calling on the Minister to correct this issue because it is disadvantaging communities around our country. As I have said, the example which springs to my mind straight away is the town of Balbriggan. Not only does Fingal have the youngest population in the State, but Balbriggan has the youngest population of any town in the State.
We need to give our children the best chance in life. We want to ensure a fair distribution of resources to disadvantaged communities so that we can give all our citizens the best opportunities. I call on the Leader to invite the relevant Minister to the House to address this matter. Perhaps as a result of raising the issue here today it will come to the attention of Pobal, which may pre-empt the relevant Minister and have the matter resolved by the autumn.
In light of the excellent report prepared by the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union over the course of 50 meetings, it would be worthwhile for the Seanad to follow up with meetings with the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, which I hope will be established at that stage. These meetings could help both Parliaments develop a joint approach. The two Houses of Parliament and the Assembly could meet jointly with the Seanad, whether in Armagh or some other location, to discuss the effects of Brexit, because it is a very important issue. I ask the Leader to request that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for Brexit negotiations, Deputy Simon Coveney, come here early in the autumn to update the Seanad in respect of the negotiations between Michel Barnier and David Davis, the Member of Parliament representing the British Government in the negotiations.
One would have to be concerned that the British Government is introducing what is being described as a great reform Bill to the House of Commons before the negotiations are completed. The negotiations are just under way and bringing forward the Bill in advance of an exit is pre-empting the discussions . If anyone had any doubt that the exit will happen, when this reform Bill is passed there will be no going back. In the meantime, the United Kingdom is benefitting from the European Union agreement with Japan, from the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement , CETA, and from the EU's relationship with the United States even though it is arranging bilateral meetings with Donald Trump and so on. It is all somewhat confusing.
I am delighted that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has been given this special responsibility and is being supported by the Minister of State, Deputy Helen McEntee, who was here yesterday. From our point of view I would suggest he establish a centre in Ireland dedicated to the Brexit situation, especially in light of the threats to €1.2 billion a week in trade and the 500 km open border. People would know that there was a dedicated team of high-powered civil servants. I feel that former taoisigh like Enda Kenny, John Bruton, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern would be supportive. They would be the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They would work with the Government in order to support it. There would be very qualified envoys involved.
The new Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, should go on a tour of the capitals over the summer months to acquaint other leaders of the situation. I have just returned from a meeting of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union, COSAC, in Estonia and Brexit was not really on the agenda. It was not of great concern to Estonia and other countries throughout Europe. We have to keep focusing on the issue and I put the focus on it at the meeting. I said that it must be discussed at the November COSAC meeting in Tallinn. If people representing Ireland were not at all these meetings Brexit would play second fiddle to all other issues.
I commend the Seanad committee, including Neale Richmond, the Chairman, and all the Members who participated. It is an excellent report and is worth selling. I propose that the document be circulated to all parliaments and European committees. It is not a big effort but it should be sent to each committee and to the parliaments of each of the 26 countries.
I also wish to raise the issue of Brexit but before I do so I want to endorse Senator Reilly's comments. I believe we would all agree with his points in respect of that deprivation index.
The EU Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, made a very positive suggestion yesterday. He was addressing a parliamentary committee which was looking at how to redistribute Britain's seats in the European Parliament. He suggested that those with Irish passports living in the North of Ireland should have the right to vote in European elections across the Border. He said it could be done by increasing the number of European Parliamentary seats in the Republic of Ireland. It should be the case that all of us in the Chamber would support the rights of our fellow citizens in the North to continue to have representation in the European Parliament.
As such, it was very concerning when the chairperson of the committee, Danuta Hübner, MEP, said that what Mr. Verhofstadt was saying was amazing, because the Republic of Ireland is against the idea of giving the right to vote to nationals in "third countries". We have a problem here. To be clear, I hope that the chair of that committee is mistaken. I expect that our Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade would be very supportive of the idea of ensuring representation in the European Parliament for our citizens in the North. It is very important that we have clarity on that before we go into recess for the summer because we know that there is an open door from the EU Brexit negotiator to this idea and that the committee would be open to the idea. The committee, however, is under the impression that the Irish Government would not support it. It is very important that we hear from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. In fairness, I expect he will endorse the idea and I expect that we will have all-party consensus around the idea. It is very important that we do not let ourselves slip into recess without clarity on that very important issue.
I call for a change in the operation of the carers' benefit scheme and the manifest unfairness to which it gives rise. A particular case has brought it to my attention. It is the case of a couple caring for a child who has severe special needs. Each of them would qualify for carers' benefit which, as we know, requires stamps or a social insurance contribution to be paid. Each of the parents would be entitled to 24 months payment in their own rights, which is equivalent to four years in total. A situation has arisen whereby the mother is looking after the child. It is basically a 24-7 requirement, or bordering on it, with a lot of support being given. She is coming to that end of that 24-month period and, if they are to continue on with carers' benefit, her husband will have to leave work. That does not suit the family arrangement whatsoever.I ask for the rules to be changed to allow for his entitlement to carer's benefit to be transferred to his wife. The change will not impose an additional cost on the State but it would make a world of a difference to the family. I envision that this situation would apply to not just a child with special needs but elderly parents or somebody that a couple are looking after.
More flexibility is required. We all know that the profession of carer demands a big commitment. We should make things easier when something is highlighted that does not cost the State. I want the rules to allow for a right that already exists to be transferred. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health to debate this issue in order to resolve the matter. In this case the wife has been refused the entitlement to take on her husband's credits.
I wish to again raise the issue of social and affordable housing that I raised on 2 March. This morning The Irish Timespublished an article about the O'Devaney Gardens, St. Michael's Estate and Oscar Traynor Road. The article highlighted the fact that 1,644 affordable and social units will be delayed because the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has not designed an affordable housing scheme. I find that totally unacceptable. In addition, the 900 units that were planned for the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend will also be delayed because no scheme has been designed to provide affordable housing.
On 2 March I raised this matter with the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy English. On that occasion I asked him to develop a pilot scheme that would enable this type of development to progress. I was told not to worry, that the Department was working hard and there was no need for a pilot scheme as a national scheme would be put in place. I realise now that there was a reason to worry as nearly 2,500 units for this city have been delayed and no scheme has been put in place.
As I walked up the stairs to this Chamber I thought that I would ask for the Leader to invite the Minister to come here today but I decided to be reasonable. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to attend here next week to discuss this very important issue. Badly needed social and affordable housing for this city should not be delayed just because the Department has not designed a scheme. On 2 March I was given a commitment in this House that the scheme would be developed and reassured that there was no need for a pilot scheme. We cannot adjourn for the summer knowing that 2,500 badly needed units for this city have been delayed due to a lack of action by the Department. I ask the Leader, at his earliest convenience, to invite the Minister to attend here next week to debate this important matter. We know work on these sites has been delayed but many more projects could have been delayed, which is totally unacceptable.
I am seriously aggrieved at how sick people have been treated by senior management in the HSE. When one needs a national car test one telephones the appropriate body for an appointment, a suitable time is confirmed and one attends with a vehicle for the test. When one needs a passport one gets an appointment time to meet somebody from the Passport Office.
On two occasions I have had to bring two relations to hospital. One one occasion I had to bring a relative to Tullamore Hospital for an appointment. On the second occasion I had to bring a relative to St. James's Hospital for a scan. On both occasions I talked to the people who were seated around me. Like me, they had waited for a couple of hours. I discovered that 30 people had been given the same appointment time to attend St. James's. I also discovered that around 20 people had been given the same appointment time to attend Tullamore Hospital. Such a practice is scandalous. Our sickest and most vulnerable people have been and are being treated with utter contempt, which is not good enough. I will be very disappointed in the HSE, which has a lot of senior management, if it cannot sort out this mess. I ask the Leader to bring pressure to bear on the Minister for Health to resolve the problem. Furthermore, I talked to a consultant about the practice. He told me that some people do not turn up for their appointment, etc. I bet that anyone who gets an appointment to attend an oncology ward shows up on time. The consultant's answer was unfeasible.
Yesterday, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health decided to reject the draft Bill proposed by Deputy Gino Kenny. We took very detailed legal advice on the matter and it was found that the Bill had serious defects. It is important to convey the message that medicinal cannabis is available where a medical consultant is satisfied that it would benefit a patient. That consultant can apply to the Minister for a licence and once a licence is issued the product can be used.
It is a myth that medicinal cannabis is not available to anyone for medical reasons. The Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA, issued a detailed report on the matter earlier in the year. It set out three areas where medicinal cannabis can be used. It is important to convey the message that the decision by the Oireachtas joint committee is not about preventing medicinal cannabis being used. The system has been set up whereby a medical consultant can apply for a licence and the product can be used once he or she is satisfied it will benefit the patient.
I wish to clearly state that there is no scientific evidence to support the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. There is a question to be answered when a GP prescribes it. Would a GP's professional indemnity policy adequately cover him or her if there was a subsequent claim against the GP for giving incorrect advice? A view exists that the committee took the wrong decision. I can confirm that all of the members who attended the meeting took the unanimous decision that the Bill, brought forward by Deputy Gino Kenny, was not the way to deal with this matter. The Minister has effectively dealt with the matter over the past six to eight months. It is important that we get that message out.
My colleague in the Seanad raised the issue of hospital appointments. I agree with him that there is a need for change in the area. Some hospitals have brought forward a change. There is a problem with people not turning up for appointments. I heard about one clinic recently where only three people turned up for the six available appointments.
The HSE could introduce simple measures such as texts to solve the problem of non-attendance. Many units text patients in order to remind them of their appointments. Texts would be one way to solve the problem and should be introduced in all cases.
I support Senator Mullen and his offering for what to do with our waste. I have asked myself the same question as I am sure we all have. I recall that a fire took place at a waste provider in Ballymount a few years ago. On that occasion it was thought that the company had hoarded a large amount of recyclables as they had been deemed valuable. Some recyclables are deemed more valuable than others. I am concerned about where all of our rubbish goes and what we are doing with landfill.
I wish to refer to broken promises. A protest by disabled people and their families is taking place today at the front gate from 12 noon until 4 p.m. I urge all of the Senators to engage with the protesters. They have christened their protest "Broken Promises" because they feel that they have never been listened to and their views have not been taken on board. A lot of people have talked about the issue. We must recognise that the Government has failed for ten years to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was adopted in 2006. As a result disabled people have waited ten years. The Government has failed to reintroduce the transport and mobility grant that was cut in 2013 so disable people have waited four years. Fine Gael promised in its manifesto of 2011 to fund a personalised budget. The Government has failed to implement the initiative so these people have waited six years. The Government has failed to implement in full the Disability Act 2005 and, therefore, these people have been waiting 12 years. I respectfully ask all of the Senators to go out and engage with the disabled people and their families at the front gate. I urge them to find out what these Houses can do to improve their lives.
Go raibh maith agat. I listened with interest to Senators Leyden and Gavan on the issue of Brexit. They both made interesting and relevant point, with which we can all agree. While I think the Departments are prepared, in a sense we will be forced to hasten slowly because Britain is all over the shop. The United Kingdom has a weak Prime Minister, a divided Cabinet, and every time that Boris Johnson appears in public, he tosses his hair before he opens his mouth and then he says the European Union can go whistle. Michel Barnier, who is I believe a considerate and a very good man, says he does not hear any whistling but merely a clock ticking - one that will do damage to Britain. On the other hand the other Secretaries of State, David Davis and Philip Hammond, take a different view from Boris Johnson. As to what will happen when they get into detailed negotiations, no can tell at this stage.
Of course, there must be give and take. They will have to give serious consideration to staying in the customs union, as they want the benefits of the customs union. They cannot it have it both ways. The negotiations will be a long road. The transition period could be long and it will be very important.
On a bonfire in east Belfast in recent days, there was a coffin with a picture of Mr. Martin McGuinness, deceased on it, and in other parts of the Six Counties there were bonfires with election posters of SDLP, Sinn Féin and Alliance candidates, some of whom are elected MPs, MLAs, MEPs, our national flag and various other effigies. A couple of years ago, when a priest sadly took his life in west Belfast, they had an effigy of the priest hanging from a gallows in the bonfire. These are symbols of hate. What troubles me is that children and young people were looking on at the bonfires, so another generation are being infected with the cancer of sectarianism and bigotry.
Had a picture of the Reverend Ian Paisley been placed on a coffin that was put on a bonfire in a nationalist area, and the Sinn Féin representatives who were asked to comment remained silent, everybody would know what would happen. Every radio and television station, and rightly so, would call them to account for their complete lack of leadership and cowardice in the face of bigotry, evil and sectarianism. We have to ask whether the DUP, whose members are the leaders of the unionist community in the North, have been silent on this matter. Why is that party holding the British Government in place? How can we be serious about anti-racism measures and sectarianism on these islands if the SDLP, Sinn Féin, Alliance Party elected politicians have their posters and, much worse, the effigies of those who have died placed on bonfires and that behaviour is not challenged?
Will the Government demand an explanation from the DUP? Will the Government demand an explanation from the British Government as to why it is not challenging the DUP, its partners in Government about its silence on this issue? This is an issue of major importance. People are outraged, they are sick of such behaviour and want an end brought to it in the year 2017?
Yesterday I joined in condemning the behaviour that Senator Mac Lochlainn has described, the burning of effigies, the coffin with the picture of the late Martin McGuinness and also the election posters from all parties. We saw the burning of flags, the European Union flag, the Tricolour, and the flag of the Ivory Coast, which is the Tricolour back to front. I do not know what the Ivory Coast has done to the Orange Order.
I will be raising it at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly which is meeting in plenary session in County Kilkenny this weekend. The Government can do so much but the DUP and Sinn Féin were in a power sharing arrangement in Stormont and I think there are other ways it can be raised.
However, the PSNI has said that this was the most peaceful 12th July for some years. It was great to see that the Ardoyne flash-point passed off without any violence. Fr. Gary Donegan who has worked closely with the residents and the various stakeholders from the two communities has said that this was a major step forward. Yesterday, we were very pessimistic but today we should see it as a major step forward. We need to continue to dialogue, build bridges and break down the barriers. The PSNI said yesterday was the most peaceful 12th July in recent years and this is very welcome. People who burn effigies must be brought to account. I said yesterday that I am sure that the PSNI should have some video evidence of exactly what happened in this Love Ulster March in 2006. I would hope there will be knocks on doors in the next weeks and months.
I think the Sinn Féin leadership in Ardoyne who are responsible for showing real leadership in keeping the peace in that area, so that people can celebrate in a safe way that leaves behind sectarianism, bigotry and hatred that we need to stamp out.
A number of weeks ago I raised as a Commencement Matter the dire situation with the crisis in physiotherapy services in County Mayo. It has not improved since then. The situation is still the same. We have an area, the size of Erris with a population of approximately 10,000 people without a physiotherapy service of any kind. A person would have to travel almost 50 miles to the nearest physiotherapist. There are significant waiting lists which are growing longer and longer. It is absolutely unacceptable that this situation be allowed to continue. I know that people talk about investment in Dublin and not being in competition with the regions. I would ask anybody from an urban area to understand what it is like for the most vulnerable people in society not to be able to get something as basic as physiotherapy in their own communities. That ranges right through the life cycle, from elderly people to children to people who are recovering from injuries. The damage that is being done physically and indeed mentally to people because they cannot get physiotherapy is completely unacceptable. We talk about a rainy day fund. It is a rainy day in Erris when one cannot get a physiotherapist. It is a rainy day in north Mayo when there is not even one paediatric physiotherapist supplied by the HSE. They hide behind the cloak of maternity and long-term sick leave. It is unacceptable that one would have children with disabilities who are medically deemed to need physiotherapy every week who have not got physiotherapy for months just because they come from an area in rural Mayo.
I ask the Leader to bring this to the attention of the Minister for Health again, to ask him to intervene and do something immediately about it.
I hope that Senator Norris is not too sore after the wasp sting. Before I call on the Leader to respond, I will make an observation, which I rarely do from the Chair.
Fish quotas were mentioned earlier. I come from the sea shore. With Britain leaving the European Union, this is the first time since 1973 that we will have the opportunity to revisit the fish quota. The fish quota granted to Ireland in 1973 was grossly unjust and there was no opportunity to raise the issue in the past five decades.The treatment of the Irish in 1973 was grossly unjust. Those who have influence, whether it is the Leader, the Minister or our people in Europe, should take this opportunity. An increase of just 1% in the Irish quota in Europe would mean many jobs for rural Ireland and for coastal communities that have been decimated over the years. When the fish quota was given out in 1973, the Irish negotiators or the Irish fisherman were hiding behind something because they got a very bad deal. If there was ever an opportunity to change this, there is one now with the Brexit negotiations currently taking place. Places like Castletownbere, Killybegs and Rossaveal are struggling to survive because we do not have the fish. If there was ever an opportunity, there is one now. With negotiations taking place, there is leverage, for the first time in 50 years, to redress that grave injustice.
I have been talking about fishing in these Houses for nearly three decades. Rarely as Cathaoirleach do I venture into issues but this is a historic issue that has damaged communities and island people around the coast since 1973. With the possibility now of negotiations, that injustice might be in some way moderated. I urge those with the power to use this opportunity to do so.
I thank the 16 Members of the House and the Cathaoirleach for their contributions to the Order of Business. I thank Senator Mark Daly for the extensive discussion yesterday. It is important we achieve the right result at the end of the process. Rather than creating a situation next week in which we will not necessarily have finality in terms of the Bill, I suggest to Senator Daly that we might take the time to let it progress. Given the extensive negotiations and discussions from all sides yesterday, there is a willingness to work together on this. I hope we can ensure an outcome that is positive for everybody. That is what we all want to achieve.
Senator Daly also referred to the summer economic statement. Listening to him brought to mind Deputy Howlin's remarks on the radio yesterday morning about public private partnerships. He said the exact same thing.
It was Senator Daly's party in government that introduced many public private partnerships for roads, schools and so forth. There is a need to look at the whole issue around PPPs. The Senator mentioned the 10% and I do not necessarily disagree with the remarks made by him or by Deputy Howlin on this matter. We will have that discussion next week as part of the economic statement.
When it comes to the summer economic statement and our economic strategy, the Government's key aims are to ensure that we have sound management of our economy and our public finances. We must also see to it that public expenditure ensures valuable return for the taxpayer and that we have targeted public investment. This concerns infrastructure but it should be in tandem with the provision of facilities. Senator Colm Burke has always made the point that we have built many schools and new roads but has asked when did we last build a new hospital. That is part of what we need to discuss collectively.
A further point we must address, and I make no apologies for this, is to ensure we have a fair tax system that rewards those who work. We cannot have people escaping paying tax. A fair system means that people who have had to endure a decade of pay cuts and tax increases will be rewarded for the huge sacrifice and contribution they made to the recovery of our country. In so doing, we must also ensure our country is open for business and for targeted investment.
The summer economic statement outlined by the Minister yesterday is ambitious. I completely disagree with Senator Daly on this point. It is ambitious in terms of infrastructure development and the need for broadband. This will be the Government that delivers broadband to our people across rural Ireland. We will have that debate in the context of the new Department later. It is important, however, that we work to make sure rural Ireland is not forgotten but becomes central to our recovery. It is important there is a balance between taxation and investment in the budget. Senator Daly is right that we need targeted investment.
Senator Mullen raised the issue of diversity in public broadcasting. He raised a very good point because there is a certain status quo in our national broadcaster. There are very few female presenters on some of our daytime radio programmes. I commend the former Senator and chairperson of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, who had a very good meeting in Galway last week on the future of public broadcasting. Senator Mullen is right to highlight the need for diversity in this area. I pose the question, as many of us do, as to whether we are getting value for our licence fee. The director general of RTE has asked for an increase. I would not support that increase when we see that last weekend, for example, many people were unable to watch our national games on RTE and had to watch them on Sky. The point the Senator made is a good one and I would be happy to ask the Minister to come to the House.
Senators Devine and Mullen posed a question about waste. This is a debate we need to have as a society. We became hung up on waste charges last week when there was a kerfuffle. We did not focus on the substantive issue which is what we do with our waste. Where does it go? Senator Mullen is right to highlight the levels of packaging - for example, styrofoam cups - we produce. There is an important question here, however. It is easy to oppose paying for something. That is the easy option. The hard option is be responsible and have a debate about how we can reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and how we can recycle and incentivise families to do so. This is debate we need to have. It will not happen before the recess but I would be happy to have it in the autumn.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh and the Cathaoirleach both referred to the mackerel quota. As Senator Ó Clochartaigh knows, we had a positive outcome for Irish fisheries in 2016 when we saw an increase in tonnage to 86,000 tonnes, up 10,500 tonnes. This is worth approximately €10 million to us. The Senator and the Cathaoirleach are right to highlight the need to broaden the discussion. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has had a consultative process and is currently assessing the whole issue. Those submissions are available. Given the London Agreement and the decision by the United Kingdom, it is important the Minister comes in to the House. I will endeavour to arrange this for next week, if I can. It may not be possible next week but I will certainly try.
With regard to Senator Ó Clochartaigh's comments on JobPath and the activation measures, I suggest the Senator might find submitting a Commencement matter a quicker way to raise it. We have a lot of legislation to go through next week and the Minister will be at a European Council meeting in Estonia. We will put this on the agenda, however, as this issue concerns ensuring people do not have to endure the round trip the Senator mentioned.
Senator Ó Ríordáin raised the issue of schools selling off lands. It is a matter of concern when we see the loss of vital amenities and recreational land. He cited, in particular, a number of schools in which the State had invested money. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to address this. I again suggest to Senator Ó Ríordáin that submitting this as a Commencement matter for next week might be a more prudent and expeditious way for him to get information.
I join Senator Ó Ríordáin in congratulating Mr. Vincent Browne and wishing him well on his retirement. Many of us who have had the pleasure or agony of appearing on his programme can associate with the Senator's remarks on detention. Vincent Browne brought insight and intellect to journalism, as well as fairness towards all the Members of the Oireachtas who appeared on his programme. We may not have always agreed with him, and we can disagree with his recent remarks, but we wish him well in his retirement and thank him for his service. Like Senator Ó Ríordáin, I also wish to pay tribute to Ms Ursula Halligan. I was not aware that she was retiring.I thank her for her courtesy to all of us in this House when we met her and when we were interviewed by her. Senator Ó Ríordáin referenced the flower pot incident, which I remember very well. Ms Halligan's contribution to the marriage equality referendum was one of the stand-out moments. Her act of courage and bravery is one we should all applaud and admire. I wish her well in the next phase of her career.
Senator James Reilly raised the deprivation index. We all agree there is a need to have it examined. It is not just about the index but about the model used for DEIS status and how we can now have people allocated in different ways. It is a matter we need to re-examine because, as the Senator rightly mentioned, it is partly about different types of housing, including social housing, and this is based on an outdated model.
Senator Leyden referred to the Brexit committee report. I thank all Members of the House for their contributions yesterday. It was a very important and worthwhile debate. The Senator's suggestion is primarily a matter for the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I certainly have a great desire to see the Brexit committee report issued widely. On the agenda for the meeting of the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privilege this afternoon, there is a request from the clerk of the committee to do something similar to what the Senator suggested in terms of going on tour, if I may use that phrase. It is about us, as a Parliament, playing a key, pivotal role. In my remarks yesterday, I acknowledged the Senator's work in Europe. It is important that we consider positively what the Senator suggested because it is about us, as Members of the Upper House, taking the initiative and working with the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe, OSCE or other bodies to ensure the voice of Ireland's Parliament is heard in tandem with the work of the Government. I would be very happy to see whether we can do something along the lines suggested because it is important.
Senator Leyden also referred to the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. The Senator is correct that he needs to go on the charm offensive like the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny. On the Senator's last point, the Government has created a new section to deal with Brexit. It is an all-Government approach. I will be very happy to determine how we can make progress on what the Senator suggested.
Senator Gavan made reference to the issue of the right of citizens of the North to vote in European Parliament elections. That is a matter the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will consider. I have not got the direct answer for the Senator but it is a matter we should examine. It is important that, in the case of the North, there be a voice within Europe. The Government has always been about an all-Ireland approach to Brexit. The Senator's point is that we should certainly not allow for circumstances in which there would be no voices from the North being heard in the European Union, be it in the Parliament or elsewhere. We should consider the suggestion.
Senator Mulherin raised the issue of carers and mentioned a specific case. The issue of transferring credits in this case should be considered. Given the large volume of legislation next week, the Senator might consider submitting a Commencement matter. It is a matter we should certainly have examined.
Senator Humphreys raised the issue of social housing and asked whether we have no affordable scheme. I was not aware of what the Senator said until he said it. I will have the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, liaise with the Senator on the matter. I will take my note to him after the Order of Business.
Senator Davitt spoke about the HSE and waiting times. It seems to be the practice for a long time that the same appointment times are given to people. It beggars belief at times. Everyone gets a 1.30 p.m. appointment or a 10 a.m. appointment, resulting in there being 20 people in a waiting room in an outpatient clinic or elsewhere. It is model that needs to be examined because, as the Senator said, the elderly, the severely disabled or those who are physically hurt need to be minded and looked after. It creates problems. We will take it up with the HSE on the Senator's behalf after the Order of Business.
It is an operational matter for the HSE rather than the Minister. I will talk to the Senator about it after the Order of Business.
Senator Colm Burke referenced the issue of the medical cannabis Bill and the decision of the committee yesterday. He has highlighted quite rightly the process available and the protocols associated with supply and the availability of medical cannabis. It is a medical matter and it is important that people recognise that. It requires a doctor or consultant to sign off, and that is something that should not be lost.
Senators Devine and Conway-Walsh made reference to people with disabilities. It is important that we acknowledge there is investment in the area of disabilities. The Minister, Deputy Harris, is very committed to that. As Minister, he is working to ensure we have a national disability strategy. We need to continue with this now that we have more money available to us to invest in the services for people with disabilities. I commend Senator John Dolan on his conference with the mayors on the matter of disability. It was a worthwhile exercise.
Senator Paul Coghlan also made reference to Brexit. The point he made was similar to that of Senator Leyden.
Senators Mac Lochlainn and Feighan made reference to the North and the bonfires yesterday. On Tuesday and yesterday, we had this discussion on the Order of Business. My position has not changed. There is no room for sectarianism or bigotry in any part of our country. We all have different traditions and cultures but there is no excuse for some of the behaviour that was allowed to take place. I am sure the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, will voice his concerns, as he always does as a representative of the Irish Government, and relay them to the UK Government.
I hope we see a return to power-sharing in the North. All of us want to see devolved government rather than direct rule. Thankfully, however, there was a relatively peaceful day in the North yesterday, as Senator Feighan rightly said. Both Senators Conway-Walsh and Feighan referenced Ardoyne. That was the flash point for years. Thanks to the good work on all sides, there was a relatively peaceful day yesterday. It requires leadership. Martin McGuinness's son deserves great praise for the way he handled himself and the way in which he asked people to be calm and respect the fact that there is a better way of doing politics. Megaphone diplomacy and the behaviour we saw in the imagery yesterday does not do anything. From a health and safety point of view, having some of the bonfires so close to schools and buildings is not acceptable. We have come a long way and there is a journey to go. I am thankful that common sense prevailed. Leadership was shown yesterday, which is to be commended.
I am not familiar with the issue Senator Conway-Walsh raised regarding physiotherapy in Mayo. It seems a bit strange that there is no physiotherapist available but it is an operational matter for the HSE, the body that deals with the matter, and not the Minister for Health. I will be happy to liaise with the Minister on the issue for the Senator.