Wednesday, 19 July 2017
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, Independent Reporting Commission Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and conclude not later than 2.15 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 each and the Minister to be called on to reply to the debate not later than 2.10 p.m.; No. 2, Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Mediation Bill 2017 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken on the resumption of business following the sos; No. 4, Private Members' business, International Protection (Family Reunification) Bill 2017 - Second Stage, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3, with the time allocated for the debate not to exceed two hours; No. 5, Minerals Development Bill 2015 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] - Report Stage and Final Stages, to be taken at conclusion of No. 4; and No. 6, statements on summer economic statements, to be taken at conclusion of No. 5 and conclude within 90 minutes, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each. Business is to be interrupted for 30 minutes at the conclusion of No. 2.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, has failed to progress the legislation required to allow for the construction of a second runway at Dublin Airport. The issue has been raised by my colleague, Deputy Robert Troy, in the Dáil by way of parliamentary question in the past 13 months but no progress has been made. Deputy Robert Troy has been told consistently that the legislation is imminent, yet the Minister does not seem to know whether primary legislation or a statutory instrument is required to transpose the EU regulation. Today we learned from a senior figure in the airline industry that the delay apparently was in the Office of the Attorney General, which has yet to sign off on a statutory instrument. This seems to be the second time the Office of the Attorney General has been used as an excuse for the Government's failure to implement legislation. We know that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been held up conveniently in the Office of the Attorney General. It is also strange, given that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has its own legal section. Why has the issue not been dealt with by that section. It is a disgrace that in the wake of Brexit and for the purpose of achieving economic growth the second runway has not been constructed. It is vital for the development of the city and its surrounds. The Minister has failed us again and should be called to the House to explain exactly how he proposes to allow the legislation to be brought before the House to enable the construction of the second runway to proceed.
The second issue I wish to raise concerns the report of the Committee of Public Accounts which was published yesterday. I call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to attend the House to explain how he will act on the recommendations made in the report. Serious concerns about the Department of Justice and Equality's oversight of An Garda Síochána were raised. The Department has presided over serious financial and governance irregularities in the force in recent years. The report is also sceptical about the Department's lack of awareness of the irregularities in Templemore. The Minister needs to commence an internal review, not just of An Garda Síochána but also of his Department, especially of the reporting structures between it and An Garda Síochána. It is not enough to just note the contents of the report. The Committee of Public Accounts has raised serious questions in its report and action is needed now by the Minister.
I refer to the ongoing refugee, asylum seeker and migrant crisis in the Mediterranean where there is enormous activity and in which Naval Service ships have been deployed from time to time. This morning I listened to a BBC radio programme which covered the plight of those arriving in Italy and the circumstances in which they were being kept. The Minister of State at the Department of Defence should come to the House at some point to update us on what is happening at European and inter-armed forces level to devise a real strategy to deal with these issues. If the way into Europe is to have a tide of people crossing in boats that are wholly unsuitable, with many of them losing their lives, and if part of that scene is their rescue on a humanitarian basis and being brought to Italy, there are huge problems not merely for Italy but also for the entire Continent of Europe, with which the Minister of State should deal.
We are coming to the end of this term of the Seanad and I am anxious that progress be made in debating the Seanad Reform Bill that was placed before the House. There are many views on it, but they could be accommodated in the debate. I have never heard of a chamber that was afraid of debating a Bill. We should get on with debating the Bill. The former Taoiseach wrote to my group on 8 December 2016 stating the Government, comprising Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, was committed to the establishment of an implementation group to oversee implementation of the reforms and that A Programme for a Partnership Government contained a commitment to progress them. He then proposed that we establish an implementation group and seek the nomination of persons from both Houses of the Oireachtas to it, but nothing has really happened since. Another eight months have passed since that letter was written, which, itself, came late in the day. I, therefore, propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 47, non-Government motion No. 23, be taken before No. 1 and that the motion be dealt with by the House in short order. It reads: "That Seanad Éireann resolves that provision should be made for Committee Stage of the Seanad Bill 2016 to be debated in Government time during the autumn term 2017".This is not an exorbitant demand. It is merely aimed at ensuring that we should get on with the business in order that everybody would have an opportunity to express his or her views. Whether people are in favour of emigrant votes or whatever, they can express their views and the Bill can be amended accordingly. The legislation will not be in operation in time for the next general election so people in this House who fear the implications as to their immediate survival should rest assured that when this Bill is passed, there will be at least one further general election before it comes into operation.
The Cathaoirleach will not be surprised to learn that there are problems in rural Ireland. I want to raise a key recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, namely, equality for those of us on group water schemes. Equity was clearly recommended in the report of the Expert Commission on the Future Funding of Domestic Public Water Services. It is not good enough that many low-income households in rural Ireland are obliged, as matters stand, to continue to pay twice for water. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has said that he will refund the water charges, which will cost €170 million. It would only cost a fraction of that to provide for group water schemes. That is why Sinn Féin, in its last alternative budget, set aside €1.5 million to achieve this. Why has such a key recommendation of both the expert commission and the committee not yet been implemented? There must be equality between those members of group water schemes and those accessing public services. The key difference is that the group water schemes receive an annual subsidy of €70 per household but this subsidy does not cover the full annual cost of accessing the water supply. Those connected to the public water supply and who are customers of Irish Water do not pay an annual charge for accessing this supply. Equity would mean that the State would cover the full annual cost of the group water scheme users accessing that water supply. The submission of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes to the committee showed the experience and the extraordinary voluntary effort that goes into every scheme. This is often neglected in the debate relating to the supply of water.
Another important matter is the need for a proper and timely programme to be put in place to facilitate the takeover of the schemes that request for this to happen. This is taking far too long and the schemes have been left in the dark as to when the necessary upgrades and takeovers will happen. We urgently need an absolute guarantee from the Minister and his Department that the legislation due in September will deal with the issue of group water schemes and will implement fully the recommendations of the expert group and the committee. I am seeking an assurance that group water schemes will be included under that legislation.
On 11 July, one week after a Bill to ban onshore fracking was passed, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment gave consent to Providence Resources to commence drilling for oil in the Porcupine Bank off the coast of Kerry. This is just one of a slew of drilling expeditions recently permitted by the Minister, with the North Celtic Sea basin off the coast of Cork and the Kish Bank off Dalkey's Forty Foot swimming spot next in line. The company will drill for 45 to 60 days throughout the summer without a strategic environmental assessment having been carried out. In a desperate plea for investment, it states that it expects to find 5 billion barrels of oil. Has the Minister thought about the impact of these drilling expeditions from a social, environmental and economic point of view? In June 1991, the Government declared all Irish waters to be a whale and dolphin sanctuary, the first of its kind in Europe, but the seismic blasts from exploration and drilling are deadly for these mammals because they give rise to disorientation, deafness and internal bleeding over distances of up to 100 miles. A deaf whale is a dead whale. One blast also kills 64% of zooplankton, which is the basis of the marine ecosystem, for up to 0.7 miles. We cannot afford to look for any more fossil fuels. International climate experts warn that 80% of known fossil fuels must stay in the ground in order that we might avoid going over the safe 2oCelsius limit in respect of global warming. The Minister recently spoke to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and IMPACT on the need for a just transition to a low-carbon economy. In banning fracking and working on climate action, the Minister claims that he would protect workers in Bord na Móna, farmers and tourism but he shows that he has no intention of protecting the transition or providing a consistent policy with regard to green investment. In complete doublespeak, he is inviting the destruction of our coastal fishing, marine resources and tourism industries and a marine ecosystem for one of the lowest Government tax takes for oil and gas in the world. Extraction of oil and gas from the Irish Sea is not even profitable. Shell Oil recently left the Corrib gas field with a loss of €2 billion. The granting of these licences is a slap in the face for young Irish people. A peer-reviewed study published yesterday in the journal Earth System Dynamicsargues that if massive emissions reductions do not begin soon, the burden placed on young people to extract CO2emitted by prior generations may become implausibly difficult and costly. This new fossil fuel infrastructure investment will lock Ireland into a completely discredited economic model that serves neither the planet nor its people and that is built on a form of fuel that is fast becoming irrelevant. This shows inconsistency and incompetence on the part of a Minister and a Department named in honour of climate action and environment. I recently made amendments to the fracking legislation to ban offshore fracking and all fossil fuel exploration and these received a great response in the House.
I am asking that the Minister come to this House for a debate on revoking the licences and that we follow the lead of France by putting a stop to oil and gas exploration in Irish waters. We need a just transition to a low-carbon economy. We are the laggards of Europe. I want the Minister to come to the House to address this issue.
I support Senator McDowell's amendment to the Order of Business regarding No. 47, which is supported by Labour Senators. I think Senator Higgins is seconding the amendment but I would be happy to do so if required. It is important that Government time should be allocated to debating the Seanad Bill in the autumn and I am very happy to support that.
I also propose that we take No. 21, the Education (Welfare) (Amendment) Bill 2017 today. This is an important Bill on education proposed by Senator Ó Ríordáin. I know the Senator will second my amendment to the Order of Business.
I support Senator Ardagh's request that the Minister for Justice and Equality come to the House to discuss the findings of the report of the Committee of Public Accounts into the financial irregularities at the Garda Training College in Templemore. These were very serious findings, particularly in respect of the Garda Commissioner. Many members of the committee, particularly Deputy Kelly, have called for the Commissioner to resign. I think her position is untenable following the publication of that report. However, the report also discloses serious failings in the Department of Justice and Equality in respect of its oversight of policing practices, particularly those in Templemore. It would be useful if the Minister came before the Seanad to discuss those failings on the part of the Department and how the relatively newly-established Policing Authority might best be equipped to take on a stronger oversight role and, in particular, to have a part to play in the appointment of a new Commissioner.
Today, a long overdue report that was in the possession of the Department of Justice and Equality for two years has been published. This is the report conducted by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on children's experiences in direct provision. It contains some very serious findings, notably that children in direct provision are concerned for their safety, particularly where they see single men seeking asylum being housed alongside families, and really serious problems with the system in terms of food provision. I also welcome the forthcoming publication at noon today of the national mitigation plan by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I hope the noble aspirations of that plan will be translated into concrete reality and, in particular, that a commitment will be given to include solar energy in renewable energy support schemes along with real commitments in regard to transport. The decarbonisation of transport by 2050 is the bare minimum that should be achieved.
On a point of clarification, the signatories on item 21 are Senators Humphreys, Nash and Ó Ríordáin. As Senator Bacik is not a signatory, unfortunately she cannot move that amendment. Senator Ó Ríordáin is able to do so and he could get another Member to second it. My hands are tied.
A study published last week in the United Kingdom found that nine out of ten teens who suffered online bullying were also subjected to traditional bullying. While Members often think of cyber bullying as a significant threat to young people, the study finds that face-to-face bullying remains the most common form of bullying among teenagers. According to the study, cyber bullying is best understood as a new avenue to victimise those already being bullied in traditional ways rather than a way to pick new victims. Whether the method of bullying is through social media or more traditional forms at school and at work, Members should take every opportunity to say it should stop.
In that context, I bring to the attention of the House an initiative called I'm a Friend started in the midlands by a man named Charlie Wynne. It is a simple initiative aimed at creating a support community for those being bullied. Its mission is to create a more thoughtful, caring society where friends look out for friends. By wearing the I'm a Friend pin, a person supporting the initiative's ideals make a proud statement that he or she does not agree with bullying behaviour or accept that it is okay to bully others or be bullied by others and that he or she will support the victims of bullying in any way possible. In a similar way to the statement the wearing of a Pioneer pin makes about the wearer, it is hoped that wearing the symbol will spread the message to others.
As a person who has been on the receiving end of a barrage of vile personal abuse, I know how it feels to be bullied. During the most recent general election campaign, I was targeted by several people on social media who were too cowardly to talk to me face to face and thought it was okay to personally insult and attack me. I chose to ignore the comments at the time but the bombardment of insults continued. Thankfully, I have the wherewithal to stand up to such bullies. Members should take every opportunity to say that bullying should stop. I'm a Friend is one way to do that. It does not claim to be a solution to all bullying but might be of assistance to some victims. I am informing Members of this organisation in order that they can look it up further. I will endeavour to provide Members with a pin and I hope that every Member will wear it and set an example for others.
I wish to mention the issue raised yesterday by members of the Garda Representative Association, GRA, who called on the Government to roll out the deployment of body-worn cameras for members of the Garda Síochána. It is a great initiative that would bring transparency for those behind the camera as well as those in front of it. It is widely used across Europe with very positive feedback. The London Metropolitan Police Service has deployed approximately 22,000 cameras on its members and has experienced very positive results such as greater transparency in relation to detections and, interestingly, a drop in the number of fictitious complaints against members of the police force. I ask the Leader to mention this to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, in order that a similar initiative be deployed in this country.
I compliment students of DCU and Trinity College Dublin on the initiative announced yesterday which involved the team creating several property websites to advertise the rent-a-room scheme. As Members are aware, any householder can rent out a room and receive up to €14,000 tax free, which is very welcome. All Members know of the chronic shortage of accommodation that will arise in the coming months as students from every part of the country come to Dublin to seek a place to stay. I encourage property owners and householders to consider the scheme and its merits and perhaps open their door to students from all parts of the country who are trying to find accommodation in order to further their studies.
I support Senator McDowell in regard to the debate on Seanad reform.
Senator Conway-Walsh is correct that there is a two-tier system in regard to water. I chaired the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. One of its recommendations is that equality will prevail. I hope that action will be taken in that regard and commend Senator Conway-Walsh for raising the issue.
There was a very good discussion in the House yesterday with the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy McHugh, regarding a 20-year plan and strategy for the Irish language. He is committed to the strategy. I mentioned that John Wayne once said that when one is on a dead horse, the best thing to do is to get off. The Irish language plan is not working. Over the past six years, there has been a 12% decrease in the number of people actively speaking Irish. Article 8.1 of the Constitution enshrines the Irish language as the first official language of the State. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, to the House for a full debate lasting at least two hours in order that all Members can have an input into this very important area concerning who Irish people are and what we are about. I ask the Leader if the debate could be had when the House reconvenes in September or as soon as possible thereafter.
I ask the Leader to postpone a decision on the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017. All Stages should not be taken today. The issue needs further reflection and consideration. It breaks a very important Irish tradition and goes against health and anti-drink strategies and policies. It is offensive to many religious groupings, will not assist tourism and is a bad proposition. It is wrong and is threatening workers' rights. The vast majority of publicans do not want it brought in. I appeal to the Leader to allow more reflection on the matter and for it to run into the autumn, at which stage there can be a wiser consideration of it. Members should not run willy-nilly to dismantle things that are important in this country.
I wish to raise the issue of family resource centres. Several Members will have seen correspondence received this week from the family resource centre in Loughrea. There are 108 family resource centres doing amazingly important work across the country. Several Members have probably visited some of them. I was involved in arranging for workers in several family resource centres to join SIPTU. Workers in family resource centres have not received a pay increase since 2008. In view of the years of austerity, that can be understood to some degree. What cannot be understood is the refusal of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to attend the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, on this issue. What signal does it send if State bodies refuse to engage with the industrial relations machinery of the State? A bad example has been set by those at the very top of Government because when the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, was Minister for Social Protection, his Department refused to attend the Workplace Relations Commission in relation to SIPTU and community workers. The refusal of Tusla to attend is totally unacceptable and workers in family resource centres deserve not just recognition and nice, kind words, but a pay increase. At the very least, the Government and State bodies should have the respect to attend the Workplace Relations Commission. I ask the Leader, a fellow trade unionist, to support my call for Tusla to attend the WRC and I ask for the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, to come to the House as early as possible in the autumn because there should not be a situation where vital workers providing vital services are ignored by the State and, worse than that, the industrial relations machinery of the State is also ignored by the Government. It is not good enough.
I am delighted to second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by Senator McDowell, to require that provision be made for Committee Stage of the Seanad Bill 2016 to be debated in Government time in the forthcoming autumn term. We had a debate on this issue on the first day of this Seanad, when it was the first matter brought before the House. Many of us stood on the plinth to propose the Bill on that first day. This is the first Seanad after the public, in its wisdom, decided that it was interested in and engaged with the Seanad. People wanted to be part of its deliberations and of the Seanad process. They recognised its additional value. They also wanted reform. I strongly believe that there was a mandate for reform in the referendum. When I campaigned on the doorsteps for the retention of the Seanad, people told me they wanted reform.
The Government gave a commitment in the programme for Government that it would pursue the implementation of the Manning report as a priority. Sadly, it has not been a priority. It is one year later and there has not been any movement in this regard by the Government. The very reasonable proposal put forward by Senator McDowell would give the Government the opportunity to show that it is serious about proceeding with the implementation of the Manning report and that it intends to work with Members across the House to ensure that people see genuine sincerity in politics with regard to Seanad reform. There is scope on Committee Stage for people to put forward the concerns they may have by tabling amendments and debating them properly, as we should do as legislators.
I urge the acceptance of the proposed amendment. We should bear in mind that there have been two referendums on this issue, the one I mentioned earlier and the one on the 1979 amendment which has still not been implemented. We have been waiting a long time for this. We must be in good faith with the people of Ireland and ensure we respect their concerns on this issue. We want them to be part of our process as a Seanad.
I wish to raise the issue of the water supply and what we intend to do about it. Outside, it is a soft morning in Dublin but, statistically, we have had 33% less rainfall in the first six months of this year. People might think that this is good for tourism and so forth, but unfortunately the major knock-on effect is that communities in my part of the country and elsewhere are facing a water shortage. It is amazing. In Ireland, there is rain every day of the week but when it stops raining we do not have enough water to keep our population going. It shows the poor state of our water infrastructure. I am familiar with areas where the people are looking for tankers because water is not available. Magnesium levels are rising through the rocks and the water that is emerging is undrinkable. We must have a serious debate on how we will deal with this issue into the future. There are forecasts that there will be huge increases in the population between now and 2040 but we cannot serve the current population's water needs after a minor drought. How to deal with it will be a major issue for the State. When we return in the autumn, we must have a realistic debate on how to fund and ensure water services for our people.
A new regime is required now to ensure people do not waste water over the next few weeks. There should be a ban on watering gardens, washing cars and so forth for the next few weeks, so we will have enough water for basic services. We will not have enough water for those services in two or three weeks if this drought continues. The rain supply is down 33% at present and we do not expect much change to occur.
I wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that we take No. 21, the Education (Welfare) (Amendment) Bill 2017, before No. 1.
Tacaím leis an méid atá ráite leis an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh mar gheall ar dhíospóireacht ó thaobh chúrsaí Gaeilge de. Tá sé thar am go mbeadh an díospóireacht sin againn anseo. Ba chóir go rachaidh sé ar aghaidh ar feadh dhá uair a chloig ar a laghad, mar a dúirt an Seanadóir féin.
My last point is to support what Senator Bacik said about the recent report on conditions for children in direct provision. It is a matter of pride to this House that Members, collectively and across parties, have taken the matter of direct provision so seriously. A number of debates on the issue took place both in this Seanad and the previous one. Can we not, for the love of God, implement the report of the working group on direct provision, which was chaired by Judge Bryan McMahon? I ask that the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, be invited back to the House, but I know, because I was once in his position, that he is not necessarily the person with the last call on these issues. That is the Minister for Justice and Equality. There is a new Minister for Justice and Equality and he has expressed concern about, and interest in, this issue in the past. I ask the Leader to invite him to the House in the autumn, with the express intention of committing to implementing the McMahon report on the protection and direct provision systems. Many Members of this House want the direct provision system to be abolished, but we are simply asking that the McMahon report on the system, which is more than two years old and which was a compromise with the non-governmental organisations, NGOs, that were invited to take part in the working group, be implemented to the letter and in full. That is not too much to ask in this day and age. We are scarring the lives of children, in particular, who are still in the direct provision system.
Will the Leader arrange with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to invite Guy Verhofstadt MEP to the House? He is the Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament and is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, with which Fianna Fáil is associated. Given Fianna Fáil's link with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, we are delighted because a man of his calibre will have the right ideas where Ireland is concerned. I understand he is visiting Ireland on 21 September and it would be worthwhile and appropriate to have this important Member of the European Parliament address the Seanad, although not necessarily both Houses of the Oireachtas as was granted to Michel Barnier.
The Seanad will play an increasing role in the continuing discussions and negotiations on Brexit. The report of the committee chaired by Senator Richmond was available at the 54th annual British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly which was held in Kilkenny last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It was snapped up at the event. I particularly noticed that our friends from the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party were anxious to obtain copies of this excellent report. I believe it will be of great assistance in the negotiations.
Finally, I believe we should have a Brexit-type European house in Dublin. I suggest that Agriculture House be converted into a central location to focus attention on all aspects of the developing Brexit negotiations and that there be a dedicated team in that building to assist industry, agriculture and the other sectors of Irish life that will be affected post-Brexit.
I wish to raise the midlands tourism strategy and Fáilte Ireland's plans to serve County Roscommon and the east Galway area. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to the House to discuss the matter. Tourism in the midlands is at a serious juncture. Roscommon and east Galway do not fit into the Wild Atlantic Way or the Ancient East brand. Both of those initiatives have been very successful for their areas but the midlands have been very much neglected and forgotten by Fáilte Ireland. Fáilte Ireland's website prominently advertises Ireland's Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way and Dublin, but there is no mention of the midlands.I have been contacted by many in the hospitality sector in County Roscommon who are questioning their membership of Fáilte Ireland as a result of the lack of focus on and support for their business. Tourism will be a key element in the revitalisation of the economies of towns and villages right across the midlands. It has the potential to bring jobs and further revenue to support local businesses. Rathcroghan near Tulsk in County Roscommon, which is rich in ancient tombs and monuments, is the Tara of the west. It has been nominated tentatively for UNESCO world heritage status. It will play a very important role in the further development of tourism in our region. There is an urgent need for a midlands tourism brand to be developed. The midlands has much to offer in terms of tourism. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to develop an evidence-based tourism strategy for the region but we need to see evidence of its implementation. It is about affording the midlands an equal opportunity and a level playing field to attract tourists to our region. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister, Deputy Ross, to the House to discuss the matter.
I welcome the comment made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, yesterday when he called upon all Members of the Oireachtas and the wider Irish community to take care of what they say. There is an old saying that the sped arrow and the spoken word can never be retrieved. As irresponsible comments may bring embarrassment to the Oireachtas or the country, we need to be careful about what we say.
With respect to what my colleague, Senator McFadden, said about bullying, I have requested a debate in the House solely devoted to bullying. Once it moves out of the child arena into the adult arena it should be a criminal offence. Bullying isolates the individual. It is an attack on the personality, mind and thinking of the individual. It is the most horrendous thing. I suffered it once in life and I will tell the House something for nothing, four years of my life was given over to being isolated in the workforce. I will never forget it. I found the courage to take on the bully and beat him at his own game. We need to have a proper discussion here. Nobody is exempt from bullying and nobody can escape the bully. At the end of the day, even big, ugly, bald guys like me can be bullied. It is something we need to realise and we must have protections in place. It should be a criminal offence. It certainly is a personal injuries issue. If we tackle it with adults, the chances are our children will be far more careful in what they do. I attended a school some years ago where two children had taken their own lives within a short time as a result of bullying. The teachers sat in their cars at night monitoring social media in order to be aware of what was going on among the children in the school. The Leader will know, because he is a teacher, that teachers take responsibility for children from 9 a.m. until they leave the school in the evening, but society expects the school to take responsibility 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I second Senator McDowell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. There is a massive need for reform. It is a very good thing. It is not change for change's sake but it is progress. We cannot go on in the form we are in.
We might start with our internal reform in the Seanad Chamber since nobody listens to anybody in here. If one looks around, nobody is listening and everybody is using technology. There is not even a display-----
There is not even a display of manners to the Chair most of the time. Most people come in and out of here as if they are standing at a bus stop. People come in here and they do not listen to arguments. They may have plenty of other wonderful things to do but they do not even listen to the arguments. Sometimes they do not even know what they are voting for or against. They also use it as a back office. We can talk all we wish about reform, external reform, changing things for councillors and this, that or the other but we need to start with ourselves. It is disengaged, graceless and bad mannered a lot of the time. That is the first thing I want to say. I agree with reform and think we should start with ourselves. Whatever committee is going to do it, we should start with learning how to act in public and how to listen to one other. We should not be on phones and using the place as a back office when people are talking about very serious issues or issues that mean something to them and their constituents or localities.
I suggest Senator Hopkins should listen to Garry Hynes's lecture on the greatness of Ballaghaderreen and her life there. I suggest the Senator should ring her up and ask what she should do about tourism in the midlands because she will not get an answer from Shane Ross.
Normally when we come in here and talk about health it is very much on the negative side. On the positive side, CSO figures for 2016 indicated the number of suicides has reduced from 451 in 2015 to 399 in 2016. It is a welcome drop but we have a long way to go. The frightening part about the figure is that of the 399 who died as a result of suicide in 2016, 318 were men. It is an area we need to focus on. We need to do a lot of work on it to try to get the figure down again. I thank all the community groups and people working in this area because they are working effectively on bringing down the numbers. I also thank the people in the HSE and various State agencies who have worked in the area. It is something on which we need to continue to make progress over the next number of years. It had been increasing for quite a number of years. It was reduced in 2016 and hopefully that trend will carry into 2017.
The other good figure from the health statistics is that the number of teenage pregnancies has reduced from 3,087 in 2001 to 1,098 in 2016. That is a 64% decrease, which is very welcome. It is to the credit of everyone involved in the education sector. We have a lot of work to do in that area because 1,098 is the number for 2016. There are good statistics available in respect of health and much good work is being done to which we do not give credit often enough.
The area I am now working on now is orphan drugs whereby a number of people with rare diseases cannot get access to medication quickly enough. We have a system here and I tabled a Commencement matter on the issue last week. It is taking too long and too many people are affected. We need to speed the process up. I ask the Leader that we deal with the delay in the processing of applications for orphan drugs in the autumn. It is extremely important and is something we need to do.
I second Senator Ó Ríordáin's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. I join Senator Grace O'Sullivan in raising concern that the Minister, Deputy Naughten, has just given consent to a company called Providence Resources to drill for oil and gas off the south-west coast of Ireland where it expects to find 5 billion barrels of oil. I find it hard to believe that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment would consider the granting of such a licence to be consistent with his aims to tackle climate change and meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, in particular because only a number of weeks ago, Ireland took the hugely positive step of banning onshore fracking. This decision is bad for our ecosystem, wildlife, carbon emissions and economy as all profits accrued will remain with the company with only a fractional benefit for Irish labourers. Will the Leader bring in the Minister to justify why he has made this decision? It flies in the face of everything Ireland says on a world stage about tackling climate change and moving to a green and energy-efficient Irish economy. Will the Leader ask the Minister whether he will consider revoking the licence given the significant opposition of environmental groups and NGOs?
I wish to speak about Garda morale, which is at an all-time low. Rank and file gardaí with whom I have spoken in recent weeks have told me that they, while on their beat, face an onslaught of allegations of corruption from ordinary members of the public. Something that I would otherwise have found hard to believe brought it home to me today, though. I was passing through a provincial town at 8.30 a.m. where a 40 year old chap was sitting at the window of a barber shop waiting to get in. As a Garda car passed by, this guy stuck his fingers up at it. I went to do a bit of work and so on and returned through the town when I happened to meet the Garda car at a petrol station. When I asked the gardaí what that had been about, they told me that they were used to it and that, over the past two years, respect for the Garda had been at an all-time low.
There are problems in the Garda, although many are legacy problems. We are pillorying the Garda Commissioner about accounts and systems that were set up in the 1960s but, speaking as someone without an accountancy background, where are we going? I am sure that many mistakes have been made at the top echelons of the Garda and I am not here to defend the Commissioner or the top echelons, but we must be careful about what we want as a society. If we continue to hammer the Garda at every available opportunity, where will we go? If there is a problem with law and order or any other issue, we usually turn to gardaí. If we are not going to protect and back gardaí and place the full rigour of the law behind them, there will be a serious social problem in Ireland. It is happening now. There is a disconnect between people on the ground and the Garda. As we have been told by senior gardaí, there is a severe threat level of terrorist attack for the first time in 25 years, but gardaí will have a worse relationship with people on the ground, and it is not of their doing. I ask that every stakeholder, including senior politicians and the media, get behind rank and file gardaí. If we do not have rank and file gardaí operating correctly, we will have no State. That is the bottom line.
I agree with Senator Leyden's comments. We attended a successful British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly plenary session in Kilkenny. I pay tribute to the co-chairs, Deputy Funchion of Sinn Féin and Mr. Andrew Rosindell, MP, of the Conservatives. I also pay tribute to the Oireachtas staff, who were incredible. The programme that they put on was brilliant.
I am referring to the assembly because we need such links now more than ever thanks to Brexit. The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was set up in 1990. A man in the assembly told me that, on its first day, there was a bombing in London and the divisions in the room between the Irish and UK parliamentarians were palpable. One would never have believed then the friendships, relationships and work that would develop in subsequent years.
There are many such assemblies, including the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association, NSIPA, but we need more links. People do not realise that NSIPA members from the DUP, UUP, Alliance Party, SDLP and many others in Stormont met in this Chamber four years ago. It meets every six months. This work has gone unnoticed, but it forms part of the normalisation of politics north, south, east and west. I want to ensure that there is more of it. I call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to tell the House what he is proposing. In light of Brexit, these links are more important than ever.
I refute Senator O'Reilly's suggestion that we postpone the Good Friday Bill. It has been debated for long enough. We are all aware of what it contains and there has not been a change in the law since 1927. The Bill is in line with the Government's alcohol awareness plan in the sense that, with pubs open on a Friday, it would cut out binge drinking and drinking in pubs and restaurants would be regulated as it has always been. I respect the traditional faith of this country and traders and customers would have the option of not opening or drinking. I look forward to passing the Bill's final Stages this afternoon.
I join other Senators in welcoming the report published this morning by the Department of Justice and Equality and researchers at University College Cork, UCC, on the lives of children living in direct provision. It further confirms what we all know, that direct provision is a national disgrace and we cannot stand over it.
The injustice is unfathomable. Young people feel unsafe. These children were born into the system and confined to one room and four walls. They are not able to live normal lives or to develop as children should be. This is sowing the seeds for significant mental health problems down the line. We need to reject it. We know the reality of what it is like in these centres. This report shines another light on the scandalous conditions that children are living in in 2017. I call on the Minister to give an urgent response and engage with Seanad Éireann on this issue.
I welcome the new drugs and alcohol strategy that was published this week, entitled "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". Under this strategy, the devastating effect of addiction on families will be considered and the fact that addiction in the family is a family disorder, disease or however one would like to phrase it will be highlighted. Families need a separate recovery from the person in addiction.
I wish to highlight the fact that a licence was awarded this morning for drilling in Kerry. It is vital that the licence be revoked by the Minister. What is happening is a disgrace.
I welcome today's publication of the national climate change mitigation plan. I would welcome a debate on the matter. It is one of the issues of our time. The Government is often criticised for being lax or not wanting to pursue targets, but that is not true. At a high level, everyone agrees that something must be done. There is no dispute. Every day of the week, we are told that there has been a natural disaster, people cannot harvest their crops and so on in some part of the planet on account of climate change. I would like us to have a realistic debate about this, which I have not often heard in the Chamber. I have heard the Government being chastised and people beating their chests about this or that being terrible.
I would like a debate on the question of the plan's desirability, with which most people agree, but let us first get down to the nitty gritty of how the plan will be implemented. Take the issue of fuel poverty, for example. We placed a carbon tax on coal, but those who are most affected are people who can least afford to change their heating systems to a green or renewable energy source. What about the cost to businesses, farms and households at a fragile time? We have just exited a bad economic situation and are facing into Brexit.
What of renewable energy infrastructure? People are right to ask whether there will be further drilling for and harvesting of gas and oil and I watched a programme not too long ago about the need to close down peat-burning power stations for obvious reasons, but there is no debate about the economic impact that these factors will have on communities. What are the alternatives?
Another issue arises as we try to hit our renewable heating and electricity targets. Friends of the Earth tell us about the targets that we ought to be achieving. I agree with it, but when a renewable energy project - a wind turbine or pylon - is to be built, it makes no contribution as to why the project should go there and how a community should be accommodated.There is no talk about communities, which have to accommodate this infrastructure, at all. Much of the debate is based in unreality. I would like to have a conversation about how we achieve these targets, taking on board the legitimate concerns.
I would like to raise the issue of Airbnb. I read an interesting piece on the Internet, which has its uses, about Airbnb. The Mayor of Vancouver is bringing in regulations whereby anyone using the site will have to register. It is quite a draconian measure but people can only register in respect of their own homes. They will be unable to register other properties they own with Airbnb. It will cost $54 to register and then an annual fee of $49 must be paid thereafter. The city expects that will free up a significant number of properties for rental.
I appreciate this issue is being examined by the Government and there are ongoing discussions with Airbnb. While this is very much a Dublin-based issue, every day I meet constituents in Limerick who are complaining about the lack of availability of homes to rent. I meet single parents and families, and single men and women every day. It is not a gender, age or socioeconomic specific issue.
In a spirit of cross-party harmony, I endorse everything Senator Davitt said about An Garda Síochána. There was an incident recently in Caherdavin, Limerick, which is a lovely area in which to live. Our local gardaí, from the Chief Superintendent, David Sheahan, to the superintendent, Derek Smart, performed above and beyond the call of duty. They were on call 24 hours and they could be rung any day or night. They dealt with the residents, there were gardaí on the ground and they attended public meetings. We have to separate, at times, corporate gardaí from gardaí on the ground. I can only speak from first hand experience in Limerick.
I agree fully with the remarks of Senators Leyden and Feighan. I compliment the co-chairpersons of the BIPA, Deputy Kathleen Funchion and Mr. Andrew Rosindell, MP, on their conduct of this week's plenary. Given the depth of the ties that bind us to Britain, it is important at this difficult time that we strengthen them in any way we can. It is unfortunate that in the current negotiations being led by Mr. Michel Barnier and Mr. David Davis, MP, London failed to engage in advice and consultation with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The report this House produced was made available at the plenary and it was very much appreciated. It behoves us to strengthen our links with Britain in any way we can.
I thank the 27 Members who contributed. I did my best to listen to everybody and capture everything they said. I apologise to Senator Devine, whom I missed out on yesterday in respect of the issues she raised regarding An Bord Altranais and the accreditation of nurses from the US. She raised an important point, which I hope the Minister will address when he comes to the House in the autumn.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of the second runway at Dublin Airport. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Attorney General are not procrastinating on this. It is a matter of a statutory instrument and competency in the area of noise management for which the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, is the lead agency. We must ensure we get this right. If there is a failure to do so, Senator Ardagh and her colleagues will be first to jump up and roar about it.
To be fair to the Minister, due process is being undertaken in connection with the proposed runway. Second, I ask the Senator to read the Department's strategy, which contains a commitment to a parallel runway by 2020. I would like to refresh the memories of all Members. The DAA has made an application to Fingal County Council for a five-year extension of the planning permission in order that the runway permission will not become outdated. Noise management is an important issue for the residents of the area and it comes under the competence of the IAA. I assure Senator Ardagh that the Minister is very much committed to building a new runway. If it takes more time, let us make sure we get it right.
The Senator also made reference to yesterday's PAC report. In welcoming the report, it is about ensuring whatever the investigations, that we continue to shine a light on the culture and practices within An Garda Síochána as part of the ongoing process of reform initiated by the previous Government and continued by the current Government. Investigations are being undertaken by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission on foot of referral by the Commissioner of suspected fraudulent activity in respect of certain EU training funds.
There is also a need, as I said yesterday, to expedite the civilianisation of An Garda Síochána to provide for a new perspective on management of gardaí. Senators Davitt and Ó Domhnaill have in one way encapsulated that we need to reaffirm and work with an gnáth garda, the man and woman on the street, and with the inspector or superintendent who is working flat out in community policing in a variety of ways. They deserve not just our support and respect, but our affirmation. They do a job in difficult times, often at unsocial hours, and we must support them.
There is an obligation to transform the culture within the force and the only way to do that is to ensure we get to the bottom of the cancer that exists within it in order that we can have a force that we can be even more proud of. As a Government, we have invested in the Garda. Pay restoration is happening and there has been investment in different sections of the force. I would be happy to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House in the autumn. The interim audit report into the Garda Training College published in March 2017 made 19 recommendations. Five have been fully implemented, five are partially completed and nine are in progress. Complex legal issues arise from the report and we were all disappointed to read some of the outcomes in it. Senator Craughwell referred to the use of words and language. Our party founded the Garda and all those who have supported the force since the foundation of the State will stand by it but we must also ensure there is cultural reform.
Senators McDowell, Higgins, Bacik and O'Donnell referred to the need to continue the process of Seanad reform. All of us are very much committed to reforming the House. There has been strong cross-party co-operation in this Seanad and, as Leader, I have been clear that I will work with all Members regarding the internal workings of the House, the passage of legislation and how we do our business. Seanad reform is not as black and white as the populist manifesto included in Senator McDowell's election literature. It invites a variety of views and opinions.I am very much looking forward to working with all Senators to ensure that at the end of this Seanad we will have a reformed Seanad that can be passed on to the next Seanad Éireann.
I accept the intention of Senator McDowell's motion on the Order of Business to give, and to imbue in all of us, the spirit of co-operation rather than to have a divided House. I will work with everyone but it is a two-way street. As the Leader of the House it sometimes feels as though I am on a cul-de-sac or on a revolving roundabout that seems to only go in one direction. I will persevere. I know the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and the Government are committed to bringing about reform. The question that needs to be posed by all Members of the House is "What do you want to see in a reformed Seanad and what does it actually mean?" Many Members of the House will go on the national airwaves, will write articles and will come in to debate here, but they do not stand for anything-----
-----in terms of their proposals because some of them are as daft as the day is long. We need to have a proper debate about what Seanad reform means and what can be delivered. Then we must decide if we want to go back to the people by way of other referenda to bring about Seanad reform. Those are the real questions. There are differing viewpoints on how we can get there. One size does not fit all and one person does not have the capacity of knowledge. We are not speaking ex cathedrahere. It is about how we can bring it all together.
There is no-one here from DCU. Senator Alice-Mary Higgins made a reference to the 1979 referendum. I am confident we will get there.
I want to go back to the comments made about the issue of decorum and listening. Senator O'Donnell makes a very good point because at the risk of sounding pompous - which I am not - there are Senators who come in here to the Order of Business and they then skidaddle before they get a reply. To be fair some of them apologise for leaving. If we are to be honest some of the Members of the house do not want to listen at all. Senator Marie Louise O'Donnell is correct in that regard. I appeal to all Senators to take a reflective pause in some of the contributions. There are some very fine contributions made from across the House by Senators who deserve to be listened to.
In the past the Cathaoirleach has spoken about the use of mobile phones and other devices in the Chamber. I use mine to get information so I can reply to the Order of Business, but it is a good point and may be a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
Senator McDowell spoke of the situation in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a huge crisis and a humanitarian issue. I am very proud of the men and women of the Naval Service who have saved thousands of lives in the region. There is a moral duty on all governments to act collectively in trying to end this nightmare in the Mediterranean Sea. If one speaks with members of the Naval Service who have come home they will speak of the horror of the nightmare they have endured and of the terror they have seen. I commend these men and women for the work they do. The point was made by Senator McDowell that we need to have a real debate on it and I would hope this could happen in the new Seanad term.
Senator Conway-Walsh spoke of the issues around group water schemes and the work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services. It is an example of how a Senator in this House, Senator Ó Céidigh in this case, can be praised for chairing this committee. Just in case the Sinn Féin Senators did not know, the Government invests millions of euro on a multi-annual basis in group water schemes. Last year it was nearly €15 million, which was an increase of 30% on 2015. Of course we do not hear about this from Sinn Féin because it is good news and they do not want to hear that. There is a philosophical question around investment in water. In his contribution, Senator Lombard said that in parts of Cork there is a 90% decrease and in some parts of Carrigaline there may be no water in ten days' time. We must invest in our water infrastructure. The Sinn Féin Party does not recognise that this money does not fall off the trees. It must come from somewhere. This Government and the last government made a decision to invest in water.
I would ask the Sinn Féin Senators to reflect on the role their colleagues played in the Assembly in Northern Ireland in this regard, how they pay for water in the North and how they allocated money for that. We have seen investment in group water schemes and the former minister, Phil Hogan brought in the grant for the inspection of sewerage systems to ensure the water table is of pristine quality. I commend the men and women who work in and administer group water schemes. For a generation they have, on a voluntary basis in many cases, done Trojan work in rural Ireland providing water. We must ensure that the multi-annual funding by Government of group water schemes continues. The expert group that was set up by then Minister, Deputy Coveney, allows for places such as Galway and Mayo, and other parts of the State, to have group water schemes set up and we must see this continue. The Government must prioritise this issue because we cannot-----
Yes, I thank Senator Feighan. We cannot compromise on water quality. The Expert Commission on the Future Funding of Domestic Public Water Services speaks about equality. We want to see equality. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Future Funding of Domestic Water Services, chaired by Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, recommended there would be an enhanced budget for small group water schemes. This is a priority for the Government and is happening as we speak with a process under way. Underpinning this is the presence by Irish Water of investment plans in the improvement of water quality and in the infrastructure. In my city of Cork we are pumping raw sewage into Cork Harbour. We cannot allow this to continue to happen. We must take action but this will cost money. The philosophical question that has not been addressed by some people is "Where does the money come from?" Do they want to increase taxation on the ordinary citizen? Senators must face this question themselves.
Senators Lynn Ruane, Grace O'Sullivan, Ivana Bacik and Michelle Mulherin raised the issues of climate change, the national mitigation plan and licensing. I have not got the information on revoking the licences but I can tell the Senators that the Cabinet is meeting today to discuss climate change. The Government is committed to implementing 100 actions around climate change, decarbonisation and ensuring Ireland has a reduction in carbon emissions. The Minister, Deputy Naughten will be in the House today to discuss the Minerals Development Bill 2015. Maybe the Senators could have a conversation with the Minister as part of that debate. If it is not relevant to that Bill I would be happy to have that debate in the autumn.
Senators McFadden and Craughwell raised the issue of bullying. I commend the founder of the I'm A Friend organisation, Charlie Wynne, whom I have met. It is important we continue the work being done by a former Minister, Ruairí Quinn and now by the Minister, Deputy Bruton around the issue of bullying and its inclusion on the curriculum in schools. It is an important issue that has not gone away.
Senators Bacik, Ó Ríordáin and Black raised the issue of the report on children in direct provision. The report makes for a very disappointing and upsetting read. As Senator Ó Ríordáin has rightly said, it is important that the actions from the McMahon report are implemented in full. If one visits a direct provision centre one comes away with an absolute need to see action continue and, in this case, to be concluded. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan and the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton are working on the matter. I would ask that all Members would read the report of the consultation we are debating here because it is a very honest reflection, especially of the young people involved, and is one we need to see. The report should not gather dust on a shelf or just receive a headline in a newspaper; there needs to be direct action by the Government. Action is being taken. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan and the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton are committed to implementing the recommendations of the McMahon report and, as Senator Ó Ríordáin has alluded to, we have had debates in this House. We will continue to do so. To be fair, as the former Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and now as the Minister of State, the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton has committed to the implementation, as has the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan. I would be happy to have that debate in the house in the autumn. It is about ensuring that there is an end to direct provision.
Senator Gallagher raised the issue of body cameras for members of An Garda Síochána. It is an operational matter but I would certainly be happy to see the report referred to by the Senator introduced.Labhair an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh mar gheall ar ár dteanga dúchais. Bhí díospóireacht againn faoin Ghaeilge san earrach agus beidh díospóireacht eile againn faoi san fhómhar. Tá mé cinnte go dtiocfaidh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta McHugh, isteach. Is mór an phribhléid é go bhfuil an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh, mar dhuine ón nGaeltacht, in ann cúrsaí a bhaineann leis an nGaeltacht agus lenár dteanga dúchais a phle sa Teach seo as a very good ambassador for the Gaeltacht and Irish language in this House. We have had debates in the past. The Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, is very much looking forward to resuming duty as Minister of State responsible for the Gaeltacht. We will have that debate. We will see an extension of the Senator's Commencement matter of yesterday because it is important that there is a 20-year plan for the Irish language as a living language. Today and this weekend in the city of Cork the Munster Fleadh Ceol will take place, which ensures our language and culture are promoted and that we all use them. I welcome the Senator's remarks and look forward to that debate.
Senators O'Reilly and Lawless referred to the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017, which is before the House today and I am happy to take it to its conclusion today. I gave a commitment on behalf of the Government to Senators McDowell and Lawless on that. The issue is a matter of opinion. I will be happy to let the debate unfurl and to have that discussion.
I am not aware of the issue about family resource centres in An Tusla raised by Senator Gavan. This Government and its predecessor have increased and restored the minimum wage and terms and conditions of those on low pay. I am not aware of the pay and conditions of those in the family resource centres but if Senator Gavan sends me an email about that I will be happy to bring it to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
In response to Senator Lombard, it is important to have infrastructure for the provision of clean drinking water.
Senators Leyden, Coghlan and Feighan referred to Brexit and the British Irish Parliamentary Association, BIPA, and North-South relations. This arises in the context of the report from the House of Lords today which is particularly worrying given that there is no devolved Government yet in the North of our country but I hope there will be. It is important, as Senator Feighan said, that the normalisation of politics continues and that we continue to draw on the friendships, expertise, benefits and experience we gain from these interparliamentary groups.
Senator Leyden referred to Guy Verhofstadt. I think there will be a motion before the House tomorrow on that and I will be happy to deal with it then.
Senator Hopkins referred to the tourism strategy for the midlands, Roscommon and east Galway. That needs to be addressed because it does fall between Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way. Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell who does snippets on the "Today with Sean O’Rourke" programme would be a very good ambassador for Roscommon and east Galway.
The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Griffin, is responsible for tourism. We are fixated on Deputy Ross for some reason. It is extraordinary that he has become the bogey man-----
I am happy that the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, will come to the House and work with all Senators on tourism. I would also be happy for Deputy Ross to come back to the House.
Senator Craughwell referred to the Oireachtas and irresponsible comments. I am tempted to have a political row but I will not. He is right. There is a need for all of us to be careful of what we say and do.
I will not refer to anybody but will say it of us all collectively. What we say and how we say it is heard, does implicate us and has an import. It is important we choose our words carefully. Sometimes we do not do that but we should.
Senator Colm Burke referred to health and I welcome the good news he gave of the reduction in numbers of those who have taken their own lives. The problems for men need to be addressed. There was a good item on "Morning Ireland" this morning about men's sheds in Mullingar and the need for men to look after themselves. There are many organisations providing supports and services for those with mental health problems. No person should feel alone, isolated or vulnerable. It is important to talk, seek advice and help. I appeal to all people but particularly men, as Senator Burke said, to reach out, talk and engage. He also referred to the 64% reduction in teenage pregnancies in 15 years. It is an extraordinary decrease. He also referred to orphan drugs and people with rare diseases trying to access medication, an issue that has raised its head in recent weeks. The Health Service Executive, HSE, must address this and I would be happy to work with him on that.
Senator Davitt's remarks were among the most sensible contributions in the House for a long time about An Garda Síochána. It is important to reaffirm the work done by our rank and file.
I mentioned Senators Lawless and Black, and yesterday the national alcohol strategy was discussed on the Order of Business.
In response to Senator Mulherin's comments on climate change and the national mitigation plan, it is important to have a realistic, reasonable and rational debate on renewable energy, farming and business, and the costs, notwithstanding that we have commitments to live up to.
Senator Kieran O'Donnell mentioned Airbnb and the Canadian model. The former Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs and data protection, Deputy Dara Murphy, following a request from Senator Humphreys, was considering Airbnb but we should consider it again. I would be happy to have a debate in the House on that issue.
I am happy to accept Senator Ó Ríordáin's amendment to the Order of Business. In the interests of cooperation and the spirit of bipartisanship we should all address the issue of Seanad reform but not as if it was the first fence in the Grand National, as a race to see who can get what. It is a question of how we can do so in a manner that can progress the need for reform. I accept both amendments and thank the Senators for them.
Senator McDowell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 47, item 23, be taken before No. 1." Is that agreed? Agreed.
Senator Ó Ríordáin has proposed and amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 21 be taken before No. 1." Is that agreed? Agreed.