Thursday, 25 January 2018
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulation 2018, back from committee; No. 2, motion re Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2018, back from committee; No. 3, motion re Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2018, back from committee, the motions will be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 4, statements on Mandatory Reporting to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude no later than 2 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply; and No. 5, statements on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (Committee D) Report on Childhood Obesity to be taken at 2 p.m. with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply.
I raise the issue of the undocumented in the United States. We saw the shutdown of the United States federal Government because of the failure to address the Dreamers programme. Mr. Dylan O'Riordan, now in prison in Boston, is awaiting deportation as effectively he is one of the Dreamers. He hopes to return to Ireland more quickly because one can spend up to six weeks in a prison waiting to be sent back to Ireland. His parents are still in the United States. He is one of the up to 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the United States.
We do not have an accurate figure of the number of undocumented Irish in the United States. For every undocumented Irish person living in the United States who was unable to come home for funerals and for family occasions, there are at least ten family members directly affected at home between parents and brothers and sisters. Some 500,000 people in Ireland are concerned about the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. Since the Trump Administration took office 12 months ago, arrests have increased by nearly 50% among the undocumented Irish. Some 34 people were deported and sent back to Ireland last year. The next three weeks is a critical period for the undocumented Irish, especially for people such as Dylan O'Riordan who was brought to the US as a child. He and others now face the threat of the Dreamer programme, which was established and supported by the Obama Administration being discontinued.
I know that Deputy Deasy will travel as the Government's special envoy to the United States Congress to work for the undocumented Irish. Will the Leader request the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to come to the House to debate and outline what the Government will do during the next three weeks of engagement on Capitol Hill to ensure that the emigration reform package is part of our budgetary proposals, so that the undocumented Irish and the Dreamers who went to the United States as children would be accommodated and looked after. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade should tell us what we should be doing, not on St. Patrick's Day because by that time the issue will have gone off the radar and will be done and dusted. The Irish Government needs to engage now and I would like the Leader to ensure that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade comes to this Chamber and points out to Members, and to the 500,000 Irish people who are directly affected by this because they have loved ones in the United States, what the Government will do to make a difference in the lives of the up to 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States.
One of the most important community and tourism amenities in the Inishowen Peninsula, Swan Park, was destroyed by the floods last August. The riverside park has been closed for six months. I have raised the issue time and again in this Chamber. I have written and spoken to Ministers, but as of today, there is no sign of Government funding. I do not accept that the closure of a park which is a key and critical community and tourism amenity for six months would be allowed to happen elsewhere in the State.Donegal County Council has done an extensive survey of the damage. As I said, the entire walk, including bridges, walls and gardens, has been destroyed. The cost is €2.3 million, a huge amount of money. Neither Donegal County Council nor Inishowen development partnership could shoulder that cost on its own. In recent days there was a packed meeting in Buncrana with a large turnout of local people from all spectrums of the town and local community, including anglers, sport and activity providers, local business, community historical societies and so on.
I again ask the Leader to raise the matter with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who oversees local authorities. Donegal County Council owns Swan Park on behalf of the people. I also ask him to raise the matter with the Minister, Deputy Michael Ring, who has responsibility for community and rural affairs, which touches on funding for these types of projects. I also ask him to raise the matter with the Chief Whip, the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh. I have asked them to meet a cross-party delegation from the Inishowen municipal district, something which was requested by a cross-party group of councillors. It is now urgent that they and their Department officials meet the cross-party group and senior management from Donegal County Council to work out a plan to send a clear message to our community that our beloved park will be restored.
One has to see the park to appreciate how beautiful it is, and how integral it is to our community and the visitors who come to Inishowen. We need to reopen it and send a message that is going to happen. I again ask that is done.
I wish to discuss the situation in our public health service, in particular the case of Mr. Michael Gallagher who recently passed away at University Hospital Waterford, UHW. Mr. Gallagher was admitted to the hospital at the start of December with breathing difficulties and a severely swollen abdomen. He had a history of heart trouble but it became clear that there was something more serious going on.
He was forced to stay on a trolley in the hospital's accident and emergency department due to the unavailability of hospital diagnostic equipment over the weekend. By Monday, he had been upgraded to a different bed on a corridor on surgical 7 ward, only to get access to an actual ward on the Wednesday after five days of waiting outside a ward. Michael subsequently received a diagnosis of peritoneal cancer on 7 December and passed away on 17 December in the presence of his loving family, including his daughter Caitriona and son Liam.
Their praise for the hard work, dedication and commitment of the staff of UHW is steadfast, but the distress and the circumstances in which their father and other patients present across Ireland to public hospitals in the peak season also remains. The son and daughter work in the medical area. Caitriona is a specialist lymphoedema lead nurse working in London while Liam is a professor of cancer biology at University College Dublin and director of UCD's Conway Institute.
The case of Mr. Gallagher came to national prominence due to the heartfelt, focused and detailed open letter they wrote to the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, at the start of the year. In it, they laid out the conditions their father faced, including days and nights on a trolley in brightly lit corridors next to busy doors and thoroughfares where basic rest was impossible, let alone recovery and recuperation. They detailed the stress faced by the medical staff working against the clock and in the face of a system which simply means there are too many people coming through accident and emergency departments at times when they cannot handle the load.
As Liam and Caitriona stated, this was not an environment which promoted patient safety, dignity, privacy or confidentiality. They also laid out their concerns about the effects on patient health that such overcrowding has. The delay Michael faced in his diagnosis meant subsequent delays in the palliative care he received, meaning unnecessary suffering and discomfort. The overcrowding also challenges the efficient operation of such units, with triage systems compromised by queues for diagnostic equipment, people being unnecessarily funnelled through accident and emergency departments to get certificates for sick days for employers and welfare allowances and many others who face long waits and poor conditions as they wait for essential care.
I met Professor Liam Gallagher to discuss the situation his father faced and the issues facing UHW. The trolley crisis in many of our hospitals is not a winter crisis. Rather, it is a year-round crisis, in particular in the hospital in Waterford. I would like to ask the Minister for Health to come to the House for a debate on this issue. As I said, the trolley crisis is an ongoing crisis throughout the country.
Ba mhaith liom tacú go huile is go hiomlán leis an mhéid atá ráite ag an Seanadóir Ó Dálaigh maidir leis an dream i Meiriceá atá i bhfaitíos ós rud é nach bhfuil a fhios acu cá seasann siad ó thaobh an stádas atá acu sa tír sin. I support what Senator Mark Daly said about the undocumented and would support a debate on this important matter.
I would like to again draw the attention of the Leader to the issues around the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, Bahrain and accreditation being given to doctors there. We need to discuss the decision of the Medical Council to grant unconditional accreditation to RCSI Bahrain which made no reference to the human rights situation in Bahrain and its impact on local training hospitals used by the college. We need the Minister to clarify that relevant national and international standards used by the Medical Council require the consideration of such things as patient safety, appropriate supervision, a safe learning environment for students, educational outcomes, medical ethics, human rights and social accountability. It is imperative that we uphold the best international standards around human rights. If bodies here are accrediting agencies and hospitals in places such as Bahrain we must ensure that those standards are upheld. A debate on the issues I have raised would be important.
Another important issue is who in charge of Irish Water. In 2009 a family moved into a house in Connemara and connected to the local authority water system, but have never had a proper supply of water. We spent the past two and half years contacting Irish Water to try to alleviate the situation. The family has three small children and in the past week they spent five days without any water. We keep getting fobbed off by Irish Water. We were told that there is a temporary issue in the local area and supply has decreased but, to be quite honest, that is nonsense. There is a need for a specific fix for this situation. Irish Water is reneging on its duty to supply water to customers.
It raises the broader issue of accountability in respect of Irish Water. I am sure everybody here is using the Oireachtas Members' line on a regular basis to contact Irish Water. We receive a pleasant email from whoever happens to answer the call on the day, but one cannot find out who is responsible for what is happening in a local area regarding sewage or water. We used to have regular clinics in the House whereby Irish Water officials would come in and we could ask them very specific questions about what was going on. I do know not know its plans for regional areas and regional water and sewerage issues in the Connemara or Galway areas. A number of years ago we heard it had a specific plan around regional issues but we have not heard anything from it since. There is a significant lack of transparency, responsibility and sense of who is in charge, what the money is being spent on and why there are so many issues across the water system. It is not just a lack of investment or money being spent. We need to know what it is doing, what its plans are and how we can hold to account to make sure those things happen. I call for a debate on the issue.
I want to raise a very serious issue in regard to the Rosalie unit in Castlerea. I have raised this issue before and asked questions for many months. When one does not get replies, it causes one to ask even more questions. We had a meeting with the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, and HSE chief official, Tony Canavan, yesterday on the current and long-term future of the unit. The unit supports residents in long-term care who have mental health difficulties. It was initially a 33-bed unit and it now has only 12 residents. I finally received replies to questions I asked in November.I came to the conclusion that there were very serious issues and that was following many family discussions. We received evidence that there have not been new admissions since 27 September 2016. My impression from last night's meeting is that the future of the Rosalie unit is not positive. Tony Canavan, the chief health officer, gave absolutely no commitment that there was a long-term future for it. He also said that it would not be opening to new admissions.
I am very frustrated because the HSE seems to be attempting to close the unit, not inform us, not be honest and open with the public and public representatives. I was at a meeting in 2015 when this issue arose and the then Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, gave us a very clear commitment that the residents within that unit would be able to stay there and that there was a long-term future for the delivery of services within that unit. That has been called into question now.
I want a solution to be focused on serving and supporting people in our area. At the moment residents are likely to have to move to Ballinasloe which is 61 km away. We want services in our area. I am asking that the HSE deliver that and that it listens to us and is honest with us.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe outside Lordship credit union. He was originally from County Cavan and embodied everything that was good about being a member of the Garda Síochána. He totally immersed himself in life in County Louth. His brutal killing leaves his wife Caroline without a husband and his two children without a father. I earnestly appeal to anyone who has any information to come forward so that his wife and extended family can get closure on this terrible event. It is never too late to do the right thing.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach admitted that the roll-out of national broadband is behind schedule and that the 520,000 people who were expecting to get broadband by the end of this year will not get it because the contract which should have been signed as far back as last June remains unsigned. This is a shocking blow to the people of rural Ireland. We need to bring the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment into the Chamber because we hear great talk from Ministers about the future of rural Ireland. If we do not have broadband there will be no rural Ireland. Children cannot do their homework for the lack of it. How can we attract businesses to areas such as Cavan and Monaghan, Border counties and throughout rural Ireland if we do not have broadband? It is absolutely essential in today's world. Will the Leader invite the Minister here to bring us up to date on where this plan is? We want no more spin. We want results, as do the people of rural Ireland.
I welcome the report from the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, which calls for greater investment in second-tier cities. It mentions the western seaboard and how city regions on the western corridor can be an economic counterbalance to Dublin. This is most important because Dublin is so busy that there is huge potential in linking up the cities of Limerick, Galway and Cork, to counterbalance Dublin and the eastern side of the country. Growth in Dublin is predicted to be over 50%, whereas it will be approximately one quarter of that in the three other cities. It is important that this be considered in the national planning framework to make the country regionally balanced.
I was not paying much attention yesterday to what the Taoiseach said about accessing mortgages until I went home and opened my Facebook page where I saw the timeline of people from my community talking about how unachievable that is for them. Not only is one of the three options that the Taoiseach offered, moving home to live with parents, travelling abroad to raise the money or getting money from parents, off the cards for many Irish people but all are off the cards for them.
I wrote down some of the comments I could repeat but left out many of them. Some of them relate to personal situations, the number of children they have and how it is not feasible for them to move home or the fact that their parents are barely able to meet their own bills let alone hand out money. However, the ones that stood out were from parents who stated how badly they feel as parents that they will not be able to help their children in the way the Taoiseach suggests most of us should do.
One person commented that this man is the leader of our country but does nothing but "make me feel bad about myself". It is not good enough for any leader in any situation in any country to make a large part of the population feel they are failing as parents, or as young people who cannot access a mortgage. This can be taken as a criticism but also as a request to the Taoiseach to get a little more to grips with the realities of many of the lives he represents. A leader should pick us up not make us feel bad about ourselves and our failings, in not being able to access money for our children. If I was to read out all the comments on the page they would give a wider picture of the situations people are living in and the fact that some parents are barely able to hold onto their own homes let alone give their children one.
I echo Senator Ruane's sentiments. Home ownership is way out of reach for the next generation and the three possibilities for gaining money are also out of reach.
Yesterday, my party colleagues, Deputy Louise O'Reilly and Orla Flynn, MLA, hosted a briefing on the transvaginal mesh and the stories of the brave warriors, mesh survivors, were truly shocking. This device has been recognised in other countries as extremely risky and unreliable as evidenced in many EU and international medical studies. The product has effectively been banned in New Zealand and Australia. Last year, however, in this country, hundreds of women underwent the procedure.
We heard from a consultant gynaecologist yesterday that this is indicative of the grip that the medical products industry has on the profession, profiteering from human suffering. There was full consensus in the room yesterday among the women that they were ignored and dismissed by their doctors when they reported severe pain from the operation. We have often heard of women not being trusted when they describe their experiences and again recently in other debates. Will the Leader outline the Government's plans to address this serious issue? An Taoiseach could not provide an answer yesterday in the Dáil. I hope that today the Leader will get a response and request the Minister of Health to address this issue in the Seanad.
The Office of Public Works, OPW, and the ESB are monitoring the water levels in the River Shannon after a sharp rise in the past week. The ESB has increased the level of water discharged through Parteen Weir and Ardnacrusha since yesterday. The levels south of Athlone have risen in the past week by about 28 cm. which is approximately 17 cm. off the level in 2015 when the council issued a flooding alert.At the time people criticised the timescale for the council coming out and for when it called in the Army to help. There may not be an imminent threat of flooding but the fear is that a lot of rainfall is expected in the coming days and anybody who lives near the Shannon or a river that has flooded say the fear of flooding is nearly as bad as the actual flooding. I ask the Leader to call on the Minister to either come to the House or to make sure that the councils in the various areas are ready for the imminent possibility of flooding and that the Army is ready to be called on. We must be assured that local authorities will call in the Army early rather than wait for a disaster to occur. The Army is always more than willing and capable of helping out but it needs to be asked. I would appreciate if the matter could be raised with the relevant Ministers.
I draw the attention of colleagues to the fact that a demonstration will take place outside Leinster House between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. this afternoon. It is to highlight the case of a 16-year old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, who since she was a small child has been a significant figure in defending her home and family against the incursions of Israeli troops. On 19 December last year, over a month ago, Israeli troops invaded her house. Ms Tamimi slapped an Israeli soldier in the face, a quite understandable thing to do in the circumstances. She and her mother were arrested and they have in prison ever since. They will be in prison throughout the trial. That is in stark contrast to the release on parole of Israeli soldiers, for example, who have killed Palestinian civilians.
I will join the protest and I wish to alert other colleagues to the fact that this protest will be taking place. The treatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli authorities is pretty appalling.
The other matter I wish to mention briefly is the fact that I and other Members of the Seanad have been critical of RTÉ's broadcasting policy in not covering Seanad Éireann at all on many occasions. There are a number of nights when its programmes deal with the Dáil and committees but we are not even seen as being as important as a committee. I had a message from RTÉ this morning asking me to meet with some senior officials about the situation and I will represent the Seanad strongly in the discussions and suggest that a more detailed coverage is necessary. Sometimes our proceedings are bland and irrelevant and on those occasions there is no reason for them to be covered but I can give one instance of when the House should be covered. When Senator Alice-Mary Higgins got a debate on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, I spoke to the Fianna Fáil Party and it abstained on the issue, as a result of which we defeated the Government on a major policy issue. The Seanad was not mentioned at all that day, yet when a Member of the Dáil, a woman Deputy, raised it in a glancing fashion on the Order of Business in the Dáil it was all over the television. There must be parity of treatment between Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann. We really must be covered when important things arise. I accept that when Senator Mark Daly got the Bill on Irish Sign Language through that was extensively covered and that was a good day for the Seanad but RTÉ should monitor it all the time. I have a feeling there is nobody in RTÉ watching the Seanad so it does not know what is going on. Otherwise it certainly would have picked some instances of days when it did not cover the Seanad at all.
Before I call on the Leader to respond, I wish to briefly comment on what Senator Norris has said. RTÉ is meeting with me next Tuesday or Wednesday and if any groups or individuals would like to email me in advance they are welcome to do so and I will raise issues on their behalf. It is a general meeting about the coverage of the Seanad, among other things. To be fair to RTÉ, this meeting was set up as far back as last October or November. I am not sure of the date but for whatever reason something cropped up and I had to cancel the meeting at the last minute. It was not the fault of RTÉ but the meeting is going ahead. I have agreed to it either on Tuesday evening or Wednesday. If an individual or group wishes to raise an issue along the lines of what Senator Norris has said then I would be only too glad to bring it to the attention of RTÉ. The meeting is scheduled for approximately 35 minutes or 40 minutes. In so far as I can as Cathaoirleach I will represent the concerns of the Seanad with regard to the issue Senator Norris raised.
I will begin in reverse order. In terms of the proposed meeting, I had the pleasure of meeting with RTÉ yesterday and I will not pre-empt the discussions you will have, a Chathaoirligh, or that Senator Norris will have, but it is fair to say that RTÉ is looking at its coverage not just of the Oireachtas but of politics in general. It is an evolving world that we live in and there is an obligation on us as Members of the Upper House to become relevant and to stay relevant.
Senator Norris made a good point in that we should not be defensive but there is a reluctance by some members of the media to cover the Seanad. Last week there was a case in point when we had a very fine debate on the eighth amendment. Regardless of the viewpoints of Members, I thought the quality of the speakers in this House was way better in comparison with those in the Lower House. Perhaps I would say that. However, the Lower House received all the coverage, especially on the "Prime Time" programme that night which showed pictures of the Dáil. I accept that Senator Bacik was on the programme. The question we must collectively pose and reflect on is how we stay relevant to the media and beyond in obtaining coverage, but also in terms of what we debate here.
You will know, a Chathaoirligh, as will Senator Mac Lochlainn, as former Members of the other House, the perennial challenge of competing with the Dáil, which is seen to be a bigger beast in the eyes of many. It is a question that needs to be addressed but I would not hold my breath on RTÉ coming to the rescue of the Seanad in terms of coverage. I will have the debate after your meeting, a Chathaoirligh, as I do not wish to pre-empt it in case it is a different type of meeting than I had yesterday.
I wholeheartedly endorse Senator Mark Daly's comments on the undocumented in the United States. He referred to the story of Dylan O'Riordan and the number of deportations from Boston. I heard the horrifying stories this morning on "Morning Ireland". Many of us know people living in many parts of the United States who are afraid to come home, and who are even afraid to use FaceTime or other means of communication for fear they can be trapped or found out. The situation is worrying. That is why the Taoiseach appointed Deputy John Deasy as a special envoy. He and the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, have been in the Stáit Aontaithe, as has the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon. Senator Mark Daly is correct that going there should not be just about St. Patrick's Day. The budget talks are linked to immigration and the deferred action for childhood arrivals, DACA, and the Dreamer programme have brought into perspective the fear among many emigrants across many different communities. We have all seen the clips on Facebook and other social media showing immigration officers travelling on buses in many parts of the United States. I share the Senator's concerns and I will wholeheartedly endeavour to have the Tánaiste come to the House before the journeys of the Ministers across the world, but in particular to the United States, begin.
I am aware Senator Mark Daly has a strong connection with the House of Representatives and the Senate. There is a duty on us as legislators to work together to continue the work we are doing. I am not being political when I say it but the sad part is that the political landscape in the United States now is so different from that which existed previously. I suspect the opportunity is nearly gone but we cannot give up hope. We must hope that moderate Republicans will work with sensible politicians from around the world, in our case Irish politicians, and Democrats to forge a way forward. The task has become more difficult but I share Senator Mark Daly's views and I will arrange to have that debate as soon as I can.
Senator Mac Lochlainn repeatedly raised the matter of Swan Park, the riverside park in the Inishowen Peninsula. I know there was a public meeting this week on the matter. Unfortunately, I do not have the answers but I would be happy to make representations for him, as I did before. I know it is an amenity that is very important to the people in the community he spoke about. The Government has responded to the flooding in Donegal. Senator Mac Lochlainn may think it could have been better but from talking to Fine Gael councillors and others in Donegal I know that a lot of work was done at the beginning and since then.I do not have the answers with me, but I would be happy to speak to the Senator and pursue the matter later. I would support any endeavour to get the park opened as a matter of urgency.
Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the issue of the tragic death of Mr. Michael Gallagher. I sympathise with his family members on their bereavement. I will not get into a political debate with the Senator on the matter now. When discussing the health system and budget, however, it is important to recognise that this year we have allocated the largest health expenditure in the history of the State. There has been a 20% increase in the health budget in recent years. More staff are being recruited and more money has been allocated, but if it was just a question of investing money, we would be the best in the world. As it is, we are in the top five countries in terms of spend per capita. That is why the Minister, Deputy Harris, initiated the bed capacity review.
It is important that there be reform in tandem with investment. That means accountability and responsibility. There is political accountability and there needs to be responsibility on the part of hospital managers, clinicians and all parts of the health sector. There must be an ongoing debate on health. I look forward to the Minister attending the House to discuss the health service capacity review. More capacity is necessary. It is unacceptable that people are on trolleys and waiting for operations, but we have opened more beds and finance has been increased.
I wonder where we are going wrong in terms of access to health. If one turned on Sky News, "NBC Nightly News" and RTÉ news this week, the headline stories would have been about the flu epidemic and people trying to access hospitals. As a former Chairman of the Oireachtas health committee, I am a firm believer in investing in primary care. It is the way forward. We will have that debate in the coming weeks.
I will not go into the tragic death of Mr. Gallagher as it cannot be brushed aside as a political issue. It is about a family suffering a bereavement. We must all work to ensure that whatever happened in his case is eliminated from the health system.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of RCSI Bahrain and accreditation. When he raised it previously, I did some research. The Medical Council uses strict criteria, but the vote was 10-7 and a number of people voiced strong views as to why it should not happen. I agree with the Senator regarding human rights issues and how people, particularly some medics, were treated in Bahrain. I am concerned. From the point of view of accreditation and research, I am satisfied that the Medical Council's standards are being met and that people coming to Ireland are of the highest calibre, but the Senator has made a strong case about the human rights violations in Bahrain. I support him in that regard.
I also agree with Senator Ó Clochartaigh that Irish Water needs to run clinics in Leinster House again. It has good interactions on social media. If one direct messages the organisation on Twitter, one gets a quick response. However, it would be useful, beneficial and helpful to Members of the Oireachtas if Irish Water resumed its clinics. On foot of the Senator's request, I will raise the matter with Irish Water again. It has experienced personnel changes, so we must determine a contact person. The Senator's idea is a good one and I am happy to support him in it.
Senator Hopkins raised the issue of the reduction in the number of beds at the Rosalie unit in Castlerea. I welcome last night's meeting. I understand the Senator's concerns and frustration. It is worth putting on the record that the unit's residents are predominantly elderly, with many suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. The HSE has an obligation to work with all involved, including the families, to ensure that the unit does not close. I share the Senator's concerns. This is about engagement. A solution can be found. Matters have changed since the former Minister of State, Ms Kathleen Lynch's comments in 2015. For example, we have allocated more money to the HSE. There needs to be a solution. The Cathaoirleach suggested raising this as a Commencement matter. I welcome the Senator's remarks.
I join Senator Gallagher in paying tribute to and remembering the late Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe on the anniversary of his murder. There are people with information about his death who should come forward. The Senator is right. It is no consolation to his wife, Caroline, and children that we commend him today, but we should all ensure that people with information give it to the Garda so that we can find those who murdered him in cold blood.
I agree with Senator Gallagher in that respect and share his opinion. The members of An Garda Síochána do a job every day protecting us all. There is a duty on everyone to come forward with information.
The Taoiseach has commented on the national broadband strategy. The Government is committed to broadband becoming a part of every community. I agree that this is about rural Ireland getting broadband so that industry can locate there as a counterweight to Dublin and other areas. I would be happy to invite the Minister, Deputy Naughten, to the House.
Senator Byrne mentioned the ESRI report in terms of investment in second-tier cities. I assure her that we will have a further debate on the national planning framework. It is an important piece of work that is about to be unfurled and published by the Government and which will plan for the next decade, so we must ensure that it is debated properly.
Senator Ruane raised the matter of the Taoiseach's comments, which were addressed on yesterday's Order of Business. To be fair to him, he was saying that some people required and got help from their parents. He was not saying that all parents should do that. Like him, I recognise that not every parent can give help to a son or daughter. He did not do what the Senator said. What he is being accused of is being honest. Read the affordable home scheme. As Senator Devine mentioned, it is about ensuring that people can buy and get on the property ladder. I will pose a question to all Senators. Do we want to revert to having 100% mortgages, negative equity, house prices going berserk and people being saddled with large debts? As I stated on the Order of Business, young people are suffering trying to save for deposits. I met a young woman on Monday who was desperately trying to get a deposit. We must address that issue, but the Taoiseach is not out of touch. He said that he got a 100% mortgage and that he felt it was bad. Society recognises that 100% mortgages are not the way to go. That is why the Government is committed to ensuring affordable housing for people. As I told Senator Horkan yesterday, we need to have that debate. I would not want to see people under pressure trying to help others. I agree with Senator Ruane that some parents cannot afford to give help and should not be asked to. The country needs an honest debate about housing and affordability. That is what the Government is trying to do.
I watched the "Prime Time" programme on the vaginal mesh. It is unacceptable that women who are suffering must jump through hoops to get answers and solutions. The Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA, the Department of Health with its Chief Medical Officer and many other layers of bureaucracy are charged with inspecting and upholding standards. We must work with the women affected to ensure that they get answers and solutions and are treated in a proper, compassionate and understanding way. That the situations that we heard about on "Prime Time" on Tuesday night are continuing is unacceptable. Best international practice in the device's use and clinical management needs to be followed. If it needs to be banned, let us do that. I will not stand on ceremony in that regard.
That is my point. Clinicians, the HPRA and the Chief Medical Officer, all of whom are more qualified than people like me, are making these pronouncements. If one criticises or questions, one is seen to be a maverick. As Senator Devine stated and as the programme showed, women are suffering. They were healthy, able-bodied and leading full and active lives prior to their procedures.The question is how this has happened and why their lives have deteriorated. I have not got the answer but I want to see solutions found for these women. The stories on "Prime Time" would leave one appalled and questioning how it happened. There is a deficit now for them. I am happy to work with colleagues to ensure the women receive the answer.
Senator McFadden raised the issue of flooding. The OPW and the ESB must take cognisance of this issue. The Senator has been prolific in her own community, working with people on flood defences. I commend her for that. It is very important that we do not allow a situation to continue in which homes and businesses, in the case of Cork city and across the midlands, are flooded because of a lack of proactivity by the OPW, the ESB and the county councils. I will have that debate with the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, in the coming weeks.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the 16 year-old Palestinian girl and the demonstration. The issue of Palestine and the way the people are being treated is one we need to keep at the forefront of our affairs and I wish the Senator well in his discussions with RTÉ. I look forward to having a debate with him and other Members of the House following his meeting with RTÉ.