Thursday, 22 March 2018
Order of Business
I rise to commend the Trojan work and bravery of the Dublin Fire Brigade who spent all last night and this morning extinguishing a fire at the Metro Hotel in Ballymun. Thanks to their swift action, nobody has been harmed and there are no reports of casualties thus far. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and Fianna Fáil group, we are in awe and we are thankful to Dublin Fire Brigade for their professionalism, given that it was a 15 storey, 88 bed hotel and block of apartments. In light of this event it is important that a proper investigation is undertaken into the cause of this fire. It is also incumbent on the council to ensure that proper fire safety standards are met when it comes to commercial and public buildings. But for the luck and the swift work of our firefighters, this could have had a different ending.
I refer to a hard Brexit and the impact that will have on the annual spend of the average Irish household. According to the ESRI's most recent report, consumer prices for food, etc., could rise as much as 2% or 3%. This is particularly worrying when the research shows that the cost would rise the most for lower income households, as they spend a greater share of expenditure on food products which are, of course, imported from the UK. This shows that a hard Brexit will affect lower income families disproportionately. In a time when one in ten Irish people suffer from some degree of food poverty and when over €700 million worth of food is discarded each year, we can see that something is adrift. I call on the Minister to attend the House to discuss the challenge of Brexit and to discuss food security.
I refer to rent prices in the city and housing. It is an item that I raise nearly once a week. The latest Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, survey shows that the average rent nationwide is over €1,000 a month and the average rent in Dublin is at €1,500. These rates at any reading are simply far too high for the average working family and it is clear that the mechanism of the rent pressure zones does not seem to be working adequately. I call again on the Minister to come to the House to re-examine the feasibility of rent pressure zones and update the House regarding the elephant in the room, namely, the lack of social and affordable housing in this State.
I would like to briefly raise three issues. I join in thanking the Dublin Fire Brigade for what could have potentially been a catastrophic fire. One thinks back to Grenfell Tower in London and the terrible consequences of that fire and how it impacted on the people that lived there. I also want to acknowledge the great work that Dublin City Council has done because I understand, and this has to be verified, that there were a number of people in emergency accommodation residing in that building. That was their home. That has a traumatic impact, particularly on people who have been there for more than a one night stay in a hotel. It is their home. There are children and families involved. There is the staff of this hotel. Dublin Fire Brigade has again done a magnificent job, as do all the fire services. We are so lucky today that everyone is alive and hopefully got out intact. I want to acknowledge the support of Dublin City Council because it has played a huge part in terms of supports for the emergency response that happened last night.
I want to use this opportunity to wish Ursula Halligan well. She was a political journalist who everyone would have known in this House working at the cutting edge of political journalism and TV.I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge that we need the media and journalists, and journalists and the media need us. We are in partnership to tell the truth and get the story out. Ursula always did that and was always at the cutting edge. She always brought a great excitement to the edge of political stories, be it inside or outside this House. I want to acknowledge that, because she was someone I admired, listened to and followed. People had an opportunity to wish her well last night.
It is Daffodil Day tomorrow, a really important day. One of our great friends, and former Senator, Averil Power is CEO of the Irish Cancer Society. I want to wish her, her team and all of those involved in the society and those who help and support people with cancer right across the country well with the important fundraising endeavour being launched tomorrow. It is to be hoped that all of us will make a conscious decision tomorrow to wear the emblem.
I want to begin by acknowledging that yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of Martin McGuinness. My colleagues, Senator Conway-Walsh and Councillor Donnelly, are in Stormont today for the official unveiling of a portrait of Martin. I am sure it will be a very emotional event for all concerned. I am glad to say that people from all parties and traditions will be there. On Sunday, the chieftain's walk will make its way from Glenowen in Derry to An Grianáin in Donegal. It was a favourite walk of Martin's and will raise funds for the North West Cancer Centre, which is very appropriate given the weekend that is in it. I understand thousands are due to take part in the event and it is a very fitting tribute to our fallen leader and comrade. I find it hard to believe it has been a year since Martin passed away. So much has already been said about him. Suffice to say, his loss is still hugely felt, but equally we are determined to see his work through to a positive conclusion both in regard to the assembly and our wider project of a 32-county republic based on justice and fairness.
My second point is related. Like a number of Senators I have just attended a presentation by the McAnespie family. People from all parties were at the presentation which was very well attended. It is hard to talk about it. I admire the courage of the family, including Sean, Vincent, Aidan's brothers and his nephew, Brian Gormley. He was the most harassed man in Ireland, experiencing seven years of harassment twice a day before being gunned down. The description of the murder as an accidental discharge was nothing short of disgraceful. Even the PSNI historical enquiry team described it as the least likely version of what had happened. It is hard to believe that, 30 years on, the McAnespie family are still seeking justice. I say this in a non-party political way. We need the Crowley report to be published.
My colleague, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who was one of the witnesses, said he would be willing to waive his rights so that the report can be published, and he believes other witnesses would also do so. How much longer must the McAnespie family wait? I think I speak for all of us in the Chamber – if I do not, I ask Senators to make themselves known when they speak today - when I say the report has to be published. I am not playing party politics with the issue. It is up to the Government to act on the report.
We can reflect on the failures of past Governments. I do not want to do that. Rather, I want this Government and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan, to publish the report. I ask everyone in the Chamber to join with me in regard to that issue.
I have received a ruling from the Cathaoirleach that my motion on Standing Order 41, which precludes Members from introducing an amendment which creates a charge on the Exchequer, has been ruled out of order. I completely accept that and I understand the reasons for that. I understand it was discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges last night and a decision appears to have been taken that it should be referred to the Dáil reform committee. I am not sure why the Seanad should refer the conduct of its business as an independent House to a committee of the other House. I think that is wrong. I hope the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will develop the guts to stand up for the independence of this House and remove this ridiculous restriction on our freedom.
If we do not do that, I certainly will protest any time I hear any Member of this House complaining about not being allowed to introduce an amendment of this kind when it is ruled out of order. We have the power to do something about it. If we do nothing about it then Seanad Éireann is responsible for its own secondary status. I certainly hope that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will stand firm and stand by the Seanad. I have spoken to civil servants, whom I will not name, who are involved in this and the phrases they used were "a grey area" and "an academic situation". We should push through a grey area and academic situation, and establish our rights. We are adults.
I very much welcome the Pope's visit and I am delighted he is coming. He is a good man. I publicly initiated the first move towards an invitation a couple of years ago in the previous Seanad. I would like to thank Senator Wilson who mentioned this yesterday. The Pope should be given a terrific welcome. He is a wonderful man. I do not think he is completely up to speed on gay rights or women priests and so on.
I very much regret that the committee running the World Meeting of Families removed from the brochure images of same-sex couples. If we are talking about the family, we should be talking about the full family. I hope there will be some discussion of these issues in a courteous way. I know the Roman Catholic Church takes a long time to change its view, but it is insulting to people who are now in legally recognised marriages in this country that they are not considered to be part of the family. I think they are.
Despite my reservations, I will be giving a welcome to the Pope. I might even catch a glimpse of him flying past in his car because I will be back from Cyprus to attend the Fitzpatrick clan rally which nicely coincides with the Pope's visit. From my point of view and from my heart I wish him well and a happy and successful visit here. He is elderly and I do not suppose he can last all that much longer. I sincerely hope that when he does depart the church gets another good hearted, open Pope who will lead it forwards and not backwards.
On the matter of my ruling, the matter is still live in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and while it has been referred to the Dáil committee for a view we are not bound by it. I cannot promise Senator Norris a successful outcome but he should not despair just yet.
I would like to be associated with the comments made on the great work done by the Dublin Fire Brigade last night in saving lives, as well as the work it does day in and day out to protect us. It is a group of individuals, like gardaí and others, who place their lives between us and harm. I wish to acknowledge the great work done not just by the Dublin Fire Brigade but all the fire services around the country and the many volunteers.
I commend the Irish Cancer Society given the week that is in it. I had the honour of addressing the Danish cancer society last week in Denmark on the scourge that is tobacco. We have been joined by many young people in the Gallery and I wish to tell them to never, ever smoke. It is an industry I have described as evil because it seeks to addict young children into a habit that will kill one in two of them prematurely. That is a fact. I thank the Irish Cancer Society for all its support in helping us to overcome the challenges we faced when facing big tobacco and the litigation and threats which were made to this country in many different ways.I wish, however, to correct the record, a Chathaoirligh, because before the St. Patrick's Day break, I mentioned that the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill was passed in this House in October or November. I went back and checked my records because it seemed so recent and found it was 12 July. I said at the time that I would keep raising this issue to find out the status of this Bill. Autism is a condition that directly affects 65,000 of our citizens, as well as the quarter of a million people who are in their families and the hundreds of thousands more who are their friends. This Bill is hugely important to those people. Children with autism have opportunities to correct the developmental anomalies they suffer from such as the lack of speech or their inability to socialise. When those opportunities are missed, parents look on in desperation and acute anxiety and try all sorts of alternative care, often to their detriment and certainly to the detriment of their wallets and incomes. Many of these families are struggling to make ends meet in caring for their loved ones. These children, as we know, can have tremendous outcomes and can be very positive people in society if they get intervention early in life. I ask the Leader again to bring the Minister in here to explain to us where this Bill is. We are coming into Easter and there is still no sign of it. I accept that the Department of Health is a busy one and that it has many Bills on its plate. However, it cannot ignore this group of citizens or be allowed to leave this on the back burner. I will continue to raise the matter week in, week out. I looked at the change.orgwebsite this morning. I said recently that 71,000 had signed up to support the Bill and there are now just short of 73,000 signatures. This issue will not go away. I urge those who have not done so to join that site in support of the Bill. We must act. The terrible thing is that this is just to bring in a Bill to ensure that a strategy is put in place. It is not even the end or the end of the beginning. We are way back. I urge the Minister, notwithstanding all that he has on his plate, to ensure that this Bill is brought into the Dáil.
Like Senator Gavan, I attended the gathering in the audiovisual room that is still under way. We were obliged to leave it to attend the Order of Business here. A presentation is being made, chaired by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, on the killing on 21 February 1988 by a British soldier of Aidan McAnespie, a man who for more than seven years had suffered intimidation every time he crossed the Border at Aughnacloy, County Tyrone to visit his relatives in County Monaghan. Five days a week, on his way to work and on the way back, he experienced the intimidation. Any independent analysis of his killing would come to no other conclusion than that it was murder.
He was shot dead by a member of the British army, deliberately. The British Government carried out a so-called investigation into this crime and came up with no conclusive conclusion. The Irish Government commissioned an independent investigation under Assistant Commissioner Crowley into this murder and the conclusions of that report have not been published. This has been highlighted by various members of my party, including most recently by Senator Gallagher, who is a representative from the constituency where some members of the McAnespie family live in County Monaghan. This call has fallen on deaf ears.
Like Senator Gavan, I am not being political. The party I belong to got the investigation carried out. The Taoiseach of the time was Charles J. Haughey, who insisted on this investigation. However, successive Governments have refused to publish the findings of the report. I do not know why or what reason there could be for not publishing it. I appeal to the Leader to use his good offices to ask An Taoiseach to make every effort to get agreement from the Government to have this investigation, carried out by Assistant Commissioner Crowley, published without any further delay. In attendance at the audiovisual room were members of the McAnespie family, including Aidan McAnespie's elderly father. The least he is entitled to before he passes on to his eternal reward is the conclusions of that report, which was carried out by our Government and our authorities.
I again raise the outbreak of measles in Limerick and the mid-west. There are now cases affecting more than 25 people so it is quite serious. They are giving out free vaccinations in the Lord Edward Street primary care unit this afternoon from 3 p.m. onwards. I encourage people, especially those aged from 20 to 40 who have not yet been vaccinated, to attend the clinic for a free vaccination. These people are kept in isolation in the hospital but the outbreak is quite serious.
I also wish to raise the television series, "Nightflyers", which is being shot in Troy film studios in Limerick. They released a teaser on Tuesday. It is a science fiction series that will be released shortly on Netflix. More than 400 people are employed locally in Troy film studios and there are also many people on an apprenticeship programme. The film is being shot locally and is being made in Ireland, while NBC studio from America is actually in charge of the film. The more we can encourage people to come from other countries to film their films in Troy Studios the better, as it is creating local employment. I encourage people to have a look at "Nightflyers" on Netflix.
I welcome the forthcoming visit of the Pope to Ireland. It has been discussed on and off in the House for the last while. I would certainly welcome the return to the Phoenix Park of a pontiff and the proposed gathering in Croke Park. It is quite a tight timeframe as they are talking about a two-day visit. However, I certainly hope there will be an all-Ireland part to this visit. Our church is an all-Ireland church and I certainly hope that it would be part of the healing process in Ireland were the pontiff to visit all of our island.
I agree with Senator Gavan and acknowledge the work of the late Martin McGuinness. One year past his death, we are in a different space. It is a hundred years since the first MP was elected to the House of Commons in my home town of Boyle, in the election of the snows in 1917. He was George Noble Plunkett, who was elected as an Independent and joined Sinn Féin. He was the first abstentionist from Westminster.
I recently spent a week in the United Kingdom. I was in the two hams, namely, Cheltenham and Twickenham, but I was in Westminster many times too. There is a sense of resignation that we need a nationalist voice in Westminster. I have talked to people on the Exiting the European Union Committee, which is chaired by Hilary Benn. We are missing that republican voice. Most of the MPs elected in the North of Ireland effectively backed Brexit. We are missing that SDLP voice. That is nothing against Sinn Féin.I understand that people are concerned that parliamentary work would compromise republicanism. However, we are in a unique situation now and perhaps it is time for Sinn Féin - I acknowledge to Senator Gavan that it is an issue for that party - to reconsider in the context of fighting for nationalism. I have met Sinn Féin MPs who are doing great work in Westminster but that voice is not on these very important committees. Instead, we are relying on mainly Labour Party MPs to fight for the island of Ireland. They have their own constituencies and they are not going to say it in the UK. I believe the Border in Ireland will be the Achilles heel for Brexit. The issue of the Border will do the United Kingdom a huge favour. Sinn Féin has benefitted politically from its participation in the parliaments in Dublin and Belfast. I do not like to tell other parties what to do and I am not doing that. However, it has been highlighted by people who represent the Irish caucus and diaspora that they need nationalist representation of MPs on important committees such as the Exiting the European Union Committee. In the coming months there could well be a vote in Parliament on Brexit and that could be an opportune time for Sinn Féin to exercise its rights on behalf of nationalism on the island of Ireland.
I wish to raise the issue of bus services in Ireland. We have put much investment into bus services and public transport but there are major anomalies in the system that must be examined. A key issue is bus fares, which I have been examining over the last few weeks. If one travels the 16 km from Carrigaline to Cork it will cost €4 but if one travels the 28 km from Kinsale to Cork it will cost €14.50 return. That anomaly must be examined. Travelling from Bandon to Cork, which is a distance of 29 km, costs €17.50 return. There is a real dilemma at present. We are promoting public transport and encouraging people to use buses but the fares do not work. I attended a meeting with representatives of Bus Éireann a few weeks ago along with Senator Buttimer and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, during which we discussed this issue. There must be a complete review of the structure for pricing bus services.
Bus services in rural Ireland are a joke in many ways unless we do something about the prices. We talk about getting people onto buses but it is not economical. If one lives in Kinsale and works in Cork, one will spend €3,000 per year for a bus service. That is not sustainable. If one lives in Bandon and works in Cork one will spend €3,200 per year. People cannot afford to spend that kind of money on public transport. There has to be a complete review of the pricing structures in Bus Éireann, but we have not seen it. Something has been done for the bus services around the cities but not for the services to rural towns. We have examined the situation in rural towns throughout Ireland, not just in Cork. They are priced out of existence because there is no decent pricing structure in place. I appeal to the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to the House. I tabled a Commencement matter on this and it was refused because the Minister had no responsibility. The Minister must take responsibility for this. He must come to the House and address it. If he does not, bus services in rural Ireland will be a joke.
Another issue I wish to raise concerns mass sporting events that take place. There are some well established mass sporting events from which people get great enjoyment. They are very well run and donate enormous amounts of money to charities. However, there are many other mass sporting events popping up around the country. It would be a good idea to invite the Minister to the House to discuss how these events can be regulated, how the numbers can be dealt with properly and how such events should not seriously impact on communities. Last year in Ennistymon, County Clare, there was a mass cycling event with between 2,000 and 3,000 participants. It effectively closed down the town for an entire Saturday and the business community in the town did practically no business. The town of Ennistymon has challenges. The roads in the area already are very busy due to the Cliffs of Moher visitor experience, which attracts almost 1.5 million people each year. There is also an issue with Blake's Corner, which is causing enormous traffic difficulties.
The aforementioned cycling event is due to take place again this Saturday. I am advised that it has been booked out at a cost of €40 per head. The two local councillors proposed a motion that the number of people taking part in cycling events that start and finish in Ennistymon would not exceed 1,000. That was being fair to the organisers and the people who wished to take part, together with the business community and the residents. However, despite the motion being passed unanimously at the municipal district and effectively being council policy, this cycle will take place with 3,000 participants. What troubles me even more is that I am reliably informed that a cheque for €3,000 has been provided to the organisers of this event to support it. Cycles and runs are wonderful, as are the people who take part in them. However, when is enough enough? Will there be 5,000 next year and 10,000 the year after? The Oireachtas and the Government have a responsibility to put some type of control, regulation and order on these mass sporting events.
The issue I wish to raise relates to the provision of home care. I have raised it on a number of occasions. There is a need to grow the service across the country because more people will require home care and we want to keep people out of hospitals and nursing homes. My concern is the policy of the HSE at present. I understand that the HSE cost per hour to provide home care is approximately €35 per hour per person. That is based on the cost of administration and paying the person providing the home care. Private sector providers are charging €24 per hour. That is made up of administration costs, insurance, whatever else is involved and paying the carer.
It is important that the taxpayers realise what is happening. It is costing the HSE €35 per hour to provide home care per hour per patient. There is now a policy in the HSE of stopping people from the private sector without any cost analysis of what it is costing the taxpayer to provide that home care. I am seriously concerned about that. I can give another example relating to the cost of home care. I am aware of a situation where two new nursing homes were built by the HSE. One is being run by the private sector and the other is being run by the HSE. It costs €911 per bed per week in the home run by the private sector, while the cost in the home run by the HSE is more than €1,500 per bed per week. That is the difference. While people may criticise the private sector, it is providing and delivering the services.
I am worried about what is happening with the provision of home care. No cost analysis has been produced by the HSE about the provision and it is also directing the private providers to only provide a half hour of care when people want an hour.Client-directed care is not being sufficiently advertised. The HSE pays for the cost of this form of care, but the client, rather than the HSE, decides when - that is, at what time - the care is required. I think we need to review this. I also think there is a need for a cost-benefit analysis of the provision of home care by the HSE.
I thank the 12 Senators who contributed to the Order of Business this morning. I join Senators Catherine Ardagh, Victor Boyhan and James Reilly in commending the men and women of the Dublin Fire Brigade on their heroism in preventing any loss of life last night. I congratulate and thank them for their profound bravery in responding immediately and swiftly to the fire at the Metro Hotel in Ballymun. I welcome the decision of the Garda Síochána to conduct an investigation into the events leading up to the fire. I do not want to pre-empt the report, but I certainly hope that if there are any findings, we will put them in place. I would like to give Members an illustration of the work done by Dublin Fire Brigade personnel last night. They went through the 15 storeys of the hotel floor by floor to ensure everyone had been evacuated and no one was still there. They deserve our praise and thanks. Last night's events highlight the need to create awareness among everyone about fire exits, fire alarms and smoke detectors in our homes. We need to be vigilant in preventing incidents of this nature. I commend Dublin Fire Brigade on its efforts last night. We must ensure there is no return to the bad old days when we saw the tragic loss of life in Grenfell Tower.
I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House for a debate on Brexit. Senator Ardagh is right when she says there is no good news on Brexit. The Government has made its position on a hard Brexit clear. I want to wish the Taoiseach and the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, well as they travel to Brussels today for the talks on Friday. We have been clear on where we stand as a Government. I hope we will not be found wanting by our friends and colleagues across Europe. Ireland is a unique case as the country that will be most affected by Brexit. There is no good news on Brexit.
I would be happy for the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to come to the House for a debate on the matter of rent. It is important to recognise that the Government has prioritised a range of actions to ensure existing rent predictability measures, such as rent pressure zones and increased security of tenure, are fully respected and enforced. Over half of all tenancies are now covered by rent protection zones. We are making sure landlords comply with the new rules. The figures show that there was a deceleration in the fourth quarter of last year, with standardised rents increasing by 1.1%, compared with 2.5% previously. As Senator Ardagh knows quite well, the Government is committed to Rebuilding Ireland and to increasing the supply of social and private housing.
I join Senator Boyhan in congratulating Ursula Halligan on her 18 or 19 years as political reporter for TV3. Her coverage was always balanced and fair. She has always been very courteous and professional. Her leadership and inspiration during the marriage equality referendum resonated with many people. Her intervention at a critical time in the campaign certainly struck a chord in the hearts of many people. I always found her courteous and diligent as a professional journalist. I wish her well in her new post in UCD. I think we should have a debate on the point made by Senator Boyhan about the relationship between the media and the body politic. We have not yet had such a debate.
Senator Boyhan rightly mentioned that tomorrow is Daffodil Day. I thank those who are volunteering across the country and wish them well in raising funds for hospice foundations and movements and for cancer care in all parts of the country. The great community spirit in Ireland is seen to be alive on Daffodil Day, which is a wonderful day. We all like to see the lapel badge - the daffodil of hope - as we look forward each spring. We will all support Daffodil Day tomorrow. I hope the weather will be good. As Senators will recall, we had a couple of years when this event was washed out. Tomorrow is a very important day and I thank everybody involved. I commend the Irish Cancer Society. As Senator Reilly said, one of the most important things we can do is eliminate smoking from our society so that we have a smoke-free Ireland.
Senator Paul Gavan referred to the unveiling of the portrait of Martin McGuinness. The most important legacy that people on all sides could leave in his memory would be a return of the power-sharing Executive in Stormont. It is important for all parties in the North to renew their efforts to go back into government. Martin McGuinness took a step to go into government with Ian Paisley and he took a step to lay down arms. On the anniversary of his death, the best legacy we can leave is for the Executive in Stormont to be returned. I hope that can happen.
Senators Gavan, Diarmuid Wilson and Frank Feighan spoke about the McAnespie family. I could not get to the audiovisual room today. We have had a debate on this matter in the House. Senator Robbie Gallagher has tabled a motion on it as well. We were all struck by what happened to young Aidan McAnespie. All of us want to see justice for the members of the McAnespie family, who have bravely and courageously highlighted this issue. Members can listen back to the powerful interview they gave on the "Miriam Meets" programme. I am not defending anything when I say for the record of the House that the Minister has said there are confidentiality issues with the Crowley report, which was compiled under the stewardship of Assistant Commissioner Crowley, and that to protect people-----
Can I finish? The Minister has said in this House and elsewhere that due to the fear of intimidation or whatever, confidentiality commitments were given to people living in the communities. The Minister has said he is open to looking at this. All of us recognise that part of the report was given to the McAnespie family in the past. In the interests of bringing closure to the family and helping to bring about justice, there should be another look at how we can ensure the Crowley report is presented to the McAnespie family. It should be given to them. I will be happy to have that communicated to the Minister from the House today.
Senator David Norris referred to a matter that was raised at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and on which the Cathaoirleach has adjudicated.
Senators Norris and Aidan Davitt raised the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis, which was the subject of a discussion yesterday. It is important to recognise that this is an historic visit, but it is not a State visit. The Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges decided yesterday to look at how we can invite the Pope to address a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas. I know that the visit will take place on Saturday, 25 August and Sunday, 26 August. We should use this opportunity to welcome Pope Francis to our country. He is the head of the Catholic Church and he is very welcome.
He has helped to make the church a friendlier and warmer home for people than it was in the past. It is disappointing, as Senator Norris rightly mentioned, that a wide variety of families, including LGBT families, single-parent families and lone-parent families, were removed from a brochure promoting this event. I hope the church will recognise that the traditional family model has changed in today's Ireland and today's world. All of us should embrace this within the concept of family. If that means challenging the conservative perceptions and preconceived notions of some people, I think that is no harm.
Senator Reilly spoke about the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill 2017. I am certainly not holding it up as Leader of the House. I will endeavour to find out where the Bill is for the Senator. I commend him on the remarks he made about cancer last week. I congratulate him for his Trojan efforts to achieve a tobacco-free Ireland.
I join Senator Maria Byrne in calling on everyone in Limerick to avail of the free vaccination this afternoon. It can be seen in today's report on the importance of the HPV vaccination that vaccinations work. I think we need to spread the message that vaccinations work. I hope people will take that up.
I congratulate Troy film studios on the imminent launch of "Nightflyers". Senator Lombard raised the issue of bus services in Ireland. As he said, I also attended the meeting in Cork with Bus Éireann. As the Senator said, the cost of travel from Kinsale to Cork is €14.50 return. This does not promote greater use of public transport. The Government has increased the resources of Bus Éireann in terms of additional new buses. I agree with the Senator that in Cork we need additional buses, additional bus lanes, greater encouragement of the use of bus services and more customer friendly fare options. I am happy to ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to come to the House for a debate on bus services.
I, too, had a Commencement Matter on this issue ruled out of order, yet the Minister, Deputy Ross, was able to respond to a Topical Issue on Bus Éireann in the Dáil. I understand why my matter was ruled out of order but there needs to be accountability by Ministers to this House, be that in regard to the HSE or any other agency. It is not acceptable that Ministers, Departments or organisations can refuse to come to the Houses of the Oireachtas to address issues, be that in committee or in either House. We need to be able to hold them to account. As I said, I understand why my Commencement Matter was ruled out order but it is unacceptable that Members of this House cannot get a reply to a matter that is of importance to people in Cork city.
Senator Conway raised mass sporting events. I am open to correction but I understand there are regulations governing the licensing of events by the local authorities, working with An Garda Síochána and other agencies. The point made by the Senator in regard to Ennistymon is perhaps one that he could take up with the relevant authority in the area.
Senator Colm Burke raised home care packages, which is an important issue. We need to see more people availing of home care packages and I am happy to have the Minister come to the House for a debate on the issue.