Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Order of Business (Resumed)
First, I join with the Senator Conway-Walsh in hoping that the conference in Mulranny on rare breeds will be a success. The Senator is correct, and as Senator Marshall also said, the agricultural community is very important to our country.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of the rainy day fund. Sometimes - I know the Cathaoirleach will lecture me - the voodoo economics of Sinn Féin beggars belief.
No, I am not but it really does. Let us be fair. The National Pension Reserve Fund, which was the rainy day fund, is nearly gone because of the collapse in our banking system. The Government is committed to getting, and has got, money back from the banks. We are creating a new fund to maintain progress in terms of the living standards and the needs of our people. If Senator Conway-Walsh wants to go back to the days of boom and bloom, she must look at what happened. It became not boom and bloom, but bust. That is the reality.
As I have stated previously in interactions between the Leader and Members of the Seanad, I allowed everybody who wanted to contribute to do so for two minutes or three minutes. I have been flathiúil with the time allocated. Please allow the Leader reply.
Our tax revenue is high. There are more people back at work. By the end of this year, there will be more at work than ever before in the history of the State but we must plan for the future. We also have, which the Sinn Féin Party has not acknowledged, a deficit that we cannot allow to grow. The importance of the rainy day fund is that we plan for our future so that we can invest for our people. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House.
I will not repeat what I said on Irish Water.
We all want to have a water network system that brings water to people that they can use and drink. The model of delivery costs money and Sinn Féin has not proposed how we will pay for it other than that we will not pay for it all.
Senator Bacik raised the issue of cervical cancer and the importance of the need for transparency, and I agree with her. That is why the Scally inquiry was set up and we will get to the truth and get the full facts in regard to the events that took place.The overriding concern of the Government is that we establish the full facts, hold people to account and put in place a system whereby there will be greater transparency and support offered to the families of the women involved. I fully agree with Senator Bacik. We need to get the full answers.
Senator Joe O'Reilly raised the extension of local link and welcomed the pilot scheme. It is an important scheme and lifeline for rural Ireland. I am sure the incentivisation of publicans will be fraught with contention, but the important point is that a pilot scheme is being established to offer a lifeline to people in rural Ireland. The Senator is correct. We must ensure that people in Bailieborough, Reenascreena or Belmullet have the same type of connectivity as those living on a Luas line. I fully subscribe to that point.
Senator Gallagher raised the issue of the GDPR and schools. I draw the attention of the Senator to www.dataprotectionschools.iewhich is a portal for schools and has a specific section on data protection. I draw his attention to circular 0829/2018 which has a specific reference to GDPR.
I join with Senator Marshall in welcoming the rise in farm incomes. The point he made was very valid in terms of the importance of agriculture to our country, North and South. We need to continue to ensure there is growth in our farming communities and that we put in place supports for the Brexit negotiations and, as Senator Mulherin mentioned, the rising costs of diesel and oil. Agricultural communities are subject to volatility given the weather and so on. The Minister, Deputy Creed, will come to the House in a couple of weeks' time.
Senator Byrne referred to a meeting today with Retail Excellence Ireland. She highlighted the lack of a Garda presence and welcomed the announcement in respect of Limerick today that there will be 36 gardaí trained in pedal power to tackle crime. She called for that to be replicated across the country. I fully agree with her. It is an important dimension to our Garda force that we have a division dedicated to crime as well as cycling and being available. I commend that.
I fully agree with Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell regarding post offices. She has been a champion of them in the House. The Minister, Deputy Naughten, has been in the House and will be back next Wednesday. Senators O'Donnell and Devine referred to social protection. It would be beneficial to renew the contract automatically. I am open to correction, but I have been told that EU rules preclude that. As a people we all need to use our post offices. I agree with Senator O'Donnell that the banks have let rural and urban Ireland down. In certain parts of this city or Cork city, there are no counters in banks and everything is done by machine. That is unacceptable. We will have a debate with the Minister, Deputy Naughten, next Wednesday.
Senator Mulherin raised the issue of oil prices and OPEC. She commented on our dependency on oil. We need to overcome that and work to become less dependent on oil. I would be happy to have that debate with the Minister, Deputy Naughten, in the coming weeks.
Senator Norris raised, along with the referendum, the issue of the Dutch cardinals. He has covered that well. I could not copy the goldfish remark. It is important to recognise that there are diverse views.
Senator Devine referenced the appalling four deaths. We all condemn the murders of women and we deplore the killing and treatment of women. The Houses of the Oireachtas passed domestic violence legislation, which we will all welcomed. It brings us a step closer to the Istanbul Convention. I hope this will be a country for all and that no woman feels that the country is not for her. That would be wrong and we must all work to ensure that our country is for all of us. I take her point in terms of what has taken place. It is important we continue to work to make our society a more gentle and caring one where we are all treated as equal.
I commend Senator Feighan for his work on Brexit. His point is that we will not be leaving the European Union is one we must reiterate. We must stand strong as being a proud part of the European Union and defend the interests of our country, North and South, in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
I join with Senator Boyhan in commending and congratulating Billy Alexander on his success. I thank him for pointing to his pre-eminence. As a champion of the horticulture society, he is correct to highlight the importance of Bloom as a showcase for our country. I will be happy to have a debate. The Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, recently discussed horticulture in the House. I commend the Senator for his work as an advocate of the horticulture sector. It is playing a very important role in economic development.
I wish to advise Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell that the Minister, Deputy Naughten, will come to the house on next Wednesday, if that is agreeable to her.
Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That the debate with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the question of piloting New Zealand style community banking in Ireland through the post network", be taken today. Is the amendment being pressed?
The Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, is not available until 2.20 p.m. because of the contingency around the debate on data protection yesterday. I gave a commitment that the Bill would not be guillotined but it finished quicker than we thought.