Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on Palestine, to be taken at 2.20 p.m and to conclude no later than 3.50 p.m., with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed six minutes and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply to the debate; No. 2, statements on bed capacity at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, to be taken at 3.50 p.m and to conclude no later than 4.30 p.m, with the contribution of all Senators not to exceed four minutes and the Minister to be given no less than four minutes to reply to the debate; No. 3, statements on rural development, to be taken at 4.30 p.m. and to conclude no later than 6 p.m., with the contribution of 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 six minutes to reply to the debate; and No. 4, Private Members' business to be taken at 6 p.m., with time allocated not to exceed two hours.
If I may be permitted, I will explain to the House the reason for the delay to 2.20 p.m. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Cannon, was not available and we were not sure if the Data Protection Bill 2017 would conclude last night, so we had to leave time.
I wish to raise to the issue of housing legislation. I know that there are statements today but what is important is legislation, which can effect change. The Government promised legislation on housing but the Bill has not yet been published and has not gone through pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government made a call to the private sector on its proposals on off-balance sheet initiatives. Trying to get information on that from anybody working in the housing sector has become impossible. Could we get clarity on when the legislation on housing will be brought forward?
The next issue relates to insurance. Again, legislation was promised by Government on the insurance industry. In 2017 there was an 11% increase in premiums and since 2012 there has been a 31% increase in premiums. There is the ongoing investigation by the European Union into the Irish insurance industry which seems to be a cartel run by the industry. The establishment of a national claims database was a key recommendation. We were promised the legislation on it would be enacted by 2017 but the Bill has not been introduced and there is no timeframe.
What we have is a lot of activity, which is only masquerading as action. We all agree the Government needs to bring forward the legislation on housing, a promise on which it has not delivered. The Government said it would do something on insurance cost, which is a cost for motoring, housing and business.
A group affected by this is Men's Sheds, which has faced massive increases in its insurance costs. Many of the Men's Sheds will close down. It will affect about 10,000 people who use Men's Sheds, which are very important for social interaction among people who feel isolated and vulnerable. Men's Sheds also do much good in their communities in terms of projects and yet are being shut down by our insurance industry. What I outlined last week should be borne in mind. Some 10% of the money paid out by the insurance company goes to the claimant and the person injured while 90% goes in costs and outlay to the legal industry.
I do not have to point out that when the troika was here that was one of the key reforms it sought in regard to costs of doing business in Ireland and in ensuring people got access to justice and that they were be able to afford justice. At the moment people simply cannot afford justice and this is having a detrimental effect on the wider economy in terms of people insuring their homes and motor cars and on the Men's Sheds.
What I see are lots of promises of legislation on insurance and housing but nothing coming forward. There is a huge backlog of Bills at the justice committee. I think at the last count there was a backlog of nearly 100 Bills to go to this committee but there is no chance that many of those will ever see the light of day.
We are having statements all day today. There is nothing stopping anybody taking legislation. I pointed out to the Leader that in May of last year the Government said it would look at the Corporate Manslaughter Bill but we are still awaiting amendments. If those amendments are not tabled before the recess, I propose that this House pass that Bill as it is and as proposed by the Law Reform Commission. If the Government is not willing to table amendments, then we should pass the legislation.
-----and my house insurance has gone down by €200. I do not know if people are going to the right brokers.
There has been much debate in recent weeks with respect to the eighth amendment, and there have been fairly serious debates on both sides. A lady approached me and asked me a question. When a public patient in this country is referred to the care of an obstetrician, she does not get a choice as to who she is allocated. As we have seen, some consultants have entrenched positions on either the "Yes" or the "No" side. Is a potential patient entitled to be told what the position is-----
It is an important issue. Any time I have needed a consultant I have had a choice and I have been able to ask people about different consultants. I once had a consultant allocated to me to whom I would not bring my beagle. Is this something that needs to be considered in the future in the post-referendum days?
I commend all of those who are organising the rare breeds conference in Mulranny this weekend, starting on Friday. It is a very important conference which I attended last year. Wonderful work is being done in this country on rare breeds, their development and the importance of that to the agricultural sector. It impinges on other sectors as well. I wish the organisers well for the conference in Mulranny on Friday and I look forward to attending at least part of it.
I wish to talk about the rainy day fund. We should not be looking at a rainy day fund when we have a crisis in housing and health. The recent stability programme update shows why the so-called rainy day fund should be scrapped. The €500 million to be put aside next year will only be money diverted from services. It is more akin to a black hole than a rainy day fund. It is a crisis now for 10,000 homeless people and hundreds of thousands on the waiting list. There are also hundreds of people on trolleys every day in hospitals. They do not need reassurance that we are prepared for the future. They need things to happen now. It is an insult to them to say that it is better to lock people's money away while so many are waiting for treatment. I just received a call from a woman who was to have a vital procedure in Galway hospital today. She was all ready to go but she was told there is no bed. There has been a reduction in the number of nurses in recent years, including in Mayo. The money that has been set aside for the rainy day fund should be put into the services that are needed right here and right now. It should also be used for investment in infrastructure in rural areas. Last week I spoke about a community between Westport and Louisburgh that did not have any proper quality water. There should be a reconsideration of the rainy day fund and the investment should be made there. That makes absolute sense because of the multiplier effect in terms of job creation. It is vital that such investment is made now in rural areas. We recently ratified the UN convention on disability. Substantial funding will be required to ensure the implementation of the convention. The money should be used for that as well.
In reply to my colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, the Minister for Finance recently said his intention remains to transfer €1.5 billion from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, and to make annual transfers of €500 million per year in each year from 2019 to 2021, as was published last month in the stability programme update. What guarantees are there that this will not just be a backup fund for bankers and speculators if they behave deplorably again? It is being said that this is to make our economy more resilient, yet the Government continues to reference the economic crash when justifying its set-up. There needs to be a rethink about that. It shows the Government does not have an understanding of the immediate issues that need to be addressed here and now. If we did not have homeless people and people who are left waiting on trolleys for vital treatment, then we could have a rainy day fund, but not under the current circumstances.
On behalf of my group I express sincere sympathies and condolences to the families of the two young women so tragically killed in recent days, Jastine Valdez and Anastasia Kriegel. I am sure all colleagues will want to join in that.
Perhaps the Leader could arrange to have a debate after the referendum on women's health. I hope, as do all who are canvassing for a "Yes" vote on Friday, that we will wake up on Saturday morning to a more inclusive, caring and compassionate Ireland if the "Yes" vote prevails, which I very much hope it will. It is so important for women's health that we see a change to our law to enable us finally to reform the law on abortion, to lift the absolute bar that exists in the Constitution, and to allow us to legislate for the many women who need to be able to access abortion care services here in Ireland. Anyone who has been canvassing across the country, as I have in recent weeks, will be conscious of how many people accept that the law is too restrictive and that after 35 years it is time for a change. I wish everyone canvassing the very best and hope that the "Yes" vote will prevail on Friday.
Could I also ask the Leader for a debate on a related matter, namely, CervicalCheck? I received much correspondence from many who have been affected by that, both women and men, who have been bereaved because partners or wives have died of cervical cancer and are now deeply concerned about the accuracy of the CervicalCheck system and also concerned about the communication strategies within the HSE, and with consultants and CervicalCheck itself. People are still looking for reassurance in that regard. I know everyone will follow the Scally inquiry closely. On Saturday a group of people gathered at Leinster House to express their concern about the very real issues that still remain on CervicalCheck. We clearly need greater transparency around the guidelines on communication. I know we have had debates on it in the House but we might have an ongoing debate on it, as on other important issues of women's health.
On a positive note I very much thank all those involved in making Friday evening's event in the Seanad Chamber such a success. We held an event as part of the Vótáil 100 programme to commemorate the centenary of women's suffrage in conjunction with the National Museum. It went very well. We had a big crowd in attendance. It was wonderful to see the great interaction with audience members and to get so much support from Oireachtas staff - ushers, communications staff and all of those involved. I thank everyone involved. I also thank the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, CPP, which initially gave permission for the use of the Chamber for this event and for a number of other events run in conjunction with the National Museum.
I welcome the extension of the hours during which rural link buses operate. They are extending until 11 p.m. at night on a couple of days at the weekend on a pilot basis over a considerable part of the country, including five routes in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. It is a good initiative because we have a real problem with rural isolation and people who are not able to access a social life. We must reconcile the absolute need for road safety with the equal right of people to access social amenities, to shop in town and to have a social drink, if that is what they want to do. With that in mind I ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, to the House to discuss the real need to incentivise publicans to leave their customers home, and in some instances to collect them.This is happening informally in any case because publicans are responsible people who are concerned about their customers. The practice could be incentivised, however, and this could be done at low cost or virtually on a cost-neutral basis if one factors in the revenue this would generate. If, for example, a vehicle registration tax exemption were applied to the vehicles of publicans and measures were introduced to impact positively on their insurance costs, it would incentivise them to bring customers home. Moreover, it would create a moral imperative and societal requirement for publicans to do this because once a community learned that publicans were being provided with advantages for brining customers home, the practice would become the norm. It would also save lives and give people access to their local pub.
There is a serious problem of people being cut off from having a social life and this can cause mental illness, depression and associated difficulties. Everyone should have the right to have the same quality of life as his or her peers. Why should someone living near a Luas line in Dublin have a different quality of life and better access to a social life than someone who happens by choice and often not by choice to live in an isolated area and also wants to access a social life? I appeal to the Leader to take this issue seriously and ask the Minister to come to the House to discuss a range of measures to incentivise publicans to bring home their customers. This will mean creating an expectation among customers that publicans will provide such a service and publicans will be rewarded for providing such a service. This practice is common already but it is done informally. We should formalise, normalise and support it. Given that it can be done in an almost cost-neutral way, it is a no-brainer.
The general data protection regulation, GDPR, comes into force on Friday, 25 May. Many public information campaigns have highlighted the need for data controllers to prepare for this event and many companies and businesses have been advising employees on how best to prepare to ensure they are compliant with the GDPR. Unfortunately, a number of school principals have contacted me indicating that they have not heard a dicky bird from the Minister for Education and Skills or his officials on this issue. Schools have not been given any direction on how best to handle this particular issue. Surely the Minister should have introduced a circular long before now advising schools on the steps they must take to ensure compliance with the new regulation that will come into force on Friday next.
I note, however, that the Minister issued a circular this week advising schools to consult parents on the use of smartphones. As we know, smartphones can be used to record video and audio and send texts. A question arises as to who is in charge of these types of information and this raises serious issues about data control and how the use of smartphones should be regulated on school grounds. I am disappointed to note that it appears from the evidence, with less than two days to go before the GDPR takes effect, that the Minister is very much behind the curve on this issue. I appeal to the Leader to impress on the Minister the urgent need to issue advice to schools, even at this late stage, on how to become compliant with the GDPR by Friday. The current position is unfair to schools and boards of management, which should not have been placed in this position.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and address the national farm survey statistics published by Teagasc last night. I am pleased to note that the average farm income has increased by 32% to slightly more than €31,000. The dairy sector, in which income has increased by 65%, is the major contributor. Incomes in tillage have increased by 20% and incomes in sheep farming are up by 8%. While this is good news, it must be treated with care because average figures can be deceiving. Someone once told me that the best description of an average is a person whose feet are in the freezer and whose head is in the oven because while his body temperature may be average, he will be dying.
Subsidies and support from the European Union account for 56% of farm income, which is a substantial portion of the revenue of farmers. As all of us know, dairy fortunes are market driven and the increase in dairy incomes is a reaction to a deficit in the market for dairy produce. If we remove dairy incomes from the equation, the average income for farm businesses stands at approximately €20,000, with a beef unit averaging between €12.500 and €16,000, which is not a large amount of money with which to raise a family. The current position is not sustainable. We must be mindful that in isolation and without support mechanisms, agriculture would not be sustainable. We must also bear in mind that the success of the sector will be key to the success of the country. It needs investment, including support for research and development, innovation and education as these will be critical if we are to professionalise the industry and make it fit for purpose, fit for the future and sustainable. It would be dangerous to be complacent based on the Teagasc figures. We must, therefore, avoid complacency.
It would be a major mistake to reduce pressure to provide support for the agriculture industry. We must maintain this pressure, invest for the future and support the areas to which I referred. Marketing of the food produced on the island of Ireland will be key to this success. We should also bear in mind that yesterday's figures were produced against the backdrop of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. We must not be misled by one set of encouraging figures for the agrifood industry and farming because serious concerns remain. We must all put our shoulder to the wheel to ensure agriculture is supported, profitable and sustainable.
I welcome an announcement made today on the Garda's use of pedal power. This morning, I attended a meeting with representatives of Retail Excellence Ireland at which concerns were raised about the visual presence of gardaí. In Limerick this morning, the Garda announced that 36 gardaí will be trained for deployment on bicycles. Of these, 12 are in training, while the remainder are to be trained in the coming week. Senators may laugh and ask why gardaí need training to ride a bike. It seems they need to learn particular techniques for dealing with crime while cycling. This approach will create a more visual Garda presence and enable gardaí to reach scenes of crime much faster and approach culprits silently from behind. This will be important because concerns about a lack of Garda visibility on the streets were raised by traders this morning. I welcome the announcement that the number of gardaí in Limerick is to increase. I hope this approach will be replicated nationwide.
The new deal for post offices has been endorsed by 80% of postmasters and postmistresses. Of the 1,189 post offices, 584 voted in favour. Did any of the postmasters and postmistresses seek legal advice on what they were signing? Incidentally, the documents they signed are not legally binding. They were offered a new contract, which involves taking an exit package of €15,000 or €25,000. Those who choose to remain on the current package face being wound down as their income will be only be guaranteed for two and a half years, after which they will be on their own. It costs €75 million per annum to run the post office network, yet the Government only committed €30 million this year, of which €15 million is for the mail division and a further €15 million is for the post office network. It is proposed to shut down 390 post office branches, which means only the great will survive. The banks have left our towns and villages and members of the public must deal with machines every time they visit a bank branch, even in Ranelagh.
They have effectively gone from rural Ireland but we need not worry because the post offices will do the job for them. What job? That is my question for this morning. The post office is going to bolster the immoral failing banks.
They tried this in the UK. The UK wanted to bail out the post offices because the banks were making all the profits. Why can we not have the Kiwi community banking system developed in Ireland? It could be given to the post offices as opposed to using the greed of our failing banks through the post offices while taking all the profits. Why will this new pilot banking system not be allowed through our post offices? The Government says it will put the banking services into the post offices. What banking services is it talking about? It is talking about the already big greedy banks we have in Ireland. The Kiwi banking community systems operates in New Zealand. After 19 years the system commands 20% of the actual profits. Can we imagine such money being put back into locales?
I know I have gone on a little. What has happened to promote the Private Members' motion signed up to by 158 people in the Dáil on the Kiwi banking system?
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business. I want the Minister to come in. I would like to ask him to explain these questions. I heard the Minister speaking in the Dáil last evening to Deputy Harty. He did not explain the answers to any of these questions. This is serious because it is about privatisation. It is about the big boys staying as the big boys and the bigger boys, who have failed this country banking-wise, being put in as kind of mentors for our already brilliant post offices. No new system is being allowed in the door. We keep on pushing it onto a shelf. We do not deal with it even as a pilot programme in three or four banks. Why can the Kiwi community system of banking not be put in as a pilot programme? I would like the Minister to answer some of those questions so I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business.
As it is the last day that we will be speaking before the referendum, I wanted to say a few words on it this morning. I will start by congratulating the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris. I thought he did exceptionally well yesterday evening in the debate. There is no question but that he won the debate last night.
I want to expand on that point. A number of us from all parties have been working with Together for Yes. It has been an inspiring experience to work with Together for Yes. We have seen young men and young women in particular coming in for the first time to politics to debate this crucial issue. Wherever I have worked with them, whether in Limerick, Dublin or Athlone, it has been very impressive. We had 60 people out in the north side of Limerick on Monday evening for a canvas. The group incorporated representatives of the Green Party, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats. There was of course a big Sinn Féin presence and there were people from no parties at all. We came together to work towards what is hoped will be a successful result on Friday.
I was particularly struck in Athlone on Friday evening. I am from Westmeath originally. My first engagement in politics was in 1983 when campaigning against this awful amendment.
It was a difficult time. Frankly, we were isolated at the time during that campaign. I came back on Friday to see a huge crowd of people marching through Athlone demanding justice and a "Yes" vote. The extraordinary passion and integrity of that crowd struck me. Regardless of the result on Friday we have to recognise the tremendous contribution of the Together for Yes campaign. I think it is a template we can use, one hopes, to make progressive politics real in many other instances.
My last word on this topic is to call for those who are still unsure about which way to vote to look at the key fact that I learned on the committee. I suspect the Leader will agree with me. No change is possible in respect of the awful circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality, rape or incest. A 12 year old child had to travel to England in March this year to get help. No change is possible at all unless we repeal the eighth amendment. I appeal to everyone to come out and support that campaign. I hope we will get the right result on Friday.
I would like to raise the worrying trend of the creeping up of oil prices and, in particular, the recent spike in the price of a barrel of oil. The rise has abated but only slightly on account of the increase in production by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, or the release of crude oil.
While it all sounds very international, it has real consequences for our economy. Stock exchange traders are telling us that in the medium to long-term we are looking at an increase in oil prices. It serves to remind us how dependent we are on oil for transport and heat, and how, notwithstanding our great ambitions, we are not making great inroads to displacing our dependence on fossil fuels. Not only has this the ability to impact on business and on how we operate commercially, it impacts on the ordinary household as well. When a person goes to the petrol pump, she pays for oil or diesel and for home heating oil as well. This eats into disposable income of people in spite of all the hard-won gains resulting from increased employment. Many people are also paying over-the-top mortgage interest rates, but that is another debate. It has to be a critical concern.
This has to be a clarion call for us to get something done with regard to alternative fuel sources for oil and heating. At the moment, even the SEAI grant to upgrade a boiler involves replacing it with an oil-fired central heating boiler. It is the same in local authority housing, where those responsible are upgrading the heating systems but are putting in oil and nothing else.
The battery car seems to be more of a novelty than a reality, notwithstanding that we encourage people to switch. There are not many hybrids and they will be seen as transitional. There have been drives to encourage liquefied petroleum gas but the technology has not been rolled out for commercial fleets or heavy goods vehicles. We are far behind. It is amazing.
The Citizens' Assembly considered climate change. The headline was to the effect that we should put another carbon tax on farmers. There is a great deal of ignorance on the issue. It would be another good reason for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, to come to the House, especially since the European Commissioner, Mr. Hogan, told us that our 2020 renewable energy targets will not be rolled over to 2030 and we could face fines of at least €600 million per year. That is only estimated since the European Court of Justice would decide the fine. This is critical and urgent. It has the potential to stymie our economic growth, impact on households and prevent us from achieving our climate change targets. Will the Minister come to the House for a serious debate on the matter?
First, I second the amendment of Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell. It is very important that the doctor who was in charge of the international inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar came to Ireland and said authoritatively and definitively that the eighth amendment was the cause of Savita Halappanavar's death. That is it, full stop, end of story. It was the cause.
It is extraordinary to me that with two days to go and after 35 years, the "No" side has suddenly decided that it is prepared to tinker with the amendment. What a laugh. Does anyone in this country believe them? I certainly do not.
A total of 50% of pregnancies end in early miscarriage. That is an astonishing statistic and it means that Mother Nature is a great abortionist.
The Minister was excellent on RTÉ television last night. Well done to the Minister.
Earlier this week, I commended the Pope on his gentle and loving words towards a young gay Chilean man. I have discovered since then that one of the Dutch cardinals has attacked him for heresy. I am altogether grateful to him for bringing to my attention the fact that one of his other complaints is that a group of cardinals are talking about blessing gay unions. Good for them. I said many years ago that considering the fact that they bless domestic animals, including goldfish, tractors and bombs, it would not burst them to bless a couple of fairies while they are at it. I happen to know that goldfish are not lesbians in any case. With goldfish, it is impossible to tell.
I have to laugh at the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, and this blather about the Judiciary. The Judiciary is made up of thoroughly decent people. I do not know of a single instance of judicial corruption.It is old rubbish from the Minister, Deputy Ross. It is like saying we should establish a panel of lay people to pick Government Ministers.
I will do my best. It will not be easy. I will certainly never be as entertaining.
With a referendum upon us, there is huge concern about the electoral register, the maintenance of which is shambolic. The environment committee of the Houses found at the last election that the register contained almost 500,000 more people than it should have. There are huge inaccuracies, as we know, which leaves the system open to abuse and voter fraud. It leads to a bloated and totally incorrect electoral register. Equally, there are situations in which people have been taken off the register who are still alive and at their home addresses. Neighbours who have emigrated, however, remain on the register. We cannot do much about it in the short term but there is great concern about the electoral register at the moment.
On the important subject matter on which we have to vote on Friday, I agree with Senator Bacik that women's health is a very important issue, as is the health of men and children. It would be very wrong to equate that with the extinguishment of human life by making it lawful. That would be totally wrong. It runs counter to everything we ever stood for or believed in. I hope we will be sensible on Friday.
I had a Commencement matter on the post office network yesterday, which was attended by the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I support the call, therefore, for the Minister, Deputy Naughten, to come to the House. Of particular concern is the fact that the social welfare contract represents 60% of post office business yet we have no commitment as to its long-term future with the post office network.
Joanne, Natalia, Anastasia and Jastine are four women that we know of who have been murdered in as many months in Ireland. Ireland was not built for us. The recent launch by Women's Aid of, "Against the Odds", its femicide watch report for 2017, includes stark and frightening statistics of violence against women and children and uncovers the largely hidden abuse in Irish society. A YouTube video was sent to me by some young women in Australia. Many of our young women are abroad. They are very anxious to have their say but they will not be here. They have made a documentary called "This is Ireland". They cover our history from the inception of the State regarding institutions right up to the fatal CervicalCheck scandal of recent times. It shows that this country was not built for women. Ours are the voices which will change this nation. We will cast our vote on Friday to ensure this. We must support "Together for Yes". I also ask the Leader to prioritise the recommendations of the Women's Aid publication "Against the Odds".
However, there was an article in the Express on Sundaylast weekend which said there would be a concerted effort at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Sligo in two weeks' time to go over the head of the Taoiseach on ten reasons Ireland should leave the EU. This will not happen.
We are absolutely committed members of the EU. At the last poll, over 92% expressed satisfaction with the EU. I say again that we want a good deal for our colleagues in the United Kingdom, but the following is also happening. The Right Honourable Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that if the Irish Government obliges the UK to choose between the Republic of Ireland and the Union, they will chose the latter. We are in a very difficult situation but there are two people drowning here. There is the European Union and the United Kingdom. If people like Jacob Rees-Mogg continue to make unhelpful statements, they could be the catalyst for the break-up of the United Kingdom. Not only that, Mr. Rees-Mogg may also come to be seen as the midwife who delivered a united Ireland.
I apologise for being late. I have just come from the housing committee. I acknowledge the great Kerry gardener, Mr. Billy Alexander, who was announced today as one of the major prize winners at the Chelsea Flower Show. It is a remarkable success story. People may know him from his famous wild Atlantic garden at Kells Bay. Anyone who has not been should go. It is an amazing story which is being covered in the media. Conscious of that, I express the hope that many of us will make the effort to support the Bloom festival, which starts next week. It is the premier show championing Irish horticulture. It deals with food, innovation, organics, nursery stock and production and it is a very important showcase for Irish horticulture. Hopefully, we will revisit that on next week's Order of Business. The nursery stock industry is a vibrant one with enormous potential for growth and job creation and I congratulate Mr. Billy Alexander on his success at Chelsea.
I thank the 16 Members who contributed on the Order of Business. I note regarding the amendment proposed by Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell that the Minister is not available today but he will be here on Wednesday when he is prepared to make time available after he deals with his Bill for statements on the matter the Senator raises. I will come back to her comments later.
Senator Mark Daly raised the issue of housing. The Department is working on the approved housing Bill and residential tenancies Bill. It is intended that the legislation will be published this term with a view to enactment. To be fair, it is important to acknowledge that the Government has not been stalling this in any way.
Senator Daly also referred to the issue of corporate manslaughter. Last week, the Minister came to the House at Senator Daly's request. I refer Minister Daly - Senator Daly, I mean, albeit perhaps a future Minister - to the Minister's reply. When I called the Senator "Minister", there was a chilling effect.
I will not read the Minister's reply to the House but Senator Daly must be fair here. We have never, on this side of the House, blocked a Bill coming in. The Senator made a request to us and the Bill passed on Second Stage. The Minister made a very clear point to the Senator last week and he needs to be fair about it. It is the Minister's understanding that it is not expected that such Bills will not be accepted without due consideration. The Senator should also read what the Minister said about the aspects of the Bill which require further consideration and the fact that the legislation sponsored by the Senator is almost identical to the Bill published by the Law Reform Commission. The Minister repeated in his reply to the Senator the offer of further engagements with officials and indicated that if Senators considered that it would be helpful, the Department was open to other suggestions they might have. As such, the Minister has an open door for the Senator.
The gully trap needs to be plugged as well or the water will keep leaking.
The Department is working on the insurance (amendment) Bill to implement the recommendations of the Review of the Framework for Motor Insurance Compensation in Ireland report and it will be published soon. As the Senator knows quite well, the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, when he was Minister of State at the Department of Finance, set up a working group, with which the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, is engaging. Senator Craughwell, in his contribution, referenced his own story. If one were to listen to Senator Mark Daly this morning, one would never know there was a 14% decline last year in the cost of car insurance and that, since 2016, there has been a 20% decline. A point that Senator Mark Daly did not reference this morning was that between 2003 and 2016 there was a 70% increase, the most of which was in the Senator's party's time in government.
The Government promised legislation. I asked where was the legislation the Government promised. The Government has not brought in the legislation. A minuscule drop in some areas does not make any difference to those concerned, including the Men's Sheds and the businesses that are beholden to pay enormous costs-----
I fully understand the protestation of Senator Mark Daly because I would be embarrassed at seeing those costs under the reign of Fianna Fáil. The Senator is correct though. We should not put up a barrier and the insurance companies must have a social responsibility to organisations, such as the Men's Sheds or community associations. I agree completely with the Senator on that because those organisations are providing a significant service to the community and they are an inspiration.
We have distinguished visitors in the Gallery and I welcome them. We must look at what are the costs associated with why the premiums are so high, whether it is the compensation system and what are the other factors around the cost of insurance being so high, and that is what the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, is committed to and what Government has started. Reductions of 14% and 20% are a good start. I accept we have, to borrow Fianna Fáil's famous phrase, "a lot more to do".
Senators Craughwell, Bacik, Gavan, Norris, Devine and Coghlan all made reference to the eighth amendment and the vote that will take place on Friday. I will not - the Cathaoirleach will be glad - engage in a party political reply. It is in the hands of the people to make a decision on Friday.
Like many Members of the House, I was privileged to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. I chaired the Joint Committee on Health and Children which dealt with the protection of life during pregnancy legislation. I respect that within this Chamber there are differing viewpoints, as there are in Irish society.
This referendum is an important one. Senator Gavan is 100% correct. The only way we can change the present system is by voting "Yes" on Friday. If we vote "No" on Friday, the status quoremains. It is completely disingenuous of one side of the argument to say that we can change and deal with the so-called "hard cases". The hard cases are about the lives of those who have been affected - women, their husbands or partners-----
I respect, as I stated at the beginning of this debate, whatever way the people will vote but I hope that the people will go out and vote and that they will vote in a compassionate and genuine way. I will not give a lecture to anybody today, but let us be fair. There is only one way we can change and deal with life in general, and that is by voting "Yes" on Friday.