Seanad debates

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

10:30 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Before I ask the Leader to outline the Order of Business, I welcome two lovely young ladies to the Seanad Chamber, Alison and Caoimhe Donegan, whose great-grandfather was a Deputy and a Senator. I also welcome their father, who is a regular visitor to the House. It is nice to see young people coming in to visit us. It is a sign that a new generation is coming up.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear. It is a pity there are not more like them.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Cathaoirleach, before I outline the Order of Business, I also wish to welcome Alison, Caoimhe and their father, Bart, who come from a very distinguished family of public servants from Cork. I hope they are enjoying their summer holidays. I commend the family for its service and I join with the Cathaoirleach in welcoming them.

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on European production and preservation orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters, to be taken on conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, Private Members' business, Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill 2018 - Second Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m., with the time allocated for the debate not to exceed two hours; No. 3, statements on Palestine, to be taken at 2.45 p.m and to conclude no later than 4 p.m., with the contributions of Senators not to exceed six minutes and the Minister to be given no less than six minutes to reply to the debate, and time may be shared; No. 4, Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 - Second Stage (Resumed), to be taken on conclusion of No. 3, and the time remaining in that debate is 15 minutes; No. 5, Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 - all Stages, to be taken on conclusion of No. 4, with the time allocated to group spokespersons in the debate on Second Stage not to exceed six minutes and all other Senators not to exceed four minutes and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply to the debate, Committee and Remaining Stages to be taken immediately thereafter; No. 6-----

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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How long does the Leader estimate that will take?

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I have no idea. It should not take overly long. The Order of Business was agreed by all sides of the House.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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That is fine.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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No. 6, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (Resumed), to be taken on conclusion of No. 5 and to be adjourned no later than 6.45 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 7, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 - message from Dáil Éireann, to be taken at 6.45 p.m., with the contributions of Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be given no less than five minutes to reply to the debate; and No. 8, Heritage Bill 2016 - Report Stage (Amendments from the Dáil) and Final Stage, to be taken on conclusion of No. 7 or at 7.15 p.m., whichever is the later.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome Bart, Alison and Caoimhe Donegan to the Seanad and to Leinster House, a building that their family has served in with distinction and honour for many years.

The issue of disturbances in Derry and attempts by Catholic and Protestant church leaders to ensure the marching season and 12 July pass by peacefully have again come to the fore. Youths have been arrested, shots fired at security forces and there has been a return to inter-communal strife between residents of the Bogside and Fountain areas of Derry. Those issues must be addressed, although there will not be time to so do in this session. The ongoing drift in Northern Ireland caused by the absence of a functioning Assembly in Stormont has led to a lack of decisions and inadequate progress in the peace process. It is of concern to all Senators. I ask the Leader to allocate time for us to comprehensively address that matter in the next session.

All Senators are concerned by the health service. The HSE has money lying idle for home helps but a staffing crisis is preventing it being used. This issue does not affect only my county. In Galway, Mayo and Roscommon there were 45,000 unused home care hours in the first three months of this year. One in every four people in the country waiting for home help is in that area but no HSE staff are available to carry out the work. There is a systems failure of monumental proportions not just in terms of the startling home help crisis but across the health service and that must be addressed. A trolley crisis, equivalent to that in the annual January peak period, occurs daily. That is another systems failure. People arriving by ambulance at Cork University Hospital may wait for three hours before the ambulance can release them to the care of the accident and emergency department to receive treatment. Step-down beds are available in hospitals such as those in Kenmare, Dingle and Tralee but there are insufficient staffing levels to be able to allow patients use them. Meanwhile, the HSE is spending hundreds of millions of euro on agency staff. All of those issues point to a systems failure in our health service.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, is responsible for much legislation of huge importance which has come before the Seanad, whether from his Department or through the Department of Justice and Equality by proxy. However, Ryanair has cancelled 30 flights and a proposed strike tomorrow will affect businesses and the economy.Despite this, while the Minister is willing to intervene in just about every other system and every other Department, he will not intervene in his own to ensure that flights continue between Ireland and the rest of the world. I will refer to Fine Gael rather than the Government because we know the tail is wagging the dog at the moment, but maybe the dog will take control of its own tail.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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I thought Senator Daly's party was the tail.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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No. Senator Conway-Walsh's party is the tail. We know all about what is happening with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. We all know what is happening with the dog and the tail in that regard.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Will the Senators allow Senator Daly to conclude?

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Perhaps the dog will control its tail and perhaps the Minister will intervene in an area that would be of benefit to society and the country, rather than doing what he is doing in areas outside of his own jurisdiction.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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I commend the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, for coming before the Joint Committee on Health today. The representatives outlined the stark reality of what work is like for their nurses. I will read a short passage for the House:

The reality of the ED Nurses daily/nightly experience is described as deep frustration and anger at the fact that they feel unable to care for their patient's fundamental needs in the way they would wish and are trained to do. The physical environment where patients are crammed together within touching distance of each other, with little or no privacy, poor hygiene facilities are inadequate to maintain patient dignity or privacy. This is a dehumanising and degrading experience for patients, their relatives and those that care for them is, and is now in its second decade.

That sums up what is happening in our hospital emergency departments and the conditions in which nurses have to work and in which patients are treated.

I refer to the previous speaker who talked about home help. The fact is Fianna Fáil went through this country and took hours from people who were vulnerable and elderly. A 99 year old man in Westport was told that he could not even have two hours' home help a week under Fianna Fáil. That was the reality of it. When it was supposed to stand up to the troika and protect our heath services, it offered them up as a sacrifice as it bankrupted the country. I will not take lectures from Fianna Fáil on what is happening within the home help service now.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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With all due respect to the Leader-----

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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Fianna Fáil set it up so it should not expect anything else.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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-----and to the Cathaoirleach-----

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator has had his say.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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-----the right honourable Member had an opportunity to go into government and to form a government-----

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Did Senator Daly say "the right honourable Member"?

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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The other matter-----

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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-----and chose not to.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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I thought we----

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I believe she and her party went to the cinema.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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I thought we were not fit for government. Maybe I missed something.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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No. With the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill we have seen quite clearly that Sinn Féin's ability to be whipped is beyond question.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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If Senator Daly continues talking over my head I will suspend the sitting for ten minutes.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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On the matter of the hospitals, the trolleys and the people in those conditions that have been described, it is not the judges who are lying on these trolleys. It is the ordinary citizens of our country.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Judges are citizens too. They could well be on trolleys.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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It is great to see so many people fighting for the judges and their protectionism, but I wish they would fight for the ordinary people of this country instead of sacrificing them in the way they have.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Some of us have done so for years.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator's time is almost up. She has ten seconds.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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I have been interrupted time and again.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Conway-Walsh provoked many of the interruptions.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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I need to talk very briefly about what is happening in respect of Translarna. I have spoken about it several times in the House. I welcome the fact that the drug company PTC has withdrawn its legal charges. There is now an opportunity for the HSE to get back into negotiations on the price, which it did not do in the first place, and to look at the conditions around the expert evidence available at the time. I want the Minister for Health to outline the timeline and process involved in the approval of Translarna and to take responsibility for it. It is not good enough for the Minister for Health to abdicate responsibility while there are five children in this country waiting for a drug that will enable them to continue walking.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I thought there was a little shower of rain earlier. That would cool things down.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I agree with the Cathaoirleach.

Photo of Grace O'SullivanGrace O'Sullivan (Green Party)
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The 2018 sustainable development goals report, Global Responsibilities - Implementing the Goals, was issued just this week. This index is a measure of progress across all 17 sustainable development goals. Countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland are top of the ranking in terms of their progress towards achieving their goals by 2030. It was no shock to see that, with regard to the sustainable development goals relating to the environment, Ireland is on the red list, which means we have a very poor status. When it comes to the proportion of renewable energy in the total amount of electricity we consume, we have a red mark and a very poor rating. When it comes to responsible consumption and production, again Ireland fares really badly. On climate action and energy emissions, again we see a red dot and Ireland performing very poorly. On sustainable development goal 14, life below water, Ireland receives a red dot in respect of ocean health. Ireland again performs very badly. We seem to be missing leadership when it comes to environment and water health. In fact, with regard to life on land, Ireland is not performing and receives a red mark in respect of the annual change in forest area. We are not, in any way, moving towards achieving the sustainable development goals we have signed up to by 2030.

I want the Members of the House to be aware of this. We have to work together and we have to try to meet our international obligations. We have to work together to put pressure on the Government and on Members of all parties and none to work towards protecting the Irish environment. This index shows we are not measuring up whatsoever, so we need to take action.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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In the context of the possible forthcoming presidential election, I have to say that it is very disillusioning to see the three principal political parties, that is, all the principal parties except for Sinn Féin, attempting to close off the nomination process. It is quite wrong.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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On a point of information, the Fine Gael Party has not yet made a decision. The Senator is again misinforming the House.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader will have a chance and ample opportunity to respond in his reply.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Senator Norris has been misinforming the House all week.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader can correct the record later. He should not interrupt.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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He is being left-----

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Senior people in Fine Gael are briefing the media on this repeatedly.

(Interruptions).

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I was talking about Fine Gael, not Fianna Fáil, but they are all in it. All the political parties are in it. They are doing their very best to close off the nomination process and prevent the ordinary people having any access to the nomination process for the Presidency of Ireland.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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There he goes again.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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They are not interested in it themselves. They want to save their money. They could not be bothered and do not think that there is anybody of sufficient talent within their own ranks. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps there is nobody of talent in these parties. They should not seek, however, to close off the nomination process from the ordinary people. I am delighted that the councillors are rebelling. I would like to incite this rebellion in the councillors. It is one of the most important powers they have.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Bring back Norris.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Turning to the disturbances in Derry, the attacks from the Bogside on the Fountain area, which is a small Protestant enclave, are very disturbing. They show how dangerous it is to allow any opportunity for dissident republicans to take up this thing. In fact, it shows how volatile the situation would be if there were any attempt to institute a Border again in this country. With regard to setting a spark, incendiary activities and all the rest of it, these bonfires that the so-called Protestants set up are appalling. I am glad that I am a member of the Church of Ireland, which is the reformed Catholic Church in this country and which is not associated with this shower up in the North of Ireland. These monumental, enormous, vast skyscrapers are partly triumphalism and partly these people marking out their territory.They seem to be very threatened, but I would say to them that the only way forward is by sharing. That is the only way they will get anywhere, not contesting, not being territorial, not attacking one's neighbours but trying to share what is good in the country.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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That was a wonderful speech.

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)
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I wish to follow on from your comments, a Chathaoirligh, in welcoming the delegation from north Cork, Bart Donegan and his two daughters. I served with Bart on Cork County Council and his father, Mick Donegan, the girls' grandfather. He was a great patriot and a great person and I worked very well with him over the years. It is great to have them in the House.

I raise the plight of the agricultural community that seems to have materialised following the drought, in particular in the past five to six weeks. Four and a half months ago we had snow and now there has been no rain in my part of the country for the past five and a half to six weeks. There is a knock-on effect on the water supply and grass growth has become a major issue. Other crops are affected as well, in particular spring cereals.

We must consider how we will manage the vast amount of stock in the future. We have 365,000 extra cows in the country since 2013. We must have a plan in place for when we have extreme weather events. In the past five years, in both 2013 and 2018, we went to France to get fodder for the winter. Given the scenario we are in at the moment we must come up with a long-term strategic plan so that we are not going to France when the situation develops into an emergency. If we have to import fodder it should be done on a managed basis. The situation is becoming dire in that most of the second cut of silage has been either grazed or cut and fed to cattle. Fodder will be an incredibly important issue for the agricultural community for the coming winter.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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It is difficult to hear Senator Lombard because there are so many discussions going on in the Chamber. I find it hard to hear the Senator and I am sure the Leader does also.

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)
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We need to consider how we are going to deal with the issue. Going forward, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine must be proactive in ensuring that winter fodder will be imported and be available. We must put a strategic plan in place now to ensure fodder comes into this country not in March or April of next year but before the winter begins.

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)
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I praise the Men's Sheds Association which operates throughout the length and breadth of this country. As Members know, the emergence of men's sheds is a fairly recent development and they are now located in many areas around the country. I am familiar with the one in Monaghan town. It has been a great development and offers great solace as well as outreach to men who for one reason or another feel isolated. They could be retired or unemployed. The groups are made up of tradespersons of all ilks. It is a fantastic organisation that deserves great praise. In light of all that, it is difficult to understand the decision by the HSE and the Government to cut funding to the Men's Sheds Association nationally by up to 7%. We are talking about a cut of almost €19,000. That is most regrettable and will affect their ability to function as a national association. It is difficult to understand the thinking behind the cut given the relatively small amount of money involved and the immeasurable return for society.

I am sure I speak for most men when I say that a lot of us find it difficult to talk, to open up and discuss how we are feeling, especially when we are feeling down. The Men's Sheds Association reaches out to people who are going through difficult times and offers them a base where they can meet people, have a chat and a cup of tea and get involved in voluntary and community projects. It has been a great success story. For that reason, I am astonished that the Government would decide to cut its funding. I ask the Leader to bring this up with the Minister for Health and get the funding reinstated as a matter of urgency.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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Many of my colleagues will be aware of the good work done by the PEACE IV programme, funding for which comes through the European Regional Development Fund, ERDF. It brings €270 million into the country. Projects are 85% funded from Europe. Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth and Sligo directly benefit. The programme funds shared educational initiatives for children and young people among other projects. It is a very important fund. For example, Cavan County Council gets in excess of €1 million for PEACE projects. Its importance is highlighted in particular in the context of the fighting and trouble in Derry over recent nights. The fund is crucial.

The European Social Fund is also crucial for employment. It has funded a number of initiatives throughout the country. I am very familiar with a number of them in Cavan and Monaghan. I call on the Leader to arrange a special debate in this House to discuss with the relevant Ministers - if necessary we could have more than one debate - how to keep the funds in place and to prevent them being reduced following Brexit. Even though we will be losing the UK from the EU the funds should be maintained at the same level. The European Social Fund, which deals with unemployment in general and the creation of employment, would be much more crucial in a post-Brexit situation. We need to protect PEACE IV, the European Social Fund and regional funding for the entire Border area. I call on the Leader to provide a debate on the issue to ensure that none of the funding is lost. I previously called on the Leader to arrange a debate to hold on to the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, in its entirety but, similarly, I want to ensure we can hold onto those programmes because Ireland needs them. Such a debate is urgently required. Now is the time to address this issue.

Photo of Kevin HumphreysKevin Humphreys (Labour)
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I welcome the remarks of Senator Lombard on developing a long-term strategic plan for agriculture. Given the increased stocking levels of an extra 365,000 cows in the country I accept there is a stocking crisis and a fodder crisis. As Senator Grace O'Sullivan said earlier, there is an environmental crisis. Senator Lombard has an opportunity this evening to vote against the Heritage Bill, which attacks the very environment we have been trying to protect over a long period in this House. When the vote is called this evening I hope he puts his vote where his mouth is and votes down the Bill.

I have great respect for Senators Noone and McFadden who voiced their opinions on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. I recognise that Fine Gael has made an agreement with the Independent Alliance on the programme for Government. I can very well understand Senator Noone's remarks that she is better staying within Fine Gael and fighting for change and I respect that but perhaps Fine Gael would try to assist the Minister, Deputy Ross, in his ten core principles and priorities that are laid down by the Independent Alliance. One of those is to abolish the party whip in Leinster House. I suggest that perhaps we would have a conversation with the Independent Alliance and that Fine Gael would assist it on a trial basis on this occasion in that the whip would not be applied on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and that one of the Independent Alliance's core principles would be trialled over a number of days and let all parties vote without the whip being applied on a very important pillar of our democracy. Perhaps no party should apply a whip on this occasion and let people vote according to what they see as being the correct thing to do.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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I also condemn the attacks in Derry and wish to point out that great cross-community work is being done to try to address these very difficult issues. It is something we must highlight. We are in a much better situation in the past 20 years because of the Good Friday Agreement.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I can hardly hear the Senator. If people want to have a discussion they can go to the ante room. It is not fair. Senator Feighan is a quiet-spoken man. I have good hearing but I am finding it difficult to hear him at times. Ar aghaidh leat.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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Those in Derry will get to the bottom of this very difficult situation and will have our support. I commend the Irish Air Corps, which helped put out a forest fire in Slieve Gullion in County Armagh. This cross-Border co-operation sometimes goes unnoticed but we must welcome it.

I welcome Prince Harry and Meghan to Ireland. I have worn my Commonwealth tie today for everyone to see, to commemorate the occasion. What is happening is absolutely incredible. We have had the Taoiseach visiting east Belfast and the Orange Order and being welcomed and asked to come back again. We have had Prince Charles and Camilla coming to Cork and being welcomed. Today we have Harry and Meghan in Dublin. This all comes off the back of the most successful visit of the Queen and Prince Phillip to Dublin in 2011 and the reciprocal State visit of the President to the United Kingdom. The charm offensive is certainly working and most of the Irish public is falling for it. We need to counteract this successful charm offensive. The President should go on another State visit to the United Kingdom.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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Tomorrow is a very important day as it is the date the British Government has proposed to publish a White Paper on its exit from the European Union. It is a do or die day for Prime Minister May. The print was hardly set on the paper when it was denounced by David Davis and Boris Johnson, who have both walked out of Cabinet. It does not augur well for the White Paper becoming official policy if there is acoup d'état against Prime Minister May in the next few days.

Nevertheless, if the White Paper is agreed on and presented to Mr. Barnier, our diplomats and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, should be proactive in working with the British Government in respect of a good deal for the United Kingdom. A good deal for Britain should be a good deal for Ireland. We have so much in common and there is trade of €1.1 billion a week between our two countries. We have the most to lose in these negotiations.

I was in Vienna on Monday at a meeting of the chairmen of all the European affairs committees in the EU, including representatives from the UK Government. I reminded my colleagues that we are an island off an island off the mainland of Europe. We are more affected than any other region in the European Union. That is why we have to get special concessions. If the White Paper is agreed and becomes part of the negotiations, I am hopeful there will be a good outcome allowing free trade between the United Kingdom and Ireland on a constant basis without any barriers or borders and with freedom of movement of people, goods and services.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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From my travels in Europe, I acknowledge that Senator Leyden does a significant job in flying the flag for this country when he is abroad. The Senator is an old hand at the game.

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate the comment, a Chathaoirligh. You do likewise yourself.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Towards the very end of the Order of Business yesterday, the fantastic news came in that all 12 boys and their coach had been successfully rescued from the cave in Thailand. It was an amazing achievement in extremely difficult terrain and a very complex path. The best divers in the world took part. The story captured the hearts and minds of the entire world. I am delighted that one of the key people involved in the rescue was a gentleman living in Ennis, County Clare, called Jim Warny. He is originally from Belgium but lives and works in Ennis and is a very important member of our community in Clare. It shows that the outdoor physical activity that is taking place in Clare is bringing the best people in the world to live in and enjoy our county. It was wonderful to think somebody from Ennis was able to fly out last Friday and play a crucial role in the rescue of those 12 boys and their coach. I suggest that the Leader might write to the gentleman in Clare and pass on the admiration of the Upper House to him. It is great to think we have such heroic people living among us. It is a great story and I am delighted to share that news with Seanad Éireann today.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I call on the Leader to respond.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I thank the 11 Members for their contributions to the Order of Business. The Cathaoirleach has caught me on the hop.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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That is very rare.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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The Leader is like the battery; he is ever ready.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I join with Senators Daly, Norris and Feighan in their condemnation of the violence and attacks in Derry, which are unnecessary and unwanted. All of us condemn the provocation and attacks. As Senator Daly mentioned, we are on the edge of the marching season and of tomorrow's events in particular. I hope all who take part in tomorrow's marches are cognisant of all communities who live in the North of our country. We have made great progress and I hope tomorrow will be a day of peaceful demonstration and of parades. I do not use the word "demonstration" in the sense of protest. I welcome the decision of Ms Justice Keegan in the court in Belfast regarding bonfire size. As Senator Norris expressed, I hope that tomorrow we can all share in what is good and recognise that we have to live together on our island.

Senator Daly also made reference to the issue of home help. The Government has invested significantly in home help hours. As Senator Humphreys said yesterday, there is a road blockage somewhere regarding the allocation of home help hours and home care packages. I know from my own experience that there is a blockage somewhere in the system. I agree that we need to ensure that the system frees up that allocation of resources so that those who need home help hours or home care packages are able to avail of them.

Senator Daly also raised the Ryanair strike. We hope the strike will not discommode the travelling public. It is a matter for the industrial relations mechanisms of the State and it is a matter between Ryanair and its employees and their representatives. I welcome the talks taking place today. There is a lot of confusion about what a Minister can and cannot do.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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There sure is.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I do hope that the flying public will not be disrupted.

Senator Conway-Walsh made reference to the INMO and its input at the Joint Committee on Health. I thank the nurses' organisations and the nurses themselves for their work in our hospitals. The INMO is a trade union of the nurses which came to the health committee with a particular vantage point. There has been significant investment in the resourcing of our hospitals through recruitment, investment under the capital programme, and investment in upgrading facilities.There are ongoing issues, so we must change the model as part of our overall work. The Sláintecare report calls for further investment in primary care. For many, the emergency department should not be the first port of call. There are urgent care centres and out-of-hours South Doc and GPs. I accept that there are strains and pressures on those working in the health system.

The matter of Translarna was raised once again by Senator Conway-Walsh. I welcome the company's withdrawal of its challenge. As the Senator knows, the HSE negotiates with companies through the primary care reimbursement service, PCRS. There is an ongoing issue with the price of the drugs basket. The PCRS negotiates on behalf of the Government with various health-----

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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This-----

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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That is the reality.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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Yes, but the negotiation on this drug is done. This one is different.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I know, and I am not against what the Senator wants to achieve, but it is not the Minister who goes in, sits down and thumps the table. There is a way of doing this. Our drugs basket price has decreased. I would be happy to take up the matter on behalf of the Senator.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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Please do. The Minister is familiar with this matter and will know what I am talking about.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I would be happy to do that. Senator Grace O'Sullivan raised the important issue of our responsibilities under sustainable development. We are lagging behind other European countries in our commitments on climate change. I would be happy to arrange a debate on renewable energy. We need to keep working on this.

Senator Norris referred to the presidential election. In my response yesterday, I neglected to mention the important point made by Senator Conway regarding behaviour during election campaigns. He spoke about the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, having a role to play. I hope that all involved in the presidential election campaign - candidates and media - will take a sensible approach. We heard some commentary on the election on radio this morning. It is an important election.

I do not mean to sound a discordant note, but it is almost like Senator Norris can say whatever he wants in here and go unchecked. The Fine Gael Party has made no decision yet.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Yet.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The Fianna Fáil Party has made a decision, which is its prerogative.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Absolutely.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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No one has closed the option down. The Constitution is clear. Twenty Members of the Oireachtas or four city or county councils can sign a candidate's nomination. That is not closing it down. That is laid out under the Constitution.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Correct.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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If Senator Norris wants to change the Constitution, then let us put that question to the people in a referendum.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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It does tighten up the options.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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Do not tell us that Senator Wilson wants to go as well.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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All I am saying is that-----

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
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Does Sinn Féin have a candidate?

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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In connection with that, some of the commentary being levelled against the Fine Gael Party during the House's discourse on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is laughable. I will not take a lecture from anyone about the role of Fine Gael, as a party in government, in the appointment of judges, our support for the Judiciary or our support for the pillars of our society. I would certainly be happy to participate later and outline some of the mistruths being told by people in this House. If we are going to have a debate, let it be on the facts, not the personality of a Minister. At times this week, I despaired at the level of debate and the carry-on of some. It beggared belief. We wasted so much time. I appreciate that calling quorums and walk-through votes is a parliamentary device, and to be fair to my good friend, Senator Wilson, he was not the person calling the quorums, but some of the carry-on would not be seen in Tom Duffy's Circus.

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein)
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Exactly. I agree with the Leader 100%.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Senators can argue that perhaps we would do the same, but I hope that the debate will focus on the Bill itself. If there are demerits, let us iron them out.

Senators Lombard and Humphreys raised the issue of the effect of the drought and fine weather on the agriculture community. There will be a knock-on effect. Consider what Teagasc said last week about growth - there was no growth. Yesterday, the Minister convened numerous meetings with stakeholders. He has engaged daily. I will endeavour to have him before the House next week for a debate on the matter, but it may not prove possible.

Senator Gallagher discussed the Irish Men's Sheds Association. There are 400 in the country, including 40 in Cork, which are doing great work, as the Cathaoirleach knows well. I was not aware that there had been a funding cut. I will endeavour to find out what that was about.

Senator O'Reilly referred to PEACE funding. I would be happy to arrange for a debate on that. It is important that the Senator's concerns be addressed and that there be no slippage in funding. Money should be put in place. Particularly in this Brexit era, ERDF funding is important to the Border area. A debate is necessary. The Senator has often expressed his views on the need to keep the PEACE projects. I would be happy to support him in that regard.

Senator Humphreys also discussed climate change. I would be happy to arrange for an ongoing debate. The Senator also referred to the Whip system. I am amused by the Labour Party's late conversion to it. I hope that the party will apply the Senator's proposal to all votes instead of just a particular Bill.

I join Senator Feighan on congratulating the Air Corps on its wonderful assistance this week. It illustrates the importance of North-South joined-up approaches. I also join Senators in welcoming Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, to the country. Some Members of the House attended last night's garden party. I am sure they had a wonderful time. More of us were here soldiering on-----

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Soldiering on for the judges.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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-----for the good of the country. Is it not wonderful that the Prince and his wife, Meghan, are in Croke Park-----

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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-----which may be the most important symbol of our country and the home of our national games?

(Interruptions).

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I hope she is wearing the Cork jersey.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I was hoping she would be wearing the Clare one.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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She should be wearing the jersey of the Munster champions.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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If she comes to Clare, I will give her a present of a hurley.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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May I join Senator Leyden-----

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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For the record, Kerry are the Munster champions.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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In football. The Senator is correct.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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-----in hoping that the publication of the White Paper on Brexit will lead to a furthering of the understanding of the needs of the UK and a bringing together of the EU and UK on the issue of Brexit. The resignations of members of the British Government are a matter for that Government, but we should be cognisant of their impact on us as well. Brexit is a catastrophe for everyone.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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It is imperative that we all continue to put the case for our country, as the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach are doing. The Cathaoirleach commended Senator Leyden on his role. I am sure that he will continue to be the voice of reason, as will Senator O'Reilly and other Members of the House who travel and undertake European work.

I join Senator Conway in congratulating all involved in Thailand, particularly the gentleman, Mr. Jim Warny, from Clare via Belgium. It is important to acknowledge the tremendous role of those involved in the rescue. Equally, it is important to recognise that a diver's life was lost. I sympathise again with his family.

A number of Senators are concerned about the time for the Minister's speech during our statements on Palestine. I am happy to work with Members to ensure that his speech is not a lengthy tome. I will speak to them after the Order of Business if there is a concern. I am more than willing to increase the time for each Senator to eight minutes. I will revert to the House. A number of Senators raised this matter with me during the Order of Business, but they did not move a formal amendment.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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To which item of business is the Leader referring?

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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No. 3. I want to be fair to all Senators who expressed a view. I would be happy to revert to them after the leaders' meeting so that people can have an opportunity for greater participation.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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It has been brought to my attention that there was a substantial debate on this already in January so this is somewhat of a repetition and people should not complain about that. The Leader can ponder on that.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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That is fair enough. I do not want to have a division in the House on this matter because some people want to have their views expressed which is fair enough and I want to try and accommodate as many people as we can. I will come back later with an amendment to the Order of Business if it is necessary and I take the Cathaoirleach's view on board.

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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Order of Business agreed to.