Thursday, 29 November 2018
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the appointment of Mr. Justice Seán Ryan to the disclosures tribunal, to be taken on conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 2, motion regarding the horse and greyhound racing fund regulations, back from committee, to be taken on conclusion of No. 1 without debate; and No. 3, Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to adjourn not later than 3 p.m., if not previously concluded.
I welcome the ladies in the Public Gallery from Mercy Secondary School in Inchicore. I particularly wish to mention the transition year class who are doing a project on the lack of amenities in their area, Inchicore, and the lack of resources for their school as part of the Young Social Innovators programme. They are very passionate about the area. Their school is the only girls school in Inchicore and is attended by many girls from the area. The students told me that the school has a pitch but there are no nets in the goals, which is extraordinary. These young girls are campaigning passionately to ensure that Inchicore is the best place in which to live and has amenities to allow them to play, shop, live and work. I spoke to them at length before the Order of Business. They are very concerned by the lack of housing in the Inchicore area. I commend them on their project and wish them every success. I hope the project does well in the competition.
I wish to raise the issue of homeless figures. Some 415 families, including 893 children, registered as homeless in the last quarter for which figures are available. That is a significant increase on the previous quarter, when only 383 families presented as homeless in the capital. Senators are aware that supply is the underlying issue. However, I have raised this issue in the House every week since I was elected and have seen little improvement in that regard. Land in the St. Michael's Estate area of Inchicore, the area with which these girls are concerned, has been lying vacant for almost a decade and a half. There is a great deal of talk about housing being built but nothing has materialised and that is of great concern. The students in the Gallery are concerned. This is not a matter about which children should be concerned. They should not have to worry about homeless figures and people in their class looking for homes. It is not right for them to take those concerns on board at such a young age. I have a concern regarding the plan of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to deal with rough sleeping over the winter months. It often becomes a crisis at the last minute even though we know it is on the way. What is the rough sleeping plan for the capital for the coming months?
I congratulate the GAA on hurling and camogie being added to the UNESCO list of protected cultural activities. They are among the oldest and fastest field sports in the world. The GAA deserves credit on receiving this accolade.
On that subject, we must not forget that a former Senator, the Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan, threw the ball in, if Senators will excuse the pun, and he should be acknowledged for that. I call Senator Boyhan.
I have just come from an ongoing presentation by Deputy Harty who represents County Clare and is a great champion of health services in both Houses. Members from both Houses are in attendance. Deputy Harty addressed several very serious issues and cervical cancer in particular. Three Australian experts are at the presentation and will then go to meet the HSE and senior Government officials.
It is a very important piece of work and prompted me to look again at page 54 of A Programme for a Partnership Government, a section entitled, A Decisive shift of the Health Service to Primary Care. It states that the Government is committed to funding and delivering 80 additional primary care centres. I ask the Leader to organise, when practical and possible, a debate on those promised 80 additional community care centres across the country which are of great importance. If politicians make promises, they must deliver on them. Many people are disappointed when people make promises but do not deliver on them. This commitment is in the programme for Government. Progress has been made on it but I am unsure to what extent.
It was St. Brigid's Day, 1 February, when the Taoiseach last appeared in the House. Much has happened since then and I ask the Leader, with the agreement of the House, to invite the Taoiseach to come to the House before the Christmas recess.I think we would both benefit from a period of engagement and discussion on the floor of this Chamber. I therefore ask the Leader to confirm he will pass on this invitation. I appreciate that it is ultimately a matter for the Taoiseach.
I wish to touch on the issue of local government. We are coming up to the last day in November and we have a commitment that we will have an interim report on the terms and conditions and pay of local elected members. We are all in contact with local councillors. I can tell the House that this week alone eight long-standing, capable county councillors have decided they will not run in the next local elections. Every week I hear news directly from councillors of people who say they can no longer stay in local government because of the dearth of finance and support and the need to attend meetings for longer hours. This must be a wake-up call to all Members of this House, of all parties and none, to address the reasons people are not staying in local government. We need these people, this experience and this exchange of views, backgrounds and traditions. The time has come for us in this House to unite to strengthen and support local government. Will the Leader indicate today, if he can, when this interim report will be done? We should have another debate very soon on the powers of local government and supporting elected members to do their job.
I thank the Members of the House who attended the information meeting on Alzheimer's and dementia in the audiovisual room. It is one of the hidden diseases and those affected do not get the support they should get. The simple ask of the group that presented is an additional eight advisers for dementia and Alzheimer's to be connected to the primary care centres. I would like to see the day when we might have an adviser in every primary care centre. This is very important.
I also wish to raise an element of the housing crisis that is not very often raised in this House. I raised this specific issue last week. I refer to the Central Bank's press release yesterday in which it advised young people that they will have to wait for supply. It does not propose to increase the loans they can access but states that supply will solve the problem. This is like the time I raised the issue of Airbnb and short-term lets about two years ago. It was not acknowledged it was a problem. There is a very new problem, certainly in the greater Dublin area, that even where supply is coming online, the apartment blocks are being bought up in their entirety by investment groups such as real estate investment trusts, REITs, and pension funds. Young people who have done everything right - got an education, done their training, saved their 10% deposit - now find they cannot purchase a home in which to start their lives. This is a crying shame and is starting to become what I would call a real problem. It represents the early days of another crisis affecting hard-working young families who want the opportunity to purchase their own homes.
A balance is needed in all this when it comes to professional landlords in order that adequate rental accommodation would be available at affordable prices in our cities. The balance has gone the wrong way, however, and we now see young couples who are trying to start their lives and wish to buy an apartment not getting an opportunity to purchase. They see the apartment block coming up out of the ground and the units being developed and then they read in the newspapers that professional investors have bought out the whole block. This is a real issue and we need the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to discuss it before it gets out of hand. As a political body we let short-term lets get out of hand. Now we are talking about legislation on this before Christmas and implementation in June. If, however, we do not get the supply correct for all the different sectors of the market, we will roll into another crisis. Let us respond, be proactive and ensure a balance within what people are capable of buying. I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me a little extra time.
I wish to raise the Supreme Court decision yesterday that section 249(1) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 is unconstitutional. This subsection provides that someone in prison is not entitled to receive a pension. The case involved someone who was convicted of rape. The court ordered that he is entitled not only to be paid his pension but also to receive €10,000 in compensation. This is a very serious decision. Yes, the Supreme Court is correct that there is a separation of powers. It found that the Act is unconstitutional. There is, however, no word as to how the victims have been treated. People may not be aware that the victims in this case, as far as I am concerned, could now apply to court for a garnishee order looking for the moneys not to be paid to this person but to be held in court and paid to the people who suffered injury and loss as a result of his crime. We need to look at this decision very quickly in order that if the courts need additional powers when passing sentence, they would also make an order that any pension to which such a person is entitled would go into a fund that would then go back to the victims. It is wrong that someone who has been convicted of such a crime can receive a benefit from the State while serving a sentence while the victims do not receive any recognition or compensation for the loss and injury they have suffered. This is a matter on which we should immediately bring the Minister for Justice and Equality before the House to see what amendments can be made and how we can ensure that the pension goes to the victims and not the person serving the sentence. We need to do this at the earliest possible date.
I propose an idea and make a request concerning Roscommon town team. These town teams, developed under the local government, are doing great work in every town in the countryside. Their work is very important and I commend them on it. I ask the directors of Iarnród Éireann, Irish Rail, that the company provide facilities at every station to advertise the town in question - for instance, the benefits of stopping at Roscommon town en route from Westport to Heuston Station. If all the attractions of the town were displayed, we would have a very captive audience. There are very good locations and very attractive stations. People do not realise that Roscommon, for instance, is the site an old abbey, a 13th century castle, the Church of the Sacred Heart and the burial place of the last King of Connacht. All these attractions could be advertised to get people to stop even for a few hours and get the following train onward. I would like to see this extended to towns such as Castlerea, Boyle and Carrick-on-Shannon. I will make a case to Iarnród Éireann to allow the local authorities, in particular the town teams, to erect information plaques at railway stations. I have noticed that Tullamore railway station, for instance, has some very attractive artwork, so it is doing something in this regard. It would be a worthwhile exercise because economically we need to promote all our towns.
In this regard, Senator Hopkins said last week, I think, that she wanted an additional, later train from Dublin to Westport, and I certainly support her on this. The last such train is at 6.15 p.m., and a later train would be of great benefit. Furthermore, I appeal to Iarnród Éireann that there is a need for more carriages on the western train to Westport. It is a very popular service and on many occasions the trains are overcrowded and people have nowhere to sit. We should look at the rolling stock and invest more in our railway stations, railway lines and in the provision of approved services. Nonetheless, generally speaking, I compliment Iarnród Éireann on the quality of its trains and its time schedules, which are perfect. There is another train called the Belmond Grand Hibernian, which people are not aware of. It is a tourist train which stops in stations all over the countryside, and I commend the company on its work.
World Aids Day, which will take place on Saturday, presents an opportunity for the global community to evaluate or fight to eradicate HIV and AIDS. This time last year, when we had statements to mark the occasion, this House was in unison in stating that rising HIV transmission rates are unacceptable and our current responses inadequate. While accessible antiretroviral therapy in the form of PrEP looks like it is on its way, we are lagging behind many of our European counterparts, and very little has changed since the end of last year. While testing was noted as a key priority in the sexual health strategy in 2015, no real further investment in testing has been forthcoming. A high rate of late diagnosis is the result. The Gay Men’s Health Service on Baggot Street, which provides a targeted response, is still operating in a condemned building and with limited resources. Too often the State takes advantage of those who are willing to go above and beyond their duty, in this case, the staff of the service.
Relationships and sexuality education is still under review. We need more urgency in implementing change. I was in a secondary school this week and noted it does not appear anything has changed in relationships and sexuality education since I was in school nine years ago. We must not continue to fail more generations in that regard.
The HIV transmission rate is up 8.7% on last year. Next year, I want to stand in this House and recognise the work of the Government in decreasing transmission rates. I call on the Government to engage with activists who are campaigning for an Irish AIDS memorial, that is, a physical site of remembrance to serve as a place to grieve, remember loss and give hope.
In the last hour, the European Commission announced the rolling out of the second round of the DiscoverEU interrail ticket project. This was launched last year following strong campaigning by our MEP, Brian Hayes, in conjunction with Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People's Party group in the European Parliament. The scheme is very simple. It gives 18 year olds across Europe the chance to obtain a free one-month interrail ticket to mark their 18th birthday in order that they might have the ability to discover why Europe is as it is, its history, geography and landscape and everything else that goes with it. I was very fortunate to go interrailing twice in my student years. It is vital that the youth of today get to visit places such as Auschwitz, Paris, Berlin and Rome to learn their full history. I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to the Chamber to discuss how many Irish people were among the 15,000 awarded grants under the first round. What is the aspiration for the second round, amounting to 12,000 grants this year?
I was shocked this morning by a matter that I was aware was rumbling on but that seems to have come to a head, namely, the actions of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission against the Restaurants Association of Ireland. There seems to be a concerted campaign against the restaurant industry by the State body for quite a while. I ask both parties to sit down and tease out the issues. The commission is a State entity and it seems to be hounding the association and its members. The membership has come under pressure since the decision to raise the VAT rate on hospitality businesses by 50%. The association has spoken of a general increase in wages in the sector of 20% in recent years. The industry is having a tough time already.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland has been under investigation and has had many demands placed on it in respect of having staff undergo competition training and making regular reports to the commission. Strange requests and demands are being made of an organisation which represents a large number of people and businesses, many of which are relatively small. It certainly provides the best information it can and it is very helpful. The commission would make better use of taxpayers' money if it were studying several problems facing us. Personal contract plans, PCPs, for example, have been discussed here on a number of occasions. These loans are causing tremendous distress to many people. In recent months, a scandal has emerged regarding various medical parts and medicines. This has been revealed in investigative journalism in The Irish Timesand also by the BBC. There are many issues on which the commission could spend time that would be more productive from the perspective of the taxpayer. It may be worthwhile to call the commission before the Committee of Public Accounts to determine what work it is doing. I am just curious about it. I genuinely believe the commission is singling out the Restaurants Association of Ireland, slightly unfairly. I hope that whatever information is given is correct. Having read it, I certainly feel it is. If the commission believes there is something amiss, perhaps its staff could sit down with the staff of the association and sort these matters out.
I welcome An Bord Pleanála’s decision last week that Narconon-Scientology needs planning permission for its drug rehabilitation centre in Ballivor. I spoke at length in the House about this facility. Meath County Council's planning section said it did not need planning permission. Section 5 was used to change the usage of the building in question from a nursing home to a drug-related rehabilitation facility. The change was not publicised and went ahead. Nobody in the community of Ballivor knew about it until there were leaks from the local authority. It was terrible to see how split the community was. The matter will be back with Meath County Council if Narconon seeks planning permission again. The facility will use drug-related methods that are not HSE or HIQA approved. It is located beside schools, a playground, a community centre and a playschool. We have all read about and seen what Narconon and Scientology really are around the world. I want the Minister responsible for local government to legislate to stop section 5 from being used without its use being publicised. What I really want is for Meath County Council to step up to the mark and do the right thing for Meath, including Ballivor, by preventing the facility from ever going ahead.
I congratulate Senator Frances Black on the passage last night of Committee Stage of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which the Labour Party was proud to support. I commend her on obtaining cross-party support for it. I hope the Government will see fit not to oppose the legislation on a further Stage. I have been actively vocal on the issue of rights for Palestinian people at the foreign affairs committee, as have my Labour Party colleagues elsewhere, including former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Ireland has a good track record on rights for Palestinians. I consider the Bill to be in that spirit and in keeping with the move to recognise international law and breaches of international law in terms of the settlements.
I thank Deputy Michael Harty for organising a briefing this morning on cervical cancer with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. We have had a debate on the CervicalCheck controversy but the briefing this morning indicates the need for a more broad debate on the benefits of vaccination programmes and public health programmes more generally.The message from the Royal College of Physicians was important, namely, that it is possible to eradicate diseases such as cervical cancer through progressive public health policies such as the HPV vaccination programme and screening programmes such as CervicalCheck, which of course is not diagnostic but rather is screening. There was very positive news from this morning's briefing that take-up of the HPV vaccine across Irish schools has risen to 65% this September, a 15% increase on previous years. We also heard from the Australian expert, Professor Marion Saville, about the likely elimination of cervical cancer in Australia as a result of a successful vaccination and screening programme.
I commend those involved in organising the briefing. It was a positive story to emerge out of what has been a very depressing, negative and distressing series of stories about CervicalCheck, and it reminds us of the vital importance that screening and vaccination programmes play in promoting public health and, ultimately, leading to the elimination of disease.
Before I got involved in politics, I was chairperson of the Lough Key Forest Park action group. Lough Key Forest Park is beside Boyle in County Roscommon and is a wonderful amenity. At the time, Coillte owned the park, but it could not draw down investment from Europe because it was a semi-State body. We came up with the idea that the local authority would get involved. By setting up Moylurg Rockingham DAC, Roscommon County Council and Coillte were able to draw down €20 million and we now have a state-of-the-art tourist facility in Lough Key Forest Park, with tree canopy walks and Boda Borg. It is one of the major tourist attractions in the country.
It has now come to my notice that McDermott Castle in Castleisland, a fairy-tale castle and one of the most impressive in the country, is for sale now on BidX1 at a guide price of €90,000. I do not know why it was in private ownership, but this is a wonderful chance for the State, whether the Office of Public Works, OPW, or Moylurg Rockingham DAC, to buy that island. It is in the interests of the community and the country because it is part of our physical history. I have written to the Minister asking that the OPW would investigate purchasing this island. It will not be lived in, but it is part of our historical amenities. Maybe the OPW could talk to Moylurg Rockingham and come to an arrangement whereby it could also be bought by it. Either way, this castle should be in the hands of the State, or the people of our country, and it makes a lot of sense.
I raise the plight of a substantial number of Garda recruits who have been badly inconvenienced and left out of pocket because of the last-minute decisions of Garda management. Thankfully, 200 new Garda recruits have just completed their training. They had been posted to different stations throughout the country. I understand nine were due to go to the Cavan-Monaghan division, four to Carrickmacross, two to Monaghan town and three to Bailieborough in County Cavan. Donegal, for example, was due to get 13.
The plans were changed at the last minute and now Garda management has reallocated these Garda recruits to six major urban centres throughout the country - Dublin, Cork, Limerick and a few others. Those recruits will not now be coming to other towns throughout the country to which they were initially allocated until late January. That is disappointing because the people in Cavan-Monaghan were looking forward to additional gardaí on the streets over the Christmas period and God knows there are many towns throughout the country crying out for more gardaí on the streets.
The other issue I have is how Garda management could make a decision like this at the last minute. It is very unfair on the young gardaí in question, many of whom, I understand, had accommodation booked in the towns in which they were to be stationed. Some of these recruits, because their training had finished, were entitled to and had booked holidays. Those who had will lose their money, and those who had sought accommodation would have had to have paid booking deposits if they were successful in getting accommodation. They also may have had to have paid rent there for a month when they will not be there. They also now have to seek accommodation in one of those six major centres where they are going to be allocated for one month. That is going to be a difficult task.
Perhaps the Leader will bring this to the attention of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Why did Garda management leave this decision to the last minute? Surely somebody would have foreseen that these gardaí were going to be needed for traffic duty over the Christmas period and therefore should not have been allocated stations around the country as had been done. It is unfair and shows no duty of care or respect to those young members of An Garda Síochána who are about to commence their careers.
I welcome the recommendation from the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs relating to the European Globalisation Fund. In the past, the European Globalisation Fund has been used for companies where there were redundancies of more than 500 people. The committee recommends that number be brought down to accommodate companies where 200 employees or more are made redundant.
The European Globalisation Fund has given a great start to companies like Dell, Andersen Ireland and Waterford Crystal in the past. Those companies availed of this fund and upskilled, retrained, rebranded and recreated jobs. Thankfully, Ireland is creating more jobs than it is losing, but it is reassuring to know this recommendation is being put in place to reduce the number of employees made redundant before there is access to this fund. If there were to be redundancies in any company, there is a fund to which they could apply to upskill, retrain and give a fresh start to employees. This is welcome news.
I thank the 13 Members of the House for their contributions to the Order of Business.
I join the Cathaoirleach and Senator Ardagh in welcoming the students from the Mercy secondary school, Inchicore and the people from the Warrenmount residents association to the House today.
Senators Ardagh and Humphreys raised the issue of housing. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, will come to the House in the coming weeks. It is important to recognise that 5,000 new homes were completed by the end of the third quarter of this year, with 3,000 student bed spaces completed as well. Senator Ardagh, in her wonderful introduction of the students, neglected to mention that the Government has committed to the rejuvenation and regeneration of the Kilmainham and Inchicore areas. She should highlight to the students the importance of the St. Michael's-----
Senator Ardagh should highlight to the students the fact that the Government is committed to St. Michael's estate with a variety of models of delivery of housing. I wish the students well in their project.
The Cathaoirleach and Senator Ardagh rightly mentioned the good news that camogie and hurling have been recognised by UNESCO. I commend the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, on her work. As the Cathaoirleach said, praise is also due to former Senator and now Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan, who was the person who threw the ball in, as it were.
Senators Boyhan and Bacik raised the issue of the briefing presented today by Deputy Michael Harty, the chair of the Committee on Health. Senator Bacik is correct about vaccination and the necessity for a very strong public health campaign. I thank Senators Bacik and Boyhan for raising the matter today.
Senator Boyhan raised the issue of the programme for Government and I think he mentioned page 54. He should recognise that the Government has opened a number of primary care centres. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, was the Minister who established Sláintecare. He has put in place the building blocks to ensure further primary care centres are opened and that the model of healthcare is delivered in community for people. That is a commitment under the programme for Government and in the Sláintecare report.
We have requested the Taoiseach to come to the House. It may not be possible before Christmas.
The Taoiseach is very aware of what happens in the House and the progress of different items of legislation. I am mindful of the fact that the Seanad reform committee is due to complete its work on 11 December or thereabouts; therefore, it might be premature to have him come to the House before then, but that is my personal opinion. It might be more appropriate to invite him to come here after the report has been published, but he is very much aware of the request made. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and he is keen to return. Senator Boyhan is well aware that we have a pressing number of items of legislation to be completed before the Christmas break, but we will see if the Taoiseach's diary allows him to come before then. If he does not come before Christmas, we will certainly have the debate with him in the new year.
I do not have information to hand on the progress of the report on local government. Although we have had a number of debates on local government, I am happy to invite the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Phelan, to come to the House for a further debate on the matter. As Senators are aware, councillors retire all of the time, not just in this cycle. There have always been renewals, replacements and retirements. We wish all of those who will announce their retirement well and those who will contest the next elections every success.
I commend Senator Humphreys on his work as part of the all-party Oireachtas group on Alzheimer's disease and dementia. We need to invest more and conduct further research into ways to combat such extraordinary illnesses. I very much welcome the establishment of the all-party group, members of which tabled a Commencement matter on 21 November to highlight the issue of dementia. I am happy to invite the Minister for Health to come to the House to discuss it. The Senator is right that we need to have an ongoing debate and investment.
Senator Colm Burke made reference to a Supreme Court decision and called on us to reflect on it. The judgment and the decision are interesting and the Senator rightly made reference to the victim. We need to debate the matter. I am happy to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to debate it.
Senator Leyden referred to Irish Rail. I am happy to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House to discuss the matter. The Senator articulated his excellent idea about publicising and advertising local towns in train stations.
Senator Warfield mentioned World AIDS Day, which is not a celebratory but a commemorative event, as well as the need to increase the visibility of the issue of HIV-AIDS. He made that point that an increase of 8.7% in the rate of transmission of HIV was far too high. We did make some progress in combating the problem, but we are moving in the wrong direction again. As the Senator knows, I am very supportive of the idea of having an Irish AIDS memorial which we will achieve through collaboration and working together. He is right - it is important to remember and commemorate those who have died. Yesterday, I think, was the anniversary of the death of Vincent Hanley. We all know of people who are living with HIV-AIDS and who died from it. We have come a long way as a society. The Senator made the point that we needed to improve sex education and the sexual health strategy. We do need to be more proactive in that regard. We have made some changes in how sex education is taught in schools, but a lot of work remains to be done. I will be happy to work with the Senator on the matter.
Senator Davitt referred to the Restaurants Association of Ireland and the investigation carried out by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. He made valid points about restaurants that took bookings. Some do not charge a booking fee but some do. What happens if people do not arrive? The restaurant loses revenue as a result of a table not available to other customers. The Committee of Public Accounts or the line committee would be the best choice to debate the issue. If the Senator was to table a Commencement matter, he might receive a full response on it from the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Senator Richmond mentioned that the European Commission had announced the rolling out of the second phase of the DiscoverEU inter-rail ticket project. I am happy to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to come to the House to outline the number of Irish students who have been awarded tickets.
Senator Butler referred to the decision made by An Bord Pleanála on the application of the Church of Scientology for planning permission for a centre at Ballivor, County Meath. His points were well made.
I have answered the point made by Senator Bacik.
Senator Feighan referred to Moylurg Rockingham DAC. He also mentioned that a castle in Castleisland, County Kerry, had been offered for sale at a modest guide price of €90,000. I agree with him that it would be eminently sensible for the Office of Public Works to buy the property.
Senator Gallagher raised an issue related to An Garda Síochána. Notwithstanding the fact that it is late in the day in the deployment to different places of 200 new Garda recruits, I suggest the Senator has selective memory, given that his own party did something similar when in government. He made the point that young gardaí would be discommoded and I believe the issue needs to be addressed. However, it is an operational matter, for which Assistant Commissioner Twomey has responsibility. The Garda Commissioner and his management team have to balance it with the need for higher visibility of members the force at this time of year in policing traffic on roads. Such policing is welcome. It is important that, as legislators, we stand against drink driving and with the people in ensuring the roads are safe. Last Monday I attended a meeting of the joint policing committee of Cork County Council, at which the Garda chief superintendent was very concerned about the increase in the incidence of traffic accidents and drink driving. Gardaí will be on leave between 5 and 17 January for working at this time of year. The new recruits will then go to the stations to which they have been allocated. While I accept that the Garda was very late in announcing its decision, I welcome what the Garda Commissioner is doing.
Senator Byrne mentioned the European Globalisation Fund and highlighted its importance. Senator Colm Burke was very involved with the Dell workers when he was a Member of the European Parliament. The fund should be utilised.