Tuesday, 29 January 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Special Joint Committee on Climate Action, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, address to Seanad Éireann by an t-Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Mr. John Horan, to be taken at 1.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 3.30 p.m.; No. 3, statements on local government: directly elected mayors, to be taken at 4 p.m. and adjourned at 6 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes each and all other Senators not to exceed six minutes each; and No. 4, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017, Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 6 p.m. and to be adjourned at 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.
I extend my sympathy and that of the Fianna Fáil group to the families who have lost loved ones on the roads in the past week. They include the families of Shaun Harkin, Mícheal Roarty and John Harley and of Jackie Griffin in Dublin. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. The death toll on the roads is heartbreaking.
Dublin 8 is saturated with student accommodation. In the immediate area there are over 1,000 student accommodation units. Within 1 km there are over 3,000 units. Incredibly, some of these units cost up to €350 a week to rent. Show me a student who has that amount of money to put aside each week to pay for housing.
The real impact of the availability of student accommodation in these urban areas with great communities is that, by its nature, the population living there is transient, which means that those living in student accommodation do not get an opportunity to convene and get involved with the community, not because they are bad people but because of the short period they spend in student accommodation. This deteriorates and eats into the community fabric and takes away from the communities living there.
From a practical perspective, many of the student apartments do not come with parking spaces and we all know that many students have cars. This adds to the congestion. Dublin 8 has sufficient student accommodation. We need to consider the planning laws to ensure parking spaces will be supplied which will make it much more expensive for builders to build. It is a lot cheaper to build when they do not have to dig down. This is one of the reasons we are seeing many such units being built. I would like to see incentives given by the Government to encourage the provision of long-tenure housing in Dublin 8 because the area is over-saturated with and has enough student accommodation. We need to consider long-term housing solutions.
The third issue I wish to raise, and which I believe many Members will mention, is the impending nurses' strike. There may be as many as 40,000 nurses who are planning to go on strike tomorrow. We all implore public service management and the unions to get involved. I encourage the Minister for Health to also get involved as many patients will be affected. Public health nurses provide a service for cancer patients. Many are due to start treatment this week or are perhaps in the middle of treatment. It is important, therefore, that the regimes be stuck to. I know that emergency and essential care services will be provided, for which I thank the nurses.
We can only imagine how upset and worried patients are going to be in the next few days. I implore the Minister to get a handle on this issue and ensure this strike does not go ahead.
I thank the Leader for organising a debate and statements on directly-elected mayors. It was requested and he arranged it. I also thank the Minister for facilitating the debate and everyone else involved. It will be an interesting debate and there will be some interesting contributions. I am conscious we are dealing with the Order of Business. I appeal to the Leader to again consider an idea he was agreeable to in principle before Christmas. I refer to the Order of Business the Leader reads into the record and that the Cathaoirleach and Clerk of the Seanad have in front of them. Can we have copies of that circulated or put on the back table here?
I ask that because we have three functions here. We accept, reject or amend the Order of Business. That has been made very clear to us in the communications we have received since we came back to the House after Christmas. I want to focus on that. I am asking the Leader about this matter for the third time. He agreed to my suggestion in principle before. I checked with the Dáil today and the Members of that House get the Order of Business on a Tuesday. I have a copy of that with me, so I know that is happening in the other House. Can we have something similar here?
I want to talk briefly about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. I am the leader of the Seanad Independent Group. The Leader will be aware we meet on a Wednesday with the leaders and the whips. This is a draft Order of Business. The Leader and his team do a very good job, I acknowledge that. I also know there are always difficulties in balancing the availability of Ministers and various other people and it is a complex process to bring this all together. Nowhere in the draft, however, when we left, was there any suggestion or hint that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 would be on the schedule this week. I find that disappointing. It is not helpful if we are to plan our work and work in a spirit of co-operation in managing the order of our business here.
I also ask the Leader if he will agree to organise a debate on forestry. We received correspondence from IBEC yesterday stating that it has established a forestry group within that organisation. It recognises the importance of the timber and forestry industry in respect of sustainable rural communities, future employment, the economy and greater reliance on timber in the housing construction industry. There has, however, to be a balance in all of that with sustainable and mixed forests, mixed vegetation, mixed tree lands and, tying in with that, the amenity aspect of forests across the country. I welcome IBEC's policy document that was circulated yesterday. It is positive and good. I ask the Leader if we can have statements on forestry in the House at some stage that might be suitable for the Minister with responsibility for forestry.
Ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le muintir Dhún na nGall, Ghaoth Dobhair agus an Fháil Charraig ar a tharla oíche Domhnaigh. I pass on my and Sinn Féin's sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the four young men tragically killed near Magheroarty on Sunday night. They were Shaun Harkin, Mícheal Roarty, John Harley and Daniel Scott. May they rest in peace. The sudden loss of so many young lives has impacted on many people, young and old. As someone who lives in Erris in a Gaeltacht area, I am only too aware of the devastating impact such tragedies have on a tight-knit community.
I also want to raise the issue of VAT increases that will be applied to food supplements from March. There has been little or no consultation with the affected retailers. Although Revenue has stated that all products with 0% VAT are undergoing review, this increase has come as a bolt out of the blue. Last week at the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, the chair of the Revenue Commissioners referred to an expert report commissioned on the matter. This report should be published and an increase in VAT should be suspended until there is clarity surrounding the decision-making process.
The issue should also be covered in the tax strategy papers later this year. It now appears that the VAT charge on these products will be more than that levied on fast food. I have been lobbied by an awful lot of different groups on this issue. Many of the people who take these supplements are over the age of 55 and, therefore, the increase will have a greater impact on them. Increasing the cost of supplements and things that are essential to their good health at such a rate will put those people in further financial hardship. I ask that the VAT rate be suspended until this matter has been examined properly.
I, too, convey my sympathies, the sympathies of the Fine Gael Party and, indeed, the sympathies of the House to the families who have suffered loss as a result of the tragedy in Donegal. It is very difficult on everyone in the local community and it is a huge loss of so many young lives in one event. It is a really tragic accident that occurred. Our thoughts are with each and every one of the families and their immediate friends and relations at this time.
I wish to talk about statistics as the housing statistics for 2018 have just been released. They indicate that there has been a substantial increase in the number of new builds over the past 12 months. There is an annual increase in output of over 31%, and this is the highest number of houses built since 2009. The corner has been turned in terms of building new houses, which is welcome at a time when many people are in need of houses and are anxious to acquire their own homes. Another interesting fact is that more than 6,272 houses were completed in the last quarter of 2018, which is a 37% increase year on year. If that trend continues, and I hope it will, then more than 25,000 new houses will be built in 2019. Likewise, substantial progress has been made with local authority builds. Again, it is thanks to all of the local authorities and their members for making sure that targets are set and achieved.
However, we must still consider long-term planning for the people who are caught in a situation where it will be difficult for them to borrow on their income and yet they do not qualify for a place on a local authority housing list. As I have mentioned time and again, there is a need for long-term planning for the rental accommodation market. If I lease a commercial premises I will get a 20 year lease, a five-year rent review and I will be responsible for internal repairs and maintenance. We should consider and develop the rental market in the same way as has been done throughout Europe. We need a mindset change on this issue because people move around much more with their jobs and the expectation of remaining in the one place for 20, 30 or 40 years has changed substantially. We need to discuss the issue here and I hope that it will be on the agenda the next time that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is in the House to deal with housing matters.
I, too, extend my deepest sympathy and prayers to the families of the four young men who tragically lost their lives in Machaire Rabhartaigh in County Donegal over the weekend. A cloud of sadness and desolation now hangs over that beautiful part of Donegal. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families. I also extend my deepest sympathy and prayers to the Waller family who lost their father and mother in a tragic accident that took place in County Monaghan at the weekend also. Indeed, I extend my sympathy to all families who have lost their loved ones through road traffic accidents.
I am also saddened to learn of the nursing strike planned for tomorrow. It is very disappointing that the Minister for Health and the Government have allowed the situation to develop to such an extent that nurses feel they have no other option but to go on strike. As matters stand, we must recognise and acknowledge a number of issues. First, nurses and midwives have the lowest salary of graduate professionals in the health service. The Government must acknowledge that. It must also acknowledge that there is a serious issue with recruitment and retention in the nursing profession. The Government must realise and appreciate that the nursing profession is changing and has changed dramatically over the last number of years. It is sad that nurses feel they have no other option at this point but to take strike action, and all that goes with it. I was interested to see a comment yesterday in one of the national newspapers by Mr. Peter O'Rourke, an orthopaedic surgeon based in Letterkenny University Hospital. He said that nurses have been "poorly treated and poorly paid for many years and the only surprise is that they have waited so long to take industrial action". This is from a gentleman who works shoulder to shoulder with members of the nursing profession seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
We all appreciate the daily hard work and dedication of nursing staff. Sometimes when their shifts finish they must stay on for another 45 minutes or longer to brief the staff who are taking over from them, all without pay. We must recognise that. We must acknowledge that there is a problem and enter meaningful negotiations with the nurses to try to resolve this matter for the benefit of nurses and, indeed, the benefit of us all.
I wish to propose an amendment to the Order of Business, and one of my colleagues on the Independent benches will second this proposal, that No. 22, the Public Sector (Plain Language) Bill 2019 - First Stage, introduced by the Labour Party with the support of the National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, be taken before No. 1.
To add briefly to what has been said, people should realise that nobody takes industrial action lightly. Whatever opinion people might have about the pay claim, those who suggest that nurses or anybody else would go out on strike on a whim need to realise that withdrawing one's labour is probably the most serious action a worker will ever take. No worker takes it lightly. That should be respected. My view and that of my Labour Party colleagues is that we support the action that will be taken by the nurses tomorrow. People should realise that when industrial action reaches strike action something has gone seriously wrong. I hope they will appreciate that when making comments about the action being taken tomorrow.
Although my party leader has already extended sympathy, I wish to extend my personal sympathy on the tragic deaths of the four young men in Donegal. Road deaths of such magnitude would be devastating for any community but even more so for such a small community. Equally, I extend my sympathy to the families of all the people killed on the roads. We have had a very sad week as there have been ten or 11 deaths on the roads since last Thursday. Last year was a fantastic year with the lowest number of road deaths on record, but we can never take our eye off the ball on this and we must do everything we can. I am not proposing a discussion on road safety but we must keep our eye on the ball in that regard. My sympathies to all the families involved.
I wish to clarify Senator Boyhan's point regarding the meeting we had last week. He said there was no hint that the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 would be taken this week. In fact, when the question was asked about when we would discuss the Bill again we were told it would be during the sitting week beginning on 5 February. It was confirmed to us that we would be discussing it next week, not this week. That is my recollection of the meeting.
However, I rise to speak on something else today. We are discussing the Order of Business and I can only speak about future Orders of Business today because there is no other time to do it.
I would like the Leader to schedule a debate on what I consider a very important matter, namely, the value of the EU to the Irish economy and to that of the EU as a whole. While Ireland ranks second to Luxembourg in the league table, with between 88% to 92% of Irish people in favour of the EU, it is important to have a debate on the values of the EU and that we acknowledge the significant benefits we enjoy, such as freedom of movement across the 28 countries, the Erasmus programme that facilitates young people to study abroad, as well as benefits to agriculture, trade and the Single Market. Much of our legislation on equality, justice, women's rights and environment is a benefit of the EU, as is the European health insurance card, the former E111 form. While I am not entirely happy with every single thing the EU does in terms of CCCTB, digital taxation or the eurozone crisis, it is important to schedule a debate on the future of the European Union and about the value of the EU to Ireland in order that people who are contemplating any other position, which I do not anticipate, can articulate their opinions. Perhaps if there had been a debate in Britain about the value of the EU a long time ago, we would not now be facing Brexit.
I too want to be associated with the statements of sympathy to the relatives and friends and community members of those who died in that tragic accident in Donegal. When I heard there were four young men killed in a car accident and the word "Donegal" came after it, it brought me back to a number of previous occasions. I know today is not the day to discuss these things but I really think that road safety, particularly in the north west, has to be looked at again. Road safety is a serious problem in that area and has been for many years.
I agree completely with Senator Boyhan that it is desirable that we should have the proposed Order of Business in written from available to us at the commencement of each session of this House.
Following on from Senator Horkan's statement about the need to debate the future of Europe, today is a very important day in the sense that the House of Commons in London is setting out to debate a series of amendments to a Government motion, the gist of which may well affect the future of the this island and the future relations between this island and our neighbouring island. There are two things that strike me about the Brexit debate. First, it has been repeatedly stated by a certain group of people, the European Research Group, ERG, people in the Tory Party in the House of Commons that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland cannot be prejudiced in any way by something like a backstop agreement. The constitutional position of Northern Ireland, however, both in the Constitution of this State and of the United Kingdom is now governed by the Good Friday Agreement, which is an international treaty registered with the United Nations and co-guaranteed by a number of institutions. To say that somehow the constitution is threatened by measures that are necessary to sustain the constitutional existence of the Good Friday Agreement is in fact to misrepresent the situation.
Second, it is important to say that the backstop is necessary for precisely this reason, namely, that were there no backstop, it would be possible for the same group of people - the ERG-orientated people in the Tory Party - to urge their Government to effectively take hostage the economic future of this State and of Northern Ireland in further negotiations on trade deals with Europe. It was for that purpose that the backstop was inserted as a preliminary step to ensure that such a process did not happen.
In case people think that is unduly alarmist, we know from remarks made by Mr. Rees-Mogg and other people that there are members of the Tory Party who are prepared to put a gun to the head of this State economically to push through their points of view. That should be said.
In view of the importance of the future of Europe as a topic, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that instead of having further debate on Committee Stage of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 this evening, we devote the time provided for it to debate the future of Europe, as suggested by Senator Horkan.
Having been a nurse, I want to have my say and place on record my view that this House should support nurses given the recruitment and retention issues we have spoken about for so long and the crisis in our health service. I want to extend my best wishes to the nurses who are about to commence their first 24-hour strike.
I would like to comment on the legislation passed by the Houses last week on the new arrangements regarding local government in the city and county of Cork. The Act has been signed into law. On 4 June 2019, the boundaries of Cork City Council will be extended to cover a major portion of the county's population, perhaps as many as 80,000 people. The city council will assume responsibility for a large area around the city, including Ballincollig, Blarney, Grange, Frankfield and Rochestown. The debate on the legislation has been had. We must now move on to ensuring Cork county can develop and flourish. Many of the county's major regional towns such as Clonakilty, Bandon, Kinsale, Macroom and Mallow are dependent on agriculture and rural enterprise. There has to be a new focus on how Cork County Council is run and funded through the national Exchequer. That refocusing has to take account of the major rate base that has been taken from the county council. Cork Airport business park, EMC in Ballincollig and other employers have been brought under the city's jurisdiction. We need to put a fund in place to ensure the county can flourish and develop.
As the Cathaoirleach is very much aware, towns in County Cork are unfortunately under pressure, as are all rural towns in many ways. They were used to having the cushion of a fund comprising rates paid by businesses around the city. That is now gone. An economic development fund needs to be put in place to ensure that these towns, particularly their town centres, can develop. We have seen many shops close in many of these rural towns in the past six weeks. It is a very tough time of the year for business. We need a new focus on how we will redevelop these towns.
I propose that the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, come to this Chamber to discuss his plan for re-energising and redeveloping towns. He should take into consideration the real structural changes that have happened in County Cork. If we do that, we can drive economic development to ensure these towns develop. I will be seriously concerned if we do not put a plan in place because without the rates base previously available to the county council, these towns will unfortunately not develop as they should.
I was hoping the Cathaoirleach might give me a leath lá.
On my behalf and that of the Government, I extend deepest sympathies to the families of Mícheal Roarty, Shaun Harkin, Daniel Scott and John Harley who were tragically killed at the weekend in Donegal, as well as the family of Jackie Griffin who was killed on the M50. The very worthwhile request by Senator McDowell for a debate on road traffic and road safety comes following a weekend marked by further tragic and traumatic loss of life in Donegal. As the Senator McDowell rightly stated, it sends a shiver down one's spine to again hear of four young men being killed in a car accident.
The fatal crash on the M50 highlights the need for our society to come to a proper understanding on the usage of social media and mobile technology. This House has a responsibility to legislate in that regard, but there is also an obligation on social media companies to think of the victims of tragedies and their families. The Garda addressed the issue of certain social media posts after the crash on the M50 at the weekend. The actions of some in that regard were irresponsible and, of course, illegal. It is important to recognise that bereaved families are today grieving the death of a loved one. I hope that the House can send a message to all those working in road safety that we need to be more proactive. There was a 40% drop in fatalities in 2018 to the lowest level since records began in 1959. However, we must not become complacent. Significantly, there was a 32% increase in the number of pedestrians killed on our roads, of whom a substantial portion are men aged 55 or over. We have a lot of work to do. The request of Senator McDowell for the Minister to come to the House should be fulfilled as a matter of urgency.
I welcome to the Gallery Mr. Seán Moran, a very good friend of mine who has brought Gaelic games to the homes of many thousands of Irish people. He is an eminent journalist and it is great to have him in the Gallery for the Order of Business. I thank him for the great work he does in bringing Gaelic games to so many people on a daily basis.
Several Senators made reference to the issue of the nurses' strike which is-----
All Members know that it is the prerogative of a union to go on strike. It is important to recognise that we have a public sector pay deal and there have been significant changes to the pay scales and salaries of public sector workers. At this late stage, I hope the Labour Court will engage in further discussion with all sides. All Members recognise the importance of our nurses and the value they bring to our health system. No Senator should claim a monopoly on such knowledge. We all live in our communities and know men and women who are nurses. We have all been in hospitals - some of us have worked in them - and recognise their importance. It is important that dialogue continues. The HSE will announce contingency plans later this afternoon. Some appointments scheduled for tomorrow have been cancelled. It is important that all mechanisms are used to avoid and avert industrial action. I hope that the required conversations will take place over the coming 24 hours to ensure that we do not have a nurses' strike tomorrow.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of student accommodation in Dublin 8. We will have the Minister in the House tomorrow for a debate on housing, but I will be happy to have the debate sought in due course.
I will consider further the request made by Senator Boyhan. As far as I am aware, it is not the third but the second time he has asked me.
On the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, let us be very clear, as those who attend the meeting of group leaders on a Wednesday will recognise, I always act in good faith. As Leader of the House, it is my prerogative, on behalf of the Government, to bring forward business to be dealt with in the House. It does change occasionally. I give a caveat to Members today in order that they will not be in any doubt that schedules have changed, not just in my time as Leader but in all Seanaid. I checked the position. It is extraordinary that the only item of legislation on the Order Paper that has not been agreed to at the group leaders' meeting is the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. Every other item of legislation not on the agenda for the Wednesday meeting has been agreed to on the Order of Business. It is, however, my prerogative as Leader to make a decision. Senator Boyhan knows that I am not trying to drive a stagecoach over the schedule and that I try to consult insofar as it is possible to do so. He requested to have the Bethany home issue discussed next week. Today we will also have statements on directly elected mayors. Therefore, I try to accommodate Members insofar as I can. The important point is that, as Members of the Seanad, we have a job of work to do in passing legislation. We have spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with Committee Stage of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. I understand there are very sincere views held by some Members and that other Members are engaged in a game of filibustering, but to be fair, they do not iinclude Senator McDowell, although he may be part of it. The behaviour of some Members has been less than helpful in doing our job as parliamentarians. I fully accept the bona fides of Senator McDowell and I am not questioning him before he comes back and accuses me of doing so. I will not accept the amendment proposed to the Order of Business with regard to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. For the information of Senators McDowell and Boyhan, to the best of my knowledge, the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, will not be available tonight, but this must be confirmed. The Minister of State is in Cork today on business at University College Cork.
I will be very happy to have the debate requested by Senator Horkan on the future of Europe. We had a very good debate last week-----
I will come back to that matter. Last week we had a very good debate on Brexit. The Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, was in the House previously to discuss the future of Europe. I will be very happy to have a debate on the benefits of membership and the importance of the European Union to Ireland post-Brexit, but, first, to be fair, we have not given the Minister of State due notice of the request. Second, having a debate on the future of the Europe and the benefits of membership of the European Union in opposition to the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill would be unfair in the context of the request made by Senator Horkan. I will, however, be happy to accede to and accommodate his request in due course.
To respond to Senator Boyhan's comments on forestry, I will be very happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, come to the House to discuss the matter. The Senator is correct that it is a very important industry. Last week wonderful plans were unfurled and unveiled on the future of the industry. I will be happy to have the debate sought in the coming weeks.
Senator Conway-Walsh referred to VAT on food supplements. I am aware that she raised the issue at the finance committee last week. The important point is that VAT will be applied to food supplements at the standard rate. The Revenue Commissioners had made a concession and allowed a zero VAT rate to be applied to certain vitamins, minerals and fish oils. They have now made a decision to remove the concession, with effect from 1 March, such that VAT will be applied to all food supplements at the standard rate. It should be noted, however, that the zero VAT rate will continue to be applied to oral medicines, including certain folic acid, minerals and vitamin products licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, as well as to infant foods.
The Minister for Finance has agreed, as part of the discussion of the Finance Bill, to put in place a process that will conclude later this year in respect of the 2019 tax strategy group paper. The plan is to examine some of the policy choices around the VAT treatment of food supplements. That clarifies some of the points made by the Senator. Anyway, I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to have that discussion in due course because it is an important one and there is uncertainty. It is important to recognise that zero rates apply to certain products regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority and to infant foods. People should be clear on that point and it behoves all of us to inform people of it. The point made by Senator Conway-Walsh is valid in terms of information and ensuring clarity and certainty.
I would be happy to have that debate.
Senator Colm Burke raised the issue of housing. We will have that debate tomorrow with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy.
I am happy to accept the amendment of Senator Ó Ríordáin to the Order of Business. I congratulate the Senator and Deputy Noel Rock on the Bill – it is an important one.
Senator Horkan is right in that the debate on the future of Europe is important and he is right to highlight the benefit and value of Europe to us as an Irish State and in the context of a post-Brexit situation.
The mistake the British people made was that they did not adopt the approach of the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny. This was to have a citizens' assembly and a constitutional convention on Europe as part of the discussion prior to the vote on Brexit. That might have helped with an informed debate. As Senator McDowell said, today is an important day with regard to the future of Ireland and the future of relations between Ireland and the UK. It is extraordinary to see today that the British Government is, according to newspaper and radio reports, now supporting an amendment that will eliminate the backstop to which it signed up and agreed. As the Senator said, it is about the protection of constitutionality not only for us but for the North of our country. We have come on such a great journey since the Good Friday Agreement. We have a duty, as does the UK Government as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to uphold what it stands for and what it means. I would be happy to have the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, come back when we know what happens in Westminster today.
I am keen to send a message on my behalf and on behalf of all of us to the effect that we stand with the Government in that we will not allow a situation whereby, as the Senator said, a number of mavericks within the Tory Party try to undermine our case. The Irish Government has been consistent since day one. It is now incumbent on the UK Government and the UK Parliament to come forward with new plans, such that we can have an agreement on 29 March. The backstop cannot be replaced. That is the bottom line. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, and the Taoiseach have been quite clear.
Senator Lombard made reference to the boundary change in Cork. We had a debate on the matter as part of the Local Government Bill. I would be happy to have the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, come to the House as part of the debate.
I appeal to Senator McDowell not to divide the House on the important issue of the future of Europe. The question is extremely important but putting it as part of a debate about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill would be unfair to the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee. I believe she is in Cork today. I will accept Senator Ó Ríordáin's amendment, but I will not accept the amendment from Senator McDowell.
Very well. Senator Ó Ríordáin has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 20 be taken before No. 1." Is the amendment agreed to? Agreed. Senator McDowell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 4 not be taken today and that a debate on the future of Europe be taken in its stead." Is the amendment being pressed?
Catherine Ardagh, Ivana Bacik, Frances Black, Victor Boyhan, Lorraine Clifford Lee, Rose Conway Walsh, Mark Daly, Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt, Maire Devine, Joan Freeman, Robbie Gallagher, Paul Gavan, Gerry Horkan, Kevin Humphreys, Billy Lawless, Michael McDowell, Ian Marshall, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, Niall Ó Donnghaile, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Marie Louise O'Donnell, Ned O'Sullivan, Fintan Warfield, Diarmuid Wilson.
Colm Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Paul Coghlan, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Colette Kelleher, Anthony Lawlor, Tim Lombard, Gabrielle McFadden, Michelle Mulherin, Kieran O'Donnell, John O'Mahony, Grace O'Sullivan, James Reilly, Neale Richmond.
On the importance of the decision, which is the democratic decision of the Chamber, the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, will not be available tonight, as I informed Senators prior to the vote. I am happy to accept the decision of the House, but the Minister of State will not be available tonight because she has ministerial appointments. The other result of the vote is that we have created a disappointing precedent in the House. I will discuss the matter with Senator Horkan.