Wednesday, 17 April 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re arrangements for the sitting of the House on Thursday, 18 April, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion re Direct Election of Mayor Plebiscite Regulations 2019, to be taken at 2 p.m. and conclude not later than 3 p.m., with the time allocated to group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each, which time can be shared, and the Minister to be given not less than six minutes to reply to the debate; No. 3, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 3 p.m. and brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. by the putting of one question from the Chair which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government; No. 4, Private Members' business, Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 5 p.m. and adjourned after two hours, if not previously concluded; and No. 5, Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at the conclusion of No. 3.
I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality. On two occasions in this House I have raised the issue of re-entry visas for migrants legally in the country. There was an issue when bots hacked into the system used in the making of appointments such that genuine applicants for re-entry visas were not able to get an appointment. As and from 13 May, the Minister will withdraw the requirement to have a re-entry visa. This is most welcome and a mark of respect for migrants living, working and paying taxes in Ireland, for which I am very grateful.
Another issue at which I would like the Minister to look is the timeframe for processing applications for citizenship. They are taking over a year to process and we are not being given any reason it is taking so long to process some applications. The Leader might ask the Minister to look into the matter. The Minister is doing a great job for migrants and I encourage him to keep it up.
There is a matter about which I am very disappointed and I formally object on my own behalf and that of Fianna Fáil. It concerns the curtailment of the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill today.
This Chamber deserves to be shown due respect and it is the first time the Leader of the House has used this mechanism. The rationale for using it is sinister. I would like the Leader to withdraw it and take the opportunity to ensure he will not provide for this curtailment of the debate on the Bill.
I am proposing that the Order of Business be amended by the deletion of No. 1. I do so because the opportunity is being taken by the Government today to avail of the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, to pull a stunt. I object strongly to what is happening. Others in the House will propose amendments to the Order of Business to deal with that issue. I am conscious of this, but in the past in this House the Taoiseach told us that he was ending the use of the guillotine, yet today an attempt is being made to tear up that commitment.
I want to deal with a number of other matters. Yesterday, on the Order of Business, a number of colleagues spoke about the destruction by fire of the roof of Notre Dame cathedral. In that context, it is worth remembering that the building will be rebuilt and that we should not go over the top in a kind of Princess Diana moment in claiming that there is worldwide grief because of this event. The building can and will be restored. It was restored very heavily before in the 19th century. The spire we all saw fall was a 19th century addition to the original fabric of the building by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. I have no doubt that it is possible to repair such structures, looking at the fantastic work done in the restoration of St. Mel's Cathedral in Longford after its appalling destruction by fire.
If the Government is of a mind to make a contribution, it would be appropriate to make some contribution of money to the restoration fund and it should be done in that spirit. Buildings are buildings and it was not the equivalent of the 9/11 tragedy. There is no need for cross-European mourning. The editorial today in The Irish Timesmakes a very good point. There is a need for us all to check our buildings of similar antiquity, even those which have been heavily restored, like the two Church of Ireland cathedrals in Dublin.We must make sure that our fire precautions for major buildings of this kind are up to the approved modern standards. I ask that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works should come to this House, tell us the lessons he intends to learn from the fire in Paris and give us an assurance that lessons are going to be learned from it and we are not going to have equivalent destruction of our architectural heritage and iconic monuments due to a lack of taking reasonable steps to prevent fires from destroying them in the manner that happened in Notre Dame.
There is an excellent article by Fiona Reddan in today's edition of The Irish Timeson the issue of bogus self-employment. She cites a worker who cleans offices Monday to Friday. Although he works regular hours, although all his gigs are set up for him and he is paid the minimum wage each week, the company he works for has hired him on a self-employed basis. If he is sick, he will not get paid and next week he might get no work at all. The article also cites the example of a content moderator hired to view graphic images on websites and make decisions on whether they should be left up or taken down. The stress of the job can get to her but because she is not an employee she will find it difficult to get stress-related paid leave or make a personal injury claim. The scope of bogus self-employment is absolutely huge in this country. The Labour Party had a Bill here three weeks ago which Sinn Féin was happy to support. Unfortunately, the Government opposed it and, more unfortunately still, Fianna Fáil never turned up. It never sent a single Senator, even during the debates, and the Bill was defeated by two votes. On that evening, though, the Minister did say she was poised and ready with a Bill of her own, which she was going to introduce in the following couple of weeks. That was three weeks ago and we are now heading into a two-week recess. I am hearing that there has been intensive lobbying by both IBEC and the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland in respect of this issue. I want an assurance from the Leader as to when this Bill is going to be introduced. It is absolutely crucial. Apart from the fact that we are losing €240 million of revenue each year in unpaid taxes, the level of exploitation of workers is absolutely disgraceful. We had an opportunity to deal with it three weeks ago. The Government rejected that opportunity and it now appears it is dragging its heels again. A simple assurance in terms of a publication date for that Bill would be very welcome.
Deputy Clare Daly issued a letter on the situation in Catalonia at the end of last week. She has called on all public representatives to sign it. The letter does not call for independence for Catalonia but just calls out the level of human rights abuses happening there at the moment. Two civic and cultural leaders have been held on an order for pre-trial detention on charges of sedition since last October. Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez are leaders of civil society who have been put in jail and left there. The Leader may know that in the civil trial being held in Madrid, the fascist party - the Vox Party - is joining with the State prosecutor to make its own prosecution and is levelling charges carrying up to 75 years in jail. Unfortunately, the sister party of Fine Gael, the Partido Popular in Spain, has been very open about the fact that it is happy to go into government with this fascist Vox Party after the election at the end of the month. It is incumbent on all of us who believe in civil rights and freedoms to stand up for freedom in Europe. I urge all Senators to have a look at that email and to sign the letter and stand up for human rights.
Of course, a Chathaoirligh. Through the Chair, I would say that we had a very lyrical appeal about human rights from Sinn Féin but they are completely silent on the abuse of democracy in this House today by the use of the guillotine on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. This is all because of their tawdry little deal with the Government. I have to say Sinn Féin has fallen a long way from the times when, in their mistaken, stupid way, they were at least idealistic. Now they have joined the ranks of the other political parties.
I commend the leader of the Fianna Fáil Senators on what she said. She was 100% right in terms of democracy in this House.I hope she and Fianna Fáil will vote with us to end the guillotine. It is in the great tradition of Fianna Fáil in upholding this Republic and upholding freedom.
I want to laugh hysterical laughter, like Senator Buttimer, but we do not blame him; we know he is only the messenger boy. We blame Deputy Ross, one of the worst Ministers this country has ever seen. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 3 should be taken without the guillotine at 5 p.m..
I will be brief. I second Senator Norris's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. I cannot support the proposal to guillotine the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. I feel it is less about the content of any particular Bill and more a point of principle. I am concerned about the Government using the guillotine. I have seen with my own and other legislation how procedural measures can be used to frustrate legislation. In general, I do not think using a guillotine is good practice and I am concerned at seeing it in use again.
Senator Craughwell does not like me mentioning it because he thinks it is his issue but actually it is mine, too. I fear for the air ambulance in Custume Barracks. In 2012, Custume Barracks had a pilot scheme for the air ambulance and I fought very hard when I was a Deputy to make sure the air ambulance would remain there permanently, which it did. I subsequently fought for a hangar and for funding to be put in place in order that there would be a permanent home for the air ambulance in Custume Barracks, despite some Independent Deputies claiming victory there. We now have an issue with pay and conditions, not just for soldiers but also for pilots. There are supposed to be 107 pilots but there are actually only 78 in the Air Corps. It is better for them to work in the private sector because pay and conditions are better. I am concerned about this air ambulance. I know the Taoiseach has voiced his opinion and said he feels it should be kept. I ask the Leader to use his good office to request the Minister of State with responsibility for defence to come to the House to discuss the possibility of looking at pay and conditions for all soldiers, but specifically for the air ambulance, and to make sure he can guarantee us that it is safe and will remain in Custume Barracks in Athlone.
Before I call the next speaker, I would like to welcome a group from what used to be my own constituency of Bandon, TJ Hourihan and the YMCA group from Bandon, supported in the Gallery not alone by Deputy Murphy O'Mahony but also by Senator Lombard. I call Senator Horkan.
I also object to the Leader's outline of the Order of Business today. We have used the guillotine very infrequently in this Chamber which is to the credit of the Leader and all the Members of the House. I have chaired many hours of the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017, among other discussions, and that has been a very useful debate. We have heard many interesting and helpful contributions from Members and any time somebody suggested to me that it was a filibuster I pointed out very clearly that it was not remotely a filibuster, that this is important legislation that needs to be discussed and carefully teased out. I have yet to hear any Member of the Chamber defend the Bill in question, including anyone on the benches where the Leader sits.
I may not have been here for as many hours as Senator McDowell but I would be up there for presence in the Chamber when it is being discussed and I have yet to hear one of the 60 Members of this Chamber say a good word about the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. It is not typical of the Leader to try to ram it through and it is not becoming. It is slightly ironic that he is attempting to do it the day before the Taoiseach's annual address to this Chamber. The Leader might reflect on the proposal because I do not want to be voting against the Order of Business all the time but on this occasion I will have to object to that particular part of it that requires a guillotine. I am sorry to have to say that to the Leader because by and large I do not object to the Order of Business which is fair and reasonable. I do listen to it which not every Member does when it is being read out. They come back in at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. giving out about it. I tell them the Order of Business was decided that morning and everyone voted for it and did not oppose it.
It is important also to acknowledge this momentous day. I welcome Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. I met Congressman Brendan Boyle, who is part of the delegation, last year in Washington. I congratulate Billy Lawless on his ongoing engagement on all our behalf and his fantastic contribution on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to promoting Irish-American relations. I wonder if there is anyone in this Chamber who does not have relatives in America. My grandfather was the youngest of ten, one of whom died young and eight of whom went to America. Many of us have family connections, if perhaps distant, in America. There is a great bond there. I particularly welcome Ms Pelosi's comment on Brexit and the possibility of a trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally recognised agreement, is not being respected.
I wish the Leader and all the Members a very happy Easter. I hope they get some time to rest and relax. We will not have an Order of Business tomorrow as far as I understand so this is the last one before Easter. I hope the Members will do some canvassing for the European and local elections but not as much as we will do, over the break.
-----dated 1 February 2018. He will be reminded of it later today in correspondence from me and he will no doubt be reminded tomorrow. He referred to:
a new approach to politics and proposed to do politics in a different way. This was promising a new departure in the day-to-day running of political life. [At the time] we talked about a democratic revolution. [...] The Seanad's true role is to be a check and balance on the Dáil [and to scrutinise legislation].
He also said. "There is an end to the use of the guillotine". Is this man credible? Can he stand over what he said? I hope people will ask him about it tomorrow. This is the Taoiseach of this country who came into the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Seanad and gave commitments and promises to us. If he cannot be believed on this and cannot keep his word can we believe him on anything else? It is a disgrace that any attempt would be made to curtail the democratic engagement or scrutiny here. Be it a Minister who is putting the pressure on, or people telling us that they are under pressure to deliver, this was the talk of Leinster House last night. I received calls this morning out of courtesy. We all knew it last night. This plan was hatched yesterday. It was talked of by colleagues in both Houses yesterday. It is disrespectful to the Members and it is unacceptable. I respect the people who told me in confidence and therefore I will not abuse my position in here and name them, but it is unacceptable behaviour, it is unparliamentary conduct and should not be tolerated.
I appeal to Sinn Féin. I would have a lot of time for some of its policies-----
-----and its members who are diligent in their work in both Houses of the Oireachtas but they cannot stand up as they did last night and lecture Fianna Fáil and talk about a confidence and supply government that it is propping up and then turn around and prop it up today.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that we extend the debate on the mayor plebiscite regulations, which is very important, by a further 30 minutes to give us 90 minutes to discuss this important topic and reduce the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill by 30 minutes.
It is five years since the local enterprise offices, LEOs, were established and over 18,000 jobs have been created and 18,000 companies started. This is very positive. I pay tribute to the people who work in the LEOs and the many volunteers who work with them on the mentoring programme and with the businesses. It is an issue we need to consider more and more and encourage more people to visit the LEOs because there is so much information available inside their doors and so much help that people are not aware of. I congratulate all 18,000 people whose jobs were created by the LEOs.
The report on the mother and baby homes published today is the fifth interim report and we have watched each one, as have the relatives of the women in the mother and baby homes. They have stuck with this over the years and many of them are now elderly and frail. Some have sadly passed on without learning what happened to their children, their brothers, sisters and even their mothers. The uncovering of the shame that is and was Ireland continues. Every layer that we lift on the past brings more horrors for us to bear. We expect it now, I think, because we have got so used to it.
The bodies of almost 1,000 children aged between 10 minutes and 15 years were given, from the Dublin institutions alone, to medical schools. Questions arise about where their remains are buried, whether a burial ever took place and whether it was a proper burial. These children had one thing in common, they were poor people, often termed illegitimate and called anatomical subjects. They were given to medical schools throughout the country and it was common practice at the time in other countries. There are 900 burials that cannot be figured out in Bessborough. They do not know where these children and infants have gone, they are somewhere in the grounds and trying to establish where is a mighty task. Could the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs come in to update us on this distressing report and to confirm for the families the due date of the final report which she has said will be next February?
Like others, I express my strong opposition at the use of the guillotine by the Government today on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. It is very disappointing to see this procedural device being used by a Government that swore it would not do it. It committed itself to new politics. Its members in Fine Gael have not only been unsupportive of the Bill, they have also expressed criticism of its provisions, many of which we have debated in the House. We have made the point that they are unconstitutional and will, if passed, lead to unwieldy and deeply flawed new processes for appointing judges. We are opposed to the imposition of the guillotine. I, therefore, propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that instead of taking the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., we have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in the House to resume the debate on transport as we ran out of time the previous day the matter was debated. I was one of the Members who did not get to contribute on that occasion.
Thank you. My proposal is straightforward. Since, as we all know, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is driving the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that he come into the House between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to resume statements on transport to enable us all to make a contribution and him to respond to the Members who spoke on the previous occasion.
On a separate note, I ask the Leader to provide time after Easter for a debate on the report on mother and baby homes and the terrible revelations we have heard today. As the have revelations emerged on a day when we are celebrating the achievements of women in politics, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Dáil Chamber, it is time for us to reflect on how shamefully and appallingly we treated women and children in the past through the awful structures of the mother and baby homes. We are only beginning to see the true extent of the horrors inflicted on women and babies in the homes.
On Monday I attended the launch of the Western Development Commission's strategy. A lot of work is being done by the commission to promote the economic and social development of the western region. It launched a five-year strategy entitled, Work Smarter, Live Better. Much of the strategy centres on the promotion of enterprise hubs. A sum of €1 million is being provided from the Dormant Accounts Fund to support the further development of enterprise hubs, promote remote working, provide hot desk facilities and, overall, support people in returning to live in the region and enjoy the very good quality of life it offers. I am aware of a number of enterprise hubs in the region which are not being utilised to maximum potential. I specifically reference the enterprise hub in Ballinasloe where the Western Development Commission launch took place. The first client entered into a lease agreement to occupy a space there, but there is much greater potential. The Western Development Commission has identified 72 hubs across the region and there is a need for a structured policy to ensure enterprise hubs will be used to maximum potential, that companies will be aware of their existence and that the utmost will be done to support those who want to work remotely. We are all aware of the debate taking place on the roll-out of broadband in rural areas and that people do not have access to it, but they can access an enterprise hub or a hot desk facility within the region. The Government must do a lot of work in conjunction with the Western Development Commission in that regard.
I refer to the fair deal scheme for farm families and the delay on the part of the Government in bringing forward promised legislation to make it easier for such families. When I tabled a Commencement matter to discuss the issue a few months ago, the Minister indicated to me that legislation was imminent. However, I am disappointed to learn that the heads of the Bill have yet to be published. Such a long delay is unacceptable and many farm families are losing out as a result. Many families who have loved ones in a nursing home for a long period will be facing severe financial hardship. There is universal acceptance in both Houses of the need to modify the legislation. A cap on assets for three years has been sought similar to that in place for residential homes. The farming sector, in particular, is going through a very difficult time and the fact that this issue has not been resolved is adding to the pressure. I, therefore, urge the Government to expedite the legislation through the House as soon as possible.
I also welcome the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, to Ireland. Her comment in the United Kingdom and Ireland that any US-UK trade deal will not happen if any damage is done to the peace process is significant and sends a clear signal that the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process cannot be damaged in any way.
I thank Senator Lawless for the work he has done in bringing US and Irish politicians together
That is exactly what the Seanad should be about.
As somebody who advocates a greater association with the Commonwealth of Nations, I took great interest in the wonderful supplement in the Sunday Independent, the largest selling newspaper, outlining Ireland's association with the Commonwealth. As Members are aware, in 1949 Ireland was declared to be a republic by a Fine Gael Taoiseach, probably at the suggestion of Seán MacBride, the leader of Clann na Poblachta and an ex-chief of staff of the IRA. It was a significant mistake which resulted in the Ireland Act being introduced at Westminster which effectively recognised Northern Ireland for the first time and drove partition on the island more deeply.
Even Eamon de Valera said in 1953 when he went to visit Mr. Churchill that if he had been Taoiseach in 1948, there was no way Ireland would have left the Commonwealth. The rules of the Commonwealth of Nations were changed to allow Ireland to remain in it. A total of 53 countries and 2.4 billion people are in the Commonwealth. A total of 70% of the people born on the island who reside overseas reside in Commonwealth countries. From the point of view of co-operation, democracy, human rights and legal, political and sporting-----
The Senator has interrupted three times today and I am being very patient. He should, please, allow Senator Feighan to conclude, as he is almost one minute over time and there are another eight speakers and four votes to be taken.
I understand. Even Sinn Féin in the North and the South realises that if we are to have an agreed Ireland, our relationship with the Commonwealth will have to be paramount. We. therefore, need to have a debate on Ireland's future relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations. What do we have against Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India? There is a deep Anglophobia, with which we must deal if we are to have an agreed Ireland.
I second the proposal made by my colleague, Senator Boyhan, that an additional half an hour be added to the time allocated to debate No. 2, motion re Direct Election of Mayors Plebiscite Regulations 2019, with the time to be taken from the time allocated to debate the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.Last night we heard several cries about democracy from my colleagues on the Sinn Féin benches. This morning we are hearing constantly about the propping up of the Government by Fianna Fáil. This morning we also find that Fianna Fáil is going to the honourable thing and stand up for democracy
I can stand here all day while this discussion takes place. I am quite happy to do so, but I will have my say. The Leader is a decent an honourable man and I do not believe that, on his own initiative, he would go against the wishes of the Taoiseach in the use of the guillotine. He is a democrat and I do not believe he would go against democratic principles on his own initiative. That makes me wonder what is going on. I have kept dogs for 40 years and have yet to see a case in which the tail wags the dog, but I think I have arrived at that situation today. Will the Leader do the honourable thing and ensure the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 will continues on the pathway it is on? I know that it is frustrating, but if Fine Gael really felt bad about it, its members would be here defending it. However, I have not met one of them who has anything good to say about it. At the end of the day, we all know that it is a bit of a farce.
Fine Gael is the biggest party in the coalition. Its members should stand up for themselves and say they will not go through with it anymore. They do not believe in the Bill and should scrap it. The Minister tells me that he has about 100 Bills waiting to be brought before the House. Let us start to get the real work done and stop trying to appease people.
I second my colleague's proposed amendment to the Order of Business. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, should come into the House to respond on the many issues raised when he was last here when he did not have the opportunity to do so. Many other speakers also did not have an opportunity to speak.
I will be opposing the use of the guillotine. Let us be very clear. The top echelons of Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have come together to do the anti-democratic thing in this House, even though they have promised for many years that there would be no use of the guillotine in this House. Today we see the change. We also see a change in that Fine Gael is very comfortable in doing business with Sinn Féin. The outcome of the next general election will be very interesting, when the top echelons of Fine Gael and Sinn Féin sit down together to negotiate a coalition Government. We are seeing the early signs that Fine Gael is very comfortable in dealing with Sinn Féin and concluding agreements with it.
What happened in Paris was an appalling tragedy. However, more than 70,000 residents throughout this country are living in defective apartment blocks which are possibly fire hazards. In many of them there are fire marshals walking up and down the corridors 24 hours a day. We have raised this issue in the House on many occasions. It is due to light-touch regulation and the 70,000 householders have been hung out to dry. We have ways to assist them through the Pyrite Resolution Board, but no assistance has been given to them in that regard. I have asked the Leader and the Minister on many occasions about the 70,000 householders. Some mechanism must be put in place to assist them, such as a soft loan to be given to them over 25 years at a preferential interest rate. We cannot leave 70,000 householders at risk of losing not just their homes but also possibly their lives. No Government can stand over this. The last Government created a template for dealing with this issue. It was a soft loan to help residents to rebuild, with grants paid in respect of other apartment blocks. The Minister and the Minister of State seem to close their ears-----
I am talking about the risk to life and limb for 70,000 householders. It is ignored on a daily basis, not just in this House but also in the other House. The people in question have not had a listening ear. No one is prepared to listen to them. I feel for what happened in Paris, but I will feel even worse if somebody loses his or her life in this country because the Minister will not listen. It is just not good enough to have fire marshals walking up and down corridors.
I highlight the recent decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal concerning the Apple data centre. A decision was issued by An Bord Pleanála in August 2016 and it has taken until now to have an appeal dealt with. Even though the appeal has been dismissed, the appellants have won because Apple has left. The Athenry area has been deprived of an €850 million development which potentially would have been followed by the development of further data centres. This case clearly shows that there is a problem with the planning process and that it is not fit for purpose. If we are serious about delivering and developing major investment and infrastructural projects, we need to do an awful lot better. The decision is very poor consolation to the people of the Athenry area, the vast majority of whom were in favour of the development. It also points to the fact that if another Apple was to arrive on the scene tomorrow, the same fate could await it. Absolutely nothing has changed in the planning process which is not fit for purpose. Perhaps even the way An Bord Pleanála handles these matters is not fit for purpose. A review of the operation of An Bord Pleanála was ordered. It was conducted and a series of recommendations were made, but we have heard nothing about their implementation. I would like the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to come before the House, as this is a very serious matter. We have positioned Ireland as a small open economy to attract this type of tech industry, but we cannot facilitate it. Apple is already up and running with a second data centre in Denmark, which speaks volumes.
In February the High Court delivered a judgment on European sites and lands designated as special areas of conservation. While the decision might be helpful in clarifying what can be developed on designated land, it actually states An Bord Pleanála cannot take mitigation measures into account.If one can engineer one's way around an environmental problem, it is not good enough. What are we to do on the western seaboard where a massive amount of land is designated? We want to build roads. It is already costing us millions and delays. I ask that the Minister be brought in because these are fundamental questions. Unless they are addressed, we will go nowhere with Project Ireland 2040 and redressing the imbalance in the country.
I was very saddened yesterday when I saw the catastrophic fire that happened in Notre Dame. Once I saw scaffolding, I think I knew exactly what happened because it happened to me. As we all know, these roofs, especially flat roof sections, have tar and pitch, particularly in old buildings. I agree with Senator Humphreys on this. One puts roofing felt on top of hot tar and goes along with the blow torch in front of it. Anything under that is like tinder. It has been there for years and can catch fire quickly. The same thing happened to one of my restaurants about 15 years ago and but for a young little Mexican who went into a crawl space with a fire extinguisher, the place would be gone. We have the same problem with old buildings in Ireland and we treat roofing and unregistered roofers very flippantly. It should be totally regulated. We have serious fire hazards, especially in older buildings. I would like that to be brought to the relevant authorities, especially fire authorities.
I was proud to see the Friends of Ireland, many of whom have become personal friends over the years and led by one of the greatest women leaders in the world, Nancy Pelosi, are coming here to celebrate our 100th anniversary. Not only are they doing that, but she laid out that under no circumstances, if there is any change to the Good Friday Agreement, would there be a trade deal between Britain and the United States. She is Speaker of the House, but Richard Neal is chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means and he is leader of the Friends of Ireland. The other thing that pleased me following a discussion with the Taoiseach yesterday is that she is totally behind the E-3 visa which they will introduce by the first day back after the recess. We are still on track and I welcome them and thank them for their visit here.
I second Senator McDowell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business.
I was about to call the Leas-Chathaoirleach "Minister". Maybe some day. I cannot support any notion that a guillotine would be introduced for this legislation. The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is probably the most flawed legislation that I have ever seen come into either House in my eight years' experience in these Houses and in my many years of watching and studying how politics is conducted in these Chambers. It is high time that the Minister, Deputy Ross, focused on his own brief. Heaven knows there are far too many pressing issues in his own brief that he seems to be practically ignoring because of his unrelenting, ridiculous focus on this legislation. Not only do the majority of Members of this House, in my opinion, disagree with it but many important international organisations have expressed their concerns with it. It is quite likely that many, if not most, aspects of this legislation are deeply unconstitutional. We have an obligation as elected Members-----
-----and appointees to this House to fully scrutinise this legislation, to do the business of the people in this House to ensure that the draft laws that we are considering are at the very least constitutional. Otherwise we would not be fulfilling our constitutional roles and responsibilities. The Minister also seems obsessed with policing issues, but only in his own constituency.
I want to raise an episode in my home town in Drogheda where shots were fired at a house in the Rathmullan estate in Drogheda. There is an ongoing local feud. I have repeatedly raised that we have a very limited number of members of An Garda Síochána in our town where most towns of an equivalent size have ten to 12 gardaí per unit per shift. We have five to seven gardaí in the area, trying to police an ongoing violent criminal feud without the resources they need. Any time I raise this issue in this House, I am told by Ministers that it is not their responsibility and they do not allocate members of An Garda Síochána. That did not stop the Minister for Justice and Equality from coming to my home town in December and promising members of An Garda Síochána that they would get what they want and need. Unfortunately, Drogheda did not get the gardaí and resources that it needs.
Deputy Ross is obsessed with the police station in his own home area but he has very little to say about ongoing criminal feuds in areas such as the north side of Dublin, referred to by my colleague, Senator Ó Ríordáin, with the lack of policing resources there, or the lack of policing resources in my community. I would prefer if he stuck to his own brief. If he is expressing an interest in criminal justice, judicial and policing matters, he should do it in a holistic fashion and look at areas that need those resources, not his own area, because that is the worst type of parish pump politics. It is the type of politics that he always said he never represented. It is disgraceful that in this era of so-called new politics, when this Government decided that it was not going to use the guillotine, that it is using it now to fulfil its own agenda for its own narrow purposes. I greatly object to that.
Like my colleague, Senator Lawless, I welcome the Speaker of the House of Representatives. There was a powerful communication from her to the UK Government in London that there would be no UK-US trade agreement unless the Good Friday Agreement was protected in full. I propose to the Leader, and would be interested in the response, that in light of the number of divisions we are having and the fact that she is addressing the Dáil in less than 20 minutes, and that we are invited to attend, 60 Members of this House not being in attendance because of divisions would be disrespectful to our guest.
He has met Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade for the British Government, and has told him in no uncertain terms that unless the Good Friday Agreement is protected and the Border remains open and transparent, there will be no trade agreement between the United States and the UK.
Only the Leader of the House can propose a suspension. The divisions will take place and democracy will have its way. Is the Leader willing to show disrespect or courtesy and respect to the visitor the Government and all of us are welcoming to this House today by making sure that there are empty seats-----
We are proposing that the divisions be taken afterwards. The Government invited the Speaker of the House of Representatives to address us today, and knew the hour and time that it is happening. The Government is now showing disrespect to the guest that we have invited by not allowing us to attend her address to the Dáil.
I would like to speak about juvenile crime and young offenders under 15 years of age. We have had a spate of crime in our area. We have had gangs going around. We saw in the newspapers recently that 3,500 juvenile cases have not been investigated.In my area, there have been crimes such as shops being robbed, intimidation, fighting on the street and elderly people being terrified. Last Friday, when I was in the AIB bank in Trim, a lady told me that her son had been beaten up at a juvenile disco. The Garda told his family to keep him at home and not to send him to the disco anymore. The family were threatened with their house being burned down for reporting the incident to the Garda.
Antisocial behaviour orders, ASBOs, are not working. I know of young offenders who have 11 or 12 ASBOs. Basically, the hands of gardaí are tied and they cannot do anything. The only way forward is for parents to be made more accountable. Young people must not be allowed to roam the streets at night or to intimidate or attack people. People have been attacked at cash machines in the Trim and south Meath area. On St. Patrick's Day, a young man had his nose broken at a cash machine because of juvenile offenders. The Minster for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, should come to the House today to explore new legislation for young offenders.
I seek guidance on a point of order. Obviously, the Fine Gael stunt this morning has not worked. I request that the Leader propose the suspension of the House to show due respect to the guest speaker in the Dáil and to allow Senators to attend the event. The stunt did not work. Let us show due respect to the visitor and the House.
Senator Feighan asked what we have against Australia and New Zealand. It is only two weeks since I raised the issue of the Suhinthan family who decided to emigrate to New Zealand after being headhunted by employers there. However, one of their three daughters was denied access to the country because she has Down's syndrome. Obviously, this will force the family to abandon its plans. I asked what this said about New Zealand, a supposedly tolerant country which is supposedly a friend to the Irish people. Incredibly, a rather similar case has arisen, this time in Australia, and the details of which are, perhaps, even worse. In 2009, Anthony and Christine Hyde moved from Dublin to Victoria, where he works as a bus driver and she is a teacher and assistant principal in a local primary school. Their son, Darragh, was born there in 2015. The family applied for permanent residency in Australia. In the course of the application, their son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The family met the criteria for permanent residency but, incredibly, the diagnosis led to their application being rejected due to the potential cost of the treatment of cystic fibrosis.
Essentially, Australia and New Zealand are saying that skilled Irish people and their families are perfectly welcome so long as none of them is disabled. If they are, they and their families are stigmatised and refused entry. I hope we would never be so heartless here in Ireland. Certainly, I am not aware of any situation where this has occurred or could occur here. I cannot imagine a situation whereby a family from Australia or New Zealand would be turned away on the grounds that one of the children was born with a manageable medical or genetic condition. If Donald Trump were to impose such a disgusting and discriminatory policy on immigrants to his country, there would be worldwide outrage, but when supposedly liberal and tolerant countries such as Australia and New Zealand do it, there is political silence and, effectively, a media blackout. There has been an almost total media blackout here about these cases. The initial application by the Hyde family was refused by the Australian immigration agency and is now under appeal to the administrative appeals tribunal. I intend to raise these cases as a Commencement matter such that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, can address them urgently. In the interim, does the Leader agree that these cases are shocking-----
I rise to speak about a matter I previously addressed in the House, namely, Clare Bus and the fact that its back office support has been moved to west Limerick, some 90 km away. It tendered for the contract, as did the Limerick bus company. The Limerick bus company succeeded in the tendering process run by the National Transport Authority, NTA, which is regrettable. I very much hope that at this late stage some mechanism can be found to allow common sense to prevail. People in Limerick are not sufficiently familiar with the topography, geography or landscape of County Clare to identify and find people who live in the mountains of the Burren, the hills of east Clare or the tip of west Clare. Clare Bus and its great staff who operate out of Feakle know County Clare inside out and upside down. They know every byroad and high road in the county. It is very regrettable that, as a result of European procurement rules, the back office support for County Clare and its bus company is now moving to Limerick. The hard-working people involved with Clare Bus are coming to Dublin at 2.30 p.m. today to hand in a petition to reverse the decision which has been signed by more than 6,000 people from County Clare. I very much welcome them to Dublin. I embrace their petition and sincerely hope that common sense can prevail. I call on the NTA to reverse its decision.
I thank the 23 Senators who contributed on the Order of Business, including the 12 Members who spoke on the Judicial Appointments Bill. In the words of Christie Hennessy, I feel like saddling up my old grey mare. As a messenger boy, I bring my love to all Senators. As Leader of the House and a Member who values the Oireachtas, I propose that the House now suspend out of courtesy and respect to our visitor and the Houses.
I did not receive any notes. Senator Boyhan should withdraw his remark. I am a parliamentarian who understands the value and traditions of the House. As a Member who sought appointment to the Seanad, I understand the importance of being here.
As a result of the import of the decision yesterday by Senator Boyhan and others to vote against my motion in respect of sitting arrangements, as they always say is their prerogative, which it is, I propose the suspension of the House until 2 p.m., at which stage I will reply on the Order of Business.
I thank the House for agreeing to the suspension earlier. The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill has been the topic of conversation. It is my proposal not to deal with all items on the Order of Business today other than the proposed amendments to it. We have given 86 hours and 25 minutes of debate to the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. I understand the frustrations of the Members who were opposing the Order of Business. Perhaps they should talk to the Joseph of new politics regarding the proposal before us today. We have given the Bill a fair hearing. We started the Bill on 20 June last and commenced Committee on 3 July. From then until today, 17 April, we have given it 86 hours and 25 minutes. By any stretch of the imagination that is a fair time for a Bill. It would be premature of Members now to suggest otherwise. In response to Senator Humphreys's comments about the Sinn Féin Party, his party was quite happy to take their votes in the Seanad campaign and had a number of agreements with them over a number of Seanad elections. It is important that we allow for the progression of this Bill, which is part of the programme for Government.
I certainly should not. I used a literary allusion from Charles Dickens. She called me a comedian, which was very supercilious, and I then said she was Madame Defarge sitting at the bottom of the guillotine knitting away, and that is exactly what she is. I refuse absolutely to withdraw.
In fairness to Senator Boyhan and his amendment to the Order of Business regarding the mayoral plebiscite, I have given it consideration. On 29 January we had a debate in this House in which the Senator was one of seven Members who participated. I do not think it is appropriate to extend the time today given that we had that debate so recently. It is a fair point that the Senator made, but in light of the fact that only seven Members turned up to speak on the issue that day, I am not accepting Senator Boyhan's amendment, nor will I be accepting the other amendments. I am proposing an amendment to the Order of Business myself, that we delete No. 5.
No. 5 is the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016, for the record. Let us continue with our very busy schedule. Senator McDowell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 1 be deleted from the Order of Business." Is the amendment being pressed?
Senator Norris has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 3 adjourn at 5 p.m. if not previously concluded." That is the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017. Is the amendment being pressed?
Catherine Ardagh, Ivana Bacik, Frances Black, Victor Boyhan, Lorraine Clifford Lee, Gerard Craughwell, Mark Daly, Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt, Robbie Gallagher, Alice Mary Higgins, Gerry Horkan, Kevin Humphreys, Colette Kelleher, Billy Lawless, Terry Leyden, Ian Marshall, Michael McDowell, Rónán Mullen, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Gerald Nash, David Norris, Marie Louise O'Donnell, Grace O'Sullivan, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, Diarmuid Wilson.
Colm Burke, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Maria Byrne, Paudie Coffey, Paul Coghlan, Martin Conway, Maire Devine, John Dolan, Frank Feighan, Paul Gavan, Maura Hopkins, Tim Lombard, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Gabrielle McFadden, Michelle Mulherin, Catherine Noone, Kieran O'Donnell, John O'Mahony, Joe O'Reilly, Niall Ó Donnghaile, James Reilly, Neale Richmond, Fintan Warfield.
The point is made.
Senator Bacik has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 3 not be taken today and that a debate with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on transport matters be taken instead." Is the amendment being pressed?