Tuesday, 21 May 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Sectoral Employment Order (Electrical Contracting Sector) 2019, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and adjourned at 7 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 3, Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 – Report and Final Stages to be taken at 7 p.m.; and No. 3a, motion re earlier signature of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of No. 3.
I extend my party's sympathies to the family and friends of the legendary Dublin footballer, Anton O'Toole.He was also known as the "Blue Panther" and he passed away aged 68. I send my sympathies and those of the Fianna Fáil group to his family and friends. He won four all-Ireland senior football medals and transformed Gaelic football for the capital. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.
In the context of the comments of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, on co-living accommodation, it is extraordinary that he thinks co-living in small spaces should be celebrated by young people. We only have to look on daft.ieto see the tiny squats, apartments or bedsits that are now available at astronomical prices. I do not know what planet the Minister lives on to think this should be celebrated. It is a retrograde step and will give rise to the creation of the slums of the future. The Minister has announced many policies. If he implemented even one, I would say it would be fantastic. The cost-rental model in Inchicore seems to have been abandoned or delayed so I would welcome any comments on where that stands. We have not seen a master plan but if he stuck to one project at a time and finished it, he could be commended. He has announced these co-living squats and it is not right. This is an insult to people.
I will also mention the early childcare scheme. I stated last week that there is a crisis because there are no places for babies and baby rooms in crèches have been abandoned because of the success of the early childcare scheme. At the weekend, we saw how this has become a national crisis. We also learned of a €50 million deficit relating to the early childcare scheme. I ask the Leader to schedule a debate on the subject as many young mothers simply cannot return to work because there are no spaces in crèches for their babies.
I will focus on one issue. I commend the Taoiseach and those involved with the national Famine commemoration in Sligo yesterday. It was a fitting and meaningful event. The Taoiseach stated, "The best way we can honour those who suffered and died during the Great Famine is by showing empathy with those who are suffering today." He said this in the context of the 1 million Irish people who were ultimately made refugees, having been forced from their homeland because of famine. I could not get to Sligo, although I was invited and had intended to go. Reading his words, I was reminded of the great issues by which we are challenged today and what we are doing about them. I will bounce around a few ideas in that regard.
In the context of the Taoiseach's words and in our knowledge of the great many people who left for Ellis Island and all the other places, forced from their homeland in need and who sought shelter, we, as legislators, must consider what we are doing. Many of the people to whom I refer were rejected, cursed, damned and given no opportunities. Others got such opportunities in the great places of America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere. The challenge for us must be to follow through on what the Taoiseach said. What are we doing about direct provision and the segregation of families? How are we enabling, supporting and establishing new homes and safe communities? How are we addressing migrant integration, particularly in the context of migrant children? What are we doing to provide job opportunities, education and social care? What are we doing to respect language, faith and difference? What are we doing to address hate crimes and racism? Why do we not celebrate more the arts, rich music, tradition and culinary aspects that come with the diverse cultures of our people? We are talking about a real republic with a capital "R". As legislators, we in these Houses must challenge ourselves and ask what we are doing and how we can empower migrant civil society to ensure that it can participate in the democratic process and governance. I say that mindful of the elections coming up in the next few days or those that will take place in the future.I will finish on this point. I think we need to tap in and create a new coalition of willing people who want to address this issue. We need a debate in the House on the importance of migration flows.
The Leader is a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe - Parliamentary Assembly, OSCE-PA, as I am, and we were furnished with a book at our last conference in Vienna entitled Local Authorities Migrant Integration Guide. I circulated it to every local authority. We need to visit this and see how we as representatives of local, national and European governments can address the issue of extending a real warm welcome to migrants. We must remember our past and our experience as migrant people. I would like the Taoiseach to acknowledge that he has tapped into something really strong and powerful. Let us take it to the next stage and debate those issues in this House and have meaningful engagement to discuss and address them.
I commend the O'Neill pipe band from Clontibret, County Monaghan, who made history by performing here earlier today at the invitation of Deputy Ó Caoláin, Chairman of the Oireachtas committee on justice and equality. It was a fantastic event and I commend Ms Lorna Sherry, the pipe major, and Peadar Morgan, the founder of the pipe band. Their performance of the Flying Pickets song Only You was absolutely tremendous. The message around Irish Sign Language is that it is a language for everybody and that people are not disabled just because they are deaf. They are a community of people with an unique language and that language is for everybody. I commend them.
Last week, I spoke about pyrite. Many representatives from counties Mayo, Donegal and other areas welcomed the recent announcement on the pyrite remediation scheme. Concern has been expressed, however, about the cost of the proposed testing, as detailed in the protocol. The issue of the defective building materials has been live for many years and I would expect the Government has at least laid the groundwork for the scheme to begin immediately. I have some questions. In the absence of the Minister responsible, may I ask the Leader to pass on the following questions? Will every house have to carry out the testing? Who will pay for the testing and for the engineer's report? The cost of the test, depending on the number of cores, may be more than €8,000. Based on the number of attendees that were at a recent course, are there enough engineers available to carry out the surveys that are required? If one house in an estate that was supplied with the same building materials is deemed to have pyrite, will all of the houses have to be surveyed and tested in detail or would it be enough to know from the characteristics of the other houses that they also are affected by pyrite? Are there sufficient laboratories available to carry out the required suite of testing that is needed? Is there any official register of the complaints to date from counties Mayo and Donegal and who will establish such a register? When will the procedure be available for the applicants and who will certify the payment of that? What role will local authorities have and what input will they have into the schemes? Will contractors be approved for such remedial works that may be required? Will priority be given to the most seriously affected houses? We need an urgent debate on the issue of pyrite because people are really fearful for their houses. We welcome the announcement of the funding but we need to know that the can will not be kicked down the road again. People are desperate for answers to these questions. I ask the Leader to put these questions to the Minister and relay the response to the House.
I acknowledge the recent publication which seems to conflate drug decriminalisation and the legalisation of cannabis, which are two very different debates. The working group on drug decriminalisation has now given the Minister its report and this must be made public.There are various media articles that have taken pieces of that report and reported on them in an ambiguous way. I have seen the report. It has laid out three options, two of which are for variations of adult caution. One of these is a watered down version of decriminalisation and I believe civil society groups and I could work with the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, on this. It is not fair that the media appears to get snippets of the report prior to it being laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas when we can engage in a meaningful way. I read today that the chairman of the working group, retired judge Mr. Justice Garrett Sheehan, is seeking to bring forward a minority report that comes out against the three options in the report which are not even around drug decriminalisation. I stand to be corrected but I believe that Mr. Justice Sheehan is looking for harsher penalties for a person who is caught in possession of drugs in his or her pocket for personal use. I am appalled to think that a judge who has been in the system this long, and who has seen vulnerable people who came in front his court ending up in prison with worse drug addictions than they had before they entered the courtroom, would even suggest harsher penalties for people in addiction. I would like the Leader to ask the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, to come to the House to have a debate on the report and to get the report published so that Members can have a real conversation about it.
Last week the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, explained that the Government had conflicting priorities around the business of this House. To facilitate the Minister, I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that Report Stage of the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 be taken immediately after the Order of Business, and that once the business is concluded on the Bill the House would adjourn until tomorrow.
I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, or the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to the House to clarify for the more than 3,000 service users of Rehab in the State who are very concerned their service will be cut or affected in some way if Rehab is to pull out of providing essential services to people who have a disability. From my area of County Mayo I am aware of the quality and calibre of service that Rehab staff offer. It makes a real difference in the lives of people who have a disability and their families whose lives in many ways would be absolutely transformed for the worse if there is a reduction or change in the service provided. There is a lot of fear out there on this issue. I am aware that the Minister of State and the Minister for Health in particular - because he has spoken on it - are intent on trying to find a resolution with Rehab, but people and the service users need to know where they stand. I truly hope that this resolution can be forthcoming very soon to put everybody's mind at ease and so the staff in Rehab can continue to provide the top-class service they do. I ask that the Minister and the Minister of State are invited to the House to provide that clarification. Other than that, as we all know, the State will be left carrying the can and trying to provide the service, which would be no small feat given the number of service users.
I was very disappointed to hear over the weekend that a 12 year old girl from Carlow was not allowed to compete in the National Stadium for her second Irish boxing title, having already won at local provincial and national level. She had trained hard and worked long hours with her coaches in Tullow. This great fighter was refused entry to the competition by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association when it cited a rule that boxers cannot compete as a boxer while being a member of any other contact sport. This sportswoman had previously won a silver medal at the Muay Thai World Youth Championships in Thailand. There has been outrage locally and nationally at this refusal.I have been onto the office of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport about this. At a time when we promote mental and physical health, this is unacceptable. I know the Leader will bring this to the Minister for me.
I agree with the previous speaker on Rehab and its services. I have just left a meeting with Rehab where we heard about its serious concerns about the 3,000 people with disabilities who use its service. There are 1,500 staff. This is a crucial service. I live near a Rehab service in Carlow town and it is absolutely excellent. There is a meeting today at 5 p.m. with the Minister for Health and I ask that the families would not be concerned or worried. They are tormented with worry about whether the service will be closed. Rehab is telling them if it does not get €2 million by 2020, this service will cease to exist. That is unacceptable. I ask the Leader to make sure this does not happen.
I wish all the Fianna Fáil councillors all the best in the elections. It is very important that people come out to vote. Every one of us has a vote and people should get out and use their votes. I think there have been some issues about who registered-----
I would like to second everything my colleague, Senator Boyhan, has said. I was honoured to attend the National Famine Commemoration last Sunday in Sligo and I would like to commend the County Sligo Famine commemoration committee on a superb event. I was so deeply moved by the booklet produced for Sunday’s event, that I have requested a copy for every Member of the Oireachtas. It is vital that we read it and remember our past. I would like to read this short recollection of the Famine from a Mrs. McDermott of Templeboy, Sligo:
A man named Doherty lived with his wife and six children in Grangemore. During the Famine they were starving. His wife and six children died from hunger, and he carried them in a sack, and buried them in a hole in Shaw’s field. Some time afterwards, he died by the roadside and when he was found, grass and other green vegetables were found in and around his mouth.
People died along the roadside and in the fields. A man named Healy, who lived in Lugdun, was one morning going to the well for water, when he fell on the roadside and died. He was buried in a box in his own garden. Fourteen families, left Cartron and Lugdun for the Emigrant Ship in one day.
This is from The Sligo Championof January 1847:
Although 35 persons in fever were sent from the Workhouse to the Hospital, they are still lying three in a bed, in the former institution! Good God! Think of three fever patients crowded together, upon the one narrow bed! Fever sheds are being erected as speedily as possible, and when they are completed the poor sufferers will, of course be better treated, and have a greater chance of recovery.
Ireland is now a prosperous and global nation but these recollections show us we must never forget this terrible blight on our history.
On my travels over the weekend, I met a gentleman who has a tumour. He is attending University Hospital Galway for scheduled treatment. Every month when he goes for this treatment, there is no bed for him. He was advised to go in through the accident and emergency department. He does that and waits for up to 24 hours for a bed and has his treatment. He was at pains to tell me that the doctors and nurses are exceptional and that once he gets in there, the treatment is excellent. There is something seriously wrong when someone with scheduled treatment has to sit for 24 hours in the accident and emergency department.
I am based in the midlands and we are advised to go east or west to centres of excellence for treatment. We should not have to go through the accident and emergency department for scheduled treatment. It is obvious that there are management issues. The beds are available eventually and the money is there. The service and exceptional staff are there.I ask the Leader to use his good offices to ask the Minister to come before the House in order that we might discuss this issue in a constructive manner.
I echo the comments of Senator Ruane regarding the debate on the decriminalisation of drug use. Notwithstanding the emotion Senator Lawless has about those who died at the roadside in Ireland 150 years ago - and while I agree with his sentiments - there are people dying at the roadside throughout Ireland and in its capital city every day as a result of drug overdoses. We seem to have a romantic view of what happened 150 years ago yet we have a victim-blaming attitude to those who die in toilets, parks, stairwells of flat complexes and alleyways as a result of overdoses. We have the third highest overdose rate in Europe. The discussion on decriminalisation, which is at a sensitive point, purely aims to help somebody who has an addiction, not through the criminal justice system but through the health system. It is just as radical as that.
There was a disgraceful letter in The Irish Timesyesterday from 20 or more GPs who feel it falls upon them to derail the humanity of what we are trying to achieve. To suggest that the move towards decriminalisation is a Trojan horse for anything but keeping people alive is outrageous. As Senator Ruane indicated, it is beyond time for the debate on this matter to take place. We are willing to work with the Government on the basis of the report, which may or may not already have been heavily leaked, if what comes out of it provides a basis upon which we can work. To suggest that the decriminalisation argument is somehow trying to achieve something else is absolutely insulting to all of us who do not believe that people who are sick or who have addictions belong before the courts; they do not. Someone who is sick, who is in need of medical help and who has an addiction does not belong in a courtroom, a prison or a Garda cell. They should not be interacting with the criminal justice system. Such a person needs a counsellor, a nurse, a doctor and a path to recovery. That is the basis for decriminalisation. It is not decriminalisation of the substances but of the person. If this issue was taken seriously, we would have a lot fewer people dying on our streets as a result of what is a real and contemporaneous issue.
I just wanted to note that achievement.
Somebody has been careless enough to lose my seat on three occasions in the Lower House. I was struck by an account in today's edition of the Irish Independentregarding a Member of that House who lost her seat while on a swing in a hotel in Harcourt Street recently.
I just want to say two things without commenting on the merits of the case. It would appear that 55 years after Belfast City Council unlocked the swings on Sundays, the proposition is being put in court that there should be supervisors for swings when adults are using them and that it is a matter of civil liability if there are not. It occurs to me that we live in a strange world when civil liability can exist in such circumstances. Perhaps we are only hearing a portion of the evidence. Who knows? It also occurs that if the Government is serious about driving down the claims culture, we cannot stand idly by when adults with two objects, one in each hand, lose their seat and fall off a swing and then claim that there should have been a supervisor looking after them, especially when it comes from somebody who has so much public influence and clear influence over Government policy in these matters.
As I understand it, the letter to The Irish Timesto which Senator Ó Ríordáin referred merely points out that the case for medicinal cannabis is being confused with the case for decriminalisation of all cannabis by cannabis users.
That is a legitimate point to make and I do not believe there is anything disgusting or disgraceful about making it. This is not a simple issue. There is a big problem with criminalising the possession of small quantities of cannabis; it is probably a waste of everyone's time prosecuting people for it. However, decriminalising cannabis will have serious effects because it is a psychotic substance which causes psychosis among young people. I know this and science has proved it.
On a lighter note, marriage equality for homosexual people and the decriminalisation of cannabis came in at the same time in Canada recently. It was stated in a newspaper there that evangelists were completely shocked by this and that they were worried about the phrase in the bible that "if a man shall lie with another man as if his wife, he shall be stoned".
How does one follow that? A number of my colleagues have mentioned drug addiction, while one has mentioned the problems faced in emergency departments. A couple of weeks ago I had the misfortune of having to spend the best part of 24 hours in an emergency department with a relative who was a frequent visitor to the place owing to chronic health issues. I cannot begin to recount the girl's distress in sitting in the emergency department, surrounded by people who were either substance abusers, completely drunk or high on drugs. Surely the emergency department is not the place to treat such persons? We would change the entire system if a proper place could be provided for those suffering from substance abuse.
Anyone sitting with the girl I was with, or the others sitting around us who were really sick would have been heartbroken. At one point the queue had to be restarted because one of the substance abusers had run out of the place and a number of staff had to follow to bring her back in order that she could be fitted back into the queue. I cannot begin to describe the hurt felt by the people sitting around me. We really have to tackle the issue of substance abuse. There is not a family in the country who do not have somebody suffering from substance abuse. We have to tackle the problem. They are crowding emergency departments throughout the country. I have had the misfortune, owing to heart problems, to attend the emergency department at St. Vincent's University Hospital on several occasions and each time the place was full to the rafters. It is desperate.
I ask everyone in the House to join me in condemning those who are cutting down posters belonging to candidates running in local and national elections. The posters cost a lot of money and anyone who acts in such a way is committing a vicious act.
The Senator need not bother. I second Senator Humphreys' proposed amendment to the Order of Business.
I was not going to speak, but since the question of hospitals was raised, I will say that yesterday I was in St. Vincent's University Hospital and looking at the notices. Last year some 19,000 people failed to turn up for appointments, at a cost to the hospital of €1.5 million. We hear much squawking from the consumers of health services.However, I would like to say it is a very fine service but it is not well served by citizens in every hospital in the State routinely failing to turn up for appointments, particularly when, as in the case of St. Vincent's hospital, a text message is sent to remind the person of his or her appointment.
The full facts have yet to come out about what happened to the baby who died in Holles Street. What we can say is that this is something more than a case of a misdiagnosis and all the tragic consequences that followed. It raises the most serious questions about the medical establishment and the establishment of some doctors within our system. I spent a lot of time last year and in the past attempting to draw policymakers' attention to the fact that many parents in this tragic situation have felt patronised, sometimes pressurised-----
And passed over when it comes to important and, at the very least, relevant information. We have seen in the case of the CervicalCheck scandal some parallels with tests abroad and lack of information and responsibility towards people at home. We need to know more and hopefully we will know more and at that point more can be said by calm people-----
-----who want people to be properly and respectfully treated.
Less of a life and death issue but nonetheless important is dentistry and people's oral and dental health. I was very interested by what Dr. John Marley, dean of the faculty of dentistry in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, had to be say last week when he came before the Joint Committee on Health. It probably will not surprise people that during the recession, many households cut down their spending on dental treatments but what would surprise them is that the faculty of dentistry in the RCSI had no input into the development of the national oral health strategy. Dr. Marley pointed out some interesting matters of which I was unaware and of which other people may also be. There is no foundation year – what we would call an internship year in the area of medicine - for dentists. Dentists go into private practice without having such a foundation year pre-registration. There is no mandatory continual professional development for dentists in the way there is for medics and other professionals. As doctors and pharmacists have ongoing training in the latest medical developments, it is striking that no such system operates for dentists. There is limited access to dental specialties. There are only about two specialties and consultancies, orthodontics and oral surgery, in which people can work in Ireland while there are about 11 other specialties in the UK and internationally. That is something we should discuss in this Chamber. I was extremely surprised by all of those things Dr. Marley had to say. We should discuss them with the Minister for Health, together perhaps with other issues in due course.
I want to say something positive. It is about St. Vincent’s hospital, where I have spent the last two days for family reasons, not my own but other family members. I cannot begin to stress how wonderful the staff were.
It is packed - it is a city of the frail, the feeble and the very unwell - and accident and emergency departments are like that. A man called Stephen Wilson, who is an advanced paramedic within the ambulance service, was outstanding. Another man called Thomas Chirayath from Kerala, a healthcare assistant, was also outstanding, as was a man called David Kelly, who was given an award for heroism for his ability as an advanced ambulance paramedic who tried to save a child’s life . The child unfortunately died but the mother of that child recommended him for this award, which he received from the people of Dublin.It was not so much even that - particularly as I did not know any of it until later - it was just the care and attention in a city with a lot of people of all ages who are very unwell. I just cannot say enough about it, and also about the health care assistants. I keep talking about this because health care assistants do everything in between the doctors and the consultants. They are outstanding. They come from all over the world to work here. They are happy to do so, to have lives here and tend to us, and we still will not give them a critical skills facility, or a proper trajectory and proper conditions in respect of their jobs in order that they can remain. We need to look at that. It is only when one is in that situation that one is so grateful for the care of others at consultant level but also at the level of the everyday in a city of the feeble and of people who are very unwell. I thank those at St. Vincent's University Hospital. We should remember the good things that happen every day in this country and the good health people enjoy. We should also remember the Sisters of Charity who built the hospital.
That is great. The HSE produced its service plan for 2019. It is working towards a seven-day service for the child and adolescent mental health service, CAMHS, to ensure support for vulnerable young persons in line with the policy of Connecting for Life. A couple of weeks ago, I received a response which indicated in black and white that there is no plan to implement the 7-7 service. The period from Thursday evening to early Monday morning is when the demand for psychological and psychiatric services is at its greatest. That is the reason we were hopeful that we would have not just a 7-7 service but a 24-7 service.
I raised this issue on the Commencement last week and I received a response from the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, rather than the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly. I was unimpressed by his response in which he did not once mention a 7-7 service. It was a long spiel about the history of the HSE going back forever and about the current services but not the services that were promised for 2019. He said he would bring my concerns to the Minister. I look forward to some response because a 7-7 service is the minimum we must try to provide for children under the 2019 service plan. There was also a letter from community healthcare organisation, CHO, 9 stating that it cannot put anybody on the mental health waiting list who is referred. It also outlined its regret in having to inform people that, due to the high referral numbers, the primary care mental health service has ceased for the foreseeable future. I would welcome some clarity from the Minister on the 7-7 service and mental health services in CHO 9. I thank the Cathaoirleach and I also thank the Leader for his generosity.
I thank the 15 Members of the House who contributed to the Order of Business.
Like Senator Ardagh, I begin by paying tribute to and remembering the late, great Anton O'Toole. Those of us who grew up as part a generation that watched the Dubs display their prowess in the 1970s will remember him as a fantastic and skilful footballer. We extend our sympathy to his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.
Senator Ardagh raised the comments of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. What he articulated is that co-living is one housing option. It is about offering choice. Co-living works in other cities and, to be fair, we cannot all judge on one concept, whether it is single housing or planning or apartment living. We are concerned about increasing supply. That is the reason the Government is committed to Rebuilding Ireland.I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House for a debate on housing again.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of the early childcare scheme regarding places for babies. The Government is committed to enabling people to have access to high-quality, affordable childcare. It is a very important issue. Under the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, we have seen an increase in the budget over the past two budgets. The Government is committed to ensuring that children in the nought to three age group referred to by Senator Ardagh are accommodated. We have seen an increase in the number of young children accessing services from 13,000 in 2014 to 31,000 today. I would be happy for the Minister to come back to us in June for a debate on the matter.
Senators Boyhan and Lawless raised the issue of the Famine commemoration in Sligo last weekend. In his very fine contribution, Senator Boyhan spoke about celebrating diversity and the need to have empathy, as the Taoiseach said, for those suffering today. I would be very happy to have that debate in the context of migration and where we see ourselves as a culture and society within the EU project. The remarks of Senators Boyhan and Lawless are ones about which we need a wider discussion, particularly on the issue of migration, where some people peddle a line that migration is bad for our country. As we all know quite well, there are many fine immigrants in our country today making a very valuable contribution to our society and communities. Freedom of movement of people is one that we all cherish. As the Senator for the diaspora, Senator Lawless can testify to the fact that as a race of people, we have been welcomed across the world, particularly in North America. That debate is one we should have and I commend Senators Boyhan and Lawless on their contributions.
Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of pyrite. As Members will be aware, the Government announced €20 million in the budget for a pyrite and mica remediation scheme for affected houses in counties Donegal and Mayo. It has committed to resolving the problem and the final aspects of the scheme are being worked out and will be published soon. Many emergency and technical works have been undertaken to date. The issue of standardisation of testing and other types of works will be fed into the scheme. I would be happy for the Minister to come back to the House with regard to the matter raised by the Senator. I join with her in commending the O'Neill Pipe Band on being here today. I also commend the work of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on Irish Sign Language. Senator Conway-Walsh is not here but I was going to say to her that if she was talking about The Flying Pickets' song, I was hoping she might extend all her love to us on this side of the House.
Senators Ruane, Ó Ríordáin and McDowell raised the very important issue of the decriminalisation of drugs. It is a very emotional issue where we need to see a different type of approach. I concur with some of the comments made by Senators Ruane and Ó Ríordáin, as I think we need to look at how we can do things differently while recognising that the letter to The Irish Timesaddressed a different issue. I have to say that Senator McDowell's contribution regarding psychosis and cannabis is one we cannot just dismiss.
Senator Ó Ríordáin should not make it all about him. Sometimes it is not all about him. Before Senator Ó Ríordáin jumps in, I was going to say that as Minister of State, he did a significant amount of work of which I was supportive but there are issues around cannabis that we cannot ignore. The views of a body of opinion were published yesterday and there were letters to the newspapers, which need to be part of a wider debate that I am happy to have. In fairness to the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, the report has not yet gone to Cabinet. I am told that there is a need for cross-departmental review of and contribution to the report. It is a complex issue but we need an informed debate on the matter and I look forward to the Upper House having that debate in due course. I will not shy away from it. Senator Ó Ríordáin is right. The pathway to recovery is one we need to examine. As somebody who has been involved with a number of organisations in Cork, I know that it is one we need to examine further.
Senator Humphreys proposed an amendment to the Order of Business that I cannot accept.Senator Mulherin raised the issue of clarification regarding Rehab, as did Senator Murnane O'Connor. It is important that we provide certainty and continuity to the users of Rehab. That is why there have been talks going on between the Minister and the service provider, Rehab, today and prior to today. I hope that a resolution can be found to the talks because it is an important service. I will leave it at that.
With Senator Murnane O'Connor's permission, I will rejig the Senator's comment to wish all candidates in the local elections every success on Friday.
To participate in democracy as a citizen is one thing but to be a candidate is another. To all the men and women who are standing for election, irrespective of their hue, party or if they are Independent, I say, "Go n-éirí libh". I hope they all do well.
Does the Senator want me to raise the Carlow candidates who I support?
Senator Murnane O'Connor had better mark the calendar. I completely agree with the Senator's remarks on that young boxer who should be allowed to participate in a variety of boxing events. I thought we got rid of the ban in sport in our country. The decision by the IABA is wrong. There are two types of boxing and I do not see why one cannot participate in both codes.
Senator McFadden raised the issue of University Hospital Galway. That is a matter that deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and seriousness. In fairness, Senator McFadden might get a better reply through a Commencement matter. I addressed Senator Ó Ríordáin's issue.
In response to Senator McDowell, the issue of the swing is before the courts and I will not mention that.
The issue of civil liability is one that, in the wider insurance debate, needs to be addressed. We will have the Judicial Council Bill 2017 coming back before us and the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy, is working on reducing the cost of insurance. I note Cork City Council has set aside €20 million for insurance claims. That is a huge chunk of money out of the budget of the city council. It poses the question as to why we must have that kind of money. Let us have that debate at a future time.
Senator Craughwell raised the issue of the accident and emergency department and the distressed girl. I have made the point repeatedly that the system of access to emergency departments should be changed. We need more investment in primary care which we are providing. Senator Norris, off-camera, made reference to the issue of drunk tanks. We need a specific area of emergency departments for those with alcohol and drug issues who come into accident and emergency departments, clog them up and hold patients up. Senator Norris is correct. There are people who come into hospitals who need to be seen as outpatients but there are people who misuse the hospital system by failing to turn up, failing to notify and cancelling on a number of occasions and that adds to a backlog. I would be happy to have that debate on the health system following the local and European elections.
Senator Mullen raised the sensitive and tragic issue in the National Maternity Hospital. The best contribution I can make is that we do not know all the facts. There is a review under way in the hospital. Let us await that conclusive report and then have a debate. Let us treat the matter with sensitivity and not use anybody, anything or any place as a political football. We all have concerns. We all have issues. Let us wait until we get the full facts when we can have the debate on the matter.
Senators Marie-Louise O'Donnell and Norris commended those involved in the healthcare system, particularly in St. Vincent's. The Senators are correct. There is a significant amount of work being done. We can have a real debate on the positivity around the healthcare system and about the need to keep the patient at the heart and centre of it. The remarks of both Senators are ones that should be promulgated.
Finally, Senator Devine-----
If there are concerns, let us have that debate. I have to be honest. There is much positivity in the healthcare system too. We sometimes hear a lot of negativity in this House, but there is a lot of positivity too. I am not saying the Senator is saying negative things but making the point as part of the debate.
I understand that.
I do not have an answer for Senator Devine to her question about CHO 9, nor do I have a further update. She is unhappy with the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath's response last week. The Government is committed to working on the issue of mental health. On child and adolescent mental health services, I suggest, with respect, that the Senator resubmit her Commencement matter for further consideration. We will have a debate on health issues again after the local elections. The HSE's service plan is not debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas per sebut at the Joint Committee on Health. As a Member of the Oireachtas, the Senator should have the opportunity to meet representatives of the HSE in her area to speak about issues related to the service plan. She should consider resubmitting her Commencement matter because I accept that it is an important issue.
I regret that I cannot accept Senator Humphreys' proposed amendment to the Order of Business.
Victor Boyhan, Lorraine Clifford Lee, Gerard Craughwell, Paul Daly, Robbie Gallagher, Gerry Horkan, Kevin Humphreys, Ian Marshall, Michael McDowell, Rónán Mullen, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Gerald Nash, David Norris, Marie Louise O'Donnell, Denis O'Donovan, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Lynn Ruane.
Colm Burke, Paddy Burke, Jerry Buttimer, Rose Conway Walsh, Martin Conway, Maire Devine, Frank Feighan, Maura Hopkins, Anthony Lawlor, Tim Lombard, Gabrielle McFadden, Michelle Mulherin, John O'Mahony, Joe O'Reilly, James Reilly, Neale Richmond.
There is an equality of votes. Pursuant to Article 15.11.2o of the Constitution, I exercise my casting vote and vote in favour of the proposal in this instance. I, therefore, declare the question carried. Is the Order of Business, as amended, agreed to?