Tuesday, 25 June 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to adjourn at 7 p.m.; and No. 2, Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2019, Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 7 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes.
With the indulgence of the Cathaoirleach, I welcome to the Gallery members of the Minane Bridge community alert group who are friends of Senator Tim Lombard.The group does tremendous work in the community. I hope that its members have a good day in Leinster House.
As a Corkman, I also welcome the people from Minane Bridge and wish them an enjoyable day in Leinster House.
Before I call the next speaker, I am sure that Members will wish to join me in welcoming Senator Lawless's brother, Gerald, his brother-in-law Patrick O'Toole and friends from Galway. We have Cork versus Galway in the Public Gallery. On my behalf and on that of all my colleagues in Seanad Éireann, I extend a warm welcome to everyone. I hope our visitors have an enjoyable day in Leinster House.
I also welcome my friends in the Public Gallery.
I wish to convey my sympathies and those of the Fianna Fáil group on the heartbreaking news we received at the weekend of the passing of Manus "Mandy" Kelly at the Donegal International Rally. It is devastating news for his racing community and the local community. Manus drove the cancer bus in Donegal. He leaves behind five children, his wife, Bernie, his co-driver, his racing community, his family and his many friends. This is a huge loss to his local community, to Donegal and to Fianna Fáil, on behalf of which he was elected in the local elections earlier this month. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I wish to discuss tomorrow's strike by approximately 10,000 healthcare support workers and unhelpful comment by the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to the effect that the strike is "quite extraordinary". Describing the forthcoming strike by uttering such unhelpful and condescending comments will do nothing to help resolve the dispute to which it relates. Rather, it will further agitate these hardworking healthcare workers. It is sad and devastating that patients will be affected. There will be significant delays, deferrals of elective inpatient procedures, cancellations of endoscopy procedures and a reduced number of outpatient procedures. Patients are terrified that the strike will affect many hospitals in the city, including Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. The Minister needs to change his thinking and language and engage meaningfully with SIPTU in order to ensure that this strike, which looks to be going ahead, is postponed. It is unfair on the workers and patients.
I also wish to raise the issue of a Harold's Cross school. The Harold's Cross Stadium was purchased by the Department of Education and Skills for the purpose of building a secondary school. We now know that that school has been assigned Educate Together patronage. However, pupils from Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 have been excluded from the new school's catchment area. This is despite the fact that the schools in their areas were some of the very first Educate Together schools in the city, having opened before the schools in Dublin 2, 4 and 6, which will be within the new school's catchment area. What is happening is unfair. A further three non-fee paying secondary schools opened up in Dublin 2, 4 and 6 recently, yet children in Dublin 8 and 12 will not have access to them either. The Harold's Cross school is on the very border of Dublin 8 and Dublin 12. Children in Dublin 8 who want to continue their education with Educate Together must go to Sandymount. It makes no sense for the Department to send children from Dublin 8 and 12 to Sandymount when there will be a new, beautiful school on their doorstep. A great campaign was organised by the Educate Together community in Dublin 8 and 12. The Minister has met the community, but the responses have been inadequate. It is very discriminatory that the children of Dublin 8 and 12 will not have access to this school, which is on their doorstep. The Minister needs to do something about it. There is a reason there are no Fine Gael councillors in Dublin South-Central. It is because they do absolutely nothing for the children of that area.
I wish to welcome my brother, Gerard, from Dubai, my brother-in-law, Patrick O'Toole, and all my friends from Galway and Cork - my mother was from Clonakilty.
I welcome the announcement by the Government to publish the general scheme of the Bill that will facilitate a referendum on whether the Irish diaspora should be entitled to vote in our presidential elections. As someone who has campaigned to allow the diaspora to vote in our elections for many years I am absolutely delighted that this question will now be put to the people.
I do not intend to address the myths and fears surrounding this referendum but instead speak to what kind of message a "Yes" vote would send to the world and the Irish community living throughout the globe. We spend a great deal of time in this country rightly expressing the pride we feel in giving a cead míle fáilte to all those who visit our shores and in how that welcome contributes to our world famous tourism industry that supports tens of thousands of jobs and enriches communities throughout the country.
When our country was on the floor and net emigration began to rise again for the first time since the 1980s, foreign direct investment and tourism were what kept our economic engine from complete collapse. Our new and old diaspora gave us hope of what was possible. In September 2009 some 13% of the country was unemployed. Ireland's economy was falling rapidly at a rate of -7.1%. For the first time since 1995 more people left Ireland than moved here. However, in the middle of this state of hopelessness Ireland hosted its first ever global Irish economic forum. It blended major global businesses, thriving members of the Irish diaspora and some of our domestic champions to forge a vision of the future and of how Ireland was going to exit its economic nightmare. This confidence espoused hope for our future and ultimately laid the seeds for what was to be the bounty of our recovery: a diet of foreign investment and tourism.
As a nation we have always done better when we open our minds, hearts and island. It is in this context that I would like the referendum to be framed. Connections to the diaspora create more jobs, enhance communities and strengthen diplomatic ties throughout the world. Ireland is up there with the best in the world at harnessing these ties to our benefit, but we are not the best and we could be better. The best countries give their diaspora real and meaningful voice. Rightly, in the recent local elections everyone living in the State was provided a vote, including those who may only have been in Ireland for a year or with the intention of staying only three years. How can we say to those across the globe who wake up in the morning and log on to www.rte.ie, gather in Irish pubs to watch the GAA championships, teach their children Irish dancing and hold passports to this country that they are forbidden from any democratic connection to our nation? What about our brothers and sisters in Northern Ireland who have been cast away by an English Government that cares little for the democratic desire to stay part of the European Union? This vote will ask the Irish people whether they wish to allow our diaspora a formal say every seven years in choosing who is to represent our State, our island and our nation. As far as I am concerned, the Irish of the diaspora are just as Irish as every man and woman sitting in this House. I relish the chance to play a role in fighting for their voice to be heard in our democracy. I urge the Government to publish the scheme and then the Bill and to let us have this referendum in October.
I absolutely concur with what Senator Lawless has said. The scurrilous report in The Timesby Sarah Carey over the weekend was absolutely disturbing. I say as much as someone who was part of the Irish diaspora and who lived in London for many years. Do people mean to tell me that because I returned here I can have a vote but that my brothers and sisters who live in Birmingham, London and other parts of the world are not allowed to have a vote? Our Irish diaspora are about more than simply shaking them down whenever we want some help or support.We do not want to hear what they have to say. They are equally valid Irish citizens and on that basis they should certainly have a vote. It is not a gift to them. It is their absolute right to have a vote in presidential and other elections. Let us deal with the presidential elections first. There is nothing whatsoever to fear in hearing from the Irish diaspora.
I also want to talk about the strike and to appeal to the Minister and the Taoiseach. The strikes planned for tomorrow and next week can be averted. The impact they are going to have on the communities I and other Senators serve will be devastating. This is money that is already owed to those workers. It has already been agreed and has already gone through the mechanisms of the State. It has to be honoured. It is absolutely certain that this strike is going to be settled, so why not settle it now? Why not sit down in earnest with the unions and meet them halfway? They are willing to negotiate. I am appealing to the Taoiseach to do that.
I welcome our Private Members' motion in the Dáil this afternoon in respect of home help. It has to be tackled in a proper way. The social and economic impact of not dealing with the home help crisis will be devastating for the very communities that are affected by hospital closures, such as my own in respect of Belmullet hospital. I ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development to come to the House and tell us why we are getting mixed messages. We are getting one message from the HSE after a meeting on Friday to say that a quarter of the beds in Belmullet hospital are going to be closed. Meanwhile we have the Minister, Deputy Ring, and the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, saying they are not going to be closed. People need certainty and a bit of truth and honesty around all this so we can have a proper healthcare service that is delivered close to the ground as was outlined in Sláintecare. Otherwise we might as well tear up the cross-party agreement that is Sláintecare.
In light of the recent letters originating from St. Luke's hospital in Kilkenny that have come into the public domain, declaring the hospital not to be an appropriate location to carry out abortion services, I would like to raise the issue of women's access to abortion services across Ireland. Under the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, women have a legal entitlement to abortion services which must be organised in a manner that ensures this right is vindicated in practice through locally accessible abortion care. However, a letter sent on behalf of four obstetrician-gynaecologists at St. Luke’s asserts that the hospital is unfit to carry out abortion services. An additional letter, dated 17 June, underlines that not only can terminations not be carried out at St. Luke’s, but that there is no referral pathway to a hospital that can provide such a termination.
This is not an isolated case. The recent issues with St. Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny are symptomatic of a much larger problem. There would seem to be inadequate resourcing and training available, as well as the question of how refusal of care is managed. As of now, only ten out of 19 maternity units in the State provide abortion services for women. Regarding refusal of care, institutions do not have the right to refuse to provide care. The 2018 Act stipulated that they have a duty to refer women on to enable them to access abortion care. There should be a clear pathway of referral for a woman and it should only be a temporary measure while St. Luke's undertakes work required to establish its own termination of pregnancy service.
On another matter, one of the signatories of the St. Luke’s letter is also at the centre of a second scandal, in which women underwent gynaecological "exploratory work" without their consent. It is even suggested in The Irish Times that such procedures could have been carried out for potential patents and profiteering down the line. As I understand it, again from The Irish Times, the hospital maintains that the obstetrician involved should have obtained consent from women. The hospital has sought his suspension and reported the matter to the Medical Council.This is deeply troubling given our history of such cases where women were not consulted about procedures. It seems we have not learned anything.
To return to the issue of abortion services, the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, only days ago underlined his Department's commitment when he said that "all 19 maternity hospitals should be in a position to provide termination of pregnancy service under the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018." I ask the Leader to request the Minister to come to the House to clarify exactly what he and his Department propose to do to ensure that all 19 maternity units, including the unit in St. Luke's General Hospital, are capable of carrying out termination of pregnancy services as they are legally obliged to do and what he proposes to do about the egregious breach of consent, as highlighted by the nursing staff in St. Luke's hospital.
I raise an issue of concern to apartment owners, one which I have raised many times in the context of legacy issues and faults in the building of apartments. I mention specifically international best practice and how we can avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. Clúid Housing and the Housing Agency recently published an independent report on best practice for owner management companies. The report, which contains 14 key recommendations on sinking funds, fire safety and volunteer directors, needs to be serious examined. International best practice for the management of apartment developments is a worthy subject for debate in the House. We have clearly failed in this respect in the past and if we continue on the current path, we will fail again in future.
Good weather has been forecast for the Dublin in the coming days. As a result of pollution in Dublin Bay, a no-swim notice has been put in place. It is easy to criticise Irish Water in this respect but there are structural difficulties. An upgrade of the water treatment plant is to be completed by 2022. Irish Water has said that even after that upgrade, the same factors can come into play in the aftermath of monster rain events. I request a debate on the infrastructure in place to deal with sewage treatment. This is a problem not only in Dublin but in Killarney, Galway and Cork and it must be addressed. Sustainable urban drainage systems or SUDS will be part of the solution. We need a whole-of-Government approach to addressing this issue, rather than continuing with the Government's silo approach.
I will briefly comment on the upcoming strike of 10,000 members of SIPTU who will shortly go on strike in the health service. The language used by the Government, especially its Fine Gael members, has been disrespectful to the workers in question who entered negotiations in good faith. An agreement had been reached and these workers were due to be paid. The question of whether this is a class issue for Fine Gael has been raised with me by many of the workers. The language being used certainly implies that it is. Is it being used because the dispute involves workers? If it involved doctors, this type of language would not be used. That is very unfortunate. The Leader should speak to his Dáil colleagues about the type of language being used.
Senator Ardagh referred to a school in Harold's Cross. We talk about having a whole-of-Government approach to action on climate change. It is not acceptable that a child standing on Harold's Cross bridge can see a school he or she could attend but then have to travel for an hour across the city to go to school. How does that make sense in the context of climate change? Directing children to travel for an hour in rush hour traffic to get an education does not make sense when there is a school on their doorstep.
I echo the words of the Leader in welcoming the group from the Minane Bridge community alert association.I acknowledge that community alert associations do much good work in society, whether by providing alarms for the elderly or holding Christmas parties, summer outings and weekly meetings. The community garda attends meetings every month. That is an important part of the fabric in Irish society, whether urban or rural. We need to support community alert organisations and other similar organisations. The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, and his Department have invested a great deal of money, especially in rural areas, to ensure that such organisations can develop. We need to build on the fabric of the structures in place. It is a great pleasure for me to acknowledge and welcome my local community alert organisation because these people do fantastic work in the community.
I turn to a statement on Irish Water made by Senator Humphreys. Irish Water has a national remit and Senator Humphreys raised issues in Dublin Bay. Irish Water is working through issues in many towns and villages but we must reconsider its remit in the smaller towns and villages. There are more than 400 settlements in County Cork but we do not have a strategy or plan to deal with them. There needs to be a coherent plan in order that there can be regional balanced development and all these settlements can develop. A debate on Irish Water would be helpful. It should examine not only the major projects in its pipeline but also the smaller projects in villages and towns because they, too, need to be developed.
Like Senator Ardagh, I, too, offer my condolences to the family of the late Councillor Manus "Mandy" Kelly, who died suddenly and tragically in a road accident during the Donegal rally on Sunday. He leaves behind his parents, eight siblings, five young children, a successful business and his wife. It is clear he was popular, well regarded and involved in everything. He began his career by bussing people to Dublin for cancer treatment before setting up his own business, which employed 60 people in facilities management, personnel, recruitment and so on, and he also owned a cafe. It is a tragic loss of life and he was cut down in its prime. Three weeks ago, he was elected to Donegal County Council for the first time, on his first attempt. May he rest in peace.
This week is Bike Week. I cycled to work today, as I do regularly. A successful conference that travels throughout Europe and other cities in various parts of the world is being hosted in Dublin by Dublin City Council this week. We all need to step up to the plate. We have seen the increase in the vote, especially in urban areas, for the Green Party and other campaigners who are interested in environmental matters. There is a significant benefit to cycling, not only for cyclists but for everyone else who benefits from the road space no longer being taken up by cars. Many cyclists will probably have taken themselves out of a car and reduced the level of congestion and the amount of pollution. We need to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to appear before the House to address the issue of cycling, not only in urban areas but predominantly so, where it can cut congestion and improve obesity figures and health.
There needs to be a safe environment for cyclists. Many people say they will not cycle in Dublin or other cities because they are worried they will be clipped by cars or lorries or that the cities are not safe enough for them, not least if they are inexperienced. Sooner rather than later, we need to have a debate on the provision of safe, reliable cycling routes for people of all abilities and ages. Equally, Dublin needs a place to allow people to bring their bikes into the city centre and various other places and know that when they return to collect their bike, it will still be there. The rate of bike theft in Dublin is very high and there need to be secure places, whether they are protected by CCTV, locks, credit card swipes or whatever it needs to be. People should be able to lock their bike safely and know that it will be there when they return, given that theft is one of the strongest deterrents to cycling.
I raise an issue relating to the Land Development Agency.The Leader will recall that in 2018 the Government announced the establishment of the Land Development Agency. Its principal aim was to co-ordinate State lands, take them under its control and, ultimately, develop them to the maximum potential for housing and other infrastructural needs and employment opportunities. It is a wonderful organisation. In principle, I support it. However, we have yet to see the heads of a Bill for the Land Development Agency and this urgently needs to happen. We have a situation now where the Land Development Agency is effectively not a legal entity and, therefore, it cannot receive or transfer lands. I draw the attention of the House, particularly for those Senators who would know something of local government, to the so-called section 183 disposal notice which has to be applied for in the disposal of property assets belonging to a local authority. That is an important reserve function of the elected members. I believe that it is presenting some problems in the 31 local authorities and that is an issue we need to address. The Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum is a case in point. That is under OPW and it is somewhat different in terms of its transfer. Until such time as we have a legal entity, called the Land Development Agency, we cannot proceed. Given the importance of this issue and given the great excitement of the Government, and I welcomed the announcement of it, it is important that at least we should see the heads of Bill for the Land Development Agency. If the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, comes to the House before the summer recess - the Leader indicated last week he was due to come to the House in the next few weeks, and he might confirm that - could he address this particular issue?
I raise the issue of the An Post mail centre in Athlone. An Post is expected to announce that one of its mail centres is to close. The company has four. There is one in Dublin, Portlaoise, Athlone and Cork. I am disappointed that I have to raise this issue again because I raised it in 2017 with the then Minister.
Athlone mail centre is a purpose-built facility which was built 16 years ago. Its location, at the centre of Ireland, only two minutes' drive off the main Dublin-to-Galway motorway, makes it ideal for ease of access for deliveries entering and leaving the premises.
This mail centre employs approximately 180 staff, both full time and part time. The staff are amazing and go way beyond the call of duty for their job, so much so that for five consecutive years they have won the award of the top mail centre in Ireland.
I ask the Leader use his office to contact the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Richard Bruton, and ask that he do whatever it takes to liaise with An Post to make sure we can secure the facility in Athlone and that Athlone would be part of An Post's long-term business plan.
I endorse what Senator Ardagh has said about Educate Together. I was a founding parent of the Dublin 8 Educate Together 20 years ago as I wanted a different education for my child. Unfortunately, sending them on to an Educate Together secondary school was not an available option then, and still is not today. It is extremely disappointing for the parents who want to avail of a different education that has become de rigueurand part of the landscape in the past 20 years and I will support those parents.
On Sunday, I went in the misery of the rain on a short walk around the Phoenix Park, the biggest park in an urban centre in Europe and which was given the international gold award of excellence last year. It is renowned for its deer. I walked by a group. There were many motorists parked and a large group of at least 25 people who were tourists. They were there feeding the deer. Myself and one other Dub looked at each other and said, "This seems unreal." They were tame. They were eating out of the tourists' hands. While the deer got carrots, they also got what looked like processed turkey.These are vegetarians. They are wild and they need to forage. I rang the commissioner, John McMahon, and we discussed the situation. There are some notices around Phoenix Park. If one goes on TripAdvisor, it has become de rigueurto attend Phoenix Park for a day out and to be prepared to feed the wild deer in the park. It is disabling to the deer and it is a health and safety issue for tourists due to Lyme disease, ticks and not allowing the deer to live in their own habitat but detaining them. I ask for a more rigorous notice. Could TripAdvisor state that this is not allowed, and that it should be frowned upon and refrained from at all times? The Phoenix Park is a jewel in the crown of our city, country and Europe. The destruction of the deer should be prevented. I have never seen it so up close and personal as I did last Sunday.
I would also like to be associated with the messages of condolences to the late councillor, Manus Kelly, who was tragically killed in the rally in Donegal.
I was driving to Dublin today and was shocked at the level of discourse among British politicians and broadcasters. I heard Edwina Currie, who was a minister in the British Government many years ago and who is now a broadcaster and novelist, more or less say that Theresa May was probably too dull and we now needed a dodgy used car salesman such as Boris Johnson.
This is the United Kingdom that was supposed to be the home of democracy. I hear Boris Johnson, who will probably be the next Prime Minister, state that there are abundant technical solutions. I happened to be in Northern Ireland with the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. We are doing a study on illicit cross-Border activity. It was shocking. We met with the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, and the head of An Garda Síochána. We went to the PSNI station in Crossmaglen. We had to go to Newry to be transported by seven armoured cars through 50 miles of south Armagh to Crossmaglen. This is what people call normal and where Boris Johnson thinks that there can be a technical solution. While we were in the PSNI barracks in Crossmaglen, all the automatic number plate recognition cameras around south Armagh had been cut down. There were only two outside the barracks in Crossmaglen and people are talking about technical solutions to make sure that there would not be a hard border. This simply cannot happen. I appeal to Boris Johnson or any Conservative leadership candidate to go and see south Armagh and the area by the Border. We face a difficult issue if we have a hard border.
Will the Leader give me any information about the Government's attitude towards credit unions? Credit unions are an immensely positive feature of Irish life. They are volunteer-led, community-based and not for profit. They are not like the banks. They did not behave in the disgraceful way that the banks behaved during the financial crisis. On this basis, I ask why the industry funding levy on credit unions has been increased from €1.5 million to €7.8 million. That is a fivefold increase. Was the Credit Union Advisory Committee consulted? It is a statutory body established to advise the Government on this issue.I do not believe for a minute that this group would have given such advice to the Government. The levy increase is an unfair tax on social capital and is a levy on volunteers so it really should be rethought at this point.
I join with other colleagues in the tributes that have been paid to former councillor, Manus "Mandy" Kelly, from County Donegal. I met him on many occasions and got to know him better in recent weeks during the European Parliament election campaign in which he was very active. He stood for Donegal County Council despite being a very busy businessman and community activist. He put his name forward after his cousin, James Pat McDaid, who was a young councillor, decided to step down and not seek re-election on this occasion. I join in the tributes that have been paid to Manus and extend my sympathies to his wife, his five children, his parents, and to the community in Letterkenny and parish of Glenswilly who are devastated at his death. Yesterday, I talked to Councillor Ciarán Brogan and I know that he and his colleagues on the Donegal County Council are devastated.
As we are aware, our colleague, Senator Billy Lawless, and his family run a number of very successful businesses in Chicago and employ over 600 people from various ethnic backgrounds, including many Irish people. This week, a chef from his restaurant called The Dearborn, chef Aaron Cuschieri, won a prestigious national competition on the Food Network television channel that is broadcast coast to coast in the United States. In an interview following his success, chef Cuschieri said that it was such a great accomplishment, not just for himself but for The Dearborn and that he won it for everyone from his bosses to the dishwashers. I take this opportunity to congratulate chef Cuschieri, his colleagues, his family, Senator Billy Lawless and all the Lawless family on this fantastic achievement.
I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh leis an gCathaoirleach as ucht do bhris an tseachtain seo chaite. Tá aithne agam ort le trí bliana anuas agus is duine thú atá fíorionraic, tá fíormheas agam ort agus bhí ort an leaid óg a chur thar sáile, faoi mar a bhí ar go leor de do chlann a dhéanamh agus chaill tú do dheirfiúr. Déanaim comhbhrón ó chroí leat a chomrádaí.
Freisin, déanaim comhbhrón le muintir agus clann an Comhairleoir Manus Kelly. Ní raibh aithne ar bith agam ar an bhfear ach léigh mé faoi. Leaid óg a bhí ann, 41 bliana d’aois le cúigear gasúr, an duine is óige dóibh dhá bhliain d’aois. Fear a bhí báite sa Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, i gcúrsaí pobail agus i gcúrsaí áitiúla a bhí ann. Maidir liom féin, faraor, ní raibh deis agam casadh leis ariamh.
Ba mhaith liom labhairt faoi dhá cheist inniu. Is ceist tábhachtach an chéad cheist ach ní dhéanfaidh mé caint air ach ar feadh dhá nóiméad, sin Uisce Éireann. Bhí an Seanadóir Humphreys ag caint faoi ansin ar ball. Is ceist é atá gar do mo chroí mar is eol don Teach. Bhí baint mhór agam le Uisce Éireann dhá bhliain go leith ó shin. Caithfidh mé a rá, an rud atá mise ag fáil ar ais ó na fostaithe atá ag obair in Uisce Éireann ná go bhfuil siad ag fáil gach tacaíocht agus cabhair ón Rialtas agus atá siad ag lorg. Tá muinín an Rialtais in Uisce Éireann. Níl mé á rá sin ó thaobh cúrsaí Rialtais de, tá mé á rá ó thaobh Uisce Éireann de. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeadh sé sin ráite sa Teach seo má táimid ag caint faoi Uisce Éireann. Tá fadhbanna mór ann ach is fadhbanna iad seo a tharla 50 nó 60 bliain ó shin mar gheall nár cuireadh infheistíocht isteach ann ó Rialtais éagsúla agus tá siadsan ag iarraidh feabhas a chur ar an bhfadhb sin anois taobh istigh de chúpla bliain. Tá mé iarraidh orainn uilig go mbeadh misneach againn sna fostaithe d’Uisce Éireann.
An cheist mhór gur mhaith liom labhairt faoi ná an doiciméad seo.Tá a fhios agam nach bhfuil na Baill in ann é a fheiceáil ansin ach séard atá ann na rialacha corparáide. I refer to the governance review group report for the FAI board and Sport Ireland, dated 21 June last. Tá sé léite agam, tá 130 leathanach ann. Tá an FAI fíorthábhachtach don tír seo. Tá mé ag iarraidh ceist a chur ar an Aire Iompair, Turasóireachta agus Spóirt teacht isteach anseo agus a insint dúinn go díreach cá bhfuil muid ó thaobh an FAI agus ó thaobh bord an FAI. Tá go leor imní orm mar gheall ar bhord an FAI. Tá mé ar an gComhchoiste um Iompar, Turasóireacht agus Spórt agus tháinig litir isteach ag Cathaoirleach an choiste sin ag iarraidh ar an FAI teacht isteach.
I will make one recommendation which the Minister, Deputy Ross, should take on board. We need to consider a transition from the old FAI to a new one, in respect of which I suggest a new board be selected, comprised of 12 members, four of whom would be elected by the FAI, four by the Minster of the relevant Department and four by UEFA, these being the three bodies involved in the FAI and its future. The sooner this is done the better. Also, a timeframe of two or three years should be set in respect of the transition to a new board so as to ensure we have good, proper corporate governance in place. The people of Ireland deserve that. Go raibh maith agat.
Ba mhaith liom cur leis an chomhbhrón atá déanta le lucht Fhianna Fáil anseo sa Seanad, le comhghleacaithe Manus Kelly i gComhairle Contae Dhún na nGall, leis a theaghlaigh agus leis a chairde ar fad.
As Sinn Féin spokesperson on the diaspora, I support what Senator Lawless had to say and I support him in his endeavours to give voice to our global diaspora here in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I have no doubt that all of us across this Chamber deeply value the role, contribution and input of the diaspora to Irish life. Many Senators will have been part of the diaspora and will have family members who are currently part of it. I refer to recent media commentary that I do not believe accurately reflects the feeling of connectivity and value that we have for our diaspora. Like Senator Lawless, while I would much prefer to light a candle than curse the dark, I have to take issue with some of the public utterances because we are going to come up against this ignorance over the next few months. Many people have made really hurtful, disparaging comments about our diaspora, some of which were levelled at people like me from the North. One columnist from The Irish Timesspoke about an anomaly in regard to what he described as "NI" citizens. There is no such thing as an "NI" citizen: there is only British or Irish designation in the North. The only anomaly that exists is the anomaly that partitions this country and does not allow people in the North to partake fully and equally in the rest of Irish politics. That is the anomaly we have to deal with. Members of the diaspora are not an anomaly. They contribute practically, tangibly, spiritually and politically to Irish life. We owe them completion of this job of work.
Members will all have received an invitation today from the Voice for Irish Citizens Abroad, VICA, campaign to attend the Dublin launch of its campaign on 10 July in the EPIC centre on the quays. I encourage them to attend so that we - Government, Opposition and Independent Members - can join together to ensure this referendum is won. My colleague, Senator Marshall, spoke on UTV last week where he said that no one has anything to fear from this referendum. That applies right across the board. None of us has anything to fear so let us go and win this referendum.
As we know, life is a very precious thing. We know also that it can change dramatically in the blink of an eye. Last Sunday, I attended the Ulster football final in Clones between Donegal and Cavan.Approximately an hour before kick-off, supporters gathered outside the stadium. There was banter and a sense of giddy excitement in anticipation of the game ahead, but news then began to filter through from Donegal about the tragic death of Manus Kelly at the early age of 41, killed during the Fanad stage of the Donegal International Rally. This morning, I attended the wake at the family home in Glenswilly, which is only four or five miles from my family home. One could almost reach out and touch the sense of loss, devastation, darkness and sadness that fell over that community.
Manus "Mandy" Kelly had many outstanding qualities. When he walked into a room, his smile said it all. He was a very successful businessman and an exceptional sportsman. He won the Donegal International Rally for the past three years and, this year, was going for four in a row. He was an avid GAA supporter and player. He managed the junior B team of his local Glenswilly GAA club to a county title in 2016. Four weeks ago, he was elected to Donegal County Council at the first time of asking as a Fianna Fáil councillor.
I have no doubt that the Glenswilly, GAA, rally, business and political communities will wrap their arms around the Kelly family during the difficult days, weeks and months that lie ahead. I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to his wife, Bernie, their five children, his father, Donal, his mother, Jacqueline, and all his siblings and extended family. I wish to reassure the Kelly family that they will remain in the thoughts and prayers of those in this Chamber for the weeks and months ahead. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I wish to be associated with the remarks in respect of the tragic death of Councillor Manus Kelly and to extend to his party colleagues, his family and his many friends in Donegal the sympathy of the Independent Group. It was a tragic event.
Senator Ardagh referred to a very real issue in respect of catchment areas for schools. It is not just a local issue. I drive past the school in question every day on my way to and from my workplace. The idea that a line is being drawn between postal districts is quite absurd, especially since, as Senator Ardagh stated, the school is at the confluence of several postal districts. I have never heard a more ridiculous idea in my life. It is grotesque. This is not just a local issue. It is absurd that a postal district should be used to determine a catchment area, in particular in respect of that school into which a large amount of money is being invested.
On Senator Feighan's remarks on Brexit and the Brexit debate, I was watching Boris Johnson's performance while being interviewed on these issues on television last night and it struck me that he is leaving open every escape hatch for failure. At the same time, pipe smoke of unachievable and absurd semi-commitments is being puffed out for the acceptance of the Tory membership. The idea that the backstop can be made temporary is ridiculous and amounts to an attack on the Good Friday Agreement. The Government has been backed by all sides in these Houses in its determination to dispel the notion that the Good Friday Agreement is up for grabs or can be made collateral damage as part of an English nationalist plot to break up the United Kingdom.The message should go out resolutely from Seanad Éireann that Ireland is not on its own, that its position is the same as the rest of the European Union and that we are not standing on some nationalist principle on the Good Friday Agreement. We are there to sustain a peace which is based on an international treaty, registered at the United Nations, supported by the European Union which is part of international law, part of our own constitutional law, part of the constitutional law, insofar as that exists, of the United Kingdom and we cannot be cajoled or bullied into abandoning the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement.
I offer my sincere condolences to the family of John Pender on his tragic death. This man was killed in Fuengirola last Friday. He was the co-founder and husband of Caroline McGuigan, of that wonderful charity, Suicide or Survive, SOS. I just do not know how Caroline is going to face the coming months and years ahead because this man was her rock and worked with her every step of the way in this wonderful charity.
I wish to direct three issues to the Leader. I ask the Leader to increase the number of Private Members' slots. There are ten people in my group. It is eight months since I have been able to bring anything to the Chamber. I know the Leader was going to look at the issue. I am asking him to look into it further so that we can all have an opportunity to bring legislation through the Seanad.
I am just hot off the press after meeting a young woman who has dealt with a number of issues in the past few months and in the past few years. She is from the Defence Forces. She worked for Ireland for 16 years and put herself both physically and mentally in situations of trauma. She is now suffering from complex post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. She has been told that there is nowhere in Ireland where she can get treatment except St. Patrick's University Hospital, a private hospital, where one needs medical insurance. She has been abandoned by the HSE, even though it could support her in St. Patrick's University Hospital by paying for a bed. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on hospital services, because she was in a psychiatric hospital where patients were not changed or showered for weeks at a time. The only reason that this patient was able to look after her physical self was because she refused to have medication that would make her zombie like. I would like to have a debate in this Chamber with the other Members of the Oireachtas who constantly complain about the mental health services and yet nothing is being done about the matter. Let us have a debate about it. Instead of having a few words on the matter every now and then, let us have a proper debate.
Second, I call for a debate on the way the members of the Defence Forces are treated. There is nothing there for them when they are traumatised and leave their duty with the Defence Forces. What is wrong? We expect the members of the Defence Forces to safeguard our country and yet we cannot look after them when they need help.
Déanaim comhbhrón freisin leis an gCathaoirleach, le muintir Pender, agus le muintir Uí Cheallaigh.
I listened with interest to the comments of our colleague, Senator Noone, on radio this morning when she said the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill 2018 should include a ban on convicted sex offenders using dating apps.I agree that it would be good if a way could be found to do this. It is a matter on which we should have a debate, but what about the person who has not yet been convicted of an offence and who poses a danger to others through online activity?
When it comes to online safety, people's right to communicate content of any kind privately must in future be subject to transparency, verification and content regulation measures in the interests of protecting others. There has been much discussion of these issues after the conviction of the murderers of Ana Kriégel, may she rest in peace, and the conviction of Patrick Nevin for rape and sexual assault. Regulating online content may make some of us safer, but it will not cure the moral malaise that is making people more unsafe generally through their or other people's online activity. We need a greater willingness to consider the risky behaviours that are exposing people to various dangers, including from criminals. For example, I was struck by the comments of the executive director of the Rape Crisis Network on "Morning Ireland" today, who talked about the Nevin case impacting on everyone's confidence in a platform like Tinder. She seemed loath to say anything undermining of Tinder but had no problem with some irrelevant referencing of the marriage and abortion referendums. There is an incoherence here. That website is itself a reflection of the fact that some people are living lonely lives and seeking intimacy with strangers in a way that is perhaps inherently dangerous. Much of this may be beyond our remit as legislators except in the way that Senator Noone proposes, but it should be part of our national conversation.
In the same vein, I was struck by an RTÉ "This Week" interview on Sunday in which some verification measures to prevent children accessing pornography were decried, partly because they might involve embarrassing adults wishing to access such content online. This was backed up by the argument that attempts to verify age would not work anyway. If one was making money out of the porn industry, one would be happy with such defeatism. I have heard the argument that it cannot work or be regulated before. I heard it when defenders of the prostitution industry wanted to decry measures to criminalise the users of persons in prostitution. They said that it would drive prostitution further underground. It is also the argument of the selfish, who do not want to see measures that would protect others from harm, including children, because they fear any incursion into their own supposed freedoms. Those arguments ultimately did not prevail in respect of prostitution, and I hope that they will not prevail in respect of other dimensions of the sex industry, where regulation now seems to be needed in order to protect very vulnerable people.
I thank the 19 Senators who contributed on the Order of Business. I join with all Members in offering my sympathies to the family of the late Manus Kelly on his tragic death at the weekend. The story we read about and saw on the news last Sunday evening was distressing and harrowing. As Senators Gallagher, Wilson and Horkan eloquently said, the news was received just before the Ulster final, when everyone was in good spirits, and when people were celebrating what was a wonderful rally in Donegal that a life had been tragically cut short, a life that was packed with activity, family, business and politics. On behalf of the Fine Gael group and the House, I offer our sincere sympathies to the family of Manus Kelly. No word of ours today can ease the family's pain. It is important that we stand in solidarity with the family. It is an emotional issue, as a life that had given much was tragically cut short.
I also join with Senator Freeman in offering my sympathies to the family of the late John Pender, another life that was cut short in tragic circumstances. I offer his family our deepest sympathies.
Senators Ardagh, Conway-Walsh and Humphreys raised the issue of tomorrow's proposed stoppage. As I stated last week, as someone who worked as a porter in Cork University Hospital while going to college, I recognise and understand the importance of the work being done by staff across our health service. Words matter. That is why it is important that we all recognise that, as Senator Conway-Walsh stated, this strike will be settled and the issue will be solved. It is important that SIPTU and the HSE sit down and re-engage with the Labour Court and settle the dispute. The Government is committed to solving this situation. The State has a mechanism that should be used.We value, we understand and we appreciate the work being done every day in our hospitals. I put it to Senator Humphreys that I say this as a member of the Fine Gael Party. This is what I believe. It is important that this is solved. The Government put a proposal on the table for the phasing in of the payment ahead of 2021. It is important that there is engagement. We should recognise the hardworking staff. They have requirements and legitimate pay claims. There is an engagement being put out there and I hope it continues. I make the appeal today, as the Leader of the House, that this would be done.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of the Harold's Cross site and school places. The Government has purchased that site and it will provide a new primary and post-primary school in the area. There is a commitment to have that school up and running. I believe a national demographic exercise has been carried out but as Senator McDowell has said, a comment to which I also subscribe, perhaps the issue of catchment should be more clearly defined and looked at. I am aware that Senator Ardagh has raised the matter a number of times but perhaps the Senator could raise the issue through a Commencement matter to get a more expeditious response.
Senators Lawless, Ó Donnghaile and Conway-Walsh raised the issue of the forthcoming referendum on voting rights. The referendum campaign began today in this House. We will have that debate in due course. It is an important referendum. Senators referred to articles in The Irish Times. These are opinions that have been expressed by people and there are other people who have differing viewpoints on the question, which is their democratic right. Those of us who are for the referendum and for the question must make our case to the people, and to recognise the role of the diaspora. We should do this as part of the referendum campaign. I look forward to that debate. There will be different viewpoints, which is part of what referenda are about. We must make our case as to why it is right for the people to extend the franchise.
Senator Conway-Walsh's interest, I was going to say "obsession", in the Minister for Rural and Community Affairs, Deputy Ring, continues. We have had the issue of Belmullet hospital in the last couple of weeks. I am sure Senator Conway-Walsh would get a quicker response through a Commencement matter. I have given the Senator the response I have had for the past weeks. My position has not changed but the Senator may have new information that I do not have. Perhaps Senator Conway-Walsh could make this point through a Commencement matter. The hospital is an important issue. Councillor Gerry Coyle and the Minister, Deputy Ring, are serving the people well and I am sure they will continue to do so.
Senator Kelleher raised the issue of St. Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny. I am aware that an additional obstetrician will be appointed. Not all maternity hospitals are in a position to be able to offer a termination of pregnancy service. There is engagement within the HSE and the Department of Health around the matter and a review has been commissioned on the matter discussed by the Senator. It is a serious matter and I hope the review will come back with an answer. We can have that debate again in due course.
Senators Humphreys and Lombard raised the issue of Irish Water, and especially the sewage being dumped into the seawater and the "no swim" notice. Senator Humphreys will be aware that Irish Water is upgrading and improving its wastewater treatment plants. The State has a duty to comply with the EU and national wastewater treatment regulations. For example, there is a €2.5 million project happening at Cork Harbour, which is one phase of the development. Senator Humphreys will also be aware that previously the equivalent of 40,000 wheelie bins of raw sewage was being dumped into Cork Harbour but this has now been halved and will soon be eliminated due to the investment by Irish Water at the Shanbally wastewater treatment plant, in concurrence with the whole issue around Carrigaline, Shanbally and Crosshaven. Engagement is important around the upgrading of wastewater facilities in Ringsend in Dublin. Irish Water is to increase the capacity from 1.6 million population equivalent, PE, to 2.4 million PE, to be able to cope with capacity. The Senator is correct that investment needs to continue. It is a pity that some people played politics with Irish Water in the past. We are playing politics now but to be fair to Irish Water we are making inroads. I would be happy to have the Minister come to the House to hold a debate on the matter.
I commend Senator Horkan for raising the issue of National Bike Week. It is important. A cycle map was published this week for Cork.There is a need to promote an alternative to the car. Some Members of this House have an aversion to that but to be fair to the Senator, he is a good proponent of cycling and he demonstrates that weekly by cycling in and out of Leinster House. We need to have a greater debate about what it means to have National Bike Week. There was an interesting debate on the radio this morning about no cars in certain parts of Europe and we should have that debate in this Chamber as well.
Senator Boyhan again raised the issue of the Land Development Agency and I will give him the same answer I gave him the last time he raised this matter, namely, that the Minister is engaging to have the heads of the Bill published. The Bill is not delaying the work of the Land Development Agency. It is up and running and it has a €20 million budget behind it. As the Senator will know quite well, the Bill is required to get the full €2.5 billion but the Land Development Agency is hiring staff, it is working on eight sites that are being progressed, with seven more in the pipeline, and as I said the last time, John Moran is the interim chairman of the interim board. When the Minister is ready he will come back with the Bill.
Senator McFadden raised the issue of An Post and the mail centre. It is a source of worry, not just to Athlone, but also to Cork, and there is no need for An Post to reduce the number of mail centres we have. As the Senator said, Athlone, Dublin, Portlaoise and Cork should be retained and I commend her for raising the issue.
Senator Devine raised the issue of the Phoenix Park. The best answer I can give again is perhaps to raise a Commencement matter. I do not have the information the Senator requires. The points she makes are interesting and pertinent and there is a need for a publicity campaign around the issue. There also needs to be a greater promulgation of what can and cannot be done and I mention the importance of the Phoenix Park. I commend the Senator for walking in the rain last Sunday. I was at the Bessborough commemoration in Cork and it was an atrocious day but I commend her for that.
Senators Feighan and McDowell raised the issue of the Good Friday Agreement. The discourse that is taking place across the water is a worry. There can be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement and I commend Senator Feighan for his great ability to reach across the political divide and to work to ensure that we have the Good Friday Agreement upheld, as Senator McDowell said. It is an international treaty and it is lodged with the United Nations and that is why it is not about us wearing any jersey. It is an international agreement that needs to be honoured, upheld and supported by the European Union. I would be happy for the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, to come to the House in due course.
Senator Norris raised the issue of the credit union movement. I can tell the Senator the Government is committed to same. We recognise the importance of the role played by the credit union movement. The Government is supportive of a strengthened and growing credit union movement. I would be happy to have the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, come to the House to have a debate on the matter.
I have given the Senator the answer.
Senator Ó Céidigh raised a number of important points and I should have included him in my remarks about Irish Water. Bhí an ceart aige mar gheall ar chúrsaí uisce. Tagraím don FAI agus an tuarascáil a d'fhoilsíodh. It is an interesting report on corporate governance and it is important that we restore confidence in wider society towards the FAI, especially in the area of corporate governance. The recommendation the Senator makes on the future board or a transitionary board is one that should be looked at. It is heartening that there is a recognition in the FAI that it has got things wrong and it wants to rectify that but from someone such as the Senator, who has brought a wealth of business and sporting endeavour, his comments are worth listening to, his suggestions have merit and I thank him for that.
Senator Freeman raised the issue of our Defence Forces. We have had a number of debates on the Defence Forces. I cannot comment on the case of the person the Senator referenced.I find that extraordinary. I know the Defence Forces engage with members of staff who have mental health or other health issues. It is important that any issues people have should be brought to the Minister for Defence personally or should be dealt with by the Army, the Naval Service or the Air Corps. It is unfair of Senator Freeman to suggest that nothing is happening in the area of mental health. A great deal of work is being done in that area. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, deserves great credit for the work he continues to do. There are deficiencies in any system but, to be fair to him, the Minister of State has been proactive and has engaged extensively in respect of mental health issues.
Senator Freeman also referred to Private Members' slots. There are two coming up next week. We endeavour to have Private Members' slots. This is a matter that the Senator might take up with her group leader and the whip of her group in the context of how they allocate slots for Private Members' time. As the end of this term approaches, we have legislative priorities of Government to attend to. If, however, we have a slot available and if the group of which Senator Freeman is a member see fit to put forward a proposal, I will not object to it being taken.
Senator Mullen should note that I did not hear Senator Noone's remarks. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland publication at the weekend is one to which we should give consideration in terms of regulation and how we view the world of the Internet and beyond. The Senator raised many different issues worthy of debate and consideration. I would be glad to arrange a debate on the matter in due course.
I welcome back our good friend Senator Ned O'Sullivan. It is good to see him here and looking so well.
Before I ask whether the Order of Business is agreed, I wish to thank everyone in the Chamber and others, including Members and staff, who offered their condolences following the recent death of my sister, Eileen. I greatly appreciate the words of comfort and genuine sympathy being expressed.
I would also like to be associated with the remarks made following the tragic death of Councillor Manus Kelly from the parish of Glenswilly in Letterkenny. It was a terrible tragedy not alone for his community but also for his family. My heart reaches out to them. I recall how on 16 March 1993 I travelled with a councillor colleague of mine to a meeting. On the way back that night, we parted company. He went one way, I went another and he was killed. His death was a tragedy. We were together all day at a meeting. We parted company at a village called Drimoleague. Unfortunately, he was involved in a car accident on his way home and was killed. That memory still haunts me. I reckon had I driven him to Skibbereen or picked him up from there, it might not have happened. Many of these things are outside our control. In any event, it is good to reflect on such matters. My sincere sympathy goes to the extended Kelly family and to the local authority members in Donegal across the board. When these tragedies strike, they are not restricted to people in the party - they touch everyone in the community. Unfortunately, I never knew Councillor Kelly. However, on foot of what I have heard today from people such as Senators Gallagher and Wilson who did know him, it is obvious that he was a charismatic community man and businessman. It is a great loss. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.