Thursday, 27 June 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding regulations to provide for the insertion into Schedule 5 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 of the Registrar of Beneficial Ownership of Companies and Industrial and Provident Societies - referral to committee, without debate, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion regarding Animal Health Levies (Pigs) Regulations 2019 - referral to committee without debate, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1; and No. 3, Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2019 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 12.45 p.m.
There appears to be another crisis with the roll-out of broadband. Listening to the radio this morning, I heard the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, discussing the "he said, she said" aspects of Eir and his Department in regard to the national broadband plan. From a layperson's point of view, Eir is the right body to roll out fibre broadband to rural households on the basis that it owns much of the infrastructure and it could do so at a lesser cost. The Taoiseach stated in the Dáil that he is all ears in regard to saving the taxpayer €2 billion. There is no clear direction or leadership on this issue. Fianna Fáil has always said that the tendering process is flawed and this development shows that it is. Eir has said that from the get-go and it was not listened to. We need to have a debate in this House on where we are going with broadband.
The second issue I want to raise is in regard to Dublin Bay. Not many people know that Dublin Bay is a UNESCO biosphere site. Approximately 300,000 live along the bay. However, in recent months many of our beaches have been closed to swimmers because of pollution and spillages at the Ringsend wastewater treatment site. We need to discuss how our bays are treated and the reasons for the closure of our beaches every second week, in particular during periods of hot weather when children will want to go swimming. I hope nobody will become ill as a result of the pollution in the bay. We need to discuss what we can do to prevent further accidental spillages into the bay in future.
I commend the National Transport Authority, NTA, on the opening this week of tendering for a national cycle office to design and monitor cycling infrastructure in our cities. I also commend the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, on meeting Bord na Móna to discuss the supply of medicinal cannabis. Bord na Móna has huge infrastructure and land and there are jobs at risk in the company. That the Government is collaborating with Bord na Móna in this novel way is heartening. I know that talks are in the early stages but I hope they continue because we have committed to supplying medicinal cannabis, which has been an issue in the past. The meeting between the Minister and Bord na Móna is a positive step.
I raise the issue of a human rights based approach to policing in Ireland, on which a report was published and launched yesterday in Buswells Hotel. I understand all Oireachtas Members were sent an invitation to the launch, which was organised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL. I thank the chief executive of the council, Mr. Liam Herrick, and his staff for an excellent piece of work on a human rights based approach to policing. The piece on policing in Northern Ireland historically, in respect of which the team engaged with people from that jurisdiction, is interesting. Of particular importance are the actions recommended in the report, which are challenging and make for interesting reading.
I also want to focus on a matter raised yesterday, namely, hate crime. Hate crime is real. It is oppressive and it has enormous damaging affects on those who fall victim to it. Hate crime can cause people to withdraw from society and avoid expressing their own identity. When unchallenged, hate crime can have consequences well beyond the immediate victim. It can also cause people to alter their daily lives. Yesterday, we heard various stories about people who were hurt, damaged and undermined as human beings by hate crime. I want to share a story with the House. The other day I spoke to a man from Pakistan who told me he was walking in the suburbs of Dublin two or three weeks ago when he was approached by what he described as three young boys, possibly of 11, 12 or 13 years of age, who shouted abuse at him, calling him curry head and so on. He decided to ignore them because they were young lads. However, when they got close to him they dragged him to the ground and kicked him to a pulp. When I asked him what did about it, he said he did nothing because, first, he did not want to retaliate as he realised they were minors and, second, because it might affect his status in this country. He was afraid. He was compromised and he did not feel he would be given a sympathetic ear by An Garda Síochána. That is not to suggest that that is true. Confidence in our policing is terribly important. The Traveller and Roma communities and diverse other groups must have confidence in the policing of our State. This is a challenge that we need to address.
Earlier, I spoke to the leader who, like me, is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. This is an issue for all jurisdictions represented on the OSCE, where we hear different stories about different jurisdictions, which the leader might touch on later. In terms of a response to this challenge, this House or an appropriate committee should examine the ICCL report. We need to discuss the issue of hate crime. We should call it what it is, namely, a crime against people in terms of their identity, who they are and where they are placed in society. In an Ireland which we profess to be a true republic, and rightly so, we must value and defend the values of a republic and allow our citizens to live in peace and feel protected by the State and its police service. This is an issue that needs to be revisited by a committee.We need to focus on it constantly and seek to address it. We also need to call it what it is - it is hate and the crimes involved are hate crimes. As legislators, we must take steps to stop it happening.
Following on from what Senator Boyhan stated, I am also of the view that the issue of hate crime is extremely important. Several years ago, I worked with the Trinity College Dublin anti-bullying centre and others on the issue of hate crime. We were involved in a joint project with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation in England. The latter was set up because a young girl called Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death for being a Goth. Her mother set up the foundation and pursued politicians in Britain to introduce legislation to cover hate crime. We have a lot to learn from what happened there. When the project to which I refer was ongoing, we engaged in exchanges but then all of the funding was cut from community development projects. We also did work in respect of suicide prevention with the PIPS Charity in the North. As a result of that exchange, we learned about the anti-bullying kit that can be used within schools to address the issue of hate crime and make young children aware of difference and of celebrating it and not excluding people based on how they dress, how they are or in the context of whatever they decide to do.
I would be interested in working with Senator Boyhan on this matter because some advances have already been made. I commend Dr. Stephen Minton from the Trinity College Dublin anti-bullying centre who worked with us to have a whole-community response to bullying. If we are to tackle bullying and hate crime, we need such a response. There are limitations to just having one element to the response, whether it be via the Garda, schools or whatever. It has to be everywhere within the community and there has to be zero tolerance to bullying and hate crime.
I had intended to talk about something very different. I had originally intended to ask the Leader if the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, could come before the House to clarify the situation with the pyrite redress scheme? There is much ambiguity and confusion regarding how households can access the scheme so perhaps the Minister of State might come here and clarify the matter.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I am standing here feeling a little bit blue - even my attire is a little bit blue - because I am leaving all of my Seanad colleagues. I have been here as a member of the Civil Engagement group for the past three years. I am honoured to have been a member of that active and inspiring group of Members comprising Senators Ruane, Black, Higgins, Dolan and Kelleher. They have really helped me in pursuing my aims here in Seanad Éireann. I thank everyone in the Seanad who has collaborated with me on much legislation. The first legislative measure I brought before the House was the Micro-plastic and Micro-bead Pollution Prevention Bill 2016. That was three years ago. Although the Bill did not make much headway, thanks to the support of other Senators the public awareness relating to it was sufficient to give it the wind it needed to become the legislation the Government has brought forward today.
Another Bill I introduced and for which we fought tooth and nail was the Heritage Bill 2016. That legislation dealt with biodiversity and the hedgerows. Again, I received huge support from many of the parties here in the Seanad and our efforts encouraged a great deal of awareness among people of the issue of biodiversity decline . I remember the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation coming in and giving us support, as did BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and many other groups. In the Civil Engagement group, we have been active in expanding the range of issues with which the Seanad has been dealing.
I thank the Leader, Senator Buttimer, who has been very fair and good to me during the past three years. I also thank the Clerk of the Seanad, Martin Groves, Bridget Doody and all the staff who have been good and supportive. I also thank the visitors in the Gallery who have been a huge support to me. They are my friends from Tramore and Waterford and they have helped me get elected as a Member of the European Parliament, MEP. The first time I entered politics was in the 2014 European elections. I did not get elected on that occasion but I did not give up and, with the resilience and experience I built up in the aftermath of that election, I found my way to the Seanad. With the support and help of all my colleagues in the Seanad, I am going to the place where I feel I will work most effectively, namely, the European Parliament. That will be formalised on 10 July.
I am so proud to have had the honour, privilege and experience of being in Seanad Éireann. To anyone who reads the words of the transcript of these proceedings, to anyone who sees my presentation today and to everyone in Ireland who is over 18 - and I hope that in time those over 16 can vote - I say that politics can be a positive place. It can be a place of action where things happen and where people should put themselves forward. We live in a democracy and if people want change, I say that they should get involved in making the change themselves.
I look forward to being in the European Parliament and to representing the people of the 12 counties of Ireland South. I will be reporting back as often as I can so that people will know what Grace O'Sullivan, the Irish MEP for Ireland South, is doing over the coming five years.
I pay tribute to Senator Grace O'Sullivan. She will be a Senator for the remainder of the day. We all know here as a hard-working and diligent Member of Seanad Éireann. From looking at her campaign videos I did not realise what an action woman she had been over many years in advocating for environmental justice. The European Parliament will have an excellent advocate for Ireland South, as well as for the whole country of Ireland and for the planet. We need more people like the Senator in politics and we wish her the best in her endeavours.
I want to read into the record the names of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and Valeria, his 23 month old daughter. A photograph emerged of Oscar and Valeria face down in the Rio Grande in recent days, drowned in an attempt to cross the river. This is a particularly affecting photograph because it brings to light again the type of risks people are taking in order to make better lives for themselves. Oscar left Valeria on a riverbank in an attempt to go back and save his wife who was in distress. However, a current took them both and they drowned. There is a very affecting photograph which shows Valeria's 23 month old arm wrapped around her father's neck. These are people who President Trump has dismissed as animals.
We have all received invitations to the American Embassy next week to drink champagne and celebrate Independence Day on 4 July. Just like last year, we are calling for an Oireachtas boycott of this event.We do not do these things lightly but when the President of America, again with his hateful rhetoric, causes such pain and division in his own country, and he is still the international face of hate, when children are denied basic sanitary provision at the Mexican border, when they are held in what have been described as concentration camps, when one has families being broken up at the border, and then when the image emerges of Oscar and his daughter, Valeria, lying face down in water, one is reminded of what Trump has said about immigrants. He has described them in many different ways but he has used the term "animals". Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us in this House to turn down the invitation. If we really believe in equality, and we will celebrate the Pride Festival this weekend, then it would be deeply hypocritical to attend the American ambassador's reception to celebrate 4 July. Therefore, I call on all Members of this House and the Oireachtas to look at the photograph and choose not to attend the ambassador's reception next week.
I saw the photograph and was horrified. I am saddened by the deaths but I will attend the reception in the American Embassy. I am sure that most Members of the Oireachtas and, indeed, the people on this island will view the reception as an invitation. I shall attend to pay my respects to the American people. I have issues with Donald Trump and I do not agree with him but a boycott of our friends in the United States is not a way forward. The Senator has his own views but I believe he is wrong and his view is very divisive. I will go to my friends in the United Kingdom. Whatever embassy extends an invitation to me, including the Russian Embassy, I will go and pay my respects as somebody who represents Ireland. I agree to differ with the Senator in terms of accepting the invitation. I do not go to these embassies to drink wine. I am well able to afford my own glasses of wine and days out. I shall go so that I can interact with the citizens of the United States and of this country, and also to work with our good friends in the United States.
Last night I watched the RTÉ "Prime Time" programme on the horrific events in the Irish greyhound industry. As many as 16,000 greyhounds are born every year and 6,000 of them are killed because they are simply not fast enough. There is serious concern about this issue. I ask the relevant Minister to come in here to alleviate our concerns about the greyhound industry that receives so much State funding. I know what was featured in the programme is perpetrated by a minority of people in the greyhound industry. A traceability system has been put in place but our concerns need to be alleviated. I am somebody who enjoys a flutter on the greyhounds. Last Tuesday, I was in Shelbourne Park to watch the greyhound racing and racing is a nice night out. I noticed that between 80% and 90% of the crowd were German, Russian and American tourists who travelled to the venue by bus. However, unless the abuse of greyhounds is dealt with in an open and transparent way by the Irish greyhound industry, the Government and the Minister, attendances at greyhound race tracks could be affected. I hope that there is openness and transparency and that the horrific murder of 6,000 greyhound pups every year will stop.
I congratulate Senator Grace O'Sullivan on her election and wish her the very best of luck in her new role as an MEP. She will be a great loss to this House. She is the third member of the agricultural panel to move on for one reason or another since we were elected. As someone on that panel a small bit of me thinks long may it continue.
I want to raise the same issue as Senator Feighan. It is with a heavy heart that I must discuss the horrific and very distressing scenes broadcast last night. I welcome the recent introduction of the Greyhound Racing Act 2019. I know that the legislation is in its infancy and probably has not reached full fruition yet. However, it gives the power to the Irish Greyhound Board and Bord na gCon and, indeed, the Irish Coursing Club, ICC, to enact far greater traceability methods within the greyhound industry and the studbook. It is vitally important that this is acted on immediately. There needs to be full traceability from a greyhound's birth until its death and every movement needs to be recorded.
I know that no licences have been granted to export greyhounds to either China or Pakistan but they are getting there through the back door. I insist that no licences are granted if applications are received.
We need to strengthen the legislation. As late as last week Department officials attended a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Fianna Fáil group, in particular Deputy Jackie Cahill, requested them to attend to discuss horse and dog welfare. That discussion needs to be continued and acted on, and there needs to be far more than just a discussion. The content of the programme that was broadcast last night was horrific and distressing. Everybody here knows that I am into greyhound racing and horse racing so I know that the vast majority of people who are involved in both sports love their animals like they would a human being. Unfortunately, a small minority of people bring things down and I hope there is not a kneejerk reaction to the programme. There needs to be swift and immediate action. We cannot legislate for what goes on in China and Pakistan other than try to keep our dogs out of there. I want to stress for the benefit of the Minister that what we witnessed happening in Irish knackeries that was broadcast last night was a total disgrace and is unacceptable behaviour, which is something we can act on. I plead with the Minister to take action as early as this morning on reviewing the re-licensing of any Irish knackery that performs in a fashion that was witnessed last night on television. It was utterly deplorable and disgraceful and put us to shame. In fact, it put us in the same window as the Chinese and Pakistanis, which is unacceptable and something we can act on. That is the first piece of action that needs to be taken on the back of last night's programme.
I wish to reiterate the comments made by my colleagues. I congratulate Senator Grace O'Sullivan on her appointment as an MEP. She is right that people make a difference and persistence pays off. She has made a great contribution to this House and her departure will be a huge loss for us but a great gain for Europe. I thank her for everything that she has done here. I wish her well for the next five years and may she succeed even further.
I wish to pay tribute to Grace and wish her all the very best. I was elected to be part of the agricultural panel as well. She has greatly contributed to the workings of this Chamber over the last three and a half years. I wish her all the best in Europe and I know that she will make a contribution there.
I wish to comment on cycling as this is National Bike Week. Last weekend, a velodrome was erected in Limerick and the event was attended by many families from across the region. People enjoyed the various activities and presentations. A nationwide safe cycling campaign has commenced. A number of families cycle to school because they feel it is one way to ensure their children are active and introduces them to outdoor life. Certainly, there are concerns about the way people park their cars and vehicles on the roadways. For example, cars throughout the country take up space on cycle lanes. Regulations must be brought in to police cycle lanes and areas for buses to pull in because public transport has an important part to play. People constantly park on bus lanes all over the country. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to discuss how he proposes to regulate cycle lanes to make them safe enough for people to use and thus enable families to cycle safely to and from work or school, or to whatever activity.
I, too, wish to pay tribute to Senator Grace O'Sullivan. She was my second favourite candidate in the European elections. Well done to her.We will miss her. Three years ago, she raised the issue of microbeads and, in turn, raised the consciousness levels of Senators in respect of it. We have reached the stage that the problem of microbeads has been eclipsed by the wider issue of climate action. I wish her all the best. She will continue to be a great eco-warrior, something that is certainly needed in the European Parliament.
I wish to bring the House back to the issue of the national children's hospital. A report published in today's edition of The Irish Timesstates that in the three months to March, the HSE, under its the interim director general, went €103 million over budget. I wish to address the impact of the project on the local community. Since 2015, the Ceannt Fort Residents Association along with residents of Mount Brown, the South Circular Road and Kilmanham have asked for ministerial oversight on what is the biggest health project in the State. That has not been given in spite of our repeated requests. There is also the massive scandal of the €2 billion overspend, which is the gift or the scandal that keeps on giving. We were initially told that there would be no cuts to capital investment projects as a result of the overspend, but it now transpires that there will. Anne O'Connor, the director general designate of the HSE, stated clearly that there will be such cuts, which will particularly affect disability and acute hospital services. I ask the Leader to bring the Minister for Health to the House to answer questions on this matter. Local groups and residents have been particularly negatively impacted and their houses are crumbling and need more infrastructural work. There are High Court proceedings under way in respect of that issue, so we cannot really talk about it. The Minister should clarify the position on the project which is constantly bumping along. BAM has lodged claims for extra costs, although there is no transparency in that regard thus far. The Minister should spell out to Senators how it is intended to manage the project, which will continue with the subsequent construction of maternity hospital on the same congested site. I sincerely hope that the Leader can get the Minister to come to the House in order that he might, in particular, give succour to residents who have put up with the project for the past five years and who continue to do so 24-7.There seems to have been no meaningful caring on the part of or response from BAM or the HSE in particular. I would appreciate such a response and so would the residents.
I join others in wishing Senator Grace O'Sullivan well. I said a few words on her departure last week. We will miss her presence in our offices in Leinster House 2000. I noticed that ever since the Green Party moved in-----
-----I go back to turn off the light in the little kitchen beside our office whenever I remember that I left it on. I run around closing the microwave door and turning off lights. She has definitely raised my consciousness in terms of being far more aware of my choices.
On the greyhound industry and the issues that have been revealed since yesterday, I find it extremely frustrating to listen to Fianna Fáil Senators speaking on greyhound licensing when they voted against amendments which we tabled and which were designed to stop licensing the export of greyhounds to China and Pakistan. We should never wait for failings in respect of animal or other rights to be exposed on national television. Rather, we should always seek to prevent problems through legislation. Legislation on this matter came before the House in the past few months and we had a significant opportunity to strengthen it in regard to animal cruelty. It is appalling to think that there people had dogs' ears removed in order that they could not be identified. We could have strengthened the Greyhound Racing Bill when it came before the House some months ago, especially regarding the licensing of exports to countries where the cruelty perpetrated is even more extreme than the horrific cruelty shown last night on "Prime Time". It is dishonest and hypocritical for parties or people to state that we need to look at a particular issue, but not acknowledge that only a few months ago they voted down measures to address it. I need to point that out, especially after seeing the obscene images broadcast last night.
Ba bhreá liom comhghairdeas a rá leis an Seanadóir Grace O’Sullivan agus guím gach rath uirthi leis an bpost nua i bParlaimint na hEorpa. I wish Senator Grace O'Sullivan all the best in her new political role.
I second what was stated by Senator Feighan and referred to by Senator Ruane, which is that there is clearly something amiss with a sport or industry that involves killing or culling on such a large scale. I do not use the language of animal rights. I remember an election slogan some years ago which stated "People matter most". Human beings have rights and dignity and we must care for their welfare. Of course, animals have dignity and we need to care for their welfare. In the context of exercising our stewardship over creation, we must ensure that we do not demean ourselves by demeaning or mistreating animals. I have often been critical of people who appear to care more about vulnerable animals than they do about vulnerable humans. I do not have any truck with such inconsistent thinking, but our responsibility as human beings and to the planet requires that we concern ourselves with the welfare of animals. Issues that are unedifying, to say the least, and hard going for the squeamish have been exposed. The House should have a debate on the matter. We need to consider what policy and legislative consequences need to follow in order to ensure that animals are treated with respect even as we use or enjoy them in sport. We do not have a great history in terms of how we treated animals, as is evident from the literature of our school days. In particular, I remember Peig Sayers documenting deeply disturbing things that happened to animals. We have moved on and it is important that we make choices which reflect that.
I wish to add my good wishes to Senator Grace O'Sullivan on her departure for Brussels. She will make a fantastic contribution there, as she has made a strong contribution in this House. I wish her the very best.
For three years, I regularly raised the issue of short-term lettings and Airbnb in the House in order to ensure that we got legislation and regulation on the issue. That legislation will come into force on 1 July. It has been identified that within the local authorities in the capital city alone, it could bring 5,000 units back into the housing market for sale or for families to be able to rent. I have continuously campaigned on this issue. Not only will the legislation bring residential units back into the marketplace in our cities and towns, it will also prevents the hollowing out of communities. To live on certain streets in the capital city is like living in a holiday resort. It is with great disappointment - I do not know why I am surprised to be disappointed in the Government because its approach seems to be one of constant spin and very little implementation.
Since last year, local authorities have been seeking resources in order to ensure that the legislation can be enforced. However, they have been denied those resources. It is pointless for Members of the Seanad or the Dáil to bring forward legislation and regulation that will have a substantial impact on local communities if the Government is going to fall at the last hurdle, namely, that relating to the cost of enforcement. The total cost probably amounts to approximately €400,000, which equates to the cost of building one additional unit. For the price of that one unit, we can bring up to 5,000 units back into the market to be available for families. This Government has failed yet again. It is full of spin, but there is no implementation and I find that highly disappointing.
My primary reason for rising is to wish our great friend, Senator Grace O'Sullivan, all the very best. It is the Senator's last day in the House and I know she has enjoyed it and found it a great and engaging experience. We found Senator O'Sullivan to be a breath of fresh air in her contributions in the House. We talk about sincerity and being genuine and the Senator espouses these attributes in every possible way. I know she will be a fantastic MEP. She will be my MEP because I live in her constituency. I wish the Senator the very best of luck.
No, she will not, which is even better.
Senator Ó Ríordáin referred to an event in the Embassy of the United States of America, which I certainly will not attend. I made that decision the day President Trump was elected. I have not been to a function hosted by the United States Embassy since then, and I do not intend to attend one unless I have to as part of my job. It is up to each and every one of us to make a decision on going to the embassy on 3 July but I certainly will not be there. I agree with Senator Ó Ríordáin's sentiments but I would not be critical of anybody who decides to go. It is matter for each Senator.
I have no qualms about putting it on the record that I have not been invited to any event by the Papal Nuncio and I do not expect I will be.
The "Primetime" documentary on what is happening in the greyhound industry was quite appalling and I would support calls for the Minister to come to the House to make a statement on the matter.
On a positive note, Lahinch Golf Club in County Clare is hosting the Irish Open next week for the first time in its history. This is the biggest sporting event ever to come to County Clare. I sincerely hope that some Members might be able to avail of the opportunity to come down to Lahinch next week. I pay tribute to all the staff at Lahinch Golf Club and the people in Lahinch and the surrounding areas of Ennistimon, Liscannor and Milltown Malbay for the amazing effort and work they have put into making the area as beautiful and attractive as possible. Some amount of painting has been done and roads have been resurfaced by the local authority. There has been an overall effort to ensure there is a massive céad míle fáilte for the thousands of visitors we will have between next Wednesday and next Sunday for what will be a spectacular golfing event. I wish all those involved well and I issue a céad míle fáilte and an invitation to all Members and their friends and colleagues to join us in Lahinch for what we hope will be a super occasion.
On a point of order, as the spokesperson for my party, I was accused in the House this morning of being hypocritical with regard to the Greyhound Racing Act 2019. Fianna Fáil opposed an amendment that would have placed a blanket ban on licensed exports of greyhounds to white-listed countries. What I said this morning was that the greyhounds that were featured in last night's "Primetime" programme were exported illegally. No licence was applied for. There are genuine exporters and importers. This morning I asked for the illegal exportation of non-licensed animals to stop.
I thank the 12 Members for their contributions. I again pay tribute and offer congratulations to our colleague and friend, Senator Grace O'Sullivan, on her election to the European Parliament. I wish her every success in her tenure in the European Parliament. The fixed term of five years is a blessing in itself. To be fair, from a political perspective, Senator O'Sullivan has made a very telling contribution in this House and we thank her for that. Our Chamber and debate has been enhanced by her participation.
On a personal level and on a human level, the Senator has been an exceptional colleague and friend. Her good humour and ability to reach across the aisle, to cajole and to work with all Members in a very positive manner is one we should commend. We will miss the Senator. She has always been in good humour; I have never seen her in bad form even when she was under pressure or putting us under pressure. She brought a great sense of joy to the work in Leinster House. I hope that her postcards from the European Parliament will become part of what she does. We looked forward to and enjoyed the Senator's lovely personal notes and cards every summer, for which we thank her. We thank the Senator's family and wish them well, and her supporters and successors. As Senator Conway said, Senator O'Sullivan is now one of the MEPs for Ireland South and represents 12 counties, which is a daunting task. The Senator ran a fantastic campaign and as she takes up her seat at the European Parliament, we bid her adieuand wish her well. I ask that she does not forget us and we look forward to her coming back to us. Míle buíochas and go n-éirí leat.
Senator Ardagh raised the issue of the national broadband strategy. It is important in the context of the contributions this morning and the national broadband strategy to acknowledge that words matter. I challenge all Members to read the transcript of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment to see what was said, what was re-said, what was not said and what was interpreted. All of us want to have broadband rolled out. I do not blame Senator Ardagh or any other Senator for coming in here to play political football with the issue. It is their job. Why did Eir withdraw from the tender process? It was an independent process. The Eir submission was not as it said yesterday-----
Hold on. It was €3 billion. Eir said yesterday - and the Senator can make all the faces she wants - that it was going to be €1 billion. How did that change? Why did Eir withdraw from the tender process? These are the questions it should be asked. We all want to have broadband. Eir referred to a separate company. It was part of the process that every applicant would have to have a separate independent company. It spoke about collecting €1 billion for the poles and the fibre optics - €900 million and then €100 million. It has added more confusion to a project that we all need to see rolled out. I would be happy for the Minister to come back to the House to debate the matter.
Senators Ardagh and Maria Byrne raised the issue of cycling. It is national bike week and it is wonderful that we dedicate a week to cycling and the promotion of cycling. We should all welcome the funding of €40 million for ten greenway projects announced by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, and the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Griffin. Senator Byrne raised the issues of safety, illegal parking in bus and cycle lanes, and the illegal use of cycle lanes, which need to be teased out further. The local authorities need to work with the National Transport Authority, NTA, and An Garda Síochána to deal with the matter.We have evolved in terms of cycling in our cities and urban areas. I hope we can see some crossover and joined-up thinking there and I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House regarding the matter.
I join Senator Ardagh in welcoming the Minister for Health's remarks and actions around medical cannabis.
Senators Boyhan and Conway-Walsh raised the important issue of hate crimes. Like Senator Boyhan, I commend both the ICCL and its executive director, Liam Herrick, on the report it published yesterday. Senator Boyhan is right that we must all call out hate crimes for what they are, and we cannot be soft on that issue in any way. It is unacceptable. I commit to raising the issue, with Senator Boyhan, at the OSCE parliamentary assembly in Luxembourg next week, and I will speak to him further about that. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, is reviewing the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, and Mr. Justice Desmond Marrinan has been appointed to examine hate crimes in the North, so I will be happy to come back to this issue in due course.
Senator Conway-Walsh also raised the issue of pyrite. I do not have an answer for her on that issue, but perhaps she will submit a Commencement matter as a matter of urgency as she might get a quicker answer that way. We have a number of items of legislative business to deal with next week, rather than statements, but we will have climate change statements next Thursday.
Senator Ó Ríordáin and a number of other Senators, including Senators Feighan and Conway, raised the deaths of Oscar Ramirez and his daughter Valeria. Those of us who have seen the images and read the reports cannot but be disturbed at the harrowing images we saw. They failed in their attempt to get to safety in a promised land. This is a place we were once told was a land of opportunity, which is now being denied to people. A father and his daughter died and their wife and mother almost died with them. It is reminiscent of the images we saw a couple of years ago of a young Syrian boy lying on a beach. I have issues with President Trump's policies and the tenet and tone of what he is trying to do around immigration. Again, Senator Boyhan and I will raise the matter in Luxembourg next week because this kind of behaviour from the democratically elected president of any country and the way in which President Trump is preventing people from entering the United States are unacceptable. I am agnostic on whether we should go to the American embassy. I do not personally believe in boycotts or that we should use this as an opportunity for one, but we can use it as an opportunity to voice our genuine concerns about US immigration policy with American embassy officials. We can also raise this with the new ambassador and let him know from the floor of Seanad Éireann, the Upper House, that we stand against this policy of President Trump. I thank Senator Ó Ríordáin for raising the matter. I was struck by the fact, when reading an article about Oscar Ramirez, that his mother pleaded with him not to go because she was afraid. Is it not distressing to think of a mother who begged her son not to leave and must then face the sad loss of both her son and granddaughter? We offer our sympathies to the family of the deceased and we hope the US Government will change its stance and views on immigration.
Senators Feighan, Paul Daly, Ruane, Mullen and Conway raised the issue of greyhounds. Last night's "Prime Time Investigates" programme was unedifying. As Senator Mullen said, the misuse and mistreatment of these animals has now been exposed. The Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, has outlined his views on the matter. The Greyhound Racing Act 2019 grants enhanced powers and allows for investigations. Any breaches of animal welfare regulations must be taken seriously. I do not agree with Senator Ruane about there being an element of hypocrisy involved. Many people in this House are involved in and support the greyhound industry. They are appalled at what they saw on "Prime Time Investigates" and do not condone it in any shape or form. It would be worse if people did not come in here and articulate their concerns on the matter because those who work in the industry can help change the culture, attitudes and outlook within it. That is why it is important that the Minister has the power of investigation and takes that responsibility seriously, and also, as Senator Paul Daly noted, that the Department does not issue certificates for the export of greyhounds to China or Pakistan. The licensing conditions in knackeries should also be reviewed. I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter. The points Senator Ruane made should be articulated in the House and raised with the Minister and, as such, I would be happy to have him come to the House.
I do not have an answer to Senator Humphreys's question on resourcing but I would happy to have the Minister come to the House to discuss the matter. I agree with the Senator that there is a need for local authorities to work with the Government and all other bodies to ensure adequate resourcing. There is also the matter of not having hollowed out communities and bringing properties back into use so we can gentrify, rebuild, and recreate a sense of community in many parts of Dublin, Cork, Galway and so on.
I congratulate Lahinch in advance of its hosting of the Irish Open and wish the town and Senator Conway well next weekend. I hope the weather is as good as it is today. It will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase Ireland and Lahinch is a fitting venue and golf club for that. I hope the event goes well.
Finally, I welcome the Leas-Chathaoirleach back as he was not here during the week. On behalf of the House, I sympathise with him and thank him for the way in which he looked after and cared for his late mother. She was a wonderful lady. One only has one mother and the Leas-Chathaoirleach cared for her very deeply and minded her very well. On behalf of the House, I offer him our deepest sympathies.