Seanad debates

Friday, 16 July 2021

9:30 am

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Fine Gael)
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I would like to add to the Chair's remarks on Belgium's national day and to wish the people there solidarity in light of the difficulties that they are going through with the adverse weather conditions and the loss of life they have experienced in the past 24 hours and, indeed, the expected floods today and tomorrow. We are mindful of them. We wish them safety in the next few days.

The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Section 254 – Overground Telecommunication Cables) Regulations 2021 - back from committee, to be taken on conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill 2021 - all Stages, to be taken at 10.15 a.m., and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 120 minutes, by the putting of one question from the Chair, which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government; the proceedings of the debate on Second Stage shall be confined to an opening contribution of ten minutes by the Minister, a contribution of eight minutes from group spokespersons, five minutes from all Senators and a reply not exceeding eight minutes by the Minister; and Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken immediately thereafter; No. 3, Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021 - all Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m., or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later, and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes, by the putting of one question from the Chair, which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government; the proceedings of the debate on Second Stage shall be confined to an opening contribution of eight minutes by the Minister, a contribution of five minutes from all Senators and a reply not exceeding seven minutes by the Minister; and Committee and Remaining Stages shall be taken immediately thereafter; No. 4, motion regarding the extension of the relevant period within the meaning of section 9 of the Health (Amendment) Act 2021 (No. 1 of 2021), to be taken at 2.30 p.m., or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 3, whichever is the earlier, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 45 minutes, and the proceedings shall be confined to an opening contribution of five minutes by the Minister, a contribution of four minutes from all Senators and a reply not exceeding five minutes by the Minister; No. 5, Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 - message from Dáil Éireann, to be taken at 3.30 p.m., or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 4, whichever is the earlier, and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion within 30 minutes; No. 6, Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 4.15 p.m., or 15 minutes after the conclusion of No. 5, whichever is the earlier, and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after three hours, by the putting of one question from the Chair, which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Government, and the proceedings shall be interrupted after two hours for 15 minutes to allow for the sanitisation of the Chamber, and the order of debate shall resume thereafter.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
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I second and support the Order of Business as outlined by the Leader. Since we mark today what is more than likely our last day sitting in this Chamber and the start of the recess, noting that everybody's work in committees and elsewhere will continue, I want to take the opportunity, on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, to thank Mr. Martin Groves and all the staff for their unfailing courtesy over the past year. It has been a difficult year for everybody. I thank the members of the Opposition and of other parties and none for their collaboration throughout the year. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his courtesy and his non-partisanship in chairing the proceedings. I thank the Leader for her inspirational leadership. She has done her utmost to secure any debate requested on any side of the House. We are all proud of her leadership in this House.

It is important to mention the number of new Covid cases announced yesterday. The number spiralled quickly. The notion of personal responsibility comes to the fore strongly in that there is only so much the State can do and only so much that can be done through vaccination. It is great to see the portal opening for those aged over 25 but we all have to take personal responsibility as we proceed.

I wish Senator Hoey the best of luck. She is getting married today. I believe it is her third attempt. Everyone will join me in wishing her health and happiness on her big day.

I took the opportunity to join the demonstration outside the convention centre on the use of peat in the horticulture industry. It included everyone from nursery workers and mushroom farmers to strawberry farmers. Senator Boyhan has raised this frequently in the House, as have I. It is beyond me how nothing has been done to try to resolve the problem given that growers and so much of our employment, food and food security are dependent on peat. Those affected have no option but to import horticultural peat from Lithuania and Holland at a great cost to the environment and at a great financial cost. Responsibility extends across four Departments. It needs to be dealt with.

We had a long debate on Jadotville last night so I do not intend to raise the matter again. Suffice it to say that there was a high level of respect for members of our Defence Forces. An article in the The Irish Timestoday states the number of patrol days cancelled by the Naval Service this year is already four times greater than the number for 2020. A total of 148 days were lost in the first five months of the year. This shines a light again on how those within our Defence Forces are treated in terms of employment conditions and salaries. Something needs to be done about it soon.

Photo of Seán KyneSeán Kyne (Fine Gael)
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On behalf of Fine Gael, I thank the Cathaoirleach. I also thank Mr. Martin Groves, Ms Bridget Doody, Mr. Eden McLaughlin and the rest of the team in the Seanad Office for their diligent work over recent months in what has been a particularly difficult session, which has involved us alternating between Leinster House and the convention centre. I am referring to all the back-and-forth and late nights. We should thank and pay tribute to the staff for their work.

As Government Whip, I thank my colleagues in Fine Gael and all other Members for their support over recent months. I thank Ms Deirdre Chambers of the Whip's office for her late nights, for keeping us informed and for all the work she does. I also thank Senator Gallagher, assistant Government Whip.

One of the most frustrating things in politics is the time it takes to deliver projects. In this regard, we can all list a thousand projects we have been involved with over years. This day week, I will welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to Galway to turn the sod on the PorterShed development on Market Street. It is a co-working innovation space over two levels. Funding has been granted to fit it out and do associated works. This project has been ongoing since 2018. It is great to see it being delivered. PorterShed started on the Ceannt Station grounds in Galway as an innovation hub. It has been a great success. It has encouraged start-ups, supported job creation and attracted significant investment to the west. It received support from the Government under the regional enterprise development fund. It is great to see the project coming to fruition. The PorterShed has to move to a new location to facilitate the development of lands at Ceannt Station, which is part of a strategic site within Galway city. There is to be a new development there.

I have raised on several occasions the issue of planning and requested a debate thereon. Perhaps that can be prioritised in September. Fuaireamar droch-nuacht inné maidir le tionscadal tábhachtach i gConamara, Páirc na Mara. Bhí airgead ceadaithe don togra seo ach dhiúltaigh Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe an t-iarratas cead pleanála. Is droch-lá do cheantar Iorras Aithneach i gConamara freisin é agus teastaíonn díospóireacht faoi chúrsaí pleanála sa tír seo. We had bad news during the week with the refusal of planning permission for the Páirc na Mara development at Cill Chiaráin, Connemara, an area that is crying out for jobs. It is an unemployment blackspot. The day of the refusal was a dark day. I hope there will be an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. This is part of the long process of getting anything built and developed in this country. My concern is that the problem is getting worse, which will deter Irish and foreign investors. Therefore, we need to prioritise planning in the autumn.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach for the way he has conducted his business over the past year. This is our last day of this term. I thank the Leader and, particularly, her staff and Ms Orla Murray, who are responsible for the Order of Business and our agendas every day. I thank Mr. Martin Groves, our clerk, and his staff for the way they keep us on track. Without them, I do not know where any of us would be. I ask Mr. Groves to tell his staff that we really appreciate them, the staff of the Bills Office and, more important, the greater Oireachtas family. We have ushers here. We have security people and people who clean these offices every day. We have many support-team staff. There are staff from the Office of Public Works who keep this building and these grounds. Sometimes they are forgotten. Politicians are great at talking about themselves, what they want and their hurts but it is important to remember there are many people in the big Oireachtas family. I acknowledge them for the role they play in keeping the light burning and this place open for us.

I want to be positive as we finish our term but I would like to put down an indicator of concern for the Leader concerning how we do our business in this House. We have talked about Seanad reform, enhancement and renewal. Opposition Members are not very many, as the Leader knows, and the Government has the numbers. The Government Members do not even have to be here every day; we all know that. We know the numbers, we know the position on votes, and we know the records. That is not a criticism of anybody because many who are not in this House are at this very moment in their offices doing work. Others are in committee rooms during committee business. I understand, appreciate and acknowledge that but it is important to remember that there will come a time when some people on the other side of the House will be on this side. I spoke to some Green Party Members recently. We remembered when they sat at the back and got no look in. We all have an equal and democratic mandate to represent the people who elect us. I suggest, on a positive note, that we need to sit down and examine how we are doing our business. That is important. Everyone has a voice, experience and something to add value to the proceedings of the House. I realise the Leader respects that but I just wanted to say it.

I wish the Taoiseach and Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage well as they open, at 2 o'clock this afternoon, a housing scheme under Tuath Housing in partnership with Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council. They will launch 32 new homes this very day, which is positive.We had much debate about the Land Development Agency yesterday. It was a good healthy debate. We also had a great deal of debate about planning and housing. The one thing we all want, though, are more homes for more people and this is a positive start. I also wish the Government well on its launch next week of the Housing for All policy. I hope that it will be a new start. We have had the Rebuilding Ireland policy in operation for many years, but we have not had a critical appraisal of it yet. These new initiatives are positive and should continue.

Finally, more than anyone, I wish our colleague, Senator David Norris, well. He has not been well recently, but he was in here working yesterday and I had a conversation with him. I hope the sun and the heat will boost him up. I hope as well that he will be back with us in the next term. He is a remarkable man who has shared so much and given this House so much. I hope that in the next few weeks he will have time to rekindle and re-energise himself, get well again and be back among us as his usual great self. He is a remarkable man and I would not like this term to close without acknowledging it and I wish him, and Miriam, well. I look forward to seeing him back here in the next term.

Photo of Vincent P MartinVincent P Martin (Green Party)
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South Africa is facing some of its greatest challenges since apartheid ended. Ireland has strong links with South Africa. It is great to see the South African cricketers playing in Ireland now. I wish the British and Irish Lions rugby team well during its trip to South Africa. It is the “British and Irish Lions” and not just the “British Lions”. This is an example of how our two islands have come together under a sporting banner and displayed all that is good and positive in our celebration of commonalities.

Having said that, I received a communication of great concern yesterday from a person in my area. It reads:

Thank you for taking the time to read my email. I am reaching out to you as a thankful South African who has had the privilege of living in beautiful Clane for almost two years.

Today I address you on behalf of the South African community whose very Constitution and Bill of Rights was drafted in Dublin some twenty years ago.

The situation in South Africa is [currently] volatile and desperate, streets are littered with the remnants of looting and the mayhem that has taken place since Sunday across parts of [our beautiful] country.

Factories have been burnt to the ground and food supply chains have been cut.

The police and army are not equipped to deal with the current lawlessness.

Whilst the smouldering buildings have captured the skylines, South Africans from all walks of life are standing shoulder to shoulder to protect their communities and what is left of the economy.

The next couple of days is crucial and will cement South Africa’s future.

My hope is to spread the word about what is really going on, it is not racially motivated but a political attempt to overthrow the current government, to avoid the prosecution of corrupt officials who [have], at long last, [been] brought to book.

Sadly the communities that will be most affected are the...communities who have fought so tirelessly for democracy.

Please [please] can you shine a light on this issue.

I am very pleased and honoured to shine a light on those concerns. We have a great deal in common with South Africa. My uncle, Fr. Gabriel Finnegan, is one of the many priests from this country who have continued to devote most of their adult lives to South Africa, including during those difficult days of apartheid. I am shining a light, therefore, on something which has not received the publicity it ought to have.

Turning to another subject, I read with delight that:

Fine Gael is expected to open a Northern Ireland branch by [the] autumn and will try to find common ground with other “moderate” political parties in the region. [This] move comes after a motion was passed at [its] ard fheis...Dublin Rathdown TD Neale Richmond said the party’s move would “widen Fine Gael’s political role” across the island. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve had a proactive [presence in] Northern Ireland...which has really bought into the shared island initiative”.

I would never tell other parties what to do. When a party makes a move like that, however, for the normalisation of politics I commend it as a public representative. Well done to Fine Gael for taking that step. I believe the future of Northern Ireland is in the middle. The moderate voice will grow and will win someday.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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As this is our last day, I extend my thanks to the Cathaoirleach for the way in which he has conducted proceedings throughout the year. I express the appreciation of all the members of our Sinn Féin group in that regard. Equally, I extend my gratitude to the Leader. While it is fair to say that we do not agree a lot of the time, the approach she has taken has always been constructive. It is worthy of recognition and I appreciate it. I again express that sentiment on behalf of our entire group. Most importantly, I thank all the staff of the Seanad, particularly Martin Groves, Bridget Doody and their team. I also thank the team in the Leader’s office, Orla Murray and all her colleagues. It has been an especially challenging year for them. It has especially been so in the last couple of weeks, given the amount of legislation and the number of late nights which have resulted. It is important to put that on record on the record.

I also give a shout-out to the IT staff. I do not know about the rest of the Members of the House, but when I have been working from home the people in the IT department have come to my rescue on more than one occasion. I also thank the people who film us every day. I will bring in one disappointing note that not everyone may be aware of. The people working on filming lose their jobs every summer. They do not have permanent jobs. They are let go and rehired again. We must address, as a group, the idea that we have people employed on precarious contracts working in this building. It is completely unacceptable. I ask for all-party support to address this aspect. I also wish Senator Annie Hoey well on her big day. I extend my good wishes to everybody in the Chamber. While we have had a fair degree of debate, I hope that everybody appreciates that it has always been political and never personal. That is the approach of the Sinn Féin team and the approach of everybody in this Chamber. That is the way it must be.

In the time I have left, I raise a concern for when we return. The Leader will be aware that there has been a fair degree of concern about the directly-elected mayor of Limerick. To be frank, there seems to be cross-party recognition that the role now is not what it should be. It appears that it will be a role which will be very expensive and have little power and responsibility. All the power seems to be directed towards the new role of director general, a role which will attract pay of no less than €171,000 a year. The people of Limerick voted for a directly-elected mayor. They want that mayor to have the powers to tackle key issues like housing, transport and planning for our city’s future. Unfortunately, those powers are not there now. It is, of course, in the Government’s gift to grant them. It is an extremely important issue because other cities are going to look to Limerick to see how this initiative works out. If we end up not releasing those powers from central government, then it will be a disappointment not just for the people of Limerick but for the future of direct local democracy. Therefore, I ask for a debate on this issue.

Turning to the later debate on the Health (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2021, the one area which concerns me is that enough thought does not seem to have been given to the front-line workers and the young workers, in particular, as we reopen. For the most part, they are unvaccinated. It does not seem that enough thought has been given to this aspect. It was hugely disappointing to see that those young workers and their unions were completely excluded from those talks with the hospitality sector. I direct people to an excellent article in the Irish Examinertoday by Denis Cotter. He takes a strong line against the hospitality lobbyists, whom he feels did not represent many small businesses. There is something to be said for that argument. Above all, however, I ask that we bear in mind the vulnerability of our young workers labouring on the front line of hospitality. As we reopen, proper thought does not seem to have been given to how we are going to protect those people.

Again, I thank everyone and I wish everyone well for the summer.

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour)
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I extend our best wishes to Senator Norris and we hope he will be back in full health in the autumn and in here with us. Senator Boyhan used the lovely phrase of a “Leinster House family” earlier. I also express my thanks to all those involved in ensuring that we can operate here day in, day out. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his great encouragement and especially to those of us very new to this Chamber. I also thank the Leader for all her work this year.I am shocked to hear about the broadcasting unit and I very much support Senator Gavan in what he said. It is unacceptable that there are workers in this House who, effectively, do not have employment when we are not sitting. That is not acceptable.

Many of us have watched in horror the events in western Germany over the past 24 and 48 hours. I express my solidarity with the people of western Germany. It is shocking to think that thousands of people are still unaccounted for as a result of the flooding that has taken place there. I do not know the exact causes of it but it is yet another reminder of how fragile our environment, built and natural, is and the vital need to protect, sustain and support it.

I will raise the issue of yesterday's High Court decision overturning An Bord Pleanála's decision to grant planning permission for a medically supervised injection facility at Merchants Quay in Dublin. I understand there are genuinely held concerns about a supervised injection centre. There is a school in the area in question. I am a mother of three small children and I get the need to try to protect and shield young children from what happens on our streets. However, the point of a supervised centre is to take people from the streets and bring them to a place that is safe and that will save lives. It is uncomfortable for many people when we talk about addiction, particularly drug addiction. There is a real sense of it being "over there" but addiction is in all our communities, not just in Dublin but throughout the country. I pay particular tribute to 2FM's Louise McSharry for her very powerful post yesterday because she talked about her family and the fact that addiction is not just somewhere else but is within people's families.

My colleague, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, expressed strong concern yesterday that the HSE does not have a plan B for this issue. We understand a mobile unit for supervised injection centres is not planned and that lives could be lost. We need the Department of Health and the HSE to substantively respond in the wake of this High Court decision because it is a major setback in looking after those who suffer from addiction in this country.

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent)
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I was also very disappointed by the decision regarding the supervised injection facility. A plan B is urgently needed. However, I note that while we may be disappointed by that High Court decision, as others may be about other decisions, it is also very important that, regardless of our feelings on the matter, we recognise the independence of, and checks and balances within, our judicial and planning systems. I say that in the context of the many statements we hear that the system needs to change. That system is part of a democracy. It is very difficult and we will often be disappointed by specific decisions but those are battles that we then need to win in the narrative, in engaging with people and in producing alternatives. It is important that as part of the architecture of democracy in the State, we bear in mind the importance of that independent judicial system. That is not to compromise anybody who will speak about this matter but to remind us of that fact as we go into the autumn. On the importance of our planning architecture, I will say the same thing I always say, which is that policy is about the decisions we make and how we live together. Part of that decision-making structure is citizens' involvement in the planning process.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for an imaginative and ambitious chairing of this Chamber in a very difficult year. He is still finding new ways to bring the Seanad forward. I thank the Leader for a very fair and strong engagement with all of us. I thank and commend all my colleagues across every party and those of no party, as legislators and parliamentarians, for what they have each brought to a very challenging year. I thank the staff, including Martin and Bridget, all of the Seanad Office staff and all the staff in the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers, OPLA. I join the calls for fair conditions for those who work in, and with, this House, including the broadcasting unit and our secretarial assistants.

In the past year, we have very often dealt with matters that connected with the challenges of the day, week, month and the present moment. That is what happens in a crisis. However, when we come back in the autumn we will need to look to the future. While we have all been battling the changing landscape around Covid and its immediate challenges, the bigger discussion is about what happens next and what kind of island and Europe we will have next. All over the country, discussions are taking place locally about what kind of city, town or community we want to have. Those are very important discussions that will need to be centre stage, be they on climate, housing or reimagining care and our public services. I hope that in the autumn we will be able to turn our minds towards putting a stamp on the discussion about what the future should be. If we do not do so, we will find that it has already been tied up and decided and may again be more of the same. It is very important that we keep that transformative thinking and put an imprint on it.

I am very honoured to represent this House and Parliament in Europe as part of the future of Europe initiative, which involves parliamentarians from each national parliament discussing with citizens, and others, what the future of Europe should be. It is important that not just parliamentarians but everyone and, indeed, all the citizens of Ireland should have an input into discussions on the future of Europe. I call on people to engage and submit ideas on the europa.eu website so they are part of the discussion on shaping the places in which they will live. I urge all Members, as parliamentarians, to take a moment to look, think and add their very good ideas too.

My final point is on an issue that will shape what kind of world we come back to in the autumn. It is the decision that will be made on 27 July and whether Ireland will be one of a tiny handful of countries that will stop the temporary sharing of intellectual property to allow a scaling up of vaccine manufacture and access. The vulnerable should not be set against workers and businesses. Everybody benefits if we scale up vaccine manufacturing and, crucially, millions of lives around the world may be saved if we do so. I ask that Ireland will not be one of the few countries that will go down in history as unnecessarily prolonging this global pandemic by one or two years. That decision will be made on 27 July. I hope that Ireland does the right thing.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I join with Members in thanking Martin, Bridget, Carmel, Ilinca, Ethan, Aisling and, of course, Grace in my office, and all the staff of the Oireachtas for their tireless work. I thank the ushers, Bills Office, the information technology, IT, department and, most important of all, the cleaners who keep us safe in these unprecedented times. I also thank the Leader for her leadership of the Seanad, her courtesy to me, to Senators and to all the people who work in the Seanad Office. I thank the leaders and Whips of all the groups and all the Senators for their hard work and courtesy throughout the year.

I join with Senator Boyhan in wishing Senator Norris well. He is our longest serving Senator. In the 99 years of the Seanad's existence he has served longer than any other citizen of the State. He championed minority causes when they were not popular. He championed change and made it happen, which is extraordinary service by any public representative.

I congratulate Senator Hoey who is getting married today on her third attempt. We wish her all the best for the future and look forward to seeing her.

Yesterday, the Seanad held a number of debates and meetings. The Leader and I met with one of the leaders of the opposition of the Belarusian revolution, if it can be called that, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is an extraordinary woman. I ask everybody in this House to adopt a political prisoner so we can make change happen in Belarus too.

Finally, I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing the Seanad to sit in the Dáil Chamber, which is an extraordinary honour for any citizen. We managed to sit in the Chamber and be Senators at the same time so these are truly historic times. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing us to continue to work in this historic Chamber.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Fine Gael)
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I will go through some of the specific issues before the general thanks at the end of the session. Senators Gavan and Higgins raised an issue relating to some of the staff who work in this House. Our recording staff only contacted me in the last week. I am not sure if some of the people in this House are aware that we as a State worked with RTÉ as a State operator in the last number of years to conduct an internal audit of all of its staff going back for decades. A tremendous number of those people, who were independently employed in RTÉ, had to be given retrospective contracts, employment rights and PRSI. Tax liabilities had to be paid to the State on behalf of RTÉ for a significant number of employers who were deemed not to be self-employed contractors but actually employees of RTÉ. It is about time we did exactly the same thing in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I will ask the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to conduct a survey of all those it would call "casual" staff in these Houses. We rely on them day in, day out. They are the people behind the screens and behind our boxes. I do not mean that an individual recording this is casually employed. It is not good enough that a State employer, which is exactly what RTÉ was and what we are in these Houses, treats people in such an insignificant manner. That is something that we should do and I will write to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission on their behalf. I acknowledge the Senators' persistence in this area. I know they are dedicated to it, as we all are.

Senator Sherlock brought up the High Court decision yesterday. I know that we are all supposed to be incredibly careful about the separation of powers and I will be. It bloody well shows that we still have significant stigma about a medical condition and medical treatment in this country. I would call it arrogance but maybe it is ignorance of people who genuinely still believe that addiction only happens to certain people in certain communities of a certain type. In fact, the vast majority of people who suffer from addiction are the hidden people in every single town and community that we live in and we either choose to ignore them or just not acknowledge them. Yesterday's decision was an awful shame. The Senator is right that we need the HSE to step up to give us plan B. It should not be something that we plan for in three years or five years but something that we plan for in three weeks or three months. I acknowledge the Senator's contribution.

Senator Martin raised the solidarity in sport that we often see. I thank him for his good wishes for our attempts to open a branch. We have had one in Ulster University for a year or so now and it is going well. This is a new adventure for us and I hope it goes well, not for political purposes but for integration, co-operation and sharing ideas.

Senator Boyhan talked about Seanad reform. I thank him for acknowledging that I try to be as co-operative as I can. I hope that we do not ever use our majority. It is there but it is irrelevant. We should all use our co-operative skills in this House to try to get legislation passed. It is testament to the fact that there is not politicking in this Chamber that we can get our business done and start at 9 a.m. and have a late night be 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. The politicking that goes on in the other House is why they are there until 3 a.m. Maybe they have much to learn from us. We acknowledge that we are using the Dáil Chamber. I thank Senator Boyhan for his co-operation over the last months.

Senators Kyne and Higgins talked about planning. We will have a new process for fast-track planning and good planning. All of the flaws that have been obvious to some Members and more obvious to some of us later in the day have been highlighted in the last couple of months. I hope that we get a good new process. I acknowledge Senator Boyhan's good wishes for the housing for all strategy, because we are all pinning our hopes on it delivering in the next couple of months. It will be launched next week or the week after.

Senator Kyne referred to the PorterShed development. I am looking forward to many more of those types of organisations so that we can see remote working happening live and not in people's bedrooms, halls or landings. It is good to see something happening live while we are still talking about remote working.

Senator O'Loughlin talked about the peat harvesters who we met outside Convention Centre Dublin the other day. This is an example of something that we are doing to try to reduce our carbon footprint resulting in an increase in our carbon footprint and bringing about something that we have all said we want to do away with, which is carbon leakage. I do not mean to be disrespectful to the Minister because I think she is doing a wonderful job but doing another report for another year on something that we all see as plainly obvious is not the answer, so we need to do something far more specific and far sooner.

I join with Members' good wishes in thanking our staff. We do it this time every year or at Christmas. It is not just that we acknowledge and appreciate them during those times. There are some incredible and special people who work on this campus. We are incredibly lucky to have them because their care, attention, empathy and concern for all of us is evident in the interaction that we have every day. I acknowledge it and thank them sincerely. We appreciate it. It makes working in this environment much nicer than it otherwise would be.

Darren Fitzgerald is one of the ushers. I acknowledge a task that he has set himself. If you look at his Instagram page, you will see that he has a little daughter. She is only four. She has cystic fibrosis. I do not know if any Members know of his interest in golf but he is obviously a keen golfer. He is doing 65 Holes for 65 Roses, which is an appeal by Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, so all sponsorship would be welcome. I acknowledge and commend him on doing that.

I wish our colleague, Senator Annie Hoey, and her new husband-to-be today every success and happiness. The sun will shine on her today and hopefully it will for many years to come.

I send our best wishes to Senator David Norris. He obviously has not been around a lot in the last while. He needs to protect and mind himself. Hopefully he will be back to us in September, hale and hearty.

I wish colleagues a good rest during the summer. We will continue to do all the work that we always do during the recess. It has been a trying year. I know that we have grated on each other's nerves somewhat, especially some of the people who have been trying to keep us safe. I know I have certainly grated on some of their nerves by trying to get back to normal. Hopefully everybody will have a good rest and we will be back in our own Seanad Chamber in September. I am looking forward to it.

I know we can use the words "I had the real privilege" too often after we meet people. I had the real privilege of meeting a remarkable woman yesterday, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. For such a young woman to have the burden of the people of her country on her shoulders and to take it with such gusto and to have such an impressive campaign in the last general election in Belarus left me genuinely in awe of her. I am much older than her but I pale in comparison. She is a remarkable woman. Today is the Day of Belarus Women's Solidarity. She explained to me yesterday that the women in her country have held her up and have kept the resilience campaign in that country alive with the energy that it has. I asked her how she did it. She said that it is not that they have been given hope but that they have no choice but to fight for themselves, for their children and grandchildren because the alternative is accepting that all they will have if they do not fight is the dictator and Lukashenko's regime, which they live under every single day. I was in awe when listening to her. Some of us had the pleasure of meeting her yesterday.

I acknowledge the solidarity of all of us with the women of Belarus today. We stand with them and with the political prisoners. We hope, support and pray for them. I do not say that to be facile, because the only way they will overthrow him is with real sanctions and clout from the EU. We can offer solidarity, light our candles, stand beside them and hope that they get what they are working for daily, which is common decency and a normal standard of living with normal conditions and livelihoods. They should be able to go to do a decent day's work and not have to live with the peril of having the KGB knock on the door and drag people out of their houses daily. I acknowledge her visit. She is a remarkable politician in this day and age.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Leader for raising the issue of women's solidarity in Belarus. It is a cause that the Seanad could champion because women bear the brunt of the oppression in that country.They very much appreciated the passing of the motion by Seanad Éireann yesterday. I thank Senator Ward, and all Senators, who championed that cause.

Order of Business agreed to.