Tuesday, 5 April 2022
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I join with the Cathaoirleach in welcoming Tom Clonan to the Chamber. It is an exciting day for all of us in the Seanad to have a new Member of the House. Senator Clonan is most welcome, as are his friends and family who are here to support him. It is a fantastic day for all of them, who I am sure were very involved in the campaign to get Tom elected. I can tell him that we all watched with great interest as the results came in. It is great to see a competitive contest. He has earned his position here and I have no doubt he will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the debate in the House. I look forward to working with him. I say that in my capacity as Deputy Leader. I am sure all of the group leaders will, in turn, share their thoughts on the floor of the House.
The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re arrangements for the sitting the House on Wednesday, 6 April 2022, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, motion regarding approval of carbon budgets pursuant to section 6B(7) of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Acts 2015-2021, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to conclude at 6 p.m., with the time provided for the opening remarks of the Minister not to exceed eight minutes, all Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given not less than eight minutes to reply to the debate; and No. 3, statements on tourism, to be taken at 7 p.m. and to conclude at 8.15 p.m., with the time provided for the opening remarks of the Minister not to exceed ten minutes, group spokespersons not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be give not less than seven minutes to reply to the debate.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. I have learned to expect special treatment from him and he is very kind indeed in facilitating me. I am absolutely delighted to welcome my good friend. I understand we share a distant connection to Leinster House through the late and lamentable General Sir John Maxwell. Tom has had a very distinguished career as a military analyst, and that is something that we could do with in this House, in particular at the moment with the problematic situation in Ukraine.Tom has a distinguished record in reporting from various critical scenes such as Bosnia, Lebanon and so on. I know of his great understanding in those areas.
I also welcome his wife, Aideen, to the House. It is a proud day for her and the rest of the family who are here. Of course, we must not exclude Eoghan, who was the campaign manager, and a very effective one. Some people talk about being wheelchair bound. There is nothing bound about Eoghan, as his success in campaigning in this election has shown.
Tom is a passionate campaigner for the rights of people with disabilities. As regards his education, he has more degrees than I do. He has a BEd from Trinity College Dublin. Good old Trinity. There is a constituency for you. He had a distinguished career in the Army and helped to highlight the issue of bullying in the armed forces which was known about but unacknowledged. He brought it to the foreground, which was extremely important. He lectures in media studies and so on at Technological University Dublin.
We are privileged to have a person such as Tom Clonan here with us. I welcome him to the House and look forward to taking part in many debates with him. He will add lustre to the House.
I know Senator Clonan is anxious to respond to such a glowing tribute. Senator Norris, as father of the House, has seen many Senators in more than four decades. To get such a glowing tribute is indeed testimony to Senator Clonan's hard work through the years on various campaigns, in particular the issue of bullying and harassment in the Defence Forces, as Senator Norris mentioned. The Defence Forces are a better place as a result of his work. I invite Senator Clonan to respond to the great words from Senator Norris.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. First, I wish to thank my cousin, Senator Norris, and remind him that we had a secret pact never to mention General Sir John Maxwell. We said we would claim one another, but would not claim him.
The Senator has left me with the smoking gun. I thank Senators for their very kind welcome. We are exceptionally honoured and humble to be here. I am very grateful for the extraordinary community of Trinity College Dublin graduates. I am privileged to be a member of that community. I grew up in Finglas, went to the Christian Brothers and was very fortunate to go to Trinity College Dublin. The ethical and intellectual formation I got in my studies there and the debates during that wonderful time in the 1980s when I was 19 or 20 years old really was part of the reason I pursued the research I did while I was an Army officer and some of the other directions I have taken in my life, so I am very grateful to Trinity as a university and an institution, but also to that community of support without which I would not be here.
I am struck by the painting behind the Cathaoirleach. My grandmother, Máiréad Begley, was born in Killorglin in 1900. She came to Dublin in 1916 to became a primary school teacher. She was radicalised by the events of that year, particularly the execution of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, so she joined Cumann na mBan. In 1919, she qualified as a teacher and got a job in Scoil Bhríde, which was then located on St. Stephen's Green. It was Ireland's first Gaelscoil, set up by Louise Gavan Duffy. My grandmother taught there from 1919 until 1965. In 1919, she became involved with the south Dublin brigade of the Irish Republican Army, IRA.She participated in firebombing police stations located all across south County Dublin and in Wicklow, including in Blackrock, Cabinteely, Dún Laoghaire, Bray, Greystones, Dundrum and Blessington. They were all attacked by my grandmother and her friends. Therefore, I like to think she was a typical woman, multitasking by being a schoolteacher by day and an arsonist and freedom fighter at night.
Granny came to live with us when she retired. I was born in 1966. Granny, my nana, kind of spoiled me. She used to call me "an gamhain breac", the speckled calf, because of my freckles. She was the only adult I knew who would allow me to drink as I wished, including seeing how much lemonade I could drink before I felt sick. What a granny.
I grew up in a matriarchal household with my grandmother, my mum and my three sisters. Therefore, I knew that women had played a very active role in the liberation of the State and in the formation of this Republic. I joined the Defence Forces and served here at home before the ceasefires in what we called aid-to-the-civil-power operations, and then in Lebanon in the Middle East during a violent deployment during which hundreds of Lebanese men, women and children were massacred in the Irish area of operations. I witnessed that at first hand. As I speak, I am conscious that this is happening in Ukraine, in Chernihiv, Mariupol and Kharkiv. I hope I can bring some of my experience and an awareness of the importance of peacebuilding, negotiation, back channels and always keeping the communication lines open to try to end the killing and the violence. We must ensure we do everything in our power to avoid escalation, because unique risks are involved with the conflict in Ukraine.
I am proud to see my wife, Aideen, here. Again, I would not be here without her. I would also not be here without the wonderful supportive community I have, including Eddie Barron, Roger Galligan, John and Emma Somers, David and Helle Moyna and Polly McCourt. This wonderful family and community of support rallied behind me in the election attempt in 2016, when Senator Ruane certainly taught me a few lessons, and again in 2020, when I think she doubled her first preference votes.
One of the wonderful features of that election contest was that I made so many new friends, and I count Senator Ruane among them. In many ways, she reminds me of my grandmother, because she has the same pioneering spirit. I admire the work she is doing in respect of the drug task force in Tallaght and her new blog. I admire all the work she does.
Aideen and I have four kids. Eoghan, who is busy - allegedly - studying for his assignments in Dublin Business School, was my campaign manager in this election cycle, along with my youngest son, Rossa, who is a teenager, aged only 13. They worked really hard on the campaign videos. I noticed my speeches only attracted seven or eight viewers each day on the different platforms, and at least two of those were accounted for by me looking at myself. Anytime Leahy the dog appeared, though, we got many thousands of views-----
-----so I think that helped us to connect.
Eoghan was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease at 18 months old. He had a normal delivery and hit all his developmental milestones, but then at 18 months we had this awful moment where he was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease called Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease. Eoghan is a wheelchair user and partially sighted. Like all families with a member with additional needs, we went through the looking glass and into this parallel republic, where it is necessary to fight tooth and nail for exceptionally poor services and resources. It is not the fault of the clinicians or of our wonderful specialists. Ireland, sadly, is one of the worst places in the EU to have a disability, on every measure, including social isolation, poverty, homelessness, suboptimal medical outcomes and unhappiness, and this is for shame. We should be the best country in the EU in which to have additional needs.This was the particular motivation for me to run. It comes from the very heart of my family and that experience. I am here to do three things. I am here to learn from Members, who have been exceptionally kind to me in the past 48 hours as I have tried to find my way around the Houses like a lost sheep. People have been exceptionally kind. I am also here to make friends because I know there is a wonderful coalition of the willing across all parties who want to improve the existential circumstances in which people with additional needs find themselves - our most wonderful and precious citizens. In the time remaining to me and mindful of Senator Ruane's growing first preference cohort, I want to use whatever time I have in the Seanad to do something constructive and positive. I thank my family and good friends who are here today for welcoming me. Most of all, I thank all of the wonderful Trinity College graduates and the provost, Linda Doyle, who gave me such a great welcome. For all of this, I am very grateful. I am here to serve.
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I welcome and thank Senator Clonan for his very generous words coming into this House, that is, that he wants to work with everyone. I can assure him that there is that spirit of collegiality within this House. Senator Clonan has been a tireless campaigner on disability issues and we want to work with him to ensure that all citizens in this State are treated equally. I appreciate that he is joining two excellent Senators from Trinity College, although I will say that this will not prevent us from seeking to enact the seventh amendment, move to extend the Seanad franchise much more broadly and engage in Seanad reform. However, I look forward to working with him, as do my colleagues.
Déanaim comhghairdeas le Raidió na Gaeltachta ar 50 bliain de chraoltóireacht. Is seirbhís an-tábhachtach sa tír seo í Raidió na Gaeltachta. The Government announced the basic income scheme for artists today. This is something about which a number of Senators have spoken. It is particularly welcome as a three-year pilot. I know the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has been to the fore in arguing for this but I was very happy to see the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister talk about how this could be a real game changer for our artists and arts workers. Obviously we must see the detail of the scheme and I hope the Leader will facilitate statements or a debate around that. This country is rightly proud of its artistic tradition and its artists. Imaginative schemes like this can be transformative. I believe it has the potential to be one of the most creative and imaginative schemes since Charles Haughey introduced the tax exemption for artists during the 1960s. After two very difficult years for our arts community, we need to be able to continue to recognise the contribution it makes and support it, particularly during the fallow periods.
The other issue I wish to raise is the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, where it made it very clear that it is now or never in terms of the action we need to take. We will increasingly see populist rhetoric around not facing up to dealing with our obligations on the climate. We cannot get away from the fact that climate change remains the biggest existential threat we face. We cannot ignore the findings of the IPCC report. I ask that we have a full debate on this issue. I know it is an issue we have spoken about previously but in terms of European energy security, it once again strengthens the case that it is better for us to have Irish wind rather than Russian oil or gas.
Ar mo shon féin agus ar son pháirtí Fhine Gael, déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Seanadóir nua, Tom Clonan. Cuirim fíorfháilte roimh a bhean chéile, Aideen, a chlann agus a chairde agus déanaim comhghairdeas leo. Is lá iontach, lá ceiliúrtha agus lá bródúil é seo. Cuirim fíorfháilte roimh an Seanadóir.
On my behalf and that of the Fine Gael Party, I congratulate our new Senator, Tom Clonan, and welcome him here. I pay tribute to him on his victory in the Seanad by-election and congratulate all the candidates on a competitive by-election, as noted by Senator Chambers. I pay tribute to Tom's family and friends, who are here today. We can all learn from his social media videos and he will see plagiarism at its best in the next general and Seanad elections. We look forward to working with him during his tenure in Seanad Éireann. Today is an important day for the Clonan family and I hope they enjoy and savour it. We have all had the pleasure of a first day in Seanad Éireann and the collegiality he experiences today will continue. We look forward to working with Senator Clonan.
I might end the collegiality at this point by asking that the Deputy Leader invites the Ministers for Health and Public Expenditure before us to explain how it is that the position of the public health strategy leadership professorship in Trinity College Dublin, TCD, is being funded by the taxpayer and the State. I congratulate the outgoing Chief Medical Officer and I take no issue with his appointment to the job or him personally. This afternoon in the Dáil the Taoiseach said he had "no hand, act or part" in the secondment of Dr. Tony Holohan to the position in TCD. Who had such an input? How did it happen and why? How is it the Taoiseach, as Head of Government, had no hand, act or part in that process? Who did? Who said it is okay for the outgoing Chief Medical Officer - I will not personalise the matter - to go on secondment to Trinity College and for this to be paid for by the taxpayer via the Department of Health? Who signed off on that and why?
We need a debate on the role of the Chief Medical Officer after this appointment. Will it be an acting Chief Medical Officer position? Will it be for a particular period? Will the post be advertised and will the new person in the role be the Chief Medical Officer of the country? This is recognising that we have just come from the teeth of a pandemic. Again, I pay tribute to the current Chief Medical Officer for his work, the advice he gave to the Government and the tremendous job he did. My remarks should not be taken as personal in any shape or form. I hope we can have this debate as a matter of urgency.
To begin with, I associate myself with the warm words of welcome from a number of my colleagues to Senator Tom Clonan on his election. I assure him that what has been said is true and this is a collegiate place. As far as I am concerned, I have never seen a lack of friendship among anybody in this House against anybody else, no matter how deeply divided people have been on matters. It is a quality of Seanad Éireann I am sure Senator Clonan, as a professed peacemaker, will enjoy hugely.
I was struck by the fact Senator Norris revealed the terrible truth about Sir John Maxwell. Sir John Maxwell has something in common with my background and he tried to get my grandfather, Eoin MacNeill, executed for calling off the 1916 Rising. I now realise Senator Norris has been concealing this from me for a long time. Poor Eoin MacNeill, for his trouble, was the subject of a slightly drunken rant by Lord Wimborne, the Lord Lieutenant in the Viceregal Lodge, as it was then, saying he would hang MacNeill. That was on the Wednesday of the 1916 Rising. This was in addition to the fact that four days before, Countess Markievicz had when she discovered he was calling it off decided to go to Rathfarnham to shoot him with a revolver. He got it from all sides.
I have something in common with Senator Clonan. Before he was born or close to before he was born, I was an officer too in the Defence Forces, although a non-commissioned officer in the FCA. I have something else in common with him in that until recently his family had the benefit of an assistance dog called Duke and I am the proprietor of the second Duke. Duke has, in fact, resisted being kidnapped by Frances Fitzgerald on the Triangle in Ranelagh. All of this was recorded in Miriam Lord's column in The Irish Times.All of these links enable me to say in total sincerity that I have the greatest pleasure in being in Senator Clonan's presence here today and to offer him the co-operation of the Seanad Independent Group in every possible way. I welcome him here among us.
Senator Boyhan will be dealing with the question of the sitting tomorrow but I want to comment on what is happening in Ukraine. Every democratic house everywhere across Europe must make it 100% clear to the Government and the diplomatic representatives of the Russian Federation that what is happening is evil, must end and must be resisted-----
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. First, I welcome Senator Clonan to the House. I congratulate his family and friends because behind every politician who is successful in an election, there is a great team of tired and enthusiastic people who sometimes have more faith in you than you have in yourself. Well done to his house and to the team behind him.
I have some experience of working with modal shift and behavioural change in infrastructure around people with disabilities, having worked with schools for 14 years where I often came across that issue and sometimes encountered a lack of awareness. I would love to work with the Senator on that. Perhaps we could work on things with Engineers Ireland because design is a very significant issue. I look forward to working with Senator Clonan on that and on many other things. I welcome him to the House.
I will use the final few minutes of my time to raise again an issue that ties in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report, the war in Ukraine and the challenges of living in rural Ireland. The solar panel Bill, which the Green Party brought forward over a year ago now, has been delayed over and over again. Finally, it looks like everything that needs to be done has been done. The ecology reports have been completed, the i's have been dotted and the t's have been crossed. This Bill would enable communities, community groups, schools and farmers to put photovoltaic solar panels on their roofs without planning permission. We already have companies offering 17.5 cent a unit to farmers as soon as they can start selling them energy.
This Bill is very important because it does many different things in many ways. It can save the Department of Education money on its bills for schools as they will be able to sell energy during the summer. It will get us off the addiction to fossil fuels which we have had for too long, and which we have been calling to move away from for many years. It has always been a priority for the Green Party to look at our fossil fuel addiction, to leave everything we can in the ground, to become self-sufficient and to become net exporters of energy. For people living in rural areas, especially for farmers who have many sheds with roofs, this will get rid of the limit to what they can put up and eliminate the need to apply for planning permission. It will help them to make another income. We all know that farmers, especially small rural farmers, unlike the big farmers - I always make this distinction - need other incomes because their farming is marginal and they can barely survive on what they are earning. Most of them have second and third jobs. It is very important that this Bill is brought to pass. I hope the whole House will support me on this because it will enable community groups and community halls, farmers, rural dwellers and anyone who has a bit of a roof anywhere to get photovoltaic panels up on their roofs without the cumbersome bureaucracy that we had created for years to make this prohibitive. People can then own their own energy because there is nothing better than owning your own energy and becoming aware of how much you use. For too long, we have been removed from the source of our energy and the amount we use. This is partly because we have not been producing it ourselves. It would be great if we could see this Bill brought forward. I encourage the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, to make it one of his top priorities to get away from this overdependence on fossil fuels. At the moment, we are fuelling Putin's war which is a disgusting thing.
I remind the House that tomorrow, when the President of Ukraine makes his address to the joint sitting of the Houses, it is hoped that most people will wear the Ukrainian colours to show him, even if it is only a token gesture, that we are behind him, as stated by Senator McDowell. Senator Clonan may not yet have received the memo on this but he may have some blue and yellow in his house. The Bill I have mentioned is very important for many people in many ways.
Ba mhaith liom fáilte is fiche a chur roimh an Seanadóir nuathofa, an Seanadóir Clonan, agus é anseo linn inniu.I look forward to working with Senator Clonan and learning from him. He gave us a great insight into his character, his experience and his intentions in the Seanad, and all of them are admirable. I hope people will not judge me disrespectful if I say I found myself a bit more invested in and enthralled by the election count for the Trinity College by-election than I did for my own count. I can only imagine what it was like for the Senator having to go through all that.
Well, you never know. Is there any such thing? I wish Senator Clonan well agus go n-éirí go geal leis.
First, I wish to note the remarks of the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development aid and the diaspora published in the Irish Independenttoday. It might surprise people that I read the Irish Independent, but there you go. The Minister of State said the Government will commit to holding the referendum on presidential election voting rights before 2024. While I welcome the assertion, I would like to think it will happen before 2024, given it is a programme for Government commitment. What we need, and what I would like, is for the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, or the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has lead responsibility for taking this legislation through the Houses, to come before us after the Easter recess and outline the timeframe involved in the legislation. We cannot wait any longer. We cannot keep travelling the world on St. Patrick's Day and lauding our global diaspora, telling them how important they are. We cannot commit to telling citizens in the North they will no longer be left behind and then, when we have the opportunity to do something tangible that would assert and affirm their citizenship, not actually do it. It is commendable the Government is committed to this. It has been committed to it and has made announcements around it for a very long time. What we need now is for the definitive timeline to be laid before us and, if necessary, to initiate the legislation in this House. I am sure we would be happy to help it along the way.
I want to finish by raising the following. A few weeks ago, our colleagues in Fine Gael brought a very commendable motion before us in relation to the Passport Office, which I supported. It outlined a number of asks of Government. In March 2022, more than 100,000 applications were made to the Passport Office. In February 2022, in excess of 150,000 applications were made to the office. The month prior to that, more than 137,000 applications were made. There is a huge backlog. It seems to me all the Department has done up until now is to tell people to check earlier before they book holidays. I am sure it is the same across the Chamber, but there are people contacting me who applied for passports, particularly for young children, in November 2021 that are still being tracked. The Deputy Leader is aware of that herself. That is the reality. This is now becoming a supply and demand issue. When people apply for a passport, they pay a fee. It is not a nominal fee. It is a fairly significant amount of money. That is going in. It is time the Government invested. The staff are doing a fantastic job. They can only operate in the confines in which they find themselves. We need greater investment and greater service delivery. Only the Government can deliver that. I encourage colleagues in government, and I say it sincerely, to keep at their colleagues on this issue, if they have not done so already. It needs to be sorted.
On behalf of the Labour Party, I welcome Senator Clonan and his family to the House. I sincerely thank him for his work on the Defence Forces, in particular, over recent years. It is going to be very important in this House as we get to debate, we hope, the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces, which we have been promised for a few weeks. I thank Senator Clonan for his work on that. I look forward to working with him on it. I also thank the Senator for his work on disability matters.
It is with that that I raise the issue of the Family Carers Ireland report that was published yesterday, entitled Care at Home - Costs of Care Arising from Disability. The report found the minimum essential standard of living cost for a two-parent household caring for an adolescent with a profound intellectual disability is €244 per week higher than for a family of a similar size with an adolescent without those additional needs. It is very worrying indeed.
Another issue raised in the report was the cost of adapting a house. I raised the issue last week in a Commencement matter with the Minister of State only to be told the review is still ongoing. I am dealing with a number of families who need their houses adapted to look after their loved ones at home. Unfortunately, they cannot do it at the moment, considering the amount that is allowed under the grant. I ask again that the review be carried out a lot quicker than is happening at the moment. All these people want to do is to look after their loved ones in their homes. At the moment, unfortunately, they are not in a position to do so with the limits on this particular grant.
It is as Catherine Cox, the head of communications and policy at Family Carers Ireland, stated:
With everything they have contributed throughout the pandemic, it is simply wrong that family carers are now left struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes. They deserve so much better.
To ensure family carers are supported during this extremely difficult time, we are calling on the Government to provide additional and targeted financial support for family carers, particularly for those on the lowest incomes.
Perhaps we could have a debate with the Minister on carers. I know we had one last year, but it is timely that we look for a similar debate again as quickly as possible, given that particular report.
I also welcome the recent announcement of the Government on the Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill. Senator Byrne and I have introduced similar Bills on CCTV cameras. This weekend, my local community will have a clean-up, and I am sure that will be replicated in local communities throughout the State. I have said before in this House that those clean-ups are costing this State something in the region of €90 million. One can just imagine where we could spend that money better on community facilities, such as playing pitches, community playgrounds etc. We need to get that Bill enacted. I know Senator Byrne is pushing it and I will be pushing it from this side of the House. We need to see it happening in order that we can use CCTV cameras to fight against the attack that is on our cities, towns and especially our rural areas. It is something that needs to happen. As I said, I wish all those communities well this weekend and throughout the month of April with all their clean-ups. I thank them most sincerely.
First, I join in the very warm congratulations to Senator Clonan. There were so many incredibly strong candidates and we watched such an interesting debate. Senator Clonan arrived into this House at a very timely moment because we have a special committee for the duration of this Oireachtas where we are particularly tasked with examining the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I am very confident Senator Clonan will be able to bring constructive and important insights and perspectives into that debate. That is a very important task that cuts across everything, from participation in culture – full participation was one of the issues mentioned today - to independent living and home adaptation. So many of the issues we have spoken about today on the Order of Business affect people with a disability as well, but they face additional obstacles and challenges in respect of it. That is the task we face in ensuring the UN convention is fully implemented. I warmly look forward to the contribution our new Senator will make in that, as well as on many other issues.
Unfortunately, on this first Order of Business, I hate potentially to have to divide the House, but I need to propose an amendment to the Order of Business. With much disappointment I have to propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 2 on the Order Paper, the motion regarding carbon budgets, would not be taken today but would be taken at a later point pending the publication of the public consultation on the carbon budgets.
In December, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications launched this public consultation and called on the public for input on the carbon budgets. In the briefing we received, we were told the Minister, in making his decisions and proposals on the carbon budgets, would be informed by the climate committee report and the public consultation. Yet, what is put before the House today is the many-paged technical report the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, published in October last year, with no sign of there having been consideration of any of the detailed proposals put forward by the climate committee, and, indeed, absolutely no evidence of the public consultation and how, for example, the Minister has weighed up or considered the public consultation.
When the Minister came to the House on 15 February, he said he wanted to inspire people. We have had many opinions about what individuals should be doing in terms of climate change. I do not criticise that, because there are many things we can do. Much of the advice in respect of energy and driving at an environmentally friendly speed is sensible. However, the public also needs to see that the Government takes it extremely seriously and that, for example, the Minister has weighed up their concerns and ideas. I know that many in the public, for example, looked for stronger carbon budgets, because the ones as proposed for this next period of time are at 5.7% reductions per year, far short of the 7% required. Indeed, again, the Minister is of course empowered, in putting forward the carbon budgets, to consider new scientific information. Just yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, informed us that we have 30 months in which to act.In that context, the Minister should publish the public consultation, show respect to the public and its rights under the Aarhus Convention on environmental decision-making and review the proposed budgets in light of the very worrying scientific information. My colleague will second my proposal in due course.
I add my voice to the congratulations to Senator Clonan. I have followed his work closely and I admire it. I respect him greatly and congratulate all his family and supporters. Senator Clonan will find the friendship he talks about. He will also find a collaboration, which is very important. I certainly notice that more in this House than in the Lower House. I look forward to working with him on the areas of disability and defence, in particular. They are close to my heart, as I know they are close to his.
I raise an issue in the area of mental health that concerns all of us, including practitioners, those who are in need of mental health interventions and those who are working in the area. Successive HSE and Government reports have identified that there is a significant shortfall in the number of psychologists being trained to meet our needs. While there is a crisis now, a bigger crisis is coming down the line.
A 2021 HSE report stated that we needed an estimated 321 psychologists in the mental health services alone. That is without talking of the extra demand needed in education. We must have a plan for increasing the number of training places and associated funding to meet future demands. There is a huge disparity in funding for psychology trainees. Currently, trainee clinical psychologists have 60% of their fees paid and receive a student salary, and rightly so. However, counselling and educational trainee psychologists have to pay fees of approximately €14,000 per year and complete three years of unpaid work throughout the duration of their studies. Many are not able to enter the profession because of the cost. We need to see parity of esteem and support for the two types of psychology. I would like the Minister to come to the House to address this matter and put a plan in place.
I join the congratulations that have been extended to Senator Clonan. It is great to have another Blackrock person here because there are now only four of us, as far as I know. We can never have enough Blackrock people.
Senator Clonan has been a friend of mine for a long time. One will meet him, Aideen and Duke around Blackrock and Dún Laoghaire, whether it is on the pier or wherever else. What is very important is what has been spoken about in the context of the competitive and involved nature of the campaign we had for the seat. It is very important and shows the level of interest and commitment from all the people who put their names on the ballot paper. It is not easy to do that. Most people will never do it in their lifetimes. Senator Clonan has done it at least twice that I am aware of. I have done it a number of times, unsuccessfully. It is tremendously important we acknowledge the work done by people who do not get elected, as well as that of the successful candidates. I extend my congratulations and welcome to Senator Clonan.
Déanaim comhghairdeas le Raidió na Gaeltachta as an leathchéad atá á cheiliúradh againn an bhliain seo. Ó 1972, bhí Raidió na Gaeltachta ann ar son phobal labhartha na Gaeilge chomh maith le muintir na Gaeltachta. Feicim sa leabhar a bhfuaireamar uaidh go bhfuil grianghraf an tSeanadóra Kyne ann, freisin. Má léimid an méid atá istigh ann, tá a fhios againn go bhfuil Raidió na Gaeltachta i gcónaí ag obair go dian ar son phobal labhartha na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre. Is seirbhís an-tábhachtach ar fad é. Tá mé ag súil le labhairt le "Tús Áite" anocht. Déanaim comhghairdeas le Raidió na Gaeltachta ar son an leathchéid agus táimid ag tnúth le leathchéad eile uaidh.
Indeed, I met him many times because I was his county councillor in Booterstown in the Dún Laoghaire constituency. I also met his family. He is very welcome. I do not give advice. One should come in here every day and enjoy it. Every day one comes in here is a better day than going outside. I do not know Senator Clonan very well, but from what I have read about him he has an amazing track record. I congratulate him on his success in representing Trinity College. On behalf of the Seanad Independent Group, which I lead,-----
We are dealing with the Order of Business and I want to speak on an important aspect of that. Senators McDowell and Norris and I tabled an amendment regarding President Zelenskyy's address tomorrow. I believe we made our point. The Seanad can shine a light on many issues and we did so last night. The national media covered it. Our main concern was about the continuous and horrific images of civilians lying dead on the streets of Bucha. It is a matter for us and, personally, I believe it was important that we send a strong message to the Russian ambassador that he is not welcome in our parliamentary house of democracy. That is my view and I believe it is worth saying. I and my colleagues who tabled the amendment wanted to make it very clear that we did not believe it was right or appropriate to invite the ambassador of Russia to our House, the people's house and the house of democracy in this country. I want to put it on the record that, considering all matters equal and what has happened, while the ambassador has not declined the invitation, he has not accepted it. We will await what happens but I am now pretty confident the ambassador will not arrive to the lawns of Leinster House tomorrow morning.
I want to be associated with the remarks of welcome to Senator Clonan. I have had the pleasure of meeting him on a number of occasions both here and in other parts of the city and, indeed, on various radio programmes. I have always found him to be a respectful, insightful and interesting man, and I always felt that if he made it into the Oireachtas he would have something to offer. His skill set, not just in the disability sector, and I rarely met him without him being in the company of his son, Eoghan, will be very helpful in shaping policy and debate in this House. I also believe his military experience and the way he shone a light on the internal machinations, as it were, of military life are very important, especially at a time we as a society and a country are having a debate about our military neutrality. He will bring a particular insight that will be helpful in that regard.
At approximately 1 p.m. yesterday, Dublin Airport Authority issued a tweet effectively telling customers that if they are travelling at peak times they should expect delays of approximately three and a half hours. An addendum advised that if people happened to be bringing a car, they should add another half an hour. For the premier airport in the State to find itself in that situation is appalling, and there is a reason for it finding itself there. It has engaged in predatory practices in attracting airlines and passengers to dominate the entire sector. Airports such as Shannon have been left to wither on the vine. There was massive growth in passenger traffic prior to 2019. Dublin got the bulk of it and Cork, Mayo and Kerry got little bits of it.Shannon got precious little. From the time that Shannon was separated from Dublin, it engaged in predatory practices, it reduced landing charges and it grabbed it all. In the middle of the pandemic, it let people go, with voluntary redundancies, again to improve its capital position. Until such time as we have a legislative basis for managing our aviation sector, the carry-on in Dublin will continue. It is hugely damaging to our tourism industry for people to be told they will have to wait. Can anyone imagine getting a flight to Donegal to be told they need to rock into Dublin Airport four hours in advance? They would have rowed a boat to London quicker than they would get there now with the carry-on.
We have the next business in about 24 minutes and we have many speakers to come in. If we want to get everybody in, everybody has to stick to their time. If people run over, I simply will not be able to bring everyone in. I call Senator Martin Conway.
I want to be associated with the welcome to Senator Tom Clonan. It is great to have another voice articulating the needs and the many challenges that people with disabilities in this country face. I wish him well and look forward to working with him.
In terms of the Ukrainian crisis, I am very concerned about people with disabilities trying to escape Ukraine. We should have statements in the House with the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, Deputy Rabbitte, on what the Government's response specifically is to people from Ukraine with disabilities who are seeking sanctuary in this country. They have their permission to remain so they have the full rights that every other citizen in this country has. As time moves on, as more people from Ukraine are coming here and as the system is getting used to it, particular difficulties and challenges are emerging. I do not believe that the State response is strong enough or quick enough in embracing this, particularly in terms of education. There are some areas where it is happening very quickly but there are other parts of the country where it is happening particularly slowly. We need to have a rolling engagement on Ukraine. Once we come back after Easter, we need to have this on the agenda every week so we can interrogate various aspects of the Government response.
I want to be associated with the comments welcoming and congratulating Seanadóir Tom Clonan.
The results of the International Panel on Climate Change report, which was published yesterday, are scarily stark and the message is clear. We cannot long-finger what needs to be done. Of course, while we have ambitious targets and we need to acknowledge them, there are real questions with regard to the urgency in meeting those targets. In particular when I look at this city of Dublin, we have to ask about the urgency in encouraging people to start walking and cycling in the city. We have a draft transport strategy for the city which envisages it will take 20 years to 2042 to have over 50% of the population walking, cycling or travelling by bus. That is not good enough.
Communities where I live, like Cabra, Phibsborough and North Strand, are crying out for segregated continuous cycle lanes. While there has been some progress in recent years, the overall pace of progress is way too pedestrian. We also need to see an urgency with regard to retrofitting houses, not only because of the cost of living crisis, but because people want to play their part. Again, in the areas that I am most familiar with, 22% of the houses have a BER rating of F or G. Many of these households are low or middle income and they cannot even put together the 20% that would be needed to meet the State grants to try to undertake attic insulation. We have to do better.
Ten days ago, I stood with the family, friends and community of Terence Wheelock, who died in a Garda station 16 years ago. There was a GSOC investigation in 2014.There were inconsistencies, inaccuracies and more questions than answers in its report. The family needs an independent inquiry. In this regard, I appeal to the Government, including the Minister for Justice, and An Garda Síochána. For Terence's family, community and the wider public in Dublin's north inner city, we need to build trust with the Garda. It is vital that we stop the sore of distrust and ensure the family and community get an independent inquiry, not only for Terence but also for those growing up in the community who want to see justice for his name.
When a new Senator comes in, the Order of Business runs a little longer and we give more time. However, I do not want people's schedules to be put out of sync. The Deputy Leader will not be called until 4.45 p.m., at which time we are likely to have a vote, thus postponing the business of the day. I will not be able to call on everyone today unless everyone takes only a minute or 30 seconds each. However, I do not believe that is of any use to Senators. I call Senator Paul Daly.
Considering the Cathaoirleach's words, I will be as brief as possible. I want to be associated with the congratulations to Senator Clonan. I look forward to working with him.
I would like the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come to the House to debate seasonal work permits. At a recent meeting with the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland, its representatives highlighted to us again the difficulties contractors have in recruiting people to operate machinery, particularly during the silage season. When the Irish season is over, and because of the seasonal differences globally, many Irish drivers go to Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, where they can continue to do the same work. They get visas without any problem. Unfortunately, young drivers from the southern hemisphere who wish to come to Ireland can do so for only one season. They are not afforded the opportunity to avail of a visa or work permit for seasons thereafter. This needs to be addressed. If addressed, it could solve a major problem in the sector. I ask the Deputy Leader to invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs to discuss this issue and the many other issues associated with seasonal work permits that arise annually, particularly in the agriculture sector.
I, too, want to be associated with the welcome for Senator Clonan.
I welcome the announcement today by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media of the basic income for artists. Members of the relevant Oireachtas joint committee prioritised this for the arts scene.
Last Thursday, I attended the opening of the co:worx working hub in Edgeworthstown, County Longford. I pay tribute to the committee involved. Four years ago, the Ulster Bank branch closed, leaving no financial institution in the town. The ATM facility is gone. A local group approached me, other public representatives and the local authority with a view to purchasing the former Ulster Bank property. Longford County Council did so and now we have a state-of-the-art co-working hub with a link to the Technological University of the Shannon, Athlone. It is an ideal example of a negative turned into a positive. It is important to put on the record my gratitude to the committee for the work it has done.
Planning permission was recently turned down for the development of a primary care centre in Edgeworthstown, a town of over 2,000 people. Such a centre is important infrastructurally to any town, particularly a growing town such as Edgeworthstown. Permission was turned down due to a lack of capacity in the sewage treatment plant. I contacted Irish Water and was informed that there is some capacity at the plant. Therefore, I ask that when the application is resubmitted, planning permission be granted subject to joining the public scheme. Infrastructure like that in question must not be turned down when people are prepared to invest money to develop it in a growing town.
I call on Senator Ruane because she has to second the amendment and was here from the very start. However, I will give everybody else one minute if they stick to it. If they do not, I will not be able to accommodate everybody. If the Deputy Leader, who has to respond, did so now, we would still be late. Senator Ruane has two minutes.
I formally second Senator Higgins's amendment. Senator Clonan is no longer present; however, as the only woman left on the Trinity panel, I welcome him. He mentioned matriarchs, so I will now claim to be the matriarch of the Trinity panel. The real travesty is that there has only ever been one Senator from Killinarden in the Chamber, never mind Blackrock. I wish to speak to a very sad and important case. I do not know specifically how to have a debate on it but it is obviously part of a wider discussion on mental health. In all my long years of working in the addiction and homeless sector, I have been advocating and fighting for dual diagnosis in terms of service and care. Many people who have experienced extremely serious mental health conditions have ended up homeless because of them. While they are on the streets, people are often refused care based on their homeless status. It is not always said outright; sometimes the service will say it is not taking people in just to release them back onto the street. It means they do not get the care they need while they are there.
When I began to volunteer again in the homeless sector at the beginning of the first lockdown when we were not meeting in the Chamber, I met a young woman called Cherie Flynn. I have the permission of her family to use her name. I was very saddened to receive an email in the last few weeks to say Cherie had passed away. She was admitted for involuntary care into a psychiatric unit, which is not easily got. When I worked in the homeless sector there were so many people who were released from involuntary or voluntary care only to take their lives immediately afterwards or within a day or two of leaving care. Cherie was granted involuntary care although it took a lot of pushing for that to be done. She really thought there were demons chasing her and expressed suicidal ideation. She was a young woman living on the streets. Her family wanted to love and care for her but due to her mental health issues, she was not able to live in the home. After her involuntary care order was made, almost instantly it was revoked in the psychiatric unit. Cherie left and took her life by throwing herself off the Jervis Street shopping centre car park. We have to stop this happening. It is discrimination against homeless people and their ability to access real, adequate care. We should have statements on mental health specific to psychiatric care.
Yesterday, I was asked to support Senators McDowell and Boyhan on the invitation to the Russian ambassador to the House tomorrow. I rejected it because I thought the ambassador should be here as the embodiment of Russia. I have changed my opinion because I have been contacted by a number of people, some of them in the diplomatic corps. They say the ambassador should not be here. He would take away from the event and become the focus of attention. I will be supporting that amendment today with Senators McDowell and Boyhan.
The Minister of State with responsibility for transport called for the Defence Forces to be put into Dublin Airport to solve the security problem. Are the Defence Forces the only people in this country who can stop floods and fires and fill every goddamn gap there is? Any time there is a bit of a problem, we throw the Defence Forces at it. They are the poorest paid people, the most abused and lacking in respect in this country. It has to stop.
I concur with Senator Craughwell. It was disappointing to think the Russian ambassador was being invited in the first instance and to be afforded that additional privilege. I am so happy a diplomatic storm has been averted by him having the good sense not to turn up where he is not welcome.
I would like to associate myself with the warm welcoming comments by Members of the House to the victorious Senator Tom Clonan. As my colleague, Senator Garvey, said, he can be assured of the total co-operation of the Green Party. In the spirit of the House I can safely say he will get this from every quarter and none. It was an electrifying, interesting and invigorating count. It amplified the need for simple reform, like a six-seater single constituency, which does not need a referendum or the substantive Bill Senator McDowell is bringing through the House. We really should consider those to help the Seanad.
I welcome Senator Clonan to the House. I acknowledge the fundraising efforts for Ukraine all across our towns and villages. We had a coffee morning in Ballinasloe that raised €600 over three hours for families in Ukraine.Groups are putting on plays and all of the funds are going directly to the Irish Red Cross's Ukraine campaign. It was devastating to see what has happened in Bucha on last night's "Prime Time". It is very hard to speak on it but there is a national volunteer effort in Ireland to welcome families and that effort, co-ordinated through groups in the education and training boards and through our counties, will be crucial in supporting those families when they get here.
I also congratulate our new Senator, Tom Clonan. I look forward to working with him in the coming years. I welcome the Government's announcement of a basic level of income for artists but I want to link that to what was in the news today with regard to our carers and how they deserve a basic level of income. No carer should be at risk of poverty because he or she is a carer. Everyone deserves some sort of financial security. A basic level of income for our carers is one way to provide that security and to help our carers. We cannot quantify the invaluable contribution they make to this country but we can start by giving them a basic level of income.
The Cathaoirleach will be glad to know that I will be very brief. I warmly congratulate Senator Clonan. What a wonderful first speech he has made this morning. It is great to have him among us. I look forward to working with him.
We are taking Report and Final Stages of the Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021 on Thursday. I appeal to Senators of all parties to come out for the photocall at 12.30 p.m. on Thursday. Completing the progress of this Bill will be very important and very significant. Of course, that is in the gift of the Government. I am very mindful of what the Deputy Leader said on Second Stage of this Bill, which was that she did not mind which Bill got through as long as a Bill got through and we got this done. On Thursday, we will have the opportunity to get legislation on safe access zones done. It is regrettable that the Government does not yet have a Bill and cannot give us a timeline for one. That means that this is the only Bill on safe access zones. I appeal to colleagues from across the Chamber to get together on Thursday to get this done and not to keep women waiting.
To first address the Bill on safe access zones, as the Cathaoirleach will know, I am a co-signatory so I very much hope that we can pass the Bill on Thursday. I also welcome Senator Clonan and congratulate all of those who ran. It was a stellar performance by an awful lot of people, including members of my party. I congratulate them for putting themselves forward. I am sure we will see them again in the future.
I will also speak about carbon budgets. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report was stark. If we keep going the way we are going, we will reach 3.2°C above average pre-industrial temperatures by the year 2100. We just cannot do that. We have to move beyond that. For clarity, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action recommended that we adopt these carbon budgets. Most of the recommendations related to sectoral targets, which have yet to come. That is where the public comes in. It is absolutely essential that the public is behind this. Many of the committee's recommendations related to that. I urge people to support these carbon budgets. We need to act now.
I will be very brief. I also wish to raise the matter of the IPCC report. I particularly welcome the fact that the panel said that we cannot rely on unproven technologies such as carbon capture. That is very welcome. It is unfortunate that we are seeing the nature-based solutions presented by peatlands not being seized upon to the full extent possible. Bord na Móna's plans to put a wind farm in the Mid-Shannon Wilderness Park fly in the face of what we heard from the IPCC yesterday.
I also welcome the fact that the IPCC has finally called out how the Energy Charter Treaty and investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms are holding back governments from taking the action needed. They are making the public pay for the stranded assets of fossil fuel companies. I hope the Deputy Leader will consult the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and call on him to have Ireland unilaterally leave the Energy Charter Treaty. The reform process is going nowhere. We have a very small window of time to turn this ship around and the Energy Charter Treaty deserves to be put in the bin.
I thank the Cathaoirleach. The Order of Business started today with Senator Norris. He eloquently welcomed our new Senator to the House and articulated their close ties. We look forward to further exchanges in that regard. Many Senators, almost everybody, rose to welcome Senator Tom Clonan to the House. It is a momentous occasion for the House. Senator Clonan got to his feet on his inaugural debut speech in the House and spoke about his tireless campaigning for people with disabilities, his fantastic son, Eoghan, and all of his family and all the support he has had. One thing he said that stood out for me was that he wants to be part of a coalition of the willing which is a lovely way to put it. Those of us that are here to serve as he put it, often work together in a cross-party manner. As Senator McDowell pointed out we are a collegiate bunch and despite some of our differences on many issues, we tend to work together when the need arises to try and advance important issues. Senator Clonan’s debut speech was excellent.
Senator Malcolm Byrne spoke on a couple of issues. First of all he congratulated RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on its 50 years in operation, as did Senator Ward. He also spoke about the announcement today by the Government of the basic income scheme for artists, and was joined in that regard by Senators McGreehan and Carrigy. Senator Malcolm Byrne said we need to see further detail on exactly how this scheme will operate and how artists will qualify for it, and has requested a debate in the House at the earliest opportunity which I have requested through the Leader’s office. Senator Malcolm Byrne also raised the issue of the ICCP report as have other Senators, including Senators Boylan, Pauline O’Reilly and Sherlock. We will request a debate on that report at the earliest opportunity. It is an issue that concerns many Senators.
Senator Buttimer spoke about the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, taking up his position in the University of Dublin. I do not have full details on how that appointment was made. I am informed that it is a secondment for a particular period which as I understand it often happens between public bodies but I have no further information to provide to the House. I do not want to talk off the top of my head. It might be worth a Commencement matter or raising directly at the parliamentary party meeting.
Senator McDowell welcomed Senator Clonan to the House. I do not have any knowledge of Sir John Maxwell but I have learned much this afternoon and appreciate the education in that regard. Senator McDowell also referenced tomorrow morning’s sitting as did Senators Boyhan and Craughwell. I take on board what the Senators articulated. From their comments yesterday and today I would say that almost everybody in the House concurs with the sentiments of what they were proposing. I note that there is no amendment proposed so I have nothing to deal with in that regard. However, I would certainly join with other Senators in hoping that there is no attendance tomorrow by the Russian ambassador. I do not expect that there will be, for many reasons. It is just not appropriate in my view that he would be there.
Senator Garvey spoke about our over-dependence on fossil fuels and wants to advance the Bill on solar panels on public buildings. Senator Pauline O’Reilly brought that Bill to the House some months ago.
Senator Ó Donnghaile spoke about the need to expedite the publication of the Bill on a referendum on extending the voting franchise to Irish citizens beyond Ireland. He has requested an update on that. It might be worth a Commencement matter on that issue in particular. He also raised a very important issue in regard to the Passport Office. All of us are getting frustrated. I am actually waiting for a passport for my little boy as well and we do not know when we will get it. It is frustrating not knowing and it is months since the application was lodged. I sympathise with other families who are also in this situation. It seems to be particularly difficult when applying for a child's first passport. It is much easier to get other passports.
Senator Wall spoke about the Family Carers Ireland report that was launched today and commended the authors of that report and all of us who fed into it. It is an important body of work. He put on the record of the House that it is estimated to cost an additional €244 per week to a family just to run the household where they have an adolescent with additional needs. That is a significant amount of money for any household, particularly in the context of rising food and energy costs in the State. Certainly we have much work to do in regard to providing supports and services to those families and individuals.
Senator Wall also raised an issue that he has raised previously around the cost of adapting houses, and the grants that are available to the local authorities which have not been updated to reflect the rise in the cost of building materials and labour. I understand there is an ongoing review but I take on board the Senator's remarks that it is moving at a very slow pace which is obviously making it very difficult for families to do those upgrades to their homes.Senator Higgins proposed an amendment to the Order of Business. I take on board what she said. I am not in a position to accept her amendment, which was seconded by Senator Ruane. It is my understanding that there are two elements to the public consultation, the first of which was on carbon budgets in general and which concluded on 8 February. The matter was then considered by Cabinet and a joint committee. It is the subject of that which is being considered today. My understanding is that there is a further public consultation with Ministers on a sectoral basis. That consultation is outstanding.
The information I have from the Minister is that the public consultation on carbon budgets in general was concluded, but the sectoral consultation is still outstanding. I cannot accept the amendment to the Order of Business, but it is open to the Senator to raise the issue directly with the Minister today and ask that there be a delay in the work he is doing. I take on board the points Senator Higgins has made on public consultation and this having happened before it concludes. My information is that there are two aspects to the public consultation, one of which has concluded and the second of which has not. The Minister wants to proceed and I am happy to facilitate that happening today. As I said, if Senator Higgins wants to raise this directly with the Minister in the debate later today she can do so. I thank the Senators for their amendment.
Senator O'Loughlin spoke about the need for mental health reform and also welcomed Senator Clonan to the House. Senator Ward congratulated Raidió na Gaeltachta on its 50 years in operation. I have dealt with the issue raised by Senator Boyhan.
Senator Dooley spoke, as he often does, about Shannon Airport and the challenges the airport is facing. He raised particular concerns regarding practices between Dublin and Shannon airports. I have no further information on that particular issue, but I acknowledge that there are difficulties with Shannon Airport and its operation. The airport is important to the mid-west region and County Clare.
Senator Conway welcomed Senator Clonan to the House and acknowledged that it is great to have an additional voice in the House coming from an advocacy perspective on disabilities. He said he looked forward to working with the Senator on those issues.
Senator Sherlock spoke about the IPCC report. She raised in particular issues around cycle lanes in her constituency and the need to facilitate citizens having access to walking and cycle lanes. The Senator should spare a thought for those of us in rural Ireland where it is all but a pipe dream to have cycle lanes in and out of our towns and villages. It is something to which we aspire.
Senator Paul Daly spoke about seasonal work permits and has requested a debate with the Minister for Foreign Affairs around getting those work permits expedited, especially those for the agricultural sector where there is an annual demand for those types of permits.
Senator Carrigy spoke about the basic income for the arts and mentioned a good news story in his area, Longford, where a remote working hub has been established to link directly with the Technological University of the Shannon, TUS. It is working very well.
Senator Ruane spoke about the issue of dual diagnoses. She referred to Cherie Flynn, and we extend our condolences to her family. We were very moved by the story the Senator told on the floor of the House. Words are fine, but actions are what are needed. The Senator has been a tireless and fantastic advocate for those working in the homeless sector and addiction services. I take on board her comments on mental health. I was not aware of the issues she raised regarding homelessness and the potential for discrimination in terms of access to services. It is appalling to think that is happening. I will certainly request a debate in the House on mental health reform, in particular psychiatric services. The Senator can liaise with the Leader's office to make sure we get the title of the debate correct and the correct Minister to come to the House to deal with that. I extend our sincere sympathies to Cherie's family on the tragic passing of the young woman.
Senator Craughwell spoke about tomorrow's sitting, which I have dealt with. He referenced the suggestion by a Minister of State at the Department of Transport that the Defence Forces would provide free hours of work. I was shocked to read that. The defence community has responded. The Representative Association of Commissioned Officer, RACO, made a statement today and I am sure the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, will do the same. They are quite insulted by the suggestion that their members would be called upon. We have still not addressed pay and conditions in the Defence Forces, the major retention crisis and the fact that people do not feel properly valued or acknowledged for the work they do. To suggest that they would be dragged up to Dublin Airport to do this work on a voluntary basis without any consultation was not appropriate. I understand the intention of the Minister of State wants to solve one problem, but he was lacking in consideration for the personnel who would be required to do that work. Consultation with the Defence Forces was also lacking.I take on board the comments of the defence organisations that they are very unhappy with the way that was dealt with. I agree with the remarks of Senator Craughwell in that regard.
Senator Dolan acknowledged the amazing fundraising for Ukraine of communities across the country, particularly a coffee morning in Ballinasloe that raised in excess of €600. I wish that community well.
Senator McGreehan raised the issue of a basic income for artists, but also the need for a basic income for carers. I think all Senators would support that.
Senator Gavan spoke about the safe access legislation that will come before the House on Thursday and asked for cross-party support for the Bill. He will be aware the Bill will not be opposed by the Government but the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and his Department are drafting legislation to do the exact same thing. We have raised that issue in the House previously. It is about getting to the point we all want to reach, that is, where there are safe access zones, but we must ensure that whatever legislation is on the Statute Book is watertight and stands up to scrutiny because it could be challenged before the courts. It is the intention of the Minister to provide for safe access zones. He has on numerous occasions commended the work of the group that published the Bill tabled by Senator Gavan which has cross-party support. The Minister wishes to reiterate his support for achieving that objective of safe zones that many of us in this House also support. We look forward to that debate on Thursday.
Senator Pauline O'Reilly spoke about the IPCC report. I will request that debate.
Senator Boylan also raised the issue of the IPCC report, as well as the Energy Charter Treaty. As that is a specific request, it would be suitable for tabling as a Commencement matter in order for the Senator to get a direct response on it. I do not have any further information to give her.
Garret Ahearn, Jerry Buttimer, Malcolm Byrne, Micheál Carrigy, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Lisa Chambers, Martin Conway, Ollie Crowe, John Cummins, Emer Currie, Paul Daly, Aidan Davitt, Aisling Dolan, Robbie Gallagher, Róisín Garvey, Gerry Horkan, Seán Kyne, Tim Lombard, Vincent P Martin, John McGahon, Erin McGreehan, Eugene Murphy, Fiona O'Loughlin, Pauline O'Reilly, Mary Seery Kearney, Diarmuid Wilson.