Thursday, 6 July 2023
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Before I ask the Deputy Leader to outline the Order of Business, I welcome to the Distinguished Visitors' Gallery, from Minneapolis in Minnesota, Julie Dolan and Easton and Oliver who are here with the erstwhile reporter from RTÉ, Paul Cunningham. They are most welcome. I know they have been all over the country and I thank them for coming to visit and for spending some US dollars here. It is more appreciated, especially when they were in Kerry. I thank them for being here today.
I call the Deputy Leader to outline the Order of Business.
The Order of Business is No. 1, Energy (Windfall Gains in the Energy Sector) (Temporary Solidarity Contribution) Bill 2023 – Second Stage, to be taken on conclusion of the Order of Business, with the opening contribution of the Minister not to exceed ten minutes, group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes, and the Minister to be given less than ten minutes to reply to the debate.
Not to be outdone by the visitors from Minnesota, we also have visitors all the way from Colorado. I thank them for coming and spending their dollars here. We hope they enjoy their time in Ireland. Their visit is most appreciated.
It is with profound sadness that I rise this morning and share the passing of a dear friend and colleague of mine, and of this House, Brendan Daly. A former Minister, Deputy, and Senator, he was at all times a great representative of the people of Clare and, indeed, of Ireland. He had a distinguished career in the Seanad and in the Dáil and as a Government Minister. He was somebody who remained connected to his community and to rural life, all the while carrying out his duties, not only on behalf of his constituents but on behalf of the Irish people. He served in many offices as senior and junior Minister. He travelled extensively when he was Minister of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for overseas aid. He was ahead of his time when he talked about climate change. He attended one of the early Earth Summits in Rio and the importance of the changes we needed to make as a society was something I know played on his mind thereafter.
He served in various Departments, including the Department of Labour, the Department of Defence, the Department of the Taoiseach and the list is endless. However, it never changed the way Brendan lived his life or the way he represented people. He remained so in touch with his community. Notwithstanding the high offices he achieved and the global roles he had, and that he discharged his duties with such distinction, he remained humble. He had that wonderful capacity to have a laugh at himself and with others. He did not take himself too seriously while all the time being a really serious politician who delivered in spades for his community and his country.
He was one of the brightest people I have ever met in politics. You would not know that if you did not speak to him at length because he always had a disarming way about him. He always had a joke, a giggle and a laugh when you met him but when you got into the serious business with Brendan Daly, he had a really insightful mind. I have seen politicians come and go but I do not think there is anyone I have met in my 20 years in these Houses who was as insightful as Brendan Daly. I share that view with a number of people who served with him at Cabinet. They said the same. They said he was not always the one shouting the loudest or who talked the most, but when he spoke on an issue, he understood it and he understood the implications it would have.
For somebody who was not a legally-trained individual, he had a forensic and thorough legal mind when it came to the drafting and amending of legislation and seeing it through these Houses. I recall quite some time ago talking to a senior official in a Department he was in who reflected on what they thought they were getting when the new Minister arrived as opposed to what they actually got. They had not seen it with previous Ministers and they never expected him to take such an interest in the drafting of legislation. He was leagues ahead of his contemporaries when it came to drafting legislation and working through it. I saw that when he served in the Seanad with between 2002 and 2007. He was all the time preparing Bills. Others were running around doing parliamentary questions and doing the simple stuff such as getting an answer to something. Brendan was working through amendments on legislation without the advice of outsiders. He never needed it; he had that capacity himself.
It is a really sad day for me, I have to say. I spoke with his son and daughter this morning and they are heartbroken. It was not expected. He had been going through a period of ill health. He had a procedure yesterday and he did not come through it. To Ronan, Niamh and Iomhar, this House sends its best wishes at this difficult time.
I thank the Senator for his tribute to Brendan Daly who, as he outlined, served not only his constituents but his county and his country at all levels of Government as a Minister, a Deputy, and as a Member of Seanad Éireann. We send our deepest sympathies to all his family on their sudden and sad loss and to the village of Cooraclare where he is from. I am sure they are all shocked and saddened by a member and a leader of their community being taken from them too soon.
I call Senator Keogan.
I also want to be associated with the sympathies to the family of Brendan Daly. The way Senator Dooley spoke about him here this morning was lovely. I thank the Senator for that and for sharing a little bit of Brendan Daly with those of us who may not have known him here this morning.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 13 on the Order Paper be taken before No. 1. This morning, I raise the findings and recommendations of a document from the Federation of Early Childhood Providers - voices from the front line, service providers identifying key challenges and opportunities for Ireland's early learning sector. One of the major points made in this document was discovered in its analysis of many mid-sized services that are owned and managed by single owner-managers, one of the most popular models of early years services throughout Ireland.
Over the past weeks, many of us would have attended some of the presentations the organisation has held in the audiovisual room. In many of these cases, the apparent viability of the service is being achieved artificially with the owners and managers reducing their salaries where necessary to support increases in operational costs. As a result, while the term "profitability" is often described as referring to the bottom line, in annual finances the profit being generated within many of these facilities excludes the salary of the owner or the mangers. As a result, while the financial accounts of the service may indicate that the service is viable based on annual accounts and returns, the model is completely unsustainable and, in reality, is financial unviable.In other social and business sectors, this issue would not be a concern of the State. It would be for the owner or manager to require changes to a business in terms of its operational income, fees, number of clients and costs, primarily wages, in order to address viability. However, that is not possible in this sector. Early years providers' fees are regulated in the context of core funding and their client numbers are limited on the basis of the child-to-staff ratios laid down in the Child Care Act and the regulations. Salaries are controlled by means of the recent employment regulation order, ERO, and represent, on average, 75% to 90% of total operational costs. As a result, the usual release mechanisms used by businesses to adapt their operation to achieve viability have been removed. The report concludes by saying that if this is not addressed, we will see the closure of many childcare providers over the next 18 months, as well as the likely adoption of practices by other business models that are contrary to the provisions of the Child Care Act and the regulations.
We do not normally thank the members of the back-room team of this House. Yesterday, however, I witnessed something that I was so glad to see. Mr. Alan Ruane, the Head Usher, all the tour guides in this House, deserve a round of applause and many thanks. There was a little child called Aaron O'Shea who was in here yesterday with this parents, Fidelma and Martin. I watched the little clip of him in the Dáil yesterday. The whole Dáil stood still for two or three minutes while he enjoyed his moment with the family. It was a lovely experience. I thank the tour guides and Mr. Ruane and his team for making those wishes possible for the most vulnerable children that we have in our community. I want to let people know that this House is the people's House after all. I thought that was a lovely moment yesterday. We should do more of that.
Today is 6 July. It is the first anniversary of the publication of the report of the Joint Committee on International Surrogacy. We are a year on. In that year, babies have been born and families have had happy moments of celebrating the birth of their babies and the growth of their family. Birthdays have happened. Children have started school. Children have started in crèche. They have engaged in extracurricular activities. They have joined the girl guides, the scouts, local sports clubs and all sorts of activities across the country. Children have also been sick and had to be hospitalised and needed treatment that required consent. Parents have received very serious diagnoses that put their futures in jeopardy and, hopefully, they will overcome that. Parents have split up and custody and access issues have had to be dealt with.
Parents have stayed together in the past year when, perhaps, they should not have done. Perhaps coercion and domestic violence of a silent type in the context of control has and is occurring. I am in contact with families that are in those situations. In the past year, those events all have had two parents at them. One parent has every recognition in law, has rights and entitlements and a say. Often, in fairness, they are biological fathers who do not want that full power and control. They want to share it with their spouse, be that the mother or the second father of any child, but they have no choice. There are the very tiny few who abuse that control. We have seen High Court cases in the past year. I have mediated in some cases.
I acknowledge that there has been a great deal of progress, that the relevant Ministers have met, that the interdepartmental group met and that the policy document went to Cabinet and was agreed by it in December In April, when we had the debate in the Dáil on the joint Oireachtas committee's report, the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, promised parents that the legislation would be through the Houses by the summer recess. I managed their expectations and stated that this was not likely. Then it was moderated to it being on Committee Stage by the summer recess. I managed their expectations again and stated that was also not likely because there would be a lot going on, with competing interests and various items of legislation being drafted and introduced. I acknowledge that we are on a promise of October next. I hope that promise will be adhered to. I have reason to be confident that will be the case.
We are a year on and families are still in difficult situations. Children are not having the right of a lifelong relationship with both of their parents that they deserve. I merely want to mark the anniversary of the report's publication and pay tribute to all the mammies and daddies across the country who live in these situations, deal with them and live happily ever after for the most part. For those who do not, however, the legislation is urgently needed.
I want to raise two issues relating to energy. The first, which I have raised on numerous occasions, is the need for Ireland to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty. Once again, the European Commission is going to make a proposal that the EU withdraw from that treaty as a bloc, which would, of course, be the most effective way for a withdrawal. Once again, the Government seems to want to hold back and say that it will wait until there is a majority. However, there will not be a majority unless Ireland joins those states that have called for that withdrawal. I would like to put it on the record again that Ireland needs to withdraw. We are exposing citizens to considerable claims. We already know that the first investor–state dispute settlement, ISDS, challenge to Ireland has gone in. The shareholder, Lansdowne Oil and Gas, is taking action against the State over the Barryroe gas and oil exploration project that failed to get a licence. We will face more of these cases. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has clearly said that the energy charter treaty is a barrier to decarbonisation and fossil fuel companies are using it to slow down the transition. It is deeply regrettable that we have a Green Party Minister who is refusing to join the other EU countries and the European Commission and to withdraw from that treaty.
The other issue I would like to raise relates to concerns I have regarding a project in respect of which a capacity licence to provide emergency power generation by 2025 was granted recently. The successful applicant for that capacity generation is the same company that is behind the liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminal in Shannon. This is a terminal that we do not need and will lock us into a carbon-rich future. The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, CRU, which is the energy regulator, and the single electricity market, SEM, which is the all-island body for managing our energy system on this island, both expressed concerns about that company getting that licence because they did not believe that it could deliver the emergency generation without the larger LNG project and yet, because of timelines under the capacity auction system, they felt that they had no choice but to grant that capacity auction licence to the company. Given that we have already had one capacity auction fail and that promised emergency generation was not delivered and left us open to amber alerts, it is deeply concerning that the energy regulators expressed their concerns about this new emergency generation capacity but felt that it had to go ahead because of timelines that are set down in their code of conduct. I want to put on the record that we need to have a debate around how we will meet our energy demand over the next coming years until our offshore renewables come on stream.
I, too, want to talk about childcare. Along with Senator Keogan, I attended the briefing by the Federation of Early Childhood Providers yesterday in the audiovisual room. As the Deputy Leader will be aware, I have been raising their concerns over a period. Yesterday, it was brought home to me once again the deep trouble that many of those providers are in. All the Oireachtas Members were left in no doubt that we have a deepening crisis in childcare.
One of the issues that came out yesterday is the choice that parents will have into the future. Many parents are contacting me to say that there is no choice at present but, according to much of what came out yesterday, there will be less choice in what is rolled out and will happen in the coming months.
Yesterday, provider after provider told us they were not in a position to keep their doors open.They are trying to survive, as Senator Keogan said, on subsistence which has not changed for more than 15 years. They told us of increased costs from insurance, heating and lighting, all of which have added to the cost of keeping their doors open. That is the issue they highlighted time and time again. Providers were there yesterday from Clare, Wexford, Louth and Kildare, and the message was the same from every one of them. They need assistance. They need the Minister to engage.
I engaged with a number of times with one of the providers who spoke yesterday, Sharon O'Neill, the owner of Busy Beavers in a little town called Castledermot in south Kildare. I raised the issue here before. This lady provides 44 places that are essential to the social fabric of that particular town. If she closed her doors, which unfortunately she may have to, then the social fabric of Castledermot will basically suffer a hammer blow. There is no other way of putting it. Just one other group is trying to provide childcare in the town. The town is growing and continues to grow. Those 44 places are essential. More importantly, many of those 44 places are taken by special children who need the care that is given and the training and education they can get from a person in charge like Ms O'Neill.
I ask the Deputy Leader to write to the Minister once again to ask him to engage. That is what those providers asked for yesterday. They are not getting around the table with him. Maybe, as Senator Keogan has also asked for, we can debate in the new term with the Minister on childcare because that crisis is looming. It is a crisis being raised by so many people in this House.
I wish our Irish ladies' soccer team the very best tonight and, indeed, in Australia.
I was very proud to attend the State reception the other night. What struck me was how young these girls are. Maybe it is just that I am getting older, but they are ambassadors we should all be proud of. They were absolutely brilliant the other night in what they did, the way they showed themselves, the way they spoke, the way they came up and the way they gave time to politicians. That is not always something that we get. However, when they came up they were representative of all that is good in sport in this country and all that is good with ladies' sports. I wish them the very best in their adventures in Australia. I am sure all the House will support that too.
I welcome the fact that Limerick has been included in the defective blocks scheme. I have been working with residents on this for quite a while. It was announced in the past couple of days by the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, and Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell. It is certainly welcome news because so many people have been affected not only in Limerick but in Clare, Donegal and Mayo. It is an enhanced scheme and residents who rectify the defects in their homes can avail of up to €450,000. In many cases it will not cost that amount. However, many people will have to move out of their homes. One family took down the side of their house recently and had to rebuild it. It is not an easy process for people. I welcome the fact the State has stepped up to the mark in this regard. People can access the forms and information through their local authorities. I encourage people to go to limerick.ie to find out. There is also a defective blocks page where many questions are answered. This is welcome news for the people of Limerick and the mid-west.
I wish our colleague, Senator McGahon, who is getting married at the weekend, all the very best for the future. I wish him and his wife-to-be, Áine, every happiness in their future.
I will touch on a few matters today, the first of which might not be popular with the public. In view of all that is going on in RTÉ and the terrible way in which some of the staff have been treated, staff who do a brilliant job, work very well and do outstanding reporting, and in light of the fact there is a crisis there at the moment, I urge the public to pay their television licence, and I will say why. I do not want what is almost €200 million to dry up. It is very important money. If we do not pay the television licence, there is a possibility that job cuts at the lower end of the scale can happen. I know it is distasteful for people to talk about paying a licence after all that has gone on. However, I make that plea and, as Oireachtas people across the board, we should hold all that line. I tell people, when they say to me they are not paying their licence, to think of the staff, many of whom I worked with in local radio, and who do not have backup or people such as camera people to help them if they are stuck. It is extraordinary. In light of that storm, I say to people not to shy away from paying their television licence because there could be consequences for people down the line who could find themselves out of a job. Certainly, we have to stand on the side of those people.
Second, I congratulate Aoife O’Rourke from Castlerea in County Roscommon. Everything that is good about Roscommon comes from people like Aoife O’Rourke. She won the gold medal in boxing at the European Games in Krakow, Poland, recently. She is a fantastic person from a fantastic family. They are great advocates for our county and all that is positive in it.
I was not here for some of the debates or the Order of Business last week. I express sympathy to my colleague, Senator Aisling Dolan, on the death of her father. That was probably done here anyway but I was not here at the time.
I need to second the amendment to the Order of Business by Senator Keogan.
The Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, DPER, was set up to keep an eye on how we spend money in this country. If you want to hire a secretary now in the public service, its approval is required. Then we see RTÉ over the past couple of weeks being dragged in here and the millions of euro that have been sloshing around the place like it was going out of fashion and hundreds of thousands paid to the talent. This morning in the newspaper I read that a consultant in the HSE has been paid almost €1 million. A second consultant has been paid between €750,000 and €800,000. I read 352 people in the HSE are earning between €250,000 and €500,000 per annum. I see from a report by the Committee of Public Accounts that we paid almost €1 billion for the search and rescue service, and we have nothing to show for it. Yes, lives were saved, but we have nothing to show for it. Why did we not buy the helicopters and get 30 years out of them? Use contractors, by all means, but as we all know, the search and rescue thing has become a disaster.
Where was DPER when looking at that process? What role did it have in the procurement process that took place for search and rescue in this country? Why was the Air Corps dumped out of the search and rescue role? It offered the Agusta Westing 189 helicopter and the contractor who got the job delivers AW189 helicopters. I do not understand. Has the Department outlived its usefulness? I personally believe it has. I ask that when we return here in the fall, the Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform comes in here and outlines to this House exactly what is the role of the Department. How have these State agencies got away with spending billions, millions and tens of thousands on individuals? Please tell me. Is a nurse not worth €500,000 a year? Having lain on my back in a coronary care unit, I know the nurse looked after me 24 hours a day while the consultant worked 11 hours a week. That is the contract; just 11 hours. By the way, they do not have to see a patient. They only have to take responsibility for a patient. It is a great little number if you can get it. Who is actually watching the house now? Who is minding the shop? I cannot see any sign of it. The people are absolutely outraged by the way in which money is being sloshed around. I agree with Senator Murphy. Pay the licence fee, keep the little fellow in his job, but let us start looking at the big fish that are taking millions of euro out of this country. It is time it stopped.
I raise the issue of section 38 and section 39 workers and call for a debate as soon as we can when we return in the autumn to talk about their plight. Members will all know the incredibly important work these workers do. They care for our vulnerable, our elderly and for people with disabilities.I am talking about organisations like the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Western Care Association, and Pieta House. I, with many others last week, met the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and one of the points the society kept stressing was the pay differential. Pay is as low as €13.10 per hour for a direct support worker in the Alzheimer Society of Ireland versus €15.20. Both rates of pay, incidentally, are clearly not enough. These organisations are struggling to find and keep staff.
What I do not understand is, all of us agree on how important these workers are and we hear it from all sides of the Chamber, and rightly so, so how can it be that 14 years after the pay link was broken, this Government has no plan whatsoever to restore that pay link to ensure these people have access to a decent pension and sick pay scheme? If we really value these workers, how can it be that the trade unions, SIPTU, Fórsa and others, are still having to fight, campaign and demand justice for these workers? The way these workers have been forgotten is entirely inexcusable. I understand the unions are going to campaign together again in the autumn and they will also include section 10 workers, all of whom have been forgotten about for too long by successive governments. We need an urgent debate on the matter. These people need to pay justice now.
First, I formally ask the Deputy Leader to extend an invitation to the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, to come to the House in the autumn. On 1 February 2018, he visited the Chamber as Taoiseach, spoke in great detail, and gave a very comprehensive and excellent presentation to the House. I was minded to take a look at it yesterday and to print it off on the issue and in the context of Seanad reform. He spoke about his commitment to the Manning report. He also spoke of his commitment to the university panels and said:
The university panels ... [will] be retained as recommended. They have served us well, although they should be reformed to ... [enable the decision] of the 1979 referendum [to be implemented].
He was talking about having a franchise for graduates at all levels. He said the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees should stay in place and that councillors would continue to be able to elect people to the Seanad. I am very supportive of what he was suggesting but I believe we have lost our way a bit.
Senator McDowell and I went to the Supreme Court in the past week to hear the seven Supreme Court judges elaborate further on issues in respect of the franchise for the University of Limerick, UL, and for university graduates. The time for open dialogue and debate is now and it is important we hear the Taoiseach’s plan. I am not critical and I say he made an excellent presentation. He touched many of these issues and we will know on 31 July at the very latest, which is not very far away, what the Supreme Court judges' next steps in this determination will be.
We need to prepare. We will need electronic registers if there is to be change. We are stakeholders on this issue. This is about the future of the Seanad, and while it is to be hoped there will always be a future for the Seanad, we have to be realistic and honest in how we plan to go forward. I suggest to the Deputy Leader that we extend an open invitation to the Taoiseach to come at his convenience - I accept he is a very busy person - to elaborate on anything, which is his privilege, but particularly with regard to his commentary on Seanad reform and the Government’s position. We are all in this together because we want to retain this Seanad but we must also address the concerns of the Supreme Court.
I pay tribute to Brendan Daly who passed away overnight. He was a former member of Seanad Éireann, and a former Deputy, Cabinet Minister and junior Minister. Brendan served the people of west Clare with distinction in these Houses for more than 30 years and from every position, from Cabinet right down to being a Member of this House on a number of occasions. He will be remembered for much of the work he did for individuals in County Clare, people who went to him for assistance and always met an open door in Cooraclare. Brendan will be sadly missed by the people of west Clare and, indeed, by his family, and I pay tribute to him and pass on my sympathies to his family at this very difficult time.
I would also like to be associated with the expression of sympathy to the late Brendan Daly. He was a very good Member of this House, very active in all aspects of Irish life and always brought those issues to the fore here in this Chamber as well as in the other Chamber.
I ask the Deputy Leader that we might have a debate in the next term with the Minister, Deputy Ryan, on power generation, grid connection, and all that goes with it. We have solar generation, wind generation, district heat systems, and battery roll-out throughout the country for charging cars. This is quite a large area and it will affect the vast majority of the people of the country. This is running on at a very fast pace and a debate on this in the next term would be very much welcomed by everybody here and by the people at large.
I join in tributes to the late Brendan Daly. I never met Mr. Daly but I am aware of his role and of his service to the people of Clare and to the country. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
My good friends in Inland Fisheries Ireland are before the Committee of Public Accounts today and I was watching them all morning. They have an awful tale of woe, upset and having been downtrodden, with people victimising them, and Lord save us, I feel so sorry for them. I wish I could attend myself but, unfortunately, we cannot just go in and attend the Committee of Public Accounts and I know the committee members are dealing with the organisation as best they can. I found it ironic to hear the CEO saying he had a good working relationship with the former board members. Five of them resigned-----
-----but he had a good working relationship with them. I am not sure what it was. Everything is wrong except the executive, which is doing a tremendous job according to himself. There are no issues. He apologised for a number of issues which are on the public record there. I welcome any apologies but I just find the stuff I am hearing today from officials, both within Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Department, extraordinary.
There are a series of issues. We know all that is going on in RTÉ, and Inland Fisheries Ireland is a much smaller organisation. It has a tale and catalogue of issues that are under investigation. Its members then attend the Committee of Public Accounts with a tale of woe where they claim they are being set upon and that bad things are being said about them by bad people and, I presume, by me and others. I am beginning to feel sorry for them and perhaps I need to pull back a little bit. There are a number of other things coming up, in any event, in the next number of weeks and perhaps we can resume a forensic analysis of issues within Inland Fisheries Ireland in the autumn if we are all still here.
I suggest Senator Kyne’s sympathies are probably misplaced. The Inland Fisheries Ireland saga has a long way to go but, to be fair to the people who are appearing in front of the Committee of Public Accounts this morning, I do not know anybody who does not bring their best game face when they come to sit in front of that committee. As the Senator has said, I believe there is a long way to go on this issue and we will watch with bated breath.
Senator Burke, coincidentally, probably because he was not in the Chamber at the time when she asked, asked for the same debate as Senator Boylan on power and energy generation and the future of it in Ireland. We will try to arrange that in September and as quickly as we can.
Senator Boyhan asked for an invitation to be extended to An Taoiseach. I am told that there is always an open invitation but that does not really materialise unless we push.
Yes, I will certainly do that but, more importantly, we will arrange the debate on Seanad reform to try to coincide or to happen before An Taoiseach comes to us in September. I will certainly play my part in trying to get him here as quickly as we can.
Senator Gavan spoke this morning about the section 38 and 39 workers. We hear a great number of platitudes with regard to people’s intentions in respect of the workers in this industry and all of the reasons they are precluded from actually having salaries set for them. To my mind, if enough core funding is given to these organisations, then the institutions themselves, which we all greatly value because we would not be able to run the country without them, would then be able to extend the staff conditions and wages we would expect to see in the public sector. I will certainly organise that debate in September and as quickly as we can.
Senator Craughwell looked for a debate on the oversight role of the Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, particularly in light of the search and rescue contract and the HSE announcements this morning, which are somewhat staggering. I do not know how many hours there are in a week that you can earn upwards of €1 million being a doctor, but as the Senator said, it is obviously a very much-needed profession. We will ask for a debate in the autumn on the oversight function of Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform with regard to RTÉ, in particular, and what has transpired over the past couple of weeks.
Senator Murphy again paid tribute to Aoife O’Rourke and the wonderful achievement of her gold medal, and we wish her continued success.
I encourage people to pay for their TV licence because it is all of the people and the workers in RTÉ, who are upset, outraged, and all of the expressions they have used in the past number of weeks, and who would be impacted if we do not pay our licences. We must support public broadcasting. Senator Maria Byrne welcomed the inclusion of Limerick in the defective blocks scheme. It is good to finally see it up and running in counties Donegal and Clare but it is great to see Limerick included as well. Other pockets around the country have not yet been included but they have exactly the same symptoms albeit at a much smaller scale and we need to make sure we look after those people as well.
Senators Wall and Keogan spoke about the viability of our childcare providers. In my submission to the Minister regarding what we would all like to see in the budget in September, I said I would really like to see a capital programme - a community crèche funding model - to build crèches around our country. Equally as important as reducing the cost of childcare for all the parents who need it is making sure crèche providers have a viable business because it is a business and they are not going to continue if they cannot at least make money. In many cases, they cannot even pay their own wages. We also need to make sure that workers in that sector are provided for with decent pay and conditions. All those issues can be addressed in the budget so I welcome the contribution of both Senators this morning.
As well as seeking a debate on energy, as she has done on a number of occasions, Senator Boylan encouraged Ireland to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty.
Senator Seery Kearney spoke about the fact that it is the first anniversary of the publication of the report of the Joint Committee on International Surrogacy and we still seem to be a long way away from providing the legislation and legal status of those parents and, therefore, I thank her for that.
Senators Kyne, Conway and Dooley opened our proceedings with what I can only say is the most beautiful description of, and tribute to, their colleague. I am very sorry for their loss and the country's loss. The way they described his legacy was beautiful so I thank them. I wish to put on record that Senator McGahon and his beautiful girlfriend, soon to be his wife, are getting married on Sunday so we wish them the very best of luck and a long and happy life together.
I join with the Leader in wishing Senator John McGahon and his soon-to-be wife all the best. Senator Keogan has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 13 on the Order Paper be taken before No. 1", which was seconded by Senator Craughwell. The Leader has indicated that she is prepared to accept this.