Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2024

1:00 pm

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
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The Order of Business is No. 1, Gambling Regulation Bill 2022 - Second Stage, to be taken at 3.15 p.m., with the time allocated to the opening remarks of the Minister not to exceed 15 minutes, group spokespersons not to exceed 12 minutes each, all other Senators not to exceed six minutes each, and the Minister to be given no less than 15 minutes to reply to the debate.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to raise an issue that has been on the airwaves in recent days, namely, GAAGO and the arrangement between the GAA and RTÉ that sets up a paywall for genuine fans. This weekend it was fans of hurling in a match between Limerick and the Cathaoirleach’s county of Cork. I listened with some interest to what the president of the GAA had to say yesterday. I was taken by his robustness, which at times veered into arrogance and certainly did not reflect the views of the genuine GAA volunteers who I know and deal with every day of the week. It may have just been the studio environment or the way the interview went, but he seemed to get quite political in response to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste. I get that, but he also sounded like a Sinn Féin Opposition spokesperson in the Dáil saying that raising the issue was perhaps a hot political debate because there was a politician-----

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Senator Dooley is a long-standing Member of the House. The uachtarán of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael is not here to defend himself-----

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Fianna Fail)
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I accept that. I am just making an observation. I understand he has been invited by Senator Lombard to appear before a committee. I hope he avails of that opportunity to discuss the matter. I have great regard for him. He has great abilities and a great vision. He did not so much as have a pop at the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, but at the people they were representing and whose views they were putting forward. I understand his agenda, including a strong element on investment, and I am taken by the fact he is talking about investing €500 million – that is wonderful – but he dropped something new to the debate, namely, that GAAGO was effectively aimed at raising money. I have attended committee meetings time out of number.I questioned the GAA at the time it did the deal with Sky. It moved on from that and set up GAAGO. All of the time, the entire direction of the GAA was that it was about expanding the reach of its games, principally to the diaspora. Nothing was ever contained in those presentations about it being a revenue-generating exercise. That is new. Jarlath Burns said yesterday that he did not need to come back to the committee because it had all been addressed in the past. That is not the case. It is a new departure. I am not blaming him. The GAA is a wonderful organisation. It is doing amazing work that is mainly built on a foundation of volunteerism. I could quote numerous people who have been greatly upset by the way in which this has developed, both in the past and in recent days. I totally accept that GAAGO has a place and that there are games which would not be seen elsewhere if it was not there.

We should have a debate in the House. I appeal to the president of the GAA to come with us, as previous presidents did. Give us an opportunity to have a frank and open discussion.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I call Senator Joe O'Reilly.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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No.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Apologies, I should have called Senator Clonan.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I again want to raise the issue of conflict. I have been involved in the conflict space for 35 years. I have never seen Europe so destabilised as it is now. We have an attack by approximately 35,000 Russian troops in the area of Kharkiv. I fear for a break out on the eastern front. These are effects that will be felt from Kharkiv right across to Lysychansk to the banks of the Grand Canal. It impacts us.

More compellingly, or equally as compelling, we have entered day 220 of the conflict in Gaza and Rafah. Yesterday, the World Health Organization and Human Rights Watch confirmed 25,000 dead in Gaza. They have fully confirmed their identities. That is an extraordinary rate of killing over the past 220 days. It is 113 people being slaughtered every day 24-7, seven days a week. Of this number, 7,797 children have been identified as being killed in the conflict thus far. That is 36 children every day, which is more than one an hour; it is three children every two hours. Since I came into my office this morning, to use these appalling calculations, nine children have been butchered. This has been happening on a 24-7 basis for 220 days thus far. We have also had 4,959 women killed in indiscriminate air strikes and direct fire attacks. That is an extraordinary rate of killing. If this is not genocide, we are certainly witnessing infanticide and femicide on a disinhibited basis.

We need to talk about our relationship with the United States in regard to all of this. We need to talk about Shannon Airport. We need to talk about the onward passage of weapons and ammunition through that airport, which is a large logistics hub for the US military. There is also the overflight of aircraft. Hundreds of US military aircraft are passing through our airspace carrying weapons for Israel. They are exempt from any en route air traffic control charges, which are then passed on to the taxpayer and paid by the Department of Transport to the Irish Aviation Authority. We, as taxpayers in a neutral state, are making a material financial contribution to the butchery and slaughter in Gaza. I welcome tomorrow's debate on the Civic Engagement Group's Private Members' Air Navigation and Transport (Arms Embargo) Bill 2024. When we take into account the numbers of missing men, women and children, and the unconfirmed identities of those murdered and maimed, we can see that this is a mass murder and mass disabling event. As a nation, we have to stand up to our partners as well as those we criticise in order to question their involvement in this.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)
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When I thought the Cathaoirleach was going to call me out of turn earlier, it brought to mind a story involving an illustrious former member of Cavan Urban District Council.One day when he was called early he stood up and said "I don't remember what I got up to say but I'll keep talking until I think of it". I do not intend to use that approach. As the immigration debate goes on and people encounter this issue on the canvass, it might be no harm to reassert what this debate is not about. It is not about the 80% of economic migrants who come to this country and who are needed for health services where they make up about one in three workers and where it is projected that about 50% of health service personnel will be migrants - new Irish - in a very short period of time. It is not about the people who are needed in hospitality. Restaurants and bars in my area are closed a couple of days a week because they cannot get staff. It is not about the people in intensive agriculture, which is vital, so let us get this straight. It is worth saying because there is a lot of confusion about this. We need a minimum of 80% of our migrants.

When we are talking about the problematic situation, we are talking about a minority of the remaining 20%. Of the remaining 20%, a considerable number are here because of genuine war-torn situations - because they are escaping grave danger - and we have an international obligation to them. It is worth mentioning the initiatives that are being taken because they are necessary. We are speeding up processing time. That should happen. I believe the whole concept of people being in direct provision long term is crazy. People should be processed and if they are eligible, they should be absorbed into the country and the workforce where there is a crying need for them immediately. I come through the airport very rarely but I did so recently. Coming through the airport, I noticed that three or four people were being apprehended in the tunnel coming out to arrivals. There is a big stepping up of security there. Algeria has been taken off the special list of countries. We are tackling the small minority, and a small minority it is, but let us get it straight. We need the 80%. This country would cease to function without them. Of the remaining 20%, it is reasonable to say that about 14% are here because of genuine suffering and at great risk to their lives. We are talking about a very small number of people so let us get a sense of perspective on this debate. Having said that, the initiatives are necessary.

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour)
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Over the past eight days, we have seen a number of attacks and attempted attacks on candidates and councillors since the posters went up. I think the most shocking incident was in the early hours of last Wednesday morning when Councillor Tania Doyle and her husband were violently attacked. It is a sheer miracle that they did not sustain life-changing injuries or worse. This is a councillor who has worked so hard to foster integration, tolerance and community participation in her community yet this happened.

There is a poison out there in many of our communities and it is right across the board. It is in households that have nothing and in households that have a lot. It is in disadvantaged households and communities and in very comfortable communities and it is manifesting in random racist and homophobic attacks, in the hatred being spewed online and more recently on our candidates.

All of us here have a responsibility to call out that poison in our communities because my very real fear is that it is not going to be kicks to the body or cuts to the head. Somebody is going to lose his or her life. Regarding this poison within our communities, we all need to reflect on our conduct in this House and the other House and how we carry ourselves because it is a poison being stirred by people in this Chamber talking about higher crime rates among migrants when that is a nonsense.We have a poison which is being stirred by some parties who give credence to the delusion that Ireland has no space for refugees seeking protection. There are many derelict and vacant buildings across this country which could be used but there is a lack of political will to do so. In particular - I do not want to get into personalising this - I am looking at Fianna Fáil today. To be honest, all of the talk about a shared island is a bit rich when we have TDs calling for gardaí at the Border. Thankfully, the Tánaiste dispelled that. More recently, the party's justice spokesperson said that Northern Ireland could be classified as a safe state. If we are serious about an all-island agenda and about a shared island, those comments do not feed into that.

Finally, on a much brighter note, I am thrilled to see that a 250-year lease has been agreed between the owners of Tolka Park and Dublin City Council. It is a victory for the grassroots supporters of Shelbourne Football Club and for football but it was nearly not the case. This is my last point. The reality is that we have a lack of support for soccer in this country. Tolka Park stadium nearly had to be sold to fund the development of Dalymount Park. Sense prevailed, thankfully, but we need to ensure that grassroots football and League of Ireland football is supported in this country.

Photo of Fintan WarfieldFintan Warfield (Sinn Fein)
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Today, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, my colleagues in the other House will bring forward a motion on those bombings. Much cross-party support has been indicated to us in advance of the motion and, indeed, in advance of previous motions in 2008, 2011 and 2016, all of which were unanimously adopted. Despite that, however, the unfortunate fact remains that to date no progress has been made in the search for truth and justice. Any progress which has been made has been largely due to the tenacious work of the victims' families and Justice for the Forgotten. The British Government has never been upfront or honest about the role that its intelligence services played in the conflict and, specifically, has refused to co-operate regarding the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. This is despite the efforts of Mr. Justice Henry Barron who conducted an inquiry into the atrocities and whose report, when considered by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, prompted that all-party committee to conclude that we were dealing with acts of international terrorism in which British security forces colluded. Everyone is entitled to truth and justice but the callous and cynical so-called legacy Bill in London, recently passed by Westminster, jeopardises that. The Taoiseach and the Irish Government should and must use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to encourage British co-operation at the United Nations, at various international forums and within the international media.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I want to touch briefly on Europe Day. I know that there were statements on Europe Day last week but I was in Moldova representing this Parliament as the convener of the Ireland-Moldova Parliamentary Friendship Group at an event which that country was holding for all of the various conveners of friendship groups across the EU. We remember hearing about what Ireland was like before we joined the EU. The EU has been a huge benefit to us, as the Leader knows through her work with the Council of Europe. EU membership has been beneficial for all member states, particularly those countries which came in the big wave we celebrated recently which happened 20 years ago, along with Romania, Bulgaria, and, ultimately, Croatia after that.

As a Parliament, we need to send a message to countries like Ukraine, which Senator Clonan has referred to in the context of what is going on there, and, in particular, Moldova and Georgia. I know that Georgia has its own challenges at the moment. The message we must send is that we are very interested in, we welcome and we support Moldova joining the EU because it is vulnerable to Russian influence and aggression in terms of cybercrime and in terms of Russia's presence in part of its country, in Transnistria. It is very important that as a Parliament, we send a message of support to Moldova., which has agreed to have a referendum in October to let the public have its say on joining the EU. It is a candidate country and I would support it joining the EU. In my last few seconds, I make the point that we had an event at lunchtime with Senator Sherlock and others in support of national bike week. Almost every bike on the road is taking a car off the road. Motorists, of which I am one, need to remember the benefits of bikes are not just the health, fitness and efficiency of cyclists; they also serve to reduce congestion for those who are not able to use bikes. I encourage everyone, particularly in weather like this, to use a bike if they can.

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)
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Following on from an issue I raised last Thursday, namely, GAAGO and the controversy regarding how games are being aired on this platform, we had a unique spectacle of hurling in Cork last Saturday night at which the Cathaoirleach, too, was in attendance. We saw Cork win on the last puck of a ball. Unfortunately, however, the majority of people did not have the opportunity to see it. Some 42,000 people were there, and in a few years’ time probably 100,000 people will claim they were there because it was such a unique affair. We need to see movement here. The comments from the president of the GAA in the past few days have been quite disappointing.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The president is not here to defend himself.

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)
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Indeed. However, it is important that we have a debate about what will happen in respect of our national game and national sports and how we can progress it. The issue here is about trying to get this game accessible to as many people as we possibly can. I am talking about school kids. I heard a story today where only five of 29 kids in a school class saw the game, but the majority play it. The problem is that a paywall has been put in place. This is a serious issue for many of us. It is important we have a debate on it. As I stated last Thursday, I still believe that the president of the GAA should come before this House to discuss this issue, and I think that invitation should still go to him. It would then be up to him to refuse it. This is a huge issue for many in society. We cannot have this issue whereby, unfortunately, a paywall has been put in place and people cannot see the games or access our national sport. This is beyond politics. I refute the comment that this is about electioneering. This is anything but that; this is beyond politics.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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To clarify, the request for an invitation to uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael was made in the name of Senator Gallagher. It is before the CPPO. I wish to inform Members that this is not a committee room; this is the Chamber of Seanad Éireann. If the uachtarán or any guest is asked to address the Seanad, it is not in an adversarial way. It is an honour to be asked to address the Seanad. I wish to clarify that for Members. It is not a committee room and therefore there is no back and forth.

Photo of Sharon KeoganSharon Keogan (Independent)
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I wish to raise points related to the continued migration crisis in Ireland. The latest immigration figures show that 8,100 people have applied for asylum or refugee status to date in 2024, which is approximately 61 people per day. If this rate of application for international protection continues, Ireland will reach 22,000 applications this year. We already have more than 27,000 people in direct provision accommodation at this time. EU figures show that the rate of illegal immigrants is ten times higher in Ireland than the EU average.

As part of Dublin city continues to be cordoned off, one cannot help but be reminded of the concept of building a wall to shut out the problems of failed immigration. This rhetoric resulted in President Trump becoming vilified for promoting the idea of building a wall and being labelled a racist and a xenophobe. I cannot help but wonder what this Government would say in response to such allegations. A problem moved is not a problem solved. Rather, it is a problem compounded until it worsens. The promises are inhumane failures of a broken system. The scenes along the canal in Dublin on 10 February were nothing short of a national disgrace. The number of tents in the area over the past weekend has reached up to 100, according to Gript media.

The EU migration pact is sold as a solution to our problems but it is an international agreement far removed from the national crisis in which we find ourselves. We are at a standstill with UK asylum relations and, as already stated by the Minister, Deputy McEntee, the North is the main entry point to the Irish asylum system. This is not good enough, it is inhumane and it is a great disservice to the people of Ireland as this issue continues to destabilise and strain communities and localities all over Ireland. It is time the Government had an adult conversation about this subject.

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)
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Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the Ulster Senior Football Championship final between Donegal and Armagh. It was really a remarkable occasion. It was a day that gave us everything. We had sunshine, rain, thunder, lightning and a magnificent game of football that ultimately went to penalties to decide the winner. However, it is not so much the game I want to talk about here this afternoon, but the venue, St. Tiernach's Park in Clones. It was a truly magical day. I left the pitch an hour and a half or two hours before thrown-in and walked down the hill in Clones and up Fermanagh Street. It was a river of colour. We had the green and gold of Donegal and the orange of Armagh. It was really remarkable and again brought home to me how magical a location Clones is on Ulster final day. I know the GAA is looking at the development of Casement Park and I wish it well in that regard but it should not be at the expense of Clones as a venue for senior football championship finals. With respect to my colleagues from other parts of the country, there is no ground or location that comes close to the magic that is St. Tiernach's Park in Clones town on Ulster final day. To all the people involved and who helped put this day together, including the local club, Cluain Eois, the Ulster Council, the county board, An Garda Síochána, all of the emergency services and Monaghan County Council, I say, "Well done". From a Government perspective, I note that it is critical that we invest in St. Tiernach's Park and keep upgrading the facility because we are very fortunate to have a magical venue like it on Ulster final day. I know I speak for all counties represented here in saying that we all want the Ulster Senior Football Championship final to remain in Clones.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Before I call on the next speaker, I welcome the guests of Senator Clonan. They are transition year students. I welcome Lulu and Emily from Kildare town and Athy and Theo Galligan and James Barron from Blackrock College. Theo is a cousin of Deputy Niamh Smyth's. I hope they have all had a very enjoyable time with Senator Clonan in their transition year work experience. I thank them for being here. I hope they put what they have learned from their experience here to good use in the future. Go n-éirí leo go léir.

Photo of John CumminsJohn Cummins (Fine Gael)
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On four occasions in as many months, I have requested a debate on aviation policy. To date, such a debate still has not been scheduled on the Order Paper. It is exceptionally important not only in the context of our national airport, Dublin Airport, but also in the context of our regional airports. I will make specific reference to Waterford Airport in that context. A business case for matching funds for a proposal to lengthen and widen the runway is currently before the Department. If it is the case that the Minister is refusing to come before this House, we need to know. The position is simply not tenable when this has now been requested four times on the Order of Business.

I have raised the issue of farm inspections in a debate with the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, and he was receptive to my comments. We need to move to a less adversarial approach in farm inspections. In that debate, I likened it to the education system. Where a whole-school inspection is to take place, the school is notified in advance, a number of recommendations are made afterwards and the school is given a period of time to take action on them. The same should be the case for the inspections carried out on our farms every week. Such a non-adversarial approach would bring a lot more people along with us than the current regime does. I ask the Acting Leader to take that back to the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, in a co-operative way. I am trying to be helpful in the suggestions I am making.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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The marine services serving Ireland are a vitally important part of our import and export trade.Our major harbours are served by pilots. Our pilots have no set of qualifications that they must adhere to. They have been looking for qualifications and training commensurate with what is available at other European ports but there is nobody interested in driving forward the professionalism of the service. The pilots are bringing in ships that are hundreds of thousands of tonnes in weight. They are bringing massive container ships into Dublin Port and ships into Waterford Harbour but there is no qualification. There is nowhere I could go to become qualified. It seems as if the idea behind not requiring a qualification or set of qualifications is to ensure we have a stream of pilots available. If you do not look for a qualification, anybody can be a pilot and the service will not be professionalised. We should have a debate with the Minister for Transport in this House on the future policy on harbours. I ask the Leader to facilitate this.

Yesterday morning on my way to Leinster House, I came to the crossroads at Donnybrook and saw a male nurse wearing blue scrubs on a bicycle waiting to cross the road. If we learned nothing else during the Covid pandemic, we learned how quickly infection can be transmitted throughout society. Surely to God nurses should wear their uniforms in the hospital and not on bicycles out on the main street, in the local deli or in Tesco.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator. Tá an t-am caite.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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What?

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The time is up.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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Very good. We might have a debate on hygiene, particularly for those working in hospitals. The Cathaoirleach has to shout when speaking to me.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I wish all Members of the House would adhere to the time constraints. That is the point I am making.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
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And one topic.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Yes, but we axed that one because of all the transgressions by Members in that regard. I call Senator Cassells.

Photo of Shane CassellsShane Cassells (Fianna Fail)
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Many politicians have been expressing opinions and showing an interest in the business of the GAA in these Houses over the past week. To all those expressing opinions and asking that games be shown free to air and that GAAGO go be done away with, may I ask three questions? First, are they asking that all the GAA games, including the entire hurling and football championships, be shown free to air on RTÉ? If so, how do they expect RTÉ to facilitate it? Second, if it is not the case that they are demanding that all games be shown, but only some, does the RTÉ editorial board now have to come in here on a Tuesday and ask us what games we want live at the weekend? Will we have a vote by pushing the green and red buttons? I would vote for Meath whereas the Cathaoirleach might vote for Cork. Are we seriously suggesting we should tell RTÉ what it should show at the weekend? Why stop there? We might as well tell it what it should show on the news and for entertainment? Third, will we just pass a resolution today that all Cork hurling games should be shown live? That would be the end of the row, and the other 31 counties that make up the GAA would be happy with their lot.

If my comments sound facetious, it is because they are. If you take this to its logical conclusion, you discover the bleating of so many politicians involves calling for every game to be shown, for just the Cork hurling games to be shown or for us to meet here and tell RTÉ Sport what games we would like as politicians. Why is there nobody in here talking about the paywall that operates for the League of Ireland and the FAI? It is electioneering. We have enough serious business in here with housing, health and the economy without lecturing the GAA about what it should be doing. There were two live games last Sunday and two live games last Saturday on TG4, a broadcasting partner. I was at one of them on Saturday and one on Sunday because I go as a fan. There has never been more live GAA on our tellies, and as politicians, as a collective, we should be interested in the business of the country, not the business of the GAA.

Photo of Micheál CarrigyMicheál Carrigy (Fine Gael)
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I have just a couple of issues to raise. I recently met representatives of the NARGC with regard to rural pursuits in Ireland. Several reports in 2021 recommended the setting up of a nature advisory committee and a national biodiversity forum. Neither has been set up. The firearms consultative panel, which was in place, has not been re-established. I ask for a discussion on that.We have given commitments to do it. It has not happened; it needs to happen. We need to re-establish the firearms consultative panel to have engagement with the sector and deal with the issues that are there.

I wish to raise another issue. Senator Cassells probably emphasised it for me. I am a GAA man born and bred. I am heavily involved at club, local, provincial and national level. The GAA is about all 32 counties and London and New York. In hurling, with which I am involved in my county, that includes Lancashire and Warwickshire. That is what we need. That is what the GAA was set up to do, namely bring our sports to an international diaspora. It is being expanded upon in order to ensure that we can show all the games. We fought strongly for the Táilteann Cup. I was heavily involved in that. I am looking forward to the day, when, please God, Longford might win a national title.

The Leinster minor final between Dublin and Longford will be shown on TG4 next Monday night. It is the first time we have been in the final in ten or 12 years. That is what the GAA is about. It is about all counties and all levels within the various sports. I went to Croke Park as chairman of Longford hurling board for a Lory Meagher final, which is a prestigious match. It was one of the best games of hurling I have ever seen. There were probably 500 people in attendance. The game was played at a highly competitive level in Croke Park by the two teams involved.

We need to stand back and look at this realistically. The uachtarán mentioned infrastructure. We are looking to integrate the GAA, the Ladies' Gaelic Football Association and camogie. Every sporting facility here was built for men. As a result, we are going to need hundreds of millions of euro to invest in bringing them up to the necessary standard to allow for full integration. That is what the priority should be. What we should be looking for is getting the money from Government to make sure that we put the necessary infrastructure in place for the integration of the three associations.

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach. As he said he was being lenient in the context of people talking about more than one issue-----

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I am not being lenient.

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)
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I only have one issue. I wish to comment on what the previous two speakers mentioned.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The Senator does not have to comment on it.

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)
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I want to do so. I agree with them. The Tipperary game against Cork will be on television next weekend, and we will set you back after we win. There are so many GAA games being watched on RTÉ every week. People talk about games being behind a paywall, but some people forget that there are many who watch those games on dodgy boxes that cost €70 per year.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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The Senator does not know that for sure.

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)
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I am not condoning it.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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I ask the Senator to be careful.

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)
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I am not condoning it, and I certainly do not have one. However, there are many people using that facility to watch games at home, which is not what the GAA, RTÉ or anyone wants. It is not true to say that people are not watching at home, that is for sure.

The Sisters of Charity National School in Clonmel is a wonderful primary school that caters for approximately 380 girls. It has a brilliant reputation and is led by Clíodhna Breen, the principal. There are 15 teachers there. However, due to a rising population and Clonmel expanding in size, more children are coming in. The school has been given the go-ahead to have a 16th class teacher and an additional shared special educational teacher for September next. The problem is that it must wait a year for this to be put in place because appointments for the 2024-25 academic year can only be made on the basis of posts authorised in 2022-23. Being obliged to wait so long is having a major impact on the school. I ask that the Department of Education engage and support the school, if possible. It is a really good school and has a brilliant reputation. The school also has an application with the building unit because it does not have enough rooms or facilitates to cater for the number of pupils it has. It does what it can but it is not perfect. The principal and the board of management need to have much better communication with and support from the Department on those issues. I ask for this to be done.

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael)
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I rise to propose a vote of sympathy to my colleague in Limerick, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science of Ireland, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, on the passing of his mother Nelly O'Donovan. May she rest in peace. She has been an inspiration to the Minister throughout his political career. She was also a very inspiring woman in her community. May she rest in peace. I congratulate the Limerick's Fresh Film festival and Film in Limerick on being the only two Irish nominees to Cannes for the Global Production Awards, which will take place on 21 May. They are the only two Irish film groups nominated for the awards this year. I wish them the very best of luck in their categories.

At the weekend, I wrote to the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, because I have been contacted by several people who do not qualify for a medical card but have been diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer. I am conscious of the stress and strain that people in this position undergo while waiting to see whether they will get a discretionary card or qualify under health conditions. I am aware of one lady who was refused on three occasions. Her medical card was eventually granted this morning, but the delay has caused much stress and strain to her and her family. I believe that once a person is diagnosed with a serious illness, he or she should qualify straightaway for a medical card. I would like the Acting Leader's support in that regard.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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If I might, I will join with my colleague in offering condolences to the Minister, Deputy O'Donovan, on his loss. It is always a very tragic time when it comes to family.

There are a couple of issues I wish to raise. Ballygar, in County Galway, is running an event focusing on well-being and mental health. The event will feature Professor Brian Hughes, a psychologist from the University of Galway, and Teresa O'Brien. It is a great way to find out how things are going for friends and family. It is great to invite them to come along and find out what makes all our minds tick. It is on in Ballygar, at 7 p.m., in the Mattie McDonagh Centre. I encourage people to come along and check it out.

I welcome a group that is here with Senator McGreehan today. It is connected with the social enterprise fund. I want to wish well one of the attendees, Dorothy Coyle, who is a wonderful lady. Ms Coyle is part of Lough Ree Access for All, which is between Ballyleague and Lanesborough. It won funding through Rethink Ireland and the social innovation fund, but also through the lotto. It is one of the organisations to feature on advertisements for lotto. It has fully-accessible boats which can be used by people of all abilities to enjoy time on the River Shannon. It is wonderful. I would encourage and invite anyone to go and check it out. It is for anyone and everyone. It is in located in Ballyleague. It is wonderful to have Ms Coyle here with us today. I hope that whoever is in the Chair when the group comes into the Chamber will highlight their presence.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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Anois, glaoim ar an Treoraí Gníomhach le freagra a thabhairt ar ár ngnó. I ask the Acting Leader to respond.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
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A significant number of Senators have contributed today and I will do my best to respond to them. I add my voice of welcome to the transition year students, particularly those from Athy in Kildare - my own county. They are very welcome. I hope to get to say hello to them later.

Senator Dooley started proceedings by speaking about a topic on which many Senators contributed, namely, GAAGO. Senator Dooley made the observation that the president of the GAA was going into political grounds in terms of the interview he did. The Senator also spoke about the fact that the president was invited to come into the Seanad and to speak-----

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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To clarify, he has not been invited yet. In order that people understand, there is a meeting of the CPPO. To be fair to him, he has not been invited yet.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
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Okay. Two Senators said he had been invited. I take that correction on board. He has not been invited but will be invited.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael)
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To be fair, Acting Leader, he has not been invited.

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
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We need to have a frank and open discussion on the matter.

Senator Clonan spoke about the issue of conflict. It is horrific that every day when we open our phones, screens or newspapers, we see children and women dying. The numbers are horrific. Ireland and Spain have been very much to the fore in terms of doing what they can and trying to bring other European leaders and the UN with us as well.It is absolutely shocking. We should be hugely concerned and should do everything we can. Senator Clonan also spoke about concerns about Shannon Airport and those who are travelling through it, including the US military, and said we need to have a debate regarding concerns around how Shannon Airport is being used.

Senator O'Reilly spoke about the immigration debate and the fact that we need to have a sense of perspective. He took the opportunity to reassert that many of those who are not from our shores come in as essential workers and people who are needed in health, hospitality and agriculture. There is a process needed to ensure the fast-tracking of applications. We are really starting on that process.

Senator Sherlock spoke about attacks on public representatives. On behalf of the House, I absolutely extend our regrets to Councillor Tania Doyle and her husband. What happened is shocking. I express our sympathy and support. We need good people in politics. We need people who are brave enough and courageous enough to put up their hands and say they want to make a difference in their community. To think that anybody would be treated the way she has been is shocking. We need to call it out and keep calling it out. We need to keep supporting those who are brave enough, no matter what party they are from or if they are from no party. To a certain extent, I agree with the Senator about the shared island narrative. It has been exploited on different sides over the last few weeks, particularly when the debate started about people coming into Ireland from the UK through Northern Ireland. We are not even sure if those figures that were quoted were correct. I totally sense the Senator's frustration on that. I will also say well done to Shelbourne Football Club on getting its park. Absolutely, we need to support soccer as much as we support other games.

Senator Warfield spoke about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which were carried out 50 years ago on 17 May and in which 33 people and a full-term baby died and 300 people were injured. It was very striking over the last few weeks to listen to all the testimonies 50 years later. One in particular that stuck with me was from a man who was then a young man of 19. His dad was in Guiney's and his mam went in as a surprise to collect him. They did not know she had gone in to collect him. It was only afterwards when he was home that they could not find her and then they found the car parked and knew. I listened to Mr. Vincent Browne's spoken testimony at the time of running out and lifting up a woman who essentially combusted when he lifted her up. It has just been horrendous. We need to do more for the victims. As the Senator said, we need to remember the victims and support their families.

Senator Horkan spoke about Europe Day and the expansion. While it has taken a long time now - it is 20 years since we had that expansion of ten new countries - I have no doubt that Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia are working together with the EU in terms of the measures they need to put in place. We wish them well. The Senator also raised the issue of National Bike Week. It is important that we encourage those who can to cycle where they can, that is providing, of course, they have safe ways of cycling because not everywhere is safe.

Senator Lombard spoke about the need for GAAGO to be accessible and how some children in classrooms are not able to view it while some are, and about how it has become a big and divisive issue.

Senator Keogan spoke about the continued integration crisis and those who are coming into the country. I know that Cabinet was agreeing measures this morning around the pull factor, as we call it, in terms of making Ireland an attractive country for people to come to. We need a system that is humane, fair and firm. She spoke about the EU migration pact. It has taken eight years to negotiate that.The good thing about it is that it imposes statutory timelines for the processing of applications and allows for the return of applications quicker. That is not something Ireland can do on our own. It is something we can only do as part of the EU.

Senator Gallagher spoke about the Ulster senior football final in Clones. I remember being in the park, it is a fine place. Senator Gallagher said that investment in Casement Park should not be at the expense of Clones. We support that.

Senator Cummins made a request, for the fourth time, around aviation policy and regional airports. I contacted the Clerk of the Seanad to see whether any feedback had been given. The request has gone in every time. We have not received any timescale back. The Senator also raised the issue of farm inspections.

Senator Craughwell spoke about the marine pilots with no clear qualifications. They are bringing in ships and containers. He is looking for a debate on that. I suggest he tables a Commencement matter in regard to that. I am sure it would be a valid one. He also raised the issue about people in scrubs riding bicycles. In fairness, those in scrubs could well have been finished their shifts. I am sure they were. We have to do everything we can to support those working in our hospitals. I certainly would not be calling them out in terms of wearing scrubs in public. I am sure that occurs after their shifts are done.

Senator Cassells also spoke about the free to air service. He felt strongly that politicians who did not have a huge interest in sport were intervening because it is election time. He felt strongly that politicians should stick with politics, not with the politics of the GAA.

Senator Carrigy spoke about the need to re-establish the firearms consultative body. He spoke about the need for facilities to support all three arms of the GAA - hurling, camogie and the ladies Gaelic football team, LGFA, as well as the men's GAA.

Senator Ahearn spoke about the Sisters of Charity private school in Clonmel and the fact that, because of the September rule, even though they have been granted an extra teacher, that teacher cannot come soon enough. It is looking for flexibility. I believe there should be flexibility in these issues and also that we need to see movement on the application by the Sisters of Charity for new buildings. I suggest again that this should be submitted as a Commencement matter.

All of us in this House join with Senator Maria Byrne to express our sympathy to the Minister, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, on the death of his mother, Nellie. It is a difficult time for him and for his family. Senator Byrne also spoke about the film festival in Cannes and the fact that Limerick has two international films. We wish them well. My sister-in-law's brother, Robbie Ryan, is up for an award in Cannes. She is jetting out tomorrow morning with my niece and godchild, Faye. I wish them well also. Senator Byrne also raised the issue of people without medical cards who have serious illnesses and said that we need to be more supportive to try to ensure they have medical cards when they need them.

Our last contributor was Senator Aisling Dolan, who told us about the Ballygar wellness event and also about Lough Ree Access for All fully-accessible boats and the event between Ballyleague and Lanesborough. It is certainly lovely weather for boating. I hope some of us have the opportunity to take part over the weekend, between canvassing and everything else. I thank the Cathaoirleach.

Order of Business agreed to.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 2.54 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 3.15 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 2.54 p.m. and resumed at 3.15 p.m.