Seanad Éireann - Volume 173 - 12 June, 2003

Order of Business.

  Ms O'Rourke: The Order of Business today is No. 1, Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Bill 2003 – Report and Final Stages, to be taken from the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 11.30 a.m.; and No. 2, statements on the reaction to the recent European Central Bank interest rate cut, to be taken at the conclusion of No. 1 and to conclude not later than 1 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed seven minutes, and on which Members may share time.

  Mr. B. Hayes: Yesterday the Public Offices Commission published the spending of all candidates in last year's general election. Two issues [770]arise from that which we should debate in the House. One is the timeframe in which election spending is monitored. This is quite absurd because huge sums of money can be spent by candidates in advance of that monitoring period. We need to debate this issue because it could lead to a serious distortion of the election result.

  The other issue concerns the reason most Ministers and Ministers of State exceeded the expenditure limit, namely, the value that was put on the support they were given by their ministerial offices. For a three week period, significant sums of money were added to the election spend of some of the Leader's colleagues. There is an important constitutional issue in this. If such money is available to Ministers and Ministers of State during three weeks of a campaign, imagine the value over 12 months or a four year parliamentary term. We need to address this issue because the same level of support is not in place for Government backbench and Opposition Members.

  There must be a genuine debate on whether it is right that Ministers can use vast sums of public money for their own constituency purposes. We already know the value for three weeks. If that is multiplied to take account of longer periods, it is clear that millions of euro are spent every year promoting Ministers and Ministers of State in their constituencies at the expense of Members in other political parties and those in their own. We need to debate this issue because it has serious constitutional implications. Perhaps the Leader would make time available to debate it.

  I welcome the comment yesterday by Fianna Fáil MEP, Niall Andrews, a distinguished Dublin Member of the European Parliament for the past 20 years or so, when he described neutrality as a sham. I fully agree with him on that, as does my party.

  Will the Leader allow time for a debate on our motion, No. 32, in the name of Senator Bradford and my Fine Gael colleagues? I suspect this motion does not have the support of a majority of the House, but I, among others, have been calling for a debate on neutrality for a long time. Now we know the position of our party and I encourage other parties to put their views on the record. An open-ended debate in which we can discuss our motion and the views of our colleagues in other parties would be very useful from the point of view of airing nationally our views on neutrality, given that there are many views on this issue among all the parties.

  Mr. O'Toole: I am sure Senator Hayes will not mind me adding a codicil to that. I have always maintained that people should only be allowed speak on neutrality if they give a definition of what they are talking about before they begin.

  Mr. Minihan: The Senator is right.

[771]  Mr. O'Toole: That is one of the big difficulties with the issue – it means separate things to everybody. A debate would be very useful. I have called many times for a debate on this issue and I support Senator Brian Hayes, but I would like us all to be talking about the same thing.

  Cúpla seachtain ó shin chuir muid Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla fríd an Teach seo to give rights to people from the Gaeltacht and to Irish speakers. Bhí grúpa anseo inné ó Chorca Dhuibhne, from Ventry national school. The school is losing a teacher, but if it was a Gaelscoil in the Galltacht it would retain that teacher. I would like somebody to come here to explain this injustice and discrimination against Gaeltacht people. Sin é díreach an rud a bhí idir láimhe agam ag cur i gcoinne a lán rudaí sa Bhille sin. It is utterly unfair on Gaeltacht people. Every time we take a decision on the Irish language it discriminates in some way against them. That is completely wrong. I ask that the Minister come in and explain to ordinary people why people in the Gaeltacht are getting less support to run their schools and develop the Irish language than people in the Galltacht.

  When I came here 16 years ago, certain conventions and rules were made very clear to all of us. This is not a cheap shot but a matter of some importance. One of these conventions was that we do not make reference in the House to people's absence, and we certainly do not make references publicly, in either House, about what goes on in the Members' bar. It is absolutely outrageous for people to make references such as this in the House. I do not know the reasons behind it or why the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was in the Members' bar, although I did listen to his explanation. I have argued many times that Ministers should come in to deal with Adjournment matters in both Houses, but incidents such as this are just not acceptable.

  I ask you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, to use your good offices to raise this with your counterpart in the other House. It is a breach of trust and is unacceptable to me. I know that people outside the House will say that we have a nice cosy little club, but people have to have their space.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Mr. O'Toole: There are conventions under which we work and that is how it should be. There is nothing cheap about that.

  Mr. Ryan: So that I will not be the recipient of a reprimand from Senator O'Toole, I will say that what I mean by neutrality is that we retain for the Irish people the right to decide whether we should become involved in military conflict. We should not sign that away, taking the choice away from the people so that they are compelled to [772]become involved in conflict because of some treaty or agreement.

  Over the last 30 years, this State has dealt quite successfully with violent threats to its security – threats with which no other country in western Europe had to deal – without being involved in a military alliance. We had armed terrorism in our own State and operating out of it, but we did not need a military alliance to deal with it. I have no problem with an intelligent debate on neutrality, but every time I have heard that phrase used the real implication has been that we should figure out a way of getting rid of it. I am prepared to have a debate about neutrality any time. We need to discuss what it means, what the future holds for us and what we should do about it. I am not persuaded that we need to become involved at this stage in any alliance in which we are obliged in advance, without having the right to consider the merits of such a course of action, to become involved in an armed conflict. That is a good position to have and it is one we should retain.

  Mr. O'Toole: The Senator should tell that to Deputy Costello.

  Mr. B. Hayes: Let us have a debate.

  Mr. Ryan: Again, I repeat—

  Mr. Finucane: The Senator is caught in a time warp.

  Mr. Ryan: I am quite happy with the time warp.

  Mr. Finucane: The Senator is in one the whole time.

  Mr. Ryan: I do not think many wars fought in the past 500 years have achieved much purpose other than mass slaughter.

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Ryan: The other side of the debate about neutrality and defence is the matter of the European arms industry.

  Mr. Norris: Absolutely.

  Mr. Ryan: The export of arms from rich countries to poor countries is even more despicable than the export of drugs from poor countries to rich. The reason we tolerate one and disapprove of the other is that we are rich and they are poor. The export of arms from rich to poor countries is the most immoral trade the world has ever seen. If we are to have a debate about matters military, let us talk—

[773]  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is the Senator supporting the call for a debate?

  Mr. B. Hayes: Well done.

  Mr. Dooley: The debate has started.

  Mr. Ryan: Yes, with certain provisions.

  I was a little surprised when I came in this morning to discover that a portrait or a bust of Senator O'Toole had not yet arrived in the front hall, given the influence of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions over matters such as this.

  Mr. O'Toole: I will take that weighty responsibility on my shoulders, as I am the only speaker representing the left side of politics in the House at the moment.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Does Senator Ryan have a point to make on the Order of Business?

  Mr. Ryan: If my position on the left was threatened only by Senator O'Toole I would have little enough to worry about.

  Mr. O'Toole: Not just from the neck up two days a week.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Please allow the Senator to continue without interruption.

  Mr. B. Hayes: This is a great spectator sport for those on the other side of the House, is it not?

  Mr. Ryan: In relation to what Senator Brian Hayes was saying, we need a debate on what has been called the war on terrorism, because if ever something was manifestly not succeeding, this is it. Two countries have been devastated, as has Palestine, and as far as anybody can see terrorism is becoming more virulent, more extensive and more threatening to more people. We need to counsel those with much more power than we have to stand back and explore possible remedies for terrorism. If what happened in the Middle East yesterday is to be replicated day after day and week after week, it will push us in entirely the opposite direction to that desired by many who talk about the war on terrorism.

  I invite the Leader to let us have some time before we adjourn to talk about the issue of terrorism in the world. We need to do a lot more than have one military invasion after another because that tactic is manifestly not working.

  Labhrás Ó Murchú: Aontaím leis an Seanadóir Ó Tuathail gur chóir cuireadh a thabhairt don Aire theacht isteach agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt maidir le scolaíocht trí Ghaeilge, go mór mór an cás speisialta a d'ardaigh sé ansin.

  I compliment the Taoiseach on his tireless efforts to keep the peace process on track. The [774]prize of peace and justice is almost within our grasp and most sensible people want to achieve it at this stage. The face-to-face meeting the Taoiseach had yesterday with the loyalist commission was timely and very appropriate, because our only hope is that dialogue will continue. The horrific pictures of carnage coming from other parts of the world in recent times should be a reminder for everybody to remember from whence we came. The great danger is that if we allow a vacuum to continue, we could go back to the dark days we had before. I suggest to the Leader that before the summer recess we should have a debate on this subject. I know we have had many debates on Northern Ireland, but this time we should agree that its focus should be reconciliation and partnership. We have the opportunity of making a reasoned and balanced contribution in these dangerous times.

  Mr. Higgins: The House will recall that three weeks ago, we welcomed the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner designate, Noel Conroy, and tributes were paid to him and to the outgoing Commissioner. One of the features of the term of office of the outgoing Commissioner was a series of internal inquiries about the conduct of the Garda Síochána. In particular, I am thinking of the inquiry set up in relation to the Veronica Guerin murder after a confession by Paul Ward was thrown out by the Central Criminal Court. Another was set up in relation to the Dean Lyons affair, in which this tragic man was wrongly accused of the murder of two psychiatric patients at Grangegorman.

  There was a series of internal Garda investigations into the goings-on in Donegal. There was also an internal Garda investigation into events during the “Reclaim the Streets” protest, when Army deafness was replaced by Garda blindness. However, we have never seen a report in respect of the findings of these inquiries. In the interests of the Garda Síochána, such reports should be subject to public scrutiny.

  Mr. B. Hayes: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Higgins: The second issue I wish to raise concerns a new development which, in my opinion, is a complete waste of Garda time. At every GAA championship match during the current season, Garda video cameras have been used to scan the crowds. I do not know what purpose this serves. A feature of the GAA has always been – we are extremely proud of the fact – that violence never erupts in the crowds attending matches and there is never a need to segregate people. However, the Garda Síochána is insisting that, at every championship match, its video cameras should scan the crowds. That is daft and it is a waste of Garda resources. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should be asked to come before the House to discuss the position [775]vis-à-vis Garda investigations and the deployment of gardaí.

  Mr. Leyden: In light of Senator Higgins's comments, I wish to state that we have been very well served, generally speaking, by the Garda Síochána, which has given courageous service in difficult circumstances. We should recognise that any difficulties which have arisen are minute when compared to the service provided, in the interests of the State, by an excellent and brave force.

  Will the Leader provide time, before the summer recess, for a detailed debate on the crisis in Palestine and Israel? There is an undeclared war taking place in the region and it is a matter of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, with car bombs, assassination attempts and general carnage. The superior Israeli force is well supplied with American equipment, while the Palestinians are badly equipped. This House should debate the matter. I welcome the establishment of the all-party and non-party group, Friends of Palestine in the Oireachtas, and I wish the group well. Its vice-chairman is Senator Ó Murchú and its chairman is Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Who is the convenor?

  Mr. Coghlan: I wish to protest strongly at the discrimination in Corca Dhuibhne, to which Senator O'Toole has already referred. Two schools, at Ventry and Cloghane, are being treated badly and in a discriminatory manner by the Department of Education and Science. Yesterday, in a united fashion, the Ventry community sent representatives, including one of the teachers, to Dublin to meet the Minister for Education and Science or an official. Sadly, they failed to meet either. They met the Minister who represents the constituency as a Member of the Dáil, but there was not much he could do yesterday.

  The schools were given a commitment in writing and they have established that their enrolment numbers are increasing. They had a health and safety report carried out in respect of portacabins, etc., but it would cost a great deal more to implement the recommendations in the report than it would to provide the extra teacher in respect of whom they have already received a commitment. As Senator O'Toole stated, if we were talking about a Gaelscoil situated a few miles outside the Gaeltacht, there would be no problem. This is a ludicrous policy on the part of the State. I call on the Leader, as a former Minister in the Department, to use her good offices—

  Ms O'Rourke: Distinguished.

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  Mr. Coghlan: Yes. There must be a way to deal with the situation. We would not be creating a precedent because this is already a special case, which everyone understood to have been resolved. I ask the Leader to look into this matter, which is of extreme urgency for the community in that area.

  In March, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, quite properly stated that he would not allow the EU negotiate a new agreement for Shannon Airport without a satisfactory alternative being in place. However, he has weakened the case by conceding ground in recent days. In my view, the Government, not the EU, is now pushing for change. With respect, the Minister has broken the golden rule of negotiation, namely, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. He has totally weakened our position. The situation needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I again call on the Leader to use her good offices in this regard. This is a matter of some concern to the areas outside the Pale, particularly those on the western seaboard.

  Mr. Mooney: I echo Senator Brian Hayes's initial comments and I would welcome a debate. I am sure the Leader will be happy to respond in that regard when time is available. However, I remind Members about a moving speech by David Begg – which my colleagues in the National Forum on Europe will recall – when he had just taken up his executive position with the ICTU.

  Mr. O'Toole: From that perspective on politics.

  Mr. Mooney: Mr. Begg made a moving contribution about the moral responsibility of countries within the EU, such as Ireland, to the countries of Africa. He had, as head of Concern, a background in this area and had seen, first-hand, the effects of the internecine civil wars which have ravaged that continent. At a time when matters of great import are being discussed at the Convention on the Future of Europe, while I would not go so far as to agree with Deputy Andrews's concept of Irish neutrality as a sham, I believe, however, it has been used as a convenient cloak by successive Administrations since the Second World War. The original concept of neutrality was based on a decision taken by leaders who had fought the British Government some 20 years earlier. If they had abandoned neutrality or taken the Allied side formally in the Second World War, it would, inevitably, have meant that British troops being stationed in the then Irish Free State. It was as much a pragmatic political decision as it was ideological.

  If we consider the changes that have taken place in Europe, the shifting sands of politics on the Continent and the different priorities being placed on a common foreign and defence policy, it would be an absolute derogation of national [777]duty for this country to opt out of its responsibilities to those who may need our help. Although there has been a tacit acceptance of the vagueness of neutrality, we should at least establish where we are going and what should be our commitments to our fellow citizens in the European Union and beyond.

  I also echo the comments of Senator Leyden. It is with regret that I, as a spokesperson on foreign affairs in this Parliament, have to say that I believe that the Israeli Defence Forces – IDF – are out of control. They are beyond political control within the body politic of Israel. Many people will have seen a programme called “The Killing Zone” last week, which showed in very stark detail what is happening in the occupied lands of Palestine. Those of us from Ireland who have a rare insight into conflict within communities in Northern Ireland, know in our hearts and souls that, despite repeated killings, talks eventually have to take place.

  I speak with great compassion in respect of what Israeli citizens have been experiencing through horrific instances of suicide bombings, of which there was a further example yesterday. I have great sympathy for the Israeli people who are caught in their geographical location. However, I urge their Government to rein in the IDF, which is taking the law into its own hands. I regret to say that its forces are operating in a manner comparable to that of the Nazis during the Second World War. They are shooting people out of hand and seeking to justify it. It is time the Israeli Defence Forces were reined in. We in this Parliament, as friends of the peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – of the region have a responsibility to put our views on record. I strongly support the call for a debate on the matter as soon as possible.

  Mr. McCarthy: I wish to raise the issue of the spiralling cost of living. I ask the Leader to arrange for either the Tánaiste or the Minister for Finance to come before the House to debate the issue. Ireland is rapidly becoming one of the most expensive countries in the European Union. I compliment Senator Leyden on his name and shame list and his endeavours in this regard in recent weeks. However, I suggest that the Senator should add one further group to the list, namely, the Government. Half of the increased costs over the past 12 months are directly attributable to the Government.

  Mr. Coghlan: That is a name too far.

  Mr. Finucane: I join in the support for Senator Brian Hayes's call for a debate on neutrality. Niall Andrews, MEP, must be admired for what he said because he spoke in the context of the Second World War and the present situation, and we all know things have dramatically changed since. Unless we redefine what we mean by neu[778]trality, ours will be seen as an à la carte approach. There are many people who felt during the recent conflict in Iraq that we breached our neutrality on the Shannon issue. Leaving that aside, if we want to be part of modern Europe and if we want to be involved rather than to adopt an “I stepped in and I stepped out again” approach, it is important for us to have a role. It is timely that we should debate the issue.

  I am surprised at what my colleague, Senator Higgins, stated regarding scanning GAA matches. Any of us who attend matches will know that there is no necessity for that. When has one ever seen any crowd violence at matches? Recently I attended a thrilling game between Waterford and Limerick which was filled with emotion and drama. One never sees crazy crowd scenes at matches. It is a waste of Garda resources. In fact, having scanned the recent matches in Croke Park, perhaps there is an over-deployment of Garda resources at many of these big matches. One could deploy the scarce resources more effectively.

  An issue which I have raised many times in this House is the radiotherapy report. The report has been finalised for some time. It has been leaked that it will recommend the provision of radiotherapy services in centres of excellence in Dublin, Cork and Galway. It looks as if Waterford and Limerick will be left out. As I have stated in the past on the Adjournment, in our area the Government is disadvantaging about 350,000 who will not have a proper radiotherapy facility in the area. This is a considerable inconvenience to people, who must travel to St. Luke's Hospital in Dublin.

  It would cost approximately €1 million next year to finance a radiotherapy facility in the Regional Hospital in Limerick. The area is available and planning permission has been received, etc. Like other areas, we demand and should get that service and we should not be treated as second-class citizens.

  Mr. Norris: I support my colleagues' call for a debate on neutrality. It is important that we look at this issue and define it, and that for a change we are honest about it. I really do believe in Irish neutrality in terms of keeping ourselves out of military alliances. We should put the most effective weight we can behind the United Nations peacekeeping initiatives. I feel that particularly when people raise the spectre of the tragedy of former Yugoslavia. A properly equipped, properly supported, properly mandated United Nations force is, in my opinion, the way to go. Creating further armies around power centres throughout the globe is a recipe for further war.

  We were told at Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nice by the Government that our neutrality was not compromised. Recently they have been saying there is nothing left of our neutrality after [779]Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nice, making precisely the points that those of us who were critical of those treaties were making at the time. Let us be honest about it, tell the Irish people and know exactly where we are going.

  I also support the call for a debate on the Middle East. To my surprise, Senator Mooney is slightly naive when he stated that the Israeli Defence Force is out of control. It is very much under the control of people like Mr. Sharon, who has made it utterly clear that he will subvert the peace process. Orders were given from the top for the targeted assassination of Hamas spokesmen, who were going to and from meetings where they were trying to negotiate a ceasefire.

  Mr. Mooney: I was talking about the shooting of innocent journalists and children that has nothing to do with a political decision.

  Mr. Norris: There is direction.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Norris without interruption.

  Mr. Mooney: It is happening on the ground. I ask him to make the distinction.

  Mr. Norris: Senator Mooney may make the distinction in his speech and I will look after mine. I am talking about the situation there where innocent people are being killed, and where, for example, in a previously targeted attack, a 1,000 lb. bomb was dropped where they expected somebody from Hamas to be and 15 civilians were killed. The really sinister aspect is that there is political direction by the Israeli Government and it pains me to have to say it.

  I ask the Leader to raise the following matters with the appropriate Minister. This morning we had a useful and interesting meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport. It highlighted that as a result of the precipitated deregulation of taxi services Ireland has been cited in a Swedish report as the worst example of deregulation of 13 capital cities of Europe surveyed, but also that as a result of this deregulation the number of wheelchair accessible taxis has dropped from 800 to 13, which is astonishing when we are supposed to be looking at the rights of people with a disability.

  Mr. Bannon: I support the calls of my colleagues for a debate on Irish neutrality and also support Senator Brian Hayes's call for a debate on the expenditure limits for general elections. There is a motion on the Order Paper, non-Government motion No. 31. Perhaps the Leader of the House would facilitate us by stating when she will take this motion in the name of all the Fine Gael Senators.

  We seem to be flying all over the world trying to solve problems in different parts of the globe [780]and neglecting the home front. Farming here is facing extinction unless the Government is prepared to take action. Incomes have dropped in every sector of farming. Young people are leaving the land. Every parish is affected because the people are not prepared to accept the hardships their fathers and forefathers had to put up with. It is important that we have a debate as soon as possible on the Fischler CAP reform proposals. This is of the utmost importance to people involved in farming, to people living in rural Ireland and to the economy generally. Perhaps the Minister would afford us time next week for a debate on the Fischler proposals.

  Mr. McHugh: On the home front, I want to add my weight to Senator Cummins's call yesterday for a debate on the future of our international sports stadia. There is strong speculation that the capacity of Lansdowne Road will be reduced from 44,000 to 23,000 under new regulations. I highlight the concerns today in the aftermath of the friendly carnival event in Lansdowne Road last night enjoyed by people from all over the country, from Cork to Donegal, and even the Leader's Westmeath. We must focus our debate on the people of Ireland who follow and enjoy sport and go to these games, not on the organisations such as the FAI and the GAA or on the politics.

  We urgently need to have a debate on our future fisheries policies. We now have a opportunity following the great news from the European Parliament that the Irish Box will be protected, but at the same time due to the restrictions on tonnage small Irish fishing boats are not being allowed to fish. On the one hand we are getting massive grants to dredge and upgrade our harbours, but at the same time we are driving the small fishermen from our ports. I call on the Leader to have an urgent debate on fisheries policies.

  Mr. Cummins: I support my colleague, Senator Finucane, on the issue of radiotherapy. Waterford City Council met the Minister for Health and Children in October and he assured us that the report on radiotherapy would be issued in January at the very latest. It is now June and he has failed to meet Waterford City Council on the issue again, as he had promised. As a body, Waterford City Council is now coming to protest next week because of the failure of the Minister to publish this report. It is of paramount importance for people with cancer problems that radiotherapy facilities should be made available in the regional hospitals. It is a disgrace that this report has not been issued following promises for the past 18 months that it would be.

  Senator Dardis said yesterday that he was opposed to a motorway between Dublin and Waterford.

[781]  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We will not rehash yesterday's debate.

  Mr. Cummins: We did not have a debate on it. Senator Dardis made a comment. There is grave concern in my constituency and in the whole south-east where we have been starved of proper access routes, as a result of which development of the area has been stifled for many years. To hear that a senior member of the Progressive Democrats is opposed to a motorway is a disgrace.

  Mr. Dardis: We said there should be good access. It is the nature of the access that is at issue.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We are not having a further debate on this issue.

  Mr. Cummins: Government Ministers and Progressive Democrats came down and told us that they were in favour of it. This House should be given a proper, transparent and clear statement on the matter.

  Mr. Dardis: The debate was last night.

  Mr. Feighan: I wish to pay tribute to the people from NAMI who came to Dublin last Tuesday and protested outside the gates of Leinster House regarding funding for people with special needs. There is a serious situation in Listowel, County Kerry. Seven pupils of the Nano Nagle school for those with intellectual disability are due to graduate next Tuesday. Three sets of parents are refusing to allow their children graduate because there is nowhere for the children to go following that.

  I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health and Children or the Minister for Education and Science to come to the House and clarify the position once and for all. Responsibility for these people has been transferred from the Minister for Health and Children to the Minister for Education and Science, but nobody is actually accepting responsibility. It is beyond a joke.

  Ms Tuffy: I support the call for a debate on the Israel-Palestine situation. I called for such a debate a couple of weeks ago. While I welcome yesterday's debate on the humanitarian aid to Iraq, we need to monitor the situation in the Middle East following the war in Iraq. It is imperative to achieve peace in the region and ensure secure states of Israel and Palestine. I condemn the actions of Israel in the past two days and also the actions of those behind the suicide bombings. Ireland must do what it can to support any efforts to keep the peace process on track and to ensure that the United States and the United Kingdom fulfil their moral obligations to support this process.

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  Ms O'Rourke: Senator Brian Hayes, the leader of the Opposition, asked for a debate on the ethics in public office report on the benefits which accrue to Ministers and Ministers of State from being in office, not just for the three weeks of an election campaign but for four or five years. There are many issues to be considered. A price was put upon the size of one's office and the amount of time spent in the office as against the size of one's room. Other extraneous issues were also considered. I agree that a debate would be useful in highlighting these issues. There is a need for a debate on the dichotomy between a campaign which lasts for five years as distinct from a campaign lasting three weeks. I suggest that it did not do me any good in the election.

  Dr. Henry: The Seanad got the Leader instead.

  A Senator: The Leader was the victim of broken promises.

  Mr. Bannon: There was a fear factor in Westmeath.

  Mr. B. Hayes: There was a campaign beforehand.

  Ms O'Rourke: Senator O'Toole asked about Ventry. This is an ongoing debate within education about the extra concessions to gaelscoileanna as distinct from people who live in the Galltacht areas. It would be a good subject for an Adjournment matter because the policy would be enunciated.

  I share the Senator's view on Members being cited as being in the bar as if they were on a trail of debauchery.

  Mr. O'Toole: The Members' Bar.

  Ms O'Rourke: Yes. We are clearly not on a trail of debauchery if we are there. It is often a case of making arrangements to meet somebody there. It is not correct to give the impression that we are all closeted in a particular place. I regret the manner in which it was highlighted and I thank the Senator for raising the matter.

  Senator Brian Hayes mentioned the remarks made by Niall Andrews, MEP, when he stated that he believed Irish neutrality was a sham. I do not believe it is a sham but I agree that the House should debate the matter. Without wishing to sound castigatory, the fact that Niall Andrews, who is a distinguished person as the Senator says, is not standing for re-election may have caused him to make that comment.

  Mr. B. Hayes: More independence, perhaps.

  Mr. O'Toole: That is an appalling inference.

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  Ms O'Rourke: I am willing to arrange a debate on neutrality but there is a difference between the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána acting with great distinction as UN peacekeepers in troubled places and the abandonment of neutrality. The people must decide whether it can be abandoned. One must not throw out the baby with the bathwater just because it is a current fad. Senator Ryan spoke about the UN Charter. Senator Minihan of the Progressive Democrats has served with great distinction in several assignments abroad. I am confident he will contribute to a debate on neutrality.

  Senator Ryan also spoke about the arms business, which is behind much of what is happening. The munitions industry and its financing is huge. He also asked for a debate on the war against terrorism.

  Senator Lábhrás Ó Murchú is in agreement with the point made by Senator O'Toole regarding the policy on gaelscoileanna. Schools in the genuine Gaeltacht are losing teachers and see that the other schools are retaining or gaining teachers. He wishes to congratulate the Taoiseach on his meeting with the loyalist commission. I also congratulate the Taoiseach on that meeting. I hope to arrange for the Taoiseach to talk to the House on those matters. I have not asked him yet but I hope we will be able to make an arrangement.

  Senator Higgins asked about Garda inquiries. They were internal inquiries and that is why they were not made public. I am confident that proper arrangements were implemented as a result of those internal Garda inquiries.

  Mr. Higgins: I wish I could believe the Leader.

  Ms O'Rourke: I do not see the need for video cameras at GAA championship matches either. It may be due to over-zealousness. In general, GAA matches and all matches are very well supported by enthusiasts but not by those bent on any type of hooliganism.

  Senator Leyden praised the Garda. He spoke about the need for a debate on the crisis in Palestine. Senator Coghlan also spoke about the case of the schools in Ventry. He spoke about the Shannon stopover. I hope to arrange a debate on that issue to inform the House on the intentions of the Minister and the Government.

  Senator Mooney asked for a debate on neutrality and expressed interesting views on that subject and on the Israeli defence forces. Senator McCarthy asked for a debate on the rising cost of living. I believe, with tongue in cheek, he had a suggestion for Senator Leyden in that regard.

  Mr. B. Hayes: It was more tongue than cheek.

  Mr. Ryan: More cheek than tongue.

  Mr. Leyden: It was well-intentioned.

[784]  Ms O'Rourke: Senator Finucane supports the call for a debate on neutrality. He asks for a debate on the non-production of the radiotherapy report and requests that it be published. I hope the Minister for Health and Children will come to the House before the summer recess to discuss the two major reports.

  Senator Norris asked for a debate on neutrality and on the Middle East. He also asked for a debate on wheelchair accessible taxis. I do not know the exact number of such taxis because I was not at this morning's meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport.

  Senator Bannon called for a debate on the Fischler proposals as soon as the negotiations have been completed. They are supposed to finish this Friday but it has been suggested that they will continue until next week. We will arrange such a debate, as it is necessary. In response to Senator McHugh, I have had discussions this morning about arranging a debate on fisheries policy and the results of the most recent talks. I hope such a debate will be held. The Senator also called for a debate on the proposed national sports stadium.

  Senator Cummins called for publication of the radiotherapy report, while Senator Dardis made it clear in the House last night that while he was not interested in preventing access to Dublin from Waterford, he was interested in the nature of the access afforded to communities in the south-east. Senator Cummins can read the transcript of last night's transport debate.

  Senator Feighan called for the needs of the Nano Nagle special school in Listowel, which I know well, to be addressed. He said the school authorities were being tossed between the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children. Senator Tuffy also called for a debate on the Middle East.

  Order of Business agreed to.