Seanad Éireann - Volume 178 - 24 November, 2004

Order of Business.

  Ms O’Rourke: The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996 to be referred to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights for consideration — this concerns powers of detention and re-arrest and will be taken without debate; No. 2, Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 1999 — Second Stage to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business until 1.30 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes, the Minister to be called on to reply not later than ten minutes before the conclusion of Second Stage; No. 3, statements on the Book of Estimates 2005, to be taken from 2.30 p.m. until 5 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 15 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed ten minutes, the Minister to be called on to reply not later than ten minutes before the conclusion of the statements; and No. 22, motion No. 16, to be taken from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a sos between 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m.

[1267]   Mr. B. Hayes: Yesterday we had the spectacle of a 77 year old great-grandmother from Limerick city about to be jailed for the non-payment of a small fine. I have discovered that last year in excess of 1,000 people were put in prison for as much as two weeks for the non-payment of a fine. I give notice that my party intends to introduce a Private Members’ Bill on this issue. Unfortunately, the legislation in question, the Enforcement of Court Orders Bill 2004, was voted down in the other House only two months ago.

The Fine Gael Party wants the Government to re-examine this issue. It is a scandal that people should be sent to prison and take up prison space at a cost of €4 million or €5 million per annum when white collar criminals get away with crime unnoticed on a daily basis. We must address this scandal and the only ways of doing so are through attachment of earnings or the payment of fines by instalments. New legislation is needed in this area and the Fine Gael Party will introduce a Bill on the matter early next week. I ask that the Government allocate time for its consideration at an early date to ensure the matter is addressed. In 1981, the Law Reform Commission produced proposals in this area, yet nearly 25 years later we still await Government action. I ask the Government side to give time to the Bill when I bring it before the House next week.

I presume the House will receive a glut of legislation between now and the Christmas recess. To be fair to the staff of the Houses and Opposition and Government spokespersons, and to ensure the legislation is dealt with in an orderly fashion and sufficient time is available to debate the matters in hand, will the Leader indicate what Bills will be taken before the Christmas recess? We need adequate time to table amendments.

  Mr. O’Toole: I note the House will sit on Friday. While I do not object to Friday sittings, I object when their sole purpose is to facilitate the Dáil rushing through legislation on Wednesday and Thursday before dumping it in the House on Friday. The Leader will share my view on the matter. I would be much happier if we started our meeting on a Tuesday to the effect that we cannot be used as a dumping ground for matters not dealt with in the Dáil. I do not object to the Order of Business as it is in place this week but it is a precedent along with which we should not go. It is the Dáil’s problem if it does not deal with its business in time. We should question every occasion on which matters are rushed through this House.

The issue raised by Senator Brian Hayes is crucially important. It is a joke that we are prepared to waste time sending people around to investigate dog licences and report to the Garda, which then wastes further time preparing a case and taking people to court, threatening them and deciding to send them to prison because they do not have a dog licence. There are enough problems in Limerick city already and the residents [1268] there will be less than impressed that State and Garda time, and prison space, are being tied up on such issues. It is completely wrong.

Speaking for the small people, there is also very likely a miscarriage of justice in this situation. This great-grandmother was only feeding a stray dog which she had never owned. Nonetheless, she was threatened with incarceration in prison and her family must come up with the money to prevent this outcome. To do that to a great-grandmother, suffering from asthma and some other illnesses, reflects extraordinarily badly on our system of justice. I could not agree more with Senator Brian Hayes on the need to deal with this issue. It brings the whole system into disrepute. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last night spoke about building more prisons and the need for more prison space. This raises the question as to why such a high proportion of the population is incarcerated compared with other countries. The kind of nonsense we saw threatened in Limerick this week is the answer.

  Mr. Ryan: Iman al-Hams, a young Palestinian was murdered by the Israeli defence forces in October. The Israeli authorities exonerated the army officer whose own troops saw him shoot the child. There is a transcript of the radio conversations taking place when that happened which demonstrates quite clearly that this was deliberate, cold-blooded murder. If a Palestinian had done it we would quite rightly condemn it and the world would rightly demand sanctions against the Palestinian authorities because of their failure to control terrorists.

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Ryan: The world, however, stands back in silence when a terrified child running away from one of the most powerful defence forces in the world is murdered in cold blood because the perpetrator is a country with which we have, at best, an ambiguous relationship.

I again appeal to our Department of Foreign Affairs to raise the issue of Iman al-Hams with the Israeli Embassy. It is a crime worthy of the summoning of an ambassador to the Department. Murdering children is not part of the war on terrorism, it is a disgraceful abuse of power and needs the voice of civilised people to deal with it.

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Ryan: I move an amendment to the Order of Business, namely, that the first item we should discuss is the Government’s reneging on its pledge to meet the UN target on overseas development aid by 2007. The Estimates may provide a blanket to cover this issue. This is not just a question of abandoning the poor of the world but how the world sees a Government which feels free to make solemn pledges at a variety of international fora, to win votes to get itself [1269] onto the UN Security Council and abandons that pledge without so much as blinking when it becomes inconvenient.

I am concerned that I cannot now trust my Government. How can the DUP trust a Taoiseach who goes to the UN and solemnly makes a promise to do something and then comes home and abandons it because it is a bit difficult? How can Ian Paisley trust the Government when the going gets rough with the sort of people who are carrying out surveillance on Ministers? As the Government has undermined our capacity to trust it, I call for a debate on the reneging of the foreign aid target of 0.7% of GNP.

  Labhrás Ó Murchú: We had another shocking example of the dark side of Ireland in today’s newspapers. I refer to the battered and bruised face of William Bartley, who was attacked in his home in Donegal, robbed and brutalised. Here was a 74 year old bachelor, almost totally deaf, who would have expected to live out his twilight years in peace. I do not think this is about policing; we are dealing with a malignancy in society of which we have seen so many examples. The only antidote we have to this type of thuggery comes from the community itself. Ultimately, the people in the community are the only ones who can find out who is causing this. How do we ensure this will not happen again?

Can we set aside time to discuss the broader issues of society? Each time we come to this House, we look at some recent act that has shocked us in some way. There are deeper issues involved. Why is it that we no longer have respect for human life? Why is it that older people must lock themselves up at night, afraid that they too will be attacked? We should set some time aside to have a broader debate on that issue.

  Mr. Finucane: I second Senator Ryan’s amendment to the Order of Business. I also want to briefly refer to the Limerick experience which has been spoken about. We have worse problems in Limerick than having to put a great-grandmother into prison over a dog fine. The contrast in the system can be seen with the deployment of resources. We read in the newspapers today that six gardaí took a lamb from the back of a house and put it in another location. However, we also saw the harrowing pictures of the man from Donegal and his experience of thugs who broke into his house. In that context, it may not have everything to do with policing and something to do with the community. Something is happening in Irish society when people resort to these horrendous crimes accompanying burglaries.

There is a concern in rural Ireland regarding policing that is not just confined to County Donegal. We have to look at the deployment of resources. Are they deployed effectively? In the type of shift systems which operate in most urban communities, are gardaí deployed effectively at the times when crimes are more likely to occur? This has implications for rural policing.

[1270] Rather than the Minister talking about increasing the number of prison places, he should look seriously at a situation where up to 1,000 people a year are in prison because of non-payment of fines. It has been advocated over the years by various reports that fines should be paid in instalments in order to ensure they are paid. In many cases, the fines imposed by the courts are quite steep in terms of the offence committed. I am amazed that this has not been looked at.

  Mr. Mooney: I have great respect, bordering on a political affection, for Senator Ryan and I know his long record of championing the poor. However, he has cast an unacceptable slur on the Taoiseach, who is trying to forge a peaceful resolution to what is happening in Northern Ireland. Linking this issue with overseas development aid in order to suggest that the Taoiseach cannot be trusted is going beyond the bounds of fair comment.

  Mr. Ryan: Can the Senator trust him?

  Mr. Mooney: The Senator should withdraw the remark. The Taoiseach does not need a lecture from the Labour Party.

(Interruptions).

  An Cathaoirleach: Order, please.

  Mr. Mooney: I do not believe Senator Ryan speaks for the majority of Labour Party supporters when he casts such an outrageous slur on the Taoiseach.

  Mr. Ryan: If I said what Labour Party supporters think, I would have to withdraw it.

  Mr. Mooney: The Labour Party is wrestling with its conscience in respect of who it will go into Government with after the next general election.

  An Cathaoirleach: I do not think that is——

  Mr. Mooney: I do not think the Taoiseach needs a lecture.

  An Cathaoirleach: That is not relevant to the Order of Business.

  Mr. Mooney: I appreciate that.

  An Cathaoirleach: Who the Labour Party goes into Government with——

  Mr. Mooney: A political comment was made.

(Interruptions).

  Mr. Norris: Withdraw.

  An Cathaoirleach: Does Senator Mooney have a question for the Leader?

  Mr. Mooney: I have a question.

[1271]   Mr. Norris: Withdraw.

(Interruptions).

  An Cathaoirleach: Order, please.

  Mr. Mooney: References have been made to Ukraine — people are being shouted down there as well. That is one of the reasons I wanted to speak.

(Interruptions).

  An Cathaoirleach: Order, please.

  Mr. Mooney: Sensitive discussions are ongoing about what we hope will be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power from direct rule to an elected Assembly, which represents all the people of Northern Ireland. At such a time, the House should acknowledge the courageous and brave stand being taken by the people of Ukraine. In recent days, we have seen their protests against corruption and electoral fraud that has been documented and statistically proven by those who have observed the electoral process in that country. This issue is so important that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, should ask the Ukrainian ambassador, who I believe resides in London, to account for the electoral fraud that has been perpetrated in Ukraine.

As a member of the Council of Europe, I have watched in recent years as many former Soviet states have reverted to totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Fraud, corruption and abuse of power are rampant in such countries. Ukraine is seeking to become a member of the European Union. I oppose any engagement with the EU, at any level, on the part of Ukraine’s administration, as it seems to be a puppet Government.

  Mr. Ryan: Is this a speech?

  Mr. Mooney: I know the EU has called in its ambassador. I emphasise that the matter is important enough——

  An Cathaoirleach: I think the Senator has addressed the matter adequately.

  Mr. Mooney: ——that the Leader should ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to call the Ukrainian ambassador to account for what is plainly a fraudulent situation.

  Mr. Norris: Can I correct Senator Finucane? The Garda issued a statement saying that four gardaí, including one bean garda, were involved in the sheep incident. The statement confirmed that the sheep was not arrested, but taken into protective custody.

(Interruptions).

  Mr. Norris: Can I raise an issue relating to the European Commission? The House can arrange [1272] for MEPs to come here. A former President of the European Parliament has addressed the Seanad. The situation in Europe is so serious that we should ask such people to come to the House to explain what is going on. I supported the removal of Mr. Buttiglione, but I also spoke against the candidacy of a woman who had a serious conflict of interest and a person who was being put in charge of tax matters but had no fiscal understanding whatever.

We have now learned that Mr. Barrot, who was originally proposed as the justice Commissioner, had a conviction for embezzlement. People in Ireland are entitled to know what is going on in Europe. Why are totally unsuitable people being proposed as Commissioners? Why can decent candidates not be found?

I would also like to ask for a debate on Iraq. I would like a specific and clear answer on the matter from the Leader today or tomorrow. I understand that she has certain difficulties. However, I will be placed in a difficult position if I do not receive an answer today or tomorrow — I will have to continue to demand an answer. I refer specifically to the Gulfstream jet that has been landing at Shannon Airport. It has been widely stated that the jet has been adapted to facilitate the transport of kidnapped persons to destinations where they may be subject to torture at the behest of the CIA. As Shannon Airport is being used, we are entitled to know how many times the aeroplane has landed there. Has it landed 14 times, or 16 times? Has the Garda used its powers to investigate the matter by boarding an aeroplane to search it?

In light of the behaviour of the allied forces in Iraq, it is vital that we should get this information. They appear to be driving tanks over wounded people in the streets of Falluja. There is no doubt that they are murdering unarmed people in mosques. Can one imagine what would happen if someone attacked a church and shot unarmed elderly people dead? The press is being muzzled, since it has only embedded people there. They have assassinated reporters from various countries and bombed the offices of Al-Jazeera television. We are being denied information and war crimes are being committed in which this country is complicit. That is why the Taoiseach is refusing to answer these questions in Dáil Éireann, and it is imperative that this House gets the answer that I have sought for at least six weeks with the support of my colleague, Senator Henry. I have not received a single answer. The Leader has simply stated on every occasion that she notes my question. There is not much point in noting a question unless one gets an answer.

  Mr. Dooley: I support Senators O’Toole and Brian Hayes regarding the plight of the Limerick great-grandmother. It is a poor use of Garda and prison resources to deal with a woman in her state in that fashion. However, that does not detract from the fact the control of dogs is an issue. Perhaps the Leader might organise a rela[1273] tively short debate in this House, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. Much of the problem arises from pets being given to children at Christmas, a wholly inappropriate practice that should obviously be addressed soon. I was appalled to hear a County Clare dog warden talk the other day of several houses in the county with over 50 dogs. When one considers the damage to livestock and young children, one sees that the control of dogs is a real issue. We have seen appalling attacks by marauding dogs on young children and livestock. While we should not confuse the two matters, it is important that a strong statement be made on dog control.

  Mr. Bannon: I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, into the House to debate the question of elected representatives having a voice in the administration of local health services. We heard her speak last night on setting up the new health service structure, but there was no reference to local input. She also said that a 12-strong team would be setting up the health service. It is important that we know the identity of those people and whether it will be done regionally. It is also important that local democracy be respected in the administration of health services. The present structure does not allow for adequate democratic input into the administration of the health service, and it is important that we have that debate. From the foundation of the State, there has always been local input into the delivery of health services. That is what people want, and it should be afforded to them. It would be for the betterment of health services.

  Dr. Mansergh: No one over the age of 70, save in the most exceptional circumstances, should be sent to prison. I agree that we should have the debate proposed by Senator Ó Murchú. What influences the mentality of those who would go and beat up old people in the manner shown?

I welcome, in so far as they go, the concrete increases of €50 million or €60 million in the overseas development aid budget. If Senator Ryan went over previous programmes for Government and manifestos back to 1981, he would find that many Governments had pledged during their time in office to achieve the target of 0.7%. All Governments, including Senator Ryan’s colleague, Deputy Burton, have found it difficult to achieve as great an advance as they would have liked. It is good that there is a three-year rolling programme and that we will get, let us hope, close to 0.5%. The pledge has not been reneged on, any more than it has been reneged on or abandoned by 24 other OECD countries.

  Mr. Norris: Of course it has. The Taoiseach made it in the United Nations. He was reprimanded by Kofi Annan.

  An Cathaoirleach: Order.

[1274]   Dr. Mansergh: It is a question of the time period within which it is achieved.

  Mr. Norris: It is a question of truth and lies.

  An Cathaoirleach: We are not having a debate.

11 o’clock

  Dr. Henry: It was disclosed in the press last week that not all genetic tests carried out in a private institution in Galway were accurate. Although it is attached to the university, this is a private institution. It has carried out work for ten years because the national genetics institution in Dublin is flooded with work and is inadequately resourced and staffed. However, the institution in Galway does not employ people with clinical acumen and, therefore, it is like not having people to accurately interpret X-rays for patients. This is a serious situation and I fail to understand why greater note is not taken of the lack of facilities for people with genetic diseases. A young man suffering from cystic fibrosis, who was awaiting a lung transplant, died in the Mater Hospital yesterday. While this is tragic, it is more tragic that, despite the Department of Health and Children establishing a cystic fibrosis group several years ago, which recommended that all newborn children be tested for the disease, nothing has happened, even though the earlier children receive treatment, the better the outcome.

I have read the programme of priorities published by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children. Will the Leader ask her to come to the House to debate genetic diseases? Sometimes people think this issue is related to abortion or in vitro fertilisation and prenatal diagnosis but that is not the case. It relates to families in which one member has a genetic disease being in a position to find out the likelihood of another child being affected if the parents decide to have more children. People deserve better than they are getting.

  Mr. Kitt: Newspapers are reporting that the Government is seeking official status for the Irish language in the European Union today. I very much welcome this because the Seanad has called for Irish to be recognised as an official working language of the EU. I thank our MEPs for the support they have given us and I hope the application will be successful. Tugaim lán-tacaíocht don Rialtas as ucht an iarratais seo.

  Mr. Feighan: I support colleagues in condemning the misuse of Garda resources following the arrest of a 77 year old widow. There was a great deal of violence on our streets over the weekend and I have frequently raised this issue in the House. A Lithuanian man was stabbed to death while another was stabbed in Tallaght and a 74 year old man was attacked in Donegal. A number of Members have wondered whether we are changing as people. This is not the Ireland of the welcomes with non-nationals increasingly falling victim to violence, an issue I have also raised. Yesterday, the Taoiseach referred to gangsters [1275] and thugs in the context of the young man shot dead in Dublin over the weekend; he said they were involved in activities to make money to buy properties in Spain. Drugs are fuelling much of this crime and the task force in this area is not doing enough to address the problem. Will the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform come to the House to outline what is being done to get drugs off our streets?

  Mr. Brennan: Will the Leader convey the congratulations and good wishes of the House to the new members appointed to the Council of State, including Senator Mansergh?

  Mr. Quinn: For the first time in many years, fewer tourists have travelled to the Republic of Ireland from Great Britain, while the number travelling to Northern Ireland has increased. Approximately 140,000 jobs are at stake in the tourism industry. Have we taken our eye off the ball? Almost 20 years ago in 1985, I attempted to bring a large group to Ireland, but was told it could not come because we did not have a national conference centre. I was delighted to hear the Minister say yesterday that it is hoped to have one by 2008. The conference industry is an enormously valuable business for Ireland. Will the Minister come to the House to tell us what he is doing about it? Clearly, we are not adhering to the policies and do not have the strength and commitment we should have.

  Mr. Browne: The issue of fireworks has been raised on numerous occasions. Will the Leader inquire ——

  Mr. Dardis: Fireworks or fire?

  An Cathaoirleach: Order, please. Senators should be as brief as possible. Senator Browne, without interruption.

  Mr. Browne: We are approaching the Christmas season. Given that New Year’s Day can, unfortunately, be an anti-climax in many respects, it would be appropriate to provide some special funding for voluntary groups or town councils to organise fireworks displays in their towns for young families. We normally see images from Sydney of New Year’s Eve fireworks while New Year’s Day is invariably a damp squib here. We should celebrate the beginning of a new year in that way. If a small sum of money were allocated to the various groups they could organise displays and make New Year’s Day a more enjoyable family day.

  Mr. Ross: Last week the Acting Leader of the House, Senator Minihan, promised that we could and would debate the issue of Aer Lingus. Will the Leader endorse this and commit to a date for this debate? Does the Leader have any proposals for debate on the budget next week? In the past [1276] we have debated it almost immediately after it has been produced in the Dáil.

  Mr. McHugh: Senator Quinn raised the issue of tourism. In the first week of February this year it was impossible to get a car parking space at the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim because of the number of British, European and American tourists. However, in Donegal, just 45 minutes away from the Giant’s Causeway via the Magilligan ferry, there were only empty car parks throughout the month of July in tourist areas. We need serious debate on an all-Ireland strategy for tourism. We have Fáilte Ireland and in the north west we have North West Tourism, Donegal Tourism and Donegal Tourism Limited. We must have serious debate on the issue of tourism. Why are the car parks full in February at the Giant’s Causeway, but empty in July in Donegal?

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Brian Hayes raised the matter of the 77 year old woman in Limerick. In that context the wider question concerns the unsuitable use of Garda time, resources and prison spaces. The Senator intends to introduce a Private Members’ Bill shortly and we will facilitate debate on that issue.

Senator Brian Hayes stated that a glut of legislation is expected and asked that we have an orderly use of time, which we will. Senator O’Toole also raised this matter. On the wider issue evoked by that request, since the occasion approximately 18 months ago when we had a long contentious Bill in the House, we have sought not to have all Stages of a Bill taken together. We do not approve of that and do not deal with legislation that way. There is now time between Second and Committee Stages. It is proper that we provide time to debate legislation. I do not call the expected legislation a glut — that sounds excessive coming up to Christmas — but there will be plenty of legislation. We will use our time in an orderly way to debate legislation.

I extend the same assurance to Senator O’Toole. There will be no rushing of Bills. He said he did not object to sitting on Friday in principle but he would object if the purpose was simply to be seen to mop up Dáil business. However, that is the way it is, we get Bills from the Dáil. Some legislation is initiated in this House and we will discuss such a Bill this week.

  Mr. O’Toole: There is no point getting it the morning after it finishes in the Dáil.

  Ms O’Rourke: It will finish on Thursday.

  Mr. O’Toole: That is ridiculous.

  Ms O’Rourke: If the Dáil is tardy there is nothing we can do about it but we will do our business in a business-like way, not in a rushed way.

We have been informed that the Council of Europe Development Bank Bill must be enacted by 30 November or else the terms of the Bill will [1277] have to be renegotiated. If the other House is tardy we cannot do anything about it but, as I have proved on several occasions, I will not stand over the rushing of any Bill in this House.

Senator O’Toole also echoed what Senator Brian Hayes said, with which we would all agree, about the waste of State time on petty issues. When some issue that is glaringly unjust arises, we would have a rush of comment here on the matter but the case in Limerick was absurd. It was clear that it was not the woman’s dog anyway so what was it all about? Her family paid the fine, not wanting to see her go to prison.

Senator Ryan referred to the young Palestinian child, Iman al-Hams, who was murdered by the Israelis about which there is a justifiable wave of condemnation. He moved an amendment to the Order of Business which was seconded by Senator Finucane. I intended replying to this matter but my colleague Senator Mooney very ably dealt with it. Senator Ryan is fully entitled to his comments about ODA but I regret the linking of it with the talks currently going on in London. I hope we would all wish the team in London well. I felt a shock when Senator Ryan referred to Dr. Paisley and so on. The talks are ongoing and we wish them well.

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear.

  Ms O’Rourke: There appears to be a chance of success and I regret that these two matters were linked by Senator Ryan.

Senator Ó Murchú referred to the Donegal man, William Bartley, who was battered and bruised. He referred to a malignancy in society, which I agree is the case. That incident is every bit as ugly as what is happening in Iraq. We rightly condemned the killing of the dying soldier but what happened Mr. Bartley was equally ugly. Senator Ó Murchú called for a broader debate on the issues in society which are leading to that kind of action.

Senator Finucane seconded Senator Ryan’s amendment regarding ODA. Senator Mooney responded to the slur on the Taoiseach at a sensitive time. He also wants the Minister for Foreign Affairs to request the Ukrainian ambassador who is based in London to come here to explain what is happening. The people who oversee elections said there were faults in the system. Two people have claimed to be elected but we do not know what the position is.

Senator Norris referred to the European Commission. We are all amazed that the French Commissioner appears to have come unscathed to the Commission. I accept that in the French system a presidential pardon wipes out all wrongdoing, which is handy.

I have tried to get answers to Senator Norris’s questions. He should not think I am being tardy.

  Mr. Norris: I am quite sure.

[1278]   Ms O’Rourke: I tried but did not get satisfactory answers. I will try again today to get an answer on the Gulfstream jet and Shannon. It is Senator Norris’s belief that people who were kidnapped have been transported in the manner he outlined. He wants to have the matter clarified or warns of trouble to come.

Senator Dooley echoed the comments about the poor use of Garda time. He also raised the issue of the way pets are treated when they are given to children as presents; they are often disowned and thrown around the place when children tire of them after three days. Senator Bannon requested that local voices and input be provided for in the health system. I am sure the Senator will give great voice to his thoughts when the Health Bill 2004 comes before the House shortly.

Senator Mansergh stated that no one over 70 years of age should be sent to prison. He welcomed the increases in the overseas development aid budget of €50 million to €60 million. These are generous sums of money and I will not enter into the debate on personal grounds. Nonetheless, people have every right to voice their disagreement on the general issue. Senator Henry referred to an institution in Galway and the fragile X syndrome, which I found very mysterious and could not understand. The Senator requested a debate on genetic diseases and how we are addressing the issue in Ireland.

Senator Kitt referred to the issue of official status for the Irish language in the EU. In that context, this House agreed a motion to support that recognition and it looks as though it will happen. Senator Feighan requested a debate on drugs and violence. I thank Senator Brennan who congratulated Senator Mansergh on his nomination to the Council of State, on which I served once during former President Mary Robinson’s tenure.

  Mr. Ryan: The Senator is obviously more popular with the Labour Party than with Fianna Fáil.

  Ms O’Rourke: One would not be appointed twice to a job like that. Senator Mansergh will do us all proud. Senator Quinn referred to the reduction in the numbers of tourists visiting Ireland. He welcomed the fact that a national conference centre is now mooted for 2008 and requested that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism come before the House to discuss the matter. Senator Browne requested publicly-funded New Year’s Eve fireworks. A young fellow like the Senator should have more to do on New Year’s Eve than go to a publicly-funded fireworks party.

  Mr. Browne: I have plenty to do on New Year’s Eve, it is New Year’s Day that is the problem.

  Mr. B. Hayes: It depends on whom one brings to the fireworks.

[1279]   Mr. Browne: It happens in Melbourne.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Ross referred to Aer Lingus, about which Senator Minihan also contacted me, and we hope to have to a debate on it soon. This week’s business had already been arranged when the office was contacted by Senator Minihan but we hope to have such a debate next week. The Goldman Sachs report is on the website.

Senators asked about the arrangements for the budget debate, which we were discussing earlier outside the House. According to tradition, we always hold the debate on the evening of the budget. We are in the middle of discussions with the party leaders to see if we can use Private Members’ time to hold the debate at 5 p.m. The House will not sit that afternoon because Senators will be in the Lower House to listen to and observe the fireworks there.

  Mr. Norris: They are definitely publicly-funded.

  Ms O’Rourke: Yes.

  Mr. Dardis: They are also indoors.

[1280]   Ms O’Rourke: We hope to have the debate then and the office will contact Senators in that regard.

Senator McHugh wanted to know why car parks at the Giant’s Causeway are full in February, while they are empty in Donegal in July.

There is an all-Ireland tourism body, Tourism Ireland Limited. I accept the Senator is concerned; he has often raised the issue of tourism in the House.

Senator Hayes asked about forthcoming Bills and when they are due to come before the House. We are drawing up a schedule for Members. It is only fair that spokespersons should get sufficient notice of Bills so they can prepare and make comprehensive speeches on them in the House. We hope to have that schedule for the party leaders this afternoon.

  An Cathaoirleach: Senator Ryan has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: “That statements on the Government’s reneging on its pledge to meet the United Nations target for overseas aid by 2007 be taken before No. 1.” Is the amendment being pressed?

  Mr. Ryan: Yes.

Amendment put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 30.

    Bannon, James.

    Browne, Fergal.

    Burke, Paddy.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Cummins, Maurice.

    Feighan, Frank.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Hayes, Brian.

    Henry, Mary.

    McHugh, Joe.

    Norris, David.

    O’Meara, Kathleen.

    O’Toole, Joe.

    Phelan, John.

    Quinn, Feargal.

    Ross, Shane.

    Ryan, Brendan.

Níl

    Bohan, Eddie.

    Brady, Cyprian.

    Brennan, Michael.

    Callanan, Peter.

    Cox, Margaret.

    Daly, Brendan.

    Dardis, John.

    Dooley, Timmy.

    Feeney, Geraldine.

    Fitzgerald, Liam.

    Glynn, Camillus.

    Hanafin, John.

    Kenneally, Brendan.

    Kett, Tony.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Leyden, Terry.

    Lydon, Donal J.

    MacSharry, Marc.

    Mansergh, Martin.

    Minihan, John.

    Mooney, Paschal C.

    Moylan, Pat.

    Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

    O’Brien, Francis.

    O’Rourke, Mary.

    Ormonde, Ann.

    Phelan, Kieran.

    Scanlon, Eamon.

    Walsh, Kate.

    White, Mary M.

Tellers: Tá, Senators O’Meara and Ryan; Níl, Senators Minihan and Moylan.

Amendment declared lost.

Question, “That the Order of Business be agreed to”, put and declared carried.