Seanad Éireann - Volume 179 - 10 February, 2005

Order of Business.

  Ms O’Rourke: The Order of Business is No. 1, a procedural motion agreed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges regarding the printing of Bills to facilitate the Opposition or any party — it allows for three Seanad Bills to be presented by any group within the Seanad as currently it is only possible for one Seanad Bill to be presented by a group — to be taken without debate; and No. 2, Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 — Report and Final Stages, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 1.30 p.m.

  Mr. U. Burke: We read in the newspapers today of the success of the Garda in targeting criminals in parts of Dublin, for example, in flashpoints like Finglas and Blanchardstown. The Garda success can be attributed to the additional manpower put in place. Some 300 suspects have been arrested and gangs that were operating [554] against ATMs in Dublin and throughout the country and that were importing mock arms from the US have been broken up. That news is very welcome.

The downside, however, is that this report is a clear indication to the Government of the inadequacy of Garda numbers. Where extra gardaí are provided, they can achieve tremendous success. Another downside is, as has happened in the past, that when criminals are marginalised in Dublin, they decide to go to the country because they are well aware of the inadequacy of Garda numbers in certain urban and rural areas. I fear that Garda numbers are inadequate to combat the hordes of criminals that will drift to the country to continue their crime cycle. Operation Crossover Two, as it is known, is targeting criminals in those areas in Dublin. It has been a tremendous success and the gardaí involved are to be commended on their success.

Will the Leader request the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to immediately put in place adequate Garda numbers to tackle the increase in headline crime, especially in the counties surrounding Dublin? Headline crime in Meath has increased by 21%. There has been a corresponding increase in crime as the population in counties Meath and Kildare has increased. Will the Leader ask the Minister to increase in a focused way the number of gardaí on the beat in those areas?

In recent months many Senators have called for a debate on the BMW region. There is a clear deficit in Government policy in this area. A total of €640 million was unspent in this region in the past year. This clearly shows a lack of Government effort and concentration on the development of a proper regional policy.

When the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, was in the Department of Transport he indicated that €300 million would be made available for the provision of a rail link between Sligo and Limerick. At the same time, €3 billion was allocated for the provision of rail and infrastructure in the eastern part of the country. There is inadequate provision for roads, water and sewerage schemes in the west of Ireland. Given the infrastructural deficit in the BMW region, it is galling that the Government would leave €640 million unspent. Will the Leader ensure the Minister with responsibility for this area comes to the House to debate the reasons behind this apparent lack of policy in order that we can bring about an improvement in infrastructure in the western region?

  Mr. O’Toole: When the Leas-Chathaoirleach took the Chair this morning, I thought that in breach of long-established tradition he nodded to the Government benches before he nodded to the Opposition benches.

  Mr. Coghlan: He also did it yesterday and the day before.

[555]   Mr. O’Toole: Will the Leas-Chathaoirleach indicate if there is any particular significance in that?

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Leader of the House was looking at me.

  Mr. O’Toole: Seeing as the matter was first raised in this House, we should note the copious apology from Kevin Myers in today’s edition of The Irish Times. The matter is dealt with now. It is over and we should accept the apology in the spirit in which it was offered.

I am sure both Mr. Ed. Walsh and Mr. Kevin Myers would be very pleased to see from this morning’s news that two high-profile single parents on the other island have done their best to reduce the number of single parents. We should add our congratulations to the decision of Camilla Parker Bowles and the Prince of Wales to tie the knot——

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear. Absolutely.

  Mr. O’Toole: ——thus bringing two single-parent families together. I am sure we will wish them well.

  Ms Feeney: Is Senator O’Toole invited?

  Mr. O’Toole: I am sure the House would like to bring that matter to the attention of Mr. Ed. Walsh and Mr. Kevin Myers.

  Mr. Mooney: Is Senator O’Toole going to the wedding?

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator O’Toole should be allowed to speak without interruption.

  Mr. O’Toole: I thought there might be some appreciation of the importance of that particular event from the——

  Mr. Mooney: He should bring us back some cake.

  Mr. O’Toole: ——republican party benches, those who at one stage wanted us to rejoin the Commonwealth.

  Mr. Mooney: Is Senator O’Toole getting an MBE?

  Mr. O’Toole: The question was raised yesterday with the Leader about the importance of having another transport debate. I am sure she will confirm that prior to Christmas we decided to have two debates on transport; one on transport in the Dublin area, which we had and the other on transport issues elsewhere in the country. We should have that as soon as possible.

A report was carried out on the Dunboyne rail link, which most of us believe should be the Navan rail link. We should make clear our position on that issue. We also await a report on the [556] western rail corridor. This ties in with the point made by Senator Burke on the BMW region. It is an important issue. The Shannon rail link also needs to be debated.

Senator Morrissey raised the important issue yesterday of an outer ring road for Dublin, following on from the Taoiseach’s reference to such a proposal. This would be of great importance for transport to and from the city and the matter should be discussed. We have a good opportunity to discuss these projects now before they move on and wrong decisions are taken, for example, on the western rail corridor, ending the train line at Dunboyne or in regard to an outer ring road around Dublin. These are crucial issues on which there is a significant degree of consensus on both sides of the House. I ask that we would deal with this promptly.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator O’Toole appears to be on a nationwide tour.

  Mr. Ryan: The more I watch the peculiarities of the British royal family the happier I am that we are an independent republic.

  Mr. O’Toole: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Ryan: At least we can change——

  Mr. Norris: Rubbish. That is absolute rubbish. The Senator should take the beam out of his own eye.

  Mr. Ryan: The college of the most holy and undivided trinity can always——

  Mr. Norris: That has nothing to do with it. Senator Ryan is obsessed. He ought to give it up. He has an inferiority complex.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Ryan should be allowed to speak without interruption.

  Mr. Ryan: ——be expected to respond in defence of the old order.

  Mr. O’Toole: Trinity was established by the same house.

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear, absolutely, and quite right too.

  Mr. Ryan: The party opposite me made its own wonderful gesture towards reconciliation between the traditions when a former Senator moved from Fianna Fáil, the republican party, to take the whip of the Ulster Unionist Party in the House of Lords. It was a fine gesture of reconciliation.

  Mr. Dardis: If the former Senator, Deputy Cassidy, were here, he would remind Senator Ryan of his origins.

[557]   An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Ryan should be allowed to speak without interruption.

  Mr. Ryan: No doubt Senator Dardis could also do so if he wanted. I would not mention that Deputy if I were sitting where Senator Dardis is sitting.

  Ms O’Rourke: I will see him outside afterwards.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Allow Senator Ryan to speak without interruption.

  Mr. Ryan: This morning on the radio the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment spoke about labour inspectors who are supposed to enforce the rights of migrant workers. After much humming and hawing he conceded that they only carry out inspections after a complaint has been made. Let us remember about whom we are speaking. We speak about people who are here on temporary work visas in the gift of their employers. A person can be let go and sent home if his or her employer is unhappy.

These people do not speak English and in many cases do not speak any European language that somebody in their vicinity might speak. They often live in isolation. It is left to them to make a complaint about being badly treated before the industrial inspectorate takes action. This hardly suggests a great enthusiasm for protecting the rights of these people. It suggests a certain level of indifference. A member of SIPTU made the point on a few occasions that more people are employed to look after dog licences than after the rights of migrant workers. We will create enormous problems for the future if we do not protect the rights of migrant workers from the beginning.

Some of these problems extend to migrant workers who come from other EU countries. Due to changes in social welfare legislation, if they are not here for a reasonable period of time their employer can offer them the option of leaving their job for a life of destitution, as they would not be entitled to anything, or staying in the job and putting up with abuse. These people will be abused if we do not have a vigorous industrial inspectorate.

In the context of abuse, I refer to a report this morning about a very well known hotel, one which claims international prestige, that is partly owned by a family which also has a great interest in the media here. The Labour Court has recommended pay increases of between 15% and 20% which will give a receptionist €350 per week after the increase and give somebody working in the kitchen €337 per week. This is a non-union hotel where the Labour Court decision, as of now, has not been accepted. The case may have to go to the Circuit Court. The issue of the rights of ordinary semi-skilled and poorly-skilled workers is not just one about migrant workers, rather it is about attitudes in Ireland. When a hotel, which can charge up to €1,000 per night for a suite, [558] objects to paying its receptionist €350 per week, a fundamental moral question must be asked, particularly when those involved own media organs which give us lectures about right and wrong.

  Mr. Dardis: It regularly appears to be the case that when this House debates media issues, the media’s interest in the Seanad expands exponentially.

  Mr. Ryan: Absolutely.

  Mr. Dardis: One need only mention a newspaper, RTE or any other organ of the media for it to receive widespread interest and coverage. Nevertheless, it is important we acknowledge the fact that The Irish Times in its lead article and in Kevin Myers’s “Irishman’s Diary” column gave a comprehensive apology for the use of a word in that column. However, Kevin Myers confirms his detachment from reality when he states in the course of his column: “I deliberately used the word “bastard” because I genuinely feel that the word has no stigma attached to it.” That is a cogent confirmation of Mr. Myers’s detachment from reality. The final word on the matter might be best left to a correspondent to the letters page in The Irish Times who suggests that when Mr. Myers was looking for a word to describe the offspring of unmarried mothers he could have used the word “children”.

I commend the national pensions reserve fund commission on securing a 9.3% return on the fund in 2004. Any fund manager or asset manager in any of the large brokerage houses in this country would look enviously at that figure. It is a very good performance by the fund which brings its value to almost €12 billion.

  Mr. Ryan: One cannot beat State enterprise.

  Mr. O’Toole: The Irish stock market was up 26% last year. In that context, 9% is not much of a return——

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Dardis without interruption.

  Mr. O’Toole: —— especially considering that we are paying these guys big money.

  Mr. Dardis: The fund might be very wise in one year to have all its assets in Irish equities but it would not be a very wise course of action on a long-term basis; it is wise to have a basket of investments. By the standards of the industry, the return is a good one.

  Mr. O’Toole: That is as much a comment on the industry and how poor the returns are.

  Mr. Dardis: That the fund has now grown to €12 billion confirms the wisdom of the then Minister for Finance, former Deputy McCreevy, when he introduced it. It is confirmed by the statement [559] that five people are now working for every one pensioner, which ratio will have fallen to two to one by the middle of the century. Many people who are now working will be very grateful for the fact that the Minister for Finance at the time introduced the fund because money will be available to meet those pension needs. In that context, I request a debate on pensions in general and how people need to provide for their needs, rather than one specifically about the fund.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Several Senators have indicated so I ask that they be brief as the group leaders have taken up a considerable amount of time.

  Ms Terry: I support the comments made by Senator Ulick Burke in regard to the success of the gardaí in west Dublin in tracking down the number of criminals in the area and confiscating a huge number of illegal weapons held by them, evidence of which we saw on our television screens last night. I received figures from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform this morning which demonstrate that in Dublin 15 last year, some 79 crimes were committed using firearms. This high number of incidents represents an increase of more than 20 on the previous year and indicates we have a major problem. There have been several deaths as a result of violent and criminal activity. I welcome that the number of gardaí in the area has been increased, although we need more there and elsewhere. We know that the provision of additional gardaí and resources results in a reduction in crime. If the gardaí are given all the help and resources they need, we will see the benefits. I welcome the progress made in west Dublin.

  Mr. Glynn: Yesterday and last week I raised the question of pedestrians and joggers wearing reflective vests in the context of safety on the roads. In order for people to use the roads safely, particularly cyclists, pedestrians or joggers, they must be seen. There is growing evidence to suggest that people do not consider motorists and, when an accident occurs, they are very often demonised — sometimes rightly but sometimes wrongly. In that context, will the Leader invite the Minister for Transport to come before the House for a debate on road safety so that my point and those of others can be made?

There is growing evidence to suggest that our inland waterways, rivers, lakes and canals are being denuded of fish by anglers. I do not refer to the traditional game anglers or course anglers because in many cases, even in competition, game anglers will return fish — even salmon — to the water. However, in other cases that is not happening, especially in our canals and rivers. Fishermen are taking everything out and not putting anything back in. Will the Leader and our spokesperson, Senator Kenneally, invite the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources [560] to come before the House to debate the matter and take action on it?

  Mr. Quinn: Our economy has been doing very well in recent years and one of the reasons given for the investment from abroad is that Ireland is one of the English-speaking nations in the European Community. However, figures published today suggest we have a long way to go and cannot become complacent because Ireland is the only country in Europe which does not teach a foreign language at primary school level. The figures also suggest that Ireland is one of two countries, with Scotland, which does not provide for a compulsory foreign language at second level. The Minister for Education and Science should come before the House and tell us if she has plans to do something about these two particular areas because the complacency which could develop about our economy could be damaging.

Senator Ulick Burke referred to today’s crime figures. The Oireachtas passed legislation on taxis in 2003 and I am glad that the National Taxi Advisory Council now has a taxi regulator who is developing a charter for taxis. However, we have not yet established a ban on criminals obtaining a taxi licence. If a charter for the control of taxis is imminent, we should ask the taxi regulator to move immediately on that particular aspect of it. If criminals are still able to get taxi licences, even though we passed the legislation two years ago, we should not delay trying to achieve that ban.

  Mr. Callanan: Yesterday morning, many Senators spoke in anticipation of the apology to be offered by the British Prime Minister to the concerned families. I acknowledge the fact that he offered that apology and express appreciation for it. It is the first of many steps the British Prime Minister could take in regard to Ireland. For example, he could agree to participation in a proper public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings to bring closure to those unfortunate families. This would be very welcome.

I support Senator Glynn’s request for a debate on road safety, particularly in regard to road users other than motorists such as pedestrians, cyclists and joggers. If they were properly clad, it would help motorists who are blamed for everything.

11 o’clock

  Mr. Coghlan: I support the requests by Senators Ulick Burke and Terry in regard to the Garda. As we know, it is a very fine force which has shown what it is capable of in dealing with crime once it is let at it properly. Given the way some segments of society have become reckless, criminal and lawless, the hands of the Garda cannot be tied. The force must be better resourced and properly funded. As Senators Ulick Burke and Terry pointed out, a more focussed approach can bring better results in dealing with criminality.

[561] I also support Senator Glynn’s comments on reflective garments for other road users so that more lives can be saved. Will the Leader arrange a debate on this issue? As we are in the Chinese year of the rooster, will the Leader give the House an update on what is happening with the Great Southern Hotels Group?

  Mr. Dardis: We know the eggs are being stamped.

  Ms O’Rourke: Is Senator Coghlan the rooster or am I?

  Labhrás Ó Murchú: I support Senator Glynn’s calls regarding road safety in so far as it applies to other road users such as pedestrians and joggers. Those who travel on rural roads at night know well the grave dangers involved. We have all had near misses involving pedestrians. Those dangers need to be highlighted and people must be encouraged to wear clothing that will make them conspicuous to other road users. Senator Glynn often raises this issue on the Order of Business. Can it be broadened into a main debate because of all the horrific accidents involving pedestrians? By having such a debate, a list of suggestions could be drawn up to be put forward for wider public debate.

  Mr. Norris: I support Senator Callanan’s comments on yesterday’s apology by Prime Minister Blair. Apologies are usually facile and redundant. I agree that it should be followed up with some action, particularly in regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The appropriate papers should be made available and individuals made responsible and accountable. It is dreadful to imagine that agents of governments could have colluded in the massacre of innocent citizens. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the rights and lives of its citizens. Every facility should be made available to those inquiring into this dreadful situation. I welcome the Taoiseach’s indication yesterday that he would facilitate the relatives of the Omagh victims who are seeking papers in this State. I hope it will be done speedily.

The matter of Prince Charles’s engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles was raised with some frivolity. While I am not against frivolity, I believe any decent person would wish these people every happiness.

  Mr. O’Toole: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Norris: There was a certain sneering tone in some of the contributions. I wonder if Members realise how that may be regarded in the sister isle, if they ever heard of it, or in the North of Ireland. We are always cosying up to the North of Ireland, saying how nice we want to be to the Unionists. Let us really show it then.

Yesterday, the House debated the tabloidisation of news and Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are real victims of it. We should [562] be supporting them against people like Rupert Murdoch and The Sun. There were the “Camillagate” tapes, where a newspaper listened into a private conversation between them and published it. Those responsible should have been sent to jail. At the time, Camilla Parker Bowles behaved with great dignity and graciousness by never responding. She is a remarkable woman. Prince Charles, an intelligent and decent man, is a friend of this country. When he visited Ireland, he was made welcome. He visited here despite the fact that his great uncle was blown to smithereens by the armed wing of a political party that sits in the Lower House. Most of its activists, like their leaders are, unlike Prince Charles, descendants of the Cromwellian planters which one can see from looking at their names. Prince Charles, on the other hand, is a direct descendant of Hugh O’Neill and Brian Ború.

Turning to Comrade Ryan——

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: He should be referred to as Senator Ryan.

  Mr. Norris: ——I always like to be helpful in cases of distress and, through the Chair, I wish to address his inferiority complex. Trinity College, Dublin, is open to mature students. I expect he might qualify and get the tie after four years.

  Mr. Dardis: Who were the antecedents of the Norrises?

  Dr. Mansergh: Mallow Castle.

When suggestions are made in the House that require considerable Government investment, Members should be conscious of existing assets. I welcome the completion of the transport debate and the rail links mentioned such as Dunboyne and Shannon. However, it is forgotten that there is already a railway line to Navan from Dublin. When the Spencer Dock rail station is opened, the people of Navan should demand a share in the line capacity into Dublin, rather than waiting 15 years for a line to be re-opened to Navan. This can be done quickly. Members should recall the example of the late Brian Lenihan and Albert Reynolds re-opening the Maynooth line.

When visiting County Kerry last week, I noted with some distress that the road signs were removed from a place that is one of our national treasures.

  Mr. Coghlan: We are so glad the Senator enjoyed himself there, despite the absence of some of the signs.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Mansergh without interruption.

  Dr. Mansergh: I thought Senator Coghlan would have raised the matter as to who could be making a profit from the road signs in County Kerry. It is a matter of equal distress to me that the sign on the Urlingford side of the County Tipperary border proclaiming “The Premier [563] County — Home of Hurling”, has also disappeared.

  Mr. J. Phelan: About time too.

  Dr. Mansergh: It would be good if the relevant Minister was invited to the House to discuss the matter.

  Mr. Cummins: I join my colleagues in complimenting the Garda on its work in preventing and combatting crime in west Dublin. It affirms that spin and promises are no substitute for extra resources. I hope they will now be extended to other cities and towns.

Recently, the Stewart report on telephone usage highlighted the dangers to children of using mobile telephones. An Irish doctors’ group has also expressed its concerns. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to issue guidelines on mobile telephony usage in the near future?

  Mr. MacSharry: I join Senator Ulick Burke in calling for a debate on the BMW region. The underspend of €600 million is a disgrace, particularly when there are still many infrastructural deficiencies in the region. In line with this, it would be appropriate to have a debate on the progress of the national spatial strategy. To make it a success, legislation must be introduced to get all State and semi-State arms to respect the aspirations of the strategy as this has not been the case in the past. Recently, when Bord Gáis was before an Oireachtas committee, it proudly showed a map of the country with no Bord Gáis infrastructure and no plans to put it in the BMW region, almost like a gaping wound in the north west. Like the great British colonialists of old, it has no difficulty in stealing the west’s resources from the Corrib gasfield and bringing them back to the motherland in Cork.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Ryan: That is not true. The Senator should listen carefully.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator MacSharry without interruption.

  Mr. MacSharry: Yesterday, people picketed the gates of Leinster House seeking radiotherapy services for the south east. While I agree the region should have such a service, it is worth noting that there no plans for such a service north of the Dublin-Galway line. Debates on the BMW region and the national spatial strategy would be worthwhile as we plan for the future.

  Mr. Feighan: Last night, I watched with great interest a television report on the massive Garda operation, and its unprecedented success, against organised crime. While I am delighted with such [564] an outcome, I must ask how this criminal activity evolved. How did the Garda and the authorities allow organised criminals, thugs and gangsters in west Dublin to become established? It happened because the Garda did not have the resources to deal with the symptoms of organised criminal activity. Drugs and the smuggling of counterfeit goods are fuelling the activities of these organised gangsters.

Recently, a tanker with false numberplates, bearing the Shell logo and carrying customs non-approved fuel, was involved in a road accident. The only reason it was caught was that the poor driver crashed it. What is happening in this country?

I have complained all along that the resources are not present in the north west to tackle illegal dealing in drugs. The Customs and Excise boat in that area has now been sold and because of downsizing and reducing costs, the five people involved in the work will now be paid for doing nothing. Anyone who would like to bring drugs into this country is therefore advised to bring them in by the north west and then by rail to Dublin.

  Mr. Dooley: I join Senators O’Toole and Ulick Burke in calling for a second debate on transport outside Dublin in particular. It is critically important in light of the Government policy on balanced regional development that we have a full discussion in this House on all aspects of transportation infrastructure outside the capital. Great deficiencies exist, particularly on the western rail corridor and down to County Clare where the problems affect us with regard to the Shannon rail link. That has been proposed for some time and is vital for the future development of Shannon Airport together with the road infrastructure right across the west of Ireland, in terms of creating a balance with Dublin. The only way to deal with the growing congestion in Dublin city is to create somewhere else for people to live and work.

  Mr. Ryan: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Dooley: The only way to address that at this stage is through a debate in this House.

Regarding the removal of signage in counties Tipperary in Kerry, as noted by Senator Mansergh, we have a similar problem in County Clare where the sign at the Spancel Hill cross is regularly removed by tourists. I would like to see proposals for more permanent signage to prevent this sort of tourism vandalism.

  Mr. Ryan: The signs should all be electrified.

  Mr. Hanafin: I too support the call for a debate on transport, and call for a Luas connection from Abbey Street to St. Stephen’s Green. I am also conscious that our third city, Belfast, does not have a direct rail link to Cork, our second city. That is a glaring anomaly. I also welcome devel[565] opments such as the opening of the Midleton line and the proposed Shannon link. Development also follows the rail link. I note that in the Cork development plan, the new developments will take place along the rail line. The place chosen was Monard, which is north of Cork, because the rail line was already there. Would it make sense if we are looking at a spatial plan, which we are, and the projected population increase in this country over the next few years, to put the rail line in places which need to be developed?

  Ms O’Rourke: I wonder if Senators noted that we are all in a skitty mood today? The Leas-Chathaoirleach encouraged this mood initially.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Thank you.

  Ms O’Rourke: I do not mean to be disrespectful.

The Acting Leader of the Opposition, Senator Ulick Burke, graciously acknowledged the success of the Garda in west Dublin and its strategy of targeting areas and in bringing in extra manpower. That strategy has generally worked, which is gratifying. The Senator also noted that this showed up the inadequacy of Garda numbers in other areas of the country and he expressed the wish that the targeting strategy would continue outside Dublin, especially into Meath and Kildare.

Along with other Members, Senator Ulick Burke also asked for a debate on the BMW region. Senator Bannon has also frequently raised that issue. We will endeavour to have that debate. Senator O’Toole acknowledged the apology from Kevin Myers. I agree that the apology was most contrite, as was the editorial in The Irish Times today, and I hope that is the end of the matter. Senator O’Toole also referred to Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. I think the reason for our skittiness today is that we are coming up to St. Valentine’s Day.

As the last transport debate focused on Dublin, Senator O’Toole asked for the next such debate to focus on areas outside the city. Senator Ryan referred to the labour inspectorate and migrant workers. I had occasion to check on a certain matter and could not understand that a worker must make whatever complaint he or she has in person and in writing. The worker first has to find out all about the inspectorate and where it is. A very good report on the migrant situation in Westmeath was launched last week which made a similar point, namely, that migrants should have help in making their cases and appeals. Senator Ryan mentioned a hotel but I do not know where it is.

  Mr. Ryan: I will tell the Leader later.

  Ms O’Rourke: The staff in that hotel are not unionised and while small increases in pay are warranted for them it seems to be difficult to get them.

[566] Senator Dardis said in a wry voice that the level of interest in the Seanad rises substantially when we talk of the media. I suppose people like to hear about themselves. Senator Dardis also noted how well the national pensions reserve fund has performed. He pointed out that it was the previous Minister for Finance who introduced that fund.

Echoing what Senator Ulick Burke said, Senator Terry praised the Garda activity in west Dublin. Senator Glynn suggested that joggers and pedestrians should wear reflective vests and called for a road safety debate. He also referred to the inland waterways, saying that fishermen are not returning the fish they take from those waters. There is no law in that area, apart from the regulation that pike under a certain size must be put back in the water.

  Mr. Dooley: The rod licence.

  Ms O’Rourke: This has nothing to do with the rod licence. It has to do with the greed or otherwise of the fishermen. We should have a debate on that issue.

Senator Quinn said that foreign languages are not being taught in primary schools but I have come across a few where they are teaching either French or German in fifth or sixth class and doing so very well. No doubt there is a lack of resources involved in most primary schools but in Europe we are possibly the only country in which foreign languages are not taught on a structured basis in senior grades in primary schools.

Senator Quinn also said rightly that the taxi regulator should now insist that criminals be refused taxi licences. Senator Callanan praised Tony Blair for his generous apology to the Conlon and Maguire families. He also raised the issue of the Barron report which should also be acknowledged.

Senator Coghlan supported Senator Ulick Burke and Senator Glynn regarding reflective vests. Senator Ó Murchú called for a road safety debate. Senator Norris raised the matter of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and said he was glad the Taoiseach would facilitate the relatives of those who died in the Omagh bombing. Senator Norris stood up strongly for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. I am glad to hear they are going to tie the knot. St. Valentine’s Day is approaching so that is useful.

  Mr. Ryan: That is the second time the Leader has mentioned St. Valentine’s Day.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Mansergh called for a railway line to Navan and said he would welcome a transport debate. Regarding the theft of road signs I cannot understand why nobody is looking for Westmeath road signs.

  Mr. Ryan: That is a shame. They are all gone.

  Ms O’Rourke: I have heard no reports of thefts. Senator Mansergh is worried about disap[567] pearing road signs in Tipperary. Senator Cummins referred to the Garda activity in west Dublin and asked that the strategy be extended. He also called for guidelines for young people under the age of 12 using mobile phones.

Senator MacSharry made a passionate case on behalf of the BMW region and also spoke of the national spatial strategy. Next week’s agenda is almost full but the following week we will try to arrange that debate. Senator Feighan asked how organised crime developed in the north west and referred to the loss of the Customs and Excise boat. Senator Dooley called for a transport debate to focus on areas outside Dublin as well as for a Shannon rail link. Sign posts are disappearing in his area too. It is very significant. Senator Hanafin also called for a debate on transport. He spoke of the opening of the Midleton line and the need for a direct rail link from Cork to Belfast. It is clear there is a need for a debate on transport and on other matters. I hope the sign post thieves do not head for Mayo.

Order of Business agreed to.