Seanad Éireann - Volume 186 - 14 February, 2007

Order of Business.

  Ms O’Rourke: The Order of Business is No. 1, Citizens Information Bill 2006 — Committee Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, and to conclude no later than 12.45 p.m., with a short sos from 12.45 p.m. to 1 p.m., after which Report and Final Stages will be taken to conclude no later than 1.30 p.m.; No. 2, Consumer Protection Bill 2007 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 2.15 p.m. until 5 p.m., and to resume again at 8.30 p.m. until 10 p.m.; No. 3, Statute Law Revision Bill 2007 — Committee Stage, to be taken on the conclusion of Private Members’ business at approximately 7.15 p.m. until 8.30 p.m.; and No. 26, motion 37, to be taken between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. There will be a sos from 1.30 p.m to 2.15 p.m.

  Mr. B. Hayes: On this day 26 years ago one of the worst disasters struck our country. I refer to the Stardust disaster when 48 young people lost their lives and more than 200 people were injured. As the Leader of the House will be aware, the Government has been coming under pressure from the families of the victims for quite some time to bring all of these matters to a conclusion in respect of new evidence that has been brought to public attention in recent years about the unsafe findings of the original tribunal of investigation in 1982 by Mr. Justice Ronan Keane as he was then known. I ask the Leader of the House to provide time for statements on this matter.

The Taoiseach has been very helpful in trying to bring all of these issues to a conclusion and he has stated publicly that he awaits to see the assessment made by independent counsel before he makes a decision on a further inquiry. That is a fair position to take, but it need not be another tribunal of investigation. A commission of investigation which would assess the new forensic information that has come to light in recent years could be very beneficial in trying to bring closure to all of these matters for the families involved.

We owe it to the families involved because the State has dealt with them appallingly over the past 26 years, with cases where three unidentified persons were in one unmarked grave and the [75] wrong people were in another grave. We really have an obligation to get this right. On a co-operative basis we can get this right by working together and agreeing a final inquiry which will bring closure. I would encourage the Leader, if at all possible, to provide time for such a debate.

On a second issue, I heard this morning the comments made by the eminent Mr. Michael O’Higgins SC on the latest raft of measures announced by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. The Tánaiste now wants to do over the next ten weeks what he has singularly failed to do over the past ten years.

In the light of the Tánaiste’s remarks yesterday giving us minions beneath him advice about cheap publicity in the run-up to the election, could I advise him that we be given less of the cheap publicity, less of the attempt to rescue his party from the percentage support for which it is on the margin of error at present——

  Dr. Mansergh: Often they have made the mistake of writing him off.

  Mr. B. Hayes: ——and more substance in terms of proposals that he has failed to bring about over the past ten years? One must be mindful of the pot calling the kettle black when that particular gentleman is lecturing us about cheap publicity.

  Mr. O’Toole: I propose a minor amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 16 be taken before No. 1. I ask that we have a debate on the issues raised by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. As the Leader will recall, I have already asked twice in the past two months for a debate on the constitutionality of mandatory sentencing. I have pointed out that the only mandatory sentence which is always applied by the court is the life sentence for murder. Ironically and perhaps cynically, it is also the only life sentence with which we interfere, each time by the involvement of the Minister and the political system, to change it to a term of years so that the life sentence does not mean for life.

There is an interesting case at present where a person is seeking to finish his life sentence abroad. If he stays here, he will probably finish his sentence in approximately ten or 12 years. If he goes abroad to the country of his choice, he must spend 25 years in prison. It gives some idea of how mandatory sentencing is not an easy issue, and there are questions such as bail and practical issues which we need to examine.

I spoke to a member of the Garda last night and asked how he felt about the seven days’ detention. His answer was a simple one which would never have occurred to me. He stated that I would want to see where he and his colleagues work, that the idea of keeping people for seven days in the cells in their police stations was out of the question and that one could not do it. I am [76] also informed that such authority has existed since the mid-1990s. I heard the same senior counsel as Senator Brian Hayes make that point.

I do not know whether these points are true. I certainly do not know whether I am listening to political or legal argument. Neither do I know whether there are constitutional and practical issues. I certainly would prefer to have a debate on these issues before we look at the legislation. I am uncomfortable with the idea of rushing the Bill. I do not see that it needs to be done in a month.

I am all in favour of discussing the important issues raised by the Tánaiste. The need to deal with gangland crime is crucial. If more authority and legal leverage needs to be given, then we should be prepared to give it, but we need to be certain about what we are doing as we go along.

  Mr. Ryan: The transformation of a dying wasp into a threat to the security of the State is perhaps one of the most remarkable transformations. The Tánaiste told us less than two years ago that the gangland killings were the last sting of a dying wasp. They have now been transformed into a threat to the security of the State and to the Irish way of life that we have all grown to love.

I agree with Senator O’Toole. The idea that profoundly important criminal justice legislation and a major amendment to the Constitution to deal with children will be rushed through in the short time left is an offence to anybody’s idea of good democratic parliamentary accountability, but then I begin to suspect the last thing this Government wants is to be too accountable because it has been caught out so often at this stage.

There was an advertisement in yesterday’s newspapers from the Health Service Executive stating that it has now commenced on a study to find out how many acute hospital beds the country needed. The Government is in power for ten years and it is approximately eight years since it announced we needed 3,000 more beds. I have a simple suggestion for the Government and the HSE, that is, they telephone either the Labour Party or the Fine Gael Party headquarters which will be able to tell them how many acute hospital beds the country needs. We know and the country knows. The only people who do not know are the members of the Government.

  Mr. Moylan: The Opposition parties did not know when they were in power.

  Mr. Ryan: When we were in power we finally sorted out the mess they created. We had higher growth and lower inflation on the only occasion there was a Labour Party Minister for Finance.

  Dr. Mansergh: What did they do for public services?

[77]   Mr. Ryan: The economy grew better, unemployment decreased more quickly and inflation was lower. On all three indices, this Government has made a mess of it.

  Ms White: A total of £1.60 for old people.

  Mr. B. Hayes: They could afford gas then. That was the difference.

  Mr. Ryan: They led the country and they are not happy either. On a specific issue, there is much talk about the consultants’ contract and many people have numerous qualms about hospital consultants. Being married to one, I must be measured in what I say.

  Ms O’Rourke: He can make it up to her at night.

  Mr. Lydon: At night?

  Mr. Ryan: There is nothing incompatible between smoked salmon and socialism. It was James Larkin who said that the working class were entitled to bread and roses. I happen to believe strongly in the bread and roses version of socialism that James Larkin articulated, and I stand over it. The Members here who do not know about whom I am married to obviously do not participate because I have said it approximately 100 times.

  Ms O’Rourke: I am delighted Senator Ryan is married to a nice lady.

  An Cathaoirleach: I point out that many Senators are offering and there is not much time. Interruptions are a source of delay.

  Mr. Ryan: As I stated to the Cathaoirleach previously, I am not interrupting myself. In the proposals for the contract is a silencing clause which would require consultants not to criticise the services. That is the most appalling attempt to silence the people who have endeavoured most effectively to tell us what is wrong in accident and emergency departments, with neurological services and with psychiatric services. They want to silence them all. That is a profound wrong and should not be allowed.

Last year the Health and Safety Authority announced that it was starting a campaign on safety at work in public bodies. My understanding is that it has been told to back off. Perhaps the Leader can find out who told it to back off and when it was told to do so.

  Mr. Leyden: The Competition Authority should be commended on its recent case relating to the fixing of prices on Ford cars by the Irish Ford Dealers Association and a debate in this House on the work of the authority would be useful.

[78] As a customer of Ford for some 30 years I am disappointed the Irish Ford Dealers Association fixed the price of cars during that time. Consumers have generally felt aggrieved by the price of cars, especially regarding taxes paid on them. I do not think this issue applies to my area as I was very satisfied with the local Ford dealer.

  Ms O’Rourke: Did Senator Leyden use the Athlone dealer?

  Ms Feeney: Senator Leyden was so satisfied he changed to a Mercedes.

  Mr. Leyden: I feel that what applied to the Irish Ford Dealers Association may apply to all of the major dealerships in this country and I believe we should have a debate on car prices and the work of the Competition Authority, which should be commended on this exposé. Other car companies may now be fearful of the existence of a price fixing cartel among their dealerships. This issue should be debated and the Minister should address this House to outline the progress of the investigation into car prices in Ireland, which are prohibitive compared to the rest of Europe.

  Mr. Dardis: Is the Cathaoirleach putting the brakes on this discussion?

  Mr. Finucane: Almost ten years ago the Government promised a national cervical screening programme for cancer and the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, has promised this programme will be rolled out in 2008. Cervical cancer kills around 70 women every year with about 200 cases diagnosed each year and we are all aware of what has been recently highlighted regarding the wonder drug gardasil. If the Minister wishes to leave a hallmark on her ministerial portfolio she should examine this wonder drug, suggest to the Health Service Executive, that it be available on the medical card and ensure it becomes part of the community drug refund scheme. At a cost of €600 it could save innumerable lives.

I listened to the HSE at a meeting this morning that proved how unwieldy the new service structure is and I feel the Minister could do something tangible in this regard and emulate what is happening in many other countries where a vaccine injection programme exists in schools.

  Dr. Mansergh: International rankings are often used inside and outside this House to suggest that we are near the bottom of the heap on social policy. It is satisfying, therefore, that a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, report on child welfare ranks Ireland ninth out of 21 countries surveyed. This is especially satisfying as it is all over today’s British newspapers that they came bottom of the list across the water after ten years of New Labour government. I ask the Leader to convey a com[79] mendation to the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and to all of those who work in child agencies on a very creditable result. I recognise, of course, that much work still needs to be done on child poverty and other matters relating to children.

We must be critical of some of the suggestions made by international agencies and I dismiss out of hand the suggestion that the recognition in the tax system of the work done by women in their homes be eliminated.

  Mr. B. Hayes: It is called individualisation and it was introduced by Dr. Mansergh’s Government.

  Dr. Mansergh: I travel to this House on Dublin Bus and the DART and I appreciate public transport and do not wish to see it dismantled in the name of competition.

Finally, to move from public service transport to public service broadcasting, I warmly commend RTE on its fine programme on Charles Haughey and the arts yesterday.

  Ms O’Rourke: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Finucane: Does that commendation come despite the bad language?

  Mr. Quinn: I wish to speak on the same UNICEF report as Dr. Mansergh and am surprised he seems rather proud that Ireland came ninth of 21 developed nations. Would such statistics not cause him to call on the Government for action in this regard?

  Dr. Mansergh: I said there is more to be done.

  Mr. Quinn: Another measurement used in that report, referred to on British television, saw Ireland come last of 21 countries.

  Ms O’Rourke: Did that measurement refer to children?

  Mr. Quinn: Yes, it referred to standards of life for children in 21 developed nations. By one measurement we came ninth of 21, which is very disappointing.

  Dr. Mansergh: That was our overall position.

  Mr. Quinn: We came 21st out of 21 by another measurement. I mention this because addressing the matter is not necessarily in the Government’s hands and a large amount of responsibility rests with parents and depends upon the jobs they do. We should not automatically say everything should be in the Government’s hands.

I have a knowledge of the food business and interesting research in the United States shows that families that have a family meal at home have far lower levels of smoking and drug and [80] alcohol abuse among children while there is a positive link to school attendance and results. This is something we can mirror in Ireland. When this information came to light in the United states a campaign started, promoted by President Bush and others, encouraging families to have a family meal at home at least once a week. In regard to the rosary, it was said that the family that prays together stays together and it seems the family that eats together also stays together.

  Mr. Lydon: I am sure we all welcome the decision by North Korea to take steps towards ceasing its nuclear programme and we would welcome a similar measure in Iran. For this reason I ask, once again, for a debate on the Middle East at the earliest possible juncture.

  Ms Terry: I support Senator Finucane’s comments on making the gardasil drug available to every woman in the country. I also strongly support the comments of the cancer specialist who yesterday described the decision not to make the new vaccine against cervical cancer available to women on the medical card scheme as “ethically dubious and nonsensical on financial grounds”. These are strong words from a top cancer specialist that must be taken seriously. He went on to say the decision seemed to be based on cost. What cost do we put on women’s lives, particularly those with a history of cervical cancer in the family. If they were given this vaccine it would ensure they would not develop cancer.

11 o’clock

There is inequality in our health system when certain women get a particular drug because they can afford it and others are barred from getting it because of cost. The Well Woman Centre yesterday said, shockingly, that women in this bracket, who may have a family history or early signs of cervical cancer, are borrowing money to enable them to get this drug. Where is the equality in that? When we have wonderful medicines that will tackle cancer, or any illness, we should reach out and give them to those in need. We should at least ensure equality, that we are all treated the same with no woman barred from receiving treatment due to cost. I am sure the Leader will not agree that women should be barred from treatment on the basis of its cost. Every one of us, both men and women, should ensure we have full equality across the board, particularly in cancer treatment services.

  Ms White: On foot of my document “A New Approach to Ageing and Ageism”, I have been approached by American visitors to Ireland who, at 70 years of age, cannot hire a car of their choice. When they approach the car hire desk at the airport and request a particular brand of a particular size, they are told they are not eligible. Individuals over 75 cannot hire a car and therefore state they will not return to Ireland.

[81] Will the Government and Seanad take a leaf from US regulations to address this matter? Section 391 of Article 26 of the New York General Business Law states it shall be unlawful for any firm to refuse rental to anyone on the basis of age provided he or she has adequate insurance. Older Americans are now deciding they will not come to Ireland for their holidays because they cannot hire the car of their choice at 70 and cannot hire a car at 75. This is a very serious issue for people of Irish origin who want to continue to visit Ireland.

  Dr. Mansergh: The Senator is right.

  Dr. Henry: I second Senator O’Toole’s proposal that No. 16 be taken before No. 1.

I support Senator White’s remarks on the problems those aged 70 and over are experiencing hiring cars. This is occurring in other European countries also and it therefore may be necessary to take it up at European level.

  Ms White: Can I make another comment?

  An Cathaoirleach: No, the Senator cannot contribute again.

  Ms Feeney: I seek a debate on the new vaccine for cervical cancer, on which there are two schools of thought. One is that we should await the results of further tests and that a national screening programme should be pursued and the other is that the vaccine should be made available nationwide to every woman of a certain age.

I support Senators Terry and Finucane in saying it is very unfair at present that a woman in the higher income tax bracket can buy the vaccine for €600 and recoup 41% thereof while a woman with a medical card, who is generally in the lower income bracket, could not possibly afford such an outlay to buy the vaccine.

  Mr. Ryan: Hear, hear.

  Ms Feeney: I agree with Senator Finucane that there may be ways around this. Perhaps the Minister has not even thought about it. Perhaps the women in the lower income bracket could be included in the drugs refund scheme and thus be given something back.

An official from the HSE on “Morning Ireland” this morning stated that, after further investigations, the vaccine would be available nationally to all women. In the meantime, it is wrong to say to women on medical cards who are in the lower income bracket they cannot have it. We must consider allowing such women recoup the costs, either through income tax reliefs or the drugs refund scheme.

  Mr. Coonan: I always knew Senator Mansergh was a very privileged person.

  Dr. Mansergh: Dublin Bus——

[82]   An Cathaoirleach: Senator Coonan should speak on the Order of Business.

  Mr. Coonan: I did not realise one could get the DART from west Tipperary to the House.

  Dr. Mansergh: I happened to be in Dublin yesterday and am today.

  Mr. Coonan: I wonder whether he will use his influence to extend the DART to north Tipperary.

  An Cathaoirleach: That is not relevant. The Senator should speak on the Order of Business.

  Dr. Mansergh: I attend the Seanad on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and I hope Senator Coonan does also.

  Mr. Coonan: I ask the Leader for a debate on the sports capital grant, which is availed of by many communities providing facilities throughout the country, particularly swimming pools. I understand the grant, which amounts to approximately €3.8 million, is being reviewed but, given the increase in construction costs and the price of building materials, in addition to the ample funds available, it should be increased. Deputy Deenihan proposes to raise it to between €5.5 million and €6 million. The grant is providing an essential service to communities and I ask that it be increased to a minimum of €5 million.

  Ms O’Rourke: That will not be done — we are not going to buy election victory.

  Mr. Coonan: I am not worried about the Senator buying election victory but the Government should provide the necessary facilities.

  Mr. B. Hayes: The Government did a good job the last time.

  Mr. Ryan: Some 200,000 medical cards.

  Mr. Daly: Last year we had a number of debates on the necessity to deal with the needs of people with disabilities and passed legislation concerning children with special needs. Will the Leader arrange for the Minister for Health and Children to give us an overview of the progress of the legislation passed and indicate what steps have been taken to meet the needs of people with disabilities, especially children with special needs?

The Leader will be aware that a decision to strike has been taken by Aer Lingus staff. This would have devastating effects on and very serious consequences for the tourism industry, especially now as we face the start of the tourism season. Will the Leader arrange for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to indicate in the House the initiatives at Government level to deal with this matter?

[83]   Mr. McHugh: I echo the remarks of my colleague Senator Finucane. We had a meeting with HSE officials for one and a half hours this morning and, to say the least, we noted a lot of anger and frustration on the part of politicians across the political divide. One official acknowledged that the parliamentary questions facility for Deputies in the Dáil has collapsed. This is very serious in terms of accountability and democracy.

We need to think seriously about how we deal with accountability structures, not just within the HSE but right across the board, be it at local authority level or, for example, in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. For the whole month of January, 23 of the finest pelagic boats in the world were tied up in Killybegs while Scottish boats were entering our waters. The fishermen could not get their point of view across to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

We need to start governing in this country and control who makes decisions for the people. When I arrived at the meeting with the HSE officials this morning, I was accompanied by Senator Finucane from Limerick. I represent constituents right up to Malin Head. At the meeting we spoke about important issues concerning Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon and Galway and it is right that these were discussed. However, a structure that covers an area from Malin Head down to Nenagh and includes people from Limerick does not, cannot and will not work. We must start taking charge and review completely the dogmatic, dictatorial, unaccountable and unrepresentative system of the HSE. We must take charge and start governing, irrespective of who is in power after the next general election.

  Mr. B. Hayes: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Dooley: I reiterate the call for a debate on the State Airports Act, which related to the separation of responsibility for Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. The House will be aware of the difficulties encountered recently at Shannon Airport, where staff have effectively rejected the proposed business plan, as set out in the legislation as a requirement for separation. This is creating particular disquiet, not just among workers and management within the airport environs but in the wider tourism community. It is important the Minister should be brought before the House to discuss this with us as his predecessor did so in respect of the enactment of the legislation. We need to know what provisions the Government will put in place to ensure that this stand-off, in effect, will not affect the travelling public in the west and the potential for tourism.

On a related matter, I support what Senator White has said, particularly as regards Americans and tourists from around the world who visit Ireland, and especially the west. I attended the opening of the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre last week. When one sees the type of funding now [84] being put in place by the Government, with assistance from Europe, in developing the tourism product and infrastructure, it would be particularly sad for Ireland, which was renowned for its céad míle fáilte reputation as a country of welcomes, that if, through some type of unfair insurance practice, people who for many years had saved their money to come here, perhaps in their later years, were precluded from doing so. It is a case of commercialism gone mad. The insurance sector is making a great deal of money at the moment and thankfully insurance charges are decreasing. However, we cannot allow this type of practice to continue or get out of control. I should welcome any debate that might seek to end this practice.

  Mr. Browne: Last week in the Dáil the Minister for Agriculture and Food indicated that the beet growers, through no fault of their own, will not now be compensated in June because of the pending court case with Greencore. This is disgraceful. Anyone who submits a claim for social welfare is entitled to get some help from the community welfare office while his or her case is pending. I do not see why farmers should be treated differently. Some form of interim payment should be made. I understand a court case is pending, but this matter has been ongoing for two years and the farmers have been treated with contempt from the start. The Minister negotiated a deal that has been fundamentally wrong. Beet was meant to be grown for two years after the deal was concluded. Instead, it was only grown for one year.

I call on the Minister to come into the House and urge her to undertake a complete review of the EU beet restructuring scheme. Only 2 million out of 5 million tonnes has been handed up by the other EU countries. Ireland is one of just three of the remaining member states to have complied. It is a very worrying situation, the beet growers do not deserve this and they are owed money. It is unfair that they should be caught between the Government’s incompetence and Greencore’s greed.

  Mr. Coonan: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Browne: I agree with previous speakers on the cervical cancer issue. Without getting involved in the vaccine issue, I was amazed to learn from a reply I received this week from the HSE that some hospitals can obtain the results of cervical cancer screening within 48 hours, while others take up to 25 weeks. The HSE has outsourced the service to America and the UK in order to speed up the backlog. Nevertheless, it is very unsatisfactory. I was appalled to learn, last week, that a woman specialist in Kerry, who on her own initiative charged only €40 per time for cervical smear tests in order to get a quick result, was precluded from doing this by the HSE even though patients were quite happy to pay for the [85] service. Although she showed some initiative in the face of the massive backlog she was prevented by the HSE from doing the work.

  Mr. Coghlan: I appeal to the Leader to use her good offices with her colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to ensure the removal of whatever remaining road blocks and obstacles exist as regards the Dingle area. The people of Dingle recently met the Minister and he is fully au fait with the situation, following the plebiscite. I believe and hope there is good will there. Nonetheless, they are still up against it as the tourism season approaches with all those signs that are incorrect. I appeal to the Leader to ensure, with the Minister, that there is a speedy resolution at this stage. It has gone on for far too long.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Brian Hayes, the Leader of the Opposition, recalled that the Stardust disaster occurred 26 years ago today, and asked whether there could be statements. He believes a full statement from this House is owed to the families of the Stardust victims. The Taoiseach answered matters relating to the Stardust tragedy yesterday and I hope that the exhumation, along with other steps that have been taken, will bring comfort to some of the families. I will ask whether we can have a debate on this matter as soon as possible. We are still embroiled in legislation but as soon as this has been cleared we shall seek a debate. One cannot imagine the effect the Stardust disaster has had on the families concerned, and I take the Senator’s point.

Senator Hayes also referred to the Tánaiste, and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and cheap publicity. Every day we are being asked about new measures. Yet when the Minister produces them there appears to be a reluctance in this House to accept they will be helpful and could work.

Senator O’Toole proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, which was later seconded by Senator Henry. This concerns No. 16 on the Order Paper, the Credit Union Savings Protection Bill 2007, and as I understand it, leave to print the First Stage. We shall be pleased to obtain that leave to print and I look forward to the Bill.

Senator O’Toole also referred to the Tánaiste, the question of mandatory sentences, and what we have said here in that regard. The Senator made a fair point in his comment that, in general, rushing legislation was not a good idea. However, it is worse not to have anything for dealing with gangland crime. The legislation will be available in the afternoon, so we shall see what it contains.

Senator Ryan, too, spoke about rushed legislation and the rushed idea of a referendum to amend the Constitution, of which he is not in favour. He talked about his dear wife and the——

[86]   Mr. Ryan: It is St. Valentine’s Day, after all.

  Ms O’Rourke: It is St. Valentine’s Day, so we shall refer to her as his dear wife. He talked about the silencing clause and I guess she will not be silenced, after many years of living with the Senator, but will have her say. However, I do not understand the silencing clause to which he refers. It appears that medical delivery cannot be criticised and the same applies as regards safety at work. I will look into this.

I wish the Cathaoirleach a happy St. Valentine’s Day, and through him, the Members of the House and all who are eligible for all those things.

(Interruptions).

  Mr. B. Hayes: I wonder whether Senator White will send us some chocolates.

  Ms Terry: She does very well, sending us chocolates.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Leyden spoke of the Competition Authority and praised it for the case it took against the Cork car cartel. He wanted a debate on the price of cars.

Senator Finucane referred to the national cervical cancer programme and gardicil vaccination. I understand from a debate I heard on the radio there are proposals for a national vaccination scheme involving Gardicil, which has proved to be helpful in cervical screening and this should be followed through. I shall deal later with what Senator Terry said.

Senator Mansergh spoke about the UNICEF report. I thought it was very good, too, to have achieved ninth place out of 21, with the US, the UK and other big countries coming after us. I will pass on the Senator’s commendation to the Minister of State with responsibility for children,

Senator Mansergh also expressed his appreciation of public service transport. He is here every day the House is sitting. When he said he came by DART and bus this morning, this was true because he came from his home in Dublin. He has two lives, Dublin and Tipperary.

  Mr. Browne: He is like P. Flynn.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Mansergh also praised the arts programme on Charlie Haughey, broadcast last night on RTE. It was a wonderful programme. There is a whole other side to the man and ——

  Mr. B. Hayes: So we are discovering.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Ryan referred, I understand, to bread and roses. We had the roses last night.

Senator Quinn said the best outcome for a child in a family setting is for the child to eat at home with his or her siblings and parents. That sounds good if it could be done.

[87] Senator Lydon welcomed the decision by North Korea and called for a debate on the Middle East. We will have such a debate when we have followed through on legislation here. I cannot touch on such matters until we have done that. In saying that, I have the good of the House at heart. We are trying not to allow the build up of a backlog of legislation. I do not care how long it takes to deal with legislation in the Dáil but we will not allow a backlog here.

I agree with Senator Terry’s point that the gardasil drug used in protection against cervical cancer should be available not as an act of patronage but equally to everybody. That the vaccine is not available to medical card holders is another breach of equality rights. I strongly take on board the Senator’s point. However, I am satisfied that gardasil, whether in vaccine or some other form, will be available nationwide soon, as that appears to be the outcome of discussions on it.

Senator White raised an interesting point, namely, that American citizens aged 70 years of age who visit here cannot hire a particular make of car and those aged 75 years of age cannot hire a car. Senator Henry thought that is a matter to be raised at European level. Senator White might raise this by way of an Adjournment matter.

  Ms White: Car companies are not subject to——

  An Cathaoirleach: Order, please.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Feeney said there were two schools of thought on a national screening programme. She spoke about the drug refund scheme and said the gardasil vaccine should be available free to all who need it. While many so-called cures are advanced for cancer, it is inexorable the way it marches on.

Senator Coonan raised the matter of the sports capital grant, which apparently Deputy Deenihan will dramatically increase when he gets into office. However, the Senator wants us to raise it and for Deputy Deenihan to carry it through. That is seemingly what the Senator said.

  Mr. B. Hayes: We will see what happens.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Daly called for a review of the progress made in regard to disability legislation, which is a very good idea. He also spoke about the pending strike in Aer Lingus.

Senator McHugh raised the matter of the system of parliamentary questions and answers through the HSE, which he said is not working. There is undue delay in dealing with them and the system appears to have collapsed.

The Senator also raised the issue of fishermen whose vessels were tied up in port while other fishermen were marauding the waters. He also referred to the morning session of a meeting at [88] which fine questions were raised about Roscommon and Galway and dealt with. However, he said at this soiree that the area from Malin Head to Nenagh is too large to be dealt with by the structure in place.

Senator Dooley raised the matter of the State Airports Act. No one listened to me when I spoke on that. It has not been implemented yet. The new Minister on taking office was handed the box of cards, and now there is a stand off. The Senator also supported Senator White’s point, particularly in regard to the insurance industry which is making vast amounts of money.

I wish Senator Browne a happy Valentine’s Day.

  Mr. Browne: Happy Valentine’s Day to the Leader.

  Ms O’Rourke: He raised the matter of the pending court case with Greencore and the case of the beet farmers. A court case has been taken and it cannot be obviated or put to one side but must be followed through. I have been contacted by a group of sugar beet farmers and I have sympathy with their dilemma.

  Mr. Browne: Sympathy is no use to them, they are looking for money.

  Ms O’Rourke: Senator Coghlan raised the matter of the debate on the placename of Dingle. Will this Dingle-Daingean debate continue forever?

  Mr. Coghlan: I wish the Minister responsible would move forward and stop it.

  Ms O’Rourke: The Senator wants the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs——

  Mr. Coghlan: No, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

  Ms O’Rourke: Yes, the legislation is under his aegis now and the Senator wants to know it can be satisfactorily sorted out.

  An Cathaoirleach: Senator O’Toole moved an amendment to the Order of Business.

  Ms O’Rourke: I accepted that.

  An Cathaoirleach: It must be agreed by the House. Is the amendment agreed? Agreed. Is the Order of Business, as amended, agreed? Agreed.

Order of Business agreed to.