Seanad Éireann - Volume 187 - 17 October, 2007

Order of Business.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the national drugs strategy, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business and to conclude not later than 5 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 11, motion re crime, to be taken at 5 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7 p.m., with the contributions of spokespersons not to exceed 12 minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes. Senators may share time.

  Senator Frances Fitzgerald: It is a very enthusiastic Seanad today. I am sure Members wish to mark the announcement by the Pope of his intention to appoint Archbishop Seán Brady, Primate of All Ireland, to the College of Cardinals. I extend sincere congratulations to Archbishop Seán Brady. It is a recognition of his stable leadership and his contribution to the peace process.

I congratulate Anne Enright on winning the Man Booker prize. We are proud of her superb achievement. While Ms Enright is celebrating a victory in literature, another woman, Ms Susie Long, is not with us. Many Members saw the “Prime Time” programme last night. It was heartbreaking to see the husband, in his grief, hoping that what she exposed about the health service will make a difference and bring forward the debate on public and private health systems. [479] Fianna Fáil and the Green Party must ask if they are 100% in support of the headlong rush into privatisation by the Progressive Democrats Minister for Health and Children. The consequences were dramatically and poignantly illustrated in the case of Ms Long.

We have already asked the Leader to invite the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance to the House for a debate on budgetary matters. In that regard, I note a disturbing, although not unexpected, development where a series of repossession orders for family homes have come before the High Court. Several judges, somewhat unusually, have raised concerns about the way these cases have been dealt with by the banks and various mortgage lenders. Several disturbing aspects of these cases have been reported. It is, therefore, appropriate to repeat the request for the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance to address the House prior to the budget on the economic situation.

  Senator Joe O’Toole: I wish to be associated with the congratulations expressed to Anne Enright. It was the first time in many years that the Booker Prize was not televised live. I thought last night's RTE programme “The View” would have changed its format to show the ceremony but unfortunately it did not.

It is certainly an honour to Archbishop Seán Brady to be elevated to Cardinal. Some years ago, I recall meeting the then Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Francis McKiernan, when he was thinking of retiring. To take over his diocese, he told me, he had pulled back from Rome, a bright young man, Seán Brady, who knew his way around there. Some years later, when Seán Brady was moved to Armagh, Bishop McKiernan said the papal nuncio had robbed his best asset. Seán Brady has gone the full distance today.

Last week I entertained some Members with my comments on food quality. I want to give them another laugh today. This is a serious issue and I call again for a debate on the matter. I met the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with responsibility for food and horticulture, Deputy Sargent, who was enthusiastic to debate the matter in the House. Apart from the issue of mutton which I raised last week, I want to know where we stand on Brazilian beef imports. The farmers are right on this one and I want a debate on it.

This week the Minister of State is at an exhibition in Frankfurt telling the world how good our food is, for which I wish him good luck. I want a debate on pesticides and chemicals used in vegetable cultivation. The country has a large mushroom industry with hundreds of thousands of tonnes sold domestically and exported every year. However, the number of mushrooms tested annually to ensure quality assurance is a meagre ten. In the case of leeks, one solitary specimen is tested for quality assurance. To some this may seem unimportant but we are what we eat. As we [480]want to be the granary and garden of Europe, it is necessary for a debate on the quality assurance of our foodstuffs.

Will the Leader ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to explain to the House what he is doing with ainm an Daingin, Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis? Cad tá ar siúl ag an Rialtas faoi seo? Cheapas go raibh plean acu chun an ainm a athrú thar n-ais agus cearta daonna a thabhairt do mhuintir Daingean Uí Chúis. Cad tá ar siúl acu? Cad tá ar aigne acu ag an bpointe seo? Ba mhaith liom freagra a chloisint.

  Senator Dominic Hannigan: It was wonderful to see Anne Enright win the Man Booker prize for her novel, The Gathering, the second Irish author to win the prize in the past three years. It shows again what a great nurturing ground we are for literary talent. It is important not to forget the words of the former US President, Bill Clinton, that literacy is not a luxury but a right and a responsibility. In some of our more disadvantaged areas, child illiteracy levels stand at 27%. It is incumbent on us as a nation to tackle this. The right to read campaign will hold a conference on this subject on Saturday which I encourage Senators to attend. The campaign wants more funding to be allocated to ensure longer opening hours of libraries and more literacy campaigns. Will the Leader ask the Minister for Education and Science to provide more funding for this important issue?

Quarrying concerns many residents in the fast-growing urban areas of counties Louth, Meath, Kildare and Dublin. All accept the need for quarries in feeding materials for the construction boom and their importance in being located close to sites where such materials are needed. However, quarrying and quarries can have an impact on the lives of those who reside near them. I read in The Irish Times today that residents in Fettercairn outside Tallaght are concerned at the effect the quarry there is having on respiratory illnesses such as asthma and wheezing. From talking to parents in Bellewstown, County Meath, I know they are concerned about trucks running past schools at all hours of the day. My colleague, Senator Brendan Ryan, has informed me there are problems in Naul, County Dublin, with trucks coming from quarries.

I would like to see a complete review of section 261 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. It was brought in seven years ago and has worked well in parts. Its purpose is to register quarries and to lay down regulations on how they operate. Perhaps the Minister might address the Seanad about reviewing the Act to see what has worked since it was introduced and what needs to be changed so that we might improve life for residents living near quarries.

  Senator Dan Boyle: I would like to be associated with the words of congratulations to Cardi[481]nal-elect Seán Brady on his accession and to Ms Anne Enright for winning the Man Booker prize. Ms Enright’s success, in particular, is notable, given that she is the third Irish author to win this prestigious award in a number of years. The prescience of the Arts Council, too, is noteworthy for distributing copies of the book to Members of the Oireachtas in the last week. It must have known something the rest of us did not.

I have one suggestion for a possible debate. Just an hour ago the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, along with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, launched the Green Paper on pensions and there is to be a consultation period which is to conclude in the middle of 2008. It would be in order for this House to use that consultation period for a wide-ranging debate to help inform that process.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: Will the Leader say whether the House should draw any conclusions from the re-ordering of the positions of both the Privacy Bill and the Defamation Bill on the Order Paper? Heretofore, the Privacy Bill tended to appear in preferential order to the Defamation Bill. Is it intended to drop the Privacy Bill altogether from the Order Paper? When is it proposed to take one or the other of Bills or both of them? Will the Leader clarify in what order the Government intends to proceed in that area and on the issue of the press council?

I would like to support what Senator O’Toole said about Dingle, Daingean Uí Chúis, An Daingean. We all understood a commitment was given in this regard. The Official Languages (Amendment) Bill is No. 6 on the Order Paper. The Government may have a plan and, in the event, we would like to hear what it is. We believe this matter was in the process of being resolved. It was raised yesterday in the Dáil and I would like to hear about it from the Leader.

Last week the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government pledged his support, in principle at least, for the electronic voting system——

  Senator Dan Boyle: No, he did not.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: I thought he did, in principle.

  Senator Paudie Coffey: He was mixed up.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: Was he not in favour of it, in principle?

  Senator Dan Boyle: That is not what he said.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: I am sorry, I should hate to——

  Senator Paudie Coffey: He was mixed up.

[482]  Senator Paul Coghlan: ——misquote the Minister. Perhaps he is awaiting an English translation of a Dutch report.

(Interruptions).

  An Cathaoirleach: Senator Coghlan on the Order of Business, please.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: The point is that we have had a commission on electronic voting which came out rather strongly against it, as I recall, on the basis that here was no paper trail and further checks and safeguards were very much needed. We are all aware of the €52 million in capital costs and the enormous daily and weekly storage costs. I would like to hear from the Leader whether it is intended to proceed with electronic voting.

  An Cathaoirleach: That will be in the debate if the Leader agrees to it.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: At a minimum, can we at least have a debate in the House on the subject? I understood, perhaps wrongly, that the issue was being examined within the Department on the Minister’s instruction. I therefore call for a debate on the matter in this House.

  An Cathaoirleach: The Leader will reply to that.

  Senator John Ellis: Will the Leader invite the Minister for Transport to address the Seanad prior to legislation being introduced for the mandatory testing of people involved in accidents? Alcohol is a contributory factor in many accidents but the main factor, which is beginning to emerge, is drugs. Recreational drugs are becoming part of the problem. Would it be possible to have a discussion with the Minister prior to the preparation of the legislation to ensure it covers drugs and also to debate the position on prescribed drugs which can have an adverse effect on people’s driving habits?

  Senator Feargal Quinn: It must be one of the first times we have had two cardinals in Ireland. To the best of my knowledge, this has not happened before.

  Senator Terry Leyden: Three actually.

  Senator Feargal Quinn: I am sorry; I did not realise that. I congratulate Cardinal Brady.

I refer to Anne Enright’s wonderful award and wish to correct Senator Boyle. To the best of my knowledge, there have been four Irish winners of the prize, including John Banville, Roddy Doyle and, I understand, Iris Murdoch, who claimed to be Irish.

  Senator Dan Boyle: I was talking about the last two years.

[483]  Senator Feargal Quinn: I also wish to correct Senator O’Toole who mentioned the food fair in Frankfurt last week. It was actually in Cologne.

  Senator Joe O’Toole: My apologies.

  Senator Feargal Quinn: I support what Senator O’Toole said. I was at the opening ceremony on Friday night and on Saturday. It was a huge fair and the Irish did so well and had such an impact. It would be very worthwhile, therefore, to have a debate, not on agriculture but on food. It is a reminder of the great food we produce and which is on display but also of the fierce competition in the world.

Will the Leader consider a debate on parenting and marriage? I mention this because recently I had the opportunity to visit a residential home for young people and was very impressed by the commitment and personal touch of those involved. However, I was also startled by the figures we saw last week on the number of children under ten years of age who have been in residential homes for more than five years. There is a great need to have regard to the benefit of home and family. It would be worthwhile using the Iona Institute report produced this week which talked about the benefit of marriage, married life and the upbringing of children in a family home.

This week there was a change of direction in the British Labour Party which said it now wished to consider the value of marriage because it was no longer politically correct to ignore it. Perhaps we have something similar to do in this country, namely, consider the benefit to a child of having both parents committed to marriage and the benefit of bringing up children in a family home. I mention it because the steps we have taken in recent years, although with the best objectives, have perhaps discouraged parents from feeling they can stay at home to mind children because the State has encouraged people to go out to work. It has not been politically correct to do so in recent times but it would be worthwhile to have a debate on parenting and marriage.

  Senator Terry Leyden: I call for an urgent debate on the proposal by Dublin City Council to abstract 470 million litres of water from Lough Ree. This issue was raised on the Adjournment last week but a full debate is of vital interest. The River Shannon is the artery of Ireland. It is crucial and touches half the counties of Ireland. It is essential we retain the water in Lough Ree and the River Shannon because it is very important to the development of the region. The Oxford English Dictionary describes abstraction as dishonest removal, pilfering or purloining. That is the case as far as I am concerned. Dublin City Council is proposing to steal our water. There is a row between the Palestinians and the Israelis about water. Water is a crucial issue and a major debate should take place. I know where the Leader’s heart will be in this regard because [484]Westmeath County Council will have to make the decision on this proposal by Dublin City Council.

  Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I did not get the opportunity last week to express my sympathy and horror at the brutal murder of Manuela Riedo in Galway city. The people of Galway city and county are shocked. It is a different murder in that it has an international dimension. All murders are horrific but this was exceptional in that the young girl was in the country only two days. I, as a Member of the Seanad, checked whether there was a book of condolences in the House. We do not want to send out a message that crime of this nature is the norm.

  An Cathaoirleach: We normally do not discuss these types of incidents in the House. If there are expressions of sympathy regarding a particular matter, they are normally initiated by the Leader. If we were to discuss the specifics of every tragedy in Members’ areas, we would be discussing such matters every day. The incident in question had great implications for the city of Galway and the country but I would prefer not to discuss it.

  Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I thank the Chairman. I compliment the gardaí in Mill Street in Galway on the manner in which they have dealt with the tragedy. They have presented a good picture of Ireland internationally. As Members probably know, there are two German-speaking gardaí in Mill Street and they have communicated daily with the victim’s family to present a better picture of Ireland internationally. I do not want to see us becoming immune to crime. We will talk about this further today.

  An Cathaoirleach: We will debate that tonight.

  Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I support Senator Joe O’Toole on the need for an urgent debate on Brazilian beef. I ask that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food be invited to the House to address the matter. The real issue concerns the need for appropriate labelling of beef, in respect of which we have already enacted the necessary legislation. It is a consumer issue and a matter of pubic health and we need to send out the message that the Brazilians are using EU-banned hormones, for example.

  An Cathaoirleach: We can debate that if the Leader agrees to a debate on agriculture.

  Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Education and Science to the House to have an urgent debate on the fact that our education system does not suit at least 20% of children at second level. They are not being retained in the system and an ESRI report issued last week stated many are drifting by the age of 15. The failure to retain pupils in the system has serious implications because they [485]do not have the necessary skills to cope when they enter society. Consequently, they are attracted to low-level crime initially——

  An Cathaoirleach: The Senator has made her point.

  Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: The problem has serious implications and follows on from what Senator Dominic Hannigan said about literacy and learning problems. Appropriate educational provisions should be made available at second level to address them.

  Senator Geraldine Feeney: Will the Leader have an urgent debate on the withdrawal by pharmacists of the methadone service? I have referred to the professionalism of pharmacists in the House on many occasions, and I have also referred to how well trained they are and the good service they provide. However, I must point out today that most of their income is derived from the State. In recent years they have prospered greatly and now hold and own very valuable assets.

The withdrawal of the methadone service in such a concerted way by the pharmacists reeks of bully-boy tactics. They are exceptionally well paid for what they are doing in respect of the service, which is based on a contract with the Health Service Executive and is different from all the other services they provide.

3 o’clock

The withdrawal of the service is being used as a blunt negotiating tool with which to deal with the Health Service Executive. This is a disgrace and the people most affected are vulnerable addicts who are trying to wean themselves off the terrible scourge of heroin, and also their families. I call on the Leader to have a debate on this matter as early as possible. It is about time the pharmacists knew they are not backed by the public in this matter. I have stood with them in respect of other issues but am moving away from them because the people being affected are those we represent.

  An Cathaoirleach: Many Senators want to speak on the Order of Business. Unfortunately so many have put up their hands that I may have missed some, but I will do the best I can to accommodate as many as possible. To assist in this regard I ask Senators to be brief.

  Senator Paul Bradford: I will be brief. I support what was said about the need for a debate on the future of the beef industry and the food industry as a whole. Will the Leader arrange a debate on the future of the pig industry as a matter of urgency? Like many of my colleagues, I attended an IFA briefing session this morning at which we were given some stark statistics relating to the future of an industry that employs 7,000 people. The pig industry is almost in meltdown due to problems with feedstuffs, country of origin label[486]ling and environmental issues, all of which need to be addressed by the Government. It is important that the Leader should arrange at an early stage a debate on the future of this major sector of the agriculture industry, which employs 7,000 people and exports produce worth hundreds of millions of euro every year.

  Senator John Carty: As someone who comes from north Mayo, I join Senators in congratulating Archbishop Seán Brady on being appointed as a cardinal. I would like to ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism to come to the House to tell us what he proposes to do about the decision of the National Library to stop the Chief Herald from making any further awards. There are doubts about the Chief Herald’s legal power to make such awards in the past. It is embarrassing that there are questions about the validity of the awards which have been given to many important people by the Chief Herald.

  Senator Phil Prendergast: Just as Eircom has to provide telephone lines throughout the country, An Post is required to deliver letters to all parts of the country. I note that An Post intends to analyse how much that universal service obligation will cost the company. As the Cathaoirleach is aware, rural post offices have been constantly and quietly attacked in recent times. Many of them have closed over the last ten years. I am concerned that the terms of reference of studies like the An Post analysis to which I referred will be used to suggest that more closures can be justified. Can the Leader ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to come to the House to present his plans for the postal service?

  Senator Diarmuid Wilson: I join Senators in wishing my fellow Cavan man, Archbishop Seán Brady, the best of luck with his pending elevation to the College of Cardinals. It is a great honour for Archbishop Brady, his family in County Cavan, the Bishop of Kilmore, the priests of the Kilmore diocese and those who serve in the Archdiocese of Armagh. Archbishop Brady will do an excellent job when he is elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in six weeks’ time. I would like to take this opportunity to correct Senator O’Toole, which is not something one gets many opportunities to do in this House.

  Senator Cecilia Keaveney: It happens twice a day.

  Senator Diarmuid Wilson: He is being corrected for the second time today. I join Senator Quinn in correcting Senator O’Toole, this time by pointing out that the late Bishop Francis McKiernan was Bishop of Kilmore rather than Bishop of Clogher.

[487]  Senator Joe O’Toole: Sorry — he was a decent man either way.

  Senator Eugene Regan: When I called two weeks ago for a debate on the opt-out from the EU structures for police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, the Leader kindly agreed to hold such a debate. Unfortunately, the Government subsequently made a decision on the matter in the absence of debate in this House or the Lower House. The Dáil discussed the matter yesterday, albeit after the event, but we are none the wiser about why we need to exercise the opt-out. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform mentioned that there are concerns about the move to qualified majority voting in the context of the proposal to establish an office of the European public prosecutor. As the proposed treaty provides that such an office can be established only if there is unanimous agreement on the part of member states, the issue of majority voting does not arise in that instance. No specific example has been given of an area of law which might give rise to concerns of this nature.

Some discussion took place on the exchange of evidence and the proposed European evidence warrant. The Government has included in its legislative programme for this year a Bill to implement this framework decision. Deputy Upton asked a question in the Dáil about the exercise of an opt-out and whether Ireland has exercised an opt-out in the case of making it a criminal offence to employ illegal immigrants. In reply to her question the Government informed her that we have three months in which to opt in and in that time we have neither opted in nor opted out since we can opt in at any time. It seems then that we will never know when the Government has opted in or opted out because it will be an open question.

The Minister should report to the House how Ireland has exercised the opt-out provisions in the Schengen part of the treaty as this would provide some guidance on how this will be operated in the future in the area of policing and criminal law matters. It is important to have clarification on this matter. A referendum is planned on this matter and many questions will be asked as to the precise implications of these provisions. There needs to be clarity regarding Government action in the application of the Schengen opt-out.

  Senator Camillus Glynn: Many people look forward to Hallowe’en at this time of year. However, many older people shiver in their shoes. I do not wish to be a kill-joy but many incidences regarding Hallowe’en practices have been described in this House. These practices do not sit well with our concern for the environment and are not conducive to a recognition that many, if not all people do not appreciate a firework being thrown in their door. Every year at this time my local newspaper carries reports of serious injuries caused by fireworks.

[488]I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the House because of the serious environmental issues at stake. Bonfires should only be allowed under licence and should be properly supervised and organised.

I am aware that a manager of a local authority may seek legal advice on any given issue and can do so without incurring any cost to his or her self. However, such a facility is not available to the elected member and this imbalance should be corrected because it is not conducive to democracy.

  Senator David Norris: I recognise that time is short but when I came into this House there were no such restrictions on speaking time and such restrictions weaken the democratic nature of our Parliament. This is a great mistake and time allowed should be extended. These issues of a guillotine on speaking time during the passage of Bills is not a good practice——

  An Cathaoirleach: I remind the Senator that the Committee on Procedure and Privilege of the House has made a decision regarding speaking time and it was agreed.

  Senator David Norris: I understand, and I do not wish to waste the time of the House. I will put down another amendment as the last time I did so I obtained an extension of ten minutes.

I join with those who celebrate the nomination of Archbishop Brady to the College of Cardinals. This country has made a disproportionate contribution to the Roman Catholic Church over many centuries and it is appropriate this is recognised in the same way as Ireland has made a disproportionate contribution to the world of literature. As a Trinity representative, I am extremely glad that one of our graduates, whom I remember in the English department, has won the Man Booker award. Anne Enright is a wonderful, witty, unpretentious person and writes brilliantly.

I ask for a debate on the question of confidentiality. I am very worried, as other people must be, by revelations that a civil servant passed on information to his brother who used it for burglaries and other criminal activity. The civil servant in question stated in evidence that he had browsed through other people’s records and that this was a common practice in the Civil Service. If it is a common practice in the Civil Service for people to look up, talk about and use in a malign way these records, something should be done about it under the Data Protection Act.

I am glad the matter of Susie Long was raised. I raised the matter a number of months ago and stated then as I do now that this was a woman sentenced to death for the crime of poverty. Professor John Crown spoke on the wireless today. He should come to the Joint Committee on Health and Children to give his ideas from the [489]coalface on how we can deliver an efficient health service to our people.

I am also glad the methadone issue was raised. I understand my colleague, Senator Ross, raised the matter of pharmacists on an Adjournment debate. This is critical and involves vulnerable people who will find it difficult to access the drugs. The Health Service Executive has put forward an ad hoc scheme. The people involved have extreme difficulty handling the scheme and may well resort to street crime. This is grossly irresponsible and it is mean-minded to hit the most vulnerable, weak and confused elements of society and we will have the inevitable backwash on ordinary citizens.

  Senator Ivor Callely: I join with other Senators in congratulating Archbishop Brady and Anne Enright. I ask for the Leader’s guidance with regard to a local Health Service Executive management decision which impacts on the provision of health services. Will the Leader indicate if such an issue is one for the Minister for Health and Children or for Professor Drumm in the HSE?

  Senator Ivana Bacik: We all saw the announcement in today’s newspapers that the European Commission will take legal action against the State over the failure to protect adequately sites of national heritage. This is in the context of the Hill of Tara and the fiasco of the motorway going through this national monument. It is timely to call for a debate on the lack of protection we give to our national monuments and our heritage generally and the failure by the previous Government to implement a proper plan for the protection of heritage in light of the closure of Dúchas.

Senator Quinn called for a debate on parenting and marriage. Research on parenting in Trinity College and elsewhere shows what matters is the quality of the parenting and not the legal bond or otherwise between the parents, be they same sex or opposite sex couples or single parents. It is not the case that married parents are better parents.

  Senator Ann Ormonde: I wish to be associated with the congratulations extended to Anne Enright on her magnificent achievement. It is a breath of fresh air to listen to her. I also congratulate Archbishop Brady on his elevation.

I would like this House to debate the reform treaty in the next couple of weeks in light of yesterday’s debate in the Lower House. During such a debate many of the points raised here on the matter could be clarified, including the opt-out clause and the reasons for it, without people jumping to conclusions as may have been the position today.

I agree with Senator Quinn that the issues of parenting and marriage should be raised and I did so many times in the previous Seanad. I asked about the future of society, what society can bring to us and whether we have a better quality of life today than we did in the past. I do not know the [490]answers but we have a great deal of material for discussion.

  Senator Joe O’Reilly: I join in the words of congratulations to Archbishop Sean Brady on his nomination to the College of Cardinals. I am proud to be a neighbour and fellow countyman of his. He is an extremely great pastor as well as a great intellectual. I am also delighted to join in the congratulations extended to Anne Enright. It is a great personal achievement for her and it will be a great by-product of her success if it enhances and increases the level of debate on suicide.

I support Senator Bradford in his timely call for an urgent debate on the pig industry. The industry is on its knees and is suffering greatly. The losses range from €15 to €20 per pig. The difficulty is that the imported pork can be fed from genetically modified food while the reverse is the case in this country and it results in an unlevel playing pitch. It is a serious matter on which many lives and many jobs depend. There are people lobbying in Dublin all day today at their own expense.

I wish to raise one other serious issue. Will the Leader please convey to the relevant Ministers the necessity for urgent legislation to ensure mandatory reflector clothing for pedestrians and cyclists and on-the-spot fines for non-compliance? This is a serious matter from a road safety point of view. Lives are at stake and innocent people can be involved in accidents. This matter has been passed at my county council and at a number of other chambers.

  Senator Cecilia Keaveney: I wish to add my voice to the congratulations to Cardinal Brady. I worked with him in very pleasant circumstances during the World Cup in 1990 when he was a monsignor in the Irish College. I congratulate him on his elevation. Similarly, as a fellow artist, I congratulate Anne Enright on winning the Man Booker prize.

I, too, welcome the pregnancy warning labelling on alcohol products. If we are to educate young people, the dangers of alcohol abuse should be part of the civil, social and political education curriculum. We should also move on the obesity issue which is becoming more prevalent by adding the calorie content to the labelling on alcohol products. Perhaps we can raise with the Minister for Health and Children the need for the labelling of alcohol products to include calorie content as well as the pregnancy warning that has recently been announced.

Donegal Pet Rescue has been in touch with me again in regard to having the animal welfare Bill brought forward. Senator Boyle indicated the Minister might come to the House to discuss the possible content of that Bill. In light of recent attacks by dogs, it is timely to discuss not just the welfare of the animal when it is being abused but also the abuse of neglect and the issue of dangerous dogs. In Northern Ireland, if a dog behaves [491]in such a manner as to cause a person to feel apprehensive of being attacked it is enough for action to be taken. Under our legislation, I understand a dog must do something to a person before action is taken. There is a need for this legislation to be moved on rapidly. I would like if we had the opportunity to make an input before it comes to Second Stage.

  Senator Pearse Doherty: Ba mhaith liom cur leis an iarracht díospóireacht a riaradh sa Teach fá dtaobh de scrúdú drugaí dóibh siúd atá páirteach i dtimpistí bóithre. Fosta, ba mhaith liom cur leis an iarracht díospóireacht a bheith againn fá dtaobh de chúrsaí bia, go háirithe an cheist a d’ardaigh an Seanadóir O’Toole i dtaobh bia ag teacht isteach sa tír ó Bhraisil agus an imní mór atá ar an IFA agus ar daoine eile i dtaobh cé chomh sláintiúil is atá an fheoil seo.

I support the request for a debate on the ongoing dispute between the Health Service Executive and the pharmacies, a matter I raised some weeks ago. Since then, a number of Senators have requested a further and fuller debate. It is an issue we need to tackle head on and we need to have the full facts in front of the House.

I call for a debate that I sought last week on community child care because of the change in the way it will be funded by the Department — from a staffing grant to a subvention base — which means community child care organisations throughout the State find it impossible to remain in existence and some have had to increase their fees by up to 28%. This will be a national crisis unless we deal with it. The Minister of State with responsibility should come into the House and debate the issue. I raise the matter now because I did not receive a response last week when I requested a debate and I hope one will be forthcoming today.

  An Cathaoirleach: I call Senator Hanafin. Our time is almost up and two Senators are offering.

  Senator John Hanafin: Like almost all other Senators I welcome that Archbishop Brady is to be elevated to cardinal. I also share in a call for a debate made by Senator Bacik on parenting, particularly with a view to parenting where there is a question of homosexual couples adopting, an area in which there is not public debate at the moment. I would like to put down a marker that I am totally opposed to it. Whatever difficulties they may have in life notwithstanding trying to do their best, starting with such a role model is unacceptable.

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: Senator Boyle is to raise the matter of incineration on the Adjournment. In light of yesterday’s decision on the incinerator in County Meath, I ask for a debate on incineration with a view to getting answers from the Minister as to whether the Green Party has [492]changed its policy on incineration, including the planned one in Ringaskiddy.

  Senator Dan Boyle: We have not.

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: We will wait for the debate. We know the Green Party has changed many things since entering Government.

  Senator Dan Boyle: We have not said that either.

(Interruptions).

  An Cathaoirleach: Our allocated the time will be up soon. Allow Senator Buttimer to speak without interruption, please.

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: It is important to have a comprehensive debate on incineration because——

  Senator Dan Boyle: I would like to know Fine Gael’s policy position.

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: ——the changes granted yesterday will have repercussions down the line.

The Minister for Health and Children should come into the House to discuss the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the dispensing of methadone. It is not good enough for the Minister to abdicate responsibility and pawn it off on the Health Service Executive.

  Senators: Hear, hear.

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: We are talking about the most vulnerable in society, including people to whom I spoke in my city of Cork who feel genuinely deprived and under siege, as do their families. This is not a political debate. We all accept that there are wrongs on both sides and we need a debate on the matter.

  An Cathaoirleach: I apologise to Senators McFadden and Kelly that I did not get to them. I will call them first tomorrow.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: Many Senators correctly offered their congratulations to the cardinal designate, Archbishop Seán Brady. It is a joyous day for the people of Ireland. He is a brilliant man and a shining example in what he has done and achieved. He has now been acknowledged by His Holiness the Holy Father to receive this great honour. I want to be associated with our vote of congratulations to the archbishop on his appointment. Senators Wilson and Reilly referred to a near neighbour of ours getting such a wonderful acknowledgement of what he has done through his lifetime. I know he will enhance the College of Cardinals and we wish him well. We look forward to the safe pair of hands and guiding spirit which he has shown throughout his career.

[493]I also want to be associated with the many votes of congratulations for Anne Enright. I think of the old cliché of Ireland as the land of the saints and scholars. On the one hand Archbishop Brady has been appointed a cardinal and on the other hand we have the achievement of Anne Enright. In my role of Chairman of the Committee on Enterprise and Small Business in the last Dáil, I visited countries throughout the world. Everywhere I went I found that Ireland, as a small nation, was acknowledged as having the best people for going forward and helping out. The best ambassadors we ever had were our religious and literary people. It a proud day for Ireland to get such acknowledgements.

I join Senator Healy Eames regarding the tragedy in Galway city. It is horrific to see these things happening in Ireland today. A debate on crime is on the agenda for the House this week. I look forward to many Senators making proposals and I hope the Minister and the Department will take them on board to see what can be done to assist the Garda and to alleviate the latest scourge, as a result of which life does not have the value it had many years ago.

Susie Long’s death was a terrible tragedy. On behalf of public representatives of all political parties, I say it should not have happened and it is to be hoped lessons will have been learned. This should not happen ever again. A very brilliant lady was lost and I extend my sympathy to her husband and family and everyone else associated with this tragedy. A service was not available but, in fairness to the Government, €15 million was invested in this area this year. Whatever is going wrong in the Health Service Executive, responsibility should be called to bear.

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: By the Minister.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: I call on everybody on a non-political basis——

  Senator Jerry Buttimer: Cabinet responsibility is needed. Is the Government in charge?

  An Cathaoirleach: The Leader without interruption, please.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: The Leader is not interrupted normally, although I acknowledge we are going through a teething period with new Members.

Life is above parliamentary membership and I abhor that this has happened. I speak for all Members, irrespective of their political beliefs. We are all here to do our best to enhance the operation of the State, to improve the quality of life of our people and to provide them with opportunities our forefathers never had.

I am pleased to inform Senators who called for a debate on a budgetary matters that the Minister for Finance will attend the House next week and I look forward to the presentations of new [494]Members who made this call. I will listen with bated breath to their contributions.

  Senator David Norris: One listens with one’s ears.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: Senators O’Toole, Quinn, Healy Eames, Bradford and O’Reilly called for a debate on food. Senators are expert in many areas but when Senator Quinn addresses the House on food issues, I listen attentively. He has led by shining example in his career with his family and I was pleased to hear about how Ireland was represented at the World Food Fair in Germany. I will provide time for a debate in the next few weeks.

Senators O’Toole and Coghlan called on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to clarify the naming of the beautiful village of Dingle and to come to the House for a debate.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: It is a famous town, not a village.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: I have no difficulty allocating time to debate this issue. The former Senator, Tom Fitzgerald, made many useful contributions in the House as Government Whip. The House has been enlightened by the contributions of Members representing Dingle over the years.

Senator Hannigan called on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to update the House on the laws relating to quarries. The Senator will be aware of the great employment provided in our constituencies by companies such as BD Flood, JJ Flood and so on. I would like to make a contribution to this debate when it is taken in the House and I will afford time so that it can take place. I fully agree with the Senator that this debate is urgent.

Senator Boyle sought a debate on the Green Paper on pensions. This is a worthwhile suggestion by the Deputy Leader and I will allocate time for this.

Senator Coghlan inquired about the up-to-date position on the Privacy Bill 2006 and the Defamation Bill 2006. I understand these will be before the House next year. The Senator also expressed his views on the electronic voting machines, with which his party has difficulty. No progress will be made on this issue until it is definitely decided they will be used in the future.

  Senator Paul Coghlan: When will there be a debate?

  Senator Donie Cassidy: Fine Gael can avail of Private Members’ time and the Adjournment debate. There is great pressure on the Leader regarding debates. Pressing issues should be brought to the leaders of the various groups to consider how debate can best be facilitated.

[495]Senator Ellis called for a debate on the actions necessary to reduce the carnage on our roads. As former Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, I worked closely with the Senator in the past five years and I compliment him on all he has done in this area. The introduction of random breath-testing has reintroduced an element of fear into the law. I understand it is difficult to test motorists for drugs, but New Zealand has perhaps the best system in place for this purpose.

I will allow time to discuss any proposals that might assist the Road Safety Authority and the Department in making the roads safer. This was a particular challenge for the last Government and much hard work was done. The dedication of the Oireachtas Committees on Transport and Enterprise and Small Business was clear and they excelled in bringing forward, on a yearly basis, all the main players and making them accountable. Assistant Commissioner Eddie Rock can be included among those who have undertaken great work to make progress in this area. More must be done, however, and there is great public support for the Ministers and committees dealing with this matter. We look forward to assisting them in the coming years.

Senators Quinn, Ormonde and Hanafin called for a debate on parenting and marriage. This is a debate to which we would all like to contribute and I will set aside time for it in the next three or four weeks.

Senator Leyden called for an urgent debate on Dublin City Council’s proposal to take water from the beautiful Lough Ree. Senator McFadden and I are in total unison on this matter, and I will assign time for a debate as soon as possible.

  Senator Nicky McFadden: I thank the Leader.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: Senator Healy Eames called for a debate on education and I have no difficulty in allowing time for that.

Likewise, I have no objection to a debate on pharmacies, as called for by Senator Feeney and others. The Minister for Health and Children gave the Department’s explanation in this regard two weeks ago in this House, but I have no problem in facilitating a debate.

Senators Bradford, O’Reilly and Doherty called for an urgent debate on the pig industry. I will let Members know tomorrow whether arrangements for such a debate can be agreed with the leaders and the Department. This is an urgent matter.

  Senator Joe O’Reilly: Absolutely.

  Senator Donie Cassidy: I understand representatives of the industry are in Dublin today. All of us in rural areas know the importance of the pig industry and I will do all I can to ensure a debate [496]takes place at the earliest possible time. I will report back to Senators tomorrow morning.

I will convey to the Minister Senator Carty’s strong views on the decision of the National Library regarding the Chief Herald. I will report any progress to the Senator later today or tomorrow morning.

Senator Prendergast asked that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources come into the House to present his plans for the postal service. I have no difficulty in facilitating such a discussion.

Senators Regan and Ormonde called for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come to the House to update and brief Senators on various issues for which he has responsibility. I will contact the Minister’s office after the Order of Business to seek agreement to such a discussion. We may be able to obtain some clarification from the Minister tomorrow when he is in the Dáil. If not, we can arrange a debate. The Minister is approachable on all these issues.

Senator Glynn speaks as someone with long-standing experience in public life when he cautions us on the various practices that have become commonplace at Hallowe’en. He calls for the Minister to consider placing such activities under licence. I will pass these views on to the Minister.

Senator Glynn also mentioned another issue that will receive great support in this House. He called for assistance for local authority members on the issue of legal advice available to county managers and paid for by the county council but not available to local authority members. We may require clarification from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on this and then we can consider debating the matter. It is undemocratic, as the Senator stated. We may review Senator Glynn’s proposal when we receive a reply from the Minister.

Senator Norris expressed strong views on the allegations about a civil servant. The civil servants have been exemplary in our experience but there is always an exception to the rule. On this occasion there was an exception to the rule and we want clarification on it. After the Order of Business, I will pass on to the Minister the views of Senator Norris, particularly those on the confidentiality of individuals’ records. The highest standards have always prevailed in the Civil Service. Everyone would abhor this happening and for it to happen once is one time too many. Senator Callely inquired whether the matter was one for the Minister or for the Health Service Executive. The matter is for the HSE.

Senator Bacik’s contribution covered a range of issues. I will pass on to the relevant Minister her views on lack of protection for national monuments and other issues and will come back to her on it. Senator O’Reilly expressed horror at people, including pedestrians and cyclists, not wearing proper reflective clothing on the road to make them more visible to motorists and in traffic [497]generally. I could not agree more with the Senator. Perhaps we could raise the matter the next time we have a debate involving the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Senator Keaveney called on the Minister for Health and Children with regard to the labelling on products containing alcohol, particularly for segments of our community such as pregnant ladies. This is sound advice which I will pass on to the Minister. The Senator also raised the issue of animal welfare and dangerous dogs. Three or four times recently we have been horrified to see on the main evening news, items showing the terrible savagery of some dogs. We are horrified by stories involving young people who treat such dogs as pets only to have them turn on them. Legislation is urgently called for if it is not already there.

Senator Doherty called for a debate on road accidents and his sentiments were echoed by Senator Ellis. I have no difficulty with this happening. There has been progress. Statistics indicate that random breath testing, introduced on 21 July 2006, as proposed by the two Oireachtas committees Senator Ellis and I chaired, saved in excess of 88 lives and many hundreds of people from being maimed for life up to 20 July 2007. I hope to have a debate on this before Christmas.

Senator Doherty also called for a debate on community child care and child care in general. I will not have any difficulty in arranging time for that. Last but by no means least, Senator Buttimer called for a debate on incineration. The Senator may be in the House tonight and I am assured all will be revealed.

Order of Business agreed to.