Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh] I encourage the Minister to take action to address the significant cost of the public service. As someone who worked in management for most of my life and often negotiated with unions, it strikes me that if one does not put in place the background reasons, one finds it much more difficult to achieve the necessary objective. There should have been an announcement regarding the benchmarking of various positions across the public service, including front-line services, with their counterparts in other jurisdictions, particularly those in western Europe. That would enlighten and assist the negotiations. I am sure the Department has all that information. I know the late Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, embarked on that in 2010.

  There has been much comment from many people within the public service who are struggling, and are probably in negative equity, about the difficulty they have in trying to make ends meet. This needs to be recognised. I agree fully with Senator Daly that addressing the mortgage crisis is a real priority. It is a sad reflection on these Houses, the Government and officials in the relevant Departments that we are still talking about it five years down the line. We put an insolvency Bill through this House, but we still do not have the architecture necessary to give effect to and implement its various component parts. Until we deal with that, it will be very difficult to advance negotiations in these areas. It would be very wrong if it became the stumbling block because, obviously, a proportion of public servants are caught in that but many are not. We cannot pass on the significant costs of public administration to future generations. If we are to correct the significant deficit we have, we need to look at it in a much more enlightened, energetic and focused way.

Senator Aideen Hayden: Information on Aideen Hayden Zoom on Aideen Hayden Like most Senators, I am hopeful that the Taoiseach will rise later today to give a full and unequivocal apology not just to the residents of the Magdalen laundries but to the families of those who are unfortunately deceased, and that he will announce that full and proper redress will be given to the residents and their families. I rarely find myself disagreeing with Senator Norris but I am afraid I must partly disagree with him on this point. I accept that there were many instances in which families gave up members to the laundries in the hope that they would receive an education and achieve betterment. We must face up to the reality that we used both State and other institutions to house those who were considered undesirable or were simply unwanted. I am talking about prisons, county homes, institutional schools and places such as the Magdalen laundries. We had no official statistics on homelessness in this country before the 1980s. This was because those who were homeless were considered vagrants and were housed in prisons or county homes. Giving a full apology and granting full redress to the residents of the Magdalen laundries is, for our society, a step on the way to acknowledging the role we played in shelving our responsibility towards those others in our society.

  I wish to raise one issue with the Leader. It relates to the destruction of records in Government Departments, particularly those in the Department of Education and Skills, which has had such a detrimental effect on the lives of people and stood in the way of their having basic knowledge about their past and their lives and being able to seek redress. When we have the debate on the Magdalen laundries, perhaps we could consider that important issue.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Feargal Quinn Zoom on Feargal Quinn I ask that the Leader find time to debate the recent Health Protection Surveillance Centre report, which is frightening. Surveys are done all around Europe, and although there are no accurate statistics for Ireland, it is suggested that between ten and 20 people die each week from hospital-acquired infections, primarily MRSA. This adds up to hundreds each year.

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