Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien That does not surprise me. I am disappointed that the Minister saw fit to change today's schedule and give a few hours notice that he will not attend to answer questions on hospital services.

  I wish to express my sympathies and that of the Fianna Fáil group on the death of former Senator Tom Fitzgerald, who was buried at the weekend. He served with distinction in the House as Whip. I know that there will be another opportunity to give more detailed statements in that regard.

  I commend and congratulate the Taoiseach on the excellent start he has made to his campaign to abolish the Seanad. I encourage him to get as involved as he can because it might have the desired effect. I encourage him to comment regularly and often. His proposals to abolish the Seanad have been met with a lukewarm response from his colleagues. He has done no harm to the "No" side.

  I ask the Leader to arrange a debate with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on capital investment and infrastructure. We debated the matter on 22 November 2011 and I specifically raised an issue of concern to 12,000 residents of north Dublin regarding the location of a sewage treatment plant to deal with all of the waste in the greater Dublin area. I mentioned it to the Minister because he is the Minister for public expenditure. I also pointed out that a cost benefit analysis had not been carried out, even though there is an estimated minimum spend of €500 million. On 22 November, the Minister said "I am giving an undertaking now to the Senator that I will have it investigated." In fact, he said it twice. However, he has not investigated the project. He has not asked his officials or anyone else to conduct a cost benefit analysis or an environmental impact assessment.

  The people of north County Dublin will have a plant foisted upon them with an outflow pipe that will process 1,000 litres of sewage per second that will be treated to a secondary level, the minimum standard required. The waste will then be put in Dublin Bay and along the east coast, which are important fishing waters, particularly for shellfish. The plant poses an environmental risk and is not just a risk to the quality of life for the people of north County Dublin. It poses a catastrophic risk to the living environment.

  I would like the opportunity to question the Minister again, in this regard. On 22 November he twice gave me a commitment, as is clearly stated on the record of the House. Why has he not followed through on his commitment? Perhaps he is scheduled to come here in the coming weeks. I ask the Leader to arrange for him to attend specifically to answer my question today.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The Order Paper contains a motion regarding the construction of Cork Prison that will be taken without debate. I welcome the fact that a new facility will be built on a site that has been condemned for many years for its poor prison conditions by international and national inspectors. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the greater and more general issue of prison building and construction, particularly in light of the recent publication of a report on penal policy by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. It recommended a reduction in the number of people imprisoned, the adoption of a so-called decarceration policy to ensure prison is kept as a sanction of last resort and only for violent and dangerous offenders, the development of non-custodial alternatives for offenders who are convicted of minor offences, and the implementation of the Fines Act without delay to ensure people are no longer imprisoned for the non-payment of fines. A welcome result of the motion tabled is the improved conditions at Cork Prison. However, I want us to debate the bigger picture of prison building, construction and conditions in light of the joint committee report. I have sought the debate before and I know the Leader is amenable to allowing it to take place. Perhaps he will arrange a debate with the Minister for Justice and Equality in attendance before the summer recess.

  The Bill to abolish the Seanad was published during the recess and we will debate it over the coming weeks. The Government side of the House has given a commitment to hold a referendum which I support. Personally, I am against the abolition of the Seanad and in favour of reform.

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