Order of Business (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden] It is offensive to Fine Gael Members of this House, to previous Leaders of the House and to previous Senators. I am very disappointed in the Taoiseach. I have high personal regard for him as someone from the west. If I was in Fine Gael, I would have voted for him to retain his position as leader of the party at that stage, although I am not sure I would do it now.

  In the general election of 2011, a commitment was given to keep the accident and emergency unit in Roscommon Hospital open. It is now closed. The Taoiseach made a commitment to reduce the Dáil by 20 seats. Since then he has said it would require a constitutional amendment but he will not have a referendum on that topic. He also said he would not introduce abortion, and he is introducing a Bill to bring in abortion. All the commitments made by the Taoiseach at the last general election have been broken and it is an extraordinary situation.

  I attended-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Is the Senator looking for a debate?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden -----the Constitutional Convention in Malahide, that beautiful part of the constituency of our leader in the Seanad. I asked the chairman, Tom Arnold, if it was ignoring the elephant in the room and how a convention that cost €60,000 for each meeting could not and would not discuss the most important change in the history of the State, the abolition of Seanad Éireann. I told him why the convention was ignoring it - because the Taoiseach was afraid the convention would not recommend the abolition of Seanad Éireann but its reform and he was afraid to put that question to the convention. If the convention cannot discuss that most important issue, why is it meeting at all?

Senator Mary M. White: Information on Mary M. White Zoom on Mary M. White Hear, hear.

Senator Aideen Hayden: Information on Aideen Hayden Zoom on Aideen Hayden I share the concerns raised by Senators Barrett and Jim D'Arcy about the leaving certificate paper. My daughter is sitting the leaving certificate and she and many of her friends are hanging on, their nerves in shreds, particularly this week. For many of these children, their whole futures are riding on this; that is how they perceive it. It is particularly troubling to hear the Irish Mathematics Teachers Association in dispute with the Department of Education and Skills as to whether some of the questions were even on the syllabus.

  It is ridiculous in this day and age to have everything hanging on one exam like this. For an exam to go wrong in this way for students does not just affect that exam, but every subsequent exam the students sit because it will undermine their belief in how they are getting on during those exams. We should ask the Minister to deal with this and to bring forward a reform agenda not just on the setting of papers, but on how the entire leaving certificate is formulated, putting such pressure on young people. In the past 20 years no one has asked me what I got in my leaving certificate but that makes no difference to the way students sitting that exam feel today.

  I welcome the changes announced by the Minister for Social Protection in her review of rent supplement limits. She has introduced higher limits in some urban areas. The Opposition was concerned about rent supplement levels in Fingal and they have been adjusted. I welcome that, particularly the rent supplement limits for single people, who have had real difficulties in accessing accommodation. It is, however, a concern that these limits are only being reviewed every 18 months. It is evident to all of us that there is an increasing demand for housing, particularly rented housing, in larger urban areas. Reviewing rent supplement limits every 18 months is not sufficient to keep up with what is happening in the market.

  I have stated before and I am stating again my belief that there will be a significant and acute housing shortage in the country in the near future. I ask the Leader to have the Minister of State with responsibility for housing come into the House to talk about national strategies on this shortage.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Feargal Quinn Zoom on Feargal Quinn Senator Barrett referred to the G8 summit taking place on Lough Erne next week. This is a wonderful opportunity for Ireland and I agree entirely that it was Prime Minister Cameron who arranged for it to take place in Ireland, in Northern Ireland, and close to the Border. We could do with a debate on tourism. Senator Mooney has often talked about the opportunity to have a debate on tourism. There are significant opportunities in this sector.


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