Order of Business (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 228 No. 9

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh] As Senator O'Donovan indicated, fishermen here are frustrated when they see boats from other EU countries being allowed to catch much larger quotas of fish in Irish waters. Those involved are particularly worried about the proposals in respect of whitefish stocks and the lack of progress on a deal between the EU, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland regarding quotas. Vessels from the latter countries are entering our waters and fishing them at will. I accept that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, is quite amenable to coming before the House but an urgent debate is required on this matter. The "Ho, ho, ho" was taken out of Christmas for most fishermen when they heard the details of the agreement that has been reached. It had been stated that, based on science, we would receive a much better deal. However, it appears we have been completely let down by science in this instance. It is very important we debate this issue as a matter of urgency.

Senator John Kelly: Information on John Kelly Zoom on John Kelly Like previous speakers, I congratulate Mr. Eddie Downey on his fabulous achievement. I was delighted by the stance he took during his election campaign to the effect that he is opposed to both wind turbines and pylons. This proves that the majority of farmers do not support the various projects which are proposed and which will lead to the landscape being destroyed.

Senator Sean D. Barrett: Information on Sean D. Barrett Zoom on Sean D. Barrett Hear, hear.

Senator John Kelly: Information on John Kelly Zoom on John Kelly I support the call made earlier in the week by Senator Cullinane for a debate on poverty. When one comes to work each morning, one is struck by the number of people begging and each evening one is confronted by many individuals seeking money. In addition, every morning one can see many people lying in doorways. I have raised this matter in the Chamber on previous occasions. It is outrageous that people should be obliged to sleep rough. I have heard radio interviews in which people who are self-employed are claiming to be in poverty. During the Seanad election campaign in 2011, I campaigned on the basis that the self-employed should be catered for and should be eligible for jobseeker's benefit. The individuals I have heard speak on radio have indicated that they are self-employed, that their wives have no income and that they have absolutely nothing. These people are being refused social welfare. That should not be the case. Those to whom I refer are entitled to social welfare payments-----

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

Senator John Kelly: Information on John Kelly Zoom on John Kelly -----but apparently they are not receiving them. When one takes everything I have just stated into account, it becomes clear that there is a need for a debate on this matter. The facts must be placed on the record and if it requires bringing the Minister for Social Protection before the House to explain the position to the people, so be it. The various parts of the social welfare system appear to be adopting different stances. A debate is required and I appeal to the Deputy Leader to facilitate one in the new year.

Senator Marc MacSharry: Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry I was going to propose an amendment to the Order of Business but two have already been proposed in respect of very important issues and I do not want to compromise the possibility of their being accepted. In such circumstances, will the Deputy Leader indicate whether time could be made available tomorrow, if not later today, for a debate on a particular matter? It seems that the HSE's national service plan, which seeks to take €619 million out of the health budget, was approved by the Minister for Health yesterday. I am glad that the mythical figure relating to the cull in respect of medical cards has been reduced from €113 million to €23 million. It is vital that we debate this matter, particularly as the number of services which are going to be cut is very worrying. I cannot help thinking that the delay in publishing the plan until now was specifically in order that we would not be in a position to engage in a debate on it before Christmas. The approach appears to have been that delaying publication would in some way make it go away. As far as I am concerned, it is not going to go away.

  This matter must be debated. The level of savings being sought in respect of the area health is far too high. Many of the targets set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, such as those envisaged in respect of the medical card budget, were completely unrealistic and picked out of the air. Far too blunt an instrument is being used with regard to the assessment of medical cards, particularly those of a discretionary nature. This morning I have been working on the case of a lady in her 30s who has cancer and whose medical card has been taken away. I do not understand how anyone with any level of compassion or understanding could remove such a person's medical card. We must begin to look at matters in a more compassionate and humane way. I may table an amendment to tomorrow's Order of Business in respect of this matter. I trust that the Deputy Leader will try to make some time available between now and the end of the week in order that the House might discuss the HSE's national service plan.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The one matter on which I can agree with Senator Darragh O'Brien is that he should go to the Garda with whatever information he has in his possession. We all have a duty under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 to report any impropriety of which we might become aware. In so far as the Senator is aware of some allegation that has been made, it is proper that he is going to do as he intends. Those in the print media will sensationalise matters as best they can, within the parameters of the law, in order to sell newspapers. As politicians, however, we have a duty of care and the one thing we must studiously avoid is being seen to jump on bandwagons. Of course, we are often, and quite typically, accused of doing the latter. Allegations have been made but it should not be further alleged that there is something rotten or wrong with the culture and that this goes to the very top. We should not be impugning the integrity of the board, the chairman or the managing director of NAMA, which is a very important State agency.

Senator Mary M. White: Information on Mary M. White Zoom on Mary M. White Senator Darragh O'Brien did not do that.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, he did not. However, reference was made to the culture that obtains. I am not being critical.

Senator Mary M. White: Information on Mary M. White Zoom on Mary M. White Senator Paul Coghlan is inferring that he said that.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am merely sounding a warning to the effect that we need to be careful. We are aware that NAMA operates within the law on a competitive basis and that it obtains independent valuations. I accept that the market is changing and that, as a result, valuations also change. I am sure those in NAMA are conscious of these matters. NAMA only employs properly qualified people to deal with the assets for which it has responsibility. I urge more care, more caution and less haste.

Senator Mary M. White: Information on Mary M. White Zoom on Mary M. White Transparency and integrity.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Garda bureau of fraud investigation is dealing with the matter and it should be allowed to carry on with its work.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien I did not know-----

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan With respect, the investigation has been going on for the past year or two.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien It is the second investigation. It was one investigation when we discussed the matter on Monday, now it is two.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Somebody gave the Senator information a couple of days ago. That is what happened.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Now it is two.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I call Senator Bradford.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask Senator Bradford to forgive me for impinging on his time.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator Paul Coghlan should put his whip back in his pocket.

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford Zoom on Paul Bradford Mr. Minority Whip is fully forgiven.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I like that touch.

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford Zoom on Paul Bradford I am normally hesitant to support requests to the effect that Ministers be brought before the House at short notice. It is generally impractical for them to appear in the Seanad with a few hours notice. It is important, however, that between now and Friday afternoon - when the Seanad is to adjourn for the Christmas recess - a Minister should come before us and outline his or her response to the allegations made in the House in respect of NAMA. This is Ireland's first week as a so-called free economy in the aftermath of its exit from the bailout. Apparently, we are in a position to run our own affairs. If the Oireachtas is to ensure the country does not end up in another bailout in the future as a result of bad economics, bad governance or bad politics, it must guarantee that all activities - be they public or political in nature - are carried out in the most transparent and honest fashion possible. I know nothing about NAMA other than what I have read in the newspapers but it is not unfair to suggest that questions must be answered. Taxpayers will eventually foot all of the bills in and we must ensure their money is not wasted. Public reassurance is required. Creating the type of good governance and good politics this country requires to allow it to grow in the future would be best facilitated by ensuring the questions raised by Senator Darragh O'Brien and others, both here and elsewhere, are comprehensively answered. There must be no shred of doubt with regard to an organisation as large as NAMA. The taxpayer has footed the bill to date and will continue to do so in respect of any problems that arise. It would not be practical for the Minister for Finance to come before the House today.

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien If I receive a commitment on this-----

Senator Paul Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford Zoom on Paul Bradford However, I hope he will appear prior the House adjourning for the Christmas recess.


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