Order of Business (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 228 No. 9

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Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien This is just a clarification. The Deputy Leader should not forget that NAMA denied there was a second investigation until we raised it in the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Senator has already spoken.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Dealing specifically with the state of the investigations, I understand an investigation by An Garda Síochána into a complaint made by NAMA against a former employee some time ago is at an advanced stage. I know colleagues will be relieved and glad to hear the investigation by An Garda Síochána into that former employee is at an advanced stage so it would be inappropriate for anyone, including a Minister or Leader in the Seanad, to say anything further about an ongoing investigation. More recently, I understand that in August 2013, An Garda Síochána received a separate complaint from a firm of solicitors acting on behalf of a client relating to the alleged disclosure of information by NAMA and that the Garda has been awaiting receipt of further documentation from those solicitors and will, of course-----

Senator Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien With all due respect, that only came to light after it was raised in the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Bacik, without interruption.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik As I said, I appreciate that and have acknowledged the role played by the Senator and the Seanad, but the Garda will investigate fully any allegations of criminal activity. I am sure we will be glad to receive any further documentation the Senator may have.
  Senator Clune raised the issue of the mid-term economic review and called for a debate on that in the new year. I would agree with that and think it would be very appropriate, particularly in light of the positive ESRI projections. Senator Clune also raised the issues highlighted in "Prime Time" last night on what appear to be abuses and inappropriate practices by a charity that provides residential places for recovering drug addicts. I saw the programme and I know many others will have seen it. It raised some very serious issues relating to the need for the regulation of charities and the charitable sector, for which many of us in this House have called. That would be a good debate to have in the new year.
  Senator Barrett was looking for a debate with the Minister for Finance in the new year. Again, I will pass this on to the Leader.
  Senator Mulcahy was looking for a debate with the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, equality and mental health on the disability sector, in particular on how to roll out the individualisation plan in the new year. Again, I will pass that on to the Leader.
  Senator O'Donovan complimented the Garda on foiling the plan to spring an individual before the courts from a courthouse. We all join Senator O'Donovan in conveying our gratitude and appreciation to the Garda for that apparently very successful operation.
  Senator O'Donovan proposed an amendment to the Order of Business to bring the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the House today to speak about fishing quotas and the ongoing negotiation. I cannot accept that amendment. The Minister spoke on "Morning Ireland" this morning about the deal that has been done. He says that, overall, the agreement is positive, the quotas are higher than they were a few years ago, particularly in the vital area of prawns, there have been increases in the quotas for fish like monkfish and hake, and he does not accept claims that this will cost jobs. He accepts there are cuts to cod, whiting and haddock but suggests it is a good deal overall. I accept that others have pointed out there have been difficulties for the fishing industry in Ireland for many years because of EU quotas. I think we all accept that but the Minister has been very good about coming to this House to talk to us about agreements reached at EU level. I am sure he will have no difficulty coming to the House in the near future. I just cannot accept that amendment for today. I ask colleagues to look at the Order of Business for today, see the amount of legislation we have and note the change made by the Leader last night in recognition of points raised by Senator Wilson, as a result of which the Order of Business today has changed. I will come to that later. We have a very full legislative agenda today.
  Senator Comiskey was looking for a debate on agriculture in terms of Pillar 2 funding and I will pass that on to the Leader. Senator Norris spoke about the reports today about the pricing of vegetables. I know the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has spoken about this matter this morning. Senator Norris will be delighted to hear that the Minister has said new legislation will be introduced within weeks if not months to bind supermarkets to the terms of contracts they have signed with food producers. He said the legislation will protect primary producers to ensure the contracts they have signed are fully respected. Clearly, there is an aggressive price war that is a matter of concern, but there is a response to that. I know Senator Norris also spoke about the oldest shop in Parnell Street and I share his view on that. He also spoke about the fisheries quotas to which I have responded.
  Senator Colm Burke spoke about NAMA and the concerns raised by many. I have dealt with that.
  Senator Ó Clochartaigh congratulated Eddie Downey on his election as the new president of the IFA. I think all of us will share the Senator's sentiments. Others have also expressed their congratulations and support for Mr. Downey. Senator Ó Clochartaigh also spoke about the fisheries quotas. I think I have answered that. I will pass on to the Leader the fact that there have been a number of requests for a debate with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the near future and we will try to arrange that as soon as we can.
  Senator Kelly congratulated Eddie Downey and spoke about the need for a debate on poverty. In particular, he raised a question about self-employed persons who should not be refused social welfare. There are perhaps two debates here. There is certainly a debate on poverty. I will pass that on to the Leader because I know others have been looking for it. The Senator and others called for a debate on homelessness. Perhaps a question needs to be asked about the regional differences in respect of social welfare entitlements, which might be raised as a matter on the Adjournment if there are specific cases where that has arisen.
  Senator MacSharry called for a debate on the HSE health service plan. I will pass that on to the Leader. I know the Senator is not proposing an amendment today. I am sure we will have the opportunity to debate that in the new year, if not this week. There are two health Bills before us tomorrow and I know colleagues will be raising some issues with the Minister for Health then. We all welcome the adjusted reduction in savings from medical cards contained in the plan announced yesterday.
  Senator Coghlan spoke about NAMA and the duty to report. Again, I think I have dealt with that. Senator Bradford also spoke about NAMA. I will pass that on to the Leader but there have been other suggestions about more appropriate places to raise the issues.
  Senator Keane spoke about wind farms and the pilot training college in Waterford. The Cathaoirleach has suggested that this would be a good topic to raise on the Adjournment and I would agree with that.
  Senator Cullinane spoke about the HSE service plan and primary health care. Again, I will pass on to the Leader the fact that there has been a request for a debate on that as early as possible.
  Senator Higgins spoke about NAMA. I think I have responded to that. Senator Byrne congratulated Eddie Downey and we would all share in that. Senator Mullins spoke about NAMA. I have pointed out the useful comment that the Committee of Public Accounts or the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform might invite in the executive board of NAMA to question it about all the matters that have been raised by Senator Darragh O'Brien and others. Senator Mullins also congratulated Eddie Downey and the Garda. Again, we share in that.
  Senator Healy Eames was looking for three debates. One of them was on the Legal Services Regulation Bill. There has been no dropping back by Fine Gael to keep the Labour Party happy on amendments to the Bill and the Senator should not believe everything she reads in The Phoenix. I also read that article. The Minister for Justice and Equality has utterly refuted the claims made in the article.

(Interruptions).

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke The Deputy Leader, without interruption.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I should say that the Oireachtas Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality will continue to deal with the Legal Services Regulation Bill in the new year. I know it will be before us. I imagine it will probably be February or March 2014.

  We can certainly have a debate on the idea of a drop in the age of consent. I know the Government has confirmed that the general scheme of the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill will be published in January so we might have a debate on that. The Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality will be looking at the heads of that Bill. Senator Healy Eames also called for a debate on education reform. I am sure we can accede to that in the new year.

  Senator Conway spoke about NAMA, complimented Senator Darragh O'Brien and supported Senator Kelly's call for a debate on poverty. Again, I think there are two debates for which Senators Conway and Kelly are looking for. One is on poverty, perhaps with the Minister for Social Protection, and the other is on homelessness, which should be a separate debate with the Minister of State with responsibility for housing and planning. I know the Minister of State has been developing a plan. I think Senator Conway is quite right. We need to challenge the Government on the plan to eliminate homelessness, particularly on its implementation. This is not the first Government that has sought to eliminate homelessness but it is a matter of grave concern to see how many are homeless - those who are visibly homeless but also those who are homeless on waiting lists. We need to have that debate in the new year.

  Senator Wilson commended Senator Darragh O'Brien and asked for a new year's resolution to be adopted in this House. As the Senator said, he is pushing an open door. He is right in saying that successive Governments have been guilty of trying to ram through legislation at the end of the summer and Christmas terms in particular, and that it is not good legislating, as I said on the record of this House last night. We should all join in commending the Leader on listening to and taking on board what we all said last night and changing the Order of Business in the course of the debate last night in order that Report Stage of the Water Services (No. 2) Bill did not conclude last night but has been included on today's Order of Business. I remind colleagues that there are changes to the schedule in the Order of Business that I announced this morning. These changes are very positive in terms of giving us more time to debate legislation when it had originally been sought to push through this legislation much more quickly. Other colleagues will be interested to know we had a meeting on Seanad reform with the Taoiseach. These are very useful and positive developments.


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