Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Sitting Arrangements: Motion
 Header Item World AIDS Day: Statements
 Header Item Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages
 Header Item Domestic Violence Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 254 No. 11

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Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach i gceannas ar 10:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I have received notice from Senator Kevin Humphreys that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, he proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to consider the reintroduction of Operation Freeflow in our cities.

I regret I have had to rule the matter out of order on the grounds that the Minister has no official responsibility in the matter. As there are no other matters raised I will suspend the House until 11.30 a.m.

   Sitting suspended at 10.35 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

Order of Business

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Before I ask the Leader to proceed with the Order of Business, I would like to acknowledge the long service of Senator David Norris who has been a Member of the House for 30 years and seven months. He has given extraordinary service as a representative of Trinity College, but his service and contribution have been much broader than Trinity. Sometimes they have been so broad that they can annoy the Cathaoirleach. His depth of knowledge and grasp of many topics, including economics, culture, history and so on, is endless and he has been a great advocate. He was here for a term before I was elected in 1989. I understand this is his eighth Seanad. It is a remarkable achievement. On a personal level, Senator Norris was a terrible rogue.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Like yourself, a Chathaoirligh.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan He would far outweigh me in that department. He has had a remarkable and very colourful, productive and fulfilling career.

  He championed the decriminalisation of homosexuality between adult gay men, after he won his case in Europe. The then Minister, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, acceded to introducing legislation to facilitate that decision. He is the father of the House in more ways than one. I think he is a little older than 30 years and seven months, but I will leave that matter to him.

  Senator Norris is held in high regard by me and many Senators, including those who are no longer here - people who have lost seats and so on. It is a wonderful occasion for Senator Norris and it is appropriate to mark it on 30 November, the last day of the month. He is not yet a holy soul but he is getting close to it. It is appropriate to mark the occasion with a few words of tribute. As Cathaoirleach, I am very honoured to have served with him and to be Cathaoirleach at a time when he is still active in the House. I wish him a long service in the Seanad and, on a personal level, the best of health. I hope he has a good Christmas. We are all very lucky that we are here for Christmas. We are fortunate.

  I will allow the Leader to speak because we have a lot of business today. Whoever wishes to speak on the Order of Business can mention Senator Norris. I will not stop anyone who wishes to speak.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer If I am correct, we will do the acknowledgments and tributes as part of the Order of Business. Is that correct?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Yes.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. a1, motion re sitting of Seanad Éireann next Tuesday, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business without debate; No. 1, statements to mark World AIDS Day on 1 December 2017 to be taken at 12.45 p.m. and to conclude no later than 1.45 p.m., with the contribution of group spokespersons not to exceed six minutes, all other Senators not to exceed four minutes and the Minister to be given no less than four minutes to reply to the debate; No. 2, Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill 2017 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to be taken at 1.45 p.m.; and No. 3, Domestic Violence Bill 2017 - Report and Final Stages, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 2.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I would like to join the Cathaoirleach in paying tribute to Senator Norris. He is not a holy soul just yet, but he is a loveable rogue and has given 30 years of service not just to Trinity College and the House but to the State. He has been a formidable debater, orator and political campaigner for topics which were not popular and society did not embrace, and championed them when nobody else would do so. He has continued to champion many causes which are not popular. When the bandwagon keeps going on, he is rightly acknowledged as the man who led many of those campaigns. We wish him 30 more years in the House, and thank him for his service to the State.  Regarding farm payments, today's edition of the Irish Farmers' Journalis leading with the question of how the spare €380 million in the Department should be allocated. Many low-income farmers need funding. We propose that the money be redeployed to them in light of the GLAS shortfall. This money is needed, but so is something else on which I will call for a debate with the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, namely, the reason for the late payments to farmers.

Fianna Fáil will also seek a debate on Tusla. Mandatory reporting is coming in, but Members of this House, their staff and people who are of assistance to those in distress, particularly in child protection matters, have not been given the necessary training to deal with them. If they do not deal with such matters correctly, they will be in breach of the law. We need clarification from the Government and the House on how our staff will be trained to deal with the issue of mandatory reporting. Tusla's CEO has stated that it does not have the requisite resources and is unaware of what processes it needs to have in place. Some 800 child protection and welfare cases are deemed high priority, yet a social worker has not been allocated to them. Children who are suffering abuse at this moment are not being dealt with. We are now going to add a further layer of reporting that is necessary, given what has happened previously, but there is a lack of clarity for Members of the Houses, local councillors, members of the Garda and so on as to what they have to do to comply with the law.

I ask that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, attend the House as soon as possible to outline what she is going to do. If Senators get phone calls and do not deal with them properly, they could be charged with breaking the law. More importantly, as with the case of Garda Sergeant McCabe, how should we deal with spurious allegations? People can make vexatious claims against people for the worst of motives. What would happen in such cases?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell How quickly 30-odd years pass. I remember sitting on my mother's knee as a child when Senator Norris was first elected to the Seanad.

Senator Paul Daly: Information on Paul Daly Zoom on Paul Daly The Senator is exaggerating a little.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Senator Norris is a great orator, wonderful scholar, good friend to have around the House and good man to give advice-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Senator Craughwell is misleading the House.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----to a youngster who arrives. I wish him well and I hope that he is around for another 30 years with me.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank Senator Craughwell very much.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Some of the others will not be, but I hope that the Senator and I will.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Should I take it that your mother had a knee replacement after that?

A Senator: And a hip.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I have spoken on the Defence Forces many times in the House. It pained me to walk through the gate of Leinster House this morning to find that the wives and partners of members of the Defence Forces would be camping outside for the next 24 hours. We must get a grip on what is happening. I will not criticise the Minister or anyone this morning. It just pains me to see what is going on outside the gate. These women left their children this morning, and the men who are out there with them left their families this morning, to travel here and spend 24 hours outside the gate. They are doing it to underpin the miserable terms and conditions of employment that we give to members of the Defence Forces. Some 4,500 members have walked out in seven years. We have no strategy for retention. We have no strategy for pay. We have no strategy for recruitment. Recruits are coming in one gate and going out the other.

  I do not know how to solve the problem. I spoke on the issue of homelessness a couple of weeks ago in the Chamber. As with that, we cannot solve the problem simply by knocking lumps out of one another. We must find a way to work together on this.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly On a point of information for my colleague, we are recruiting to the Army. It has been recruiting.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan We have one Leader and we will let him make a response.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We give a good service. Senator Craughwell can speak with my assistant here.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The unfortunate thing about recruitment is that, as quickly as people are joining, they are leaving.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator does not even acknowledge that there is recruitment.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Allow Senator-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Leader will have plenty of time to have a crack at me when he gets to his feet.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Will the Senator be factual, though?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am being factual.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Leader, please let Senator Craughwell finish. His time is up.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Recruits are coming in and leaving before they finish their training. It is a fact.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly That is normal.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That always happens.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Listen. The Senators are talking to the wrong guy now.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am not.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Through the Chair. Allow the Senator to conclude his point. The Leader can then respond.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There are always people who leave during training. The Senator knows that full well. He is misleading the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Leader, you will have ample time.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Why is it that the Leader always feels he has to interject when he will get ten minutes-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer When the Senator misleads the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan No. That is not-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Leader will get half an hour when this is finished to have a crack at everybody.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Please, Senator. I am trying to protect you. Leader, you made the strong statement that Senator Craughwell was misleading the House. Senator Craughwell has no intention of doing that. Please, allow him to conclude. You are only delaying the process.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson He is telling the truth.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am. Thanks for saying that.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson No. Senator Craughwell is telling the truth.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Senator Wilson, no foreign stations butting in, please. Senator Craughwell, please conclude.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell If I may conclude,-----

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Thanks for your support for the Army.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson He is telling the truth.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Please, allow Senator Craughwell to conclude.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The truth of the matter is that recruits are walking out in droves. We have to do something. What is happening with the Garda is in the full glare of the public eye. What is happening in the Defence Forces is hidden behind closed doors. We have bought massive ships but do not have crews to sail them. We are discussing replacing or improving the armoured personnel carrier, APC, fleet but we will not have drivers to drive them. We do not have bomb disposal specialists. The Defence Forces form the second pillar of the security of the State. Unless we take a grip of this situation, we will have no Defence Forces in a couple of years' time. The Taoiseach is the de facto Minister. He has to take responsibility now.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Norris. It was a different country 30 years ago. Frankly, I cannot imagine the courage it took to campaign the way the Senator has so successfully and with such courage. He has been a spokesperson for justice and equality, as well as for the underdog, for people who do not get a fair go in our society as things stand. He has been an inspiration. In particular, I highlight his work on Palestine. He has been strong on that issue. On behalf of all of my colleagues, I wish him a further long and successful career in the Seanad and thank him for all that he has done to date.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank the Senator very much.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I wish to discuss the horrendous situation of the President of the United States retweeting Britain First, a fascist grouping that left the British National Party because the latter was not fascist enough. I have seen the videos. They are videos of hate. They are horrific.

  It is worth bearing in mind what Britain First is. It was founded by Mr. Jim Dowson, an anti-abortion campaigner and Christian fundamentalist who is closely associated with Ulster loyalism. That is who we are dealing with. Britain First campaigns against multiculturalism and believes in direct actions such as carrying out "Christian patrols". It believes in mosque invasions. These are the types of fascist to whom the President of the United States is giving his approval. They want to ban Muslims from holding public office. They want to bring back the death penalty.

  I agree with what Mr. Jeremy Corbyn said when he called on the Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May, to condemn President Donald Trump's tweets, which I am glad she has done. Mr. Corbyn called the tweets "abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society". That is what these groups are.

  As it is incumbent on all European leaders to do so, will the Leader call on the Taoiseach to make a strong statement condemning the President of the United States for aligning himself so openly with the worst far-right fascism? Let us not forget that we have it in our own country. I mentioned this only the other week in terms of Mr. Cyrus Christie and the horrible abuse that he suffered. Last week, a new fascist organisation in Dublin dropped a banner from the M50 in Blanchardstown that read: "Defend Ireland: Stop the Great Replacement". It was a message of racism and division.

  This Saturday, the community of Blanchardstown will respond with its own banner in a show of support for and solidarity with migrants and refugees in Ireland.  I encourage anyone who is available and in that area to come and support the people of Blanchardstown in standing up to this kind of right-wing tyranny. I ask the Leader, and I hope everyone will support me in this, to call on the Taoiseach to make a clear statement. We cannot be silent in the face of fascism, wherever it comes from, and that certainly includes the President of the United States.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I join colleagues in paying tribute to our good friend and long-standing colleague, Senator Norris. I was going to say that it feels not so much like tributes as it does a sort of canonisation of Senator Norris. However, it is well deserved after 30 years and seven months, as the Cathaoirleach has said, of-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Canonisation by an atheist would be some trick.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I thank the Senator, I will take that. Yes, if there is a sort of secular canonisation, then that is what is going on here today, but it is well deserved. The Senator has indeed been inspirational, as others have said. It has been a real pleasure for me personally to have served alongside him for the past ten years as Senators on the Dublin University panel, and I cannot believe it has been that long. He has served the constituents from the Dublin University panel so well over that time, and for the 20 years before that. He has followed a long line of progressive Trinity Senators, including Catherine McGuinness and Owen Sheehy-Skeffington.   His pioneering work on his own account, both before and after his original election in 1987, has to be commended, particularly his immense bravery and courage in taking the case Norris v. Attorney General. This led to what has been described as the worst Supreme Court judgment ever, in which his case was at first dismissed by the Supreme Court. Famously, of course, it was then allowed by the European Court of Human Rights in Norris v. Ireland, and led to the historic lifting of the ban on homosexuality in 1993. However, it would not have happened without the original act of courage that he so poignantly spoke about in our recent series in Trinity on legal cases that changed Ireland. I must say, it was a real privilege to hear him speak so movingly about that experience. I do not wish in any way to undermine it, because it took immense bravery to take on the Irish State in the mid-1980s, a time when the State was so repressive towards LGBT people, women and in respect of matters of sexuality generally.

  On a lighter note, I join others in wishing the Senator very well for 30 more years to come. It is not just a matter of the past but an ongoing pleasure to work with the Senator, as we did on Tuesday night in this House, when we concluded Committee Stage of historic legislation on domestic violence. I look forward to the Report Stage debate today. Senator Norris was among those who pressed hard for introduction of the new offence of coercive control, which the Minister of State introduced on Tuesday night. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Norris on this and other important legislation.

  I will finish by stating a view Senator Norris would share. I condemn the new low by US President Donald Trump in retweeting those absolutely disgusting fascist videos from Britain First. These Islamophobic videos have rightly been condemned all across the world.   I join with others in calling on the Leader to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to express Ireland's condemnation of that particular action. It really does represent, even for Trump, a new low.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I will begin by joining in the felicitous words about our good friend and colleague Senator Norris. He is an absolute gentleman as an individual and a great colleague and friend. He is a polymath who makes huge contributions to the Seanad across a range of issues, cultural, social, economic, legal and so on. His pioneering, mould-breaking and hugely change-making work in the area of establishing gay rights in this country cannot be understated. He deserves great credit from all of us and we are proud to have him as a colleague. He does a lot for the Seanad on a number of levels.

  Many mainstream reliable British media sources are today reporting that there has been something of a breakthrough in the UK position on Brexit. There are reports that they are coming up with the divorce payment, but more importantly from an Irish context, there are reports that they are now willing to go without regulatory divergence on the Border, and at least acknowledge the Border issue in the negotiations in a serious fashion. That is a great breakthrough. The stated Irish position is that we want to maintain the customs union and the status quo. If we cannot do that, we want to establish the closest possible situation to that on an all-Ireland basis. We are working towards that.

  In the constituency I come from, Cavan-Monaghan, there is a huge risk of a dislocation of jobs in the food processing sector, in agriculture and right across a range of areas if we do not achieve this. I am very committed to it. I ask the Leader that before our Taoiseach goes to the next critical summit to decide if we move to the next phase of the negotiations on Brexit, that we have a debate in this House and consider this issue again. Colleagues from all sides in this House have done some great pioneering work on the Brexit question. I appeal to the Leader to do that. It is important that we do and the Leader has a very definite commitment in this regard because he has given me personal assurances on it on a number of occasions. We cannot put up to 40,000 people out of work in this State over Brexit. We will have to stand firm on it.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I wish to associate myself with the comments by Senator Craughwell. Both he and I are nominated by the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, and we both represent the Defence Forces here in the House in the best way we can. I met the protestors this morning outside Leinster House. They have a very good point. The families of Defence Forces personnel are relying on the family income supplement. It is unacceptable that this is the case while Defence Forces personnel are working for the State, putting their lives in jeopardy on the Golan Heights, in Lebanon and elsewhere. Maybe we could ask for the Minister of State with responsibility for defence to come to the House next week just to outline the situation-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer He was here last week.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden He can come again. We are here every week. He could update us on the position regarding pay and the area of recruitment, which Senator Craughwell has also highlighted.

  I wish to pay tribute to Senator Norris for over 30 years and seven months of service. It is an unbelievable service to the State. I regard him as a latter-day Oscar Wilde and it is a privilege to serve with Senator Norris here. I was here for a period between 1992 and 1993; I was here as a Minister of State from 1987 to 1989 when he was a Senator, and we served the State in many ways.

  Today is also the 50th anniversary of the death of Patrick Kavanagh of Iniskeen, County Monaghan, and I wish to pay tribute to him.

  I wish to comment on Trinity College, where I always expected and believed that David Norris was professor of English. What is wrong with these nitwits? Senator Bacik should have insisted, as she is now Reid Professor there. Surely of all the men in this country, a James Joyce expert, a man who has brought tourism, has defended James Joyce and has restored his houses and towers would be ideal. Yet Trinity College, this centre of enlightenment in the world, was not enlightened enough to make Senator Norris Professor of English. For God's sake, what is wrong with them? I understand Trinity has offered him an honorary doctorate. I am not sure whether he rejected it but certainly he should have. I could not believe it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris They gave one to me and Panti.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden When I came into this House, I thought Senator David Norris was one of the most educated, enlightened English experts.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell Apart from the Senator himself.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Yet there is a bit of jealousy in that place. There is jealousy in Trinity College to keep that good man down. However, we are elevating him here today, and I am delighted to see him in such good health and such good condition. I always say that in 50 years' time, to have served with David Norris in Seanad Éireann will be a badge of honour. I hope we can have some event to honour him, a lunch or dinner, to give him real recognition.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell Like the fatted calf.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I always say that in 50 years' time, to have served with David Norris in Seanad Éireann will be a badge of honour. I hope we can have some event to honour him, a lunch or dinner, to give him real recognition.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I cannot help but comment that the last time I heard the words "in such good condition" someone was commenting about a bull in the Balmoral agricultural show, so I would take that as a compliment.   This week, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Phil Hogan, issued a White Paper on the future of food and farming that outlines proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020. In this discussion and in producing a White Paper, we must always be mindful of low farm incomes in many sectors. This remains the most significant and challenging issue in regard to sustainable agriculture and farming enterprises, not only on the whole island of Ireland but also across the rest of the European Union. It is very important that we continue to attract new entrants to agriculture. I suggest, therefore, that we have a discussion on the Common Agricultural Policy for the period after 2020 in terms of how we can deliver better standards, fairer opportunities and equal opportunities for those who wish to derive their principal income from agriculture, forestry and horticulture. The sector is very significant in this country, but also across Europe. In addition, I stress the importance of the European Union. We must call on our colleagues and stand in solidarity with the farmers across the Union, especially regarding how the post-Brexit scenario will affect the Common Agricultural Policy.

  I wish Senator Norris continued good health. He is an amazing character, great friend and great colleague. He has been a brave man. He has shone a light in many a dark place. He has been a brave and courageous man in advocating for human rights and gay rights. I hope he will continue to be here and to be that incorrigible, great character that he is because he enriches our deliberations in Seanad Éireann. Well done and thank you.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke My apologies for jumping the gun yesterday in paying tribute to our esteemed colleague Senator Norris. I join my colleagues in wishing him many more years in this House. He has been here for 30 years and seven months. To be the longest sitting Member of Seanad Éireann in the history of the State is a massive achievement. He is to be congratulated. I wish him many more years here. I have served here for quite a number of years with him. He has fought many cases for the underprivileged and he is a champion of the underdog throughout the country. People in this State recognise that. No matter where one goes, they say Senator Norris is in the Seanad and that they would like to meet him. When one is with Senator Norris, people always rush up to have their photograph taken with him or to speak to him. He is held in the highest esteem throughout the country.

  Senator Norris participated in "Operation Transformation" along with the Leader of the House and a former Member of the House, the late Nicky McFadden, sister of Senator Gabrielle McFadden. It was a great contest.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We won it.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Yes. The Senator was victorious. Once when I was in the Chair, Senator Norris asked me to leave the Chair and come down into the body of the Chamber to vote against the legislation on the referendum to abolish Seanad Éireann. I did not do that. I knew I would not have to and that, if the people got the chance, they would make the right decision. They did so. When one is in the Chair, one has to be on one's toes when dealing with Senator Norris, particularly when dealing with legislation or going through amendments. He is a very good public representative and knows the ins and outs of legislation on Committee and Report Stages. One needs to be on one's toes dealing with him. He has gained all his experience over 30 years. He has been a marvellous public representative and a marvellous Member of this House. He has done a great service to society and Irish political life. I congratulate him and wish him well.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank the Senator.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I ask the Leader for a debate in the near future on the high cost of electricity in this country. The cost in Ireland is the fourth highest in Europe. We should debate why we have one of the highest costs because it affects not only the consumer but also industry. I would like the Leader to arrange for this in the near future.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan If my memory serves me correctly, Senator Paddy Burke is next in line for being the most senior in this House. I am third, so it is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Go n-éirí an t-ádh leis an gCathaoirleach agus leis an tSeanadóir de Búrca chomh maith. I am sure Senator Norris would not hold it against me if I said thank you very much for being a right royal pain in the arse for the past 30 years. He has always challenged everybody. He has always challenged the establishment, especially the Government parties. He has always challenged us when it needed to be done.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I still like you. Even as a party member.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh And vice versa. The bull in Balmoral was mentioned previously. I am sure that bull was a very fine Protestant bull so the Senator would probably have been very much in favour of it. The Senator is a wonderful purveyor of the English language. He is a credit in that regard and he is a great example to us all. He is both a rogue and a gentleman, which is a great mix. He has a wonderful intellect but a wicked sense of humour. Is fear é a bhfuil ardmheas aige ar an nGaeilge. Úsáideann sé an Ghaeilge. Ní bhíonn fuacht ná faitíos air labhairt ar son na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Táimid buíoch dó as sin. He is certainly a scholar, but I am not so sure that he is a saint, nor that he would want to be one. Certainly, this House has been very much enriched by his presence. We have had slight differences of opinion on matters such as direct provision but we have always been working towards the same goal. The Senator has always stood up for those who need somebody to stand up for them. He is a voice in the darkness for those who do not have a voice of their own. I am not sure whether the 30 years and seven months is a celebration or a penalty. There are certain misdemeanours for which one would not issue a penalty that long but it has been wonderful to have the Senator here. It has been wonderful to be a friend of his in this House. May he have 30 more years, and seven more months after that. Go raibh maith agat as gach rud atá agat, gach rud atá ráite agat agus an seasamh atá tógtha agat ar son muintir na hÉireann.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Go raibh maith agat, a chara.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I just received information that a good Corkman has been appointed as the new Tánaiste. It is a great honour for him. I knew his late father very well.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Information on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh Zoom on Trevor Ó Clochartaigh It is Senator Jerry Buttimer.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan It is unfortunate that his appointment came with the loss of a very nice lady who was a member of this House for many years. She departed in an unfortunate set of circumstances. On a personal level, I wish her the very best. It is nice to see the real capital of Ireland being acknowledged.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden I congratulate Deputy Coveney. I am delighted for him. I would like to be associated with the kind words that have been said about Senator Norris. I congratulate him and thank him for his long service and wish him continued health.

  Midlands Simon Community receives €100,000 per year from Westmeath County Council and a further €48,000 from the HSE. The organisation provides emergency accommodation for the homeless. It provides a lot of help in the midlands to homeless people with mental health issues. Reports have been produced on the services for homeless people throughout the country and Midlands Simon Community always comes out on top as delivering the best value for money. It is struggling with its services, however, particularly in Athlone. I ask the Leader to contact the relevant Minister to request that he consider increasing the funding for the organisation. It provides a very valuable service.

  I acknowledge the presence of the partners of the soldiers at the gate of Leinster House. I am constantly saying that the Army is not just about commemorations and parades. It is not just about helping with sandbags when there is flooding. It is about national security and our reputation abroad. No man or woman wearing an Irish soldier's uniform should ever have to rely on family income support. The Minister of State at the Department of Defence, who I know is working very hard to improve conditions, should be asked to come to the House to update us on progress on the pay and conditions of soldiers. I have raised this several times and will continue to do so. Now that the economy is recovering, we should consider the question of pay and conditions for our soldiers.

Senator Paul Daly: Information on Paul Daly Zoom on Paul Daly I second the proposal of my colleague, Senator Mark Daly, to amend the Order of Business to bring the Minister, Deputy Creed, in on Tuesday. I also wish to be associated with all the glowing comments to our colleague Senator Norris. As a first-time Senator who has only been in the House for a mere 18 months, I do not have much experience of serving with Senator Norris. However, my one abiding memory of the good service that the Senator gave to so many people is when he was diagnosed with ill-health. His public acknowledgement of his illness and portrayal of good humour, as well as how he handled the whole situation outside of politics, gave a lift to so many other people who were in similar circumstances and perhaps suffering alone. That will always be one of the greatest services Senator Norris has given to the ordinary people of Ireland who at the time were in that awkward and sickening situation. Thankfully he and, it is to be hoped, many of them came through it. It has been a pleasure to serve with him for my short period here. Hopefully, someday I might make that milestone and Senator Norris may still even be here.

  On a more serious note, I wish to concur with much of what Senator O'Reilly has said. I reiterate that we are in a two-week period in which we will face one of the biggest decisions that will influence the future of this country. I am taken aback by media and political commentary from the United Kingdom over the past 24 to 48 hours in particular. If it was not so serious it would have been funny last night, where three or four people were picked on television, probably from 100 who were interviewed, to draw a line on the map of Ireland to show where the North was. We saw where those lines were drawn. That was a British media spin in conjunction with the British Government and it is a full-on drive by the English to portray Ireland as not counting and that ordinary English people do not even know where the Border is. They are adopting a divide and conquer approach. We need to take the same stance. I am not asking for any Minister who has anything to do with Brexit to come in here for the next two weeks because they need to be where they need to be. We need to make our stance, dig in and put on the green jersey for the next two weeks. There is no point in having a debate like Members did yesterday on losing a banking institute on the toss of a coin. Crying over spilled milk will do no good. We need our media to come out fighting and take the same attitude. We can get headlines in newspapers in America over trivial things. The world's media need to see that Ireland is important. The genuine people of England, when there is no spin involved and when it is not being orchestrated and stage managed, do know where the Border is and do know where Ireland is. I note DUP politicians came out with a similar line this morning with a portrayal that all that is wrong with us is that we have a chip on our shoulder because of what has gone before in history. One and all here in Ireland, political, media and the man in the street, need to put on the green jersey for the next two weeks and we do not need to have any regrets when the summit is over on 14 December.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan By way of clarification, if I heard the Senator correctly, did he say he was seconding Senator Mark Daly?

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I asked that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine be called into the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Senator Paul Daly supported that call but, to clarify, there was no formal amendment to the Order of Business.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I formally propose that.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator cannot propose it now. Is it proposed again?

Senator Paul Daly: Information on Paul Daly Zoom on Paul Daly I formally propose it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I will accept that. Is the proposal seconded?

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I second it.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Ba mhaith liom focal nó dhó a rá faoin Seanadóir Norris freisin. I just wanted to congratulate Senator Norris on a significant personal milestone. I am sure it means the world to him to have all of us queuing up to throw rose petals at his feet. No one is worthier in this Chamber because it is a special day for Senator Norris. Many other Members know him much better and much longer and are much more authoritative in their assertions. While there are many issues where he and I would diverge in our opinion, there are many more where we are completely in concert. As a voice for progress and voice for social justice in Ireland he and I are very much at one.

  Given the subject matter and the contributions in recent weeks and months, I bring to Members' attention the Gaelic Voices For Change initiative. Past and present GAA county players will sleep out to raise awareness of the escalating housing and homeless crisis in Ireland. The event is supported by the Gaelic Players Association and the Women's Gaelic Players Association. They have announced that sleep-outs will take place in Dublin, Belfast, Portlaoise, Galway, Cork, Limerick, and Carlow. More locations will be announced in the coming days. Players and squads wishing to register can do so online until next Monday. They are also looking for help and volunteer action in respect of tea and coffee, food, sleeping bags, music and everything else that can be done to assist them to highlight a serious issue that blights our society. As we head into the Christmas period in particular, though it should always be to the fore of our minds, it shows an example of the best of the GAA and that Gaelic ethos that county players, both current and former from across the various codes, are queuing up to take part in this initiative on 16 December. I am flagging this to Members to encourage them to look out for it in their local area and to lend it whatever support they can and to allow it to act as a reminder to us who actually have a degree of influence and political clout to do more in respect of our homelessness crisis.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I join with all my colleagues in congratulating our good friend and Father of the House on his 30 years and seven months. It is a great record. Senator Paddy Burke will be trying to catch up with him. He mentioned the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I did not realise the Cathaoirleach was the Holy Ghost.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I thought it was obvious.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I wish himself and Senator Paddy Burke well too. I hope that Senator Norris will be here for many years to come and I hope to spend a few years here myself with him. We are all willing to serve. There have been many stories about David. Senator Paddy Burke told me a good one about times past when turf was being brought up to that big house Senator Norris is maintaining on North Great Georges Street.

  When one is in the Chair and Senator Norris is in full flow at whatever stage of a Bill, it can be a trying experience. He tested me once or twice when I was up there as Chair. We enjoyed it. He was always good and gave great value. He was very insightful when he got into the detail of whatever he was dealing with. It is true that he has been a very true Trinity stalwart. He has upheld the position with great dignity. Please God we will all be around here for another while longer.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I join other colleagues in paying tribute to our good friend and colleague, Senator Norris. He is the longest serving Senator since 1937, which is a great record to have. In paying tribute to him, as has been stated here, he was the champion of the underdog. He always took on causes that were not popular. As we all know, there was no sex in Ireland until 6 July 1962 when Gay Byrne and the "Late Late Show" came about and there were no gays in Ireland until 30 years and seven months ago, when Senator Norris started campaigning for equal rights in our society. I wish him well. As a conservative liberal, which is how I classify myself, I disagree with much of what he stands for. However, I stand for his right to campaign for it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is does not interfere with our friendship.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Certainly not. I wish him many more years in this House in the future and like Senator Coghlan, I would like to spend a good few of those along with him if that is possible. That is up to our colleagues that elect us here.

  As for the wives and partners of the Defence Forces personnel who are mounting a 24-hour campaign, they have a genuine concern and that has been outlined in this House on many occasions by myself, Senators Craughwell and McFadden and others.  Shortly after completing their training recruits are leaving because they cannot afford to live and their families cannot survive on the wages that they are being paid. Until we stand up to that fact their departure will continue. There are difficulties in all sections of the Defence Forces. Until that is tackled those difficulties will continue.

  I have a lot of time for the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Kehoe. However, I am very much afraid that he has not been given the full facts. We have all witnessed in recent times what happens to the person who has political responsibility in a Department when he or she is not given the full facts. I do not want to see the same happen to him. I ask the Leader to relay to him the urgency of this situation and second the amendment to the Order of Business.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen What can one say about David as he marks 30 years and seven months? First, I say ad multos annos.

  I am not sure that David and I are that much closer to a meeting of minds on many admittedly significant issues. He has certainly grown on me in the ten years that I have known him since being elected to the Seanad and I would like to think that I have grown on David as well. I have thought and have often said that he is a very fine example of the potential for the Seanad. I also think that there are many things on which we agree. I suspect that we both have an admiration for Pope John XXIII, for example.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Very much.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It was Pope John XXIII who thanked the Lord that he was not a liberal in his youth so that he was not a conservative in his old age.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Clearly, I am told.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I thought the Senator might like my example. Congratulations, David. I thank the Senator for all of the good that he does and I hope he will continue his good work.

  I do not know whether David would agree with me on the following. I know that he has been a critic of the abuses perpetrated by the media from time to time. I do not know what he thinks of the report produced by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the proposed broadcasting charge. I think it is a very serious development. We had a situation where the Minister, in a previous Government, thought about introducing a broadcasting charge but the idea appeared to wane. The report seems to put the idea very much back on the agenda.

  The idea of expanding the term television set to include laptops, computers and, potentially, iPads would mean that even if a person does not consume televised content and instead opted for Netflix or got news by reading online newspapers, he or she would still be forced to pay an RTÉ tax even if he or she never used its services. Virtually every person in the country has a computer, a laptop or an iPad for work or day-to-day communications. If the licence fee is re-designed to apply to virtually every person in the country whether they watch television or not then we should be honest with the public. We should tell them that the Minister is introducing a new tax and not a fee for using a particular service. To confirm that suspicion the committee has recommended that the Revenue Commissioners should collect the new broadcast tax. Such an initiative would completely ignore how people consume entertainment and information. It is extraordinary to suggest that a person with no television who has a paid online subscription to an entertainment service like Netflix or an online subscription to The Irish Times, for example, would be forced to pay for services provided by RTÉ that the person might neither want nor use. The initiative will distort the media market in Ireland and create real difficulties for online content providers. It would also be deeply anti-competitive.

  Is it fair to be obliged to pay for the television programme called "Fair City"? I have no problem will allocating money from the public purse for particular services that the likes of RTÉ could provide. One could put a value on RTÉ's news service, for example, the "Six One News", and allocate a certain amount of millions of euro. One could pay for "The Late Late Toy Show" if it is considered to have significant public merit. The idea that RTÉ would continue to enjoy the double advantage of both having State funding and being able to earn hundreds of millions in advertising revenue is still unfair. RTÉ has 2,000 staff who earn €53,000 per year on average. Frankly, RTÉ has a track record of bias on a range of issues that it has done little to address. It is not right to introduce a new means of taxation when RTÉ has been forced to admit that some of its presenters are paid between €400,000 and €500,000 per year. RTÉ has often been found out by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for its lack of fairness and impartiality. There has been no talk of reform. Instead, there has been talk about giving RTÉ a special new stealth tax. I do not think that the Irish public will stand for a new tax and I certainly do not think it is fair. I would be grateful if the Leader could arrange a debate on the topic

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I want to be associated with all of the good wishes extended to Senator Norris. I commend him on his long service. When I reflected on his service I realised that he has been involved in politics for four decades that spanned the 1980s, the 1990s, the noughties and now this decade. He has made a substantial contribution and we have witnessed exciting changes in Ireland over the period. I may not agree with everything that he says but I believe it is extremely important that we have diverse views. I worry about the imbalances in Irish society. We need people to challenge viewpoints but we also need to respect each other's views.

  As a politician people contact us when they want to visit the Houses of the Oireachtas and, invariably, one takes them to the Members' restaurant. I know from experience that the first person people want to meet is David Norris. He has his own table in the restaurant so people know where he sits and visitors ask to be introduced to him.

  Maybe others have referenced Bloomsday and Joyce. I associate the Senator with James Joyce. Senator Norris has probably made a contribution to Ireland's GDP in terms of Bloomsday tourism. It is significant. I have tried to read Ulysses many times. Like many, I have read some of the other books, which I can grasp, but I find Ulysses difficult. I enjoy the language, but politics is not conducive to giving the time for the periods of reflection that would be needed while reading it.

  I wish the Senator well. Like my colleagues, Senators Paddy Burke and Coghlan, I do not doubt that Senator Norris will be around for many years to come. He is an institution.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank the Senator very much.

Senator Ned O’Sullivan: On behalf of the liberal liberal wing of Fianna Fáil, and on my own behalf-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The neoliberal wing.

Senator Ned O’Sullivan: It is probably the same thing. I am delighted to have the opportunity to congratulate Senator Norris on a remarkable achievement. Apart from the fun and everything else, he will go down in the history books and be remembered for a long time for the fearless way in which he championed the rights of the gay community. Through his lead, he has made the enjoyment of life possible for thousands and thousands of gay men and women.

  I was probably a college student when Senator Norris was busy in his project centre in Temple Bar. He was fighting a hard battle and did not have much support from any wings of the establishment, but he did it anyway. It must have been a wonderful example for people who were in the closet. Rightly so, because there was no tolerance shown at all for members of the gay community. I salute the Senator for that.

  I also salute him for his erudition. He is an adornment to the Seanad. Whenever he is on his feet, visitors get great value. There is no doubt about that – he is the star of the show. He is a good advertisement for the Seanad and what it can achieve.

  The Cathaoirleach gave me a bad fright. I was watching this on television. I knew that Senator Norris was alive because I had seen him in the corridor. Perish the thought, but I then wondered whether the Senator had resigned.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Never.

Senator Ned O’Sullivan: I am glad to find out that this is just a happy occasion.

  Before concluding, and speaking as a half-Corkman, I congratulate the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, on being elevated to the position of Tánaiste. I am not in any great hurry for this, but I also welcome in prospect the elevation of his constituency colleague, Deputy Micheál Martin, to be the next Cork Taoiseach in the footsteps of the great Jack Lynch.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator will be waiting for that.

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I congratulate Senator Norris and wish him well. When I first met him, he had come to Boyle for the arts festival. He performed his James Joyce show. I am one of those Senators who tried to read Ulysses, but it was above me. Senator Norris entertained. His language was magical. He made James Joyce much more approachable to middle Ireland. He was ahead of the curve.  I wish to God he was my teacher many years ago as I might have had a decent job rather than ending up a politician. He was eccentric and in the vanguard of the gay civil rights movement in Ireland, for which he will be remembered as well.

  Senator Norris was always very helpful when I came into the Seanad. He would sit behind me telling me to keep standing and to keep talking. I think most Senators appreciate that he took the time to be friendly and helpful.

  I have one funny story which Senator Norris does not know. Two years ago we were going to the American ambassador's residence for the 4 July party. In front of our car was an old-fashioned car. Security personnel were checking cars for explosives. Senator Norris jumped out of the car and said, "It is not my car." If it was anyone else, there would have been a security alert. However, everyone looked around and said, "That's only David Norris; it's okay." We were laughing in the back of the car.

  Senator Daly is absolutely right. We are in an interesting and dangerous situation regarding Brexit. I hope there will be a deal. We have to put on the record of the Seanad again, however, that Ireland is on par with the United Kingdom for the first time in 800 years and that power and influence must be used in a correct way. We must work together in the United Kingdom and Europe to ensure that whatever happens is as good a deal for the United Kingdom, Europe and ourselves. We are in a very eventful situation for the future of the island of Ireland and, if it is handled right, we can influence things not just in the UK and Europe but around the world. We are in a very influential and interesting situation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan We are running out of time and I have six more speakers. However, I will not stymie anyone today. Senator Norris also has to come in. I call Senator Murnane O'Connor. She might try to be brief.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I offer my support to those representing the Defence Forces who are picketing outside today. I hope that the Minister will listen to them.

  It is a great honour and achievement for Senator Norris to have been a Senator for 30 years and seven months. He can be really proud of himself.

  Today I want to highlight White Ribbon Ireland. This is the national movement of the world's largest male-led campaign to end men's violence against women, with a presence in more than 60 countries,. I spoke in Carlow College this week as part of an action day for the campaign and I was reminded of a quote of Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges: "It's not enough to just treat women well. We have to work to make sure all men treat women well." The aims of the white ribbon campaign are to encourage education and leadership in order to change the attitudes and behaviour that lead to men's violence against women by educating boys and men to lead social change and to achieve gender equality. Often we hear the female side of the issue but we cannot exclude men from the conversation. We all need to join in the conversation and contribute if we are to change the narrative. We need to find ways to say that there is never an excuse for abuse. We need to stop disrespectful behaviour by saying that it is never acceptable.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Is the Senator calling for a debate on it?

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Yes.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I call Senator Kevin Humphreys.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I wish to join in the tributes to my colleague, Senator Norris, and wish him good wishes from St. Andrew's resource centre. Senator Norris made Joyce accessible to many people from the inner city. People always looked forward to seeing Senator Norris at St. Andrew's on Bloomsday, which he did for many years. I have also been asked to convey the good wishes of Ger and Martha Siggins today. I congratulate the Senator. He should celebrate this and I say to him, "Onwards and upwards."

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am sure Senator Lombard will be every bit as brief.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard As always, a Chathaoirligh. First, I concur with Senators in the warm wishes to Senator Norris. Thirty years and seven months is a fantastic achievement. Congratulations to him.

  Since I have been so brief, I will sum up by congratulating my parish and county man, Deputy Simon Coveney, on his achievement of being appointed Tánaiste today.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard I wish him the best of luck. He will do a fantastic job. It is a great honour for our part of the world, Cork. It is not only a geographical issue though. I think he will be a capable and appropriate Tánaiste in light of where we are in terms of Brexit and his foreign affairs portfolio.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am sure there will be a parish celebration.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard We will light a bonfire.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I call Senator Robbie Gallagher.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I, too, would like to be associated with the remarks about Senator Norris. Like other Members, I have only known him since I was elected to the House some 18 months ago. I have enjoyed his contributions. He is very witty. Of his many qualities, I mention his light-hearted attitude to life and everything he does. We could all learn from it.

  While I am on my feet and contemplating the plights of great men, on the stony grey soil of Monaghan people will gather today to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the well-known poet, Patrick Kavanagh. Patrick Kavanagh was born in the village of Inishkeen. He became a world-renowned poet and has left a legacy of poems that we can all enjoy. For such a small county, Monaghan seems to have an art for producing men of great talents across all fields. It is right that we would acknowledge his legacy. We can enjoy it for many generations to come.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I, too, join in the tributes to Senator Norris. He has made a huge contribution to public life in the country. When he started out, it would not have been easy to raise the many issues which he did raise. Over the years, the change he sought has occurred and long may he continue to raise such issues. While we may sometimes sit back and say it is for someone else, he has always been to the forefront in identifying issues and ensuring that views different to ours are aired. I thank him for his contribution to public life over the past 30 years.

  I also join with colleagues in paying tribute to my county colleague, Deputy Simon Coveney, on his appointment as Tánaiste. He will carry out his duties, as he has in all his ministerial portfolios, in a dedicated and committed way. It is also appropriate that I would congratulate my legal colleague, Deputy Josepha Madigan, who has been promoted to the Cabinet. That is also a very good appointment. She has a huge contribution to make and I look forward to working with her.

  The GP contract negotiations were raised yesterday at the Joint Committee on Health. I am very concerned about how long this is taking the Department of Health. We need a proper contract for GPs. Scotland is facing a shortage of more than 1,000 doctors. A new contract which will be quite attractive to Irish doctors has now been brought forward, so we need to get our act together. It might be appropriate to have the Minister in not before Christmas but in the new year to discuss this issue and all of the issues being raised by GPs can be considered.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I had closed my allocations but since Senator James Reilly, a senior figure in his party, has come in and wants to speak, I will allow him in for a brief moment.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I thank the Cathaoirleach for his courtesy and latitude. I congratulate Senator Norris on being the longest serving Senator. He has seen considerable social change and fought for most of it himself. I am sure it is a matter of great pleasure for him to look back and see the changes wrought, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the introduction of marriage equality as well as many other changes of a much more general nature.

  I also add my voice to those who congratulated the new Tánaiste, Deputy Simon Coveney, as well as Deputy Josepha Madigan on her rise to Cabinet. I wish them both well.

  I will be very quick but I will echo what Senator Burke mentioned. There is absolutely no doubt that we have a serious problem attracting general practitioners into our service.  A story on the front page of today's edition of the Irish Independent reports that it could now be up to a week before a person can see his or her GP. The issue needs to be urgently and aggressively addressed.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The final word for Senator Norris.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I strongly support the comments of Senator Gavan in respect of President Trump's vicious tweet. The most sinister thing was that his spokesperson said it does not matter whether the videos are genuine or not.

  I am very embarrassed but also flattered and pleased by the statements and comments of my very many generous friends in Seanad Éireann. Friendship and fun are the two things I have gotten most from the Seanad. I do not have a single enemy in the House. There are items on which Senators disagree but it would be extremely dull if we did not. However, any disagreement is discussed without any sense of partisanship.

  None of this recognition would have been made if it were not for Ger Siggins as I did not know I was the longest-serving Senator but Mr. Siggins tweeted about it. It has been a great honour for me to have served with people such as Mary Robinson, Gordon Wilson, Joe O'Toole and many others, including all the current Members of the House. I served with Tras Honan, Sean Fallon as Cathaoirleach, Seán Doherty, Liam Cosgrave, Liam Naughten, who was tragically killed in a car crash, Senator Paddy Burke, who was here earlier and was a wonderful Cathaoirleach, Pat Moylan, Rory Kiely and the current Cathaoirleach, who has been one of the best Cathaoirligh because, although he comes from a Fianna Fáil background, he has shown complete political indifference and has treated everybody extremely fairly. There have been many fine Leaders of the House, including the current holder of that office, Senator Buttimer, who has done a very distinguished job. There have been other Leaders, such as Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, who I was very sorry to see have to leave ministerial office this week, and Maurice Manning, who is another very fine person.

  I was glad to be in a position to help in a fairly significant way to save the Seanad. It would have been dreadful if the House had been lost. On Tuesday last the Domestic Violence Bill, which is very important legislation, went through Committee Stage in the House and Senators had a tremendous impact on it. It is now radically different and has been immensely strengthened as a result of its passage through the House. Each of the Senators representing Trinity College had amendments to the Bill accepted, which is remarkable.

  I thank all Members very much. I am flattered and humbled. I had to wipe away a tear but it was a tear of laughter at the wonderfully funny things some Senators said about me. I am very honoured to have represented the graduates of Trinity College for so many years and I hope to go on doing so. I said to my very fine colleague, Senator Bacik, that I am going to reprint her glowing tribute on my next ballot paper. That might be a little unfair so I will not do it.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I have no objection.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I pay particular thanks to the Cathaoirleach and the Leader, Senator Buttimer.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Deputy Norris has been an icon during my time in the Seanad. He had difficult days under the chairmanship of the late Seán Doherty. I will not recount those days but they were-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We had a principled disagreement and Seán Doherty did nothing about it. Other parties saw there was an opportunity to do me in but I won. However, I refused to give evidence for The Sunday Times because I would not give evidence for a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch against an Irish citizen. It did not end my friendship with Seán Doherty. He was remarkably witty, and certainly a rogue.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Deputy Norris is on par with him in that regard. The Leader to respond.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the 22 Members who contributed and I join with all Members in commending and offering felicitations and tributes to the father of the House, Seanadóir David Norris. Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Pháirtí Fhine Gael, gabhaim buíochas leis agus déanaim comhghairdeas leis as ucht an mhéid seirbhíse atá déanta aige ar son toghthóirí na Tríonóide. Senator Norris is renowned for his Joycean scholarship. A Joyce quote I like and which I think pertains to the Senator is: "As I am. As I am. All or not at all". That encapsulates Senator Norris: one can fight, argue, debate or socialise with him but he is who he is, all or not at all. There can be no ambiguity or anything to say other than that Senator Norris is a scholar, as politician, a person of independence of mind and a champion of civil rights for over four decades. I am becoming a little emotional because it is due to the efforts of people such as Senator Norris that people like me can get married in this country.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Hear, hear.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As many Senators said, he was a champion, a hero and brave and courageous at a time when it was very unpopular for him to be so. Many admired and modelled themselves upon him and joined his fight. Some might have done so belatedly while others did not join at all because they were afraid and did not have Senator Norris' courage to go to Europe or elsewhere for what he deemed right. When the footnotes of Irish history are written, Senator Norris will be noted as a rock, a lighthouse and a shining jewel for the way in which he helped to save our country and transform it, not in one act but in many, as many Senators have said.

  I thank the Senator on my own behalf for what he has done, not least being returned to the Seanad on eight occasions, which, in spite of the wiliness of the Cathaoirleach and Senators Paddy Burke, Coghlan and Wilson, is an extraordinary act. I hope many of us will be able to emulate that feat not only in the Seanad but also in the Lower House. It is important that the Senator's electoral record is acknowledged and that tributes are paid to him and also to his administrative assistant, Ms Miriam Smith, for the work she has done. She has always been with the Senator and has stood beside, worked with and challenged him.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris She has done so for almost 23 years.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank Ms Smith for her work.

  Enough has been said. The Senator should go and celebrate. His record speaks for itself. His generosity of person is notable. As Senator Paddy Burke rightly said, when anybody comes into the House the Senator is always willing to have his photograph taken and is always pleasant, amicable and a gentleman. Like Senator Mullen, I wish him multos annos or many more years. I too wish Pope John XXIII was still with us as that would be a wonderful model of church to follow.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It would be a miracle.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It would be a miracle but it would be his model of church.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We have a good new Pope.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We hope that Senator Norris stays with us for many more years. His work and legacy will be remembered and admired by all. Go raibh míle maith agat.

  Senators Craughwell, Wilson, McFadden and Murnane O'Connor raised the issue of the Defence Forces. It is regrettable that there are members of the Defence Forces and their families outside the gates of the Oireachtas today. However, it is worth setting the record straight in so far as there has been a record level of recruitment in recent times, with 800 people recruited this year. This is the second year in a row that there has been a cadet class of 100. Last year, more people joined the Defence Forces than left it and Senator Craughwell should remember that. The pay rates for members of the Defence Forces have begun to increase.

  When Senators speak about the Defence Forces it is important to remember and acknowledge the role that those men and women play in our country and across the world. I acknowledge and pay tribute to them and their families for the service they have given. They are entitled to pay restoration, which is taking place, and pay increases, which are being made and will continue to be made. It is equally important to recognise that the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, are committed to resolving the issues raised by many Senators this morning and on an ongoing basis. In the context of the members of the Defence Forces who, unfortunately, are in receipt of family income supplement, although we accept none should be, only 1.3% of the Defence Forces are currently in receipt of it. Let us, and Senators Craughwell and Leyden in particular, be objective about this.  I could take a party political position on this issue but I will not do so because it relates to the Defence Forces for whom we have great respect. We want pay restoration to continue. It is important, therefore, that we continue to work collectively to ensure this is achieved and the Defence Forces are given due recognition. I remember when family members of Defence Forces members ran in general elections against Senator Leyden's party. He should cast his mind back to that.

I accept Senator Paul Daly's amendment to the Order of the Business. While I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to debate the important matter the Senator raised, he cannot do so today. I ask the Senator to accept a debate on the issue on Tuesday instead.

Senator Mark Daly referred to rural development, GLAS payments and the need to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Certain remarks were attributed to the agriculture Commissioner, Mr. Phil Hogan. I would be happy to have a debate on the issue in the coming weeks. I will not give a long-winded answer on the issues the Senator raised but it will be important to have a debate.

I join Senators Bacik, Gavan and Norris in condemning the tweets, remarks and inferences of President Trump. This type of rhetoric, whether in a tweet, comment or speech, has no place in society or a modern democracy. We must promote integration and brotherhood and sisterhood, rather than dividing nations and people. The remarks were ill-tempered and have no place in politics. All of us should condemn them and I am glad Prime Minister May condemned them this morning. It beggars belief that President Trump can be allowed to continue to make such remarks. I know we live in a democracy and we have freedom of speech and thought but the President's behaviour was outlandish. I have no interest in seeing anyone trying to condone it because it cannot be condoned.

Senators O'Reilly, Paul Daly and Feighan raised the issue of Brexit, on which I will be pleased to facilitate a debate. I was endeavouring to have a debate on Brexit next week but the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, will be away next week. Perhaps we can find a means of having this important debate, which was outlined very well in the contributions of Senators. The Brexit negotiations are critical to the country. As we all know, the issue of the island of Ireland is fundamentally important in the negotiations and Irish people, North and South, and the Government are very cognisant of this. We cannot place in jeopardy the cross-Border co-operation taking place in 141 separate areas. We cannot put North-South relations and the entire island at risk. I commend Senators on offering their support on this issue and on the positive, affirming and determined rhetoric they used this morning. This is about us, as a nation, North and South, standing together from the point of view of trade, integration and people. For example, 40% of the milk processed in Ireland goes back and forth across the Border and 100,000 cattle cross the Border to be finished. Brexit will have profound impacts on economics, tourism, Border communities and the island as a whole. I will try to arrange a debate for next week or the week after.

I join Senators, in particular Senator Lombard, on congratulating my colleague and friend, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, on his appointment as Tánaiste. His appointment is a tremendous honour for him personally, the Fine Gael Party in Cork South-Central, of which both he and I are members, and County Cork. The county now has its second Tánaiste, after the late Peter Barry. I will not go as far as Senator O'Sullivan in calling for another Cork man to be Taoiseach. I hope the Taoiseach and Tánaiste will continue in their roles and the latter will be joined in the Dáil by a willing accomplice and candidate in Cork South-Central. The appointment is a tremendous honour for the Tánaiste and his family and I congratulate him, Ruth, his wife, and members of his extended family.

I also wish the Minister, Deputy Josepha Madigan, every success in her new role. She is a formidable and excellent Member of the Lower House where she has, as previous speakers stated, made a significant contribution. I wish her well. I also congratulate the new Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Heather Humphreys, on her appointment. Given the importance of Brexit, her position in an economic Ministry highlights the need for continuing dialogue on the Border region. I wish her well in that regard.

I will be happy to have a debate on electricity, as requested by Senator Paddy Burke.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden raised a disturbing issue related to Simon Community accommodation in the midlands. Perhaps it would be addressed quicker if raised as a Commencement matter but I will try to arrange a debate.

I join SenatorÓ Donnghaile in congratulating Gaelic Voices for Change on its sleep-out to highlight the issue of homelessness. We should all highlight this important issue, on which we can expect the Government to take further action. Visibility is also required.

Senator Mullen raised the licence fee and RTÉ. He has raised this issue previously and I am aware that the former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, considered the possibility of introducing a broadcasting charge. I do not necessarily agree with the Senator on the issue of "Fair City" because it is important that we have home produced drama and other productions, not least because they create employment for people in the arts community. However, the Senator makes a good point on the use of the television licence fee. I do not fully agree with RTÉ's editorial policy or production ideas but it is important that, as the State broadcaster, the organisation is independent. If I am correct, the Senator asked that we examine how RTÉ spends income from the licence fee. In the modern era, people use various devices such as iPads and smartphones to watch television. I will probably be accused of being a spoilsport but perhaps we need to consider reducing the licence fee and having a different type of fee. The Government is examining this issue on which we need to have a debate. I accept the point the Senator made.

Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the important issue of domestic violence, specifically violence by men against women and the white ribbon campaign. We all agree on the need to eradicate domestic violence. In recent weeks, we have seen controversies involving behaviour that we cannot condone. This matter is also of major importance. The House had a strong debate on the Domestic Violence Bill and it is important that we work to eliminate all types of mistreatment or inequality.

On the day that we pay tribute to Senator Norris, we also remember Patrick Kavanagh. I was tempted earlier to quote to Senator Norris the following line from Kavanagh that I like - "Every old man I see in October-coloured weather" - but I did not wish to suggest he is in an old man.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris At 73 years of age, I am an old man.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer While Senator Norris may not be a father, he is the father of the House and, to be fair to him, he has been a father to all of us.

  Senators Colm Burke and James Reilly raised the general practitioner contract, an important issue on which we need to have a debate.

  I hope Senators will allow a change to the Order of Business next Tuesday and thank them in advance for doing so. The reason we are proposing to amend Tuesday's Order of Business is that the Seanad Public Consultation Committee will sit earlier to meet a number of witnesses who are unable to attend in the afternoon. It was envisaged that the committee would sit for the entire day and the Seanad would not sit. I thank Senators Mark Daly and Coghlan and Ms Bridget Doody who have done a great deal of work on the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. We had hoped the House would not sit on Tuesday but unfortunately certain witnesses could not appear on Tuesday afternoon. I propose, therefore, that Commencement matters will not be taken on Tuesday afternoon and the House will sit from 3.30 p.m. to facilitate the committee.

Senator Paul Daly: Information on Paul Daly Zoom on Paul Daly On a point of clarification, I did not ask that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade come to the House for a debate on Brexit next week. I specifically stated that the last thing we wanted was for Ministers to come to the House for statements if they need to be away on business playing the game that must be played for the next two weeks. We are all on the same page on this issue. I indicated that we know where the Minister's priorities lie for the next two weeks and he should not come to the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan That is clear and I will deal with that issue when I have made one final comment on Senator Norris.  There was a real chance, according to the bookies, that he might have ended up in a different House six years ago. He would have been very curtailed and restrained there had that been so and I do not think that he would be having as much fun.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris No, I am very happy to be here.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Senator Paul Daly has moved an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate with the Minister for Rural and Community Development on the shortfall in funding for the rural development plan be taken today." The Leader has kindly suggested that we hold a debate on this next week. That being acceptable, the proposal is withdrawn until next week.

   Order of Business agreed to.

Sitting Arrangements: Motion

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders relative to Public Business, the Seanad shall meet at 3.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 December 2017 and Standing Orders 29 and 30 shall stand suspended.

  Question put and agreed to.

World AIDS Day: Statements

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the House for providing me with the opportunity to speak to Members on this important topic in advance of World AIDS day tomorrow, 1 December.

  HIV is one of the most stigmatised conditions of our time. In September, I opened the national HIV conference hosted by HIV Ireland which focused on this stigma. The conference examined how the stigma of HIV/AIDS is an additional burden on the lives of people living with a diagnosis. People living with HIV can face judgment, rejection and hurt. HIV Ireland’s survey shows that one in four are not comfortable with their own HIV positive status, one in three have been rejected in a relationship due to their HIV status and worryingly almost one in five people living with HIV felt suicidal in the past year. The challenges for people living with a diagnosis cannot be underestimated.

  Stigma can also be a barrier to talking about HIV and getting tested but when we create a safe space to talk about HIV, we protect everybody. The opportunity to talk to the House here today helps raise awareness of AIDS and helps us to confront the challenges of this disease. Sharing knowledge and information are important to our prevention and health promotion strategies that act to protect people from infection. The reality is that a diagnosis of HIV for a person has a long-term impact on their lives but we must strive to reinforce HIV education, awareness, prevention, testing and treatment. It is undeniable that these are all important aspects of dealing with the challenges of HIV.

  I welcomed the recent publication by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HIV in Ireland report for 2016. It showed a reduction in the number of diagnoses by 6% in 2016 when those with a previous HIV diagnosis were excluded but there is always concern that accompanies chronic diseases such as HIV.

  I remain concerned at the number of HIV diagnoses in 2016. Just over half of these 508 new diagnoses were among men who have sex with men and this group remains the most affected by HIV in Ireland. We must focus on dealing with the level of infection of this at-risk cohort.

  The publication of our first national Sexual Health Strategy 2015-2020 provided the opportunity to ensure that all efforts across the entire range of sexual health - from awareness, education, training, access, treatment and surveillance - are co-ordinated, evidence-informed and based on best practice. We continue to implement our national sexual health strategy in this context. The strategy itself is set within Healthy Ireland, the national framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of the country over the coming generation. Implementation of the strategy is in all of our interests.

  The national sexual health strategy has been developed against a backdrop of a changing Ireland regarding sexual behaviour and sexuality in recent decades. This changing landscape is evident in legislation introduced in recent years, and more openness generally in attitudes and culture around sexuality and sexual health issues.

  The strategy was developed based on three goals. Everyone in Ireland will receive comprehensive and age-appropriate sexual health education and information and will have access to appropriate prevention and promotion services. Equitable, accessible and high-quality sexual health services, which are targeted and tailored to need, will be available to everyone, and robust and high quality sexual health information will be generated to underpin policy, practice, service planning and strategic monitoring. The strategy recognises the diversity of sexual identities. It supports all expressions of sexual identity through positive sexual health and wellbeing outcomes. Governance structures for implementation of the national sexual health strategy have been established. The HSE sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme is the national programme charged with developing and implementing a national strategy to, among other things, improve the effectiveness and impact of sexual health services and preventative work. The programme is responsible for developing and implementing an action plan for each year of the strategy. A clinical lead for sexual health has also been appointed in the HSE.

  The HSE sexual health action plan for this year specifies a range of actions being taken under the auspices of the national sexual health strategy. These include: actions related to clinical services such as completing and implementing outstanding practice guidance for HIV testing in various settings, including home HIV testing, point of care HIV testing; and the use of antiretroviral therapy in HIV prevention to include pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, treatment as prevention and post exposure prophylaxis.

  I am pleased to advise the House that a HSE recommendation on antiretroviral therapy for all people living with HIV in Ireland was signed off by the HSE leadership team on the 25 July. The HSE recommends that all HIV infected individuals attending HIV services in Ireland are offered antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible and informed of the benefits of antiretroviral therapy in improving their personal health and reducing HIV infectiousness.  This was circulated to clinical services and community organisations and is available on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre website. A patient information leaflet has been prepared in English, Portuguese, French and Spanish and has been sent to all clinics providing care to people living with HIV.

  A HSE multisectoral PrEP working group is continuing to work on recommendations around the introduction of PrEP in Ireland. Work to date includes a report on the estimated number of people likely to avail of PrEP in Ireland in the first year, which has been submitted to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, and the development of national standards for the delivery of HIV prevention and PrEP care.

  I also want to mention the Know Now project, which is a community HIV testing project. It has been successful in reaching people, particularly men who have sex with men, who have never been previously tested for HIV. During the pilot in 2016, a total of 1,465 tests were conducted in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

  The report of the third annual Healthy Ireland Survey of 7,500 people aged 15 and over and living in Ireland is directly relevant to this. It gives an up-to-date picture of the health of the nation and reports on many lifestyle behaviours such as sexual health. The Healthy Ireland Survey reported that over the past year, 21% of respondents reported having had a HIV test during their lifetime, 12% of men who have sex with men had a HIV test in the past 12 months, and 28% of men who have sex with men have had a test during their lifetime. This is the first time we have asked about HIV and sexually transmitted infection, STI, testing in this kind of survey. I am pleased to note that most people were happy to answer these questions and give us this information. This is indeed a welcome development. We also know that younger people, especially men who have sex with men, are an important at-risk group, and the survey shows that these were more likely to have had a test. Again, this shows that the stigma around testing is probably reducing and that our work to make testing more accessible is having an impact.

  Surveillance is also crucial for this infectious disease, and HIV monitoring and reporting have improved over the past year. This is in line with meeting Ireland's obligations to report on our national response to the HIV epidemic to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as part of the Dublin Declaration Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia, and to UNAIDS-WHO as part of the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS. The HSE has advised my Department that Ireland is in the top ten in Europe on achieving the target that 90% of those estimated to be living with HIV are on treatment. This is indeed welcome.

  Actions related to communications and information in the HSE sexual health action plan include the provision of targeted information and campaigns to at-risk groups and a communications working group targeted at men who have sex with men is now in place under this heading. Members include representatives from the Gay Men's Health Service, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, and the Gay Health Network. The latter is a network of organisations and individuals in Ireland providing the national resources, response, support and expert network for the promotion of HIV prevention and of sexual health and well-being for gay and bisexual men and for men who have sex with men.

  We know that enormous progress has been made in the treatment of people infected with HIV. Earlier testing and treatment mean that life expectancy is similar to that of the general population, thus bringing it into the realm of chronic diseases. Such therapies aside, however, the key challenge is to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place. HIV-AIDS is, after all, a life-changing disease. We must work together to strengthen the prevention arm of our national sexual health strategy in this context.

  I want to emphasise another point to the House. The close working relationship and engagement of voluntary and community groups with the HSE sexual health crisis pregnancy programme and its national clinical director have been central to the implementation of our national sexual health strategy. This partnership helps to strengthen the implementation of the strategy, which is having an effect on dealing with the challenges of HIV. We have more work to do in this area. We must protect our population and especially at-risk groups from infection. I assure the House that my Department and the HSE are working closely with our partners in the voluntary and community sector to deal with this. Efforts will continue in line with our strategic perspective and policy enshrined in our national sexual health strategy.

  I will finish by saying that I have visited many services in my role as Minister of State with special responsibility for the national drugs strategy and I have been very impressed by the work being done on the ground, particularly by community groups, to remember above all those who, sadly, have passed away from HIV. I have also been impressed by the work being done to educate young people to protect themselves, especially when it comes to sexual activity. The celebration of World Aids Day tomorrow, first introduced by the United Nations on 1 December 1988, is very important to the Government, to the Department of Health, and indeed to all of us here. It is very important that we as a nation continue to do more than our best to make sure that there will be no stigma around HIV in the future. Above all we must protect those with HIV and ensure that they live lives as long and healthy as the rest of the population.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator Ned O'Sullivan. He has six minutes.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan Go raibh maith agat a Leas-Chathaoirligh. I will not actually require that much time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is that right?

Senator Ned O'Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan I welcome the Minister of State to House and compliment her and her Department on the very good work that they are doing in this very important area. I agree with her that this debate will help highlight the problem of AIDS and it is hoped it will assist people to come forward and not be afraid of any stigma attached. We had a very pleasant session here just now as we complimented our colleague, Senator Norris, on reaching a very important milestone as the longest serving Senator in the history of the country. He and people like him did fantastic work to remove the stigma that existed around homosexuality in this country and offered great courage and leadership at a time when there was not such understanding and tolerance as there is today. I am sure that there are thousands of people in this country today who owe Senator Norris the fine, open lives that they have been able to lead as gay people.

  It is fitting that we should be discussing AIDS today. There should be no stigma attached. It is a disease like any other that can and should be treated and we should encourage people to come forward for treatment. I cannot pretend to be in any way expert in this area, but I have here a paper that was prepared by my colleague, Senator Swanick. With the Leas-Chathaoirleach's permission I will read it to the House, though I do not generally like reading scripts.

  Fianna Fáil is happy to mark World Aids Day 2017 with its slogan of "Everybody Counts". In 2017 the World Health Organization is highlighting the need for all 36.7 million people living with HIV and those who are vulnerable and affected by the epidemic to reach the goal of universal health coverage. We commemorate World Aids Day to mourn the deaths of more than 35 million people who have died as a result of HIV, a number which rivals that of lives lost in the First World War, remarkable as that seems. This occasion also serves as a way to spread awareness and knowledge of the disease and, finally, as a mark of solidarity towards the tens of millions of people who are fighting the disease all over the world today, including almost 8,000 in Ireland alone.

  Under the slogan "Everybody Counts", the World Health Organization will advocate for access to safe, effective, high-quality and affordable medicines, including medicines, diagnostics and other health commodities as well as health care services for people in need, while also ensuring that they are protected against financial risk.  At a national level this topic is as prevalent, if not more so, than ever. Record numbers of people were diagnosed with HIV in Ireland last year amid concerns that a growing ambivalence about the disease is putting increasing numbers of people at risk. Today we acknowledge all the progress that has been made in recent times. A recent study by The Lancet suggests that with modern treatment, a 20 year old who begins treatment for the disease may have a life expectancy as high as 76 years, marginally behind that of average life expectancy. In 2000, just 685,000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy by June 2017, around 20.9 million people had access to the life-saving medicine. Such a dramatic scale up could not have happened without the courage and determination of people living with HIV demanding and claiming their rights.

Although we can celebrate such progress we must continue to work towards reducing the prominence of HIV/AIDS in Ireland. Newly-released figures from Ireland's Health Protection Surveillance Centre show that 512 people were diagnosed in 2016, of which 77% were male and 23% female. There are two sides to the continuous rise in the number of infections in Ireland. First and on a positive note, the rise in new diagnosis is partially credited to the improving screening process that has come into play in recent times. Although the main reasons for the rise in the contraction of HIV/AIDS are underlying problems that have been highlighted by international charities as well as experts in the field, such as the use of recreational drugs and engagement in unprotected sexual activity.

During the past number of decades, many people all over the world have been vocal in their efforts to raise awareness of this global problem, such as former world leaders, billionaires and celebrities. We are lucky to have our fair share of Irish representation, who are tirelessly fighting to end the global epidemic. Bono's thoughts on the matter, which were revealed in an interview in The Irish Timeslast year can be condensed as follows:

Battle against AIDS is not a last decade issue. It's going to be the next decade issue.

This quote aptly fits into our present social landscape where collectively the contraction of such diseases is not deemed much of a threat among the younger generation. This is a serious problem that must be addressed. Some weeks ago our colleague, Senator Fintan Warfield, and I commend him, held a briefing on the pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP. According to a recent article by Una Mullally in The Irish Times, public health experts in Britain are now forecasting the end of the HIV epidemic. Sexual health clinics in London are reporting a 40% drop due to frequent testing, rapid treatment and the game changing drug PrEP, a preventive medication which means that those taking it cannot be infected. However, this may not be available under the HSE payments scheme until 2019. This delay might see up to 8,000 new infections. Health groups have warned about this.

  We should use today to praise the work done in efforts to defeat the disease but also to realise that there is a lot of work left to do. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, and the HSE to continue to ensure that PrEP is available under the HSE payment scheme.

  Mar fhocal scoir, many well-known celebrities who shared the fact that they were HIV infected deserve great credit. It was those people who made the likes of me aware of how serious this epidemic was. Many of them have passed to their reward. I think their courage was a good example for all of us. We have to stand together. Where there is an illness of any sort in any sector of our community we all empathise and worry about it. I have no hesitation in saying that my party will support the Minister of State and her Department in every possible way in her good work in this regard.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I welcome the Minister of State to the House. It is very important that we have a debate on this matter because it is a very important issue, where progress has been made in the past few years but we still have further progress to make. My colleague, Senator Ned O'Sullivan, and the Minister of State have highlighted that there has been an increase in the number of people diagnosed in the past 12 months, in particular in 2016. The number of cases in 2016 was 512, which is up from 485 in 2015. I saw figures up to June 2017, which would indicate that the figure of 512 may be exceeded in 2017. I suppose we need to highlight the issue and make people aware of the risk. The one good side, to which my colleague referred, is that life expectancy has totally changed in the sense that a 20 year old, who would have started treatment back in 2008, has a life expectancy of up to 76 years. That is a significant change from where we were at.

  From the figures on diagnosis, 50% of the people diagnosed were from outside of Ireland. That is an issue in a multicultural society, if one considers that there are 800,000 people living in this country who were not born here. A change of population will always bring new challenges. I believe we are dealing with that in an appropriate way.

  I had the privilege of going to Kenya when I was Lord Mayor of Cork in 2003. There were more than 250,000 people living in appalling conditions in shanty towns just outside Nairobi. At that time more than 40% of the residents in that town had HIV. The problem was that a large number of people were not surviving beyond their early 30s. At that time there were more than 700,000 children in the country where both parents had died. That was the challenges that the country had. Much progress has been made in all of those countries in the past few years, in the same way that progress has been made here in Ireland.

   I wish to raise the issue of the drug Truvada, by a company called Gilead Sciences Inc. This drug is proving to be very effective. It is available in Ireland in pharmacies, but it costs €400 per month. It is not available under the treatment purchase fund. The members of Young Fine Gael had a meeting with the Minister of State in September and they raised this issue. They have raised this issue on a number of occasions in the past 12 months. My understanding is the company has applied for the drug to be included under the drugs refund scheme. There is a fast track process for any drugs that is coming on the market, where it can be examined by the appropriate authorities in the HSE. They decided, detailed in a letter of 18 September, that a full pharmaceutical economic evaluation be undertaken of this drug. What I am concerned about is that this process may take anything up to six months.

  The 90 day clock has started to run and the company obviously has to provide very detailed analysis to the pharmaceutical economics evaluation authorities. I have met a number of drug companies in the past two years, where they are asked for all the documentation. They may have to submit a dossier of up to 300 or 400 pages for it to stand up to scrutiny. I do not understand that, in particular where this drug has already received approval from the European Medicines Agency. We should try to fast track the process because the benefits are there. The evidence has already been established that this drug is effective in preventing infection. I am concerned that it has not been available. The people most at risk are those whose partners already have HIV. It is important that this drug would be made available at the earliest possible date.  I ask that the matter is taken up with the Department so we can fast-track the process to see whether it is economically a good decision. All the evidence is already there. It can help people and help to make sure those who are likely to be exposed can be dealt with and provided the necessary treatment in a timely manner.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield World AIDS Day presents an opportunity for the global community to evaluate its fight to eradicate HIV and AIDS. In 2016, HIV transmission rates in the State exceeded 500 for the first time since records began, bucking a trend of reduction among our European counterparts. According to statistics from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, HPSC, we are on course to have an even higher rate of infection in 2017. We not only live in a society that has failed to eradicate HIV but our response is allowing the infection to remain largely uncontained. It is no secret that those who are particularly vulnerable to HIV in Irish society are some of those who have been traditionally marginalised, such as men who have sex with men, migrants and sex workers. If this was an issue that affected the more privileged in our society or the elites rather than the marginalised and vulnerable, I suggest our historical response would have been much different.

  The sexual health strategy 2015-2020 was launched by then Minister for Health and now Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. The strategy recommended the HSE provides accessible STI and HIV testing for all sexually-active adults. However, the only targeted and tangible responses in providing accessible testing are Dublin-centric and run on shoestring budgets like the Gay Men's Health Service, GMHS, which was recently found to be based in a condemned building on Baggot Street. The Minister's recent visit there would have confirmed that.

  Another commitment in the sexual health strategy was to provide antiretroviral therapy in HIV prevention. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP, is a step forward in the fight against HIV. PrEP can provide near-100% protection from HIV. The High Court has ruled that generic versions of PrEP are now free to the market here, meaning that truly effective prophylaxis for many of those vulnerable to HIV infection is now within our grasp. It is within the grasp of the State and Government.

  As part of the fight against HIV and AIDS, we need accessible testing in order that those who are carrying transmittable HIV unknowingly can be found and treated and those who wish to access effective prophylaxis can do so. When the Taoiseach addressed Dublin Pride this summer, he told the 30,000-strong crowd that "the time absolutely is now to act up to the sexual health challenges that we face". I welcome members of ACT UP Dublin to the Public Gallery. ACT UP Dublin is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals who are united in anger and committed to direct action to end the HIV crisis. Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh gach duine go dtí an díospóireacht seo.

  At Dublin Pride, the Taoiseach went on to commit to seeing the strategy come to fruition. Will the Taoiseach live up to his commitment and will the Minister, Deputy Harris, make available the necessary investment? Will the Minister comment on the Government's plans to deliver accessible and targeted STI and HIV testing to those who are vulnerable? Will he respond to the vision set out in the sexual health strategy and properly and adequately fund our sexual health responses? As generic manufacturers of PrEP now start to apply to the HSE for reimbursement, can the Minister give a commitment that the Government will provide generic PrEP in the near future along with sufficient clinical support?

  Our bleak and somewhat embarrassing response to HIV rates has gone on for far too long. The Minister mentioned that HIV Ireland held a conference in Smock Alley to mark 30 years since its foundation. Well-known LGBT activist, Tonie Walsh, who joins us in the Gallery today, gave an insightful presentation on how similar memorials in Toronto and New York gave their respective LGBTQI communities a place to memorialise loss and grief, which allows them to better value and share the coping mechanisms and survival strategies of a previous generation. A physical site of remembrance will serve as a place to grieve and remember loss and give hope for the future in a time of significant advancements in treatment and methods of prevention. For the State to create and locate a memorial through appropriate consultation will be significant. It would signify a commitment to HIV prevention and will act as a tool of acceptance by the State of those living with HIV when previously it served on the side of stigma. I say all that with an expectation of this dream being realised. My experience and friendship with those involved in realising this dream has led me to believe they have been on the right side of history. People like Senator Norris, who this month has served 30 years and eight months in the Seanad, has been a constant inspiration. He has served on the right side of history and, along with many others, has waited around for everyone else to catch up. Will the Minister of State consider supporting the proposal of a HIV-AIDS memorial? Will she discuss it with us today and commit to having this conversation with the Department?

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I pay tribute to Senator Norris, the longest serving member of the Seanad, and Senator Warfield, the youngest Member of the Seanad, who have both been the strongest advocates of justice and rights for groups facing AIDS and HIV. I compliment them on their work in the Seanad.

  World AIDS Day has been a sombre occasion of commemoration and remembrance since its beginning in 1988. It has also always been about a day of anger and action and of calling for a better approach to the prevention and treatment of HIV, especially within high-risk communities. Its devastating effects during the 1980s through to today are obvious to all. We thankfully are looking upon a different vista today, one in which a diagnosis with the disease is no longer the death sentence it once was. Drug regimes and changes to the way we treat patients, as well as the disease itself, have helped to alleviate its medical implications as much as social change has relieved the stigma. Nonetheless, the fight continues on both these fronts. I echo the statements of Senator Warfield and others in their call for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP, medication for people at a higher risk of contracting the disease in Ireland. We can see in the major cities of the United States and the UK, the immense impact that regular use of the drugs has had on HIV infection rates. Daily PrEP usage reduces the risk of contracting HIV by more than 90% and when used with other preventative measures can create even greater safety. Sadly in Ireland, we have seen no such progress. The drug remains difficult, if not impossible, to access for many people who would like to use it. This is combined with the staggering record high levels of new diagnosis here in Ireland last year, with 512 new cases of the disease. This reflects the increase year on year since 2011, a more negative aspect in the decline in stigma related to the disease. Despite the fact it has always been a disease that affects all parts of our society, the fact that it affects gay men especially cannot be contested, as 77% of new cases are male. This is precisely the community that can benefit from an increased access to preventative medication. The recent court finding in the case initiated by Gilead regarding the use of generic alternatives to Truvada is a huge potential boon to Ireland, offering the prospect of access to medication that is 60% cheaper than the brand name version. Irish trials of PrEP users have begun this month in Dublin but will not be providing the drug to participants. Access to the drug remains the preserve of those with enough money to access it.  That cannot continue. Any who need further convincing on this front should note that a recent UK study in the medical journal The Lancethas examined the cost-effectiveness implications of the use of the drug. Its conclusion speaks for itself. It states the analysis suggests the introduction of a PrEP programme for men who have sex with men in the UK is cost-effective and possibly cost-saving in the long term. It also states a reduction in the cost of antiretroviral drugs, including the drugs used for PrEP, would substantially shorten the time for cost savings to be realised. This drug saves lives, lowers infection rates, lowers the cost of treatment borne by the public purse and improves the lives of those at the highest risk. It will soon be 60% cheaper. What possible reason can we have left not to provide it?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I want to vary the order very slightly. I was to call on the Minister at 1.41 p.m. It is now 1.41 p.m. so I ask the Leader whether we may extend the debate for a few minutes.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer If it is agreeable to the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is that agreed? Agreed. We shall extend the debate for five minutes.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I will not take all the time. It is important to welcome the Minister of State and her willingness to be involved in this debate. As Leader, I believe it is important to have a debate on a day close to World AIDS Day, which is tomorrow. As former Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health and Children, of which the Minister of State was a member, I recall we always had hearings and meetings on HIV/AIDS on the most suitable date closest to World AIDS Day, both to raise awareness and to create a profile for the work being done by many in the LGBT community and society. I commend all those doing such work and who are very active in this regard.

  I commend the Minister of State on her work and the role she is playing. Ms Deirdre Seery, who is now retired, was doing considerable work when employed in the Sexual Health Centre in Cork.

  The age group we must educate and to which we must reach out is becoming younger. I am old enough to remember that HIV-AIDS was a life sentence. It affected many of our friends. Today we should pause to remember many of our friends and members of the gay community who died. It is important that we recognise that work is being done proactively.

  We can bookend this debate by examining the fact that today, whether one is in Panti Bar in Dublin or Chambers in Cork, there is rapid HIV testing taking place. This is a gargantuan change even by comparison with what was done five years ago. There is more work and outreach to be done. It depends on the model one wants to adopt in terms of bringing forward new, progressive thinking on eradicating HIV/AIDS from society. If when watching "Reeling in the Years" one compares how people with HIV/AIDS were treated by Ronald Reagan and George Bush in America with how they were treated in our State, which one may argue has a very poor record, one notes our State was much more embracing of members of the gay community. That said, the HIV survey shows that one in five men with HIV feels suicidal to this day. This figure is too high. All of us know people, including friends, who are suffering from the physical and mental effects. Stigmatisation continues.

  As somebody who travels around the world - I am going to Washington DC next week to speak at an international conference - I note the issue of PrEP has been mentioned a lot today. On a personal level, I very much believe there is a need for it to be made available. I acknowledge it is available on prescription at a cost of €400 per month, but not everybody has that kind of money. This raises a question that I may not be popular for asking. Young men, in particular, have to question their own sexual behaviour. This might not be popular to say and it might be old-fashioned on one level, but saying it is about ensuring that everybody does count. I agree with Senator Warfield that there are those of a different socio-economic background who are more vulnerable, to whom we need to reach out more and for whom we need to do more work.

  I have not spoken to the Minister of State for a while about this. I am very supportive of the concept of a national AIDS memorial, not least because it would be a visible reminder of those who died. I have been at the memorial in Toronto. I am not an artist so I cannot describe it properly. It is lovely but it reminds people in a very stark way of those who have died. The carved words, about remembering, life and death, are important.

  Our debate today is partly about those who work so diligently. It is also about remembering those who died. It is about those who are battling with HIV every day, and it is about ensuring more people do not become infected. There is work being done. I do not agree there has been a failure to respond but I believe it is important that we work collaboratively to ensure we increase the profile and investment and that we work with communities and outreach organisations. I thank the Minister of State for attending.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank all the Senators who have taken time out to be here in the Chamber to speak about the importance of World AIDS Day tomorrow and in the years ahead.

  I congratulate Senator Norris on opening our eyes and for the service he has given to the Seanad. He opened our eyes to the need for people to understand what is occurring and to be taught about people who have an illness. He opened our eyes to the possibility of speaking freely about AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. We would not have done this in the past in this country. We now can, partly because of what Senator Norris has done in his time here in the Seanad.

  I welcome ACT UP Dublin. I visited the GMHS service in Baggot Street Hospital. I was overwhelmed by the extent of the service being given but I was shocked at the conditions in which the staff have to work. I have raised this previously and will continue to do so.

  My door in the Department is open to any group that wants to come and talk to me about a memorial or the drugs payment scheme. I have no problem with that at all. I am only too anxious to continue on this journey we started to help those who have been marginalised and stigmatised for so long in society. As Senator Buttimer said, we have to do a lot more work to be able to identify those affected. People are very reluctant to speak openly about their illness and to be identified, not only in their own communities but also in their homes and among their families.

  None of us could stand in this room and say nobody cares about the plight of people with HIV and the journey they have travelled. I have known Senator Buttimer for a long time. We sat on the health committee together when he was a Deputy. He and I constantly debated certain topics. When I became a Member in 2007, I was struck by how comprehensively he could speak about the services being offered. He reminded us, including in our party, of what needed to be done. We all have a real opportunity, along with ACT UP and other groups, to continue to make life a little easier for people who for so long have been left in the wilderness. As long as I am in the position I am in, my door will always be open. I am willing to listen, engage in discussion and respect the fact that there are certain things we will be able to consider doing in the short term and long term. My invitation to the groups who want to come in stands. I am sure my staff will be able to facilitate them.  I hope we can continue on this journey together. To all the Senators who have spoken, and many who feel the same way, keeping this on the agenda is very important not only on World AIDS Day but continuously through our political lives. I thank the House.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I thank the Minister of State for her thoughtful conclusion. We were both members of the regional authority together a long time ago. It is hard to believe that it was pre-2007 but it was and you are very welcome back to the Seanad. I thank the Minister of State and all the contributors.

Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages

  Sections 1 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.

  Title agreed to.

  Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

Domestic Violence Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton. Before we commence, I remind the House that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of the amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage, each amendment must be seconded. Amendment No. 1 arises from Committee proceedings.

  Government amendment No. 1:

               In page 8, to delete lines 4 to 39, and in page 9, to delete lines 1 to 24 and substitute the following:

  “Factors or circumstances to which court shall have regard in determining applications for specified orders

5.(1) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be construed as limiting the power of a court to make a specified order under this Act.

(2) In determining an application for a specified order, the court shall have regard to all the factors or circumstances that it considers may have a bearing on the application including where relevant:

(a) any history of violence inflicted by the respondent on the applicant or a dependent person;

(b) any conviction of the respondent for an offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 that involves loss to, or is to the prejudice of, the applicant or a dependent person;

(c) any conviction of the respondent for an offence that involves violence or the threat of violence to any person;

(d) whether any violence inflicted by the respondent on the applicant or a dependent person is increasing, or has increased, in severity or frequency over time;

(e) any exposure of any dependent person to violence inflicted by the respondent on the applicant or any other dependent person;

(f) any previous order under this Act or the Act of 1996 made against the respondent with regard to any person;

(g) any history of animal cruelty by the respondent;

(h) any destruction or damage caused by the respondent to —

(i) the personal property of the applicant, the respondent or a dependent person, or

(ii) any place where the applicant or a dependent person resides;

(i) any action of the respondent, not being a criminal offence, which puts the applicant or a dependent person in fear for his or her own safety or welfare;

(j) any recent separation between the applicant and the respondent;

(k) substance abuse, including abuse of alcohol, by the respondent, the applicant or a dependent person;

(l) access to weapons by the respondent, the applicant or a dependent person;

(m) the applicant’s perception of the risk to his or her own safety or welfare due to the behaviour of the respondent;

(n) the age and state of health (including pregnancy) of the applicant or any dependent person;

(o) any evidence of deterioration in the physical, psychological or emotional welfare of the applicant or a dependent person which is caused directly by fear of the behaviour of the respondent;

(p) whether the applicant is economically dependent on the respondent;

(q) any matter required to be considered by the court under, and in accordance with, subsections (2) and (3) of section 25;

(r) any other matter which appears to the court to be relevant to the safety or welfare of the applicant and any dependent person.”.”.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, not moved.

  Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I thank the Members for their very constructive input into this very important and groundbreaking legislation. It contains a number of serious amendments and will make a big difference to both men and women in our country. I look forward to its implementation. I hope to get it through the Lower House before Christmas.

  The debate in this House has been extremely constructive, quite robust, and that is the way it should be, but always respectful and engaging. That is how we should go about our business. We test the legislation, we debate it and we examine it.

  I also want to pay tribute to my officials who worked extremely hard on this legislation and put a huge amount of work into it. I know officials in the Department of Justice and Equality have gotten some poor press recently but I can tell colleagues here that there is no better group of officials anywhere. They work extremely hard and above and beyond the call of duty. They work out of hours and put their heart and soul into it. It is not just a job with them but a passion. They want to get it right as do all Members here and as I do also. I thank the Members.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway On behalf of the Fine Gael group, we are delighted that this piece of extremely important legislation has got over the line. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is absolutely right, there was robust debate here both on Second Stage and on Committee Stage, and indeed the resumption of Committee Stage. That is the way it should be because everyone here wants to get this right.

  This Bill will deeply affect the lives of people who are the victims of domestic violence. We have a duty of care to our citizens who find themselves in that difficult and totally unacceptable situation. I would also like to concur with the Minister of State about the officials. The Department of Justice and Equality has got some bad publicity in recent times and some of it justified. The officials who work with the Minister of State, and I have known some of them since he became a Minister of State, work passionately and tirelessly, as they did with Senator Ó Ríordáin when he was in Deputy Stanton's position. I have to say that has to be acknowledged.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher We are truly privileged to be here today to consider legislation and improve it. Across the House we have done our work with the Domestic Violence Bill and have made many improvements and amendments before the Bill goes onward from us to the Dáil.

  The two most significant amendments were those regarding the recognition in law of psychological abuse, where there are no black eyes only hurtful and painful emotional bruises, the offence of coercive control, and the statutory guidelines.

  I want to acknowledge the way we have worked together in the House and behind the scenes, particularly the women, Senators Clifford-Lee, Ardagh, Murnane O'Connor, Bacik, Devine, Conway-Walsh, Higgins, Ruane, Black and O'Sullivan. Men have played their part too, in particular Senator Norris, who is celebrating his longevity in the House today. He has been a brilliant advocate and has kept our eyes focused. I am relatively new to the House and he has been a great voice of experience. I would also like to acknowledge Senator Ó Donnghaile and colleagues from Sinn Féin as well as Senators Craughwell and Boyhan. The Domestic Violence Bill would not have been as improved as it has been without our backroom allies.  I acknowledge my own team of Pádraig Rice, Aengus Ó Maoláin and Niina Niemi. We would not be here today, and the women and children and Ireland would be less safe, without the advocacy and ardour of organisations such as Safe Ireland, Women's Aid, the National Women's Council of Ireland, Barnardos and others. It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with those organisations and to be led by them.

  I also thank the officials and especially the Minister of State. Initially, he was very sceptical of some of the things we were putting forward but he did take on board what we had to offer. I thank him for his belief, passion and commitment to women and children, especially those experiencing domestic violence. His determination to make things better and safer for women, children and men too, has been achieved with the Bill. I wish him fair sailing in the Dáil with it. We will keep a very close watching brief and we will remain on hand for advice and guidance.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to the House. I strongly welcome the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill with great haste through this House. Like Senator Kelleher I pay tribute to the immense work so many individuals and organisations have done to improve and strengthen this long awaited and very important Bill. I thank in particular groups such as Safe Ireland, the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Rape Crisis Centre, Barnardos, Women's Aid and others who have all put a great deal of work into briefing us and seeking to strengthen the Bill.

  I thank the Minister of State for accepting my original amendment on the factors or circumstances to which a court should have regard in determining applications. I acknowledge that the amendment was a compendium, as all of us had put forward amendments along similar lines. I am pleased to see the measure has been amended by the Government and is now part of the Bill. That will make a significant difference in practice in ensuring greater consistency in the processes whereby those important orders are granted.

  In respect of my amendment No. 5, I am conscious that given the tight timeframe we would not have had a chance to agree it in the Seanad in any case but I know that my Labour Party colleagues will introduce it in the Dáil. That amendment would have had the effect of amending the definition of serious offence in the Bail Act 1997 in order to enable objections to bail to be made and bail to be refused where, for example, a person has a cumulative series of convictions for breaches of barring orders, none of which individually would be serious but which taken together amount to a serious history. It is a point I made on Committee Stage and it is one that was raised with me by practitioners and NGOs. I hope it is something the Minister of State might take into consideration between now and when the Bill reaches Committee and Report Stages in the Dáil. We can press the amendment further in the Dáil through the Labour Party and I am sure we will have support from other colleagues there.

  We are all grateful to the Minister of State and his officials for being so engaged with us and for agreeing to accept the crucial amendments on coercive control, the new offence which is truly groundbreaking and historic, the amendment on aggravated factors which went so far towards meeting our concern that there should be a specific offence of domestic violence, and the amendment on specific factors for a court to take into account in deciding whether to make an order. The Bill will make an immense difference to the victims and survivors of domestic violence, to women and children who are suffering so much every day in homes across the country.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I thank the Minister of State for his work. It has truly been a great experience to work alongside him and other colleagues in the House to produce this groundbreaking legislation. I pay particular tribute to Senator Kelleher who has been to the fore in this debate, assisted by many other people in this House and civic groups. It is a wonderful example of collaborative work.

  It is great that a signal will go out from these Houses that predators are no longer safe in Ireland, people who prey on other people within relationships and within their own homes will have nowhere left to hide.

  I take this opportunity to again raise the issue of civil legal aid and the minimum contribution waiver for all applicants in domestic violence applications in the District Court. It is very important and it would be a very welcome step forward. It is not going to affect the budget hugely or a significant number of people but it will greatly enhance the ability of people to seek redress before the courts. I ask the Minister of State to consider that in line with the Bill.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Tá fáilte ar ais roimh an Aire Stáit, go h-áirithe don ócáid seo. I reiterate the words of thanks and commendation to the Minister of State and his officials. In a week that understandably and justifiably has not been the best for the Department of Justice and Equality, the passage of this legislation through the Seanad, as Senator Clifford-Lee rightly said, sends out a very clear message and acts as a beacon of light and shows that the Seanad takes this issue very seriously. While it is right for us to recognise the work put in by the Minister of State, his departmental officials, NGOs, Senator Kelleher and Members across the Chamber, it is important also to remember the role of our support staff in assisting us. They have been critical to the process. It is welcome that Senator Kelleher's support staff have been so helpful to all the rest of us in that regard. I say fair play and thanks for that help in this instance.

  It is good to be positive and to welcome the passage of the Bill through the Seanad and onward to the Dáil but I am reminded of the people who are at the heart of it and who no doubt will continue to be affected, namely, the survivors of domestic abuse, and who unfortunately will experience it in the future. This is an important Bill that is going through the House today and it is one on which we can all be rightly proud of our own contribution. A change in the law is welcome. It is good and necessary in this instance but my hope is that it will bring about a change in culture and attitude within the State and be an enabler, and something that gives the capacity to the Garda and the Judiciary to put away and act accordingly against those who would, as Senator Clifford-Lee rightly said, prey on people within relationships.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I thank the Minister of State and his staff for all the work they have done on this matter but I also acknowledge the work that was done by the Oireachtas committee a number of years ago on domestic and sexual violence. The committee produced a report. I thank in particular Senators from all parties, especially the Independent Senators, some of whom have made a very valuable contribution, and all of their support staff.

  Drafting any piece of legislation takes a lot of time and commitment on the part of people who are really committed to what they believe in. Drafting amendments is not only about trying to get them through but getting people on the other side and the Department on board. Senators succeeded in doing that. Credit must be given to all those involved, both Senators and their support staff and the Minister of State for being prepared to listen.

  Sometimes due to the way the Oireachtas has been structured, it has been very much a case of accepting what has been produced and there is a reluctance to accept amendments. In this case the amendments were accepted and they are the right way forward. In the mid-1970s in this country there was very little legislation on family law and domestic violence and it has been a slow process. The Bill is a very valuable one which provides the necessary protection for people who have suffered domestic violence.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton Senator Colm Burke reminded me of the work a number of us did on the Oireachtas committee a number of years ago when we had hearings on domestic violence and we produced a report. It was a very powerful period. Senators Bacik and Conway were members of the committee as well.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It is worth mentioning.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton Yes. Many of the NGOs gave of their time and expertise, which was extremely valuable. The process has been building for some time. I was pleased that we were in a position to debate the amendments, improve on them, refine them and bring them forward as we have done.

  On the question of civil legal aid costs, I have some information that might be of use and interest to Senator Clifford-Lee.  The Legal Aid Board provides civil legal aid and advice for people who cannot afford to pay for a solicitor from their own resources. Applicants for civil legal aid and advice are required to meet both the merits test and the financial eligibility criteria under section 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2016. The vast majority of applicants granted legal aid and advice are required to pay some contribution. The majority of applicants for legal aid in connection with domestic violence relief pay the minimum contribution.

  Senators will note that section 29(2)(b) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995, as amended by section 80 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008, provides that the Legal Aid Board may waive any contribution payable or accept a lower contribution on the grounds that a failure to do so would cause undue hardship to the applicant. The board has put in place guidelines for its decision makers on applications for a waiver of contributions. The guidelines provide for a sympathetic approach to be taken to applications for a waiver in cases in which the application is in connection with a domestic violence matter and the person’s sole source of income is social welfare payments. This discretion enables the board to ensure vulnerable persons seeking civil legal aid are in a position to access it. In 2016, fees totalling €38,700 were waived in domestic violence cases.

  The Legal Aid Board has a policy role in the provision of civil legal aid and periodically brings proposals to my Department on financial eligibility and other criteria in dealing with applications for civil legal aid. A submission has been received from the board recommending a number of scheme changes, including a waiving of fees for vulnerable applicants. The proposals are being examined within the Department. The amendments tabled by Senators for consideration on Committee Stage have been brought to the attention of officials with responsibility in this area who are already considering the issue.

  The vast majority of applicants granted legal aid and advice, including those who are seeking legal services in connection with domestic violence remedies, are required to pay some contribution. The minimum amount is €30 for legal advice, while a minimum amount of €130 applies to applicants for legal aid, which sum includes the contribution already paid for advice. The amount of the contribution depends on a person’s income and assets. It should be noted that aid contributions in domestic violence cases in the District Court are capped at a maximum figure of €417. However, the majority of applicants for legal aid in connection with domestic violence reliefs pay the minimum contribution. The Legal Aid Board received approximately €1,557,855 in client contributions in 2016. The amount for client contributions in 2016 in domestic violence cases is estimated at €177,076, of which €38,699 was waived. The amount of €138,377 received represents just under 9% of total contributions received. The overall amount is actually quite small, but we have taken on board the points made by Senators on this matter which is being examined. I thank Senators for raising this important issue.

  I thank the Acting Chairman and staff in the Seanad for facilitating the passage of the Bill through Report and Final Stages.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I thank the Minister of State and Senators for contributing.

  Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Next Tuesday at 3.30 p.m.

  The Seanad adjourned at 2.15 p.m. until 3.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 December 2017.


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