Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item Visit of Egyptian Delegation
 Header Item Commencement Matters (Resumed)
 Header Item School Admissions
 Header Item Obesity Strategy
 Header Item National Drugs Strategy
 Header Item Bovine Disease Controls
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Technological Universities Act 2018 (Section 36) (Appointed Day) Order 2018: Referral to Joint Committee
 Header Item EU Regulation on Internal Security Fund: Referral to Joint Committee
 Header Item Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018: Second Stage
 Header Item Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck Screening Programme: Statements

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 260 No. 3

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Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach i gceannas ar 14:30:00

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 Ivana Bacik that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, she proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to outline the measures he proposes to take in respect of ongoing issues concerning school admissions and governance at St. Patrick’s national school, Greystones, County Wicklow.

 I have also received notice from Senator Catherine Noone of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to provide an update on the progress of the healthy weight for Ireland action plan.

I have also received notice from Senator Fintan Warfield of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to address calls for drug testing services at music festivals.

I have also received notice from Senator Robbie Gallagher of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to address the increase in the incidence of bovine tuberculosis.

I have also received notice from Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to make provision for the 30 pupils without a place on buses to secondary schools in Buncrana, County Donegal.

I have also received notice from Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to outline his plans to approve access to the drug Spinraza for children who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy, SMA.

I have also received notice from Senator Michelle Mulherin of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to provide funding for the construction of new rural group water schemes in the areas of Downpatrick, Kilmurray and Furmoyle, County Mayo.

I have also received notice from Senator Colm Burke of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to establish a new system for unidentified human remains to centralise information and streamline the identification process.

The matters raised by the Senators are suitable for discussion. I have selected the matters raised by Senators Bacik, Noone, Warfield and Gallagher and they will be taken now. The other Senators may give notice on another day of the matters they wish to raise.

Commencement Matters

School Admissions

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills. I am very grateful to him for coming in to deal with this matter personally. I raise the matter of the need for the Minister to outline the measures he proposes to take in respect of ongoing issues concerning school admissions and governance at St. Patrick's national school, Greystones, County Wicklow. These issues concern the linking of school admission policies with church attendance. Has the Minister engaged directly with the school's patron to ensure these issues are resolved satisfactorily?

  I raised this issue on the Order of Business last week. It has also been raised in the media and has been in the public domain. I understand local Deputies in Wicklow are also engaging with the Minister on it. Constituents of mine in the Dublin university constituency raised with me their serious concerns around a change in implementation of enrolment policy in the named school, where there has been a linking of attendance at church with school admission. This change in implementation of policy has resulted in the resignation of the principal, who I am told by all involved is highly experienced and respected, and the resignation of a board member. My constituents have raised with me that the manner in which the patron, the Church of Ireland, is engaging with these issues and in particular the manner in which it is engaging with parents raise serious concerns. I am told there was an extraordinary meeting of the parent-teacher association in August at which a strong majority expressed their concern and dissatisfaction with the way the board had handled the matter and expressed their support for the principal. She has, in fact, resigned and I understand her position has now been advertised.

  My constituents have asked me to raise with the Minister their concerns about the governance of the school and the change in implementation of the admissions policy and they ask that the Department of Education and Skills intervene. Will the Minister indicate what, if any, engagement he has had with the patron and whether he proposes to appoint an inspector or some other mechanism to ensure this matter can be resolved? I should say a contrary view has also been expressed to me by others involved in this issue who are satisfied with the board of management. I know there are various issues at stake and do not want to get involved in the detail of the matter.

  To me, it seems this issue should be dealt with in the more general context. The Minister has stated his policy, which I absolutely support, of seeking to change the position whereby religious adherence and denomination are the deciding factors in school admissions policy. This matter raises broader issues about the general context of the need for separation of church and State in education, about which I have spoken many times. I have sought a more general debate in the Seanad on that. Some aspects of what the principal has said are in the public domain. One of the points made was that admission to State-funded education cannot and must not be an adjunct to or a collateral benefit of parochial engagement. This raises broader issues around schools' entitlement to require that parents demonstrate church attendance or engagement in a particular parish in order to ensure that their children become enrolled in particular schools.  What does the Minister propose to do about this issue and, more broadly, about the issue of linking school admission policies with church or religious attendance and engagement?

Visit of Egyptian Delegation

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Before I ask the Minister to respond, I am sure the Members of the House and the Minister will wish to join in welcoming a parliamentary delegation from Egypt led by His Excellency, Dr. Ali Abdul Aal, Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives. On my behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues in Seanad Éireann, I extend a very warm welcome to them and good wishes for a successful visit to Ireland.

Commencement Matters (Resumed)

School Admissions

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I thank Senator Bacik for raising this issue. To put it in context, it is important to state that, under our education system, patrons' boards of management have an independent role. It is a right of religious institutions to run their own schools, which is protected in the Constitution, and to have their own characteristic spirit, but they must do so within the laws of the land.

  The issue of admission to schools is governed by two sets of legislation, the first of which is the Education Acts. As the Senator will be aware, under our system, parents have a right to choose whatever school they wish their children to attend and schools must have an admission policy which must be available for inspection by parents. That admissions policy must be non-discriminatory and be applied fairly in respect of all those who apply. The other element is the Equal Status Act, to which the Deputy referred, which provides protection for schools which select on the basis of religion in preference to others. As the Deputy is aware, I have been a critic of this and have introduced legislation to change it, which was recently passed in the Seanad.

  The position on decisions on admission by a board of management or a school are appealable to the Department of Education and Skills. Therefore, the Department or, in the case of the Equal Status Act, the Workplace Relations Commission will assess whether the school has applied the admission policy fairly and whether it has been done in accordance with the law as set out. To my knowledge, an appeal regarding unfair admission has not been made at this point to the Department.

  As the Deputy will be aware, I hope to implement, at the earliest possible date, the new provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill. As she will know from discussions in this House, while I have sought to remove religion as a criterion for admission generally, I have provided that a child of a minority religion should be able to apply to a school of that ethos and be given preference in view of the effort we make to ensure a child or his or her parents gets access to their preferred education.

  The measure I have introduced is proportionate. It does not provide protection for the use of religion in the case of children of a majority religion because they have 18 out of every 20 schools from which to choose, but a child of a minority religion could have only one of every 20 schools from which to choose. This is a proportionate and fair provision. In assessing it, it is important that consideration is given to what the legislation is providing for. A primary school may give priority to the admission of a student where the school is satisfied that the student concerned is a member of a minority religion and the school provides a programme of religion instruction or religious education which is of the same religious ethos or a similar religious ethos to the religious ethos of the minority religion of the student concerned. The school will only be allowed to take account of the statement that the applicant has provided and any evidence that the applicant has provided that he or she is a member of a minority religion. Schools that admit students of a minority religion in accordance with this provision of the Act will not be permitted to rank those students according to the particular denomination or religion of the child concerned. I do not believe linking school admission with church attendance would meet the provisions of the law.

  It should be said also that these provisions only apply where a school is oversubscribed. Where a school is not oversubscribed, it is obliged to take all applicants, regardless of religion.  This is a significant step forward in giving fair access for all parents. I have also amended the provisions of section 29 of the Act, which continues to prevail, so that where a student feels he or she has been unreasonably refused access, he or she has the right to make an appeal. I will continue to reform in this area. One of the Bills I hope to shortly present to the House is a parent and student charter Bill, which would ensure parents are consulted when there is any proposal to change admission policy. The future direction of reform is to be more embracing of parents and students in the running of schools while respecting the distinctive role of the patron and the board.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Is the Senator satisfied with the reply?

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I will make some very brief follow-up remarks. I thank the Minister for his very full response to my question. I am grateful to him for outlining the changes the new legislation will make. When are they likely to come into effect? I support the Minister, and we supported the Bill in the Oireachtas. I am very grateful to him for stating he does not believe linking school admission with church attendance would meet the provisions of the new Act, once in force. I agree with him that the Act is a significant step and is very positive.

  I am also grateful to the Minister for outlining that he will introduce a parent and student charter. Will that enable parents to have an input if there is any change in admissions policy, even if the change is to the interpretation or application of the policy rather than to its wording? There is a subtle difference but a very important one in the context of this particular case, and possibly in other cases. Parents should be informed even where there is a proposal to change the way a policy is being interpreted or applied.

  There is a broader issue concerning church-State relations in education. I raised in the Seanad previously the issue of teacher training and a concern about different strands of admission with different CAO points for admission to different religious denominational teacher training courses, at DCU in particular. I will raise that with the Minister perhaps in a separate context but there is a bigger issue to be addressed.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan We are well over the time limit.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton We must recognise there is diversity and that diversity is good. That means there needs to be a diversity of teachers capable of maintaining the ethos of a given school. We have recognised that the right to have distinctive strands of teachers should be protected.

  The parent and student charter legislation will come before the House for a thorough debate. It is my intention that schools would involve parents in any significant change that would impact on them. When we debate the Bill in detail Senator Bacik will have a chance to see whether the phraseology meets her concerns. I do not have the wording to hand to verify the exact phraseology being used.

  I am in consultation with the Attorney General's office to ensure the way I proceed to implement the different sections of the Bill is legally sound and proper. I hope those consultations will be completed shortly, at which point I will be in a position to make known the schedule of implementation.

Obesity Strategy

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone This Commencement debate is on the topic of obesity and concerns the need for the Minister for Health to provide an update on the healthy weight for Ireland action plan. The plan is now two years old and there has been no update on its progress despite a pledge to conduct mid-term reviews and report annually.

  Cancer Research UK launched a campaign this week warning that obesity is set to overtake smoking as a cause of cancer in women. The low level of public knowledge of the risks and links between obesity and cancer is very serious. Ireland is facing a silent epidemic of obesity and Irish people are on course to be the heaviest in Europe.  The action plan A Healthy Weight for Ireland, launched in 2016, contained a pledge to report annually, but its progress has not been reported on. Tackling the rise of obesity must be made a priority as we are sleepwalking into a nightmare scenario. It is an issue I have raised numerous times in the House. By allowing obesity levels to rise unchecked, we are putting a massive additional strain on the health service. At the same time, the population is ageing, which will put its own strain on the health service.

  I am aware that the Minister of State is doing a good deal of work in this area. I would be grateful to receive some response on the progress made and any further measure that will be implemented to deal with this very serious issue that places a huge burden on the State. We talk about the fiscal space, but the fiscal space would be much larger if we dealt with the problem of obesity to prevent cancer and diabetes related illnesses and myriad others due to lifestyle. It is very difficult to quantify the cost, but it is estimated to be approximately €2.6 billion annually. We could do a great deal for citizens with that money if we could adopt a better approach to our lifestyles. As a nation, we are becoming fatter, with all of the risks that come with it.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the Senator for tabling this Commencement matter. I know how much the issue means to her. I have heard her speak many times about the issue of obesity and know that she has a real passion to ensure, through A Healthy Weight for Ireland, we will proceed to implement our strategy to tackle obesity.

  I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to speak to the House about the important topic of obesity, which is a public health priority. The House is already aware that the Government's national obesity policy and action plan were launched in September 2016 under the umbrella of the Healthy Ireland agenda. They recommended that an evaluation framework for progress in implementing the plan be designed. The Department of Health has initiated this evaluation under step 10 of the plan and will report annually, with the first report expected in 2019. The House will be aware that the policy prescribed ten steps forward that would be taken to prevent overweight and obesity. Some early progress on actions under these steps has been achieved. Of course, as with all of our work under Healthy Ireland, cross-departmental and cross-sectoral co-operation is fundamental to our approach to implementation. This is reflected in the national obesity policy implementation oversight group which has been established under the chairmanship of the Department of Health and consists of representatives from a range of Departments and agencies. Sub-groups on reformulation and healthy eating have been established as initial priority areas for action. The sub-group on reformulation recently held a workshop with key food sector stakeholders. A sugar sweetened drinks tax commenced on 1 May this year and work is under way with the Department of Finance on an evaluation of this measure. Engagement is also continuing with other Departments to support the work of stakeholders involved in planning and developing the built environment. I am pleased to advise the House that it is intended to hold a stakeholder forum in November under this theme. In addition, a voluntary code of practice for food and beverages promotion, marketing and sponsorship has also been developed involving representatives from the food industry, the advertising sector, statutory agencies and various Departments. The code was published in February and work is under way to implement it.

  New healthy eating guidelines, a food pyramid and supporting resources have been published and circulated. Work has also commenced to develop healthy eating guidelines for the one to five years age group. The House may also wish to know that new nutrition standards for schools, with an initial focus on school meal programmes funded by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, have also been developed. They were developed with the assistance of safefood, the Health Service Executive, the school meals programme in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department of Education and Skills.

  Other work taking place includes implementation of a breastfeeding action plan and a new Making Every Contact Count brief intervention framework; the appointment last year of Professor Donal O’Shea as first clinical lead for obesity; the introduction in the general practitioner under-sixes contract of health assessments, including weight checks; and a five-year communications campaign called START that supports parents in making healthy choices surrounding food and activity.  Under the broader Healthy Ireland agenda, a number of other major initiatives support the obesity policy, including a national physical activity plan. Implementation of the plan is well under way, in collaboration with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and a range of other stakeholders.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Minister of State. I thought there would be an annual report in advance of 2019. It does not make much sense to me. There is an urgency to this issue, and the idea that we would put a plan in place in 2016 and not get any feedback on it for three years does not make sense to me.

  In addition, I have difficulty with the code of practice to which the Minister of State refers. By its voluntary nature there is no impetus on television or radio providers to do anything about it. When one watches the children's movies and so forth on RTÉ, there are rules where it needs to be more than 50% children who are watching it. The broadcasting agencies have all sorts of statistics about how those movies are mostly watched by adults, but I do not buy that. I do not think adults are sitting down watching the children's movie on a Saturday. Some of them may be in the house, but how do the agencies quantify who is actually looking at the television?

  Advertising is still allowed to be shown at that time and there needs to be a more mandatory level when it comes to advertising. There needs to be a watershed whereby after a certain time in the evening these types of sugary and fattening sweet drinks, food and confectionary are not advertised in order that children do not see these advertisements. There is also a problem with the online space, an issue which must also be seriously addressed.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I understand the Senator's frustration with the annual report. I had hoped I would have been able to give a little more information on that in my reply this afternoon. I will proceed, however, to look at it again.

  On the code of practice and its voluntary nature, one might say that when it was launched it was conservative. In the meantime, however, there has been much action on the code of practice and many agencies have come on board. I know a number of shops, outlets and other areas are also beginning to take it on board. I was struck in my local supermarket by how it has been rearranged in order that fruit and vegetables are at the front of the shop rather than what had been there in the first place. It is a voluntary code of practice and we need to continue to work on it. We might need to emphasise the fact that responsibility comes with having a business and with serving young children, and this is seen on a daily basis.

  When the sugar tax came in, like many people I was a bit wary of it and where it would go. As I have continued in my journey in this Department, however, I see the changes as soft drinks manufacturers are starting to take on board many of the things that were raised. I will take into account the Senator's point about online services and I will ensure the Department reverts to the Senator.

National Drugs Strategy

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, will also take this matter.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I thank the Chair for facilitating this conversation about harm reduction. I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I commend the HSE and the Department of Health on their work in informing drug users about the safe use of drugs. It is proactive, realistic and life saving.

  According to a Eurobarometer poll in 2014, the use of psychoactive drugs among 15 to 24 year olds in Ireland is the highest in Europe. This also extends to music festivals, where MDMA, ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine are all common. I also commend the specific HSE guidelines on music festival attendees or festival-goers. It advises that it is always safer not to use ecstasy or MDMA but, if one does, one should test-dose a new batch and begin with a low dose of one quarter of a pill. Obviously, these illicit drugs do not go through any regulatory testing at all.  There are reports that bad batches have caused havoc among Irish festivalgoers and resulted in the deaths or emergency health reactions of festival attendees. Not a summer goes by without news here or in Britain of such incidents. Conversations regarding drug testing at festivals have taken place this summer and Dr. Eamon Keenan of the HSE has called for its introduction. Having passed a policy through the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis, I put out a statement on the matter and the Ana Liffey drug project has also spoken on it. I commend Ana Liffey, the HSE, Help Not Harm and Electric Picnic, all of which engaged in the provision of harm reduction services at music festivals this summer. We cannot ignore the inevitability that drugs will be used by a percentage of people attending festivals. Most importantly, we must recognise that no amount of literature, education or one-to-one advice will ever inform a person about what constitutes a safe dose of an illicit or unknown drug.

  In May this year, two festival goers in Portsmouth died after taking pills which contained three times the typical dose of ecstasy. It is always safer not to use unknown or illicit drugs at all and they are illegal. However, we must be conscious, given their prevalence, that putting our heads in the sand or condemning those who partake has failed completely. We are doing very well in advancing the harm reduction conversation but we can do more. While I do not wish to pre-empt the work of the national drugs strategy, which is examining the issue, I ask the Minister of State whether the Department will support initiatives similar to The Loop initiative in Britain? The Loop offers a confidential drug-testing service at festivals in Britain. A festival goer can provide a sample and will be informed what constitutes it. The sample is then destroyed in the context of the criminalisation that exists in Britain. Will the Department consider funding a similar initiative in the absence of decriminalisation? The British Government has brought various stakeholders together, including police, health professionals, festival organisers and NGOs. There is an appetite in Ireland and we can achieve this in the absence of decriminalisation. I would welcome a statement from the Department on the matter.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the Senator for his interesting and touching contribution on the initiative in respect of drug-taking at festivals. I also thank him for giving me the opportunity to update the House on harm-reduction measures.

  Through its strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, the Government is committed to a health-led approach to drug use. While the advice from the Department of Health and the HSE is that people attending festivals should inform themselves about the dangers of taking drugs and, preferably, should not take drugs at all, reducing the harms caused to individuals, families and communities by substance misuse is at the core of the strategy. Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use to managed use and abstinence. The HSE has previously undertaken awareness campaigns, including "What's in the Pill", and in July, I launched the HSE's harm reduction campaign on cocaine and crack cocaine. In addition, the HSE has issued harm reduction information to festivalgoers based on UK reports from similar events.

  We are all too familiar with the fact that recreational settings such as nightclubs and festivals are associated with use of drugs, including ecstasy, amphetamines and new psychoactive substances. The risks associated with the use of drugs in these settings may be increased if it is in combination with other drugs, particularly alcohol. While the provision of drug-testing kits at nightclubs and festivals, for example, might allow people who use drugs to gain feedback regarding the content and potency of what they are consuming, this approach has been criticised as having the potential to inform people who use drugs that what they are consuming is safe when that is not the case.  I also understand from the evidence review that doubts remain regarding the accuracy and consistency of commonly used testing equipment.

  The HSE's addiction services has had preliminary discussions with emergency health providers who attend music events. It has examined emerging approaches that provide targeted preventive messages to recreational drug users. Our strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, looked at evidence related to interventions to tackle the drug problem, including drug testing as a harm reduction measure. It includes a specific action which aims to strengthen early harm reduction responses to current and emerging trends, as well as patterns of drug use. This will be delivered by establishing a working group to examine the evidence on early harm reduction responses such as drug testing. The working group will draw together the relevant stakeholders and examine the available evidence, along with best practice models from other countries to help determine the appropriate response in Ireland. The Department of Health and the HSE aim to establish this working group in 2019.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield That was a comprehensive response. I did not take the chance to commend the Minister of State on launching the cocaine and crack initiative. There was criticism and pressure about this. I commend her on showing leadership on the issue.

  It is welcome that the Department of Health and the HSE will establish a working group to examine such settings as music festivals. It is welcome that the Minister of State referred to nightclubs also. I did not refer to them earlier. It is positive the Department is taking nightclubs and festivals together.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the Senator. I know how well he understands these problems. Like many of us who have come from communities where drugs have had a significant impact on families, friends and young people, the new strategy will take on some of these issues. As we continue to draw down on the actions and strategy, particularly with the working group on personal drug use, at the end of the year we may have progress in this area, looking at treating in a more health-led way rather than a criminal way those young people who, unfortunately, may find themselves addicted to drugs. If a young person has made a mistake in life, we need to give him or her the opportunity to recuperate and go back into his or her community.

  We have established a great working group and, by the end of December, we will have some recommendations from it. We will then continue the journey in January and onwards in 2019 around looking at what the Senator raised, particularly around drug testing. Last year, I visited a drug testing service in Wales. I was struck by the fact that any measures that can reduce harm and death caused by drug use need to be introduced as soon as possible.

Bovine Disease Controls

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach inniu. I thank the Minister of State for his attendance in the House to discuss this important topic.

  Recently, many farmers in County Monaghan received correspondence from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine informing them that the ratio of TB reactor animals in the county is a multiple of the national average. This is a concerning development when one bears in mind that less than 18 months ago, County Monaghan had one of the lowest rates of TB compared with the rest of the country.  It is an awful development in a short period. It is a serious concern for the farming community with regard to herd genetics and farm incomes. As I am sure the Minister of State can relate to, it is a worrying and stressful time for farmers, many of whom have spent many years of hard work and sweat in building a herd to find, perhaps overnight, that that herd can be removed from them. I, for one, coming from a farming background, can relate to the experience of having to undergo a test and for two or three days, one's heart is in one's mouth until one gets the results. It is deeply worrying.

  I know that the Department is in communication with the farming community in County Monaghan on a number of issues, the most important of which is ascertaining what is causing this sudden upsurge in the incidence of tuberculosis in their herds. Tuberculosis has been with us for many years and it is frustrating that we do not seem to be able to successfully get a handle on the problem as a country. Despite vaccinations for many years, the problem still seems to be with us. As far as the farmer in County Monaghan is concerned, it is probably as bad now as it was at any time in that period. It is important that the Minister of State outline where exactly his Department is in tackling this problem and identifying the cause and the plans he has in place to eradicate it. I sincerely hope any plan we have will not be isolated to the Twenty-six Counties but will cover the Thirty-two Counties. As I am sure the Minister of State can appreciate, Monaghan is bordered by three Northern counties, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone. We need to consult the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland to identify if there are similar problems north of the Border. I look forward to the Minister of State's comments. Having spoken to farmers, frustration has been voiced at the fact that, in their opinion, it has taken too long to remove the reactor animals from farms. I ask the Minister of State to look into that matter. He might revert to me on it.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Andrew Doyle): Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle I thank the Senator for raising this important and relevant issue. As he said, the tuberculosis eradication scheme has been in place in Ireland since the mid-1950s. This and other measures have led to major improvements in tuberculosis levels in the cattle herd. Reactor numbers have fallen significantly in recent years from 44,000 a year in 2008 and 2009 to approximately 15,000 to 17,000 reactors in the past two to three years. In the same period the herd incidence has reduced from 6% to 3.5%, meaning that thousands more farmers are now not affected by the stresses associated with a tuberculosis breakdown. This is a positive development and we are keen to see this trend continue in support of the farming community.

  As a member state with bovine tuberculosis, Ireland is required under EU law to have a tuberculosis eradication scheme to facilitate trade. The tuberculosis eradication programme is consistently the largest animal health programme run by the Department. This reflects how acutely aware we are both of the financial and mental stress for a farmer associated with a tuberculosis breakdown. The Department has a range of financial supports available for farmers whose herds experience a tuberculosis breakdown. The Department works very closely with the farming community in ensuring the risk of spread of bovine tuberculosis is curtailed as much as possible in line with the available scientific evidence. For example, earlier this year, County Monaghan was identified as an area with elevated levels of tuberculosis. Through in-depth consultation with stakeholders, a specific tuberculosis control plan for County Monaghan was developed and is being actively implemented.

  Bovine tuberculosis is a complex disease and it is not possible to attribute the decline in the incidence of the disease to any single factor. Nevertheless, the main factors involved appear to be the wildlife control policy, improved testing regimes and access to data and technology such as the animal health computer system.   It is important to acknowledge that the major reduction in disease levels is thanks to the co-operation of all stakeholders, in particular farmers, private veterinary practitioners and Department officials. We now need to build on the excellent progress that has been made and enhance our efforts further in order to achieve eradication, which we think is an attainable target with all the tools we have at our disposal. The Minister, Deputy Creed, has set the ambitious target of eradicating TB entirely by 2030 and, in order to help achieve this, he recently received approval from the Government to set up a TB stakeholder forum. This forum is being independently chaired by Mr. Michael Cronin and held its first meeting in early September of this year. Encouragingly, it has been broadly welcomed by all members. It is the intention of the forum to provide the Minister with proposals in early 2019 that can achieve eradication of bovine TB by 2030. These proposals will be considered very closely with a view to finalising a TB 2030 eradication strategy shortly thereafter.

  I want to reassure the Senator we are firmly committed to eradicating bovine TB. We want to ensure that many more farmers will be saved from the challenges associated with a TB outbreak in the coming years.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I thank the Minister of State. When he gets the opportunity, there are a couple of issues on which he might revert to me. First, while I welcome his comments on the Department, I would like confirmation on whether we are consulting the authorities north of the Border on the level of disease there. Are we working jointly on that issue, given that it is essential we do so? Second, it is important the Department would look into the issue of the time it is taking to remove affected cattle from farms. As several farmers have contacted me on this issue, including today, I look forward to the Minister of State's response. Perhaps he will look into it directly.

  The Minister of State mentioned compensation levels and it is important compensation is paid out as soon as possible. As he rightly acknowledged, it can be a very worrying, sad and stressful time for farmers who discover their herds are affected. We must do all we can to eradicate this disease, which has to be our goal. However, where the disease does break out, we must look after the farmers as quickly as possible.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle I thank the Senator. I am working on the assumption Animal Health Ireland is working on an all-island basis in regard to eradication, given the animal health status needs to be all-island based. There is a slightly different control regime in the UK. We have started a vaccination programme in the vaccination areas and this is being rolled out on badgers.

  With regard to the length of time for removal, the valuation process needs to be as streamlined as possible. It is certainly an issue which has come up and I come from a county which has consistently had higher levels than the national average, although this is improving. In particular, there is an issue with the speed of paperwork following the identification of a reactor in order to remove the animal and allow the 60-day period to start. These are all very valid points.

  The Senator's comments on the compensation process are very relevant. Blood samples are now taken through the interferon-gamma test, which is more sophisticated and has probably picked up extra reactors. In reality, that will wash through the system, with an improved herd health status in due course. From personal experience, I have seen it takes some three years for that to really wash through the system and show benefit at the end of the day.

  Sitting suspended at 3.20 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.

Order of Business

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Before I call on the Deputy Leader to announce today's Order of Business, I want to refer to an issue that is causing some discomfort for me regarding the way in which Commencement matters are submitted. Standing Orders technically provide that notice of Commencement matters be given in writing to the Cathaoirleach. That is not always practical, however, because sometimes when I am down in my home in west Cork, I do not have access to the Internet and so forth. However, the Seanad Office carries out the administrative work on Commencement matters on my behalf before submitting them to me for selection. I would be extremely grateful to all Senators if they would submit their matters to the Seanad Office where at least five administrative officers will be able to see them, log the time at which they submitted, etc. If there is anything of consequence arising, Senators can contact me and I will try my best to facilitate them but Commencement matters are best submitted to the Seanad Office. If the matters are submitted to me alone, they may never get to the Seanad Office or they may be delayed. It is better to submit matters to the office. At approximately 12.10 p.m. or 12.15 p.m. each day, a member of the Seanad Office staff brings the eight or nine matters submitted for consideration to my attention and I try to select those for discussion as fairly as possible, giving priority to Senators who have not had a recent opportunity to raise matters on the commencement of the House.

  That matter of housekeeping dealt with, I call on the Deputy Leader to outline the business of the day.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Order of Business is No. 1, motion of referral of Technological Universities Act 2018 (Section 36) (Appointed Day) Order 2018 to the Joint Committee on Education and Skills, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, motion of referral of the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the European Council establishing the Internal Security Fund, to be taken without debate at the conclusion of No. 1; No. 3, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - Second Stage, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and adjourned not later than 6.30 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes each and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes each; and No. 4, statements on the scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme, to be taken at 6.30 p.m. and conclude not later than 7.30 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons who may share time with colleagues not to exceed eight minutes each and the Minister to be given not less than three minutes to reply to the debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Will the Deputy Leader clarify No. 3 as I believe we are only to take Second Stage?

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Yes, I believe it is Second Stage only to be taken at this stage.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I raise the issue of sports capital funding and its allocation. I implore the Minister not to repeat the sins of last year in respect of the distribution of sports capital funding. The benefit to communities of sports facilities and sports in general is immeasurable. In Dublin 8 we have some of the highest densities of population and rates of population growth, yet between the Liffey and the canal we do not have a single full-size pitch despite having a population of 50,000. For example, Kevins GAA club in the inner city, which currently fields 18 teams and has a long tradition of GAA in the inner city, has no place to call home. Imagine a home club in an area with one of the densest populations in the country being deprived of a pitch. It would not happen in any other parish in the country. The Kevins club does not serve only one parish, but eight. The Minister needs to take heed of this matter and ensure that adequate resources are allocated to children and sports clubs in disadvantaged areas across Dublin city. It is unfair that children in certain areas have better opportunities when it comes to sports facilities than their contemporaries in other areas.

  The second issue I raise is the waiting lists for speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. There are currently 37,229 people waiting for speech and language therapy. There are three lists. Some 15,000 of these people are waiting for a very first assessment. We know that, if they are able to afford it, many parents are able to skip this list and pay for an assessment privately. There are 7,894 people waiting for a first treatment and there are 14,361 people waiting for the further therapy they need. In respect of occupational therapy, there are 31,361 people waiting. Half of these are children, of whom more than 6,000 have been waiting for more than a year. We see those who can afford to pay hundreds and thousands of euro get privately diagnosed and skip into the list for first therapy. This is not acceptable. It is unequal and cannot continue. I hope the Minister will look into this matter and ensure these waiting lists become a thing of the past.

  To end on a high, I congratulate my colleague in Fianna Fáil, Senator Ned O'Sullivan, on his local Tidy Towns committee in Listowel, of which he was the founder, winning the overall Tidy Towns competition yesterday. I also congratulate other towns across the country and the national Tidy Towns committee on their hard work in ensuring that we have beautiful towns and cities throughout Ireland.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I join Senator Ardagh in acknowledging the voluntary work done to make Ireland a wonderful place in which to live, particularly by organisations such as Tidy Towns committees.

  This morning, I received a telephone call informing me that there were seven masts tied up in Haulbowline last night. That is seven Naval Service ships, of which there are eight. If one is in service in the Mediterranean and the other seven are tied up in Haulbowline, who is looking after the seas? Who is carrying out fisheries patrols and dealing with drug trafficking and smuggling? Who is dealing with the various activities that take place at sea? I am told that we did not have a crew for a single ship. If this is true, we are in dire straits. I am told that senior non-commissioned officers, NCOs, are being asked to board ships and act as able seamen in order that ships can sail. That is unacceptable and simply not good enough. Last week, we had 3,500 soldiers and veterans outside the gate with the wives and partners of Defence Forces personnel. My colleague debated the issue with the Minister to try to secure better terms and conditions for soldiers. The issue is not pay.  Nobody ever joined the Defence Forces to get rich; rather, they joined to serve. It is all fine and dandy having a ship in the Mediterranean and getting all of the plaudits and fine words about the work we are doing there, but if we cannot do the job we are supposed to do at home, it is time to bring the ship back to patrol our seas. We bought a ninth ship but do not have crews to sail eight of them. The Department of Defence is giving back €27 million to the Exchequer, yet some soldiers are on the poverty line. Married quarters at the Curragh are boarded up, but they could be refurbished and put back into use such that service personnel would have an affordable rent and 47 or 50 houses would be released into the private rental market. The current approach must stop.

  I am blue in the face discussing the treatment of the Defence Forces. Generally, those in uniform such as nurses and doctors are very badly treated. In recent days every Senator will have received letters about retention difficulties in the medical profession. Likewise, we cannot retain people in the Army. I am sick to the back teeth of hearing about the White Paper on Defence and how it is the blueprint for how the Defence Forces will work. If one looks at it, one will see that the word "retention" is mentioned once and that there is no strategy. There is no plan. It is time to tear up the White Paper and start again from scratch. We cannot have millions of euro worth of ships tied up in dock because there are no crews available. We cannot have young sailors coming back after four weeks at sea and having to sleep on board their ship because we have no accommodation for them. We cannot continue in the way we are going. I am fully aware that there are crises in every Department. I feel for the Ministers who are trying to resolve them because I do not know how they will be resolved. However, the Defence Forces need urgent attention.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I, too, congratulate the Tidy Towns organisation and committees on the huge contribution they make to local communities. I congratulate all those involved in Westport and all of the other towns in County Mayo which won prizes in their categories. We recognise the very hard work that they do.

  I wish to mention a four year old girl with a severe neurodisability who is non-verbal and cannot be toilet trained. She has autism and lives in Castlebar. The disabilities section in the Department of Education and Skills is refusing to provide home tuition for her. It is asking this young girl who cannot even respond to her own name to get on a bus and travel 20 km to attend school in Newport. Will the Deputy Leader ask the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Finian McGrath, and the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, to come to the House to explain how we are cherishing all of the children of the nation equally when a child aged four years who has autism is refused home tuition and asked to travel 20 km on a bus to school? It is inhumane and beyond comprehension. I have gone through all of the processes in trying to get the Department to appreciate the geography of County Mayo and that there is no ASD unit in Castlebar, to recognise that the supports and services needed are not available and that we need some flexibility in our approach. These are not just numbers but children who deserve far better than this. I also ask the Minister to clarify the standing of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill 2017, to indicate the Stage it is at and when we can expect it to proceed through the House. There is no point in having conventions to protect the rights of those with disabilities when, in spite of them we have cases such as this. More and more cases are dropping through the system in this very inhumane way.

  I commend my colleague, Deputy Eoin Ó Broin, on tabling a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. Anyone who has any doubt why Sinn Féin has tabled the motion should look at the short film "Through the Cracks", produced by Ingrid Casey, to hear the personal stories of the children and parents who are homeless in this city, confined to hubs and do not have the security of a home.  We watched this film earlier today in the audiovisual room in Leinster House to hear how we need to have a right to a home and a human right for housing enshrined in our Constitution. I would like the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to come to the Seanad to tell us exactly how he will tackle the housing crisis.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan It is good to be back again. The budget is coming up in a couple of weeks and I wish to raise two related matters with regard to disability. This is the first budget to follow Ireland's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is an opportunity and a necessity to have a budget that has something for disability across a range of Departments. There was a wonderful launch this morning of a new programme within the Houses of the Oireachtas called Oireachtas work and learn, OWL. The first ten people to partake, mainly young people with an intellectual disability, will be here for one year as interns. Great support is given by the Houses of the Oireachtas services and the staff, which I commend, and the City of Dublin Education and Training Board, CDETB, is underwriting the quality of the training and support.

  After the year is up, those people need to move on to what I would simply call real jobs. The Ceann Comhairle said this morning that this is the first parliament in the world to initiate a programme like this. WALK and KARE are the two organisations supporting the programme, and this morning the director of services from WALK, Catherine Kelly, said that only 1% of the people on the intellectual disability database are in real jobs. We have a huge job of work to do. We have pretty much tackled the mainstream unemployment issue in that we are down to almost zero unemployment. It is high time, therefore, that we dealt with this other issue.

  I ask the Deputy Leader if the Seanad can find some way to acknowledge those ten interns practically and welcome them. Can we find a way where Members can get to meet them one to one? It is the old-fashioned aspect of contacts and support that will help those people into employment.

  The second related point I wished to raise is that tomorrow is the second iteration of the annual Make Way Day where more than 18 local authorities, a number of disability organisations and people with disabilities are going out to point out - largely through a social media campaign - the infringements on the capacity for people with disabilities to be able to walk unhindered through the street and down the high streets. There are cars parked on pavements, furniture from businesses is out on the street and there is refuse and so on. These are all practical things. I congratulate those who have been involved in this campaign. Congratulations also to Listowel for the Tidy Towns result. Ease of access is an important issue in having tidy towns.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I wish to raise an issue that pertains to the operation of small, community pharmacies throughout the State. It will also resonate with each and every Member in the House who understands how difficult it often is for independent pharmacies to survive in this kind of market. I understand new rules have been developed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland that, if they are adopted through a statutory instrument under the 2007 Act, could seriously restrict the role, function and responsibilities of pharmacy assistants in the State. There are 355 pharmacy assistants, all of whom have particular kinds of qualifications that are recognised. These courses stopped quite a number of years ago. The majority of pharmacy assistants are women over the age of 55. If these proposals manage to migrate into a statutory instrument, which they are likely to in the next short period, these pharmacy assistants could find themselves out of work, with pharmacies throughout the State under severe pressure.  My call today is for the Minister for Health, who I understand would be obligated to sign the statutory instrument, to review this situation and to understand that if this proceeds, it will cause absolute chaos and mayhem in small pharmacies up and down the country. There are people in this Chamber who are better qualified than I to speak about it, but I understand the problems it will cause. We are asking pharmacies to do more work these days. We are asking them to do more complex work and it is important that they are resourced to do that. The worst possible thing we could do is take qualified staff from them. What those staff want is a properly recognised framework for the kind of continuous professional development that they do anyway. I cannot see an upside to this. Nobody is advising to the contrary or as to why this is positive. I ask the Minister to keep a watching brief on this, to be very cautious about how it proceeds and to ensure there is proper engagement to get under the bonnet as to why individual pharmaceutical assistants and the group that represents them are very concerned.

  Members will be aware that new illness benefit forms came onstream in the middle of July without, as I understand, any consultation with the National Association of General Practitioners. I met with that association last week and understand from it that a mediation process was designed by the Department and then withdrawn. An eminent industrial relations professional with significant experience was commissioned to assist in the process to develop a framework whereby this issue could be addressed. The longer it goes on, the more delays we will experience in getting illness benefit applications processed. I appeal to those Senators who have influence with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and, to a lesser extent, the Minister for Health, to try to ensure there is an intervention on this issue.

  I am very pleased that the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has said today at the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection that payment of a Christmas bonus will be made this year to 1.2 million recipients of long-term social welfare payments. The statement that was issued to the committee yesterday was particularly vague and open to interpretation as to whether there would be a payment made at all this year. The Minister has said a payment will be made. However, she has failed to state that the full Christmas bonus will be restored. I appeal to the Minister and her Fine Gael colleagues to use their good offices to make sure we have 100% restoration of the Christmas bonus to lighten the load for less well-off families as we approach the Christmas period.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden To take up the previous speaker's point about the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Minister never said the bonus would not be paid. It was disingenuous for anyone to have said that.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I did not say that.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden I am not saying Senator Nash did so. It had been leaked and that is where the problem lies. When things are leaked and taken out of context, people are terrorised and frightened. Old-age pensioners were fearful this morning because of a leaked document. It was fake news and I do not think that is right.

  I would like to speak on housing, as everybody would. Councillors, Senators and Deputies alike are all frustrated at the housing situation. I do not think anybody can criticise the Government's commitment to housing. The Government is very committed to housing and homelessness-----

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile It is committed to homelessness, all right.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden -----and to housing those who are homeless. I feel there are a few things councils could look at doing. I would like the Minister to come to the House to have a debate with us on the issues. One of the things I am concerned about is the repair and lease scheme. It was instigated by the previous housing Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney. It is a very good scheme but it has not been taken up at all. I think only 15 people have taken it up in the last years.

  My suggestion is that the councils may not be advertising it and pushing it enough. Perhaps the Minister could put pressure on them to promote it better. I am also worried about staffing issues and the lack of clerks of works. The clerk of works in Athlone and the south Westmeath area works on his own and is under pressure. Perhaps that is another way we could look at it. If we had the Minister in the House, we could discuss this with him.

  Sinn Féin's motion of no confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government this evening is a stunt.  It does not have a monopoly on compassion. We all know everyone should have a home. I firmly believe calling for a vote on a motion of no confidence in the Minister will do nothing for the people who are living in hubs or for those who are on the housing waiting lists. Sinn Féin would be better served using its time tonight to come up with suggestions and solutions and trying to help the Government to house people who are looking for housing, instead of calling for votes of no confidence because, to me, such calls are stunts.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Matters that are before the Dáil should not be discussed here. If a Member wants to table a motion before the House, we can have a discussion on it. I would prefer that this issue would not be referred to during the course of the Order of Business.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher As others have done, I join in congratulating the more than 880 towns and villages that entered this year's Tidy Towns competition. They all deserve huge credit for their efforts. I congratulate my colleague, Senator Ned O'Sullivan, on Listowel being successful in winning the overall prize. I take great pride also today in congratulating Glaslough village in County Monaghan-----

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Hear, hear.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher -----on being awarded the prize of being the tidiest village in the country. I invite all my colleagues in the House to visit Glaslough if they get an opportunity to do so as it is a beautiful village that has much to offer. The volunteers who participated in the work in all the more than 880 towns and villages throughout the country deserve great praise. I compliment them on their hard work and effort. These things do not happen by accident. They all deserve great credit. I encourage others to join them in their efforts because the awards are great both at a personal level and a community level.

  I would like to spare a thought today for the community of Magheracloone in County Monaghan who yesterday experienced the unprecedented event of having a landslide, which affected the local Magheracloone GAA club and the adjoining community centre. It was a dramatic event for all concerned. There is also a question mark over a number of houses within the vicinity. Many businesses are suffering because of road closures. I spoke to a representative of Gyproc this morning about the incident and stressed the importance of keeping the community updated on developments as they arise. I understand some experts from the UK arrived in Magheracloone this morning to undertake investigations to assess the damage and perhaps the reason for it. Our hearts go out to all those people and we trust that, collectively, they will all work together to ensure that life as normal will return to Magheracloone as soon as possible.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I wish to speak about the National Women's Council of Ireland. The Deputy Leader will be aware that its representatives had a briefing this morning for Oireachtas Members. I attended it, engaged with them and commend them on having a very good, meaningful one-to-one engagement with subgroups. It was very helpful and it was great to have that conversation.

  A point that came across clearly to me at the engagement was the disconnect sometimes between organisations such as this one and politics and policymakers. The issues they covered were a women's health action plan, for which it has strongly advocated, and reversing the cuts of crucial payments and services to women. I was particularly taken by their detailed analysis of the investment in social houses and greater security of tenure. They also tracked the figure for women and children who are homeless, which is an alarming and a growing issue for that organisation.

  After having had some engagement with the representatives, it struck me that we need to see more women in local politics. All those to whom I spoke in one of the groups said the same thing. We need people of diverse views right across the various spectrums - young, old, straight, gay, bisexual, men, women - and to have a rich sense of diversity. It is important that all of that is represented in Parliament, be it the Seanad or the Dáil, and in local government. I posed the question to the people I spoke why there are not more such people. They cited the issue of childcare costs, of there being a male dominated cabal, as one woman described it, and how confidence was an issue for many women in terms of accessing policy within local authorities and in politics.

  I would like to see how we, across the political spectrum and across all parties and none, can collaborate and work together in some way now. Let us not wait for another other five years but rather collaborate on this between now and the local elections in May. I am talking in terms of the next two to three months.  I suggest to the Deputy Leader that we collaborate and look at how we might have a public campaign of engagement. We should have workshops up and down the country encouraging women to be involved in the political movement, whether in political parties or as Independents. I put the idea out there. Perhaps we would all go away, collectively think about that and see how we could get a more diverse mix in local politics and especially more women.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly In deference to your comments, a Chathaoirligh, about the motion in the other House I will say only I support what my colleague, Senator Gabrielle McFadden, has said. Sinn Féin is playing the man, not the ball, and would be better advised to come up with policies.

  I, too, wish to be associated with the comments about the Tidy Towns competition and the great work that is done by all the communities around the country. I refer, in particular, to Skerries and Malahide which both won gold, Swords which won silver, Lusk which won bronze and the Naul which won a prize for endeavour.

  I will also comment briefly on the fake news story on the Christmas bonus. I remind Members that it was Fianna Fáil that scrapped the bonus in 2009 and the Fine Gael and Labour Party Government that reinstated it in 2014. The Government has increased the bonus several times since. I know the Minister for Finance has no notion of reducing it.

  The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been through this House and is before the other House. It is important legislation. A number of Deputies wish to see the provision on cancer warning labels removed from the Bill. To do so would be inappropriate and ill-advised. We know from our discussions in this House that the World Health Organization, WHO, has determined alcohol to be a class 1 carcinogen. Approximately 900 Irish people are diagnosed with an alcohol-related cancer every single year. Alcohol can cause seven types of cancer, namely, cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, breast and liver and colorectal colon cancer. More than half of the mouth, head and neck cancers diagnosed in Ireland are associated with alcohol. Alcohol also increases the level of oestrogen in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of breast cancer.

  What are we afraid of? Is it allowing the public to know the risk they are subjecting themselves to? We have no right as legislators to deprive people of that information, in particular young people. The earlier one starts to drink, the more likely one is to have a problem. Young people need to know that alcohol is dangerous. When consumed in moderation it can be a great social lubricant but, sadly, many people in this country drink excessively and our relationship with alcohol has been extremely damaging to society at many levels. I know this is the Order of Business but this is something I feel passionate about. I have always been a strong exponent of protecting young people until they are old enough to make their own decisions and ensuring that adults and children alike are informed of the nature of the product they are consuming.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do not appear to have heard about legislation introduced by Sinn Féin on rent certainty, protection from eviction and security of tenure. The party introduced Bills in the Oireachtas at least six times. The Government asked for solutions and it was given solutions but they were knocked back and opposed or Members sat on the fence getting blistered bums.

  I know I am not meant to speak about the business of the Dáil but what I will speak about is the effect the homelessness and housing crisis is having on children. Five years ago when I was a councillor I helped a woman who lived in a car with her three children. I knew at the time something was happening. I knew there was a tsunami of distraught parents and children beginning to emerge who were left to sleep in cars. That was the beginning of the housing crisis. The child whom I met at that time was seven years of age. The child stopped talking and listening and became incontinent.   My colleague, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh, alluded to the short documentary, "Through the Cracks", which I urge all Members to watch. It refers repeatedly to the stories of children who are at risk of homelessness or actually homeless. It is stated all of the children suffer from anxiety and depression. Where is the therapy for every one of them? A woman came to see me yesterday in fear. She has been given notice to quit because the landlord or landlady wants to take back the house. Her child is in this precarious position. He is a small six year old boy with mental health issues. He has become extremely violent because he is picking up on the parents' insecurity, anxiety and depression due to the lack of somewhere to live. There is a psychologist missing in Cherry Orchard Hospital and a two-year waiting list. The child has become violent and his mother has been told to ring the police about her six year old. That is the only solution while she is on a two-year waiting list.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I, too, congratulate the Tidy Towns committees throughout the country on the tremendous work each and every one of us sees week in, week out, which starts at the beginning of the year, to prepare their villages and towns for the task ahead.

  I, too, ask the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to come before the House to report positive progress on Rebuilding Ireland. When one looks at the scheme, he instigated an inter-agency group on homelessness. There has been a 40% increase in new home completions. The number of planning permissions is up by 39%, while the number of commencement notices is up 17%. The overall figure for new builds is up by 40%. The Minister is also responsible for developing the Land Development Agency.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I do not want the Senator to-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I am just highlighting some of the positives-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I know that, but-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor -----and asking the Minister to come to the House to think about-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Please, Senator. Generally, I do not mind a Member talking about an issue, but referring to a motion in the other House is inappropriate.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have not once referred to the motion.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Is the Senator referring to it directly?

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have not once referred to it. I am asking that the Minister come to the House-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator might not have mentioned the motion, but unless I am hearing him differently, the Senator is rehashing what is happening in the other House.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I am not. I am just saying it is clear that what Sinn Féin is doing is a clear tactic-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine A Chathaoirligh-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I have already ruled on the matter. The Senator must find another way that is-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Sinn Féin is constantly being accused of bullying. It will not bully the Minister and it will not bully me either.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Please respect the Chair.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Sinn Féin is not interested in integration but segregation. It refused-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Really; come on. Kick him out.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor It is refusing to allow 900 houses to be developed in south County Dublin.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Please respect the Chair. We are on the Order of Business.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor There are 19,000 people homeless in the North of Ireland, the worst figure in the United Kingdom. Who is in charge there? Sinn Féin is in charge.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine From where did the Senator get those figures?

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile No. The Senator's friends in the SDLP-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor There was a Sinn Féin councillor on radio the other day commenting on the fact that it was not about money but about his local authority. As I said - I will not speak for much longer-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I think this is out of order. The Senator has gone on too long.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I ask the Minister to come to the House to report positive progress on Rebuilding Ireland.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Rebuild Ireland.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile We are taking the votes back.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine You are not going to get them again.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I join in the congratulations to the 883 Tidy Towns committees the length and breadth of the country. It is appropriate that we mention them in the Seanad because they do Trojan work. Our colleague Senator Ned O'Sullivan was a founder member of the Tidy Towns committee in Listowel, a town which received 339 marks. That said, my village of Castlecoote received 337, which is very good. It also received a gold medal.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Well done.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Our premises were also commended, which is rather nice. I commend the committee. I will not mention names, but Keadue received 336 marks; Ballintubber, 327; and Clontuskert, 325. They all performed very well. Westport again scored very well, while Portrunny received an endeavour award medal. We should praise the dedication of the people involved. Roscommon town received 326 marks. Our colleague Councillor Kathleen Shanagher is chairperson of the committee. I say, "Well done," to the volunteers the length and breadth of the country for the enormous improvements achieved. Driving through the towns of Ireland one can see that the ones with active Tidy Towns committees look stunning.  I also praise a fellow Roscommon man, Mr. J. P. McManus, who has dedicated €3.2 million to the GAA. That is €100,000 to every GAA county board in Ireland. It is an unprecedented and incredible gesture, and we should praise him for doing what he is doing in Adare. People can criticise him all they like but it is one of the most fantastic gestures of a successful Irishman, with whom we should all be delighted to be associated. I knew his uncle, Owen, who died in 2010, whom Mr. McManus used to visit regularly and bring around the Arignagh village valley in his lovely helicopter. He used to drop in a bottle of whiskey, and he also brought stone from Arignagh to his place. I compliment him, his wife Noreen and his family for a lovely gesture to all the GAA people in Ireland. I say "Well done" to Mr. McManus and may he have continued success.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I would like to be associated with the congratulations to the Tidy Towns committees across the country. Yesterday was a great day for recognising the exceptional work that is done by volunteers through the energy, time and commitment they give to ensuring villages and towns look so well. As Senator Leyden has rightly said, we have had good success in Roscommon. Roscommon town, Castlecoote, Kilteeven, Ballintober, Athleague, Portrunny, Keadew, Tarmonbarry and Cloontuskert have all done exceptionally well. While they may not have received awards, many other towns and villages have also increased their marks, which emphasises that further improvements have been made.

  Having been involved in many clean-ups and with Tidy Towns over the past few years, I know that it is important that we see further targeted measures to deal with illegal dumping, particularly in rural areas. I know the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has been proactive in providing funding to assist with major clean-ups where volunteers are unable to access these spots, which is welcome, but we need targeted approaches to deal with prevention rather than clean-ups. Once again, I compliment all who have been involved.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It certainly is the case that the Tidy Towns competition brings out the best of Ireland. Those who are involved at all levels, and volunteers especially, deserve great credit. I notice Cloontuskert was mentioned twice and wonder if there are two Cloontuskerts now in the Roscommon-Galway constituency. Senators Leyden and Hopkins might bring clarity tomorrow as to which one they were referring to.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I can confirm that.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There is a fine graveyard in the Galway one, which I know is well kept.

  A strange controversy erupted last week regarding the Committee of Public Accounts hearing into spending at Áras an Uachtaráin, with members of the Government and the Dáil saying the hearing would be "unconstitutional". Several interesting points have emerged from the hearing this morning, however, including details of an annual allowance of €317,000 paid to the President each year which is not subject to audit and the fact that an audit committee set up in 2014 to monitor spending did not even meet for three years.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Committee of Public Accounts is a Dáil committee only and it is inappropriate while it is in the middle of a debate for us to have a discussion in the Seanad.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will call for a specific debate about freedom of information.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator might find another way to do it. The Committee of Public Accounts is a specific Dáil committee dealing with this issue. In my view it is still sub judice, it is hearing evidence and it may go on for some time. When it is over we might be able to have a debate on it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I understand, but my point is about the fake political theatre that erupted last week around this issue.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The President should be above this debate, and the Office of the President can be dealt with, but the Senator should find another way.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Constitution states the President shall not be answerable to either House of the Oireachtas or to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and functions of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise or performance of these powers and functions. It is clear that it does not say that the President is not answerable to the Oireachtas under any circumstances. It says he or she is not answerable for the exercise and performance of the powers and functions which are specifically mentioned in the relevant article in the Constitution. My point is that it was nonsense for anyone to say examining spending from the Central Fund by the Áras would be unconstitutional. Why then did the likes of Deputies Micheál Martin, Catherine Murphy and Alan Kelly wade in to defend the Government's attempts to prevent this scrutiny on the grounds that it might interfere with the ongoing election? Surely, that is the point. Surely, voters have a right to know in advance of an election. One can imagine what would happen if the Committee of Public Accounts suspended all scrutiny by the Fine Gael-led Government in the run up to the next general election on the grounds that it might impact on the result. Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party would jump up and down in indignation about such a conspiracy.

  What we saw last week was political theatre and hypocrisy. There is almost universal agreement that the Presidency should be made subject to freedom of information legislation. All parties in the Dáil are on record as supporting it. If the Government and Opposition leaders consider it unconstitutional for the Committee of Public Accounts to probe spending in the Áras, they must consider that any attempt by the Oireachtas to bring the Áras within the remit of freedom of information would also be unconstitutional. Why have they not made that point before now? The simple reason is that no one really believes this line about unconstitutionality. It was cooked up at the last minute because of unease regarding details of Áras spending in the run up to the election, which the political class has already done its best to stitch up in favour of the incumbent.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I told Senator Mullen earlier, but he continued on, that this matter is sub judice before the Committee of Public Accounts. The Constitution sets out certain parameters and-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen When €7 million is being spent annually on the President, how can we not have accountability?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan That is not a matter for us. It is a matter for the Committee of Public Accounts to make a decision on. It may be that when the committee has decided, it could be a matter for debate on another day.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I welcome the announcement by the board of An Post that it will enter the Irish retail mortgage market next year and offer customers a 1% reduction in the mortgage interest rates applying where people take out a mortgage for the first time or switch providers. In due course, An Post will move on to the provision of overdrafts and credit cards. It is clear that the high street retail banks in this country are fleecing people when one compares the interest rates charged with European averages. It is good to see An Post move on a commitment it provided in respect of rolling out further services, including financial services. However, the old chestnut of the closure of post offices remains.

  I am very disappointed to have been notified earlier that Ballindine post office in County Mayo has failed the review and will not be allowed to reopen, including by means of giving someone else the opportunity to run a post office there. I question the way in which An Post is applying this protocol. There is no clarity in respect of it. There are more than 1,500 people in the electoral division comprising Ballindine, Garrymore and Irishtown and my understanding is that An Post's aim is to have a post office in place for every 500 people at least. There is no explanation regarding the review apart from a standard letter issued to every person who has made a submission. The letter states that An Post has examined the protocol and is sorry that the post office has not been successful.

  An Post's bona fides in applying the protocol are called into question in another regard. When An Post is shutting down a post office, it gives ten to 14 days' notice. If one wants a review, it takes place after the post office is closed. The post office in Ballindine closed on 10 or 12 August and the results of the review have been provided now. I do not think An Post is a bit serious about reviewing or reconsidering anything. I note that three business people in Ballindine made expressions of interest to An Post in August and indicated their interest in discussing the possibility of continuing to provide the services. The people concerned are not doing it for the good of their health. If there is a business proposition there, they will run with it. If there is not, they will not. An Post has not engaged with them in any shape or form, however, which is a disgrace. It is using the protocol as a carte blanche to shut down 159 post offices.  I am not suggesting every post office should remain open. That would be a foolish statement and would detract from the good cases in some communities to retain their post offices. Will the Deputy Leader take this issue up with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten? We have been told that where people want to engage, there will be engagement. However, the engagement with An Post is not a bit meaningful. It will have to be taken to task on this issue.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I acknowledge the Government's remarks at the weekend that it intends to hold the much awaited referendum on extending voting rights in presidential elections in, it is hoped, May next year. This will be an important debate. I will not refer to the ongoing presidential election campaign. The office is representative but not elected by all of Ireland's citizens. It will be an opportunity for us to initiate a further discussion on the kind of Ireland we want, namely, a fairer and more equal Ireland, as well as one that cherishes, empowers and enfranchises all citizens.

  The Minister is sincere on this matter. I believe he has worked diligently with officials on preparing the groundwork for this referendum. This will go some way to creating that more equal and representative society for which we long. It is a campaign, a referendum and an issue that is not won, however. To my knowledge, all of the parties represented in this Chamber, as well as those Members who do not belong to any particular party, are supportive of the extension of the voting right to citizens in the North and those who qualify among the diaspora. There is a longstanding desire for this through the Constitutional Convention, as well as the natural outwork flowing from the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

  There is merit on that basis for the Minister of State, Deputy John Paul Phelan, to update the House on plans for that referendum to ensure we can get a better understanding and insight into the Government's option papers. I remind all of my colleagues across the House that we will have to go out and win this referendum. It will afford us an opportunity to have a frank, good, positive and worthwhile discussion and debate about how we want to see Ireland and the Presidency moving forward.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell Members have referred to the recent announcement of winners in the Tidy Towns competition. In Limerick, we are proud five communities won bronze medals, Castleconnell, Limerick city centre, Newcastle West, Galbally and Ardpatrick. Adare and Garrienderk were also mentioned for county awards. Birdhill, the winner last year, performed extremely well in the gold medal category. J. P. McManus runs a Going for Gold/Tidy Towns competition for Limerick which has been very successful. I commend him on his support of Limerick hurling and his more recent nationwide funding of GAA clubs.

  I support the call for a debate on housing. No Member has all the solutions. This is an integrated problem which needs to be addressed at Department level but also, equally, at local authority level. Many Members have colleagues on local authorities who deal with housing every day. As we know, many of the applications for housing go from local authorities to the Department. Many of them are good applications; some not so good. We need to avoid grandstanding on the housing issue. It is a significant issue in Limerick.  We need to find solutions that will work for the people we represent. People who are listening in are waiting for houses to be built. Houses are under construction in Limerick and many have been built but we need to build many more. We need a mature, considered debate and I ask that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, come to the House as quickly as possible. I would be very interested in hearing proposals from all sides of the House once Senators have consulted their colleagues in local authorities on their views. We need to work collectively on this issue. We cannot afford to turn it into a political football.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I express my frustration at reports of an internal Government row between the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, on proposed regulation of Airbnb and who should take the lead on that issue. This matter has been dealt with. While Senators talk about working together on solutions, members of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government have been working together on this issue. The committee recommended that we regulate short-term lets, of which Airbnb is the biggest source. Airbnb and the Government spent a year developing a memorandum of understanding that the committee said would not work. The memorandum has been in place for a year and legislation on the matter was introduced by Senator Humphreys. We must not drag our heels on regulating Airbnb. According to independent data, 1,000 units in this city would become available and return to rental stock if we regulated short-term lets such as Airbnb.

  There are solutions. Dublin City Council suggested there are 4,000 vacant units within the canals of this city, all of which have connections to infrastructure, schools and transport. It appears, however, that we do not need a vacancy tax and there will not be one in the budget. Sinn Féin is offering solutions. We need a vision and we need to have a conversation about a vision not only now, but about how we future-proof the system - it is not just a market but a system. We need to have a conversation about how, in the future, maybe 30% of that system would be comprised of housing provided by approved housing bodies and social and affordable housing, with 70% being private. That would insulate people from future boom-bust politics.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I agree with my colleague, Senator Kieran O'Donnell, on the need for a debate on housing. We need to have a genuine debate on the way forward. There are many challenges for people who are on the housing lists in local authorities. There are also challenges for people who are caught between not qualifying for the local authority housing list and being unable to buy. We need to seriously look at that area.

  There is good news. Last night, Cork City Council approved the building of 112 new apartments and development work to open a site for the building of more than 600 affordable and social houses in my area. I welcome the decision by the council to approve 712 units in one night.

  We have challenges. This year, we will build 20,000 new houses, which means that we are turning out 385 new houses per week. We need to bring that figure up to around 700 houses per week over the next two or three years. That process will take time. With 385 houses currently being delivered each week, I am sure that by this time next year 500 new houses will be completed or brought into use each week and that level of output will continue for the next few years. We need to assist people, in particular those who are not on local authority housing lists and are unable to borrow to buy a home. We need to facilitate that group either with affordable housing or by providing for secure long-term letting and a far better rental system than we currently have. We should debate this matter at an early date.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Senator Ardagh raised the issue of sports capital funding. My understanding is the Minister looks at individual cases and that is the premise of the sports capital funding structure and process.

  The Senator also raised the very serious issue of waiting lists for speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. I suggest this be tabled as a Commencement matter to get some detail as to the state of play when it comes to those serious waiting lists.

  Senator Ardagh also congratulated Listowel and, indeed, Senator Ned O'Sullivan, who founded the Tidy Towns committee in Listowel. As many Senators have acknowledged, it is a brilliant initiative and much work is done by volunteers, which is to be commended.

  Senator Craughwell raised the issue of the Defence Forces. I do not believe his information is correct when it comes to the reasons the particular ships mentioned may be in port. Earlier today, as part of its patrol duties, the LÉ Eithne responded to a boat in distress and has taken a recreational vessel under tow to Ballycotton RNLI station. The rota of ship deployment varies and there are a range of reasons that vessels will be in the port. The Minister explained in this House last week what is being done to address the issues of recruitment and retention. Only yesterday, another agreement securing pay increases for members of the Defence Forces was reached for those admitted after 2011. The issues facing the Defence Forces are being addressed within a framework. I understand why the Senator raises those issues, which are of concern, and I have spoken to the people involved myself. It is my understanding, however, that a lot of work is being done to improve those conditions.

  Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of a four year old child, which I believe would be better raised as a Commencement matter. She asked about the autism Bill and I will have to get back to her on it.

  Senator Dolan, as he so often does, raised issues related to disability. His suggestion about interns and how we might be able to facilitate that process in the Seanad is a good one. It is probably a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which might want to take a look at it to see what is possible. The Senator also acknowledged the work of those involved in the annual Make Way Day. It is only when people are less able to navigate the streets or public areas that they have an awareness of these issues in that they find it hard to get around. The Senator raises a very important issue. Initiatives like the annual Make Way Day are very important for the people he mentions.

  Senator Nash raised the issue of community pharmacies. I would have thought this is another issue that could be usefully tabled as a Commencement matter. He also raised the issue of GPs. To my knowledge, the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, and the Department are in ongoing negotiations, which are progressing. We will have to await the outcome of those negotiations.

  Senator McFadden put to bed the issue of the Christmas bonus not being made available. This is not a real story. In fact, it is worrying a story like this is put out as it can affect more vulnerable people who are put in fear of not getting that extra bit of help at Christmas time. The Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, has no intention of discontinuing the Christmas bonus for any social welfare recipients. As is always the case, there is no provision for a Christmas bonus in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection's allocation for 2018. The decision to pay a Christmas bonus is made at budget time every year. The Christmas bonus was abolished in 2009 by the Fianna Fáil Government. As the economy recovered, it was reinstated by Fine Gael in 2014 at the rate of 25%. This was increased to 75% in 2015 and further increased to 85% in 2016 and 2017. Those are not the actions of a Government that intends to do away with the Christmas bonus. I thank Senator McFadden for clarifying that matter.

  The Senator also mentioned issues related to housing.  I will respect the ruling on housing, but I will make a few comments. I do not know how helpful are initiatives such as the motion that will be discussed later but I do not want to dwell on that issue. All I want to point out is that Rebuilding Ireland is based on the same model as the Action Plan for Jobs, which was much maligned. No one thought it would have an effect, but we are practically at full employment and this has given rise to new concerns about actually getting people to work in various sectors. We are in the second year of Rebuilding Ireland, which is a five-year plan. We have turned the corner. All indicators prove this, and I have no doubt but that the plan will deliver. In 2017, an additional 7,000 social homes were put into the system that were not there in 2016. In 2018, 8,000 additional social homes will be put in. Our target is 12,000 a year and 110,000 by 2027. There were 3,000 unfinished housing estates when we entered office in 2011; there are now fewer than 150. Many significant new housing projects have been blocked by those who want to make an issue of this matter later this evening. They recently blocked the commencement of 900 new homes in south Dublin, including social housing, delayed 78 housing units in Coolock and campaigned against housing in north Dublin. There is a great deal of politics being played with this issue. Not one of us sitting here or anywhere else in these Houses or on any council around the country wants to see people without a home. Our time would be better used in a minority Government coming up with solutions that will actually help the situation rather than inflaming it and distracting from the work being done to improve matters.

  Senator Gallagher referred to Tidy Towns, as did many others, and an important issue in Magheracloone, where there was a landslide. It is an horrific event for the people who have been affected by it and I hope proper supports will be put in place for the community.

  Senator Boyhan referred to the National Women's Council of Ireland. I have not had a chance to go there. I hope to go over to hear what it has to say. It is certainly very active and I agree with the Senator's point regarding more women in politics. It is quite an unattractive profession for many reasons, not least the adversarial and quite negative nature of the discourse on many occasions; therefore, it is not naturally something in which women want to get involved. I think it really comes down to that.

  Senator Reilly also referred to Tidy Towns and the various towns in his area that enjoyed good success. He also raised an issue that is close to my heart, namely, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. I am very disappointed that there would be any rowing back on the warnings on alcohol. It is clear from what the World Health Organization, WHO, has stated alcohol is a class 1 carcinogen and it is beyond doubt that we have a broken relationship with alcohol. The amount of binge-drinking that goes on is hugely problematic. I find it disappointing that colleagues are trying to dilute the potential effect of this legislation.

  Senator Devine referred to housing, while Senator Lawlor addressed a few matters in response to that issue in general. As stated, we would all have huge sympathy for anyone who is without a home. We should all work together to ensure houses are delivered. On many councils it is not Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or the Labour Party that is in a majority. I think there is a competency issue in many of the councils. We really need to up our level when it comes to the delivery of housing on that front. Senator Lawlor also referred to Rebuilding Ireland. I have addressed that point.

  Senator Leyden raised Tidy Towns and J. P. McManus, whose generosity we have to acknowledge. He is a fantastic advocate for the GAA and is certainly very generous to it.

  Senator Hopkins also referred to Tidy Towns and the exceptional work done by volunteers in her area.

  Senator Mullen referred to the Presidency, a matter on which I will not comment.

  Senator Mulherin raised a very important point regarding An Post. I have wondered for years why An Post does not diversify what it does in the sense that people have essentially stopped posting letters to a large degree. Many deliveries are made by delivery companies and An Post seems to make fewer of them.  Clearly, the demand for postal services is diminishing. The idea of An Post getting involved in the retail mortgage market and providing overdraft facilities is a good one. Ballindine post office is close to my parents' home and I know what the Senator is talking about in that respect. The Minister appeared before us last week, but it has since become apparent that the procedures being used to review post offices are not clear; therefore, I will seek for the Minister to return and clarify the procedures or to write to all Members clarifying same.

  Senator Ó Donnghaile acknowledged the efforts to extend voting rights. We all agree on that issue. Actually, I should not assume that all of us agree, but I certainly do. Extending voting rights to the citizens of the North will happen. It will just take a little time.

  Senator Kieran O'Donnell referred to the Tidy Towns competition and raised the issue of housing. I have addressed that issue.

  Senator Warfield raised the issue of Airbnb, which has been discussed numerous times in the House. His point was well made, but regulation needs to be done effectively. A balance must be struck between housing needs in red zones and the more difficult pressure zones in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick and other areas around the country where Airbnb facilitates the tourism product. The need to strike a balance might explain any discussion that is under way between Departments. In referring to the debate between two Departments, though, the Senator mentioned something about which I am unable to comment.

  Senator Colm Burke also discussed housing. I will not go into his points in detail, but it was positive to see 712 houses being approved in his area of Cork last night. It is good news. Such decisions have to be made at local level if we are to make housing stock available to people as soon as possible.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Regarding Tidy Towns, I agree with the sentiments expressed by many Senators about the tremendous voluntary work that people do all over the country in villages and towns. In the past 20 years, the Tidy Towns competition and its categories have been a major success. I congratulate Listowel, which is a large town, on winning the overall award. I congratulate my colleague, Senator Ned O'Sullivan, who was one of the founder members of the Listowel Tidy Towns festival. Be it in their current or past lives, it is good to see Senators doing society and their communities an important service.

  Order of Business agreed to.

Technological Universities Act 2018 (Section 36) (Appointed Day) Order 2018: Referral to Joint Committee

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Technological Universities Act 2018 (Section 36) (Appointed Day) Order 2018,
a copy of which was laid before Seanad Éireann on 13th September, 2018, be referred to the Joint Committee on Education and Skills, in accordance with Standing Order 71(3)(k), which, not later than 9th October, 2018, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 75, and Standing Order 77(2) shall accordingly apply."

  Question put and agreed to.

EU Regulation on Internal Security Fund: Referral to Joint Committee

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of the following proposed measure:
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Internal Security Fund,
a copy of which was laid before Seanad Éireann on 9 July, 2018, be referred to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, in accordance with Standing Order 71(3)(k), which, not later than 27 September, 2018, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 75, and Standing Order 77(2) shall accordingly apply.

  Question put and agreed to.

Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018: Second Stage

  Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am pleased to be back in Seanad Éireann for the first time since the summer recess. I hope everyone is in good form and I look forward to a very interesting, robust and co-operative term in the area of justice.

  Money laundering and terrorist financing are cross-border phenomena. We have a globalised, open economy and criminals will exploit this to move proceeds from one country to another.  For this reason, the European Union has long had legislation in this area. Internationally, the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, FATF, are applied by 35 member jurisdictions. The FATF monitors and evaluates compliance by those members. EU legislation and the FATF recommendations are frequently updated to reflect new trends and to ensure that they are still relevant.

  It is the fourth directive, 2015/849, that is being transposed by this Bill. The Bill amends the 2010 Act to bring it in line with the new directive. Members of this House may be aware that Ireland is late in transposing this directive, the deadline for which was June 2017. The directive is extremely complex legislation whose subject matter spans a number of Departments and agencies. An enormous amount of consultation and collaboration was required. The complexity also led to a lengthy drafting process with the Office of the Attorney General. Unfortunately this has meant that, despite every effort being made to progress the legislation, we are faced with infringement proceedings. The difficulty of the task is reflected in the fact that Ireland is one of 20 member states that were unable to transpose this directive by the deadline of June of last year. In July of this year the European Commission referred Ireland, with two other member states, to the Court of Justice in respect of the infringement of that deadline. My officials are continuing to engage with the Commission on this process and have referred the matter to the Office of the Attorney General for further advice. It is worth noting that any proceedings before the court are likely to be late next year at the earliest, while it is intended that the directive will be fully transposed before the end of this year.

  I emphasise that there are already robust and extensive anti-money laundering laws in Ireland. The existing 2010 Act runs to 122 sections, with 82 of those sections concerning designated persons and the obligations of such persons. This legislative framework is supported by a strong operational capability. There is a range of bodies active in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing including An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Central Bank and my own Department. The anti-money laundering steering committee brings together relevant Departments and agencies to co-ordinate the national response to risks relating to money laundering and terrorist financing. In that regard, I acknowledge the great success of the Garda in recent times and in the past couple of years. We are oftentimes quick to be critical of An Garda Síochána and to point out the need for further resources and the need for a greater level of engagement, but we are not so quick to acknowledge the great work that is being done. In that regard, I acknowledge, in particular, the leadership of Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll and his team in the light of ongoing operations, some of which are producing very favourable and positive results.

  In its most recent evaluation report for Ireland, the FATF found that Ireland has a generally sound and substantially effective legal and institutional anti-money laundering framework. This new legislation with which we are dealing this afternoon will update and enhance that framework and will address many of the remaining gaps identified in the evaluation.

  As well as ensuring Ireland fulfils its EU and international obligations, the Government is committed to tackling white collar crime in all its forms. The Bill forms part of the package of measures announced last November that I, together with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, am working on in order to combat white collar crime. The Minister for Finance and his officials share responsibility for the transposition of this directive. As well as its role in preventing crime, anti-money laundering legislation is aimed at protecting the integrity of our financial system. The Department of Finance has been working closely with my officials on this Bill and is drawing up its own legislation to transpose provisions of the directive on beneficial ownership of trusts and in respect of bodies corporate.

  Before turning to the individual provisions of the Bill, which is complex and multifaceted, I want to give a general overview of its contents. The main change brought about by this Bill is a more pronounced switch to a risk-based approach. This means that, first, the businesses concerned, which the legislation calls "designated persons", must assess the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing involved in carrying out their business. They must have policies and procedures in place to mitigate these risks and must determine the risk attaching to each customer transaction on a case by case basis, taking into account relevant factors. They must also carry out whatever due diligence measures are warranted by that level of risk. This represents a more targeted, and therefore more effective, application of the measures by the designated person. The proposed law also recognises the reality that many businesses today operate in group structures across borders. It makes a number of amendments in that regard.  The Bill expands on the requirements on Irish companies to ensure their subsidiaries overseas apply high anti-money laundering standards. If a group implements policies and procedures properly, its subsidiaries are not subject to some restrictions that normally apply in respect of high-risk third countries.

  The amendments made by the Bill also extend the scope of existing obligations in other ways. For example, some measures which only applied to banks will apply to other financial institutions. There are extra measures that must be applied to the beneficiaries of life assurance policies. Measures applying to politically exposed persons will now apply to those resident in Ireland as well as those resident abroad.

  Of great importance in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is the role of the financial intelligence unit. The unit in Ireland is part of An Garda Síochána. It is responsible for receiving suspicious transaction reports from designated persons and analysing them so that it can be used to combat crime. The directive expands the remit of the financial intelligence units and requires them to have access to all of the information they need to carry out their functions. Taking into account the transnational nature of money laundering, it emphasises co-operation and information sharing between the financial intelligence units of different member states. All of this is provided for in the Bill.

  I intend to move several amendments to the Bill in this House. Most of these amendments will be technical in nature but several more substantive items are included. Of particular note is an amendment to delete section 23 of the Bill and repeal section 43 of the 2010 Act. These sections require mandatory reporting of all transactions with certain high-risk third countries. The financial intelligence unit has stated that this provision will unnecessarily increase the number of reports filed and cause problems for banks and non-governmental organisations working in affected areas. The amendment will be subject to Government approval.

  Also of note is an amendment to introduce a fitness and probity regime for the owners of private members gaming clubs. This amendment, which transposes a provision of the directive, will require those who hold a directional function and the beneficial owners of such clubs to apply to An Garda Síochána or the Minister for Justice and Equality for a certificate of fitness. It will be a criminal offence to carry on such activities without that certificate of fitness.

  Turning to the individual provisions of the Bill, sections 1 and 2 contain the usual provisions setting out the Short Title, commencement provisions and interpretation section.

  Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, amend the definitions in the 2010 Act. For the most part, this is to bring them into alignment with the definitions in the directive. In many cases, references to financial services legislation are being updated. An important amendment is that which lowers the threshold for the application of the Act to high-value goods dealers. Currently, they come within the Act if the value of the goods is in excess of €15,000, and this amendment will bring that down to €10,000. There is an amendment in section 5 relating to legal professionals to make it clear that the Act only applies to them where they are carrying out certain services. This amendment was made by the Criminal Justice Act 2013 but was not commenced as a technical change needed to be made.

  Sections 6 to 9, inclusive, amend the definition of "beneficial owner” to bring it in line with the new directive. When carrying out customer due diligence, a designated person must also check the identity of any beneficial owner associated with the customer. This includes, for example, a major shareholder in a company or the beneficiary of a trust. The definition of "beneficial owner" will now be broader than under current law and will include, for example, the trustee of a trust.

  Sections 10 to 19, inclusive, are the core provisions of the Bill. Section 10 inserts two new sections in the 2010 Act concerning risk. Designated persons will now be explicitly required to carry out an assessment of the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing inherent in carrying out their business. They are also required to assess the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing in regard to a customer or a transaction, taking into account factors such as the purpose of an account or the regularity of transactions. They must have regard to guidance and the national risk assessment.

  Sections 11 to 19, inclusive, concern customer due diligence. Section 33 of the 2010 Act contains the main obligations to identify and verify the identity of customers and beneficial owners. Some small changes are made to that section. For example, there are additional requirements relating to the identification of the beneficiaries of life assurance policies. There is an exception to the rule that designated persons must cease carrying on business with a customer if they cannot carry out customer due diligence.  There is an exception to the rule that designated persons must cease carrying on business with a customer if they cannot carry out customer due diligence that applies to legal and other professionals in certain circumstances. Simplified due diligence can be carried out where the customer is considered to be low risk. If simplified due diligence is applied, the designated person must keep a record of the transactions and reasons for applying it and carry out sufficient monitoring. There is also a specific exemption for electronic money which applies under certain conditions. On the other hand, where there are factors which suggest high risk, extra measures must be taken. Customers in what are deemed to be high risk third countries are one such category. Politically exposed persons are another. As I mentioned, if a bank or other designated person has a customer who holds certain important public offices, if he or she is resident abroad, the designated person must take extra precautions. He or she must obtain senior management approval for the relationship and check the source of funds and wealth. This also applies to the family members of the person concerned. The need to combat corruption requires paying special attention to the details of such persons. In the Bill, as required by the directive, these provisions are being extended to politically exposed persons resident in Ireland who will also be subject to the checks. They will include, for example, Deputies, Senators and senior judges, but the need for caution will not stop at these specific categories. Designated persons will have to take an overall view of a customer and apply additional measures, if necessary. Failure to do so will be an offence punishable by an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison.

  Section 20 makes some changes lo the circumstances where a designated person can rely on a third party to carry out customer due diligence.

  Sections 21 and 22 concern the functions of Ireland's FIU. The FIU is part of An Garda Síochána. The sections place its functions on a statutory footing. They give the FIU the powers to obtain information it needs to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. Under the Bill, the FIU can also give information, on request, to certain bodies and can share information with FIUs in other member states. The FIU and the Revenue Commissioners will have the power to obtain additional information from a designated person after the person has reported a suspicious transaction.

  I propose to introduce an amendment to the Bill in this House, subject to Government approval, to delete section 23 and the corresponding section 43 of the 2010 Act. Section 43 of the 2010 Act requires a report to be sent to An Garda Síochána and Revenue whenever a transaction connected with a place designated under section 32 is carried out. Section 23 of the Bill, as it stands, amends this requirement to reflect the fact that it will now be the European Commission which will designate countries as being high risk and that the Minister will no longer have the specific power. The FIU of An Garda Síochána had raised concerns that the effect of the section would be that it would give rise to an unnecessary number of reports being filed. This concern is also echoed in the fact that it is likely to affect any bank or NGO working in these areas. It should be noted that there is, separately, a general requirement to report any transaction connected with money laundering or terrorist financing. That requirement will continue. A total of 25,000 reports were received in 2017 under this obligation. There is also an obligation to apply enhanced due diligence in respect of customers established in high risk third countries. Given that there appears to be no law enforcement imperative for the inclusion of the section concerned and to align more fully with the directive and FATF standards, I am bringing forward an amendment to delete the relevant provisions.

  Section 24 amends section 51 of the 2010 Act. It concerns the offence of "tipping off", in other words, telling someone that he or she is being investigated for money laundering. It alters one of the defences for the offence in order that it will apply where financial institutions share the information within a group.

  Section 26 relates to the policies and procedures designated persons must put in place to prevent and detect money laundering and terrorist financing. The new section expands on the matters that must be included in these policies. They must, for example, have policies on measures to be taken to prevent the risk which may arise from new technologies.

  Sections 27 and 28 concern record keeping. Section 27 allows An Garda Síochána to require a designated person to retain records related to customer due diligence beyond the current five-year period, if they are required for the investigation or prosecution of money laundering or terrorist financing. Designated persons must delete any personal data held solely for the purposes of this section after the end of the retention period. Section 28 extends an existing requirement in keeping information on business relationships.

  Sections 29 and 30 require a group of companies to have common anti-money laundering policies. If an Irish company has a subsidiary in another country, it must ensure it applies adequate anti-money laundering measures. If the subsidiary is located in another EU member state, it has to make sure it complies with local anti-money laundering laws. If it is located in a third country where the laws do not allow the implementation of the group's policies and procedures, it must take additional measures. If these measures do not address the risk, action can be taken by the competent authority.

  Section 31 extends a prohibition on entering into a correspondent relationship with a shell bank such that it now applies to all financial institutions.

  Section 32 makes an amendment which will make the Legal Services Regulatory Authority a State competent authority. This means that the body will have extra supervisory powers for money laundering purposes.

  Section 33 substitutes the section which creates a defence of due diligence for the offences under this part of the Bill. There is no longer provision for guidelines to be made to be taken into account here.

  Section 34 inserts a section which requires certain designated persons to register with the Central Bank. It is for entities which the Central Bank supervises for money laundering purposes but which are not otherwise authorised by or registered with it. It is proposed to introduce an amendment to the Bill on Committee Stage, following section 34, for the purposes of introducing a fitness and probity regime for the owners of private members' gaming clubs, to which I referred. The provision will require both those who are effectively directing the activities, as well as the beneficial owners of such clubs, to apply to An Garda Síochána or the Minister for Justice and Equality for a certificate of fitness. An Garda Síochána or the Minister for Justice and Equality, in determining whether to grant or refuse such a certificate, may look at whether the applicant has previously been convicted of an offence related to gambling, both inside and outside the jurisdiction. It will be a criminal offence to supply false information when applying for such a certificate or to carry on managing or owning a club without a current certificate of fitness.

  Section 35 amends the penalties that can be applied by the Central Bank under its administrative sanctions procedure to bring them into line with the directive. As well as its usual penalties, it can impose a €5 million monetary penalty on a natural person for breaches of certain provisions of money laundering legislation. It can also impose a penalty of twice the benefit obtained from the breach.

  Section 36 substitutes Schedule 2 to the 2010 Act which lists some of the financial services and activities subject to the Act.

  Sections 37 and 38 set out the factors that must be taken into account in determining whether there is a low or high risk.

  Section 39 repeals certain provisions of existing law, while section 40 makes consequential amendments to other legislation.

  The Bill is of great importance. By enhancing Ireland's already extensive money laundering regime, it will act as a further tool to combat global organised crime, to protect the financial system and to ensure we meet the highest international standards. With the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act, it comprises a strong legislative underpinning of the fight against so-called white-collar crime. Combating such crime is a Government priority. I look forward to hearing the views of Members and ask for their co-operation in the passage of the legislation through the House. I will be happy to take on board observations made by Senators. I say this in the context of ensuring we can agree to prioritise the legislation this session in order to enact it to meet our international obligations and that we can be satisfied that national legislation accords with what can be described as best practice.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I thank the Minister for his comprehensive overview of this extremely important legislation which I agree is vital to protect the financial system. Such legislation is becoming increasingly important, given the globalised nature of the world in which we live and the cross-border terrorism that often takes place. Fianna Fáil welcomes the transposition of the directive into domestic law. We will support the passage of the Bill as swiftly as possible through the House.  However, I would like to make reference to the delay the Bill experienced. I know that the Minister outlined the reasons for that delay and said there were 20 member states that failed to implement the directive by the deadline. However, he then went on to say that Ireland and two other countries had enforcement proceedings taken against them. Will the Minister explain why the other 17 countries did not have enforcement proceedings taken against them whereas we did? What procedures have been put in place to ensure a Bill or a directive of this sort can be dealt with as swiftly as possible? I presume we will see such measures coming from the EU more frequently as the world becomes a smaller place and terrorism and cross-border co-operation between various terrorist groups becomes more prominent. I would like to hear the Minister's comments on that point.

  Overall, we will support the Bill. We want to allow it to move through this House as quickly as possible.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. I welcome the Bill, the primary purpose of which is to transpose, in part, the fourth EU money laundering directive into national law and to give effect to the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force. I have three main points that I ask the Minister and his officials to consider. First - it might be a matter which can be returned to on Committee Stage - has consideration been given by the Department to the introduction of measures which are broadly termed the "Magnitsky Act", with which the Minister may be familiar, and which have been introduced in other EU countries, including the UK, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia? I note section 10 of the Bill includes the introduction of a designated person to carry out risk assessments to identify and assess the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing involved in carrying on the designated person’s business activities.

  Second, what about providing accountability or creating a deterrent in regard to a person who has committed gross violations of human rights? I would value the Minister's thoughts and opinions on this, not just in regard to financial money laundering, but also abuse of human rights and the effect that can have in the context of money laundering. For example, it is one thing to create a criminal offence for failing to comply with the regulatory oversight that is envisaged by a designated person under a section 10 risk assessment, but it is quite another to consider what actions can be undertaken when risks are identified. For example, how might a Minister freeze funds or economic resources held or controlled by a person if money laundering or terrorist financing is identified by a designated person?

  Third, what about third parties connected to the activities identified? How about extending this beyond terrorist financing and money laundering to persons connected to gross human rights violations? As the Minister is no doubt aware, when the Trump Administration introduced its Russian sanctions regime recently, it reportedly affected an aluminium plant in Limerick, owned by a Russian oligarch, that supplies as much as 30% of the European alumina market.

  Does the Minister believe Ireland can or should do more in using either money laundering legislation or other forms of legislation to impede those connected to gross human rights violations or does he believe those safeguards are already in place within the current money laundering legislative framework? As he is no doubt aware, the European Parliament, as far back as 2014, passed a resolution calling on EU Ministers to develop an EU-wide regime whereby sanctions could be imposed and human rights violators identified so their financial assets could be frozen. The Council of Europe Assembly this month proposed a motion that calls on all member states of the Council of Europe and the EU to consider enacting legislation or other legal instruments enabling their governments, under the general supervision of parliament, to impose targeted sanctions such as visa bans and account freezes on individuals reasonably believed to be personally responsible for serious human rights violations for which they enjoy impunity on political or corrupt grounds.

  I look forward to the Minister's reply. Where appropriate, I may come back on Committee Stage with amendments to the Bill that could see some of those recommendations fulfilled and protections against gross human rights abusers strengthened.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I welcome the Minister. It is fascinating to see Senators and Deputies will have to get senior management to ratify that we are able to open a bank account. I remember when I opened my first bank account that I got the manager of the Central Bank to verify that I was eligible to do so, which means that it is back to square one again for me.

  I have a couple of queries. Does the Central Bank have the resources to enable it to follow up on all the changes in the legislation? Will extra resources, including financial and staffing resources, be required for the financial intelligence unit, which will obviously take on a more onerous role within this area?

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Gabhaim buíochas leis as an gcur i láthair cuimsitheach a thug sé ar an reachtaíocht thábhachtach seo ag an Chéim seo. I welcome the Minister and thank him for what was a very comprehensive and extensive rundown on the legislation at this stage. Whether in public life or in business or commerce, corruption has, unfortunately, been a part of the history of this State. The number of financial transactions investigated by the Garda nearly doubled between 2006 and 2014, which is quite a workload. There may be a number of reasons for this, including an increased focus by the Garda and, in that context, we need to ensure it and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, are properly resourced to carry out this important work. Other factors could include ambiguous tax laws, the loophole created by section 110 of the Taxes Consolidation Act or the light-touch regulation approach.

  Sinn Féin will support the Bill on Second Stage. Senator Ó Céidigh raised a number of important suggestions that are worth examining in terms of amendments as we move forward with the legislation. The Bill gives effect to the fourth money laundering directive and is a welcome step in terms of transparency, regulation and ensuring financial institutions, states and individuals measure up to the objectives of the Bill. In that regard, the State is late in its implementation of this measure, as noted by the Minister and others; therefore, I will not labour the point, although he might refer to the questions posed to him by Senator Clifford-Lee. I am worried about the fact we are facing a fine from the EU and I would like to have an update on where proceedings stand and whether there is the likelihood of additional fines moving forward.

  The Bill provides for due diligence of customers and puts an onus for risk assessment on financial institutions to carry out business-wide and individual assessments, which I believe is a positive step forward. Another step in the right direction is a key provision in expanding the remit of An Garda Síochána’s financial intelligence unit, which receives information from designated persons about suspicious transactions. The Bill also focuses on people in the political and judicial systems prone to being bribed in their own countries and abroad.

  I would like to ask how the Bill covers the area of gambling and gaming. The Minister touched on this but he might expand on it in his summing up of the issues. In particular, he might outline his understanding of the extent of criminal organisations using gambling and gaming to launder money. What obligations has the Government or the law placed on the gambling and gaming industries to prevent them being used further? This is an important issue that needs to be tackled.

  I would also like to raise concerns about what is known as "shadow banking", which has been described as the "dark side" of financial services. The Oireachtas finance committee will soon deal with the markets in financial instruments directive, MIFID, legislation, which relates to all of this. In November, as mentioned, a Russian bank defaulted on €500 million of land loans made through a Dublin office. Lawyers, bankers and accountants generated €284 million in fees from hundreds of special purpose vehicles last year. The growing use of such entities by foreign groups has come into sharp focus as investors track risks related to US sanctions.  The International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Board have warned about our exposure to such defaults and shadow banking. Is this State risking its economic reputation by marketing Dublin as a hub for shadow banking? Does the Bill adequately deal with this murky area? Are there enough safeguards in the financial services and institutions to ensure we are not exposed moving forward?

  I note there is an obligation under Article 31 of the fourth anti-money laundering directive that states shall apply a full public register to beneficial ownership of trusts as per the directive. Although the Government ran a public consultation which discussed the matter of a fully public register of beneficial owners, I am concerned it is not fully implementing the EU laundering directive and that it is making use of an exemption that means it does not have to apply a full public register of beneficial owners as per the directive. Is that the case and, if so, why? I ask that the Minister would ensure this directive is implemented in full and is transparent. Tackling money laundering and other associated criminal activities is a very important task for the reasons my colleagues, the Minister and I have outlined. For that reason, Sinn Féin will be supporting the Bill.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank the Senators for their remarks. I acknowledge in particular the support for the Bill from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. I hope we can proceed to the next Stage at the earliest opportunity. This is important legislation which will enable Ireland to meet its international obligations.

  A number of points have been raised and I want to refer in the first instance to the point raised by Senator Clifford-Lee. Seventeen member states transposed the directive between the deadline of 17 July and this year. That leaves a number of states with outstanding obligations. I want to assure Senators that, notwithstanding the fact that infringement proceedings have commenced, we have been in contact with the European Commission. My Department and I are continuing to place a very high priority on transposing EU measures, but in particular this one, notwithstanding the complex and technical nature of it. We have been working with our European colleagues to ensure we have a robust and extensive framework in place to deal with money laundering.

  Senator Ó Céidigh raised a number of issues regarding sanctions. The economic sanctions regime in Ireland is based on EU regulations. We work in conjunction with our EU colleagues. We work closely with them. We ensure that any sanctions applied - any sanction regime to which we are associated - are based on an EU approach, which are in turn transposed by means of a statutory instrument signed in general by the Minister for Finance and, for the time being, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Each of those statutory instruments designates a particular entity or group for sanctions and creates an offence of breaching the sanction. Any offence of this nature, like all other offences, is a matter for An Garda Síochána but we do that in sync with our EU colleagues, and we transpose the agreement by way of a domestic statutory instrument.

  I acknowledge also the role of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on this issue insofar as the Department, through the Foreign Affairs Council of Ministers, which meets on a monthly basis, deals with these issues such as sanctions on a country by country basis on a month to month basis or three monthly, as the case might be. I refer, in particular, to the current regime of sanctions relating to Russia and its illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea as part of Ukraine. As an individual Government or state, we do not engage unilaterally in any sanction regime but we do introduce our own domestic statutory instrument in accordance with what we would agree at a European Council basis. I would be happy to engage further with Senator Ó Céidigh and if he wishes to make a submission in advance of the next Stage of the Bill, I would be happy to look at the issues as raised.

  I want to mention a point raised by Senator Ó Donnghaile relating to gambling. He is right. This is an issue that will require further action on the part of Government. I acknowledge the work my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, is embarking upon in that regard. The current gambling regime is in need of modernisation and since the 1956 Act, the gambling regime has changed dramatically in the context of new practices based in particular, but not exclusively, on a wide range of technological advances. This is an issue my Department is very keen to ensure we can advance. It is an area of some complexity and one in which we have been engaging with many of the stakeholders involved. I hope that in the coming months we will be in a position to bring forward a range of amendments in that regard, notwithstanding the complexity.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Is that a domestic approach or one within the broader EU context?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan No. It will in the main be in a domestic context and may well have an international dimension but it is the domestic gambling regime we need to address in the first instance.

  Senator Ó Donnghaile mentioned the importance of ensuring our laws are updated in that regard. A risk assessment was carried out recently of the gambling industry in Ireland. A statutory instrument is now being prepared, which will apply anti-money laundering laws to many providers of gambling services, including those engaged in online gambling and those involved in the bookmaking industry. Those who were deemed to be of lower category or lower risk, for example, bingo operators and smaller lotteries, will be exempt. There is an issue in that regard, however, and I am very keen that we would proceed, in tandem with this legislation, to have that statutory instrument fully completed and brought into practice.

  I also intend to bring forward an amendment to the Bill in this House on verifying the probity and fitness or otherwise of those involved in the many private members' gaming clubs that are appearing. The 2010 Act applies to private members' gaming clubs but those clubs are obliged to take all the anti-money laundering measures in the Act, including the obligation to at all times carry out due diligence in the matter of their customers as they engage with them. The directive requires member states to apply anti-money laundering legislation to all providers of gambling services unless a member state can show that a particular sector is low. As I said, we carried out a risk assessment. That was carried out by an anti-money laundering steering committee. A risk assessment was carried out by an interdepartmental anti-money laundering steering committee.  Its report was published recently by the Department of Finance. The assessment concluded that the risk associated with bookmaking and the online gaming sector was medium to low, but nevertheless there are issues raised by the Senator that I would be anxious to ensure are taken into consideration. I acknowledge the work that the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is doing in that area with his team of officials. A Bill which will introduce some reforms in the area is being drafted. The broader gambling control Bill, which I am sure has been debated in this House on many occasions in the past, will also be developed but I do not have a timeline on that. A working group has been set up to progress the review and updating of what was the general scheme of the gambling control Bill which was published in 2013. It is a matter to which we will return in the context of this legislation and of other debates.

  Senator Ó Donnghaile asked about the beneficial ownership register, which is being dealt with by the Minister for Finance. I am informed that access to the register will be largely in line with the fifth money laundering directive. That directive will be a matter for the Minister for Finance but I will be in a position to update Senators on the work in that Department as we commence Committee Stage of this legislation. I will be happy to update Members at that point, although the matter is primarily within the remit of the Department of Finance.

  Senator Lawlor mentioned the important issue of the resources of the Central Bank. Again, although this is primarily a matter for the Department of Finance, it is fair to say that the Central Bank is well resourced. It is not an issue that has been raised with me or my officials. I am sure that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, will confirm to Members of this House the position regarding the resources made available to the Central Bank.

  In respect of the resources of the fraud investigation unit of An Garda Síochána, we are in the midst of budget preparations and allocations. The current Vote for An Garda Síochána is in the order of €1.6 billion. This money is provided by the Government to An Garda Síochána to run the service. Senators will be aware of recent statements by the new Garda Commissioner in respect of managing the Garda budget and ensuring that the finances of the organisation are applied in a way that gives best value for money to the taxpayer and the people of this State. I assure the House and Senator Lawlor in particular that I will continue to work with An Garda Síochána to ensure that the police service is adequately resourced. I acknowledge the importance of the fraud investigation unit and will work to ensure that any obligations under this Act will be considered in the context of the availability of adequate resources.

  This is detailed and technical legislation. It reflects the complexity of the measures that we must introduce in accordance with our international obligations as well as domestic requirements to ensure we are in a position to respond satisfactorily to the ever more sophisticated nature of the criminality involved in money laundering and terrorist financing. I intend to table a number of amendments on Committee Stage, some of which are technical and some of which are more substantive in nature. I would also be anxious to tease out further on Committee Stage some of the issues raised by Senators in this debate. I am confident that with the co-operation of the House, we will quickly progress this Bill to its enactment to meet our obligations.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Next Tuesday, 2 October 2018.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 2 October 2018.

  Sitting suspended at 5.25 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.

Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck Screening Programme: Statements

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I welcome the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris. This is the first opportunity I have had to do so as Acting Chairman.

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am very pleased to be back in Seanad Éireann. As Senators are aware, on 12 September I published the report on the scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme. I welcome the opportunity to speak to the House about the report. I publicly acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of Ms Vicky Phelan, Mr. Stephen Teap, Ms Lorraine Walsh and many other women and their families who have shared their stories with us.

  Through his report, Dr. Scally has brought much needed clarity to the CervicalCheck crisis. Such clarity and understanding are crucial if we are to address what went wrong. We now understand that, at its heart, the crisis is about the failure to tell women about their own medical information - to disclose to them the results of a retrospective audit of their screening history carried out after they had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. The failure to disclose was utterly wrong and unacceptable. Furthermore, the way in which many of those affected were eventually told about the outcome of the audit added to the pain they were experiencing in dealing with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis.

  It is fair to say some of the complexities were not always well understood in recent months. It is clear that some people believed women had not been told that they had cancer. That view was expressed in each of the Houses. Others assumed that a diagnosis of cervical cancer in a woman whose screen had returned a negative result was automatically negligent. Thanks to Dr. Scally’s report, we now have a much greater understanding of the complexities involved in our screening programmes. The report is based on intensive work by him and his team of experts over a relatively short period. While it provides welcome reassurance about the quality and safety of the laboratories being used by the Irish screening service, it clearly sets out the enormous impact the lack of disclosure of retrospective audit results had on those affected. The Government has accepted all 50 recommendations made in the report and I am committed to moving ahead with their implementation. I ask and hope for and I am sure I will receive the support of Members on all sides of the Seanad and the Dáil in putting all of our energy into delivering the recommendations because they will lead to a world class screening programme. If implemented, they will help us to make cervical cancer an extraordinarily rare disease in this country, which must be our aim. When this debacle first broke and I met and spoke to Ms Phelan, she told me, as have others since, that she wanted to know that some good could come out of this awful situation. That good can be to make cervical cancer an extraordinarily rare disease in this country and save women's lives. We must all put our efforts into pursuing these goals.

  As an implementation priority, I will work on the establishment of a new independent patient safety council. As its first task, the council will carry out a detailed review of the existing policy on open disclosure. The resulting policy will have legislative underpinning and operate across the health service.

  The establishment of a statutory duty of candour is a further key requirement. The Patient Safety Bill is scheduled to undergo pre-legislative scrutiny tomorrow at the Joint Committee on Health. I ask members of that committee to give this issue the priority, attention and time it requires in order to pass this landmark legislation which will make a duty of candour a legal requirement. The Bill provides the legislative framework for several important patient safety issues, including mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents. I wish to ensure the requirement to disclose or a duty of candour will apply to individuals and institutions, rather than institutions alone, as is the case in certain other jurisdictions.

  The Government is committed to the continuation of CervicalCheck, BreastCheck and BowelScreen. We know that screening saves lives. Dr. Scally has been clear that the continuation of the screening programme is crucial. His report affirms that the laboratories contracted to CervicalCheck are providing a quality service. It is very important that this be recognised. Leaving aside whatever else went wrong, charges were made, possibly in this House and certainly in the Lower House, regarding the quality and safety of the laboratories. The number one query I received from women by email, in my constituency office and as I went about my business was whether the laboratories responsible for carrying out screening were safe and whether women could be assured of the quality of the results. Dr. Scally examined the issue and visited the laboratories with three other medical experts, a senior counsel and a barrister at law. They concluded that the laboratories being used by the screening service were safe. That is a very important point for all Members to reiterate.

  Crucially, Dr. Scally has found no reason for the existing contracts for laboratory services not to continue until the new HPV testing regime is introduced next year. He is satisfied with the quality management processes in the laboratories and his report presents no evidence that the rates of discordant smear reporting or the performance of the programme fell below what was expected. It is essential that we clearly and emphatically send the message that this is a high quality and effective programme and that screening reduces the risk of developing the disease. I know that some of the women most impacted on by this issue have been very determined that that message is sent clearly.

  As Members now know, screening alone is not enough to prevent all women from getting cervical cancer. Sadly, false negative results are inherent in screening programmes. Page 11 of Dr. Scally's report is very revealing in that regard. It states that, for every 1,000 women screened, 20 will have pre-cancerous cells. Screening will detect the pre-cancerous cells in 15 of the women but, sadly, miss them in five of the 20. The good news is that as we move to HPV testing that rate of detection of 15 of 20 will increase to 18 of 20. That is why it is imperative for us to invest in and deliver the HPV testing programme and we are determined to do so. I have given approval for the switch to HPV testing as the primary cervical screening test, which, as I have stated, will reduce the rate of false negatives. Work is under way to progress that change.

  A well organised screening programme, combined with HPV vaccination for boys and girls, can bring us very close to eliminating the disease. I reiterate the absolute importance of the vaccination programme. I noted in horror that some of the Oireachtas Members who were most vociferous on the CervicalCheck screening programme opposed use of the HPV vaccine. The vaccine has saved lives. Some of those Members have written to me questioning the safety of a vaccine which can prevent the death of women from cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is safe and saves lives. Members need not listen to me. However, they should listen to Laura Brennan, an incredible patient advocate who has cervical cancer and spoken about how she does not want any other girl to find herself in a similar position. If this is about reducing the rate of cervical cancer and saving women's lives, there is a duty on all Members to promote not only the most robust screening programme we can have in this country but also use of the HPV vaccine.  It is appalling that the vaccine's uptake rate had fallen because of the misinformation that was allowed to get out. People need to get their medical information from medical professionals, and www.hpv.iehas factual information for parents to make an informed decision. I want to see the HPV vaccine extended to boys. We are committed to introducing that next year subject to HIQA's report, which is due shortly. I have asked my Department to develop a HPV plan for the reduction of cervical cancers and other HPV-related cancers to the maximum extent possible, building on these changes and optimising uptake of screening and vaccination. It is through screening and vaccination hand in hand that we will eradicate this disgusting and despicable disease from our country.

I do not downplay in any way, shape or form the extraordinarily serious gaps that have been identified in the governance structures of the screening service. They need to be addressed in full through Dr. Scally's 50 recommendations. They must also be considered in terms of how they apply to governance structures in the health service more broadly. I emphasise that Dr. Scally has stated in unequivocal terms that he found no evidence of conspiracy, corruption or cover-up. This speaks to the integrity of civil and public servants, some excellent people who get up every day and go to work to try to build a better health service. Some of the things that were said in the heat of the controversy questioned the integrity of public servants in leadership positions; therefore, it is only right that we now acknowledge the actual position as outlined by the independent expert, who was assigned to establish the facts by those of us in the Oireachtas.

The report examines the provision of briefing notes on screening audit and disclosure to the Department of Health in 2016. These came into the public domain in May. I welcome the clarity provided. The inquiry considers that it would have been unreasonable to expect senior management in the HSE or, even more so, my departmental officials to have intervened on foot of these notes. According to the report, the subsequent problems were significantly associated with the failure to disclose, and it would have been difficult to predict this, given the reassurance that the briefing notes provided.

Dr. Scally has based his findings on careful examination of the contemporaneous records. He has reviewed more than 12,800 files, which is more than anyone in this House has, in order to get all of the facts and information. I fully accept his conclusions in this regard. I am clear that the decision of my officials not to escalate to me was correct in the context of his findings.

Accountability was an issue raised by many women and family members during their engagement with Dr. Scally’s review. He has been clear that the problems he has uncovered represent a system failure. In many ways, it is often more straightforward to receive a report asserting that X or Y individual did something. Sadly, when one reads the Scally report, the situation is far more complex. A whole-of-system response is required. I have already taken some steps, and I look forward to working with Senators on delivering them. For example, I have re-established a board for the HSE. I announced its chair designate only last week. It will provide the foundation for proper governance and accountability. I hope that we can get the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill passed through the Houses this year in order that the board can take office in January.

The key focus must be on implementation. My Department has already commenced the task of fully implementing the report. The CervicalCheck steering committee, which I established in June, will oversee and direct the implementation of all 50 recommendations. Importantly, the committee will publish its minutes and agenda; therefore, everyone can, via my Department's website, find and track everything that is being done. The Department has established a working group to drive the work of implementation. I have already written to all of the organisations mentioned in the report, including the Medical Council, to ask them to commence preparations for implementation of the relevant recommendations. Questions remain to be answered about how clinicians interacted with patients, in this case women. Some of what women were told is extraordinarily worrying. It is not the first time we have seen women treated like this by the health service. For example, we saw it in respect of transvaginal mesh, sodium valproate and, dare I say, issues related to abortion and reproductive health. Sadly, we now see it in terms of CervicalCheck. I welcome Dr. Scally's recommendations in that regard. There are lessons for the Government, the HSE, clinicians and clinical leadership.

Dr. Scally's 50 recommendations are important and their breadth reveals the complexity involved. We must now begin the hard work of implementing each and every one of them. This is what will improve the quality of the screening programme. I propose to meet the patient representatives, including Vicky, Stephen and Lorraine, in the coming days to speak with them about the next steps and how to ensure their involvement. I propose to take Dr. Scally up on his offer to stay involved for the next 12 months and externally oversee the recommendations. This is not a report that he has written just to head back to the UK. He wants to oversee its implementation externally. I want him to appear before the Joint Committee on Health to update the Houses and the public on how he is getting on with delivering the recommendations. There will be a need for further inquiries - he has already pointed to a number of areas that require further examination - but we must also reflect on his views as to how best to go about that. Crucially, we must take on board the views of Members in both Houses and those who have been impacted on.

We have a great deal of work to do, but Dr. Scally's report brings us to a place where we can approach it in an evidence-based fashion, focusing on implementation and delivery in order that we can ensure lessons are learned and lives are saved in the future.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister. Since we are tight on time, I will hold rigidly to the times allocated. I would appreciate it if Senators finished ahead of time so that all speakers can contribute.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Like everyone else, I was horrified when the facts of this scandal unfolded over a number of weeks. As a woman, they were horrific to hear. I have had a number of smear tests over the years and have been grateful for the screening programme, as have been the many hundreds of thousands of women who have gone through it and received results, be they clear or indicative of a need for further testing. It is a good screening programme, but our belief in the system was rocked to the core.

  As the Minister stated, this occurred at a time when we were debating the eighth amendment, which was a women's healthcare issue. It raised questions about how women's healthcare had been sidelined and neglected over the years. It was an extremely emotional time for me, listening to Emma Mhic Mhathúna on the radio and the testimonies of Stephen Teap, Vicky Phelan and many others who had been badly affected by this scandal.

  I welcome the Scally report, which is comprehensive. I would like its 50 recommendations to be implemented immediately. Have funds been set aside in the upcoming budget to provide for this?

  I pay tribute to Vicky Phelan, whose bravery and refusal to be bullied into signing a non-disclosure agreement, NDA, brought all of this to light. She has done women, this country and the health service an enormous service. She risked everything in refusing to sign that NDA and her bravery should be acknowledged.

  The Scally report is excellent, in that it records the testimonies of the women affected and their families. Their testimonies are vital. I am glad that Dr. Scally gave them and their families that time. Their voices need to be listened to where the commission of inquiry is concerned. They are undergoing a period of reflection, which they should be allowed the time to take. We should all then reflect on their decision and allow them to direct the outcome.

  I was taken aback by the statements about how the women were dealt with by the mainly male practitioners in the health service and the paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes that were displayed. The medical community needs to reflect on how it deals with women. Perhaps it can examine why women are not progressing up through its ranks and why there is a male-heavy medical profession in certain sectors. This matter needs to be considered. All of this ties into the gender pay gap and other issues. There is a reason for female medical students not becoming consultants, particularly in this area. Perhaps the Minister's Department needs to examine this matter.

  The Minister referred to the lack of gravity attributed to women's healthcare down the years. It was a significant point. I was in Buswells Hotel today to attend the pre-budget submission of the National Women's Council of Ireland. From speaking to those present, it has some excellent proposals on women's healthcare, to which I would like the Department to give consideration. I back the council's call for the establishment of a women's health action plan, particularly given the report's finding that, since 2010, CervicalCheck has not had on a full-time basis an accountable senior person responsible for the programme's delivery.  That is absolutely shocking and horrendous and needs to be addressed immediately. This needs to be addressed in the overall context of women's healthcare being neglected down through the ages in this country. It is about time that women and our healthcare are taken seriously. There is perhaps a disconnect between these Houses and the medical profession and the 51% of the population. I look forward to seeing some progress. I am dismayed with a lot of the information in the Scally report, but it has not come as a total shock because we have seen it time and time again. I do not want to be standing up in this or any other chamber discussing the next scandal in women's healthcare. I look forward to significant progress on this over the coming weeks. I reserve my position on the commission of inquiry until I hear what the women and the families have to say about it.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I want to thank the Minister for coming and giving a comprehensive overview of this terrible saga. I also acknowledge Ms Vicky Phelan, Mr. Stephen Teap and Ms Lorraine Walsh who, with so many others, were so courageous and brave. It is never easy to go out into a public space and to talk about one's own personal life, but also to talk and share that on the national airwaves, and tell one's personal story, in front of one's own children, one's loved ones, knowing that one's own health is at stake. They paid a terrible price and are continuing to do so. I thank them, because it is important that we acknowledge and thank them.

  I thank Dr. Scally, the scoping inquiry and all of the people who supplied information and the personal accounts and the advice to the inquiry. They too are brave and courageous. It took brave people to put their head over the parapet and say, "Enough is enough and we are not accepting what the Government and the Department were saying. We are not going to be dragged through the courts having to fight and fight all the time."

  Let us put this matter in context. The people concerned met block walls for a long time. Only when the media sat up and took an interest and suddenly when the people concerned gave their true story, their testimony to their lives and their experiences, we all took this issue on board. Great thanks are due to the media and journalism that helped them to tell their story.

  The Scally report achieved a remarkable task, under very difficult circumstances, with clear dedication and genuine concern for the women involved. This is clear to anyone who has read the report. There were difficult issues in terms of cervical screening and he has shone a light on a very dark place. We have to be careful, however, about what he said. It was a very measured report and brought a sense of measure to the whole matter. It was interesting, for instance, to note that he is not recommending that we go ahead and have a full commission of inquiry. However, the Taoiseach gave a commitment that we will have a full commission of inquiry, and I want the Minister to return to this issue.

  What Dr. Scally said in his report was profound. He stated:

The current policy and practice in relation to open disclosure is deeply contradictory and unsatisfactory. In essence, there is no compelling requirement on clinicians to disclose. [...] It is left up to their personal and professional judgement.

That is a direct quotation from the Scally report. He goes on to say there is some reluctance on the part of the Government - there was reluctance on the part of the Government in the past - to embrace the issue of mandatory open disclosure. I do not want to rehearse all of that here in front of the Minister, because I do not believe in laying blame on anyone. We got a glance back but we look forward and need to get on with the job. I take on board what the Minister is saying.

  Clearly after what the Scally report has stated, this puts an end to that argument. We have got to embrace without any ambiguity the absolute need for mandatory open disclosure. It is important to acknowledge and to say that there are many dedicated people in the health screening sector. It is right and proper that we support them and that we advocate for good health screening. It makes absolute sense. The Scally report also went on to state this.

  I am saying I would like the Minister to clarify what the Government's intention is and he may need more time to reflect on this. Clearly, we need to talk to the victims. I have spoken to a number of these women. They have not fully made up their minds yet whether they want a full, sworn commission of inquiry. Time is running out for many of them. We have to respect and not rush to any judgment. I can only take the Taoiseach at his word, that he will have a full commission of inquiry, which I believe is important.

  The leaking of the report was ultimately disturbing. I took the time to quote and look at the Taoiseach's responses to it. I too want to share his revulsion, disappointment and hurt that he referred to in his own statement when the leak was brought to his attention. I would like some clarification as to whether this has been investigated and, if so, what sanctions are going to happen. I would sack someone that leaked an important report before the people got it. That should be addressed. As to this issue of leaks being investigated, that was no good to the people on the night when Dr. Scally had to go out and talk to people and give them some comfort a day in advance. It was grossly irresponsible, not good enough, and the Taoiseach should continue to investigate how that report was leaked. I urge him to take appropriate action that is right and consistent with his statement.

  I hope the Minister will continue to pursue the 50 recommendations. That is important. We should have regular updates on these 50 recommendations. I acknowledge the great thanks that we, the State, owe to these courageous and brave women. I acknowledge the work of Dr. Scally and am particularly pleased to hear today from the Minister that Dr. Scally wants to remain involved. That is welcome and should be encouraged.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I call Senator Colm Burke who wishes to share time.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke Yes, I will share time with Senator Kieran O'Donnell.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I welcome and thank the Minister for making his presentation on the report. It is important to acknowledge that what occurred was wrong in a sense of the non-disclosure to women when the results of this audit were published. It was a retrospective audit on people who were in a programme of treatment. This information was important to them and should have been disclosed to them when it became available. I pay tribute to the women, in particular Ms Vicky Phelan, for coming forward and taking on the system and making sure the information was in the public domain. We would not have this report only for her coming forward and bringing her information into the public domain.

  I have read the report substantially and marked and flagged various areas in it about which I have concerns. The report is a very good study of all of the issues in this area: what was not working properly; what could have been done a lot better; how people felt about the way they were treated; and how this was managed.

  Dr. Scally's team had to examine a great amount of documentation. There were over 12,000 documents; 6,958 from the Department; the HSE provided 4,994; and there was documentation provided by the State Claims Agency and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland. We need to look at the whole governance structure that was there regarding CervicalCheck and the disconnect in getting the information out and a disconnect about the management of the structure. For instance, the programme established a system of governance on 1 January 2007. The national screening service had a board which was abolished on 1 April 2010.  It was absorbed into the HSE. There seems to have been a problem regarding everyone working together and communicating. Important decisions were not taken when they should have been. For example, there was no one person in charge. Instead, there was a clinical director and a programme manager. Technically, there were two people in charge but there is the question about responsibility.

  The report also refers to people within the cervical screening programme not having job descriptions, not knowing what their job responsibilities were and certain individuals having responsibilities that were not contemplated by their job descriptions. This problem of governance leads on to bad management and a systems failure. There was a systems failure, which added to the problem.

  It is important that when we provide healthcare, we recognise that when, for example, a person is first diagnosed with cancer, it is a really traumatic experience. It affects him or her directly but it also affects his or her immediate family. There is the worry of long-term treatment, there are financial management worries for the family and there is concern about the young children in the family. In this instance, we find that the programme and the system of governance relating to it are not really functioning properly. The latter leads, as in this case, to a fairly problematic system. The lack of accountability between the HSE and the cervical screening programme seems to be accepted within the executive to a large extent. People are moving within jobs and nobody is actually accountable. We need to tackle this. In fairness, Dr. Scally refers in his report to a clear pathway in how we should reform and deliver the service and how to manage it into the future. I welcome the Minister of State's comments that Dr. Scally staying on for another 12 months. We should learn from this to make sure there is never a repeat of what occurred in this case. I welcome the comprehensive report but it is important that we now implement the recommendations contained in it.

Senator Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I welcome the report of the scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme. I compliment Dr. Scally on the report. The most important people in this are the women themselves. My main concern was to wait and see how the women who have been impacted upon felt about the report. I listened intently to my neighbour Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and others. They welcomed the report. That the report was leaked was reprehensible. That should not have happened. This is about women's lives and about how those lives have been impacted upon. I got to know Vicky Phelan at the start of the year. She is an extraordinary person. Ruth Morrissey is another neighbour of mine and another extraordinary lady. Both of them happen to live quite close to each other. When we consider the others who have also been affected by this directly and indirectly, people such as Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh, there is admiration for what they have come through. In the case of Vicky Phelan, this came about through a failure to disclose to people information they are entitled to. The key issue now is that this will never happen again. It is imperative that Dr. Scally stays on - and he has indicated that he will - because he has the trust of the women involved. It is important that we introduce a regime of HPV testing as quickly as possible. It is absolutely imperative that all of the report's recommendations are implemented. I welcome that the Minister is to meet Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh shortly. It is imperative that this vital screening programme continue and be improved.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Fáilte arís a Aire Stáit. I thank Dr. Scally and his team and, in particular, the women who contributed to the report. Their evidence and testimony were invaluable to this process, as well as to the final conclusions contained in the report. The women were beyond brave and have done a great public service by sharing their experiences. The past and present scandals of the State, which seem to be for ever unfolding, are discussed and uncovered by the bravery of people such as Catherine Corless, Vicky Phelan, Emma Mhic Mhathúna and Stephen Teap.

  Women's health in Ireland has a history of shame. It is not just about the treatment of women socially, it is also in the context of healthcare and treatment. These women, however, refused to be bought off. They were defiant and they refused to be silent. We all owe them so much and I thank them. I urge women to stay engaged with the screening programme and to have their smear tests. Screening saves lives. We must never lose an opportunity to remind women that, notwithstanding what they read in the press, they should engage with the service.

  Dr. Scally states the biggest failure that he identified in his four-month review was the non-disclosure of information from CervicalCheck audits to the patients. This is the most important finding and it should now be legislated for. Just prior to the recess, I introduced the Civil Liability (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill in respect of mandatory disclosure. Unfortunately, it was defeated by Fine Gael by a single vote. Always opposed to making open disclosure a voluntary concept, we have attempted to bring legislation through this House on several occasions. I very much look forward to working with the Minister to finally have his patient safety legislation enacted.

  I thought we had entered the age of enlightenment. I thought we had moved away from superstition. It was a throwback to when I was a very young woman and I worked part-time in Our Lady's Hospice. Not one of the patients there were told they were dying, but if a person went to the hospice he or she knew it was a place to die. People were not told what they had, be it cancer or whatever. Shamefully, one was to say prayers for them. That was the treatment; prayers. Medication that might ease a painful death was withheld. As a young woman, I found this incredible. A painful death was supposed to give a person an advancement in Heaven. I thought we had come through the enlightenment and I thought we had got through those days but it is still the case that patients are not involved in their treatment or care plans and nor are they allowed to lead matters and state what they want to do. These are seriously ill patients. Many of them are dying and they do not know why that is the case. I find it incredible that nobody would talk to such a patient about his or her end of life. Even for the 18 women that we have lost through this scandal, there was nobody talking about end of life and it was kept quiet. I had hoped that we had moved a lot further.

  On foot of the Scally report, we know that one of the laboratories, Clinical Pathology Laboratories, CPL, outsourced part of its work to four other laboratories that were not accredited or certified to the standards demanded by CervicalCheck. In the context of the outsourcing of contracts, questions arise regarding the rollover of tenders and procurement. This is an aspect which, I am sure, the Committee of Public Accounts will examine. I also echo the call of my party colleague, Deputy Louise O'Reilly, that HIQA should have an oversight role in respect of any laboratory involved.

  Scandalously, the report was leaked before the women involved could be properly briefed and prepare themselves. I am aware that the Minister agrees with this sentiment. In the Dáil he stated he hoped the Taoiseach would investigate the leak. I wonder if we can get an update in that regard. It is morally and absolutely wrong.  The responsibility was shirked by the Department and by the media, which was disrespectful. It was grabbing headlines and doing other nefarious things the Department wanted done in order to take the shine off it. I am not too sure why that was done, but obviously there were other issues around at the time. In the latter part of the report Dr. Scally also mentioned the glaring lack of grace and compassion. We should dare to believe that it is possible to possess grace and compassion. I hope misogyny is not endemic in the health services, but this has unfortunately come to light in the treatment of women with cervical cancer and, perhaps, women with other health difficulties when they attend.

  I reiterate what I say so often in this House, which comes from my experience on the ground as a nurse; public participation at all levels of healthcare is vital. If we have more public participation in the top tiers and at the top tables of the HSE and of the strategy and steering groups, accountability will follow. It is welcome that the Minister will meet those affected by this report and that he has committed to this ethos throughout the implementation of all 50 recommendations. Dr. Scally has offered to continue to work for the next 12 months on the delivery and to oversee the delivery from an external point of view. That is also to be welcomed. Citizens and women demand assurances that this will not happen ever again.

  The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is due to publish its report soon. We will we be led by this report and by the victims themselves if they believe that a commission of investigation is warranted. The Minister of State spoke about the HPV vaccine, which is slightly off-topic but it saves lives by preventing cases of cervical cancer. I have always been an advocate of this science, which will protect our young women and men. The uptake has increased significantly over the period of this scandal, which has raised awareness. We need herd protection and to get the uptake back up to 90% or so. Now that the schools are back for the new term, will the Minister of State come back to us with details of the percentage of our young people who are taking up the HPV vaccine?

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I have great empathy with the women concerned about and affected by the recent issues relating to CervicalCheck. I know the emotion associated with not being told something. I fully believe in the principle and practice of open disclosure. My brother died unexpectedly at the age of 19 after a routine appendix operation and my family never got answers. That still hurts and bothers us as a family. Regarding cervical screening in Ireland, we need to focus on the future. I agree with Dr. Scally. I am not in favour of a commission of investigation. That would not be the best way to proceed. We need to put our energy into the implementation of the 50 recommendations.

  Let us remember that cervical screening is screening. It is not diagnosis. It is about population health rather than about individuals per se. There will be false negatives in screening programmes. For women's health it is important to have both cervical screening and breast screening. The move to the new approach of also screening for HPV will significantly improve the accuracy of the screening process, increasing the chances of more cancers being prevented due to the detection of early changes. From a review of every 1,000 women screened, of the 20 women identified with pre-cancerous changes, the HPV test will correctly identify 18 but will still miss two. The current pap test will identify 15 women, but will still miss five. There will always be false negatives in any screening process. We need to remember that as we make the changes we need.

  Dr. Scally speaks of a realistic prospect of the virtual elimination of cervical cancer in Ireland in the coming decades. That is a prize worth fighting for and worth keeping to the fore in our deliberations this evening rather than establishing a commission of inquiry. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. Cervical screening has saved lives. According the Scally report, in 2015 the lifetime risk of getting cervical cancer was one in 135 as against one in 96 in 2007. As a result of screening, the odds of developing cervical cancer have drastically reduced. The NHS screening service states that it is estimated that cervical screening prevents 75% of invasive cervical cancers. Dr. Scally states unequivocally that, in the case of cervical cancer, there is clear and undisputed evidence that properly run screening programmes are of substantial benefit to the female population of the State. Dr. Scally also states that he is satisfied with the quality management in the current laboratory sites. That is very reassuring.

  While there are issues to be addressed in order to ensure we have in place a properly run cervical screening programme in which women as a population and women as individuals can have confidence, there is much on which we can build. Public understanding of what screening is and what it is not is critical. Understanding the concept of sensitivity, that is, the ability to correctly detect the condition in people who have it, and the concept of specificity, that is, the ability to correctly identify people who do not have the condition, is really important. The Minister of State said that in his statement and we need to get that message out. There is no screening test yet developed that can deliver 100% sensitivity. It is important that is understood by those of us participating in screening programmes.

  I have some observations. What we need for the reform of cervical cancer screening in Ireland is clarity about the task, as well as the governance and management of screening. Chapter 5 of the Scally report goes into this issue in some detail. The governance and management of the cervical screening programme looked a bit of a mess. I ask the Minister of State to look at the organogram I am holding up. He need look no further to know that a recipe for disaster was contained in this organogram. One does not even have to have a degree or an MBA, as I have, to know that was a recipe for disaster. There was chopping and changing in the cervical screening programme. It was subject to the vagaries of political and departmental expediencies and decisions. There was no HSE board and then there was. There were abolitions, amalgamations, absorptions and financial constraints. I give all credit to the staff who kept CervicalCheck going in the middle of all of this. If one looks at the organisational chart on page 26, as I said, it is a recipe for disaster. There is no single line of accountability and no clear answer as to who is in charge, as Senator Colm Burke said. There is no way for people to know who their boss is or what their role is. There are no job descriptions. It is no wonder recruitment and retention issues exist for CervicalCheck, an issue which is not helped in any way by the fetid atmosphere of public outcry and media heat.

  In order to succeed, any organisation has to be clear about its primary task and its governance, management, and division of labour. This is especially true of health organisations and it is often sadly lacking with catastrophic consequences. As the Minister moves to put in place properly run cervical screening systems and, indeed, systems for Sláintecare, I recommend he take stock of the John Carver policy governance model, Brian Dive's model for decision making accountability and Henry Mintzberg's reflections on health systems and their organisations. All of these need to be taken on board as we move forward.

  There are many people involved in the cervical screening process, including the woman herself, the clinician doing the smear test, the people in the laboratory reading the slides, those involved in any audit and those who care for the person in the long run, that is, the nurses, consultants and GP. All of these need to be clear about their roles and responsibilities, particularly in respect of open disclosure. Each person involved needs to be very clear about open disclosure in the context of a screening, as opposed to a diagnostic process, and in the context of the chill factor and the threat of being sued for large payouts as a result of medical negligence. Any reform of cervical screening must have these clarifications at its heart. There also needs to be clarity about process, including about audits and their purpose. There are blind audits and biased audits and there are consequences arising from each. Dr. Scally's report, while commending the intention to audit, was critical of how aspects of how previous audits were undertaken. The Minister must ensure that audits or reviews are properly designed with clinicians having input in the design, though obviously not in the audit or review processes themselves. That also needs to feature in the reform of cervical screening. Above all the person, in this case women, must be front and centre.  I ask the Minister of State to take my observations on board to achieve the prize of which Dr. Scally spoke, namely, a properly run cervical screening service in which women have trust and confidence, one with engaged and motivated - not scapegoated - clinicians, scientists and managers, all working towards the virtual elimination of cervical cancer in Ireland in the coming decades. That is the priority, as highlighted in this most useful report by Dr. Scally.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I am conscious we have limited time and that the Minister of State will want to respond and he needs to respond to some of the remarks made by colleagues.

  Only a few short months ago the names of Vicky Phelan, Lorraine Walsh and Irene and Stephen Teap probably did not trip off the tongues of anyone other than the people in their own networks, families and communities. I am sure that is the way they would have preferred it to stay but we know now that they were propelled into the public realm as a result of failings of governance and responsibility in aspects of our health system. We would all acknowledge they have been let down by the State. I pay tribute to their individual and collective strength and the fact that they, under very difficult circumstances, picked up the cudgels and were prepared to advocate and campaign for a better way of doing things in this country.

  I acknowledge also the public work and bravery embodied in some of the work done by a very good friend of mine from Drogheda, Rosie Condra. That name may not be familiar to many of those present but Rosie is one of the women affected by this issue. From the start, she embodied what this process was all about and what it should be about. She is a trade union activist and health professional who understands the health system inside out and naturally felt very let down by what happened. For her and all of the women involved and their families, this is not about them but about rebuilding trust, the rights to access information and to full disclosure, and doing our best to make sure the systems we operate are accountable.

  I acknowledge also the sterling work that has been done by my colleague, Deputy Alan Kelly, in the context of the CervicalCheck screening programme. He worked at all times on the basis that we wanted to get to the truth. It was never about political point-scoring. He wanted the truth and to work with Ministers and others with responsibility for this matter to create a better situation for those affected and improve systems in this country.

  The women affected and their families contributed enormously to the Scally review and have done the State a great service. The review is excellent. Does the Minister of State accept that it will be judged on the success of the implementation of its 50 recommendations? I and my Labour Party colleagues fully support the recommendations. It is important to stress that we also fully support the screening programme, which will continue to save lives.

  It is crucial that the HPV test is fully rolled out. It will boost accuracy rates in the screening programme and lead to far fewer false negative results. My good colleague and friend, Senator Kelleher, expertly analysed the difference between screening and diagnosis. It is important that people understand that and do not misrepresent the position. It is also essential that take-up rates for the HPV vaccine increase. I am glad they have increased among young women in recent months. Deputy Alan Kelly has led the way in campaigning for the extension of the vaccination programme to boys. This is a matter of national urgency, as the Minister understands.

  Dr. Scally must be kept on board to try to complete the job and I am very pleased the Minister has reported that he is prepared to do so. That will come as a source of great relief to the women and their families. He has established a bond of trust with them, the political system and, I imagine, senior civil servants, with whom he will need to work to ensure the implementation of this report and all its recommendations.

  Senators, Deputies and members of the public often speak about institutional failure. It is people, often in teams, who make decisions, not institutions or systems. I say that not to apportion blame - I always try to avoid doing that - but with the intention of getting to the truth and determining how and why the systems we had in place failed these women. We must learn from this experience. I reiterate that this is not about apportioning blame but about trying to figure out what precisely went wrong to ensure we avoid it happening again in the future.

  I am also interested in getting to the bottom of the decision by the main laboratory, CPL, to subcontract work to other laboratories, an issue raised by Senator Devine. When a laboratory is involved in these types of work, systems and contracting, it leads almost inevitably to difficulties around governance, management systems and accountability. Again, I say that not to apportion blame but to try to get to the bottom of what can often go wrong in circumstances such as these and which contributes to misgivings and a lack of trust and confidence.

  I look forward to seeing the first part of Mr. Justice Meenan's work. Notwithstanding the assurances given by the Taoiseach in the national media, with the best will in the world, I do not believe it will be possible for every woman affected by this crisis to avoid adversarial court hearings, which are often deeply harrowing and invasive. We would all like the women to avoid that scenario, if at all possible. Whether that is legally or constitutionally possible, I do not know. I am interested in seeing what will emerge from that element of the process. I am not an expert but I have reservations about the promise, if I can put it that way, made by the Taoiseach, possibly under pressure. I am sure he and the Minister will reflect on this.

  I request that the women affected, their families and the group established to support them are given all necessary support and resources to enable them to support one another and to advocate and campaign for better services and access to the kinds of services they need or may need in the future. I am sure the Minister of State will agree that is the very least we owe them.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Minister of State has the floor. As time is tight, he has a maximum of five minutes.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I will be as brief as possible.

  To return to the question of open disclosure, it is clear that the lack of disclosure and the way disclosure eventually took place had a major impact on the affected women and families. Their experience is reflected eloquently in their own words, which are threaded through Dr. Scally's report. The Scally report underlines that disclosure is not just about legislation and procedures, but also about culture, as many speakers acknowledged, and core values such as openness, honesty, trust and confidence in doctors. The vast majority of doctors and the medical profession in general hold these values very dear in the care they provide. The dedication and commitment of the entire range of health professionals, including doctors, are among the key assets of the healthcare system. While, understandably, patients and society generally can ask questions arising from Dr. Scally's findings, the questions can only be answered effectively by the medical profession. The Minister has said he looks forward to seeing constructive engagement on these issues from the medical profession. The Chief Medical Officer has commenced engagement with the leadership of the medical profession on these issues and I know that the Minister intends to meet it also.

  I emphasise again that Dr. Scally has found no reason the contracts with the current laboratories should not be extended to cover the period until primary HPV screening is introduced. This provides reassurance to women that they can continue to attend for screening. I thank those Members who spoke about the positives and the necessities of screening and also Senator Kelleher for her insightful description of the difference between diagnosis and screening.

  Significant work continues on many of the issues raised by the CervicalCheck crisis. A supplementary report from Dr. Scally will deal with a laboratory that is no longer providing services for CervicalCheck and related accreditation and procurement matters. The independent clinical expert review to be carried out under the auspices of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will examine the screening history of up to 1,850 women diagnosed with cervical cancer who had previously been screened. A process of seeking consent from women to participate in this review is ongoing. This will provide further information for women about their screening history.

  Mr. Justice Meenan has been tasked by the Government with identifying further mechanisms to avoid adversarial court proceedings, specifically for the women and families affected by the CervicalCheck controversy. He has confirmed that his work is under way and will be completed in October. This reflects the fact that while the Government and the State Claims Agency are committed to using mediation, where possible, to settle cases in a sensitive and compassionate manner, mediation involving multiple parties and disputed facts has presented real difficulties in achieving successful resolutions in some cases.  The report and the implementation of the necessary changes present a very significant challenge for policymakers and healthcare professionals in the years ahead. However, with the report, we now have the framework to ensure that women can once again trust the national cervical screening programme as safe, effective and, above all, patient-centred.

  There will be funding to implement these recommendations. As regards the commission of inquiry, the Minister will meet the women involved and their representatives in the next week and that decision will be taken. I have noted Senator Kelleher's comments on that issue. That is a decision yet to be taken and will be further developed in the coming weeks.

  Senator Devine asked about figures for the HPV vaccine. I will pass on those comments to the Minister as I do not have the figures to hand. Senator Nash also referred to the uptake of the HPV vaccine now that the schools are back.

  I hope I have addressed all of the issues raised.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Minister of State. When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

  The Seanad adjourned at 7.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 September 2018.


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