Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
 Header Item Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
 Header Item Hospital Accommodation Provision
 Header Item UN Conventions Ratification
 Header Item Schools Building Projects Status
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Service Provision
 Header Item An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
 Header Item Electoral (Supplement to the Register of Electors) Regulations 2019: Motion
 Header Item Position of the UK and Ireland in Respect of Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: Referral to Joint Committee
 Header Item Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)
 Header Item An Bille um an Ochtú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Scaoileadh ar Phósadh) 2016: An Dara Céim
 Header Item Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016: Second Stage

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 264 No. 15

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Chuaigh an Leas-Chathaoirleach i gceannas ar 14:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have received notice from Senator Maria Byrne that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, she proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to outline whether the 120-bed replacement inpatient block at St. John's Hospital, Limerick, will be included in the HSE's capital plan.

I have also received notice from Senator Lynn Ruane of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to outline the timeline for ratifying the optional protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

I have also received notice from Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to prioritise the planned building works at St. Molaga’s senior national school, Balbriggan, County Dublin.

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

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to provide an update on the provision of school places in September in the cases of four children with autism.

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

The need for the Minister for Health to provide an update on proposed improvements to the medical care service for patients who suffer from fibromyalgia.

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

The need for the Minister for Finance to make a statement on the actions he is taking to counteract the property tax trap that will force pensioners and people on low and fixed incomes to pay property tax rather than defer payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have also received notice from Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to make a statement on Pobal’s practices of removing funding from early childcare providers in the event of a reduction in the attendance by children availing of the service.

 The matters raised by the Senators are suitable for discussion. I have selected the matters raised by Senators Byrne, Ruane, Clifford-Lee and Ó Ríordáin and they will be taken now. The other Senators may give notice on another day of the matters they wish to raise.

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Hospital Accommodation Provision

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I welcome the Minister of State to the House to discuss the 120 replacement beds that are needed at St. John's Hospital, Limerick. In 2017 the Minister, Deputy Harris, visited St. John's and acknowledged that he could see the need for the 120 beds to be replaced. My question is whether St. John's Hospital will be included in the capital plan. University Hospital Limerick is in the news all the time in respect of its beds and its bed capacity. While 60 modular beds have been started, it will be a while before they will be opened. We need to start planning for the future. Attendance numbers are up at both University Hospital Limerick and St. John's Hospital. St. John's Hospital is a minor injuries clinic but it does some day procedures and if it received 120 replacement beds on a permanent basis, it would be able to carry out more procedures and deal with more minor injuries. This would alleviate the pressure on University Hospital Limerick. The beds need to go ahead at the same time as in University Hospital Limerick because we need to alleviate the pressure. People come from all over the mid-west and Nenagh Hospital is now carrying out cataract operations but we need St. John's Hospital and University Hospital Limerick to deliver at full capacity to meet the needs of the mid-west.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I thank Senator Byrne for raising this issue and I commend her on her work to drive the project at St. John's Hospital. I know she has a particular interest in it and that she is very committed to the people of Limerick. It also gives me the opportunity to outline to the House the position on the proposed capital development of a 120-bed ward to replace the existing ward accommodation at St. John's Hospital, Limerick.

  St. John's is a model 2S voluntary hospital within the University of Limerick hospitals group covering Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary. The hospital currently has 88 inpatient medical beds and ten beds for day surgery. It also provides a medical assessment unit, a minor injuries unit and five-day surgery to the people of the region. I understand the current proposal is for a 120-bed replacement ward block, consisting of four units of 30 single rooms for inpatient ward accommodation. Progress in respect of these and all other capital projects are subject to the availability of capital funding. All healthcare infrastructure developments, including this development, must comply with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines and EU directives and will require a lead-in time to complete the various stages of public capital projects. These stages include appraisal, project brief, design feasibility, detailed design, some of which may overlap, the review of costing estimates and the finalisation of financing.

  The national development plan, NDP, announced last year as part of the Project Ireland 2040 policy initiative, provides €10.9 billion for health capital developments across the country, including both national programmes and individual projects, across acute, primary and social care. The delivery of NDP projects and programmes, including developments in Limerick, will result in healthcare facilities that allow for implementation of new models of care and for delivery of services in high-quality modern facilities. The revised health capital allocation in 2019 is €642 million for the construction and equipping of health facilities. The Department and the Health Service Executive are currently engaged in a process to finalise the HSE capital plan for 2019. In developing its capital plan for 2019 and future years, the HSE must consider a range of issues, including the expenditure that is contractually committed, the HSE's annual requirement in relation to meeting risks associated with clinical equipment, ambulances and healthcare infrastructure.  The HSE capital plan will propose the projects that can be progressed in 2019 and beyond, having regard to the available capital funding, the number of large national projects under way, the cashflow requirements attaching to each project and the relevant priority. Projects that are currently under construction and contractually committed to will not be affected. Once the HSE finalises the capital plan for 2019, it will be submitted to the Minister for consideration.

  I will convey the Senator's considerations and concerns to the Minister.

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I understand the Minister of State's point that everything must meet the requirements under procurement. My understanding is that St. John's Hospital is at an advanced stage and everything that needs to be submitted has been submitted. It has submitted all the required documents that have been requested to date.

  University Hospital Limerick is constantly in the news. We need the two hospitals to be developed together because it is the only way forward. It is not just about serving the people of Limerick but also the people of the mid-west generally. There is a great deal of capacity. I read a tweet about figures by a senior member of staff at the hospital. It referred to some of the other, larger hospitals which have fewer members of staff and so on, but the number of people who present at University Hospital Limerick is 21% higher than the number who present at some of the larger hospitals in Dublin and the surrounding area. It is a high number. If we can get the small injuries clinic up and running properly, there can be more day procedures and it will take the pressure off University Hospital Limerick.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath While St. John's Hospital is at an advanced stage, I fully accept the Senator's point because I know Limerick well. I have spent much time there and my sister lives there. I am aware, therefore, that Limerick needs two hospitals, which would take the pressure off. I also agree that it is important to bear in mind that the hospital serves the general mid-west, while the fact that 21% more people attend University Hospital Limerick than other hospitals must also be considered. The Government is committed to delivering acute hospital services and infrastructure. St. John's Hospital is an integral part of the University Limerick hospital group, providing hospital services and care for the population of counties Limerick and Clare and north County Tipperary. The hospital provides high-quality patient care. As I outlined, proposals for the new 120-bed ward, to replace the existing board accommodation at St. John's Hospital, are at an early stage of planning and appraisal. All capital developments depend on the resources.

  I will convey to the Minister the relevant points raised by the Senator. The HSE capital plan will determine the projects that can be progressed in 2019 and beyond, having regard to funding.

UN Conventions Ratification

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I raise the optional protocol to the convention against torture, OPCAT, a very important international treaty that governs Ireland's obligations to protect its citizens from all forms of torture and ill treatment. Ireland signed OPCAT in 2007 but 12 years later, we have yet to ratify it, meaning that we are not bound to comply with its requirements. When does Ireland plan to ratify this instrument? In response to a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Clare Daly last week, the Department of Justice and Equality indicated that primary legislation will be required and that it will circulate a draft scheme to stakeholders before making a formal proposal to the Government this year. The Government held a similar position, however, on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In that case, it indicated that primary legislation would be required, but then decided to ratify it before the required legislative changes were enacted and progressed them after formal ratification. Has the Minister of State considered whether this would also be an option in the case of OPCAT? If the Department remains of the view that primary legislation is required, will the Minister of State provide more information on the status of the process? Does the Department hope to bring the proposal to Cabinet before the summer recess?  Will legislation be introduced in the Oireachtas in autumn? As the Minister of State knows, groups working in the area are concerned at the pace at which the proposals are being advanced. Therefore, as much detail as the Minister of State can provide would be appreciated.

  As the Minister of State also knows, the key and most crucial part of the convention is the optional protocol which requires states' parties to set up, designate or maintain at the domestic level one or several visiting bodies for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. These are known as national preventative mechanisms. States are required to provide those national preventative mechanisms with unfettered access to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty. In light of the history in Ireland of unlawful detention and institutional abuse, including in the Magdalen laundries, we need to get the inspections process right. Independent and regular inspections of institutions and care settings shine a light on otherwise hidden or closed spaces. The nature of such spaces is a common thread in abuse. We must also broaden our understanding of the deprivation of liberty beyond traditional detention settings like prisons and consider health and social care settings, immigration detention centres, direct provision centres, psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes.

  The current system is in need of reform. By ratifying OPCAT, we can introduce new inspection regimes and improve, reform and consolidate the existing ones. I understand the Government is considering appointing a single body to conduct inspections in all deprivation-of-liberty settings. Potentially, this may be the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention. I ask the Government to consider alternatives to this option. We need sector-by-sector mechanisms whereby those with experience and expertise conduct inspections within their own sectors. For example, HIQA has expertise on health and social settings as the Ombudsman for Children has with child-related settings. We need experts overseeing their own sectors to achieve real and effective oversight. These individual sectoral mechanisms could then be co-ordinated by a single body, with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission being the obvious choice. I am happy to work with the Minister on any of these proposals. They are all practical and would see OPCAT implemented in Ireland to the highest possible standard. I look forward to the reply.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton On behalf of the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, who sends his regrets, I thank Senator Ruane for raising this important matter in the House. We acknowledge also Senator Ruane's dedicated interest in this area and in respect of penal reform and detention generally. It is an important issue which I hope she will continue to raise.

  As the Senator said, Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, or OPCAT, in 2007 but has yet to ratify the instrument. The protocol is additional to the convention, which Ireland signed and ratified a number of years ago. The Government is committed to the convention and has participated fully in everything its ratification entails. The additional protocol is preventative in nature and provides for the establishment of national preventative mechanisms for the inspection of facilities where persons are held involuntarily. While the Department of Justice and Equality has been tasked with progressing legislation to ratify the protocol, the instrument impacts on a number of sectors, including health, defence, children and youth affairs. The Department has, therefore, consulted key stakeholders in 2018. These stakeholders comprise those organisations with policy or operational responsibilities in respect of inspection arrangements across the ambit of the national preventative mechanism regime provided for in OPCAT. As I stated, that goes beyond the justice sector. In addition, stakeholders consulted include advisory and advocacy organisations with expertise in this area. As part of this process, the Department has sought the views of stakeholders on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission's 2017 research on the implementation of OPCAT in Ireland. This welcome research led to the publication of a comprehensive report on the primary considerations for the State in making progress towards ratification and implementation of the protocol.

  The last submission in the consultation process was received in April 2018. Since then, officials have met a number of stakeholders, including the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention who was appointed last year. It is intended that the inspector and her office will have increased resources to carry out OPCAT-type inspections in the justice sector. Late last year, the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties held a round-table discussion on the implementation of the protocol. Given the feedback at this discussion, it was decided that further consideration should be given to what organisation should carry out a co-ordinating role for national preventative mechanisms, including the option of appointing the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which Senator Ruane also suggests. The Department is finalising the draft scheme of an inspection of places of detention Bill to provide for the ratification of OPCAT. It is intended to provide in the Bill for a network of national preventative mechanisms in relevant sectors. The Bill is intended also to provide for a co-ordinating mechanism to assist the sectoral bodies and liaise with relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the protocol.  In finalising the draft scheme, every consideration will be given to the proposals which were conveyed during the consultation process, including which organisation should co-ordinate the national preventive mechanisms, NPMs. The Minister intends to circulate this scheme to stakeholders for their comments as soon as possible. In doing so, the Department of Justice and Equality will look for other relevant Departments to consult all relevant stakeholders in their sectors. Similarly, in due course, it will be a matter for each Minister to appoint one or more sectorial NPMs. Following these further consultations, it is intended to finalise the scheme for submission to the Government for approval and transmission to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting this year.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane That sounds positive and is in line with what we have suggested to the Department. I have been working with other bodies on this. I am happy to support and work towards the goals the Minister of State set out for legislative provisions and draft schemes.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to bring the House up to date on this matter. I also thank her for stating she would be willing to assist with this process. That is a welcome suggestion.

  The Government is committed to ratifying OPCAT. However, it is not straightforward. It involves not only the justice sector but other sectors too. The Department of Justice and Equality is in the process of finalising a draft scheme which will be circulated to stakeholders for comments. The Department will look for other relevant Departments to consult all relevant stakeholders in their sectors. Similarly, it will be a matter for each Minister to appoint one or more sectorial NPMs.

  The intention is to build upon existing inspection structures, expertise and experience. The Department is working intensely with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in finalising the scheme and co-ordinating the NPMs. Their comments and those of other stakeholders will be taken into account before it is finalised for submission to the Government for approval and transmission to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting. It is intended to have it done this year. Every effort will be made to progress this matter as quickly as possible.

Schools Building Projects Status

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills to the House and thank him for taking this Commencement matter. I am raising with him once again the schools building project status of St. Molaga’s senior national school in Balbriggan, north County Dublin. I have raised it before on several occasions, the last time being late September. I am looking for an update on this project to see if we can keep it moving quickly through the system.

  As I have outlined on previous occasions, Balbriggan is the youngest and fastest growing town in Ireland. St. Molaga’s senior national school has served the town for a long number of years and has an excellent reputation. However, it is in a difficult and unsatisfactory accommodation situation. It has 466 pupils, 28 teachers, including the principal, Ms Pauline Costello, and six special needs assistants. Approximately 60% of the school population is housed in 15 prefabs, many of which are 19 years old. These prefabs are not fit for purpose. They are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. They are leaking and damp. The children and the teachers are getting chest infections and these conditions are having a detrimental effect on those with asthma.

  Three of the prefabs were damaged during Storm Ali last September. While they have since been repaired, the overall bad state of the prefabs is causing a big impact on the learning environment in the school. The teachers, the principal and the special needs assistants are keeping standards high but it is a difficult task. The pupils and staff of St. Molaga’s and the people of Balbriggan deserve progress on this matter. An extension to the school was approved several years ago which was welcomed. However, it has taken a number of years to get to this point and patience is wearing thin. Conditions are too difficult for this matter to go on any longer. The project needs to be prioritised and fast-tracked. That is why I am raising it here again with the Minister.

  This afternoon the Department of Education and Skills phoned the principal, Ms Pauline Costello, to let her know that the project manager framework is now completed, which is to be welcomed.   The next stage in the process is the appointment of a consultant design team. I would like the Minister to outline the timeframe for that stage of the process because it is urgent. It is important that we move on to that stage rapidly so we can build the new school for the children to move into and continue with the excellent learning environment at St. Molaga's. I would like the Minister to answer that question and I emphasise that this can no longer be put on the long finger. The school has a fantastic reputation in the town and staff are doing their best but are feeling neglected. We need to end the neglect of the children, teachers and other staff members at St. Molaga's.

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir fá choinne an cheist seo. Tuigim na buntáistí agus na míbhuntáistí a ghabhann leis an ardú daonra sa cheantar agus tuigim na fadhbanna maidir leis na seomraí sealadacha. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil tionchar suntasach ag an fhadhb sin ar an scoil.

  I thank the Senator for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the Seanad the current position of the major building project for St. Molaga's senior national school in Balbriggan, County Dublin. A building project for this school is included in the Department's school building programme being delivered under the national development plan. A project brief has been finalised and proposes a 16-classroom school, to include two special class teachers, eight special education tuition rooms and a two-class special education needs base. The project will be delivered by the Department's accelerated delivery of architectural planning and tendering, ADAPT, programme, an innovative, accelerated delivery programme first introduced by my Department in 2016. It uses a professional, external project manager appointed to a selected programme of projects to co-ordinate and expedite the work of the respective design teams on each project.

  In this regard, a tender competition to establish a project manager framework is due to conclude on Wednesday, 10 April. Once established, this framework will be used in a tender competition to appoint a project manager for the ADAPT programme. Once a project manager is appointed, the next step will be for the project manager to run the tender competitions for the appointment of the individual design teams. My Department wrote to the school and, as the Seanadóir pointed out, a phone call was made to the school to provide an update on the status of this project.

  I assure the Seanadóir that we have a new programme in operation, through ADAPT, keeping a close eye on it. It is a national programme comprising many schools from different constituencies throughout the country, including my own. It is a new way of doing things and the big feedback I am getting from the schools that are dealing with this project is that it takes pressure off the school. Once a project manager is appointed to administer this programme, I am confident that this will be a new way of trying to move it forward in as speedy a manner as possible.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I want to know how long will the process take to get the project manager in place. I know the framework has been completed but what kind of timescale is involved? Is it one month, five months or six months? Once the project manager is in place, how long will the tender for the design stage take?

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Once the tender process is completed with the announcement tomorrow, it will be a matter of two or three months to ensure the project manager is appointed. This is part of a national plan and not specific to one school so I do not want to tie myself in a knot over the timeframe because it is a new scheme. My message to my officials when I meet them on this, and I have met them a number of times in Tullamore, is that if this is going to be a new way of doing things, we must look at the speed of completion and the importance of getting it done in as quick a timeframe as possible. Parents and schools tend to see the September window as the time to have works completed. We will not be ready this September but I am conscious that schools want to work in as speedy a manner as possible.

  I am also conscious that we are dealing with many issues and difficulties with other schools in which things were done too quickly and with too much haste. It is about getting the right balance to ensure the right custom-fit building for proper outcomes while also being very conscious of the structural and safety capabilities.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I appreciate the point about buildings being in haste. We have experience of that in Balbriggan.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will have to discuss that on the margins. Under the rules, I am not allowed-----

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I just want to compliment the Minister if the Leas-Chathaoirleach would allow me to do so.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am not allowed.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I thank the Minister for outlining this.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order and she will make me out of order as well. She can have a chat with the Minister on the margins.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I will keep an eye on this and will be in contact with the Minister and his Department to see if we can get a timeframe for the consultation phase.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Before the Leas-Chathaoirleach rules me out of order as well, I wish to reassure the Senator that once we announce the framework tomorrow, details around the timeframe will be built into that so there will be more specific detail on that tomorrow.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I thank the Minister for being here in person to discuss this matter with me. It is greatly appreciated.

  I rise to speak on behalf of four boys from Dublin's north side whose parents do not have a school place for them in September with the only reason being that these children have autism. I refer the Minister to the report launched today from AsIAm entitled Invisible Children - Survey on School Absence and Withdrawal in Ireland's Autism Community. I believe some representatives from the organisation are in the Public Gallery. Some of the report's findings are quite stark and some of the representations made today were quite upsetting.

  It is a survey involving around 300 parents. The findings showed that 35% said that they had applied to anywhere between four and seven different schools while seeking a place for their child. A total of 54% of these parents felt that our lack of school places was the largest barrier for their child in accessing education, supported by a further 18% who said that the chief obstacle was a lack of nearby schools or classes in the local catchment areas. When someone's child gets a diagnosis, what effectively happens is that he or she is handed a sheet of paper with a list of schools on it and told to do his or her best. Some of the schools I spoke to parents about were in places as far away as Drogheda. I will read into the record the names of the four children with whom I am dealing with currently. They are Oliver Lynam, Mason Kelly, James Field, whose mother Alison spoke at the launch today, and Riley O'Keefe. They have no place to go in September with the only reason being that they have autism.

  The manner in which we deal with these parents really needs to be investigated and improved. We are giving a list of schools to a parent and telling him or her do his or her best. While some schools will say "Yes", in this case most of them said "No". I know we have the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, which would challenge some of the attitudes displayed or responses given by some of the schools and I want to get the Minister's response to that.

  The fall-back position, which the parents do not want because they want their children to go to a school setting, mix with other children and have that engagement, is the potential to home school the children but, again, parents are told to find a home school tutor themselves. Unless we are professionals in the field, none of us is qualified to know what kind of home tutor will benefit our child.

  Again, I talk to other parents who are on a very long waiting list to get assessments. Today I spoke to another parent, Mark, about his daughter, Abigail, and how they have tried to get early intervention and have waited for effectively two and a half years to get it.

  The Minister knows that once a parent gets a diagnosis, it is as if he or she must start waging a war with a system that should care for and be compassionate to him or her. The parent faces a challenge with this diagnosis and a child he or she loves, cares for and wants to do his or her best for. Simultaneously, the parent automatically becomes a kind of political campaigner, which is not the way it should be.

  On behalf of those four children about whom I spoke, can the Minister give me and the parents some assurance that these children will have a school place in September? We need a long-term conversation about how we deal with parents in this situation. It probably falls between the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Health, which is probably part of the difficulty but certainly the shocking experience these parents are going through has really come to light in the past number of months. It is now April and will be May before too long. These four children do not have a school place for September.  I am sure there are hundreds of other parents in the same situation, as has been outlined by the report issued today and as has been reported in The Irish Timesas recently as yesterday. I would appreciate the Minister's response.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir fá choinne an cheist iontach tábhachtach agus iontach dáiríre seo. Táim oscailte maidir leis an chomhrá atá de dhíth i ndiaidh na díospóireachta inniu.

  I thank the Senator for raising this important matter. I value the Senator's observation that we need to look at the process and different ways that we can help in the process as well. I am open to that idea.

  Enabling children with special educational needs, including autism, to receive an education appropriate to their needs is a priority for Government. At present, we are investing heavily in supporting our children with special educational needs, with €1.8 billion being spent annually, which is almost €1 in every €5, or 19% of the overall education budget. This includes an allocation of over €300 million towards providing additional resources specifically to support students with autism in schools.

  Since 2011, the number of special classes has increased from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which almost 1,200 are autism special classes. The National Council for Special education, NCSE, an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, co-ordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs. The council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements. Individual school boards of management are responsible for the establishment of special classes. It is open to any school to make application to the NCSE to establish a class. When the NCSE sanctions the establishment of a special class or the expansion of special school provision in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and-or to construct additional accommodation. Where families are experiencing difficulty in securing a placement for their child, it is recommended that they work closely with the NCSE's teams of locally-based special education needs organisers, SENOs, who will assist and advise them. SENOs also support and advise schools.

  My Department has no role in seeking a suitable school placement for individual children. Accordingly, I have arranged for the details of the four children provided by the Senator to be forwarded to the NCSE for its urgent attention. The NCSE is aware of the recent demand for additional special class and special school placements in the Dublin area. The council is actively engaging with schools, school patrons, parents, NEPS, health professionals and others who are involved in the provision of services for children with special educational needs to ensure that each child has a school placement appropriate to his or her needs for the 2019-20 school year. This work is ongoing. We are aware that enrolments in some schools have not yet been finalised for next year. We expect a clearer picture to emerge in the coming weeks. If additional places are required, the NCSE will work with schools and other stakeholders to ensure this need is met. My Department is liaising closely with the NCSE in this regard.

  I reiterate this is a process. It can be a difficult process for parents who have gone through preschool with their child and are ready to take that next step. Like all parents, one likes to see a smooth transition, whether from preschool to primary or primary to secondary. I believe in working together and the good work of the likes of the AsIAm group, which I met in the early days of my new post. There are aspects that Government misses. There are aspects that officialdom misses. If there are gaps, I am certainly willing to work with the Senator in that regard. We live in a special time where we are trying to include all our children. Whether in special classes or in special schools or in the mainstream setting, that choice is so important. It is important that we continue to work hard and focus on that.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I deeply appreciate the Minister's sentiments.

  I have a number of issues with the Minister's response, one being that the school can apply to the Department.  What happens if a school is not necessarily minded to apply? Sometimes it is easier to say "No". The fact the Department has no role in seeking a suitable school place for individual children will be of little comfort to the parents with whom I am dealing. We can see the difficulty. The NCSE is acting against schools, school patrons, parents, NEPS and health professionals. So many agencies are involved and parents go from one to the other to try to get a place for their children. I appreciate that the Minister acknowledges there are gaps, that it is not good enough and that working together we can find solutions. I appreciate that his official reply states a clearer picture will emerge in the coming weeks. This is fair enough. If we can discuss it again in a number of weeks' time we will have a clearer picture of where these four children are at and what the NCSE has come up with. Certainly, the entire system needs to change to be an awful lot more sympathetic and to rally around these parents who receive a diagnosis. Let us keep in contact and keep the conversation going. What these parents are going through is not good enough and the Minister appreciates this. He has also acknowledged that there are gaps, so let us work together to fill them and ensure the rights of the children I have named, Oliver, Mason, James and Riley, are vindicated and that they have a school place in September.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I am trying to evaluate the communication that takes place when SENOs give parents a list of potential schools. If some of the schools are already filled up, it creates massive frustration for parents. I want to see if we can get a bit better at simple communication and providing relevant information. It is a very important time for parents when their children go into a new school environment. I am happy to continue to work with the Senator on parents being put in a position where they feel they must fight for something.

  Sitting suspended at 3.15 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re Electoral (Supplement to the Register of Electors) Regulations 2019, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, motion re the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocols 19 and 21 annexed to the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - referral to committee, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 1, without debate; No. 3, Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to adjourn at 6 p.m., if not previously concluded; No. 4, Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016, changed from Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016 - Second Stage, to be taken at 6 p.m. with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 73, motion re Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016, to be discussed in conjunction with the Second Stage debate but not to be taken until the Report and Final Stages of the Bill have concluded.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I met a gentleman recently who described how he is fighting for access to the drug, Spinraza, for his 15 year old daughter who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. She is now at a stage where she finds simple tasks like getting up, going to the bathroom or brushing her hair very difficult. Spinraza is available in 20 other countries and anecdotally we have learned that Ireland has been offered this drug at a very competitive price. The Department of Health says that it will cost €20 million over five years which is a very small amount given the benefits of this drug. Spinraza will not cure the young girl to whom I referred but it will massively improve her quality of life and €20 million is a small price to pay for such an improvement. I ask the Minister for Health to ensure that the HSE reaches a deal with the suppliers of Spinraza to ensure that children who need this drug have access to it.

  The second issue I raise today relates to the recently published report from the National Cancer Registry Ireland. It found that cancer rates in Ireland could double over the next 25 years. While cancer detection has improved and people are living a lot longer, it is frightening to think that cancer rates could increase by 50% in the years ahead. As I said recently, almost every family in Ireland has been touched by cancer. It does not discriminate on the basis of wealth or skin colour. Unfortunately, it could hit any one of us and over the next few decades one in every two people in this country could be visited by cancer.

  In 1996, Fianna Fáil introduced the first cancer strategy which was very successful. There have been superb improvements in clinical outcomes but increases in the number of people diagnosed with cancer have led to delays in accessing chemotherapy. In the past, when patients were diagnosed with cancer they started chemotherapy the very next day. My own father suffered from cancer for 15 years. He had several hundred blood transfusions and battled cancer successfully six times. Each time he was diagnosed, he began chemotherapy the following day.  Other members of my family have also been visited by cancer. The waiting lists for chemotherapy, whether one is a public or private patient, mean that if one is diagnosed on a Monday, one may not be slotted in to start chemotherapy until three or four weeks later. From my experience, I have seen that the time it takes to access cancer treatments has increased massively. Whereas people used to get treatment the next day, they now wait a few weeks before being scheduled for chemotherapy. We have a cancer strategy for the period from 2017 to 2026, which is very welcome, but in light of these figures it is really important that we ensure there is enough capital investment in, and Government support for, that strategy. We are following this cancer strategy but we need to look at it again. We need to revisit the issue of cancer care in Ireland. We were once one of the best performers in this area but we are slipping. People should not have to wait for chemotherapy. The waiting lists for patients to be scheduled for chemotherapy should be much shorter than they are. The statistics with which we have been presented today demonstrate that this will become an even greater problem.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I want to raise two matters today. One is the publication, in the name of the Leader on 27 March 2019, of a Bill from the Department of Justice and Equality in respect of gaming and lotteries. The bottom line of this Bill is that the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 is to be amended so as to take the right to decide whether to permit gaming casinos and amusement halls in their areas away from local authorities and transfer this power to other authorities. I want to be very clear on this issue. I am totally opposed to that principle.

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

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Local authorities have few enough powers. One of them is to determine whether the people who live in the local authority area are to be subject to a rash of gaming machines appearing in that area. In addition, we do not need gaming machines. They add nothing to the sum total of happiness-----

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

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----or to anything else. They are permitted in amusement arcades in places like Bray, Bundoran and the like because they were seen to be part of a culture of holiday entertainment. That is the business of those local authorities, but it is scandalous that it will now be open season for gaming machines in Dublin city. The experience of the British, particularly in respect of fixed-odds betting terminals, is that these machines visit total misery on people who become addicted to them. I see that a maximum bet of €10 on any occasion is proposed in the Bill. This is wrong. It will be a tax on the poor, the addicted and the vulnerable. It will be an expropriation of their money to enrich people who add nothing to the sum total of human happiness. I say that today in advance of any Second Stage consideration of this Bill, to which I am wholly opposed. It is a step in the wrong direction. For a Government that talks about local government reform to strip local government of this particular power is wholly wrong. Surely it should be up to the people of Killarney whether their town has gaming machines and amusement halls. It should be up to the people of Tralee to make the same kinds of decisions about their area. We are now going down the road of taking that power away from local authorities, which is wholly wrong.

  The second issue I raise is that, as we conduct our affairs today, a general election is under way in Israel. In an effort to obtain the maximum number of seats, the Netanyahu administration - I would call it a regime - has pledged to annex Palestinian settlements and make them part of Israel's sovereign territory.  Our Government was supine on the subject of the settlement goods legislation. This House showed some bravery on the subject. Contrived reasons about the imposition of charges on the Exchequer and the need for money messages were used to obstruct that legislation from going through Dáil Éireann. If we are going to be trampled all over in asserting our parliamentary view that the Israeli Government should not be permitted to extend its sovereignty over Palestinian territory and make what is de factode jurewith the assistance of the Trump regime in Washington, we need to start talking openly and candidly now. I have always believed in the right of Israel to exist. I am not afraid to say that my opposition to this pledge cannot be legitimately described as anti-Semitic in any way. It is not anti-Semitic, but is simply pro the human rights of everybody in the area, particularly the Palestinian people.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Palestinian people are Semites too.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell As the Senator has said, they are Semitic people as well. I want justice for these people. I do not want this international regime of bully boys from Brazil, Israel, America and Moscow to become legitimised because decent people do not speak out and houses of parliament in liberal democracies do not make their views known.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Today there are 631 people on trolleys, which is the highest figure of the year. The Government has responded by reintroducing a moratorium on recruitment. It is absolutely crazy. Fianna Fáil did that. That is why we are in the situation we are in. All of those trolleys are lined up because we do not have enough front-line staff. We just do not have enough staff to physically open the beds. We do not have enough staff in accident and emergency units to do the treatments. In some hospitals, three or four nurses are trying to cover the work of seven nurses. Seven ambulances were lined up at Mayo University Hospital last week because not enough front-line staff were available to do the handover, treat the patients, get them into fully staffed beds and look after them in the way that any republic should do.

  Instead of doing that, we are putting a moratorium on staff. In this case, it is not about extra funding - it is about the decision to hire managerial and administrative staff rather than front-line staff. One of the Senators here gave us the figures last year. We learned that 2,603 administrative staff and managerial staff, but just 54 extra nurses, had been employed by the HSE since 2014. It is a crazy situation. We have enough HSE communications, managerial and administrative personnel. We need front-line staff. That is what is going to reduce our trolley numbers and stop the ambulances lining up outside our hospitals. It is a crazy situation. We need another debate in here with the Minister for Health, particularly on the trolley numbers.

  I want to raise what has been happening with ATMs, which is not confined to the-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris You should be the right one to know.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I am sorry, but it is not a laughing matter.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is indeed.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I will tell the Senator why it is not a laughing matter.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Get your old digger out.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh It is not confined to the North or to anywhere else. The owners of two businesses with ATMs in my own community, which is a small community with not many businesses, woke up this morning to find that their premises had been smashed into and thousands of euro of damage had been done. Many small businesses are already struggling to survive because of the punitive rates and charges that are put upon them. Something has to be done. Obviously, we need extra gardaí.  However, we also need the ATMs. I am afraid that the banks will use this as an excuse to remove ATMs from this rural area. Senator Norris does not know what it is like to have to travel 30 km or 40 km to the nearest ATM but those who live in rural areas do. Something must be done to prevent ATMs being removed. The banks have a responsibility to act-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris So do the paramilitaries.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh -----such as by ensuring there is anti-theft dye in the cash machines. Alternatively, more policing resources are needed. This issue is connected to that of the Garda being used to pick up the slack in the area of mental health and disability services which was discussed in the House last week. Children and young people with disabilities are being criminalised and left to be dealt with by the Garda rather than the issues being solved within the health services.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan This week is National Arthritis Week. Yesterday, I met councillors in Castlebar, County Mayo, and I also met a young woman originally from Mayo who has arthritis. As a child, she was told that she had growing pains. During her teens, her diagnosis was changed to juvenile arthritis. Her story is a microcosm of the national situation. She went to Dublin to complete her studies. She had a good career and worked for herself but was unable to continue to so do because of her condition and related matters. She could not continue to live in Dublin while not working because of high rents and other matters. She is now back home in Mayo and very involved in the national organisation Arthritis Ireland. She and her colleagues have just returned from a conference in Prague organised by the European League Against Rheumatism.

  I wish to focus on the area of musculoskeletal disorders, including arthritis, which are a leading cause of temporary unemployment. Some 14 million days are lost each year in Ireland due to absence and ill-health in the workforce. Approximately half of them are attributed to this group of disorders at a cost of €750 million annually and 7 million days in absenteeism. There is also a social cost. The young woman to whom I referred is very much the right side of 40 and is wondering how she will be able to work or contribute. She is doing magnificent work nationally and locally with Arthritis Ireland, which is fighting very hard to get extra rheumatology support in Mayo.

  I wish to draw attention to this issue and to ask the Leader to request that the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, come to the House and update us on the comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities. It is a ten-year programme launched in October 2015. As we are now one third of the way through it, it would be timely for the House to be updated on it.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate in the House after Easter on the best means of tackling sexual harassment issues, particularly sexual harassment in the workplace. I raise this because, as all Members will be aware having been emailed about it, a survey initiated by the women's caucus is being carried out to discover the extent to which harassment is an issue in the Houses of the Oireachtas workplace. It is the first time that such a survey has been carried out in the Oireachtas and it is very important that we get a wide range of participants and significant buy-in to the survey.

  I also call for a debate on this issue because several initiatives have recently been taken on it. In another forum I welcomed the announcement last Friday by the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, that she is putting €400,000 towards funding for supports to deal with sexual harassment in higher education institutions. This builds on work being done by the National Women's Council of Ireland, NWCI, which obtained significant funding from the EU to look comparatively at sexual harassment in academia across five EU member states.  In March of this year it launched a very useful toolkit called #itstopsnow, which gives information and guidelines to third level institutions on how best to deal with sexual harassment, being mindful of the need for fair procedures in workplaces and of the fact that sexual harassment can take different guises in a workplace especially when that workplace compromises staff and students.

In Trinity College last night we were delighted to host a very eminent speaker, Dr. Celeste Kidd from the University of California, Berkeley, and one of Timemagazine's silence breakers and people of the year in 2017. She spoke out about sexual harassment on the campus at the University of Rochester - where she worked in 2017 - and as a result changed a good deal of practices at that university. Dr. Kidd has become a real leader in speaking out, especially for women in science and scientific research. I was proud to also speak at the meeting Dr. Kidd spoke at last night, which was hosted by Women in Research Ireland. We discussed different means, mechanisms and strategies that can be used in higher education to tackle sexual harassment. Clearly, this is an issue that goes beyond colleges. I ask the Leader if we could have a debate on this issue at some point after Easter.

I welcome that today we will debate the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016. I am aware we will have the chance to debate the Bill later this evening but I am sorry we will not debate more extensive constitutional amendments to Article 41. I would have liked to see Members debate a change in the waiting time in the lead up to a divorce and a debate on a change to the definition of "family" so that we no longer define family as that based on marriage only. I would also like to see us deleting the provisions relating to women and mothers that use such loaded and sexist language, and instead to see a gender neutral language used in the Constitution. I am sorry we will not have that more extensive reform before us this evening but I welcome the Bill we have.

I agree with previous speakers on the issue of the Israeli elections and on the need for parliaments around the world to speak out where we see abuses of power and abuses of human rights occurring. All of us have noted with alarm Prime Minister Netanyahu's comments about settlements, given that his Government already had such an appalling record of building settlements and the demolition and moving on of Palestinians, and given that this House has spoken so clearly in supporting Senator Black's Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill. The context and the speeches around the Israeli election really show even more clearly the need for that legislation to be adopted and embraced by the Government.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I wish to raise the issue of school transport for our local schools. I have been in contact with a number of school principals and staff across Roscommon and Galway whose schools are at risk of either losing a teacher or potentially closing due to decreasing pupil numbers. From a number of examples I have in mind there is a significant imbalance across a number of schools. Many of our schools are at full capacity and in need of expansion while just a few kilometres away other schools - many in rural areas - are at risk of closure. I ask the Leader to have a debate in the Seanad on school transport, especially for rural areas. There is a need for greater flexibility so we can use existing school resources to support our smaller rural schools and relieve pressure on those schools that are at full capacity.

  I attended a meeting last week with the school principal, school staff and parents at the Woodbrook national school just outside Carrick-on-Shannon in County Roscommon. This school faces the problem of the lack of transport options. Parents locally have committed to sending their children to the school but they need transport options to make it feasible. It is a reality today that both parents work full time. Families need access to pre-school services and after-school services and, therefore, need a more flexible transport system to allow them to support their local rural schools. Would it be possible to facilitate a debate on this very important issue in the near future?

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Last week the Government decided to postpone its decision on exactly what it is going to do with the local property tax, which was first introduced in 2013. While many have questioned the motives of the postponement, I wish to raise a couple of alarming developments that are arising because nothing has been done about them. While there will be no increase in the tax in the coming year, and first-time buyers remain exempt from the tax, those who bought in 2013 will be liable from this December. Property tax is a massive issue. Recently, good honest people came into my office who, because house prices had gone up, were afraid their house insurance would not cover them properly if their homes were undervalued. Accordingly, they declared their houses to be worth more and Revenue now wants to back-tax them for being honest. This is unacceptable. Homeowners did not mean to increase their liability so it is unfair to ask them to pony up the back tax if their houses were never undervalued before this year. There is a system to appeal against a liability when the price of a house has gone down but not when it has gone up. More than 13,280 corrections to valuations have been made to Revenue, including 700 made last year. This was done by honest people who are now all liable for back tax. Were they unfairly penalised for coming forward? Maybe some had incorrectly valued their property initially and are now looking to sell it. What about those who have seen new value added to their homes? All values are going up.

  My second point concerns people who, because of their means, could defer payment of the tax. The deferrals will continue but the income thresholds were recommended to increase to €18,000 for a single owner and €30,000 for a couple, up from €15,000 and €25,000, respectively. By keeping the threshold low, however, this Government is going to penalise fixed-income pensioners whose weekly payment has increased. Since last week, a pensioner couple will earn €25,800 and cannot now defer their payment.

  Both these issues seem so mean in our current climate and they are very unfair. People are coming into my clinics with real concerns about them so I call on the Minister to come to the House to discuss these issues with me and Senators.

Senator Billy Lawless: Information on Billy Lawless Zoom on Billy Lawless I am totally opposed to the Bill to amend the Act dealing with amusement trades, especially sections 12 and 13 of the new Bill. Gambling is a blight on this country. It is a blight on our young people and this is only the thin end of the wedge. I have no problem whatsoever with local authorities having the power to grant amusement licences in their own areas as they know the conditions in those areas. We have a national lottery and we know that the funds from that go to good causes but I am totally opposed to a regulatory body taking over the regulation of licences. We have seen what has happened to our sportsmen in recent years and the terrible cases of addiction to online gambling, although I know we are not talking about online gambling in this case. Some of them have run up debts of €60,000, €80,000 or €90,000 and now we are going to make it easier for more types of gambling to be allowed in our community.

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

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden The report of National Cancer Registry Ireland came out this morning. While the figures are, in some respects, very frightening for what we can expect in the future, it has to be said that things have improved and survival rates are improving all the time. Prevention is better than cure and people should always focus on that initially. The Irish Cancer Society said that, as a result of the report, it is now very important to look to the future and that the Government invests in cancer services so that people are diagnosed early and treated quickly.

  I met a person who was to have surgery today but it was cancelled yesterday at the last minute.  This lady faces an arduous road for the next period of between six and 12 months. She psyched herself up and made arrangements for her four children to be cared for during the surgery and so on, but now it has been postponed. She is distraught. As well as the physical hardships that people face when they are being treated for cancer, the patient must undergo emotional and psychological hardship and trauma. This must also be considered, given that it is about not just beds and consultants but also people's feelings and emotions.

  Perhaps the Minister could come to the House in order that we can have a debate on the future and planning. We speak about Project Ireland 2040 and planning for the future, but we should include in the plan cancer services for the future. Will the Leader invite the Minister for such a debate?

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, a 100-day period from 7 April to 15 July 1994, when approximately 800,000 Tutsi, or one tenth of the country's population, were killed. A further 2 million people were displaced and became refugees, exiled in Burundi, Tanzania and what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is a time for learning from these horrific events of the past and a time to remember those who were killed, maimed, physically or sexually assaulted, and displaced.

  We should reflect on how xenophobia played a large role and how disparaging comments from Hutu extremists referring to the Tutsi as "cockroaches" influenced many in joining the genocidal efforts. Comments that refer to people of different races, nationalities and backgrounds as less than human or less than equal remain common today and are still uttered by world leaders who wish to stoke fear and spread hate for political gain. The former President, Mary Robinson, was one of the first Heads of State to visit Rwanda after the genocide. I welcome the statement of the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, on Sunday and add my voice to his message from the people that we send our solidarity to the survivors, their children and all Rwandans. I have asked the Office of the Cathaoirleach and the Leader that we have a moment of reflection in silence at the end of the Order of Business to mark the 25th anniversary of this horrific tragedy.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On a point of order, I inform the Leader that I mistook the terms of his Bill. I confused it with a letter from a group of lobbyists and I was wrong. The Leader's Bill is much better than what has been proposed.

Senator Frances Black: Information on Frances Black Zoom on Frances Black I echo the comments of Senators McDowell and Bacik on the Israeli election today. There is no doubt that they both are fully correct and it is vital that we enact the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018. We will all watch the results of the Israeli election this evening. No matter what happens or who wins, it is vital that the international community stands up and says enough is enough. We cannot accept these promises to annex Palestine. It is utterly wrong and illegal and amounts to a war crime. I thank the Senators for their comments today.

  On behalf of the Seanad Civil Engagement group, and I imagine on behalf of the wider Chamber, I express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sally O'Neill, who sadly passed away in Guatemala this week. Listening to the testimony on the radio and throughout the country today, one can clearly see that she was an incredible woman who embodied the values of Trócaire as a courageous, passionate advocate for human rights, dignity and social justice all over the world. She dedicated her life to improving the lives of others, working alongside poor or marginalised communities, particularly in Central America.  Even in Dublin, the staff in my office were speaking this morning about her role highlighting human rights abuses in El Salvador in the 1980s alongside President Higgins, who was a Deputy at the time, and some of Trócaire's current, brilliant staff who are passionate advocates for human rights. They spoke about how she took them under her wing when they first started with the organisation. She gave them the self-belief and confidence to pursue years of human rights work. I want to recognise this wonderful woman in the House. She had a remarkable, generous and inspirational life and I express my sincere condolences to her family, friends and all of her colleagues at Trócaire.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Very often, I call for action on issues which are a cause of stress and distress to people. On occasion, however, it is useful to stand up to welcome developments which will improve people's lives. I refer specifically to the new arrangements the Minister for Health has made with doctors to allow many more services, including chronic illness care, to be provided in general practice settings. The arrangements will cover things like diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease, cardiovascular disease and heart failure, which is increasingly common as many of us, fortunately, are living into older years. Something I have felt very strongly about will now be possible in general practice. This involves the 8,000 patients in the general medical services, GMS, scheme with haemochromatosis, an iron metabolism disorder which requires them to have a pint of blood taken off at frequent intervals to protect their health. Until now, this has been done in hospitals but it is well capable of being done in GP surgeries. Indeed, some GPs have been doing it. If one was a private patient, one could get it done, but as a GMS or uninsured patient, one could not. This welcome news for 8,000 people speaks to the many other things that could be done in primary care but which are currently taking place in hospitals at great inconvenience for patients who must travel long distances. It is also a cause of pressure on hospital services.

  I welcome this deal and use the opportunity to call for further diagnostic services in general practice. I see my colleague, Senator Gabrielle McFadden, is here and note that Athlone primary care centre has access to diagnostics in the form of X-ray, which is working extremely well. It is also in Castlebar. I would like to see the facility also put in place in Balbriggan primary care centre given the explosion in population in the wider area it serves. It would allow GPs like me to diagnose and treat our patients in the community, never having to send them to hospital at all. It would be much more convenient for patients and provide great job satisfaction for doctors. I welcome this contract also in so far as it will stem the flow of younger doctors from the country and encourage older doctors to stay in practice for longer. It will mean more services and more doctors to deliver them for more of our people.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I support Senator Murnane O'Connor on the subject of property tax except that she does not go far enough. She should set as an objective getting rid of it altogether for the next election. I tell her the party that puts that down as a goal will form the next Government. This is a disgusting tax.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Hear, hear.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It dates back to the 19th century and is a form of rack-renting whereby unscrupulous landlords used to put up the rent every time an unfortunate tenant had the temerity to improve a property. That is exactly what is happening now. It relates to nothing other than the utter greed of the landlord, in this case the State. I give my own example. I bought a house-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer A mansion.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris -----in an area of dereliction in inner city Dublin in 1978 for €25,000. It was in ruins. I did the State's job by restoring it. I spent hundreds of thousands of euro and hundreds of hours to restore the entire street. What is the reward? One is fined for doing it. It is a disgrace. It is back to the 19th century and the Leader should shut up and take notice of it.

  I raise also the question of school secretaries. These people are completely neglected.  I heard one of them on the wireless today explaining she was on €12,000.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Does the Senator not realise that there is a functioning system-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Do I hear somebody tweeting? A bird has got in. Put her out through the skylight.

  School secretaries are on €12,000 a year which is absolutely nothing but they love their job. They are an essential and crucial part of a school, organising timetables and payments. However, they are completely and utterly neglected. Bringing them into the public service would cost a maximum of €4 million out of a budget of €10 billion. For goodness sake, can we not do the decent thing and bring these hard-working people in out of the cold? In the summer, they have to go on the dole. Is that not a lovely way to treat our secretaries who keep our schools going? I am appealing to the Government to bring them in. It will only cost €4 million, a sum that would get lost in a hole in one’s tooth.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I am glad to report to Senator Norris that I am a member of the Oireachtas education committee. The school secretaries will give a presentation to the committee this afternoon to which I am looking forward.

  I support the call for additional resources for local domestic violence services in counties Cavan and Monaghan. Currently, both counties are served by Tearmann Domestic Abuse Service. I acknowledge the great work it does on behalf of unfortunate individuals who find themselves in need of help in such circumstances. Tusla is in the process of reviewing domestic violence services across the country. Based on information I have received from Tearmann and others, there is a need for a dedicated refuge for people who find themselves in such a difficult and stressful domestic situation. There is also clearly a need for increased resources in this particular area. Last year, for example, the service supported 260 people, mostly women but some men. It is important to remember that this support also involved over 400 children. We all know that domestic violence and marriage breakdown are traumatic for those involved, particularly children. Will the Leader ask the Minister to expedite the review and ensure that additional resources are made available to those who find themselves in such difficult, dangerous and traumatic circumstances? Will he also ask the Minister to ensure that a proper refuge is available to those who need it in counties Cavan and Monaghan?

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I normally would not comment on the Garda or the PSNI. However, I am concerned about the recent theft of ATMs. Last week, as I was driving back from a function, I passed a garage on the Feeny Road in Dungiven from which another ATM had been stolen. This is the eighth theft of an ATM in Northern Ireland and there have been many more in Cavan and Monaghan. What is happening? Do the banks put tracker devices on these ATMs? The robberies are a significant inconvenience to staff and customers, as well as putting fear into communities. I cannot understand how a digger can be brought up a street in a small village on a Saturday night, rip apart a cash machine in a garage and nobody seems to know anything about it. I am not a detective. However, in this day and age, do these cash machines not have tracking devices attached to them? As Bertie Ahern rightly stated, it is not the boy scouts who are doing this. It is believed that dissident republicans are responsible. This is a worrying trend. If it were to happen in every town and village, there would be no cash machines left at all. More worrying, these robberies are funding an organisation which wants to bring terror and mayhem to this country once more.  While I have huge respect for the law enforcement services on either side of the Border, I am concerned that nobody seems to be getting to the bottom of this crime that people seem to be having a laugh at now. It is certainly not a laughing matter.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I raise the topic of illegal dumping which seems prevalent at the moment, perhaps because local elections are upcoming and people are out and about more often. It occurs in urban areas but particularly in rural areas. I keep seeing photographs on Facebook of local election candidates and sitting councillors who have been canvassing somewhere and there are 50 black bags in a field which have sometimes been set on fire. I do not know whether an industry is involved and people are collecting this waste from houses and dumping it, or whether it involves people disposing of their private waste. I call on the Leader to ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Richard Bruton, to come and discuss this topic in this House as a matter of urgency.

  Illegal dumping seems to be rampant across the country. I know there is an issue of people dumping in urban areas. Sometimes people move out of houses and 100 black bags and various other items are discovered in the back garden. I often see bags that are full of cans, bottles and paper, all of which can be recycled for free. It may be that the civic centres and recycling facilities to which people can bring such items are a long way away but education is probably needed. Maybe waste collectors are very expensive and that is an issue.

  We need to survey households to see where their waste is going. Many people responsibly dispose of their rubbish through a door-to-door collector or go to civic recycling facilities. My former local authority, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, which covers the area in which I live, is winning awards for having good recycling centres. I am sure most local authorities have very good recycling centres but there will be a residual amount of waste that is not recyclable. We need to try to reduce that as much as possible by examining what packaging is permitted to be recycled and what is not because illegal dumping is a scourge right across the landscape. I saw a Tidy Towns clean-up in Ballybrack in Dublin which, very easily and quickly, produced hundreds of bags and that is a relatively urban area where waste collection is available.

  I ask the Leader to facilitate a debate on the waste market as soon as possible. I am not giving out about waste collectors which do their job well, by and large. There are certainly people who are not using these services and are not disposing of their waste responsibly by other means. We need to look at what can be done about that. The practice of people throwing sofas, electronic equipment and black bags into hedges during the night must not be allowed to continue. The rest of us ultimately have to pay to have it cleaned up.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I may not be allowed to discuss the draft Order Paper but I ask the Leader for clarification. I presume the motion regarding the Electoral (Supplement to the Register of Electors) Regulations 2019 is before the House now. Is that not on the Order Paper today? It is referred to on the Order Paper as No. 1.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is a motion without debate.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I do not want a debate but I want clarification. It is a useful and good statutory instrument. I would like the Leader to clarify because I read the instrument-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer What does Senator Leyden want me to clarify?

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I am saying that, until now, to get on the supplementary register, one had to register at a Garda station. I presume we will pass this motion unanimously. There was a danger and a problem that law-abiding citizens who wanted to be on the register were deterred by having to go to a Garda station to be identified by a garda who would confirm their registration. It made some people nervous because, believe it or not, some people are nervous about going to a Garda station. Many of us do not do so regularly and it is the last thing people want to do. I thought the requirement to attend at a Garda station was over the top for something as legitimate as registering to vote. I commend the Minister on his intelligence in bringing this proposal to the House.

  The regulation makes reference to areas where the authority has in place electronic means to identify the person. I hope all local authorities have such a system in place because otherwise it would be self-defeating.  I would like the Leader to get an opportunity to read or clarify it. The explanatory note is very clear and I would like the Leader to agree with me that this is his reading of the document.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I support Dublin Chamber of Commerce and ISME regarding putting pressure on Dublin Port to change its decision not to allow cruise ships into Dublin Port. It sends out a bad message for the country. A total of 172 cruise ships visited Dublin Port last year and because of Brexit planning, it is intended to change that and no cruise ship will be allowed into the port. When the cruise ships arrive, they do not put any pressure on Dublin hotels, bed and breakfasts or Airbnb. They put no pressure on accommodation in the city but are a major boost to the economy. The Government should liaise with Dublin Port to see what can be done because the cruise ship industry is a growing market. As a matter of urgency, the Government should liaise with the port to see how it can be facilitated so that the cruise ships continue to visit Dublin.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the 18 Members for their contributions to the Order of Business. I join Senator Warfield and all of us in the House in remembering the genocide in Rwanda 25 years ago. It is important and proper that we in this House reflect upon and pay tribute to the Rwandan people on the 25th anniversary. The words of the president are ones we should take note of when he speaks of them being a family once again. The events of 25 years ago were horrific and brutal. Like the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, we should all commend the bravery and resilience of the Rwandan people and stand with them. At the end of the Order of Business, it is appropriate that we should stand for a minute's reflection and pay tribute to, and remember, those who died in an awful event.

  Senator Ardagh raised the issue of Spinraza. The information I have is that the HSE wrote to the company informing it of its proposal to refuse reimbursement of Spinraza at the price offered by the company but allowing for an opportunity for the company to come back to the HSE with a different price option. As Members will be aware, the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013 allows for 28 days during which a company may come back to the Department or the HSE. My information is that the HSE has received a revised submission. The HSE drugs group is now considering that price and will make a recommendation. I do not have more up to date information than that but drugs companies have an obligation to come back to the HSE with reasonable prices so that we can ensure people are able to avail of medicines.

  Senators McFadden and Ardagh raised the report from National Cancer Registry Ireland. According to the report, one in two of us will develop cancer in the coming years. As Senator McFadden rightly said, outcomes have improved and people are surviving longer and have better access to treatment and medicines but it is important that we invest in cancer care and services, the national cancer strategy is updated and resources put in place to ensure the strategy is fit for purpose. Last Friday, I visited Cork ARC Cancer Support House to look at its proposal for the new development, which involves a suite of rooms and treatment centres and would provide people with an opportunity to meet. I commend the work of Professor Seamus O'Reilly and the staff in Cork ARC Cancer Support House.  It is important that we invest in our cancer strategy so that we can tackle the scourge of cancer that has for a generation blighted our communities. As Senator Ardagh rightly said, there are many in this House who have family members who died as a result of cancer and other family members who have suffered from the disease and may be on the road to recovery, in remission or now cancer free. This is an issue on which we must maintain vigilance.

  Senators McDowell, Lawless and Bacik raised the issue of the gaming legislation that is coming before the House, probably next week.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am on the Leader's side on that. It is the lobbyists I am against.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator made a point regarding local authorities having powers in this area removed from them. I do not believe the position will change.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I got that wrong. I misread the industry lobby.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer If it is to be changed, I accept the Senator's point that the legislation should be looked at again. He is correct that there is no value to society in having gaming machines or these dens of iniquity where people gather. He is also correct that it is the most vulnerable and those who can least afford it who end up going in to these places. I fully subscribe to the point made by Senators McDowell and Lawless that gambling is a scourge on many families from which no community is immune. I support Senator McDowell's view that it does not add anything to society to have places where gaming machines are operated.

  In the context of any legislation, it is important that we do not remove power from local authorities. Continuing to strip them of power is not the way forward. We should be sensible in the way in which we invest in local government from the point of view of giving elected members powers and an opportunity to have real meaningful roles in areas such as this.

  Senators McDowell, Black and Bacik raised the issue of the Israeli election and the annexation of Palestinian settlements. Senator McDowell will be glad to hear I agree with him. None of us in this House is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. From the point of view of what is being proposed here, it is a free and democratic election. Like Senator McDowell, I do not take my lead on Israel or Palestine from President Trump but it is important that we have a sensible debate. In fairness, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade have taken a strong line on Israel and Palestine. I am not sure the Bill to which the Senator refers is a good one but it was passed in this House. It is important that the Israeli people have their vote today. It is equally important that the world community upholds human rights. Like the Senators, I believe in the rights of Israel but I also believe the Palestinian people have a fundamental right that we must all try to honour as well.

  Senator Conway-Walsh raised the issue of trolleys in hospitals, which are a source of concern. We have seen HSE investment in initiatives to target waiting times in emergency departments. The Senator also referred to staff recruitment. It is important to recognise that the Government has in recent years provided capacity to recruit more doctors and nurses to work in the health system. Since 2015, the number of medical and dental staff has increased by 1,132 or 12%, the number of nurses has increased by 2,291 or 6.4% and the number of health and social care professionals has increased by 1,918 or 13%. The number of health service staff in management and administration increased by 2,340 or 14% in the same period. I agree with Senator Conway-Walsh that there is a need for more investment in front-line services and I share Senator Reilly's view that a greater emphasis on primary care is needed. The Government, as Senator Reilly noted, has agreed a new GP contract which will make general practice a much more attractive career and allow for treatment at the first point of care. I thank all those involved in the contractual discussions that have taken place.

  HSE recruitment needs to be targeted at specific areas. This year, we have the highest health budget in the history of the State. I am sure some Senators watched the "Reeling in the Years" programme the other night in which an infamous Minister for Health, Deputy Micheál Martin, was shown presiding over the highest ever trolley watch figures. The health system was in a morass and the subject of ongoing commentary under the then Minister.  Senators should watch that episode of "Reeling in the Years" shown last weekend. It is a bit like déjà vu.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor We declared an emergency then. The Government should be declaring an emergency now.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Leader is keeping a very close watch on his constituency colleague.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Deputy Murnane O'Connor is totally out of order again.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor It is the truth.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader to respond without interruption.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Leader is goading his audience.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The declaration of an emergency or otherwise has led to the highest ever health budget of €16 billion. Those who watch "Reeling in the Years" know what happened the year after 2003. Deputy Micheál Martin ran out of health never to go back. That Government let poor Mary Harney there for almost a generation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Take it up somewhere else.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor What is the Leader's obsession with Deputy Micheál Martin?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell This is Cork South-Central politics.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor This is local politics at its best.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We do not want any school romantics in here.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As Senator McDowell knows full well-----

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Deputy Martin is still the Deputy for Cork South-Central.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As Senator McDowell knows full well, the Fianna Fáil Party-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask the Leader not to encourage people.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As the Leas-Chathaoirleach knows and as Senator McDowell can testify, the Fianna Fáil Party ran out of health and never returned. It left poor Mary Harney stranded there.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Mary Harney wanted the job. She was very good in it.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor What about the Taoiseach? He was in health and ran from it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will you all dún do bhéal. Senators are rambling as ever.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Leader likes goading his audience.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor He has to be joking.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader to respond, without interruption.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senators Conway Walsh-----

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden We look forward to the programme and-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senators Conway Walsh and Feighan raised the issue of ATMs being robbed and it is a source of huge concern.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan We raised that last week.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As I was going to say, and I thank my colleague and friend, Senator Horkan, for his help, it was raised on the Order of Business by a number of Senators last week. The PSNI and the Garda Síochána are working very hard to try to ensure the criminals are apprehended. This is not a victimless crime. It has a profound impact on the quality of life of people living on both sides of the Border and it is important that anybody with information should provide it to the PSNI or the Garda. It is equally important that we stand up to dissident paramilitaries who, if they are involved, should be brought to task regarding the matter.

  Senator Dolan raised the important matter of National Arthritis Week and the need for the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities to come to the House to discuss employment and the strategic targeting of people's abilities. It is important that the strategy is implemented and that the numbers allocated are followed up on and adhered to. It is important that we give people with a disability an opportunity to work and reach their potential in the workforce. I am happy to have this debate in the coming weeks.

  Senator Bacik raised the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and asked for a debate on this important issue. I am happy to do so. This evening, we will have a debate on the divorce Bill and subsequently we can have that debate.

  Senator Hopkins raised the very important matter of providing a flexible school transportation system so we can offer support, in particular to families in rural communities with small schools. This is a very worthwhile suggestion. Some schools are dealing with declining numbers while others are exploding and it is important that we have this debate so we can allow choice to be given to families and parents and allow for flexible transport options to access preschool or after-school services. In many cases today, both parents are working. I would be happy to have this debate in the coming weeks.

  Senators Murnane O'Connor and Norris raised the issue of the local property tax. I am not sure whether there was a meeting of minds between them. If Senators Murnane O'Connor and Norris have an alternative to the local property tax then let us hear it. We remember what happened in 1977 when Jack Lynch got rid of rates.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It is Cork South-Central again.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senators cannot come in and be populist and expect no one to pay for anything. Something has to be paid to run the country.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden What about water charges?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We know what Fianna Fáil did with water charges. It also ran away from that. It has become the populist party. I know it is competing with Sinn Féin to be populist but-----

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Ah, Leader.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----there is only a certain amount of money the State can provide. To be fair, any sensible and thoughtful person would recognise that we need to have money coming into the coffers of the Exchequer to pay for the services, hospitals and gardaí that Senators come in here every day to speak about.  Let us be fair. Fianna Fáil cannot be all things to all people. Look where that got it in 2010. That is the bottom line.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Give me a violin.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Lawless made a good contribution regarding the amendment to the licensing of gaming legislation. We will have that discussion again, as this issue needs a great deal of debate. I hope that, through the Bill, we can get people's attention. This is a current topic. Whether in the form of loot boxes, online gambling or gaming arcades, it has become a blight on our society.

  On behalf of everyone in the House, I join Senator Black in paying tribute to the late Sally O'Neill, who was tragically killed in recent days, and in commending her on her work with Trócaire and the way in which she advocated for and promoted human rights and social justice around the world. We remember her and thank her for her service. We send our sympathies to her family.

  Senator Reilly referred to the new GP contract. The Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, was in Athlone with Senator McFadden. We all agree that it is through primary care that we will bring about a revolution in our healthcare system. I look forward to the debate on that matter in the coming weeks.

  I wonder whether Senator Norris received grants from the Irish Georgian Society or anyone else in order to renovate his house. He got great notoriety out of being on television and winning Ireland's best house or renovated house.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Home of the year.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We congratulate him on that.

  Senators Gallagher and Norris raised the important matter of school secretaries. The education committee is debating the issue today. Fórsa is running a good campaign on the role of school secretaries. A regularisation of their position is necessary. That some schools can do A, B and C while others can do X, Y and Z is anomalous and must change. The job of school secretary is one of the most important roles in any school community. In that context, we would support any change that betters the lives of school secretaries.

  Senator Gallagher also discussed domestic violence and the need for extra resources. As a more expeditious way of getting a reply, I suggest that he table a Commencement matter on the subject.

  Senator Horkan pointed to the need for a debate on illegal dumping. I would be happy to arrange that in the coming weeks. I agree that the suppliers of goods across the entire retail sector must reduce the amount of packaging of which people are obliged to dispose. I would be happy to have that debate as part of the ongoing discussion on waste and recycling.

  From my reading of the regulations on the supplementary electoral register to which Senator Leyden referred, this means a change. That is positive. It is important from all of our perspectives that people register and vote. As such, it is important that it be made easier for them to register. My interpretation of the regulations is similar to the Senator's in that people will be able to register online.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden It is a step in the right direction.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Yes. I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, in that regard.

  Senator Paddy Burke referred to Dublin Port Company's decision to reduce the number of cruise liners coming to Dublin. This is a regressive move and I ask the company to revisit its decision. The cruise liner industry is both lucrative and an important means of attracting people to Dublin, Cobh and, perhaps, Belfast. I hope that, following on from the contributions of the Senator and others in the House, this move will be revised by the company. It sends the wrong message and does not help to promote our tourism strategy, which is about attracting people to Ireland.

  In accordance with Senator Warfield's proposal and with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's permission, it would be appropriate for us to stand and remember the Rwandan people today.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan On that proposal, we will stand for a moment of silent reflection.

  Members rose.

  Order of Business agreed to.

Electoral (Supplement to the Register of Electors) Regulations 2019: Motion

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

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Electoral (Supplement to the Register of Electors) Regulations 2019,
a copy of which has been laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 27th March, 2019.

  Question put and agreed to.

Position of the UK and Ireland in Respect of Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: Referral to Joint Committee

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

That the proposals that Seanad Éireann approves:
(a) 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 accept the following measure, insofar as the measure relates to the operational management of Eurodac, as governed by Regulation (EU) No 603/2013, and the operational management of DubliNet, established by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1560/2003:
Regulation (EU) 2018/1726 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA), and amending Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 and Council Decision 2007/533/JHA and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011,
(b) the exercise by the State of the option or discretion, provided by Article 4 of Protocol No. 19 on the Schengen Acquis integrated into the Framework of the European Union annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to request to take part in the following measure to the extent that it relates to the operational management of the Visa Information System (VIS), the establishment, operation and use of which are governed by Council Decision 2004/512/EC, Regulation (EC) No 767/2008 and Council Decision 2008/633/JHA, the operational management of the Entry/Exit system (EES), established by Regulation (EU) 2017/2226, the operational management of the European Travel Information and Authorisation system (ETIAS) established by Regulation (EU) 2018/1241, and the operational management of the parts of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) governed by Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 in which Ireland does not participate:
Regulation (EU) 2018/1726 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA), and amending Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 and Council Decision 2007/533/JHA and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011,
copies of which were laid before Seanad Éireann on 22 November, 2018 be referred to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, in accordance with Standing Order 71(3)(k), which, not later than 11 April, 2019, 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.

Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 4

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, line 31, after “land” to insert the following:

"which can be of major benefit to a community, enhancement of a community, sporting projects or facilities, golf courses, sports fields, greenways, community gain or strategic infrastructural projects,".

I spoke on this section on Second Stage, as did a number of Senators, and I welcomed that the Minister has included in the Bill section 4(18)(A)(5)(b), which states, "notwithstanding section 18(3), where he or she is satisfied that land should cease to be designated as a natural heritage area, make an order to amend or revoke the natural heritage area order which so designated the land."  It did not go far enough so I tabled an amendment along with Senators Mulherin, O'Mahony and Ó Céidigh. The amendment reads:

In page 4, line 31, after “land” to insert the following: “which can be of major benefit to a community, enhancement of a community, sporting projects or facilities, golf courses, sports fields, greenways, community gain or strategic infrastructural projects,”.

The sports fields referred to could be those for Gaelic Athletic Association, GAA, games, soccer, rugby and also athletic tracks. In County Mayo, we have seen many objections to infrastructural projects and many other projects, which has held them up. I am sure the same is the case in counties Galway, Donegal, Kerry and many other places. It is not just because of natural heritage areas, NHAs. There are also other aspects involved. The delays, however, have cost taxpayers millions of euro. In the Ballina electoral area alone, millions of euro have been spent and nothing has been done because of objections. I am not saying any or all of those objections relate to natural heritage areas.

 I have proposed this amendment because we should put many things aside for the benefit of the community. The Minister should have the power, as stated in section 18A(5)(b), to take an area out of an NHA if it is an enhancement of or benefit to the community, or a benefit to an infrastructure project such as a major road scheme. I am supported by Senators Mulherin, O'Mahony and Ó Céidigh. I have no doubt the Minister is well aware of how community projects and various other projects can be held up because part of a project is in an NHA. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment. It would enhance the Bill and greatly strengthen the hand of the Minister regarding issues such as this.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I call Senator Paul Daly and then Senator Higgins.

Senator Paul Daly: Information on Paul Daly Zoom on Paul Daly I and my party support the amendment. I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Burke's statement. I have come across some instances where community projects on the outskirts of towns and villages include one little corner of a natural heritage area on the site map. The whole project is then thrown into jeopardy. Community projects developed in and around natural heritage areas will in many cases enhance them. Some projects may also be nature or biodiversity related and allowing them to be developed would enhance the natural heritage area. I support the amendment for those reasons.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I agree with Senator Burke on certain matters but I cannot support this amendment. There is already provision in the Bill for designation by the Minister. Environmental criteria can be considered in addition to national, regional, and local economic, social and cultural needs. That provision adequately allows for a balanced and appropriate consideration of economic, social and cultural needs. Where a strong community case can be made, it can already be made on the basis of the needs of an area.

  The wording of the amendment, “which can be of major benefit to a community, enhancement of a community, sporting projects or facilities, golf courses, sports fields, greenways, community gain or strategic infrastructural projects,” is a list of almost anything anyone might want to do with some land. The real concern here is that there is still a frame of mind that regards our bogs, not only raised bogs but also blanket bogs, as being somehow empty space.  Our bogs are doing work. They are already of major benefit to a community and, indeed, the wider community. In fact, it is those limited areas that do the work given that Ireland does not have national forestry in the same way as other areas and does not have some of the other environmental carbon sequestration reports. The bog network already holds up our environment and ecosystems. Our bogs do that work.

  I have a number of concerns about this amendment. I recognise that there are certain elements within this amendment that may well make a case for greenways. Let us consider the unfortunate loss of our railways such as the railway line from Galway to Clifden, which the Minister of State will be very familiar with, and the strong case that has been made for decades for the line to become a greenway. One of the things that greenways do is engage with the balance of the ecosystem and environment. Unfortunately, the greenways have been stuck right alongside golf courses, which have been recognised internationally as something that we simply cannot afford to continue in the same way. Ireland has many golf courses and some very famous people own golf courses in Ireland. We have a green environment and so forth, but golf courses have an environmental impact. Some that have already been established may be maintained but they need to be in balance.

  Bogland, particularly blanket bogland, is very saturated with water. The environmental impact required to turn waterlogged blanket bogland into a golf course is immense. It not only does damage in terms of carbon but it does damage in terms of water retention, the water table and the flood plain. There is also a huge issue with the amount of pesticides and water needed for golf courses. We have well-established golf courses where the work has already been done. I understand that they may wish to be maintained but we give them too much privilege. The Minister of State may recall or perhaps it was the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, that I raised concerns about retaining the lower and more preferential VAT rate for members of golf clubs. In fact, we raised the issue for a number of other areas, including community exhibitions and local art centres. There are questions about how preferential a tax treatment we need to give to golf courses. We certainly do not want a situation whereby a willingness to turn large tracts of land into a golf course is enough to justify dedesignation. Unfortunately, that would be the effect of putting this section here because it goes into a section that says "notwithstanding 18(3)". So, notwithstanding the other considerations and all of the work that we have done and discussed in terms of other areas, there are real questions here.

  I encourage the Minister of State not to accept the amendment because he can assure all in the House that in considering national, regional and local economic, social and cultural needs, he has enough room. What is important about where they are currently placed in the Bill is that they are required to be set against the environment considerations rather than be a stand-alone provision on their own. I encourage those who proposed the amendment to consider tabling separate amendments on some of the different activities because there is a big difference between a greenway and a sports field, and a sporting project in a general sense or a strategic infrastructural project.

  I am sure that the Minister of State will recall our discussion on blanket bogs. Perhaps we will have a chance to return to this matter again. He referenced the fact that it had already been discussed and debated on Committee Stage in the Dáil. Since our debate I checked to see exactly what was debated in the Dáil. What I found was that the case being made for many years for the dedesignation of blanket bogs was one where we have been trying to build a road through the heart of Connemara and designation has been a problem. I would ask the following when we say strategic infrastructural projects are enough of a reason to dedesignate a bog. Would a road through the heart of Connemara be considered a strategic infrastructural project that may benefit from this new loophole? I note that the Minister of State's colleague, the then Minister in charge of this area, Deputy Heather Humphreys, said that the Minster should not have "power to dedesignate an NHA without having carried out preparatory scientific analysis". We have discussed the fact that that has not been done yet and, indeed, that it would not send out a good signal for how we protect bogs and heritage areas.  It would not send out a good signal in how we protect bogs and heritage areas. There are not simply environmental issues in this. This is a matter of joined-up thinking. We know the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, is under review. We know Ireland will have to make its case under a new and stringent set of rules as to how we meet our targets and what will be ever more specific targets in respect of the CAP, greening and so forth. Much of this bogland does overlap, as was discussed the last day, with farmlands and lands owned by others who will be seeking subsidies under the CAP. For them with bogland that is protected and suitably cared for, it will strengthen their case, as well as the case for communities and for Ireland. On a pragmatic level, leaving aside the environmental benefits, there are significant economic benefits from our boglands.

  I urge the Minister of State not to accept this amendment. I know those putting it forward have done so in good faith. Will they consider breaking the amendment down into specific different areas to ensure we are not treating different matters the same way and recognising there is a difference? If this amendment is successful, I will be seeking to amend it on Report Stage.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Níl uaim ach dhá nó trí nóiméad. Sin an méid. Tugaim tacaíocht láidir don mholadh seo. I strongly support this amendment put forward by Senator Paddy Burke and supported by Fianna Fáil. It is a good amendment which takes the local community into account. Local communities in rural areas can often be forgotten. We have to think about the people who live there, their involvement and their engagement. The best environmentalists for an area are those who have lived in it for generations. We have to consider them as well. They are part of who we are and what we are about. I see several words written all over this amendment, namely, the common good of those who primarily live in a region.

  On another matter of driving roads through the heart of Connemara, I invite anybody to drive along the N59 all the way to Clifden. They should talk to the locals who have to live there and get tourists to and from the town. All they want are roads on which they can move a car from A to B. They just want roads a fraction of the quality of those in the east and other parts. They want to live a normal life as well as they can. For that, one needs to be able to tar roads and maintain them.

  This amendment would give greater clarity to the Minister of State and the Department in defining what is community and not. Dá bhrí sin, táim ag tabhairt tacaíochta dó.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan Like Senator Higgins, I oppose this amendment on the basis of the natural value of a bog in environmental, economic, regional and international terms. It is important for carbon storage and greenhouse gas mitigation.

  The community is more than just the people.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris There are the butterflies.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan It is about biodiversity and natural value. As Senator Ó Céidigh said, the people who live around the bogs recognise their value. Regarding suggestions of using bogs for golf courses, sporting fields or greenways, we have to take into account the greater community and the greater value in a cultural and environmental sense.

  The term “strategic infrastructural projects” is wide open. What does that mean? Will those behind the amendment take a look at it again and break it down into a proposal we could support? As it stands, it is wide open in terms of destruction of the habitat. A strategic infrastructural project could be an airport. It is too broad.

  This amendment is potentially negative on a range of levels. Accordingly, I will not support it. If it is accepted, I will also seek to amend it on Report Stage.

Senator Maura Hopkins: Information on Maura Hopkins Zoom on Maura Hopkins I support this amendment and the contributions made by Senators Paddy Burke, Paul Daly and Ó Céidigh. It is about achieving a balance. I live in a rural area and have spent many of my summers on the bog. I am familiar with the challenges of rural life. It is about ensuring we achieve the objective of preserving our bogs, as well as being proud of the flora, fauna and biodiversity we have. It is also about supporting people living in rural areas, however.

  Senator Grace O’Sullivan spoke about the definition of strategic infrastructural projects. We are proud of Ireland West Airport being built on a foggy, boggy hill. We saw 700,000 people going through that airport last year. We need to achieve a proper balance with regard to allowing communities to thrive, flourish, as well as supporting them. Alongside that, we need to support our biodiversity. Senator Ó Céidigh spoke about how people living in rural areas are the custodians of the land. We are proud of where we live and we want to ensure we maintain that heritage. We also need to make sure we support our local communities. As a young person, I want more young people and young families to return to rural areas. That means a level of investment and balance. I strongly support this amendment and hope the Minister of State will take it on board because it is necessary.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield Sinn Féin will not be supporting this amendment. What is already in the Bill is sufficient. It states that a review of natural heritage areas will have "regard to environmental criteria, restoration potential and national, regional and local economic, social and cultural needs".  That is sufficient. The amendment is well-intended but it is also problematic and too detailed. I agree that the community benefit of revocation should be weighed up, as should the environmental impact. A substantial removal of bogs would probably be needed for the construction of some of the projects detailed in the amendment, such as a golf course. It is too detailed. What is in the Bill is sufficient and I asked the Minister of State to not support this amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am opposed to this amendment. Before I am challenged, I come from generations of people from the heart of the bog. I used to spend my summer holidays on the bog and I loved it. I particularly enjoyed seeing the bog cotton and the little squishy watering holes in the bog. I can see the Minister of State smiling at my recollection and in recognition of the truth of what I am saying. To me, the bogs are an essential part of Ireland. We have these humorous phrases such as "bogman" and "bog trotters". I am proud to be a bogman and a bog trotter. This sounds a bit like the Trump effect in practice. The hairs on the back of my neck rise when I hear references to golf courses. Surely, we have enough of those already. If we do not stop building them, the whole island will be a golf course. They are everywhere. My colleague referred to the lack of preparatory scientific analysis. That is a fundamental point. I think it was Senator Higgins or another Senator who said it.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne It was Senator Grace O'Sullivan.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I apologise and I beg the Senator's pardon. I am very old, but not too old to run again for the Seanad. I was on the road from Galway to Clifden in 1967. I gave a big party in a big house in Connemara. It was wonderful. There was a tarred road then. I do not know what has happened to it now.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh I suggest that Senator Norris go back and make that journey again.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Is Senator Ó Céidigh stating that the road is not tarred now? Who did that? It was tarred in 1967.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Senator Ó Céidigh can come back in shortly, if he wishes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is grand. I cherish Senator Ó Céidigh very much. He is a good friend of mine. On this occasion, however, when he spoke of the common good, he was actually referring to the parochial good. The common good extends, in the Constitution, to the entire population of the island and does not cover just one small area. There is terrible potential here for local politics to get involved. I do not like that at all. I am frightfully ignorant and do not know what a greenway is.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins They are walking and cycling routes.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan The Waterford Greenway is a cycling and walking track.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I see.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan It is beautiful.

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

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan Senator Norris must come down and visit.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins There is also one in Mayo.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I ask that Senator Norris be allowed to speak without interruption by or commentary from others.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The bogs of Ireland have diminished significantly in my lifetime. I would hate to see them subjected to further unnecessary depredation. I agree my colleagues. I think it was Senator Warfield who stated this amendment needs to be further spelt out. I think perhaps it might actually have been Senator Grace O'Sullivan.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield Yes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I think all of us opposing the amendment agree that it is rather vague. I refer to phraseology such as "the community gains strategic infrastructure projects". There is already provision in section 18A(5) for the Minister to make an order to amend or revoke. I am not sure what this extra aspect involves. I would prefer to leave the Bill as it stands. I do not know if a vote will be called. I suppose it would be a fairly hopeless exercise except to raise a flag and show where we stand. If there is a division, I will certainly be voting against this amendment.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins In response to the point made by Senator Ó Céidigh, I have travelled on the road from Galway to Clifden hundreds of times.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Is it tarred?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Yes. I have gone past it on the Sky Road as well. Nobody is suggesting that we do not have roads in Connemara or that we do not have surfaces on roads.

  I will pick up on points that have been mentioned. I refer to claims that this amendment would add something to the Bill. It would not. It is subtracting from the Bill. The crucial issue is that what it proposes would be inserted after the phrase "notwithstanding section 18(3)". Section 18 sets out the rules by which a bog is designated. The purported purpose of this Bill is to set out the rules for designation and de-designation of natural heritage areas. The impact of what is proposed would be that the Bill would state that the Minister may, notwithstanding the reasons listed in section 18(3), namely, "environmental criteria, restoration potential and national, regional and local economic, social and cultural needs" de-designate on the basis of those reasons listed in the amendment, which does not contain any text in respect of the environment. With respect, Senator Hopkins, this is not about balance. This amendment would remove balance. It would literally remove the words "environmental criteria" from consideration in the context of a decision to de-designate in these circumstances. If this amendment was a supplement to section 18(3) rather than being a way to circumvent its provisions, I would have no problem supporting it. It would be the same if the amendment referred to national, regional and local community, economic, social and cultural needs. We could have a definition of "community" inserted after the phrase "national, regional and local". It is important to state that not accepting this amendment would not mean that it will be impossible to undertake projects relating to infrastructure or greenways. It means that when a decision is being made, it will be balanced against the environmental criteria.

  An example would be the western rail corridor. That project was on the cards for a long time. Unfortunately, the Government removed it from our national development strategy, even though we had potential for co-funding from Europe. If we had a western rail corridor that went through the bogs, it would be possible to make the case that it has social, community and regional benefits and connects places in the area. It would also contribute to carbon reduction and, therefore, balance the environmental criteria. That project would probably be successful under the criteria already contained in section 18(3). The position relating to greenways is similar. It would certainly be possible to have infrastructure. It is necessary to ensure, however, that the case for it is made and that the same balance outlined in the Bill is maintained.

  I do not like the way in which environmental criteria are defined. The Minister of State knows that and we will have a chance to debate the matter later. The important point, however, is that there was at least an acknowledgement of the environment. We are simply creating a loophole if we accept this amendment. Is a hotel with a golf course attached going to be considered a community benefit? Will the Minister of State or any of the proposers of the amendment guarantee that this will not lead to another set of hotels? We have seen the pressure on building and how the rules need to be relaxed even in the city of Dublin. What buildings were erected after those rules were changed, however? We have seen hotels. Community centres have been mentioned. I would love a strategy for community centres. I would support it and it would fulfil the criteria. The amendment before us would be wide open to misuse, however, and I will oppose it.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Does Senator Ó Céidigh want to come back in?

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Tá fíormheas agam ar an Seanadóir Higgins, mar atá a fhios aici, ach tá cúpla rud gur mhaith liom a rá. Ní thógfaidh mé ach cúpla nóiméad. Má táthar ag caint ar an N59. Labhróidh mé i mBéarla ar feadh tamaillín. Regarding the N59, I was responding to a reference about driving a road through the heart of Connemara.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I ask that all contributions be made through the Chair.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Tá brón orm.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Acting Chairman is very pernickety today.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Through the Chair.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I do not talk through the Chair, I talk through my hat.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh In responding to my esteemed colleague, Senator Norris, who in 1969 drove to-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It was 1967.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh Tá brón orm - 1967. I was there as well but I was not driving a car at that stage. As the Minister of State knows very well, there is a committee of local people who have been lobbying to improve and tarmacadam the road between Galway and Clifden to make it safer. That committee has been on the go for four of five years. All the people want is a proper road for their community. The amendment proposed by Senator Paddy Burke and others tries to create a balance and give greater opportunity and clarity for the Minister and his team in the Department to take decisive action. This is important. I trust the Minister of State and the Department to do this. This is what we do when we support or challenge the Government. It is not an individual thing, it is collective.

  Approximately two weeks ago, there was a programme on TG4 about Rosmuc. I do not know whether Senator Warfield saw it. The captain of the girls' football team teaches in Dublin and drives all the way to Rosmuc to train with the team of seven or eight girls. I played on that football pitch. It was a bog. If it had not been turned into a football pitch, we would not have the soul of that community.

  A point was made about hotels in Dublin. There are many more vacant houses in the middle of Mayo, Roscommon and Connemara than there are hotels. Nobody will build a hotel where it is not financially viable to do so. Certainly the hotels in the middle of Connemara, Mayo, Roscommon and the midlands are struggling to survive. The current tiger, whatever we call it, is fine for Dublin and those of us living here but it has not reached the parts of Ireland it needs to. The amendment is important to put the local community back in the centre. It is like the advertisement at Christmas about a dog being not just for Christmas. Connemara is not just for holidays. I ask everybody, and the Minister of State in particular, to support the amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris There is nothing to stop anybody tarmacing the Clifden road.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Senator Higgins said it all when she said that perhaps we should have the definition of a community included in the Bill. We all know what communities are. We do not have to have a definition of a community in the Bill. We know what our communities are about and what they are.

  With regard to infrastructural projects, Ballina is a town of more than 15,000 people and Castlebar has more than 15,000 people. They are 24 miles apart. They are linked by a national secondary route. The speed limit on that national secondary route is now down to 80 km an hour because a route over the River Moy cannot be found. A bridge cannot be built over the River Moy because of the freshwater pearl mussel and alluvial woodland. The taxpayers have spent millions on reports, routes, preferred routes and all types of routes. The taxpayers have paid millions because we cannot get a route for a bridge over the River Moy. The freshwater pearl mussel in my view, which is a common man's view, is as common as the mushroom. It is found in the area where the Minister of State lives on the route to Connemara and in the River Erris and River Moy, which is a long river. We can find them for sale on DoneDeal.ie. I found them for sale on that site.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What did the Senator find?

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Pearls. This has cost the taxpayer millions through holding up projects, not just a bridge over the River Moy and works on the road from Castlebar to Ballina but also in the area of the Minister of State extending from Galway to Connemara. As Senator Ó Céidigh has said, nobody will build a hotel or an airport for the sake of building it. As previous speakers said, the amendment addresses many areas, for example, it would allow a piece of ground to be removed from a national heritage area to allow a project, including an infrastructural project, of benefit to the community to proceed. This is all the amendment is about. I hope the Minister of State can see this and will accept it. It is not in the interest of any individual but in the national interest and the interest of the community.

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I thank all of the Senators for a very interesting debate on this topic. It is one that all councillors will appreciate and many of the issues raised will resonate with them. The primary purpose of any review of national heritage areas must be with regard to nature conservation, in terms of maintaining bog habitats at, or restoring bog habitats to, a favourable conservation status. The area of any new proposed national heritage area network should contribute to the national conservation objective target area of a bog within special areas of conservation and national heritage area networks. Additional bog habitat in the national heritage area network would make a contribution to the overall objectives of the habitats directive to maintain or restore the habitat to favourable conservation status.

  The Bill strikes a balance between the need to protect the environment, live up to our EU obligations and work with landowners and turf cutters on whose lives these obligations can have a very real impact. I must be conscious of the need to achieve this balance to maintain or restore a bog habitat to favourable conservation status and any national conservation objective target area for a bog habitat within the special areas of conservation and national heritage area networks. However, I understand the sentiments that have been expressed by Senators and the comments made by Senators Burke, Ó Céidigh, Daly and Hopkins on road projects. The N59 and the R336 have been debated in my county of Galway by the local authority for a long period of time. The community value that has been discussed is something I absolutely understand and it is fair to say there is need for a balance to be struck. I very much understand the sentiments expressed by Senators. Senator Norris is always welcome, as is any tourist, to Connemara. I will welcome him any time. It is an absolutely beautiful place.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke He has not been there since 1967.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I never said that. I most certainly have. I drove through it in a Triumph TR7 on a tarred road.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne The challenges with regard to upgrading some of the roads are what Senator Ó Céidigh meant in his commentary. We have seen this with regard to the N59 and the R336. Senator Mulherin also commented on this last week with regard to projects. We must always remember some of these projects are about the upgrade of roads to make them safer as much as they are to make them faster. This is always a balance that needs to be struck.

  With regard to the comments of Senator Higgins, I mentioned the criteria last week and I will read them into the record again. The principles and criteria in the Bill are to guide the Minister on conducting a review and making decisions, such as the carrying out of strategic environmental assessments, public consultations and linking the achievement of major conservational objectives for blanket bog habitats to the favourable conservation status of these habitats. Any of the designations we speak about would be in this vein also. Subsection 3(b)(ii) of the proposed section 18A might be a more relevant section to insert the amendment.

  I believe a majority in the House will accept the amendment based on what I have heard. The amendment as proposed is too broadly based, particularly with regard to what strategic infrastructural projects mean.  It would need to be refined on Report Stage. If there is a majority in the House to support it, I could offer engagement with officials with a view to possibly inserting it in a different section, which may lessen the concerns of Senator Higgins. The amendment would need refinement before Report Stage, in consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, with a view to narrowing its scope and focus. There are a lot of issues involved. The issue of golf courses was brought up a good number of times. I am not sure whether Members are referring to planned courses, new courses, expansions, or established courses. Greenways are hugely popular among those who support them but some landowners have a different view. I agree with the overall thrust of the amendment. As I have said, if there is a majority to support it I will offer engagement with officials on whether it could be included on Report Stage, perhaps under the new section 18A(3)(b)(ii) of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Will the Minister of State include Senators Grace O'Sullivan and Higgins in those discussions?

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne Absolutely.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Very good. I thank the Minister of State.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke In view of what the Minister of State has said, I could withdraw the amendment. However, this amendment is to the benefit of the community. We have seen the community losing out time after time, particularly in the west and in rural areas. This amendment was designed to address much of that. If this amendment can be accommodated in a different section, I will withdraw it until Report Stage, provided we are not taking Report Stage today.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan We are not. I am not sure we will even conclude Committee Stage today.

   Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris May I ask a technical question? If I had objected to the amendment being withdrawn, what would have happened? I do not want to; I am just curious.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke We would have voted and the Senator would have been on his own.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I would have been on my own but there would have been a vote.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke Zoom on Paddy Burke Yes.

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

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Amendments No. 9 to 16, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 10 is consequential on No. 9. Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, are consequential on No. 11. Amendments No. 9 to 16, inclusive, may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins They are slightly different.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan It has been agreed that we will discuss amendments Nos. 9 to 16, inclusive, together.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 9:

In page 4, line 39, to delete “and” and substitute the following:
“(b) place an advertisement in at least one national newspaper to inform the public of the making of the order, and”.

I know we are speaking on the amendments together but I have the amendments divided into groups so I will speak to amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together. Amendment No. 9 again relates to the conversation we have been having about community. We all have a sense of what a community is but we need to be clear on certain things such as the phrase "the common good". As Senator Norris pointed out quite eloquently, the common good is mentioned in our Constitution and is recognised as being for the benefit of all those who live within the State. Amendment No. 9 seeks to build on the provision whereby the Minister, when he or she has made an order to de-designate lands as a natural heritage area, will "place an advertisement in at least one newspaper circulating in the locality in which the land to which the order applies is situate to inform the public of the making of the order". My amendment simply provides that he or she will also place an advertisement in a national newspaper to inform the public of the making of the order. Such orders are not only a matter for those whose lands adjoin the natural heritage area, NHA. They affect all of us. They affect our environment. Many will have strong relationships and opinions on this issue. The obligation to place an advertisement in respect of the de-designation of an NHA in a national newspaper - which again is a decision the Minister makes on behalf of the nation - is in line with the constitutional point made in respect of the common good. It is a reasonable proposal.

  In amendment No. 11 I suggest that in addition to sharing a copy of the order with the various bodies mentioned in the Bill - the planning authorities, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and so forth - a copy also be shared with the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I do not believe anybody would object to that committee having the opportunity to examine this issue. I reserve the right to suggest a copy also be shared with other committees, given that new committees have emerged since I tabled these amendments. It is important that cross-party committees are aware of such orders and have the opportunity to discuss them if they so choose. I also suggest that, in addition to a copy of the order being sent to these bodies directly, a copy should be published online. Perhaps the Minister of State has suggestions as to the appropriate place to publish such orders online. Out of duty to the general public, they should be available online.

  In amendment No. 10 I suggest that a copy of the amendment be sent to-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The amendment proposes to delete "(b) cause".

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Yes, it proposes "to delete “(b) cause” and substitute “(c) cause”." because I have proposed a new section 18A(6)(b). As the Acting Chairman mentioned, it is a consequential amendment. It is really a drafting amendment. Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, are all effectively drafting amendments. I do not know if we needed to submit them to be honest.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan They are all also consequential on amendment No. 11.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins They are all consequential amendments. I was wondering where this list of amendments came from. I can probably thank the expert drafters, who are precise about the inclusion of details. Given that they are consequential amendments, I do not believe there is any need for me to speak to them.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I agree with Senator Higgins on the placing of the advertisement. It is not enough to put such an advertisement in the local newspaper only. I am a big fan of local newspapers. I was at the Laois Association lunch with the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, on Sunday and I was delighted to hear that the Leinster Express is still going. Local newspapers are very important. That association lunch reminded me of how many people from Laois are living in Dublin. It is exactly the same case for every small village, townland and town around the countryside. A large number of people would be affected by these orders in one way or another, even at one remove, although they do not live in the local area anymore but rather live in the capital city or in other cities. They should be considered and have the right to a say.

  With the greatest regret, I also have to support the business of publishing orders online. I hate online services. I have never switched a computer on or off and I never intend to. I propose to go my grave as a computer virgin. I find increasingly that even the ordering of airline tickets has to be done online. It is ghastly, but it is a fact and one has to face it. I face it by putting my secretary on the front line and getting her to do these nasty things which I do not want to do myself. I believe that one can even watch this House online. How one can watch something online is completely and utterly beyond me, but then I come from a different age. I was alive and sensible in the late 1940s. In those days, as I said to the taxi man who brought me here today, a taxi was a horse and cab. We have gone from that to gates opening automatically because there is a twiddly thing in the car. Taxis are told where to go via satellites miles up in the sky.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I am not sure how relevant the Senator's contribution is to amendments Nos. 9 to 16, inclusive. It is very entertaining so I am indulging him somewhat.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank the Acting Chairman but that is the end of it. If I am entertaining him, I have to stop.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan If that is the answer, I must use that line more often.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It might not always work.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I support Senator Higgins's amendments. The peatlands and bogs of Ireland are of consideration beyond Ireland. People in the Netherlands are very interested in the state of Irish boglands. Peatlands make up approximately 3% of the earth's land area.  They contain 33% of the world's soil carbon so they are of international importance. The national newspapers are a good way to advertise and draw attention to anything that may happen to the bogs. Young people are interested in the issue of the bogs in terms of their carbon sequestration potential and we should look to other ways of raising awareness around the issue of our boglands. Social media is a fairly easy way to advertise and reach large numbers. As we know, the Taoiseach uses social media all of the time. He uses it very effectively to get his message out. One could also look across the water to America and another politician who uses social media very effectively. We have to use whatever means are available to us to build awareness. Good old-fashioned radio is also a good way-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The wireless.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan Yes. The wireless is a good way to advertise. The boglands are not just of importance to communities in rural Ireland, in Connemara in particular. They are of importance to the people of Waterford, my local area and also of international importance.

  We do not have a definition of the term "community" here. For me, it refers not only to rural communities but also to urban communities in our cities as well as to the community of plants and animals that live in and on our bogs. A definition of community in Ireland would serve a real purpose because we have no such definition. In our last discussion, we talked about infrastructure and strategic infrastructure development but that could be anything.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I doubt that we will get a definition of community that includes plants.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan We need to think about-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Maybe we should have one-----

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan In the context of climate change we need to think in terms of ecological systems. We know about ecological impacts and the decline in biodiversity. The communities of biodiversity in our bogs must be taken into account in the future. We need to change our thinking around ecosystems, of which we humans are part. We are part of the community but we need to think big when it comes to climate change. The bogs are important here in Ireland. Our blanket and raised bogs are of national, regional and global importance as well as being of real importance to the people of Connemara.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I agree with the Senators that when an order has been made to amend or revoke an NHA order, there should be widespread dissemination of the making of that order. Following comments made by Senators on Second Stage, I instructed the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to draft an amendment to the Bill proposing that an advertisement be placed in national newspapers to inform the public of the making of the NHA order. Therefore, while I will not accept these amendments now, I intend to bring forward amendments on Report Stage, following consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, which will take the Senators' amendments into account. The office will now be requested to include dissemination to an Oireachtas committee and online, as well as via national newspapers. In that context, I ask the Senators to withdraw their amendments and I will ensure that amendments will be brought on Report Stage to cover the areas outlined.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I ask the Minister of State to clarify the issue with regard to the committees.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The Minister of State mentioned the committees and said he would cover that.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Is he referring to one specific committee or a number of committees? I also ask him to clarify his intentions in respect of online communications.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I am talking about dissemination to the Oireachtas Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, through online platforms and national newspapers. I will bring forward amendments on Report Stage to provide for same.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Perhaps we could engage on this before Report Stage because there may be other committees that are relevant here. This was brought to my attention after I submitted my amendments. We may be able to liaise on this just to ensure that our amendments do not overlap.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan How stands amendment No. 9?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Given that the Minister of State is inclined to accept or work with the amendment, I am happy to withdraw it.

   Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

   Amendment No. 10 not moved.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 11:

In page 5, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
“(vi) the Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Amendments Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, not moved.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 16:

In page 5, line 13, to delete “Agency.” and substitute the following:
“Agency,

and

(d) publish it online.”.

I look forward to engaging with the Minister in respect of the issues raised in the previous group of amendments.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 are related and may be discussed together.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I move amendment No. 17:

In page 5, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:
(8) Where an area ceases to be designated as a natural heritage area under subsection (3)(b)(ii), without prejudice to turbary rights for household use, commercial harvesting shall not be permitted.”.

  These amendments relate to the core of the debate that we had previously.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Why are there two amendments dealing with the same issue?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins They are slightly different. In amendment No. 17 we are suggesting, where land is de-designated and is no longer an NHA, that without prejudice to turbary rights for household use, commercial harvesting should not be permitted. I have been very clear that I support turbary rights but there are intergenerational justice issues involved here, not simply in terms of climate change and the damage we have done to the planet, the consequences of which young people will have to live with. Even within turbary rights and within families, there are intergenerational justice issues. Turbary rights are deep and historical and like seaweed harvesting rights are traditional rights associated with household use. We are talking about the cutting of turf for household use, to which I am not opposed. Turbary rights are important which is why these amendments seek to protect them. However, there is a problem in that we do not have a definition of household use. The intergenerational justice issues are not simply around climate change, carbon emissions or the injustice that has brought young people onto the streets in Ireland and around the world. The equivalent of what five generations would have cut in the past is being cut by one generation through the use of industrial machinery. We are seeing the cutting of turf on a scale that is purely commercial. We need to find a balance in terms of protecting turbary rights for future generations. That does not mean a blank cheque or a blank slate that tells people they can do as they wish.

  We passed a Bill on fossil fuel divestment in these Houses and we know that we are coming to the end of the fossil fuel era. Why, in that context, would we continue to encourage and open up new areas for commercial turf cutting? My fear is that we are entering a period where we have a "last orders" mindset, where people try to commercially cut as much as they possibly can in the time remaining.  That is why my preference is that, after areas are de-designated as natural heritage areas, turbary rights continue and are protected but commercial harvesting of turf is not allowed.

  I have a strong preference for amendment No. 17, which calls for a complete end to commercial turf cutting in natural heritage areas after they are de-designated. However, the intent behind amendment No. 18 is even harder to disagree with. The amendment states that commercial harvesting shall not be permitted beyond 2030, which is the target date by which Bord na Móna has committed semi-State and State bodies to ending commercial harvesting of peat and ceasing its use as a fuel. It is very reasonable to ask that the same standard apply in respect of these privately-owned lands which are going to be de-designated. If the plan is for the State to move out of this area after 2030, that is too far away. I would prefer it to be 2025 because 2030 is the year when scientists tell us it will be too late to stop extracting. The 11 or 12 years we have left on climate change are not years in which to get around to changing what we do. They are the years in which we need to repair the damage that has been done if we are going to save our planet. It is a minimum standard that privately-owned bogs are not cut commercially when the State stops commercially cutting for fuel in 2030.

  Amendment No. 17 strikes a better balance because it respects turbary rights. If amendment No. 17 is accepted, grandchildren may be able to get turbary rights on the de-designated bogs and keep the connection with the land. That means not giving it all away in one go and managing it responsibly. I ask the Minister of State to indicate if he is open to accepting either amendment No. 17 or amendment No. 18.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I support these amendments. Like Senator Higgins, my preference is for amendment No. 17. The commercial burning of turf for the generation of electricity is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions so it is not to be recommended. Just because it is turf does not mean it is clean. Speaking as an Irishman from a bog, I am very glad that this amendment respects turbary rights. My grandfather and all his ancestors had turbary rights and used them. In the 1950s, I remember going down to Laois and there was a particular point on the Limerick Road where one would start to get the smell of turf, which gave me to start thinking I was nearly home. I love the smell of turf. There is something quite characteristic about it and I have an enormous wicker basket full of hand-cut turf in my house at the moment. My principle suppliers are Deputy Timmy Dooley and the Earl and Countess of Rosse, who all seem to have their own bogs.

  I am very grateful to Senator Higgins for stating that turbary rights should continue and I think this is an excellent amendment. I am not crazy about amendment No. 18 because 2030 is far too far away. I support amendment No. 17 and am interested to hear the Minister's response.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne It is proposed that when a national heritage area is de-designated, domestic turf cutting may continue on the site, while larger-scale or commercial turf cutting will continue to be regulated through other systems such as the planning system or integrated pollution control licensing by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. In that regard the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has made supplementary regulations to provide that large-scale peat extraction, which involves an area of 30 ha or more, will be an activity controlled by licensing by the EPA. The regulations came into force on 25 January 2019.

  The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has also recently advised that the development of a new regulatory framework for smaller-scale peat extraction, that is, in respect of areas below 30 ha, will be initiated and progressed. Planning permission is generally considered to be required under the Planning and Development Acts for developments such as domestic turf cutting in a new or extended area of 10 ha or more where the drainage of the bogland commenced on or after 21 January 2002. Planning regulations state that peat extraction is generally considered an exempted development only where it is in a new or extended area of less than 10 ha or, where it is in an area of 10 ha or more, the drainage of the bogland commenced prior to the coming into force of the relevant planning and development regulations.

  Large-scale peat extraction does not fall under this Bill but is regulated by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government or the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It would not be appropriate, therefore, to regulate commercial turf cutting by means of this Bill. I will not support the Senator's amendments but I understand from where they are coming.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins When we discussed this previously, the Minister acknowledged that many areas tended to be large contiguous territory, which is one of the advantages of the newly designated areas, but many of the areas to be de-designated are, in fact, small. I know many people with less than 10 ha, although that does not mean there is no commercial usage. Another approach might be to outlaw certain kinds of machinery. I will not suggest people go back to using the slean to cut turf but sausage machines are used in small areas and move from area to area and such machinery may be rented for a period. The Minister of State has indicated that areas of 5 ha, 6 ha or 7 ha may be the ones to be de-designated but if they become a patchwork of areas for harvesting, there is a problem. These are key questions and the Minister of State needs to have the information about these areas if he is giving himself the power to make decisions about de-designation while balancing community, social, environmental and cultural factors. We discussed the scientific information he will need but he also needs regulatory information. The environmental impact of de-designation is different as between one which comes under a regulatory framework and one which does not. The regulatory framework matters, as we discussed in the context of the pollinator plan.

  The Minister of State said a regulatory framework was being developed but I am sure he will see that there is an area of concern with that so we need a lot more clarity about what the framework will look like. The Minister of State may be able to achieve the goals without using such a bald term as "commercial turf harvesting", for example, by indicating what forms of harvesting are appropriate. This comes back to the question of turbary rights and what we define as household use, recognising that households are different. It is not simply a free-form interpretation. When we de-designate a bog under 10 ha and state that it is no longer a natural heritage area, it should not fall into being an area of unregulated usage. There needs to be some kind of bar set.  I will retable the amendments on Report Stage.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

An Bille um an Ochtú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Scaoileadh ar Phósadh) 2016: An Dara Céim

Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016: Second Stage

  Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."

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

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I note that Senator Ruane and I are the only ones in the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Minister for Justice and Equality is in the House.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Minister is not a Member of the House. We need a quorum, even if it is only a miserable six.

  Notice taken that six Members were not present; House counted and six Members being present,

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Bill, whose Short Title was changed from the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016, will be debated in conjunction with No. 73, motion re statement for information of voters in relation to the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016. The motion will not be moved until Fifth Stage has been concluded.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Bill, whose Title was previously the Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Divorce) Bill 2016, is a Private Members’ Bill which was introduced by my colleague, the now Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, in 2016. As initiated, the Bill proposed to amend Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution to reduce the time period that spouses applying for a divorce must have lived apart from at least four years during the previous five years to at least two years during the previous three years.

  As Senators will be aware, under Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution, as amended by the 15th amendment in 1995, a court may grant a divorce only where specific conditions have been met. The first condition is that on the date of institution of the divorce proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from each other for a total of at least four years during the previous five years. The second condition is that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation between the spouses. The third condition is that proper provision exists or will be made for the spouses and any children of either or both of them. The final condition is that any further conditions prescribed by law are complied with.

  We must remember that in 1995, we were moving from a situation where the Constitution provided clearly that no law could be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of marriage to one in which divorce was to become possible for the first time, but subject to very specific conditions which were set out in the new provision inserted by the 15th amendment. The purpose of the mandatory period of living apart was to ensure that divorce would not be available on an easy or casual basis, to address concerns about what were described as "quickie divorces" and the development of what was described as a divorce culture in Ireland. The four-year period was intended to ensure that spouses would not enter into divorce lightly and would have the necessary time to reflect on the serious step they were undertaking. It was also considered that it would encourage spouses to attempt to reach agreement on the terms of their separation in a way that would ensure that when the divorce application came before a court, many of the key elements relating to children, finance and property might already have been settled between the spouses and a form of agreement reached. The four-year period of living apart can be accumulated over a five-year period, the reason for which is to allow a couple to make a reasonable attempt at reconciliation in the knowledge that if it does not work out, they will not have lost their option to make an application for divorce.

  The Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996, which followed the 15th amendment to the Constitution, made provision for the exercise by the courts of the jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution to grant decrees of divorce and enabled the courts to make certain preliminary and ancillary orders in or after proceedings for divorce. It is now 23 years, however, since divorce was introduced in Ireland and the four-year minimum living apart period is now perceived to be unnecessarily restrictive and to hinder couples who have separated from regularising their legal positions and, in many respects, moving on with their lives. Ireland has one of the lowest divorce rates in Europe and that is to be welcomed.  Sadly, however, some marriages break down irreconcilably, causing immense sadness and stress for everybody concerned. It is my desire, and the Government wishes to ensure, that the process for obtaining a divorce is fair, dignified and humane and allows for both parties to move forward with their lives within a reasonable timeframe. The Government has taken the opportunity, presented by this Private Member's Bill to re-examine the provisions of Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution and consider the question of the scope of the constitutional amendment that might be proposed. I acknowledge the work of my colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, in this regard. Following analysis, legal advice and consultation with all sides in the Oireachtas, the Government considers that removing the living-apart period from the Constitution so that it could be dealt with in ordinary legislation by the Oireachtas would be a more appropriate means to address the complex area that is involved here.

  The Government is proposing an amendment to the Constitution to remove the four-year minimum living apart period from Article 41.3.2°. It is also proposing an amendment to replace the text of Article 41.3.3°, which deals with the recognition of foreign divorces with a new provision. The Bill was amended on Report Stage in the Dáil to provide for these amendments. It is the intention of the Government, subject to the passage of the Bill by the Dáil and Seanad, to hold a referendum on divorce alongside the votes for the European and local elections on Friday, 24 May 2019. It is with that in mind that I ask for the co-operation of the House at least in debating the issue. I assure Senators that I would be very happy to debate the issues, but if we are going to have quorums called on the whim of an individual Senator, then it is likely to frustrate the debate. I ask for the co-operation and understanding of all Senators in that regard, although I am not holding my breath.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris There is no need for that. The Minister is completely wrong. However, I will reply to him in my contribution.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Do I have the protection of the Chair? Is the Chair going to allow the Senator -----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Am I going to have the protection of the Chair from unprovoked attacks by the Minister?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When the Senator's turn comes, he will. The Minister without interruption please. I ask for an orderly debate.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It is the intention of the Government, subject to the wishes of the Seanad, to hold a referendum on divorce alongside the casting of votes for the European and local elections on Friday, 24 May 2019. In that regard I ask for the co-operation of the Seanad to ensure that the deadline can be met.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The Minister will get it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Of course, he will.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have not got it so far.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Minister has got it. I indicated that I am not opposed to the Bill; in fact I will speak in favour of it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Minister without interruption please.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan On 26 February, my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, made an order under the Referendum Act 1998 to establish an independent statutory referendum commission for the purpose of the referendum of divorce. In accordance with the 1998 Act, the Chief Justice has nominated Ms Justice Tara Burns to act as chairperson to the commission. I believe it is important to have broad consensus in the Oireachtas for any proposal that will be put to the people. Having engaged in consultations with parties and political groupings on options for the scope of the constitutional amendment that might be proposed, I would like to acknowledge the broad cross-party support in the Oireachtas for the proposed changes. In this regard, I acknowledge the constructive approach of the Fianna Fail, Labour and Sinn Féin parties and I would hope that during this debate we might be in a position to allay any fears, queries or observations that some of the Independent grouping might have.

  Section 1 makes provision for amendments to Article 41 of the Constitution. Paragraphs (a) and (b) propose the repeal of paragraph i of Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution. Paragraphs (c) (d) and (e) provide for the consequential renumbering of the remaining paragraphs of Article 41.3.2o. The effect of the amendment would be that the Constitution would no longer provide for a minimum living apart period for spouses who wish to apply for a divorce but that such a period could be defined in law by the Oireachtas. Removing the time period from the Constitution would give the Oireachtas a greater element of flexibility to legislate to ease the burden on people who have experienced the tragedy of a marriage breakdown and wish to begin again. As it stands the long period of living apart required under the Constitution frequently leads to couples seeking a judicial separation prior to obtaining a divorce with attendant legal costs, additional upset, stress and worry.

  Should the referendum be passed, it is the intention of the Government to deal with the living apart period by way of ordinary legislation. In this regard the Government will bring forward a Bill to amend section 5(1)(a) of the Family Law Divorce Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in that Act to two years during the previous three years. Senators will be aware that I published the draft general scheme of a Bill to provide for this. This reduction of the time would enable couples whose marriages have broken down with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation to regularise their affairs sooner. A shorter living apart period would also have the potential to reduce the legal costs involved as couples would be less likely to need to apply for a judicial separation or make a formal separation agreement, while waiting to become eligible to apply for a divorce.

  Over time we have learned that complex questions of social policy are best dealt with through detailed legislation in the Oireachtas rather than in our Constitution. The fundamental principles and protections concerning divorce will not change and the Government is not proposing any changes to the other provisions in Article 41.3 of the Constitution. I note that Senator Ruane is smiling and I note her concern in this regard. We will have an opportunity to debate it. I do not disagree with much of what the Senator has said outside the House, but I am keen to try to achieve consensus on the question that might be put to the people with a view to gaining the approval of the people. The requirement that there be no prospect of reconciliation, therefore, will remain in the Constitution. The requirement that proper provision exists or will be made for spouses and children will continue in the constitutional framework but also remain the case that only a court of law will be in a position to grant a divorce. The Law Reform Commission, LRC, has included in its fifth programme of law reform an examination of the proper provision requirement for divorce. It has indicated that it will consider to what extent any further guidance may be provided to ensure a consistency in the approach taken to the exercise of this judicial discretion, in particular to assist spouses to reach settlements and resolve disputes more efficiently and at a lower financial cost.

  Turning now to paragraphs (f) and (g) of section 1 and the Schedule to the Bill, what is proposed is an effort to modernise the provision on recognition of foreign divorces in Article 41.3.3° of the Constitution. The Government is proposing that Article 41.3.3° be replaced with a more modern readily understandable provision, which clearly provides that the Oireachtas may legislate for the recognition of foreign divorces granted under the civil law of another State. The proposed new text will do no more than to set out in express terms what the courts have found to be the present state of the law. However, to ascertain the present state of the law, it is necessary to examine the case law on the interpretation of Article 41.3.3°. The constitutional position regarding the recognition of foreign divorces should be clear from a reading of Article 41 of the Constitution. Currently, different rules apply to the recognition of foreign divorces, depending on whether for example they are granted within the European Union or outside the EU. The Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986 governs the recognition of a divorce granted in a country outside of the European Union. This 1986 Act provides that a foreign divorce which would be granted after the Act came into operation may only be recognised in Ireland if it was granted in a country where either spouse was domiciled on the date upon which the divorce proceedings were instituted. In this regard, it is important to note that recognition of foreign divorces granted prior to the commencement of the 1986 Act is governed by common law domicile rules, which are now consistent with those in the 1986 Act. The determination of domicile, includes an assessment of the person's intention to remain indefinitely in the foreign jurisdiction.  This has proved complex to determine over the years in some instant cases. By contrast, a test of habitual residence, which may be considered less complex and more clear, generally applies across the European Union. EU Council Regulation 2201/03, known as Brussels IIA regulation, governs the recognition of divorces obtained in another EU member state. Habitual residence is the key governing criterion for recognition of such a divorce. In this regard, I advise the House that the Law Reform Commission, LRC, has proposed to examine the legal issues relating to the recognition of foreign divorces as part of its new fifth programme of law reform after the referendum. I intend to legislate to introduce greater consistency in the recognition of foreign divorces and will be guided by the expert report of the LRC in developing proposals for legislation in this area.

  The language of Article 41.3.3° which deals with the recognition of foreign divorces is consistent with a time in our history when divorce was expressly prohibited under our Constitution. The referendum in May, if we manage to reach that deadline, is an opportune moment to modernise this provision.

  Section 2 provides for the title of the proposed amendment of the Constitution and the Short Title of the Bill. This section was amended on Report Stage in the Dáil in order to change the Short Title of the Bill to the, "the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill". If passed by the people in the referendum, the amendment will be known as the thirty-eighth amendment of the Constitution. These changes take account of the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2018 and the Thirty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Repeal of Offensive Publication or Utterance of Blasphemous Material) Act 2018, which were approved by the people in referendums since this Bill was first introduced. The purpose of the change in the Title of the Bill, to use the phrase "dissolution of marriage" rather than "divorce", is to better reflect the wording of Article 41 of the Constitution.

  The aim of the amendments proposed in this Bill is to decrease the burdens on people whose marriages have, sadly, broken down. Ultimately, if the Bill is passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, the people will have their say by way of referendum. I know the Irish people are very compassionate and will show empathy and understanding to those who find themselves in the desperately sad situation of a marriage broken down and with no prospect of reconciliation. I, therefore, commend the Bill to the House.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I thank the Minister for being here this afternoon. I give support to Senator Norris because I do not think it was out of an intention to delay the Bill that he called for a quorum but rather, because of the respect he has for the importance of the Bill, he felt people should be here to engage in the debate.

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

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I do not agree.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It does not matter.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Senator Norris has form.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I welcome the Bill and the fact that a referendum will soon be put to the people on whether to remove the constitutional restrictions on how long a couple must be separated before they can legally be granted a divorce. This will be the third time the electorate will be asked a question on divorce and, hopefully, the last. It is sometimes a sad thing and sometimes a joyous thing when a marriage breaks down and a divorce is required but the State needs to facilitate an accessible route to dissolution of marriage where it is needed. The civil aspects of a marriage are a significant legal and binding contract and people need to be able to enter and leave these contracts to ensure the emotional and familial stress and burden that the breakdown of a marriage can have on individuals and those close to them is eased and that the State is not unnecessarily adding to the distress of our citizens.

  I welcome that the decision of Government was made to further liberalise the provisions of the Private Members' Bill introduced by the now Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, when she was a backbencher. It is right to take cumbersome, detailed and technical provisions out of the Constitution so that we in the Oireachtas can do our jobs and legislate for these complex issues. It is important that we do not have to go back to the people for another referendum any time a change needs to be made and so such changes can be dealt with in the much more flexible legislative process. It was the right decision so I thank the Minister for advocating for this change.

  It is welcome that this Bill recognises that the Constitution is not the right place where complex issues of family law are set out and regulated. Constitutional provisions are supposed to set broad principles that give us the environment within which the Oireachtas can write and pass laws. As we saw with our recent experience with the eighth amendment, ambiguous language can have wide-ranging and unintended consequences and make it very difficult for the Judiciary to interpret it fairly and for the Oireachtas to legislate as it needs to. I mention all this because, while I welcome the proposal to repeal paragraph (1) of Article 41.3.2°, I am concerned that the rest of the article is being left untouched. The Minister is aware of the remaining provisions in paragraph (2), which refers to a grant of divorce when "there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation between the spouses" and paragraph (3), which refers to "such provision as the court considers proper, having regard to the circumstances exists or will be made for the spouses, and children or either or both of them, and any other person prescribed by law". Essentially those provisions require that a judge must be satisfied that the couple are not going to reconcile and that proper financial provision has been made for spouses, dependants and children before he or she will be granted a divorce. This is a high legal bar to meet and, while I am not making a judgment on their merits, I am raising my concern that they will remain in the Constitution.

  In a column for thejournal.ie in February this year, assistant professor of law at Trinity College, Dr. David Kenny, raised significant concerns with the decision to limit this referendum to just the issue of time limits and I thank him for engaging with my office on this issue last week. He wrote that the requirement for proper provision means that, where possible, assets will be divided so that spouses and children can continue to enjoy the lifestyles they had during the period of marriage and that it will always be possible to revisit this at a later date. This means that, long after a marriage has ended, a judge may still inquire into the finances of former spouses and keep proposing new divisions of assets. This effectively means that, even after a divorce in Ireland, there could be no clean break. I am again not making a judgment on the merits of the provision at this stage because I have not been able to do enough of my own research and I am just querying whether this complex provision should remain in the Constitution or whether it should be dealt with in legislation.

  Dr. Kenny then refers the "no prospect of reconciliation" provision and how, because the time limit has always been there, the time requirement has essentially done that job for the judge concerned because to live apart for so long can be, and in most circumstances is, determined as proof in and of itself of the unlikelihood of reconciliation. However, once the time limit is presumably removed, a judge may feel he or she needs to inquire into the reconciliation prospects more actively and vigorously. Perhaps judges will need more detail on the reason for the breakdown of the marriage and the circumstances thereof, greatly increasing the distress of the individuals involved but also moving us to a new situation wherein, although Ireland currently has a system of no-fault divorce whereby one does not need a specific reason to get a divorce, this could change in the future.

  I am not making a judgment on the merits of these provisions at this stage. I am just asking the question as to whether they should remain in the Constitution or whether they should be taken out and dealt with in legislation. Did the Minister consider these issues when drafting the constitutional amendment? I know he referred to his own agreement, in a sense, in his contribution. What were the results of those discussions? These are complex provisions that impact on the intimate relationships of people living in Ireland and I am not convinced that those provisions should remain as they are. It would be a real shame if we missed an opportunity here to deal with this issue conclusively and had to come back for a fourth divorce referendum. I raise these issues with the hope of being constructive. I am, unfortunately, not able to stay until the end of the debate but I will read the Minister's response and may debate the matter further with him on the next Stage on Thursday.

Senator Ian Marshall: Information on Ian Marshall Zoom on Ian Marshall Changes in the rules relating to divorce are afoot in England and Wales so this debate is timely. This morning's headlines were about reform to end the blame game between couples who are divorcing in Britain. It is currently the case that fault-based divorces, where there are allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, take as little as three to six months to be completed. However, no-fault divorces can take much longer because couples have to prove they are living apart for at least one year in Scotland and two years in England, though certainly not the four-year term currently required in Ireland. The point is to change the rules so that couples will only have to state that marriage has broken down irretrievably. Furthermore, the rule change will prevent one partner refusing a divorce if the other one wants it although currently in England such a situation only affects 2% to 3% of divorcees.  Most of these changes are aimed at reducing stress and acrimony and allowing a time of reflection. It is proposed to provide for a period of six months from petition stage to decree absolute.

  A key concern of the proposed changes is the protection of children by reducing ongoing conflict between partners. Finding fault, apportioning blame and having to prove a separation of two or five years were not seen as helpful. Furthermore, the justice system first and foremost attempts to resolve issues in a non-confrontational way. It is with this in mind that I support the Government's proposed amendments to the Constitution, especially as they are based on there being no reasonable prospect of reconciliation between the spouses. Having considered all circumstances, including children and others under any other conditions proscribed in law or complied with, anyone dealing with divorces will testify that no one enters into divorce proceedings lightly and very few come through them unscathed. The amendments are reasonable and do not in any way undermine or devalue the sanctity of marriage. They merely move with the times by ensuring the Constitution is completely fit for purpose.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I had noted in my diary that the debate would start at 6.15 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. I apologise to the Minister if I was the reason a quorum was called.

  This legislation is extremely important. It is appropriate that I pay tribute to our colleague the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Josepha Madigan, who proved, as have others, that if one brings a Private Members' Bill before the Houses, it may potentially become law and be put to the people. The Minister introduced this Bill because in her previous profession she had mediated in scenarios involving marriage conflict many times and this informed her view that the requirement that couples have lived apart for four years was not appropriate and a two-year period was more appropriate. Much credit is due to her for putting that issue on the political and Government agenda. The proposed referendum is welcome.

  The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, has demonstrated time and again that he is a reforming Minister. This is just one of a suite of measures that he has brought forward to modernise our legal system. This Bill is not as contentious as the one that will be before the House for several hours tomorrow.

  The proposed referendum should go ahead because people need to have their say. I welcome the broad support for the Bill in the House, with a small number of exceptions, and I look forward to debating issues of concern on Committee Stage on Thursday. Hopefully, by the end of the week, the Houses will have passed this important legislation to facilitate Irish people in making the final decision, which is one of the great elements of our democracy.

  I wish the Minister well and sincerely hope that Second Stage will pass comfortably this evening, as I expect it will. I look forward to further debate on Thursday.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Sinn Féin supports the passage of this Bill and the referendum being put to the people of the State. We welcome the Bill and the referendum more broadly to reduce the waiting period that a separated couple must undergo before a couple may be granted a divorce. We recognise, as we did during the original divorce referendum in 1995, the reality that some marriages break down over time and the sad fact that this breakdown is sometimes irreparable. There are also other reasons. Article 41.3.2°, as it currently stands, is very restrictive and is not fair to those who seek to divorce. It creates even more hardship and difficulty in what can be an already difficult experience. The experience of the eighth amendment illustrates that it is unwise to specify complex social policies in the Constitution and that these matters should be governed by ordinary primary legislation passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. We will give this Bill consideration in due course and we may seek to amend it as it progresses. However, I will not put the cart before the horse. I am willing to see the outcome of the referendum, which I hope will pass with a substantial majority.

  There is a distinction to be drawn between contested and uncontested divorce. In uncontested cases, the requirement for a long separation period is likely to be unnecessary. However, where one spouse opposes the application, it is common practice in other common law jurisdictions that a period of separation would be considered proof that the marriage has broken down irreparably. The Minister informed my colleague, Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, that this would not be an issue but I remain unconvinced about this. If a referendum were to pass and a two-year waiting period were introduced, it strikes me that it will be arduous for a couple, for instance, in a case where the relationship is still amicable, if, after agreeing to file for a divorce and go their separate ways after six months, they would be required to wait a further 18 months to seek a formal separation. I am not stating that the two-year waiting period should be disregarded but, rather, I would like to open a discussion on whether it is necessary in the first place.

  As I stated, we will examine the legislation carefully and the possibility distinguishing in legislation between uncontested and contested cases in the hope that any legislation would be cognisant of both types of cases and would not treat them as being the same. In those circumstances, the commitment and love between two people required to sustain a marriage is no longer present. It is simply inhumane to require these persons to continue to be bound by a legal partnership that both want to leave. The electorate agreed with this view and passed the divorce referendum in 1995. The Constitution's outright ban between 1937 and 1995 did not serve society well. It did not serve those who were legally trapped in marriages which they did not want to be part of either.

  We recall the strong resistance to the proposed divorce referendum by some organisations which insisted that the introduction of divorce in Ireland would open the floodgates to marital breakdown. This has clearly not happened. There were already thousands of separated persons in this jurisdiction before divorce was introduced. The current waiting period is not acceptable. No one seriously considers that it should take grown adults four years to decide whether they want to divorce. What is the point in forcing people to wait a long time before they can divorce, especially when many of them form relationships and have children with others in the intervening years? We need to trust adults to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and relationships. On that basis, Sinn Féin is happy to support the Bill and will support the referendum in May.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I thank the Minister for bringing forward this proposed amendment to the Constitution. It is a change which is required. I will raise some points for consideration based on my experience of dealing with the family law courts. Some people have used the courts system to delay the process of separation and divorce. For instance, I am aware of one case which has been ongoing for 18 years. The initial matter was one of judicial separation. The response of the other party was to apply for an annulment and constantly move legal offices. The party then applied to the court on the basis that they were entitled to qualify for legal aid. The case was dealt with in the Circuit Court and was subject to judicial review in the Circuit Court. An appeal to the High Court was lost and it then went to the Supreme Court. There is now a third judicial review. The courts must have a mechanism to deal with this. It is unfair to the party on the other side and to the court system that a case can take such a long time when it is clear that a marriage has broken down and the parties want to go their separate ways.  In the case to which I refer, there is no finality 18 years later. I note that this legislation deals with a different issue, but I ask the Minister to look at the kind of complications I am talking about, namely, how the court system can be used in the wrong way and a person can benefit from that. That matter needs to be looked at, in particular in regard to judicial review and the situation whereby an initial application is made by one party and the other party then applies for an annulment. It is an issue about which I am very concerned. There is much undue delay in family law as a result of the process not being tied down.

  Obviously, the right way, and the advice I would give to anyone who comes to me and says his or her marriage has broken down and he or she wants a separation or a divorce, is to go into mediation and try to come to a compromise and reach agreement. There are only two beneficiaries in judicial separation or divorce proceedings in the courts and those are the lawyers on both sides. I openly give that advice to people, but some people prefer to go down the road of court proceedings and that process needs to be tightened up. In reviewing this whole issue, the State solicitor's office, the Department and the Office of the Attorney General should look at the issues I have raised because they are of serious concern to me and it is important that the current situation not be allowed to continue. I welcome the proposal brought forward by the Minister and I hope that the electorate will vote for the required change.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister to the House. I believe that my colleague and friend, Senator Norris, called a quorum in order to ensure that there was a sufficient number of Senators present for this important Bill. I am grateful to him for doing so because it enabled me to get here in time for the start of the debate.

  On behalf of the Labour Party, I am delighted to welcome this important Bill and the practical and compassionate reform of the Constitution it proposes. Like other Senators, I acknowledge the work of the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, in highlighting the need for this reform and taking the initiative on it. As Senators are aware, the amendment proposed in the Bill would, if passed, delete the first paragraph of the current text of Article 41.3.2° of the Constitution and the requirement that spouses must have lived apart for at least four out of the previous five years before seeking a divorce. Like Senator Ruane, I was struck by the argument of my colleague, Dr. David Kenny. Perhaps we ought to be bolder in seeking to amend the Constitution. It might have been preferable - I will not put it any more strongly than that at present - to have simply put forward an amendment in line with that on the eighth amendment last year which would enable the Oireachtas to make provision for dissolution of marriage without specifying particular aspects. I make that point somewhat tentatively because I very much support the current text of paragraph (iii) of the article, which requires that the court ensure that proper provision is made for spouses and children. That is an important text. Nevertheless, we should be able to provide in law for clean-break divorces, whether through legislation and the current text of the Constitution or through amending the Constitution. That need is increasingly pressing. I listened to the comments of Senator Colm Burke about delay of the court processes and so on. We should be able to provide for that issue.

  I will return to the issue of the time limit and how we might amend that legislation. I am grateful that the Minister published the scheme of the Bill. It is very useful that he did so and it is important that people would know the consequences of a "Yes" vote. If the amendment passes on 24 May, we will have time to debate that Bill further. I and others may propose different time limits, possibly based on the time limits used in other European countries. For example, in some jurisdictions there may be a one-year limit proposed or, indeed, no waiting period or a six-month period where there is mutual consent. We could look at mechanisms other than the two out of the three previous years formula currently proposed in the scheme of the Bill.

  On the referendum, I wish to address the track record of the Labour Party in driving social change on marriage. As Members are aware, the 1986 referendum driven by the Labour Party in coalition government with Fine Gael was lost in spite of the "Yes" side having an initial lead in the polls. Of course, retrospectively it seems that the referendum was lost largely due to fears about property division and adequate provision for dependent spouses. Following that defeat, the Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act 1989 dealt with some of the issues around property division and provision for spouses and children.

  The second divorce referendum, held on 24 November 1995, was another intensely fought campaign. The Minister may have been less than bold in the proposal for the amendment because these referendum campaigns can be difficult and highly contested. Along with my colleagues in the Labour Party, I took an active role in the 1995 referendum. Of course, it was driven by the then Minister and member of the Labour Party, Mervyn Taylor, as well as activists in the Divorce Action Group and the Right to Remarry campaign which rightly focused on the need to ensure that people whose marriages had already broken down would be able to get a second chance, regularise their new relationships and provide adequately for any children of a successive relationship. Despite this very compassionate and persuasive message based on humanity, the fifteenth amendment of the Constitution was only very narrowly passed by 50.28% of the electorate, a figure etched in the memories of all those who campaigned at the time. There was a margin of only 9,114 votes, which is sometimes attributed to heavy rain in the west of Ireland on the day the referendum took place. I jest. It was an extremely tight margin. Of course, fears were stoked during the campaign by dire warnings from the "No" side that marital breakdown rates would escalate, dreadful slogans such as "Hello Divorce ... Bye Bye Daddy" and posters bearing messages such as "Divorce aborts marriage". I recently looked back at some of those dreadful slogans. Those fears and messages obviously contributed to the low margin of success in 1995 in spite of the fact that we had, of course, been making very strong arguments that legalising divorce simply recognised a reality and did not condone or encourage marital breakdown in any way.

  Once the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 was put in place, many of us were concerned about the highly restrictive language in the Constitution which restricted the nature of the legislation. However, we acknowledged that the Act allows for no-fault divorce and that is welcome because other systems which earlier introduced divorce earlier based their laws on fault-based grounds. It is positive that Ireland did not so do. As many commentators and experts have pointed out, a fault-based system tends to place more strain on families in the event of break-up. Indeed, in spite of the dire predictions, our divorce rate has remained low since divorce was legalised, with a crude divorce rate of 0.7% compared with a European average of 1.9% when measured as divorce rates per 1,000 persons. Not only have marriage rates in Ireland remained strong, the number of those who can marry was expanded following the very welcome result in the 2015 referendum on marriage equality. The dire predictions did not come to pass.

  There has been significant case law in the application of the Divorce Act, with clear rulings on the need to ensure that proper provision is made for dependent spouses and children and liberal interpretations of the term "living apart" to ensure that persons are not required to live in separate premises or households once they are effectively living apart, even if that is under the same roof. In spite of that liberal interpretation, commentators such as Carol Coulter and others have pointed out that the mandatory four-year period continues to present serious and unnecessary obstacles to couples whose marriages have broken down, that this period is one of the longest provided for in any jurisdiction and that it has forced many couples into a cumbersome two-stream legal procedures whereby they must seek a judicial separation in order to regularise their situation in an existing marital breakdown while waiting for the requisite four years to pass in order to be able to seek a divorce.

  For those practical reasons as well as the reasons of compassion and humanity that applied in earlier referendums, this is a very important referendum and I will be campaigning for a "Yes" vote on 24 May along with my Labour Party colleagues, in keeping with our tradition of supporting important liberal social reforms. I welcome that the Minister has appointed Ms Justice Tara Burns to the commission and that the referendum date is set.

  On marriage reform, I am very proud of two enacted reforms to marriage law which I was involved in initiating. One is the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2012 which enabled the conduct of legal secular wedding ceremonies by humanist celebrants. It has contributed greatly to the happiness of many couples and started life as a Private Member's Bill I brought forward in the Seanad.  The second reform was the passage just last year of section 45 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018, which put an end to child marriage. This had originally been initiated as a motion in the Seanad by Jillian van Turnhout and me.

  Perhaps bolder reforms could be made but I very much welcome this reform as it is. I hope further amendments will be tabled to make more expansive reforms to Article 41, and in particular to delete the sexist language referring only to women and mothers as having duties in the home and to expand the definition of "family" beyond that based on marriage.

  Those comments aside, I believe we need to pass this important amendment to respect the privacy of couples and to show the compassion that couples facing the trauma of marital breakdown so clearly deserve and require.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris This is a very serious matter. We are talking about amending the Constitution, under which we all live. I intend to be of assistance, as far as I can be, to the Government in passing this speedily. I welcome the Bill and I will do everything I can to help it through. I was shocked to find that only two Members were present for this discussion of this amendment to the Constitution. Both of those Members came from the University of Dublin. There was not a single Member of either the Government or the Opposition here today. I find that shocking and regard it as a form of parliamentary dereliction. As a parliamentarian, I am greatly offended by this. Taking this into account, I believe the Minister's attacks on me, during the ringing of the quorum bell and subsequently on the record, were ignorant, ill-tempered and unjustified. I will leave it at that but those are my feelings.

  The whole question of divorce was a contentious matter when it was introduced first in the 1920s and it occasioned one of the great speeches by another University of Dublin Senator - the late W. B. Yeats. I certainly support the idea of divorce. It does not mean I have any less respect for the institution of marriage. I do not see why it should not be easy to get a divorce. Why should we have the granny State interfering all the time? I would like the whole question of divorce removed entirely from the Constitution and dealt with only by legislation. That has been the position of the Anglican Church, to which I belong, for many years.

  I welcome the Bill. It is a partial resolution of the situation. I will support it. I hope this will be of some comfort to the Minister who has so seriously misinterpreted me here today.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank those Senators who made constructive comments on the Bill. I acknowledge the support for the Government's referendum proposal. I particularly acknowledge the comments of Senators Ruane and Bacik on the issue of proper provision. We will have an opportunity on Committee Stage to debate these issues in more detail.

  On the Second Stage and Committee Stage debates in the Dáil it was clear that many Deputies favoured retaining the proper provision requirement. This was also reflected in the outcome of a former consultation I undertook with Members of the Oireachtas and party groupings.

  I omitted to check the Official Report so I say without 100% certainty - but I will check the Official Report between now and the completion of the debate - that I recall I said in the Dáil I do not believe that any referendum was ever carried in the State that was supported solely by the major Government party. Perhaps Senator Bacik will assist in this.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I saw the Minister's comment on the record in the Dáil. I believe he is correct.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan We require a level of consensus here. I am keen to acknowledge the supporting comments of representatives of other parties and groupings. If we achieve consensus, then we can go forward to request the views of the people with an element of confidence that was not always evident in the context of referendum campaigns.

  On the proper provision requirement being retained in the Constitution, I remind Senators that the LRC has included in its fifth programme of law reform an examination of the proper provision requirement for divorce and recognition of foreign divorces. The outcome of this examination will inform future proposals. I am not sure it would be prudent to propose an amendment to the proper provision requirement in advance of that examination by the LRC. In response to Senators Ruane and Bacik, it is my considered view at this stage that the remaining provisions in the Constitution are there for a very good reason, namely, the matter of the court order, the fact that an order will only be granted on the basis of there being no prospect of reconciliation and that proper provision be made for spouse and children.

  At the heart of the proposal by Government is a desire to ease the burden on people whose marriages have broken down. Senator Bacik is correct when she says that Ireland has a very low divorce rate, which is very welcome as a fact. The Constitution's current requirement means that couples frequently go through the process of separation agreement or judicial separation before they can make an application for a divorce.

  I was struck by Senator Colm Burke's comments on the matter of delay. He did not mean me to respond by way of comment on any individual case but I hope the issue he raised specifically could be addressed by the courts. These issues have been before the courts for many years. It would be unwise of me as the Minister to make a comment either way on the performance of the courts on issues that might be, or perhaps still are, before them. Perhaps there may be another avenue down which the Senator might traverse to seek a resolution.

  I thank Senator Marshall for his comments and support. He used the word "reasonable" a number of times in his comments, and that was entirely appropriate. We want to act in a reasonable manner with this Bill. I also acknowledge the support of Senator Ó Donnghaile and his party.

  I look forward to debating the matters further. I thank the Senators for their contributions. Subject to the order of the House, we may have an opportunity to discuss matters on Committee Stage later this week.

  Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

  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 Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Next Thursday.

  Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 11 April 2019.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

  The Seanad adjourned at 7 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 April 2019.


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