Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item Hospital Facilities
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Missing Persons
 Header Item Messages from Dáil
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Report of Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills: Motion
 Header Item Address to Seanad Éireann by Ms Deirdre Hargey, Lord Mayor of Belfast
 Header Item Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 261 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 2 Next Page Last Page

Chuaigh an Leas-Chathaoirleach i gceannas ar 10:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

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

The need for the Minister for Health to make a statement on the decision of the Health Service Executive, HSE, not to develop a new X-ray facility to support the expanded emergency department at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth.

  I have also received notice from Senator Jerry Buttimer of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to outline the steps the Government is taking in response to recent developments regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, LGBT, community in Tanzania.

  I have also received notice from Senator Martin Conway of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to conduct a national audit of unidentified remains to establish the numbers involved and to provide additional resources to the DNA profiling programme.

  I regard the matters raised by the Senators as suitable for discussion and they will be taken now.

Commencement Matters

Hospital Facilities

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash The capital programme for health projects, approved by the previous Government, included provision for a badly needed extension to the emergency department at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, my local hospital. The hospital has been synonymous with serious overcrowding. This project, worth more than €20 million, was a welcome addition to the health infrastructure in the area and was welcomed by the hard-working staff at the hospital and by the patients.

  The project involves a four storey extension, 9,000 m2 which included the addition of additional theatre space, and of 83 inpatient beds. Nowhere in the country is this facility more needed. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is the de facto regional hospital and serves a rapidly growing area, Louth, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Fingal. The emergency department, ED, needs all the facilities, equipment and staff that a modern department needs to allow it function to the maximum. One such critical facility is an X-ray room. I was alarmed to learn this week that the plans to include a new X-ray facility at the expanded ED have been ditched in what appears to be a cost-cutting exercise. To add insult to injury, this appears to have been a unilateral decision that was taken without any consultation whatsoever with front-line staff at the hospital.

  The new section opened this week but the bird is in effect flying on one wing. The space is there and the full expectation was that the new X-ray room would be provided but it was pulled at the 11th hour. Now we have a spanking new emergency department extension in Drogheda but no additional X-ray room. The existing X-ray room processes 53,000 images annually. Patient figures for throughput at the new emergency department extension would suggest that there would be an annual increase of 5% in patients going through that facility year on year for the foreseeable future. The existing room is operating above capacity. EDs of a similar scale in Limerick and Cork deal with 49,000 and 42,000 images, respectively, annually. The figures speak for themselves.

  The Lourdes needs a second X-ray room in ED. It is not too late in the building project to revisit this and for the sake of the €1 million that I understand it would cost, the new room needs to be built now. If it is not, the good work done by staff and management at the hospital in recent years to address the overcrowding problems will be compromised. Patients will suffer as, to paraphrase the Taoiseach, a hospital cannot function at full whack if it does not have the full diagnostic capacity to move people through the system efficiently and get them well as quickly as possible. The space is there and it will be impossible to retrofit a new X-ray room into the ED building. This has to be reviewed. It is a short-sighted decision to pull this project now, a decision made by the bean counters in the HSE and it must be reversed.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon On behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, I thank the Senator for raising this issue and for the opportunity to provide an update to the House on the planned new X-ray facility to support the expanded ED at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. As the Senator is aware, the new emergency department is a part of the major capital infrastructure project that is taking place at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, which includes additional beds, theatres as well as the expanded ED. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform governs the processes surrounding the development of healthcare projects by way of guidelines, principally the public spending code. Further rigour is demanded by, and set out in, relevant EU directives. All proposed projects must be submitted to the HSE's capital and property steering committee for approval and prioritisation prior to inclusion in its multi-annual capital plans.

  The national development plan, announced earlier this year as part of the Project Ireland 2040 policy initiative, provides €10.9 billion for health capital developments throughout the country, including national programmes and individual projects, across acute, primary and social care. Health capital projects and programmes currently under way will continue. With regard to progress on this project, the Minister has been advised by the HSE that the new emergency department, which will be located on the ground floor of the hospital, will be completed and available to open in early 2019.  The HSE has further advised that some work is still to be completed in the old emergency department to allow for the installation of a new paediatric emergency department and an extension to radiology services. The HSE anticipates that the full extension will be ready in early 2019. The Department, the HSE, the RCSI hospital group and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital are supportive of this project. It is recognised that this capital development is needed in order that the delivery of key services to patients served by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and the surrounding areas can be supported.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I hope that health service staff in Drogheda and elsewhere in the north east, particularly staff across all disciplines at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, will be reassured by what the Minister of State said. The additional X-ray room is critically important if the full diagnostic capacity of the hospital is to work. We have additional new beds. As I said in my opening remarks, if a new X-ray facility is not provided, the hard work that is done by staff day in, day out to address the trolley crisis and the overcrowding in the emergency department will come to naught. It will be difficult to move people through the hospital efficiently and efficaciously in the absence of a new X-ray room.

  I am somewhat reassured by what the Minister of State said, having been alarmed to hear earlier this week that the estates section of the HSE appeared to have decided to pull this project. I will hold the Government and the HSE to account to make sure the commitment the Minister of State appeared to make when he said "that the full extension [to radiology services] will be ready in early 2019" will be delivered on. When he refers to a full extension, I hope he means the inclusion of the X-ray department. My understanding is that the new emergency department block at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital became operational earlier this week. However, we are still waiting for a new X-ray room. I have referred to the number of images managed at the small X-ray room in the existing emergency department. That needs to be enhanced to allow the hospital to meet its commitments and targets. As already stated, the level of throughput at the emergency department is expected to increase by 5% per annum in the coming years. The emergency department at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital cannot fly on one wing. This additional X-ray room is needed to enable the hospital to meet its targets and fulfil its obligations to the people of counties Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan and north County Dublin.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon The development that is under way at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda is taking place in the context of the national development plan, under which capital funding for our health services will be 165% higher over the next ten years than it was in the last ten years. Such a commitment to capital investment in our health services marks a serious sea change. As I have outlined, the development of a new emergency department at the hospital includes a new paediatric emergency department and an extension to the radiology service. Both of those developments are at a very advanced stage and will become operational early next year.

Human Rights

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise the deterioration of the human rights of the LGBT community in Tanzania. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon. I think we will all agree it is absolutely appalling and shocking that LGBT people are being targeted and arrested in contravention of many international human rights agreements to which Tanzania has signed up. It is important to put this in context. A special task force has been convened to round up members of the LGBT community. LGBT people in Tanzania are facing increasing threats. Members of the LGBT community have been arrested, targeted, harassed and charged with unrelated offences. Since 2015, under the regime of President Magufuli, there has been a deterioration in human rights and the rule of law in Tanzania. I put it to the Minister of State that it is a disgrace that this is being allowed to happen. It is a contravention of justice. I am calling on our Government to intervene at every level to protest the establishment of a task force under the remit of the governor of Dar es Salaam. The Tanzanian Government has said that it is his opinion, but having an opinion does not give a person the right to have a 17-member or ten-member task force. It is wrong to call for the outing and arrest of LGBT people.

  I know that Mr. Paul Sherlock is a very proactive ambassador in the region. I am aware that Tanzania is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa. I welcome the EU's decision to recall its ambassador to Tanzania. I am pleased that the EU is considering a review of its relationship with Tanzania. I do not necessarily think that recalling ambassadors is always the right thing to do, but on this occasion there would be merit in our Government intervening to make its case and state its position. I appreciate that the Tánaiste has written to the Tanzanian Government, but our approach must be about more than writing a letter. We must bring people with us.

  I am glad the Minister of State is here. I know he is very proactive. It is worrying that the governor is looking for reports of gay people. This is not just about gay people, it is also about people who work in HIV clinics and non-governmental organisations to promote human rights. The overarching strategy that is emanating from Tanzania seems to involve violating privacy rights in a way that infringes on basic human rights. We have international agreements which must be upheld. I thank the Minister of State for being here. I look forward to his reply.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I thank the Senator for raising this important issue and giving me the opportunity to report on the steps the Government has taken and will continue to take to assist the LGBTI community in Tanzania. Ireland's support for the LGBTI community is clearly situated within a human rights framework. No one should be stigmatised or persecuted on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ireland engages with other countries at the UN Human Rights Committee to promote human rights for all. We specifically promote further support for the principle that sexual orientation should not be grounds for discrimination.

  I learned with dismay last week that the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam had called on the public to identify members of the LGBTI community to his office, thereby feeding prejudice against members of that community. It appears that there have been some submissions to his office. It has been reported that activists and members of the LGBTI community have gone into hiding across Tanzania. As the Senator will be aware, the Tanzanian statute books continue to have laws from the colonial era which can lead to homosexual acts being punished with terms of imprisonment of up to 30 years. When the Tánaiste learned of these developments, he immediately wrote to his counterpart, the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mahiga, to express his deep concern at the regional commissioner's statements. The Tánaiste asked Mr. Mahiga and the Tanzanian Government to disown the statements and to bring such provocative action to an end. Last Sunday, which was two days later, Mr. Mahiga spoke on behalf of the Tanzanian Government to distance himself from the regional commissioner's views. He characterised the regional commissioner's views as personal and not reflective of the position of the Tanzanian Government. He reaffirmed the Tanzanian Government's commitment to upholding its international human rights commitments. In light of Mr. Mahiga’s statement, it seems likely that current tensions will abate.

  The Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam, which works with other EU member state embassies in the city, will continue to actively monitor the situation in Dar es Salaam and more widely across Tanzania. We will continue to engage directly with Tanzanian Government and civil society on the issue of human rights protections for vulnerable groups, specifically with regard to members of the LGBTI community.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the Minister of State. He will agree that the words of the Tanzanian Government provide little comfort. There is real fear and anxiety among people who want to avoid arrests and forms of discrimination that have no place in any society. The President of Tanzania has form in this area. The Tanzanian Government continues to have the punishment of homosexual acts on its statute books. We are trying to bring a cultural change in this regard to the continent of Africa, parts of eastern Europe and other parts of the world.  It is important to recognise that the Minister of State and the Tánaiste are supportive and I welcome their interventions. The President of Tanzania has form in this respect. The deputy health Minister defended a threat to publish a list of gay people by saying: "Give me their names". All of us who live in a free society recognise that has no place and no part to play.

  Mr. Makonda, a staunch ally of the president, said he expected international criticism for the move, but added: "I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God." The God whom I believe in is a God of justice, mercy and love who loves us all unconditionally. We must make every effort and take every opportunity at international level to call out this disgraceful behaviour.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I thank the Senator for his comments. The Government places the protection of human rights at the centre of our foreign policy. It pervades everything that we do in that area. Officials in my Department will continue to closely monitor the situation in Tanzania and across east Africa where we have increasing concerns about the number of restrictions being placed on free speech, freedom of association, the preservation of a free press and the infringement of human rights. That tightening of civil society space is of concern to us all. We will continue to work closely with the partners in civil society, including in-country partners, to support efforts to protect and promote rights and ensure that the voices of those who are vulnerable are heard and amplified. This is a sensitive area of engagement and it requires a long-term commitment to support partners operating on the front line or protecting and promoting human rights in what can be difficult environments.

Missing Persons

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It is great to have the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, back in the House. Some Members may be aware that in recent weeks the remains of two people who had been missing for a significant period were identified. The process of reuniting them with their loved ones and giving them a dignified burial will happen, if it has not happened. It is a wonderful end to a tragedy that these families will be able to give their loved ones, who were missing for decades, a Christian and respectful burial. It closes a chapter that had dominated their lives for decades. This has happened as a result of the development of DNA profiling and technologies in that area. Such development is ongoing. As a result of recent DNA developments, it has been possible to identify the two remains and return them to their families.

  As part of that process, it has come to my attention through the media and from watching people like Barry Cummins, who have done phenomenal work in raising these issues and keeping them in the media spotlight, that an audit has not been done of unidentified remains in this country. There are unmarked graves and unidentified remains in morgues and in other areas of this country. I call for an audit of all the unidentified remains and, also, the provision of a budget to further enable DNA profiling to see if more of these missing persons cases can be resolved.

  Like other Members, I attended the National Missing Persons Day commemorative ceremony in Farmleigh House a few years ago. In all I have done in public life it was probably one of the most moving ceremonies I have ever been at. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, was Chair of the Oireachtas committee on justice at the time, and he and I travelled to it. It was an incredibly moving occasion. Deputy Frances Fitzgerald was the Minister for Justice and Equality at the time and Nóirín O'Sullivan was the Garda Commissioner, and they both attended. Families shared their stories of what they were going through on a daily basis in dealing with the fact that there was no closure for them. The format of what happens at one of these missing persons days is that if it is the 10th, 20th, 30th or, in some cases, the 40th anniversary of a missing person, the stories and experiences of those families are shared. It is an opportunity for all those families to come together and share their experiences and stories. People even travel from England and the United States for that day.

  I request the Minister of State, in the first instance, to ensure an audit is carried out of all the unidentified remains that exist in this State and, second, to increase the funding to carry out the critical DNA profiling given that the technologies and the methodologies have advanced so much. If it brings closure to one family, it would be wonderful. I contend that with the advancement in the profiling that has taken place it will bring closure to many families.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I thank the Senator for raising this issue. I am responding on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who, unfortunately, cannot be present today.

  It is distressing when the remains of deceased persons are sometimes discovered on land often because of some construction activity or washed up on our riverbanks or coasts. I assure the Senator that the concerned State authorities make every effort to identify such persons by whatever means possible.

  Unidentified remains are the subject of both a Garda investigation, assisted by the relevant State technical authorities and by the relevant coroner for the district where the remains are discovered. These investigations continue for as long as the possibility of a positive identification, by whatever means, remains possible. The Minister is informed that there are few cases at this point where remains cannot be identified within a foreseeable timeframe.

  The Senator suggested the need to conduct a national audit of unidentified human remains to establish the numbers involved. The Minister is unclear as to the purpose of such an audit. The primary investigating authorities will hold either the remains, or more often, relevant samples for scientific testing. Forensic Science Ireland, FSI, is the State’s forensic analysis service and works in close partnership with An Garda Síochána in the investigation of crime and presentation of evidence at criminal trials.

  The DNA database commenced operation in November 2015 and its implementation is one of the most important crime fighting tools introduced within the State in recent times. Using the database, information is supplied to the Garda about links between people and unsolved crimes. These crimes have ranged from burglary and criminal damage to crimes against the person, sexual assault and suspicious deaths.

  The power of the database as an investigative tool is that it is providing the Garda with investigative leads in previously unsolved serious crimes. The database can replace more traditional and time-consuming police investigative methods and provide more focus to a criminal investigation. The DNA database currently contains more than 21,000 profiles and this figure growing all the time.

  The Minister also notes the recent successes by FSI in identifying unknown remains, to which the Senator referred. These successful outcomes can finally bring some closure to the families and relations of these missing persons. These successes were possible due to advances in DNA technology. The DNA database can retain samples from relatives of missing persons and use these samples to aid in the identification of unknown remains.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The reason I tabled this matter is that when Barry Cummins revealed the good news that two families had received on "Prime Time" last Thursday night, he raised the issue of the necessity to carry out a national audit of unidentified remains. I thought that it made sense. I will do more research on it. I welcome the Government's commitment in terms of its attempts to bring closure for families in these awful, tragic situations. I thank the Minister of State for his reply and we will develop the story as we go along.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I thank the Senator for his further comments and for sharing his concerns, which we all share, that families at some point in the future may find it difficult to determine where exactly their missing loved ones have gone. I have endeavoured to set out as best I can the response of the Minister. I assure the Senator that his Department will continue to support FSI in this important work and that FSI has received increased funding in the area of DNA profiling for 2019, which is something to which he referred. In addition, FSI will continue to work closely with An Garda Síochána and the National Missing Persons Bureau in their ongoing investigations of missing persons for the purpose of identifying unknown human remains.

  11 o’clock

Messages from Dáil

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Dáil Éireann has agreed to the amendments made by Seanad Éireann to the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill 2018. Dáil Éireann has passed the Children's Health Bill 2018, with amendment. Dáil Éireann has passed the Home Building Finance Ireland Bill 2018 to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired.

  Sitting suspended at 11.01 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. 1, motion re report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills entitled, Report on tackling obesity and the promotion of healthy eating in schools, to be taken on the conclusion of the Order of Business, without debate; No. 2, address to Seanad Éireann by Ms Deirdre Hargey, Lord Mayor of Belfast, to be taken at 12.45 p.m.; and No. 3, Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 2.15 p.m. or on the conclusion of No. 2, whichever is the later and to be adjourned at 9 p.m., if not previously concluded. The House will suspend at 6 p.m. for a period of 45 minutes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hold on. I am sorry but I do not like this at all.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am sorry Senator Norris but-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris This is a very unusual situation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris, you will be allowed to respond-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We have a situation now where the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, is directing the business of Seanad Éireann.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator, you will be called on in due course.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I think this is an absolute disgrace, to have someone who is not a Member of this House dictating the business-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator, with respect, you are totally out of order.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris -----of the House to us. This is something that must be opposed in the strongest fashion.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan As father of the House, you should know better. Please resume your seat.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is a violation of democracy.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call the leader of Fianna Fáil in the House.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I will come back on this one, I can assure the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I agree with Senator Norris on the matter to which he referred.

  I wish to raise a very serious matter referred to by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly in the High Court, namely, the retention and recruitment of doctors in our hospitals. He said that the standard of doctors being recruited to hospitals in Ireland is particularly low and the case before him, whereby a doctor was struck off the register, was not an isolated incident. Clearly, this is a very serious patient safety issue. The judge said that he was going to refer the matter to the Minister for Health and the HSE. We cannot have a situation where doctors recruited have inadequate skills and experience and are let loose on the public. It is simply criminal. I hope that the Minister will come to the House to discuss the recruitment and retention of doctors.

  I also wish to raise the matter of the contents of a recent "RTE Investigates" programme entitled, Troublemakers, which highlighted the case of the Fitzgerald family. Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald was not allowed to visit his wife when he wished. His visits were restricted to certain times. All of us have had family members in hospital, nursing homes or hospices at some point. The severe restriction on visiting hours, as highlighted in the programme, is harsh and cruel. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I were in the same position as Mr. Fitzgerald, unable to visit a loved one in a nursing home or hospice. I understand that the HSE has yet to contact all the families featured in the documentary. Again, I ask that the Minister of Health would come to the House to discuss these issues.

  The last issue I wish to raise is a particular problem in urban areas and is a pet hate of mine, namely, people parking on footpaths. This often means that people using wheelchairs or other walking aids or those pushing buggies cannot get around the cars and are forced to go out onto the road. It is a growing problem in cities and stems from a lack of awareness. People need to be cognisant of the fact that if they park on a footpath, they must leave sufficient space for wheelchairs, buggies or other walking devices. It is very unfair and dangerous not to do so and drivers need to be more thoughtful when parking their cars.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I will start by proposing an amendment to the Order of Business, that the House will adjourn at 5 p.m. today, as per the original plan.

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

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator proposing that No. 3 concludes at 5 p.m.?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Yes. I am proposing that as an amendment to the Order of Business. I do not see the need to continue on beyond that time. Rushing legislation through the Houses does nobody any favours.

(Interruptions).

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am delighted to find the Leader in good spirits again today. I wish to refer again to the Defence Forces. I read this morning that the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, has 30 cases lined up for the courts with respect to the working time directive and there will be many more such cases. There are also High Court cases pending related to the use of Lariam, a drug which is given to other ranks troops who are travelling overseas. Is it the case that the Department of Defence has such deep pockets that it can afford to run every single case through the courts, knowing it is going to lose? The Department has lost every working time directive case it has fought thus far. It has been told to implement the working time directive. However, we all know that in order to do so, it will have to increase the strength of the Defence Forces to around 13,000 but it cannot even recruit enough personnel to fill the current establishment of 9,500. The Defence Forces strength is below 9,000 at the moment, at approximately 8,800.

  I am a bit like a long-playing record in here with respect to the Defence Forces but the people to whom I refer are in the Leader's constituency. We are hearing stories about soldiers being sent to Haulbowline to do non-naval and shore duties. If this sort of thing is happening, is it any wonder that people are walking out by the new time? We have been told that as many as 2,000 troops have been recruited in recent years but new recruits cannot fill the posts of experienced personnel. The working time directive is about respecting peoples' lives and prior arrangements and about not dropping things on them at the last moment, like the Government is trying to do in this House today. A little bit of respect goes a long way.

  My main point is that public money is being spent by the Department fighting cases even though it knows that it cannot win them. When are we going to wise up and stop this behaviour?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris should please resume his seat. Is Senator Craughwell's proposed amendment that No. 3 be adjourned at 5 p.m. today, if not concluded?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell At 5 p.m. today.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Adjourned sine die.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris is being unruly. I will call him in due course.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am not. I am advising him.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator should please resume his seat.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I greatly appreciate his advice.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan To clarify, the amendment is to have the item adjourned at 5 p.m. today if not previously concluded.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell At 5 p.m. today.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Sine die.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I have to take a deep breath today. The Leader will know that my first speech in the Seanad was for the nurses of Ireland. The Taoiseach yesterday and the Minister for Health today showed they must be badly advised given their most recent decision to cancel Christmas leave for nurses and doctors. It has drawn the ire of health workers and the health unions, including the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, and the Psychiatric Nurses Association, PNA. It is deflecting from the real crisis, including the absence to date of a winter plan and inadequate bed capacity. The trolley crisis and the waiting lists in our health service are not just a Christmas problem but represent a year-round crisis due to the lack of capital investment in public hospitals. There are 500 permanent hospital consultant posts unfilled. There are 2,500 nursing vacancies, with at least 1,000 nurses due to retire this year. The winter plan is now to cancel Christmas for staff. The Leader does not understand-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator should make a contribution without addressing anybody.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator said "cancel Christmas for staff". That is not what the Taoiseach said it all. The Senator should be fair.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Leader, please. The Leader will be responding later.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Maybe the Leader wants to address all these emails and telephone calls that I have got.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please. The Leader will respond later.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I have got letters from nurses in Australia who said they had no chance of coming back.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Two days-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Excuse me. Dún do bhéal le do thoil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator cannot address anybody like that. She must speak through the Chair.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Two days-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I do not want any interruptions.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer On a point of order-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Nurses will not be used as a-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator said she got a letter in two days from Australia. That is fantastic.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is not a point of order.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Correction: it was an email. The Leader should use his brain.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator should speak through the Chair. That was not a point of order. Ciúnas everybody. We should listen to the speaker.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine This is to do with the lack of bed capacity and investment. Do Senators know anybody in the system who has not worked 24-7? Many of us gave up our Christmases with our children to go into the hospital. We have almost had our dinners at 6 a.m. to go to the hospital to take care of people, yet we are now told we cannot have Christmas because it is our fault that the system is a failure. The Government is so out of touch and arrogant. The nurses and medics hold the front line and now they are told it is their fault. In March during the snow, we marched for miles to get to work. We stayed in the hospitals overnight to provide care. This is arrogance at its greatest. Does the Government have a clue? It is so out of touch. This will not be taken well. Nobody will come back to this country.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Stop shouting at us.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Nobody will come back to this country with that sort of attitude. Leo and Simon are grinches, bad Santas, bad humbugs.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer "He's behind you."

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

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I was thinking of an interview I read in which the Taoiseach said his favourite character, Tiny Tim, should get a job. This paints the Taoiseach as Scrooge. It would really make sense, therefore, that Christmas would be cancelled.

  I echo Senator Ardagh's call to have the Minister come to the House to speak about the restriction on families who wish to keep their loved ones in a decent state of well-being and mental health when the latter are in hospital for a long stay. I watched a television programme on this. Two girls from the west were barred from visiting their dad in his final months and did not get to see him again until the day he was dying. As a daughter who spent every day in the nursing home with my father for two years before he passed away, I found the programme extremely horrifying to watch. It merits a conversation in this Chamber. At some level, it is definitely a violation of the human rights of both the family members and the individual in hospital.

  I called a number of months ago for a conversation on the national drugs strategy. It has not happened in this House. It has happened in the Dáil. Last month was the 20th anniversary of the opioid treatment protocol. It would be good to have a conversation on the protocol and the strategy this side of Christmas. The working group on drug decriminalisation will, I hope, release its report before Christmas. Therefore, it would be good to have a conversation in the lead-up to publication.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator Bacik.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Senator Norris is leading for our group today. I will contribute afterwards.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Before I call the next speaker, I would like to say the Order of Business is a proposal by the Leader as to how the business of the Seanad should be dealt with. It is not the announcement of a decision. It is open to the House to accept, reject or amend the Leader's proposal. We have already had a proposed amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I thank the Chair for that clarification. That means we have, in fact, the opportunity to reject this outrageous proposal, which is totally undemocratic. In case I run out of time, I would first like to propose an amendment to have the debate end at 5.15 p.m., to be concluded on another day.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator proposing an alternative amendment? We have had one for 5 p.m.? Is the Senator now proposing 5.15 p.m.?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris But of course. I would have thought that was obvious to the meanest intellect.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Well, I am sorry. If the Senator is crossing the floor and confabbing with the other Senator who made a proposal, I would think he is agreeing with him.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Norris should withdraw that remark. It is unbecoming.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I certainly will not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator should not be reflecting on the Chair.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Let me get to the grist of the matter because there is something serious here. I believe we are in circumstances that are grotesquely unconstitutional because the business of this House is apparently being run by a person who is not a Member of this House but who is an Independent Minister in the Government. It is completely inappropriate for a person from the other House to be dictating to this House the manner in which it should conduct its business.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Supposition.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is not supposition; it is direct knowledge that has been confirmed.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly By whom?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator would be very surprised if he knew.

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

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am proposing the amendment because we are doing a very good job in carefully perusing the Bill. When it gets through eventually, it will have been thoroughly examined and ratified. That is my very strong feeling. We are in circumstances in which a Minister is attempting to act unconstitutionally.

  On a completely different note, I would like to pay tribute to the late, great musician Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, whom I believe died yesterday. I had the privilege of having been shown around the world music centre in the University of Limerick. It is wonderful what Mr. Ó Súilleabháin has done there, melding traditions, ideas and artistry from all over the world. He was taught by the late Seán Ó Riada. One can see that influence in his work. I refer in particular to the kind of repetitive, percussive, staccato elements that echo the bodhrán in Irish music. I am afraid we have lost somebody of great significance but he has left behind him a wealth of really remarkable cultural material. We would all want to send our commiserations to his family.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Senator's proposed amendment that No. 3 be adjourned at 5.15 p.m. if not previously concluded?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes that it be adjourned sine die.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator cannot propose that. We can only decide on the business as proposed for today by the Leader.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I seek clarification. If I propose to adjourn the item, does it mean that it can be taken up again at 7 p.m.?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No, it will not.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Okay, then it is fine to adjourn it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Why is the Senator differing from Senator Craughwell's proposal?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Which Senator?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan He proposed to adjourn at 5 p.m.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I wanted to be gracious towards the Government and give it that extra 15 minutes that it so desperately needs.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Senator.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Whose side is the Leas-Chathaoirleach on?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Chair is totally independent.

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan We have seen again today that the issue of health is very emotive and complex and sometimes very political. In Roscommon today, the plans for the Mayo Roscommon Hospice are being launched. This is the final piece in a jigsaw that has been a success story.

  People talk about Roscommon and what happened but anybody who wants to go to Roscommon University Hospital sees the strategic moves that Government made. The then Minister for Health, my colleague, Senator Reilly, made significant decisions, including setting up a hospital trust. Roscommon University Hospital has had €20 million spent on it and it is twice as busy but, more importantly, hundreds of people are alive today because of the air ambulance and advanced paramedics, but nobody says that because there is nothing to be gained from good news in health. Senator Devine is right to mention the medical staff around the country and I am thinking of them because they need to be protected. We have to be careful that we do not make health an emotive and a controversial issue but I know where the Senator is coming from.

  Today I am wearing the shamrock poppy pin and it is to remember the 200,000 Irish people who fought in the First World War, especially the 50,000 who died. I thank the people who wore the pin and also the Members from across parties in both Houses who showed respect and tolerance to people wearing the pin. The pin is there and it is a matter of choice. I know there are many commemorations on Sunday and most of the Members here will be attending them to show respect to and to commemorate the men from our island who died in the First World War.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the House adjourns at 5.30 p.m. today.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That is very generous.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I request that the Leader of the House, Senator Buttimer, arrange an early discussion on the old question of the cost of insurance, particularly in light of the fact the Personal Injuries Assessment Board has reported that the average claim for whiplash in Ireland is €20,000, five times the average in the United Kingdom for similar complaints. There have been 4,500 settlements in the first six months of this year. It is an enormous cost to the State and to people who have cars insured because it mainly has to do with car crashes as opposed to fire, theft or other insurance issues.

  I praise the President of the Circuit Court, Mr. Justice Raymond Donal Groarke, who has been president since June 2012 and served in the Circuit Court from 1995 or thereabouts. I am sure Senator McDowell would agree that he is an outstanding judge because in recent times he has adjudicated on cases of complete and utter fraud in the courts and we all owe him a great debt of gratitude. He is doing more than the Government is to solve this problem. The judicial appointments issue is important so that we get the right type of judge and I am pleased to say that Mr. Justice Groarke is a wonderful judge and it is good to commend somebody of his calibre, courage, conviction and commitment to the job in this House.

  Also, An Garda Síochána should have a dedicated fraud squad. When people go into court with cases which are totally falsified they should suffer repercussions and the cases should be followed up. I know of one case in Roscommon town where a young man drove into a person from Poland and very little damage was done but within six months the person who was driving the other car and got a scratch on the side of the car decided to put in another claim for whiplash. That young man is now paying a premium of €5,000 a year for what I regard as a falsified claim because I followed up on it and I found the same Polish gentleman out fishing in Lough Ree catching a major pike.

  Insurance companies are too quick to settle these cases. They should have investigators out there looking at each case, although some insurance companies are better than others. It is a wake up call so I ask the Leader to ask the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy, to come to the House to discuss the work he is doing on this.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have only come in here recently and I am still getting a feel for the workings of the place but I am a legislator. We are all legislators and we are here to legislate. We have legislation going through this House and there is much filibustering going on. There has not been a vote during nine sessions on the legislation and there has been a lot of carry on from some people from the legal profession that I do not entirely condone.

  After listening to Senator Leyden's contribution on the large number of fraudulent insurance claims, we should name the legal firms involved in these fraudulent claims. I mention the costs associated with this because 40% of the cost of the claim is paid out to the legal profession.

  We will be discussing a legal Bill today because we are Senators who are here to legislate so I have no problem in staying here late because this is our role-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator has never turned up for this debate so that would be a first for him. He can talk about other people having to stay here all day but not him. I note that we do not even have a break in that seven hours.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor This is more filibustering. I am being interrupted but I have no problem staying here-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator deserved to be interrupted.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor -----until nine or ten o'clock to get legislation through which is to the benefit of the ordinary people. Senator Leyden identified a judge who is positive against false claims coming through and maybe this legislation will bring forward more of those types of judges who are needed to look at what is before them and deal with it properly.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator has not even read the Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senators cannot refer to any individuals.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have not mentioned any names.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator's time is now up in any event.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Has the Senator read the Bill?

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

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have one other little point on the legislation.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Has the Senator read the Bill?

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor One of the reasons we are spending so long discussing it-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator has not read the Bill.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor -----is because there are too many words in it-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator has not read the Bill.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor -----and if we had fewer words in it we would not have had such a long discussion on it so I support what the Leader is proposing today. I also support Senator Leyden's call to bring the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, in here to discuss false insurance claims.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I would be impressed by Senator Lawless's or rather Senator Lawlor's generous offer to-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris He is lawless.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----sit here until midnight or whenever if he had sat through any of the other debates.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is exactly the point I made.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I would be doubly impressed if he had contributed one word on this Bill and I would be trebly impressed if I had any evidence that he has read one line of this Bill.  This Bill has nothing to do with false claims.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Hear, hear.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell That was dealt with in 2004 by means of the Civil Liability and Courts Act, which introduced lengthy provisions for countering false personal injuries claims. Furthermore, Senator Ó Céidigh took an initiative in this House to strengthen the law on perjury. If Senator Lawlor is so keen on doing something, let him make available some Government time to deal quickly with Senator Ó Céidigh's Bill.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor We did that.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am referring to Second Stage and Committee Stage. The Government should commit to it, rather than saying that the Department-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor We would do but we cannot get through this Bill-----

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----of Justice and Equality wants to think about it-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There has not been much give from Senator McDowell.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor If we could get through this Bill, we would-----

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell ----- and will come back to Senator Ó Céidigh on it. Let us be clear about what we are discussing. This legislation has nothing to do with false claims.

  On the Order of Business, I see no reason for the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill to be the subject of an extended debate today. We should stick to our ordinary procedures. Therefore, I propose that the debate on No. 3 should conclude at 4.30 p.m. I understand Senator Freeman will be seconding that proposal.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden Someone else suggested 5 p.m. or 5.15 p.m.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer This is like Dublin Bus.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is another amendment proposal.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden That is four different finishing times now.

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

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden This is farcical and ridiculous.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Colm Burke is next. Order please.

(Interruptions).

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I wish to raise a matter raised previously by Senator Devine, who quoted people incorrectly. It is important to realise that between 22 December 2018 and 2 January 2019, there are 12 days. Seven of those are weekends or public holidays. The issue that arises relates to moving people out of hospital and into step-down facilities. What the Taoiseach was referring to is the fact that many people who are in hospital can be moved to step-down facilities. Last night, I spoke to people involved with Nursing Homes Ireland, NHI, who told me that, in the three-week period from Christmas day, they have very little contact with the HSE or hospitals regarding the taking patients into step-down facilities. I draw attention to work done by NHI as far back as June, July and August in the context of engaging with the unit dealing with the hospitals winter programme. The NHI received a letter on 31 August from the HSE's special delivery unit outlining that, at the emergency department task force meeting on Thursday, 30 August, the agenda for the forum was amended and the NHI presentation was removed from the programme. It is not acceptable that NHI attendance on the day was relegated to a network opportunity and not true collaboration. The NHI represents a sector that is prepared to help deal with hospital overcrowding but it was excluded by the HSE's special delivery unit. I also have before me a letter, dated 31 October 2018, from Ms Anne O'Connor, co-chair of the emergency department task force, and Ms Phil Ní Sheaghdha, head of the INMO, which advises the NHI that its correspondence will be brought to the attention of the emergency department task force for discussion at its next meeting in November. We are talking about correspondence from June, July and August being discussed in November, when we are already into the winter period. The same person from the INMO was on the radio giving out about what the Taoiseach said. The co-chair of the task force is not prepared to engage with the NHI, which is prepared to help deal with hospital overcrowding. This needs to be put on the record and we need to know why the task force is not engaging with NHI and is not prepared to plan for the three-week period in early January in order to take patients out of the hospital sector and make accommodation available to them in step-down facilities where required. We need answers on this issue from the task force. We need to know why it is not engaging with the people who are prepared to provide a service.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I second Senator Craughwell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business to the effect that the House discuss the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill until 5 p.m. and then adjourn. That was the time originally circulated to all Senators last week. On a serious note, many of us made arrangements - in my case, childcare arrangements - on foot of that 5 p.m. finish. I do not believe it is in keeping with family-friendly workplace procedures to have a sudden change to the schedule like this, to such a late hour on a weekday evening-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That would distress the Minister, Deputy Ross, no end.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik ----- particularly when the Bill in question is not a matter of urgency. Those of us involved in politics - in my case, for what seems like a very long time - have no difficulty with sitting for long hours and sitting late-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris A long and honourable time.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I thank the Senator.

  We have no issue with sitting late to deal with matters of an emergency nature or in respect of something that is urgent. This is not either and I am one of the very few Members who, like Senators Norris and McDowell, has sat through many hours of Judicial Appointments Commission Bill debate and I still have quite a number of points to make on that legislation. Indeed, the Labour Party has tabled a number of amendments which have yet to be debated. In that context, I am anxious to ensure that I am here for the full debate but I have made arrangements and it would be very difficult for me to be here until late tonight. On that basis, I am opposing the Order of Business as proposed by Senator Buttimer and seconding Senator Craughwell's amendment which proposes that we debate the Bill until 5 p.m. and then adjourn. We can come back and debate the Bill further and take as long as it takes.

  On a related note concerning childcare and the workplace, I was delighted that we could all support the Fianna Fáil Private Member's legislation, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill, last night. Senator Ó Ríordáin spoke on behalf of the Labour Party. We are very anxious that this Bill would be progressed through the House. It progressed through the Dáil, despite being a Private Member's Bill from the Social Democrats, with all-party support and I hope that the same will happen in this House. I know that those of us on the Opposition benches will work together to ensure that it passes without delay. There are so many people contacting Members who are hoping to see the extensions to parental leave proposed in the Bill coming into force.

  I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, for organising the display of the Fearless Girl statue in Leinster House today. It is wonderful to see that icon of gender equality and women's rights in the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Ned O'Sullivan is next. I congratulate him on his new appointment.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I will come to that matter presently.

  I would like to be associated with the tributes to Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, who gave a lifetime to music in Ireland. It is an art form that does not get the same exposure as literature, for instance. Professor Ó Súilleabháin was part of a long tradition of Munster pioneers like Seán Ó Ríada and Aloys Fleischmann in Cork and has left behind a proud record.

  I wish to advise the Leader and Members of the House that I have taken on new responsibilities as party spokesman on foreign affairs, the Irish abroad and the diaspora.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What happened to Senator Mark Daly?

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin It was the absence of a hard border.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Norris has interrupted almost everybody today. He should allow the speaker to continue without interruption.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Who did I miss out on? I can interrupt them too.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan I am glad to be appointed to that position by the leader of my party, Deputy Micheál Martin. I look forward to working with our Dáil spokesperson on foreign affairs, Deputy Niall Collins, and to engaging constructively with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney. We will give constructive criticism where necessary. At present, a great deal work is being done on the issue of visas for the undocumented in the USA. In fairness, my predecessor did a lot of work on it and I intend to bring some fresh initiatives and new energy to that particular portfolio. I had a brief meeting this morning with Deputy Deasy, the special envoy on that area and offered him my full support. Hopefully, we will get that over the line in the coming weeks. It is a matter for internal US politics which, unfortunately, is entirely confrontational, polarised and divisive at the moment be we are hopeful of a bipartisan approach to this matter. We might be lucky. As the Tánaiste has stated, it is our intention to find new legal pathways for emigration to North America and to give comfort and relief to those who are already there in an undocumented position.  I look forward to that.

  I have a choice of motions but I have selected to second Senator Norris's proposal to adjourn at 5.15 p.m.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard I will not enter the debate on what time we should adjourn. That has been debated at length by so many other Senators this morning and this afternoon.

  I bring to the attention of the House a significant development that has happened in the last 48 hours in my part of the world in Cork. Amazingly, we have a major hospital in Cork University Hospital, CUH, but since 2003 we have no helipad. If anyone knows the geographical nature of my county, it is more than 120 miles long and we had no helipad in CUH. The significant development is that CUH has applied for planning permission 15 years after demolishing the previous helipad and now it is going ahead. It is amazing to think that we had to wait 15 years for a helipad in such a major hospital with such a vast sea that has such activity that we have all unfortunately seen and that needs the co-operation of the Coast Guard services. In future we need to plan forward for where these major hospitals will be placed and then build the infrastructure around them.

  It is bizarre that we had to wait 15 years for this project to move forward. I welcome it but it was 15 years of a rural, coastal community looking for a service that was badly wanted and I am sure the Leader will also comment on it when he speaks but what they used to do was land the helicopters on a rugby pitch near the hospital and it was an absolutely bizarre sight. That is how my part of the community was served so it is significant and it is welcomed but why did it have to take 15 years to move forward?

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I second Senator Leyden's proposal on this evening's adjournment.

  It is important that we point that a significant time is scheduled next week for this Bill and, as Senator Bacik pointed out, people have schedules and in my time in the Seanad we have never sat past 5 p.m. on a Thursday. We may have done so but I do not remember it and it is certainly infrequent. Members have made other commitments and obligations and they have agreed to do things with people so to announce an extension today is unfortunate. It is not urgent-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator is wrong.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I apologise if I am wrong and would always do so because I am not infallible, but there is plenty of time scheduled for next week and it is not an emergency so I second Senator Leyden's proposal on the adjournment.

  I was at a presentation this morning in the Sandyford business district with more than 200 people, including the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, and the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, about the future of work, how we work, smart working, remote working and various other issues. Much of the discussion centred around quality of life, not having to spend time commuting and being able to work from home or from a hatch lab as they have in Wexford. That is a service office near to one's home where he or she can work for their employer or a company.

  All of this is contingent on having decent broadband in the areas people live. Many of us are lucky enough to live in areas that have good broadband but, equally, many Senators have spoken in this Chamber and I have spoken at regional assemblies as a councillor about how, geographically, half of the country does not have good broadband and people are driving miles to get their email by parking in the car parks or sitting in the lobbies of hotels to get free Wi-Fi, downloading emails, trying to run businesses so I call on the Leader to bring the new Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Deputy Bruton, to the House to discuss how broadband services will be rolled out.

  I regard broadband as being like electricity or running water. It is essential in the 21st century and it would do a lot for the Minister's other portfolio of climate action because people would not be driving long distances to work in offices and incurring massive overheads for those companies when they would be much happier to get up and work at home. Much research has been done to show that many people are more productive at home because they feel that because they are at home they need to prove their output. It is not just about being present as outputs have to be measured. They can do their work efficiently but, at the same time, bring their children to school and collect them and so on. I ask the Leader to schedule the Minister to come in urgently and we can discuss the benefits we would have in terms of climate change by having remote working and allowing people to have a better quality of life.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell I put on the record how sad I was to hear about Professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin's death this morning. He was an extraordinary musician, a brilliant teacher and an outstanding composer, and he is a great loss to us because he was able to make Irish music like Mozart's music. It is a tremendous loss to the university, his postgraduate students and musical composition in Ireland. We sometimes forget when the great artists or musicians die. They do not fill the pages in the same way that politicians or others do. He is a great loss to all of his students, the arts community and music in Ireland generally. May he rest in peace.

  What was said in the Lower House about hospitals and hospital staff by the powers that be was not good. It lacked perception from our leaders to speak like that and I concur with what Senator Devine said about this. People are sitting in here who have worked in the area of health.

  I heard the former Senator, John Crown, on the radio and people at the coalface are talking about the fact that we do not have enough staff. It is all very well to ask people to come in at weekends and on evenings handling machines but there is not enough staff.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke That is not true.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell It is true and they will not fill the vacancies.

  We can go through all of the policy areas on the future of work but if we do not have enough staff to run our hospitals and keep them open at weekends, I do not know what we are thinking about. We are obfuscating policy for practical application. It was the most unperceptive remark on people who are meant to be running this country. The queues for beds are enough reason to reflect on this. Are we not listening to the people who are waiting for all kinds of medical checks?

  Health and education are the most important departments and if we cannot get them right, nothing else will be right, so I would like for the Minister for Health to come in and explain to me what is going on and how he will fix it. He should bring in staff and not have our doctors who are paid for by the taxpayer running out of the country, followed by our nurses who are not able to come back to the country because they are not paid properly and have nowhere to live. It is an outrage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has gone one minute over time.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell To think that the powers that be in the Lower House do not have the perception to know the problem-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has made her point.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I want to-----

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell I am sick of hearing about policy-----

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order. Senator Ó Ríordáin is in possession.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I second Senator McDowell's proposed amendment to the Order of Business.

  I join with others in commiserating with the family of Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin who brought great joy to everybody in this land and I commiserate with those in California who are waking up to the news of the death of 12 people in a nightclub in another tragic shooting.

  I also second the proposal of Senator Ruane that we have a debate in this House on the national drugs strategy but the main point I want to make today if the Leader could-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There was no formal proposal.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin It is important.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator wants to agree with what was suggested.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I just want to formally support what Senator Ruane said.

  I raise the matter of a secondary school in Kildare. It would be greatly appreciated if the Leader could pass on my comments to the Minister for Education and Skills because my capacity to raise this with him formally between now and next Tuesday is limited. A High Court case has been taken by a contractor regarding the tender process which means that whatever buildings that St. Paul's in Monasterevin is hoping to get built could be delayed and Councillor Mark Wall in Kildare is concerned about this.  I know the Minister is extremely busy with the school building issue at the moment but it appears this school has been waiting for 15 years for rebuilding works. This issue is now in the High Court and, potentially, it is going to delay this much needed and anticipated building work. I ask the Leader to impress upon the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, the importance of this issue and to communicate with me in whatever way possible on St. Paul's secondary school in Monasterevin.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I want to be associated with the comments of Senator Norris on the Order of Business. I know the proposal has been formally seconded but I too had made plans for this evening, plans related to my role as spokesperson on transport, tourism and sport. It does not work well for us in terms of ordering our own business and schedules when the Order of Business is changed at short notice. I have followed this debate in detail. I do not claim my knowledge is extensive but I certainly have been educated during the debate. The level of questioning in the Seanad has been excellent. I also want to compliment the Minister. He has been accused of filibustering but I do not think he has been doing that. He has been trying to answer in detail the important issues raised in the House. I get a sense from the Minister - perhaps I am wrong - that he is not fully supportive of the proposal.

  The in-depth investigation of and questioning on the proposed legislation is important, as is the question of the constitutionality of the proposals. I am concerned that grubby deals are being done in respect of this legislation. It is being closely monitored by an Independent Minister who might be far better off concentrating on the work in his own Ministry in terms of MetroLink, BusConnects and bus corridors, all of which relate to the capital city. There seems to be no leadership on them. I oppose the Leader's amendment to the Order of Business and I support Senator Norris's one. There is ample time next week to debate this fully and to allow Members to prepare in time for their work. Those of us who are interested had all prepared for this afternoon and we had looked at the time slots for next week. I am very much opposed to the Leader's proposal and I second Senator Norris's one.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt I want to speak in a similar vein to Senators Leyden and Lawlor. A number of recent high profile court cases have been thrown out or have been seen as fraudulent. It is a concern for our society that so many such cases are presenting. We have many eminent solicitors and barristers here. I ask them to talk to their own organisations and take these people to task. The judges in some of these cases were evidently very aware that these were fraudulent cases. I ask my colleagues to talk to the Bar Council of Ireland and the Law Society of Ireland and bring them to task in respect of such conduct. It is the least they could do. One particular case really stuck in my craw, and that of many people to whom I have spoken. I refer to the case where a lady was surfing on a tram, if it could be said it is possible to surf on a tram. She fell off and, as tends to happen falling off of a tram, she received an injury. I am sorry she was injured but to follow Transdev Luas trams-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys On a point of order, the young lady can be easily identified by Senator Davitt's remarks. It is grossly unfair-----

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt She has put herself there already.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys It is unfair-----

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt I am speaking.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys That individual will not be able to defend herself.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan People should not be referred to in a way that might identify them.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt I did not mention anybody's name.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I know Senator Davitt did not.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt I did not mention anyone's name and I will not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is fine.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt This has been in the national media. It was on the front page of one of the national newspapers.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That does not matter.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt That is the reality of it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The lady has no defence in this House.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt To say that a person could win a case and take €500,000 from Transdev-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Davitt is over his time.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt It is unbelievable. The insurance companies, the State-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator must not mention anyone.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt -----and the Minister are going to have to look very hard at many of the cases coming before the courts.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I wholeheartedly agree with what Senator Davitt said. This country is going to have to get into the real world when it comes to insurance and what is going on. Judges are going to have to get into the real world as well. That is not the reason I am speaking, however. There has been much talk recently about the drug epidemic and that thousands of people are using recreational drugs. Our colleague, Senator Ó Ríordáin, spoke about legalisation of soft drugs when he was a Minister. If we were to arrest everyone who was dabbling in soft drugs our courts would become completely unworkable. I propose that the committee which the Leas-Chathaoirleach chairs, the Seanad Public Consultation Committee, do an exploratory exercise on the possibility of decriminalising the use of certain drugs in this society.

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

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I ask Senator Conway to propose that through the committee.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway The issue of drugs should be seen as a health issue as opposed to a justice issue.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Hear, hear.

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

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Most of the people on recreational drugs face a challenge in terms of their health. It is not a justice issue. As our society matures and evolves, we are going to have to have that difficult discussion and come up with a realistic plan to deal with the issue of drugs. I do not know what the processes are with the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. It is a very illustrious committee.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will make sure Senator Conway is guided in the right direction. He should not worry about that.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway A body of work could be done in that area.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher We hear frequently these days, unfortunately, of isolation and mental health issues in our society. That includes older people in urban and rural areas. Some communities, however, have come together to revitalise old traditions to combat loneliness and bring about a greater sense of community. I refer to the old tradition of making a céilí, as it was known in many parts of the country, or gathering at a céilí house. This was well known in many parts of the country for many years and indeed generations. People came together to check on a neighbour or friend and to see how they were.

  With that in mind, I compliment Scotstown GAA club in County Monaghan. For the second year in succession, the community there has come together to try to reinvigorate or reinvent the old tradition of the céilí house. People are encouraged to go out into their communities and visit older people who may be living alone and to visit friends in the community. The help of three local national schools has also been enlisted. The children in those schools ask and encourage their families to visit old friends, relatives or neighbours who live alone and to check on them. It is a great success and has gone from strength to strength in that parish. It is an initiative for which the people of Scotstown GAA deserve the highest praise.  The feedback I am getting from the community is that not alone do the people being visited find great comfort from it but the visitors themselves also get great comfort. The GAA club deserves great credit for it. We will never measure scientifically the benefit of such an initiative but I can say without hesitation or doubt that the people who are being visited will benefit as will those doing the visiting.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Déarfaidh mé cúpla focal mar gheall ar Mhícheál Ó Súilleabháin ar dtús. Fear uasal ab ea é agus múinteoir agus ceoltóir iontach a bhí ann freisin.

  I wish to address some issues relating to previous contributions on insurance. There is no doubt that we have a serious problem in this country. I have raised the issue on the floor of the House numerous times. It is inexplicable as to why-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is allowed only two minutes.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly A contribution relating to a comment about one of the greatest musicians of our time should not be taken as-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I cannot change the Standing Orders.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We ignore them every day. The Senator should go on and ignore it.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I will take a leaf out of Senator Norris's book and carry on.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator may be pulled up after two minutes.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Of course, if I had not been interrupted by the august Leas-Chathaoirleach, I would have finished by now.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine The Leas-Chathaoirleach should stand up for himself.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is not the ruler of the universe.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly There we have it. Anyway, in respect of the current situation, action must be taken. There is no rationale for us having awards four to five times greater in this country than across the water in the UK. There is something seriously wrong with our system and we need to address it. We have a serious problem when there is no consequence for perjury and fraud. If we listen to the insurance alliance in respect of the number of cases that have been taken on this issue in recent years and the number of convictions – which is nil – then it is clear that we have a serious problem. Whether that is because we are not using all the law available to us in the way we should or whether we need new law, I do not profess to be the expert.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We need to implement the law.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I know this much: people are being put out of business. Small and medium-sized businesses are struggling because of this and people are afraid to set up in business because of it. We need more certainty in these legal cases. Many people have endured the horror of insurance companies settling without consulting the person insured.

  There have been many comments about the Taoiseach's comments, which are being misconstrued.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Come on.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I fully respect my colleagues who work in medicine, and I want to put that on the record of the House. I have worked on Christmas day myself as recently as last Christmas. Their commitment and the commitment of their families to our system are to be admired and cherished.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Senator.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The interpretation that has been put on some of the comments made has not been remotely helpful.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine What interpretation and by whom?

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I wish to join my colleagues, Senators Leyden, Lawlor, Davitt, Conway and Reilly, in calling for a debate on insurance fraud. I support the call by my colleague in the Lower House, Deputy Brendan Smith, for a designated unit of the Garda fraud squad to be set up to specifically investigate these cases.

  Several proposals to amend the Order of Business have been tabled. As Whip of the Fianna Fáil Party, we will support these amendments. I do not believe that this is sufficiently important legislation for it to be rushed through this House. Senator Lawlor is not too long in this House, but if he, along with some of his other colleagues, had his way then, we would not have this House to debate anything.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan Hear, hear.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I have sat through almost every hour of the debate so far whether on the floor or in the Chair. It is an excellent debate. I pay tribute to those who have participated in it, including Senators McDowell, Bacik and Norris as well as the Minister. It is an informative debate.

  This is something that, in my opinion and in the opinion of my party, is not necessary because we have had an excellent mechanism, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, to propose to the Government people for appointment as judges. As has been pointed out by Senator Leyden, save in one instance, it has been almost 100% flawless so there is no need for this legislation.

  Finally, when he is in the mode of concentrating on the portfolio he has been allocated by the Taoiseach, I would like to invite Senator Ross to the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator means the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I am sorry. I am referring to the former Senator and now Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross. I wish to invite him to the House to debate the penalty points regime. Too many areas are covered by this penalty points system. It is making a mockery of what should be concentrated upon by An Garda Síochána and other units.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call on the Leader to respond.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the 21 Members for their contributions to the Order of Business.

  I dtús báire ar mo shon féin, ar son mo pháirtí agus ar son an Tí, déanaim comhbhrón le clann Mhícheál Uí Shúilleabháin a fuair bás maidin inniu. The death of Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin is a tragic loss to our country. As many Members have said, he was a scholar, composer and musician. His legacy will be left for all time and for every people. Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell spoke about Mozart. He certainly brought Irish music to that level, whether it was though his involvement with a variety of different musical programmes and arrangements, his academic work in University of Limerick or his partnership with Nóirín Ní Riain. For those in UL and the wider family of music and culture, his loss will be profound. I want to offer to his wife, Helen, and his family our deepest sympathies. We should all be sorry but we should also rejoice in what he has achieved in his life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

  In the two and a half years that we have come in here, I have always sought to bring people in everything I have tried to do as Leader of the House. We do not always find agreement. We do not always reach the end point of what we do, but we get there. It is important that the histrionics this morning around the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill are put in context. I apologise to Senator Bacik who has to make different arrangements.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik All of us have to; it is not only me.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I know.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell We might get through the Order of Business first before we start with the apologies.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We could start with Senator McDowell because he is fairly good. I will not say anymore, save to say that the Leas-Chathaoirleach is right. We have had 35 and a quarter hours of debate on Committee Stage since 2 July. Despite Senator Wilson's lavish praise of some of the contributions-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Does that show the Senator's worth?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I would not use the terms "flawless" or "enlightening" about some of the contributions, but we will leave that for another day.

  I am going to put the proposal to the House. I respect the differing viewpoints of other Members. If the proposals or amendments-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Will the Leader tell us where the proposals came from?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer They came from me as Leader of the House. Despite what some Members have said, in keeping with what I try to do as Leader, I emailed the leaders and Whips of all parties and groups on Tuesdays morning. It was not an eleventh hour decision or one made this morning. To be fair, people were consulted. Some Members have come in talking about the A, B and C.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris From where did the change come?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order. He cannot interrupt again.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris At whose instigation?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has interrupted everyone. Will he, please, shut up and stay in his seat?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Would you, please, use parliamentary language?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am sorry, but the Senator is provoking me. Will he, please, resume his seat? The Leader to continue, without interruption, please. We are trying to get through the business.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer On the impending visit and address to the House by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, I will keep my remarks brief and to a number of key points.

  On the issue of the HSE and staff operating in hospitals over the Christmas period, the Taoiseach is again being misrepresented-----

(Interruptions)

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Please, let me finish. If Senators want to use the Taoiseach's remarks as a political football, that is their prerogative. Many have done so today.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin The issue is about the workers, as opposed to it being a political football.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Unlike Senator Ó Ríordáin and others in the House - perhaps I should not say that - I have worked in hospitals on Christmas Day, St. Stephen's Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I have worked during holiday periods-----

(Interruptions)

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Please, let me finish.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I concur with the remarks made by Senator Reilly. Hospital and HSE front-line staff do Trojan work. I pay tribute to them and support them in the work they do. It ill behoves Members to use them as a political football.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine That is disgraceful.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin The Taoiseach did that.

(Interruptions)

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please, Senators. All Senators have had their say.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine The Taoiseach used them as a political football to cover up the lack of-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please, Senator.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I am sorry, but-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We shall hear the Leader without interruption.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I think Senator Devine should reflect on her contribution, in particular, when she spoke-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine On what? Why?

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I will tell the Senator why. The Senator spoke about cancelling Christmas, which is a gross misrepresentation.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine No.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Do not stand there and try to make it up and say I-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator knows-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine The Leader is agreeing with the cancelling of-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan -----that we are going to have the Lord Mayor of Belfast with us shortly.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Devine is only after saying-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine It is right to take time off to be with family over Christmas.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order. She cannot interrupt.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The point I want to make is that we have had enough reports and policies. Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell is right in that respect. We need real reform. Senator Colm Burke is also correct that there are more people employed today in the health service - I believe there are 12,000 more - compared to the number in 2014. Members opposite come into the House to give out about everything. I put it to Senator Humphreys that I know that it is hard, but he was part of the Government that took decisions to build the country back up.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin We never blamed the workers.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Please, let me finish.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No interruptions, please.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am not blaming the workers either. I am not blaming them at all, but it suits the Senators' narrative-----

(Interruptions)

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin It suits the narrative of a right-wing lunatic who uses this culture to blame workers on the front line in the health service.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is called political engagement. That suits your narrative. I can shout you down too.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a point of order, is it appropriate to describe the Taoiseach as "a right-wing lunatic"?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is not.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am happy to have the debate-----

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Is there an answer to that question?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----but I ask Members who are-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What about attacking the 500,000 patients who did not turn up for their appointment? That would have helped to clog the system.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That is part of it, but-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Why? It is not as simple as that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We have a very important guest coming to the House and I want to conclude. We will have that debate.

  Members raised the issue of insurance. The Minister has been to the House to discuss it and a task force has been established. The Minister will come back to the House again. If Members will indulge me, I will deal with the other contributions made on the Order of Business later. I will speak to Senator Ó Ríordáin about the issue he raised later.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan And broadband.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I congratulate our friend and colleague, Senator O'Sullivan, on his elevation and promotion, which is richly deserved. He will bring a tremendous wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to his new role.

  Perhaps Members might allow me to reflect on their contributions which I will address again. I oppose the amendment proposed to the Order of Business.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Craughwell has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That No. 3 be adjourned at 5 p.m., if not previously concluded."

Amendment put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 17.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark. Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie.
Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Aidan Davitt   Zoom on Aidan Davitt   Davitt, Aidan. Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan. Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie. Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura.
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
Information on Terry Leyden   Zoom on Terry Leyden   Leyden, Terry. Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
Information on Ian Marshall   Zoom on Ian Marshall   Marshall, Ian. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David. Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
Information on Pádraig Ó Céidigh   Zoom on Pádraig Ó Céidigh   Ó Céidigh, Pádraig. Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.  
Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.  
Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.  
Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Gerard P. Craughwell; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.

Amendment declared carried.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan In the circumstances of the amendment being made, the alternative proposals in amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, cannot be moved.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell My amendment was for an earlier time but in a humour of generosity-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan They were alternative proposals and they cannot now be moved.

  Is the Order of Business, as amended, agreed to?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Not agreed.

  Question, "That the Order of Business, as amended, be agreed to", put and declared carried.

Report of Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills: Motion

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

That Seanad Éireann notes the Report of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills entitled 'Report on tackling of obesity and the promotion of healthy eating in schools', copies of which were laid before Seanad Éireann on 11th July, 2018.

  Question put and agreed to.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I propose a short sos.

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

  Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 1.10 p.m.

Address to Seanad Éireann by Ms Deirdre Hargey, Lord Mayor of Belfast

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Thar ceann Sheanad Éireann, is mian liom fáilte ó chroí a chur roimh Ard-Mhéara Bhéal Feirste, an Comhairleoir Deirdre Hargey, a bhfuil cuireadh tugtha di ag Seanad Éireann an Teach a aitheasc de réir Bhuanordú 57(2) lena ndéantar foráil maidir le haitheasc ag ionadaí agus daoine sa saol poiblí agus sibhialta. On behalf of Seanad Éireann I warmly welcome the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, who has been invited to address the House in accordance with Standing Order 57(2), which provides for addresses by representatives and persons in civic and public life. She is accompanied by the chief executive of Belfast City Council, Ms Suzanne Wylie, who I also warmly welcome to the House. I congratulate Ms Hargey on her election as Lord Mayor earlier this year and wish her well in her important role. I also congratulate her on being the first Sinn Féin female mayor of Belfast.

  It is very timely for the House to hear from the Lord Mayor of Belfast in light of the current issues of mutual concern in the context of the Good Friday Agreement, including the current absence of the devolved power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and the North-South Ministerial Council, as well as the impact of Brexit on the island as a whole. I visited Belfast last week and had the pleasure of visiting Belfast City Hall, where I met the Lord Mayor and had an in-depth discussion with her on issues of mutual concern. Although we debate many topics in this House, all Members agree that the Good Friday Agreement is the indispensable framework for relations on this island. I am sure that will frame our discussion today, as it does all of our debates on Northern Ireland. The success of the Good Friday Agreement in securing peace and harnessing the opportunities of that peace for people and communities North and South is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of our time.

  The challenges presented by the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union will be felt in all 27 remaining member states for many years to come and it goes without saying that the challenges for Ireland are immense. The Government remains intensely engaged on Brexit, working closely with our EU partners to ensure that the agreement and the gains and benefits of the peace process are protected and upheld in the outcome of the Article 50 negotiations with the UK, not least in ensuring that there will be no hard border on the island. These are issues of the utmost significance for our country and this House is intensely engaged on them.

  In recognition of the potential consequences of the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU, the Seanad established a special select committee to consider the implications of the withdrawal for Ireland and to suggest some possible solutions to identifiable problems. To support its thinking and considerations, the committee organised nine days of public hearings with former taoisigh and Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade, sectoral experts, representatives of relevant organisations, local authorities, all-island bodies and many more. It launched a report last year in the hope that it would inform the negotiations as member states worked to manage this event that has shaken the political landscape.

  Members will recall that the Tánaiste took part in statements in the House on Brexit earlier this week. We regularly consider matters pertaining to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement. This reflects the fact that while the responsibility to uphold, protect and advance the Good Friday Agreement is for the two Governments as co-guarantors of the agreement, it is also one for all political representatives and parties North and South and across these islands. Civic society, which does much to support and actualise the peace process and the task of reconciliation, also has an important role to play. Members of this House participate in the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and in the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association as important forums for exchange provided for under the Good Friday Agreement. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement also plays an important role in considering and informing debate on the agreement and on cross-Border co-operation.

  In the wider institutional and political context, it is worthwhile for the House to be addressed by the Lord Mayor, the elected leader of Belfast City Council. It would be welcome for this House to hear from representatives of other city and county councils in Northern Ireland to inform our ongoing consideration of and engagement on matters pertaining to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement. Like all local authorities, Belfast City Council has a very broad and important remit in the delivery of public services. It also plays a vital role in addressing issues that can arise at community levels in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland following on from the legacy of the Troubles. The work of the council in the area of good relations also contributes in a meaningful and direct way to the principles and objectives of the Good Friday Agreement, including the achievement of tolerance, mutual trust and reconciliation. Although the North-South Ministerial Council cannot currently meet in the absence of the power-sharing Executive, fortunately, co-operation and exchange between local authorities North and South continues, as it always has, on a practical basis and in support of local and regional economies.

  B'fhéidir gur mhaith leis an Ard-Mhéara cuid de na seacht gceisteanna seo a lua ina hóráid. Leis na focail tosaigh fáilteacha seo, is pléisiúr é dom anois cuireadh a thabhairt di Seanad Éireann a aitheasc. These are some of the issues which the Lord Mayor may wish to address in her speech. With these welcoming introductory remarks, it is my pleasures to invite her to address Seanad Éireann. I again thank her for the courteous and kind welcome she offered me in Belfast last week.

Ms Deirdre Hargey: I know the Cathaoirleach is unwell today as we are both suffering from a sinus infection. I do not know who infected who, but I wish him well in his recovery.

  On behalf of Belfast City Council and the people of Belfast, I send sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin on his passing today. His contribution to the arts across the island of Ireland and beyond is worthy of great recognition.

  I am joined by the chief executive of Belfast City Council, Ms Suzanne Wylie. We are delighted to be here and I, as Lord Mayor, am very pleased to have the opportunity to address Seanad Éireann. This is an historic and symbolic occasion not only because it is the first time that a mayor of Belfast has addressed this forum but also because it gives me the opportunity to speak about the city I love. It is a privilege to be here to speak about and represent Belfast and to look for potential links and collaborative working between us. The invitation I received is a very important gesture of friendship between the Seanad, Seanadóirí, the people represented by Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the people of Belfast and its elected city council.

  Belfast is Ireland's second city and we are the second-largest council on the island. Belfast is changing and that is reflective of a changing Ireland. The most notable and welcome change is that we now have peace. I was 18 years of age when the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by the people of Ireland and I am glad to say that I voted "Yes" in that referendum. It is against that backdrop that I, as mayor, and other elected members of Belfast City Council perform our daily duties and that I am here today.

  The Cathaoirleach visited me last week in Belfast ahead of today's historic address to talk about the link between our two main cities and the huge potential our cities could have in the time ahead. Dublin and Belfast are two cities that, together, can accomplish much to benefit their people and Ireland as a whole. At that meeting we discussed the foundation of the memorandum of understanding signed in 2014 by the mayors of Dublin and Belfast and the opportunities that has given us through closer co-operation between the two cities and the strengthening of links along the economic corridor between them. The Cathaoirleach and I affirmed that in Belfast last week.

  Other opportunities also present themselves in terms of Belfast working with other cities across the island, such as Galway, which will be the European capital of culture in 2020.  Belfast bid for the European Capital of Culture but, unfortunately, because of the Brexit scenario, we could not proceed. We do not want this to stop us, however. We want to look at exploring cultural links, to work with Galway City Council and to develop these cultural links, not just across the island of Ireland, but in a European dimension as well. We believe we can work with a variety of cities right across this island. This is acutely important in the context of Brexit. It is so important we continue to forge new and stronger bonds which encourage and spread ideas of knowledge, equality and prosperity.

  I am set to launch my mayor's charter in December. This declaration will set out what I am focusing on during my term in office under the theme "a Belfast for all". The three pillars of my charter are equality, empowerment and prosperity. Inclusive growth is the foundation to this, a crucial underpinning to ensure we focus on equality of outcome, not just equality of opportunity. While developing this strategy I have engaged with local people across the city and key campaign groups that have taken to the streets in recent years to demand their equal rights with the rest of society. I know that this merges with the campaigns that have taken to the streets of Dublin and the South overall. I have heard many stories of inequality, class struggle, barriers to inclusion and denial of rights.

  As the two largest cities in Ireland, Belfast and Dublin and the corridor between them drive much of our economic development. We know that the full potential of the Dublin-Belfast corridor has yet to be realised. The Belfast Agenda, our community plan for Belfast, sets out ambitious plans for our city to grow by 2035. In the plan we said we would grow our city population by at least 66,000, making housing a priority, particularly much-needed social and public housing. In Belfast we have a housing crisis, with up to 10,000 people on the waiting list. I know that this matches with cities such as Dublin. I believe we can work collectively to overcome these challenges and support families into much-needed housing. We have also said we will support an additional 46,000 better paid jobs. This is an increase of 20% in both housing and employment.

  We also want to see the creation of a youth pledge which guarantees that every young person in the city of Belfast who leaves school at 16 will have a pathway. They will be in education or move into employment or training and further upskilling. Through our inclusive growth framework, our priorities are clear. They are to create more and better jobs, promote investment, make life better for all residents, create a competitive and sustainable city and connect people to these opportunities. I must stress again, however, the importance of creating equality of outcome and not just equality of opportunity if we are serious about connecting our most deprived communities to this growth. We are ambitious for our city and focused on ensuring we deliver. As we know, a Belfast that is thriving has an impact beyond the city boundaries. If Belfast does well, we know that impact goes much further. If Dublin and Belfast do well and we have that connection along the eastern corridor, the ripple effect will travel much further, particularly if we have inclusive growth as a key.

  Having a vision in place helps us to articulate our case for support and investment at the highest level. The Belfast Region City Deal is a significant part of the jigsaw in making our city work. We are seeking to secure up to €1 billion of co-investment over the next ten years with a real focus on innovation, regeneration led by digital tourism, and infrastructure to connect people to jobs and services. Last week we heard the announcement that we have secured the first £350 million in this city deal from the British Treasury. This deal has an impact on a population of up to 1.1 million people living along the eastern seaboard in the North. It stretches as far as Newry and can help build the economic corridor through to Dublin and beyond, with one of the key infrastructural projects being the southern relief road seeking to link Down with Louth.

  We want to tap further into the growing tourism potential. Belfast is a vibrant city. Our tourism statistics show that overnight visitor stays have increased by 50%, overnight tourism spends have increased by 53% and the number of hotel rooms in Belfast has increased by 50%. This year alone we have seen over £150 million in hotel investments and the creation of more than 1,000 additional hotel rooms in the city. Our Belfast tourism agenda goal is ambitious, doubling out-of-state visitor spend by generating 1.9 million overnight stays by 2021. We are determined to make this happen. The Belfast Waterfront Hall and convention centre was named best event space in 2017. We have Titanic Belfast, the world's leading tourist attraction in 2016, and we are the Lonely Planet's number one tourist destination to visit in 2018. Only this week, Belfast picked up the award for world's best food destination at the International Travel and Tourism Awards in London.

  The strong collaborative spur between local government, communities, our businesses, educationalists and innovators sees us working hand in hand to deliver for the city. We have a growing talent to be proud of. We are home to two respected universities in Queen's University and Ulster University and two fantastic teacher training colleges in Stranmillis University College and St. Mary's University College, with links to sporting endeavours and pioneering in the development of Irish-medium educational resources for many schools, colleges and other institutions not just in the city but right across Ireland. We also have Belfast Metropolitan College. We have a young population, with a student population across the universities of around 80,000 young people. We also have a well educated population, with 34% of our working population having a degree level or higher level of education.

  Our communities are strong and evolving well after many years of conflict. I have been personally involved in reconciliation work at a community level right across Belfast and its communities over many years. I am regularly in the company of people from all backgrounds, whether political activists, elected representatives, community activists, trade unionists, church leaders or members of wider civic society. In this regard, I commend Seanadóir Marshall on his role in this Chamber and the distinctive contribution he makes in bringing to it a perspective of the unionist community, particularly that of people from a rural background. The Seanad has a unique quality to it in that it can be home to many people living outside the boundaries of this State and who, in the case of Seanadóir Marshall, may not share the broader constitutional aspirations of the Seanad. He has a place in it, however, and, more important, a voice. Seanadóir Marshall, like Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile, a former mayor and councillor for Belfast, have both brought a distinctive Northern experience and perspective to the Chamber, and I am sure this is to the benefit of both Houses and their Members, Seanadóirí and Deputies.

  Belfast is a forward-thinking, dynamic and ambitious city driven by talent and ready to invest, promoting our city as an attractive place. This is key in delivering our Belfast Agenda ambitions. We have welcomed a number of high-profile investments over the past 12 months from a range of sectors, including financial services, cybersecurity, software and business services, and we are proud of our international relationships, which are bearing fruit. We are delighted that State Street, for example, a global insurance firm with headquarters in our sister city of Boston and a turnover of $11.17 billion, has selected Belfast for its office location. We have developed a competitive advantage and partnership, working in tandem with partners across the city, including Invest Northern Ireland, to develop brand Belfast as a location for a number of other global growth sector firms. As such, we are hopeful for more positive announcements in the near future because Belfast is a city of aspiration and surprises. We are the number one global destination for FinTech investment and the second most successful destination after London for attracting US tradeable services foreign direct investment, FDI, projects. We are home to one of Europe's largest cybersecurity research centres, the Centre for Secure Information Technologies, CSIT, putting us front and centre of research and delivery. We are also home to one of the fastest-growing creative clusters anywhere on these islands and two film studios.

  I hope this gives the House an idea of the city in 2018 and our priorities ahead. It shows we can be a strong partner to Dublin and cities such as Cork, Galway and Limerick and that collectively and collaboratively we can become a place that fosters talent, ideas and prosperity, qualities that will breed and strengthen new links.  Brexit is a real challenge for my city as it is for us all. Just a couple of weeks ago, I attended a rally in front of Belfast City Hall which saw thousands of people from across the political spectrum and all age groups, gender profiles and classes come together to raise their concerns and to reinforce the fact that the majority in the North voted to remain. They were concerned that their voices were not being heard in the debate and they pushed for the Irish and British Governments to listen acutely to the voices of the population. One of the unforeseen consequences of the Brexit referendum in the North, where 56% of voters want to remain in the EU, is that some who were traditionally opposed to Irish reunification but who desired to remain within the EU have become more open to a closer and new relationship with the rest of Ireland. This is welcome and it is an important and crucial part of the debate on what Ireland and its relationships could look like in future and in any new configuration that comes.

A national conversation is required to discuss a new Ireland and what it could look like socially, economically, politically and culturally. I call on the Irish Government to start to prepare talks in this regard. How can we work together to ensure we build equality and prosperity for all on this island, not least our many rural communities and deprived communities? How can we approach collectively issues, including health, tourism, infrastructure, structural inequality and housing, to name but a few? How can our cities across the island deliver in this regard? We all need to be assured that a new Ireland with new relationships will be a secure and prosperous place to live with equality at the core of its foundations. Unionists, in particular, need assurance that any constitutional change will not threaten their standard of living or British identity. As evidenced by the letter published in the Irish News this week, Irish citizens in the North need reassurance that their rights, identity and entitlements will also be protected and upheld. A positive expression of this advance will be the holding of next year's referendum on presidential voting rights for many like me and the thousands of Irish citizens in my city who want to play their part in electing their Uachtarán. I wish the House well in its endeavours to make this a reality. In that regard, I congratulate President Michael D. Higgins on his re-election. We have his portrait in the parlour in Belfast City Hall and I wish him well in his term of office.

The partition of Ireland is almost 100 years old. It not only separated us geographically though the Border; it separated us from each other in our minds and in how we think about the society in which we grew up after 1921. Progress is being made to overcome this particular mindset and there is no doubt that my presence here is a good example of that. Thinking outside our respective 1921 state boundaries is a challenge for all of us but the lesson from the peace process and the remarkable changes throughout this island prove, in the words of Nelson Mandela, that the impossible always seems impossible until it is done. My role as Mayor of Belfast is to ensure we build on the links established and continue to build on the relationships and trust which are crucial. Our memorandum recognises that a significant proportion of the future economic growth of the island of Ireland will occur along the eastern corridor. Our developing cities are the pillars which will uphold that corridor. We want to see that growth used to benefit our communities and those communities beyond our city boundaries, not least the long-forgotten communities in the west. It is my firm and passionate belief that a strong and vibrant Belfast will do what it must to make this happen. We are up for the engagement and for the collaboration and partnership work with the Members of the House, Dublin City Council and other local authorities right across the island.

We must continue to build on the memorandum of understanding and to do so effectively. We have been working hard to develop and grow our city, boosting the opportunities available through collaboration. I want to continue to boost our efforts to attract and expand trade and investment along the economic corridor. We will work in tandem on the continuing development of our cities and with other towns and cities. We must sell all of Ireland together. We must showcase ourselves as part of a vibrant ecosystem and as a single investment location in which we are all part of the same proposition so that all of our people feel the benefit of the resulting growth. We want to continue to break down barriers to travel, promoting intercity tourists and non-tourists alike. We want to encourage the movement of students and greater collaboration to encourage visitors to see a combined and attractive offer. Ireland is changing for the better. The North of Ireland and Belfast City Council are part of that change. The common denominator of this change is the desire of people to live in a more equal, prosperous, secure, fair and respectful society. Whether at council, regional or state level, it is our job as political activists to marry people's aspirations with the institutions which govern their lives. We can do that. I thank the Members for the opportunity to come to the House to speak and for their continued commitment to harnessing this relationship. I look forward to developing future links and invite all Members to visit Béal Feirste soon.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I thank the Lord Mayor for a very in-depth speech. I was greatly impressed on my visit to Belfast at the transformation which has taken place in the city since the peace process commenced. A sister of mine who is in a religious order lived in west Belfast for ten years while my eldest sister, who emigrated when I was a baby, married a Belfast man and they lived in New York. Unfortunately, he was killed in an industrial accident many years ago. I was also greatly impressed by my welcome in the city.

  I will now call Members to speak. I apologise that proceedings have run late due to circumstances beyond our control. The first speaker is Senator Ardagh. I remind the House that there is no sharing time. Group spokespersons have five minutes and the second speaker from the same party or group will have three minutes.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh Cuirim fáilte mhór roimh an Ard-Mhéara as ucht Fhianna Fáil. Is lá stairiúil é. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Ard-Mhéara as an chéad bhean sa ról. Today is historic and it is great that the Lord Mayor has been able to address the Seanad. Having done some research on her, I see that she has done a great deal of work on women's rights and that she supports marriage equality. She has done a great deal of work to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to which she is strongly committed. I was 16 years old when the Agreement was entered into and I remember going through it line by line with my late father. In the wake of Brexit, all our sentiments and rhetoric must be directed to ensuring the Good Friday Agreement does not break down. We must do everything possible to mitigate any fallout from Brexit.

  The Lord Mayor spoke about creating stronger cultural bonds and links between both our cities. She spoke passionately about Belfast and I would like to think I have the same commitment to and passion for my own city of Dublin. I am born and bred a Dub. I have visited the Lord Mayor's beautiful city and would love to see it again. We would all be delighted to visit its council chamber and I thank her for that invitation. The Lord Mayor referred to a commitment from various banks, including State Street Bank. She might note on her way out today that downstairs in Leinster House 2000, the Fearless Girl statue, which was commissioned by that bank, is here. It is very fitting to have it here today, especially as Ms Hargey is the first female Lord Mayor of Belfast. It characterises the day that is in it and it is a very nice piece.   We commend the Lord Mayor's work on reconciliation and on working with the various groups in Northern Ireland. The Fianna Fáil women's group had strong ties with councillors in Northern Ireland and did a good deal of travelling to and from Northern Ireland, which is perhaps something we could resurrect. There is much merit in continuing the relationships between council members and politicians North and South, not just at senior levels but at every level of political life. I thank the Lord Mayor for coming to the Seanad today and congratulate her.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I welcome the Lord Mayor on this historic occasion. She is the first Lord Mayor of Belfast, and the first female Sinn Féin Lord Mayor, to address this House.

  Belfast is one of my favourite cities in the world. It offers so much. I agree with most of what the Lord Mayor said earlier. I would recommend anyone from any part of the world to visit the Titanic centre. It is an amazing exhibition. The level of customer care one gets in a hotel in Belfast is excellent. I have had personal experience of how far the staff in some hotels are prepared to go to ensure guests get the full Belfast welcome, and the Belfast fry-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Ulster fry.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell -----is something to behold. I wish we could have a little of that down here.

  I am looking at the Lord Mayor's manifesto and I am particularly struck by her interest in women's needs and the desire to ensure the health of women in a just society and encouraging trust of women. I am particularly concerned about the mental health of women from the distant past on all sides of the traditions in Northern Ireland. Siobhán Fenton wrote an excellent book, which I read during the summer, on the Good Friday Agreement. One of the areas she said has yet to be dealt with is the mental health issues of women in particular who were victims of the Troubles. In welcoming the Lord Mayor to Dublin, I ask that she would make that a special interest across all communities. There were women who suffered badly through no fault of their own and I ask her to take that issue on board.

  On same-sex marriage, I learned recently on a visit to Northern Ireland that across the community, up to the age of 40 or 45, nobody seems to have a problem with same-sex marriage. I ask the Lord Mayor to keep that wheel moving in the direction in which it is going. Nobody died in this part of the jurisdiction when we brought in marriage equality, and it brought great happiness to families that had been waiting years to see relationships between their children regularised in a proper marital relationship. I am delighted to see that, and I know the Leader, who is in the Chamber, can speak for that also.

  Irish-language rights is an issue that confuses me greatly. Linda Ervine is doing tremendous work in Northern Ireland in terms of the teaching and understanding of the Irish language. I had great pleasure visiting her centre earlier in the year. I will be honest and say I was somewhat embarrassed that my level of Irish was not sufficiently good to communicate with the people in that centre. The Irish language is the property of the people of Ireland, not any particular jurisdiction, religion or group. It belongs to all of us. It is part of our heritage, but I recognise that Scots Gaelic is also part of the heritage of Northern Ireland and recognising that is extremely important. I commend the Lord Mayor on wanting to bring the language forward.

  I am somewhat dismayed at the lack of an assembly in Northern Ireland. We need an assembly to come together and if there is anything the Lord Mayor can do, as a senior member of the Sinn Féin Party, to ensure that happens, I would ask her to do that.

  I acknowledge her interest in the rights of Travellers. My colleague, Senator Ruane, and her colleagues in the Civic Engagement group are working to bring forward a Bill to ensure that Traveller culture is brought into the syllabus of the Irish education system.

  On workers' rights, I come from a trade union background and, unfortunately, the zero-hours contract is the latent aspect of what was very positive legislation from Europe. We see workers in all jurisdictions being crucified with zero-hours contracts. They must sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. I commend the Lord Mayor on taking that as one of her manifesto issues and sincerely hope she will have success in ending this curse of the exploitation of workers in all areas of this country, not just in the North of Ireland.

  On the right to housing, the Lord Mayor stated there are 10,000 people in Belfast waiting for a house. One person in Belfast waiting for a house is a tragedy; 10,000 is unacceptable. We have the same problem at this end.

  On class-based disadvantage, I did not start out with a silver spoon in my mouth. We have worked hard in this part of the world to end class-based disadvantage. Sadly, it is a feature of life on the island of Ireland, not just in the North, and it is an issue on which we must work hard.

  On Brexit, none of us on this island wants Brexit. I wrote an article the day after the referendum advising that there will be a need to manage a border on this island. I know that is repugnant to the Lord Mayor and to anybody who wants free travel in this country. I want that, but I cannot see any way a third country will have an open border with the European Union and until such time as I am convinced otherwise, that will remain my view. For that reason alone, it is vitally important that the Lord Mayor is in the Seanad today and that she maintains relationships with all the mayors in the Republic and in the North of Ireland. Brexit is the one issue that can tear this island apart again and bring us back to times none of us wants to revisit. I ask the Lord Mayor to do everything she can to ensure that, irrespective of whether it is a hard, soft or any other kind of Brexit, whatever else we do, we maintain our relationships and continue to work together to try to understand each other better.

  I welcome the Lord Mayor to Dublin and thank her for her time.

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan The Lord Mayor is very welcome to the Seanad today. As she rightly said, it is an historic and symbolic occasion. The Seanad is much richer for having the Lord Mayor here and we need more of these new engagements and relationships.

  I was thinking about Belfast and Dublin 100 years ago. One hundred years ago, Belfast was a larger city than Dublin but Dublin now has three times the population of Belfast. What has happened in Belfast in the 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, and in the island of Ireland, has been truly significant. We must protect and enhance all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

  I live in Boyle, County Roscommon, in the west. In terms of our links, 100 years ago Boyle was the home of the Connaught Rangers. It is a little known fact that 1,000 young men from nationalist Catholic west Belfast joined the Connaught Rangers to go to fight in the First World War. The 6th Connaught Rangers Research Group did a great deal of good work on that. I was not aware of that history until I became Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. At the time, the island of Ireland was effectively a single unit in the British Empire but 200,000 people from the island of Ireland went to fight in the First World War, 50,000 of whom died. Thirty thousand of those young men were from the Republic and we did not recognise the sacrifices they made, although in some ways we have come of age in that regard in recent years.

  I want to pay tribute to Deputy Crowe of Sinn Féin who, as Irish Co-Chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, was in Westminster with fellow colleagues and laid a wreath with his British Co-Chair, Andrew Rosindell, MP. That was a hugely significant moment and I want to thank the Lord Mayor and the other people involved for making those gestures. They are not easy to make but they are very welcome.

  My grandfather was from Boyle. One hundred years ago, he was on trial in Belfast courthouse for republican activities.  Those links between my area and Belfast were the same. My point is that we are in a much better space. I thank everyone for making those sacrifices .

  With regard to tourism, the island of Ireland under Tourism Ireland is incredible. In this regard, I often refer to the two Ts. When I go to the Titanic museum, I hear the voices of people from the Republic who would never have had any intention of going to Northern Ireland or Belfast but the Titanic museum gave them a reason to do that. I have visited Tayto Park twice and the situation is the same there in that I can see the number of people from the North who come down here because of the park. Those two facilities-----

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Which Tayto is the Senator's favourite?

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I could not say. In any case, it is a new relationship. The Seanad is much richer because of the experience and the views of the two Northern Senators, Niall Ó Donnghaile, who brings a nationalist perspective, and Ian Marshall, who brings a unionist perspective. This is very significant and symbolic, and they are very valued Members of the Seanad.

  Brexit brings its challenges but I hope there will also be great opportunities. I hope we will get a resolution in the coming weeks but there cannot be a border on the island of Ireland because, as Eamonn McCann rightly said, the people will tear it down with their own hands. While I am not being vindictive, that is the truth. We cannot allow a border on the island of Ireland. I hope we will have some resolution that pleases everybody in the coming weeks.

  As Members will be aware, I am one of those who feels we should have more association with the Commonwealth of Nations. Some 70% of the people born on the island of Ireland reside in Commonwealth countries. It is not the British Commonwealth. If we want an agreed Ireland, we have to show leadership in facing up to this. The Republic of Ireland has asked for observer status in the Francophonie, which is a little known fact. The Francophonie is the French commonwealth. That is a very strategic move. I believe that, as a country, we must lead and we must show ourselves as leaders around the world.

  The Lord Mayor is more than welcome. I am delighted she is here today. The Seanad is much the better for her visit.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Chathaoirleach. Cuirim fáilte chroíúil roimh mo chara agus mo chéadsaoránach, an Comhairleoir Deirdre Hargey anseo go dtí Seanad Éireann inniu. Lá stairiúil agus suntasach dúinne mar atá ráite. Lá freisin chun tús a chur le caidreamh agus obair dhearfach idir Chomhairle Cathrach Bhéal Feirste agus mo dhuine anseo i Seanad Éireann. Tá an tUasal Hargey ag cur tús leis an sárobair sin agus í i láthair inniu agus mar a deirtear sa seanfhocal: "tús maith leath na hoibre".

  I want to extend a céad míle fáilte to my friend, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, Ard-Mhéara Bhéal Feirste, on this very special occasion. She is most welcome. It is very unusual for us to speak to each other in these illustrious circumstances and it has been a while since we have been in the one elected chamber together. It is good to see her.

  I will read from notes today, which the Chair will appreciate is not my common position. However, given the significance of the day, I am probably better sticking to the script. The Lord Mayor would expect no less.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is the Senator's entitlement.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile It has been said she is the first mayor of Belfast to address a sitting of the Seanad, and I know how important and special that is to her and to Belfast City Council. Other colleagues have rightly acknowledged the presence of Belfast City Council CEO, Suzanne Wylie, another champion for the new and better Belfast. I also extend my thanks and appreciation, through the Leas-Chathaoirleach, to the Cathaoirleach, the Leader of the Seanad and the other Seanadoirí who made this visit possible.

  I think we all get it. We all appreciate, not least given the climate we are in, the significance and importance of having such a visit today. Today is one of those days when the Seanad and we, as Members, can display the leadership this nation and its people need. Today, the Seanad is a warm house for the people Deirdre represents in Belfast City Council, the Nationalist and Unionist people and the increasing number of people our city welcomes from a range of different political, cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. In Deirdre, that changing, diverse and wonderfully authentic Belfast are all represented in this Chamber today. Today, the Seanad is a microcosm of Ireland and also of Ireland’s diverse and rich tapestry of people. We are a shared institution, one that welcomes people, voices and views which do not always get the chance to be heard, but which can be heard through our Seanad.

  This is very important because Ireland is in transition, shaped by a process, in particular a political process, with the Irish Government in a central and lead role, as is required by today’s political circumstances and citizens' expectations. Deirdre’s presence and the presence of Seanadóir Marshall and, indeed, my own contribution here, demonstrate the importance of this institution to the people of the North. Only this week, 1,000 people from many influential backgrounds in the North appealed directly to the Taoiseach to protect and guarantee their rights and the rights of all of the people of the North, including those who want to leave the EU, in this most precarious period around Brexit. As touched on by Senator Craughwell, this includes the people Deirdre has committed to championing during her term in office - those who want an Acht na Gaeilge, want marriage equality, access to proper and appropriate healthcare for women and access to truth and legacy mechanisms. I commend the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste for their positive response to the recent appeal from the North and their repeated assurance that the people of the North will never again be abandoned. We know political and civic leaders like Deirdre will hold them to account in that regard.

  The Seanad has clearly shown today a very good example of what this assurance can mean in practice. I assure the Leas-Chathaoirleach that the people of Belfast and across the North are delighted by what they see occurring here today. The Seanad and the Dáil are important institutions in the lives of the people of this State but they are also very important institutions for the people of the North. The presence of the Árdmhéara and her speech reflect that reality but they also reflect the changing realities of our city and the demands from the people there. I am inspired by the theme for her time in office - empowerment, equality and prosperity - universal sentiments that all of us in political and civic life should aspire to seeing realised fully. Stronger links between all the institutions on this island which serve our citizens and help to govern people’s lives make sense on many fronts, not least on the economic front. We can see from the emphasis in Deirdre’s speech just how important both of our main councils in Dublin and Belfast will be, working together for the people who live along the eastern corridor and the positive reverberations that can be felt from that throughout Ireland. This economic collaboration is important at any time but it is particularly important in this crisis-driven Brexit period. Considered, agreed and implemented island-wide, economic co-operation will go some way to restoring confidence in local, regional and State economies at this time of deep uncertainty.

  There is a phrase in Irish: ní neart go cur le chéile – strength in unity. That strength in unity is evident in the Seanad with Deirdre’s presence today. Again, go raibh céad míle maith agat. I thank her and the Seanad. Like other Seanadoirí, I believe her presence is timely, given, as Senator Ardagh noted, the location of the Fearless Girl statute here. She is a fearless girl, she is a fearless woman, she is fearless republican, she is a fearless Market woman and a fearless Árdmhéara. We thank her for her contribution and her work, and we wish her every success in the time ahead. I assure her we will take her up on the invitation to continue and build upon that engagement between her elected institution and this one, between our own city and Dublin. Go raibh céad míle maith agat on behalf of the Sinn Féin group.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I acknowledge the presence of Deputy Pat Buckley in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. He is very welcome. I call Senator Black.

Senator Frances Black: Information on Frances Black Zoom on Frances Black I welcome the Lord Mayor and thank her sincerely for her historic address. Given my own family background in north Antrim, I am deeply passionate about the North of Ireland and I am happy to see sustained engagement between these Houses and Belfast. I have a huge soft spot for Belfast. It is an amazing city – vibrant, musical and full of life, energy, humour and complexity.  To have the Lord Mayor here today to speak to us is a really positive step and one I would like to see continued.

  My experience of Belfast has involved performing there many times. I have performed at the west Belfast festival and in the opera house there and I have wonderful memories.

  These initiatives are particularly important at a time of deep political uncertainty and particularly with Brexit looming. I am privileged to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement as well as the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU. This has been a focus of mine over the past year and it really breaks my heart that so much of our time and of our social and political energy is being spent on defending against the impact of Brexit, time that should be spent on the wonderful social and cultural potential that exists in our cities. We all realise how important it is and it is right that we make it a priority.

  Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the reckless pursuit of a hard Brexit by many of those in leadership roles has put serious pressure on the Good Friday Agreement. I firmly believe elected representatives need to show dedication, bravery and unwavering commitment to protecting it. We talk of progress on a final deal ahead of the March 2019 deadline. We cannot accept those who speak flippantly about the Good Friday Agreement when one considers the progress it has brought and the absolute necessity of avoiding a hard border. Thankfully, this is one of those issues on which we see unanimous support across the Houses of the Oireachtas. On this point I want to give credit to the Government and, in particular, the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, for his work during the Brexit negotiations. A legally operable backstop fully supported by the European Union is vital to protecting peace on our shared island. That point has been made clearly and coherently and I am positive that we will see it reflected in any final deal.

  One of the more positive and inspiring aspects of our work on the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has been our outreach to community groups in east and west Belfast and we have gone on many trips there and it has been an amazing experience. It has had a great impact on the committee's membership. I found it especially moving as someone who has spent so many years in the community sector. The work that has been carried out on peace and reconciliation, the slow ordinary everyday work, the process of reaching out across divides and pushing for co-operation is deeply inspiring and a real cause for hope. The RISE Foundation in which I work has run cross-Border, cross-community programmes. To be involved in that has been an incredible experience, watching cross-community work, particularly around mental health issues, and cross-Border work, where people from the South have listened to stories from both communities, the reality of what it was like during the conflict, and the legacy of the mental health issues that have come out of the conflict with addiction, depression and anxiety. At the end of the day, people have to deal with these issues on an equal basis.

  This draws on the bigger and broader aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, recognising that it is not just a political or diplomatic agreement and that it is an aspirational document outlining a vision for a transformed and shared society. When we saw the huge turnout and support for it 20 years ago right across this island, it was not just a vote for peace. It was a vote for regeneration, opportunity, empowerment and co-operation and for an improvement to the basic material conditions of everyday life. It was an endorsement of a society that protects the rights of all citizens and how that can help provide the education, employment, healthcare and housing needed for human dignity and flourishing. As elected representatives, this is something we must remember. We need to recognise how much work still needs to be done to deliver on these aspirations. I have raised this issue in this Chamber. I attended an event in St. Mary's in Belfast earlier this year and I was struck by some of the contributions, particularly one from a young member of the LGBT community. He spoke so passionately about the barriers and discrimination that still exist and the need for greater equality. It is a message that should resonate in Dublin and in Belfast and I am glad to see young people leading that change. All across Ireland we are seeing a new generation of young people who are more willing than ever to stand up for their rights and to drive social change and I met many of them in Belfast.

  Under the Good Friday Agreement, the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into domestic law into the North of Ireland, prohibiting discrimination on a wide array of grounds. In 2010, it was joined by the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union with a particularly important focus on workers rights, socio-economic support and anti-discrimination. These are hard-won vital protections that must be enjoyed equally by every person on this island, in Dublin, in Belfast and everywhere else. It is a point I have made consistently as a member of the Good Friday committee but it bears repeating. If Brexit means a repeal of the Human Rights Act which underpins these protections in the North, then we must ensure that it does not bring any reduction whatsoever in terms of human rights standards. The protections that exist must continue, be legally enforceable and be equivalent on both sides of the Border.

  Occasions like this give us an opportunity to make that point firmly, so I am very grateful that the Lord Mayor is here today to draw upon the historic and hugely positive links between Dublin and Belfast and to reaffirm our commitment to continuing them. The Lord Mayor has given such a wonderful account of the city she loves and I would like to thank her most sincerely as a Member of Seanad Éireann agus gabhaim míle buíochas léi and congratulations.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Before calling on the next speaker, I welcome Elisha McCallion, MP for Foyle, to the Chamber. I call Senator Colm Burke.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I welcome the Lord Mayor and I very much appreciate her taking time out of here very busy schedule to be here. I am a former Lord Mayor of Cork. There are only three cities that have that title, Belfast, Dublin and Cork. I am delighted the Lord Mayor is here as the role of Lord Mayor is about providing leadership right across the community. I know that she has been doing that since she has been elected to office. It is important that we work together on that role. We need to do much more on a joint approach between Northern Ireland and the Republic in terms of exchanges between local communities in different cities, with the farming, business communities, tourism and sport. We have made much progress over the last 25 to 30 years on that issue but we can do much more, especially with younger people.

  When the Washington programme was set up young people from the Protestant and nationalist communities spent a period of time in Washington working together. It is something we should try to establish here, involving young people from Dublin and Cork and cities across Northern Ireland. It is a very educational and helpful and is something we should work on.

  A number of years ago I was involved in an exchange between political groups in Northern Ireland and my area in Cork and it was very effective in understanding the difficulties and different challenges we face. Many of the challenges are the same in different parts of the country.

  It is important to recognise how important the role of the Lord Mayor of Cork is. We lost two Lord Mayors in 1920. Tomás Mac Curtain was shot in his own home on the orders of the RIC and Terence MacSwiney who succeeded him and who died while on hunger strike in Brixton Prison. They were two tragedies for Cork but they showed the respect for the job of Lord Mayor of Cork city. One of the legacies Terence MacSwiney left was that while he was Lord Mayor, he visited every school in the city. That is a legacy that has remained to this day and it provides a huge opportunity for young people to engage with the political process. It is something we should develop in other areas, namely, that direct connection between those elected and young people as they come through the system. If one goes to school in Cork city, by the time one is finished in education, one has met 14 Lord Mayors. It is a huge opportunity for people to engage and it is something we should encourage.

  I am delighted that the Lord Mayor of Belfast is here and I thank her for the work she has done to date as Lord Mayor and I wish her well for the remaining term of her office.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan: Information on Ned O'Sullivan Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan Cuirim fáilte Uí Cheallaigh roimh Ard-Mhéara Bhéal Feirste, Comhairleoir Hargey. Tréaslaím leis an Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile a chur an rún seo chun cinn. I welcome the mayor wholeheartedly to the Chamber and I compliment my colleague, Senator Ó Donnghaile, who put the matter forward in the first place. Such communication, conversation and association between us is very welcome. I am delighted to get such a positive report from our Cathaoirleach, Senator O'Donovan, from his trip north, and I hope Ms Hargey will find her visit to us equally rewarding. She referred to the great progress that has been made in her native city of Belfast. There is no question or doubt about it that it is wonderful to see that beautiful city of Belfast coming back proud, buoyant and forward-looking, mainly, in our time, as a result of the cessation of violence. People from the South who did not go north during the Troubles are taking advantage of the peace process to visit not only Belfast but all of the Six Counties. I do so regularly. I have very fond memories of Belfast from when I was in education. I had close associations with the teacher training college in St. Joseph's. I have relations in Enniskillen. It is a beautiful town. It is certainly the jewel of the North of Ireland and I would like to see that continue.

  I am delighted to hear the mayor say she is working hard for reconciliation because that is the most important part of her work. We have seen examples of reconciliation in the South and in the North and we need to see more of it. I was talking to Senator Marshall just before we came in and telling him that my own town of Listowel, in the height of the Troubles, was twinned with Downpatrick. We had many guests. The mayors of Downpatrick tended to be either unionists or occasionally from the SDLP. We found out that they did not have horns on their heads and they found out that we were okay. They have a racetrack and we have a racetrack. We were able to build on that in a small way.

  The mayor has a huge responsibility insofar as she has a high profile in elected office in the North where there is a political vacuum and political wilderness. This is not the occasion to attribute blame and I will not attribute blame except to say that neither side is blameless for that. We want them in the Assembly and I know Ms Hargey would want to see that restored immediately. We do not have nationalist representation in Westminster and 100 years ago, Joseph Devlin represented Belfast Falls and 100 years later, it is sad to say that we have no one over there at a crucial time for Brexit. It has never been more important. Our former President, Mary Robinson, warned yesterday that she is fearful about a resurgence of violence in the North if a hard border comes back. I mentioned that here two weeks ago and was shouted down about it by certain quarters. It is an issue which we have to be careful about and work together on. The mayor's visit is a good day's work and she is welcome.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I welcome Ms Hargey and congratulate her on her powerful, historic address. My colleague from the Civil Engagement Group, of which I am a leader, spoke very clearly about the vote taken on the Good Friday Agreement being a choice made not simply for peace and political solutions but for community engagement and co-operation, rights, and a vision of society at the time. I will perhaps begin with the point at which she ended her contribution. It is important that we are clear on all of those pillars of the Good Friday Agreement which she spoke about, especially the commitment on rights and the mechanisms relating to the vindication and protection of human rights and the rights of all those across this island. The equivalence of human rights in that commitment is important. I am glad to see in the Brexit negotiations that the key pillar of human rights, which has been somewhat to the side, is now entering centre stage. It is appropriate when we are at the anniversary of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

  It is good to see that we are not simply looking backwards with regard to rights but looking forward. As Ms Hargey mentioned, even in the shadow of difficult challenges and changed imposed by Brexit, we see positive change being talked about and positive demands for constructive futures. It is important to recognise that some of those changes will be very positive with regard to issues such as access to reproductive rights, equality of outcome and not just opportunity, and marriage equality. It is positive to see that we have co-operation from this House with Members of Parliament such as Stella Creasy and others in the UK and with many activists in movements in Northern Ireland to ensure that we take the commitment to rights seriously.

  The equivalence with regard to human rights is something we will want to see matched with equivalence in the environment and in employment standards. I can tell from Ms Hargey's speech that she is not simply looking at the idea of equivalence and to ensure that the European standards which have been met will continue to be met for everybody in these areas but that she is ambitious for what the standards might be and what we might do for our societies. I love the idea of Belfast, Dublin and the other cities on this island working together to raise standards in these areas of sustainability, employment and a decent society. We should have our ambition there.

  Ms Hargey spoke of the many connections. There are connections, aside from the political and even in times of political uncertainty, in sport, education, unions and the civic connection which Ms Hargey spoke about. She reached out to other cities and both urban and rural communities. It was very moving that she spoke not only of Belfast but the area around it, and the relationship a city has with the rural communities around it. Lastly, I want to speak to the cultural and historical connection. I am a member of the Vótáil 100 committee and we are at the centenary of suffrage. We had Winifred Carney in the North and Constance Markievicz, who were ground-breaking at that time, as Ms Hargey has been ground-breaking as mayor. I look forward to commemorating these issues in a way that is positive and empowering and to working with Ms Hargey to paint a picture for a future of that co-operation across the past, through the difficulties of the present, and to paint an ambitious picture for the future, for all of us on our island. I look forward to further co-operation. I thank Ms Hargey for joining us.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I commend the Cathaoirleach of this House on his work to establish this important series of events that will see the first citizens from across this island address this House. I welcome the Lord Mayor of Béal Feirste, Deirdre Hargey, to the Chamber. My boyfriend and I regularly spend time in Belfast. It is a city we have great affection towards and which is, from our experience, safe to be open, public and visible. We feel a real sense of belonging there, given its diversity. Despite legislation unreflective of public opinion on the issue of civil marriage equality, our Seanad team regularly visits Belfast. In 2017, Anne McReynolds gave us a tour of the Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast and we saw first-hand through her enthusiasm and passion how Belfast elevates and embraces the creativity of its people. Culture and the arts can always be used as a tool to divide. This has been true in the past but culture is constantly evolving. Art is a response to that culture and great or important art eventually becomes our heritage but only the people can decide what is great. This is probably most visible on the walls and in the streets of Belfast where visitors, world-renowned artists, come from across the globe not only to witness this street art but to partake and create.  Tourism, the arts, culture and film are significant contributors to the economy. I need not tell the Ardmhéara that conversations are ongoing in the Twenty-six Counties about directly elected mayors for cities such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. There is a responsibility on all of us who embrace the ideas of republicanism to ensure that decision-making rests as close as possible to the lives of citizens, and that means stronger local authorities. It has always struck me that Belfast City Council prides itself on renewal, on openness and on listening to the changing dynamics of the city.

  There has been a mayor of Belfast since 1842. For right or wrong, the Seanad has always been a link between national and local politics and often has been composed of voices from the unionist tradition. Today is an important coming together of the political system. Long may it continue.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Ard-Mhéara. It is a great pleasure to welcome the Lord Mayor of Belfast to the House today. I apologise for not being here earlier due to various other issues around the ordering of the Seanad business.

  It is great to see the Seanad welcoming in a Lord Mayor from a different city. I hope we will continue to do so. I note this is the start of a series of engagements we will have with lords mayor from other cities, Dublin and Cork, but I hope also Galway, Limerick and, indeed, Waterford, my father's own home city. I would like us to continue this engagement, to extend it beyond Ms Deirdre Hargey, as we are already agreeing to do, and to ensure that all parties and Independents are represented also in this. It is important that we do this as part of our civic engagement.

  I apologise again that I was not here earlier. It is a welcome testament, though, to the success of this sort of event that it has gone on beyond the planned time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I, too, warmly welcome the Lord Mayor here today, and, indeed, her chief executive, Ms Suzanne Wylie.

  Members have referred to Brexit and the enormous challenges it will present for this island, North and South. I am honoured to be a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, both of which played important roles in considering and informing debate on the Good Friday Agreement, on cross-Border co-operation and Brexit.

  Since its establishment in 1990, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly has contributed to British-Ireland relations and the bonds forged at the assembly will be more crucial than ever if we are to ensure an orderly Brexit for everyone involved. Our members will continue to build upon those relationships and work to protect bilateral relations. Through these parliamentary fora, politicians from all walks of life nurture and strengthen relationships on an east-west and North-South basis.

  I agree with the Cathaoirleach that the peace process was one of the greatest achievements of our time and one which must be protected. Our relationship with our UK counterparts is vital and it is through open and honest dialogue that we will get through these difficult times.

  I thank Ms Deirdre Hargey for her interesting address to this House today and wish her well in her tenure as Lord Mayor of Belfast. Gabhaim buíochas leí.

Ms Deirdre Hargey: First, I thank all the Members again for sharing their personal stories and words of encouragement. I hope this stands us in good stead in the months and years to come of harnessing and developing the relationships. If Brexit has taught us anything, it is to really focus on having those relationships. Creating those relationships and building on the trust is fundamental because at the end, it will be to the benefit of all citizens right across the island.

  To reflect, Brexit and the Border is a massive issue. It is on the tip of everyone's tongue every single day, in my city and right across the island. The Good Friday Agreement is fundamental in the sense that it was a referendum in which all people across the island voted overwhelming for that peace agreement. Growing up and living in a city that has been torn apart by political conflict and division, I can see the massive benefits of that agreement even in these short 20 years. As someone with a background of reconciliation work with former combatants and with communities that are segregated and divided, I am aware that the absence of armed conflict does not always result in peace and one must build the peace. The consequences of Brexit could unravel that. I do not say that lightly but there are massive concerns because the peace process is in its infancy. It is a young process, only 20 years in the making. The process is something that is held in international regard but we still need to nurture it and Brexit could have a massive detrimental impact on it.

  As a city that is trying to move forward, and I know that is shared right across the island, this is a big concern, particularly for our young people in the time ahead. When we are looking to grow the economy, we do not want to chase away that young talent. We want to retain it, within our cities and within our communities as well.

  I stress again the crucial role of the Irish Government and the Seanad in representing people, right across the North and across the island, but particularly being wedded to the Good Friday Agreement as a co-guarantor. I was thinking back when somebody spoke in terms of the image of a place. I thought back to the Carrickdale Hotel, just right at the Border, prior to the Good Friday Agreement, where I attended a team-building residential meeting with a number of women's organisations from right across the North. At that point, there were still army checkpoints in south Armagh. One could see them from the Carrickdale Hotel. I remember sitting in the hotel that night. Two residents from just beyond Dublin came up to stay in the hotel and when they realised there was a British army checkpoint or station post on the mountain, they checked out that night because they were so fearful of going near the North. We do not want to go back to those times. It has taken us 20 years to change the international image of the city and society and we do not want anything that will set us back.

  I listened closely to the points regarding the Commonwealth of Nations. When one is starting to look at what a new Ireland could look like, all options must be on the table. All options need to be discussed. We need to look at what brings most of the people right across the island together, including those who are unionists particularly, nationalists and those who do not assign to anything. All those options need to be discussed and on the table.

  In terms of retaining relationships post Brexit, it is crucial, no matter what the outcome, for us to focus and build on the relationships even more to ensure we are building strong foundations for whatever comes in the time ahead. I have met the mayors of both Dublin and Cork over recent months in this post, predominantly in respect of remembrance events at Islandbridge, as well as when the Pope came to Ireland. I agree with the comments that we need to move beyond those events, in terms of looking at social implications and economic connections of our cities and really starting to forge and build links around those key issues.

  I also will meet the Lord Mayor of Dublin later today to build on the memorandum of understanding we have between our two cities. In respect of infrastructure, we are considering a high-speed rail connection between Belfast and Dublin. A feasibility study is being looked at, the local authorities that span the corridor between Belfast and Dublin have put funding into it and I would like to come back to give the Seanad updates. That is only one example of the growth and connection that we can look at.

  We want to retain our connections with Europe as well. That is critical to us, as an island. I will be representing Belfast - other cities across the island will attend - at the Eurocities conference in Edinburgh at the end of this month where there will be a conversation on the role of cities in emerging social, political and economical life. Indeed, I would encourage any of the other cities across the island to attend that conference.  I am always open to further engagement with them.

  The issue of rights is something that is very much to the fore of why the institutions have not been re-established and has also seen thousands of people take to the streets in front of the building in which I sit, City Hall, in recent years, whether these rights are in language, LGBT, marriage equality, women or those around legacy and dealing with the past. These are not orange and green issues, which is critical. We cannot just pigeon hole them or sectarianise them into orange and green issues. Rights are international, they are universal and impact on all citizens. This is a conversation we need to have. The one reason I launched a mayor’s charter on rights in the city was to lift that debate. One critical factor in the Good Friday Agreement was the introduction of a bill of rights, but this is still yet to materialise. Had that been introduced, many of these issues that people in my city are out on the streets campaigning about would have been covered by this. I want to play my part in working with those organisations. I will launch it on 10 December which is Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the charter. That will examine various issues around women and mental health, which was touched on, which is a massive issue. More people in the North have died by suicide since the Good Friday Agreement was signed than all those who died as a result of the political conflict. That is a vast issue that we must address.

  Looking at gender, the British Government has not signed up to UN Resolution 1325, there is no action plan for the North around women’s issues or gender principles around female representation in politics, on bodies, mental health or community participation which is another thing that we need to encourage. The British Government needs to sign up to these. The Irish Government is implementing these action plans but there is a vacuum in the North where it is probably needed most. Any influence that can be brought to bear in this would be crucial.

  I now turn to reconciliation. The Connaught Rangers is one area. I have done much work in Belfast City Council and in the city on the need for remembrance and addressing the decade of centenaries. Belfast City Council adopted a very positive approach. After the election in 2011 we agreed a set of principles because we knew that the decade of centenaries was coming. These included the Battle of the Somme, the 1916 Easter Rising, the signing of the Ulster Covenant, to name but a few, that could have heightened tensions or led to conflict on the streets of Belfast. I am glad to say that all the political parties in Belfast City Council, across the spectrum, signed up to a set of principles in which we could mark all those occasions and look at them in their wider context, looking at them through perspectives of gender and class and from an international perspective. Something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime was Belfast City Council hosting three civic dinners, one to mark the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912, and two dinners in 1916, one to mark the Easter Rising and another for the Battle of the Somme.

  We are now moving to look at the memorabilia in the building and how it can be made more reflective to ensure that it looks at all backgrounds and narratives. The figure of Winifred Carney well reflects this, for instance, her story, and the complexity of her past is not black and white but more layered and complex. There is my chain of office which features the words "Erin go Bragh" whereas that of the Dublin Lord Mayor features King William. Some seem to think the two were switched but it illustrates the complexity. We have a deep and shared history and one which we all own and we must all own the future. Winifred Carney was an Irish republican from Belfast who was in the GPO in 1916 with James Connolly. Her future husband, George McBride, was a UVF volunteer, an Orangeman also from Belfast who, during 1916, was fighting with the British at the Battle of the Somme. They both returned to Belfast, where they were both trade union activists who worked with the city’s poor and they met, fell in love and were married. It is a beautiful story which goes to sum up the complexity of our past and also gives hope for the future.

  Dialogue is the big factor in reconciliation. We need to get to know one another. I see this in Belfast when dealing with interface tension, where communities are at a street that divides the two communities. They do not know each other or the issues that impact the other. We have learned over time that dialogue, getting to know one another and the fact that I am hearing the Members’ perspective here today, and they are hearing mine, may widen our horizons and thoughts, and may push buttons or perceptions that we have. When we get to know each other, that is how we build trust, and that trust is how one can reach agreements and compromises. That is what is needed for the institutions. We need the institutions to be up and running but they must do so on solid foundations. We need to resolve the outstanding issues, particularly the implementation of those around the rights enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. If that does not happen, people will be outside City Hall demanding their rights.

  This is an opportunity. It is historic and as a city and a council we are keen to strengthen our engagements and connections with other towns and cities across the island. We want to look at the tourism and trade potential that lifts the prosperity of all our citizens with inclusive growth which is key. We want to look at infrastructure, roads and train networks. There is nothing to say that if this was achieved between Dublin and Belfast it could not be expanded to Derry to Cork and across to Galway or beyond. We want to look at innovation and research to ensure that when Ireland, as an island, puts itself forward internationally, that we are seen as a real hub of innovation and advanced research and how that has an impact on advanced manufacturing.

  Tourism was referred to. There is massive potential in this area. As a city, we want to double our tourism spending by 2020. With Tourism Ireland we have gone to the market as one and went to China on a joint trade mission. The benefits have already been seen in the Chinese market. On educational links, we know that there are many students from Belfast who are studying in Dublin. If the infrastructure was dealt with, there would be nothing to stop them commuting between the two cities. That applies to education and to business.

  There is great potential in culture, which could be in areas such as the European Capital of Culture or other cultural programmes, and deepen the understanding of what is offered across the island. We can look at opportunities for how we can collectively promote the island through our cultural offerings. Arts play a critical role in that. There is a campaign in the North called Arts Matter, which emphasises the impact of the arts and investment. This is something we want to build on because as well as its social and economic impact, it also has an impact on building reconciliation, the peace process and using art as a way of breaking down barriers or fears and perceptions.

  The opportunity is there to use our cities to make those connections and look at the inclusion of the surrounding areas so that they also feel the benefit. We are doing this for our young people, for the next generation, for those who have talent and aspirations to ensure that they have a future and that it is on the island of Ireland.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thank the Lord Mayor and invite the Leader to make some concluding remarks.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Gabhaim buíochas leis an Leas-Chathaoirleach, an Ard-Mhéara, na comhairleoirí agus na Seanadóirí. Mar fhocal scoir, gabhaim fíorbhuíochas leis an Ard-Mhéara as ucht an dá óráid iontach agus stairiúil. Bhí siad an-siombalach.  In welcoming and thanking the Lord Mayor, I will not delay the House further, as we have heard many speeches. I actually thought that we had the wrong Member from Belfast in the Chamber,-----

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile There is time yet.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----given the wonderful eloquence of the Lord Mayor.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway Sinn Féin is happy with this man.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Ó Donnghaile knows I do not mean that in a nasty way.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Tá fhios agam.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is important that we welcome the Lord Mayor. In the history of the Seanad allowing people to address us, we have drawn on a large group. In the previous Seanad, the then Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke, invited Mr. Drew Nelson from the Orange Order to do so. This morning, we have the Lord Mayor of Belfast. I would contend that Cork will always be the second city even when we come together as a country.

  It is important that the Lord Mayor's visit be acknowledged, as we are building bridges. It is about ensuring that the voice of everyone, North and South, is heard in this Chamber. The flag behind us - the flag of our country - symbolises all of us, as does the Lord Mayor's presence. I welcome her chief executive and commend everyone else involved on their sterling work in Belfast. Like Senator Warfield, I like visiting Belfast. The Kremlin is one of the best places to be. I do not mean the one in Moscow. It is a wonderful and safe city for those of us of the LGBT community. If we on this part of the island can do something to promote equality, particularly marriage equality, then we have a duty to advance that cause.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer As the Lord Mayor stated, this is about collaborating and developing links. It is also about recognising that Belfast has made a significant journey in terms of peace and reconciliation, its economic development and its people. That is to be welcomed. We all recognise that the peace that has been won cannot be taken lightly. The Lord Mayor remarked on engaging with people. I hope that all of us can engage further in ensuring that the peace is cemented for the next generation. None of us wants to return to the days of waking up to news reports of killings on both sides of the divide. We hope those days are gone and will never come back.

  The Lord Mayor spoke about the unique quality of the Seanad. She certainly saw part of it before her address in terms of some of the carry-on.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson It is called democracy.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I apologise to the Lord Mayor for the delay. Senator Norris is mad to get to the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile He is unusually quiet.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Chair is conscious of it as well.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I apologise for not being present.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We spoke too soon.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I had a long-standing lunch engagement. I was impressed with what the Lord Mayor said.

Ms Deirdre Hargey: I thank the Senator.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer This week, the Tánaiste spoke in the Seanad about Brexit being about more than just economics, in that it was also about the lives of people. The Lord Mayor touched on that in her remarks. As a Government, we have been clear in our position, which has not changed. This is about the North and South being represented by our Government in achieving an outcome from Brexit, whatever that brings. In the European context, "solidarity" does not mean without the North. Rather, it is inclusive of the North.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer When we talk about there being no hard border, we mean it.

  The Lord Mayor referred to the need for a return of devolved government. Her presence in this Chamber illustrates the importance of politics and democracy and her participation in this debate signifies that politicians get things done. We need a return of devolved government in the North. The DUP, Sinn Féin and the other parties need to get Stormont back up and running. It is important for many reasons, not least of which is equality, but also financially, given that Brexit is impending.

  The Lord Mayor has inspired us. She remarked on Belfast being a city of aspiration. Her presence here, her remarks and the charter on equality, empowerment and prosperity bode well for that city. It is lucky to have her; I do not say that patronisingly. To see and hear her in this Chamber has been impressive. I wish her well with the remainder of her tenure. Go n-éirí leat, a Ard-Mhéara.

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 27

Debate resumed on Government amendment No. 66:

  In page 20, line 34, after “not” to insert the following:
“, without the consent in writing of the Commission or (save where the intending discloser is the Director) the Director or except as required by law or in the circumstances provided for in subsection (3),”.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I welcome the Minister. We are on section 26, amendments Nos. 66 to 71, inclusive. The amendments are related. Senator McDowell was in possession.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan May I first ask the Chair to remind the House the length of time that we have spent on this section?

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Yes. On the previous occasion we debated this Bill, we allocated an hour and a half, with this the only section discussed.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I thank the Acting Chairman. That was helpful. I believe, however, that we have actually reached section 27 and are not still on section 26. Certainly, I thought that we had agreed to-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Indeed. Apologies, as that was my error. We are on section 27, amendments Nos. 66 to 71, inclusive. I was reading from above rather than below.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell There are a few points I want to make to the Minister on the detail of the Government amendments to section 27. As I understand it, the intent of amendment No. 66 is to amend the introductory part of section 27(1) to provide that there has to be written consent for the disclosure of confidential information. Amendment No. 66 proposes - it is phrased peculiarly - to insert "without the consent in writing of the Commission or (save where the intending discloser is the Director) the Director or except as required by law or in the circumstances provided for in subsection (3)". What I think the proposed amendment is trying to achieve is if the director proposed to make a disclosure, he would have to have the permission of the commission. I think that is what it is driving at. Strangely, it seems that if a member of the staff of the director, or a member of staff directed by the director, disclosed the information, that person would not require the permission of the commission. It seems to be somewhat illogical that the commission must give consent in writing if the director intends to disclose something but a member of staff can obtain permission from the director without the commission's intervention, providing that the director puts it in writing. I wonder if that is really what is intended. It seems that the only member of staff who actually needs permission from the commission is the director and that members of staff, other than the director, or people who are not even members of staff for that matter because it applies to "a person" and could apply, for instance, to the so-called consultants and advisers do not have to have the permission of the commission. They can do it on the written authorisation of the director. That is one anomaly I see in the way amendment No. 66 has been drafted. Perhaps I am missing something and the Minister will put me right.

  One will see that the following amendment has been designed to exclude all references to advisers and consultants on the basis that it is my strong opinion that we do not need consultants and advisers. It seems that what is being planned but never admitted openly is that much of the work of the commission will be farmed out to recruitment advisers in interviewing and short-listing people. They will perform a winnowing out of supposedly unacceptable people and produce smaller lists for consideration by the commission. I am deeply unhappy at the notion that some group such as Ernst & Young or KPMG or some reputable group-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Reputable.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----such as either of those acting as management consultants could be brought in to engage in a winnowing exercise on applications for appointment to the Judiciary.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That views Goldman Sachs as a charity.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It worries me that private companies and partnerships could be handed the function of carrying out a primary winnowing out of people applying to be judges. It does not happen with the JAAB and I do not think it is a particular problem. When I was a member of the JAAB - I know it also from the time I was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform - it was quite common for over 80 and sometimes fewer than 120 applicants to apply for the position of District Court judge. I do not think it is a great State secret. I want the House to know the size of the number of applications one might expect to receive. On the other hand, there was an almost pyramidal aspect to the number of applicants the higher up the judicial hierarchy one went.

(Interruptions).

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I know that my rhetoric is powerful, but I have never driven a Member of the House onto his knees before.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We will hear Senator McDowell without interruption.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I was smothering a telephone call.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It reminds me of a colleague of mine at the Bar who was always-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On his knees.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell No, he was not. He was always reminded of the occasion one of the jury died during his speech.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone One of us definitely might die while this Bill is being considered.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I greatly regret Senator McDowell being disappointed. I will do my best to die in the next hour.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Given the length of time it is taking to deliberate on the Bill, one of the 60 of us may actually die in the process. Can we hear Senator McDowell on the section, please?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Let me make an observation. It reminds me of the Sallins mail train robbery case in which the counsel for the defence suggested the judge was asleep. When somebody gave him a push, it turned out that he was dead.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Once again, we are speaking about the subject of death. We are trying to speak to the section. It has all gone a bit mad on this Bill.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That is the problem.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have to chair the proceeding and would like things to move along.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am making the point-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Perhaps I might offer a little assistance. If everybody spoke every now and then, we would know that he or she was still alive and could continue on.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am told-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am sorry. There is no way we could not realise Senator McDowell was alive. We will again give him the floor and try to have some order in the House.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am attempting to address the substance of section 67 which has been designed-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Amendment No. 67.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes, amendment No. 67. It is intended to eliminate the issue of consultants and advisers because, as I said, for the reasons I gave, it is inappropriate, especially when there are large numbers of applicants who might not be known or known well to any of the members of the Judiciary, the legal practitioner members or the lay members. There may be people who are completely unknown to any of the people on the commission. The same happened in the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. People applied and there was complete unawareness of the kind of person they were. Nobody on the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board actually knew who they were or could put a face to the name. They were simply looking at an application form in the common forum. That is what amendment No. 67 is all about.

  In amendment No. 68 which clearly is an alternative the Minister is proposing to delete line 40 on page 20 and line 1 on page 21 and substitute the word "commission".  I am not quite clear about how that will read. Perhaps I am misreading what would be left.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It would read "or other arrangement by the Commission".

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes.

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

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell No, but at the top of the next page-----

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

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----the Bill reads "unless he or she is duly authorised by the Commission to do so". I do not know where that goes. There is a complexity to that.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The amendment proposes to delete line 1 and substitute “Commission.”". As such, "Commission" will be there on its own.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Perhaps the Minister will explain it to me. I cannot follow the textual connection.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is nonsense. That is the reason.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am a bit slower than Senator Norris. I would like to hear an explanation first.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator McDowell can be as slow as he likes.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Can we have the discussions in this House through the Chair?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway They are only trying to be helpful.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am trying to move this along.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell We then come to the Minister's proposed amendment to make it a criminal offence to disclose information as described in section 27(1), presumably as amended. He proposes to make it an offence for which a person will be liable "on summary conviction, to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both". I want to make this clear. That is a useless proposal. When I was Attorney General, there was a good deal of upset, particularly on the part of my predecessor, Mr. David Byrne, when a Garda file purporting to identify people who had unlawful abortions in Ireland was revealed to a newspaper. The result was that when the Garda file was given to the newspaper, reporters from that newspaper presented themselves at the doors of various women mentioned in it. This caused absolute outrage among the people who were mentioned in this way.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Of course it did.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The result was that the then Attorney General, David Byrne, asked the Garda Commissioner to use all of his powers to identify the source of the leak and prevent this kind of thing from happening. The Garda Commissioner at the time was Mr. Patrick Byrne. He attempted to comply with the Attorney General's request and found himself being effectively stonewalled, with people refusing to make any statements to the investigating gardaí. At the end of this futile investigation in which he could find out nothing, he informed the Attorney General's office that unless and until a power of arrest and questioning was conferred on him, he could do nothing to investigate the unauthorised leaking of sensitive Garda information of that kind.

  That led, when I was the Minister's predecessor, to the insertion of an indictable offence in the Garda Síochána Act 2005 so that where leaking of sensitive information took place unlawfully, there was a power for An Garda Síochána to arrest persons suspected of leaking or inciting other people to do so and the power of detention for questioning under the terms of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.

  In effect, the Garda Commissioner was saying was that the Official Secrets Act 1963 was no help to him because of the penalties involved. In the circumstances, therefore, he needed to have investigatory powers. If leaking confidential information is to be an offence, it must the case that if a member of An Garda Síochána knocks on the door of a journalist or whoever else and asks how that person seems to have published leaked minutes of a certain body, he or she is not in a position to simply say the Garda must talk to their solicitor and bid them good night. That is the position if it is a summary offence of this kind. If the Minister wishes to make it an offence and give its enforcement teeth, An Garda Síochána must be given the right to investigate where egregious breaches of confidentiality take place.

  I have no doubt the Minister will be tempted, and perhaps prompted, to say that this is a very black scenario, that he hopes this never happens and that I am conjuring up an unlikely scenario. I do not accept that proposition. People will be expected to apply to this commission in confidence, knowing the information concerning their application and, even more seriously, their assessment will be handled. Can Members imagine if the assessment of a professional person or a judge were to be leaked to a newspaper? Whether the assessment was carried out by a consultant or the commission itself, imagine the discrediting damage not merely to the person involved and to the commission, but also to the Judiciary itself.

  Either we are serious about keeping some level of confidentiality in this matter or we are not. I refer to material such as the marking of assessments, the results of an interview process or pre-screening carried out by a consultant or advisory group. Either we are serious about preventing that from appearing on the front page of a newspaper or we are not. I have no problem with making such leaking a criminal offence, because purely civil duties of confidentiality do not inhibit journalists from printing material. They do not inhibit people from leaking material unless they can be identified as the source by their employer, by one means or another. A member of the commission may be stupid enough to leak information to a third party, even in good faith. If any of that information gets on the front page of a newspaper, it will be deeply damaging to the people who are being assessed, to the commission itself and to public confidence in the Judiciary. I shudder to think what the result would be if a Circuit Court judge who applied for appointment to the High Court were to find that his or her assessment was on the front of a newspaper.

  I believe that leaking such information would have to be made a criminal offence. The JAAB does not leave a trail of that kind. When I was there, it never had minutes that could be leaked. The worst secret that could be revealed about somebody is that they applied to JAAB, because there would not be a record of any kind beyond that. In the new world which has been conjured up for us in this legislation, there will be formal interviews, ranking of applicants and a pre-interview process of winnowing out unsuitable people. Presumably these will be documented, stating the reasons why Joe or Josephine Soap never even made it to an interview process. If happens there will have to be a documentary trail.  All of that is going to happen, so there will have to be a documentary trail. If there is a documentary trail, it might have consequences for sitting judges and others. Take, for example, a solicitor in practice in rural Ireland. If it was revealed that there was a document somewhere created by this commission or its advisers or consultants saying that, in the view of a particular person, the person was wholly unsuitable to be a judge for one reason or another, it would have a serious affect on that person. There will be a chilling effect if the protections against breach of confidentiality are not observed. Whether or not the Minister is attracted to the substance of subsection 2 of my proposed section 28 in amendment No. 70, one has to have the five year term in order to make it possible for An Garda Síochána to investigate and bring to book those who breach the obligation of confidentiality.

  To return to the point I made about former Attorney General David Byrne and me when I was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, it was the appreciation of the effect on ordinary people's lives of the absence of an effective remedy to stop the leaking of Garda files to members of the press due to salacious material contained in them that led to the amendment of the Garda Síochána Act.

  On amendment No. 69 proposed by the Minister, I have the strongest possible objection to it becoming a summary offence. If it is to be an offence, it has to be an indictable offence for the purpose of making it properly investigable by An Garda Síochána. If it is not an indictable offence, a person can simply get his or her solicitor to write to the local sergeant to say that he or she will not be available for interview on this subject and does not propose to say anything about it, even if he or she is the prime suspect for the leak. The same applies to a journalist who publishes it. The journalist will be able to say that he or she has nothing to say and does not want to participate in any interviews with An Garda Síochána. He or she would be able to just walk away from it, and An Garda Síochána would have to prove that a particular person was the person who leaked the document by some extraneous means. To return to the case I mentioned of An Garda Síochána files identifying alleged victims of backstreet abortions in Dublin which led to reporters appearing on their doorstep, it proved so damaging to those people, but the Commissioner was effectively powerless to deal with it because the offence was a summary offence which did not carry a five-year term of imprisonment. Perhaps it was statutory as well, but it carried a two-year term. Under the Official Secrets Act, the garda in question was effectively immune from arrest or interrogation in respect of the action, as was the journalist.

  I strongly advise the Minister that the remedy has to be effective. If it is not, because of the complexity and the documentary nature of the procedures this commission is supposed to undertake, the effect of breaches of confidentiality could be enormous. The Minister may well say that this contrasts with my willingness to have the Attorney General tell the Cabinet that a particular applicant was unsuccessful. My answer to that, if that point is made, is simply that the Government is entitled to know who wants to be appointed. I have never heard, in all of my time as a barrister, Attorney General, Minister, Deputy and Senator, of a breach of confidentiality coming from Government of a type which is damaging to a lawyer. I have never heard that happen. Members of the Government, as very senior constitutional office holders, would understand the absolute importance of confidentiality in such circumstances, while at the same time believing that it is totally right to know who was seeking the job, including those who were not shortlisted. Under the present Judicial Appointments Advisory Board procedures, which are very informal, I have never come across a newspaper, television or radio report indicating that a person applied and was not recommended for the job, even though that information is available to the Minister and the Government under the present system. There is no paper trail. It is one person's word against another's, and it is not the kind of thing a journalist would publish, even if he or she got news of it over a pint in a pub. The journalist would not dare to publish it because he or she would not know if it was true or untrue and would not know what the situation was, unless he or she heard it from a disappointed applicant.

  I ask the Minister to deal with the textual problem I raised, and also the seeming illogicality in amendment No. 66, whereby members of staff do not have to have the consent of the commission in writing whereas the director does. I cannot follow how that would work. Real problems will arise if this is backed up solely by a summary conviction and penalty. It will mean any breaches of this criminal law will be impossible to investigate unless the person doing the leaking is foolish enough to volunteer a confession to An Garda Síochána, even though he or she is not capable of being arrested or questioned about it.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I will make three points in response to Senator McDowell. I thank him for making an important contribution, particularly in the area of sanctions. Before I respond to the Senator, I will make two brief points in response to the questions posed by Senators Norris and McDowell when they wondered as to the sense of amendment No. 68. I wish to allay their fears and concerns by pointing out that it is a drafting amendment solely. We are adding a full stop and taking account of amendment No. 66, which overtakes the sense of what is in line 1, page 21.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Minister proposes removing "commission," and replacing it with "commission."

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Yes.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Does that meet with the Senator's approval?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The notion put forward by Senators McDowell and Norris that much of the work of this commission will be in some way outsourced to the private sector has no basis. It will not occur in the way suggested.  It would be wrong to suggest that the important work of this commission will be performed elsewhere in some routine manner by consultants or even, as has been specifically suggested, by accountants. What we have here is merely an enabling provision to avail of assistance and services should the need arise. We debated that earlier in the context of previous sections. May I yet again allay the concerns of the Senators in that regard?

  I will turn briefly to the issues raised by Senator McDowell concerning summary offences being minor offences and why we would not have indictable offences. If we were to follow the logic of Senator McDowell we would question the necessity at any remove for a summary offence process. I do not accept that the summary offence regime does not provide for adequate penalties or a deterrent or disincentive from wrongdoing.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What about investigation?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan My amendments, in respect of which Senators were addressing concerns, provide for summary offences under sections 27 and 28 and confine the offences to being dealt with within the District Court, with a maximum fine on conviction of €5,000. That is set out in the Fines Act 2010 and it can be varied by the Oireachtas, should it be deemed necessary. As Senators are aware, the categories of fine are classed A to E. The highest value of fine is class A at €5,000.

  It is a question of balance and of ensuring that there is criminal sanction. It was in response to Senator McDowell that I was very keen to ensure that there is a criminal sanction regime in respect of the unauthorised or unlawful disclosure of information. It is important not only to be proportionate but also to be consistent. On the matter of consistency, I point to the approach under section 62, the lesser offence, for example, of canvassing - of making contact with a Senator in order for a favour to be proffered in respect of a particular issue. A person convicted under that section is liable to a class A fine and the question of imprisonment would not apply.

  I have given the matter consideration. I have heard Senator McDowell speak on this issue before. I have reflected, but I share the advice given to me to the effect that a summary offence is sufficient and is appropriate for dealing with the breaches of the non-disclosure principles in sections 27 and 28, as amended. I take very seriously the points Senator McDowell makes and the analogies he draws. However, despite his exhortations, I am not convinced that the argument in respect of making such offences punishable by a term of imprisonment on indictment is compelling.

  In the context of consistency, I examined other legislation. Section 15 of the Property Services Regulation Act makes it an offence punishable by a class A fine only for disclosed confidential information expressed by the Property Services Regulatory Authority. I know Senator McDowell would probably put his Bar colleagues higher up the pyramid in terms of importance.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell That is very unfair.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am not sure about Senator Norris, but he might be provoked into agreeing with Senator McDowell on that, perhaps unbeknownst to himself. In any event, it is important that we have consistency. There are similar sanctions for similar breaches in other legislation. Ultimately, I do not go along with the view that summary offences do not provide for adequate remedies in circumstances. If that were to be the case - I gleaned that from what Senator McDowell has been saying - then, by extension, why would we not do away with the concept of a summary offence altogether?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am a little disturbed by the Minister's reply. I listened very carefully to what Senator McDowell stated and, as I understand it, he instanced a situation in which a member of the Garda Síochána gave information to the newspapers about people who had back-street abortions, which were then completely illegal and a cause of great shock and condemnation among the majority of the population. When the information was published, people were left in considerable distress. As I understand it, the point Senator McDowell made in that regard is that because this was a summary, not an indictable, offence, the Garda was frustrated in its investigation and no charge was laid. That seems to be an extremely serious situation and one which the Minister has not satisfactorily addressed. We have an historical case in which the rights and well-being of Irish citizens were seriously affected by disclosure but because that was not an indictable offence the Garda-----I am sorry, I beg your pardon-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Can I not talk?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I am sorry, Senator Norris. My apologies.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Some men find it challenging to whisper if they are speaking in the House. I apologise to Senator Norris. The Senator should continue.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Perhaps I was not being clear.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone No, Senator Norris is absolutely fine. He was being interrupted.

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

  My concern is that we would allow a situation to continue under which the welfare, rights and dignity of citizens can be trampled over, with no comeback and nobody is accused, charged or affected in any way by that.

  I wish to turn also to the troublesome bit of amendment No. 68, which proposes on page 20 to delete line 40. Let us delete line 40 as a start. Line 40 contains only one word, "Commission," and the proposal is to delete that. On page 21, we are deleting line 1 and substituting the word "Commission".  Section 27(1)(b) reads, "the Director, a member of staff of the Office or a consultant, advisor or other person who is or was engaged under contract or other arrangement by the Commission," but what we have got rid of - and this has not been addressed by the Minister - is the remainder of that paragraph, which read, "unless he or she is duly authorised by the Commission to so do." As I understand it, that is gone. We have deleted it. I would like the Minister to refer to the necessity for this deletion because the purpose of amendment No. 68 is "to delete line 1". Line 1 includes the phrase "unless he or she is duly authorised by the Commission to so do". We are getting rid of that and substituting just the word "Commission", which is a leftover from the previous paragraph. We are actually deleting an entire idea. We are deleting the idea that somebody can in fact disclose information if "he or she is duly authorised by the Commission to so do." We are removing a significant flexibility from the legislation. Perhaps I am wrong but I do not think the Minister addressed this point.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On the issue of confidentiality, I hate to find myself totally in agreement with Senator McDowell. However, those putting themselves forward for senior judicial posts will generally come from the Bar Council and will generally be what we now refer to as sole traders. One negative word can have a detrimental effect on a person's income for the remainder of his or her life. That is something we must take very seriously. If I have learned anything in this House, it is that confidentiality is something which can be taken with a grain of salt in some cases. I recall one day walking out of a commission meeting. We had discussed a particular matter on a confidential basis but as I walked through the door to my office, the phone rang and it was a newspaper reporter asking me to confirm whether the following issue had been discussed. I understand what the Minister meant when he said that he hopes we will not have a plethora of consultants involved in the appointment of judges. However, there is a clear provision for the judicial appointments committee to appoint consultants. Senator McDowell referred to 120 applicants applying for a particular post. There is no way that the committee will have the time to go through each one of those applications so it will employ consultants to come up with a short list.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Finally, this is an important discussion and I am devastated to see the emptiness of the benches. I wonder if it is possible to have a quorum.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Is the Senator calling a quorum?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes.

  Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell To get back to the point I was trying to make-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Minister made a comment that will not endear him to Members of this House.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Some Members may not have heard the remark but the Acting Chair has now compounded it. It was directed at Senator Norris.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Senator McDowell heard it. Can we have some order, please?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Minister will not be getting an invitation to the Fitzpatrick clan rally.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I understand that everyone is starting to get a little bit giddy but we have to try to get through this Bill.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is the freezing conditions in this gaunt old barn.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I agree it is pretty cold.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor It is too warm.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The Senator is too fat.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor That is an insult.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I ask Senators to stop flinging insults at one another. Can we have order and can everyone focus on the job at hand?

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I applaud the Minister for his patience because if ever a Bill has had a difficult passage, it is this one. To return to the issue of confidentiality, I am not satisfied that confidentiality is covered under the current wording. I am not sure there is anything in it that would deter an individual from the engaging in the old "dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi" type of thing. We could have friendly chats in corridors or two people out having a drink and one telling the other that Murphy was put forward and that he should have heard what the committee had to say about him. The next thing we know some up and coming senior counsel's career has been destroyed. I am not satisfied in that regard.

  I agree with my colleague, Senator Norris, about the deletion of the line, "unless he or she is duly authorised by the Commission to so do". That little bit of flexibility needs to be provided.

  The most important point I can make on this particular section is that I believe it makes the Bill unconstitutional. Senator McDowell has made this point on a number of occasions. The Attorney General, the adviser to the Government, will sit on this committee. The Government will be presented with three candidates as a result of the deliberations and the Attorney General may find himself or herself totally opposed to the appointment of any of the three. The Government may find itself opposed to the appointment of any of the three and may ask the Attorney General whether another person may have been better suited to the position. Is the Attorney General, who has a constitutional role as adviser to the Government, to say he or she is awful sorry, that he or she knows of somebody but cannot open his or her mouth because he or she is bound by the legislation? I am extremely concerned. If I were a member of the Bar and had my eyes on the Bench, the first thing I would do following the passage of the Bill would be to challenge it under the Constitution because it could destroy my career prospects. That is without even referring to the role of consultants in the matter.

  While I fully understand the Minister's view of how this Bill will work, with all due respect, he will establish an independent committee and once that independence is in place, it will be up to that committee to decide whether to appoint a group of consultants, whoever those consultants may be. I have some difficulty with appointing judges using consultants from the accountancy profession or some other profession. Who will draw up the shortlist in the scenario presented by Senator McDowell where there are 120 applicants? Will some 25 year old graduate who has just finished a business and law degree in one of our esteemed universities sit down, check boxes and decide which 15 applicants should go forward for interview? I am very concerned about this matter. Once this committee is in place, the Minister cannot tell it how to do its business. He cannot preclude it from using consultants or tell its members he expects them not to use consultants. At the end of the day, it can use as many consultants as it wishes. I am concerned about the constitutionality of these provisions.

  I appreciate the Minister's patience and that he is being run around the same issues time and again. Surely that must ring alarm bells for him at this stage. I will leave it at that for the moment.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I want to correct a false impression which the Minister has created. He has suggested that I am against it being possible to prosecute a confidentiality breach on a summary basis. I am not against that. I am saying that, if that is the only basis on which a breach can be prosecuted, there can, as Senator Norris has picked up, be no effective investigation of someone who participates in a leak-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Exactly.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----or of someone who receives the information from a leak. The Minister has not dealt with this. He is either serious about this or he is not. Amendment No. 70, which is in the names of Senators Boyhan, Craughwell and me, makes it very clear that we have no objection to a summary disposal in the District Court of such an offence. The proposed section 28(2) of the amendment states:

Any person who knowingly discloses or makes public in any manner any information that is secret within the meaning of subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction thereof—
(a) in summary proceedings before the District Court to a fine or to six months imprisonment,

(b) on indictment to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to a fine or to both.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Exactly.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It is simply wrong to suggest that I have some problem with the existence of a summary jurisdiction to deal with this. I have said plainly, and I will say it now on the record of this House, that I have no such problem in the case of minor offences. If it is a minor offence, I have no problem with it being dealt with summarily but the consequence of saying that is the only way in which it can be dealt with is that if gardaí arrive at someone's door to investigate an alleged leak, that person can simply say he or she is busy this evening, has dinner inside and does not propose to make any statement in respect of the inquiries, before asking the gardaí to go away or deal with his or her solicitors. That is the door slammed in the faces of the gardaí. In the abortion case to which I referred the Commissioner found himself in that position. I should just say this because everybody should know about it and I do not think I am revealing anything that should not be revealed. The Garda had a suspect at the time and even had a place in mind for where the file had been handed over. It had no evidence, however, unless it could interview the member of Garda Síochána who was suspected of leaking and the journalist to whom it was suspected the garda had leaked. The Garda had a very clear picture, however, of whom had been involved in this offence and of when it occurred, down to the very day. The gardaí involved were very clear in their minds about what they were dealing with but they ran into a brick wall because they had no power of arrest or investigation. They were told to get lost by the people involved and they had to get lost.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I presume the garda in question was paid.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I presume both the journalist and the garda kept their positions and the women who were confronted on their doorsteps and asked to confirm whether they had been the subject of a backstreet abortion had no remedy for this massive intrusion on their privacy, regardless of whether they had been involved in such a matter.

  I want to make it very clear that it is simply not the case that I am saying that this matter should not be capable of being dealt with in the District Court. I have made it clear, as have Senators Craughwell and Boyhan, that it is capable of being dealt with in the District Court. However, if it is not capable of attracting a five-year penalty at the maximum, it is not capable of an arrest, detention for questioning or any thorough police investigation. That is the simple position and there is no point in codding ourselves. I want to make that point as clear as I can. I have no problem with there being a capacity for a summary conviction to be handed down.  In case there is any misunderstanding and in case anyone watching this debate should be under any misapprehension about it, the person who will make the decision as to whether it is a summary offence or an indictable offence is the Director of Public Prosecutions. He or she will take into account the seriousness of the offence in choosing whichever venue it is. There could be a grossly serious offence. If a year’s minutes or whatever were to be handed to a magazine or newspaper, it could have catastrophic consequences for an awful lot of people.

  The Minister has painted a picture. Senator Craughwell was absolutely on the button with one point. We have declared that the commission is to be independent in discharging its functions. What the Minister or his successors might think it would be preferable for them to do is not really relevant to this; it is what they can do that is relevant. I ask Members to look back to a section we have already debated, section 11(7) and (8). Section 11(7) says the commission, as it considers necessary, not as anybody else considers necessary-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It says "may".

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Yes. The wording is:

The Commission may as it considers necessary to assist it in the performance of its functions —
(a) enter into contracts or arrangements with any person, and

(b) with the consent of the Minister, appoint consultants or advisers.

There is a distinction here between “any person” and appointed consultants and advisers. I ask the House to remember that. Then section 11(8) states:

Any contract or arrangement with a person, or appointment of a consultant or adviser, referred to in subsection (7) may enable the person, consultant or adviser to—
(a) advise and assist the Commission in its consideration of applicants at a preliminary stage in the course of the selection procedures, and

(b) provide an evaluation or an assessment of an applicant’s suitability for appointment that would assist the Commission in making any decision in the course of carrying out those procedures,
but shall not enable the person, consultant or adviser, for the purpose of performance by the Commission of that function, to do any other thing (other than a thing which facilitates such performance).

We discussed the ludicrous unintelligibility of that provision before. It is very clear from the last paragraph of section 11(8) that the sole purpose for which persons, consultants and advisers can be appointed is to advise the commission in its consideration of applicants at a preliminary stage, which I described as the winnowing out stage, and then to provide an evaluation or assessment of an applicant’s suitability for appointment that would assist the commission. That is in the Minister’s Bill; I am not conjuring it up. That is the function of the three categories.

  In respect of the category of "a person", I do not know what sort of person they might appoint who was not a consultant or an adviser. However, they could ask a "person" to look at all the applications for such a position, first of all to winnow out under section 11(8)(a) the people who are at a preliminary stage and are not even to be considered, and then under section 11(8)(b) to do a further and much more serious thing, which is to carry out an evaluation of an applicant. That is what the law is providing. None of this is in the JAAB procedure, by the way. It has never, ever attempted to do anything like this and it would be foolish of it ever to contemplate doing this kind of thing. I should point out because it is relevant that in section 11(7)(b), the Minister alone is entitled, by withholding consent, to prevent the appointment of consultants and advisers, but he is not able to stop a "person" under section 11(7)(a) from being appointed by the commission to carry out these functions. He has no veto power there.

  We are dealing with the capacity of the commission to appoint a person by way of contract to carry out a winnowing function and then, among those who have survived the winnowing, to carry out an evaluation of applicants. That is what the legislation is about. I do not want to waste the time of the House just going back over this. It is wrong-headed and should not be there. If this commission is going to be so elaborate and so great as the Minister, Deputy Ross, has claimed, and so well resourced, why would it want to appoint persons to evaluate the suitability of applicants? The Minister has said here that he thinks I have the wrong end of the stick. I am saying these are the provisions he is giving this independent commission, which, as Senator Craughwell said, he has the right to do.

  How does this tie in to section 27? The evaluations, presumably, will be in writing. Presumably, they will contain confidential information. If it is the case that members of the Judiciary seeking promotion or members of the legal profession seeking to be appointed as judges in the first instance are to be subject to a process whereby a person not even on the commission evaluates their suitability, then breach of the obligation of confidentiality could be catastrophic for them.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris If they are no use.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It could be catastrophic if the expert appointed by the commission decided that a particular judge was not suitable for promotion or that a barrister or solicitor was unsuitable. Presumably there is going to be a documentary record of such decisions because they are going to be made under a contract and the person who provides this evaluation is going to come to quite subjective views about the suitability of somebody else to be a member of the Judiciary which could, if disclosed, be catastrophic for that person, for the commission’s integrity and for the whole process of confidence in the Judiciary.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris And the person could be a Government representative.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Could I make another point? Supposing a sitting judge was regarded as a bit of a mistake - these kinds of things can happen-----

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor They happen at the moment.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Supposing a sitting judge was considered to be a bit of a mistake and supposing the evaluation was more or less to that effect, that he or she was struggling to do the work he or she was doing at the moment and should not be appointed to any further position.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor Is the Senator saying some of them are there at the moment?

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am not being tempted into irrelevance here. I am dealing strictly with what is relevant. I welcome Senator Lawlor to the House and am glad this morning’s proceedings have made him more interested in the Bill.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I was worried I might be found dead in my own room.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I say that without any malice whatsoever. I welcome the Senator’s presence.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I have been here before on other occasions.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am not going to get into the discussion. I am not going to get stuck.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator Lawlor is the only representative of the Government in the House, apart from the Minister. That is Senator McDowell’s point.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am not going to get diverted into comments about current members of the Judiciary. I am saying it is perfectly conceivable that a proper evaluation of a sitting judge might come to the conclusion that the person is having enough difficulty firing on all cylinders in the court he or she is in and is certainly unworthy for promotion. If that report was reduced to writing and leaked, the damage it would do to the Judiciary would be very significant indeed.  I refer to a report in which a person under contract to an independent commission makes an evaluation on an official and statutory basis. It is simply not good enough for the Minister to come to this House to say he proposes to have a criminal offence, but he does not propose to make it possible to investigate that criminal offence.

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 If the Minister is serious about this proposal, there must be investigability. He must provide for the power to detain the person who leaks that information and put him or her through the ordinary process of questioning for a serious offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1984. In the absence of such a power, this confidentiality obligation is more or less worthless. The Minister suggested that I should compare this provision with the punishment of the disclosure of confidential information under the property registration system. Perhaps there are terrible secrets in the Four Courts relating to who owns a certain property, who enjoys a right of way over a property or who applied for a right of way over a property. Maybe there is confidential information in what used to be the registry of deeds and processes in the land registry and is now part of the Property Registration Authority. Maybe there is some terrible secret down there, but I cannot imagine it, whereas I do not need an imagination to see that an evaluation of the suitability of a professional person or a sitting judge must of its very essence remain confidential, especially when it is carried out by a person who is not even a member of the commission. I remind the House that such a person will be appointed under contract with or without the consent of the Minister because the Minister will not choose these people. He will have no say in who the person is because the commission is independent.

  The Minister has shied away from the point that has been picked up on by Senators Norris and Craughwell, which is that we are talking about the power to carry out a proper investigation. I suggest that providing for a summary offence, rather than the power to carry out a proper investigation, is parking ticket stuff in terms of the consequences for those involved. If they are in any way intelligent - most of the people involved in this whole process will be intelligent - they will realise that they are free to tell the Garda to get lost because they have nothing to say and do not propose to be interviewed on foot of the Garda's suspicions on the matter. This will mean that the door is slammed in the face of any proper investigation. I ask the Minister to reconsider the circumstances I have detailed and the point I have made. The confidential information provision needs to be taken seriously. When I said on Second Stage that I was worried about this aspect of the legislation, the Minister kindly told the House he would do something on this front. However, the proposal he has introduced is simply not adequate. There is no point in coming up with a non-solution to the question of investigability dressed up as a half-solution to it. Breaches of this kind are investigable or they are not. My experience, based on the incident I mentioned earlier, is that the impact of this provision will be limited in the absence of a power of arrest. That was the view of the then Garda Commissioner. He found that doors were slammed in his face. He had to accept that people did not want to be investigated and did not want the investigation to go further. That is the evil we are dealing with here. I strongly urge the Minister to face up to that fact. He should accept that his amendment is not acceptable in its present form. It is not up to the job. It does not add very much to the Bill because it can be ignored with impunity. That is the problem.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I would like to pick up on what Senator McDowell has just said. I have made the point that a negative comment about a distinguished barrister from a consultant involved in the selection of a judge or a member of the committee could cause the loss of that barrister's career. It could destroy his or her career. It had not crossed my mind until just now that something negative could arise during the evaluation of a member of the Judiciary who has applied for promotion and find its way into the public domain. In such circumstances, the judge's career would be over. If we look at this from the perspective of the preservation of public money, we will appreciate that such a judge would not walk away quietly. Negative commentary along the lines of, "We appointed the barrister Murphy rather than the judge O'Connor because Murphy was A, B and C and you would want to hear what they had to say about O'Connor", would destroy the unique position the Judiciary has held in this country. I would be the first person to admit I have not always agreed with the sentences handed down by judges or the actions of judges in various cases. I am a layman looking on. Like most people, I judge these matters on the basis of my views or the views of people like me. I am not a member of the Judiciary. As Senator McDowell was speaking, it struck me that when a distinguished judge is looking for promotion, a consultant might discover some box that could not be ticked. The name of such a judge could become known if we fail to provide for strong legislation with respect to indicting and allowing the Garda to investigate. The further we go into this Bill, the more dangerous it becomes. I am concerned that the system we will use to appoint judges is dangerous and the consequences being opened up when confidentiality clauses break down are dangerous. Are we trying to push this Bill through to tick a box and say that is that? Are we seeking to pass the Bill to get it out of the way? Are we prepared to live with the consequences of such an approach? This Bill will outlive the Minister, me and many people who will come after us. We need to make sure we get it right. I am afraid of what we are doing here today.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I would like to put this to the Minister again in simple terms. Senator McDowell has referred to a case in which material greatly to the disadvantage of members of the public was made available to newspapers by a member of the Garda. This has happened in the past. We know this is the historical reality. The case in question could not be prosecuted because it was only a summary offence. Senator McDowell has indicated clearly that he is not confining the matter to an indictable offence. He is very clearly leaving open the question of a summary approach to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will decide on the appropriate course to take. It seems to me that section 11(7) is extraordinary. We went into this previously but I want to mention it again. Section 11(7) provides:

The Commission may as it considers necessary to assist it in the performance of its functions —
(a) enter into contracts or arrangements with any person, and

(b) with the consent of the Minister, appoint consultants or advisers.

As Senator McDowell has pointed out, that leaves the "person" in section 11(7)(a) outside the scope of ministerial interdiction. The Minister will not be able to stop this "person" from getting involved, although he or she will be able to do in the case of the "consultants or advisers" referred to in section 11(7)(b). As the Minister will not have the power to interdict-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The House dealt with this matter some weeks ago.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes. I am want to make this point because it has been raised. I will leave it at this. I have just about one more sentence to go. The phrase "any person" is so vague that it could refer to somebody from the party machine. There is nothing to prevent that. It could be somebody with a vested interest in scuppering the whole process and banjaxing the career of a judge for motives of political spite. This Bill is supposed to provide independence and all the rest of it, but it does quite the reverse.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Does the Minister wish to add anything?

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I refer to the points I made earlier in reply to Senators McDowell and Craughwell when they spoke about the criminal sanctions that might be available to the State in the event of there being an unlawful disclosure or breach. My overriding concerns are proportionality and consistency. However, I acknowledge the strong submissions from the Senators and I will reflect on them between now and Report Stage, but I believe in a consistent approach to these issues not just for this legislation but having regard to other broadly similar legislative measures across the public service. It is important that we be consistent, but I will examine it. This was a major point made by Senator McDowell on Second Stage and I said I would examine it in discussions with officials and in reference to the Attorney General The Senators are still not satisfied but I will examine it to see if we can move matters closer towards a meeting of minds. However, I will not go back over section 11 because it does not serve our time well here. These decisions have been taken by the Seanad.

  Finally, regarding the point made again by Senator Norris, amendment No. 66 covers any person who is privy to confidential information. This is catered for under section 27. The reference to "director only" in amendment No. 66 simply reflects the fact that it is only the director, not another member of the staff, who could be delegated the function of consenting to a disclosure, that being considered either appropriate or necessary. I ask the Senators to move on, particularly in view of what I have said in respect of the sanctions. Otherwise we will find ourselves in a situation where we will lack capacity to make progress on the Bill. This is an important Bill and that is why I am keen to vent this issue fully in the Seanad and to listen to Senators who have constructive suggestions and important contributions to bring to bear.

  I will reflect on the issue of the summary and indictable between now and Report Stage. It must be said, however, that the case cited by Senator McDowell is exceptional. It was something of a one-off, but I will reflect on it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is an historical fact.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Thank God it is an exceptional case that something so awful could happen. If there are no sanctions, however, it will not be an exceptional case. If one can ride roughshod through a summary procedure and summary sanction, just ignore the law and send polite solicitors' letters to clients-----

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan This is not ignoring the law. There is clear sanction in the law.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell One can ignore the law if there is no-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris If one cannot get a conviction, what is the point of sanctions?

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson One Member at a time.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Minister is a skilled legal practitioner with a long record in the practice of law. He knows well that the question of sanction does not arise until guilt has been established.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Exactly.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell In addition, there are no prosecutions unless there is evidence. Imagine if one were caught for drink-driving and one was able to hand a preprinted card to the garda and say: "Consult my solicitor. I am driving home."

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris No, the Senator can say: "I am a Member of the Oireachtas".

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Okay, I am a Member of the Oireachtas. My point is that these things could be very serious. A garda could impart a piece of tittle-tattle which has no serious consequence, and the Garda Síochána Act was specifically and carefully crafted to state that it had to have very serious adverse consequences before an offence would be committed. In this case, however, it is not necessary to have a fertile imagination to see that disclosure of this type of material almost certainly would have serious adverse consequences for people. My point, which I made on Second Stage and which the amendment is designed to address, is that if there is no workable sanction it is simply window dressing to provide for a summary offence because people can ignore the law and tell gardaí to get lost and get out of the house and that they have nothing further to say to them. If there is no adequate sanction for this, it will affect the frequency of offences. If there is a substantial penalty and a substantial likelihood that if one commits a serious offence here one will be arrested and questioned in a Garda station, one will think a great deal longer than if one thought it was only a matter of politely telling a garda that one has nothing further to say and one wants to go back in to finish one's meal. That is my point.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I will reflect on that issue.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I am glad the Minister will do that. The Minister is correct that amendment No. 67 is effectively consequential on my objections to section 11(7) and 11(8). I will not move that amendment because it would be pointless to remove the reference to advisers at this stage unless section 11 is revisited. I still object to section 11, which is wrong-headed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris We will deal with that on Report Stage.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell That is right. We probably have debated this thoroughly and I hope that Senators Craughwell and Norris and I have made a strong case for the changes we are seeking. In the meantime, I am not prepared to proceed on the basis that the Minister will consider it and that his advisers say it is more important to keep consistency with the Property Registration Authority. That is far less important than what we are dealing with here.

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 This goes to the heart of the constitutional order. I do not believe secrets in the Property Registration Authority are of the same order at all. I cannot even imagine what secrets the PRA has.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Mice in the cornfields.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell In any event, this is of a wholly different order and requires a different approach. I ask the Minister to withdraw his amendments and we will proceed to the next section. Otherwise, I must oppose his amendments.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It has been extremely long and arduous to try to get this Bill through the House so I appreciate the Minister's willingness to listen and reflect on matters. The one thing I am adamant about is the position of the Attorney General. An amendment must be introduced to release the Attorney General from any legal sanction where he or she is advising the Government on the appointment.

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

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Attorney General is appointed under the Constitution and his or her job is to advise the Government. He or she cannot be restricted by legislation. That is what makes this legislation unique and different from anything else the Minister is considering holding forth as peer legislation. The Attorney General must be free to carry out the function that he or she is appointed to do under the Constitution. That means he or she must be free to advise the Government that the recommendations brought forward by the commission are wrong in his or her view and is also in a position to say at that stage, "I believe we should be considering A, B or C rather than the people in front of us".  I ask that the Minister consider tabling an amendment that would release the Attorney General from any restriction when advising Cabinet. I do not expect him or her to go to the media but I expect an Attorney General to be free to carry out the role he or she has under Article 30 of the Constitution.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I agree with Senator Craughwell. It would be absurd to restrict the freedom of movement of the Attorney General in a situation where he or she is charged with advising the Government. We cannot tie his or her hands in this way.

  Amendment No. 71 states: "Nothing in subsection (2) shall prevent the disclosure of information, in accordance with law, to a member of the Garda Síochána or any other person, whether within the State or otherwise, charged with the detection or investigation of an offence".

  Will the Minister elaborate on what type of agencies or individuals outside the State are contemplated in the amendment? I should imagine there is quite a bit of other law, including EU law, on this. Unfortunately, most of it seems to be guided towards sharing information with the United States, which is not always a good idea. Who are these other agencies outside the State that would be involved? Why is this? Are other states likely to be interested in the appointment of judges? Perhaps they are. I know there was a lot of interest in the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh in the United States. Will the Minister give us an outline of some of the institutions or individuals who are contemplated under this section?

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Before I put the question, I want to clarify whether the Minister wishes to speak.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell It would also improve the section, if we are going to have a confidentiality obligation, to make it clear that it is not geographically confined as to its ambit and, therefore, any person anywhere, whether inside or outside the State, who reveals this information would commit a criminal offence. We would not want somebody going to Newry to hand over the information. We do not want something like this to happen.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell On the issue of consultants, given that most of the consultancy firms in Dublin are now internationally based, what is to stop the firms that are consulting on the appointment of judges bringing in people from outside the jurisdiction to assist them in the short-listing? What control would we have over those persons once they leave the jurisdiction with respect to making statements about the findings of their adjudication? I am trying to be helpful and not to hinder. Once consultancy firms are employed, we have no control over who they will be, who they will employ and who they will subcontract to carry out the investigations for the JAC. This is full of problems from what I can see. As the Minister reflects on this, these are some of the areas of concern to me. I am speaking as a layman.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I object to amendment No. 66 on the basis the Minister has defended it here. Effectively, it permits the commission to delegate to the director the business of consenting to information being disclosed. I have an objection to this and I am not happy with amendment No. 66 in any shape or form or however it is defended.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan It is only the director who is at play here and not another staff member. Only the director could have the delegated functions.

  Amendment put.

  The Committee divided by electronic means.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Under Standing Order 62(3)(b) I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Amendment again put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 11.

Níl
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank. Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul. Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura. Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.  
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Michael McDowell..

Amendment declared carried.

  Amendment No. 67 not moved.

  Government amendment No. 68:

In page 20, to delete line 40, and in page 21, to delete line 1 and substitute "Commission".".

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I asked the Minister to withdraw the amendment but he will not do so.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am not withdrawing it.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 12.

Níl
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Mark Daly   Zoom on Mark Daly   Daly, Mark.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Paul Daly   Zoom on Paul Daly   Daly, Paul.
Information on Paudie Coffey   Zoom on Paudie Coffey   Coffey, Paudie. Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank. Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
Information on Maura Hopkins   Zoom on Maura Hopkins   Hopkins, Maura. Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim. Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.  
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Michael McDowell..

Amendment declared carried.

 Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

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

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Dé Céadaoin seo chugainn ar 10.30.

  The Seanad adjourned at 5.05 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 November 2018.


Last Updated: 24/09/2019 15:01:03 First Page Previous Page Page of 2 Next Page Last Page